Mini Oscar film reviews, part 1

I have been trying to catch up with Oscar nominated films over the last 10 days so I’m prepared to make my predictions for Oscar night. I’m not trying to watch every nominated film, just most of the major categories and any others I’m interested in. I figured I’d put down a few thought about the films I’ve watched since Feb. 14.

An Education

I haven’t watched any other films nominated for Leading Actress, and I know Carey Mulligan is a long shot, but her performance is fantastic in An Education. Mulligan plays a very convincing 16 year old who is seduced by an older man. Her performance is very natural and stands out in a phenomenal ensemble cast. As a Best Picture contender, I doubt this film would have made the cut if the category hadn’t been expanded, but certainly hold it’s own among the other nominees. For Adapted Screenplay this is a major contender.

Final thought: Very witty, very clever film that I would recommend.

The Hurt Locker

Certainly the best Iraq War film I’ve seen, the Hurt Locker follows a small team of Bomb Squad Technicians through their tour of duty. The story isn’t really special, so I don’t really see this as getting far in Screenplay Original. Visually it is ultra realistic and makes you feel like you are a journalist covering the action. Certainly a contender for Directing and Cinematography, though it will be hard to beat Avatar for the latter.

Final thought: Great war film worth the watch.

Inglorious Basterds

If I were a member of the Academy, this would get my vote for Best Picture. The competition is stiff this year with 5 extra nominees, but Inglorious Basterds, a rewrite of WWII history where Hitler is assassinated, is easily the best. This is a defining piece of cinema and may be Quentin Tarantino’s best work. Although, these things may be what keep it from winning the honor as movies this good never seem to get the credit they deserve until later. I would love to see this film win best picture (dark horse for sure), directing (very possible), and screenplay original (maybe).

Final thought: Probably the best film of the last 5 years…maybe 10, in my opinion.

A Serious Man

I’ve heard a lot of people say this film is overly pretentious and boring. I found it to be very thoughtful and darkly hilarious. A serious man chronicles the ridiculous trials of Larry Gopnik, a Jewish professor whose life seems to be falling apart before him. This film proves that you don’t have to be nominated for every other category to be considered for Best Picture; it stands on the story alone. That said, the Coen Brothers could grab the Screenplay Original award for this film, but I doubt it has a serious chance at Best Picture.

Final thought: Not for everybody, but very good if you typically like the Coen Brothers.

Up in the Air

This film certainly deserves the nominations it received. The acting is phenomenal and the story is both hilarious and desperately sad.

Up in the Air is about a business man who lives in the air, traveling from city to city to fire people. He doesn’t realize how terribly lonely he is until he meets another frequent flier who catches his heart. Like A Serious Man, this film shows that a great story is enough to be a Best Picture contender. Though it probably wont win, Up in the Air stands a good chance for an upset.

Final thought: For me, this film was more sad than funny, though enjoyably so.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Why don’t people like Terry Gilliam? I seriously love his films, and Dr. Parnassus does not disappoint. It may sound odd, this being a film about the struggle between imagination and the devil, but this film is very imaginative! Visually it is spectacular. The costumes, the scenery, everything about this film looks great. The story may be muddled, but it is fascinating at the same time. Certainly has a chance to win both Costume Design and Art Direction.

Final thought: I love Terry Gilliam, so I recommend this to anyone who also loves him.


I really love Daniel Day-Lewis, so I hate to say that I didn’t really enjoy Nine. The music and choreography is almost all really great, but the narrative is really awful. The story focuses on film director Guido Contini’s struggle to write his next film. I see no chance for Penelope Cruz going up against Mo’Nique for Supporting Actress (honestly Marion Cotillard had a better performance than Cruz), but could win for Costume Design and Art Direction. I haven’t really heard any of the other original songs, but the music was fantastic in Nine, so it could win there.

Final thought: I wouldn’t really recommend this film. The story really is poorly told.

The Messenger

The Messenger offers a look into the awful job of informing next of kin of the death of a soldier. Woody Harrelson is terrific and will be the only person up for Supporting Actor who might be able to beat Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds). This movie gives a different side of war that isn’t often portrayed in film, at least not as well as it is in this film.

Final thought: Very good film that I highly recommend.

Food, Inc.

This is the only Documentary Feature I have had a chance to see. I liked it, but already knew most of the information that was presented so it became a bit tedious. I would have liked to see some solutions for people who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods.

Final thought: Not as good as I thought it would be, but worth a look if you’ve ever wondered where your food comes from.


Clint Eastwood is a very good director. He got a bit of a snubbing by not being included in either Directing or Best Picture, but I don’t blame the academy. This film wouldn’t have won either and the other nominees are probably better than Invicus, the story of Nelson Mandela using the South African rugby team to unite a very divided country. This movie is quite good and Morgan Freeman has a very good chance of winning for Leading Actor.

Final thought: Very enjoyable film that I would recommend to anyone.