The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

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

#426 Post by knives » Wed Jul 29, 2015 8:48 pm

2001
A Beautiful Mind
There's worse winners and better winners out there. I have a basic nostalgia for the film as one of the first adult movies I saw in theaters, but that is only at a distance. This is a film better left to memories.

Gosford Park
As uneven a director as Altman could be he went out on three of the best films of his career. While all of the best components here are done better by the subsequent The Company this all the same features a great example of everything that makes Altman so great. Probably my favorite element on display here (besides Fry's hilarious cameo) is the way the movie flattens the characters to Tati-esque proportions building such an intelligent class commentary based almost entirely around the framing of characters in relation to one another.

In the Bedroom
This crept and genuinely surprised me in a fashion I haven't felt in a long while. What starts out as a fairly humble small town overview akin to other nominees like The Cider House Rules explodes into dark corridors with simplicity and elegance. It is essentially the closest thing I've seen from the past thirty years to the great '50s melodramas like Peyton Place. Everybody does an amazing job here, but especially the lead performances by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson deserve all of the applause in the world. Without showing off or flinching as most other actors would they build and break down these fully formed humans. It's especially insane to think of Spacek lose to Halle Berry. I guess you just had to be there to understand that insanity.

the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I will never understand how this amateurish set of productions lit the world on fire. I wish I hadn't already used the you had to be there line.

Moulin Rouge!
There's so much awful to this pride parade jizz that I almost don't know where to begin. It's clear that the filmmakers know enough of history and film to make a good film, but if either out of lack of patience or talent this haphazard collection of cliches and experimental techniques does not do a single thing right. Technical it shoots its wad early and basically doesn't even pretend to be engaged with experimental techniques after the absinthe scene. Even the attempts to undercut the over serious preposterous emoting rings of the falsest camp. Maybe if Luhrmann where straight up and had Kidman played by a man there would be something of resembling sense here. Of course that would take away one of only two actors who seem to realize how to play off this awfulness even as they are forced to fail (the other is an evil Broadbent). And the worst of all these crimes is making it impossible to talk about the far better Huston film of the same name. Along with Crash and Cimarron (both coincidentally sharing the same final issue) are probably the biggest dark marks on the Academy's history.

My Vote: Gosford Park

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

#427 Post by knives » Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:34 pm

2002
Chicago
I really didn't need another variation of this story (and this doesn't top Wellman's version), but if so I'm glad it's this good. The inclusion of the other jail characters switches things up enough to make it feel like a more necessary variation rather than just another parody of celebrity. The thing that really gets me though is just how much Bob Fosse Marshal retains to the point it seems as essential to getting Fosse's cinematic work as All That Jazz. I wish the editing was a little lessened, but it's already amazingly slow for a modern movie so it's hard to harp Marshall on it.

Gangs of New York
This is a goofy little spell and for all of Scorsese's supposed love the movie just isn't good. Part of that I can see being out of his hands like the truly horrible score (particularly in the opening scene where it is basically electronic yachety sax) and the far too green leads who are simply overwhelmed by the film around them. That doesn't excuse the bad John Ford sense of humour on display nor the overdone visuals as if old New York were a circus. And honestly it takes the least interesting narrative possible from the bones of the premise and would have done well to drop DiCapprio's character entirely making it entirely about Bill and the machinas involved with ruling New York at the time. It's simply a terrible as a history of New York (though I really hope Ken Burns' inevitable film keeps Day-Lewis as Poole and Broadbent as Tweed) and is just boring as a revenge movie leaving an overwhelming meh to the whole long affair.

The Hours
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf movies? I am after this mild puddle of crap. The biggest compliment due this film is that it is Daldry's least terrible nominated film. More specifically McGarvey's work as DP while a bit on the nose (more on that later) is fairly pleasant and gave me a weird nostalgia for celluloid with its pleasantly grainy look. Though any time the visuals threaten to make the film enjoyable Hare's script gives us an Ed Harris monologue of already dead platitudes or a sledgehammer on how hard it is to be a woman. If you can't figure out the subsequent 90 minutes from the first twenty you've never seen a film before. Also, what's the deal with these Daldry films winning actress oscars for the laziest performances ever. Winslet was a joke from the word go and Kidman seems to have gone to the Olivier school of nose puddy as acting. I could go on, but unlike the film I realize everyone gets the point so I'll stop.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This is probably the best of the three. Otherwise just copy and paste what I said before.

