Tag Archives: oscars

Oscar Recap

Standard

Wellp, it’s over. The 85th annual Academy Awards have come and past. I figured, since I spent so much time thinking about the Awards before they happened, I should do a quick wrap-up post to summarize the experience and, of course, my take on the ceremony.

I have to say, doing this Best Picture project made the Oscars A LOT more interesting to watch. I found myself getting really into categories that I never would have cared about before. For example, when the visual categories came up– cinematography and visual editing, both of which Life of Pi took the award for–I was able to cheer on the winners and be excited for them because I had experienced the film myself (and commented on the cinematography…look at me reviewin’ like the Academy.)

I didn’t see every film that was nominated for an award, but I did see the nine tremendous films (excluding you-know-who) that were nominated for Best Picture. So I had a pretty good background and was able to have an educated opinion in almost all of the categories. I should have bet on some of them or something. Just kidding, I’m not much of a gambler. But I wouldn’t have bet on Argo winning. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the film, but I sort of saw it going to Lincoln or Beasts or Zero. But it was pretty awesome that Argo pulled it off. It was a great moment to watch, and must have been very validating for Mr. Affleck.

Perhaps the biggest shock of the night for me was how poorly Zero Dark Thirty did. They went pretty much unnoticed at the Awards. I still though it was a great film, and I think the political outrage points more toward the movie being true than it not.

Life of Pi did well, taking home awards in music and the visual category as well as Best Director for Ang Lee. I think this is fitting since, before making the film, Life of Pi was believed to be “unfilmable”. Lee took this challenge on and nailed it. So I’m happy for him.

Amour won Best Foreign Film, which was a completely obvious choice. Still glad they picked that one up though 🙂 (Almost cried when they showed the brief clip.)

I totally called Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting AND Christolph Waltz. So glad my picks won here. Daniel Day Lewis was winning from opening day. We all knew that one. I was up in the air between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain though. J-Law falling up the stairs– best moment of the night?

Seth MacFarlane did a pretty good job I think. Just enough inappropriate to not be boring. What a great singing voice! And speaking of which…Adele killed it. And looked GORGEOUS. J.Huds rocked her solo out as well. (Could have done without the les mis thing but whatttttever)

I’m not going to pretend that I’m a movie critic AND stylist, so I’m gonna skip the best dressed section.

All in all I thought it was a great show and I’m really glad I took on my Quest for Best Picture.

QuestForBestPic-Silver Linings Playbook

Standard

This is my last Best Picture Nominee review, and not a moment too soon as the awards are starting shortly. Even though I’ve bombarded myself over the past few days with movie review assignments, this has been a really fun project. I got to see some great films and am way more excited to watch the Oscars than I usually am. Well, here it is, last but not least, Silver Linings Playbook…

Silver-Linings-Playbook-poster

“This is what I believe to be true: You have to do everything you can and if you stay positive you have a shot at a silver lining.”

Silver Linings Playbook stands out from the pack in that it is an uplifting film with a happy ending. Are best pictures allowed to have happy endings?

I left the theatre smiling after seeing Django, but it wasn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy kind. It was that smile that a badass Tarantino gives you, that one where you feel kind of weird and terrible on the inside but kind of exhilarated at the same time. To be fair, Argo did have a happy ending, and the six US citizens were rescued from Iran. It left me thinking about the Iran Hostage Crisis, US foreign relations, and how crazy it was that the incidents in the movie actually occurred in real life (oh, and what a marvelous job Ben Affleck did directing!) But this is a different type of happy ending than the one in Silver Linings.

For, while I was happy to have seen Argo, and thoroughly enjoyed it, Silver Linings actually made me happy.

