Extremely Loud…and Incredibly Close…to Best Picture????

(And a Few Semi-Random Musings) 

While there are some touching moments in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Soer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, courtesy of Sandra Bullock and Jeffrey Wright. The problem is it takes about two hours to get there, trapped in the company of an extremely—shall we say talkative-ten year old protagonist Oskar Schell.

After his father (Tom Hanks, in warm support mode) perishes at the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, a withdrawn Oskar shuts himself off from his mother (Ms. Bullock), stumbles onto a key among his father’s belongings and goes on an extended search throughout the five boroughs, hoping to find the fitting lock , keep the memory of his father alive-and perhaps make some sense of the cataclysmic events. Naturally, this quest leads to encounters with all sorts of characters-the one clue in Oskar’s search is the name Black on the envelope with the key-and while the young Thomas Horn handles his nonstop dialogue/running monologue well, for all intents and purposes, the character is rather difficult to care about, since Oskar’s incessant chatter (not to mention his cruel behavior towards his surviving mom) became annoying after the first half-hour—or when I first started looking at my watch (it doesn’t relieve matters that his scene partner is a not-so-mysterious mute played by Max Von Sydow—more about him later). In the end, some lovely supporting turns from Hanks, Bullock (underutilized but registering as the loving, anguished mother), and Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright as an estranged couple nearly save the day—but not quite.

Some more thoughts included for no particular reason, other than it’s Oscar season…

If the Academy is going to have nine nominees, why not have ten and include perhaps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?

Forgot to mention two films (at least) on my “Favorites” list: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is atmospheric, well-paced, and features a striking performance from Rooney Mara as the resourceful, troubled girl of the title. She makes me want to see the sequels. I also enjoyed Crazy, Stupid, Love, especially for the comedic interplay between Steve Carell as a separated husband rediscovering his mojo, and Ryan Gosling as Carell’s confident, handsome mentor on the dating scene.

Albert Brooks with his brilliant, realistic turn as a lethal mobster in Drive –was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination–but who would he have replaced had events been different? My nominee would be Mr. Von Sydow. I know Mr. Von Sydow couldn’t help being nominated, but his performance consists mainly of a) being quiet, and b) looking vaguely troubled. It’s true that he carries this off well—but it’s mainly one-note throughout It’s a one-note mute performance. If the Academy is going to nominate him, they might as well have nominated Bela Lugosi in 1956 for The Black Sleep, fresh out of rehab and playing—a mute!