The Best Pictures of the year… and I haven’t seen a single one

Yesterday, the 2012 Academy Award nominations were announced, and for the first time in at least ten years, I haven’t seen any of the Best Picture nominees. I’m planning to see The Artist this week, but at the moment I’m 0 for 9, so at first I didn’t think I’d have much to say about which films are deserving and which were snubbed. Then I realized: this is the internet! I don’t need to be knowledgeable to have an opinion. So here are my thoughts on this year’s options for Best Picture, based on their trailers:

The Artist (Trailer)

The reason I’m determined to see this one in theatres is because I know I don’t have the patience for watching silent films on dvd. However, I also think it looks like a really great film. Much as I love dialogue, I also love the importance of conveying emotion through action and facial expression. And just from the trailer, I can tell they do it well. Plus, how cute is that dog?!

The Descendants (Trailer)

This one doesn’t look very exciting. From what I can tell, George Clooney’s wife left him for some guy, and George and his kids stalk him in a humourous and heartwarming way. Also starring the girl from that pregnant teenager show on ABC Family. I’ll probably watch it in a few years on television.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Trailer)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite books, but even with Tom Hanks, I somehow doubt that the film is as good as the novel. However, everything about the trailer, from the voiceovers by the little boy, to the use of a U2 song, to the super close ups and super wide shots, screams Oscar bait, so if the film is the same I can see why it was nominated.

The Help (Trailer)

I am so unbelievably uninterested in this film. It has been criticized for not focusing enough on black voices during the civil rights movement in which it is set, and in the trailer the first African American character doesn’t show up until almost 30 seconds in. I can tell from the trailer that the acting is excellent, so I would be glad to see Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer recognized, but the film itself looks like nothing special.

Hugo (Trailer)

This film looks like a whimsical mix between The Polar Express and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Visually beautiful films often do well at the Oscars, but I can’t tell enough about the film to decide if it could be deserving of Best Picture or just Best Cinematography.

Midnight in Paris (Trailer)

Didn’t Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play love interests in Wedding Crashers? This movie is probably nothing like that one. Either way, I like both of them, as well as Kurt Fuller and Michael Sheen, who also appear in the trailer (and who I didn’t know were in the film until right now). I thought the film took place in the 1920s, so I’m a little confused, but I think I would like to see it.

Moneyball (Trailer)

I feel a little biased against this film because Jonah Hill was nominated for it while all of the supporting actors in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, etc.) were snubbed, but even if I don’t love sports, I love sports films (and Brad Pitt), so I’m willing to give this one a try. The trailer has some very inspirational-sounding music that I’m sure reflects the tone of the film.

The Tree of Life (Trailer)

I’m going to be honest: I don’t really know what was happening in this trailer. However, from what I’ve heard, that is a pretty good representation of the movie itself. I usually find Terrance Malik’s films beautiful and well-acted, but very slow moving and often odd. The Tree of Life looks like it’s no exception. However, it’s also the kind of film that Oscar voters love, so it definitely has a shot.

War Horse (Trailer)

I have some friends who saw this in play form at the National Theatre in London and I wish that I had gotten the chance, because they all loved it and I’ve heard mixed reviews about the film version. However, the cinematography in the trailer looks beautiful, and it has a strong cast of actors.

In Conclusion…

Who Will Win: The Tree of Life or The Artist
Who Should Win:  The Artist

P.s. Gary Oldman finally got an Oscar nomination and it was well-deserved because his role as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time and also I think he is just brilliant.

Sherlock (BBC) series 2

Episode 1: A Scandal in Belgravia

“When did we agree that?”
“We agreed yesterday.”
“I wasn’t even at home yesterday, I was in Dublin.”
“Well, it’s not my fault you weren’t listening.”
“Do you just carry on talking when I’m away?”
“I don’t know. How often are you away?”

