October 24, 2014

IM: The Oscars Open Mic Edition

life-of-pi-0a

Sad to say, I have not even seen one of the motion pictures that are up for Best Picture at tonight’s Academy Awards. Here is the list:

lincolnHonestly, “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” and “Amour” are the only ones I’ve been hankering to see. I wanted to read the book again before seeing “Pi,” and time constraints more than anything else have kept me out of the theater in recent days, so I’ve missed the others for that primary reason.

This means we need movie reviewsfast! — so that I can have some idea what I’m watching tonight.

I therefore invite you to chime in with your impressions and evaluations of the various films and performances that are being featured tonight (or perhaps, in your opinion, are being overlooked).

What movies and performances impressed you this year, and why?

Note: for a complete listing of this year’s nominees, go HERE.

Comments

  1. Les Mis was great. The performances by both Hathaway and Jackman were amazing..

  2. Without a doubt Lincoln is my choice. Not necessarily for Best Movie but for Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. It was incredible. I left the theater feeling as if I had just spent 2 hours with President Lincoln. His posture and his face told the story of the weight that Lincoln bore and the personal scenes between Lincoln and his wife were stunning. I also think Tommy Lee Jones should get the Supporting Actor award as the tired, cynical Thaddeus Stevens. I felt honored to have seen these two actors portray men who had to make profound decisions that literally shaped our country. In fact I went to see it twice, once to see Lewis performance and the second time to focus on the political chess match.

    I did see Les Miserables and the music is beautiful but it just did not impact me as Lincoln did. I did not see Argo but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets Best Picture from what others have told me about it.

    • Watch the old “Abe Lincoln from Illinois” with Raymond Massey and you will change your mind about Lewis’ portrayal. Lewis rips off Massey’s accent. “Lincoln” is another movie like “Gandhi” back in ’82, everyone proclaimed its importance but it quickly sank into the memory hole. The best movie you will ever ignore!

  3. Clay Knick says:

    “Argo” was good, but not great, I think. Great story, good acting, but not “best” when I think of other films that have won Best Picture. “Lincoln” was incredible and looks like a Best Picture. Daniel Day Lewis deserves the Oscar. I’ve yet to see the others.

  4. Amour – Incredibly slow, depressing, but excellent acting. Just very, VERRRY slow and serious. And sad. This is a FILM, not a movie, if that makes sense.
    Argo – Great story, great acting, great overall film. Well-done, thrilling. Ben Affleck is great.
    Beasts – Beautiful, bizarre, and that little Quezhavahne (?) was AMAZING. I loved this film. Fantastical, interesting, and strange, though some issues with the portrayal of the African American community. This is one of my favorites.
    Django – I actually loved this film. Fantastic, fantastic acting (Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx). Again, some issues with portrayal of the African American community and slavery, but wow. Pure Tarantino complete with the Japanese film-esque blood bath at the end. This is also one of my favorites.
    Les Mis – Meh. It’s what you expect – nothing original, really. Extremely talented actors/actresses being extremely talented, so yes great movie, but just so . . . done. A *tad* bit contrived in that they WANT you to bawl your eyes out. Anne Hathaway was incredible. I did lose interest at points, but my Dad bawled, so there you go.
    Life of Pi – Meh and disappointed. CGI was amazing, but it just wasn’t really great to me. It was a lot of style, very little substance.
    Lincoln – Daniel Day Lewis is always spectacular, and I could NOT stop watching him. He looks like they resurrected Lincoln. Again, it’s predictable in that it’s what Spielberg does – very well-done, very long epics. Definitely worth seeing, but again – I wasn’t crazy for it.
    Silver Linings – I adore Jennifer Lawrence. I really enjoyed this movie in that it was a totally different take on the rom-com, so I liked it. Very good. In the top of this list for me.
    Zero Dark – I just had a problem with the amount of torture used in the film . . . I felt like there was some Islamophobia perpetuated in the film. Very long, very serious. Extremely well-done (as per all of the films), but it just didn’t sit right with me, I guess.

    Can you tell I like movies? ;) These are all just my personal opinions, so you may disagree!

  5. Well, I saw “Beasts,” but unlike all the critics who were rhapsodic about it, I found it depressing and a waste of time; in fact, I disliked it immensely. You can call it magical realism if you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a stinker.

