Friday, July 22, 2011

Tron: Legacy (2010)

1 nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Editing - Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague

Pearl Harbor, Unstoppable, Space Cowboys, Transformers (and its sequel), The Mummy...these are just a few of the cinematic "gems" that have managed to weasel an Oscar nomination in recent years due to the two sound categories. These films are thought to be nominated not as a result of intricate, superior sound design, but instead because the films are the loudest of the year. It would be like if the winner of the Best Screenplay award went to the longest movie each year. Though Tron: Legacy is not as bad as the previously listed films, the film's sole nomination was likely due far less to the actual achievements of the sound editors and more to the soundtrack being awash with loud noises and sound effects.

Tron: Legacy isn't a very good movie, but it has its moments. Jeff Bridges is a member of the class of actors who will give their all even when the film is beneath them. Despite a few too many moments with Bridges reverts to his Dude persona (such as when he speaks the line "You're messing with my zen thing, man"), Bridges invests himself into his character far more than the screenwriters or director bothered to. Michael Sheen also turns in a fun, campy performance in which he resembles a discarded David Bowie character. These performances aren't enough to sustain interest for the film's run time, and the narrative sags due to underdeveloped characters and a skimpy plot.

Despite this, Tron: Legacy is by no means unwatchable. The stunning visuals created by production designer Darren Gilford and the visual effects team are captivating. Unlike many modern effects-driven films in which the frame is filled with so many visuals that the eye can't focus on any one thing, creating a sensory blur of colors and motion, the visual team sets the bright lights against dark, monochromatic backgrounds. This simplicity focuses the eye on one part of the frame at a time, giving the film a much more distinct visual style than similar films of the same genre.

The sound team also turned in strong work. There is much of the "louder is better" mentality that allows films like Tron: Legacy to receive an Oscar nomination, but the film is nonetheless both visually and sonically engaging, and this combination helps distract from the rest of the film.

Were it not for the Every Oscar Ever project, I likely would not have bothered to watch Tron: Legacy, and I can't say I would be missing much. However, there are worse ways to spend two hours, and I have watched far worse in the quest for Oscar completion.

Remaining: 3153 films, 876 Oscars, 5430 nominations

The Flight of the Gossamer Condor (1978)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Documentary, Short Subject

Sometimes, writing about short films is easy. Despite, or perhaps because of their abbreviated length, they often have an immense amount of drama and plot packed into just a few reels. Other times, however, there just isn't much meat on the bone, and there isn't much to say about a short film. "The Flight of the Gossamer Condor" falls into the latter category.

The film details the creation and first flight of the world's first human powered airplane. The filmmakers capably document the development and first flight, and though the event is quite remarkable, the lack of conflict or drama makes the film little more than a bland historical record. The film doesn't have much to say, nor does it offer anything new, and I can't imagine it appealing to anyone who doesn't have a keen interest in the subject matter. The best documentaries make even the most specialized topics seem fascinating (see The King of Kong for an example of this), but "The Flight of the Gossamer Condor" is unable to rise to this challenge.

Remaining: 3154 films, 876 Oscars, 5431 nominations