Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reviews of the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominees for Best Picture

Let's recap what is considered the "best" according to old white males.

As you all know, I have somewhat of a huge disdain for the Academy Awards and the people organizing the ceremony in the most self-congratulatory, dumbfounded, money-puffing, put-it-in-the-last-minute manner possible. But to its credit, at least they're not like the Grammys or the Golden Globes or any award shows because it is when everything's made to be conservative and civil. Also I grew softer on the Oscars because at least it is trying to maintain the ceremony's entertainment with Seth Macfarlane setting to be the host.

With this year's category, most of the films nominated doesn't ring special. While it contains a variety of films coming from the indie and arthouse pack or produced by Hollywood studios, I'm not surprised that not one genre film such as Skyfall, The Avengers or Looper made it in. The domestic highest grossing film from that category is Lincoln only making more than $150 million at the box office. After The Artist won, I told one of my high school teachers that the category had never mattered and it is pretty useless as a guide to what is actually the best in film of a certain year. I'm currently piecing together a Best of list and only two of the nominees may make it on to it.

Personal Thoughts? Let's start off the category with my most preferred nominee. Amour is French for love and here we have an elderly couple providing each other as the wife is preparing for her inevitable death with both her and husband having to provide and endure each other possible. Michael Haneke shows that death is a slow and painful process and they have to embrace or endure what's left for them to do. With the glacial pacing and the fact that the couple never leaves their apartment, it could have been a dull experience, but Haneke shows the level of closure the couple puts in together. It's a grim outlook towards death and the film slowly reveals this universal concept to be the toughest slice of life. Emmanuel Riva (fun fact: she is the oldest nominee to ever been nominated for Best Actress) and Jean-Louis Trintignant gives us performances that is beyond convincing and heartfelt without giving in to sentimentality and leaving us with a raw warning of the finale of living.

Any chances of winning? I guess a lot of people didn't really expect this film to get nominated as it was the movie that managed to suddenly got in thanks to the Academy's new rule of the 5% vote. For most of us, especially me, we see it as Oscar Bait as this is a movie about old white people for old white people. It is the first foreign film sincce Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be nominated in the major category. But if anything, this is the nominee I'm happy to root for in any category.

Personal Thoughts?  Despite an inevitable backlash, with detractors saying the film is seen in one narrow minded perspective, Hollywood fluff, and is historically inaccurate, I have to say it's in the middle of good and great. The movie becomes more of a caper rather than a biopic or a documentary as it follows the usual heist formula. It does become exhausting by the middle act due to its tight and intense narrative, but it is still enjoyable. And also "Argo fuck yourself" is the most memorable quote in any movie out last year.

Any chances of winning? As Ben Affleck is waving on his series of wins at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and many guilds, it's no surprise that the Academy had a hard look upon itself for not nominating him for Best Director. The Academy may do that "sometimes" situation where two films win Best Picture without winning Best Director. But this is when Affleck wasn't nominated so they might have to settle for Lincoln. It might win Best Adapted Screenplay.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Personal Thoughts? This is my least favorite film in the category as it is a total mess of a film. I might cop some flack for this, but this film does not work on every level it's going for. The direction from Benh Zeitlin is muddled with the most shakiest of camerawork as he fails to balance the realism and whimsy the film wishes to deliver. Quevanzelis Wallis (I might spelt her name wrong, but who cares) only serves as giving out lines of wisdom every five minutes as if it was being profound and her dynamic between her and her father make me care less about both. I don't have much desire to revisit this film as it is a passionless, non-existential and bland piece that features a storyline told by Hayao Miyazaki so many times and yet amazingly well told.

Any chances of winning? As much as I don't think this film should be nominated in any category at all, some people actually thought it was deserving. If Argo, Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook was up for a shocker, this will be the ultimate dark horse.

Django Unchained
Personal Thoughts? I may be the only person on this planet who doesn't share the same sentiment of the consensus with how this is an amazing experience at the movies, but I still stand by what I said about Django (my review here). This may be Quentin Tarantino's weakest film to date, but then again I wasn't floored over by Inglorious Basterds or anything from him since Pulp Fiction. However there are some great things about this film including the performances from Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio and there was one scene that had me cracking. Tarantino still show what gifts he presents on screen including his placing dialogue as important as anything else in his film. He can deliver intense setpieces that those scenes are a masterpiece compared with the film as a whole.

