Ronald Wan discusses the 10 nominees in the expanded Best Picture category.
It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and we’re not referring to James Cameron’s maniacal ego. The Best Picture category has been upsized to include 10 nominations for obvious reasons. In a bid to attract more TV eyeballs come Oscar night on March 7 (March 8 morning Singapore time), the Academy expands the playing field to include more populist choices like Avatar, The Blind Side and even Up. But with more films in the running, everyone is scrambling to watch all 10 films in order to make an informed bet, a task almost as impossible as speaking the incredulous Na’vi language for busy mortals like you. This writer does a favour and recaps the 10 nominated films for your consideration.
Eltu ayoe eywa hapxi kewong?!?! I have no idea what I just wrote either. From the wondrous Na’vi language to the enchanting Pandora planet, in glorious 3D no less, director James Cameron has created a whole new spectacular world and crowd-pleasing movie so rich in conceptual storytelling and special effects. Avatar is the Titanic of this awards season and it might just avoid the iceberg to secure a Best Picture win.
The Blind Side
Some Academy insiders didn’t see (pun intended) this surprise nomination coming but we know why. The Blind Side, starring the feisty Sandra Bullock as the white Christian mother of an African-American teenager who went on to become a very talented football player, is your typical sports movie filled with good family values that appeal to the Christian conservatives in Middle America. Will the movie strike a Hallmark chord with the voters residing largely in Los Angeles and New York? Not a chance in Hollywood hell.
Besides the impressive action and effects in this sci-fi movie, District 9 is heavily layered with subtext and speaks of issues of our times from discrimination, apartheid to military porn. It’s your rich and intelligent sci-fi yarn dreamt up by geeks that confuses reality and perception, humans and aliens and then makes it so real for our disbelief. It’s an indie favourite but due to its earlier-than-awards-season release, the movie might not register on voters’ minds.
Carey Mulligan, Carey Mulligan, Carey Mulligan. The British actress is the life of this charming movie about a teenage school girl who was swept off her feet by a charming and suave older man, thrown into a post-war world of new riches, style and class. The movie is sweet and sophisticated like Mulligan and as the title suggests, a learning experience for all on the fallacies and ideals of youth.
The Hurt Locker
The suspenseful war film is gaining momentum to be the underdog to crash Avatar’s party. Recognised for its straightforward storytelling and intense moments, The Hurt Locker is the war film that makes the audience sit up in suspense and see the effects the Iraq war had on Americans. “War is like a drug” is a quote that opens the movie and induces the audience into a visceral, mind-blowing and dramatic ride through the Gulf desert.
What a crazy movie! Inglourious Basterds had all the wit, action, kosher porn, terrible spelling, gory violence and an awesome shootout sequence in a local bar that had fans all stark raving delighted. Like how the movie made by geek-director Quentin Tarantino is made for the geek fans, its nomination perhaps serves as the Academy’s calling card for all geeks and fan boys to tune in on awards night.
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
The premise is depressing but as you watch along the struggles of Precious and her determination to bury her past and make a bright future, you feel a sense of joy and quiet relief for the protagonist. Characters, personalities and emotions are strong in this tough film about life in the poorer inner-cities and how life is sometimes treated unfairly with the shadiest circumstances. The movie is inspiring nonetheless, enough to earn Best Picture street cred.
A Serious Man
What is the meaning and morality of life? Can we live on faith alone? Such are the pondering questions A Serious Man posits in doses of wit, humour and death. Directed by the Coen brothers, the movie is sort of an autobiographical look at their serious Jewish lives determined by families and faith. It’s a personal movie that will warm the cockles of very important Jews in Hollywood from writers, directors, producers to actors. In short, almost the entire Academy.
Possibly the best animated feature to come out of the brilliant Pixar studios (what do they serve in the pantry seriously?), Up is on a high achieving the distinction of nominated in the Best Picture category in addition to Best Animated Feature. Up sets the benchmark in animation filmmaking with its creative imagination, rich visuals, fantasy unlike any other and a sense of adventure in its plot and storytelling.
Up in the Air
If there’s an overused phrase or bad pun to describe this amazing movie, I apologise. But Up in the Air soars! The Academy loves to award movies that are current and timely (read: Chicago) and UITA is the perfect in-flight entertainment and parable of our dire economical times. From its arrival scene of airplane views of the American landscape to the departure scene of well, rolling credits, the movie throws up a good mix of humour, sadness, nuances, wit and romance weighing in on the American job market, retrenchment, ambitions, traditions and coping with a new world order. Up in the Air is such a joy ride you kinda hope it continues flying and never lands.