Movie: The Descendants
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director (Alexander Payne), Actor in a Leading Role (George Clooney), Film Editing, Adapted Screenplay

What a freaking fantastic movie. After the train wreck of Fox Searchlight’s Tree of Life, this was a welcoming and encouraging boost to continue to have faith in the film industry. I only had 2 issues with the movie:
1) Excessive swearing (minors using the f-word always bums me out)
2) Awful sound mixing. I mean, AWFUL. It probably won’t be noticed on DVD, but in a mostly empty theater it was REALLY obvious.
That being said, I loved this movie and want to buy it immediately.

The movie is about a land owner in Hawaii named Matt King (Clooney) who is dealing with a major land deal on Kauai at the same time as he’s dealing with his wife being in a coma. All the characters – except one – have fatal moral flaws and throughout the story, they have to deal with those. It’s a comedic journey of reconciliation, forgiveness, hope, and family.

The screenplay was adapted from a book but it works SO well as a movie, I can’t imagine the book being better. (I know, I’m probably wrong.) It’s not very often that I feel like the title of a movie adds something to the story itself, but I thought this did. (Credit to the author of the book since it’s the same title.) The writing was fantastic. It was clever and the actors delivered the lines flawlessly. There were a lot of voice-overs used, but they were used effectively to convey what was going on (unlike The Tree of Life). I would categorize the movie as a comedy primarily. There are some serious, dramatic parts in the movie but they are almost immediately reconciled with some comic relief. I think that must’ve been the MO of the director and writers. It worked fantastically. It didn’t downplay the serious moments but kept it from being an all-out bawl fest. Since I use comedy to deal with drama in my real life, I loved it. It seemed like real life to me.

The movie was so well cast. Every single character stood on their own and the actors worked really well together. Sid (the guy friend of Clooney’s oldest daughter) and Scottie, the youngest daughter, were my favorites. It didn’t seem like they were acting. They were just being a spacey teenage guy and a 10-year-old girl, in the funniest – but most real – way they could be. George Clooney might be my new favorite actor. He was just SO funny throughout the entire movie (except in the serious parts, of course). That scene from the trailer when he’s running just cracked me up in the movie. It brought some levity during a serious moment. I also keep replaying this moment where he’s staring at someone behind a bush and just laugh to myself. He’s a fantastic physical actor – his movements and behaviors do so well just on their own to convey what’s going on.

As for cinematography and film editing, it was beautifully shot. It was shot like an indie film, (which it was) which I love because more time is given to artistic framing and zoom techniques. Not only that, but the B-roll shots they thought to include helped tell the story of Hawaii and didn’t just focus on the pretty scenery and beaches like most Hawaiian-based movies do. I’m not sure why it was nominated for film editing and not cinematography, but the editors did a great job with the shots they were given. It flowed perfectly.

All in all, it was a beautiful, hilarious, poignant film. It was well-rounded and a full movie with lots of heart. The characters are endearing, despite (or maybe because of?) their flaws. You’re smiling the whole time and left smiling at the end. I highly recommend it.

Predictions
Best Picture: I think it has a chance. Of the BP’s I’ve seen (which is most of them), I’d pick this one.

Director: Earned the nomination completely but doubtful to win.

Leading actor: It’s a hard sell against Dujardin but he has a good chance. This is such a strong category, Dujardin might just get it because his acting was a different type than everyone else.

Film editing: Doubtful.

Adapted screenplay: Possibly!

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