The Pianist
I thought the closeness Polanski has to the subject matter would be a benefit, but instead this makes the film his most guarded and closed off anonymously hitting its points with not even a Le marseillaise moment. Though the casual approach to demise is relatively refreshing with this easily being the best english language film to tackle the Holocaust though that does not say much.

My Vote: (Rather easily) Chicago

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

#428 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:00 pm

Welcome aboard the Chicago bandwagon!

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

#429 Post by knives » Wed Aug 05, 2015 3:12 pm

It has some very snazzy set design and Taye Diggs.

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

#430 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 06, 2015 3:11 am

Per our discussion upthread about best films on teaching, I've just watched Robert Mulligan/Alan J Pakula's Up the Down Staircase and can without hesitation call it the best, most-accurate portrayal of teaching in an inner city school I've ever seen in any medium. That this film gets so many small details about a dangerously broken system dead-on and is nearly fifty years old is terrifying. The film gives us teaching as a series of small trials: No big victories, lots of quiet frustration and constant vigilance to keep one's cool. Sandy Dennis is just perfect, perfect as the newbie teacher who isn't an idiot, isn't an inspiration, and is doing her best to learn on her feet as she goes along-- I've known her, I've been her, she is dead-on accurate. As someone who spent years in the system, let me assure you: this is the default correct answer for best depiction of inner city teaching. They should send you a copy of this movie at some point in the signup process for Teach for America / local Teaching Fellows programs.

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

#431 Post by knives » Thu Aug 06, 2015 3:15 pm

Yes, finally I'm the one doing the converting. Dennis really is amazing like a mirror with her hopes and expectations having to be placed in such tight bind. The story with the other teacher could have easily taken things off the rail like the jailhouse stuff in Lean on Me but instead the film plays matters with class never betraying the reality it fights so hard for. He and his story function perfectly as another lived in facet of the education field.

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

#432 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 30, 2015 2:08 pm

2014
American Sniper A deeply conservative movie, but why not? Conservatives are human beings too, and many of them fight and die for our country. Is it not only right to present the conservative protagonist of this film in a fashion fitting his own worldview? The liberal knee-jerk reaction against this film, usually spurned sight-unseen, is one of the most tedious movie stigmas of recent memory. This isn't a great film, but it is a good one, and it sees its protagonist and his actions with simplicity and clarity. Eastwood's film never convinced me it was celebrating or cursing the man at the center, and any objections or celebrations come more from viewers than the film itself, I suspect.

Birdman The best film of the year won best film of the year?! It's been sweet satisfaction to see this board begin to rally around this great film in the Dynamic Top 10 tally despite a vocal minority mocking it in the main thread. A masterpiece with no peer this round.

Boyhood Patricia Arquette won an undeserved Oscar for aging without plastic surgery, but Ethan Hawke gives the most interesting performance here as the Gen X dad who gradually gets his shit together over the course of our protagonist's childhood. Overrated by nearly everyone (or underrated by the obnoxious minority who want to turn the film into a race war missive prompt), this is an okay film floating by in large part due to its unusual conceit and production. A gimmick isn't necessarily a bad thing (look at this year's winner), but this doesn't rise above the more interesting human interest aspects behind its making.

the Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson Lite to my eyes, his masterpiece to seemingly everyone else. I think it ranks somewhere in the middle, tops, and coming after his actual masterpiece, Moonrise Kingdom, this just feels like so much plate-spinning.

the Imitation Game Real life inspirational figure changes world, faces challenges, there's a pretty young British brunette there to make everything better til she's not, and everything is presented in as medicinal a fashion as possible.

Selma Exactly the typical and expected biopic docudrama you'd expect, despite what anguished pleas to the contrary claim. Just because there's a little visual flavor to some of the proceedings doesn't make this anything more than what it is. What's more, those stylistic flourishes during moments of violence are rather tasteless and cheap and make no narrative or logical sense within the otherwise presentational world of the film. The performances are rote and expected, and the film could use more moments like the early morning breakfast where Dr King lets loose with his fellow justice-seekers and becomes not a deity but a human. As it is, hagiography wins out, despite some not too convincing stabs at addressing his flaws in as ineffective a manner as possible. The real life story here is compelling, Dr King's achievements undeniable, LBJ's depiction is as questionable as others have pointed out, and beyond that, as a film, who cares? There's a stronger reason why DuVernay and Oyelowo weren't nominated: they just weren't that good.

the Theory of Everything Real life inspirational figure changes world, faces challenges, there's a pretty young British brunette there to make everything better til she's not, and everything is presented in as medicinal a fashion as possible.

