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By: Tim Coles
By: Tim Coles

Wanderlust, Gone, Good Deeds, Acts of Valor and the Best Picture nominees

When the Oscar nominations were announced a few weeks ago, I came to a realization.  I had only seen one of the nominated films.  Right then, I figured if I were to have a movie related blog, the least I could do was watch the nominees.  For the past few weeks, I have been going to theaters to see those still playing and Redbox-ing the rest.  I am proud to say that as of this past Monday, I have subjected myself to all the films that the Academy considered the Best of 2011.

For the most part, I don’t disagree with the selections.  There is a case that can be made for a few snubs that I felt were stronger candidates (have I mentioned “50/50” before).  Outside of 2 cases, it would be nitpicking at best.

I know what most of my fellow readers are wondering.  How would I rank the 9 films that are up for the award?  Without further ado, here are my rankings.

The film that I think should win the award would be Kentucky native George Clooney’s “The Descendants”.  The film about a family whose unfaithful matriarch is dying in a coma is, in my opinion, the best film of last year.  Kentucky native George Clooney is fantastic as the father of the clan and should walk away with the Best Actor Oscar.  It’s heartbreaking, funny and all-around a great film.  However, just because I think it should win Best Picture doesn’t mean it will.  The movie I think will win is…

“The Artist” is a love letter to the early days of cinema when silent films made way for the Talkies.  It’s told almost entirely in the silent film format dominant in the early 20th century.  I have written about this film in a previous column and my enthusiasm for it has not diminished.  It was a treat to view this at the Kentucky Theater and is an experience I will cherish.

In my opinion, Best Picture is a two horse race.  The remaining 7 are mostly fillers.  However, if there is one film that would be my dark horse pic, it would be #3.

Martin Scorsese’s own personal love letter to early cinema is the family friendly “Hugo”.  “It’s a film that contains a few parallels to other nominees.  It takes place in Paris during the 1930’s.  “Hugo” is in love with the films at the beginning of the medium’s inception (particularly George Méliès, with his 1902 “A Trip to the Moon” as a major plot point).  It’s about a kid who is looking for a message from his late father.  I could do the Oscar bait litmus test that I have used previously.  It follows many of the traits associated with Oscar bait.  However, unlike “that” film, this one is actually very good whose Oscar bait traits didn’t occur to me until I was on the way home.  While it won’t win the top prize, it should sweep the technical categories.  It does contain the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen and has me seriously contemplating a new 3D TV when it is released on Blu-ray next week.

Number 4 for me is “The Help”, the film about African American maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights era.  Bolstered by two (soon to be Oscar winning) performances by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, “The Help” conveys the harsh indignities African-Americans faced, raising the white children of spoiled and many times rotten parents.  This was the only film nominated that eclipsed the $100 Million mark and I for one am happy with its inclusion.

“Midnight in Paris” was a film that I initially didn’t want to see.  I’ve never been much of a fan of Woody Allen and the previews for this film almost turned me off completely.  I am happy to say I was gladly mistaken.  Owen Wilson is very likeable as the Woody Allen surrogate.  His nightly sojourns to 1930’s Paris, interacting with the literary greats of the era left me with a smile on my face.  I must digress that the moral of the story is kind of shoehorned in at the end, which made me knock it down one spot on my list.

The final 4 films are happy just to be nominated.  I cannot foresee any of them claiming the top spot.  Number six and seven are also interchangeable.  These two films have been swapping spots back and forth for the past few weeks.  Next week I may change my mind, but for now I’ll levy number 6 to “Moneyball”.

“Moneyball” is the true story of how the Oakland A’s changed baseball using statistics.  Brad Pitt is good as Billy Beane, the former MLB player turned manager whose outside the box thinking saved the organization after its three biggest stars left to play elsewhere.  Jonah Hill somehow got an Oscar nomination for basically playing a more serious version of himself, snubbing Albert Brooks out of the race and his portrayal of the villain in “Drive.”  “Moneyball” is good but not great.

Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” is a story of a horse in World War I.  It’s a “play it by the numbers” Spielberg.  The only reason that it was nominated, my guess would be, is that it was released Christmas Day.  It was still fresh in the voter’s minds.  I will say that its quality as a film is on par with “Moneyball.”  I liked it and don’t really begrudge its place on the short list of Best Picture.  I would have replaced it with “50/50” myself, but I’m not a voting member.

