I have always been a self-proclaimed "movie buff." It wasn't until others pegged me with that title that I really got serious about this year's Oscars - well, that, and Entertainment Weekly. 2008's honoree's were, for the most part, an amazing collection of cinematic talent; a smorgasbord of savvy; a surplus of skill. It was the January 9 issue of EW that cited the 25 Movies You Need to See Before Oscar Night. The listing was rather impressive, and, given that I had only previously seen 4 of the 25, I took upon myself the challenge. I had a wonderful 6 weeks of movie-going ahead of me.
The first week, I managed to find myself in a movie theater six times. Sadly, twice were for the same movie (one of my favorites from the year - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), not from the list. Another, Bride Wars, with the girls (also not on the list - nor, initially, on my list either). However, I felt this excellent preparation for my hind quarters for the weeks to come. I decided to tackle the ones in the theaters immediately, and started "the list" with Defiance, Milk, and Frost/Nixon in the theaters, following those up with Wall-E and Tropic Thunder from the comfort of my bed - all in one weekend (Friday-Sunday). I had started out with a bang.
I became a movie machine, even enrolling in NetFlix to be the first in distribution once Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frozen River, and Changeling came to DVD. It was an exhilarating experience to take in the cinema in such a condensed fashion! My friends made fun of me, but were more than happy to accept my invitation when i hounded them to be my movie buddies.
In watching the ceremonies tonight, I found myself quite satisfied with the time I had invested. I managed to see 20 of the 25 total, including all those up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress (with the exception of Rachel Getting Married, which I have full intention of seeing once it hits NetFlix). I have a deep and profound respect for the art that went into the making of all of these films. Though I didn't fall in love with some of the movies, and I likely won't see some of them again, I recognize the flair and the forte of their production. The talent exhibited in this year's Oscar movies was beyond perception.
I wasn't really playing favorites as I watched the ceremonies tonight. I was trying to see if I could guess who would win, based on my own assumptions and the predictions of my trusted sources. What a fun experience! Please indulge me, if you will, to name my top 5 movies moments from the last 6 weeks:
5. Gran Torino - The uber-talented Clint Eastwood made the list, but seemed to miss the critical eye of the Academy. This movie was a work of art, incorporating Clint's experience with war and racial conflict. Clint also wrote the masterful score for the movie. I was moved to tears while watching.
4. Defiance - From the first time I saw the preview for this film (probably at least 6 months ago), I was intrigued. A story of three brothers who escape to the forest during the raiding of their village where their parents and neighbors were killed. They make plans of how to survive and gradually numerous others come to know of them and join them in their efforts. Their colony grows and they form a militia to combat their enemies. Another great (true) story about triumph in adversity! Another beautiful score (nominated for best score this year).
3. Australia - I have always been a Baz Luhrmann fan, from Strictly Ballroom to Romeo + Juliet; from Moulin Rouge to (now) Australia. His directing/producing tactics are different from all other directors and make his films a joy to watch. This is a compelling story about a wealthy English woman who inheirits a plot of land in Australia (where she meets Drover, played by Hugh Jackman). This movie was a delightful cocktail of romance and action - and it didn't hurt that Hugh was shirtless for half the movie. Hugh also proved to be quite the congenial Oscar host this year as well.
2. Milk - Sean Penn won a Best Actor statue for his phenomenal efforts in this politically charged drama. I loved watching the story unfold, and didn't even giggle when Sean Penn and James Franco kissed. I did giggle, however, when he opened his acceptance speech addressing the audience as "commie, homo-loving, sons of guns." It was a momentous time in history, and a noteworthy film. I love Sean Penn as an actor, however I find it hard to "like" him as a person - chastising the general public for their views on gay marriage (and even failing to mention his beautiful wife in his speech).
1. Slumdog Millionaire - By far my favorite film of the year. I watched the Golden Globes, in complete awe and confusion of how many wins they had. Once I finally got to see the film, I was again in awe, but this time in awe of the fact that I had waited so long to see it. Immediately, I was hoping for wonderful things for them at the Oscars. I instantly fell in love with the little boys that played young Jamal and his brother, Salim (those are the kids in the photo above). I was sucked in, and before I knew it, I was crying in yet another movie this year. This movie had a GREAT soundtrack, incorporating Paper Planes by M.I.A., and an awesome ethnic song, Jai Ho, which won Best Original Song. I'm so excited that such an underdog went all the way and won Best Picture!
Roman Polanski said "Cinema should make you forget you are sitting you are sitting in a theater." I say "Mission accomplished."