Oscar Buzz

 

Okay, I am reeeally excited about the Oscars this year.

Oscar time

 

For those of you who do not follow, the awards ceremony takes place on Sunday.

Some years, you hear the nominees and think, “Where is this movie, and how is it that no one else saw it but a few random people in the Academy?”

This year, that is not the case. I would say that it was a great year in film–there were genuinely many good films produced with actual stories, depth, and talent.

Here are your nominees for Best Picture: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

Let’s do a quick review of the ones that I have seen. If you want to skip to my picks for the winners, scroll down to the bottom. 

 

REVIEWS:

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Argo: nominated for Best Picture
Director: Ben Affleck (should have been nominated for Best Director)

This movie is one of the reasons that you go to the theater. It’s a movie after Hollywood’s own heart (with Ben Affleck and George Clooney as two of the producers, what do you expect?). It has everything. It’s a dramatic thriller, but it has comic relief. It’s historical, and it’s about Hollywood. It’s one of those where you delightfully never come off the edge of your seat.

The story is about a CIA operative that devises an unconventional plan to free six U.S. diplomats from hiding during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Argo is riveting. I’ve been a fan of Ben Affleck’s since he broke into Hollywood, but this film shows his maturity in a way that is really respectable. I think he made a huge leap in the directing world, so stay tuned for more of his work…

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I love everything about this movie, including the way it was shot. It was seamless. The casting was phenomenal, and the story is just so interesting. I was not yet born when this event took place, but I have talked with some people that remember it well, and they recall it being a remarkable event.

In short, Argo is impressive. If you haven’t seen it, please do. You will not be sorry.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild: nominated for Best Picture
Director: Benh Zeitlin  (nominated for Best Director)

This film was interesting. An American fantasy drama, it started at film festivals and expanded later. Set in a Louisiana bayou community, the “Bathtub”, it is cut off from surrounding areas by a levee. With a massive storm approaching, Hushpuppy (the 9 year-old Oscar nominee) and her father carry on with life, as you get a glimpse of how they make it day-to-day poverty.

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The people of this community don’t have much, but they are scrappy and have serious pride in their humble place. The “I’m not leaving for the storm-this is my home” mentality is a theme throughout. Complete with adventure and prehistoric creatures, this film is serious, fantastical, and completely creative. It definitely uses the imagination, so it may not be for everyone. It received huge critical acclaim and the main characters are break-out actors. The man who plays the father has a bakery in New Orleans, and the little girl, Quvenzhane Wallis, is absolutely impressive with continual dialogue throughout. You watch her and know that some people are just born talented actors.

 

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Lincoln: nominated for Best Picture
Director: Steven Spielberg (nominated for Best Director)

I asked a guest writer (my husband, Jonathan) to write this review:

Lincoln was – how do I say this – meh. Good, not great.

Let’s start with the good. The Janusz Kaminski/Steven Spielberg tandem once again produced visually stunning scenes. I thought Daniel Day-Lewis depicted Honest Abe authentically. I liked the political gamesmanship and horse trading for votes. I liked Tommy Lee Jones’s character, but, as an aside, how many times is he going to play an old crotchety guy?

And you can’t ask for better subject matter. Who doesn’t like the 13th Amendment? (I hope everyone realizes that question was rhetorical. If you don’t like it, please don’t say it. Just go back to the Grove and eat another Chicken McNugget off of your grandmother’s china.) I, for one, am for it.

Overall, though, it was lacking. The storyline with Robert Lincoln felt forced, if not contrived, and I don’t know who to blame for rewriting Mary Todd’s lunacy right out of history. That woman had snakes in her brain.

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What’s more, I think this movie lacked the umph that it deserved. If I wanted to watch DDL work his magic in a boring movie, I would have rewound There Will Be Blood (that’s right, I bought it on DVD and converted it to VHS). When your story lacks the action that you want, you can do one of two things: a) make it into a documentary that only Pete Cobb will watch, or b) sensationalize the story (see Argo). If the climax of the story is a Congressional vote, regardless of how historic the vote may have been, you better stick with option a). Seriously, they couldn’t have worked in a few more Civil War scenes, offered more than 4 seconds of the signing of the treaty at Appomattox Courthouse, or (SPOILER ALERT, Annie) Lincoln’s assassination?

