McGinnis: Best Picture nominees, Pt. 2Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, I looked at the first four nominees for Best Picture. And now, the adventure continues!
“Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen’s comedy is a bit of a contradiction — it’s a movie clearly in love with a city and an era, but oddly enough, it’s also a cautionary tale about idealizing things. The story, about a screenwriter (Owen Wilson) who finds himself going back in time to meet some of the classic artists from Paris’ past, is a great idea that’s a little muddled in the execution.
Take away the beautiful surroundings and fun cameos, and we have another tale of a misunderstood guy who struggles against a world and a fiancée who doesn’t understand him. Wilson — playing the Woody Allen role — is so detached he almost seems to not even be there, and the movie suffers from some annoying and distracting subplots. The end result is a film with loads of potential that ends up not being all it could be. (Now available on DVD.)
“War Horse” So often, critics of Steven Spielberg like to derisively use the word “Spielbergian” when criticizing his work, indicating their disdain for what they see as clichéd elements of his films. This is usually a narrow-minded and unfair dismissal, but I must admit that after viewing “War Horse,” “Spielbergian” was the first word that came to mind.
The film plays like a travelogue of World War I, told through the eyes of a horse and the boy who loves him. But it doesn’t offer any real insight into the war that’s going on, and the tale of the horse itself doesn’t generate a lot of sympathy. Unlike “Saving Private Ryan,” which truly seemed to capture the essence of the conflict it was depicting, this film ends up feeling like an extended “Lassie” episode, only with Mr. Ed playing the dog. (Now playing at Fallen Timbers 14.)
“The Artist” Please, please dismiss from your mind any preconceived notions of what an “art film” is. Forget that it’s in black and white, and silent. Just think of “The Artist,” first and foremost, as a movie, and you’ll find that it’s one of the most purely entertaining works to play in theaters in a long, long time.
Michel Hazanavicius’ movie is about the golden age of Hollywood, and that treacherous time when silent movies were giving way to sound. It is a film that is in tribute to that age gone by, but also inspired by it. The story is told in grand, broad strokes, just like the silent movies it’s emulating, but also is subtle and emotional enough to have true power. The result is a delight, for any audience. (Now playing at Levis Commons 12.)
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” Thomas Horn, who plays the young hero Oskar in “Extremely Loud,” is a very, very fine actor. He must be. It takes considerable talent to create a hero this unlikable. This is a child who lost his father (Tom Hanks, no less) on Sept. 11, 2001. He should be able to generate all the sympathy in the world. And still, through sheer will, the movie made me hate him with white-hot intensity. An impressive achievement.
Little Oskar is trying to find the lock that will open with a key he finds in his late dad’s closet, which takes him on a quest he hopes will bring him closer to his father’s memory. The result is a wildly unlikely fable where this pint-sized genius walks all around the city. (Now playing at Fallen Timbers 14 and Franklin Park 16.)
“Moneyball” Baseball is a game devoted to statistics, and yet it took years for someone to use those numbers the way Billy Beane did. That’s the idea at the heart of Bennett Miller’s sports movie, a film about the 2002 Oakland A’s, which after being gutted the year before, rebuilt with a mish-mash of cheap players other teams didn’t want, and ended up changing the way the game is played.
The script, by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, is written with an economy of smart, interesting dialogue that sounds and feels authentic. None of the performances is over-the-top or showy, but they all are set toward the goal of telling an interesting story in an interesting way. It’s not the equal of Sorkin’s brilliantly written “The Social Network,” but it’s a fine, fine movie. (Now available on DVD.)
Email Toledo Free Press Star Pop Culture Editor Jeff McGinnis at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.
Tags: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", 2001, Aaron Sorkin, Academy Awards, Bennett Miller, Billy Beane, Jeff McGinnis, Michel Hazanavicius, midnight in paris, Moneyball, Mr. Ed, Oakland A's, Oscars, Owen Wilson, Paris, Pop Goes the Culture, Saving Private Ryan, Sept. 11, Steven Spielberg, Steven Zaillian, The Artist, The Social Network, Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, War Horse, Woody Allen