I cut it closer to the wire than I generally like, but I’ve finally seen all five of the nominees for Best Picture. My thoughts in brief:
The rare film that’s actually better on the second viewing. Martin Scorsese might as well appear on camera, screaming “Give me the f**king Oscar!” between scenes. His latest film, a remake of the popular Asian crime-thriller Infernal Affairs, is a masterpiece of plotting and tension, with great performances all around and a rock-and-roll soundtrack that just won’t quit. Tight and complex, The Departed expects you to keep up, and has little use for you if you don’t. A most refreshing attitude compared to the majority of films, which over-explain everything to ensure that Joe Public (no relation) doesn’t get left behind.
I think it’s pretty inconceivable that Scorsese won’t win Best Director. There was too much outcry over The Aviator, and he’ll win it this year out of sympathy if nothing else.
Sharp, sophisticated drama chronicling the aftermath of Princess Diana’s untimely death, and its effect on the British monarchy. Superbly directed by Stephen Frears, the film takes a critical — yet still sympathetic — look at one of the world’s most powerful women, never allowing her to devolve into cartoon villainy. Helen Mirren certainly earns her Best Actress nomination in the title role, but Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Tony Blair is no less magnetic. A delight for fans of politically themed cinema. No way Mirren won’t get the acting prize.
Hurray, it’s another overrated “studiopendent” indie film celebrating dysfunction as the Great American Paradigm. The most insufferable family in the world goes on a road trip to get their ugly ducking daughter to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty paegent in California. Along the way, we’ll get to witness their many tender screaming matches, drug overdoses, and porn-buying sprees. Almost completely meritless, especially after you see Olive’s routine in the paegent, which makes you wonder what, exactly, her grandfather was doing with her all the time they were supposed to be “practicing” alone together… there’s way too much sexual energy for such a pint-sized princess, which the film plays strictly for laughs. A big ol’ bowl of “ick.”
Not only is this film unworthy of its Best Picture nomination, it’s a slap in the face to its audience. Judging from the Academy’s previous efforts to recognize quality cinema, it’ll probably take home the Oscar.
As close to flawless as any war movie ever made, and one of the most beautiful to boot. Clint Eastwood is in top form behind the camera once again, commanding a large cast of characters and shaping them into a team of complex, sympathetic individuals. Eastwood has apparently been studying from the Terrence Malick playbook, and the film is packed with long lyrical passages that say a great deal with almost no dialogue. Perhaps the best praise I can give this movie is that it achieves everything Spielberg set out to do with Saving Private Ryan, but with none of that unpleasant “directorial grandstanding” aftertaste. A masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly.
I love Scorsese and think he deserves a whole shelf of gold statues, but The Departed doesn’t even come close to this. Which doesn’t mean Scorsese won’t win.
A complex movie consisting of three interlocking stories involving a rifle and a tour bus. Slow to start, but the payoff is worth it, even if parts of the film are a little too “on the nose” for my taste. (Do we really need to see another scene of a white cop being suspicious of a Mexican for no reason? What is this, Crash 2?) An ambitious movie, but one I admired more for the skillful direction than the overall plot.