Lets have a look at the nominees first shall we…
‘Avatar’ may not have the best storyline out there, as most people have associated the film with Pocahontas, but one can’t deny that watching the film is a whole new experience. I would have to say that said experience alone contributed to the film’s nomination for Best Picture. Yes most of us have probably seen the late Michael Jackson in 3D as Captain EO at Disneyland or the lame ‘Monsters vs Aliens’ in 3D but could those movies even be compared to Avatar? The answer is a blatant no. The movie was made in 3D to make you feel as part of the story and not just to see things protruding from the screen for fun’s sake. You know, like those Pensieve scenes in ‘Harry Potter’ where Harry was viewing everything happening around him in close proximity and nearly able to feel them. That was what Avatar felt like. Then, we also have Pandora. Yes, Middle Earth was great and all but have you seen anything more gorgeous than the flora and fauna of Pandora? Again, no. Not only were they stunningly created but each creature has their own stats and story as was written in James Cameron’s Pandorapedia. Another reason why it was probably nominated is due to the environmental issues addressed in the film. We all know that the world is currently facing some serious environmental problems (for more information, refer to Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’) and ‘Avatar’ could not have come at a better time. It’s trying to show us all that by destroying the natural habitats of various animals and native settlements, we are endangering their lives and will subsequently destroy them. Lastly, the movie also felt like its portraying the war in Iraq. Mankind here is like the Americans, the Na’vis are like the Iraqis and oil is being replaced here with unobtanium. So, swap these things around and you’ll probably get a clear picture as to what the situation is like in Iraq. That’s right, not pretty.
‘The Blind Side’ somehow feels to me like a Disney movie. If not for the fact that it’s a true story, this movie would not have been given a nod by the Academy. Why? Because which white women in their right mind would stop at the side of the road in the middle of the night, pick up a poor and big African-American teenager, take him home, feed him, cloth him and finally adopt him? Again, if not for the fact that this actually happened, the movie would have been absurd. Secondly, it somehow feels like the purpose of this movie is to show the angelic nature of a singular white female. Do we really need to see such a story? Its feels like a propaganda. Nevertheless, I still like the movie. Sandra Bullock gave a compelling performance but its not something that I would like to see be nominated as Best Picture. On a different year when the nominees are back to five, this movie will not even be given a second look. What I do want to see being nominated for Best Picture however is ‘Invictus’. ‘The Blind Side’ is such an inferior film compared the greatness of ‘Invictus’ and if you want to nominate a movie focusing on black-white relationship, ‘Invictus’ is the movie to go for. Hello??? Its about Nelson Mandela! It doesn’t get more inspiring than that. The reason why I am bringing ‘Invictus’ into this discussion is simple. ‘Invictus’ is about rugby and ‘The Blind Side’ is about American football and the majority of the Academy members are American. You do the math.
‘District 9’ got lucky. If not for the 10 nominations, this movie will not come close to being nominated. Why? Because I love the movie and generally, movies that I love will not get nominated. Well, it’s a summer film first of all and it’s also a very violent sci-fi flick. Not your average Best Picture nominee. Nevertheless, I am delighted that it received recognition from the Academy as it is among the bests of its genre. The reason why the Academy chooses to nominate this movie could firstly be because it’s a smart allegory of the Apartheid regime in South Africa (could Invictus be snubbed in favor of this film instead?) and represents a whole new take on what we have come to know as aliens. Besides that, it could also be due to the style where the movie starts off looking like a documentary, then like live news coverage and finally resembling a normal action movie. Or is it because the character progression of Wikus van de Marwe from an office nerd to a fugitive and finally to a prawn was superbly done? I certainly hope that more summer action / sci-fi flicks will be released in the future that go deep with its storytelling and character development, and trim down on its mindless and gratuitous action sequences. Well, as if Michael Bay is going to adhere to that.
