Watching: And the 2013 Oscar goes to…

For the past few years, Kurt and I have tried to see all of the best picture nominees for the Oscars; unfortunately, we’ve always missed one of the bunch. This year, we finally managed to see all of them. Here’s my breakdown from my least favorite to my most favorite.

9. Amour – This is a French film about an elderly couple and what happens when one of them gets sick. It’s sweet, emotional, and sad. There is no soundtrack, so what you see happening feels more like real life. I put it as my least favorite not because it is a bad film, but because although it was heart-wrenching and real, it also dragged in some places. It almost felt too real, and I personally don’t want to be depressed when I’m trying to watch a fantasy tale. Also, I don’t like the idea that it’s a French film and was nominated in Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film. It feels like double dipping, though it probably deserves the win for Best Foreign Language (I didn’t see any other ones).

8. Les Misérables – This film was beautiful visually with wonderful vocals, but I feel like it is severely overrated. At least 20 minutes could have been shaved off the film for a tighter script and less dragging. Anne Hathaway was the best thing in the film, and Russell Crowe tried his hardest to match the singing of Anne and Hugh Jackman. Some of the camera angles should have been opposite; for example, don’t pan in on Crowe’s face, but rather zoom out to display the depth of the scene. Personally, I wouldn’t have included it in the Best Picture nominees at all.

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild – This one definitely hit home, given that it was set in coastal Louisiana after a hurricane. Quvenzhané Wallis was very good as Hushpuppy, but I personally think her father, Dwight Howard, aka Wink, was more powerful. She played off him beautifully. In fact, I would have given him the Best Actor nomination over Hugh Jackman. This movie definitely shows the struggles of extremely rural people who don’t know nor care to know about life outside of their immediate area. I shudder to think of the bigots who will watch this and think poorly of the people and culture that’s different from their own, because this is a very true-to-life movie about a subset of people living in a bigger culture. Great movie, and yet, there are still better ones.

6. Zero Dark Thirty – This movie could have definitely benefited from some additional editing. It ran excessively long and Joel Edgerton did not even enter the movie until the last 45 minutes. Some of the movie was just flat and lifeless, though the exciting and intense parts certainly were. Jessica Chastain was as superb as could be, though I did get tired of her off-in-space stares that got a little overdone sometimes.

5. Life of Pi – I hate that this one is at number five, because it was beautiful, touching, and really made me think. Visually, it was amazing. Suraj Sharma, who’s only role thus far is this, was amazing. I felt his pain and heartache and tears of sadness and was moved to tears myself. This truly was a spectacular film and everyone should see it.

4. Argo – This was another great film. It is a shame that Ben Affleck was not nominated as Best Director, because I could truly see him winning that award. I wouldn’t be surprised if Argo won Best Picture as some sort of retribution for his lack on nomination. It was very interesting to see such a trying point in history, and it really made me think. I could see how this might be called propaganda, because it does make you question things about America and whether what we do is right or wrong.

3. Silver Linings Playbook – This movie was like watching my life. It affected Kurt and I profoundly. When Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, told Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, “Thank you. I love you. I knew it from the moment I saw you. I’m sorry it took me so long to catch up,” it felt like I was having Déjà vu. Cooper did some of the best acting of his career, and Robert De Nero was equally impressive. Jennifer Lawrence is still young so I think she has some more great acting ahead of her.

2. Django Unchained – I adore this movie. I adore Quentin Tarantino. I ADORE Leonardo DiCaprio. And Christoph Waltz isn’t too shabby either. Neither is Jamie Foxx. Or Samuel L. Jackson. Dang, I just love this movie. It was funny. It was well acted. It showed the triumph of good over evil. I could watch this over and over again. Kurt even won me a Leonardo DiCaprio poster as Calvin Candie turning the trivia between movies. In all, fantastic film. If you don’t mind blood and the liberal use of curse words. Which I don’t.

1. Lincoln – This deserves the number one spot for many reasons. Daniel Day-Lewis was Lincoln. This is pretty much the only time we will see Lincoln as alive as possible. I’m not sure it’s possible to bring history more to life than this. To see how the 13th Amendment was passed (dramatized or not) was like taking a time machine back and watching real history. I really was in awe. I understand how some people might say it is too long, and they could have shaved some of it down, but I thought it was nearly flawless.