Whiplash Streamlined and steamrolled by a powerhouse and justly Oscar-winning perf by JK Simmons, this is an exhausting and exhilarating film, and while Birdman earned its win, I wouldn't have been too upset if this had Rocky'd its way into the winner's circle.

My Vote Birdman

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The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-Present)

#433 Post by TMDaines » Mon Nov 30, 2015 3:54 pm

What makes GBH Wes Anderson lite? It is, to me at least, the archetypal Anderson film and surely his most ambitious. It feels like the culmination of so much of his previous work.

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

#434 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:01 pm

I agree to some degree, but to me it features everything I already expect from a Wes Anderson movie without anything that makes it more than the expected. Expensive looking intricate sets and so on, it all looks lovely, but the story is thin and not well-served by all the trickery. Moonrise Kingdom finally found a justification for all of Wes Anderson's affectations, good and bad, and made them work in unison brilliantly, in a way that justified all of his previous work as rough drafts at finding a right match between his aesthetic concerns and the narrative. GBH doesn't do that, at least not to my eyes. I am a little bewildered at how many people think it's his best work-- at least with Rushmore or the Royal Tenenbaums, I could see the appeal and understand the arguments for it being his best work, even if I didn't agree. I can't really get much beyond a shrug for GBH though.

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

#435 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Nov 30, 2015 5:46 pm

domino harvey wrote:2014
American Sniper ... This isn't a great film, but it is a good one, and it sees its protagonist and his actions with simplicity and clarity. Eastwood's film never convinced me it was celebrating or cursing the man at the center, and any objections or celebrations come more from viewers than the film itself, I suspect.

Selma Exactly the typical and expected biopic docudrama you'd expect, despite what anguished pleas to the contrary claim. Just because there's a little visual flavor to some of the proceedings doesn't make this anything more than what it is... the film could use more moments like the early morning breakfast where Dr King lets loose with his fellow justice-seekers and becomes not a deity but a human. As it is, hagiography wins out, despite some not too convincing stabs at addressing his flaws in as ineffective a manner as possible.
I'm sincerely baffled as to how you could take offense at "hagiography" in Selma and not take similar offense at the portrayal of the protagonist of American Sniper. If you had problems with both films or neither, I could grasp those arguments, but writing off the halo the latter film puts on Chris Kyle as just an artifact of its ideological worldview while decrying Selma's presentation of King as too glowing does not compute.

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

#436 Post by bottled spider » Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:29 pm

knives wrote:2001
In the Bedroom
This crept and genuinely surprised me in a fashion I haven't felt in a long while. What starts out as a fairly humble small town overview akin to other nominees like The Cider House Rules explodes into dark corridors with simplicity and elegance. It is essentially the closest thing I've seen from the past thirty years to the great '50s melodramas like Peyton Place. Everybody does an amazing job here, but especially the lead performances by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson deserve all of the applause in the world. Without showing off or flinching as most other actors would they build and break down these fully formed humans. It's especially insane to think of Spacek lose to Halle Berry. I guess you just had to be there to understand that insanity.
Yes, it's excellent, richer and more nuanced than the short story on which it is based. A moment that has stuck in my mind
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when they're in the woods to bury the body, and a grazing deer stops to watch them.

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

#437 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 30, 2015 7:47 pm

DarkImbecile, I'm not "offended" at Selma, merely disappointed. As far as real life goes, Dr King was about a million times more interesting and important than Chris Kyle, but only one of their life stories made for a film of merit last year. I don't agree that Eastwood provides his protagonist with a "halo"-- his actions near the end in pursuit of the other sniper are rightly shown as foolhardy and dangerous, for one. I felt I understood Kyle more than I did King after watching their respective portrayals.

