Friday, January 28, 2011

30 Days of Oscar: Day 1 - Into the Wild

I wanted to get a chance to write about movies that received Oscar nominations: both that I've seen and never reviewed here, and new movies that I've never seen.   I think an awful lot has been written already about the current movies up for awards, and much more will be written as the various awards come to a conclusion.  But I like remembering other movies that got nominated at least.  You know there was someone somewhere that year saying they were robbed or robbed someone else of at least a nomination. 

Movie: Into the Wild
Year: 2007
Nominations: Editing, Supporting Actor - Hal Holbrook
Wins: None, beaten by The Bourne Ultimatum and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
Robbed: There was talk about Eddie Vedder's music, and he won the Golden Globe for his song, "Guaranteed", but the Academy showed no love there.

I watched this for the Vince Vaughn week on "Reel Insight", but it also has the distinction of being the DVD that sat the longest next to the TV and returned to Netflix WITHOUT being watched (almost 4 months).  I remember Hal Holbrook getting a lot of attention during the awards season, though I don't think there was an award that Javier didn't take home that year.  How can you compare 20 minutes on screen to a movie where you're all but the star?  But I do think Holbrook's performance was just as memorable.  It does feel a bit ridiculous to reward an actor for a single scene or two when his colleague makes the movie, but if anyone deserved it it was Holbrook's small performance.

He meets Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsh) who is on a journey of unbelievably selfish self-discovery.  Chris has left his family behind after college to go off on his own, and ultimately get to Alaska to find himself and be closer to nature.  He bucks the system (which I've already described pissed me off the most) thinking that all nature is for everyone.  He does meet some wonderful characters on the way - Catherine Keener as an aging hippie who can't get over her own child; Vaughn as a farmer who teaches Chris a few things about growing food, hunting, etc., and just before Alaska he meets Holbrook, a lonely old man living by himself in the desert.  There's a scene where Holbrook and Chris are making plans to meet up after he gets back from Alaska and Holbrook tears up and you can sense he somehow knows he'll never see Chris again.

Watching Chris' problems in the Alaskan wilderness and his utter stupidity leading to his death makes this movie hard to like.  Sean Penn's direction is interesting - canonizing Chris and putting his journey on a pedestal while still showing the honesty in his own part in his death.  Overall I didn't like it, but I can see the nominations for Editing and definitely for Holbrook.  I'm sure there were probably other worthy performances that year and that Holbrook's nomination might have been as much a career nod as well as recognition of a terrific set of scenes.  

I think this topic makes for a terrific MEME.
The goal: talking about past Oscar winners and nominees every day for a month
If you want to participate, go for it!  I won't tag anyone because people often already have plans for the weeks around Oscar.


David Bishop said...

Nice. Have you considered doing 30 Days of Razzies afterwards?

Jess said...

I would do a Razzie examination, except that I like too many of those movies, so it wouldn't feel right. We'll see what comes out of their nominations this year.

David Bishop said...

I don't know. I don't think there's too much difference between defending Razzie nominated films and taking down Oscar nominated ones. It's all about the subjective experience and how your individuality keeps you from simply jumping on board with the masses in either direction.

Robert said...

it is a great meme! I wish I had the time to participate. Anyway I can't wait to read all of your thoughts! :)

The Mad Hatter said...

You & I have already discussed this one...but what the hey.

Holbrook is touching in this film, and probably comes the closest to talking McCandless down of the ledge he's tiptoed out on to...but this nomination was little more than a token for a career well played. Bardem was a gimme in '07 and there wasn't nothing Holbrook could do to turn the tide.

I still do like this movie as a movie, if memory serves it really shook me up at the time. I sort of have to watch it the same way i watch LET ME IN and pretend that it's big Swedish brother doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

I'm always surprised at how polarizing "Into the Wild" is. Some people, like myself, love it, embrace the character and enjoy the experience. Others absolutely loathe McCandless and find the storytelling dull and impenetrable.

I mean, Penn is no Malick, that's for sure, but I'm not sure why so many people find Chris so stupid. He decides to pave his own life, get away from a society suffocating him to death, sever all connections. I find it hard to believe that most people haven't at least once in their life had that urge to just run away from it all.

Fletch said...

Haha - I heard you gals talking about this one on the podcast and was right there with you.

To tack onto what James was saying...Penn is clearly a talented director - it's a well-made, beautifully shot film.

But yes, he's more than stupid. He's a spoiled brat and (as portrayed) was a waste of oxygen. Many people have the urge to run away from it all and go live on a beach or something. But to do ill-prepared as to kill yourself over it? He acts as though his parents were his enemies. Awww...they gave me a I'm gonna leave it abandoned somewhere. I was hating him by the end of it. The way he goes about it all is all wrong.