The film follows Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, after his release from a psychiatric hospital where he was being treated for bipolar disorder following a violent attack in which he nearly killed his wife’s lover. Pat, in desperate effort to win back his estranged wife Nikki, is in a constant state of attempted self-improvement, exercising obsessively, reading each book on her classroom syllabus, and generally willing himself to be better.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

He meets Jennifer Lawrence’s character, the emotionally unstable Tiffany, through her sister, who happens to be a close friend of Nikki’s. A peculiar and combative friendship forms between these two damaged souls, eventually leading to a love story. They have eccentric social skills. They are blunt and sometimes impolite. And while they are comfortable around each other and understand each other better than their respective family members do, they also seem to push each other’s buttons far more than anyone else would dare to. Pat makes constant reference to Tiffany’s deceased husband or to her being a “slut”. (“No, that doesn’t count, he’s dead.”) And Tiffany casually asks Pat how his restraining order is going. Neither of these character flaws would be bluntly discussed by a “normal” person, because we’re always so concerned about etiquette, sparing feelings, and not making situations worse. Pat and Tiffany in this film found a way to connect with one another on a small oasis of truth.

Which sounds weird since Tiffany was lying to Pat about having contacted Nikki for almost the entire film.

The relationships are what this film is all about. Besides the relationship between Tiffany and Pat, we see a spectrum of others that range from devoted friendship (Pat and friend from the hospital Danny) to strained misunderstanding (Pat and his Parents) to stifling resentment (Tiffany and her sister Veronica played by Julia Stiles), and everything in between. The little idiosyncrasies that render each of us “crazy” in our own way are showcased in the context of tangled and thorny interpersonal relationships to create a small snapshot of life and of human interaction that is strikingly honest and relatable.

THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK 121116_MOV_SilverLiningsPlaybook_jpg_CROP_rectangle3-large

The script is fantastic. It’s funny, like really a lot of funny. And it’s touching and entertaining.

The acting, very obviously, was wonderful. Jennifer Lawrence, our new IT girl killed this role. It was a great move after Hunger Games, and I can’t wait to see what she has coming up next. Bradley Cooper played this high-strung, delusional, and idealistic character very well, but he has a snowball’s chance in hell at beating Daniel Day Lewis for Best. I LOVED DeNiro in this role. Seeing the softer side of him in the heart-to-heart scene with his Cooper makes you want to give him a hug. He could be a contender for Best Supporting (although I still think I’d have to pick Christoph Waltz).

This feel-good film was worthy of the actors nominations it received and of Best Picture. One can only guess who will be victorious, but it is worth seeing either way. Enjoy!

QuestForBestPic-Argo

Standard

Argo was the first of the Best Picture Nominees I saw, way back months ago. But, being the last-minute-mary that I am, I didn’t write the review until just now, the day of the awards show. But it’s done and up. I will be posting my Silver Linings Playbook review shortly (yes, I am strategically placing the happy ending films at the end.) Anyway, here it is:

article-2216161-1574A3EB000005DC-340_306x423

Whenever I see a film that is based on a true story, I am inevitably more interested and invested. The story of Argo is so incredible that it is hard to believe it was based on actual events, and it certainly could have been a great, highly entertaining film even if there were no truth behind it. With all the excitement of a fiction suspense set on the backdrop of a real historical political crisis, this movie was a home run for me.

The film takes place during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, in which the U.S. embassy in Tehran was overtaken by protestors, and the employees held hostage for 444 days. Six US diplomats escaped the embassy before seizure and sought refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, hiding out and waiting to be rescued. Argo tells the story of this unlikely rescue mission.

image Iran hostage crisis

CIA operative Tony Mendez, played by Affleck, headed the impossible mission of retrieving these harbored escapees. The ingenious and extravagant plan involved creating a fake sci-fi movie, which came to be titled Argo, using the ruse of scouting film locations to evacuate the six diplomats undercover and in plain sight.

