Monday, February 25, 2013

This year's Oscar boning

When we spent last night in a hotel (while my dad and his wife are in town visiting, and therefore, able to babysit our son), we wanted to watch something that wasn't too dark.

We were referring to the tone, but the other meaning of "dark" was the salient one in this situation.

On our hotel TV, we just couldn't figure out how to lighten the contrast on the decidedly murky film ParaNorman, in which all but a scene or two is set at twilight or just plain night. At least you could distinguish contrasts during the twilight scenes, which were lit with an otherworldly beauty. At night? Fuggedaboutit.

This wasn't the only circumstance that destined us to only half-see ParaNorman. We'd been out for a Mexican dinner and each had two margaritas, plus I'd had a beer right when we got to the hotel. Combine that with a day spent replacing the fence between our property and our neighbor to the west of us -- day two of that project -- and we stood a pretty low chance of staying awake throughout the 93-minute movie, even starting it before 9 p.m. There was one last sleep-inducing factor: The bed is the most comfortable spot from which to watch a movie in your hotel, and under the blankets is even one step more comfortable.

So I'll probably need to see ParaNorman again before I can be sure what I truly thought of it. However, it does give us a third straight year of boning up on an Oscar nominee right before the telecast.

Boning up on nominees is something many people do in the weeks leading up to Oscar night, but I am not really one of those people. My obsessive watching prior to the Oscar nominations, in order to complete my year-end rankings in as thorough a manner as possible, obviates the need for much of that. This year, for example, I'd seen all the best picture nominees before they were announced. Add to that the fact that I'm usually done with watching movies from the previous year for a couple months after ranking them, and I'm usually not consuming a lot of nominated movies leading up to the show.

Right before the show, however, has been the exception. Two years ago, I watched best foreign film nominee Dogtooth on the afternoon of the telecast. Last year, that same slot was devoted to best documentary nominee If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. ParaNorman keeps the tradition going, and gives a third new category of nominee over the course of those three years. In fact, I'd have a complete perspective on the best animated feature race if only I'd seen Frankenweenie.

Both Dogtooth and If a Tree Falls were big hits for me. Given the unfavorable circumstances, I can't say quite the same for ParaNorman, though what I saw was probably better than I thought it would be. The film certainly has a unique visual scheme, and I thought it showed a pretty bold tendency to be darker than your average children's fare -- without being out and out inappropriate.

I just wish it had been darker in tone only.


Travis McClain said...

It took me a while to come around on Dogtooth. I had a similar first reaction to it that I had to Eyes Wide Shut, which was suspicion that it was merely something prurient masquerading as high art.

Also, you win the blogosphere for the week for using "obviates". Well played.

Vancetastic said...

With Dogtooth, I knew I had witnessed something both weird and wonderful. (Note: wonderful does NOT equal hopeful/life-affirming.) It's a movie I like more and more every time it pops into my brain.

Thanks on "obviates." It's a word I love. However, I noticed that it's one of those verbs that almost always gets paired with the same noun. When was the last time you heard the word "obviates" without it being followed by "the need"? Another example: "garnish wages." Assuming you are talking about the financial usage of the term "garnish," when is it EVER followed by anything other than "wages"?