Tuesday, July 28, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture: 2011

Well, after that two week absence, we're back with another episode of 4 Ways a Best Picture.  I want to thank you guys for continuing to read these, and to comment with your thoughts.  It means a lot of me and I know to the rest of the panel.  Speaking of this panel...I want to thank them for continuing to just talk movies with me!  

So, before we indulge in the year that was 2011, let's check out our panel again:

Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Wendell from Dell on Movies

Drew:  It's time to talk Undefeated!

Britt:  I feel so bad about this - but I just do not give a fuck about small town football.  At all.

Drew:  I don't care about football, period, but I have to say, this was moving.  I mean, granted, it was like a documentary version of every live-action Disney sports movie, but it was still quite powerful in moments, and the dynamic between the students and their coach (what a great guy) was portrayed beautifully and felt honest, real and whole.  I'd never watch this again, and if it weren't for this project, I would have never cared to watch it (since this is NOT my thing), but it was a well-meaning and well put together doc that may not have 'said' a whole lot, but was far more engrossing and memorable than some of the 'important' docs we've been watching for this.

Britt:  For me, this was completely unmemorable.  I remember liking the coach, but this was like watching a real life episode of Friday Night Lights or something.  I'm a bit baffled on how this actually won.  I almost feel like it would've worked better as an article in a newspaper over a documentary.  I just couldn't get beyond "good for them".  This rates very low on the doc scale for this project.

Kevin:  Seriously, Britt?  All you got out of this was "good for them"?  To me, this is the most "important" kind of doc.  Certainly more important than documentaries about the dolphins in Japan.  Sorry.  But this is a human story.  A story about all of us.  A story that exposes what is so fucked about our country.  I know these people.  I work with these people.  I am these people.  Now, back when we were pre-gaming this thing, watching all the movies, Drew messaged us about how he thought I would love Undefeated.   He was totally right.  I LOVE high school football.  I live in a small Tennessee town where the sport is worshipped, despite how much better our basketball team is...historically.  I'll go ahead and get my only criticism out of the way, which is this: Sometimes Undefeated does feel a bit too much like something else, a combination of reality TV and an episode of Friday Night Lights.  Other than that, I loved this movie.  It moved me.

Drew:  I won't say this is more important than a film about dolphin slaughter...but I will say that you are right in that these kinds of human stories are important to tell.  Sometimes we don't realize how much a part these extra-curricular activities play a part in keeping some kids...alive.  And it's not an easy job to get these kids to focus, to stay on that straight and narrow, and we've seen countless movies dramatize the 'struggle' but here we see how real that struggle is, and how incredible the people who take the reins and actually HELP these kids really are.

Kevin:  Exactly, Drew.  Let me tell you about the "importance" of this little winner.  It is a story about kids, poor kids, kids who have little to hold onto other than football.  This movie makes inspirational Disney sports movies better.  It makes them real.  Right on, Drew.  Coach Bill Courtney, formerly of Manassas High School in Memphis, TN, is the best kind of person.  The absolute best.  He donates his time to help these kids.  He deals with little shits like Chavis, a boy with no father, no role models, a chip the size of Tennessee itself on his shoulder.  He doesn't give up on that kid.  He respects him.  I have taught kids like Chavis.  It is NOT easy.  I can't sit back and even think "good for them," because this isn't the end.  This is the beginning of a life of struggle that awaits 99.9% of the young men on this team. That's what I see in this film. That is what is so perfectly heartbreaking and simultaneously uplifting about this film.  This is something we should be spending our time on.  Football teams, like it or not, build communities, mold them, strengthen them.  And these high school football programs are totally at their best when a coach like Courtney is involved.  His loving maxim, repeated throughout this film says it all, "The measure of a man's character is not determined by how he handles his wins, but how he handles his failures.”  I love that.  Such a generic, simple message.  The kind of things coaches say.  But when they mean them, when they practice what they preach, like this coach, that is fully inspiring and more meaningful than just about anything else.

Drew:  I'm loving this passion, and I'm in full support of every word.

Kevin:  I'm glad.  I'd say this is top three or four of all the docs we've watched.  This is a movie for everybody.  So rare for an Oscar-winning doc.  It’s a crowd-pleaser.  I like that.  It's not without flaws.  It does get a bit heavy-handed from time to time.  And the making of the movie itself inherently contrives the situations portrayed.  It's at its best when we just get to see what life is like for these kids.  Memphis is heavily divided by wealth, like most larger cities.  The white kids go to private schools there.  Or nice public high schools east of the city, like Germantown.  The scene where they juxtapose the one of the kids' beaten down shacks, essentially, with a subsequent scene of O.C. visiting the suburban mansions of one of the assistant coaches is shocking.  And so true.  Poor O.C. with his low ACT scores (a 14 is so low).  It took these white bread coaches to ensure a higher education for that kid.  And it so worked.  Sorry to be so long-winded.  I just connect to this one so much. 

Drew:  I knew you would.  When I saw this, I immediately thought; Kevin will love this (as you already pointed out).  It feels very you.

Britt:  Kev, you're not long winded at all!  I'm glad this film meant something to you.  I too am from a small town that sort of worshipped football and other high school sports.  I think that played a big part in why I couldn't fully enjoy this.  I hate thinking of my home town.  I hate thinking of my high school sometimes too.  It just felt somewhat familiar, even though my town and school were very different from what we saw here. I couldn't connect with it for those reasons, weird as they are.

Kevin:  It's funny.  I live in the town I grew up in.  I teach at the middle school I went to.  I LOVE Clinton High School (TN) sports and its kids.  I was voted Most School Spirited as a senior at CHS.  I'm the chubby moron who painted his man boobs proudly in Dragon Orange and Black.  I just love this stuff.  Many of my friends have zero love and nostalgia for it.  I just have a strong sense of hometown pride.  I question it sometimes.  But it just doesn’t leave me.  Two years later, my sister won the same superlative.  Staying "true to your school" is in the blood.  Lol.

Drew:  The visual I have of your painted man boobs is everything right now.

