Monday, January 30, 2012

Five Talking Points About "The Descendants"

I had honestly hoped it wouldn't come to this.  For this lowly Oscar-obsessive, even I recognized that wishing for a total shut out of The Descendants was a bridge too far.  But, I did hope for something akin to Frost/Nixon or Finding Neverland.  That is, an inevitable Best Picture nominee whose appeal remains alien to me, but becomes easy to ignore past the nomination announcement due to its unlikelihood of actually winning any major awards.  (Truthfully, that Best Original Score trophy for Finding Neverland does still loom as a minor "what the fuck" moment in Oscar history, but I suppose that's a conversation for 2004).

Alas, not only is Alexander Payne's latest effort a nominee for Best Picture, but it has a decent enough chance of picking up a couple of trophies as well.  Fine.  Even then, I'm happy enough to leave it alone.  The Descendants lovers, up until today have more or less behaved themselves.  But things, as is their wont to do this time of year, are getting ugly.   I'm not going to pretend that the nine films selected as Best Picture nominees by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences represent the pinnacle of cinematic excellence in 2011.  Hardly anyone is making that claim.  What I can no longer abide nor stomach is the vitriol being thrown at The Artist, a film I'm not even particularly passionate about but, given the slate, is clearly in the upper tier of that list.  I'm especially baffled when this Artist hatred comes from people who say they love Payne's milquetoast paradise milieu. Rather than writing a review of The Descendants, I thought I would position it against films that were in the Oscar hunt this year that are being torn down, ripped-apart and otherwise lambasted.  These are all criticisms that, regardless of my opinions on the other films, these same charges should easily be levied (but are not) against The Descendants.  Not wanting to incur any rath (because my blog has such enormous readership) I'll merely paraphrase and refrain from directly quoting anyone (aforementioned link aside).

1. The Artist is a shallow trifle that does not stand on its own as a resonant piece of cinema.  In short, it's not about anything.

I've heard some variation of this more than I can even count this awards season.  To be fair, it's not an accusation that The Artist can refute with any modicum of truth.  But, hasn't The Artist always, more or less, presented itself as a film that is all about appropriation for the sake of novelty?  I have less problems with a film that wears its intentions on its sleeve and is rewarded or rebuked as such than I do with a film that claims, on paper, to be about something deeper than it really is.

The Descendants masquerades as a probing character study about a man dealing with grief while coming to terms with his role as a father to his two daughters.  I say masquerade because the film only half-commits to setting up this dynamic, then proceeds to treat its viewer to paint-by-numbers beats, arriving at a conclusion that feels at once predictable given the film's lack of ambition and unlikely given how little the film has worked to earn any of its payoffs.  Matt's (Clooney) narration tells us that he's "the back-up parent."  This bit of info is sandwiched between two scenes of he and his youngest daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) getting along more or less famously.  Later, we're told (there's that word again) that Matt and eldest daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) have a troubled relationship and that she is the type of out-of-control adolescent that Sally Jesse used to ship off to boot camp in the 90s.  This is "evidenced" by a tame episode of teenage drinking, some uttered profanities (clutch the pearls!) and a therapeutic dunk in the pool, which is right about where Woodley's bafflingly lauded performance sinks for me (no pun intended).  Alex then tells Matt that her mother was cheating on him.  For the rest of the film, their relationship is easy like Sunday morning, with nothing to speak to the character details we were plainly and obtusely presented with.  The Descendants is a textbook case of a film that avoids conflict, even when logic dictates that there's no other place to go.  That, to me, is a hallmark of lazy, easy writing, which is almost never not shallow.  I can take shallow when I'm being sold shallow.  It's a little harder to swallow that pill when it's being presented as the great new story about the twenty-first century experience.

 2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a chauvinistic male fantasy cloaked in something that resembles feminism if you squint and turn your head to the right.

