Wednesday, February 2, 2011

30 Days of Oscar: Day 6 Two-fer - Animal Kingdom and Gasland

These are kind of a cheat, since they've both been nominated for the current Academy Awards, but my game, my rules.  But I wanted to review them, and since I saw them mostly for their nomination, they fit into the theme of 30 Days of Oscar.

Movie: Animal Kingdom
Year: 2011
Nominations: Best Supporting Actress - Jackie Weaver
Wins: I'm guessing she'll be beaten by Melissa Leo, but we'll have to see.

I have to say I'm surprised the Academy was able to pull this performance out of the many, many films that come out every year.  Is Jackie Weaver pretty great?  Yes! Is the movie pretty good, definitely.  But of all the movies around the world that come out in a given year, this made me aware of how many other performances that I miss might be worthy of award acclaim.  Probably an odd thing to become aware of, but I think it was just not a mind-blowing performance or movie (very good, don't get me wrong) but I'm puzzled as to why Weaver's performance was singled out.  She plays the mother of a very odd and dysfunctional Australian criminal family.  One of the brothers, Pope, seems to be a particularly psychopathic criminal, and has gone into hiding since the police in their town have given up on due process and started killing criminals themselves.

The story is told through the eye's of Pope's nephew Josh (called J).  J's mother died and now he's been drawn back into his grandmother's house.  The other brothers (who deal drugs and commit other unidentified crimes) have tried to avoid the police, but also know they're not the source of the investigation, Pope is.  Then the brothers start getting taken out by the cops and all the rules change.  Pope returns and takes revenge for his brother's death.  However, J is young and relatively susceptible to the questioning of the police - or so his uncles think.  It gets more complicated and more people die and ultimately J takes control of his own life, with a little help from Guy Pearce's cop.  4 of 5 stars/lambs.

Movie: GasLand
Year: 2011
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
Wins: I'm guessing it won't win, but can't hazard a guess as to what will.

Gasland as you might guess is a nominated documentary about gas.  It's not an examination of our over-dependence on oil from the Middle East, or about how we drive enormous cars (which was what originally came to my mind).  Instead, it's a story about the possible future of the US, when we move to become self-sufficient for our energy use by getting the most out of our natural gas reserves.  This is a film that should piss you off.  Yes, there are tinges of Erin Brockovich's evil companies hurting people.  But it goes so much further beyond that.  The director and creator Josh Fox, wants to explore what it might mean if he leases his own land to a Gas company that will "drill" for natural gas.  There are huge reserves across the US, and most of them seem to be using techniques and technology that will pollute the surrounding water supplies.  Fox interviews people who allowed drilling or live near drilling (or fraking) whose water is now so contaminated it will catch on fire.  Houses could explode because THEIR WATER IS NOW FLAMMABLE.

Yes, the movie does discuss the legal repercussions - oil and gas companies are exempt from the regulations of the clean water act - but mostly looks at all of the different things that are wrong from the beginning to the end of the entire process of the natural gas industry.  It's never preachy, but definitely informative, sometimes lecturing, but never holier-than-thou.  Some of their environmental arguments were things I'm familiar with - gas platforms closing off the longest existing North American migration route of endangered pronghorn antelope.  This single problem makes us as people seem insane - it's just crazy to allow it to happen.  Until we can extract the gas with techniques that don't make life not worth living for the people and wildlife around it, we need to stop.  The movie doesn't quite go far enough with alternative options, but I don't think that was his goal, just to expose what is, not hypothesize what could be.  4.5/5 stars/lambs


Robert said...

That's an interesting thought! We may be missing lots of worthy performances but it's so lucky that Jacki Weaver was nominated because she's fantastic. I think she had an amazing campaign by the studio, but it helps that she's so memorable.

I have to see Gasland, it sounds fascinatingly infuriating. Haha

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Fun fact. I actually know Josh Fox, like personally. He runs a theatre company called International WOW up in NYC, and was brought in to work with me and my group when I spent the summer at NYU. He told us quite a bit about the film and what he was working on. Cool guy! Good film!

Jess said...

Robert - it's still a thought that worries me now - that there are many more worthy performances that just won't get the recognition - particularly in non-American movies of any language. This felt a bit more random than perhaps it was.

Sebastian - That is really cool. It was a really great film, hard to find that balance between maddening and proselytizing.