Kevin:  It was not a pretty sight, but it got me on all the local news stations that Friday night.

Drew:  OMG!  I want pictures!  Video!  Let's make a gif!  And, I have moobs and would totally do the same thing, so...

Kevin:  Oh. There's a pic. It's in a yearbook. Should've taped the news that night.

Wendell:  I'm a life-long football fan, but I grew up in NYC where we basically don't give a shit about HS football.  And this is from a guy who went to a school that won the state championship while I was there (no, I wasn't on the team).  It's fascinating to hear from people who grew up in places like those depicted in Friday Night Lights, Varsity Blues, and of course, Undefeated.  Despite not having the same connection some of you have, I was still enthralled by this film.  I love every minute of it.

Kevin:  Yes!!!!!

Wendell:  It's so raw, so emotional you can't help but get caught up in it.  Having this in documentary form breathes so much more life into the situations because we know that it's real as opposed to wondering how much was changed for dramatic purposes like in other movies.  When something happens the impact is felt that much more.  That scene when they lost a game and Coach Courtney told them that "it takes a man to come back from this" with tears welling up in his eyes was really powerful stuff.  In that moment, he knew they needed to bounce back from defeat, not just for the sake of their football season, but to prove to themselves that they are worth fighting for in every aspect of their lives.  He was so earnest in what he was saying it was heart-wrenching.  It's one of those things the kids on the team may not fully understand the importance of right away, but it will stick with them as they go forward and begin to realize the depth of that statement.  The struggle is definitely real and hats off to Coach Bill Courtney for putting himself right in the midst of it.  I honestly think this is the best football movie ever made.

Drew:  Strong words there, Wendell, and considering this was basically Friday Night Lights (in my eyes, the greatest football movie ever made), the documentary, I'm obliged to...agree with you?  I want to take back my initial comment about this not saying a whole lot (strike it from the record) since my next comment (and everything Kevin said) pretty much proves that comment false.

Wendell:  Strong words because I have strong feelings for it.

Jeffery:  I thought I wasn't going to like this much but I found it both complex and inspiring.  The scene with OC at the end was a huge tearjerker.  Also loved the turtle symbolism.  The footage was put together very well and the emotional arcs worked.  It made me realize how high the stakes can be for high school football.  It truly is a pivotal moment for many peoples' lives.

Britt:  You guys are making me feel bad for not liking it.  lol.  I remember being stunned when this won.  I thought for sure Paradise Lost would. 

Kevin:  Coach Courtney leads with the passion of the best coaches.  He's also a real human being with his own issues, his own past.  I compared this to Friday Night Lights as if that's a bad thing.  It's true what I said.  This movie reaffirms the greatness of even fictional sports movie by giving them true reality.  This movie has more social relevance than any doc we've discussed since Bowling for Columbine.  This is an American story about what happens in the lives of average American kids every day, every year in this country, especially in the South, where football is king.

Drew:  Kevin SLAYED this conversation, and I love it!  I love when a film connects with someone so intimately.

Kevin:  Thanks, man.  This seriously did work so fully for me.  More than any other movie in this series, especially as far as ones I hadn't already seen.

Britt:  C+. + because Coach Courtney was an awesome dude.  I just couldn't connect.

Wendell:  Easy A+ from me.

Kevin:  A+

Drew:  I’m going A here.

Jeffery:  A


Drew:  It's time to talk about A Separation!

Britt:  I love Peyman Moaadi.  I just watched Camp X-Ray last week so I've been reading quite a bit of interviews with him lately.  He's SO good here.

Drew:  Moaadi is indeed great here, but this movie belongs to Sareh Bayat and her brimming intensity and the way she completely unravels in the face of her predicament.  Like, she stops my breath in this movie, and alongside Carey Mulligan and Trond Nilssen (from the same year) she gives one of the best performances of this current decade.  Like...FOR REAL!

Britt:  Bayat was top notch.  That whole "I want you to swear on the Quran" scene was so powerful.  Probably the best in the entire film, IMO.

Kevin:  Well, I won't have near as much to say about this one.  I liked it, but it didn't live up to its praise for me.  I was sort of bored with it.  No connection really until the last third of the film.  I can't argue with the performances though.  This movie is fiercely acted and really well made.  Like, I get it.  I get why so many praised this movie.  It just didn't get to me emotionally until pretty much the very end.  What a cluster fuck of a conundrum this thing turns out to be.  Crazy.  Yeah.  That scene, Britt.  That one truly got me.  Powerful stuff right there.

Wendell:  I agree, Moaadi is awesome in this movie.  And the way the story is written I just felt so bad for the dude.  I mean, really really bad.  It felt like everyone in the movie took a dump on him all at once.  Bayat is great, too.  Not sure I'd go as far as to say one of the best of the decade, but she is excellent.  Then again, she might be that good because the mark of a great performance is how much of an emotional reaction we have to it and I HATED her character with every fiber of my body.  HATED!

Britt:  As much as I enjoyed this movie.  I hated the ending.  Absolutely hated the last scene.  I needed to know who she chose!

Drew:  NO!  That last scene makes this movie everything that it is.  Like...my breathing STOPPED.  Full stop.  Not lying.  I sat there and was clutching the sofa and was like...WHAT!?!?!?  But, like, in every good way possible.  I couldn't stop thinking about that ending for weeks.

Britt:  My husband and I were raging after it ended.  Lol.

Wendell:  That last scene...ugh!  I'm in agony just thinking about it and trying to figure out who she chose.  When the credits rolled, I was like WTF?  I let them play all the way through just in case they went Marvel on me and snuck something in after that.  No dice.  I was pissed, at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to think that it was downright brilliant to stop the film right there.  I love when movies leave me in a place where the what happened, or what happens next is open to logical interpretation no matter which side you fall on.  Those are the movies that generate meaningful conversations about things bigger than a mere movie.  This does a tremendous job of that since there is so much to discuss.  And all of them are universally human themes. I mean, who can't relate to what's being touched on in this movie?