The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails or nervously clutching your bag-o-popcorn, right up until the last frame. The plan, so improbable and so intricate, that it almost seemed sure to fail, and almost did more than once. While I don’t particularly enjoy the feeling of panic or anxiety, I do like when a movie makes me feel. It kept me fretful, uneasy, and hopeful the entire time, conspicuously rooting for our Argo crew to make it out. And while the events of the movie are serious and daunting, the creators left room for comedic relief. And this I appreciated.

argo01

I personally found this to be Ben Affleck at his best. Both in direction and acting he was superb. Seeing him as a man named Tony Mendez, however, was a little less than believable. Maybe he should have gone tanning before or something. Alan Arkin (who played film producer Lester Siegel) and John Goodman (Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers) brought the funny. Their characters were a central piece to the movie and helped take the film from scene-by-scene docu-drama to a personal and entertaining experience.

John-Goodman-and-Alan-Arkin-in-Argo

I was very glad to see the happy ending, and left in amazement that something so far-fetched had actually occurred. Bravo for bringing history and entertainment together in a piece that was neither stuffy, nor campy, and for creating a film that I can and will recommend to anyone, regardless of age or personal taste in film.

<<insert nod of approval here>>

130108_CBOX_Argo_jpg_CROP_rectangle3-large

Zero Dark Thirty-QuestForBestPic

Standard

Here’s my Best Picture review for Zero Dark Thirty. Two more to go and we’re all set for the Awards tomorrow!

Zero_Dark_Thirty_66120-572x309

The beginning of Zero Dark Thirty was difficult for me to watch. Wincing, shifting my eyes to the side, and thinking this was going to be tough to get through, I felt immensely uncomfortable watching the torture and complete vulnerability of a human being.

Interestingly enough, by the end of the film, Jessica Chastain sitting alone in the back of a plane, a single tear rolling down her cheek, overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the fact that an intense eight-year chapter of her life had closed, you kind of forget about all that torture in the beginning.

The film follows Maya, played by understated powerhouse Jessica Chastain, who works on and ends up taking the lead in the CIA’s mission to find Osama Bin Laden. Her character is young and confident to the point of borderline naivety. But she is smart, she is dedicated and outspoken, and eventually she completes her mission. Chastain really makes this movie. Her sweet looks and demeanor coupled with the no-nonsense attitude of her character and the grim and grueling ranks of her work, create an intriguing and believable protagonist.

bscap0260

Seeing the background story, that was happening all around us and right under our noses, of the hunt for Bin Laden was sort of haunting. I like seeing the behind the scenes stuff, “what really happened”, and it was certainly fascinating to watch through the lense of this film. But it was incredibly dark, and at the end it left me feeling a kind of emptiness (much like Maya experiences in her plane ride home.)

Eight years she was on the case. Looking at all of her teammates on this endeavor, all of the money and manpower involved, all of the hours of sleep and number of lives lost…it makes you question whether it was worth it. Tucked away in a compound in Pakistan, was Bin Laden still heading Al Qaeda? Did he still have the access and plight to call the shots? Do we, in 2012, accept American government-sanctioned assassinations as valid channels of justice? And did this decade-long manhunt deliver us the justice we sought?

Zero Dark Thirty displays the answer of how we got Bin Laden, but the questions is provokes are far greater.

Viewing torture, assassination without trial, and the killing of unnamed women and children leaves you wondering about the integrity of our belief system. In our doctrine of democracy, these things are denounced, and yet, when it suits our needs we throw procedure and principle to the wayside and do what we feel is necessary. Is this case-by-case basis the right way to run the show? Or should we be strictly interpreting our codes?

Does this film, this story, make it worse for us as Americans facing a fed-up world?  It’s funny how we consider ourselves the good guys but partake in activities that are so out of line with who we think we are… and all in the name of justice, morals, and democracy. Or was it all about vengeance?

SUB-24ZERO-articleLarge

Writer Mark Boal and Director Kathryn Bigelow do a wonderfully careful job not to glorify this hunt and seizure, and I really appreciate the honesty.

Every American should see Zero Dark Thirty.

