It's time for another edition of 4 Ways a Best Picture!!! I almost feel like I should coin this 'the one where Drew turns into a dick and tries to tell everyone else how to grade movies' but...let's just pretend that didn't happen.
LOL...wait for it.
This was a fun discussion for a group of winners that definitely had us united and divided in all the best possible ways. Once again, I love this group of bloggers and am so happy to have them with me on this journey! We're nearing the end (OMG, WHAT!) as we close out the aughts with our discussion of 2009. Next week we'll be into the 2010's...so...that'll be passionate, I'm sure!
Once more, here is our panel:
Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Kevin from Speaks in Movie Lines
Wendell from Dell on Movies
Drew: Well, now we get to talk about The Cove. I'm not going to lie, I fucking hate people when I watch this movie. Like, people make me sick. That, obviously, is the point of this documentary, and so that feeling is not a knock against it, but it's not a feeling I can ignore. This is also the first documentary I actually sought out because I wanted to see it. I was not a 'documentary' person at the time, but I felt like I needed to see this, and I was consumed by it. Much like last year's Man on Wire, this is such an expertly crafted documentary. It's so intense. The editing here is remarkable, and the way that the message is shaped, exploited and fleshed out is overwhelming yet completely satisfying. I'm really excited to talk about this one with you guys.
Britt: Same. I really loved this one, even though I hated humanity the entire time. I didn't see this at the time it came out. But it was something that came back on my radar when Blackfish got released. I can't help but admire the lengths these guys went through to get all of this on tape, gruesome as it was.
Drew: Yes, this film brilliantly drifted into espionage territory with those stakeout scenes. Brilliantly composed sequences!
Britt: I had ugly cry face during this doc, not gonna lie.
Jeffery: This is a pretty amazing doc. Very tense, riveting, unique subject matter. Exquisitely edited too.
Drew: There is so much I want to say about this one, but I don't even know where to start. I guess the part that made the largest impact on me was the scene where they talked about dolphin being served in the school lunches and how even though employees on the board had their own children enrolled in those schools, they wouldn't stop serving the dolphin meat. My heart was breaking over these children being POISONED by people they trusted, their own fathers!
Britt: That was awful. The other part that sticks out is when they show the footage of the dolphin slaughter to the people trying to downplay it.
Drew: The massive selfish delusion spilling from so many mouths during this movie, like...I wanted to scream, "HOW DARE YOU!" at everyone.
Kevin: It's so befuddling to me how a community in an intelligent, developed nation like Japan can seek as its livelihood a product that doesn't even have any real value at all. Nobody should eat dolphin. That's just crazy. This movie filled me with rage and sadness. It is utterly horrifying AND supremely entertaining. I love the "espionage territory" comment. These dudes went all out to expose this craziness. How awful that they are serving this "meat" to children. And how even more awful that the lobbyist guy with the shit-eating grin sells this to the world as an OK practice. I don't have any special connection to dolphins on a "They're so cute and smart!" level. But I do have a problem with tricking them, rounding them up into a hidden cove, slaughtering them, and calling that hunting. Arguments could probably be made about how we treat cows and pigs and chickens the exact same way, though, and that sort of gets to me. As a meat-eater and lover, it's a challenging conundrum. Anyway, if what this movie says is true, people shouldn't eat dolphins, so...
Drew: It’s just inhumane slaughter…like…SLAUGHTER!
Kevin: That bloody water image will never leave me, man.
Drew: The fact that eating dolphin is dangerous is all the more sickening because, as you said, there is no reason to do this OTHER than greed. It's cheaper meat and so they can save money on their end by slaughtering these animals and poisoning the public. This is all the stuff of a Michael Crichton novel, and yet it's REAL LIFE.
Britt: I kind of wanted to burn the internet after watching this too. I looked up some discussions and saw a bunch of "those dolphins could've escaped if they really wanted too." FFS, people. They explained this in the movie.
Kevin: Some people don't watch movies before they scatter their bullshit.
Drew: LOL, like dolphins WANT to be slaughtered. What the actual fuck. That's like saying a murder victim could have escaped if they 'really wanted to'...um...because they CHOSE to be murdered? Fuck off!
Wendell: Someone actually said (or wrote) "those dolphins could've escaped if they really wanted to?" OMFG!!! What the hell is wrong with people?
Kevin: The Internet is a haven for morons. I unfriend and unfollow people constantly on social media.
Drew: Anyone else's heart practically racing when he entered that conference with the footage literally strapped to his chest?
Kevin: That was badass!
Drew: I was literally standing up in my living room pacing and pumping my fists...like "YOU GO BOY!" Like a boss.
Britt: I can’t think of a better “fuck you” moment than that.
