Wise, Sensible

An excerpt from a 12.30 article by Matt Brennan on Anne Thompson‘s Indiewire page: “More than The Artist, the Oscar frontrunner, Alexander Payne‘s The Descendants — the only other legitimate contender — presents emotion as complicated, world-worn, human.

“Don’t get me wrong; The Artist is a lovely little film. It’s a nostalgic blast from the past and impeccably made, the very kind of perfect that The Descendants is not. But whereas The Artist is a slip of a film, a shiny bauble without much weight, The Descendants takes on the heft of life’s messy actualities. Though my real favorite of the year, The Tree of Life, has no chance of winning (if it even snags a nomination), it’d behoove the Academy to stand behind a film so fierce, and funny, and wise as The Descendants.

“Compared to The Artist, it’s not the easy choice, but it’s the right one.”

  • AtticusRex

    I concur. The Artist is a great, fun, interesting truffle.

    The Descendants on the other hand is, well… almost perfect in its tone, performances, script… its as ‘real’ as a movie can get with the star power of a Clooney in the lead.

  • Rashad

    It’s funny how a silent film winning is now the “easy choice.”

    It sounds like he thinks The Artist is better, but simply because TD deals with heavier emotions, it should win. Silly logic.

  • JR

    Jeff, is it also ‘wise and sensible” that this writer thinks The Descendants is the only legit contender after The Artist? He is dissing Moneyball, you know…

    It is The Artist vs War Horse…and I believe The Artist will win. The other 5 or 6 nominated films are chopped liver as far as the Oscar goes…

  • MarkVH

    Agree with this 100 percent. The Descendants is pretty damn near perfect. I’d love it if the academy would show some balls like they did in ’06-’09 and go with it. Alas, I don’t have much faith.

  • Sams

    It’s a bit like last year’s TKS vs TSN with TSN being the less crowd pleasing but more ambitious and well crafted. Artist s a simple, delightful film whose most notable achievement came with its choice of medium. The Academy’s choice may also mirror last year’s as Descendants isn’t anywhere near as good as TSN.

  • Abbey Normal

    Does War Horse really still have anything close to front runner status? Wells isn’t the only one dissing it… Consensus on its quality just doesn’t seem to be there. I don’t think it has anything but a puncher’s chance now.

    Artist is the favorite; Descendants nipping at its heels.

  • Rashad

    War Horse isn’t the frontrunner, but it’s silly to count it out. About the consensus – 87% top critics and audiences are loving it. I assume it’ll end up like True Grit: bunch of noms but no wins. I want it to win, but would be glad if it didn’t so the inevitable backlash would be avoided. The Artist is already dealing with that, and it hasn’t even won yet.

  • MechanicalShark

    The Descendants is middling at best, and it just baffles me how many otherwise rational people have fallen HARD for it. I mean, it’s got a decent emotional core, but it’s at its worst when it tries to be funny. Which is weird given that Payne’s previous films have balance comedy and drama well. And I can’t emphasize enough how terrible the voiceover is. Fuck. How can you even call it near to perfect when it does THAT?

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    I don’t get TSN-TKS/Descendants-Artist analogy AT ALL.

    “The Descendants takes on the heft of life’s messy actualities.”

    Does it, though? Watching it, I can’t help but think how false a lot of the “confrontational” scenes ring (Clooney/Lillard, Clooney/Bridges, Hastie/Greer — a prime offender). Come to think of it, the only one that really screams out the truth is Forster punching that anonymous douche in the face.

    Woodley’s fantastic in it, though, and would seem like a natural Best Supporting Actress winner (a young up-and-comer delivering a relatively “out-of-nowhere” performance).

  • LexG

    And a wrong and a WRONG from the last two comments. It is a fantastic, upsetting, human movie about aging and loss… that shot of Forster saying goodbye to his daughter had me fighting off tears almost as much as the JGL-Huston scene in 50/50 that I couldn’t even watch…

    My only complaint is having to look at Clooney’s big repulsive loafish manfeet over the end credits, especially since they were so big and disgusting they were blocking the view of Woodley’s (which are PERFECT, even better than Stewart’s)… I actually can’t believe Wells didn’t complain about the sight of Clooney’s feet at the end. Blecch.

  • Glenn Kenny

    The weird thing is, “The Artist” is NOT impeccably made. As pastiches go, I’d say it’s charitable to declare that it’s even INDIFFERENTLY made. On the level of editing alone, “The Descendants” mops up the floor with it. And this is not a matter of opinion. Gimme DVDs of the films and a laser pointer and I can walk you through it. It’s unbelievable, really; I don’t know what these people who call themselves film writers or critics or what have you are using for EYES nowadays.

  • JTag

    I need someone to explain what makes The Descendants better than Win Win. How is Win Win on the sidelines of Oscar season?

  • MechanicalShark

    I guess I’d find it more poignant if it wasn’t shitting on the character of the dying/dead person the whole time. That made it sort of subtly bitter and meaner than it needed to be.

  • Jack Razor

    Why does Clooney always tries to look like a hobo in his movies? The trailer for this he looks like a dumb moron who always seem to just hawe waken up from a drunken fest. When you look like a movie star, then embrace it. Guess why Cary Grant stayed in the public mind? Because he looked like Cary Grant in all his films.