  6. I have to agree with Adrienne. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis was like getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to sit with Abraham Lincoln.

  7. I went to 23 movies in 2013, but saw only three of the top contenders: Lincoln, Argo, and Les Mis. (Blame the fact that my usual cinema companion is my 11-year-old, who almost always gets to choose the film.)

    Even without having seen most of the other nominated Best Actor performances, I’m prepared to say that if Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t win for Lincoln, there’s no justice — he was that good. The other star of that movie was Tony Kushner’s screenplay, to which the film will owe its victory if it gets Best Picture. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not the front-runner, as it represents exactly the same combination of well-done and worthy that one saw in The King’s Speech and that the Academy generally loves.

    Now, I loved Argo — loved-loved it, even — but comparing it to Lincoln (which I only single-loved) is almost unfair. Yes, Argo succeeds perfectly in achieving its aims, which perhaps Lincoln does not, but Argo is a more modest film to begin with. I think if it wins, you’d have to call it a steal, which isn’ t to say I’d be unhappy. Ben Affleck was terrific, and his loving recreation of the 70s (which he surely can’t remember as well as I do) was just right.

    Had Affleck not been overlooked in the nominations, I think it’d make the most sense for Lincoln to take Best Picture and Argo to win Best Director (awards always make sense, right?). Of course, I didn’t see the other contenders, save one.

    Les Mis was, to me, a colossal disappointment. Now, I’m not speaking as a particular devotee of the stage show, though I’ve nothing against it, either — I went in with an open mind, willing to like the movie on its own terms, provided it was good. And it should have been, right?. There was all that talent, in the service of a classic story set to a score whose best moments are genuinely stirring… but somehow the whole was less than the sum of the parts. IMO, it was a terrible, terrible choice to have the principal actors sing live on set, and if my saying that proves that I just don’t get acting, I think it’s also fair to say that Tom Hooper might not get musicals. Poor Hugh Jackman, who can actually sing quite well, was unlistenable in many places, and his strained, abused voice, far from increasing my sympathy for the beleaguered Valjean, only served to distract me right out of the story.

    Things got exponentially better when the focus was on the student revolution, but this was not a Best Picture, nor was Jackman a Best Actor. Anne Hathaway would be a worthy Best Supporting, though. Indeed, all of the women came across better than the men.

    I saw three of the animated films (my kid doesn’t do horror, even kiddie horror). Brave was the most art-y, and had it been made by anyone but Pixar, I think people would be talking it up more (but it was only a triple, from a company expected to deliver nothing but home runs). Wreck-It Ralph was good and fun, *and* I didn’t see the twist coming, but I found it a little heavy-handed in the message department. Meanwhile, The Pirates was another example of a film completely succeeding in achieving relatively modest aims. I loved the sly humor and am glad it was nominated, but I don’t think it’s a real contender. I’m kind of surprised Rise of the Guardians was passed over– the two I didn’t see must have been very good.

  8. I wanted to see several of the eventual Best Picture nominees, but money was tight and I only got to watch one: Life of Pi. Thankfully it was incredible — beautiful to watch, beautiful sound, loyal to the book but not slavishly so. Ang Lee’s use of color and light and space were all terrific, and the kids (and adult) who played Pi absolutely nailed the character. I feel almost like it’s the movie The Tree of Life tried to be last year and wasn’t quite. And it did so without being ponderous or taking itself too seriously – my 11-year-old daughter (who, like me, had read the book) enjoyed it too.

    I don’t think it’ll win Best Picture (that’ll likely go to Argo, maybe Lincoln), but I have it winning four of the technical awards – cinematography, art direction, score and visual effects.

  9. Heather and all, thanks for your great reviews. I hope Amour wins best foreign as I am a fan of Michael Haeneke’s. Although I love films I rarely see first run ones, preferring to use Netflix and watch UK series and foreign movies. One series I like, The Beiderbecke Connection, has recordings of Bix playing throughout. You can’t really find these types of things in the US. I also have watched some good docs about the film industry, silent period, french new wave, Italian post war. I’t amaszing how beautiful some of the styilized silents from Europe are. Over the next monlths I will see someof these oscar nominees, kind of looking forward to “silver linings.” I do enjoy netflix and other onlline offerings since I love movies so much, am alwqays looking for that cutting edge film and those a little bit different.