Wendell: Confession: I did not re-watch this for this project. I couldn't put myself through that again. This was just brutal. I mean that to imply that its brilliant film-making, but watching it quite literally hurt. And I'm not even an 'animal person.' After watching it, I was kinda hoping for an asteroid to slam into the planet and wipe out humanity, myself included.
Drew: I'm not either, but injustice makes me feverish, no matter who or what it's against.
Wendell: Exactly. This goes far beyond injustice, though. This is so extreme it's just sickening. The worst part is that there really is no way around the fact that money is the only reason this is happening. It's not like there is any nutritional value to the meat whatsoever. In fact, it's detrimental to your health. Not only that, but this stuff is then fed to kids and/or labeled as something else and sold, and all of this is pretty much government sanctioned. Ugh!
Drew: Yes, greed, greed, greed! It's disgusting, truly.
Kevin: You dudes are speaking truth. The fact that this is openly supported by those in charge is as heinous as the slaughters themselves. And what about the people they interviewed in Tokyo who had no clue this was going on? That is chilling shit man.
Wendell: Yes. Easy to see why they were kept in the dark, though.
Drew: Yeah...I think this was a huge wake up call for a lot of people.
Kevin: Oh, definitely. That makes me wonder about so many of the things we don't know here in America. Our food industry is in no way on the up and up. But this is beyond anything I could imagine.
Wendell: Yeah, I'm hoping that our government hasn't purposely found something harmful to us and repackaged it as something else.
Drew: This certainly makes 'pink meat' feel not so...awful.
Kevin: That's for sure. I'll take a pink slime Big Mac over poisonous dolphin meat any day. The Cove is one of the best made documentaries of this whole project. Yet, like Wendell, I'll never watch it again. It's a total one-timer.
Wendell: Judging it on regular movie terms, The Cove really does work. It draws you in, gets you on its side (pretty easily, of course), and even has exciting sequences. The "espionage" scenes function like action scenes.
Drew: Yeah, this is just a brilliant film, period.
Kevin: It's not up there with Man on Wire or Bowling for Columbine for me. But it's one-timer people should see. I'm going B+.
Drew: Oh, I'm so A+ here. Like, this is brilliantly made.
Wendell: It's such a great film in just about every regard, I have to go A+. I'm just never sitting through it again, if I can help it.
Britt: I'm going A+ too, even though like Dell, once is enough. (Unless we're talking about the scene where he as the footage strapped to his chest to show everyone else, because I could watch that bit all day)
FINAL SCORE: 93/100
Drew: I'll make it no secret that I find The Secret in Their Eyes an awfully tacky winner here. Ok, that was really corny.
Britt: It's probably going to be better than the Julia Roberts remake.
Britt: I liked this for the most part. I thought it was kind of sloppy, like, that soccer game chase scene as cool as it was didn't really fit with the tone of the rest of the film. The ending was surprising.
Drew: This film felt so tonally inconsistent, like you allude to. It was just, not well made. The whole languid dreamy aspects gave the film a tacky Soap Opera veneer that I didn't care much for, and the shock ending, which was a legit shock (and one that, singularly I liked) felt almost Lifetime Movie Network to me, in that it was so off from the rest of the film and so WTF for the structure and tone that it felt... melodramatic in a very cheap way. That soccer chase scene was the film's highlight for me, but like you said, it just didn't fit at all. It's so weird, because the film is so pretty visually and yet the tone makes those visuals lose their impact, for me at least. In my review for this I stated that the this film feels like "a foreign take on a television series". And this beat out A Prophet and The White Ribbon for the Oscar. Like...what!?!?!
Britt: I wonder if the soap opera feeling was intentional though? Those Spanish ones are pretty popular.
Drew: Oh, I'm sure it was, but there's a difference between Almodovar amping up the camp in his telenovela productions and this tonally challenged 'thriller'. Like, the romance angle was so cheap and the languid feel to the film's flow didn't help. It just all felt so…off. I'll say this...I don't hate this. I think that it has it's good points, but there is so much lacking here. There are so many missteps. It had NO PLACE even being nominated, and then winning against such tremendous films, like...no, NO, NOPE, NOOOOOPE!
Wendell: I'm pretty much where Britt is on this one. I liked it well enough, but it does have some problems. It felt like it had some trouble deciding what it wanted to be. Was it a thriller or an examination of the awkward sexual tension between our two leads? This duality worked for me the first time I saw it, but felt too herky-jerky this time around. To be honest, I thought the soap opera stuff worked better. Love the performance by the guy who played Sandoval. Thought the acting was good across the board, actually. Of the other noms I've only seen The White Ribbon. That was a far superior movie.
Drew: You need to see A Prophet, ASAP. And I agree that, like, in parts this movie worked...but together...not so much.
