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Not Your Mother’s Oscar Film Review

When I go to see a movie, I expect it to be a mini vacation, an escape from whatever the day may have thrown at me, a time to unplug from reality. Every year, I try to catch all of the Oscar-nominated films for Best Picture and have finally learned, despite my disappointment, that these films are nominated for the honor not because I want to unwind, but because a number of other criterion have been met—including the film’s ability to move the audience. I’m a very opinionated individual, so it should be no surprise that I have been sourly disappointed by certain picks in years past. But I can honestly say, that is not the case for the 85th Academy Awards.

Some of these films were uncomfortably moving, some were beautiful beyond expectation, some included completely shocking twists, and some were simply a brilliant retelling of an existing story…so here it is, in no particular order, my thoughts on the Best Picture nominees…


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.09.45 PMAMOUR

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film. Even now, after having watched it and processed it, I still can’t figure out what to say except that I will spend my life trying to forget this film but am certain I never will. It is hauntingly beautiful and devastatingly captivating. It encompasses its title in more ways than can ever be expressed in words, and yet it is more painful than anything I’ve ever seen.

For a moment I thought that I hated this film. I had such an adverse reaction to it that I couldn’t place it in any other column…but it’s not true. I don’t hate Amour. I only felt that because I lost control of my emotions by simply watching a film. Me…a person always in control of my emotions, especially when it comes to films, completely lost all governance of my feelings because this film is just that powerful.

Watch Amour. Watch it with someone that you love, and be prepared to have all of the warm and fuzzy notions you have about love to be challenged in the most honest yet most painful way.



Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.12.56 PMLIFE OF PI

Life of Pi has to be one of the most stunning films of the year. A technical work of genius, the CGI alone is masterful.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not usually one to enjoy films based around fantasy. Because of this fact, the movie felt painfully slow, but in the end, it is worth the wait. I wasn’t expecting to be surprised, and I wasn’t expecting to appreciate this film outside of its superficial beauty.

There's component of this movie that has most likely been overlooked (or maybe it hasn’t…I have no idea…I don’t read film reviews—ironic, I know!). That is the movie's implications for mental health and the human ability to cope. SPOILER ALERT: Pi’s ability to cope with such atrocious circumstances, with the loss of his brother and father, the murder of his mother and surviving complete death and destruction, I believe, was possible because of his ability to create a fantastical, yet borderline believable, scenario.



Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.14.17 PMARGO

In a lot of ways, I’m a purist and crave accuracy and honesty more than just about anything else. I appreciate this story being told, and the entire cast did an absolutely amazing job…yes, even Ben Affleck. But after I found out that major parts of the film were completely fabricated, I was pretty turned off. Yes, I understand that it’s an amazing story of bravery and perseverance, and yes I do still appreciate what an amazing part of our history this story really is…but again, I need honesty in my life, and since this is my review, I get to write what I want!

The bottom line here—is Argo worth watching and appreciating? Absolutely. And while I'm sure Hollywood would love to take credit for saving the day, is it Oscar-worthy? No.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.15.15 PMLINCOLN

All I can say is Daniel Day-Lewis and wow…there just don’t seem to be words great enough to describe what an absolutely epic job he did depicting this historical giant. Day-Lewis cannot be overshadowed, but that is not to say that the rest of the cast doesn’t depict this very rich part of our country’s history in the most brilliant way.

Full disclosure…I love Spielberg, but I can still be objective (i.e. Cowboys and Aliens was a horrible waste of talent, film, and the reams and reams of paper that were surely used by the six different writers…or was it seven…regardless—it was terrible—Yes, I know he produced the film and didn’t direct it, but still, he put his name on it). Perhaps more than anything, I appreciate that there was no attempt to dress up the closed-door deals that Lincoln orchestrated in the name of freedom and human rights.

It’s rare for me to want to watch a movie more than once in the theater…Lincoln was that extraordinary exception.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.16.10 PMBEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about this film is that despite its realness, there is something very magical about it. Equally amazing is the unknown cast and unknown director who bring this screenplay to life. It’s a fascinating movie that mocks conventional thought about what hardship really looks like and what it means to survive.