Okay, so the bit about feminism may not apply directly to The Descendants, but I smell a rat where sexism is concerned.  Every female character in this film feels narratively neutered and is barely given a "character" to speak of.  Say what you will about Rooney Mara's Lisbeth Salander (and plenty has been said), but at least she's dynamic and she also exists in a film that relies on a conceit of heightened, stylized reality.  The women in The Descendants totally bend and conform to what the film needs them to do in any given moment and I would argue that they are just as much creations of male fantasy.  The difference is that here they are being presented as realistic reflections of the human condition.  Judy Greer's Julie Speer (the wife of the man Matt's wife cheated with) is at sea as well, being asked to play blissful and ignorant, then shrill and scorned with little modulation.  I've already spoken of Shailene Woodley's Alex, who seems to totally evaporate as if she was lobotomized in a scene that was left on the cutting room floor.  I also want to add that I have nothing against Woodley.  In every interview I've seen with her, she seemed lovely, articulate, primed and genuinely excited about awards season, even though her nomination did not come to pass.  Though the nominees are entitled to experience the distinction in their own way, on some selfish level, I have to admit that the season is more fun to watch with people who enjoy being there.  In short, I welcome more Shailene Woodley levels of enthusiasm, with the caveat that they come with performances to match the acclaim.  Sadly for her, when the pretty young things are just-misses for Oscar nominations, the opportunity rarely presents itself again.  One can look at examples ranging from Scarlett Johansson to Cameron Diaz of young performers who, at one time or another, just missed nominations for baity parts only to have the world slowly but surely realize their apparent actorly limitations.  Where Woodley is concerned, I'm more than happy to be proven wrong.  

I'm not sure what accounts for the simplistic ways in which this film fails to humanize Matt's comatose, philandering wife.  Yes, she is in a coma, but the film's desire to demonize this woman without any real context into the texture or dynamic of the marriage is rather glaring.  Payne will try to have you believe that this is not the case in the scene where Matt tearfully kisses his wife goodbye while uttering niceties wrapped in thinly veiled hostility.  Don't believe it!  He might as well be saying "Well, you are a cheating slut.  But we were married for a long time.  And you are the mother of my two lovely daughters with whom I have no real relationship problems.  And for that, I guess you're worth something.  Goodbye, whore."  I'm oversimplifying(?), but given the film's unwillingness to even entertain the idea that Matt King is not perfect (outside of him telling us that he's not perfect), I see some serious chauvinism afoot.

3. Young Adult...beyond the fact that the protagonist is completely unlikeable, am I supposed to believe this behavior?  No one acts like this.

Okay, so I'm cheating a little.  Young Adult is not technically in the Oscar race anymore (though, by all rights, it should be).  I like Clooney.  I think he's a talented actor.  The Descendants clearly likes him too.  I think he plays a big part in the aforementioned inability of the film to paint Matt King as a man with any real character flaws.  We are left with a movie about a gorgeous father of two whose bitch of a wife has the gall to step out on him.  Take likeable Clooney out of the equation and actually look at the sequence of events.  Matt King comes out looking like a grade-A asshole.  This may seem hypocritical to call his character an asshole and also say that he's not flawed.  Not so.  Why?  Because the film deifies him and does not depict his bad behavior as bad behavior.  What kind of man drags his daughters island hopping in search of the man who slept with his wife?  Okay, it was also in the interest of a business deal that would make this already wealthy man even wealthier.  Is that any better?  Especially since his wife is in a coma and already on borrowed time, but a confrontation with the philandering Matthew Lillard can surely wait until after the funeral.  And why, for the love of God, would he ever consent to his troubled teenage daughter bringing her cro magnon boyfriend along for the ride?  The small, easy bits of comic relief that Nick Krause provides aren't worth the questions his presence in the film raise.  When all is said and done, Matt King isn''t called to task for what I see as incredibly selfish, passive-aggressive transgressions.  At least in Young Adult, Charlize Theron's Mavis Gary pays somewhat of a price.  Matt King's actions could have easily been framed as a grief-stricken man on an ill-advised warpath.  It's hard to say whether such a change would fix what's wrong with this film at its core, but that would have made for some much needed ass-handing by Shailene Woodley to break up the uneventful, even-keel of the film's last act.  This is an unlikeable protagonist, coddled and protected by the writer/director and therefore made to look likeable.  This is a protagonist whose motivations aren't logical, but are given a pass by the film.  Am I supposed to believe/abide this behavior?

4. What's with The Ides of March nomination for adapted screenplay?  Is it doing anything new in the cinematic landscape?  Does it tell us anything about America that we don't already know?

Losing your wife really sucks.  Especially if she's cheating on you.  Living in Hawaii is not nearly the vacation you would think it is.  But make no mistake.  It's still Hawaii.  And Hawaii's beautiful.  And George Clooney is so handsome.  Thank you, The Descendants.  

5. The Help's ideas about race and ethnicity are indelicately handled in ways that make it at cross-purposes with its own message on one end and offensive on the other.

