REVIEW: Biutiful

4 06 2011

Some people would call “Biutiful” a terribly depressing movie, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.  Sure, Javier Bardem’s Uxbal endures a great deal of pain and suffers immensely; however, in order for a movie to be depressing, it needs to make you feel depressed.  And as far as I’m concerned, it’s impossible to feel anything while watching “Biutiful”.

Alejando González Iñárritu’s film numbs more than just your butt with its two-and-a-half hour runtime (and manages to feel a lot longer); it numbs your soul with its bleakness and complete lack of sentimentality.  You’re much more likely to die of boredom while watching it than feel depressed.  I don’t have a problem with melancholy movies, but I want to be moved and filled with emotion.  By the time “Biutiful” was over, I found myself wondering if I had the ability to feel at all.

Iñárritu’s script is surely the kind that needs to make a massive appeal to pathos in order to make its grim plot watchable.  Uxbal is struck with terminal cancer, which is horrible even for people who are at peace with their life.  He isn’t.  Heavily involved in the Barcelona underworld with very unethical practices and struggling to be a father to his children and a husband to his bipolar wife, there’s a lot of unfinished business he has to attend to before he can buy the farm.

It’s a truly wrenching experience that only a sadist would undergo after reading this review; if you like dental surgery without novocaine, then this might be the best movie you’ll ever see!  It’s not even worth it to see another Oscar nominated performance by Javier Bardem – just go watch “No Country for Old Men” again.  An interminable movie about a man with a terminal illness makes for a brutal irony and an even more brutal watch.  D

“Biutiful” Poll Results

19 01 2011

Javier Bardem got a BAFTA nomination for “Biutiful!”  That’s just about his first significant mention of the year!  Perhaps all is not lost on the horse Julia Roberts has vocally and publicly backed.

BAFTA has more crossover voters with the Oscars than ever, and a nomination here probably means more than a Golden Globe nomination (sorry, Ryan Gosling/Mark Wahlberg).  But will the 2007 Best Supporting Actor be nominated for an Academy Award?  Survey says…

Yes!  Both voters (both as in there were only two) thought that Bardem would get a nomination.  My predictions (basically final) will be announced on Friday, and don’t expect to see Bardem in there.  But the BAFTA nomination was a big boost, and I’m definitely taking him more seriously as a contender thanks to it.

Oscar Moment: “Biutiful”

21 11 2010

There are two things going for “Biutiful” going into awards season – well, two names, really.  Javier Bardem and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Bardem, winner of the 2007 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “No Country for Old Men,” has the respect to get into a crowded Best Actor category.  I can’t say he’s a threat for anything due to this year’s “Eat Pray Love,” but he’s been in the Academy’s consciousness for a decade now (Bardem was nominated for Best Actor in 2000 for his work on “Before Night Falls”).  He could definitely be a strong contender to take a trophy in the Leading Actor category, the more prestigious of the two male acting awards.

Bardem already has one nice award in 2010 for this role, the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival back in May.  He tied for the award with an Italian actor, but that does not detract from this huge honor.  Last year’s winner was Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds,” and after receiving that prize, he steamrolled all the way to an Oscar.  However, you have to go back to 1987 to find the previous time when the opinions of the Cannes jury matched up with the Academy on actors.  So while this will undoubtedly help Bardem, it’s not the end of the race as we know it.

Alejandro González Iñárritu is also an Academy force.  In 2006, he was the first Mexican director ever to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Director for his work on “Babel.”  His other two movies, “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams,” both received Academy Award nominations.  His work is clearly respected by the voters, although given how 2010 is shaping up, he’s going to need a minor miracle to get into the 2010 field for Best Director.

“Biutiful” is Mexico’s selection for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, which is where the movie will have its best chance outside of Bardem.  It’s not often that the category gets work from well-known directors, and such movies usually manage at least a nomination.  This will make it tough for “Biutiful” to garner a Best Picture nomination since the Academy mindset has largely been dismissive of foreign films since they have their own category.  Only eight foreign language movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture, two of which came in the past decade.  However, with the nomination of “Up” last year, the voters don’t seem to let the Best Animated Feature category hold them back.  It may only be a matter of time before foreign films get their time in the sun.

Plus, on a closing note, this movie looks DEPRESSING.  The Academy has turned away from really bleak fare recently, and the plot of “Biutiful” centers around a dying man trying to make peace with some of the loose ends in his life.  Judging from this review by Variety‘s Justin Chang, this doesn’t feel like their cup of tea.

