So I've seen four of the Oscar-nominated films, and I will herewith give you my opinion on them. I mentioned a long time ago that I would write something on "A History of Violence," which sucked, but it's turned into this long essay that I'm trying to finish and figure out how to sell.
The five movies nominated for best picture are: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Goodnight and Good Luck, and Munich.
Let's get "Crash" out of the way. This movie was terrible. Anyone who says otherwise, well, I hate to be elitist, but that person is stupid.
Munich was included among the nominees, I've been led to understand, because Steven Spielberg has a lot of clout and he got pissed that the company behind the film was devoting so much money and energy to promoting "Brokeback." But I've heard Munich is muddled, and let's face it, Spielberg is no intellectual. To expect a groundbreaking film on the Isreal-Palestine situation from him would be asinine. Incidentally, "War of the World" was the first Spielberg film I've seen that was actually bad. Dumb, bad, pointless. Not a good year for him, not that I'm shedding any tears.
Now, on to the three nominated pictures that are actually good. "Goodnight and Good Luck" is a really good movie, but a) it was a deliberately slow film that, despite the relevance it has for us today politically, is limited in scope and b) it doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.
"Capote" is a very good movie and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as everyone knows, was superb. Truman Capote as portrayed as Hoffman is selfish, charming, deceitful, manipulative, plus other adjectives I didn't think of just now. In his interactions with Perry Smith, one of the murderers of "In Cold Blood," Capote is beset by dueling allegiances to Smith (he feels some degree of genuine empathy for Smith's plight) and to his book, which depends upon Smith's death by hanging for its conclusion, but the allegiance that always wins out is the one to his book and himself. Capote's character, as this film sees it, is perhaps best revealed during his last meeting with Smith, when, overcome with guilt, he breaks down in tears but lies about why he is crying, telling Smith he's done everything he can to help him in his legal defense, when in fact he's pulled the plug on those efforts.
But "Capote" loses out to "Brokeback," compared to which it's simply a genre picture, a biopic. "Brokeback" is that rare love story that doesn't manipulate the audience with an over-the-top score or trite dialogue, like a chimpanzee trying to remove the cover from a VCR with a
Heath Ledger is incredible. How an Australian actor could deliver such a nuanced portrayal of a sort of archetypal Western American male, muffled and laconic, is beyond me. Though it's a coin-flip kind of a decision, I would vote for him for best actor over Hoffman. All the other actors are great, from Gylenhahl (sp) to Michelle Williams to Anne Hathaway to Randy Quaid.
It's a pity that there are people, including most cable TV pundits, apparently, who are afraid to see this movie, because afterwards they might wind up in a George Michael-esque tryst in a gas station bathroom. Because sexual orientation quickly falls away. What remains is simply a story of a stunted love affair, beautifully shot and directed, wonderfully acted, well scored ... There's not much bad to say about it, except it started to drag a bit during the second hour and I thought it might have been about 10 minutes too long.
Given the other nominees, "Brokeback" should win the Oscar hands down.