As of last night, I’ve seen four out of the five movies nominated for a Best Picture Oscar: “Little Miss Sunshine”, “The Departed”, “The Queen”, and last night’s movie, “Letters From Iwo Jima”, directed by Clint Eastwood.
“Letters From Iwo Jima” is an compassionate, moving story, told almost entirely from the perspective of a young Japanese solidier, Saigo, who is helping to defend the island against an imminent American attack. Wait – Saigo doesn’t think of himself as a soldier. He’s just a baker, whose wife is raising the daughter he has not yet met. In a flashback, Saigo makes a promise to his then-unborn daughter that he will come back for her, despite his wife’s conviction that none of the soldiers that the Emperor has dispatched has ever returned.
Kazunari Ninomiya is amazing to watch. The wry humor that he sees in the situation in which he’s found himself comes through, as does his determination to survive in spite of the feared American advance, as well as the fatalistic sense of honor that drives his superior officers, often to suicide.
But the general that is in command of the island, Kuribayashi, played by Ken Watanabe, realizes that a dead soldier does not defend very well, and struggles with his officers to set up a novel defense and to get them to see that he intends to win.
I very much enjoyed this movie. It’s not a surprise to me that Eastwood has pulled it off; so many of his movies have this same sense of humanity in the face of violence or death.
However, now having seen almost all of the Oscar-nominated films, I think that the one I most enjoyed was “The Queen”, with “The Departed” being a close second. I don’t think I’m dismissing “Little Miss Sunshine”, though, and it would be great if a comedy could win for Best Picture – that hasn’t happened since 1977’s “Annie Hall”, I believe.
Oh, and “Babel”? I’ve heard such mixed reviews, and there’s so many other movies to go see, that I probably won’t see it before Oscar night. Which means it’s probably going to win.