As a person of color, I found the hullabaloo surrounding The Help to be just a tad overstated.  The talking points about that film are all in line, certainly.  I feel its gravest sins are that it's not graceful, neither in pacing nor in the way it handles its subject matter, like a toddler holding china with oven mitts.  But what about race as it relates to The Descendants?

Clooney's narration contains a brief, atonal sequence that goes into the King family lineage, bending over backwards to double as an explanation to the viewer about why we're not dealing with any non-white Hawaiian protagonists.  I was flummoxed.  It was the only part of the movie that made me genuinely curious to read the source material.  Were the ethnic and cultural politics handled this clumsily in the novel?  Before you come at me with torches and pitchforks, I don't think that The Descendants is a decidedly racist film.  If anything, this strange subplot is likely a symptom of the film's larger problems.  The narrative is a hastily gathered collection of half-formed ideas that don't seem to coalesce with one another in a meaningful or satisfying way.  Among these are some very peculiar hypotheses about Hawaiian culture that suggest a certain level of unease on the part of the filmmakers about how white this movie is in contrast to pre-ordained ideas about its locale.  And Matt's oddly worded "We're the true Hawaiians!" (or something) speech at the end certainly does this assertion no favors, nor do the twee music choices throughout the film. When it comes to whiteness vs. other, The Help is clumsy, but well-meaning.  That's way more credit than I can give to The Descendants.

None of the films mentioned above are films that I no-holds-barred love, nor are they without their own unique flaws and shortcomings.  I do at least understand why people love them.  There's real craft and commitment to conceit in a lot of cases, even if I don't agree with the love.

I hold no ill-will against Alexander Payne.  I love Election and Sideways (in that order).  There are large portions of About Schmidt that really work for me.  Citizen Ruth, while not without its limitations (there are definite moments in that movie where it's clear that we're watching a first-time director) is an interesting watch.  That being said, The Descendants is unquestionably Payne's worst film to date, I'm sad to report.  I sincerely ask anyone who loves The Descendants and thinks it deserves the pedigree it has received to point me to the article that explains why.  If no such article exists, write it yourself.  Refute my points one-by-one.  I'm not being facetious.  I'm genuinely looking for a level of discussion that I'm just not seeing from people who love The Descendants and are quick to point the finger at other movies as being bastions of mediocrity that brought AMPAS down a few notches in their estimations.  I wrote this long piece, not to dump all over Payne or Clooney.  I wrote it because it seems like the most misguided thing someone could say about The Descendants, even if they are cool on it, is that it's bland, but enjoyable.  That is simply not the case.

Grade: D+

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My First (and Final) Stab at 2011 Oscar Predictions (pt. 1)

Although this year has many a pundit in a tizzy about not only which films will be nominated for the Best Picture prize, but how many.  In the first year of a fluid number of Best Picture nominees, one would expect more excitement.  For a while there, before The Artist's official frontrunner position was writ-large over the critics and many other voting bodies, it seemed like an open race.  But the die, it appears, has been cast and things will go the way of The Artist, which is what many were saying in the first place before they had any "evidence" to support the notion.  As I have stated before, I have no problems with The Artist, a film I enjoyed quite a bit.  I guess my lack of enthusiasm stems from my lack of a real dog in the eventual Best Picture race.  It wasn't a bad year for movies or even a bad year for Oscar movies, necessarily (save The Descendants...more on that later).  It was certainly a middling year for the latter.  As a cinema enthusiast, I admired Hugo well enough to grade it a "B" when I first saw it.  As time passes and I consider Scorsese's latest offering, I do find myself somewhat baffled by its prominence in this year's awards race as it is not without its significant problems, both narratively and stylistically.  At any rate, here are my predictions.

Best Picture
 1. The Artist (lock)
2. The Descendants (lock)
3. Hugo (lock)
4. The Help (probable)
5. Midnight in Paris (probable)
6. Moneyball (shaky)
7. Bridesmaids (somewhat wildcard)

Likely to Spoil: War Horse, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Tree of Life, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

As my above predictions indicate, I think we're looking at seven best picture nominees.  I am going out on a rather big limb and predicting Bridesmaids as the seventh nominee.  Before you tell me how crazy I am, consider the guild support for Bridesmaids (PGA, WGA, SAG, ACE, ADG, CDG, plus probably a few more that I'm forgetting).  It's considerably more than War Horse has gotten, so I suspect that it gets left off in a year where a film needs five percent number one votes to land a slot.  Also, this isn't the 1980s.  That's the last time Steven Spielberg was able to get into the Best Picture race without a corresponding nod for his direction.  Despite claims that AMPAS loves him, they tend to be all or nothing where he's concerned.  Regarding The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which has gotten guild nods from the big four (PGA, WGA, DGA and ACE), it's obviously a bigger threat than any of us thought.  How much of this is residual guilt for last year's about-face that turned the tide from The King's Speech to The Social Network is up for debate.  I do suspect that the guild love for Dragon Tattoo will help it, if not necessarily in Best Picture.