Kevin:  Like I said, I really liked the end.  In a very "WHAT!?!?!?" sort of way.  I also fully appreciate this film for making Iran a real place.  It's always so shrouded in war and darkness and evil is our twisted news media here.  I actually got a true understanding of the country, its people, and especially its civil judicial system, which is something else.

Britt:  That's a good point.  It was a very normalized story.  This film seemed to get a lot of "firsts" for Iran too.  First movie to Win an Oscar, a Golden Globe, get a screenplay nod etc.

Drew:  I like that point you raise, Kevin.  This feels very human and it really allows us to see a part of the Iranian culture that isn't often shown to us.  I also applaud the Academy for embracing a film like this, so rich with human themes and identity that isn't so relatable to an American audience.  This is a special film (or should I say, special win) because this is a film that isn't steeped in political or 'war time' messages, but is just about people, their lives, their stories...and it feels so easy and effortless in the way that it is developed.  This could have been so heavy handed and manipulative in the way that it was constructed and yet the film feels so comfortable in design, like a well-worn film; honest and real and raw without all of the forced importance.  My only note of critique, and it's really not even critique since the thing I love about this so much is that ease, but the film, outside of that OMG ending gets a little dusty with time.  It's a VERY good film, but the lack of moments make this somewhat easy to...not think about.  This was initially, back in 2011, my #3 of the year, right behind Beginners and Mysteries of Lisbon, but with time this has fallen for me, while other films that weren't as immediately powerful to me have only gotten more and more impressive and striking with time (i.e., Drive, Hugo and even The Artist).

Kevin:  Yes.  There is an extreme positive for me in A Separation in that, while not totally relatable for me, it touches on universal human themes (marriage and divorce, parenthood and custody battle, caring for an aging/dying elderly parent).  Still, there was something about it that didn't hold my attention. I zoned out on it from time to time.  I still haven't seen Drive.  And I've hardly heard of Mysteries of Lisbon.  Need to get to those.  Beginners is a beautiful film. I LOVED that movie.  I like that: "The lack of moments."  That may be why it didn't grab me, especially early on in the running time.

Wendell:  Like Kevin said, this did a wonderful job of making Iran a real place with real people.  Unlike a lot of movies that use the country as its setting, this Iran was recognizable as part of the civilized world.  On the other hand, if this gave us a true representation of their judicial system then thank God for the way it works, here.  Wow. 

Kevin:  No doubt, man!  That is the worst kind of bureaucratic nonsense if that's how it really is there.  Some tired ass judge sitting in an office handing down decisions on whatever whim he might be on that day.  Craziness!

Wendell:  And no formality, just a bunch of people in an room yelling at each other, and essentially being their own lawyers.  It was like being sent to the principal's office and arguing some he said/she said bullshit.  I haven't seen any of the other nominees, but judging from the quality of this versus a number of other winners in this category, I feel good about this win. It's an excellent film that kept me riveted all the way through.  I do like a number of non-nominees from '11, though: The Skin I Live In, I Saw the Devil, and 13 Assassins (if that counts for '11 and not '10).  I'd say A Separation fits in snugly among them.

Drew:  This is one of those years where the frontrunner for this particular award actually won.  So often we see a surprise in this category, but all season it was all about A Separation, and I have to say that it was a very deserved award.  I've only seen Bullhead of the other nominees, and it was VERY good (and disturbing as hell), but A Separation said much more and really was the better film.  This is a very deserving winner, and in all honesty, it's one of the very best wins in the category in recent years.  Despite the fact that it has slipped a bit with me, it still retains its quality as a film and I have to say, I'm really happy this won the Oscar.  See Mysteries of Lisbon.  It's an astonishing film, a true epic in scope and delivery, and one of the most beautiful (literal and figurative) films I've ever seen. 

Kevin:  I liked a lot about this movie.  I never LOVED it.  Not even in the end but I almost got there.  There is some amazing passion in the performances across the board.  No doubt.

Jeffery:  A Separation is riveting.  Agree with Drew and Brittani that Bayat is wonderful.  It's a slow, albeit intense build to what some of you may have found to be an unsatisfying conclusion.  I feel that the meaning of it is powerful though.  A separation is never truly a separation.

Wendell:  Great way to put it.

Drew:  While my initial reaction to this film was a straight A+, it's faded to a very respectable A for me.

Kevin:  B+

Britt:  I looked back at my initial review, and I gave it a B, but I think even with the ending, I'd move it to A-.  I've seen this film a few times since then and I just have more love for it.

Wendell:  A-

Jeffery:  A+


Drew:  So...Rango is a pretty interesting win; right?

Kevin:  I'd say I should've probably liked this movie.  Everybody else seemed to that year, as far as critics go.  I couldn't get into it at all.  I literally had no idea what was going on at one point.  There is no way a kid could follow this movie.  Is there?  I don't have kids.  I suppose it IS an interesting win, though.  I sure haven't seen any of the other nominees.  I would rather slap myself in the face all day than listen to Antonio Banderas be a cat named Puss. 

Britt:  It's a different win, and it's kind of amusing, but it's not very memorable.  Admittedly I didn't re-watch this one for this project and I probably should have.

Kevin:  I didn’t either.  I couldn’t.

Britt:  But compared to the other films animated films released that year, Rango was one of the better ones.  Especially with Adventures of Tintin weirdly snubbed in this category.  Didn't the Academy get weird with motion capture or something in regards to Tintin?

Drew:  Yeah, Tintin was deemed the frontrunner until Oscar called in ineligible, which was a shock and left this field wide open.  I'll admit, I have not watched this with my kids.  When it came out, reviews called it salty and said it was more an adult cartoon and so we decided not to let the kids see it.  I saw this on my own when it hit Netflix Instant, and I actually really liked it, but it's not a kid's movie...but as we've seen...animation does not have to be solely for children.  I actually think this is Depp's best performance in like, ten years.  It's funny and weird and clever and interesting in ways that a lot of animated films aren't...and that score is great and there are moments here, which is nice.  That being said, I haven't seen the foreign contenders from this year, and while I hated Kung Fu Panda II...I LOVED Puss in Boots and think that that one should have won!

