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Scattered thoughts on the Oscar nominations from a Swedish perspective

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I hear you people. The buzz about the Oscar nominations is everywhere. I could sulk and put up a signpost at my café, claiming this to be an Oscar free zone. After all I’ve only had the chance to see a fraction of the most talked-about movies. Or I could embrace it and give it a go anyway because the Oscar frenzy is here and there’s no way to escape it anyway.

I choose the latter. So here we go folks: my first reactions to the nomination list.

Getting out of our bubble

First of all: The Oscar nominations is a good time for film buffs to get out of their bubble.

So Shame didn’t get a single nomination. Drive got one for the “sound editing” – whatever that means. Call me a noob, but I have no idea of what distinguishes “sound editing” from “sound mixing” (they are different categories.) And exactly what constitutes a good “sound”? Is it that they are particularly good at finding up faked sounds of punches and explosions and such? Well, I’ll leave that question for now. All I know is that neither Michael Fassbender, nor Ryan Gosling got nominated for best actor.

For someone who is spending most of her film-related time dwelling in forums and blogs and podcasts with other nerds, this was a little shocking. We loved those movies and performances so much! Haven’t they seen any of the love we’ve shed over it over the year? They deserved a nod!

But let’s face it. We live in our own little world with our own trends, our own darlings, our own preferences. The Academy lives in a different world with different rules, different considerations and in the end sometimes very different choices.

As a matter of fact it appears as if my 65 year old mother-in-law, who goes to the movies once every second year – at the most – has more in common with the Academy than I have. She watched The Help months ago and urged me to watch it since it was so good. I felt quite lukewarm towards it after what I’d read and the fact that SHE liked it so much made me even more reluctant to watch it. I know, I have prejudices against mothers-in-law. So I ended up not doing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’ll turn out to be a fan of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as well. She’s got a sense of what’s an Oscar worthy movie that I obviously lack.

The ones I missed

For all I said above about film buffs living in an isolated bubble I can’t refrain from sharing a few of the names and movies I miss most. No Oscar post is complete without it!

1. The Skin I Live In
With the risk of being repetitive – this is one of my favourite movies of 2011 and it was a shame that Spain didn’t nominate it for best foreign film. The Academy could have picked it for a different category. They didn’t. I disagree.

2. Senna
With the exception of Pina, I’ve never heard of the films in the documentary category. Perhaps they’re awesome. I still find it hard to imagine that all five of them are better than Senna. It’s mindboggling that it didn’t even make it to the short list. I would also have loved to see This is Not a Film getting a nod. I don’t know why it didn’t. Perhaps not spread enough? Perhaps not politically OK? Perhaps it’s not considered a film (Panaha calls it “an effort”).

3. Melancholia
OK, I get it. Lars von Trier has made himself quite impossible in PR situations. And what’s the Oscar if not one huge PR arrangement? No one wants to let him anywhere near media. I figure the Academy wanted to save themselves some troubles. I might have done the same in their situation, what do I know? I still think it’s sad. If The Tree of Life could get some love despite being off the beaten track, Melancholia could have gotten it as well.

4. Miscellaneous complaints
I would have loved to see some more love for Beginners. Best screenplay perhaps? The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is competing in the visual effects category, but I’d rather have seen Andy Sirkis nominated. He’s more than just a visual effect, isn’t he? And no love for Hanna? At least the score should have gotten a mentioning. I know a lot of people will be sad at the disregarding of Tintin. I wasn’t a fan myself, but I can understand if they’re puzzled.

The Swedish perspective

The Swedish candidate, Beyond, wasn’t among the nominated foreign films and to be honest I’m OK with that. I’m not opposed to showing misery on screen, but watching Noomi Rapace doing absolutely nothing expect looking generally sulky in a tableau gets tiresome after a while. 2011 just wasn’t a particularly memorable year for Swedish film. Tomas Alfredson became an export and Lukas Moodysson seems to have tired on making films. Still there were a couple of Swedish connections to mention.

One is obviously the love for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with three nominations. Some of the light on Oldman belongs to Alfredson, right?

