When Hollywood put on their best slacks a few weeks ago and announced the year’s Best Picture nominees, a great wave of bewilderment swept across the universe (aka, Twitter). Why were these seemingly random assortment of movies deemed “the best”? War Horse, anyone? Particular vitriol was aimed at the 9/11-themed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, probably because its title has too many words and it has an air of sentimental glop around it.
Jumping on bandwagons is my favourite hobby, so I skipped over to the theater fully prepared to despise the hell out of this movie. Two dull and uncomfortable hours later I was not only on the bandwagon but driving it, steering it into the face of every voter who sullied the Oscars by nominating this film.
There are a lot of things I feel guilty about in my life – that I don’t call my grandmother enough, the time I accidentally stole an entire salmon from Sobey’s – the list goes on. But one thing I refuse to feel guilty about is rolling my eyes at a movie about 9/11 when it’s as pretentious and shrill as this one.
For those who haven’t read the book by Jonathan Safran Foer (I’m one of them), the story is about a child named Oskar whose main interest in life is going on the “reconnaissance missions” his father creates for him to indulge his curiosity of the world. Oskar is a child with a pathological need for things to make sense, and when his dad – played by Tom Hanks (wearing the same glasses my Mom owned in the 80s) – dies on 9/11, his brain won’t calm itself until he can find a way to understand the unthinkable. Thankfully, footage of 9/11 (or what Oskar accurately calls The Worst Day) is used tastefully.
A word on child actors: No. No, damn you. You get the occasional riot like Drew Barrymore in E.T., but for the most part I really don’t want to see anyone less than four feet headlining a movie – this doesn’t apply to Peter Dinklage, obviously (whose recent claim to fame is playing Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones). Child acting is like watching a cat chasing a laser beam across the floor; directors can hide the laser as effectively as they can, but it’s still basically just some poor kid going through the motions. This is especially a problem since this movie is basically a one-man show starring young Oskar (played by Thomas Horn). The way he over-enunciates his words during crucial emotional moments made me want to violently burrow down into my box of Milk Duds and never emerge. With all his tics and tambourine playing, he’s like the love child of Sheldon Cooper and Liza Minelli. Every time his mother (played by a sad-sack Sandra Bullock) tells him she loves him I thought, “Really?”
The weaknesses of this film are substantial, but most movies have a redeeming quality and in this one it’s the backdrop of New York. Shot from a child’s perspective, the city is a great sprawling universe of asphalt and lights with the tranquil valley of Central Park hidden in the middle. It’s a beautiful sight – too bad it’s clouded by this small, irritating person who won’t stop talking.
Overall, this film is emotionally manipulative and a dull mess.
Oscar voters, what were you thinking?
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