The Tree of Life, Hugo, and The Descendants

The Oscars are just one week away and I’m trying to catch all the films available before the event to up my chances of picking the winners.  I’m also busy planning the decor and menu for the party.  I’ve got the schwag bags started for prizes, and they are gooood!

So here’s the final review on some of the hottest nominees for Best Picture.  Stay tuned at the end to enter Jess’ Ultimate Oscar Win Contest!

The Tree of Life

This film is not for everyone.  If you hate really artsy, existential movies where the cinematography is really the height of the story, then you probably won’t make it all the way through this movie.  I did like the film.  It’s artsy, thought-provoking, and the cinematography was like watching Planet Earth all over again!  The main story tells that of a family in the 50’s parented by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain (nominated for Moneyball and The Help).  Their three boys are growing up in a household where life isn’t perfect.  There are good times and bad, and interspersed with that theme of a father and son’s relationship is some of the most breathtaking natural images of science and space.

Does this film stand a chance for Best Picture?  I doubt it.  But I think it’s an incredibly well made and poignant film written and directed by Terrence Malick.  The footage is breathtaking and there are some scenes where the essence of life is so beautifully blended between the family and the natural element that you can’t help but look at it with awe.


Nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, Hugo appears to be the race winner.  The titled lead, Hugo, is a boy who lives in the train station, desperately trying to piece together an automaton, a magician’s machine he and his father were working on before his father’s death.

The film creates a wonderful and imaginative world inside the clocks at the train station as well as the city of Paris.  The costumes and music are well coordinated to the setting, but what I loved the most is the colorful array of characters and their body language.  The picture seems as though minute detail was taken with every extra and every corner of the set.  I loved Sacha Baron Cohen as the Station Inspector!

Hugo could very well be the film to beat at the Oscars.  Scorsese certainly earned the Best Directing nomination!  And with so many other categories functioning together all in the same film, why wouldn’t the Academy select this one?  Don’t quote me yet, but I think the film picked will be Hugo, though I’m secretly rooting for The Help.

The Descendants

Will this be the year for George Clooney?  I’m going to say no.  But I could be incredibly surprised with the Best Actor category.  The Descendants is an incredibly well made film with honest characters and true to life acting of them.  Clooney is great as Matt King, a father who struggles to keep his family sane after his wife ends up in a coma from a boating accident.  The chemistry between Clooney and the two young actresses (Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller) playing his daughters is really quite charming, and I don’t know why unexpected, but it was.

I definitely recommend this movie for any audience. Note*  There is a lot of swearing.  The message of family is strong and presented in an equal balance of big and small picture, tough times and funny ones.  I like how they picked a paradise of a setting like Hawaii and blended it with the real issues we all face.  Definitely a film I’d watch again.

Jess’ Ultimate Oscar Challenge!

I’m going to list the nominees for 4 big categories:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.  Vote for your picks below.  All entries must be submitted before Sunday at 6pm.  The commenter with the most correct answers wins AN AMAZON GIFT CARD!!!  And an array of Oscar themed fun like recipes and movies!  Don’t you want in?  Here are the categories; I’ll see ya’ll below!

Best Motion Picture of the Year


War Horse (2011): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

18 responses

  1. Thanks so much for these reviews. I want to see all three of these because I love the trailers and I’ve never seen Clooney in a film like that AND I just saw Brad Pitt on The Actors’ Studio and loved him.
    Thank you.

    1. I caught Brad Pitt on the Actor’s Studio also, I really liked him. He was definitely very honest and humble and has a sense of humor. I think you will like the Descendants a lot, but Hugo is a great one for you and the fam!

  2. My predictions:

    Best Film: The Artist (though I WANT it to be Hugo)
    Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (though I wouldn’t be surprised if George Clooney won)
    Best Actress: Viola Davis
    Best Director: Martin Scorsese

    1. LOL. You’re like me, you make a prediction, and yet have to make a follow up choice. Love it! First answer, final answer though.

      1. Yes, well, I am very aware of prevailing favorites in conversations and in the Golden Globes, and find that very often the ones I like and want to win, are not the ones that are GOING to win. But yes, the predictions of what I think WILL happen (not what I WANT to happen) are the ones I go by.

  3. I haven’t seen any of these movies and know nothing about them except for your reviews, so I’m closing my eyes and taking a stab at it, literally.
    Best film-Hugo
    Best Actor-Jean Dujardin
    Best Actress-Viola Davis
    Best Director-Martin Scorsese

    Keeping my fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks for playing Marcia! Good luck to you! Go see some of these movies with your honey!

  4. The Descendants looks to do well and apart from War Horse, I haven’t heard of any of the others. What I want to know is why the Muppetts Movie isn’t up there 🙂

    1. Well, the Muppets movie IS nominated for best original song “Man or Muppet”. I think it’s going to win that category. I’m hoping so, Jason Segel is pretty hilarious and I loved him singing with muppets for his Dracula musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall too.

  5. I loved The Descendants but haven’t seen the other two. I think the winners are going to be a real mixed bag this year; I’m going with:

    Best Picture: The Artist
    Best Actor: George Clooney
    Best Actress: Glenn Close
    Best Director: Martin Scorsese

    Those wouldn’t be my choices per se, but they’re my predictions.

    1. Ooooh, you surprise me with your Glenn Close prediction, sir. Do you know something I don’t? I can’t wait til Albert Nobbs is on DVD, the role looks amazing. Go Glenn!

  6. Ugh. I haven’t seen any of these. I never go to the theater unless it’s some remake that I’ve been dying to see. I have really enjoyed your Oscar blogs though, Jess!

    1. What’d I tell you about going to see these movies with your guy, Tiffany?! You can Tivo your shows, it’ll only take you 2 hours. LOL

  7. I’m terrible at guessing, but I did love The Descendants. Sad movie to see with my whole family on Christmas, but touching and poignant—one of those films you can talk about for hours. Hope your picks win, Jess!

    1. Thank you August! I agree with you about the Descendants, it is a beautiful film. You should still guess though, maybe you’ll win!!

  8. […] Jess Witkins reviews her Top 10 Slightly Absurd Romantic Comedies. Jess also reviews The Tree of Life, Hugo & The Descendents this week. Jillian Dodd reviews This Means War. Lyn Midnight reviews What Dreams are made of […]

  9. […]  Jess W. raises all sorts of cows on her 8,000 acre ranch in Wisconsin. She has swiss cows, American cows, cheddar cows, Monterey Jack cows, blue cows, even goat cows! She’s purported to be the best cheese maker in the country. […]

  10. […] blog contest winner from last Tuesday’s post, guessed 2 out of 4 main categories correct and will be receiving an Amazon Gift Card plus Oscar […]

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