Saturday, February 24, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Top Ten (1)

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Almost finished: this is the first part of my top ten movies of the year.


#10 -- Notes on a Scandal (Fox Searchlight)
It's campy and gossipy and loud and (wait for it) scandalous and kind of a guilty pleasure if you tend to feel guilty about being entertained by a scary old lesbian and her mascara-encrusted pedophile colleague. Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy have their moments of HIGH DRAMA but the film is really buoyed by Judi Dench's canny performance as a desperate, scheming misanthrope.

#9 -- Babel (Paramount Vantage)
If Inñaritu's rather heroic devotion to putting his characters through as much hell as he possibly can doesn't turn you off, Babel is quite an accomplishment. Gone are the showy editing choices and intentionally confusing timelines. I think the fact that Babel's story is so much more straightforward than his previous efforts shows a confidence in the story he's telling. It's doesn't all hang together -- I still say Rinko Kikuchi was performing in an entirely different film altogether -- but I liked the sense that this filmmaker was taking a confident step forward.

#8 -- A Prairie Home Companion (Picturehouse)
It's sad that a man had to die and all, even if he was old and lived quite the full and accomplished life, but if Robert Altman had to go out with any film, it's hard to imagine one more appropriately elegiac than this movie. A more romantically inclined person might think he chose it for that very reason. A diverse yet cohesive ensemble tell stories and sing songs until the late hours, giving a send-off to a bygone era, and more importantly a bygone artform, with the gorgeous specter of death lurking about to remind us we're all eventually headed for that good night.

#7 -- The Fountain (Warner Bros.)
Darren Aronofsky's wild, time-traveling, operatic, emotional, beautiful, zen passion project is patently ridiculous at times. I mean, how are you supposed to feel 100% good about yourself when you're watching a bald Hugh Jackman in full lotus position floating up to heaven? Really. Which makes it all the higher achievement that the film succeeds anyway. If indulging in Aronofsky's Buddhist fantasies is the trade-off for the breathtaking sights and penetrating emotion of the three-tiered story about defeating death, how do you not take that trade in a heartbeat?

#6 -- United 93 (Universal)
I don't think I took a breath for long stretches of United 93. I expected to be queasy and on edge, but the tension in Paul Greengrass's film didn't feel cheap. It didn't prey on our emotions. It built up tension the old fashioned way -- it locked the doors. Beyond the technical virtuosity, which is considerable, what makes United 93 one of the best films of the year is they way it treats its characters. The passengers and crew of United Flight 93 are neither heroes nor victims. They don't have time to be either. No time for a "yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker." No time to comment on the politics of the situation. No time, even, for the mythologized "let's roll" to sink in. What they accomplished was heroic. In the rush of the moment, what they did was all they could think to do. I'm grateful that Paul Greengrass felt that that was enough. It was.

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