As much as I don’t watch television or read what others think about movie, if you have a pulse, you’ve heard about Quvenzhane Wallis’ debut and Oscar-worthy performance. I agree with every wonderful thing that has been said about this young and beautifully brilliant actress. I hope that she is as feisty and independent as her character is—because if she is, I have a restored faith in the younger generation in our country.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is my pick to win Best Picture this year. It’s original, it’s beautiful, it’s perfectly cast, it shows that amazing film can in fact be created on a shoestring budget, and furthermore, it encourages young filmmakers to take a chance on their dreams.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.16.54 PMSILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

I love this movie. I will own this movie because it’s one that I want to watch over and over. I love that it doesn’t create a perfectly packaged “happily ever after” scenario and instead utilizes the entertainment platform to shed light on a very real issue.

If you haven’t seen this amazing film, it probably appears to be riddled with judgment and lessons. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a film about love and healing and hope, and while it does address very real issues around mental health, it’s also reveals the resolve that can come from humor, true love, and not taking yourself too seriously.

Silver Linings Playbook is my runner up for best picture—no, I don’t care if that’s not a real prize. The story, the cast, the emotion are deserving of the consideration, especially in such a difficult pool of talent.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.18.34 PMDJANGO UNCHAINED

Let me first say that I enjoyed this movie immensely, but it was pretty typical Tarantino. So, if you’re expecting anything different, you will be sorely disappointed.

That being said, no matter how many of his films I see, somehow, he’s always able to surprise me. But again, in the interest of full disclosure, I was more eager to see this because of the controversy surrounding it…anytime there are people screaming foul, you can be sure that I want to give my opinion—so here it is!

This film told part of the terribly horrific story that happens to be a part of our world’s history. No, it’s not our proudest moment, and in fact, I wish that more people would LEARN from historical mistakes than try so damn hard to repeat them…but that’s an entirely different conversation. The bottom line: Foxx, DiCaprio, Waltz, and Jackson absolutely own their roles. Yes, Tarantino does his typical, over-the-top, blood splatters and self-indulgent excess, but it is still clever, wonderfully written, and perfectly executed. I will be making this a part of my movie library.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.19.40 PMZERO DARK THIRTY

Back to controversy…even ESPN radio interrupted my usual sports updates to cover the annoyingly superficial fury around this film. What do I have to say—give me a break!

Politicians and critics can play that “holier than thou” card and pretend to be outraged as much as they want, and that will never change the fact that our country, under questionable leadership to put it nicely, tortured people in order to get information. It happened. Lying about it, pretending it’s not now a part of our history is a ridiculous and futile effort. Furthermore, and perhaps the most maddening part of all of the spin that has taken place, is the fact that the years of torture that are depicted in Zero Dark Thirty yielded nothing! So again, it’s time to get real! Maybe honesty about things that happened will help ensure that history is not repeated…then again, those yelling the loudest about how atrocious the acknowledgment of torture is are the types of people who like to throw stones from their glass houses.

This film was brilliantly executed, and Kathryn Bigelow more than shows her directing chops and eye for talent (hello Jessica Chastain). I was moved, I was inspired, and for a brief moment, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I got a glimpse into the lives of those people who sacrifice and give their entire existence over for love of their country and for yours and my freedom.


Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 8.20.06 PMLES MISERABLES

Sometimes with films, when there is such an all-star cast, my expectations tend to drop. In my experience, money is spent on casting, and the writing suffers the budgetary constraint…this is not one of those movies.

It’s a heartbreaking story that most of us know, but as heartbreaking as it is, it’s equally beautiful as well. I can forgive Russell Crowe’s abysmal singing because the rest of the cast (yes, even Sacha Baron Cohen) is more than impressive. No, I won’t say this is going to go down as a “classic” in my book, but I was entertained, a difficult story was beautifully told, and the film proved to have authentically emotive powers.

SIDE NOTE: I love that Hooper chose to have the actors sing during the actual takes instead of recording in a sound studio ahead of time as is typically done. I feel like there was an authenticity that came through because they were allowed to truly embody the emotion instead of simply try to mimic what they had recorded months before they ever arrived on set.

Les Miserables is a big show, and I’m fairly certain, it’s one of the longest running. In my untrained and non-expert opinion, this particular version of the adaptation…of the adaptation…of the adaptation (book, musical play, movie, movie, movie…) nails it by balancing a respectful homage within a beautiful interpretation of a Broadway favorite.