Oscars

Each year my Dad and I would see all the nominated movies for Best Picture and enjoy analyzing each movie together.  One of our all time favorites was Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni.

That year Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture and my Dad and I were flabbergasted.  Being flabbergasted at Oscar winners(and nominations) is a common emotion.  I still love the Academy Awards and I watch every year, feeling moved, inspired  with tears in my eyes.(What can I say, My Dad and I were both criers)  The thing is that I think the Academy doesn’t even nominate the best movies of the year.  Some are great, some good, and some, well I don’t like them.  Here are my thoughts about this years nominees.  To my friends out there, don’t be offended if I hate a movie you love because I am kind of ridiculous when it comes to this stuff.  My Dad passed away in 2011 and this year I felt his presence while completing our ritual.  I know he is happy that I am finally writing down some of my thoughts on the movies  Be prepared, I am not going to give much detailed analysis.  This probably won’t evoke critical thoughts.  Just some fun thoughts about the films.  Also, I didn’t feel like explaining the movie.  This will be a way more interesting read if you know what the films are about.  Okay, let the opinions begin:

Best Picture Nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty http://oscar.go.com/nominees  I am going to rank the movies from worst to best.

#9 Argo
Just because something is an amazing true story does not make it an amazing movie.  I feel like this happens a lot in Hollywood.  So, none of the acting performances stood out.  Character development was pretty weak.  They gave Ben Affleck(I guess Ben Affleck gave Ben Affleck, since he is the director) a lame side story of being separated from his son and wife yet didn’t develop that plot line.  It’s a cliché thing to do to try to make the character more interesting except it doesn’t work and just seems silly.  Honestly, how much do you think they thought about that part of his character.  Barely, is my guess.  So than don’t try to get me to feel something that took you two seconds to come up with writing a “made for hollywood” screenplay.  Another thing, I’m tired of these movies that make white people look cool and brown people not cool.  Most of the time they did not even give subtitles to the Iranian characters.  “Just be mean and Iranian, who cares what you are actually saying, the audience will get the point.”  Terrible.  I want some real nuanced creative discourse on these interesting topics not a super hero Ben Affleck riding into Tehran on his white horse/plane to save the day.

What I liked? Seeing the old phones from 1980.  I miss them. It reminded me of my grandparents house. Seriously, I did like the vintage look and feel of the film, but that’s about it.

Ridiculous that this movie was nominated for Best Picture.  A joke, a farce.  I heard rumblings that it could actually win! I am critiquing the film not the story, it’s awesome that those hostages were rescued and amazing how they pulled it off.  But if it wins best picture, someone send a fake movie crew to my house to rescue me from my flabbergastment.

#8 Lincoln

I know, I know. Now you think I am really crazy putting Lincoln at #8.  Here is the deal, part of my reasoning here is about all the hype and accolades it received and how hopeful I was that it would be good.  I was very disappointed.  I was afraid to see this movie because I was afraid that Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn’t be able to pull it off.  Unfortunately or fortunately he was able to pull it off but no one else associated with the film was.  Once again, everything was over simplified.  Politicians for slavery were uglier, boring, mean-spirited, weak. Those against slavery were funny, confident, suave, likeable.  I hate being beat over the head with that simplicity.  There is a scene where Tommy Lee Jones(the abolitionist politician Thaddeus Stevens) brings a new congressman into his office to intimidate him into voting to abolish slavery.  The scene is just so contrived with Jones bullying him while, we the audience laugh at the young congressman’s inability to get words out of his mouth in the presence of such a witty powerful man.  I felt the dialogue was not realistic and was just there to explain to the audience what was happening.  When will screenwriters realize that you don’t have to tell us what is happening in the dialogue? Let the dialogue be authentic and we will enjoy figuring it out. Also, I wasn’t really into the portrayal of the relationship between Lincoln and his wife Mary(Sally Field).

What I liked? Actually, Daniel Day-Lewis.  I didn’t think what he was working with was all that good.  But, I found myself thinking while watching the movie.  “Why is Abraham Lincoln surrounded by all theses doofuses?  I would have thought those people would have been more interesting.” In other words, I forgot I was watching Daniel Day-Lewis.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie reminded me.

