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

14 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 8 of 14


The Invisible Woman
1 Nomination
  • Costume Design: Michael O'Connor (Jane Eyre, The Duchess)
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Cast: Felicity Jones, Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Hollander, Perdita Weeks, Michelle Fairley, John Kavanagh, Tom Burke

I didn't review this movie, although I quite liked it, so I suppose this will have to do. Let me get the Oscar talk out of the way first: O'Connor can't win, and he's already won for The Duchess, so he doesn't need to win anyway. The film is directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Charles Dickens. The film, though, is not really about Dickens; it is about his mistress Nelly, who is a fascinating character, beautifully played by Felicity Jones. The entire film, in fact, is rather excellent. It's a historical excavation – an untold story about a figure familiar to most of us – but it is done without dogmatism, without treating this untold story as a kind of key or solution to all of Dickens' work, and without the hagiography that normally attends such films. In other words, this isn't Becoming Jane or Ray. Not at all. This is, in fact, a story primarily about living with Dickens, about sort of dealing with the mess of loving a famous man in the nineteenth century. It is at times heartbreaking, and the film gives enough attention to Dickens' spurned wife (Joanna Scanlan, in the film's most brilliant performance) that one never comes to believe Dickens is perfect or justified or even right. It is a really excellent little piece. I can see why no one saw it: Fiennes isn't an Oscar-bait actor, and the film was released very late in the season (odd, that). But the film should honestly have been a contender for Screenplay and for Supporting Actress, so it is strange that there was not more buzz about it. Ah well, a good film is its own reward.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #26 out of 80

The Book Thief
1 Nomination
  • Original Score: John Williams (Lincoln, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Catch Me If You Can, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Patriot, Angela's Ashes, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Sleepers, Nixon, Sabrina, Schindler's List, JFK, Home Alone, Born on the Fourth of July, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Accidental Tourist, Empire of the Sun, The Witches of Eastwick, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The River, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, The Towering Inferno, Tom Sawyer, Cinderella Liberty, Images, The Poseidon Adventure, Fiddler on the Roof, The Reivers, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Valley of the Dolls)
Director: Brian Percival
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Barbara Auer, Rainer Bock, Carina Wiese, Oliver Stokowski, Roger Allam

Why this movie was made is sort of beyond me. I can't speak for the novel, but the film appears to be attempting to do justice to a novel, but it can't quite manage. The film begins with a voice-over. The voice speaking to us is Death! I mean, it is such a contrivance, but I think perhaps such a thing might work in a novel. In a film it seems so phoney! Any time Death started to talk I tuned out. Also, the voice-over hadn't really figured out what Death actually took from the people as they died. Like, who is this Death guy and what materially happens when he encounters human life? At one point he refers to taking the "soul" of someone who dies. Death takes souls now? I would've been confused if I had actually cared. The acting is fine in this film, but there is no real point to the thing. Good Germans take in a Communist refugee girl. They hide a Jewish man in their basement. She learns to read, and more importantly (and if you didn't think what I've said so far was clichéd enough, get ready) she learns the power of storytelling. Storytelling "keeps her brother alive" when he is in a coma and brings him back from the dead. Storytelling allows her and the other villagers to get through the end of the war. Storytelling allows her to make a living after WWII. All of this is good and well, but if we might examine reality for a brief moment, we might remember that "storytelling" makes all of these things possible because the entire thing was written by a novelist and then by a screenwriter who are telling a story themselves. I don't mean to get all meta on you all, but when storytelling saves lives, it generally only does so inside someone's story. And if storytelling gets people through things it is because the storyteller herself is invested in the value of story. Whenever "storytelling" solves problems inside a story, I always feel vaguely as though I am being had. Now, I've gone and talked this whole time about my problems with the movie and I haven't talked about John Williams' annual nomination. It's a shame that this is here because the scores to 12 Years a Slave and The Kings of Summer could easily have appeared here, but instead the music branch nominates John Williams for the umpteenth time. Sure, the score is pretty, but, like... there is other good stuff out there.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #70 out of 80

Saving Mr. Banks
1 Nomination
  • Original Score: Thomas Newman (Skyfall, WALL·E, The Good German, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption)
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrel, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Melanie Paxson, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths

I was only so-so on this picture, and couldn't understand why everyone was talking about it or about Emma Thompson in it. Thompson was considered a sure thing as a Best Actress nominee this year, but all the talk amounted to nothing, and the film ended up with only one nomination. The whole thing is quite surprising. It seemed like it was going to get nominations in Costume Design and possibly Adapted Screenplay, as well. Lots of things seemed possible, in fact, including a Best Picture nomination, but one nomination is almost nothing. If people liked Saving Mr. Banks, then (and I think it is fair to say that many did), it wasn't ever anyone's favorite in any category except Score. Newman has never won, and he won't win again this year, but this is his twelfth nomination, and he will have to win soon.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #59 out of 80