A Bunch Of Oscar Movie Reviews

In the two hours or so between when I go into my bedroom to call it a night and when I actually do fall asleep, I’ve been watching a whole bunch of movies lately. Partly because I hate reading before I fall asleep. Partly because all the movies are purchased in the balad for 1 dinar. Partly because I like to watch every nominated film before actually watching the Oscars. Partly because I’ve been a starving movie buff for a while now since I haven’t been able to watch movies until I came to Jordan.

So here now are very brief reviews of a whole bunch of Oscar nominated movies I’ve watched lately, or at least the ones I recommend.

Little Miss Sunshine:

One of the best movies I have ever seen. It is the ultimate realistic dysfunctional American family. And that’s exactly what I love about it. It does not go to the extremes of dysfunctional, no one overacts the role. It’s kept quite simple. I think all the actors worked well together and the simple story flowed very well. A stressed out mother, a maniac go getter father, a son whose taken a vow of silence, a little girl with big dreams, a heroin snorting grandfather, and a suicidal uncle. As dark as it may appear it is actually very funny. The youngest and oldest actors of the film are nominated for best supporting: Abigail Breslin (10) and Alan Arkin (73).

Hands down 5 out of 5.

Dream Girls:

Yes, I watched a musical. Sue me.

Honestly it was a pretty good movie. In the line of good musicals out there I would say this one is at the very top. It traces the evolution of R&B in America and specifically how that evolution centers around a group known as the Dream Girls and all those that surround them. The newcomer to film, Jennifer Hudson, is nominated for best supporting actress and rightly so. Her performance in the movie is outstanding. So is Eddie Murphy for that matter, who is also nominated for best supporting.

While the songs may not interest everyone the story is enough to keep you watching.

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5.

Pan’s Labyrinth:

Another Oscar nominated film, for best foreign language category. The film is in Spanish and takes place after the Spanish civil war. The themes of evil and innocence are what dominate the film in all its aspects. A little girl who moves into the home of her quite evil Spanish Captain of a stepfather who has recently married her pregnant mother. Near the home is a Labyrinth shaped garden where she discovers there is more to her destiny than she thought.

While the film gives the impression that this girl is on an Alice in Wonderland journey or that what evil she will discover takes place in a fantasy land such as Narnia, the real story takes place in her present reality, in her home and around the other characters of the film.

4 out of 5.

The Devil Wears Prada:

Another movie I finally got around to watching. While it may attempt to pass itself off as a chick flick it’s really more universal than the standard everyday chick flick Hollywood spews out. The story is a little more evolved as well, more than the simple naive girl reluctantly gets a job where she looks down on people, starts to become like them, loses her friends and her old self, realises her mistake, tries to find redemption. What makes it different really is Meryl Streep’s performance in the film, which garnered her a record 14th Oscar nomination. Her character is unchanging, unyielding, unapologetic and stays that way. Kind of like in real life where most people don’t actually change at all.

It’s not a serious movie and it does still have that chick flick flair to it so in other words it’s entertaining.

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5.

Last King of Scotland:

The story centers around Idi Amin the brutal dictator of Uganda in the 1970’s. While based on real events much of the story is fictional. It is actually that aspect of it which was disappointing. What carried the film was Forest Whitikar’s acting and portrayal of Amin, which got him an Oscar nomination for best Actor. You watch the movie really just to wait for the scenes he shows up in. And when he does show up he does not disappoint.

Bottom Line: 3 out of 5.

Little Children:

Two suburbanite stay at home parents break the monotony of their lives by having an affair while a voice-over annoyingly narrates the story. Tedious? Perhaps. The movie was meant to be slightly suburbanite dark along the lines of American Beauty but falls flat. The story is predictable and the characters are not all that interesting which is why I don’t know why or how it got Kate Winslet a nomination although Jackie Earle Haley who plays the perverted Ronald in the film does deserve the nod he received, but perhaps not a win.

This is one of those films that you could swear was better in it’s original format, a book, had you of course read it.

2 out of 5.

