Best Picture Reviews: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3

One of my self-assigned tasks is to view and provide capsule reviews for all 10 Best Picture nominees prior to the Academy Awards. Here are the first three.
127 Hours

I don’t know what idiot at 20th Century Fox entrusted the 127 hours screenplay to Danny Boyle–a director best known for movies about game shows and zombies–but that idiot is a genius!. Of course that assumes there was a screenplay at all, and not just a five-page treatement that said stuff like “bunch of shots of the main dude riding his bike here” and “now he screams for like five minutes”.

Like everyone I was leery of this film due to the subject matter, and fully expected it to be quasi-horror tragedy-porn or inspirational triumph-over-odds glurge. Maybe it was, originally. But between Boyle’s direction, and the unmazing cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak (Mantle also did the cinematography for Slumdog Millionaire, it winds up being more of a meditation on existentialism. Somehow.

Not Best Picture material, but waay better than I expected. That said: WTF product placements? Seriously, the guy is trapped alone in a cave and they still figure out a way to plug a credit card? Shameless. If there was a name-brand urine, that’s probably what they would have shown Franco imbibing.
The Social Network

I am probably the biggest fan of Aaron Sorkin than has never seen an episode of The West Wing (it’s in my queue, I swear!), but Sports Night is easily one of my favorite shows ever, and I thought the dialogue in Charlie Wilson’s War was top-shelf. So even though I did not know he was the screenwriter for The Social Network as I walked into the cinema, I figured it out after about the first machine-gunned 17 words.

The story and pacing of The Social Network are fairly pedestrian, and the film’s accuracy has been called into question. But, as in pretty much everything Sorkin does, the plot is mostly there just so the characters can pontificate on the philosophical implications of the plot. That’s A-OK in my book, as social media (and Facebook in particular) is a subject of particular fascination to me. (Although I’ll confess to finding the final scene of the film waaaay too contrived.) I also concur with other nerdanaylsists in declaring that, even though it’s only 2011, we are unlikely to see a better use of “wget” in a movie this decade.
Toy Story 3

My enthusiasm for animated movies is well publicised but, in the case of Toy Story 3, that zeal was perfectly balanced by my innate wariness of any film that ends in a 3 (a phobia no doubt instilled by my childhood exposure to Superman 3). Thus, I waited to catch it on DVD. But it absolutely lived up to the dazzlingly high standard set by the previous two films, and managed to do so even though the novelty of talking toys had long since worn off. And just as Andy has matured, so too have the themes explored by the series, as this installment is less a routine adventure tale and more an examination of obsolescence and mortality. That doesn’t prevent the filmmakers from packing nearly every scene with clever sight gags and references that you only catch on your second viewing, though. Toy Story will rightly go down as one of the greatest trilogies ever made.

5 thoughts on “Best Picture Reviews: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3

  1. Wow… really, wget in _The Social Network_? I was pretty leery about a semi-fact-based movie based on a current event, but that’s going to tip it over the line for me. I’m on my way!

    Re: Product placement: One of the things I loved about _Zombieland_ was the intentionally over-the-top products. I thought it showed a clever mirror to the practice not brought to light as adeptly in any other movie since _The Truman Show_.

  2. 127 Hours was very closely based on Aron Ralston’s autobiography, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”. There was a bit more meditation in the book, in particular, “what have I done to deserve dying here, like this?” I don’t recall any product placement in the book.

  3. Good call on saying that the Toy Story trilogy is one of the best ever.
    Actually, only three others come to mind right now that qualify:
    Mad Max
    Ginger Snaps

    A case could be made that the Man-with-no-Name movies are connected enough to be considered a trilogy.

    BTW, there’s a character in Ichi 0 that only watches movies with a 3 in the title, on the grounds that the makers probably have gotten it right by then.

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