Any chances of winning? To begin with, it was only nominated thanks to the Weinstein's on-time awards campaign. But I don't see the point in seeing them win the big prize other than a possible Best Original Screenplay.

Les Miserables
Personal Thoughts? As you can see, I wasn't jaw dropped with this adaptation of Victor Hugo's famous novella (my review here). While the saving grace of the film is Anne Hathaway's performance and some numbers that are emotionally captivating, it is nonetheless a bore. The more I thought about it, the more it hits me that Tom Hooper's direction here is catastrophic, almost close to turning the film into a disaster. To its credit, he at least slow down by putting the camera on the tripod while the actors sing their heart out, but unfortunately his framing of the film doesn't work. It is a bad idea to have all the actors to sing every note of dialogue as the film never takes a break, and even his handheld camerawork doesn't do the film any justice.

Any chances of winning? I don't see any attention given to this film other than the performances which should at least give the gold to Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress

Life of Pi
 Personal Thoughts? The film is very engaging in the middle act, but the beginning and finale of it rings false. I would commend much of the effort on the visual side as the CGI tiger felt realistic and the cinematography is gorgeous. Even Suraj Sharma does a terrific job portraying the title character. My biggest problem with this film is the message as it finishes. I don't want to go into any detail of it, but for me it just contradicts everything the film is going for. If you want you can check out my spoiler-rific review.
Any chances of winning? There's little attention towards this film, but it might earn some awards in the technical category including Best Special Effects or Art Direction.


Personal Thoughts? Well this is more of an actor's film than anything else said about the film. Daniel Day Lewis delivers an awe-inspiring and poignant performance bringing the significant essence of his role as America's first Republican President. The supporting cast is also brilliant with Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field pulling off career-best portrayals of Thaladore Stevens and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. It does suffer from staying true to the historical context of the film as you might be lost to what is going on with the plot or what the hell is the 13th Amendment. An uneven pace even brings the film down a notch as it starts glacially slow until it reaches momentum every half hour for only ten minutes. Also a subplot between Lincoln and his son may paint the guy as the most neglectful father ever.
Any chances of winning? It is second behind Argo as the favorite to win Best Picture, but it can at least award Steven Spielberg Best Director and Day Lewis Best Actor without actually winning the major category. If you predict this film dominating the Oscars, you could be right.

Silver Linings Playbook
Personal Thoughts? David O Russell's adaptation of Michael Quick's novel of the same name works on many levels, but not all of them. The film as a whole does bring a very realistic and honest portrayal of people with a mental illness with them not wanting to be judged unfairly and that the film's goal is always worked on. The ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro all deliver terrific performances with the latter doing something that is not considered a quick paycheck. However the coda of the film is a let down with the film unfortunately switches into a formula that most Hollywood romcoms tirelessly put in. I might have to watch this film again because as I think about it, it makes more sense with the narrative presented.
Any chances of winning? This is the film the Weinsteins have aggressively campaigned to sweep at every award show and while the wave of Argo may have lessened its chances, it doesn't stop the chance of rewarding Jennifer Lawrence with a Best Actress nod or for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Zero Dark Thirty
Personal Thoughts? ZD30 is a very hard film to review without addressing any of the possible agenda some people thought are actually delivering. But I still enjoyed it, even though I might give this film too much credit upon watching it. On a technical standpoint, it is grand; the cinematography, sound mixing and editing adds to the film's spectacularly told narrative, provided by Kathryn Bigelow's attention to detail filmmaking often close to being told as a documentary. Jessica Chastain plays a very mysterious CIA agent who serves as the architect into the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, and she maintains the film's morale to its very core.
Any chances of winning? It sweeped in every critic's association award for Best Picture, Actress and Director, but since it is not nominated for Best Director in here, the attention to the film dominating this season is rapidly declining. So now there's a slim chance it might win.

And in conclusion, these are my thoughts and theories of all the Best Picture nominees. Argo and Lincoln are head-to-head to win the top category with the former gaining more momentum in winning Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and BAFTAs. But if there was any nominee that I prefer to win, it would have to be Amour and Zero Dark Thirty as they are both fine examples of filmmaking of 2012.

I might not watch the Oscars as it occurs on the day I start uni, so once I get to watch a repeat of the broadcast at the awards, it will be all done with.

No comments:

Post a Comment