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

#438 Post by knives » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:14 am

bottled spider wrote:Yes, it's excellent, richer and more nuanced than the short story on which it is based. A moment that has stuck in my mind
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when they're in the woods to bury the body, and a grazing deer stops to watch them.
I actually thought that as one of the weaker moments being obvious and forced symbolism where the rest was presented in a more laid back and you might miss it fashion. In general don't feel that the last stage of the film necessarily lives up to the rest, though I don't think it cripples the film either.

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

#439 Post by essrog » Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:53 pm

domino harvey wrote: LBJ's depiction is as questionable as others have pointed out
I linked to this essay earlier this year in a thread that will probably never be resurrected, but it's worth posting again: Amy Davidson's piece in The New Yorker, the best of many pieces I read (from both sides) about this manufactured controversy.

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

#440 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Dec 01, 2015 3:35 pm

domino harvey wrote: I don't agree that Eastwood provides his protagonist with a "halo"-- his actions near the end in pursuit of the other sniper are rightly shown as foolhardy and dangerous, for one.
So the film's depiction of Kyle being so committed to getting his man (which he does) that he puts himself in a bad situation he has to heroically fight his way out of (which he does) does enough to avoid presenting him as an only superficially flawed warrior demi-god (or "Legend", the honorific used in the film), but Selma's treatment of King's infidelity and his less-than-ideologically-pure tactical machinations fail to make him seem more human? This very well could be my own bias speaking - Selma's bar for an accurate yet critical representation of its deservedly revered protagonist may be far lower for me than Sniper's, whose protagonist I think needed a far more complex portrayal to justify the film's existence as anything beside hagiography - but I still think pinning the "hagiography" label on Selma and giving American Sniper a pass is nonsensical.

By the way, I'm not saying there's anything wrong at all with thinking Sniper is the better film (though I very much disagree), just that this particular line of criticism seems misapplied one way or the other.

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

#441 Post by knives » Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:45 am

2014
American Sniper
I imagine Eastwood, with his dovish conservatism, thought he was making a modern Sergeant York delving into the complexities of war as a part of national identity. Instead the film comes across as a modern First Blood at best or a weak willed counter to The Hurt Locker at worst. The actual portrayal of the war and the specific themes about it aren't interesting, but those Rambo aspects are very engaging and only get better as the film, which is on the high end of average for Eastwood, moves into the mental toll the war has on the increasingly erratic Kyle. It's a pretty basic message that no matter the quality of the veteran they went through hell and deserve care. I do wish the film had been less tied to Kyle's POV in Iraq given how it lends to racist portrayals, but that would diminish what does make this an interesting film.

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

Boyhood
I'm not going to do better then I said already.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
This already feels like such an old film it has attached to me so firmly. I'm not sure if this is Anderson's best film, but as a winter ode to Lubitsch, Zweig, and that old Europe they loved it hits me so personally I feel inadequate to talk about and am frankly sure I'll only embarrass myself. I'll only say that this shows powerfully that the idea of Anderson as only being concerned with rich white people is absurd. This is such an external and explicit showing of what I consider to be Anderson's essential narrative. He is utilizing minority, this time some vaguely Armenian or Pakistani Muslim and a bisexual Jew, voices to visualize his own outsider or poser insecurities. This makes me realize Anderson is basically a talented Eli Cash.

The Imitation Game
This film is sheer mediocrity and Cumberbatch's awful performance is the only thing of personality due to that stupid accent. Nothing interesting to be had here.

Selma
Damn my notes from last year for not being more thorough then various praises for the intercutting. Still, a year out from the mess surrounding the film this is a well told film even if its politics aren't as radical or interesting as some have made it out to be. The elements that Dom cites as hagiographic I feel are just a natural result of having Dr. King be less a person and more an ideal for pacifism, which is why I find the Malcolm X scene so essential.

The Theory of Everything
Like Dom says above basically the same as The Imitation Game, but made into a good movie. It is not grand or especially notable, but it is just enjoyable enough and Marsh brings just enough flavour to allow it to be the Gallant to the other film's Goofus. Before the ASL kicks in I did find Redmayne's performance a bit deranged and idiotic, but fortunately that terribleness only lasts about twenty minutes. It's as if he wanted to be Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln and instead comes across as Slingblade.Still this only compounds how absurd the Keaton snub was.