Britt:  You're right about animated films not being solely for children.  My kid hasn't seen this, I did the same thing Drew did and watched it on Netflix.  I really liked the animation in this though.  It's so detailed.

Drew:  Yeah, the production design here is stellar, and the character development is quite stunning and fun.  It's not perfect, but I was really surprised with how much I liked this one, considering I had no desire to see it when it came out and have like an allergic reaction to most things Johnny Depp.

Kevin:  Good point, Britt and Drew, that animation doesn't have to be for kids.  I know that.  I do feel this was marketed for kids though.

Jeffery:  This movie gave me a headache.  I kept drifting from it.  Some amazing graphics though I will admit.  Johnny Depp doesn't seem so lifeless nor as over the top as he's been of late.  One of his better turns recently.

Wendell:  Rango was definitely marketed to kids.  I like the Rango win.  To me, it was just a fun western with excellent work from the much maligned Johnny Depp.  I thought it was the best of a field that didn't include any truly great movies.  I saw all of the nominees except Chico and Rita, and liked them all, but none stood out as being so much better than the rest.  I even like Kung Fu Panda 2.  Puss in Boots would be the only other possible winner for me, but like I said, I thought Rango was better.  I really liked A Cat in Paris, too, but again, not a really great film.  To be honest, I'm glad TinTin was ineligible because that movie bored me to tears.

Kevin:  And I do feel that I might actually like Puss in Boots if I gave it a chance.  My Mom took my little cousins to see it when it came out and they all loved it.  My cousins are Shrek and its spin-offs fanatics.

Drew:  It's better than any of the Shrek sequels.

Kevin:  I'm just a mean old cynic, who lost touch with his inner child.

Wendell:  Puss in Boots is far better than the last two Shrek flicks, for sure.  I really enjoy Shrek 2 so I'll put it in that ballpark.

Britt:  Oh, and I should mention, I like this win because it was a Nickelodeon film.  Not the usual Pixar or Dreamworks.  That was different.

Kevin:  Depp is an easy target.  He's better than most give him credit for, I'm sure.  The movies he makes just rarely appeal to me.

Drew:  No, he used to be better.  He's been legit shit for years.

Wendell:  That's the issue.  Nearly every role for better than a decade is him in tons of make-up and trying to be weird.  The shtick is tired, by now.

Kevin:  Yeah.  I'm pretty sure the last movie I liked him in was Finding Neverland.  But I never saw Public Enemies or The Rum Diaries, both of which I do still want to see.

Britt:  He was good in both of those.  He needs to do more non Tim Burton/Pirates of the Caribbean stuff so people remember what a fine actor he is.

Wendell:  It's definitely time for less Burton/PotC stuff from Depp.  He's been fattening his bank account, but churning out crap for far too long.  That still doesn't take away from Rango, for me.  He was excellent, as were the visuals, and the story.  Again, it wasn't truly great, but it was better than its competition.

Kevin:  I remember thinking this movie looked great as far as the trailers went.  Then, it got really great reviews.  I finally watched it with my wife a few years ago when it first came out on DVD.  It didn't work for me at all.  I don't know what it was.  I just couldn't stay with it.  I also suffer from Johnny Depp fatigue.  We get it.  You're a wacky guy!  I have liked Depp in quite a few roles.  He is far from a bad actor.  It just gets tiresome.  I regret not trying a re-watch of Rango...honestly.  It could've been a mood thing.  I may have just been tired or something.  I just knew I hated it as soon as I turned it off.  I was literally like, "What the hell did we just watch?"  I can only grade it on what I remember from my one viewing.  I agree that the production design was quite spectacular.  It had some humor early on.  And Depp was actually good here as far as I remember.  I only lasted about 20 minutes into this thing before I zoned out.  I remember nothing after a certain point.  C-

Britt:  Johnny Depp was really funny here.  I think I'm going B-.  I probably should've re-watched this, because it's not very memorable to me now.  (which is kind of depressing because it's only a few years old) but, I do remember thinking it was pretty damn funny when I saw it the first saw it.  Total fail on my part for not revisiting this.  I thought I had it down.

Drew:  LOL, you can't rewatch everything.  This was a massive project to undertake.  I'd give this a solid B+. 

Wendell:  I’ll come in at B+

Jeffery:  C


Drew:  And the Oscar for the Best Picture of 1928 goes to...er...wait...that's not right...

Britt:  I think this film is vastly overrated.  I'm a sucker for all things tap dance, but even that didn't help me.  It just wasn't that great to me.


My literal notes for his movie are, "Suck it haters, I love this movie!"

Britt:  Yeah, a lot of people love it.  I just wasn’t one of them.  I think the actors gave excellent performances, especially Bejo, and I liked her character, unfortunately I couldn't find anything to like about George.  I don't always have to like a character to enjoy them on screen, but they have to interesting, and George wasn't that either.

Drew:  I know that there was a lot of backlash after this became a real contender, but I was all about this winning.  It's such a delightful film and it was one of the first years where I was actually rooting for the actual Oscar winner.  It was my favorite of the bunch (my feelings for Hugo had not fully developed yet) and so I jumped and cheered when this actually won!  This is just pure cinematic bliss, to be honest.  It's a movie about the movies that feels like a love story to cinema in all the best ways.  The music, the framing, the sets, the costumes, the performances (Dujardin OWNS here and I love his Oscar win with all my heart)...I just adore this movie.

Jeffery:  I loved this movie and thought it was a stunt pulled off well. 

Kevin:  I'm inclined to agree with you on many points here, Drew.  The Artist is an excellent movie.  I admit I was skeptical when it was released to such great acclaim back then.  It was the one nominated film I didn't get to at the theater before the Oscars.  I only watched it the first time for this project.  The performances are great, especially from the two leads.  Dujardin is the most charming man imaginable.  He has a face of another era entirely.  What a find for this role!  Absolutely perfect.  Likewise, Bejo has the same kind of charm.  She is stunning!  I am not well-versed in silent film, regrettably.  This movie makes me want to change that.  I fully appreciate the way silent cinema draws you into the visual aspects on a whole other level.  Hazanavicius nailed this thing.  It looks great!  It is a true time machine of a movie.  I found George to be a highly interesting character.  His struggle came through in Dujardin's performance. 

