So... the time is upon us once again. The Oscar nominations for Best Picture have been released. And, once again, I have fulfilled my obligation in seeing exactly none of the nominated films. However, that doesn't mean that I can't provide thorough reviews of the films.
There was a drastic change in the nominations this year based upon the financial contributions from Italian Prince Tao Ruspoli. This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences limited its Best Picture nominations to 9 films. The past few years there have been 10 nominated films. However, given the Academy's new "Anti-Olivia Wilde" rule (enacted after Mr. Ruspoli and Ms. Wilde divorced in September), they were forced to nominate the only 9 films in which Olivia Wilde did not appear in 2011. Love is a fickle bitch.
On to the movies:
Hugo - Hugo is a daring film that shows the underbelly of the fashion industry. While embarking on a career as a professional clown, Santino Rice (played by a fierce Christian Siriano) is offered an opportunity to work with the German style house Hugo Boss. Hijinks ensue. But the most pivotal moment comes when an uncredited Shaquille O'Neal steps forward as a demanding guest judge on the finale of Project Runway Season 386. Rumor has it that Shaq stole Heidi Klum away from Seal. Possible sequel???
Midnight in Paris - Midnight in Paris is apparently a Woody Allen movie. And it stars Owen Wilson. If that isn't enough to deter you, from what I understand, the movie is about someone walking. At midnight. In Paris. (Unfortunately, I am not joking. I looked it up on IMDB.com). One can only assume that for this movie to be granted a Best Picture nomination, these midnight walks through Paris consist of some pretty good action or comedic sequences. Perhaps Owen Wilson urinates into one of the fountains in Paris at the same time as Gérard Depardieu and they switch bodies. Oh, the wackiness that would ensue. But Hollywood would never make a movie so lame, so it must be more by way of action that this movie develops. My guess is that Owen Wilson "acts" like a stoned tourist at the Eiffel Tower and the locals tar and feather him as revenge for the cultural insult. Either way, it is a movie about taking a stroll in the dark in a city.
Moneyball - Moneyball is a tragedy of the first order. When Washington Redskins' owner Jack Kent Cooke passed away in 1997, the sale of the NFL franchise went to Daniel Snyder for a record 800 million dollars. Mr. Snyder allegedly won the bidding war against Mr. Cooke's son by promising to take all $800 million, transferring it into quarters, and playing "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" endlessly on a local jukebox if given the team. Once established as the team's owner, Mr. Snyder continued to throw money at it by overpaying for average and over-the-hill players. This dedication, through rich man folly, uncovered the truth of this tragedy - that by selling their soul to Dan Snyder, the Redskins would never be a serious threat to win again.
The Tree of Life - This animated feature from the people at Pixar follows the story of a small plastic tree. All this tree wants is to be in the board game "The Game of Life," but he is continually rebuffed by the lawyers at Milton Bradley. By associating success with wealth, the makers of the game apparently felt no need to cater to the environmentalists and other hippies in society. The plastic tree continues to struggle for his place in life, meeting humorous and tear-jerking obstacles along the way. However, you might want to usher the kids out before the bonus scene after the credits. Forgive the spoilers, but the scene of a $100,000 bill is created from the pulp of the little plastic tree is just terrifying.
War Horse - This movie is a prequel of sorts to the 2003 Best Picture nominated movie Seabiscuit. War Horse is a sci-fi story of intrigue and espionage set in Sarajevo in 1914. Ed Seabiscuit, after winning a big race during the Great Depression, talks his handler Wilbur into building a time machine so he can witness the birth of his ancestor, Man o' War. Unfortunately, Wilbur is a bit of a bumbling fool and electrocutes himself while simultaneously sending Seabiscuit back an extra three years. Always a bit of a troublemaker, Mr. Ed Seabiscuit decides to visit Sarajevo and assassinate Archduke Ferdinand, thus beginning World War I. But was it an act of reckless abandon, or a way to make sure his ancestor would receive his rightful name?
The Help - The Help is the slightly fictionalized tale of the AT&T's technical assistance call center. Our hero, Lando Kardashian (played unconvincingly by an overly pasty Ricky Schroeder), spends the duration of the film alternating between complaining to his supervisors that he is using an actual Mickey Mouse phone (Mickey Mouse was snubbed for a best supporting nod, by the way) and taking his frustration out on clueless callers. When Newt Gingrich is discovered in the corner office labelled "CEO," Lando Kardashian decides that the Help Desk must be destroyed at all costs. Add in a box of Girl Scout cookies, three shaved kittens, and a grenade and you have the best climax of any movie on this list.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Another documentary makes the list. This one, filmed by a newcomer named Myopia Magoo, was filmed entirely in close up. EXTREME CLOSE UP. The subject of this documentary is the late Sam Kinison. There has never been a more aptly named film.
The Descendants - The Descendants is a story as old as time. Told by a couple's grandson during his wait on death row, the story unfolds simply, yet beautifully. Boy meets Girl. Boy falls in love with Girl. Girl breaks Boy's heart. Boy attempts to ruin Girl's reputation through social media. Girl retaliates by drunk dialing Boy's best friend. Boy's best friend dies a horrible death involving a radioactive chipmunk and a pair of Speedos. Boy and Girl reunite at the funeral. Boy and Girl get married and have children. Girl eats Boy's brain. Did I mention this was a zombie movie?
The Artist - Perhaps the most controversial of the films on this list, The Artist tells the story of Vincent van Gogh through the eyes of his severed ear. While the film was suspected to be a shoo-in for best art direction, the emotionally intense performance by van Gogh's Ear made more than one reviewer tear up. Although, I must say that the 5 carat diamond stud the Ear has started wearing on the talk show circuit is quite tacky.
All in all, not a bad year for Best Picture nominations. But I expect only one Best Picture nomination next year. Already being called the greatest film never made, check out the preview below! Oh, wait... Is that Olivia Wilde portraying Madonna? Damnit, now it can't win!
And screw you, Tao Ruspoli!