Kevin: On only one viewing and without having seen any of the other nominees, I can't speak to what could've been, but I can say that I really enjoyed this movie. I can understand some of what all of you are saying about the difficulties in tone. But I sort of liked that about it. It's a lot of things at once, and I think it did a good job of pulling everything together. That ending was spectacularly out of left field. Loved it. The duality definitely worked for me on first viewing. I really liked the super slow-burning sexual tension. The scope of this movie is incredible. And it was amazing to see the same actors pull off both ages. I really thought that worked. The soccer stadium scene was masterful and fits for me as an illustration of how police work works there and how it’s so different from our system. I mean talk about a conservative system. I thought this movie did a great job of letting the audience into the Argentinian way, not only in its justice system but in its class system. This poor investigator living years in love always thinking of this woman he feels is too good for him. That’s powerful to me.
Jeffery: The "twist" in this film is a stunner. I think it works pretty well. Interesting what they'll do with the remake. I agree that there were some better films from that year but I still like this one.
Drew: I'm trying so hard to suppress snark right now.
Kevin: You can let it out if you want, Drew. But I will say that I wasn't always totally hooked into this movie. It's definitely not perfect.
Drew: I just...I just feel like we're judging films that Oscar said was THE BEST. For me, enjoyable doesn't cut that. It's like the issues I had with Slumdog Millionaire...and I even said I liked it and it was fun...but THE BEST? NO. Movies with this many issues, tonally and structurally should NEVER be called the best. I'm not saying that the best can't be enjoyable, not by any means, but I just can't sit back and say that this film deserved to even be recognized in that capacity. The construction of this film is so mediocre, in the way it forms its scenes and establishes its core. It's like several films battling out to be the dominant film, and in the end they all lose. Great moments don't make a great film. Like, I'm sure Furious 7 was enjoyable, but only Vin Diesel thinks it should win an Oscar. I know I sound like a MASSIVE dick right now, but I just feel like looking at these films as mere films isn't enough. They WON Oscars for being THE BEST.
Kevin: I wish I had enough knowledge of the other nominees in the category to give you something back there. And I can't say this movie is in any way comparable to Furious 7.
Drew: LOL, I was being...a dick.
Kevin: Oh, I know. I hear your argument there. It's so hard to judge on only seeing this one movie of the nominees.
Drew: Nominees aside though, the year brought MANY foreign films, and even taking genre aside, does this film, singularly, have what it takes to be considered 'the best'?
Kevin: I feel like throughout this project the Foreign Language ones have been the toughest for me. I've almost never seen more than the winner. I'm sort of stuck having to say, well, it was a good movie, or it was okay, or some other weak adjective. I guess that's my point. A group of Academy voters saw all the nominees and voted with their gut. There has to be something to that.
Drew: In that case, I'd urge you to compare this to something like The Lives of Others, another film that won in this category. Foreign film is easier to gauge or judge than a documentary or even an animated film because they are, in essence, just a film...with subtitles. With documentary you have to weigh in the subject and how it delivers it's points (message) and with Animation you consider the overall look...but for me Foreign is so much like Best Picture. Would I be ok with this particular film winning Best Picture of the year? But I really feel like I'm being a dick and trying to push my personal ideas on you guys, and I'm really not...I'm just being vocal about how I look at this stuff and why, sometimes, it appears like I'm being really harsh on a film.
Kevin: I guess I don't connect it up the same way as you. Probably because I see so few foreign films. Mostly ones that are in Oscar contention or discussed loudly here in the States. I can do this. My favorite foreign language film of the last five years is Blue is the Warmest Color. It's what brought Drew to my blog for the first time. This movie is NOT that movie. And the Academy didn't even nominate it. When there's that big of a gap, I feel I have no choice as to judge a movie on its own merits alone, even in this project. The Secret in Their Eyes is not an A+ movie, but it’s pretty high up there for me on its own terms as a good movie that I would recommend to pretty much anybody as an interesting movie experience.
Britt: I get what Drew's saying though in regards to The White Ribbon, that's who I thought was going to win. I wonder if the sheer scope of this film is what secured it's win? It seems like it had a bigger budget than the other ones, and it's a good film, despite its tone. Plus it seems a lot of people went nuts for it since it was rewritten as an American remake so soon afterwards.
Drew: Apparently this had that silent buzz that built below the surface and there were rumblings of a Haneke over-through in the 'industry' leading up to Oscar night, so in hindsight, some pundits say this win wasn't a shock, but to most following the race, The White Ribbon seemed locked, especially since Summer Hours (the critics passion pick) was deemed ineligible. I can totally see the American draw here, especially Hollywood, since this is so...melodramatic.
Kevin: This is on its own a beautifully shot movie. It is well-acted. It tells a long, sweeping story, the kind of storytelling I most admire. And it doesn't feel it has to be anything more than that. It's just right there. A movie that tells a story people can relate to in many ways, while telling a simultaneous story of a compelling investigation.
