My biggest fear come Oscar season is that a flick will sneak into the mix based solely on its pedigree. It's likely we're going to have just that with 'War Horse' but thankfully 'Midnight in Paris' will balance the scales - unwarranted on one side - well deserved on the other. Where Spielberg brought forth an overwrought bore, Woody Allen worked a whimsical wonder that sets a new standard for rom-coms - be smart or be gone.
From the opening montage to its closing views, 'Midnight in Paris' captures the City of Light in a fashion that makes you feel as if you just visited the place. Screenwriter Gil Bender (a spot-on Owen Wilson) and his snotty fiancee (Rachel McAdams) are in town for a meet and greet with her parents - Bender pining to move to Paris and become a novelist as opposed to a simple script-writing hack. The movie quickly turns magical with Bender's nightly transportations back to the 1920s - meeting with Earnest Hemingway amongst other luminaries of the age to discuss his yet-to-be-published tale. The fact that Allen never explains how Bender bends time is a wise choice - there's no bogging down of the narrative which allows the flick to keep skipping along at a effervescent pace. The last thing something this frolicsome needed was a drawn-out monologue on how it's plausible for a guy to time travel in a Peugeot - it's a movie - buy into the fantasy.
The exploration of longing for a different life in another age is at the very soul of 'Midnight in Paris' and the topic couldn't be in more capable hands than Allen's. The famed director specializes in the human condition and especially the lighthearted way that the movie demands. While 'Midnight in Paris' may not be the most "heavy" of the films in the mix at the Oscars, it is definitively amongst the most entertaining. Woody Allen has produced one of his finest flicks in years - a postcard sent with passion from the epicenter of romanticism.