Tomorrow morning we get the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, the ceremony occurring in March. Of course, one of the biggest announcements was that this year there will be ten best picture nominations. Instead of the usual five, they have doubled the entries in hopes to keep the show fresh. They have also doubled their host count, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will both be in charge of the evening’s festivities. So below, I have put in what I would have voted for only based on the movies I have seen. There are a few that might have made their way in had I seen them. Unfortunately, I have only so much free time and sometimes the wait time for a Netflix Blu Ray can be a long one. Below you will find my ten picks, (which were my ten favorites of last year by the way).
1) (500) Days of Summer
This movie had a very original concept, a clever director who wasn’t afraid to make bolder choices, and two leads that were nothing but perfectly cast for the movie. Those are terms that are hard to recall being used about most romantic comedies in the last few years. The strong gimmick premises consume the plot that the audience already sees coming a mile away. (500) Days of Summer dared to step out of that clichéd bubble and make one of the better movies of 2009. Definitely deserves the nomination.
This movie is quickly getting overhyped, much like Cameron’s last movie. However, the movie is deserving of a nomination. After adapting to the 3D experience, you find yourself completely immersed in the extensive detail placed into Pandora and the world. Much like “Titanic,” the story was lacking but the emotions of the movie as well as the technical intricacies are overwhelming. It deserves the nomination, not sure it deserves the basically anticipated win. Who’s ready to hear James Cameron say “I’m the king of the world!” in Nav’i?
3) Away We Go
This was on the cusp of making it in, I nearly placed The Hurt Locker by default even though I haven’t seen it. However, this movie unfortunately fell by the wayside due to an odd release time for an indie comedy-drama. It was a great, simple character study piece that showcased the talents of their two leads. Jon Krasinzki showed that he is more than just Jim (although I have no qualms with The Office, keep it coming!). Moreover, Maya Rudolph proved that she is more than an afterthought to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot!
4) District 9
District 9 deserves this nomination for sheer vision. This movie wasn’t supposed to do much, if anything, at all. It was expected to be the movie that brought the summer of 2009 to a close. Those movies typically have a little strength opening weekend and then fizzle away with the emergence of school and other fall responsibilities. Instead, being shot on a minimal budget, WETA showed once again that they will be ILM’s key rival in the coming years for visual effects. The heartfelt story with obvious political parallels took a great concept and made it one of the most inventive science fiction movies I have seen. It felt really cool knowing that I got to see this movie when it first came out in theaters.
5) The Hangover
This movie deserves a nomination because comedy and science fiction are always the bastard children left behind for independent dramas no one sees or cares about. Then Hollywood deems it politically relevant so it gets a nomination and all is right with the world. Frankly, seeing this movie and others like Star Trek and District 9 on this list is the main reason I am happy the Academy is giving 10 nominations this year. It may finally usher in a time when movies like these can get a nomination. I’m perfectly aware that it won’t win, but it’s nice to see a change.
6) Inglorious Basterds
Tarantino still peaked early with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but this was as close to those two as he has reached in a while. Kill Bill was great, and Death Proof was entertaining, but that was about it. His very strong choice to take a left turn where history went right has to be acknowledged as a great choice. It did one thing, proved that this was meant as an entertainment piece, not a historical dramatization. Plus, the opening scene alone is what puts Inglorious Basterds on the map for the nomination.
7) The Road
So, if you haven’t heard, Miramax is officially closed down. The company the Weinstein brothers worked so hard to establish is no more. This movie was one of the poor left behind movies that signaled the demise. (See also The Boys Are Back, great vehicle for Clive Owen.) The book was one of the most amazing works I have read in a long time and the movie was excessively faithful. I was glad for this because it was very bleak and held back very little. It does so to convey the sense of hope that the Man and Child (you never know their names) have to cling to if they are to find the will to carry on. It saddens me that this movie didn’t get the proper marketing and release because instead of being a high profile contender, it has fizzled to a rented curiosity. See this movie when it comes out on Blu Ray and DVD!
8) Star Trek
I’m a Star Wars man, flat out. I enjoy Star Trek on a periodic basis. When I heard they were making the prequel, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Okay.” Then the cast and director came together, then the trailers. I was growing more excited. Then the movie came out and I was astonished! I did not expect this movie to be so good and I hope they can keep it up for number two and don’t rely too heavily on previous material. Rumors of Kahn are worrying me, I enjoyed that they took the Trek timeline in a different alternate reality, but that’s another article altogether. This movie did the most important thing and that was focus on the characters individually and on the crew as a dynamic. They reignited what was a left for dead franchise, well deserved.
Here is my personal pick for the win. I do not think that it will actually win, but so far this was my favorite movie of 2009. This movie will take best Animated Feature with ease, but I sincerely hope that it becomes the second animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture. The fact that I saw this just a few short weeks after getting married helped with my emotional attachment to the story. However, the movie deserves the nomination for the opening montage alone. They did what a family movie should do, have fun and quirky characters for the kids to imitate (Kevin and Doug), while giving substantial material for adults to enjoy. That is why time and time again, Pixar has perhaps been the best thing to happen to Disney in their long history.
10) Where the Wild Things Are
I appreciated this movie for what it aimed to achieve. It did not sugar coat what real life can be. Too many children’s movies just think as long as you cling to your dreams and love everyone, things will be just fine. While a certain element of that is true, sometimes life stinks and brings you down. Sorry, kids, but it is the truth. Even if you try your best, fate will come around and give you a bitter awakening. This movie used Max’s dreamland to show real life problems children face and shows them that everybody feels this way. It also had a lot of fun as well, showing that from sadness and disappointment, joy and love can come around with those closest to you. This movie was great.
Honorable Mentions: Julie & Julia, the movie was inspiring and very well done. The focus of this movie has been way too strong on Meryl Streep, though. I found myself wishing Amy Adams would get equal, if not more, attention as she was the true heart and focus of the movie.
The Hurt Locker, this movie didn’t make it in because I haven’t seen it. I have yet to hear a bad thing about it, but the wait is too damn long on Netflix and I am pretty sure it’s only going to get longer after they announce the nominations.
Up In the Air, Jason Reitman is on fire. He has tackled a lot of great material and is a very good director. I just haven’t gotten around to seeing it in theaters yet.
Taken, Liam Neeson is a badass. This movie had a genuinely good actor playing what felt like a real person in a disturbingly realistic situation. The action was amazing, there were inklings of comedy, and very tense drama. It was just a really good movie.