Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Night - 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' - A Review

Well The Oscars are tonight and somehow I only got to see five of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  Today is my final review before the big party tonight and one thing I can tell you for certain is that 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' won't win Best Picture.

'EL & IC' has some seriously good acting in it.  Max von Sydow is OUTSTANDING as 'The Renter,' who shepherds young Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) on a search for his father's legacy after 9/11. Horn, in his first-ever film, is able to carry off a tough role as a pre-teen with Asberger's Syndrome who is staggered by the loss of his doting father (Tom Hanks).  Sandra Bullock continues a series of breakout roles as Oskar's mother and is brilliant in understated way that contrasts starkly with her Oscar-winning role in 'The Blind Side.'

'EL & IC' is nicely shot, taking us on a tour of all of the beautiful places there are to film in New York City.  Central Park looks amazing, the boroughs and neighborhoods sing with authenticity and are a wonderful backdrop for Oskar's noble quest. Cuts in and out of Oskar's memory blend nicely with the locations and the great apartment set.  Stark footage of the Twin Towers burning is included, though probably not needed.

The story is complicated but basically follows Oskar after he finds a key in his father's closet.  In an envelope marked 'Black,' Oskar finds a safe deposit box key and chronicles all the people named 'Black' in New Yor City.  His obsessive fixation on the quest, photographing and chronicling each visit is almost a road movie within the film.  His 'buddy' in the road film segment is a mysterious man who rents a room from Oskar's grandmother. 

Along the way Oskar learns what we suspected all along, that von Sydow's mute character is really his long-lost grandfather. Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter of the recent  Bond films) turns in an excellent appearance as the actual owner of the key.  In the end, all comes together and while Oskar's father is not miraculously resurrected, his mother is shown to be a true heroine, his grandparents re-unite, and just about everything else Hollywood can do to heal the 9/11 scars is thrown in as the credits roll.

Everything The Oscars love in a Best Picture right?

'EL & IC' won't win though, because there just isn't enough to the movie to be the first major film about the fall of the World Trade Centers and the horrible events of 9/11. It tries too hard to make us remember how hard that time was for us all.  The film doesn't just pull on the heartstrings, it yanks hard on them, ending up feeling exploitative rather than transcendent. It's one of the rare movies that I sat thought that I wish I had not seen.

Enjoy the Red Carpet, but skip 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.'

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