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Oscar-nominated movies less violent, dark this year

By Rita R. Robison

In the last three years that I’ve been writing about the Academy Award nominated movies on this blog, I’ve had to watch a lot of violent and/or dark movies.

I sat through “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Dark Knight,” “District 9,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “A Serious Man,” “Black Swan,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Town,” “True Grit,” “Animal Kingdom,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inception,” “Iron Man 2,” “Salt,” and “127 Hours.”

I’ve complained about how Hollywood misses a real opportunity to tell meaningful stories about things that matter to people rather than throwing new violent terrible things on the big screen.

This year’s movies are better. Here are my picks:

Best Picture: “Hugo.” A fantastic story, although 3D wasn’t needed. It’s a movie you can take your kids to.

Actor in a Leading Role: George Clooney in “The Descendants” and Brad Pitt in “Moneyball.” Although we’ve seen these two actors many times, they both gave excellent performances in these two great movies, which were actually about something interesting. However, I did wonder during the movie about Clooney playing a man of Hawaiian descent.

Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady.” Strep gave in outstanding performance in this movie about the controversial political figure, Margaret Thatcher.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Jonah Hill in “Moneyball.” Hill was convincing in the role of an economic whiz who pioneered applying money strategy to baseball. Christopher Plummer in “Beginners” also was nominated, but I thought the movie was disjointed.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, both in “The Help.” This movie about how black maids were treated in the 1960s was top notch.

Cinematography: “Hugo.” “The Tree of Life” also was nominated. I didn’t get its plot. I had to read a summary on Wikipedia to get the main plot points. It’s interesting that Brad Pitt, who I didn’t recognize with his 1950s haircut until a quarter of the way through the movie, and Sean Penn were involved in this abstract offering.

Directing. Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.” Both super films.

Film Editing. Thelma Schoonmaker for “Hugo.” I didn’t like “The Artist” at all. A silent film today just doesn’t do it for me.

Makeup. Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for “The Iron Lady.” I thought the makeup artists did a good job making Meryl Strep look like Margaret Thatcher.

Music (Original Score). Alberto Iglesias for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” I liked the movie. It was slow in the beginning, which I thought was a more accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a spy rather than the car chases and explosions so often offered by today’s movies. My friend, who saw the original with Alex Guinness, said it was better. I plan to get it from the library.

Visual Effects. “Hugo.” A period film set in a historical train, the visual effects were stunning.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay). Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for “Moneyball.” The economics of baseball were vividly presented.

Writing (Original Screenplay). No pick. “Bridesmaids” was a terrible movie. It had jokes about bodily functions, which you see usually in male-oriented movies. About the events in one firm leading up to the stock market crash in 2008, “Margin Call” was a very slow movie. I kept watching it to see something exciting. It didn’t happen. I liked Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” It’s a cute story about a writer who goes back in time and meets famous authors. However, I don’t think the movie warrants an Academy Award for the best screenplay of the year. Then there’s “The Artist.” How can a silent film win the award for the best written screenplay?

All in all, the movies I saw were a better offering than those in the last few years.

Copyright 2012, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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