The Descendants

The Nominations:

The Black-and-White:

A review by spacedcowboy

A love song to Hawaii, directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, and another shining performance by one of the brightest stars of our generation, George Clooney.

A synopsis from

Matt King’s family has lived in Hawaii for generations. His extended family – namely he and his many cousins – own 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai held in trust, which ends in seven years. The easiest thing for the family to do is sell the land before the seven years is up, which is all the talk in the state, as, to whom they sell the property could very well change the face of Kauai. Despite the vast wealth that comes with the land, Matt has decided to live solely on what he earns as a Honolulu lawyer. However, Matt has not had a perfect life living in Hawaiian paradise as many believe. He and his wife Elizabeth were having problems in their marriage. She recently got into a boating accident which has placed her in a coma. Their seventeen year old daughter Alex is in boarding school on the Big Island since they couldn’t handle her rebellion, which was made all the worse by an argument of an unknown nature between mother and daughter during Alex’s last visit home. And their ten year old daughter Scottie is starting to act out, which Matt doesn’t know if he can handle, potentially raising her on his own. Matt decides to bring Alex home upon news that Elizabeth is brain dead, and that she will be pulled off life support. But revelations about Elizabeth and Alex’s argument, which is tied indirectly to the issue of the land sale, leads to some decisions on Matt’s part about what is best for him in both mourning Elizabeth’s death and what is the best thing to do about the land, the two decisions which may be incompatible. Written by Huggo

Much has been made of Payne’s latest film; will this be Hawaii’s “Sideways“?

Lovingly shot, and with very careful preparation and research by Payne, Hawaii is portrayed with beauty and wonder. I loved it. Payne didn’t stray over-the-line and sink into a haole portrayal of Hawaii, or even a kama’aina view of tourist Hawaii – he simply and beautifully used Hawaii as a backdrop, and character, in his movie. The time he spent emerging himself into the Aloha State was well spent.

Having said that…

Most of the discussions of this film are around Clooney’s nomination for Best Actor, and Shailene Woodley‘s omission for a nod. Although a very enjoyable film, I do not see awards in the other categories, so I focus on these:

First Woodley: she delivered a very solid, interesting and intriguing performance. The first two adjectives are self-evident; “intriguing” needs more data. Does she deserve to win (assuming she was nominated, which she wasn’t?) Against the following nominees, I agree she deserves a place, although I do not know who she should displace:

Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”

Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Hopefully she will find a  place more clearly among her noms in the near future. She has the chops to be there. However it’s not a clear injustice that any of the above were nominated, and she was not.

For the category of Best Actor, George Clooney does a very good job. He was solid, interesting and understandable. His character experienced an interesting arc, if not completely sympathetic, not completely unexpected, and not involving a tremendous stretch. Among the nominations for Best Actor this year, I will ask the same question time and time again: did he deliver  a performance of the ages?

As much as I admire George, I must say “no.”

However, his running scene (which he denies is how he, the person, actually runs) is priceless. For his denial, I have my doubts. For his performance, I say “bravo”. Well done and I look forward to seeing him accept his second Oscar soon, just not for this film.

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