Monday, January 18, 2010

Avatar, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep and Awards Season So Far

I know a lot of these opinions might put me in the minority, but I'm okay with that. I'm sure at least a few people agree with me.

I should start by saying that most years, especially as I've gotten more into cinema, the films that have been recognized come awards season have gradually fallen further down on my list of personal favorites each year. In 2008, my favorite fictional film was Synecdoche, New York, which didn't even register a blip on the awards radar. For 2009, my top two films are Away We Go and Bright Star, both of which are only getting occasional mentions. As someone who is a huge fan of the awards season, especially the Oscars, this is somewhat disheartening.

I could tell from the trailer that I would not enjoy Avatar - I am typically not a fan of writer-director James Cameron's films, and the sci-fi/fantasy genre isn't my favorite either; I even put off seeing it until the day before the Golden Globes. To me, the best films in any genre are the ones that transcend genre lines. If one sci-fi/fantasy film from 2009 were to define that for me, it would be either Moon or Star Trek, not Avatar. Avatar is visually amazing, but that doesn't make up for horrible dialogue, recycled/stereotypical storylines and a soundtrack that sounds exactly like the one from Titanic. I don't see how a movie that isn't even being considered for writing or acting awards could be getting this much praise. It has also been gaining attention for cinematography and art direction, which I think is ridiculous. If awards voters and committees think the camerawork and set design is that good, it should be awarded for its animation and/or visual effects, as those were the processes through which the majority of the cinematography and art direction were created for Avatar. I could probably list about 20 movies from 2009 that deserve all of this praise more than Avatar does, but I won't get into that here.

As if the overwhelming Avatar praise wasn't enough, I knew I was in for disappointment when Sandra Bullock tied with Meryl Streep for Best Actress at the Critics' Choice Awards. Bullock, at her best, which she very well may be in The Blind Side, is a very entertaining actress. Whether it's her comedic timing in films like The Proposal or her overdramatic moments in films like The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, she knows how to perform. As far as invoking any other emotional response than laughter (which comes and goes), she still has not entirely proven that she can do that (to me). She does a good job in The Blind Side, but her performance does not outweigh those of Carey Mulligan in An Education, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria and a few others from 2009.

"T Bone" Streep's Golden Globes Best Actress (Comedy or Musical) acceptance speech said it all - she's worried that she's being recognized as a great woman because of all the great women she's played throughout her career. I would definitely say that Streep is a great actress, but over the last few years, it's seemed like the people who decide all the awards nominations and winners have gone a bit overboard. Julie & Julia would not even begin to make my top 10 list for 2009, and I don't think it even made that many overall. Outside of Streep's performance and Best Actress nominations, the film isn't getting much overwhelming praise. This year, the Streep-mania has also extended to It's Complicated, which is entertaining, but not much more. Writer-director Nancy Meyers is capable of making well-crafted romantic comedies, and this isn't even her best work (Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday).

I guess what it all boils down to is this: just because people go and see a film in mass doesn't mean it's good. If you saw Avatar and thought it was an overblown spectacle, don't be afraid to say it. If you saw The Blind Side and thought it was just another cliched inspirational-type movie, don't be afraid to say that. If there's a critically-acclaimed actor or actress that you think is undeserving of the loads of praise he or she is receiving, don't be afraid to say that either. Who knows, the actor or actress might even agree with you.


Adam said...

Just because people go and see a film in mass doesn't mean it's not good either. Don't let yourself be blinded by a films success. I think Avatar won all the awards it did because it took the audience on a wonderfully enjoyable and visually stunning voyage and to me, that's what great film-making is about.

Catherine Krummey said...

I'm not blinded by its success; I'm just frustrated that, especially this year, smaller and (in my opinion) better films are getting overlooked. Everyone's entitled to their own opinions - that was the main thing I was trying to say, especially in the last paragraph.

Renae Lindsay said...

I agree with you on Avatar. I won't even go see it because I'm not fond of Fantasy movies and I'll wait until I can see it on demand. As for Sandra, I love her and her demeanor and goodness is hard to overlook. I have not seen her academy award movie but plan on it.

Merryl is right!

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