The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

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Shrew
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#476 Post by Shrew » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:07 am

Munich was the first film I remember seeing Craig in, and while I figured he wasn't actually Jewish, I mainly remember being creeped out by how pale his eyes were. There's a specific shot where the the light is behind him and his face is in profile or 3/4 so that his eyes become nearly translucent. That's something I've never seen reproduced in his later Bonds or other more heroic roles (though I'm far from a Craig completist). Perhaps directors st this time were mainly pursuing him as a special effect?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#477 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:51 am

I wouldn't say it was creepy but when I saw him in Road To Perdition, it made a pretty immediate impression on me of him, one that's been a little hard to shake even with his fine work as Bond and elsewhere since.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#478 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:08 pm

2015:

The Big Short
Pearl clutching neoliberal films about crimes perpetrated by the financial industry that all but leave out their impact on actual non-millionaires are usually utter death, and this is no exception. Plenty of texture for the loathsome players, while those scammed are faceless statistics.

Bridge of Spies
One of Spielberg's best, bolstered by the screenplay, which is lent a ton of pop by the Coens. Incredibly high stakes are treated deftly by a Jimmy Stewart-level Tom Hanks, who's story is framed without needless bombast despite some lovely old fashioned patriotic solemnity to round out the proceedings, and it's difficult not to be waving your own tiny flag in the audience. A strong contender that never really got its due and might join Munich as a largely forgotten Spielberg masterwork that just happened to get a Best Picture nomination.

Brooklyn
Sometimes simplicity is a picture's best ally - there's nothing transcendent here, but every time Nick Hornby's screenplay risks veering into a 'woman in trouble' victimhood narrative (which has been done so many times before and will be done so many times again), it instead humbly explores a young woman's seizure of her agency in her own life at a time when that agency was far more limited, and the impact that the supporting players in one's life can have on determining its shape. It's charming and largely successful in its modest aims.

Mad Max: Fury Road
This has become a film I always stop at if flipping channels, it's easily accessible at any point during its runtime, eye-poppingly gorgeous to look at, imbued with such life and such energy. One of the best action films of the last several years, suffering only from the fact that it could never live up to the initial raves it received: loud whispers about how flawless it was that were begging to be angrily stifled by those that found its insignificant flaws. Seen at a distance from this context, it's getting better and better.

The Martian
A film that feels made by committee, I am still rather puzzled by what compelled Scott to pull so many punches here. The NASA sequences feel particularly watered down, and it seems like every popular television actor brought on board (and they are myriad) are all asked to just play up their comfortable personas, which diminishes what could've been a substantially more timeless film that will eternally feel of a piece the early Netflix/HBO Go era.

The Revenant
If this was the award for best performance of the year, Tom Hardy would take this in a runaway. But the picture that surrounds him is flawed, trading character for flourish and thoughtfulness for indulgence. It's the same old story for this filmmaker on a different day - but at least this one has that Hardy performance.

Room
Is the kid's narration a misstep? Yes, and it's a big one. But essentially every other decision made in the production of this quietly excellent picture is spot-on, particularly the second half, which is far less flashy than the time spent in the titular room - but it is the sort of respectful, tragic character study that most films with this kind of incendiary subject matter would bypass in favor of more exploitation of the central conceit - more finger-wagging rape scenes and violent outbursts and daring escape attempts. The escape we get is totally heartwrenching and perfectly executed, and then the film really gets good. In a somewhat weak field, this stood out to me and still does.

Spotlight
A strong film on the page that's lacking in anything particularly cinematic. Ruffalo's outburst aside (and I love Mark Ruffalo, but it is a huge hunk of ham in the middle of a very modest performance and film that doesn't feel right outside of awards reels), Spotlight is sadly lacking in any All the President's Men moments and therefore feels far inferior to other journalism epics. Should've been an HBO miniseries, but of course, it won the academy's big prize in a year without a movie about how great Hollywood is to hand it to, so what do I know?

