Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 Oscar Reflections and Official Picks

This is a very unique Oscar season for me; it’s the first in several years that I’ve actually seen almost half of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture. Being in a new town and not knowing a lot of folks, I’ve turned to seeing movies probably more often as I should. (Seeing movies in this market is muy expensivo!) But it’s been nice to get caught up, because between going to the theater  and Redbox I’ve seen a lot of flicks that I’d missed in the last year or so. With the Oscar broadcast later this evening, I thought I’d reflect on the movies that I’ve seen. Because I haven’t seen all of the nominees, my picks will be biased, but you’ll just have to bear with me. First, a reflection/ mini-review of each film, since I haven’t been able to do a full review of them all.

This was the first of the Oscar noms that I saw, having seen it opening weekend back in November. At that point, I was in the thick of thesis writing, but I was determined to take some time out to see a historical movie, I mean, it’s history, right? As much as I wanted to like it, and as much as I raved about it, the more I think about the film, the more it seems like Spielberg’s love letter to the Sixteenth President rather than a film rooted in cold, hard facts.

At 150 minutes which covered the final four months of Lincoln’s life, I feel that the movie possibly could have been shorter. I have not read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but it seemed to drag at points. Some of the parts with the team trying to rally support for the Thirteenth Amendment seemed overdone and honestly pretty trite at points. I found myself getting annoyed at James Spader’s character. What brought the movie home for me, though, was Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones, as Abraham and Mary Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens, respectively. Their respective portrayals, in my opinion, were golden.
The depiction of African Americans and slaves put me off quite a bit. It seemed very paternal, but of course that was the society at the time. Maybe I wrongly expected the appearance of black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass who wrote about Emancipation, “We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky… we were watching… by the dim light of the stars for the dawn of a new day… we were longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries.” We know that Douglass had contact with Lincoln; they weren’t strangers. Why Douglass, at the very least, didn’t make an appearance in the film really boggles me.
Because of the film’s length and some very glaring holes in the history that it tells, I don’t believe that Lincoln will win Best Picture. I do think that Daniel Day Lewis may take home Best Actor for his stunning portrayal of Lincoln. He quite literally became Abe; it was amazing.

Les Miserables
Les Mis was eight minutes shorter than Lincoln, but seemed to go by much more quickly. Bringing a musical from stage to screen is no easy task, but I believe that Tom Hooper did it with finesse. Of course, his cast had a lot to do with that. Hugh Jackman’s adaptation of Jean Valjean both broke my heart and elated me at moments. I think it was a role he was probably destined to play at some point. Jackman handled it very well, as did Anne Hathaway playing Fantine. Her raw take on “I Dreamed a Dream” had me in tears from bar one. Having heard Amanda Seyfried previously in Mamma Mia! I knew that I just didn’t care for her style and she probably would have been my last choice for Cosette, though Isabelle Allen was wonderful as Seyfried’s young counterpart. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks were great as Marcus and Eponine, respectively. Helena Bonham Carter and Sascha Baron Cohen were completely stereotypically themselves and I was bored through "Master of the House." However, the real downfall of the movie was Russell Crowe. He just was not good and I’m sorry I’m not sorry for saying so. Can you blame me, really?

I thought that the set design and costuming was very well done. I didn’t care for the original song “Suddenly” and I do think that Adele’s “Skyfall” will win for that unless the Academy decides just to kiss Les Mis’ rearend. I genuinely enjoyed Les Mis, though I don’t think that it will win Best Picture and that will be because of Crowe and his terrible portrayal of Inspector Javert. He was so … harsh. “And I’m JAVERT!” it was just so rough compared to the softer tone that Jackman had as Jean Valjean. Don’t get me wrong, Jackman packed a wallop, but whereas Jackman got progressively better through the film, Crowe seemed to get worse. "Stars" was just... ugh. While Jackman was great, though, Hathaway stole the show with her one big number before she met her tragic end. I do absolutely commend all of the actors for singing live rather than using vocal tracks while filming the movie. That was a gutsy move on Tom Hooper’s part, but I really think that it paid off.  It still won’t get Les Mis the Best Picture award. They've lost the award because of Russell Crowe.

Django Unchained
Opening opposite Les Miserables on Christmas Day was Quentin Tarantino’s second installment in his "Revenge Trilogy." Django Unchained starred Jamie Fox as the eponymous character. Set in the Antebellum South, the film is a very bloody look at the ills of slavery and the lengths at which a man will go to reunite with the woman he loves. For Django, that means teaming up with a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz and tracking down the men that were said to have taken his wife Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington) into custody and sold her into slavery.

The film, if you have not yet seen it, is very bloody, as is Tarantino’s style. After Kill Bill, it really seemed like all bets were off in regard to the special effects budget. Racial epithets are also thrown around very loosely. Both Django and Dr.King Schultz are very much anti-heroes in the movie. You want to root for them both because, in some way, what they’re doing is sort of a good thing. Schultz teaches Django how to be a bounty hunter and prepares him for what would be the final showdown to claim Broomhilda’s freedom. What comes in between is often grotesque and unsettling, but it certainly gets the job done. I think my favorite part of the film comes when Django and Schultz make it to Candy Land, the Mississippi Plantation of Calvin Candy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. I really do think that DiCaprio stole the show. Like Day-Lewis in Lincoln, he seemed so committed to the role, not even breaking character when he injures his hand during filming.

