Friday, July 29, 2005

Christmas in July

I've chronicled my drop in moviegoing here several times, along with the rationale--watching at home is a better, cheaper experience, allowing us more control, fewer unwanted interruptions, and the opportunity to make good use of the widescreen TV and surround sound system we splurged on last year. The disadvantage is this: I had no real knowledge of the contenders for the Academy Awards when they were announced this spring and no opinion about who should win. But I have one now!

In the last week we've watched Million Dollar Baby, Hotel Rwanda, and Being Julia. The former won Best Picture, and deservingly so--it fired on every cylinder, from the writing to the music to the sublime acting. But the latter two were mostly scorned by the Academy--Don Cheadle and Sophie Okenodo were nominated for acting awards for HR and Annette Bening was nominated for BJ, but the films were otherwise overlooked. That's too bad. Having seen all five of the BP nominees, I'd have slotted HR into that list; surely it was more deserving than one of the following four films: The Aviator, Ray, Sideways, or Finding Neverland. I'd have replaced that last one, which seemed a bit overpraised to me.

In any case, if you didn't see either of these movies because their lack of nominations left you feeling less-than-compelled, take my advice: See them anyway. Hotel Rwanda is devastating, yes, and it might make you ashamed to be an American, or a white person, or both. (I actually said "White people are terrible" at one point during the film, and I'm pretty white myself.) Being Julia will rescue you from the heaviness of HR, offering you Bening at her bitchy best, as transcendant as she was in American Beauty but with a bigger, better role that she simply owns. There's clearly a bit of Bening poured into the performance--throwaway lines about there being no parts for older women because the writers are all men, for instance, clearly resonate with her--and the movie burns bright because of it. Plus, who can resist a movie with Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon, AKA the new Dumbledore? The last ten minutes are beyond belief.


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