Drew: The White Ribbon is brilliant, but SO COLD. Like...you feel nothing.
Kevin: I'd rather feel something than nothing. And as far as a comparison to a truly great Foreign Language Oscar winner in The Lives of Others, well, this one definitely isn't at that level. But, for me, it does have the same sort of appeal, to both film industry people and everyday movie buffs. It's a well-polished, engaging (for the most part) story with a supremely satisfying ending.
Drew: I will say, as much as I argued my stand here...I love it when we're all over the place on a film. Differences of opinion are what make the world go round!
Kevin: Truth. Oh, and that scene where Benjamin and Irene bully that weasel-y suspect into dropping trow right there in chambers. Man, that was fucked up! Thinking back on this movie, I just really liked it. The scenes with his alcoholic partner are genius. The Sandoval character was expertly drawn. Like I said, I wasn't totally with this movie every step. It slowed down a bit too much at times. But, overall, I had a good experience.
Wendell: I do like this movie. It's very enjoyable, but I tend to come at this project similarly to Drew. I'm looking for a certain level of excellence for a film that AMPAS tells me is the best non-English movie in the entire world in a given year. The best way is to compare it to other foreign films from that year, whether they were nominated or not. I haven't seen many of the other noms, but I at least see a few foreign films each year. If the movie we're discussing isn't the best of what I've seen, I can't then declare it worthy of the award. For me it lags far behind several movies that were not nominated: Sin Nombre, Thirst, and the Swedish original of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was also a far lesser film than The White Ribbon. So while I like The Secret in Their Eyes, I don't think it's Best in the World material.
Kevin: It's probably not. I haven't seen any of the other foreign language films mentioned today, except for the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Good movie. Fincher's version is far superior in my eyes.
Drew: Fincher's movie is far superior, indeed. White Ribbon, A Prophet, Sin Nombre, Summer Hours, 35 Shots of Rum...those are best of year foreign films.
Wendell: Agree that Fincher's version of TGwtDT is better, but I think the Swedish version is better than The Secret in Their Eyes. Hated 35 Shots of Rum, though, it was excruciatingly boring.
Kevin: I did enjoy this movie, and I think it's a movie that a lot of people would enjoy and which they would react to positively. Based on that alone, as my only real option, I'm going A-.
Wendell: Like I said, I do like The Secret in Their Eyes, just don't love it. B-
Drew: I’m going C
Britt: I’m going B
Wendell: Just looked back at my best of '09 list and Broken Embraces also came out that year. Also much better. Gonna drop to a C+.
Drew: As my grandmother likes to say, "things are looking up..." because now we get to talk about a good movie; Up! I know, that was corny too...LOL, I'll stop, I promise...but then again...I probably won't.
Britt: #dadjokes I'm excited to talk about this film. First off, I hated it when it first came out. I hated that Pixar had the audacity to give me ugly cry face in the first five minutes (wtf is that?) I was so bothered by it I couldn't enjoy it. I complained about this film all through the 2009 awards season, ESPECIALLY its Best Picture nomination. Then my son saw it, and it's now one of his favorite movies and he asks to watch it frequently. So I've had to give it another shot (again, again, and again) and it really grew on me. Especially that score. It's beautiful.
Kevin: Are you kidding? Up sucks. How could the Academy even nominate it!!!!!????
Drew: Well, Kevin is either playing a #dadjoke or he's got some 'splainin' to do! UGH, that score! Like, one of my all-time favorite scores EVER! And yes, the first whole montage scene is such an incredible cinematic moment. It's crushing...but it's so, so, so beautiful!
Kevin: Seriously! This is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. And Giacchino's score is the biggest reason for that.
Drew: LOL, Kevin...you joker!
Drew: Up, for me, perfects the idea they had with Wall*E. They begin with this beautiful sweeping silent section (albeit much shorter here) that doesn't have any real conflict...it's just human...it's just honest and open and beautiful...touches you so deeply. Then, when that's over, they present us with...the rest of the movie. Here though, while they still struggle in some areas with a little bit of the cliches, they manage to make the 'action/adventure' aspect of the second half beautifully coexist with the opening montage. It fits. It always feels like the same movie. There are parts in the film that I find a tad clunky (a TAD...like...SO SMALL) but overall, this film is just...beautiful. I know that I'm using that word a LOT, but I can't help it...it's absolutely beautiful to watch. And those cinematic bookends are perfect. Like, let's start and end this movie with ugly cry face for very different reasons. That was so wonderful. We open so sad crying...like this real emptiness in us...and then that emptiness fills and we are crying because of this sincere happiness!
Britt: One thing that always bothered me was how Charles seemed younger than Carl, despite the fact that he's supposed to be older. *minor gripe*
Drew: LOL...he was just sprightly!