Whiplash
This is not my sort of thing and as much as I love JK Simmons his character is such a one note maniac that the script forces him to give the worst performance of his career. The only time his performance lives is when he's passively reacting to the music (which is consistently great). This covers a lot of the same ground as Black Swan in a far less engaging and true to my experience fashion. Also I think as a movie about music it does a terrible job communicating what it is talking about. Clearly this was made by knowledgeable people, but they fail to communicate their knowledge. By comparison someone like Bergman or Donen knew how to communicate ideas of music they understood to even a hard of hearing person like me.

My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-2011)

#442 Post by knives » Tue Mar 15, 2016 3:44 pm

1990
Awakenings
The Patch Adams sequel I really didn't need.

Dances with Wolves
This is significantly better than what I was expecting. Based on talk around the campfire I had assumed that this would either be a lamed A Man Called Horse ripoff extended to too long a run time or a noxious 'corrective' to Jeremiah Johnson. Either way I didn't expect this often Malickian observation on nature done to pleasantly studio rhythms. Which isn't to say that the film isn't without fault such as however they made it work contriving a white woman for the romance (in fact more than the active portrayal of Indians this is the film's biggest black eye) or the monolithic treatment of concerns by the Sioux (very '90s liberal mentality). In the last two hours these and similar problems are a little too omnipresent to excuse fully (I'm basing this off of the shorter theatrical cut), but on an entirely surface level at least the film is pretty enjoyable and good.

Ghost
In a fairly weak year for nominees being just good enough is good enough it seems. This coming from Zucker is definitely the most interesting element and perhaps also the most thankful considering the humour even the non-Goldberg scenes manage to organically capture. The film itself is just adorable with a pleasantly classical attitude. Everything's pure fantasy in the best sort of way, right down to Swayze's perfect abs and accounting occupation. Also how did Greenberg not even get nominated for this film let alone lose out to Dances with Wolves? The beauty of this film is like 80% of the not Swayze likability factor. He even managed to make the ridiculously '90s cuddle sex not come across totally silly.

the Godfather Part III
I know this is contrary enough to get me kicked off the internet, but not only did I wind up liking this, but I genuinely prefer it to the second film. I won't go as far as to say it is definitely better as there are areas where the second is better, e.g. Hagen still being here and the cinematography, leaving things I suppose to a preference of emphasis. That said where I thought the second was merely a much louder and less nuanced repetition of the first here there's a lot of thematic momentum with a genuinely new story that pushes the character of Michael into a new stage of life where despite the power and wit he's pathetically human. That's not to say this lacks repetition, but that they are recontextualized in a way that adds to the original while taking on a meaning of opposition here.
SpoilerShow
Just compare Michael's diabetic stroke here to Vito's death in the original. While the earlier film gave Brando dignity and honor with a peaceful setting after an attack on his life; Michael here is left human not getting hurt during the first attack and getting the stroke in a moment of stress.
The whole metaphor of the degradation of the Italian family finally feels complete. Which brings me, I suppose to the thing everyone complains about which is Sofia Coppola, but honestly I think she does a good job. Certainly she's weaker then the other new comers (here I feel obligated to bring up Wallach who gives one of his best performances here), but I think she suits the role well considering how she is basically playing herself thus the awkwardness works.

Goodfellas
I like this film a lot, but its sequel strikes me as better on all fronts and it is probably Scorsese's gangster film with the least to say and the least interesting style to say it in.

My Vote: Godfather Part III

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

#443 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:44 pm

Wait, Goodfellas has a sequel?

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

#444 Post by swo17 » Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:47 pm

I assume he's referring to My Blue Heaven, the Steve Martin/Rick Moranis comedy based on Henry Hill's time in witness protection.

Now stop reading the forum and get back to work. [-X

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

#445 Post by knives » Tue Mar 15, 2016 5:09 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Wait, Goodfellas has a sequel?
Casino is what I was referring to. Maybe I should have inserted the word spiritual.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-2011)

#446 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 15, 2016 6:16 pm

knives wrote:Awakenings
The Patch Adams sequel I really didn't need.
It is probably rather callous, but I always think of that moment from Brass Eye whenever this film gets brought up!

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

#447 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Mar 15, 2016 6:20 pm

swo17 wrote:I assume he's referring to My Blue Heaven, the Steve Martin/Rick Moranis comedy based on Henry Hill's time in witness protection.
I kind of prefer that to Goodfellas.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1969-2011)

#448 Post by Numero Trois » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:11 pm

knives wrote:Dances with Wolves but on an entirely surface level at least the film is pretty enjoyable and good.
The one scene that sticks out in mind after all this time is the outdoors surgical hospital sequence where Costner winds up on his horse with his arms outstretched. That particular sequence struck me as especially incompetently put together.