My Vote: Room

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#479 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:13 pm

You mention this a lot, year after year, so: why is it a problem that Hollywood awards films about the movie industry?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#480 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:35 pm

domino harvey wrote:You mention this a lot, year after year, so: why is it a problem that Hollywood awards films about the movie industry?
I realize perhaps I should reduce the frequency with which I take that shot, but my issue is more with its predictability than its narrow focus (though, re: the focus - maybe your average Oscar viewer doesn't plug in to this kind of material the way they do with something with a bit broader appeal and that could be a contributing factor in flagging ratings?). It's a recent development that is, if Sunday goes as expected, officially a trend: that'll be 4 out of the last 6 Best Picture winners that are about the importance of stage and screen in some capacity. Since this was rarely if ever the case prior to that win for The Artist in 2011, I worry that the years of montages and speechifying have so seeped into the mentality of the Academy that it'll be an uphill climb for any film nominated against this sort of insider-y showbiz material, regardless of its merits. La La Land may be the best film nominated this year for many, but does this mean that every Argo that comes along from now on has a cushy road to victory over more deserving films because it includes that all-important wink and back pat to the magic of the film industry?

Time could absolutely prove me wrong and I hope it does, but the field of Best Picture winners has felt more meta and self-congratulatory of late, and I can't think of anything that would make me actually lose interest in the Academy Awards more than it losing its thematic diversity in the long term.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#481 Post by Ribs » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:39 pm

I think Mark Harris had an argument on Twitter a few weeks ago about how, when this is all remembered, it will become a thing of, "the Academy rewarded what it voted to be the Best Picture of the year, but once it shifted to preferential balloting an almost immediate shift occurred towards spotlighting films centered around the business of moviemaking in particular." I think this is a little reductive (Argo isn't about the magic of the movies, and neither is Birdman; they both feature the industry, though). Hell, La La Land owes a lot to classic Hollywood and is obviously set in tinseltown and features actresses and auditions and all that but I'd still not really describe it as being about the movies either.

So, as with most things, if this is just a short-term trend, that's fine, but if it continues over years to come then I think it becomes more concerning.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#482 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:45 pm

It's slightly preferable to them rewarding films about Important Issues.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#483 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:51 pm

Ribs wrote:Argo isn't about the magic of the movies
It's a rare opportunity to put film producers in the roles of historically significant heroes, so while it isn't a typical backstage drama, I would contend that it's very much about the magic of the movies, or more importantly, those responsible for making them. This feels like the most egregious back-pat of them all to me of the four.
Ribs wrote:and neither is Birdman
While, yes, most of this is centered around a Broadway performance, it's a very meta film about a film actor, and sequences like the dressing down of the joyless critic are like a warm glass of milk for those with a personal stake in the success or failure of movies and plays and surely factored in its win. With absolutely no data to point to, I would guess that this film went over much better within the industry than it did outside of it.
swo17 wrote:It's slightly preferable to them rewarding films about Important Issues.
Amen.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#484 Post by captveg » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:51 pm

Hey, don't worry - they still award the Important Issues movies if the other 2 winners in the last 6 years have anything to say about it!

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#485 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 1:55 pm

And if anything upsets La La Land it's gonna be Hidden Figures...

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#486 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:50 pm

mfunk9786 wrote: Room
Is the kid's narration a misstep? Yes, and it's a big one. But essentially every other decision made in the production of this quietly excellent picture is spot-on, particularly the second half, which is far less flashy than the time spent in the titular room - but it is the sort of respectful, tragic character study that most films with this kind of incendiary subject matter would bypass in favor of more exploitation of the central conceit - more finger-wagging rape scenes and violent outbursts and daring escape attempts. The escape we get is totally heartwrenching and perfectly executed, and then the film really gets good. In a somewhat weak field, this stood out to me and still does.
My Vote: Room
Given your repeated criticism of La La Land for breaking up a relationship on somewhat shaky grounds, I'm wondering how you perceive an element of Room that was one of my major problems with that film.