The category for Best Supporting Actor is such a tight race. Between Waltz’s stellar performance as Schultz, Tommy Lee Jones as the aforementioned Stevens, and Robert DeNiro for his role in Silver Linings Playbook, it’s going to be tough. They were all so great in their own rights, but Tommy Lee Jones just brought it home for me as his impassioned portrayal as the abolitionist senator.  Django will not win Best Picture because it’s not an accurate portrayal of history and because of the crude language. The violence also played into not getting the vote as well.  I do think that it has a good chance in Best Original Screenplay. Let’s face it; Quentin Tarantino is a brilliant writer and director. I do think that the Academy does need to recognize that. I'm still bitter than Tarantino didn't get nominate for Best Direction.

Silver Linings Playbook
SLP was the fourth and last of the nine nominees that I saw this year. Nine nominees? Really Academy? Why do we even have a category for Best Picture? It just doesn’t seem as exclusive as it should be. Zero Dark Thirty is only nominated because Katherine Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker and honestly, it’s been less than two years since the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound occurred. I think that it’s way too soon.  But I digress...

I didn’t know that Silver Linings Playbook was based on a book of the same name. I’m going to have to add it to my ever-growing To-Read pile. I have, however made it a goal to read book before I see the movies this year, since so many adaptations are coming out. I’m a big fan of Bradley Cooper and this movie gave me so much more respect for him. Jennifer Lawrence is going to be David O. Russell’s new it-girl, I really do believe so. It’s like the roles were both written specifically for both of them.

The chemistry is magical; and both the humor and drama that they bring to the film had just such a spark to it. There were some seriously uncomfortable moments of course, because the film does deal with mental illness and recovery. I did notice that when I saw the film, members of the audience laughed at what seemed like inappropriate moments. It’s those moments of discomfort, however, that allow you to really feel for the characters and really appreciate them. It was definitely on the dramedy side, but the gradual romance was just fine for me.

As I said before, both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were amazing. I wasn’t sold on Rober DeNiro, however. I think it was just that I didn’t care for his character’s actions, but that’s the sign of a good actor, I reckon.  Actor in a Leading Role is really a tough category this go around as well. With Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Hugh Jackman all doing a fine job in their respective movies. I do have to hand this one to Day-Lewis, if not only for his compete transformation into Lincoln. However, and this is an emphatic however, I do believe that Silver Linings Playbook will emerge to take home the Best Picture award based on my criticisms of the other films.

Here's the complete list of nominees. My pick is in bold.

1. Best Picture: "Amour," ''Argo," ''Beasts of the Southern Wild," ''Django Unchained," ''Les Miserables," ''Life of Pi," ''Lincoln," ''Silver Linings Playbook," ''Zero Dark Thirty."

2. Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"; Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables"; Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"; Denzel Washington, "Flight."

3. Actress: Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"; Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"; Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; Naomi Watts, "The Impossible."

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Argo"; Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master"; Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"; Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained."

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "The Master"; Sally Field, "Lincoln"; Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"; Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"; Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook."

6. Directing: Michael Haneke, "Amour"; Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"; Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln"; David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook."

7. Foreign Language Film: "Amour," Austria; "Kon-Tiki," Norway; "No," Chile; "A Royal Affair," Denmark; "War Witch," Canada.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo"; Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"; David Magee, "Life of Pi"; Tony Kushner, "Lincoln"; David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook."

9. Original Screenplay: Michael Haneke, "Amour"; Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"; John Gatins, "Flight"; Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, "Moonrise Kingdom"; Mark Boal, "Zero Dark Thirty."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Brave"; "Frankenweenie"; "ParaNorman"; "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"; "Wreck-It Ralph."

11. Production Design: "Anna Karenina," ''The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," ''Les Miserables," ''Life of Pi," ''Lincoln."

12. Cinematography: "Anna Karenina," ''Django Unchained," ''Life of Pi," ''Lincoln," ''Skyfall."

13. Sound Mixing: "Argo," ''Les Miserables," ''Life of Pi," ''Lincoln," ''Skyfall."

14. Sound Editing: "Argo," ''Django Unchained," ''Life of Pi," ''Skyfall," ''Zero Dark Thirty."

15. Original Score: "Anna Karenina," Dario Marianelli; "Argo," Alexandre Desplat; "Life of Pi," Mychael Danna; "Lincoln," John Williams; "Skyfall," Thomas Newman.

16. Original Song: "Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice," J. Ralph; "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from "Ted," Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane; "Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi," Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri; "Skyfall" from "Skyfall," Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth; "Suddenly" from "Les Miserables," Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil.

17. Costume: "Anna Karenina," ''Les Miserables," ''Lincoln," ''Mirror Mirror," ''Snow White and the Huntsman."

18. Documentary Feature: "5 Broken Cameras," ''The Gatekeepers," ''How to Survive a Plague," ''The Invisible War," ''Searching for Sugar Man."

19. Documentary (short subject): "Inocente," ''Kings Point," ''Mondays at Racine," ''Open Heart," ''Redemption."

20. Film Editing: "Argo," ''Life of Pi," ''Lincoln," ''Silver Linings Playbook," ''Zero Dark Thirty."

21. Makeup and Hairstyling: "Hitchcock," ''The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," ''Les Miserables."

22. Animated Short Film: "Adam and Dog," ''Fresh Guacamole," ''Head over Heels," ''Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare,'" "Paperman."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Asad," ''Buzkashi Boys," ''Curfew," ''Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)," ''Henry."

24. Visual Effects: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," ''Life of Pi," ''Marvel's The Avengers," ''Prometheus," ''Snow White and the Huntsman."

Of the animated films nominated, I've only seen Brave. While I like it, I know that so many people said that Wreck-It Ralph was tops. For many of the technical categories I did have to choose based on what I've seen. Share your Oscar picks on the Facebook page!


  1. My favorite character in Lincoln was W. N. Bilbo (James Spader) he was great!

    1. I liked him at first, but I got annoyed with him after awhile. I honestly think I need to see the film again. I might be a little too harsh on it.