Les Miserables– they weren’t kidding

Standard

Reviewing Les Miserables on my Quest for Best Picture

I was an almost Les Mis virgin before seeing the film. Almost because although I had never seen the show, I was in chorus and chorale in high school and one year we performed all of the songs. So while the music was familiar, the details of the story were pretty blurry to me.

Les-Miserables-Movie-Wallpapers-les-miserables-2012-movie-33248437-1920-1080

This being said, I was SUPER excited to see it. And let’s be serious, that trailer featuring starring Ann Hathaway was awesome. As a matter of fact, Ann Hathaway’s performance in general was phenomenal. In stark contrast with the rest of the cast, I cannot say one negative thing about Hathaway’s portrayal of Fantine. Her singing was haunting and lovely. She was beautiful and wretched and desperate and hopeless. Believable. The silver lining of this uninspiring film.

As for the rest of you….

Russel Crowe’s singing voice is nasally and unpleasant to say the least. His singing sounds strained as if each note in each song were a struggle. (I once heard a singing tip that it should never sound like you’re straining and that the audience would hear it and be turned off. This was in the back of my mind the whole time listening to Crowe.)Les Miserables

I can’t (or won’t) hate on Hugh Jackman in the same way. His singing wasn’t great either (by any means) but I suppose his character had more emotion and more life. I felt more compelled to like him. NO, not because he’s the good guy. I have no problem liking a bad guy (hence my strange affection for Billy Bob Thornton—real life!) BUT where Crowe’s portrayal of Javert felt flat and boring, Jackman got across the emotions that he was hired to display and incite. Like really, Javert is a huge asshole. I should have left the theater hating him, and instead I left feeling nothing.

And THIS, my friends, is the issue I have with Les Mis. It’s not that Amanada Seyfried’s voice was quivering and shaking (probably out of terror), or that Crow sounded like he had a cold throughout the ENTIRE film. No. What made me give this terrible review is the fact that after two and a half hours sitting on my ass watching this piece of work I left feeling NOTHING. Not one ounce of emotion.

Am I alone on this one? Did anyone out there see this movie and seriously love it? There were people crying in the theater I was in. I’m not some kind of hard ass, I cry a lot in movies. All the time! So why wasn’t I crying? Should I have seen the show first before seeing the movie? Is it one of those things you have to have background knowledge of to really get into? But…but…I know the songs!

IF this is the case, that you had to know the story already to enjoy the film, then it is probably not a good film. End.

Almost end.

I can’t sign off without saying Sacha Baron Cohen was GREAT! And Helena Bohnam Carter, come on! The two of them were perfection in these roles. (Not that I know what I’m talking about since I’m a nouveau Les Mis-er.)

I guess this is the end of my Les Mis rant. I recommend you see it, but only so you can agree with me.

helena-bonham-carter-sacha-baron-cohen-les-miserables-photo

QuestForBestPic- Life of Pie

Standard

I’m on a quest to see all the movies Academy Awards Nominees for Best Picture. Here’s my review for Life of Pi *Contains Spoilers*

lifeofpi

Life of Pi was beautiful. I just saw the film and I can see why it was nominated for Best Picture.

Much like the title suggests, Life of Pi is the story of a big adventure, and the life leading up to it, of a boy named Pi. He dubbed himself Pi in grade school because of the target that his full name, Piscine, made him for torturous teasing (Pissing). He declared on the first day of school that he would be “known to all as Pi”, explaining the significance of the mathematical figure and writing the number out in its entirety (almost), impressing students and teachers alike and becoming a school legend. Which turned out to be a theme of his life.

I can’t let this go. Because I don’t remember a lot of mathematics from school, but I remember Pi. Everyone does. IT is a legend! And Pi is an irrational number and also a transcendental number. I would argue that Pi, our protagonist, is also both of these things. Here is a quick Wikipedia article on all the different forms of “transcendence” (religion and math are the top two, go figure.) Anyway, I thought this was pretty rad and tied in nicely with the film. (And don’t we all love feeling we’re somehow smarter because we’ve picked up on the significance of clues the artist gives?)