Britt:  I'm okay with Dujardin's win, just because he didn't exactly have the toughest competition.  I loved Descendants and Moneyball and I liked Pitt and Clooney's noms, but they weren't exceptional by any means.  Great performances, but nothing that really wowed me.

Kevin:  I too loved The Descendants, and Clooney's performance, but Dujardin's work was the best of the nominees.

Drew:  You are so right about Hazanavicius!  He nailed this!

Wendell:  Count me on the side that thinks this is excellent.  Dujardin is outstanding.  He was just perfectly suited for this role, fully embodying the character in every way possible.  The real irony of the movie is how important sound was to it.  The scene where George has a nightmare where he can actually hear things as they happen is amazing.  The score is also a perfect fit.  And the whole thing is pretty damn delightful. 

Jeffery:  Beautiful score (the controversial 'Vertigo' film score use didn't bother me), B&W photography and performances.  The cast is really spunky and game.  I guess every era in modern times feels the heat of technology uprooting one's livelihood.  For this reason, I think 'The Artist' is slyly relevant to today.

Kevin:  The Artist seemed to pretty much steamroll this Oscars. What would've been its main competition?

Drew:  I don't really know about BP, since I don't think anything was close to The Artist, but Hazanavicius lost the Globe to Scorsese, and Hugo was becoming more and more of a contender, and was clearly #2 given how much it actually raked in on Oscar night.

Britt:  It didn't have competition.  So many people jumped on the "Look, this film is so different and cool" train that no one else had a chance. 

Kevin:  And that's just as well.  My wife brought up a good point about this year's Oscars:  the big winners were new and fresh and different.  You have Scorsese, Spielberg, Clooney.  Guys who have been there and won before.  This win stands as a nice change of pace.

Drew:  Agreed.  I kind of love that it was really down to a Silent Throwback and a Children's Movie.

Kevin:  Definitely.  Scorsese did a great job with that beautiful book.  If you've read it, it was pretty much already a movie.  And perfect for a film history guy like Marty.

Britt:  I guess I feel like it got a lot of votes so people could say a silent film won in 2011.  It felt gimmicky.

Kevin:  The Artist does have a gimmicky novelty thing about it.  But I don't care.  I was totally charmed by it.

Drew:  Yeah, this is gimmick that worked for me.  It was gimmick with a point, with substance, with purpose.

Jeffery:  Wasn't gimmicky but light enough to feel somewhat tongue in cheek.

Britt:  I realize I'm in the minority here.  (I feel like I've said that a lot lately.  Sorry for being so predictable lol)

Kevin:  Now, is this my favorite of the nominees?  I can't say that it is.  But it's close.  For me, Moneyball is the better film, for probably obvious reasons.  I love baseball.  I admire Billy Beane and what he's done for the game.  I am in awe of that story and how it was portrayed on the screen.  I also loved Midnight in Paris and The Descendants, though I can't say I'd put them above The Artist for this award.  Hugo is one I need to see again. I saw it on New Year's Day 2012.  I was still drunk from the night before.  Not hungover.  Drunk.  I took down a bottle of gin the night before.  It was not pretty.  Through all that though, I did like it.  I really want to see how it holds up.  I have yet to see War Horse or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Not sure I even should.  I've heard they were both pretty much crap.

Drew:  I'll be honest, I didn't think Oscar did remarkably well with their nominees.  I have some pretty strong opinions about a lot of what was nominated, but The Artist (and Hugo) are, in my eyes, the best of the bunch and two of the best of the year, so I can't complain with how Oscar voted.  It's like reverse 2010 for me...where I felt like Oscar nominated solid work everywhere and then rewarded crap...here they pretty much nominated a bunch of meh and then rewarded the absolute best (you know, except for in Supporting Actress). 

Kevin:  I love the Christopher Plummer win and Beginners is one that should've been a BP nom if you ask me.  I was rooting for Jonah Hill though, just because he’s awesome.

Drew:  Outside of The Artist and Hugo, I really liked Moneyball...and that's it.  The Tree of Life is visually striking and has some grounded performances, but is stilted by Malick's need for abstract thought.  It feels lost in itself.  Midnight in Paris is nice and all, but it's bottom tier (well, mid-tier) Allen and absolutely nothing special at all.  The Help is a glorified Lifetime movie with a gimmicky cast...War Horse is basically about Forrest Gump's spirit animal, but it lacks any charisma to justify such a pedestrian story.  I LOATHE The Descendants...like, I wanted to punch that movie in the face.  And...what was done to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was one of my favorite novels, was an atrocity.  That BP lineup is just gross.

Kevin:  Yeah. I'd say they could barely justify five nominees that year, let alone eight.   And I'm scared to even type about The Tree of Life with my wife in the same space.  She might punch me for even talking about liking it even a little, which I do…a little.

Drew:  It's not a bad movie, at all...but it's far from a masterpiece.  It has great pieces that weren't put together as well as they could have.

Wendell:  The field is dreadful.  I really liked The Descendants, Hugo, The Help, and Moneyball, but I don't have any of them or The Artist in my top 10 of the year.  I have them all in that 11-20 range.  Midnight in Paris was 'meh.'  War Horse was possibly the worst Spielberg of all time.  It was somehow better than Extremely Lame and Incredibly Crappy which was better, if not as pretty looking as The Tree of Life.  I hate...HATE all three of those movies.

Britt:  This was not a good Best Picture year.  I loved The Descendants, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, and The Help (Though I love that one a little less now for whatever reason) But my other favorite movies of that year were 50/50, Super, Hanna, Hesher, Our Idiot Brother, Drive, Deathly Hallows pt 2 and Martha Marcy May Marlene.  So basically a bunch of stuff the Academy wouldn't touch.

