It’s the end of 2010, and in cultural reporting that means best-of-the-year lists, which for film usually folds in Oscar predictions. I’ve written before about how much I get excited about the Oscars, and this year I’m pleased to report that I’ve seen most of the movies that are making the rounds.
Winter’s Bone was released in the spring here, and I dragged my feet seeing it, but it actually is a film enjoyed on the small screen. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a teenage girl taking girl of her younger brother and sister and mother, who is alive but mentally absent. Her dad dealt meth, was arrested, and placed their home as his bond. When he disappears, Ree decides to go find him.
The movie was filmed on location in the Appalachians, where the land is sturdy but not lovely. Each character Ree meets knows her and already knows what she’s looking for (and probably where he is), but they all look upon her suspiciously. This is not an open and welcoming community, and even as Ree is part of and understands their world, she is asking too many questions.
I read some reviews where they described it as a noir movie, and it’s true that Lawrence is as fierce and dedicated as any Marlowe detective. But she has the added determination of protecting her home and family, whereas I always see noir leads as flippant and louche.
Winter’s Bone is as unflinching as the title suggest. It’s a lean, cold slice of a movie. As far as my Oscar best go? Best Actress nominee, Best Cinematography nominee.
The Olympics hold very little appeal to me. Even this year, when I should have been at pains to choose between my two nationalities (Canadian and American), I felt very little.
But now that the Olympics are over, my heart rate really gets going – cause it’s Oscar time.
Now, I know that the Oscars are bloated, self-congratulatory, and are very poor representations of truly excellent, groundbreaking work in a given year. And I’ll never understand why we keep complaining about how long the ceremony is, except that’s just one of those things Americans have all agreed to complain about (see also: peanuts on airplanes, Christmas decorations arriving in August, et al).
But every year I can’t help getting sucked in by the fashion, the wheeling and dealing and the sheer spectacle. Entertainment Weekly (magazine version; can’t find it online sadly) had an interesting article about Miramax that included an interview with Harvey Weinstein. SO much goes on behind the scenes (like: actresses in a Miramax film start wearing more and more Marchesa-the label co-owned by Weinstein’s wife- around awards season).
But what’s great about the Oscars is that there is a finite, constrained cycle for the process, so it is very easy to track the buzz and fall of any film or star. This year was made marginally more interesting as the Academy chose to allow ten Best Picture nominees. Two of the Best Picture nominees (James Cameron, Avatar, and Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker) were married to each other, which makes for some intriguing drama… or at least media coverage.
Avatar would have made a very cool video game, but the story flapped loosely in the wind. I’ll never get those last twenty minutes of my life back; I shudder to think how many more hours of meandering but awesome footage are awaiting DVD distribution. Obviously, anything that makes that much money will draw the voters’ attention and Cameron is the self-appointed savior of 3D and therefore the industry. I’m rooting for The Hurt Locker, historic win for women directors aside.
What really boggles the mind is that, especially for the Actor and Actress categories, an Oscar has come to represent pretty much diddlysquat. Think of the careers of some of the actors who have recently won Oscars (Nicolas Cage, Cuba Gooding Jr. for crying out loud). It doesn’t seem to ensure anything – except that we’ll all be watching you on Sunday night. And I guess that’s enough.