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

#449 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:44 pm

2015
The Big Short
Neither the trifle nor the powerhouse it was made out to be by interested parties during its surprisingly successful award season campaign, McKay's film is actual most notable to me for something I'm not sure I've ever noticed a film doing well enough to praise before: accurately capturing the voice of the non-fiction, non-autobiographical source material. I've read most of Michael Lewis' writing (and had just finished the excellent Flash Boys a few weeks before seeing this), and McKay's practice of manic jumps between characters, compressing and speeding through events as needed, and pausing mid-narrative to use illustrative metaphors to clarify key concepts fits neatly with the experience of actually reading Lewis' books. In all, a well-made, entertaining, and even exciting adaptation of a non-fiction report on one of the major (yet still misunderstood or unclear to many) events in recent world history: not something one sees on a regular basis, much less twice in the same year's best picture nominees.

Bridge of Spies
A very solid historical drama that never quite delivers enough that is unique or carries real power regarding its main themes to stand out in a Best Picture crowd, but a film that exemplifies some of Spielberg's less flashy capabilities amid some high quality set pieces (most notably the Berlin Wall sequence). Spielberg and Hanks get little notice for this kind of work because they've mastered it so thoroughly (or covered the same ground too often, if you're feeling less charitable), but this feels like the kind of B+ film and lead performance that people will be delighted to discover when studying them in the future.

Brooklyn
Those more critical of this immigrant drama aren't wrong when they note the lack of dramatic weight in the plot, and I especially agree with the criticism that the film undercuts the agency of Saoirse Ronan's Eilis by more or less making her climactic decision for her. Still, these problems are for me entirely outweighed by the excellence of Ronan's work and the heartfelt warmth with which the script and direction treat the characters, the era, and the locales of New York and Ireland. This variety of lighter, romantically oriented period dramas are not exactly in my wheelhouse, but I see many of them with my wife, and this may be close to the Platonic ideal of its kind for me.

Mad Max: Fury Road
A truly excellent action film, I found a lot of value here thematically, technically, and in the sheer creativity involved in the building and populating of this world. However, I can't agree with seemingly 90% of the critics in the country that the nominee that was admittedly the most enjoyable to watch is the best film of the year. Sure, it has some interesting things to say about gender and the theatrical nature of authoritarian control, but it's not that deep, and as much as I generally enjoy George Miller's direction of action, there weren't quite enough scenes of exquisite choreography, beautiful composition, and/or truly jaw-dropping stuntwork for me to consider this the year's best. If I'm being honest, the one truly groan-worthy use of CGI (the Doof Warrior's guitar flying toward the camera and snapping back during a climactic wreck) was enough for me to disqualify this from contention.

The Martian
Ridley Scott's film is one of those popular entertainments that is effective, competent, and charming enough that it's almost impossible not to enjoy watching, but it's also not nearly substantial enough to consider truly great. Even though I ranked Room lower overall, this is easily the slightest of the nominees and the one whose absence would least diminish the distinctiveness of the group as a whole.

The Revenant
I can't help but feel that if this had been released with some random upstart director's name on it, it would have been far more highly praised for its ambition, visual power, and technical brilliance. Not flawless by any means, but a film that stands up for me on multiple viewings, and resists the reductive label of "revenge movie" with its powerful - if too easily mocked - final shot.

