Perhaps you’re sitting home right now, wondering which February release not to see…or you might be consulting the list of Oscar nominees to determine which you should see before Oscar night. Then again, you may just want to catch up on some nice things you (and Oscar) might have missed.
There are several movies that were overlooked by Oscar…and a number of overrated films that really have no business playing with the other nominees. Here in no particular order are some of the overlooked—and the overrated.
The Deep Blue Sea: A beautifully done, haunting drama set in a ravaged post-war England. Rachel Weisz is heartbreaking as an unhappy wife with a patient, supportive husband (fine work from Simon Russell Beale) and a handsome, troubled ex-RAF pilot lover (Tom Hiddleston). Given a limited release despite plenty of praise for the lead performers and the director Terence Davies, this moving drama deserves another look. The DVD also contains an extra that amounts to a master class on directing by the eloquent Mr. Davies.
Arbitrage: Richard Gere deserved an Oscar nod for his role as a titan of industry whose personal and professional lives are on a parallel track toward disgrace, ruination…and worse. Literate, taut, and witty, and with strong supporting turns from Stuart Margolin and Nate Parker, this could have been a contender with a bigger push.
Seven Psychopaths: It made roughly $13.00 (mine) at the box office-but one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year. A dognapping gone awry results in a whole lot of inspiration and trouble for blocked screenwriter Colin Farrell. Amidst the dark humor and the violence is a bittersweet tale of friendship and redemption. Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell deserve special kudos.
Bernie: School of Rock’s director Richard Linklater and star Jack Black reunited for a true-life tale of a mortician/community theatre star and all around good egg who enjoys a special rapport with many of his town’s older populace…especially an embittered wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine. All is delightful for a while until she becomes too possessive—and he snaps. Funny, observant, with incisive, amusing cameos from townspeople who knew the real-life characters involved. As the goodhearted mortician and town confidant, Jack Black is superb. Matthew McConaghey continues his career resurgence as a folksy, crafty district attorney. Oddly underseen….rent it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: An emotionally scarred high school freshman finds a niche with some fellow troubled high school misfits and manages to find some happiness, while enduring some hard lessons along the way. Works on many levels (including a subplot that wallops you at the end). Stephen Chbolsky adapted his own novel and did a fine directorial job, aided by some winning performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson–and Paul Rudd as a sympathetic English teacher.
The Life of Pi: Lovely to look at, but 11 nominations? Young man who calls himself Pi (for various reasons) endures some school bullying while his parents own their own zoo. Their decision to sell the zoo results in an ocean voyage, followed by a fierce storm –and a lot of time alone on a raft with a CGI tiger. Visually stunning but overlong and with a twist that threatens whatever enjoyment you may have had of the preceding 115 minutes.
Amour: Bleak, bleak and more bleak. Don’t enter the theater with any sharp objects…you may be tempted to use them on yourself after it’s done. This stark tale of an elderly couple, one of whom is succumbing to Alzheimer’s is depressing without necessarily being moving, as the cold, clinical nature of the framing tends to hold off any true emotional involvement. Doesn’t really say anything we didn’t know before…life can be cruel, adult children are often no help, getting old stinks…Performances are good, but Best Picture…and Best Foreign Picture? That’s two undeserved nominations….doesn’t fill me with Amour for the nominating process.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Truly the most overrated movie of the year. I know the film has many champions…perhaps they were beguiled by the juvenile lead….however when you come right down to it, what do you have? A drunken, abusive, irresponsible parent with a wild child immersed in a lifestyle of pure squalor that is threatened by nature in the form of a massive storm…and the viewer is supposed to want these characters to survive and retain their previous mode of existence. Oh yes, the father realizes he is dying and wants…in his own nebulous way, to be able to get by on her own. Many undeserved nominations (I’m including the girl…endearing as she might be, her range is limited…watch it again if you disagree). The music, interestingly enough, did not get a nomination, though it should have, as it is the only element that almost convinces you that the end is triumphant.