Kevin:  50/50 and Our Idiot Brother are excellent movies.  Love them both.  And Deathly Hallows 2 was a fun midnight theater experience.  The 3D sucked though.  Totally too dark and distracting.

Britt:  I didn't watch it in 3D.  Fuck that.  lol

Kevin:  I know.  I didn't pick the showing.

Wendell:  I liked 50/50, but couldn't stand Our Idiot Brother.  Still haven't seen a Harry Potter flick.  My choice for top movie of '11 Tyrannosaur.  Some of my other faves are Martha Marcy May Marlene, Drive, Attack the Block, Contagion, Margin Call, and of course, Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  All this makes The Artist hard to grade.  I'm fine with its win against the field, though I probably would've went with Moneyball or The Help.  On the other hand, that field was very weak.

Drew:  Ew, The Help?

Wendell:  Not apologizing for The Help.

Drew:  You're not the one who should be apologizing.

Kevin:  I like The Help too, Wendell.  No shame in that.  Sorry, Drew.  I was highly entertained by it.  And moved at times as well.  It's not BP material for me though.

Drew:  This is pretty easy to grade for me.  In the field of Oscar noms, its second best (by a sliver), but more than that, it's one of the best of the year, and like Kevin pointed out (and I think Britt, too) it's a refreshing win.  I mean, how often does s comedy win, period?  It's in my top 12, probably top 10 of the year.  Solid A.

Kevin:  Like I said, I would've voted Moneyball.  But I'm fine living in a world where The Artist won a Best Picture statue.  I don't actually have a Top Ten of 2011 worked up.  But The Artist is in there.  I'm going solid A as well.

Wendell:  I have it a bit lower than Drew, but solidly within my top 20.  And I am good with it winning.  Gonna go B+.

Jeffery:  A

Britt:  C.  I couldn't love it like you guys did.


YEAR SCORE: 303/400


1) Undefeated (86 Points)
2) A Separation (85 Points)
3) The Artist (77 Points)
4) Rango (55 Points)

Closing Comments

Drew:  I guess these are pretty much my closing comments for the year.  Overall though, with regards to the winners themselves here, I actually think this is the strongest year we've discussed.  Not a bad winner here, for me.  The Artist and A Separation both make my Top 10 of the year, Undefeated was incredibly strong, and this discussion helped me fully realize my appreciation for it, and while Rango wasn't a brilliant movie or anything, it was clever and fun and different and I like that about it.  My lowest grade for this batch of winners was a B+...that's good for me.  Solid A's everywhere else.  Yeah, this is my favorite year we've discussed so far!

Wendell:  This was an excellent batch of winners.  Weird when you consider how weak the noms were, at least in Best Pic and Animated.  AMPAS got it right.

Drew:  It's reverse 2010.  2010 was a mediocre year for film, but Oscar actually nominated really solid films...and then messed up where it counted.  2011 was such a rich year for film, yet Oscar nominated...a bunch of meh and yet, when they were casting votes they rewarded the best of what they nominated…mostly.

Jeffery:  My top 10 is here.  So many great films that year: The Artist, A Separation, The Descendants, Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris and so many great ones Oscars pretty much shut out: Young Adult, Drive, Weekend, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Some solid mainstream flicks too: Bridesmaids, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8, and the surprisingly exciting 4th (!) Mission Impossible entry.  One of my favorite film years.  My top 10 are movies that mean a lot to me.  I agree that the Oscar noms were kind of blah in going for Albert Nobbs, War Horse (zzz), Extremely Loud..., Iron Lady and the offensively white-washed simplicity of The Help (though Viola Davis was amazing).  Wish they had made some bolder choices overall in some of the categories.

Britt:  The only one I could really rave about here is A Separation.  The rest of the year wasn't very special to me.

Kevin:  I'm about half and half on 2011.  A weaker year for Best Picure nominees, though a lot of movies I liked there.  Loved The Artist.  Good win!  A Separation was not quite everything I thought it might be.  But a fine win as well.  Rango sucked.  For the most part.  Now, Undefeated.  That is a great Oscar win!  I hope everybody sees this movie.  It stands as a movie human story and a top-notch sports movie.

Let's Get TRENDY!

So, this week we were inspired by Kevin's drunken team spirit, and so our hashtag of the week is none other than #PaintedManBoobs.  I still want pictures!  So, let's get trendy, tweet us up, and be sure to comment below!


  1. I'll take the strong scores from this year as proof that I'm right about it being a great batch of winners. :D

    1. You know I'm right there with you. This is the strongest year for winners that we've discussed so far, at least for me.

  2. I sounded like such a dick during the Undefeated discussion. *facepalm*

    1. No more so than I sounded when discussing The Secret in Their Eyes :-P

      Embrace the dickishness!

  3. Drive was the best movie of the year for me. It should have been nominated for everything fro B.P, Director, Writing, Cinematography, Score, Supporting Actor/ Actress. It's a shame it was shut out.

    1. I held out hope for a surprise director nod, especially since Refn raked in quite a few critics prizes and was seen as one of the more deserving directors of the year. Sadly, he was snubbed in favor of Woody Allen phoning it in and Alexander Payne serving up WEAK Alexander Payne. Shame, indeed.

    2. I really liked Midnight in Paris but I agree, Woody Allen didn't deserve to get nominated for Best Director.

    3. Yeah, I mean, Midnight in Paris is a very nice film...but Allen didn't do anything special there, and certainly nothing he hasn't done a hundred times before. Refn, on the other hand, WAS Drive. His energy, vision and dedication thrived in every single scene.

    4. But wasn't Midnight in Paris lauded for NOT being what Woody Allen had done a thousand times before? I think the Academy should stop nominating his movies...period. He's never gonna show up to accept them, and he cares nothing about it. Either way, I love his work, especially as a writer and lover of film, and Midnight in Paris is easily his best light comedy since Mighty Aphrodite in '95.

      I need to see Drive. I suck.

    5. Eh, if it was then I don't get that praise since, for me, it's the same style of 90% of his work. Like, what he did with Match Point, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo...that is stepping outside of his wheelhouse and actually diving a different flare. That isn't to say that his films aren't all uniformly (or mostly) wonderful, even in their familiarity, but I see no need to recognize his direction when he is doing the same thing over and over again.