‘An Education’ feels like just another love story at first. A good love story. But then, why was it nominated? Well, because the movie is an educational film. The movie explores how a teenage girl, who has studied very hard all her life with the intention of attending Oxford, could just blow it all away when she meets a handsome chap. And it further shows that not all men are what they seem as it turns out that said guy was indeed a shady character. I will not spoil the ending but for those who knew what happened at the end knows that it was not all worth it and this girl has just spoilt her ambitious life. This is a serious real-life issue enveloping young girls everywhere. They think they’ve met Mr. Right, throws their whole life away only to realize that they have just been deceived. It was remarkable how the movie was able to portray such a worrying problem in a simple romantic drama. However, slightly on the negative side, the movie is also educational to men everywhere on how best to court a girl given the circumstances. One cannot stop but admire the character played by Peter Sarsgaard’s David as he smoothly swept the girl off her feet and wins over her parent’s heart with his amusing lines. An education, indeed.
‘The Hurt Locker’ is not another political war drama. It’s a movie that explores deep on the effects of war on soldiers. We don’t get any of the political bollocks here but simply focusing on the lives of army personnel serving under the Explosives Ordinance Disposal squad. It shows how war can really f*** you up. We see how one soldier, who is addicted to the work he does, could willingly put himself in a precarious situation not only because his work demands it, but because he sees a sort of enjoyment to it. And if he doesn’t do it, he will behave like a drug-addict deprived of cocaine. Now this aspect of the story is already invigorating to begin with but that’s just not it. The abovementioned soldier was also able to display awe-inspiring leadership qualities at many points throughout the movie, which was unexpected given his over-confident nature. The character was so rich and so deep that one can write a whole essay solely about him. The movie also explores the different scenarios of explosive warfare and how different bombs were being used in this particular war. These various types of explosives demand the character to respond differently each time and this allows us to see the three-dimensionality of the character. For once, I actually cared for the life of an American soldier.
‘Inglourious Basterds’ is a personal favorite of mine mainly because it is directed by my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino. But that does not mean I am going to be biased towards the film. The film, as you know is told by chapters, as was other Tarantino’s films. The good thing about this is that you get to focus completely on each plot, ingest it and once satisfied, move on to the next chapter. And the next chapter will probably involve a totally different set of characters with a different plot. Then half way through the movie, you will realize how amazing the story was constructed as you see how the earlier plots entwined with each other. In ‘Inglourious Basterds’, you have two sets of people, who both want to achieve the same goal; to topple down The Third Reich. These two sets of people do not know that the other exist and is not even aware of the other’s plan. They work independently from each other and with both their efforts, they’ve managed to achieve their goal at the end, still without knowing the other exist. Of course, you have the admirable Colonel Hans Landa to constantly remind you that the story does take place within the same vicinity and during the same time period. I think that is just wonderful storytelling. Plus, you get to see ze Fuhrer getting killed at the end. Finally.
‘Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire’ is a solid movie about child abuse and teen rape, and how it affects the victim and everyone else. In this movie, the titular character is a single child and is the victim of molestation by her father, ever since she was 3 years old. This was later on followed by several rape cases, which will eventually caused Precious to be impregnated twice. This has also resulted in her mother to harbor such envious feelings towards her daughter because the father was willing to impregnate Precious twice, when the mother was only impregnated once. And the constant fondling and molesting towards Precious has made the mother feel so inferior to her own daughter. Due to this, Precious had to lead a miserable life because her mother, whom she is living with, hates her more than anything else in the world. And we see Precious, though illiterate, is very good at mathematics and is being thrown out of school because she is pregnant. This puts a stopper to any career opportunities in the future and prevents her from achieving her dreams, which we caught glimpses of during a couple of dream sequences. Now tell me, can you tell me of a story sadder than this?
