Monday, 15 February 2010

Reality v/s Realism. Or why the Oscars are going to disappoint.

This post is about movies; fairly recent ones. Spoilers will be thrown around. All of the four and half people who read my blog are hence forewarned.

If a pre-historic John Wayne had a one-night-stand with B-movie’d Steven Seagal, you’d get one of the hottest contenders at this year’s Academy. Yeah, that’s right. Jeremy Renner, he of cigarette chewing bravado and cowboy swagger. You have been hailed as one of the performances of the year in The Hurt Locker. And I have an issue with the movie, not so much about the lead actor.

It’s a good-ish movie, yes. The first Iraq war movie of any substance. Seemingly realistic. Well shot. A couple of cool blasts. But that’s about it. There’s no character arc, no one you care for. I don’t want Transformers-like explosions or cleavages every nano second, no. But Locker becomes pretentious after a point. Renner’s James just walks into a bomb disposal scene, takes off his bomb suit, lits a cigarette and wades his way through wires to finally figure out the stereotypical blue v/s red one. You almost expect the brown onlookers to clap. He does this about half a dozen times in the movie. Along the way also helping a bunch of British mercenaries kill the bad guys with long-range rifles. (That’s another ridiculous set piece – who would stay in the same position in a gun fight where a minute earlier, someone has been killed by enemy bullets).

If this was just an under-hyped war movie with a decent one look, I’d be okay watching it. But the buzz it’s getting is far too much. It’s just not that great a movie. And please, don’t even get started about how it’s a woman director (that too Cameron’s ex wife) who has redefined feminism in camouflage. That is incidental. And also, don’t get started about the whole “so realistic” thing. There have been far better realistic war movies that don’t have cowboy heroes. And have much better stories to tell. And are more effective. Saving Private Ryan obviously comes to mind. Black Hawk Down too. No heroes.

Making a whole movie to justify your opening quote about war being addictive is a bit of an overkill Ms. Bigelow/Boal. It defeats me why this movie has so unanimously scored with critics everywhere.

My favourite realistic movie this year is about aliens. (I was dying to put “realistic” and “aliens” in the same sentence.) Ladies and gentlemen, I give you District 9. Or how Neil Blomkamp has blown brains with his debut feature. It’s more realistic than Locker. More effectively allegorical than Avatar. And has the coolest special effects; shot in documentary style. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. That’s how sci-fi movies should be made. It has a story and a character you warm up to. No, really, no spoilers here. Just watch this gem from South Africa. Sharlto Copley is the most unlikeliest of heroes. And he’s not even a proper actor.

I also have a grouse with Up. It is a heartwarming story, obviously beautifully animated and rendered. But the story takes an unnecessary turn in the third act. And it's all stupid from there on. Talking dogs, a hero turned villain for no apparent reason, and a tree-hugging message. Wall-E without any dialogue, had more heart. Too bad none of the other contenders come even close to Up in the best animation category. (Though I'll be rooting for the fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox).

Having vented out enough, here’s my predictive list of who should and who will win this year at Oscars.

The only “no-contests” this time are Cristoph Waltz ("Bingo") for best Supporting Actor and UP for best animated movie.

Should: District 9 (Very wishful thinking. We all know who'll win this)
Will: Avatar (Populist, yes, but Cameron has made a game-changer, for sure. So this is deserving)

Should: Quentin Tarantino (Oh, yes)
Will: Katherine Bigelow (shudder)

Original Screenplay
Should: QT (Who else loved Landa's rat analogy?)
Will: QT

Adapted Screenplay
Should: Jason Reitman (listen to the baggage speech)
Will: Jason Reitman

Actor Male
Should: George Clooney (Even though he "almost" plays himself again, but this time it works)
Will: Jeff Bridges (sentimental favourite. This year's Rourkee)

Actor Female
Only watched Streep in Julie & Julia, and she rocked in that one.

Visual Effects
Do they even need nominations for this one. Just Fedex it to Cameron's office.

Original Score
Should: Sherlock Holmes
Will: Up


mentalie said...

tsk. you clearly have not seen veer. it's a shoo-in for every category from best poster to best hair do to best dancing, given the joint talents of sallu bhai and mithun da ;)

Flickering Cursor said...

heh " dancing, given the joint talents..." that's the most seamless pun ever.
you are right. haven't seen veer. won't mind catching it on tv sometime though. sallu is the rock-iest of all khans.

Bullshee said...

You got most of them right!

Flickering Cursor said...


NO I DID'NT. always knew they'd be skewed towards Locker, but DAMN. Best Picture?? even best original screenplay?? Come Effing On!!
And best adapted screenplay for Precious, yeah right. Jury was always dumb, but they're deaf too?

I'm so boycotting Oscar's next year. And add a fatwa for good measure.

umashankar said...

Didn't realize someone could be so good. Glorifying Iraq operations is shoddy hypocrisy but the very fibre of American ego, the Oscars being only an extended reflection of it. Good job, I already hate the Locker.

Didn't mind the special effects of Avatar though.

Flickering Cursor said...

@Umashankar. Strangely, last year they awarded Slumdog the most prizes. Guess the "underdog triumph" was American enough a fibre.

Avatar's special effects alone were good enough to fetch it the best picture. it didn't.

10 years from now, people will be asking "Which was that movie that defeated Avatar at the Oscars?"