From earlier in this thread:
DarkImbecile wrote: For example,
SpoilerShow
I outright hated the way William H. Macy's father character turned on a dime from extreme gratefulness at the return of his daughter to an unsupported childishness regarding his grandson's provenance and, even worse, allowing this to keep him away from his miraculously recovered child. The film did no work establishing this turn as a believable character development, and never comes back to it.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#487 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:23 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
SpoilerShow
I outright hated the way William H. Macy's father character turned on a dime from extreme gratefulness at the return of his daughter to an unsupported childishness regarding his grandson's provenance and, even worse, allowing this to keep him away from his miraculously recovered child. The film did no work establishing this turn as a believable character development, and never comes back to it.
How often does a film do that, though? It's clear that Macy had moved on with his life, packed his pain way down, and had not even considered the possibility that this would happen, let alone with a child in tow. He's made uncomfortable by the fact that something that ruined his marriage and required him to put down new roots in his life, that he had to spend what must have been a considerable amount of time recovering from, has confronted him anew - in his old home no less, several years later. I'd posit that this is a more realistic arc (or non-arc) for that character - it comes up again in Manchester by the Sea with Gretchen Mol as well, this sort of confrontation with past trauma (or past mistakes) in the form of someone who you can no longer love unconditionally, because moving on from those feelings was an essential part of their own survival. I thought the way the Macy character was written and performed was one of the smartest aspects of Room. And I don't think it's a death sentence for those characters' relationship in the very long term, either.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#488 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:45 pm

So it's fair to judge La La Land based only on what we see but Room on what we don't, got it

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#489 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:26 pm

I remain completely baffled by this comparison, total apples and oranges - in Room, we've got a ton of contextual implication of what happened prior to the time we spend with Macy's character, and can only speculate about what happens after. In La La Land, what we don't see is smack dab in the center of our time with the characters, and they are written as if absolutely nothing occurred between them during that time - it's difficult to connect dots that aren't there

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#490 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:17 pm

Ribs wrote:I think Mark Harris had an argument on Twitter a few weeks ago about how, when this is all remembered, it will become a thing of, "the Academy rewarded what it voted to be the Best Picture of the year, but once it shifted to preferential balloting an almost immediate shift occurred towards spotlighting films centered around the business of moviemaking in particular." I think this is a little reductive (Argo isn't about the magic of the movies, and neither is Birdman; they both feature the industry, though). Hell, La La Land owes a lot to classic Hollywood and is obviously set in tinseltown and features actresses and auditions and all that but I'd still not really describe it as being about the movies either.

So, as with most things, if this is just a short-term trend, that's fine, but if it continues over years to come then I think it becomes more concerning.
So what you are all saying is that Soderbergh should remake Full Frontal now that its time has finally arrived?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#491 Post by Timec » Wed Mar 01, 2017 6:43 pm

2016

Arrival – Much of the pleasure of this stylish and thoughtful sci-fi comes from just watching all the pieces come together so seamlessly. In spite of the “heady” concepts being discussed, it never becomes bogged down in exposition, nor does it overstate its own “profundity.”

Fences – I like the source material, and I generally have a high tolerance for “stagy” films—but Washington’s direction is so poor, and his performance so overstated, that I found this a difficult slog.

Hacksaw Ridge – This was… All right. Unlike most, I found both halves to be equally uninspired and equally watchable. The battlefield sequence certainly does ratchet up the gore and is likely to become the new post-Saving Private Ryan benchmark for graphic cinematic depictions of “war as hell”—but… I’m not really convinced that this was the best or most effective way to tell Doss’ story.

Hell or High Water – Solid and entertaining modern western that manages to get quite a bit of mileage out of recycling old tropes. If it tries too hard to be “relevant” (see: all those shots of billboards advertising home foreclosures), it rarely lets the social commentary distract from the compelling central story. If this does nothing new, it also mostly gets things right.

Hidden Figures – There’s nothing particularly notable about the filmmaking here. Everything is “fine”—and nothing more. However, the story being told is cool enough that I still enjoyed it anyways. If the Academy is going to honor these kinds of “socially aware” crowdpleasers, they could do far worse than this.

La La Land – It takes a while to get going—the opening number is a fizzler, and there are some other missteps along the way. But once it finds its footing, I completely fell for this homage to Jacques Demy and Studio-era musicals. In spite of all the accusations of “fluff,” I actually found it surprisingly resonant and emotionally complex. It doesn’t hurt that it takes a lot of its narrative and emotional beats from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which is one of my all-time favorite films.