Room
I found this more affecting than anticipated, largely due to latter half of the film centering around the relationship between the son and a psychologically unstable mother recovering from abuse, a far more relatable situation than the gripping but alien environment of captivity. The power of certain portions of the film made some of its weaknesses - particularly the treatment of characters outside the trio with whom we spend the first half - even more aggravating. For example,
SpoilerShow
I outright hated the way William H. Macy's father character turned on a dime from extreme gratefulness at the return of his daughter to an unsupported childishness regarding his grandson's provenance and, even worse, allowing this to keep him away from his miraculously recovered child. The film did no work establishing this turn as a believable character development, and never comes back to it. I also thought the interview with the reporter was pretty ham-fisted in its depiction of exploitative journalism, especially the moment where the reporter asks why Brie Larson's Joy didn't ask her captor to take her newborn son and leave him at a hospital. "Wow, you're absolutely right! I should have handed over my newborn child to a deranged kidnapper and rapist and trusted him to do the right thing, which I'm sure he would have done, even though my son's existence provides the best possible DNA evidence that could tie him to my disappearance. Idiot."
Spotlight
While the weak "HBO movie" criticism leveled at this solid film doesn't hold, it's also true that Spotlight is never ambitious enough to make a serious impact as a film, instead of as a vehicle for a vital and compelling true story. I certainly don't know what McCarthy and company could have done to make this more than just a good drama without distracting from the gravity of its subject matter - certainly a manic, driving form like The Big Short's would be as ill-fitting as Spotlight's objective, workmanlike approach would be on the McKay film - but that's what it is: a well-made, involving real world drama for adults. Just because those are more and more rare these days doesn't make the best of the year.

My vote: The Revenant - an imperfect film that nonetheless stands out amid a fairly weak year of nominees.

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

#450 Post by knives » Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:04 am

2006
Babel
This served as a decent reminder for how badly AGI needed to drop Arriaga like a rock. There's a few good films hidden in here and the editing takes a much needed relaxation compared to his first two movies (though nowhere near as much as his last three) and the script's vulgarian tendencies are fairly fun though I suspect they're intended to be more provocative then the cute they amount to. Beyond that this is a frustrating culmination to a terrible career up until that point. If AGI is even remembered thirty years from now all of the talk will be centered around how bizarre and abrupt his transformation into a good filmmaker has been. The Moroccan storyline is the real weak point being completely unrealistic with the weakest characterization and least interesting aesthetic hook. Showing where AGI is comfortable the wedding in Mexico is the best done story featuring a surprisingly complex and nuanced subversion of border life before reality hits. The Japanese storyline is far more obvious and suffers a weaker theme, but Kikuchi lifts up the whole affair with a performance that rightly turned her into a a major star over night. I suspect that had it been given a full feature length time (or at least ate into Brad Pitt's time) a genuinely great film could have been mustered out of the story which is also the most beautifully shot. Mixed feelings aside this is definitely the most daring of the films nominated for '06 and possibly the best so...

The Departed
This is a good film with some fun and occasionally even great acting plus enough oddball elements (why is Anthony Anderson present) to be memorable. Still this barely registers a blip in Scorsese's career and even this year and was chosen seemingly for the reasons everyone has talked about already. This isn't a choice to get up in arms about, but also not one really worth celebrating.

Letters from Iwo Jima
I prefer the other half of this duo and I suspect the main reason this was chosen over its english counterpart because of how supposedly daring the choice is. The film itself is handsome and old fashioned in the right sort of way with Eastwood and the actors covering over some of Haggis' weirder scripting choices and simplistic morality. Still it is somewhat annoying, for example, that the film so cleanly divides between good and bad Japanese based on connections to America which is not minor point. Still because of how this functions as a minor pleasure it's hard to get too upset at anyone not Haggis.

Little Miss Sunshine
When I first watched this my response was essentially to ask if that was all the hubub was about not knowing that because of that popularity I'd be giving the same response to dozens of similar films for at least the next decade. That type of influence has to garner some respect, but put this in the bin of films which I simply can't be bothered to care about.

The Queen
The oscars this whole decade seemed to be about finding the most middle of the road films to nominate with few to no films to annoy, but also to care about being nominated. So this film which makes a serious virtue of those traits is very fascinating to consider. It's about a non-event dealt with from the most nonplussed point of view and is sort of brilliant for that fact. Frears keeps things pleasantly matter of fact and Mirren is hilarious in a sweet natured way as the queen without seeming like a parody or a hagiography.

My vote: The Queen (though I am tempted to go with Babel for Dom's reason)

2012
Amour
From the outside it was rather surprising to see this become an oscar darling of sorts, but now that I've seen it the success almost seems inevitable. This is easily the most mainstream stylistically I've seen Haneke go with much more regular cutting and a style of empathy that lives up to the title rather then out of the primacy of humanism I'm used to from him. For me that means this packs less of a punch then his best, but also manages to skirt past his worst into a warm actor's showcase. I am not sure if the film needed its ending and tell-tale heart pigeon which makes me like it a tad bit less then the similar Dying at Grace and Still Alice, but it is an understandable turn given the emotional situation Riva and Trintignant find themselves in.