#7 Les Miserables

My favorite part of this movie was the trailer and the 9 months prior to seeing it.  I love this musical.  I’ve seen it on Broadway.  I have the music on my ipod, etc, etc.  Not to be a Broadway snob but once you’ve seen it on Broadway, this cast is a let down.  I was really stoked for this movie but alas I pretty much hated it.  First of all, Javert is my favorite character in Les Mis and “Stars” arguably my favorite song.  Russell Crowe was just not good as an actor or singer.  Anne Hathaway was pretty awesome and did steal the show in her few minutes.  I also felt like the musical score was pushed to the background for the acting and singing.  The opening scene is huge and dramatic but the score was barely audible over the crashing waves and Hugh Jackman’s voice.  They missed the boat on this.(those who saw the movie get my bad reference)

#6 Life of Pi

We are getting closer to movies I liked(kinda) I promise. I actually didn’t like this crop of nominated awards very much but there are a few.  Keep reading. Haha.  So, Life of Pi? I saw this movie so long ago I can’t even remember what happened.  There was a tiger and then a Zebra that sounded like Chris Rock.  Wait, that was Madagascar 3 which was awesome by the way.  I was nervous to see Maddy 3 because I had not seen the first 2.  I wasn’t sure I would understand anything but I picked it up quick and laughed right along with all the kids in the theater.  I really don’t have much to say about Life of Pi.  Sorry.  I kinda liked it, kinda didn’t.  I didn’t see the end coming.  People talked about it being spiritual but I didn’t find the discussions about God particularly interesting or thought-provoking.  I have always liked adventure and survival stories so I enjoyed that.  I would recommend seeing it but an academy award nomination is stretching it.

#5 Django Unchained

I just saw this today actually so I have not fleshed out my thoughts on it.  Forgetting about the content, the violence, rightness and wrongness, it was a beautiful film.  Tarantino is great with a camera and often has cool shots and cinematography in his films.  I really liked “seeing” it.  I love Jamie Foxx, I always knew he was a star back on In Living Color when he was my favorite.  Foxx was cool but not to cool even when he was being to cool.  Follow me?  Tarantino reminds me of 13 yr old boy who stole his parents camera and makes movies with his buddies.  I mean that in a good way.  As for the social aspect of the film.  I know the white people ultimately lose in the end but I did not like that the black characters were humiliated and perversely killed or threatened while the white people in the film were simply shot.  It just seems that our racism again allows us to stomach the poor treatment of slaves but Tarantino didn’t have the guts to turn that treatment around to the whites.  He simply gave the whites bullets albeit plenty of them while those of color got the dogs(literally).  Maybe he knew white people wouldn’t watch.  Maybe he’s just white.  The sad thing is it would have been a braver film if Jamie Foxx had slung up the white man to castrate him instead of the other way around(Foxx was hung up by slave owner and almost castrated) but could a white audience watch that?  No way.

#4 Zero Dark Thirty

This was another film that I was very excited to see after the trailer.  I must admit there is a little John Wayne in me that gets excited to hear about America kicking ass and taking names especially UBL.(Bin Laden)  But, my John Wayne part is only a little the rest of me is yearns for a more balanced look at things.  There was so much discussion about this film being critical of the war on terror and torture.  I don’t know how anyone came to this conclusion.  The people conducting torture were made to be sympathetic.  Those being tortured were not and the torture turned up pretty good results without any negative consequences to anyone except those being tortured.  Pitiful critique.  Hearing this you might wonder how this film is #4 on my list.  I don’t know actually.  Ask John Wayne?

What I liked? I did like the filming of the final scene.  Bigelow took her time with that scene which rarely happens and I appreciated that.  The helicopters were flying to Bin Laden’s compound for what seemed like hours.  The realism of the final scene was confusing to watch.  I kept waiting for Bin Laden to jump out a window and try to escape but then I realized that is what most actions films depict and I have come to expect.

#3 Beasts of the Southern Wild

I almost put this #2 but I went with my heart and heart strings were plucked by my #2.  This film brought up some intense feelings for me so it was hard for me to tell if I liked it or not.  The main character, a young girl, dealing with her dying father.  It was close to home to watch and I felt angry after.  This is what heartfelt film making is about.  Telling stories that need to be but are rarely told because we are making films like Argo.  It was intense seeing how these people lived in what is poverty and yet is filled with connection as well.  I don’t know man.  This film was just damn good.  I can’t even think about what they were trying to portray.  I just felt all sorts of damn things the whole time.  Happy to see these beautiful people, sad that they didn’t have much.  Guilty because I shouldn’t feel sad for them.  They were cool so then I felt sad for me.  Then happy cause they had each other, then angry that people we love die.  This film gets my vote because of the emotional roller coaster it took me on.  I was ballin’ at the end of this movie.  Great job ya’ll!

