Monday, February 07, 2011

MINI REVIEWS: Salt & Country Strong

Of the thirty-two films nominated for Oscars this year, 13 of them are nominated in minor categories only. (“Minor categories” is here meant to include Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Achievement in Sound Mixing, Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Achievement in Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects.) Because the entirety of the production is not being judged I will, in some of these cases, be writing shorter “capsule reviews” dealing directly with the judged category or categories rather than the film as a whole. We will call these “Mini Reviews.”

Number of Nominations: 1
Categories: Best Sound Mixing
Availability in US: DVD, Blu-ray
Trailer: Click for Trailer
Salt follows CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) as she attempts to clear her name after being accused of being a Russian spy sent to carry out assassinations. Through all the twists and turns one expects from this type of espionage/action film, we have the requisite gunfights, car chases, and explosions—all mainstays of the sound categories, which in recent years have been won by The Bourne Ultimatum, The Hurt Locker, and King Kong. Since Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are barely (and "barely" is being generous) distinguishable from one another to mere mortals, it is often a safe bet to pick the same film in both categories (this has worked about half the time anyways) and since Salt is only nominated in one category, I'm not betting on it winning (though I reserve the right to change my mind, obviously).
Grade: B-
Country Strong
Number of Nominations: 1
Categories: Best Original Song ("Coming Home")
Availability in US: In Theatres (Check Showtimes)
Trailer: Click for Trailer
Before seeing Country Strong, I predicted, "This is going to be like Crazy Heart but with Gwyneth Paltrow playing the Jeff Bridges role." I wasn't too far off. Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, a country star just out of rehab trying to prove she's still got it. Canter tours with rising country stars Beau Hutton and Chiles Stanton (Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester), and between the three of them, the soundtrack is chock-full of memorable songs. The nominated song, "Coming Home," is stirring and inspiring, and is meant to symbolize the character's struggles. Personally, I felt that other songs from the film were more deserving, such as Paltrow and Tim McGraw's duet "Me and Tennessee" or Meester and Hedlund's almost hypnotic "Give in to Me." Without those stronger nominees though, it's likely one of the two Disney songs will prevail.
Grade: B+

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