      Vicky Cristina Barcelona was sharper, spicier and more memorable than this one.

  4. Brittani, I don't think you sounded like a dick. You just sounded like a person who wasn't really going to connect with a football documentary. :-) Great post! A Separation has been on my to-watch list for years.

    1. The hype surrounding A Separation was SO BIG that I remember having one of those 'giddy with excitement/shaking while I was opening the Netflix envelope' moments...and it delivers, but it has faded with me. The impact of the finale is brilliant, but it's a film that hinges on a solitary moment to the point where it doesn't remain in one's mind like many other films from the year.

  5. Great discussion as always! SO glad to have this back!

    2011 was such a weird year for me... I remember writing this whole thing about how even though I LOVED The Artist, I felt so ambivalent about its inevitable win, and that I found it difficult to pick a winner out of the crop of nominees, because... really? A silent B&W curio from France being forever enshrined as Best Picture of 2011? But there wasn't another nominated film that I would have picked instead... I similarly ADORE The Tree of Life, but it's an art film. Not a Best Picture. Loved Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and The Help, but they're solid films, nothing more. War Horse was well-made but not inspiring and outrageously cliche in some places. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close worked for me in ways I didn't expect, but didn't in others. The Descendants is crap. Pure crap of the highest order (aside from Clooney, who's great). The only one that came close for me was Moneyball, but even that struck me as a weird BP pick.

    Anyway, I still ADORE The Artist - I love that it's basically the inverse of Singin' in the Rain (my #1 of all time): a silent B&W film about the transition from silent to sound films, as opposed to a Technicolor musical extravaganza about the same. The performances are top-notch all around (Jean Dujardin... SWOON), and I love the way the film plays with silent film conventions; the sound design is impeccable. And that finale is pretty damn great, even if neither Dujardin nor Bejo can really dance. Solid A.

    Rango is so out-there in nearly every way... a lot of the design is off-putting, so much so that I almost didn't see it. I'm glad I did though, because it has an off-kilter humor that I really loved. Haven't seen it since, but I remember greatly enjoying it. B+

    Undefeated is a great example of a well-done doc in that it feels like a narrative film. It's a great story and all the emotional beats really hit home. A-/A.

    A Separation, though, is the real star of the year. I don't often understand what people are talking about when they say that a film is shot or cut "perfectly", but between this and Amour the following year, I got it. I feel like you could study this film and learn how to make a perfect film - the screenplay is perfectly structured, the edits are impeccable, and the shots are set up superbly. I'm just in awe of the jewel-cut nature of this thing. It has the inexorable pull of Greek tragedy (you know, that thing where the outcome is written in stone from the setup), but scaled down to the level of real life. It's just a completely brilliant film on every level. A+, easy.

    1. Looks like we're pretty much in agreement here, give or take a slight adjustment in ranking (like, The Artist is just a hair in front of A Separation for me, but just hair). This was just an all around solid year for winners, but I'm like you in that that BP lineup felt so...bland.

      I'm so happy you're happy these are back! I just love the discussions between the panel and between the readers. Thanks so much for continuing to give your input. It means a lot to all of us!

  6. Glad to see the series back! Terrific discussions as always. I've only seen two, the doc and the BP winner.

    I wish I could say I liked Undefeated more since I respected its message so much. However the entire time I was watching I couldn't shake the feeling I'd seen the whole thing before dozens of times. I was only a very casual Friday Night Lights viewer but even more than that this reminded me of the hockey inspirational Miracle. It wasn't bad I just don't see it as award worthy.

    I loved The Artist even if it borrowed HEAVILY from many other films, big handfuls from both Sunset Blvd and A Star is Born as well as others. Despite that the director and cast did wonderful things with the material and I can't fault its win even if I would have rather seen Moneyball take the prize.

    Same with the effortlessly charming Dujardin, who Hollywood has not taken of advantage of since, though he would have been in 6th position for me with my choice for winner being Dominic Cooper in The Devil's Double.

    I'll never see Rango, which with its low score doesn't seem like a loss but I have been meaning to catch up with A Separation for a while and the positive write ups are encouraging.

    1. Yes, The Artist does heavily borrow from so much, but it does so with so much individual style to the point where it never feels heavily borrowed, if that makes sense. It's just a technically stunning piece of work and such a joy to watch.

  7. I've seen 3 of the 4 (Not Rango).

    For me, A Separation worked well as a fly-on-the-wall depiction of contemporary Iranian life, and it was a well-told story. I liked it, but I didn't feel much affection for the characters. I agree with you guys the acting is good, just I felt it's all a bit cold. I was watching at a distance but not getting under their skin.

    The Artist I haven't gone back to since 2010. Was charming, and a bit gimmicky. I object to the title The Artist, because George Valentin (Jean Dujardin)following the latest trends of the studio system is not really a true artist for me. Isn't he an entertainer or a performer instead? An artist for me is someone who breaks, or attempts to break new ground, George Valentin is just following status quo for the era, he is not trying to be different than everyone else.
    I mainly remember The Artist for the lead performances, and the dog :)
    The Best Picture line-up that year, Moneyball and Hugo I couldn't even finish, and The Descendant is my least favorite Payne movie. Tree of Life should have won, and Midnight in Paris and The Artist were entertaining.

    Undefeated was a nice surprise. Someone told me I didn't need to be interested in football to enjoy the doc, and they were right. The coach deserves a lot of credit as a motivator. The first hour of the doc impressed me the most, maybe 90 minutes instead of 113 minutes would have been more appropriate, who knows. I did enjoy it despite that minor issue.Like Drew and Wendell, I also found it moving, and the emotional ups and downs felt genuine.

    1. Glad to hear love for Undefeated! It's not talked about much, like...at all even...and so it's really nice to hear that you've seen and liked it. Like Kevin stated, it's such a human story.

