Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominations

The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. Surprisingly I've actually seen 4 of the 10 nominees for Best Picture -- Avatar, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, and Up in the Air.

I've already reviewed Avatar on here. I liked it visually, but the story wasn't that original. Considering there are two movies here where humans turn into aliens, anybody would admit District 9 was a lot more compelling. Also grimy and gruesome, whereas Avatar was shiny and glowed in the dark. I mean, if you can make our hearts break over the misfortune of a pointy prawn eating canned cat food you have really done something. Avatar had a challenge about like how to make a pre-teen girl squeal over a basket of puppies. Hollywood being as shallow as it is, though, District 9 doesn't stand a chance.

Inglourious Basterds was also gruesome. The bad guy in it was more complex than the bad guy in Avatar. Col. Hans Landa was obsequious and sneaky. And Christoph Waltz who played him is up for a Supporting Actor Oscar for that. The bad guy in Avatar is so one dimensional they put scars on him just so you knew the instant he was onscreen he was going to be the bad guy. Col. Landa got worse and worse as the story progressed.

The only other actors nominated from Best Picture choices were from Up in the Air. Actor for George Clooney, and Supporting Actress for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Considering that covers the three people who were on the screen the most, they're pretty much saying that movie had good acting. The director and screenplay were also nominated.

I saw Up in the Air on Saturday. I went by myself, which would be symbolism or foreshadowing if this were fiction. I didn't really know anything about this movie ahead of time. One of my internet friends told me I should go see it. Afterwards he told me he thought about me a lot when he was watching it. No doubt. It's the story of my life. Only they used a setting that films better. Instead of living alone in the woods the main character lives alone in hotel rooms all over the place. Instead of writing a blog about being a hermit he gives motivational speeches about escaping the confines of material responsibility and personal relationships. They cause unnecessary conflict. He toys with the idea of trading simplicity for companionship. That emotionally wrenching failure renews his conviction that personal connections aren't worth it.

Some people enjoy emotional highs and lows. They can integrate the area under the curve subconsciously I suppose, and perceive their daily life as a positive experience. Ryan Bingham, George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, is overexposed to the severe emotional low part of life since his job is firing people. This probably makes him extra motivated to limit the risk of anything traumatic ever happening to him.

The scenes of people losing their job made me extremely grateful that I laid myself off from my last job with an email and never had to talk to anybody face to face about it. Most of the characters in Up in the Air who got laid off reacted with worries about what effect it would have on their family respecting them or their ability to pay bills. Through no small effort I have arranged a life that no longer has those issues. I no longer have a mortgage or debt to pay down. My existence has little or no impact on anybody else. I don't get to share anybody's good days or bad days, nor do they share mine. I have established a baseline of emotion that is right on the edge of being overstimulated. I've actually had this measured by doctors. The reflex tests show that the least stimulation pushes me over the threshold for extreme response. I am like a guitar amplifier that is already turned up to 11. If the guitar is played too hard there will be clipping.

My last job I did all by myself. I spent the day alone in a truck inspecting construction on the beach. I did my reports on my computer at home and emailed them in. I did that for about 6 months as a consultant after the full time person quit suddenly. When the organization filled that job with another full time person I emailed my boss back at the engineering company to let him know. He never answered me. I emailed him they wanted me to train the new person for 2 weeks, then that was it. What did he want me to do after that? He never answered that either. So on the day after I finished training the new person I emailed human resources that I had not been told where to report to work, and informed them Friday had been my last day on the job. I went online and signed up for unemployment and when they called the HR person she told them I had indeed been laid off. Easy. Zero interpersonal conflict. HR sent me the ubiquitous packet in the mail. I didn't have to go home and break bad news to anybody. It was a non-event.

So I understand what Ryan Bingham is up to in this movie. I'm not sure you can sell this idea to other people though. I think you either come to it on your own or you don't. Watching the live chat about the Oscar Nominations on the NPR Monkey See blog I saw the moderator Linda Holmes say, "I liked the beginning of Up in the Air, but after a while, it lost me." She also seems to have loved Up, which I refuse to see on account of it being assuredly sentimental. I hate sentimental. (My aunt saw Up accidentally and said it was terrible. Since we got up and walked out of a movie together once I believe we're on the same page. It was one where a woman trained a gorilla to serve hors d'oeuvres. Unwatchable.) I saw part of Up during the iPad announcement and I thought it was saccharine as hell. So I'm guessing people who go for that kind of positive message just can't even wrap their head around the concept of intentionally limiting personal relationships to reduce the occurrence of betrayal. Well take it from me, Linda Holmes. It's a real thing.

On that note I bet the only person from Up In The Air who will win an award is possibly Vera Farmiga who played the character who was having it both ways, complicated and responsible and simple with no attachments.

I don't think George Clooney is a sure thing just because I saw a review of Crazy Heart last night on The Rotten Tomatoes Show on hulu.com. According to that Jeff Bridges is going to be tough to beat. The Rotten Tomatoes Show is a very good movie review show. You should check it out if you haven't already.


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