Argo
I feel bad for saying this, but I feel like Affleck has gotten progressively worse as a director with this as the lazy ending to his comeback kid narrative. This isn't a bad movie, but it's unbelievably mediocre given the subject material. Which isn't to say it works well as a decent little thriller, but the story has the potential to be more than just an entertainment.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
If this isn't the worst film nominated for best picture it comes pretty close considering how it offends all senses and sensibility. This is just an incompetently made film with stuff out of focus and a shaky cam that makes Greengrass look sober. I can't think of anything that should do worse for the reputation of amateur productions then this. Though the worst aspect of the film is how it renders an object of romance the poor. I honestly thought this sort of poverty romanticizing went out with the Johnson administration it is so bad. If the film were merely observational of the poor like Les Blank or Harmony Korine (who the film leans closer to) that would be okay, but this is clearly a Last of the Mohicans style lovefest to a dying 'breed' of humanity. Even ignoring the co-opting of magical realist imagery which really puts this over the fold you have the film characterize the adults as children, the lead as just a cute object spouting folkisms with a stupid name, a false mythology within the culture the film invents, and a certain pride at the characters bucking conventions that would actually help them at least compared to where they are at. The movie thinks it is seriously talking about displacement after Katrina and global warming, but because it has to keep its characters so quaint and artificial the issues are left too abstract to care about. There's been a lot of great post-Katrina filmic works and that this is the one the academy recognizes is nothing more then a stupid joke. (as an aside to make sure I wasn't making an ass of myself for favoring New Yorkers like Spike Lee and Jonathan Demme to someone possible authentic and it turns out that the director is some white guy from Queens as is the writer of the play this is based on making me way more comfortable calling this exploitation)

Django Unchained
I've already talked this up a fair bit so in short who could have guessed that Tarantino had a work of such maturity in him?

Les Miserables
Hooper is a perfectly good journeyman whose television work I can respect and I'm one of those weird few who likes it when there's a million adaptations of a story, but everything here falls together in just the wrong way. The cinematography is ugly, the singing atrocious, and the actors miscast for maximum ham. Something as simple as flipping Jackman and Crowe (who admittedly would still be a terrible singer) would have improved the film immensely. That said the much talked about Hathaway performance does live up to the hype and should have been in a vastly better film.

Life of Pi
I'm unfamiliar with the book, but the deep themes and other silliness that the framing device promises are so distant from the meat of the film that it practically undermines the whole experience. Fortunately the main narrative is so involving and enthusiastically accomplished all of the dumb bastions to faith in the world couldn't undermine it. Lee shifting from his normal gears especially once we hit the boat turns this into a lean and intense balancing act between wonder, fear, and sadness.

Lincoln
Spielberg really lucked out here considering all he said he wanted to do with this before bringing on Kushner and DDL. No offence to Liam Neeson, but there's no way he could have accomplished playing the great emancipator as the sick, old, well humored man that we get here removed from his legend for the most part in a way we haven't seen since Ford. Kushner is the real hero here though reeling everything back into a mean crime story essentially that manages to fit in some very smart and sometimes even subtle politics in. The movie really should have ended with Tommy Lee Jones returning home victorious as the current ending is out of a completely different and much worse film. I also wish a little that Kushner had cut even more fat off the film because while the stuff with Sally Fields is great and the youngest son gets one good scene the stuff with the oldest son while not bad comes across a little bit like filler.

Silver Linings Playbook
For me this is primarily a prep for the better American Hustle, but is still a great movie in its own right. It's fun, loose, and poignant at just the right degree. Russell also remains the only director to move Lawrence into performances I actually enjoy with her rightly taking home the gold this year.

Zero Dark Thirty
This is prettier then The Hurt Locker and I suspect plays better on repeat, but outside of the random moment when this turns into an Edgar Reitz film and the well done reconstruction of the assassination my feelings are this is another middling film on a war that really hasn't gotten its proper cinematic dues (unless you count Jarhead which takes place in the Gulf War, but seems like a pretty obvious commentary on this one). Also the controversy surrounding the use of torture in the movie is stupid and overplayed.

My vote: Django Unchained

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