Lion – This is about half of an excellent film. The opening scenes are involving and harrowing. The ending is as moving as you’d expect. But my interest waned during all the scenes of adult Saroo being moody and staring at his laptop. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to structure a film around the protagonist doing a Google Maps search.

Manchester by the Sea – A very well-made film with some of the strongest writing and acting of recent years. In spite of the talent on display, however, I found myself largely unmoved - but I think this is entirely down to me, and not a fault of the film.

Moonlight – Beautiful, moving journey into a young man’s soul. The sense of loneliness and longing in the final act, in particular, was palpable. It’s never quite what I expected, and it’s a testament to the power of the actors and filmmakers that the three sections manage to form a coherent whole.

My Choice: Moonlight

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#492 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:37 pm

2016
Arrival
One of the rare science fiction films that manages to be technically sound, emotionally resonant, and conceptually interesting enough to stimulate the kind of sustained discussion taking place in the film's thread about the mechanism at the core of the plot without being cold or alienating to a wide audience. Villeneuve's method of doling out just enough information to lead the audience exactly where he wants them to go has been so well-refined across his last half-dozen films that the reveals in Arrival manage to feel both clever and earned. That said, the masterful editing, cinematography, and pacing of his work somewhat buries the lede that his key talent might be consistently managing to get the most out of his already excellent casts, which is very much the case with this film as well.

Fences
I actually wasn't particularly bothered by the oft-derided "staginess" of Denzel Washington's adaptation, and the strong performances make this a more worthwhile watch than I'd anticipated going in. Washington may have been right to brood over his Oscar loss to Casey Affleck, as he doesn't often give performances this complicated or take full ownership of a character's flaws in the way he does here. That said: the final moments make up one of the most ill-considered and poorly executed endings I've seen on an otherwise good film in quite some time, with Washington's directorial decisions actively undermining his own performance.

Hacksaw Ridge
Perhaps the most disposable of the nominees is still a capable - if largely predictable and conventional - war film that indulges all of Gibson's directorial obsessions: extraordinarily graphic violence in the name of righteous conflict, a messianic protagonist whose suffering reflects his moral superiority, and persecution of that hero by his own countrymen. The impressive scale of the battle scenes are notable given the budget, but distance from that behind-the-scenes value will only make the film seem even less worthy of the Best Picture nomination ten or twenty years from now.

Hell or High Water
A fine modern western that I suspect will be compulsively re-watchable due to the pacing and quality of the cast, especially the much overlooked Chris Pine, who provides a necessarily more centered and steady antihero performance opposite the showier Ben Foster. As commonly noted elsewhere, however, the script and Mackenzie's direction doesn't always display the subtlety necessary to make its socioeconomic critique land the way it should, and Bridges is a touch too broad to provide the center of gravity that a more restrained performance might have.

Hidden Figures
One of those films that has a great true story to tell and adds absolutely nothing to it in the telling. Worse, the film often detracts from what is objectively an untold and fundamentally compelling story with simplistic characterizations, bland conflict, and an uncomplicated view of the racism and sexism of the mid-20th century. Kevin Costner's character seems constantly surprised by the society he lives in, as if he was teleported back 55 years from 2016 for the purposes of the film and is stunned by his slow realization that women aren't allowed in important meetings and black people have to use separate bathrooms. I mentioned this elsewhere, but Kirsten Dunst's character almost perfectly embodies the innocent ignorance that these types of movies so often use to make sure that their critique of white supremacy doesn't make anyone in the audience too uncomfortable.

La La Land
Once the award-season backlash to the seemingly inevitable crowning of Chazelle's film or the bickering over the appropriateness of a white character 'saving' jazz and so on have faded into memory, this can be appreciated for what it is: a very good film that is more emotionally complex and bittersweet than it might first appear, makes great use of the star power in its cast, and serves as a stepping stone in what looks like a significant career for its director. As someone fine with but not completely enamored of the genre, I thought La La Land blended grounded, real-world concerns with flashy visuals and a few memorable showstoppers in a way that broadened its appeal in a way that few recent Broadway adaptations have.