Sherlock returns for series 2 with its protagonist in a bit of a rut. He searches for a case, dealing with a large number of people whose problems are, he believes, beneath his notice, due to the popularity of John’s blog. Soon the episode’s focus shifts to center around Irene Adler, “professionally known as The Woman” (clever!). It seems that Adler is in possession of certain documents and photographs that Sherlock’s client requests to be recovered. This sends Sherlock and John off on a case that involves people of power up to the highest levels, secrecy and perhaps even betrayal from all sides, and the return of the series’ supervillain.

Show creator Steven Moffat has gotten some (deserved) criticism with regard to his women characters (he’s also the current showrunner of Doctor Who, and has faced similar critique for that show), and in this episode that means Adler. Personally, I feel that Sherlock does somewhat less winning and less saving than he is given credit for, and I think that Irene’s sexuality/attraction has less of a role in her “downfall” than some do, but these aspects are still worth being aware of (this is an interesting article, and this blog is another view).

However, whether or not her treatment was positive or negative, Adler was a fascinating character, played with the perfect degree of snark and charm by Lara Pulver. She is just as clever as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original character, with a modern update that is fitting for her role. The focus of this episode is on the relationship between Adler and Sherlock, with some of the other characters—even John—taking somewhat of a backseat, but it works well for the episode. No matter who is the ultimate winner of their game of wits, she proves a more than respectable match for his genius.

As always, I love the little details that tie the series back to Doyle’s canon: I mention “The Woman” before, but the deerstalker hat that Sherlock complains about being photographed in is also a nice touch. The cinematography was also particularly good, whether it was the shadowy, silhouetted figure of Sherlock smoking or the dreamlike sequence where Sherlock falls from a field into a bed. Overall, despite its flaws it was a strong storyline with a lot of tension.

Episode 2: The Hounds of Baskerville

“It’s this or Cluedo.”
“No, we are never playing that again.”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s not actually possible for the victim to have done it, Sherlock, that’s why.”
“Well, it’s the only possible solution.”
“It’s in the rules.”
“Well, then the rules are wrong.”

The original “Hound of the Baskervilles” story was less of a mystery than the BBC’s modernized adaptation. I don’t mean that the final answer was so simple to deduce, but that you didn’t have to be, well, Sherlock Holmes to figure out that there wasn’t actually a large, unearthly dog on the premises. “The Hounds of Baskerville” is more difficult, due to the horror element added to turn it into a thrilling, twisting and turning episode. It begins when Henry Knight (Being Human‘s Russell Tovey, who has apparently cornered the market on British television involving large canines) comes to them with a report of a gigantic hound at the Baskerville testing site.

Sherlock and John head to Dartmoor to investigate, discovering that the location is used for various experiments, some of them including animals or chemicals. Although John is incredulous at first, and Sherlock predictably even more so, they soon get caught up in the mystery themselves when, at night, John is separated from Knight and Sherlock and he sees the hound. Sherlock, too, has an encounter with the beast, although he claims to see nothing.

The episode strays far from the original story, but the way it has been modernized is very effective in creating the horror movie feel. Sherlock is at his worst this week, his arrogance over the top enough that even John calls him out on it, but it provides an interesting contrast to the fear he feels (and tries to smother), and his interactions with John range from the caring to the heartless in all their extremes. Plot-wise, the climax of the story is well-developed, with clues throughout the episode leading up to the big reveal.

Tiny details: Sherlock’s cocaine addiction from the stories has been replaced with a smoking habit, and cigarettes are apparently “7 percent” more effective to him than tea. He also tries to convince John to give him some by offering the next week’s lottery numbers.

If episode one was about Sherlock’s relationship with love, this episode was about his relationship with fear. These hints of humanity set the stage for the season finale…

Episode 3: The Reichenbach Fall

“Nobody could be that clever.”
“You could.”

Alright, I’ve got to put this under a “read more” link because there’s no way I can talk about this episode without some major spoilers.

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