Feb 20, 2015

2015 Best Picture Nominees, Part 3 [Potpourri]

Before the Oscars delight and frustrate us this Sunday, it's time to look at the last two movies up for Best Picture. Since these movies don't have anything in common (besides generic crap like 'growing up', 'falling in love', and 'becoming a man'), let's just call this the Potpourri category. Before you read these, be sure to check out the reviews of the other six nominees HERE and HERE.

Now, on to Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel:

Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke
Story: Charting 12 years in a boy's life, Boyhood follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages 5 to 18 as he has a pretty normal life. His mom (Patricia Arquette) falls into a series of relationship pratfalls and career highlights, and his dad (Ethan Hawke) is also around occasionally. Eventually he decides he likes photography.
Pros: Richard Linklater filmed this movie over 12 years, bringing back the same cast to check in with a child as he grows up and develops into a young man. You see him struggle with adolescence, familial discord, and creative blocks. You see him fall in love and experience heartbreak. The film flows seamlessly through the years, mimicking the way people age and change in front of you without you realizing that they're any different.
Cons: Okay, all that beauty aside, this movie is incredibly lazy. Since we're only checking in with these characters for about a week every 1-2 years, Linklater can create big, explosive moments without feeling the need to have causal relationships between those moments. Also, Mason's problems are, for the most part, unsympathetic (other than having an alcoholic stepfather). His desire to be a graffiti artist/photographer/musician really only makes him seem whiny and entitled, and his only other character trait is 'bored'. Also, after nearly two hours with Patricia Arquette being one of THE MOST inactive parents in film history and Mason learning all of his life lessons from the male authority figures in his life, the movie tries to turn it around and make the story a loving tribute to mother and son relationships. Not so fast, movie that ish is unearned.  Finally, while it is interesting that this movie shows us the growth of one child over 12 years, it's also true that television shows do that all the time. I know and care a whole lot more about Cory Matthews and Sally Draper than I do about the little weasel in this movie. And if you want your exploration of youth and aging to be fancier and more high-falutin' than television, watch the Up Series documentaries. They're amazing.
Best Picture Winner: Probably, and that's a damn shame. I'm less upset that Patricia Arquette is most likely going to win for Supporting Actress. The material may be lacking, but she does the best she can with it.
Something to Say on Oscar Night: Bring up the Cory Matthews (Boy Meets World) comparison to your most elitist friend. Watch his/her head explode.
Film Grade: B

The Grand Budapest Hotel
In all honesty, I already reviewed this movie when it was in theaters, so large chunks are from my earlier review. But, I rewatched it, so some chunks are new.
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and F. Murray Abraham
Story (Or, rather, the story within the story within the story): Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) is a concierge at a super swanky hotel. When he is framed for the murder of one of the hotel's ultra-rich clients (Tilda Swinton), it's up to a young lobby boy (Tony Revolori) to clear his boss's name and break him out of jail (and effectively woo a young pastry chef played by Saoirse Ronan). Along the way, they run into and try to evade a who's who of Wes Anderson mainstays, including Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Willem Defoe, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and MORE!
Pros: Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson's movie previous to this one, also happened to be one of his finest movies ever (not The Royal Tenenbaums good, but still). This movie's not quite at that level, but it is the most Wes Anderson-y movies that Wes Anderson has ever Wes Anderson-ed. That means audiences get cracker-jack pacing, blunt and direct dialogue, great actors hanging out and being great, people walking perpendicular and parallel to the screen, and a beautiful and rich color palette. The story buzzes along really nicely -- event with a runtime of 100 minutes, it feels like the shortest film nominated. Tony Revolori is a great addition to the Anderson family, and it's good to see Ralph Fiennes being charming and funny while being able to sport his own, normal nose.
Cons: Again, it's the most Wes Anderson-y movie in the history of movies, and the director's twee sensibility can be a bit much at times. Also, the plot involves a lot of murder and quasi-Nazis, and sometimes it's difficult to watch your favorite actors get murdered, be murderers, and/or be kind of Nazis (in the movie, the fascist group is called The Zig-Zags). Plus, the dark nature of the movie means that occasionally great actors are murdered with very little fanfare. Also, something bad happens to a cat, and it's either the funniest or most frightening thing you'll ever see, depending on how you feel about cats.
Best Picture Winner: At one point, this movie seemed like the biggest long shot to win Best Picture. Now it's got a good chance of winning. Not Birdman or Boyhood good, but a chance nonetheless.
Something to Say on Oscar Night: Wes Anderson has never won an Oscar before. Crazy, right?! He didn't even win won of those "he's a young artist, let's support him" Oscars that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won.
Film Grade: A-

SNUBS – The Rest of 'Em

Still Alice
Julianne Moore gives a quietly brilliant performance as a woman falling apart after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. This movie is painful to watch, heartbreaking, and emotionally revelatory. Moore is the frontrunner to win in her category, and it's easy to see why. What makes the movie around her so wonderful is that you don't see the cracks at first. It's a subtle film that breaks your heart.  And, as her supportive yet flawed family, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, and Alec Baldwin are all pretty great in it,

The LEGO Movie
This movie's lack of nominations proves that everything is not awesome (I really hate myself for typing that). Animated films are often where the best stories are told, and The LEGO Movie proves that fact with a story about imagination, creativity, and holding onto a sense of childlike wonder and magic. It's also inventive and hella funny.

Here are some other movies that were better than half the movies nominated for Best Picture Oscars this year, which I have also already reviewed:

Jenny Slate is amazing as Donna Stern, a woman who gets pregnant after a one-night-stand. The writing is sharp, and the humor and gravitas don't fight each other.

The best, most tightly-filmed action film I've seen in some time. It's witty, Chris Evans is good, Tilda Swinton is great, and the train keeps moving on.

This is the best sequel Marvel has churned out (not counting X2 and Spider-Man 2) and the best showcase for Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. It's taut, engaging, and it's got Robert Redford in it.

The movie's not all-out success, but a well-made musical film is hard to come by. This one comes the closest to perfect since Chicago.

Who's going to win Oscar gold? I wish I knew.
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