Best Director
1. Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist (lock)
2. Martin Scorsese - Hugo (lock)
3. Alexander Payne - The Descendants (lock)
4. Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris (probable)
5. Tate Taylor - The Help (wildcard)

Likely to Spoil: David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Bennett Miller (Moneyball), Steven Spielberg (War Horse), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

Tate Taylor is the big question mark here, which gets to the question of how much will the Academy really love The Help?  Call me crazy, but when a film has such solid guild support as The Help, it's silly to not consider it even a threat for Best Director.  Lest we forget that Marc Forster, Bill Condon and Sean Penn all got up early on Oscar nomination morning (well, maybe not Sean Penn).  Then it was Mike Leigh, Paul Greengrass and Jason Reitman who were awoken by phone calls from agents, cutting short what I'm sure they assumed would be a morning of uninterrupted sleeping in.  My point is, there are always kinks to be seen and I do have a feeling about Tate Taylor.  It may seem insane, but is there really an abundance of sound logic in instead predicting Steven Spielberg, whose film has been largely shut out by the key guilds?  Or Terrence Malick, whose film I love and who certainly engenders respect in the directing branch, but at the end of the day, may have crafted something too self-consciously esoteric for the straight-laced Academy?  Even when he somewhat surprisingly got in for The Thin Red Line, there was a corresponding DGA nod to predict it.  Plus, it's not like Malick would show up if they nominated him anyway.  Really, from where I'm sitting, David Fincher is the only one who you can justifiably put ahead of Tate Taylor in that he's in the club and has the guild support to boot.  Yes, Tate Taylor is a newbie, but if they love the film (ie. Jason Reitman's suprise nod for Juno), anything can happen.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
1. George Clooney - The Descendants (lock)
2. Jean Du Jardin - The Artist (lock)
3. Brad Pitt - Moneyball (lock)
4. Michael Fassbender - Shame (probable)
5. Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (wildcard)

Likely to Spoil: Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Demian Bichir (A Better Life)

My reasons for omitting DiCaprio, but keeping Fassbender may seem contradictory.  I'm chucking DiCaprio because his movie was so poorly reviewed and it seems so quiet right now for him.  He's hit many of the precursors thus far, but where's the heat? Where's the passion?  Michael Fassbender may seem quiet too and he did miss SAG, which might prove to be the death knell in hindsight should he miss at AMPAS.  I think Fassbender's charm, his cinematic ubiquity in 2011 combined with the performance itself puts him in for a "We're happy you're getting famous" nomination that even Academy members who neglected to pop in their Shame screeners won't feel badly about.  They already gave one of those nods to Michael Shannon back in 2008 and given the general lack of real buzz surrounding Take Shelter, I doubt they'll feel compelled to oblige him again, though many are predicting such an outcome.  Ryan Gosling had a high-profile year as well, following up his career-best performance in Blue Valentine.  In a weaker year, he'd have a shot for either Drive or The Ides of March.  Let me rephrase.  In a year where a weak performance like George Clooney's wasn't so solidly in the five, Gosling might have a chance.  But, as it stands, the top three are looking good to go and your winner will likely come from that list of names.  I'm just praying it's not Clooney.  Not just to beat up on The Descendants, but because Brad Pitt is so good and so understated in Moneyball.  And Du Jardin is so charismatic and committed in The Artist.  And (back to beating up on The Descendants for just a moment), isn't Clooney's unremarkable, autopilot, death-rattle of a performance exactly the type of turn we should avoid rewarding to an actor of his considerable talents, lest we encourage more unimaginative and facile project choices for him in the future?  Basically, I'm saying less The Descendants and Up in the Airs, more Michael Claytons, please.

