Saturday, February 23, 2013

Awards Time Is Here

I realize that in the great scheme of things, the Academy Awards is NOT a big thing. But it is a big part of our culture and movies are so much fun. Tomorrow is the day (or evening) so here goes my Academy Award preview/review.

Some initial points:

  • I have seen 8 of the 9 movies nominated this year. The one I haven't seen, Amour, I have no desire to see. Watching an old person dying (the point of the movie) is probably too close to home for a mid-sixties aging Baby Boomer. Enough said.
  • I only talk about the whole movie. I am not that much of a movie reviewer to really know all the actors and their parts. (Although Daniel Day-Lewis is nothing short of remarkable. Again!)
  • Picking a Best Picture from among these nine is an impossible task. It is worse than comparing apples and oranges. It is more like having a category like, Best Fruits and Vegetables and trying to choose from among tomatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, pomegranates, pineapple, broccoli, cauliflower, and rutabaga. Go ahead, pick one.
Having said all that, here's my look at this year:

No comments, since I did not see it.

Silver Linings Playbook:
A nice movie, well-done with good acting. But haven't we seen this story before under different names (Footloose? Dirty Dancing?) I enjoyed the movie and appreciated the "reality" of parts of the portrayal of bi-polar disorder. But really, is winning (or losing) a dance competition a viable treatment for bi-polar?

Beasts of the Southern Wild:
A remarkable movie. Wondrous, magical. It reminded me of Big Fish or a positive version of Pan's Labyrinth. I enjoy magical realism in stories and film and this one is marvelous! It is story-telling at its best. Good recognition for the director (Benh Zeitlin) and that young (at the time 6-year old) actress Quvenzhané Wallis.

Les Miserables:
I have said before that I have not been a fan of the over-blown, over-produced, over-hyped stage musical on which this movie is based. For me, on stage, the staging got in the way, overwhelming the story. The movie is different. It allowed me to sit back and take in the majesty of the scenes, the over-the-top productions fit the big screen in a way they didn't for me on stage. The struggle of two differing world views on the ability of humans to change was well done and Victor Hugo's themes were treated fairly. I enjoyed the movie and  the music.

Django Unchained:
Tarantino at his comic/bloody/over-the-top best. I have never been a big Tarantino fan, although I am coming to appreciate him. I kept looking for symbolism in some of the bloodbath scenes. You know, this is a metaphor for what is about to happen in the Civil War, etc. That may very well be true- the waste of human life at an incredibly explosive level- but in the end Tarantino is Tarantino. Top quality movie if you can stand the obviously fake blood. DiCaprio, Jackson, Foxx, Waltz- all at the top of their game as well.

Obviously one of the front-runners. Argo (and Ben Affleck) have been taking a lot of awards. It is taut and well-done, with the Hollywood satirical humor of itself in the midst. The only thing may be- how can you vote for a movie as the best picture when you haven't nominated the director. I personally don't see how that makes sense, but then I'm also not in the politics of Hollywood! If it isn't Lincoln, it may most likely be Argo.

Zero Dark Thirty:
Incredibly powerful. Controversies aside, Bigelow (also not nominated for director) has told a tough story with grit and determination. Her portrayal of the killing of bin Laden at the end of the movie is done in just about real-time. It is riveting in its tension (even as we know how it ends, like in Argo) but also in its every-day-doing-my-job kind of approach. Put one foot in front of the other and just do your job. Both Jessica Chastain as the CIA agent, and the Navy Seals do just that. If it isn't Lincoln, it should be this one.

Spielberg, Day-Lewis, Jones, Civil War, emancipation- Big Issues for a Big Picture. It should be unbeatable. If it loses, it will be a loss not seen since Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan. (Hollywood politics again?) That only strengthens my thoughts about comparing apples and oranges. It is an important film with great directing, acting, writing, production, etc. etc. How Silver Linings Playbook can even compete in the same field is beyond my non-technical brain. It is false competition.

And that brings me to my sentimental, and personal, favorite:

Life of Pi:
The movie that couldn't be made! Done superbly by Ang Lee. If any of the others win Best Picture, Ang Lee can still be the best director! He has taken a story of fantasy and hope, grace and tenacity and turned it into a parable of faith. It is an unparalleled example of story-telling brought to the screen AND in 3-D. The 3-D movement from Avatar (James Cameron) to Hugo (Martin Scorsese) and now Life of Pi (Ang Lee) is not linear. Lee has made a quantum leap in movie making. Lincoln deserves to win, of course, but Life of Pi lives in my soul.

A few more sidebars:
  • I am waiting to see The Master. Some of the actors got recognition, but I haven't seen the movie yet.
  • Denzel Washington in Flight is almost as good as Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. That is another movie that could have been nominated as well.
  • So, I hear, is The Impossible, which I have also not seen. I saw an interview with Charlie Rose and found the story and movie intriguing.
  • Moonrise Kingdom, another Wes Anderson masterpiece, is sadly only nominated for screenplay. A quirky, charming movie.
  • Not nominated for anything but should have had some recognition: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Maybe it deserved it for best quote of the year: 
      • In the end, everything will be okay. If it's not okay, it's not yet the end.

That's it for another year. Now we wait and watch and see Hollywood pat itself on the back.

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