LIFE OF PI

The first portion of the movie documented his upbringing, family and religious template. A practicing Hindu-Christian-Muslim, Pi found his way through each religion, keeping bits of every one with him. It was fascinating to me to explore this idea of subscribing to more than one religion. In the society I find myself living in, you have a religion or you don’t. Just one. And the ideological differences seem so vast and people seem so separate and so segregated from one another that this picture of multiple religions living and flourishing in one being was like a firework of original thought.

I liked the disagreement between Pi and his Parents Father. Father believed in logic and rational thought above all, telling his son that religion is dark, that one shouldn’t practice one religion, and certainly couldn’t have more than one. The reason this resonated so much with me is that while Pi, the thoughtful protagonist of our story grabbed my attention and got me to root for him almost instantly, in real life I’m on Dad’s level.

movies-life-of-pi-fact-file-8

I’m not religious, was never brought up in a religious home, but I would say that much of my family “has a relationship with God” or is spiritual in some ways or at least believes. When I was younger I went back and forth and ultimately became convinced that if God was real he would know that I was only pretending to believe and only just in case. I figured if there was someone up there he wouldn’t appreciate my farce or following, so I kind of gave up on it. I suppose now that I’m older I’d be more up to exploring the issue, and I’d love learning about different religions.

But what’s always held me up is exactly what Pi’s father brought to the table. Darkness. Like why is everyone killing in the name of God? How the hell (oops pun-drop) does that even happen? And why does it seem like every strict interpretation of religion=no fun? WHY? You put me here to what—work at some job and give money to church and have kids (in heterosexual wedlock) so they can do the same thing? So I “sinned” (which I wouldn’t have done if you had created me the way you wanted me) and now I have to what go to Hell for it? Or can I just give money to the church? Either way it sucks. Okay (since we’re here) how are priests born normal people and then go to priest school and all of a sudden they’re spitting the words of God like they had coffee with him yesterday. Really? Why, if being gay is a sin, are there so many gays? If he made us all why didn’t he work on that part? Gay people exist in every single tiny section of the globe. Literally everywhere. Very quick example.

Anyway, in addition to this darkness and hypocrisy that seem to be easily found when examining organized religions, there is also a lack of logic and of reason that doesn’t sit well with someone like me. I suppose this point was illustrated above where I feel the need to keep asking “why”. One of my legal studies professors said something in class one day which has become my all-time favorite quote: “If you can’t defend it, you’re not right.” This is literally how my thought process works. This is how I function. So when the “hows” and the “whys” don’t have good, solid answers…How do you believe them? And why?

imagesCA1OUXD7

Seeing the interaction between Pi and his father was great for me. Because I could identify with both of them. What Pi did was at the same time strictly religious and highly unorthodox. It was brilliant. And he had reasons for each thing he believed. Maybe I took something from it, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this religious aspect ever since.

Pi recounts the story of his great adventure to a writer. “It’s a story that will make you believe in God.”
And I suppose it could. But at the end there’s a little gotcha moment and I was left wondering who was right…Pi or me his dad.

121121_MOV_LifeofPi_jpg_CROP_rectangle3-large
So on this journey Pi finds himself without family, without friends, without anyone-except a Bengal tiger-lost at sea. The movie follows his dangerous and desperate journey through storms, and seas and near starvation. And of course terror of being killed by his shipmate.