Lion
This was easily my least anticipated of the Best Picture nominees going into it, and it might not speak well to the film that I accidentally left it out of this post on my first attempt, but this turned out to be one of the more surprising films on the list for me. As others have noted, the first act in India is very well done and involving on a level that the rest of the film can't live up to, but I found Patel, Mara, and Kidman engaging enough in the latter portions to make those bearable even as the film itself loses steam. Along with Hidden Figures and Fences, this feels like the one of the more traditional awards season contenders, but the first hour and the supporting cast help Lion exceed the worst implications of that label.

Manchester by the Sea
This is the film among the nominees I imagine will grow the most in my estimation upon a second viewing; I think a full year of hype about how incredibly sad and tragic Lonergan's latest was led me, 11+ months after its Sundance debut, to watch it so steeled for a crushing emotional impact that I wasn't nearly as affected as I might have been watching it cold. I was struck by how funny and warm much of the film is, and how Lonergan's unconventional approach to dialogue and pacing make it such a unique viewing experience. Also, I'd just like to note that Michelle Williams is currently the national treasure that Meryl Streep gets the reputation and annual nominations for being, and her brief work in Manchester is among her finest.

Moonlight
A film rightly celebrated (by most) for its performances and delicate, humane examination of lives and environments not often examined in film, but maybe under-celebrated for the technical prowess on display in such a low-budget feature. The cinematography, score, and editing are all top-notch and are a substantial element of the immersive power Jenkins and his collaborators summon. A more-than-deserving real world winner, a beautiful experience in nearly every respect, and an easy choice for Best Picture in any year except one in which a similarly superlative example of an oft-overlooked genre is also eligible.

My vote: Arrival
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#493 Post by John Shade » Wed Mar 08, 2017 9:30 pm

Enjoyed looking through this post the other day for both the derision (Dead Poet's Society) and the defenses (always been a Jerry Maguire man too).

This particular analysis really caught my attention:
knives wrote:2014
Birdman
This film references Borges' The Theologians and a few other stories less comically which automatically makes it one of the most fascinating American movies of this decade. And like that book's rebirth as a repeating tract every person on this film, even the gaffers probably, seem to be authoring the film with reading coming from who's point of view you want to take. Personally I'm for Lubezki who accomplishes his Anna Karenina here exploding his career's occupations until they overwhelm every other artistic choice. This is a film of such intense aesthetic and yet so easily missed (I say as the person who I watched this with didn't notice the lack of visual edits).

The Grand Budapest Hotel
This already feels like such an old film it has attached to me so firmly. I'm not sure if this is Anderson's best film, but as a winter ode to Lubitsch, Zweig, and that old Europe they loved it hits me so personally I feel inadequate to talk about and am frankly sure I'll only embarrass myself. I'll only say that this shows powerfully that the idea of Anderson as only being concerned with rich white people is absurd. This is such an external and explicit showing of what I consider to be Anderson's essential narrative. He is utilizing minority, this time some vaguely Armenian or Pakistani Muslim and a bisexual Jew, voices to visualize his own outsider or poser insecurities. This makes me realize Anderson is basically a talented Eli Cash.
I've been on something of a Borges kick recently, going back and re-reading some favorite stories and looking at some that are new to me. Can you elaborate on this comparison to Birdman? I remember Edward Norton's character at the tanning salon with an old copy of Labyrinths, but beyond that and certain reflexive moments I guess I didn't initially see this as having more of a connection. Also, not sure by what you mean that it references it less comically than other films? I will confess that I was not a Birdman acolyte and didn't quite believe the masterpiece talk, but I'm also not ruling out any potential revisits.

