Is it just me or does my Blackberry have more buzz than any Oscar contender this year? Don't get me wrong. I know folks are talking about Juno and the stripper-turned-Hollywood-heavyweight who penned it. I've seen No Country For Old Men, and acknowledge it's probably the only Oscar contender that's created such polarized word of mouth this year (wow, a film that gets people talking AND thinking!). And let's throw in a nod to American Gangster's illustrious trio: Ridley, Russell, and Denzel (old habits die hard). But, for the most part, I'm shocked and appalled (ok, just a little weirded out) that there is no exaggerated, debate-inducing, run-to-the-theatre Oscar hype buzzing through the chilly winter air.
Just a few weeks ago my co-workers and I ever-so-slightly hung our heads in shame upon learning that the National Board of Review announced its award winners for 2007. It was no surprise to hear who and what won - rather slightly shocking to realize that somehow, without any fair warning, awards season was officially upon us. As industry insiders (yes, I just called myself an insider - go with it) we're supposed to be on top of these things. Not just on top, but one step ahead, right? At least, I thought to myself, by the time the Golden Globe nominations come around, there will be buzz. But, as my (feigned) humility subsided and the apparently limitless nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press were announced, the truth became clear: it's not just me, it's not! The buzz this year just isn't what it used to be.
Maybe we're all distracted by the WGA strike. Perhaps the threat of no awards shows has squashed all willingness to indulge in the massively expensive awards campaigns. Whatever the case, I'm here to remind you that there were good films released this year. And while I'd love to tell you about all of my favorites I'm not going to attempt to hold your attention for that long. Instead, let's focus on a film I deem not just buzz-worthy, not just award-worthy, but a plain and simple must-see: Lars and the Real Girl.
No, it's not a foreign film, though I wouldn't let you off the hook if it were. Since you may be someone who needs a reason to see a movie, and since THERE IS NO BUZZ, I'll give you a reason. Heck, I'll give you ten.
1) The Story. It's refreshing and unique. I know, I know, you probably think you've seen it all.
2) The Element of Surprise. Even if you think you know what it's about (yes, even if you've seen the trailer) you'll likely be surprised.
3) The Cast. Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner and Patricia Clarkson. Period.
4) The Doll. You should meet Bianca. And, the fact that she's a Real Doll (and not an actual person) should not stop you.
5) The Little Miss Sunshine Factor. This movie, too, will remind you that you can't escape your family and that maybe, somehow, that's not such a bad thing.
6) The Writer. Lars was written by a woman, and in an age when the head of a major motion picture studio (Jeff Robinov, President of Production at Warner Bros - yes, I'm naming names) says they no longer plan to make films starring women we should do what we can to prove that women are capable of producing commercially successful material (material that's worthy of success, to boot) and, above all else, that this dude's a chump.
7) The Heart. At the risk of sounding softer than a wheel of room-temperature brie, this movie warmed my heart. In other words (actually the same words, rearranged), it's heartwarming. And if that seems like a reason not to see it, your heart's been frozen by the gratuitous edginess (read: lack of substance) that permeates the so-called-indie film scene today.
8) The Love. Lars is a love story. Not exactly in the conventional sense (see Reason #2), and completely in the conventional sense.
9) The World We Live In. This movie promotes kindness and understanding. Can we really ever overdo those two?
10) The Flaws. Like Lars himself, this movie is not perfect, and I don't want to fool anyone into thinking that's what I'm trying to say. All I'm saying is it's lovable, and don't we all love something or someone (not naming names this time) imperfect?
Go see it. Then make some noise, people.