Despite a decent run at it the last couple weeks, I was unable to see all the Oscar contenders I was hoping to see before Sunday's Academy awards, dubbed by my straight friend Dean, the gay Superbowl. My roommate Kevin didn't think too much of that description: "It's about the acting!" He's gay, by the way, and an ex.
But anyway, I caught up with the lugubrious The Hours on Monday and though I thought Kidman probably deserved the Oscar as much as anyone, I was put off by the morbid streak of masochism of the movie itself, not to mention the belaboured, obvious metaphors punctuated by the inelegant cross-cutting across the multiple timelines. I thought both the editing and script were sub-par. By contrast, director Stephen Daldry's crowd-pleaser Billy Elliot was both more enjoyable and accomplished.
Today, Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York kept my attention for most of its 166 minutes, no small feat considering my butt and knees hurt after the mostly silly and draggy Dreamcatcher. After seeing it I'm surprised it was completely shut out of the Oscars considering it frequently exhibits exactly the sort of sweeping masculinist bombast that Hollywood seems to love so much. On the other hand, it also presents a less than glamourous view of our nation's violent and conflicted past; The Pianist seems much easier to contemplate, I would imagine, for most Americans. The very pointed dramatizations of the conscription riots are particularly relevant, caused as they were by the ability of rich men to buy their way out of serving their country in time of war while starving immigrants were granted both citizenship and an army knapsack right there on the docks as they arrived.
Leo DiCaprio acquitted himself pretty well, especially considering he was up against Daniel Day Lewis' unique performance as the Butcher. Sure, Lewis' mannerisms shaded over into caricature at times; but, that only complimented Scorsese's myth-making project and didn't seem out of place.
The ethical conundrum that DiCaprio's character, Amsterdam Vallon, finds himself in (torn loyalties between his father and the Butcher, his mentor and killer of his father) reminded me of my favorite film this year — Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Le Fils (The Son), a film so potent that it literally left me trembling as I walked out of the theatre. Scorsese resolves, too tidily, Vallon's ethical dilemma fairly early on in his drama (the moral grey area is all in the historical details and the milieu itself) but the rest of the movie is plenty powerful nonetheless.