Welcome to late January, a time when the movie selections start to get rather slim for the non-brain dead crowd. There’s The Wedding Ringer, a movie that I would admittedly hate-watch for 15 minutes if I ever saw it on HBO or something, kind of like I did for the Vaughn/Wilson masterpiece of failure The Internship. There’s also Mortdecai, which is a film I will actively try to avoid for the remainder of my life. Sorry, but empty mustache jokes and Gwyneth Paltrow as a wasp isn’t going to get me running to the theater/TV/Netflix/whatever. HARD PASS. What else is there? The Boy Next Door? Wow. I’m actually interested in reading about the box office numbers on this one, if only to see if people actually went to see a Jennifer Lopez movie in 2015. Anything else? Strange Magic? Blackhat? Taken 3? Yikes, and no thanks. What’s coming out next week? Project Almanac? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit… Looks like I’m not going to be buying a movie ticket for two more weeks until the Wachowski siblings release that crazy looking space movie with Channing Tatum.
Anyway, I took the opportunity to not feed the January Hollywood machine and instead catch up on a few Oscar nominated movies that I hadn’t seen before, which *I’M ASSUMING* were better than Kevin Hart and Josh Gad doing whatever it is they do for two hours.
(nominated for Foreign Language Film [Poland], as well as Cinematography)
How many Polish people does it take to make an Academy Award nominated movie? At least 182; according to Ida’s IMDb page. This film tells the story of a young nun named Ida meeting her feisty aunt in the 1960s for the first time as they go on a journey to find the whereabouts of Ida’s parent’s bodies, who were killed during World War II. The way it’s filmed and edited, if I knew nothing about this movie beforehand and you told me it was shot in 1965, I would have believed you. It’s not even widescreen.
It was such a personal story that I felt a little uncomfortable looking in on it. It’s not exactly a movie you can just pick up and be immediately entertained. It’s so brutally minimalist and low-key that, to the naked eye, it appears as if nothing even really happens. But stuff does happen. I’m not saying that it’s exciting stuff that happens, but it does happen. I don’t think I’d recommend this movie to the artsiest person I know, but it’s not bad. And there’s definitely a reason it got that cinematography nomination, too. Some of those black and white shots are real purdy.
But does it have a chance of winning? Considering that Poland has been nominated nine times before and still has yet to win, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this one to win either. Especially because it’s about as dry as a two-day old slice of cake. Meaning: I’d totally still eat it, but I’d much rather have some of that cheese lattice coffee cake you bought this morning instead. Also, Birdman and Grand Budapest Hotel have cooler cinematography, in my opinion. 7 out of 10
THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA
(nominated for Animated Feature)
I’ve been hearing a lot of hype for this new Studio Ghibli movie, and in some ways it exceeded my expectations and in other ways it was kind of a let down. On the positive front, the animation is AWESOME. It’s like a moving watercolor painting, and if you’re fan of observing every frame of a movie like a piece of classic artwork, Princess Kaguya is about as good as that gets. The characters still looked like standard anime characters, but the world they lived in was new and fresh to me. Now, I don’t watch a lot of anime, so don’t judge me if this style is somehow *not* new and fresh. But it was to me. Also, that whimsy! This movie is not short on breathtaking whimsical moments.
But on the slightly negative side of things, there were so many times during this movie when I had no idea what the hell was going on. The story is based on a 10th century Japanese folk tale, and I’m not entirely sure if anything was modernized to adapt for current audiences. Not that there’s necessarily anything faulty with keeping it authentic, but as an American dude who is not fully knowledgeable in Japanese historical fiction, showing a bunch of weird stuff happening without any explanation was just confusing to me. What’s this about a Moon City? Huh? Oh, the movie is over? What? Ok… Though, to be fair, I’m sure stuff like Pinocchio is weird to other cultures as well. On another minus note, Kaguya kind of drags in the middle of its 135 minute run time.
But does it have a chance of winning? Yeah, totally. The animation category is kind of weird this year, with no popular-among-the-masses favorite The Lego Movie even getting nominated, Big Hero 6 showing no signs of actually winning anything (despite being my personal favorite), How to Train Your Dragon 2 winning random other things (despite being mediocre), and no one knowing what the hell Song of the Sea is; Princess Kaguya and its beautiful animation and epic storytelling could easily end up taking the gold. 8 out of 10
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM
(nominated for Documentary Feature)
In an attempt to make up for my disappointingly low number of docs I saw from 2014, I definitely wanted to make sure to watch at least *something* out of this category. This doc is about the last few weeks of the Vietnam war in 1975, mostly covering the evacuation of Americans and refugees from Saigon, as the North Vietnamese troops were aggressively moving south, and the stories of American soldiers who risked going against orders to help people to get out of there. It’s an area of ‘Nam history that I was totally uninformed on, so it was very interesting to hear about.
Stylistically, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s just interviews with archival footage cut over it. It’s originally a PBS documentary, and it kind of totally feels like a PBS documentary (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But the stories and memories recounted from the subject are so good that it doesn’t really need to be all that showy or creative. And there’s a lot of really great archival footage and pictures that really emphasize what the interview subjects are talking about. I don’t think it’s anything more than an interesting historical information piece, but it’s certainly damn good history.
But does it have a chance of winning? Probably not. There have been a *lot* of war documentaries nominated over the last 10 years, and they always end up losing to something flashier, or more relevant. Considering Last Days in Vietnam isn’t relevant OR flashy, I doubt it has much of a chance, despite being something I would easily recommend. 8.5 out of 10
…That’s it for now. If more nominated movies come out in the next month, maybe I’ll do another set of these? I continue to not have any idea what Still Alice is…