If I Picked the Oscar Nominees

The Oscar nominations are announced bright and early tomorrow morning. As a movie lover who saw a ton of movies over Christmas break, I have lots of ideas about who should be nominated. I’m still waiting for Hollywood to ask for my opinion, but for now, here’s my take on who I’d like to see nominated (Note: these are not predictions – I realize some are long-shots or no-shots-at-all).

Best Picture

(Since the new rules dictate that there will be between five and ten Best Picture nominees, I decided to list movies until I was somewhere within that range and ran out of movies to list – and I wound up with nine I liked enough to include.)

  1. The Artist: Based on its reviews, I figured I’d think this was a good movie, but I had no idea how much I’d adore it. I can’t remember the last time a movie made me smile so much and just feel flat-out joy at watching it. Magical.
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Harry Potter films have grown from faithful recreations of a beloved novel to legitimately outstanding movies in and of themselves. Please, please, please, Academy – finally recognize this fact.
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The more I think about this movie, the more I appreciate it. You could call it a mere thriller, but it’s so suspenseful and stylish that it’s elevated beyond that.
  4. The Help: One of the rare instances where Hollywood did not butcher a book I had loved. There are so many great performances in this film (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, and on and on and on), and that’s what makes it really shine.
  5. War Horse: I wrote in my review that this was classic Oscar bait but that I didn’t care – and I still feel that way. Beautifully done.
  6. The Descendants: This feels like a “small” movie compared to some of the others on this list, but it’s also kinda brilliant in a quiet way.
  7. Bridesmaids: One of my tests of a movie’s greatness is how often I want to re-watch it, and this movie is one I can (and do) watch over and over again. Yeah, you know about all the hilarious scenes, but I love that it packs a nice emotional punch too (seriously, Kristen Wiig’s character is sad, y’all). Plus, it features Wiig and Maya Rudolph silly dancing to Wilson Phillips. Good times.
  8. Young Adult: I wish this movie had more buzz surrounding it, because I really liked it – from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt’s performances to all the details of small-town suburbia, it gets everything right.
  9. Crazy Stupid Love: Yes, it’s a romantic comedy, and not the type of movie that ever gets nominated for Best Picture, but I still love this film – from the performance of Steve Carell to the humor to the depiction of modern relationships to the ultimate hopefulness about love.

Best Actor

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar): I cannot believe DiCaprio hasn’t won an Oscar yet. I don’t think he deserves the win this year (Jean Dujardin does), but what does he have to do to get some Oscar love? I was ambivalent about the movie as a whole, but DiCaprio is spot-on in his portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover.
  2. George Clooney (The Descendants): The Academy loves to recognize women who turn ugly for roles (see: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, etc.), so why not recognize George Clooney for becoming kinda schlubby? (Which, by the way, is not a word I ever imagined using to describe George Clooney). And if that’s not enough for you, he’s fantastic in this role as a beleaguered father trying to deal with the death of his wife, amongst other things.
  3. Jean Dujardin (The Artist): This is maybe the most charismatic performance I have ever seen – watching him put a gigantic smile on my face. I adore him, and would love to see him win it all come Oscar night. And then mime his acceptance speech.
  4. Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March): This movie doesn’t have much Oscar buzz, but I think Gosling’s great in it, starting out idealistic and principled and slowly descending into another ruthless player in the political game. And, of course, looking super tasty while doing so.
  5. Steve Carell (Crazy Stupid Love): This is one of those “not a chance in hell” picks I was talking about, but I just love Carell in this role. He’s known for comedy, but he nails this more serious part as well. He makes his character sad but incredibly lovable, and you can’t help but root for him to come out on top.