Best Actress in a Leading Role 
1. Viola Davis - The Help (lock)
2. Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady (lock)
3. Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn (lock)
4. Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin (probable)
5. Rooney Mara - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (shaky)

Likely to Spoil: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Charlize Theron (Young Adult), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)

I'm very tempted to put Close in over Swinton, whose role is tricky and even fans of hers doubt that she really pulled it off.  I could also see Close replacing Mara, who is a late surge in the race, is absent from much of her movie and (rumor has it) is anything but warm and fuzzy on the press circuit.  But, Swinton stays because she's hit all the major precursors (Globes, SAG, BFCA, BAFTA and an NBR win to boot).  Also, Tilda Swinton is uber-personable, despite her seemingly impenetrably "weird" persona and a lot of people like her, even if they aren't going to rush to pop in their Kevin screeners.  If the guild support for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is going to help anyone, it's Rooney Mara.  This category rarely lacks a PYT and if it can't be Elizabeth Olsen or Kirsten Dunst, I'll predict Mara and just be glad it's not Felicity Jones (Like Crazy).  Given the at best tepid response to Albert Nobbs, I see no reason to put her in ahead of either of these women, though she could obviously get in there simply for the respect her name still commands.  The win is likely down to Davis vs. Streep.  For a while, it looked like a three woman race with Michelle Williams getting her fair share of critical citations.  After her gracious, but hardly gushing or effusive Golden Globes speech last weekend, I don't think people are eager to hand her the win just yet.  To that, I say fine.  I haven't seen My Week With Marilyn, but for an actress as interesting and versatile as Williams to go down in the history books as winning an Oscar for a Marilyn Monroe biopic seems wrong somehow.  After 2010's banner year in Best Actress (seriously, take a gander again. What a phenomenal list of performances and roles), it's a little hard to get truly excited about this lineup, however it happens to shake down.  There are really two things keeping my favorite Oscar category salvageable in terms of my own overwhelming enthusiasm.  Finally (knock on wood) seeing Swinton as a lead actress nominee without having sanded her edges to get there and that they may award Viola Davis the statue.  Kristen Wiig would certainly be an exciting, if not necessarily worthy choice.  But, since they are likely to give her a screenplay nod, that may have to suffice as her reward.  Charlize Theron really should have been more solidly in there, not just because she's so good in Young Adult, but because she's campaigned so well.  A perfect mixture of enthusiasm, gratitude and humor, without seeming desperate.   I sincerely hope that Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia) and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene) don't take the awards season cold shoulder as a sign that they should stop challenging themselves with great performances in prickly, difficult parts.  March on, ladies.  I'm in your corner.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
 1. Christopher Plummer - Beginners (lock)
2. Albert Brooks - Drive (lock)
3. Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn (lock)
4. Jonah Hill - Moneyball (probable)
5. Brad Pitt - The Tree of Life (shaky)

Likely to Spoil: Nick Nolte (Warrior), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Viggo Mortensen (The Dangerous Method)

I think this is the lineup, honestly.  Despite the fact that there has been relative fluidity in terms of the precursor rosters (give an Armie Hammer here or take an Andy Serkis there), there does seem to be lack of real spoilers who could jump into the race at this point.  Although Brad Pitt hasn't been cited for The Tree of Life anywhere, I do believe that he's always been comfortably on the outside as a just miss in many of those cases.  He is very beloved in Hollywood, as evidenced by how he always escapes unscathed in the tiredly retreaded Jolie vs. Aniston debate.  He's excellent in both The Tree of Life and Moneyball (in that order) and I'm hoping what would be a relatively surprising double-nomination is what it takes to push him ahead of George Clooney in Best Actor.  Plummer looks good on paper for a win that, despite my love for the performance and film, baffles me.  In an expanded Best Picture field, Beginners has failed to catch fire in any other category and yet Plummer is solidly in there for the trophy?  The math doesn't add up for me and I still think that Albert Brooks could upset at the end of the day.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Octavia Spencer - The Help (lock)
2. Berenice Bejo - The Artist (lock)
3. Jessica Chastain - The Help (lock)
4. Shailene Woodley - The Descendants (probable)
5. Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids (probable)

Likely to Spoil: Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and...really, not much else.  Sorry, Vanessa Redgrave.

