Granted, this year I have not kept up with the politics and drama that always accompany the Academy Awards– I've had, ahem, other priorities. And, regrettably, I haven't even seen as many of the precursor (and often prophetic) awards shows as I usually would have. Hell, I had to reassess my usual goal of seeing ALL of the Oscar-nominated movies and instead aim for seeing just the five Best Picture noms! And it almost didn't get done! That said, here are my two cents –
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences. Honestly, I wasn't blown away by this one. If you've seen Forrest Gump, there's really no need to bother. A baby boy is born and raised in a fatherless home. He suffers from an unusual condition that leads most people to the conclusion that he will never walk again — his doting mother believes in his abilities and he takes his first steps. He falls in love with his childhood best friend, but is separated from her off and on for most of his life. He joins the military and serves long enough to heroically (and singlehandedly) save the day and see one of his best friends killed in the action. He returns to his family and his mother dies. He is reunited with his childhood sweetheart. They marry, have a child, and separate again. Despite his unusual condition, he is able to travel the world and see many of history's most landmark events. He falls backwards into a large sum of money. The couple is reunited long enough for one of them to slowly die in the other's arms. Interestingly, both movies were written by the same man… Rent it. Or skip it altogether. Cause who hasn't already seen Forrest Gump 20 times?
Frost/Nixon. A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. I didn't see this one. And not for a lack of effort. I fanatically checked movie listings for the last several weeks because I knew this would be a tough one to catch. And last weekend, I caught a break. One of the Fayetteville movie theaters was offering an all-day Oscarfest — showing all five Best Picture nominated films back-to-back, the day before the Oscars. So I knew they had to have Frost/Nixon in-house and surely they'd be showing it at other times, too. After all, it was an Oscar nominee — why not? So I checked the listings on my phone this week and saw that Frost/Nixon was scheduled to play at 7am Saturday morning – today. A little early – but it was my only chance to see it. So I got up this morning and got to the theater before 7am. On a Saturday. In the name of the Academy Awards. And NO MOVIE! What?! So I went back home and climbed into bed to reclaim my Saturday morning. Later this afternoon I was back at the theater to see a different movie, and checked into the Oscarfest — Frost/Nixon was scheduled for 10something tonight. Hmm. Kinda late, but again - worth it for my only chance to see the movie. But upon inquiry about buying a single ticket to one of the five — denied! What. Ever. They would not allow me to pay money to see a movie – because "it's part of the package, all or nothing. sorry". What's the difference? I want to give you my money for a movie you're already putting on the screen. What's one more person in the theater going to hurt?? So I haven't seen Frost/Nixon. And I might never get to. But it was a landmark election year, it's a politically-themed movie. You do the math.
Milk. His life changed history. His courage changed lives. In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America.This one was much better than I expected. I didn't know the story of Harvey Milk and I think it's a story people in my generation need to hear. I intentionally try to stay away from politics in this space, but I hope that the theme of this movie – that "ALL men are created equal" – is one that resonates with moviegoers. And I sincerely hope that the attention this film is getting via the Academy Awards encourages more and more people to buy a ticket and hear the story. Oh! And I would LOVE to see Sean Penn win the Oscar for this film. Give this one a look see. You won't regret it.
The Reader. Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in yet another Oscar-baiting, Nazi-focused film about the ambiguities of war. Years after the end of WWII, Fiennes' Michael Berg is forced to choose between aiding or condemning his former lover, Winslet's Hanna Schmitz, who is on trial for horrific war crimes. Does Kate Winslet have some sort of clause in her contract that requires gratuitous nudity? Seriously. I thought this was such an original story and a heavy, thought-provoking film – and I didn't need to see Kate Winslet's boobs to think so! My biggest hang-up about this movie was the flashbacks — it's easy to lose track of what year you're in and how old the characters are supposed to be and is that little boy supposed to be the Ralph Fiennes character? Wasn't he just in high school? What's he doing now? Oh, back in the present. Now back to his childhood. What the? All of the jumping around distracted me. But other than that, great story. This is a rental.
Slumdog Millionaire. The story of how impoverished Indian teen Jamal Malik became a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?" — an endeavor made without prize money in mind, rather, an effort to prove his love for his friend Latika, who is an ardent fan of the show. This movie evoked more emotion from me than I'm really comfortable admitting. What makes a truly great movie (in my humble and sometimes uninformed opinion) is one that gives you the full range – laughing, crying, cheering, deep thought. This movie did it all for me. I am a firm believer in the idea that every experience – good or bad – makes you who you are and every minute of your life so far has brought you to where you are, like it or not. The only choice you have is to move forward. And Becky assured me that the music video ending was totally normal. Hmm. If you see one movie this year – see Slumdog.
The obvious choice? Slumdog. You heard it here first.