Paid, as I am, merely by my satisfaction in writing and yours in reading, I don’t fritter my hours away compiling the best-of lists that the pros—much to us amateurs’ collective pleasure—slave away at, or the sort of star-studded, red-carpet reportage that asks the celebutantes who they’re wearing. (Those queries make me wish that Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs was invited to awards shows.) But I have reviewed nine out of this year’s unprecedented 10 nominees for Best Picture, and have linked them below in the order that I posted them.
(Yes, I know I’m missing The Blind Side; that doesn’t mean I feel I’m missing out. If it makes you feel better, I’ll substitute my review of Invictus, another feel-good, family-friendly ravager of racism that—to my surprise—didn’t ravage the doting hearts of the Academy.)
- Inglourious Basterds
- The Hurt Locker
- District 9
- A Serious Man
- An Education
- Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
- Up in the Air
Wanna know my pick for to whom the Oscar should go? Too bad. But if you peruse these exquisite pieces of filmtastic analysis, you’ll probably get a good idea.
One of the pleasures of criticism is in seeing how movies reflect the world they’re made in. So much has happened in the past year that one cannot blame the industry for not being “in touch”—particularly in the case of a film like Avatar, which was conceived when Clinton was fresh in the Oval Office. That blockbuster—blockbasher?—does, however, attain relevance in that its vision of the future is surprisingly bleak; it says that we’re at the bottom of the barrel of Earth’s resources and still, in 2154, invading alien lands for the future equivalent of foreign oil. And this in a crowd-pleasing spectacle! It’s tantamount to George Lucas giving the Ewoks AIDS.
Up in the Air probably has the most obvious tea leaves to read. Aside from its acknowledgement of the recession—which is more a result of opportune timing than anything else—its treatment of the hero has traces of the so-called Wall Street/Main Street divide. Not that George Clooney intended to appease the Tea Party poopers. At this point, the suggestion that sorrow and intangible longing are all that’s behind a white collar has enormous currency both left and right. (Much more currency than the Federal Reserve…)
If The Hurt Locker wins—if only for Best Director—I hope it’s for Kathryn Bigelow’s enormous skill, and not 82+ years of slighted women. (Though, as Manohla Dargis eloquently points out, they have been slighted.)
And, finally, though I wasn’t a particular fan of its sadomasochistic mechanism, A Serious Man may reflect a new direction that motion pictures are moving in—and I don’t mean toward the third dimension. (Foiled again, James Cameron!) In the Coen brothers’ most recent movies, the world is falling apart, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why can’t we do anything about it? Because they’re in control of it. Their elusive directorial tyranny, which has its perks and pickles, is not necessarily a cinematic breakthrough. This trickery is more reticent than revealing; it’s like a sitcom with Nabokovian polish. Yet its widespread acceptance may be a sullen indicator of the helplessness so many Americans now seem to feel.
[Big-time downer—I know. But all the more reason to get shit-faced at the Oscar party! Here’s to there being more worth toasting next year.]