Bland, boring Oscars on tap

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Bland, boring Oscars on tap

The Artist

This won't be the first bit of whining you've had to listen to about this year's Oscars, and it likely won't be the last, either.

The reasons are obvious. Tonight's Academy Awards race has got to be the most boring ever in the entire history of the dubious popularity contest.

It's not just the milquetoast movies that have been nominated (The Artist? The Descendants? Really? Best movies you saw all year? Then it sucks to be you, bro.), it's also about the movies that were completely overlooked. How does this happen?

The poster for this year's event is a hint: It's a bland stroll down memory lane, with little bubble pictures featuring The Sound of Music, Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, Gone With the Wind, etc. Oh, goodie. Let's get nostalgic.

The best part is the slogan: "Celebrate the movies in all of us."

We don't know what movies you've got in you (sounds uncomfortable), but if we were going to celebrate anything about last year's film crop, the party would have to include such pictures as Drive, Shame, Rampart, Ides of March, Corialanus, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Young Adult, Attack The Block, Meek's Cutoff, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter, The Trip, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and The Guard.

The above list includes drama, comedy and documentary film. Most of the movies might be too tough for Oscar consideration; what's involved are sex, violence, police corruption, political corruption, political intrigue, sociopathy, alien invasion, cults, cowboys, apocalyptic visions, comics, cave paintings and Irish cops.

With a couple of obvious exceptions, these are movies about the way we live now, and it's not a pretty picture: Think depression, recession, betrayal, guilt, fear, loathing. Etc. You get the drift.

For some reason, the Academy is allergic to chewy films. Tough stuff. The thought-provoking movies, or the disturbing ones or the ones with unpleasant endings. They don't seem to want controversy of any kind. They don't want problems. They don't want to offend anyone.

They want you to be happy that white people solve racism in The Help. They want you to believe a mediocre book could somehow become a good movie with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

They hope you'll be interested in an homage to film on the big screen, as in Hugo or The Artist.

They trust you'll believe everyone will be OK (SPOILER ALERT) with dad and without mom in The Descendants. There's nothing wrong with the movies nominated for best picture; it's just that, with the exception of The Tree of Life, there's nothing on that list that's truly transporting. There's nothing you want to see twice. There's nothing you can't wait to drag your friends to see because you love it so much you can't stop talking about it.

Something director Steve McQueen said about Michael Fassbender (Shame) being left off the best actor nominee list is worth repeating here:

"In America they're too scared of sex, that's why he wasn't nominated ... He's a once-in-a-generation actor."

Yes, he is. And Shame is an extraordinary movie, but it's about emotionless sex, so Hollywood may well be too a'scared to nominate it for anything. Hard to know what the excuse is for the other movies on that list of overlooked treasures.

Best-picture nominees

The Artist

OSCAR NOMS: 10

DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius

STARRING: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman

LENGTH: 1 hour, 40 minutes

STUDIO: Alliance

OPENED IN THEATRES: Dec. 9

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $28.3 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: No.

SUN RATING: 3.5 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "A silent film (well, almost) shot in black and white that's a love letter to the movies. Michel Hazanavicius directs Dujardin and Bejo in a love story set in the late '20s about a matinee idol who can't make the transition to talkies. Big Oscar buzz here, although the movie is way too long and way too inside."

-- LIZ BRAUN

The Descendants

OSCAR NOMS: 5

DIRECTOR: Alexander Payne

STARRING: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer

LENGTH: 1 hour, 55 minutes

STUDIO: Fox Star

OPENED IN THEATRES: Nov. 18

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $75.8 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: No, likely March.

SUN RATING: 3 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "With his wife in a coma, Matt King (Clooney) has to step up and be a dad to his two daughters. He also has to decide the fate of a large piece of family land in Hawaii, and wrap his head around the truth about his "perfect" marriage. Family drama is plot heavy. The mix of drama and humour is sometimes jarring."

