Oscar nominations for Best Picture

Last week they announced the nominations for this year’s Academy awards. The nominations for Best Picture (a pretentious category name for favourite film) are as follows:

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

I was surprised by the nomination of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a film about a boy who loses his father in the 9/11 tragedy. I suppose it is a topical subject and the Academy always like a relevant subject. I also expected Drive, Shame and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy to all get nods. It does speak volumes though about Moneyball, a movie about the statistics behind baseball and I am now curious to watch it to make up my own mind.

I have only seen two of the films on this list at time of writing, War Horse and Tree of Life. I wanted to see Hugo and may yet watch the Descendants or the Artist, which I imagine is the bookies favourite. I will however add my thoughts on the two I have seen.

War Horse tells the story of a horse, Joey, who is taken from his home and made to go to war. Joey is the only character who we follow for any considerable time, so it is the direction which sets the tone of the journey. He meets many characters along the way, all well acted, but none last long. It is the skill of Spielberg then that makes the dismissals and farewells all the more touching, as this is highly emotional. Before going to watch it I was afraid it would be too cliché but it is handled beautifully. I am once again reminded why Spielberg is regarded as a master.

My biggest issue was the disconnection I felt with the characters; even the main character’s family felt distant. This did not prevent it being an enjoyable film though and I would still highly recommend it.

The Tree of Life is a very different film. It has been loved by critics for its originality and lack of narrative structure, though many who saw it walked out before the end. I fell somewhere in the middle.

The film shows you a family growing up together, with all the struggles that contains and a few other things beside. It uses images that seem unconnected but in sequence tell an emotional story that means words and dialogue are not needed. They are used occasionally, but frequently the director used the same techniques repeatedly which for me was distracting.

The imagery is often beautiful, notably the oft mentioned creation scene containing dinosaurs. The story and ideas however were weak and were personally nothing new. It is a brave film worth watching but did not work for me.

The Oscars are held on the 26th of February. I shan’t be watching, but I will be interested in the results.

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