Off the Carpet: The ultimate Rorschach season
I started writing this week's column with the age-old tactic of trending in mind. And as I thought about a number of this year's hopefuls, I thought maybe the season was very much about the power of memory over who we are.
In "Hugo," a boy struggles to understand the key to remembering his father (as well as a classic filmmaker's desire to forget who HE was).
In "The Muppets," a fan of the forgotten characters fights for their posterity. In "Young Adult," a delusional author lives in the memory of an old flame and the fantasy of rekindling it.
In "Martha Marcy May Marlene," a young woman struggles to separate memory from the present following a poisonous run-in with a cult and in "The Tree of Life," a man remembers his family life in strokes both vague and vivid, his parents boiled down to archetypal essence.
But that only got me so far. Soon I found myself stretching to fill the concept, reducing films like "The Descendants," "The Artist" and "Midnight in Paris" to over simplification. What struck me in that moment was how truly wide-ranging the field of themes and narratives in the Best Picture category really is.
We have Spielberg and Scorsese working with their trusted crews to crank out epic stories with massive design elements. Both are sentimental in nature, in some quarters considered (dismissively) "children's movies." But each is playing in adult themes of war, loss, emotional repair and, well, cinema history.
Alexander Payne is working in his usual gray area between drama and comedy to find basic truths while Steve McQueen is digging even deeper for truth, deeper than many will likely want to go.
There are spy dramas, biopics, animated extravaganzas from commercial live action directors, uncompromising dark comedies, nihilistic character studies, saccharine history lessons and just about any and everything in between. It truly is a season with something for everyone. So it becomes about settling on what the season is for you.
The best films of the year are films outside the Oscar box. Of course, they typically are, but it's true this year more than ever. While all eyes are on "The Descendants" or "The Artist" or "The Help," I find myself more enlivened by Terrence Malick's masterpiece "The Tree of Life," the organic despair of Oren Moverman's "Rampart," Jeff Nichols' penetrative study of paranoia in "Take Shelter" and Asghar Farhadi's moving, universal portrait of moral and social complexities in "A Separation."
Anyway, short column this week. Recent screenings have been assessed in this space with more to come. Better to chew on everything for a bit, but I've run a comb through the Contenders section and updated the sidebar predictions.
Which brings me to an announcement. I've decided to relinquish the stranglehold I've had on the sidebar predictions and Contenders section for so long and bring Guy into that fold. As a result, the field of predictions will be a mixture of our takes on the race and the categories we handle separately will be indicated with a byline at each contender page. The next update will include that change.
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
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