Me and The Husband spent this past Saturday at day two of AMC Theatres' Best Picture Showcase 2010. Our new tradition for Oscar weekend... does it count as a "tradition" if we've only in fact done it twice? Well, whatever... here are some thoughts on the 5 movies we saw (we'd seen 8 of the 10 nominees for this year's Oscars. We heart movies.):
1). Up. OMG! This movie is amazing. Funny, touching, a little bit tear-jerky, visually awesome. Our only regret was that we didn't get to see it in 3D. The couple in the movie reminded us of... us. So awesome. Can totally see why it was nominated in the Best Picture category in addition to Best Animated Feature, and was thrilled when it won Best Animated Feature. Pixar rules.
2). A Serious Man. I felt really bad for the people sitting beside us because they thought they were about to see A Single Man... totally different movie. So this was the Coen brothers, which automatically means you're about to be taken on a weird ride, and you'll laugh along the way and often be a bit puzzled, but still love the ride. And sure enough, it delivered. It's about a Jewish family in 1960s Ohio who may or may not be cursed owing to the actions of a relative back in the shtetl. It is funny in that special way that only Jewish families can deliver. The ending was rather abrupt (a tornado about to level the town and several main characters, with several plotlines seemingly unresolved), and at first I was like, WTF? But then I thought about it, and realized it was to be expected. Given the curse. Or as per The Husband's point of view, the tornado was a larger symbol of the pointlessness of believing that God actually has any kind of plan for us.
My favorite moment was a youthful rabbi who reminded us of a good friend, who will henceforth be known as Rabbi Dicker. For the rest of all time.
3). The Hurt Locker. Really well done movie about bomb diffusion experts in Iraq in 2004. I'm a fan of brutally realistic war movies, and this one certainly didn't disappoint. Its accolades are well-deserved, and I'm thrilled that Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director. What's funny is that this movie made me realize how jaded I've become about brutally realistic war movies. Someone I know had been talking about how much this movie made her "think," and I didn't really pursue it at the time, because I hadn't seen it yet. But after I did, I felt like something was wrong with me because it really didn't make me think. It was everything I expected it to be, but it didn't keep me awake at night or anything. It only confirmed for me that war is horrible and brutal and perhaps too much for young men who are practically still children to deal with, and that the stress of combat sometimes causes people to do questionable things, and become people they might not have otherwise become. I guess if anything, it just reaffirms my belief that we need to take special care of our service people, both before and after they serve in combat.
4). An Education. Ah, a beautiful British coming of age film starring the oh-so-awesome Carey Mulligan -- Oscar nomination well-deserved for her, by the way. The whole movie is just lovely and lyrical, and I loved every second of it. In the hands of lesser actors and a worse director, it could have been sugarcoated and schlocky, but instead, it's both heartbreaking and hopeful, sad and funny. It's got a happy ending, luckily, but you find yourself thinking, Yikes -- that was a near miss. It's just a gorgeous, lovely movie. And?? The Husband loved it too!
5). District 9. An alien movie that kind of sneaks up on you, it's done as a faux-documentary, which I think really works. I love that this movie got a Best Picture nod, because it could have so easily been overlooked. An allegory about apartheid (and any other method the human race has devised to marginalize large groups of other humans), the premise is that an alien spaceship broke down in the skies over Johannesburg, South Africa 20 years ago, and the alien creatures were rescued, brought down from the ship, and put into a shantytown/craphole just outside the city. They are about to be moved to a new location because the humans hate having them there -- they think of them as vermin, basically. So the man chosen to lead the mission of notifying the aliens they're about to be relocated becomes infected with alien blood and begins turning into one of the aliens. He narrowly escapes becoming a governmental science project, and assists one of the real aliens in escaping and getting the spaceship running again; this alien takes his child and says he's going to go back to his home and bring back help for the rest of the stranded aliens. Since this movie doesn't take place in space or on a spacecraft, but rather on earth as we know it, it really humanizes the situation and gives you more things to ponder than the usual alien movie.
Honestly, in our couple of years of making sure we've seen all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars air, we've come to realize that we don't envy the people that do have to make the choice. It's hard to pick a favorite out of ten really amazing movies. We had also seen Avatar, Up In the Air, and The Blind Side.
Honestly, if I had to choose, I would split my award between Up In the Air and An Education.