Every year AMC theaters present a special back-to-back showing of all five Oscar-nominated movies. Today was the day of this cinematic marathon. Now, this is one of those things that sound better in your mind than in practice. When Small N and Hui first told me about it (apparently everyone in L.A. knows about this), I thought it was a great deal ($30 pass for 5 movies) and really looked forward to seeing all the movies. However, as the event drew closer, excitement gradually wore off and both AK and I started dreading the day. After spending 12+ hours in the same cinema in Cupertino, in front of the same annoying couple who could not stop commenting on the movies, we decided that this was the first and last year we will commit to this event.
Luckily for us, we had already seen the first movie, Michael Clayton, so after securing our seats we were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch at nearby Fresh Choice. That still left us with 4 movies, separated by 10-minute intervals, with only a 45-minute intermission at 7:00 p.m. (we arrived at 11:00 a.m.). In preparation for dinner, we packed two sandwiches, two bottles of Snapple, one large bag of seedless grapes and one bag of Sun Chips – all into my purse. (Side note: The older I get, the more I start picking up behavioral patterns from my mother.) While the Oscar showing included free popcorns all day, we just could not imagine eating that as a meal. In fact, the mere thought of popcorn is turning my stomach right now.
So, what’s the verdict on the movies? Here are some of my immediate reactions, in the order of the showing:
Michael Clayton (A-): Despite the predictable premise (thanks to John Grisham, there has been an onslaught of legal thrillers in the last 10 years about taking down evil corporations), the movie is surprisingly non-formulaic in its character portrayal and development. George Clooney, whom I have always thought of as a competent though not stellar actor, exceeded my expectations and delivered a gritty performance. Although it is not necessarily a deep movie, it gave the audience a different twist on the genre. As a testament to its staying power, the film was just as enjoyable when we watched it the second time around (though only in segments). I definitely recommend it.
There Will Be Blood (B+): This movie is very gritty and at times violent, but as usual Daniel Day-Lewis pulled off an amazing performance that is both powerful and engaging, in the role of a unscrupulous self-made oil tycoon (I am, however, waiting for him to play more gentle roles in the future). Despite several tender moments (mostly between father and son), there just was not enough emotional traction for me to love this movie (and Daniel Day-Lewis’ character is too psychotic to be identified with). However, I would give it a very solid recommendation. AK really liked it, probably more than me.
Atonement (B/B+): I usually love epic stories and historical backdrops, and this movie certainly had a lot of promise. However, it somehow didn’t quite deliver what it promised. The lovers played by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy had sizzling chemistry, and the sweeping views of the idyllic English countryside and portrait of lives marked by wealth and privilege contrasted sharply with the later haunting scenes of the war and tragedy. Ultimately, the movie under-delivers, and I was left extremely unsatisfied even though it was a beautiful film. Without giving the plot away, I felt mislead by the title. It’s well-directed movie, but I thought the ending was flawed and somewhat weak.
Juno (A): I expected to dislike this movie, largely because there has been so much hype. Many people compared it to Little Miss Sunshine, which I thought was decent but nothing great (as my co-worker calls this type of movie, “Sundance-y”). The one clip that they showed in the trailers, about how in China babies just get shot out of t-shirt guns, also annoyed me because it was not funny and bordered on being offensive. Having now seen the movie, I really like it. The clip in the trailer was in line with the caustic humor of the title character, and underneath the sarcasm there was a lot of tenderness. Highly recommended, despite the hype.
No Country for Old Men (B-): I don’t understand this movie or why it has been critically acclaimed. The initial story line was tightly wound, and I expected all the characters to come together at the end, similar to a Crash-type ending. But along the way the story meandered, and we left wondering what the point of the movie was (I know that not all movies need to have a point, but for a plot-driven movie it was odd the way it wrapped up the loose ends, many of which are still unanswered). There were some good tense parts, especially with the hunting of Josh Brolin’s character who absconded with $2 million of drug money.
That’s all, folks! At least for tonight. Gotta get some sleep for the Oscar viewing party we are hosting tomorrow.