Best Actress

  1. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo): From her physical transformation to the quiet ruthlessness she brought to the part, Mara was fantastic as Lisbeth Salander. If only the silly Academy would pay attention to the movie…
  2. Viola Davis (The Help): Please, please, for the love of all that is good, don’t let Meryl Streep beat Viola Davis at the Oscars. Meryl Streep is an acting genius, but I really think this is the best performance of 2011. Strong, dignified, and heartbreaking.
  3. Charlize Theron (Young Adult): I give Theron major props for fearlessly playing one of the most unlikeable protagonists in recent memory. Mavis is desperate, pathetic, and far past her prime, and Theron nails every single detail of it.
  4. Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids): Melissa McCarthy seems to be getting most of the Bridesmaids love (and that’s understandable), but Wiig is so great in this movie. From the funny stuff (the airplane scene) to the sad stuff (all her little emotional breakdowns), she nails a whole range of emotions. And her hair looks really pretty the entire time. Important, I know.
  5. Felicity Jones (Like Crazy): I was somewhat “meh” on the movie as a whole, but Jones was excellent, perfectly encapsulating the agony of experiencing a long-distance romance.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Niels Arestrup (War Horse): Another for the “no way in hell” pile, but I adored Arestrup’s performance in War Horse. The segment of the movie on the French farm was my favorite, and it was largely because of his performance (as well as that of the girl who played his granddaughter). Quiet and powerful.
  2. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady): It seems mildly slanderous to type this, but I actually enjoyed Broadbent’s performance far more than I did Streep’s in the Iron Lady. What can I say – he’s funny, lovable, and incredibly endearing.
  3. Armie Hammer (J. Edgar): As Broadbent is to Streep, so too Hammer almost is to DiCaprio – he turned in a great performance, and I may have just enjoyed his work even more than Leo’s. His portrayal made me completely feel for his character.
  4. Patton Oswalt (Young Adult): He and Theron complemented each other perfectly in this movie. I loved how his character was the comedic voice of reason, but Oswalt also conveyed what a sad, sad man he was underneath.
  5. Tom Hardy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy): I’m almost certain Michael Fassbender is going to be nominated for Best Actor, and if Hardy were to get nominated for Supporting (he won’t), that would mean my two biggest Hollywood crushes would be in the same room. Too much to handle. What’s that you say? You don’t care about who my biggest Hollywood crushes are? Well, in that case, Hardy’s performance in this movie was also fantastic. I loved how, in a movie filled with stuffy British men in trench coats, he seemed to be the only one with a heart and soul.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants): Part of my amazement at her performance comes from the fact that she currently stars on (what I can only imagine is) a very cheesy show on ABC Family. I mean, going from that to this? Pretty amazing. But that fact notwithstanding, she’s great in this movie as a slightly out-of-control teenager struggling to cope with the impending loss of her mother.
  2. Jessica Chastain (The Help): Jessica Chastain was in approximately 75% of all films made in 2011, but not without good reason – she’s a fantastic actress. Celia was one of my favorite characters in the novel because she’s simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking – and Chastain gets both those aspects just right.
  3. Berenice Bejo (The Artist): A close second to her costar (the aforementioned Jean Dujardin) in the charisma department. I found Bejo’s performance delightful and fun. And she is unfairly beautiful.
  4. Judy Greer (The Descendants): I know this is a small part, and that it’s not a showy performance. But Greer’s wonderful, and it’s about damn time she got some recognition. She’s awesome in just about everything.
  5. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids): If McCarthy’s name were read tomorrow morning, I’d get such a kick out of it. Her performance is utterly brilliant, and to have such over-the-top comedic gold recognized at the stuffy Oscars would be amazing.

Movie Review: Like Crazy

When I heard about Like Crazy at the beginning of this year, as it was doing well at Sundance, I knew I wanted to see it. And, then, when the trailer came out this summer, I knew I had to see it. So, last week, see it I did.

As with everything you have high expectations for in life, it turned out to be slightly underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very good film; I just expected it to be a bit better.

So, let’s start with the good things. All the actors were excellent. I’ve read that the film’s dialogue was largely improvised, and I’m impressed with what they came up with. Felicity Jones, as Anna, was definitely the MVP of the movie. Jones was so good at conveying all the ups and downs Anna went through – from the giddiness of initial love to the confusion at being apart, and a million other emotions in between. I liked Anton Yelchin, as Jacob, as well, but he just didn”t come off as powerfully as Jones did. He was solid, but his performance didn’t make much of an impression on me.

The actors who played Anna and Jacob’s other love interests did a fine job as well. Though it was odd to see Jennifer Lawrence in such a small role, she made the most of the thankless task of playing the “other woman.” And Charlie Bewley, as Simon, was really endearing. At one point (I won’t spoil it) I felt like watching him was like watching a puppy get kicked – he was so eager and lovable that I felt terribly sad for him.