With that being said, I still give this one 4 out of 6 bricks.

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Silver Linings Playbook: nominated for Best Picture
Director: David O. Russell (nominated for Best Director)
This movie is a good one. I was a little bit cynical going into it, but it spoke for itself. Bradley Cooper was hilarious, and it was nice to see him cast in a completely different role from his usual good-looking smoosher, too-cool-for-school guy.
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There’s a lot of dry, understated humor in this movie (check out that family pic with Julia Stiles’ character). Jennifer Lawrence can not dance, by the way (which is great for the storyline). I was impressed by her acting, and she was perfectly cast for this film. If you want a quirky/weird humor love story, this one is for you. It’s all about hope in the muck of hard times and two crazies trying to figure life out. We laughed a lot. Of course, Robert De Niro was fantastic.

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And now…a drum roll for my favorite…
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Zero Dark Thirty: nominated for Best Picture
Director: Kathryn Bigelow (also should have been nominated for Best Director)
This film is incredible. The directing and photography was fantastic, and the entire film carries a certain dark tone (subject matter and cinematography). It opens with a 9-11 reminder, and I really like the way that it was depicted. It’s tough to hear, but it was shown in a different light, with nothing but actual voices and 9-1-1 calls from that terrible day and a black screen. There’s something about that opening scene that stays with you throughout the rest of the movie and rocks you to the core all over again. I’m sure that was intentional, and well done, it was.

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Kathryn Bigelow definitely deserves some praise with how she handled all of the details and the way in which she shot the film. At one point, Seal Team Six is on the helicopter, flying to Osama Bin Laden’s compound. The night shot of the helicopter with the dessert and the mountains in its midst is breath-taking. What’s more, the music, by Alexandre Desplat, is just perfect. It reminded me of a Christopher Nolan film, where the music is part of the movie so much that it wouldn’t have exactly the same emotion without it–but you don’t really notice it standing out, either. That’s when you know it’s good.

Jessica Chastain is down-right impressive. The story is suspenseful the entire time, and though it’s long, there is never a moment that is dead or unnecessary. It’s even more interesting because we obviously lived through the history but didn’t know exactly what was going on behind the scenes for 10 years. At the end, you feel like you’ve been through it, and you want to throw your arm in the air and scream, “America!!”

It’s controversial because some say it “promotes torture” when in fact, I think Kathryn Bigelow is of the most neutral filmmakers out there. Her prerogative is about story-telling, not promoting political views. I was impressed with how she walked the middle line in that way. I saw no “promotion” of anything, actually, but there are some hard scenes at the beginning, so know that going into it. Basically, she depicted what was told to her through first-hand accounts. Movies with conversation surrounding them are typically good, nonetheless, and this one is no different.

I can’t say enough good things about this film–it was just solid all the way around. If I had to pick a Best Picture, I would choose this one.

Also, here’s the trailer, because it’s awesome in its own right:

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Now, I have yet to see Les Mis (or the other unmentioned films). Hopefully, we are going to get to see it this weekend. What have I heard? That Anne Hathaway is amazing, and Russell Crowe can’t sing. People that have seen the play seem to think about it differently than those who have not. So, we’ll see…

 

My big picks for this weekend (this is who I think will win-not who I would pick necessarily):

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Alan Arkin (Argo)

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway (Les Mis)

Best Director: Steven Spielberg

Best Picture: Argo

 

Who do you think will win? Share your picks in the comments below!  

 

(note: I feel that I should mention that these are not family films, so please don’t drag your kids to the theater to see any of these.)

 

2 Comments

  1. Mitsy Bailey 02/22/2013 / 12:26 pm

    Ive seen all the pics in all the top 5 categories except
    Armour,Life of Pi, and The Sessions.
    Best Pic django
    Best actor daniel-day Lewis
    Best actress naomi watts
    supporting actor christopher waltz
    supporting actress sally fields
    director ben affleck who was not nominated:)

  2. Anne Elise 02/24/2013 / 8:24 pm

    Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
    Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin
    Best Actress: Jessica Chastain
    Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
    Best Director: Steven Spielberg
    Best Picture: Zero Dark Thirty

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