    2. Chris,

      Interesting take on the title of The Artist. I actually see it as a perfect title. I say this because what causes Valentin's problems is NOT going along with the trend. He considers talkies the passing fad and takes his craft as a silent movie performer very seriously. To him, the art is in expressing yourself without speaking.

    3. I tend to lean toward your side of the take Wendell, but I can see where Chris is coming from as well.

    4. Wendell and Fisti:
      I see George Valentin as one of many silent actors from the era, so if you want to call them all artists that's fine by me. I guess expressing himself is the most important, and the "talkies" can take that away from him, since he didn't want to change. Then he does change in the end, so I think the message of the film is ultimately kind of sad, that box office drives his and other actors careers. He doesn't stick to silents that he loves,he can't, even if he wanted to. He adapts in order to please the public by making a musical, and goes against his principles. Maybe he will discover joy and success by making "talkies", we don't know, as the movie ends.

    5. I like this discussion because I've honestly never really given thought to the film's title and how it represents the film. I completely see where you're coming from, and you're starting to sway me to your line of reasoning here.

      I still love the movie, though :-D

    6. and yet I do see where Wendell is coming from (and the makers of The Artist). Silent acting is a skillful art form, no doubt, that is worthy of praise and homage. It really is a pat on the back to those silent actors of the past, if you call them an artist.

    7. And that's the beauty of film discussion :-D

  8. I don't mind The Artist winning. It is a great film and is certainly heads and shoulders above the winner the year before. Plus, a lot of the actual best films of the year imo, like my personal BP winner Weekend, weren't nominated for jack. When your competition consists of a filler Spielberg nom and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, you pretty much have no competition.

  9. I did like The Artist but I didn't think it was that great. It wasn't high on my list of films of 2011. Especially compared to Rango or A Separation which I'm sure you saw on my recent list.

  10. I must give credit to Kevin who has a true passion for that documentary. He actually can truly relate to this film and the people in it. I have no desire for sports films even if it seems so worthy. I think I am with Britt on this one but that is because my interest in this is very low. I have not seen the foreign film or Rango. but I remember when it was coming out. The way the Lizard was drawn and the way Depp portrayed it reminded me of his character from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I have a question, after Edward Scissorhands goes to the washroom, how does he..um...clean himself without being neutered? OK I love The Artist! I thought it was a great way to showcase the silent era and the rampant fear that was gripping Hollywood at that time. In fact there was one scene where he was watching his movies and they took a scene from a Douglas Fairbanks film. The main character reminded me of Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert. The dog could be Asta from the Thin Man films and the girl could be Esther Blodgett(Mrs. Norman Main). At that time there was such a fear that many stars did commit suicide or became drunk and forgotten. Hollywood went in search of new stars on Broadway and overseas especially for musical stars. It was pretty much on the mark. I also love Hugo and it was a great tribute to George Melies. Scorsese showed his true love of film in this movie he made.

    1. I think your Edward Scissorhands question just answered the question of what actually happened to Depp's career!

    2. First of all, nice one, Drew. Second, I so love, Birgit, how movies can work so exponentially better based on interest. Obviously, documentaries fit this idea more than any other. I almost HAVE to be invested in the issue to truly enjoy a doc. This one was made for me. Tennessee? I live there. High school football? I love it. Coaches? I am a head coach and former middle school athletic director. When I interviewed our current head football coach at the school where I work, he literally got choked up when I asked him about building relationships with his players. He was telling a story about a kid from a poor home, who he had often fed and clothed. I truly have sat in rooms and talked at length with all the people featured in Undefeated. It was made for me.

    3. You make me want to watch this movie again, Kev.

      You also make me want to paint my moobs.

      In other words; you're awesome.

  11. Oh man, I still need to see Undefeated and A Separation! I love The Artist but now that I think about it, I can see why it's considered rather overrated. I totally forgot RANGO won, I thought it was funny but not THAT great of a movie to even be nominated, let alone winning.

    1. Rango's win may look poor on paper, but like the panel discussed...there just wasn't much this year to really get excited over...so against the backdrop of that category, it seems fine.

  12. Yeah, this year wasn't that strong in terms of nominees, but most of the winners are great.

    I LOVE The Artist. My appreciation for it grew over time, as yours did with Hugo, Drew. (I was rooting SO hard for Hugo to upset, but I was thrilled when Dujardin won. Such an awesome win!) And I love that Hazanavicius thanked Billy Wilder. Like, The Artist has Wilder all over it. A+ for me.

    I really need to check out Undefeated. It took so long to come out on DVD that I never saw it.

    I agree on A Separation, Drew. It was an instant A+ for me, but it's not a film I think about much. While it's SO good, it's not a film that entirely sticks with me. A for me.

    Rango is good (B), but I wish Tintin had been eligible. (I haven't seen the foreign nominees yet either.)

    I still adore Midnight in Paris. Sure, it's light and simple, yet it just, well, goes down so easily. It's so much fun. Between this, The Artist, and Hugo, I was LOVING the Oscar dominance of nostalgic films.

    1. Amen!

      Yeah, as much as I don't love Midnight in Paris, the nostalgia theme was a nice touch this particular year, and you can't fault the academy for pretty much splitting the awards down the middle between Hugo and The Artist.

  13. I just love the Oscars of 2011. (These wins at least.) Undefeted is fantastic. I don't watch football, because...Europe, but I loved this film so much A+. A Separation is really good. I needed to watch it more then two times to completly like it and even if it isn't as great as The Skin I Live In it is not bad either. B+. Haters can suck it because Rango is awesome. So funny, the last great Depp performance (if you don't count 21 Jump Street), a really solid B+. And now The Artist. Defenitly great, not as good as either Hugo or Midnight în Paris, but great none the less. I love that is such a beautiful love letter to the '20s but it kind of doesn't capture the escence as well as it should at least în my eyes. (Hugo, Midnight in Paris and The Artist, all love-letters to the '20s with some connection to France and all three nominated for best picture and director, wtf?, I got an idea for a new script now). The Artist sure is in my top ten of 2011, I really love it. A-

    1. Yeah, this was my favorite year we've discussed, for sure! Solid winners across the board.