‘A Serious Man’ is a serious movie. The movie revolves around a Jew name Lawrence Gopnik and we see him in the movie going about his daily business. Every once in a while, something interesting happens, but they’re not really that interesting after all. We also see the various people he meets in his life; his hot neighbor, his boss, his doctor, his wife, his wife’s lover, his son, his daughter, his rabbis etc. Each is a character of its own and it’s entertaining to see how they make his life shittier than it already is. We see how he copes with every little problem these people have been throwing at him. Basically, that’s what the movie is about. There’s not much of a story but it’s an experience on its own. You basically sit back and just see how the life of this regular individual unfolds with common problems and issues that you and I also face in our daily lives. And it was remarkable how the Coen Brothers were able to tell this tale in the most natural way possible. It’s a good account of normal person’s everyday life.
‘Up’ puts me down. I was expecting something more coming from Pixar. Many regard this as Pixar’s best. The reason would be that this film is more human than the rest. In other films, you see human nature and human behavior being told from the perspectives of various non-human characters to a certain extent that it is ludicrous (cars and toys having feelings?). But here, these sentiments are being experienced by a child-less old man through the bonds he has formed with a near-fatherless boy. Right, these are not your average young adult to middle-aged heroes. This movie is also not crammed full with characters. You only have a few solid ones and thus, you learn to appreciate each of them even more as you go through their trials and tribulations. The movie has a great setup in the beginning where we first see the character of Carl Fredricksen and the unforgettable montage where we witness how he spends a bulk of his life. Some happy moments and some really sad moments. Then, we see what he has turned to after losing his wife and how this one boy, Russell, managed to help restore the adventurer in Karl and at the same time made him remember how to love and care again. It is undeniably a beautiful movie. For me personally, I enjoy the Pixar films being told from the viewpoint the non-humans instead. For me, that’s Pixar.
Now ‘Up in the Air’ is just another film where George Clooney gets to play himself again. And we certainly love that. It’s about a man (George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham), whose life is always on the go and is able to stuff everything that he has ever cared for in a single suitcase. He never realizes what he has been missing until a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga’s Alex Goran) appears in his life. Having being used to no-strings-attached relationships, we see him at a turning point of his life as he finally begins to appreciate the splendor of having a companion. We also see him struggling with the changes that are happening with his work of firing employees on behalf of their employer, and how he tries to prove to his young protégé (Anna Kendrick’s Natalie Keener) that some job requires a more intimate encounter. A certain bond was formed between him and his apprentice and though as immature as she may seem, she did make him see that living a lonely life will deprive you of the happiness that could be. This movie does well in showing that technology cannot replace some of the traditional ways of doing things, where giving the work a more personal touch is crucial. But more importantly, the movie provides us an insight into the lives of all these travel-bound individuals and how it prevents them from enjoying the finer things in life.
Now, as to who will walk away with the most coveted prize in Hollywood, it only comes down to ‘Avatar’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’. ‘Avatar’ IS the future of films and such an achievement I believe should receive the top accolade at the Oscars come March 8th. Earlier on, I was having feeling rather ambivalent as to who will win Best Picture. My heart told me that I wanted ‘The Hurt Locker’ to win as it is the better picture but I also love ‘Avatar’. However, when it comes down to Best Picture, you want a film that actually means something or a movie that will be remembered 20 years down the road to win. ‘The Hurt Locker’ may be a good movie but ‘Avatar’ actually means something as it marks a new milestone in filmmaking. It will be a reference material for all films in the future to follow, i.e. it means something. And in 20 years time, ‘The Hurt Locker’ will only be remembered as another Iraqi war movie but ‘Avatar’ will still be remembered as the movie that changed how we watch movie, i.e. it will be remembered. But personally, if it was up to me, I would give Oscar to ‘Inglourious Basterds’. I think that might just be 2009’s masterpiece.
Primary Prediction: Avatar
Secondary Prediction: The Hurt Locker
Personal Favorite: Inglourious Basterds
Fikri suspects that Fazil is ready with his popcorn and Coke in front of the telly right about…now.