Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And the Oscar Nominees Are.......

2012 Oscar Nominations for 2011 Films
"War Horse"
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Tree of Life"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Help"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Demián Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy "
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo "
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"

Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

I have some movies to see!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We Bought a Zoo! Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

My family is large.  I have a couple of more brothers and a couple of more sisters than most.  This has resulted in more nieces and nephews than most on a geometric basis.  Should all of my immediate family (just my side, not including my late husband's side) show up for a photo opportunity, it would involve 29.5 people.  At the end of March, there will be 30 (Yay!).  If my dad and my husband were still around, we'd add two more.  Anyway, I have a point and it's not looking for sympathy..... it is this:  We don't exchange gifts.  Not for birthdays or Christmas.  Could you imagine the hassle: the shipping, the postage, keeping track of birthdays? the ages of various nieces, nephews?  age appropriate toys, books, etc?  Now comes the point.  Of all my various siblings, only one lives withing hailing distance.  We do hang out and do birthday/Christmas stuff for the kids.  However, for the last couple of years, instead of buying gifts for my three nieces, we do a "Date with Aunt Jane".  Each niece gets to pick what they would like to do with me.  So far, so good.  Today, we (all three nieces and I) went out to lunch and then to see "We Bought a Zoo".  Lunch was at Mario's in Lexington Center, Massachusetts, our favorite place.  By the way, the iced tea is decaffeinated and comes unsweetened, just another reason to patronize this wonderful restaurant!

But, to the movie!  It's a wonderful story.  "We Bought a Zoo" is based on the true tale of Benjamin Mee's family, including his mother, Amelia, and brother, Duncan.  The actual zoo is in Dartmoor, Devon, England, in the southwest (but not so southwest as Cornwall).  For more information, I suggest you look up www.dartmoorzoo.org .  Benjamin Mee has also written a book, upon which the movie has been based We Bought a Zoo.  I have not yet read the book, but it's on my list.  Obviously, the movie is different from the book.  The movie is set in California, not England.  The movie doesn't include the matriarch Amelia.  The reason for looking to relocate is different.... in real life, it is Amelia looking to relocate.  In the movie, it is Benjamin.  All in the name for a better story.  But the story works.

So, a brief synopsis:  Benjamin is a widower of six months with a 12 year old son, Dylan, and 7 year old daughter, Rosie.  He is grieving, a lot.  The ladies in his circle of acquaintance are filling his refrigerator with food.  And flirting with him, a lot.  Benjamin appears to be able to care for Rosie and concentrate on her grief but is at odds with Dylan.  Dylan is troubled, unable to deal with his loss, he is acting out and we see this through his art and increasing trouble-making.  This leads to Benjamin's decision to relocate the family.  After a series of disappointing house-showings, Benjamin and Rosie see what is their "dream house" (Dylan has begged off this house hunting trip) and the first-time agent is flabbergasted and attempts to explain why the house is unsuitable.  Before he is able, the denizens manage to make their presence known.  This does not dissuade Rosie or Benjamin after all, adventurers that they are. 

The zoo, or more accurately, the wildlife park, is in disarray and poor condition.  In short, it needs a massive infusion of cash, a promise of steady capital support and the most optimistic owner one could possibly pray for.  The current staff are wary of Benjamin, his motives and commitment.  As the movie progresses, obstacles seem to be surmounted, one by one.  Not easily, ever.  Life's problems never are.

Benjamin Mee is portrayed by Matt Damon who does his usual admirable job.  Scarlett Johannson  plays Kelly Foster who runs the zoo, the workaholic.  Angus Macfayden is Peter MacReady, the resident genius.  (Macfayden is dear to my heart as he played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart and I thought he was so wonderful in that role... I look for him from time to time.)  Thomas Haden Church is Duncan, the brother.  I do like him.  Always nice to see him.  Walter Ferris, the villain of the piece as the inspector needed to give permission to open the zoo, is acted by John Michael Higgins.  He is recognizable as a "character actor" who floats through movies and TV shows.  He's been in three of the Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy movies (Best in Show/A Mighty Wind/For Your Consideration) and just recently an episode of Psych.  Carlo Gallo is also here (she's Daisy Wick on Bones) as an alarmist bookkeeper.

The movie is very enjoyable.  It is being advertised as a comedy but it has many sentimental, sometimes tear evoking moments.  But that could just be me.  The film may be over the heads of younger children.  My six year old niece certainly had some questions that I didn't answer..... I'll leave those to her dad if she remembers to ask.  Or her mom.  Such as "what does "hit on" on mean.  This doesn't fall into AJ's purview of Christmas present.  Nope.  Explaining the facts of life, however simple isn't part of the deal.  Never gonna happen.