I was also delighted to see Max von Sydow nominated for best supporting actor. I’m a huge fan of him. He’s got a crazily diverse list of roles. He’s done silly roles in super hero movies such as Flash Gordon and he’s worked with some of the biggest directors such as Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman. His range and productivity is outstanding and I would love to see him grab an Oscar one day. Sadly enough he’s competing with Christopher Plummer, who was fantastic in Beginners and deserves an Oscar just as much. It’s a tough call. I’ll be happy if either of them wins (in the case of von Sydow for old love’s sake; I haven’t seen this particular movie).

The third Swedish connection is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, nominated for the best actress category. I liked her a lot, but I wouldn’t say that she’s better for the role than Noomi Rapace. It’s not her fault; Fincher just made some different choices. I preferred her a little older and less vulnerable. Swedish connection or not though – there were other actresses I’d rather have seen winning, but they weren’t even nominated: Olivia Coleman in Tyrannosaur. Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia. Elena Anaya in The Skin I Live In.

In the end: I don’t think we’re supposed to agree with the Oscar nominations. On the contrary: it’s a take-off for discussions, an excuse for us to go through all the movies from 2011 yet another time.

It’s working as intended. I’m actually starting to become a little bit interested in this Oscar business. I blame my blogging. I might even consider watching it this year. 🙂

Written by Jessica

January 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm

The Skin I Live In – not the centipede movie I had feared

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No movie has made me feel as nauseous as The Human Centipede. Yet I haven’t watched it, and I don’t think I ever will.

I had more than enough of it as I listened to my daughter describing the centipede construction to me in detail while drawing an illustration to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The image was burnt into my mind and I couldn’t stop thinking of it, so I ended up sharing it with some colleagues at work, who became equally troubled and couldn’t get it out of their heads either. That centipede was as infectious as it was haunting and I suppose that was exactly the intention.

With that film in mind I wasn’t sure on how I would react to Pedro Almodóvar’s latest movie The Skin I Live In. It sounded disturbingly much like a body part horror movie. All I knew about the plot was that it involved a plastic surgeon who has created a new type of resilient synthetic skin, which he tries out on a woman he keeps in custody in his own house. For all I could tell it could very well be another centipede.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried. While a little bit creepy and disturbing, The Skin I Live In is no more horrific than a Hitchcock classic.  It’s fairly safe to watch for an average movie goer like me, though I’d advice against showing it for kids.

Spoiler sensitive
I must confess that I feel a bit at loss as what to write now. The less I say and the less I’ll spoil, the better it is. I don’t want to be THAT guy who happily takes out the fun of The Sixth Sense to everyone else without even realizing it. I need to be careful where I step.

For my own part I had stayed away from spoilers, so I had absolutely no idea about where the story was going for a big part of the movie. In fact I was pretty much at loss at what it all was about for the first 30 minutes. The scenes were loosely put together and I didn’t see the pattern. How were those people interconnected? Why did the woman in the body suit behave so weirdly?  I started to become a bit frustrated. Would this become yet another coconut movie where I was supposed to read up afterwards to understand anything of what I just had watched? I wasn’t up for coconut cracking! I wanted some proper storytelling and a plot I could grasp on a Friday night. Was that too much to ask for? Really?

But just as I was about to start cursing and grinding my teeth, the movie took a step back in time to show the events that had led up to the current situation. And from that point and onwards I was absolutely hooked.

As we got to the end, I didn’t just “get” it, I was in awe, and if I hadn’t been an inhibited Swede, I would have stood up in my seat, giving a standing ovation to celebrate the beautiful piece of art I just had enjoyed.

A content smile
The last few days I’ve been walking around with an inward, content smile, the kind of smile you will see from someone who just has finished a gourmet dinner or had an amazing sexual experience. It’s not that the film is uplifting, because frankly, it isn’t. But it has everything I possible could want. It’s pretty, elegant, intriguing, gripping, challenging and entertaining at the same time.

At this point I know all the twists and turns, but if someone in my family will go and see it, I will most likely tag along to watch it a second time. I’d especially love to see the first 30 minutes in the light of what I know now; I imagine there were a lot of details I missed since I was too busy trying to figure out the big picture of things.

To wrap it up: The Skin I Live In is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a theatre in 2011 and I can’t recommend it enough.

The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito, Pedro Almodóvar, ES 2011)  My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

December 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Skin I Live In