Sunday, February 13, 2011

30 Days of Oscar: Day 17 - New Release Two-fer Blue Valentine and Biutiful

Once again, I'm going to double up on some reviews.  Mostly because both are better if you don't know a lot about them.  I'm going to designate the comments section as SPOILER-full.  If you don't to know what happens, don't read the comments.  If you do want to discuss the films in more detail, do so in the comments. 

Movie: Blue Valentin
Year: 2011
Nominations: Best Actress (Michelle Williams)
Wins/Snubs:  I'm pretty sure this is either Natalie Portman or possibly Annette Benning's year, so no luck for Michelle, though she did deserve the nomination.  Ryan Gosling was totally snubbed though - I would actually give him the nomination over Jesse Eisenberg (and I loved The Social Network but Gosling did a much more impressive job), but again, Colin Firth is going to take it, deservedly so, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

Blue Valentine is a movie about a relationship told from two frames that each move forward, let's call them now, and the past.  Now, Cindy and Dean have a fairly normal life, she's a nurse, he paints houses, and their raising a little girl.  Both are slightly less attractive than the past, and the shine has rubbed off their love.  However, you can see it's rubbed off each of them differently.  In the past, Cindy is in high school and has a boyfriend, but one day Dean sees her at her Grandmother's nursing home and falls in love.  Their relationship progresses, they get to know each other and then bam! she's pregnant.  That throws their relationship into overdrive and they get married. 

That's about all you need to, or should, know.  Are there big surprises, not really.  Are there moments you will see coming, yes.  But you either won't want them do or feel like you should be able to make things turn out differently.  This is the kind of movie that gets under your skin and you feel like you owe something to these characters.  Somehow, your wisdom as an outsider should be able to help them either set off on the right track or keep their life going in a good direction.  However, it's still a movie, so you just have to watch it happen.  Disclaimer: I am not, and never have been married.  Thus, this could be totally a single person's perspective, but they seemed to get a lot of the interactions right that couples, married or not, who have been together a while will almost certainly work their way through.  Tense conversations, one person rolling their eyes, frustration, compassion, devotion, loyalty, wandering eyes, wondering "what if", etc.  I thought this was a terrific movie that should have beaten out The Fighter for the last Top 10 spot.  4.5 of 5 stars (only loses half a point for not being a very rewatchable movie - I don't enjoy being uncomfortable). 

Movie: Biutiful
Year: 2011
Nominations: Best Actor (Javier Bardem), Best Foreign Language,
Wins/Snubs:  I'm sure Colin Firth is going to take it from Javier (he's already got one anyway), but I think this is in the running for Foreign Language, but that is anyone's guess.

Biutiful is the story of Uxbal (Bardem), a single father raising a young boy and girl.  Their mother has issues and is anything but dependable.  However, the movie does a great job very slowly rolling out all the issues that actually face Uxbal.  He's a fairly shady character himself, but you definitely feel for him.  I didn't enjoy Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's previous work Babel, but I think this succeeds in many of the ways Babel failed for me - there are only 3-4 stories going on so you can engage with them, all of which are revolving around Uxbal in some way.  Each of those stories is interesting in HOW it relates to Uxbal, and doesn't have to stand on its own merit (though there are touches that just seem unnecessary, the Chinese boss didn't have to be gay).  There are several cultures interacting, and the crux of each of those cultures seems to be their undoing or saving (I know that's vague, but it seems to be a hallmark of Inarritu's film-making that it helps to let him reveal these things).  However, this movie is both LONG (148 minutes) and really, really depressing.  So while Bardem did a terrific job and I'm really glad the Academy recognized his efforts, I didn't particularly enjoy the experience.  There just wasn't anything that lightened the mood or downward spiral of Uxbal's life.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs


Anonymous said...

I liked Blue Valentine a lot. It appealed to the emotional masochist in me. I dunno why, but I tend to like films about couples in pain or distress.

But the film was also really sweet at times and the scene in the storefront was easily my favorite scene of the year.

Jess said...

I'm with you. It didn't depress me at all and I just enjoyed their story and the fact I wasn't either of them. Some really sharp dialogue too