Oscar lament: The curse of high expectations
The worst thing about living so far from L.A.’s big arthouse theaters is that it often takes me a while to catch up with every award season contender. And when I do, some inevitably disappoint.
The last three I’ve seen all fall into that category. The biggest disappointment, which really shouldn’t have been due to the underwhelming early word, was “Nine.” But what can I say: I really WANTED to like it, having bought into the stylish trailer hook, line and sinker. When others pooh-poohed it, I quizzed them on their reaction to “Chicago,” the earlier Rob Marshall musical adaptation, which I found hugely entertaining, but others caviled about. If they were tepid about that, I reasoned, they might also be immune to “Nine’s” charms.
Sadly, everyone else was right: the magic was all too fitful in “Nine.” After a rousing opening set-piece the movie quickly became tedious. So much so that I wanted to stretch out and take a nap during the inert musical numbers and fantasy sequences.
“Crazy Heart” and “The Young Victoria” were both far more entertaining, but didn’t so much scream Oscar movie as possible Oscar vehicles. Both have been mentioned in acting categories, Jeff Bridges as the down and out country singer in the former, and Emily Blunt as the young royal in the latter.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is also very good in “Crazy Heart,” but the story’s a little thin. And “The Young Victoria” is way too goopy — a little more intrigue and less romance would have better served the plot. Blunt’s royal may be spirited but she’s no match for Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth I or Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth II.
Were the filmmakers trying to sugar coat the story for female audiences? I wish they wouldn’t. There’s enough pandering in modern-day romances, most recent example being “It’s Complicated.” (What do women want? Strong writing.)
I still have a few biggies to go, most notably “Avatar” and “The Lovely Bones.” But the good news, I guess, is that I don’t have high expectations for either, given their genres, and the trailers I’ve seen.
I will tell you this: That royal robe unfurled at the start of “The Young Victoria” is to die for. I only wish I could find a photo that does it justice. And that the rest of the movie lived up to its opening splendor.