Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pentecost (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Film, Live Action - Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane

For the second consecutive year, Ireland has produced an Academy Award nominated short film about a young boy navigating his way through Catholicism.  Yet there is little else in common between last year's offering, "The Confession," and this year's "Pentecost."  "The Confession" was one of the darkest, most depressing short films I have seen in a long time, while "Pentecost" is a fun, joyful short about a young altar boy who has one shot at redemption after spectacularly ruining the mass service.  Like many young Irish boys, his mind is always on the football pitch, and it is this distraction that is the source of his troubles in church.

The story of "Pentecost" is thin, and it lacks the cleverness of some of its fellow nominees, especially "Time Freak."  Yet it is a sweet story, and the use of "Ode to Joy" as the musical cue is inspired.  "Pentecost" is very forgettable, but I enjoyed it while I watched it.  Though it isn't as memorable as "The Confession," I'd watch "Pentecost" a thousand times before I would watch "The Confession" again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

RoboCop (1987)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Film Editing - Frank J. Urioste
Nomination: Best Sound - Michael J. Kohut, Carlos Delarios, Aaron Rochin, and Robert Wald

Special Achievement Academy Award (Non-Competitive): Sound Effects Editing - Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil

The 1980's was a significant period in the history of action films, as the genre grew dramatically in response to the birth of the blockbuster in the 1970's and the increasing technological abilities of special effects artists.  Several talented young filmmakers worked in the genre, and though much of the output was schlock, the decade produced some of the best action films yet made.

Though I am a fan of action films - the more explosions the better - I am still catching up on many of the finest offerings from the 80's, which I missed due to my parents' questionable belief that R-rated action films weren't appropriate for a child who still had to stand on his tiptoes to get on roller-coasters and who cried when Webster burned down his family's apartment with a science kit.  Due to the even more questionable belief held by Hollywood that many of these action films should be remade, I've had the motivation to dive in to the originals in advance of their mutant offspring's appearance.

I didn't have high hopes for RoboCop, since I came of age during the Showgirls-Hollow Man Paul Verhoeven era, missing the Total Recall-Basic Instinct era.  I also was exposed to the rightfully aborted RoboCop: The Animted Series as a child, the awfulness of which was far more damaging to a four-year old than its slightly less cartoonish counterpart would have been.  Thus I was pleasantly surprised that RoboCop was not completely atrocious.

This isn't to say that I found RoboCop to be a good movie.  The film is terribly paced, dragging on way too long without any consequence.  When the newly robotized protagonist is introduced far too late into the film, his lack of humanity makes him completely uninteresting.  The point of the film, of course, is that though RoboCop is no longer alive, he still has the slightest glimmer of a soul under the machinery.  Yet this glimmer is not enough to sustain interest in the character as he seeks revenge.  It's hard to invest much emotion into questioning whether a mostly-dead robot can get revenge on an equally soulless criminal acting without much motivation. 

The film suffers due to its inadequacies in plotting and character development, but there are interesting aspects to the film as well.  The film expresses some type of political view, though it is hard to discern whether its anti-authoritarian, authoritarian, anti-union, or anarchist; I'm sure more than a few theses have been written about it.  The filmmakers made a half-hearted attempt to pose some questions about the ethics associated with policing, but these quickly fall by the wayside.  The fake newscasts are great, and Kurtwood Smith chews the scenery with aplomb.  The film's technical work, which was what the Academy recognized, is very impressive, and both of the nominations and the special award were well deserved.  Kohut, Delarios, Rochin, and Wald probably deserved the Oscar for Best Sound, and likely would have won if not for The Last Emperor dominating the year's technical categories.

Once the movie moves on from its slow ending, it moves breezily along.  Even with its faults, its enjoyable enough to watch, and it's certainly better than its animated spin-off. 

Remaining: 3163 films, 874 Oscars, 5440 nominations