Kevin: I feel the exact same way you do about this movie, Drew. In fact, for me, the opening segment, so beautifully heartbreaking, is so memorable that the rest of the movie never really caught up. Not that I think the rest of the movie is bad. Not at all. It is a fun adventure and just so lovingly crafted. Ed Asner's voice work is incredible. As is Jordan Nagal as Russell. The dog is so great. I mean love that! "Squirrel!!!"
Britt: I liked that they kept calling Kevin "Kevin" even after they found out she was a girl. That always amuses me. It's kind of funny how watching a movie with your child can change your opinion on it. Funny sidenote: We had a kid come through the middle school that looks just like Russell. I mean shape, size, head, everything. Hilarious! I laughed out loud every time I saw the kid after a colleague pointed that out.
Kevin: I love "Kevin," Britt! I would imagine kids would really love this one. Probably even more so than Pete Docter's newest beauty Inside Out. I actually like the latter a bit better. Let me get to Michael Giacchino's score. It really is the kicker into greatness for Up. That music is constantly in my head. Never has a movie score been written that brings chills and tears like this one, specifically the main theme, "Married Life." Oh, and that scene where Carl finds the adventure book and it's filled out. Oh my God! I gushed tears. I couldn't even pretend to be the strong man who never cries for my also crying wife. Puddles, man. Puddles.
Drew: I don't even want to talk about the tears. When this came out, my daughter was almost two...and we had struggled through two years of visiting fertility specialists and taking tests and being poked and prodded and trying and crying and eventually being told that it didn't look like kids were going to happen...and granted, we were young but we were meant to parent and so it was like this CRUSHING blow to us and my wife took it hard because, from what the doctors told us...it was her not me...and she had this whole "I ruined your chances at being a father" guilt thing going and then...this little miracle happened (and fuck you doctors because two more followed) and so here we were completely relating to this whole segment and my wife and I are literally BAWLING together (which never happens since she's usually ice cold when we watch movies) and staring at our sleeping two year old and I will never forget that moment, in our living room, like...never.
Kevin: There are only a handful of movies that have made me cry like this one. Since this one, only two, last year's St. Vincent and 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild. Oh, man. I know that was so hard, Drew. But what a gift to finally have your daughter and then experience the love of this movie. Pete Docter really has a knack for pulling out real emotion. He understands as truly as any filmmaker I have known.
Drew: Yeah, between this and Inside Out, it's apparent that Docter understands parenthood so beautifully.
Wendell: I've only cried over one movie, the 1978 version of The Champ. I saw it when I was 8. A few movies got me close. Up is one of them. When that opening montage ended, I was teetering on the edge of actually shedding tears. That was the most beautiful and moving piece of film I have ever seen. The difference between this and WALL-E is what Drew said, the rest of the movie fits really well. It is one cohesive whole rather than two competing halves. While the other parts of Up aren't quite on that level, they are still excellent. Beautiful story, Drew. Wow. Love Beasts of the Southern Wild. Asner is perfect.
Drew: I have to say, Asner is perfect...but another reason this film hit my heart is that all I saw when I saw Carl was Spencer Tracy and I, like, love him so much.
Wendell: You didn't see this guy? [insert pic]
Drew: The amount of cuteness in the first pic and absolute scariness in the second is troubling to me right now. That nose just doesn't work in real life.
Drew: I saw and heard this guy… [insert pic]
Wendell: I know, but that other pic was too good to resist.
Britt: You guys don't even want to know the amount of movies I've cried in. I think becoming a parent ruined me emotionally because now I cry in EVERYTHING. I cried during a Wells Fargo ad the other day, ffs.
Drew: I get it, for real.
Kevin: I got choked up at the Nissan "For Dad" commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. It’s real.
Drew: Wendell, you heartless bastard!
Wendell: I’ve been called worse.
Jeffery: Another Pixar joint that starts out beautifully then dissolves into a hot mess.
Drew: Mess? Why, Jeff?
Wendell: I really need to hear what Jeff has to say.
Jeffery: The pack of dogs section is super boring to me. The ending is ultimately super sweet / tearjerker.
Drew: Oh, but I love the juxtaposition of the way those bookends work. Same effect from drastically different means.
Wendell: This was a strong year for animated flicks, imho. Coraline, The Princess and the Frog, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are all, well, fantastic. I do still think Up is the best of that bunch. I haven't seen The Secret of the Kells. The only thing keeping me from giving Up a perfect grade is a movie that wasn't nominated. It's one I spoke about a short while ago when Thursday Movie Picks did animated movies. I'm talking Mary and Max. It really is one of my all-time favorite movies, it's just beautiful.
