William H. Dirkness is proud to announce that he has soaked in all 10 Best Picture nominations of the year. It wasn't easy as I was forced to trek through foot high snow drifts, while dealing with young punk kids and their fancy cell phones lighting up the local cinemas. Don't worry though, I only had to get violent once, and that 13 year old girl deserved it (she tried to spoil the ending to Toy Story 3). This year's crop also led me to question my sexuality, halt my quest for perfection, and dream about dreaming about dreaming about dreaming up a new social networking website.
I would describe the field as deep, because there wasn't a movie that I disliked, while there was only one truly great film that stood out by itself, which earns masterpiece status in my books (sticky notes). My final rankings of the films 1-10 are complete, which I will reveal to the world over the course of the next week, in reverse order, but of course. My feelings on the films may include some spoilers, but I won't give away enough to ruin the essence of enjoyment for you (or atleast I'll warn majorly ahead of time if I do). With each movie I plan on sharing an interesting IMDB nugget along with, because I love scouring a movie's page after watching it to solidify my thoughts. You may also find me referencing the 8 criterion I laid out defining my enjoyment of the movie-watching experience, which can be found in my introduction to the film blogosphere.
Without further ado, here w'go.....
10. Toy Story 3
Despite coming in last on my list of Best Pics, this flick was not disliked by any means. At no point did I think to myself that the movie was bad. It was charming and enjoyable, just not award-worthy. Ever since experiencing the greatness of WALL*E, which had such an excellent social commentary representation, that now animated films are staring down a new ceiling. It's very similar to how The Dark Knight came along and raised the stakes for all comic book movies. Now, while WALL*E is The Dark Knight in this analogy, Toy Story 3 comes off like Iron Man 2. It was good, but couldn't even approach the achievement of its predecessor.
Now you might say it's unfair to compare animated films to past greats, which I concur that might be true, to which I would say there just wasn't enough substance to stand up to the other 9 films. It almost felt like an episode of a 90's TV show dealing with cults (Boy Meets World comes to mind). The lost souls (other toys beside Woody/Shawn) believed that their new home was going to be a great place (Shawn), while the protagonist (Woody/Corey) did all that he could to help them see the truth. Meanwhile, my favorite character was the charismatic cult leader (Lotso), who if you aren't beware of, might screw you over (although Barbie is rather sassy as well).
IMDB Nugget: WILHELM SCREAM: During the opening segment of old home footage, when Andy is watching TV with the toys. YESSSSS! Greatly admire a good wilhelming.
IMDB Double Dose: Sid Phillips, the next-door-neighbor who was the first movie's major antagonist (he destroyed toys by blowing them up, and he liked to dismember toys and reconstruct them by mixing up their parts) makes a brief appearance in the third movie as a garbageman. He is identifiable by the same black and white skull t-shirt he wore during the first movie, and he is voiced by the same actor, Erik von Detten. This character was awesome!
9. The King's Speech
The most overrated movie of the nominations. That's not a statement to say it's a bad movie, but is just so outside the realm of what I'm looking for. I did actually enjoy the movie because it didn't suck, therefore impressing me. Every year the Oscars nominates a period piece oozing with elegance and sophistication (Atonement, The Reader, The Queen), that I find to be bloody boring. So, the fact that I didn't hate this speaks highly towards it. Part of my enjoyment may have come from trying to decide if leading man, Colin Firth, looked more like Bill Self or John Calipari (It's Calipari).
The heart of the story was the main character overcoming his biggest fear in the grandest way possible. Unfortunately, I never really felt enough sympathy towards the character to fully enjoy what the movie had to offer (I would have drawn out the opening scene about twice as long, where the introduction of his speech impediment is fully displayed, letting that initial embarrassment drive the story even more so). Also, I would've liked to see more from his brother (played by Jude Law!), who held his reign for all of about 5 minutes, but partied it up Charlie Sheen style while he did. Those are just a few of my complaints on the only movie with a chance of upsetting The Social Network for the Osceeeeee.
IMDB Nugget: Lionel (the speech therapist) is reputed never to have sworn in front of the King, nor ever to have called him 'Bertie.' This was one of my favorite elements to the movie, the informal way Lionel (definitely the best character) treated the King, but it wasn't historically accurate. I've debated whether this bothers me ever since reading it, and honestly have yet to reach a conclusion. However, it is interesting to note.
8. The Kids Are All Right
Although "gay movies" tend to be a bit overrated, because people are quick to tell you how much it doesn't bother them, this movie does a good job of avoiding the usual stereotypes of those types of movies. And by that, I don't mean they avoid stereotypes oftentimes hung on homosexuals, but by taking an honest look at a relationship between two members of the same sex. The heart of this movie can be traced to that relationship and its refreshing look into its dysfunctions. Oftentimes, movies like to portray these relationships as especially erotic (always hot n' heavy) or without much struggle (there's always the happy gay couple). This movie drives home the point that their relationships can go through many of the same troubles that heterosexual couples do.
The movie also adds the extra speed bump a gaylationship might encounter, with a man thrown into the mix, who just happens to be the sperm donor for the couple's children. Of course, that man is played by the Ruff Dogg (Mark Ruffalo), who happens to be the best part of the flick. The movie is superbly acted, although I was not wowed by Annette Benning (who's character is named Nic!), who is Natalie Portman's biggest competition for Best Actress. I was more impressed by the always-likeable Julianne Moore, who shares my affection for the Ruff Dogg. 8 is a low number on this list, but this movie sits at the bottom of a logjam from 4-8.
IMDB Nugget: When Jules is trying, awkwardly, to explain the reasons that lesbians might prefer to watch gay male pornography rather than porn showing two women together, one of the reasons she gives is that they always cast two straight woman pretending to be gay in those movies. Both Julianne Moore, who plays Jules, and Annette Bening, who plays Nic, are in their real lives straight actress pretending to be lesbians for this movie. That scene is as awesome as it sounds.
Be sure to check back in for films 1-7, which will all be coming your way before the Academy Awards air next Sunday.
William H. Dirkness