“… less invested in themes of fate and convergence than his previous work, this gritty, slow-burning melodrama nonetheless offers a very long descent into a private purgatory, and its scant emotional rewards can’t shake off the sense of a prodigiously gifted filmmaker stuck in a grim rut.”

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film


What To Look Forward To in … December 2010

15 11 2010

Hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the last month of 2010!  Enjoy the movies now, because soon Hollywood will be offering us its scraps.  We have an interesting December slate peppered with Oscar contenders and blockbusters, so it makes for an interesting mix.  Let’s get started at our look!

December 3

I’ve already seen “Black Swan” (mwahaha), and you need to see it.  Not for the faint at heart, I must warn.

FINALLY opening after being shuffled from preview post to preview post is “I Love You Phillip Morris,” the racy comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers.  It’s changed release dates so many times, in fact, that I’m not going to write anything about it just in case I jinx it.  Also opening is “The Warrior’s Way,” which looks to potentially play “Norbit” for Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar chances.  And “All Good Things” looks like a jumbled mess that might be worth checking out on video if for no other reason than to see Kristen Wiig’s first major dramatic turn.  If you really need a Christmas movie, check out no-name distributor Freestyle’s release of “The Nutcracker” in 3D with Dakota Fanning’s sister and Nathan Lane!

Also in limited release is a documentary on Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former Prime Minister of Pakistan, called “Bhutto.”  I think she would be a fascinating subject, and I sure hope it comes to Houston.

December 10

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” looks to undo the disastrous effects of Disneyfication on C.S. Lewis’ classic series.  After “Prince Caspian,” the series needs a strong recovery.  Here’s to hoping the venture with Fox can do it.

As for “The Tourist,” I like anything with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  This could be a totally formulaic thriller, but it’s Christmas and I have time to see whatever.

For all those interested in having Julia Taymor’s bad trips mess with their mind, “The Tempest” opens in limited release this Friday.  The weekend also brings us “The Company Men” with Ben Affleck, which tackles the issue of unemployment in America.  Unfortunately, the zeitgeist movie market has pretty much been cornered with “The Social Network,” so it’s going to take a backseat.  “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” also heads your way in limited release, yet even with the big name expatriate author out in front, this still doesn’t excite me in the slightest.

Oh, and opening limited this weekend and wide December 17 is a little movie called “The Fighter.”  It just stars a few no-names like Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.  It’s kind of got some minor buzz, so it could be worth checking out.  (Note the sarcasm.)

December 17

How Do You Know” is my top mainstream pick for December.  The combination of the light dramedy of James L. Brooks with stars like Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson is just endlessly appealing to me.

I feel like the jury is still out on what will become of “Tron: Legacy.”  It’s sure going to be a visual effects phenomenon worth my IMAX money, but is it going to be any good?  Quality doesn’t seem to shine through the numerous trailers.  Maybe it’s some ’80s child thing I don’t get.

I’ve also seen “Rabbit Hole,” and it is more than worth your time and money in the busy Oscar bait season.  Nicole Kidman is astounding.  Also in the indie spectrum, Kevin Spacey stars in the late George Hickenlooper’s “Casino Jack,” a story of big influence on Capitol Hill.  Expect the two-time Oscar winner to hit out of the park as usual.

In case your family was looking to fill the void that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” left in the holiday season, Warner Bros. has quite a treat in store for you with “Yogi Bear!”

December 22

As for big name, sure-fire Oscar bait, it doesn’t get much better than the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit.”  It’s the perfect holiday movie that is totally not for the holiday season.

For more shoddy kids’ entertainment, you could also check out “Gulliver’s Travels” if you think that a non-animated Jack Black still has the capability to be funny.  I don’t think he does, to be honest.  As for “Little Fockers,” I don’t want to ruin whatever jokes the movie has up its sleeve by watching the trailer.  Who knows, there could be few to be had.

In limited release, moody hipster Sofia Coppola has a new movie, “Somewhere,” to totally disrupt the mood of your holiday season.  There’s also Gwenyth Paltrow in “Crazy Heart” — I mean, “Country Strong.”  More on that when it opens wide in January.

I’ve been hearing good things all year about “The Illusionist,” an animated movie about a magician, NOT the Edward Norton starrer from 2006.  It obviously won’t be making Houston in 2010, but I hope I get to catch it some time before it hits Netflix.

December 29/31

The year closes with three awards-type movies: the depressing “Biutiful,” the Mike Leigh unfunny comedy “Another Year,” and the intense NC-17 “Blue Valentine.”  I’ll see all three, but the only one I’ll be rushing the box office for is the latter, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

So, what are YOU looking forward to in December?  I’m tightening up the poll this month to save some space by eliminating some of the less popular titles that never get votes.