Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why I Like the Oscars

I watched Frozen River last week because Melissa Leo is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. In truth, I had forgotten about this movie. I had read the review when it first came out and thought, oh I should watch that. Time went by and I forgot until the Oscar nominations came out.

What a powerful movie. I lamented in an earlier blog about the scarcity of strong female roles in films and then I saw Frozen River which has two strong female characters. I was amazed at the power of the film and so glad to see it up for two Oscars (Best Screenplay as well, also by a woman). Had it not been nominated, I might have missed it.

Coincidentally, while I was thinking about this blog post, I read an article in the New York Times praising the lesser known nominees. Speaking about Ms. Leo's nomination, David Carr writes:
Playing the lead in a film about people on the edges of culture and
country, Ms. Leo brought dignity to the struggle of those who live in trailer
parks we pass on the way to somewhere else.

That quote made me realize how much I thought about that film after watching it. How would I survive? Would I break the law as well? It presented the struggle for survival in such human terms. I mean, I saw Milk, and loved it but most people who watch Milk, already support gay rights. How many minds did it change? Did people think about that film for days after? Well, I guess I did think about Sean Penn's great acting.

Another great film that has a Best Actor nomination is The Visitor with Richard Jenkins. It too deals with people on the edges. It's quietness belies its powerful portrait of humans trying to connect. And again, had it not been nominated, I might have missed it.

It's happened in the past for me as well. I thought Pan's Labyrinth would win Best Foreign Language Film at the 2006 Oscars. And first, I have to say that Pan's Labyrinth is a wonderful film. My friend cals the movie, note perfect and she has a point. But The Lives of Others took home the prize. So I decided I should watch it. It blew me away.

So, yeah, this year, the buzz is all about Mickey Rourke's comback, Brad Pitt aging backwards, Heath Ledger's untimely demise, and of course, the Slumdog who took home Millions. And I'm going to be right there on Sunday night watching the festivities and joining in the fun (and blogging live). But if you listen hard enough, you'll hear the whispers of a few gems the Academy was smart enough to uncover for us.

And since no good movies come out this time of year, I recommend checking out Frozen River and The Visitor, you won't be sorry.

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