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

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director





REVIEW: Eat Pray Love

12 08 2010

The big tagline advertised for “Eat Pray Love” is “let yourself go.”  Indeed, as millions of readers across America have discovered, Elizabeth Gilbert (played here by Julia Roberts, who looks every bit as good as she did 20 years ago in “Pretty Woman”) did just that after she couldn’t find fulfillment in her everyday life.  Her publisher allows her to spend a year traveling to Italy, India, and Bali as she attempts to discover how to forgive her past while finding happiness for the future.

Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of Gilbert’s memoir, however, doesn’t do itself the favor of following the author’s lead.  Rather than letting itself go, it keeps all its emotions bundled up inside.  There are some definite moments of profound revelation that are wonderful to watch, but the movie comes off as feeling rather cold.

We get to smile on occasion; there is a laugh every once in a while, but we sit through the majority of 130 minutes with a stoic stone-faced look.  Even as Gilbert eats delicious food and falls in love, the movie still keeps a melancholy and vaguely plaintive tone, which really puts a damper on how much we are able to enjoy ourselves.  That’s not to say the movie is off-putting because Gilbert spent a great deal of her year in solemn reflection.  Murphy just doesn’t indulge us often to share in her moments of bliss.

People who have read the book tell me that Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful sense of humor and a compellingly entertaining voice.  It’s a near impossible cinematic feat to lift both of those off the page and onto the screen, and the script, written by Murphy and Jennifer Salt, doesn’t seem to do her writing talents justice.

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