Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oscarwatch 2010 - An Education and A Serious Man

THE DAY OF THE OSCARS IS HERE! And we've got 3 more movies to review. So here goes...

To start off, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I watched A Serious Man last night so now I've seen all of the Best Picture contenders. The bad news is that I didn't really like it. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood to watch a serious, slow moving flick last night. Or maybe it was just a pretty slow moving movie, with not that much of a plot except that this guy’s wife wants to leave him for Sy Ableman, his son is becoming a Bar Mitzvah, his brother lives on his couch, and he watches the woman next door sunbathe in the nude. I guess that sounds like a lot, but to me it just didn’t all add up.

The humor in it is very dark, and although deliver the subtle punch they hope to, isn’t really laugh out loud funny by any means. You start to really feel bad for this guy, everything in his life seems to be going badly, and he keeps going to Rabbis for advice, although none of them seem to give him very good advice.

I won’t get too much into the little (and I mean small) twists the plot takes, as to not spoil anything for people who will see this film in the future. But I warn you - if the climax of a film features a boy about to become a Bar Mitzvah getting really nervous, and then coming back to and doing a good job reading from the Torah, not all that much is happening in the film.

I know many people will disagree with my assessment of the film. I’ve spoken to people who thought it was hilarious, and of course the Coen Brothers are great writers/directors. But this time, the slow pacing did not make the story more engaging, at least for me. Don’t think this one will come away with any Oscars this evening.

Marci Meter
2 out of 5

Next, let’s tackle An Education. The drama is set in Suburban London in the 60s, and follows the story of Jenny, a teenage girl, as she meets and starts to have a relationship with a much older man (David, played by Peter Sarsgaard). I actually really liked this film. The story was engaging, even as you become unsettled about the events that are taking place, and especially Jenny’s parents’ reaction to their daughter hanging out with this older man.

We follow Jenny and David’s relationship from the innocent enough beginning, then as she begins to meet his friends and experience cultural activities with them, all the way until the uncomfortable ending of things. Again, I do not wish to give spoilers away, but in this case I can honestly say that the spoiler is actually an engaging and interesting twist, unlike some of the plot points in A Serious Man.

The acting in this movie is really great, as well. Carey Mulligan really owns her first big starring role, and is nominated for Best Actress for her work. Peter Sarsgaard plays David wonderfully, the really nice, really charming older man, who leaves you a bit uneasy although you can’t quite put your finger on why (besides the whole dating a teenager thing). And I cannot fail to mention the supporting cast as well. Jenny’s parents (played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) provide a wonderful portrait of parents who really just want the best for their child, whether they are hilariously yelling about getting into university, keeping Jenny focused on her studies, or in touching moments where they are trying to find ways to comfort their daughter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and although I do not think that it will win Best Picture tonight, I think it’s a good one to see. It had an old Hollywood feel to it, the way it was shot was visually captivating, and the story is engaging.

Marci Meter
4 out of 5

Last, but certainly not least, is Inglorious Basterds, the nazi-hunting Tarantino film featuring Best Supporting Actor nominee Christoph Waltz as a very creepy but entertaining Nazi (he's going to take home the Best Supporting Actor trophy this evening). If I could describe this movie to someone in two words, they would be these - Quentin Tarantino. The man took the liberty here to rewrite history, and by god, it actually works!

So much happens during this film that I don’t think I can give a brief synopsis. I mean, for the most part it’s about a group of American soldiers during WW2 that go into Nazi occupied France and “hunt Nazis.” Another plot features Shosanna Dreyfus, a Jewish refugee who witnesses her entire family being murdered by Nazis. Then several years later, we catch up with her. She now owns a cinema, and is courted by a Nazi hero, who ironically enough convinces Hitler to show a Nazi propaganda film at her cinema. The rest of the plot is filled with twists and turns, and ultimately Hitler’s untimely demise. But you’ll have to watch for all that.

There is a lot of violence, per usual Tarantino. Some VERY tense scenes are also key to the plot of this movie, and here’s an example of how scenes can be effective and slow moving, and then pay off in a big way. This movie seemed to be a huge undertaking, and so much happens in it that you wonder what goes on in Tarantino’s head on a daily basis. But I mean, that’s what you get from one his movies. And it’s great. It takes you to a whole different world, where history is rewritten, and it’s oddly satisfying, if only for a few moments.

This was definitely one of the more original undertakings of the year in terms of story and substance, and I think it’s a good one to see, especially if you’re a fan of Tarantino’s work.

Marci Meter
3.5 out of 5


Steven said...

3.5 for Basterds, after every other movie you reviewed except 1 for 4?!? I would give it a 4.5 yo. Genius movie.

Steven said...

oh wait, i didn't see your precious and blind side reviews. so not everything for a 4 out of 5, but most... basterds still deserved 4.5-5!!!