February 18, 2007

3 Oscar nominees

Catching up to my viewing history, here are 3 videos I rented this week. Did they live up to the accolades put on them?

Jesus Camp

This is the only one of the feature-length documentaries I saw this year, and it didn't do it for me. The premise is simple - fundamentally evangelist parents raise their children the same way. And there will always be some manical preacher out there to lead them. The film definitely keeps an emotional distance so you're aware the filmmakers think these people are way out there. But we also feel no connection (positive or negative) for the people contained therein. Mostly I just found myself angry that parents would put children through camps like this where the kids are made to feel deep sobbing ANGUISH at the tender age of 9. The one plus was seeing Ted Haggard, who is seen leading a mega-church. He was recently caught in a gay escort sex scandal, so hearing him say, "That's fabulous!" in this documentary is just too funny for words.

Half Nelson

I'm still not sure where the movie title comes from. But that aside, it was enjoyable. It's a new twist on the "white teacher goes into the inner-city school to change kids' minds" genre. In this case, said teacher is also a crack addict. When he's caught in the act by a student (Shareeka Epps, no relation to Omar), he isn't told on and fired. Instead they form an unlikely friendship. Ryan Gosling definitely deserves his Oscar nomination, doing more acting with his eyes than a lot of his contemporaries can achieve speaking. It's not a perfect movie (I felt like the ending was a bit abrupt), but the overall message the teacher tries to impart to his students is well refelcted in the plot.

The Departed

Maybe I'm just not a Scorsese person. But this overly-long epic felt like a snooze-fest to me. What could have been a tight and interesting cop caper/thriller gets dragged out for two and a half hours into something about honor, retribution, blah, blah, SNORE. It's too bad, because there were moments I liked. Like who knew text messaging was so essential to being an FBI informant? As for best picture of the year? I certainly hope not. As for the lone acting nomination, Mark Wahlberg is indeed good, although his part is short. I think the nod from the Academy is more a recognition that he has really matured as an actor and has left his rapping underwear model days far, far behind. Good for you, Marky. Just don't bother writing a speech.

I'm starting to craft my Oscar picks, but still have one more film to see this week (Babel) before I solidify things. So stay tuned!


ScottE. said...

I thought Jesus Camp was a little better than a D, but it wasn't great. I saw this one and Al Gore. Al Gore was certainly better. But still depressing.

I agree...it's a SHAME that parents would do and say what they say to get these kids to feel like the weight of the world is on them. At the age of five feeling like you need more out of life so you are born again? I'm not going to go into the religion aspect of the movie...but how can a five year old boy "want more out of life?" I was more concerned with whether to wear Spider-Man or Superman Underroos!

Half Nelson made me want to go to bed. So I did. The bit I did watch though, Ryan Gosling was good.

I went to see Dreamgirls for a FOURTH TIME instead of watching The Departed. Just wasn't interested.

Stef said...

I'm really sorry you didn't like THE DEPARTED. For me, it was one of the best movies I'd seen in years - epic and almost Shakespearean. But, we all have different tastes, and that's what makes life fun.

I still really need to see JESUS CAMP - either on DVD or at the film festival on Sunday. The religion major in me is just dying to see all of that evangelism up on the screen.

I still need to see BABEL, too, and I'm hoping it comes by Netflix this week! I will probably see HALF NELSON but not by next Sunday.

The Kara said...

I actually went to the movies last night and saw NOTES ON A SCANDAL. I liked it a lot. Dame Judy was SO good and Cate Blanchett... well, you just want to watch her (which is what Dame Judy does for a large part of the movie). Anyway, I heard HALF NELSON was a snore, but I do like that Ryan Gosling. I was thinking I'd rent DEPARTED before next week and can't bring myself to go to Babel... though the local theatre is running THE QUEEN and I might be able to catch that before next week.