GBH, on the other hand, I saw three times in the theater (well, I did that with Moonrise also...complete bias here). I found it to be a very moving experience,hard to describe, perhaps similar to what you were hinting at--maybe I'll add a reflection in its thread. Anyway, your comparison of Anderson to Eli Cash in relation to this film and his body of work is spot on and an observation I have not seen or thought of before.

edit: I also think, based on what I see in this thread, that the critical tide has finally turned and most people have gotten over Slumdog Millionaire. As knives also pointed out, Anderson has been hammered critically for his "narrow universe". I know my first post was over at its thread, but the Darjeeling Limited is really worth another look for these reasons and others.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#494 Post by knives » Wed Mar 08, 2017 9:48 pm

Drawing from memory I meant that the other Borges references were of a less comical nature, but I simply don't remember exactly what I meant there. For The Theologians, which is certainly a funny reference, I meant just that Norton was reading it. Nothing deeper sadly.

Though to go more into depth here there probably isn't any the film seems to be openly expressing an interest in Borges the same way it does Godard, but like like with Godard I don't think AGI actually has much connection with Borges with the most successful literary flourishes instead being in the vein of Garcia Marquez. The ending is the most clear example of this. As originally intended with Depp replacing Keaton it works as an extension of Borges with the idea of a time loop and a constant recreation of identity, but that ending also seems to cut against the general attitude of the film and probably would have been dumb. The one we get on the other hand feels like an incident from Garcia Marquez where a mundane failure that touches upon death results in a magical change to reality which is frightening, but also truly enlightening. The way Keaton slips in and out of reality until the two are blurred likewise seems like an idea originating in Borges, but being executed through Garcia Marquez and all the better for how it does not mirror Borges (who I don't think AGI has the capabilities to genuinely be imitative of the way Ruiz was).

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#495 Post by John Shade » Thu Mar 09, 2017 3:34 pm

knives wrote: but like like with Godard I don't think AGI actually has much connection with Borges with the most successful literary flourishes instead being in the vein of Garcia Marquez. The ending is the most clear example of this. As originally intended with Depp replacing Keaton it works as an extension of Borges with the idea of a time loop and a constant recreation of identity, but that ending also seems to cut against the general attitude of the film and probably would have been dumb. The one we get on the other hand feels like an incident from Garcia Marquez where a mundane failure that touches upon death results in a magical change to reality which is frightening, but also truly enlightening.
I actually think I would've liked the original idea more, though I do concede that it's silly. You make a good point that the end gives us more of a Marquez touch. When you were talking about other filmmakers sort of taking from Borges, I initially thought of Christopher Nolan. While he's a popular director with a sort of fanboy backing, he has slipped in Borgesian or Marquez like references. Back to Birdman, Godard is a touchstone, but he too is a sort of filmic Borges. Essays mixed with fiction, constant references thrown in and out, plus they both ended up sort of wise hermit figures.

Just so this doesn't remain a Birdman only post, I'll do my alternate 2011 Oscars (is it 2011 because it refers to those films or 2012 since that's when the event was?) and see if I can keep it fairly brief.

The Artist
I wasn't that enamored by it during its initial run, so sometime last year I decided to give it another shot. I'm still amazed this film was able to do the box office that it did--perhaps that'll be the most impressive, surprising thing when it is looked on in the future (though, in a way, most action movies today rely on less and less dialogue). And yet I am not convinced of the greatness of the movie or its leading performance because it seems to be a hodgepodge, and the themes of an artist struggling against the tide was handled much more exceptionally in Holy Motors.

The Descendants
Good performances throughout. Whenever I see Beaux Bridges I am reminded of his sleazy scenes at the NFL Draft in Jerry Maguire. Clooney is a highlight, but this one was a tougher revisit for me because it's a little grating.

Hugo
I kind of view this in a similar vein as The Artist, but much weaker. It's a very boring film and strains so hard to get across its themes; I once flipped through the book at a used bookstore and it seemed a much more enjoyable experience. The attempts at humor in this fall flat, whatever the dramatic set-up is trying to be more so.

The Help
Racial problems presented in a Lifetime movie sort of way only with better actors. And that's pretty much what it strives to be. I can see why certain audiences would like it though, and don't really feel the need to be as hard on this as Hugo or The Artist.