Again, what once seemed like a wide-open race has firmed up nicely.  Spencer is looking more and more like the frontrunner for the win and the other two are locks.  Chastain hardly seems like a lock to many and I'm hearing pundits dusting off the old "vote splitting may hurt her" theory, which rarely happens in practice.  I think she's in and she's a lock for two reasons.   Firstly, despite being everywhere this year, the voting bodies have clearly rallied around The Help as the Chastain performance d'annee.  Does anyone think her work in Take Shelter, The Debt or even The Tree of Life for that matter are really going to be pulling that many votes away from the machine that is The Help?  Secondly, regarding vote-splitting with Octavia, I'm going to give you some years.  2000, 2001, 2002*, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010*.  Those are the years where two people from the same film managed to get nominated in supporting actress.  It's happened more often in the past ten years than it hasn't happened, with asterisks next to the years where one of the actresses won the trophy.  Know your history, pundits.  It's not that difficult.  Shailene will likely ride The Descendants train to a nomination, though I'd gladly give her the boot.  Would it be for Janet McTeer, whose film I haven't seen?  I can't say at this point.  Like Close, I think McTeer will suffer from the lack of enthusiasm surrounding Albert Nobbs and come up empty on nomination morning.  Since I'm predicting Bridesmaids for a Best Picture nomination, it doesn't make sense to exclude Melissa McCarthy, who even managed a BAFTA nomination.  On the outside of these six contenders are Vanessa Redgrave and Carey Mulligan, neither of which has any real shot, though I'd love to see Mulligan get in.

Coming Next: Screenplays and Other Below the Line Predictions...

A Break in Our Regulalry Scheduled Programming...Or Rather, Some Programming

The Pretentious Know it All is alive and well.  Rather than doing the usual apology about my long absence and how I fully intend to blog more regularly (which I do), let's discuss the game plan.

Firstly, I have every noble intention of completing my Best of the 2000s series.  Expect to see that in the coming weeks, as I am not merely publishing the list (as you can tell if you've been reading the one person out there who reads my blog).  It is a painstaking, albeit reward task, not just to do a write-up of one of the films from every grouping of ten on my top 100 list, but deciding which film to cover?  Oy vey.  These are my favorite films of the decade, each one in its own complicated way very near and dear to my heart and I can't wait to share more.

Secondly, the fourth annual Pretentious Film Awards (Fourth!) are fully under way.  The nominees have mostly been selected, though I still have a few films from 2011 left to watch.  Full disclosure, my list of films seen in 2011 is slightly thinner than in previous years due to factors I won't bore you with here.  I have not seen My Week With Marilyn, The Iron Lady, Carnage, Albert Nobbs, War Horse, J. Edgar or The Ides of March (though I did read the script for The Ides of March last summer).  Though each of the previous films may factor into the Oscar race, though to what degree is being hotly contested on all counts, I no huge rush to see them in order for me to cite my personal favorites.  As lazy and patently unadventurous as it sounds, nothing I've heard about any of these titles qualifies them as urgent viewing in my book, outside of their supposed awards potential. 

Conversely, there are a lot of films from 2011 that I am genuinely sad to have missed in time for this year's Pretentious Film Awards, though I do plan on viewing them as soon as possible.  For reasons, both complicated and uncomplicated, I was unable to see (in descending order of personal excitement/enthusiasm) Margaret, A Separation, Pariah, Poetry, Submarine, Attack the Block, Potiche, A Dangerous Method, Pina and Jane Eyre.  As one of my resolutions for the new year is to write more, this blog included, I will surely make every effort to watch these films and any and every film I can get my hands on and write about them year round.  You will be hearing from me.  I can assure you of that.

Thirdly (and lastly) regarding my year end film awards, be prepared for what might be the most off-consensus year I've had yet in terms of the general landscape of film awards.  Despite this blog's title, this is a rather dubious claim to fame and not one I was planning in the slightest.  Consider 2010, where my top ten list included four of the eventual Best Picture nominees (and my feelings were generally warm about the entire ten).  Regarding my list, I must reiterate again (not that film criticism should ever include "defense" of one's taste in the strictest sense of the word) that I am not, nor have I ever feinted left to go right in terms of my cinematic proclivities.  For instance, although The Artist, our probably Best Picture winner at this point, does not appear on my top ten list, I have no real objections to its eventual victory in the Oscar race.  I will delve more into these thoughts when I review most of the films I saw in 2011 over the next few days.  You'll hear me weigh in on the heavily debated politics of The Help.  You'll learn why I gave a "D+" to The Descendants, a film so seemingly innocuous that, even if it weren't your cup of tea, one wonders how anyone could ever possibly feel so passionately against it to award it such a low grade.  All will be revealed. 

So, as I often say, I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts here on this blog, which (though it has been sporadic) I'm happy to have kept up with for the past four years. 

Peace, Love and Pretension.