Shit. Goes. Bad. Like everything is going horribly for Pi. And I hate saying it, but I was way more invested in the movie in the first half (through the first couple disasters at sea) of the movie. I HATE saying it because I really liked the movie a lot, but the incredible things that were happening to him, at a point, become sort of redundant. Am I a lazy American viewer? Maybe. I appreciate each of the things that happened to him, but the movie was two hours and it felt like three.

review_life-of-pi-e1353441124712

That being said, let’s get to one of the best things about this film. I need to talk about the magnificence of the cinematography. Every scene is a visual indulgence. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I could have smoked a bowl and watched the thing on mute like a 2003 Windows Media Player sound Visualizer (you remember those right?) I mean it was completely synthesized and computerized and edited and whatever other terms apply….I don’t even know if a single scene was shot with real people in a real location or if it was all done on a green screen in a studio. But I DON’T CARE. It was, in addition to being a thoughtful (thought-provoking) film, a display of artistry. And I ate that shit up.

LifeofPi (1)

All in all I’m gonna give the Life of Pi a thumbs up and recommend that you see it if you haven’t. Let me know what YOU think. Also, if you have the answers to eternity, please feel free to tell me what’s up.

Thanks for reading!

A Quest for Best Picture

Standard

By the time the Academy Awards roll around on February 24th, I will have seen each film nominated for Best Picture, reviewed, rated, and picked my preferred “best”.

So I’ve never done this before. I like movies but I am by no means a film critic. I am not trained in film at all, other than my Australian Film class I took while studying abroad. But I’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately and I had a lot of fun with the Cosmopolis review I wrote for Literary Traveler. Alas, movie reviews I shall write.

This year I decided to see each of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This decision was really made because I happened to have already seen Lincoln and Argo and figured I may as well continue through the list (which contained many of my “I really want to see that” picks.)

bosw    lincoln   LifeOfPi_VerA_Poster_rgb   SLP2

I got pretty into this idea, and on my birthday, which was last Sunday, January 27th, I decided what I wanted to do was to see some movies. Kate and I hit one movie theater for an early afternoon showing of Silver Linings Playbook (which my mom and little brother joined us for), drove to the other local theater for a late afternoon showing of Les Miserables, and then hit up a Red Box on the way home and watched Beasts of the Southern Wild from the comfort of my bed. It just so happens that Monday is my day off, so the following day I saw Zero Dark Thirty with my dad.

I’ve put quite a dent in my list. Just three more to go.

Seen:                                                                  Not Seen:
Argo                                                                     Amour
Beasts of the Southern Wild                            Django Unchained
Les Miserables                                                   Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

lesmis argo amour zerodarkthirty django

I have to say thus far I’ve been really impressed (with all but Les Mis, which I am decidedly rooting against.) Lincoln I loved for the historic factor. I’m pretty into politics and law now, so it was fascinating for me to see the making of an amendment, the struggles of a nation at war and what it really took to end political stagnation and put something together that was just, right, and for the people. (Ummm…hello Congress.)

I heard great things about Silver Linings Playbook, so I had pretty high expectations. It was a really nice story. The character development was great and it was easily accessible for audiences. I enjoyed it a lot.

Argo and Zero Dark Thirty I liked for the same reason: that they found a way to make “true” stories into entertainment. The Iran Hostage Crisis and the hunting and murder of Bin Laden. Argo may have been more fun to watch, more entertaining on a superficial level, but this could be because throughout the movie you’re rooting for a group of people to be saved, rather than rooting for one person to be caught and killed. Grim if you look at it that way, eh?

Beasts of the Southern Wild was beautiful, moving, and disturbing all at the same time. An emotional film, the story takes place on an island off the coast of southern Louisiana and portrays a family, and community’s struggle through Hurricane Katrina. I went in with no expectations, but I can certainly see why it has been nominated.

Les Mis did nothing for me. Other than checking one more movie off my list.

I’ll have more in depth reviews of each of these films, and I’m planning on getting to the ones I haven’t seen in the next week or two. I’m probably most looking forward to seeing Life of Pi, although Kate said she loved Django.

Stay tuned for more of my Best Picture Adventure!

And please share your thoughts on any these films in the comment section. I’d love to hear! 🙂

oscars