Capsule reviews: Nominees ’10

Before I say anything I want to point out I am aware that I’m late on these but I did just see them. This is by no means a complete list of the 10 Best Picture nominees (I’ve yet to see all 10) but this past weekend I crammed in 3 of them and had a few thoughts to share.

District 9

A gripping tale of the racially divided city of Johannesburg, South Africa with a twist! When a giant  spaceship filled with refugee aliens appears in the sky above Jo’burg, the South Africans do what they do best- ghettoize them! ( I tease, but the comparisons between the human/alien conflict and the various racial tensions that the South Africans have been dealing with for decades are far too clear) First-time actor Sharlto Copley plays Wikus van der Merwe, a company nice guy who, through an act of nepotism, gets put in charge of relocating the Aliens from their current slum District 9 to the newly created District 10, a concentration camp-like place where the aliens can be both out of sight and out of mind for the populace. But when Wikus becomes a wanted man only the residents of District 9 can help him.

Filled with phenomenal effects, a moving and exciting story and an amazing debut from Copley, “District 9” is a wonderful film that shows the dark side of humanity while also showing that humanity isn’t a solely human concept. A

The Hurt Locker

The newly minted 82nd Best Picture is a tough movie for me. While it’s good, well acted, and wonderfully directed (by Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman EVER to win a Best Director Oscar) “The Hurt Locker” is at it’s core a war movie. It doesn’t particularly break new ground in the war genre, nor does it really say  anything new about war. What it does do is reinforce the “war is hell” motif while emphasizing war as a different experience for all involved. The story is secondary really to the reactions of the 3 main characters. As the film unfolds, all three (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty) begin to show cracks in different ways and we find for one, war may in fact be his crack. Revolving around the last rotation of an elite army bomb squad, “The Hurt Locker” is well worth watching but the hype around it baffles me. Was it the best picture of the year? Maybe or maybe not but it is extremely well done. As a side note, while Jeremy Renner was good as the leader of the squad, his co-stars were robbed of nominations as their emotional journeys were well rounded, believable, and phenomenally well performed. B+

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s fantastic WWII fairy tale is a witty, fun, and intense ride. The fact that the history doesn’t hold up is secondary to how much fun the movie is. Tarantino’s signature style of long dialogue-heavy scenes unspool as we meet the extremely disparate characters: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) the leader of a Nazi-killing army made up of Jewish soldiers who gleefully slaughter any enemies they encounter (in full Tarantino-esque violence-porn glory), Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz in an AMAZING performance) a brutally effective detective, and Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) as a Jewish escapee and movie theater owner who comes to the attention of an up-and-coming Nazi propaganda star (Daniel Brühl) and formulates a plan to take down the party.

Tarantino has a very specific sense of humor and film-making style. His films are not for everyone, but the performances alone make this gleefully deranged film worth a watch. A


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