Alexander Payne‘s filmography is akin to Wes Anderson‘s in that it’s instantly recognizable as being his own unique style. You could have plopped me in a theater seat and showed this to me sans opening credits and I like to think I could have nailed it in five. Nebraska may not share much in common with Election or Sideways aesthetically, but Payne is an unequivocal master of squirmy family dynamics and delicate poking of hometown sensibilities. He’s sometimes accused of making fun or having no sympathy for his subjects, and, while I’ve personally never agreed with such assessments, I’d challenge even the most hard-nosed naysayers to stake that claim here.
The MacGuffin crew discuss Citizen Ruth, from director Alexander Payne and starring Laura Dern.
With 2011 officially in the books, it’s time once again to look back and reflect on some of the best films that have come out in the past year. As with all movie writers, coming up with a list like this is usually expected, but also damn near impossible. To me, reading and writing these types of articles are only beneficial in spreading word about titles that really had an effect on me, while stirring up debate between those who strongly agree with my choices, or vehemently disagree. No one list is ever truly definitive; what is considered great to one may not register the same way to another. The only real truth is that 2011 had a wide range of very interesting and fascinating films, and just like every year, there’s always a good handful worth noting.
Director Alexander Payne likes to take serious situations, combined with great characters and humor, to get people involved in his stories and that trend continues in his newest film, The Descendents. The strong characters and dark humor abound in the film, though here there are times when it is too funny.
I think most Alexander Payne movies are good, but I have a hard time talking myself into liking them. In fact, the better they are, the less I enjoy them. I can see that Sideways is a good movie, but I find everyone in it repellant, and there is no emotional resonance for me. Election is the same way; it’s a really well made film, and I don’t care about the characters at all. I appreciate that Payne is a real director who makes films for adults who like to think about things, but appreciation and enjoyment are not the same thing. His new film, The Descendants, is pretty flawed, but I was able to connect to this film in a way that I never have with any of his others.
Trying to figure out the Best Picture Oscars is based on looking at many things, including: what actors are in it, what director is making the film, whether it’s the kind of film the Academy has responded to in the past, and just plain old guesswork. Also, I am not saying these will be the best movies of the year, just the ones that could strike the Academy’s taste. Keeping that in mind, here are a list of seven more movies that I think have potential to be Best Picture contenders.
Though I have nothing against the line-up of comic book films, big budget explosive sequels and such and the like coming along this year, most of the films I’m actively looking forward to in 2011 don’t fit that mold. Also, a lot of them don’t seem to be coming out until at least the second half of the year, if they have a release date yet at all. I will be spending many months waiting patiently for most the films I’m hoping will be the highlights of my movie year.