Blood Diamond:

A film about Africa’s blood diamonds. While I kind of expected it to be a story that was similar to what Lord of War did for arms, it was very different. In Sierra Leone, Solomon is stripped of his home and family and taken to work in the diamond fields by a militia, where he discovers and hides a huge diamond moments before the camp is invaded and he is put in a jail. Across from his cell is our protagonist, the devious Danny Archer who knows everything there is to know about selling blood diamonds to the Europeans. He convinces Solomon to give him the diamond in exchange for reuniting him with his family. And the tale takes off from there.

Not many people like Leonardo Dicaprio and I think it’s because of Titanic. In my opinion he’s done much in recent years to redeem himself from that horrible horrible mistake of a movie. His character is believable enough to get him an Oscar nomination for best actor and Djimon Hounsou who plays Solomon is not far behind with a nomination for best supporting. I think that is indicative enough just how good they are in this film.

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5.

Catch a Fire:

Amongst the few movies and performances that were snubbed by any taste of Oscar gold this year was the film Catch a Fire. It’s based on a true story of an apolitical Patrick played by Derek Luke who is wrongfully accused of being a “terrorist” during apartheid by Nic Vos, played by Tim Robbins. After extensive torture and questioning he is let go with all his mental scars. Derek Luke exacts revenge by joining the African National Congress and becoming exactly what Vos had accused him of being.

Luke gives a great performance which I was disappointed in seeing it go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5.

Hopefully I’ll post my Oscar picks in the days to come.


  • Damn, I’ve only seen one of the above: Devil Wears Prada. In fact, I own it. The original DVD. I doubt anyone will be surprised by this piece of information.

    I think you’ve covered almost all the movies you need to see before the Oscars, no? Except for The Queen – I heard Helen Mirren outdid herself in that one.

    Thanks to this post of yours, I plan on watching Little Miss Sunshine ASAP! And I can’t WAIT till BLood Diamond makes it to Jordanian theatres. 🙂

  • Hal, for some reason I’m reluctant to see The Queen. I’ve heard of her performance but I dunno…the movie just looks so boring. But eventually I’ll see it.

  • You knwo yesterday I brought 6 movies (for 6 JDs of course, and you cna get 6 for 5 JDs if you get them from Balad :D) what was I saying? yes 6 movies but you made me wanna get some of those you mentioned! I liked little miss sunshine form the trailer, also Pan’s Lybwhatever sounds nice, I have to watch more spanish movies… No wonder it has to do with war, war has always been a predominant aspect in the Spanish literature… It reminds me of a Spanish novel, I forgot what it’s called but it reesembles this movie: a girl that moves to a relative house, a new society…etc.

    Yesterday I went to the bookshop and I was surprised to find the devil wears prada as a book! I idn’t know it was originally a novel, I was this close to buying it butthen I thought… No need to mention what I thought, enough here 😀

  • Nice going man : still u have to see the departed babel children of men and surley the queen , which is amazing

    u seem as big of a movie buff as i am , i’ve got some 40 new movies (which i dont pay for as i download them) and i’m in the process.

    make sure u participate in the contest on the oscars offical website.

    and this is my 9th LIVE Oscar Night stay-awake go to school-universoty-work all sleepy ,,, old habits do not die at all 🙂

  • Isam, yup I’ve seen Babel, Children of men and the departed. Just didn’t around to reviewing them.

    Babel I have to be honest, is a movie i was looking forward to and while it was good it just didnt meet the expectations i had set for it. i think i felt the same with 21 grams when it came out a while back.

  • (this comment contains a movie spoiler)

    I loved Little miss sunshine, it’s amazing how Steve Carell evolved from John Stewarts show to this. This movie is heart breaking, smart and funny.
    My favorite part was when the brother discovered he was color blind.

    And Pan’s labyrinth is a lovely movie too, we were debating the other day if this really happened to her, or if it was all her imagination. I vote for it’s all in her head.

    Did you watch stranger than fiction? Itâ??s not nominated but itâ??s very good, I think you might like it

  • 7aki Fadi, yeah ill add a little warning to your comment.

    yeah i saw stranger than fiction and i think emma thomson should’ve gotten a nomination at least.

    hmm..all in her head..im trying to remember a scene toward the end when shes in labyrinth with her baby brother. how it looked from her step father pov. it could be, but i suppose that’s the magic behind the movie. like any fairy tale its a matter of what one, in this case she, believes.

Your Two Piasters: