With the Oscars soon approaching, wouldn’t it be wise for us to educated ourselves on what the academy believes were the best films of the year? Prior to watching Arrival, I actually haven’t seen any of the picks yet. There are a few more I want to watch before the Oscars if I can, but having only seen Arrival, this would obviously be my pick…but that doesn’t necessarily mean I consider it a truthful nominee, either. We’ll get that later, in the specialty categories. But how was this alien film that everyone can’t seem to stop talking about? Let’s get into it.
When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – led by expert linguist Louise Banks – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. – IMDb
Good Acting: ★★
- Unsurprisingly, a film nominated for best picture had pleasant acting in it. Actually, a lot of Arrival seemed to be quite focused on the acting itself over other things that are equally as important, which might make this ratings model a little imbalanced for certain things…we’ll see. Two stars for the acting.
Good Characters: ★☆
- Alrighty, here we go. The acting is great, but the characters are mediocre. They aren’t bad, necessarily, but looking back at this film years from now, I’ll more remember that it’s an aliens and linguistics film more than who the characters are in the long run. The characters are there as a method to tell a story. One star.
Good Casting: ★☆
- As I mentioned before, Arrival had some really great acting, and even some really great actors, but were they the right actors to choose? Actually, I don’t think they were. It was particularly the two leads that I thought were fine but could’ve been different actors that would’ve maybe been more memorable if it were the two leads from Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Chris Pratt. One star.
Good Importance: ★★
- So, the importance of the characters is indeed apparent. Louise wasn’t a mult-faceted scientist that can do it all – even though she does come close. The other scientists there all had their own duties to help Louise and to balance out everyone’s biases when dealing with something as unknown as aliens. Two stars.
Good chemistry: ★☆
- So, chemistry is important for not only characters but actors as well, right? We already know that, so where does that put this film? To be honest, there’s honestly not a lot of chemistry in this film at all. I would have given this film zero stars if it weren’t for the chemistry that Louise had with the aliens. To be completely honest, none of the humans had any real chemistry with each other, so it’s hard to give this many stars. One star for Louise and the aliens.
Good Dialogue: ★★
- Another huge focus from the academy is writing, they’re all about that. First up is the category of dialogue…and well, given the fact that this movie is all about how aliens talk, communicate, and connect with the humans, I’d have a hard time giving this category anything less thant two stars.
Good Balance: ★☆
- While the balance was okay most of the time, I also thought it was a little over-ambitious in trying to convey an idea. Part of this confused me in a bad way. Not in the fun way like with Donnie Darko, but an over-ambitious concept that doesn’t have enough screen time to allow for more explanation. For that reason, I’ll give this one star.
Good Story: ★★
- Good story? Oh, the story itself is great. Two stars.
- Alien films often have an issue remaining original. Even though the universe is infinite, we usually have a hard time expanding alien ideas in film. Arrival, on the other hand, seemed to actually do just that. If anything, I’d consider this most like Jane trying to teach Tarzan how to speak English, but that’s really stretching it. Two stars.
- For me, alien films are almost always “interesting”, but introducing this concept of deciphering an alien language that, to anyone else, would be impossible, is certainly a fascinating idea. They pitched the idea to you early on, and they stayed relevant to that idea throughout the film. Two stars.
- I pretty much knew going in to see Arrival that the visuals were going to be impressive, and indeed they were. The “shell” of the ship itself was unique, and sitting on that vast lush landscape creates an instantly memorable image, even if you haven’t seen it. That alone should have two stars, but the rest of the movie had some really great imagery, like strange dream sequences, for instance. Two stars.
- For films like this, it’s really hard not to understand how a director got nominated for his or her work on a film. In this case, Denis Villeneuve tackled what seems like a difficult script, and presented a film that was able to take that possibly difficult script into something rather solid. He definitely did a good job with his duties here, two stars.
- The editing in this film seemed to be as equally difficult, as I’m sure they had a lot to deal with, and following with the director’s plans, they had to make everything look great, and stitched together in a way that doesn’t madden an audience, and they definitely did a good job as well. Two stars.
- The advertisement is a little goofy. The movie is as the movie was advertised, but as I’ll mention in the specialty categories, the ads made me feel as if the trailers were hinting at something…more. The ads would have never been able to show it because that would’ve been too spoilery, of course, but when I watched the movie, I was constantly waiting for a build-up of sorts that explodes with something insane at the end, and for the most part, that doesn’t really happen. One star.
- For this category, not only was the music pretty decent, as was the sound itself. I don’t often talk about sound in film, because it doesn’t always affect me in any real way. That being said, both the music and sound in Arrival was pretty spectacular. I’ll even go as far to say it was the music specifically that sucked me in a few times. Two stars.
- The introduction to Arrival had to deal with the actual “arrival” so-to-speak. It also introduced Louise as the main character. There wasn’t an incredibly long introduction as they just wanted to get into the film’s story, but for what it was, it was totally fine, and I have no qualms about it. Two stars.
Inciting Incident/Crossing the Threshold: ★★
- The inciting incident had to do with Louise being requested to join the military to help translate the alien language, and the crossing of the threshold moment came the next day when she agreed to join them on that journey. Pretty typical stuff here, so I won’t go into depth about what was great about that. Two stars.
- Taking a serious approach on linguistics, anyone would have some obstacles they need to cross before really understanding each other, and unsurprisingly, the same occurs here, which only gets worse when they’re rushed by a deadline of sorts. Two stars.
- Okay. Hmm. How do I put this? For me, the climax was anticlimactic. It was there and all, but it didn’t feel like that “thing”, that “ending” that made the movie feel incredible. In general, the movie just feels like it tells a story from start to finish without really caring too deeply about being a showman about it, they just cared about telling the story.
Falling Action: ★★
- The falling action, on the other hand, was decently interesting. Interesting, mind you. That doesn’t mean it was perfect, it just means they did a great job at settling things down in an interesting way. Two stars here.
- Here’s where things fall a little for me, and it’s also a category that the academy doesn’t consider, which is the actual entertainment category. They have always only cared that they meet technical requirements (which they totally do), and always forget about what people like to consider while watching a movie. For instance, are you going to want to watch it again? Sure, why not. I wouldn’t seek it out, but if I happened across it somewhere, I might watch it again. One star.
- Is it fun? Typically speaking, drama films aren’t really “fun”, nor are they always meant to be. Sometimes something can happen in dramas that you can certainly have a fun time watching, which counts, but in this case, Arrival didn’t have a lot going on that I considered “fun”. Either happening in the movie or me watching at home. So, no stars here.
Impulse to buy it: ☆☆
- Like I said, I’m not going to really seek this movie to see it again, so I’m obviously not going out of my way to buy it to own forever, either. Could someone get it for a gift? I guess, but I’d really just have a whatever attitude about receiving it. No stars.
Impulse to talk to someone about it: ★☆
- Yes, I wouldn’t mind having a conversation about this film to someone, because there are some interestingly confusing elements in the film…and that’s always something people have a good time talking about. Am I losing my mind because none of my friends have seen it and I can’t talk about it at all?! No. Not at all. One star.
Sucks the audience in: ★★
- Maybe for the wrong reasons, but Arrival definitely doesn’t have any problems sucking the audience in. For that reason, I’ll give this subcategory two stars.
Now, we’re onto our specialty categories, specifically tailored for Arrival (written before watching the film.) First up is science fiction. Do I consider this a good science fiction film? Oh absolutely, in more ways than one. They are legitimately using fictional science and technology to explain certain things. No, not everything is sci-fi, a lot of it was actually grounded in reality, but if this movie feels like any real category, that would no doubt be science fiction. 10 stars.
The next category is an obvious one as well…when people see trailers for this film, they immediately think “alien movie”, so is it that? Duh. But, this category also goes into the idea that there are a ton of alien movies out there, so does this one fit in with the rest. Is it unique enough all on its own when it specifically comes to the aliens and nothing else? No doubt. In my opinion, the aliens found in this movie, as well as the form in which they decide to communicate, is all incredibly unique. 1o more stars here.
One of the weirdest categories I added this time came down to the language aspect. The trailers to the movie seemed to indicate a strong focus on linguistics. I wanted to see if they could provide a believable way in which the audience is able to learn the language in such a way that they could walk out of the theater knowing it…of course, that didn’t happen…but because I think you can go back and study the symbols yourself for, you know, when you have no life, that you might be able to decipher it yourself. For that reason, I’ll give this the full 10 stars…even though that’s sorta being nice.
BEST PICTURE NOMINEE
Next category is Best Picture Nominee, because, well…that’s what it is. But in my opinion, do I really understand why, or even really agree with that? Well, when it comes to some boring old technical aspects, sure I guess I do understand it, but do I agree with it? No, not really. I don’t consider this the best movie of the year, nor even close. I often don’t agree with the academy, but I often understand and even agree with the choices. This time, I thought the movie was good, but too mediocre for the Academy Awards. Five stars.
Typically, my last specialty category comes down to “halfway decent” unless I have something else to add, which this time, I did. Something insane. This was the one thing I expected to happen in this movie…something insane. I expected a real slow buildup that led to something insane towards the end…whatever that meant. While something sort of insane occurred, it was a slow, quiet, almost whispered insane thing that kept with the lulling nature of the film…so I feel obligated to give this category five stars.