The only film I haven't seen here is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, which I might at some point check out for a kind of franchise completism that I usually hate but eventually kowtow to.
Midnight in Paris is one of four Woody Allen films to receive Art Direction nominations, the other three being Bullets over Broadway, Radio Days, and Hannah and Her Sisters. Midnight in Paris' nomination here is only slightly less flukey than one for Hannah and Her Sisters. At times, he achieves an entertaining portal in which to escape, but I can't help but feel like voters were voting for an idea of how the film was art directed and not the production design itself. Likewise, a film like The Artist (the only true competition in the category) would seem to scream out for lavish production design, but in the end it's only as visually interesting as the city allows/ed. We're not shown any hidden seductive nook or cranny of Tinsel Town. It's more testament to the fact that Los Angeles, CA is not a very attractive city, and the best films in it must bend the laws of physics to make you feel otherwise. It's not a very good movie, but for the first thirty minutes of (500) Days of Summer I had no idea why they kept talking about Los Angeles when they were clearly not there!
War Horse is tilts from interesting failure to boring as a horse. A litany of homages that Spielberg never manages to fuse into an organic animal, it's art direction represents both the most stunning thing about it and the laziest. When segments of War Horse work, it feels mildly like a window into a different era of filmmaking ideology. None of them connect though, which is a frustrating experience. Aesthetically, my favorite "chapter" is the one where ironically the film gets off on the wrong hoof. The opening scenes evoke something very beautiful and unabashedly sentimental that the rest of the film seeks to undermine where it should embrace. Had all of War Horse looked as storybook as the village of Joey's birth, I might go all Armond White on it. Alas, the most interesting journeyman filmmaker of the past decade has produced a Greatest Hits CD of other peoples' work.
I think we all knew going into the 2009 broadcast that The Hurt Locker was going to take the big one. The question was how many? I remember thinking it was pretty much locked in for Best Picture, Director, and Film Editing and was a good bet for Original Screenplay, and Avatar would sweep the technical awards. I can understand The Hurt Locker winning for Sound Mixing (because it should!) but the minute it won for Sound Effects, the night was over. Avatar invented not simply the look of a planet full of new species but all of their sounds as well. And in the end, the Academy just said "Fuck it, we like The Hurt Locker more." Hugo in this category is the lock of the night. As big a lock as Avatar was for Sound Effects. If The Artist manages to best it, you know why.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!