Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 6 of 14

Despicable Me 2
2 Nominations
  • Animated Feature
  • Original Song: Pharrell Williams
Cast: Steve Carrell, Kristin Wiig, Russell Brand, Benjamin Bratt, Steve Coogan, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Ken Jeong

I did not care for the first Despicable Me, and much of the charm of this second one is lost on me as well. The film's main gags involve beating its characters to a pulp without them getting injured – this bit of humor is at its most egregious when Gru goes on a date with a rude young woman who is then tranquilized and tied to the top of a car and thrown around like a giant sack of potatoes. Still, #2 does feature a few laugh-out-loud moments, and Steve Carrell is very charming. Even more importantly, Benjamin Bratt is absolutely excellent in this. He plays two characters and both are a blast (and there is a nice shout-out to Stanley Kubrick in one of his sequences). The music in Despicable Me 2 is its best feature, though, and the film is filled with great original songs by Pharrell Williams – who is A.) everywhere these days and B.) kind of genius. His song "Happy" is so catchy, and so much fun, that I am starting to think it is the only contender that might be able to beat Frozen's song "Let It Go". The awesome music videos out right now for "Happy" (there is an official one here and then there is the 24-hour version) definitely up its chances. But in the end I don't really expect it to win.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Original Song
My Rating: #60 out of 79

The Great Gatsby
2 Nominations
  • Production Design: Beverley Dunn & Catherine Martin (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet)
  • Costume Design: Catherine Martin (Australia, Moulin Rouge!)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Leonard DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan

If only this film had been a film only about parties. Alas, it purports to be a film with a storyline, and worse! It purports to be a film version of one of the great USAmerican novels. It is neither of these things. Instead it is an enormous, opulent, cartoon version of a real story. And it has some awesome party sequences. But this film is not without merit: Catherine Martin will deserve her second Costume Design Oscar when she wins on March 2. It will be, in fact, well deserved. The entire film feels like it was simply an excuse for Martin to design the gorgeous frocks and suits she made for this movie. I was less sold on the production design - it often looks as cartoony as the acting, personally, but I see why it has shown up here, as well. There was a film version of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby made this year, but it is called The Great Beauty not The Great Gatsby. My advice, if you're thinking of seeing Baz Luhrmann's mess of a film? Go see Paolo Sorrentino's version.
Will Win: Costume Design
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #71 out of 79

Lone Survivor
2 Nominations
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Effects Editing
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Alexander Ludwig, Eric Bana, Yousef Azami, Ali Suliman, Dan Bilzerian

The National Board of Review named Lone Survivor one of the ten best films of the year. No one else seemed to notice. I've posted about my problems with the movie already, so I won't go into that. I just want to say that while these nominations might've seemed to come out of nowhere, they really didn't. All of the critics groups saw this and many respected it, as the National Board of Review mention indicates. And the film really is technically awesome, especially in the sound department. These guys end up falling down some difficult cliffs at one point, and it is actively wince-inducing, as the audience can hear the crunching of bones. It is pretty great stuff. As film theorist Stephen Prince has argued in his book on violence in classical film, the sound information we receive as we watch a film is directly related to our empathy for the person suffering violence. Sounds of anguish or pain have been directly censored (silenced) by the MPAA, because they make violence more difficult for an audience to watch. The sounds in Lone Survivor, then, do their job, asking for the audience to empathize with the four men who get surrounded by men who wish to kill them. These sounds of agony go away, of course, as the helicopters swoop in and the full might of the U.S. military is felt, but the sound work is very, very good. (Not that this film can beat Gravity for either of its awards, because it cannot.)
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #67 out of 79