Kevin: Yeah. Fantastic Mr. Fox is great. Up is the better movie. It's got the emotion angle and it's just a beautiful story. It's not as strong throughout as it is in that opening. But I love that opening scene and the music and the humor and love of this movie, in general. Need to see Mary and Max now. Hadn't even heard of it until last you picked it, Dell.
Wendell: I strongly encourage everyone to see Mary and Max.
Drew: For me, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the best animated film from 2009, but Up is still SOOO good.
Kevin: A from me.
Wendell: For Up, I’m still at an A-
Drew: Solid A from me.
Britt: Coraline was excellent. That's who I was rooting for that year. Still, Up deserves an A-. I definitely appreciate it more now.
FINAL SCORE: 81/100
Drew: And now we come to...The Hurt Locker.
Britt: The Meh Locker. I hated this Best Picture race so much. It was nothing but Avatar vs Hurt Locker because ZOMG the directors used to be married! When there were far better films nominated.
Drew: Oh, this is going to be better than I expected!
Britt: I wouldn't call The Hurt Locker bad, I think there were some great performances there, and Bigelow knows how to shoot that type of film, but there was nothing overly special about it to me. It was just there.
Drew: The problem that I have with The Hurt Locker is that is says absolutely nothing, which is probably the point, but it feels like a repetition of scenes that ultimately go nowhere...they serve no purpose. It's stylized well (the framing and editing is sharp and exciting) but it fails to every engage me and the finale felt so...lazy almost. It was like they weren't sure if they could even come up with an arc and so they just resorted to the obvious. There was no impact here, nothing to remember, nothing to take away.
Britt: I agree. There was nothing to take away. It wasn't endlessly entertaining like Inglorious Basterds. Not as interesting as Up in the Air or An Education, and definitely not as emotional as Precious. I really think the directing politics factored into this win.
Jeffery: Oh wow. I think this is one of the best choices the Academy has made. I find this film incredibly, skillfully directed. Really hits hard emotionally. Great performances by Renner, Mackie, and Geraghty. The editing is amazing. This is the most tense I've felt in a theater. The repetition and the sort of nihilistic ending really resounded with me. I think it's a masterpiece.
Drew: I can certainly understand the intensity of certain scenes. The editing here is brilliant. But, for me, it isn't any different than the intensity I'd feel while watching a standard action-thriller. It's got great moments that make you feel 'in that moment', but nothing left with me. I felt indifferent when it was over. But I know so many LOVE this and consider it a triumph for the Academy, so I was actually shocked when Britt basically opened with exactly what I was thinking.
Jeffery: Yeah, it’s interesting to hear different opinions.
Britt: This film didn't really sink in with me right away. It took me awhile to realize that I didn't like the film as much as everyone else. I think I was afraid to share those thoughts.
Drew: I'll say this, it was hard to root against The Hurt Locker because of the glass ceiling it was shattering, and so I think everyone got swept up in this moment where the Academy was FINALLY going to recognize a woman director with the prize, and it became a 'thing' where the film just had to win; and I'm genuinely happy for it BECAUSE of what it did...even though I think that Campion about have made a better winner that very same year, and that Coppola should have won back in 03...but whatever...history was made and it was a great step forward for the industry. But, that moment eclipses the actual movie for me...and the fact that they awarded a woman for making a very manly movie almost negates the moment in retrospect (and the snubbing of Bigelow after slaying with precursors in 2012 shows they're still...not there yet)...to a point where I'm over the film itself. I also was rooting for this one to win based on Cameron's tactlessness and arrogance. When he made that whole "my team deserves this win, but you can throw my ex a bone" comment...I was pretty much over him and the whole race.
