Sunday, March 10, 2024

Oscar the grouch

So Oppenheimer was the big winner, taking home Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and a couple of technical awards. I saw that one when it came out, but mostly because I'm a sucker for historical films on topics that interest me. I wasn't terribly impressed by the movie, and have no desire to see it again, and that's largely because it tried too hard to be Big and Impressive, probably the very qualities that endeared it to the Academy voters.

As I wrote at the time, it's a Christopher Nolan Auditorily Obnoxious Special. Except when making a speech or giving testimony, Cillian Murphy mumbles to show how diffident Oppenheimer is. Only about half of what he says is audible. Meanwhile Nolan blasts you with the subwoofers any excuse he can, from the sound of nuclear bombs exploding to the sounds of an applauding audience stomping its feet on stadium bleachers. They're equally loud.

I've seen two other of the Best Picture nominees: Maestro (7 nominations, no wins), which I was lured to for the same reason I saw Oppenheimer, and which was impressively made but is so focused on its subject's personal life that it's of no possible interest to anyone who isn't fascinated by Leonard Bernstein as a person; and The Holdovers (5 nominations, 1 win for Supporting Actress), an intensely feel-good movie about the redemption of a curmudgeon, so much so that even the sour ending feels feel-good. I'm not inclined to see either of those again soon either.

I saw Nyad, which didn't get a Best Picture nomination but did get two acting nominations, which I thought well-deserved. I had no interest in the subject matter and tend to feel that a feat like that depicted here is pointless. Yet I enjoyed this movie more than any of the above.

Strangely, I have seen a couple other winners in the category of "not really candidates for Best Picture," because they showed up for free online. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Best Live Action Short) is a highly stylized film in a style I enjoy, captivating though the plot doesn't make much sense. The Last Repair Shop (Best Documentary Short), however, is a strangely unsatisfactory film though adequately watchable. The topic is a musical instrument repair shop which services the instruments given by the LA school district to its students. Interviews with repair personnel telling their inspiring life stories are intercut with students testifying to how much they appreciate their instruments, but there is hardly any music played. At one point a student plays a few bars of Beethoven on the piano, but the camera is focused on her head, pulling down to the keyboard only just as she stops. I'm not sure what to make of the repairers, either, especially the one who claims to have once been a major success as a bluegrass fiddler. Count me skeptical of his importance once I found that his group has no entry in Wikipedia. And he doesn't say anything about how, in that case, he wound up with a lowly job in musical repair, still less why he's working on wind instruments and not violins.

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