The other thing I loved about this movie was its depiction of the love story. The one thing I’ve read and heard – over and over again – was that the movie provides an extremely realistic depiction of love. I think that’s true. It’s hard to explain, but the thing I enjoyed most about it is embodied in something the character of Anna says, “I thought I understood it. But I didn’t. I knew the smudgeness of it. The eagerness of it. The idea of it. Of you and me.”

That’s what the movie is exactly like to me – it shows the eagerness and the smudgeness of falling in love. It doesn’t give you the point-by-point details of their relationship; it often skips forward in time and leaves you to fill in the gaps. It doesn’t sketch out every event that happens between Anna and Jacob, but it captures the feeling of it all so well. I appreciated that the movie didn’t patronize me and explain every little detail; it treats you like you’re smarter than that. And in that way, Like Crazy distinguishes itself from 95% of romantic movies, which generally tend to treat you like you’re a moron

What about the things I didn’t like so much? Well, as I mentioned above, I generally thought this movie distinguished itself from a vapid romantic comedy quite well. There were just a couple moments where it veered into too-sappy territory. The one that bothered me the most was when Anna and Jacob stood on opposite sides of a glass door and put their hands up against each other’s. I mean, come on! That’s so cheesy. Who does that? I also thought there were a few too many wistful and moody glances set to equally wistful and moody music.

(SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading now if you don’t want a key plot point revealed.)

Whew. Now that we got my warning out of the way (you did pay attention to it, right?), I’ll say that I was also bothered by one particular plot point. It annoyed me that Anna and Jacob got married. It just felt weird to me, like it came out of left field. I understand that, from a purely bureaucratic standpoint, it was necessary for them to get married. But it just seemed abrupt to me.

This also leads to my next point of annoyance – they wouldn’t have even had to rush into a marriage if Jacob had manned up and moved to London. Your girlfriend, whom you say you’re madly in love with, can’t get a visa. Logically, wouldn’t you try to find a way to go to her instead? Plus, London is an awesome city. Plus, part deux, it’s not like Jacob’s line of work was something that had to be done in Los Angeles. I’m pretty sure you can whittle your damn chairs anywhere, dude.

Finally, I didn’t love the ending – it was a little too vague. I have a very strong opinion about what it meant (in case you were wondering: I think it all hinges on their facial expressions in the shower; it seems like they both realized they had simply changed too much.) Nonetheless, it annoyed me that it wasn’t more definitive. I understand the point of endings like this, and the motivation behind not wrapping everything up in a nice little bow for the audience. But, on the other hand, it kind of annoys me. Like, hey screenwriter, stop being coy! Just tell me what happened. There’s a type of movie where this sort of ending works well, and Like Crazy isn’t that type. The whole vague ending thing works well in a film like Inception, which is supposed to be all mind-bending and thought-provoking. There, I don’t think everything should be spelled out for you. But here, I’d like a little more clarity, please.

I realize that from all the nit-picky things I just mentioned, it might seem like I didn’t love the movie all that much. But I did – it was very, very good. There were just a few things that held it back from being “great.”

My grade: B+

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 1

I bookmark a lot of random videos/articles/etc all the time. So, I figured, every once in awhile (like when I get to 10 such awesome things) I’ll round them up and put ‘em on here. So, here are some things I think are awesome at the moment:

  1. I started using Evernote to organize all my class/life notes. My beloved OneNote is not available for Mac yet, but this is doing a pretty spiffy job in the meanwhile.
  2. The casting for the new Anna Karenina adaptation: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Matthew Macfadyen. Yes, please.
  3. The Like Crazy Trailer. Cannot wait to see this – definitely my most anticipated movie of the fall.
  4. My new Minnetonka Kilty Suede mocs in Storm Blue.
  5. My iPhone case broke last week – luckily I found this one.
  6. I just bought a few Ann Taylor Loft long sleeve v-neck tees (in Ultra Plum and Bay Leaf). They are soft + comfy and will definitely be a staple of my wardrobe this fall.
  7. This video of Novak Djokovic dancing. Boy’s got moves.
  8. Reese Witherspoon’s new photoshoot in Marie Claire.
  9. Polyvore.com. I don’t have an account yet, mostly because I know I would become super addicted, super fast. How long until I cave?
  10. I’ve been working my way through the Game of Thrones series recently. And this video is hilarious. Damn, it feels good to be a Lannister.