  • JR

    @JTag – Win Win, and Jane Eyre, too, suffer the same fate of the early year release – both films should be in the Oscar discussion, but they are not. I think that Midnight in Paris, a May release, is the earliest released film of 2011 that is in the hunt…those Feb to April releases almost never are in the discussion at the end of the year – I am sure there are exceptions, but not many, not in recent years at least.

  • the400blows

    Also agree with this 100%. Although The Artist was well made, I thought the story was corny. On the other hand, The Descendants is one of the most original stories to come out of Hollywood in a long time. Instead of having a guy, who is going through a mid-life crisis, screw around or buy a sports car, it actually had a guy try to do the right thing for his family and not be selfish in the process. To me, that’s something original for Hollywood.

  • MechanicalShark

    It is original for Hollywood, yes, but that alone shouldn’t give its failings a pass. I haven’t yet seen a single rational defense of the voiceover. It doesn’t help that there’s also a tone of casual misogyny in the film.

  • Mr. F.

    “Why does Clooney always tries to look like a hobo in his movies? The trailer for this he looks like a dumb moron who always seem to just have waken up from a drunken fest.”

    Yes, it’s totally odd that he plays a frumpy, low-key native Hawaiian who wears nothing but Hawaiian shirts and Dockers, if not shorts. Guys like that are supposed to look TOTALLY SEXY!

    And have you seen Clooney in IDES OF MARCH?! With his scraggly beard and mussed-up hair and acne? It’s like, DUDE — you’re supposed to look like someone running for President! Take a shower, you bum!

    And when he walked around covered in his own feces in UP IN THE AIR — totally took me out of the movie! Yes, you’re right, Jack Razor — Clooney is ALWAYS trying to look like a hobo in his movies!

  • Jack Razor

    He had the perfect look in Up in the Air and Idles. But take Syriana. he tried to go artist on us, gained weight and had a beard. It’s like he wants people to not show up on his movies. His part could have worked as well with the usual Clooney suave look. If Anything the guy he was protraying in real life he’s a pretty good-looking dude who precisely go out of his way to have a good appearance because it’s easier to get into certain places when you don’t look like threat. In fact the real life guy GC was playing was mad at George because he jokingly said “I tried to look good my entire life and GC make me look like a hobo”. The real life guy looked more like a news anchor.

    The key is to use your good look to get people in theatre and THEN give them something unique. Don’t put on your forehead that “this is an arsty movie done for Oscar season!”. Might as well decide beforehand that you don’t want people in theatre to watch your film. There was nothing in the Descandant trailers that screamed “man this seems pretty damn exciting! Clooney looking like a moron running in the streets is a must-see!

  • Mr. F.

    Jack Razor: so you’re defending your line “Why does Clooney always try to look like a hobo in his movies?”… on a movie that’s six years old?

    But okay —

    “He tried to go artist on us, gained weight and had a beard.”

    He got an Oscar win out of it… so presumably he was doing *something* right.

    “If Anything the guy he was protraying in real life he’s a pretty good-looking dude who precisely go out of his way to have a good appearance because it’s easier to get into certain places when you don’t look like threat.”

    Yes, when you’re an undercover CIA agent working in the Middle East… it’s better to look like James Bond. His character needed to FLASH SOME WEALTH on the Arab streets! Brilliant!

    And by the way: while he was playing a character inspired by the guy who wrote the book… HE WAS NOT PLAYING THE SAME GUY.

    “There was nothing in the Descandant trailers that screamed “man this seems pretty damn exciting! Clooney looking like a moron running in the streets is a must-see!”

    I know — strangely, they sold it as Clooney playing a middle-aged father whose wife is in a coma. BO-RING! If Payne wasn’t the TOTAL HACK that he is, he would have written a dream scene into the movie, or a flashback, to sexy George going to a formal event in a tuxedo, where he met some totally hot younger woman (before marrying his wife, of course) and they shared a passionate kiss. Then they could have used that in the trailer and accurately sold the movie that way. Because, you know — better to sell your good looks than what the movie actually is.

    Maybe — just maybe — he tries to look what’s best for the part. So while we’re at it: how was George Clooney trying to “look like a hobo” in MICHAEL CLAYTON? Because you said he’s always doing it. So we’re just curious. In fact, take a look at all his movies. How about the OCEANS movies? THE AMERICAN? Do I need to go on?

  • MarkVH

    Shark, not sure what you mean by the idea of a “rational defense” of the voiceover because, frankly, I don’t think it needs a defense at all. And I’d love to hear more about this casual misogyny you speak of.

    I don’t buy the idea of the wife as a shit-on character. At all. The most beautiful thing about the film, I think, is how in a story filled with richly drawn characters, the one that drives the whole thing – from her deathbed, in a coma – is the most fully-rounded character in the whole film. Payne intentionally, deliberately takes steps throughout the movie to humanize her through the people who knew her – which is one of the clearest and most poignant themes of the thing. This misogyny idea is RIDICULOUS, an accusation that Payne clearly takes careful steps to avoid.

  • MechanicalShark

    “Filled with richly drawn characters”. Riiiight. I guess, I mean, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think there’s a single well-rounded character in the whole film.

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