#2 Silver Linings Playbook

Any film that can make me like Bradley Cooper should win an Oscar.  This film does not seem like a typical best picture nominee.  I think that speaks to how good it is.  I called this a perfect movie.  Amazing supporting cast. Deniro was excellent as an obsessive compulsive codependent father, Chris Tucker was confident and defeated. Jacki Weaver(Cooper’s mother) was loving and strange.  All the surrounding characters stood out in their own way.  The characters had depth and expressed both the yin and yang of their personalities.  There was a great tension balance humour and seriousness.  I’m telling you this film was good.  It even had a Desean Jackson Eagles jersey which you can never go wrong with.  It was cheesy at times and I didn’t always love Jennifer Lawrence.  I appreciated the portrayal of Cooper’s struggles with mental illness but more his attachment to getting back with his wife.  I too once read a book my girlfriend tried to get me to read but I read after she broke up with me in hopes that would change something.  Cooper took this to the next level and it was so believable.

#1 Amour

The French have done it again.  My little John Wayne is so pissed right now.  Finally this movie came to my town last week.  Zero Dark Thirty and Amour were the best reviewed movies on Metacritic this year.  Man, I loved loved loved this movie.  It is a heart wrenching story of an elderly couple and their last several months together.  Their love is felt so strongly from the opening scene when police break into their apartment(probably because no one has heard from them) to find a deceased elderly woman dressed in a beautiful dress lying her bed with flowers all around her.  Someone asked me if the movie goes back into their life together when they met or when they were younger.  I loved this question because that is what movies typically do right?  To try to “build” the connection of the couple. The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t have to go back.  Why go back when all the depth of their love and experiences are so palpable in their final moments together.  Apparently, the male and female lead are well-known great french actors.  They were exquisite.  Essentially, for the 2 hour film you never leave their Parisian apartment.  I do not remember watching a film and becoming so intimately connected with a home before.  I felt I was there in the kitchen having dinner with them.  I wanted to pull a book down from the living room shelf and curl up on the chaise lounge with a cup of tea.

With both actors, I could feel the deep sadness and loss of control at facing death while at the same time a certain peaceful reservation that this is what we all must do.  We all hope to be there for our loved ones to escort them to that next place, to the great mystery.  I am grateful to see a film do this so beautifully.  Full of sadness, confusion, struggle and tenderness.  This is my favorite film of the year easy.  A great thanks to everyone involved in making it.

Movies I would have like to have seen nominated and other favorites: I think it is a travesty that Moonrise Kingdom was not nominated over most of these other films.  It was in my top three of the year.  I also loved the prequel to Alien, PrometheusParanorman was an awesome animated film nominated in that category.  And My favorite comedy of 2012 was 21 Jump Street.  Jah feel?

Here are my picks for the some other categories at the Oscars tonight

Actress in a Leading Role 

Emmanuelle Riva(Amour)  This is a cool category because the oldest(Riva) and youngest(Wallis) nominees ever are represented.

Nominees:  Jessica Chastain(Zero Dark Thirty), Jennifer Lawrence(Silver Linings Playbook), Emmanuelle Riva(Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Naomi Watts(The Impossible)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway(Les Mis)  I want to say Amy Adams here because that would make me look like a more polished film critic(and Adams was good) but Anne gets my vote.  Ha.  Nominees: Amy Adams(The Master), Sally Field(Lincoln), Anne Hathaway(Les Mis), Helen Hunt(The Sessions), Jacki Weaver(Silver Linings Playbook)

Actor in a Leading Role

Joaquin Phoenix(The Master)  This guy is so good.  I felt I was watching a young Jack Nicholson or Marlon Brando.  The film is some kind of crazy and Joaquin is awesome.

Nominees: Bradley Cooper(Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis(Lincoln), Hugh Jackman(Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix(The Master), Denzel Washington(Flight).

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tie between Phillip Seymour Hoffman(The Master) and Robert De Niro(Silver Linings Playbook)  I didn’t think this was a strong category.  It was just the “other guy” from the nominated films.  De Niro was pretty fun to watch though.  I’ll go with him.

Nominees: Alan Arkin(Argo), Robert De Niro(Silver Linings Playbook), Phillip Seymour Hoffman( The Master), Tommy Lee Jones(Lincoln), Christoph Waltz(Django Unchained)

Best Director

Michael Haneke(Amour)

Cinematography

Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay

Silver Linings Playbook(David O. Russell)

Original Screenplay

Moonrise Kingdom(Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read my blog.  Please share it with others and become a follower.  I would love to hear your thoughts, disagreements, and you betcha’s so leave a comments.  Enjoy the Oscars.  I know even if Argo wins, I will probably shed a tear.  Peace and Love.

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