We're continuing our Five Weeks of Oscar reviews of Oscar-nominated films, inspired by Turner Classic Movies' 31 Days of Oscar promotion. Both run up until the Academy Awards on February 26.
This week, I will tackle two nominated films, one with five nominations, one with a measly SINGLE nod (robbed, just robbed…more later). What do they share? Two words: George Clooney. Ain’t that enough?
The Descendants is the film I’m speaking of with the five nominations, for Best Picture, Actor (Clooney), Directing (Alexander Payne of Sideways fame), Editing and Adapted Screenplay. It deserves all of them (I’m a little fuzzy on the worthiness of the Editing nod since I do not remember anything super spectacular about the way the film is cut).
Why? Because The Descendants is a great film about tough subjects…the subjects being adultery, death, and the most killer of all foes, parenting of teenagers. They film begins with a woman in a coma. We find out she’s the mother of two young girls (a teen and a tween) and has a husband who prefers being a businessman than being either a father or a husband.
Well, his wife being in a persistent vegetative state changes things in this dynamic. He suddenly has to become a full time father. And, while doing that, he finds out that since he was an inattentive, unfulfilling husband, his wife had been having an affair. Clooney is exceptional here as the befuddled, wandering father. He knows just the right notes to play and exactly when to play them. The Descendants is a well-deserving Best Picture candidate (though I highly doubt it will win) but it’s a shoo-in for Best Actor.
The Ides of March is a film that Clooney not only stars in but that he also co-wrote and directed. And, really, he’s not the star here. He’s a supporting player.
At the heart of The Ides of March is the Ryan Gosling character, Stephen Meyers. Stephen is the crux of this story. He is the pivot which all of the other action and characters revolve around.
Stephen is a deputy campaign manager for a presidential candidate who at first seems untouchable. But soon, skeletons appear peeking out of the closets. Stephen finds himself caught in the middle of a potential scandal that could bring down both the campaign and his own career.
I mentioned in the beginning that The Ides of March got only a single Academy Award nomination (Adapted Screenplay). Well, aside from the film getting robbed of Best Picture and Best Director nods, Gosling HIGHLY deserved a Best Actor nod for this challenging lead role. First of all, he starred in three major movies in 2011…this, Drive and Crazy, Stupid Love, where he was, by far, the best thing in the movie. Each of these three performances are determined, fierce portrayals of flawed characters. But, Ides of March is by far the strongest of Gosling’s performances of 2011.
The Descendants: 2011, rated R, 115 minutes, directed by Alexander Payne, starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, and Robert Forster.
The Ides of March: 2011, rated R, 101 minutes, directed by George Clooney, starring Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and Jeffrey Wright.
The owns or will own these titles on DVD (The Descendants comes out on DVD in March).