Kevin: Speaking of history being made...Ok. I'm ready to comment. This beautiful lovely excellent Supreme Court news had me sidetracked. I just re-watched this movie...last night. I had to. I wasn't sure if I still loved it. It had waned. I think I lie somewhere in the small in-between of Drew and Britt's comments and Jeffery's comments. The Hurt Locker does say absolutely nothing. And that is the point. But that point is not as relevant as it was then. This was a totally topical statement about the War in Iraq that has seen its day. I honestly believe that Kathryn Bigelow was truly the Best Director of 2009. I don't believe The Hurt Locker was the Best Picture. This movie is seriously one of those movies that had all its stars aligned in just the right way. It is a master class in writing-directing-editing. I read some piece of trivia on IMDb that said that "Kathryn Bigelow claims that no scene filmed was left out of the final cut." If that's true, then that is amazing. And it is exactly what I'm talking about. This movie is perfectly made. She created such a clear picture of such messy situations. And, yes, that's all this film is. A bunch of messy situations as part of the daily grind of these elite enlisted men. She even uses that ticking so many days left title card throughout. This is those dude's fucking JOB! And it's terrifying to the audience. And it's what makes Sgt. First Class James tick. This movie has so many things I love. The scene where Sgt. Sanborn (Mackie) is on the sniper rifle after the demise of the British soldiers is one of the most masterful war scenes of all-time. There's this surprising little cut that just astounded me. He shoots at the insurgents in that little building, misses a couple times, then he starts to hit. We see eyes, rifle, sound of the shot, then it cuts to a hit on the target. But in the final shot on the final guy, the camera doesn't cut to the hit insurgent, but to a shell casing falling into the desert sand in super slo-mo. That kind of stuff is the reason I love the movies I love. And I think, while any sort of message is nil here, there is a bit of a message in how our country, in times of war, needs people like James (the character so perfectly played by Jeremy Renner). We need "wild men" like him. Men who just straight up aren't afraid to die. He's a tragic figure. And that's a big reason I think this film resonated with me and the Academy voters back then. I will be honest. At the time of the Oscars, I was over this movie though. And I was over Avatar, which I did also enjoy quite a bit. As a Coen Brothers fan, I was way more into A Serious Man and wanted it to win. That is one of the Coens' small masterpieces to me. Now, though, as time as shifted my experience with these nominees, I find Inglourious Basterds to be the one that the most staying power for me personally. Bigelow's director win was important and valid. I'll stick firm to that. And, Drew, I was for Sofia all the way in '03. Glad she at least got her Screenplay win. To comment on your statement about the feeling of indifference, I didn't feel that the first time, but I did on this re-watch. I am more amazed with the technical aspects of this film than with the feelings it's not so great at provoking. I do agree with Jeffery as well, though, on the ending. It is darkly nihilistic and even oddly satisfying given what came before. Not a masterpiece for me, though.
Wendell: I'm more in line with Kevin on this one. The fact that it was about nothing worked heavily in its favor. It really is shapeless as there is no plot, no conflict (in a traditional movie sense), and no solution. It's just a slice of life movie that happens to be about guys that diffuse bombs for a living. At being that, it works very well. It also helps that much of the war felt like a never-ending goose-chase after a group of people determined by rather broad terms such as terrorists, insurgents, radicals, Islamics, etc. Bigelow captured the essence of her characters extremely well. It was about character development as much as it was about character familiarization. She wanted us to get to know the people these guys already were, not necessarily watch them grow. I feel she accomplished this with excellent results.
Kevin: I love what Wendell said about Bigelow really wanting to drop us in on who there "characters already were." Yes. That stood out to me as well.
Drew: When I think about the apathetic ending note of The Hurt Locker, I'm reminded of another near apathetic war film that, for me, said so much more...Jarhead. Why that film was crucified and ignored back in 05 is a mystery to me.
Britt: YES to Jarhead. That film was far better than Hurt Locker.
Kevin: I agree. While watching The Hurt Locker last night, I yearned for Jarhead. Bigelow's technical skill in the war scenes wasn't enough to make this a Best Picture.
Britt: Yes for Sofia. She should've won. I'm definitely okay with Bigelow's directing win. But I just can't say this was the Best Picture. Of the 10 films nominated, Hurt Locker is more towards the bottom for me. I think I'd go 1) Inglorious Basterds 2) Up in the Air 3) Precious 4) An Education 5) District 9 6) Up 7) The Hurt Locker 8) Serious Man 9) Blind Side 10) Avatar
Kevin: Same, Britt. Bigelow's win was right. I can't say that about the Best Picture win. I haven't seen The Blind Side, An Education, or Precious, regrettably, but this one is probably number four out of ten for me. 1. Inglourious Basterds 2. Up in the Air 3. A Serious Man 4. The Hurt Locker 5. District 9 6. Up 7. Avatar. Haven't seen the rest. I suppose I should see An Education, yeah?
Britt: Definitely see An Education and Precious.
Drew: LOL, talk about a messy ten for the first time AMPAS takes it on. Like...The Blind Side...WTF? Avatar is such a dumb, dumb movie. I like the Coens, but A Serious Man was so...dull and pointless. Like...grasping at straws for sure. I'd actually say that the best director in the bunch was, quite easily, Tarantino. That is his crowning achievement and his direction was so polished and really carried that film.
Britt: Tarantino was better, but I'm okay with Bigelow. Avatar is the only review I've ever gone back and re-written. I was trying to be really nice about it when I published it on this site I used to review on, then I was like "fuck it" went back, changed everything and talked about how stupid it was.
Kevin: It's a hard call with Tarantino in the mix, Drew. He always brings such strong game. Inglourious Basterds may actually be his "masterpiece." A lot of movies from this year that were total one-hit wonders for me. The only ones I've gone back to are Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air. And now The Hurt Locker, which I may go back to one day but I'm not compelled to at the moment.
Britt: Basterds was what I was wanting to win for Best Pic. That SAG win gave me life. I LOVE Up in the Air so much. I can watch that over and over.
