Pre-Oscars Diary

Every year (well, this is the third) I and my wife attempt to watch most of the major-prize nominated films before the Oscars. Living in China, it’s not hard to get hold of them, though most will never make it to the cinema here. This year has been pretty good, much better than last year. We’ve only managed to watch eight out of fifteen, but the quality has been quite high throughout.

Albert Nobbs

J – Glenn Close as a woman living as a man in 19th century Ireland seems to equal too many issues covered in too broad strokes. Does she really love the girl she courts? Is she just after a tobacconist, and that’s it? It all just felt a bit unresolved.
V – I’m not sure what the director wanted to say, but I think different people can get different things from the movie. For me it’s an impression about what women’s life was like in the west in the 19th century.

The Help

J – I can see why this was slammed by some critics as a “nice white people help out the poor black folks” film, but there’s room for these things in the world. Not amazing, but not terrible, and an interesting enough portrayal of what could otherwise be forgotten lives.
V – Enjoyed it at the time, but after I finished watching I didn’t feel I’d seen anything special. The ideas behind it could’ve been much stronger and less relaxing for such a serious topic.

The Iron Lady

J – Didn’t succeed in making me feel for Thatcher, but that wasn’t really the point. Great performace from Meryl Streep, fairly light on the politics overall. Surprised to say that I quite enjoyed it.
V – For a foreigner it gave me a strong impression of modern British history. Meryl Streep always puts in such an amazing performance, though I know James doesn’t really like her.

The Artist

J – I enjoyed watching this, but it was just a watchable homage rather than anything earth-shattering. I couldn’t help thiking that Bernice Bejo doesn’t really look the type to be a 1920s movie star, but it’s a bit of a petty point.
V – Jean Dujardin was very good. This movie actually made me feel something – not the case with most modern movies. I’d like to see some silent films now, James.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

J – Very impressed that they could compress the plot of the book into film-length without either making it seem crowded, confusing or simplified. A success all round, can’t say I absolutely loved it, but certainly worth a second viewing.
V – Really a brilliant spy movie.


J – Spent the first hour wanting to give it a chance but hating every second, then warmed to it when the story developed in an unexpected direction in the second hour. Ultimately decent enough, though too sentimental by half, and please Mr Scorcese, stop trying to make classics.
V – Good actors, good design, not that special overall.

Midnight in Paris

J – Harmless Woody Allen light comedy. Passed a couple of hours enjoyably enough.
V – It gave me a good chance to go back to 1920s Paris. Not to be missed. But the feeling passed quickly.

The Tree of Life

J – Visually stunning, brilliantly acted, just generally amazing – the sort of thing that needs to be given awards.
V – Incredible movie. Exactly the kind of thing that was on my mind when I was confused about the universe when I was a little girl. Feels like it was made for me.

We’ve watched most of The Descendants too, quite impressed so far.

So, here are the J&V Awards:

Best Picture: The Tree of Life
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Meryl Streep
Best Director: Terrence Malick

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