I spent my entire Saturday viewing in AMC's Best Picture Showcase. Essentially it's an opportunity to view all the movies nominated for best picture right before the Oscars, something I've never done before. And as I love a good movie marathon, I was definitely down to see all these movies on the big screen.
Movie #1 - War Horse
A story about a boy who raises a horse from a colt, which is then sold to a soldier and is drawn into WWI. My friend described it as "old fashioned," which it definitely is in regards to storytelling style and music. It's very episodic in nature, as we see glimpses into different peoples stories (the boy, a British soldier, two Germany boys, a French girl and her grandfather, etc.) as the horse is passed from hand to hand. It shows War from beyond just the soldiers and the battlefield, which was rather refreshing.
Movie #2 - Moneyball
Brad Pitt stars as the General Manager for the Oakland A's, a baseball team that exists at the bottom rung of the league payscale and therefore gets the bottom rung picks of players. With the help of an economist from Yale, Pitt's character develops a system to essentially beat the odds by assembling a team of player with skill, but unwanted by the rest of the league for arbitrary reasons.
Moneyball follows Pitt's character through the challenges of developing this method, while flashing back to his youth as a player and to scenes with him and his daughter. Without these flashes to these other aspects of his life, the movie would come off rather cold and it would be hard to connect with the character. Even so, I didn't emotionally resonate with this movie much, though I did enjoy it and find the story interesting.
Movie #3 - The Tree of Life
Ah, the movie often described as "completely incomprehensible." I can totally understand this perception, but it's also a really beautiful movie. I think the best way to think about it is to consider it a poem, a visual and audial overlay of metaphor and symbolism on top of a story of a boy growing up in the 1950s and the loss of innocence. Seeing as poetry allows me to accept the nonlinear aspects of the movie and the random interspersed images (yes, even the dinosaurs). A lot of it seemed to me to represent a prayer or conversation with god, which depending on your interpretation either is all of nature (mine) or does not exist (my friend's).
A huge problem with this movie is that it's too long for an experimental film. It stretches on and on to the point that it strains the viewer's patience, which is not a good thing. I should also point out that there was a huge round of applause at the end of this movie, though unfortunately it was more in gratitude for it being over. However, it definitely deserves a cinematography win, even if it's a bit too experimental to rightly win best picture.
Movie #4 - The Descendants
Coming after The Tree of Life, this movie was jarringly straightforward. The use of narrative voice over at the beginning seemed the easy way out, though it explained all that needed to be explained and the use of voice over petered out after that. It's about a man who, while his wife is in a fatal comma, discovers that his wife had had an affair. It's a bitter sweet dramedy about how grieving for someone who isn't perfect. I don't know if I would consider it for best picture, but it is definitely a great movie.
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I think of the four movies I saw on Saturday, I would probably vote for War Horse to win best picture, but we'll see what I think next week after I've seen the rest of the movies.
Next Saturday will complete the Showcase with Hugo, The Help, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris. I've already seen Hugo and The Help, both of which I enjoyed. The movie I'm most looking forward to is The Artist, because I love the idea of a silent film garnering such honors in this day and age.
Andrea Blythe's blog about writing, reading, and everything else
- Best Picture Showcase - Part I