Kevin: Oh, I praised the shit out of Avatar when it came out. Now, I am way below meh on that one. I feel your pain, Britt. And, yes, Up in the Air is a movie I could watch any day.
Britt: I do love the 10 nominees though. I wish they'd stick with a set 10 instead of "up to 10". It gives indies a better chance, and I love that District 9 never would've been in the conversation otherwise.
Kevin: District 9 was cool. And cool it was nominated. Don't know if I could watch it again. Yeah. I say either 10 or 5. None of this 8 or 9 maybe crap. And I should probably see The Blind Side, seeing as how I LOVE college football and former UT coach Philip Fulmer is in it.
Wendell: Sigh...the expanded field. Let me repeat/paraphrase what I said from the '08 discussion. Expanding the number of Best Pic nominees from five to any number up to ten is a stupid overreaction to the cries that The Dark Knight got snubbed. First off, it cheapens the award. If you're supposed to be awarding the Best Picture of the year then it should be a rather exclusive thing. Adding nominees makes a lofty status easier to attain. Second, these people (AMPAS) can't be trusted to nominate five good movies, now they're going to try and nominate as many as ten? Of course, they do exactly as I suspected they would and give us a ballot full of unworthy nominees. Avatar? Really? I saw it in the theater and was underwhelmed. The Blind Side? Nearly as overrated as Avatar. I'm with Drew on A Serious Man. It was dull, certainly a lesser Coens bros. effort. I liked Up in the Air, but not as one of the best of the year. And dammit, I hated the ultra-creepy An Education. I guess that one is due to me being a dad with two daughters. Everything about that movie turned me the fuck off. That leaves Up and Precious which I love, District 9 which I really like, and The Hurt Locker which I also really like. When boiling down the race to these four movies, I'm okay with this win. In fact, I kinda like this win, resigning myself to the fact that Up wasn't going to win and in spite of the fact I prefer Precious to THL. A quick disclaimer: My site currently has THL as my #1 movie of '09, but my opinion has changed a little since then. Might need to do some updates on my best of the year posts, lol. And I somehow forgot to include Inglourious Basterds in my remaining Oscar race since I do like it a lot. I'm still okay with this win, tho. I don't think it's one of Tarantino's best. It's great, but the only one of his movies I can definitively say it's better than is Deathproof. Other excellent flicks not nominated: The Messenger, Big Fan, and a bunch of movies AMPAS wouldn't touch with a 100-foot crane: Zombieland, The Hangover, Drag Me to Hell, Moon. Still, I do like this win a great deal.
Britt: Moon! That Rockwell snub still hurts.
Drew: Where the Wild Things Are is my #1, but a film AMPAS could have nominated and didn't was (500) Days of Summer. That hit quite a few places and had the buzz, reviews and traction to make it...and yet they nominated The Blind Side instead.
Britt: (500) Days of Summer definitely deserved to be there. At least the Globes gave it some love.
Wendell: Yes to (500) Days of Summer.
Britt: I give this a C. Sorry, Hawkeye.
Wendell: I'll go with an A.
Drew: B for me.
Kevin: I'm okay with this winning Best Picture as well, though I'm not sure it is. It is certainly a perfectly made war movie. A-
Jeffery: A for me.
FINAL SCORE: 73/100
YEAR SCORE: 309/400
1) The Cove (93 Points)
2) Up (81 Points)
3) The Hurt Locker (73 Points)
4) The Secret in Their Eyes (62 Points)
Drew: Time for closing comments!
Britt: This year ranged from great (The Cove) to Meh (The Hurt Locker) for me. Best Picture was the weakest link, which is a shame since they had so many more to choose from this year. But it's a better year than a few that we have yet to discuss.
Wendell: I think the Best Pic category was weak, but the winner was strong. That makes 3 really strong winners for me, plus a mediocre one (foreign). That makes this one of the best years of this project so far for me, if not the best.
Kevin: Definitely a strong year as far as the winners go. I liked the foreign winner better than the doc. So I guess I'm the odd man out on that one. Yeah. It's a good year when the lowest grade you give is B+.
Drew: I feel like a broken record when I say that this year was a mixed bag for me, but I think most are. Like, I think the Doc is a masterpiece; brutal, but a masterpiece. The Animated film is beautiful; not perfect, but beautiful. The Best Picture winner is solid; flawed by solid. That Foreign Film though...that was just mediocre; entertaining, but mediocre. So, once again, from mediocre to masterful, AMPAS embraces all ranges of quality!
Jeffery: Best Picture was excellent as was Best Doc. A pretty great year overall. Though their Actress choice is one of the worst ever.
Drew: LOL, that’s another discussion altogether.
Jeffery: Yeah…had to sneak that in there!
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