Here’s some other predictions, just for fun:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Best Achievement in Directing: Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Argo: Chris Terrio

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: Wreck-It Ralph: Rich Moore

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: Amour

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Life of Pi: Claudio Miranda

Best Achievement in Editing: Life of Pi: Tim Squyres

Best Achievement in Production Design: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Anna Karenina : Jacqueline Durran

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Skyfall: Thomas Newman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: Skyfall : Adele, Paul Epworth (“Skyfall”)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: Les Misérables: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: Life of Pi (2012): Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Life of Pi (2012): Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott

Watching: A Cinematic Adventure with the 2012 Best Picture Nominees

Yesterday, Cristina and I sat through five of the nominated movies for Best Picture. We have seen three of the other nominees with only War Horse being left out. And because watching five movies in one day is an adventure, we decided to write our thoughts on this cinemantic journey.

Two of the movies were about the movies and specifically the silent era. I adored Hugo. Wonderfully lit for a 3D film (besides Avatar, 3D films are way too dark), this film seemed to be a love letter from Scorsese to the movies. The young child actors were well cast. While the movie did at times seem like a PSA for film preservation, it made me smile the entire time. The other film about the movies, The Artist, was a great homage to the silent era. The handsome leads were able to find the emotions needed for this film without saying the words. While it isn’t City Lights or The General, it too has you smiling the entire time. To Cristina it was one of her two favorites.

I have mixed feelings about The Help. It’s a very good movie with an even better one waiting to come out. The story of the white crusader who helps the people of color find their courage just seems to have been done one too many times (Glory, Ghosts of Mississippi). However, the film boasts excellent performances from it’s entire cast. I just wish the last scene was actually the start of the movie.  Finally, being free for the first time, Viola Davis’s story was just getting interesting.

The Descendants is also a well acted movie. It came the closest to giving me the feeling that I was watching someone else’s life. George Clooney is struggling to keep his life together after his wife is injured in an accident without a chance of recovering. It’s a journey movie of one finding one’s self and realizing that they have the courage to do what will make them happy. The final scene of Clooney’s character and his wife is a powerfully gut-wrenching scene.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the one film that I felt like saying “meh” after. The movie just felt manipulative to me. The movie deals with a boy, probably with Asperger’s, dealing with the lost of his father on that most terrible of days of our generation. It’s so well acted and so well directed that it seems to ask for an Oscar nomination. The film is brilliant when Max Von Sydow is on the screen.

Moneyball is a very good film. It’s downfall is that it almost comes off as documentary. Actually, that is what makes it a great film.

The most frustrating film is also the most beautiful of the nominees. Tree of Life doesn’t have a linear story line which makes it the only film I wouldn’t recommend. It’s a tone poem about…life, death, God, and the void. It does seem to have it’s roots in the Book of Job, but even one of it’s stars, Sean Penn, has no idea what the film is about. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awful, either. This is truly the only film I have seen in years that can be judge solely on what your experiences tell you about it.

That leaves us with my favorite film (and the film that ties with the Artist for Cristina’s vote): Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The film has Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson in it but the true star is the streets and architecture of Paris. Owen Wilson’s character keeps switching from the present day City of Lights to the artist mecca of the 1920s in a journey to find himself and what will make him happy. And as he learns, Paris of any era might just have the answers.

Now, to plan a future trip to Paris…

Cristina’s note: If The Artist or Midnight in Paris does not win, the Oscars are a sham!

Watching: My Thoughts on the 2011 Best Picture Nominations

I always love the title of Pauline Kael’s I Lost it at the Movies. I believe the world is divided into two types of people: those that identify with that title and those that don’t. I’ve always loved the movies (and in my snobbish moments film). In college, I used to take breaks from reading in the library by reading movie reviews from Kael, Roger Ebert, and the critics of the New Yorker and the New York Times.   I hated going to the movies with other people except my own kind in case they wanted to actually talk during the movie. I’ve never movie hopped for that would be the same as stealing from the collection plate at church.

However, time passed and adult responsibilities grew. I still love the movies, but I’ve mellowed a bit in my passion for them. I can wait for it to come on DVD now. In fact, I mostly wait for it to come on HBO or Epix now. Hell, I even check my phone or read while watching most movies now.The passion, however weakened, is still there. This year I’ve actually seen nine out of the ten nominees. Winter’s Bone is the only one that has escaped me. Cristina and I saw Toy Story 3, Inception, Black Swan and The Social Network in their original run. We saw The King’s Speech for Valentine’s Day. We are lucky enough to live next to an AMC Theater that was running the Best Picture Showcase which meant that our Saturday we watched watching 127 Hours, The Kids are All Right, True Grit, and The Fighter. So, here are my thoughts on the nominees for Best Picture:

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