The Tree of Life
I'm a Malick fan, but don't really feel the way many of his fans do about this one. I think the hype sort of ended up swallowing it. It's simply too much of a mishmash. I actually like the way he handled the sort of pre-historic discovery channel material better in the recent Voyage of Time. I applaud his ambition, which is closer to some of the art-house greats of the '60s, but still think he works best with very clear archetypes as in his first four films (and to some extent in the more focused than this yet nowhere near as hyped To the Wonder).

Midnight in Paris
I enjoy this film more every time I see it. The first time I saw it was in a nearly empty movie theatre and I had no idea what it was about--very pleasant surprise in this over-exposure age. Even if it is a similar riff as the Purple Rose of Cairo, I actually think it works better (gasp) due to more beautiful visuals, a better cast, and a more satisfying (for me) ending. It's become one of my favorite Allens, though I have been partial to his recent stuff that seems to fall in the critical wasteland; Owen Wilson is a great Allen portrait and the ideas are not as half-assed as people seem to say. Well, maybe they are. Still, I love Brody, Hiddleston, and some of the other cameos. A case where I wonder if the surprising success of the movie made some people back off from praising it too much--just wild speculation.

Moneyball
Not bad for a movie attempting to be a dramatic story about a statistics revolution for a fledgling baseball franchise; it also serves as a sort of back story for Billy Beane. A drab looking movie with an amusing cameo from Spike Jonze as a sports ignorant type that repetitively uses an Explosions in the Sky esque song that I'm too lazy to look up right now but don't actually mind that much.

War Horse
WWI has been a very neglected subject from mainstream Hollywood. Maybe it's not quite Ford or Bresson but this one works for me, mostly because it has good, cameo type performances again. I like the structure and style of this movie and think it achieves some kind of Spielbergian beauty that I won't go into greater detail on now (running to hide now). Really love the final 20 minutes and the reunion scene.

My vote: Midnight in Paris, with War Horse a close second.

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Ribs
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#496 Post by Ribs » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:23 am

I've been planning to contribute to this thread on/off for a bit as I've been steadily plugging in gaps and I'm at several years I've seen everything by now, but almost all of them have at least one title I can't remember well enough to put any kind of judgment on them. That said:

2001

A Beautiful Mind
I understand and despise the "Best Picture" backlash any film seems to get after winning, but I think this is the most recent film I even kind of buy into it on. I personally don't really like it, but also too every conversation I've ever had about it has a quiet air of how this isn't actually very good. It's all fine, I guess - Ron Howard is obviously the most pedestrian director you can possibly begin to imagine for most of his filmography, and that's never more evident here. Even the film's lasting memory - the idea of numbers swirling around, moving from place to place, a reference constantly brought up (in my sphere at least) doesn't really ever happen in the movie, something a bored audience must have made up in the gaps between what's there. I'm just totally perplexed by this win (and the win from the year previous) and just don't understand what the Academy really saw here at all (besides Weinstein money).

Gosford Park
Absolutely remarkable for two main reasons - first, the actual narrative of a Christietime murder mystery from the writer of Downton Abbey is absolutely compelling and perfectly executed, a sterling reminder of the sometimes surprising fact that Julian Fellowes can be an incredibly good writer sometimes. But moreso for how much it so perfectly codifies who Altman was by being exactly the opposite of basically any other Altman film - there's not much in the way of overlapping dialogue, the American iconography is nowhere to be seen, there's a kind of cool, calculated style here that doesn't really match his aesthetic tendencies from earlier. The only thing even vaguely Altmanesque is the conceit of a large cast (hardly unique) and the role Stephen Fry's character ends up playing in the narrative, and somehow the fact Altman's able to do so radical a departure gives me so much respect for his work.