-- LIZ BRAUN

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

OSCAR NOMS: 2

DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry

STARRING: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow, Thomas Horn

LENGTH: 2 hours, 9 minutes

STUDIO: Warner Bros.

OPENED IN THEATRES: Dec. 25

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $30.8 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: No.

SUN RATING: 4 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "Stephen Daldry's film is intelligent, reasoned, profound and stimulating. While it deals with 9/11 through an intensely personal family story, it transcends the cloud that lingers over most 9/11 films. Horn worthy of a best-actor nomination."

-- BRUCE KIRKLAND

The Help

OSCAR NOMS: 4

DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor

STARRING: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer

LENGTH: 2 hours, 17 minutes

STUDIO: Disney

OPENED IN THEATRES: Aug. 10

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $170.0 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: Yes.

SUN RATING: 4 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "A well-crafted adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's Civil Rights era novel of small-town Southern life. There are laughs, as racists get comeuppance. But the movie's real strength is how it depicts the ease with which racial hatred is institutionalized. Performances may be remembered come awards season."

-- JIM SLOTEK

Hugo

OSCAR NOMS: 11

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley

LENGTH: 2 hours, 6 minutes

STUDIO: Paramount

OPENED IN THEATRES: Nov. 23

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $67.5 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: No.

SUN RATING: 4 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "In his first children's movie, Martin Scorsese conveys his childhood awe at the power of film, with all available cinematic firepower, including 3D. The result is a sweet fever-dream that may or may not impress digital-age kids, but it has a heart and beauty that should appeal to true film lovers."

-- JIM SLOTEK

Midnight in Paris

OSCAR NOMS: 4

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

STARRING: Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Alison Pill

LENGTH: 1 hour, 40 minutes

STUDIO: Sony Pictures Classics

OPENED IN THEATRES: June 3

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $56.5 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: Yes.

SUN RATING: 3 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "Woody Allen's latest movie is a love letter to the city of light. As confections go, this one is pure meringue, sweet and melting. And mostly air. It has a few bits of charming humour (it's endearing for about 45 minutes), but after that the idea wears thin. It's a pleasant little stroll down memory lane. With a brief stop at nostalgia avenue. Like, yawn."

-- LIZ BRAUN

Moneyball

OSCAR NOMS: 6

DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller

STARRING: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman

LENGTH: 2 hours, 13 minutes

STUDIO: Sony

OPENED IN THEATRES: Sept. 23

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $75.6 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: Yes.

SUN RATING: 4 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "The touching and very funny Moneyball is not really a movie about baseball statistics. It's a heartwarming (sometimes cloyingly so), redemptive story about refusing to accept the status quo, one that recognizes you don't need to win to 'win.' The best baseball movie since Bull Durham. Pitt and Hill make a synchronous comedy team."

-- JIM SLOTEK

The Tree of Life

OSCAR NOMS: 3

DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick

STARRING: Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt, Sarah Green

LENGTH: 2 hours, 18 minutes

STUDIO: eOne

OPENED IN THEATRES: June 24

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $13.3 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: Yes.

SUN RATING: 5 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "You don't really watch this movie so much as you experience it. Terrence Malick's new film celebrates life, contemplates the infinite and considers how love shapes us. This is a movie that investigates all of existence through the details of one family's life in small-town Texas, starting somewhere in the 1950s. A must-see proposition."

-- LIZ BRAUN

War Horse

OSCAR NOMS: 6

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

STARRING: Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston

LENGTH: 2 hours, 26 minutes

STUDIO: Disney

OPENED IN THEATRES: Dec. 25

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE: $78.8 M

OUT ON DVD/BLU-RAY?: No.

SUN RATING: 4 stars out of 5

CAPSULE REVIEW: "A four-hankie, family-friendly heart-render full of struggle and hope and, lest we forget, horses. The kind of material that screams for Spielberg's flair for emotional button-pushing. A beautifully shot anti-war film, and a paean to the almost indescribably deep equine-human relationship. An epic piece of Spielbergian entertainment."

-- JIM SLOTEK

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