Oscar Checklist – Part 5: Dressed for Success

Running out of time, so I’ll keep this brief. These next two films share costume nominations. The other three nominees are The King’s Speech, True Grit, and The Tempest. The work done in Speech is okay, but not great, not like True Grit. And I still haven’t managed to see The Tempest, but I’m trying. If I do manage, I will include it with my mish-mash post I’m working on.

Alice in Wonderland – Nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects

I watched Tim Burton’s failed attempt at making something old, new (Goth) again, way back when it was released. The horror that is Alice in Wonderland has regrettably been etched in my brain ever since. It’s times like these that I wish the Eternal Sunshine brain wipe really existed so I could expunge this truly terrible picture from my memory banks. I thought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was bad, but that plays like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory compared to Alice.

I absolutely hated this movie. I have nothing positive to say about this train wreck. There was a lot of talent involved, including the up and coming Mia Wasikowska, but all of it was wasted. The special effects were frightening, in a very bad way. Did you see the possessed Mad Hatter dance? I had to watch it multiple times and it made me cringe repeatedly. It could be used as some kind of modern warfare to provoke enemy surrender so long as we stop playing the movie. The sets, the costumes, were all gaudy eyesores. Burton has seemingly stopped caring about how well these elements fit within his stories so long as they’re abundant and Gothic looking.

The entire look of this picture is an affront to good movies. It reminded me of video games when they don’t have enough processing power so at a certain point long distances just become fog but with Alice even the fog was ugly. The plot is just as unintelligible. It can’t decide if it’s going to take the revisionist sequel approach like Hook, or retell Carroll’s story in a modern way. Instead of making a credible decision, they throw everything up on the screen, which amounts to nothing more than white noise. It all culminates in the most monotonous final battle sequence I’ve ever seen.

I could go frame by frame and find something I don’t like about this movie: Depp’s weird choices, Burton failing to reel Depp in, the lack of any kind of narrative focus, the psycho dance (it bears repeating, it’s so appalling), the bizarre flashback that strains to give the Mad Hatter an arc. I’m not sure they could have messed this thing up any more than they did.

How this managed to be nominated for multiple awards is beyond me. The only thing I would call it the “best” at is best way to induce headaches.

Grade: F+

I Am Love – Nominated for Best Costume Design

This is an Italian melodrama that is heavy on the artifice but short on any real emotions. The film was not chosen as the Italian representative for the Academy Awards, and after slogging through the pretense, it’s clear to see why.

Tilda Swinton stars as a wealthy housewife, bored and longing to break out of the perfect life she’s created for herself. Swinton learned to speak Italian for the role, as well as Russian since her character is originally from the motherland. Unfortunately, she is given little to do with her gifts.

After a tedious opening party scene, Swinton begins an affair with her son’s friend and business partner. Then tragedy strikes, there’s an abrupt ending, and that’s it. It takes forever to build up to the affair, and once we get there, we languish for far too long. This renders the feeble attempts at subplots undeveloped and pointless. Why we even learn about the family’s business ventures is beyond me.

The film doesn’t have anything else to say other than love is fantastic and a little magical. The director, Luca Guadagnino, uses over-the-top music, bright color schemes, and swooping camera moves to parade the “passion.” It’s all sound and fury… and instead of falling in love, it left me cold and dissatisfied.  There’s a ridiculous love scene that takes place in the great outdoors, meant to evoke visions of the Garden of Eden. Instead, I was snickering at the tacky sentiment.

I don’t have a problem with melodrama, and this movie would certainly fall into that category. I just felt disengaged with what was happening on-screen. A lot of the time it felt like I was watching someone’s interpretation on what love means. The problem wasn’t that the person interpreting hadn’t been in love before, but that the person interpreting wasn’t human. For all of its grandeur and opulence, the movie felt mechanical.

The costumes are, however, wonderful. They are delightfully colorful and modern. And they weren’t chosen solely for their fashion appeal. Each sharp suit and dress is tailor-made for the character’s style and station.  It’s reflective costuming and the only thing other than Swinton that kept my interest. I Am Love tries very hard to make what should have been intimate, epic, and it doesn’t succeed.

Grade: D

Check back next week as I race to the finish line; plus, Adam and I will share our picks and quibble a little.


One response to “Oscar Checklist – Part 5: Dressed for Success

  1. Pingback: Oscar Checklist – Part 8: Salute Your Shorts | Shooting the Script

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