In the Bedroom
There's a lot of raving throughout this post, and I'm sorry, but this is also just totally superb in about every way. This one has weirdly been almost totally forgotten and Todd Field's career is among the most perplexing and saddest in how he's been unable to turn this Oscars bid into anything tactile since then, but my goodness is this an engrossing narrative. I realize it's skirting the lines a little but to compare it to a nominee from a couple of years later which bares loose narrative similarities (Mystic River), In the Bedroom is this deeply morose tale that never manages to be overwhelmingly depressing nor resort to cheap sentiment. It's sad but never a displeasure to watch.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I'm of the belief that the Lord of the Rings films are uniformally excellent, though I agree with how the Academy rules in that A) one Best Picture win suffices just fine and B) the third entry is it's finest chapter. I can't even really divorce these films and view them independently from one another, though I did watch them as individual films months if not years apart when I first saw them. This, again, is not really what this thread has focused upon, but I've always been very confused by McKellen's nod here for Supporting Actor but not to be nominated in either of the subsequent years (as someone who never won one, why did the Academy not fall over themselves to get it to him for one of these?)

Moulin Rouge
Just totally splendid. Everything that's happened has already happened so why pretend it hasn't when we go back in time? This codifies everything great about Luhrmann and I totally get it, it's a bit much, the first twenty-ish minutes of this until the actual plot begins to take hold are actively exhausting. But, my god, the music! The audacity! How on Earth did anyone fund this, get it a wide release, get it to make a ton of money, and get the Academy to love it? It's probably my favorite of this batch of films, though that's not the only factor I judge for my ultimate vote; it's basically totally unlike any other Best Picture nominee from, at least, this current century, even since the category expansion has allowed more eccentric choices in more frequently. Good on the Academy for recognizing it when it came, though.

Best Picture: In the Bedroom

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#497 Post by knives » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:55 am

I actually remember Gosford Park as being very Altman particularly in regard to the sound aesthetic. Outside of the conclusion the dialogue is totally unintelligible to me with the emphasis on visual motifs, and even those are overlapping, telling the themes as the script is mostly thrown off except to punctuate the occasional mean spirited joke. For me aside from MASH it is the film that the most lives up to the stereotype of what an Altman film should be expected to be.

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Ribs
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#498 Post by Ribs » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:12 pm

I guess it's just an exposure thing, but I think Mash is more-or-less an exception too (though far closer to his brand than this one). I think of Altman as at his most Altman in Nashville, but I suppose I may be off there.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#499 Post by knives » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:47 pm

Actually that's a much better choice than MASH. I just forgot it.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#500 Post by knives » Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:50 am

2008
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This is a really interesting film to think about and is probably the best made of the set here, but it's wrapped up in some tremendously stupid Eric Roth nonsense. The idea of a sincere, family drama by Fincher is compelling and he clearly gives the film his all, but that just makes everything except the sequence with the swimmer all the more lost in feeling. I'd like to see Fincher try a personal movie of this sort again, but hopefully with a better script.

Frost/Nixon
I heard this in regards to Brett Ratner, but it really applies here and to Howard very well. This is less made as a complete film and more as a collection of aesthetic and narrative choices built to be exactly what any generic producer would want. Even the color grading seems built to say this was made in '08.

Milk
This is a personal movie for a lot of reasons. Not only was it one of the first gay movies I saw at the height of fighting Prop 8, but I was also still very inexperienced with experimental film so the small touches van Sant carried over from his previous three films were at the time a major revelation to me and made it seem like an entirely new sort of film to me at the time. In retrospect that is a very outsized response, but that it was ever capable of doing that keeps it as special for me.

The Reader
You'd think the 'dyslexia makes you a Nazi' film would be more involving just on the level of offense it induces, but the hide of mediocrity is so thick Daldry can't muster up even those emotions for an audience. If you're going to be bad at least be as bad as Chocolat.

Slumdog Millionaire
This could have been a very nice, simple, hokey little romance but it seems everyone involved was terrified at the idea of making a nice little movie and so layered crap on so deep that the potential charms are shot in the foot. For example the structure is just one timeline too many with the gimmick of the gameshow being good enough to allow the romance or whatever you want to call it play out. The third timeline of the interrogation serves nothing except giving Irrfan Khan a paycheck. Maybe they could have even used that wasted time to develop the Frieda Pinto as something more than a person who looks pretty. She's proven herself elsewhere to be a good actress, but here she is indistinguishable from the A Christmas Story lamp. Also is my memory wrong or did this win mostly because an earthquake demolished a huge part of India about five months before the awards were given out?

My vote: Milk, duh

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