I was meant to have seen a new movie this week but I’m on vacation and things got out of hand so I did not (yet).
Because I’m on vacation though I have seen a boatload of movies and thought I’d briefly talk about some of the ones I have seen, specifically the three I watched which are nominated for best picture at this year’s Oscars.
I can see why Les Misérables is nominated for all the awards. It’s a big-budget production of one of the most beloved musicals ever. Hugh Jackman is great, and Anne Hathaway is amazing as Fantine, and they are both deserving of their acting nominations. The entire cast is pretty great, in point of fact, with the debatable exception of Russell Crowe, who, while he isn’t bad, does appear a bit uncomfortable throughout. Maybe that makes sense for Javert, but it didn’t sit right with me.
Where the film fails for me is the directing. Sure, the film looks pretty amazing, and to be honest, I really like the live singing aspect –if you hadn’t heard already, everyone sang their parts live on set rather than lip-syncing pre-recorded performances– as it means they had more leeway to actually act out their performances rather than match what they did before. However, much of the film is shot in closeup on the performer’s face.
I dreamed a dream, in particular, a song that would do well by some staging/movement, is filmed with Anne Hathaway just sitting there belting it out with the camera pointed at her face. Valjean’s Soliloquy is a little better in that he gets the move around, but the camera is locked on his face, and he’s looking right at the camera the entire time, so you don’t really get to see any of what’s going on other than his lips moving.
I think I get what director Tom Hooper was going for, trying to make it intimate; however in the end, it’s weird to think that a musical with such grandiose songs is filmed in such a small way and to be honest, I don’t think it really works.
Conclusion: See it. It’s worth seeing just for the singing. Oscar is Anne Hathaway’s to lose at this point, and while I respect its nomination for Best Picture, I don’t think it should win. Tom Hooper isn’t nominated for best director, and I am fine with that.
I like stories about heroism, but what I love about Argo is that it’s such a quiet story about heroism. No epic gun fights, no explosions, no car chases, just the constant threat of being caught.
Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the man who orchestrated the rescue of 6 diplomatic officers in hiding in 1979 revolutionary Iran. The idea is to get them out by claiming they are a film crew scouting exotic locations for a Star Wars rip-off called Argo.
The story is brilliant from start to finish. It mixes just the right amount of humour into the dramatic script, mostly supplied by Alan Arkin as the Hollywood producer recruited to help sell the idea of the fake movie to the public.
Arkin is gold here; it’s the type of role he excels at playing. He’s nominated for an Oscar and it’s well deserved.
Affleck himself is good too, playing Mendez very reservedly, reflecting a man under stress from being responsible for these people’s lives but also going through a separation and trying to maintain a relationship with his kid.
I happen to think that Affleck is a great director as well. Yes, he’s made a lot of better acting choices lately, but this is his feature film and the third time he’s hit it out of the park.
I love spy films, but in particular, a spy film that’s executed in such a way to be entirely believable with real stress and peril for the characters (even when you know how it ends) is a difficult thing to pull off.
Conclusion: Must see. Irksome that Affleck, who already won a Golden Globe for directing this, isn’t nominated for the Oscar.
Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie. Maybe even a great one, and I can see why so many people are connecting with it. It’s a fantasy story, that’s why.
This is a movie that, for two whole acts, shows us characters with real problems, and then in the third act, everyone lives happily ever after, and everything is fine, and all the problems seem to be gone.
Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress, and I’m going to say right now that she deserves the Golden Golden Globe she won and the Oscar I think she will win, but this is a role tailor-made to win Oscars, the slightly crazy receiving sex addict “bird with a broken wing who is just quirky enough to counteract the male leads crazy” character. Hell, it might be more tailor-made than the “prostitute with a heart of gold struggling to support her child in a situation that grows ever more dire with each frame that passes” that Anne Hathaway gets to play as Fantine.
Well, maybe not, but she’s still amazing and Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro both stand out as well. Make no mistake, they all acted the shit out of this.
It’s just that the third act is entirely predictable and doesn’t really jive with the rest of the movie. It devolves from something interesting into a series of movie cliches. There is literally a point in this movie where I could have turned it off because I knew everything else that was going to happen.
I can see why people connect with this movie, but I don’t see why it’s nominated for best picture of the year.
Conclusion: Definitely see it. It’s worth it for Jennifer Lawrence alone, even if her character is unbelievable. Just maybe don’t expect it to be as good as everyone told you it is.
I’ve seen almost all the Best Picture nominees now and am starting to better understand what I think should win. More on that closer to the date in question. In the meantime, what did you guys think of these three films? Are they worthy of the nomination? Did any performances stand out? Comment below!