I kind of love the Oscars. Over the summer, I think I saw two movies: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and The Dark Knight. They were both okay. This time of year, though, I get to see many fantastic movies that I enjoy. I love Oscar bait – the lush cinematography, the sad endings, the one independent movie that always slips through and defies expectations. Because of my great love for those things, Mike and I have been to see seven movies since Christmas. And even though not all of them were fantastic, I am going to tell you about them right now. Ready?
Well, wait. First, though, in December we saw Rachel Getting Married, and it was pretty great. What I liked about the movie was the way that weddings bring out those family dynamics, and the way that Rosemary DeWitt was quietly in the center of this whole thing that was supposed to be about her. Anne Hathaway was great, and if you weren’t gripping the armrest during her toast, well, you must have better nerves than I do.
Doubt – I loved the play, but the movie was too heavyhanded. I didn’t leave with an ambiguous feeling. I left feeling like he was as guilty as sin. Interestingly, my book club discussed this movie on Thursday, and they all felt that he was innocent and bullied by Meryl Streep. So I guess there was still some ambiguity, but not in the same way. The play was just so much more delicate in its handling of the question of guilt. And maybe the problem for me was the casting, because there is just no way that I can see PSH as a victim of bullying. Even from Meryl Streep. Speaking of Meryl Streep, she was awesome in this movie. I love her. And Viola Davis gets my vote for Supporting Actress.
Milk – Sean Penn is as good in this movie as advertised. He gets my vote for Best Actor. He and Johnny Depp are the two actors who impress me the most with their ability to transform into their characters. It was a great movie and a sad story, but I honestly don’t have more to say about it than that. I cried, but it didn’t move me quite as much as I had expected it to. Which leads me to . . .
Slumdog Millionaire – On the way to see this, I told Mike that, no pressure or anything, but this movie was my last best hope for “best film of 2008.” And it did not disappoint. Definitely my favorite film of 2008. Some people have said it felt culturally exploitative, but I felt just the opposite. Part of the point, I thought, was that it’s very easy for me to look down on these people and to pity them when their lives are full of the same sorts of things that mine are: work and play and joys and sorrows. It’s a very human film, despite its flaws. Yes, it’s flawed, but I liked it so much that I didn’t care. (I do wonder if I will like it as much when I see it again.)
Synecdoche, New York – I don’t even know what to say about this one. I’m just not smart enough to understand it. Whenever it comes up, Mike says, “That movie was like an onion. It had a lot of layers.” I don’t know if that means he got it more than I did or he is just trying to sound smart.
The Reader – Kate Winslet sure was naked a lot. Also, that whole, “Read to me first and then we will have sex,” montage . . . as Mike said, “That’s a great way to get teenage boys to read!” The ALA should make The Reader their theme for the next Teen Read Week or something. This one was actually somewhat disappointing, especially after reading some of the things from the book that the movie didn’t include. I feel as if this movie edged up to being great, but didn’t quite make it. I adore Kate Winslet always and forever, so I think she was wonderful, and I hope it wins her the Oscar, but I wish that her character had had a bit more transformation. However. I will say that my book club also discussed this one, and we had a fantastic discussion. I recommend Ebert’s blog entry on The Reader (contains spoilers), because even though I think the movie didn’t do all of the things he is saying that it did, it raised a lot of interesting questions about our choices and our sin and what kind of redemption or forgiveness is possible.
The Wrestler – Everything I can say about The Wrestler has been said in this post (which doesn’t exactly contain spoilers, but kind of refers to the ending). Please go read that. Okay, I guess I will say a few things. This really is a heartbreaking movie, because it was so easy to see my own need for acceptance and approval in Randy. Mickey Rourke is really great. I didn’t see any of the gory scenes, but I watched Mike’s face as he watched them, and, man, if his facial expressions were any indication, I did the right thing by not watching right then. I still like Sean Penn better, but Mickey Rourke gave an impressive performance. I especially liked the similarities between his character and Marisa Tomei’s character, while, at the same time, their choices were leading them on different paths.
Revolutionary Road – I wanted to like this, because, in case I haven’t mentioned it lately, I love Kate Winslet. But now I can see why this wasn’t nominated. It never felt like they were talking to each other. It just felt like they were making speeches at each other. And maybe it was supposed to feel like that, but it just didn’t work. Also, when we saw it, people laughed at things I think they weren’t supposed to. I just didn’t care as much as I thought I would. But I am very curious about the book.
Mike and I will do our Oscar ballots and have lots of smack talk during the show. And then we will probably not make it through the entire show. Because we are old. These things should really start earlier. I can’t stay up so late. And also, get off my lawn. (I haven’t seen Gran Torino yet.)