The final two films, I feel, do NOT deserve to be on the short list.  “The Tree of Life” is a polarizing film.  I know someone who absolutely loves it.  I do not.  It’s overlong, pretentious and, worst of all, boring.  A.K.A. it’s a Terrence Malick film.  He doesn’t direct often, but when he does, the Oscars gush over him.  I’ve not liked a single film of his but if I were to rate this one on the Malick scale, it would be towards the bottom.  As a side note, if you are going to have Sean Penn as one of the Top-Billed actors, make sure he is in it more than 5 minutes of the movie and have him do more than just wander around aimlessly.

Bottom of the pile is right where “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” resides.  I hated this movie.  I’ve spent a few paragraphs on this dung heap on previous columns and do NOT want to give this lousy piece of film another thought.

Those are my brief remarks on the Academy’s picks for Best in 2011.  What are your thoughts?  Please include a comment or two below.  In the meantime, it’s New Release time.  Four films make their case for your hard earned dollars.  Which ones do I think deserve it?  Let’s get to it.  First up is…

WANDERLUST

A Manhattan power couple (Paul Rudd, “Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers”, Jennifer Aniston, “Mac and Me”) are living the high life.  When he gets fired from his high paying job, they are forced to move to the country where they end up in a hippie style commune.  I’m wondering if hijinks will ensue.  I’d guess so.

The early hype surrounding this movie seemed to be the issue of Jennifer Aniston and her (ahem) assets.  There is a scene where she “shows off the goods” that was being promoted early in production.  That scene apparently does not appear in the final cut.  It still doesn’t change my lack of enthusiasm for this particular outing.  The trailer was not funny to me.  I’m giving it 2 guitar strumming hippies out of 5.  “Wanderlust” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use.

GONE

Amanda Seyfried (Solstice) comes home one day to find her sister missing.  Believing that she was kidnapped by a serial killer who abducted Ms. Seyfried a few years ago, she approaches the cops.  They are quick to dismiss her claims as she has made numerous accusations of this sort in the past.  It is now up to Amanda to find her sister before the killer strikes again.

This film can go one of two ways.  Either she is right all along and the cops are just incompetent or she is crazy and will undoubtedly be the culprit.  I’m leaning towards the latter so as to “shock” the audience.  If one is expecting the outcome, is it considered a twist ending?  Some will know come Friday.  I’ll wait until later before I see it.  It gets a 2 Crying Wolves out of 5.  “Gone” is rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references.

GOOD DEEDS

Tyler Perry’s (Star Trek) latest concerns a man (played by Tyler) whose life appears to be scripted.  Every day he goes through his daily routines in the same order at the same time.  This daily occurrence becomes jolted when he runs into a member of the cleaning crew at his office.  His good deed to her is to provide an apartment for her and her kid.  This simple act starts a chain reaction that will leave his sheltered world a little more chaotic, probably for the better.

I’ve not seen a Tyler Perry movie nor have I watched any of his television shows.  I doubt I’m the audience for this but I do know it’s a departure from his usual Madea fare.  This will probably be the first of his films I will see.  Time will tell if I become a convert to “all ways” Perry.  I’ll give this 3 Big Momma Houses out of 5.  “Good Deeds” is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, some violence and thematic material.

ACT OF VALOR

A CIA operative has been captured.  The Navy sends in the Seals to retrieve the asset.  It turns out that this is merely the beginning.  Soon the Seals are on a worldwide manhunt for a terrorist cell that threatens the peace throughout the globe.

What at once appears to be just a generic action picture becomes more so when the main stars are revealed.  The Seals in this movie are an ACTUAL Seals team.  The tactics used are the same as the team would utilize in real life.  The directors of this film are the same team that makes the Navy commercials, seen prevalently during sporting events.  This represents propaganda in its most blatant form, but it is effective.  I for one am looking forward to it.  It gets 4 Elite Military squads out of 5.  “Act of Valor” is rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language.

That draws this column to a close.  Next week, a Dr. Seuss creation parties with some teens.  Until then, the Oscar goes to…

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