  10. I’m cheering for Batman. I liked Avengers, but Batman was better.

  11. To my dismay, I have not seen Django Unchained or Lincoln–young baby has kept us away from the cinema.

    We have seen Argo and Beasts of the Southern Wild (at home). Argo was a great watch, and about a topic I find interesting (the foreign service), and worth any awards it gets. That said, I am puzzled as to why it is a favorite over Lincoln, given all I’ve heard about that film.

    Beasts of the Southern Wild was brutal and brilliant and beautiful. It will follow me for a long time. Still not positive I caught everything in it, it was that stunning and deep, and a very interesting depiction of the way a young girl understands traumatic events.

    It is not up for any awards, but we did get out to see Cloud Atlas. It was wonderful. If you can get your hands on it when it comes out, watch it!

  12. “Lincoln” was a great movie because of the acting. It had the potential to be one of the all-time great movies, but there was some really ham-fisted directorial moves on Spielberg’s part (particularly the ending sequence). In another director’s hands, “Lincoln” would be Best Picture hands down, but I’m not 100% sure about the movie as it is. Daniel Day Lewis is Best Actor for sure though…

    • One day, Spielberg will let go of his fear that viewers will miss how they should feel. When he does, he will quite possibly make the best movie of all-time.

      • He won’t do it. No matter how lofty the subject, not matter how noble the intentions, no matter how great the aspiration, Spielberg makes entertainment, not art; movies, not film. He is possessed by the wandering, haunted spirit of Disney; he can’t leave reality alone, he has to manipulate it.

        • Schindlers List and Munich came closest, in my opinion. In both, the subject matter was weighty enough to give some ballast.

        • I agree with Robert. Not only is he entertainment driven, he usually doesn’t seem like he could have a clear artistic vision if he wanted to.

          Again with the ending sequence of “Lincoln”: Day Lewis turned in an incredibly humanizing, “life in the trenches” portrayal of our 16th Pres. Spielberg caps off the movie with a couple of cheezy, mythologizing moves that seemed to totally miss what the lead actor was bringing to the character.

          Not to beat a dead horse, but I think if you take the same script and the same actors and put them into the hands of a different director, “Lincoln” could have been one of the greatest films of all time…

          • “Shouting the battlecry of freedom” was a bit much. But I think it and a few other parts are exceptions within the movie. Many of the scenes have a low-key intimacy that is quite different from most Spielberg and most modern high-profile movies in general. I’ve heard more people say it’s “too slow and boring” than too over-the-top and manipulative. He also handled the assassination well and gave a nuanced and sympathetic portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln, which are both things that could have easily gone wrong.

            We can speculate about how another director might have handled the script, but Spielberg was the one who commissioned the script.

          • I still hold out hope that one day Spielberg will “get it” and present a movie entirely devoid of some of his heavy-handed emotionalism. He has made movies where much of it IS filmed without it; but he’s not quite learned to edit out or let those moments go. Take “Saving Private Ryan,” for instance. If he’d edited out the silly scenes of Damon and his family visiting the gravesite, the movie would’ve been MUCH better. Ten minutes of ill-advised filmmaking in a 2+ hour movie…that’s all he needs to learn to let go. And I think one day he’ll figure that out.

    • Spielberg does overindulge in a couple of places, but it doesn’t ruin the movie. I thought most of it was pretty tasteful and subtle.

  13. I only saw Lincoln and Argo but loved them both. I agree that Lincoln was probably the better movie, particularly Daniel Day Lewis’s performance. Argo was great and did its material justice, but was a very different story from Lincoln and the acting, while really good, was not the phenomenal performance that Daniel Day Lewis gave in Lincoln. I also thought Tommy Lee Jones did a great job in Lincoln, as did Sally Field.

  14. Best review of Les Mis:

    ”Went to the movies with the wife. We saw this obscure movie I had never heard of, some French foreign film. They must have been giving away free tickets because the lines were out the door. Anyway, the movie starts and Wolverine is singing his guts out. then Catwoman starts crying and singing and it’s all very moving. The only problem was, the girl next to me, who had apparently read the book or something, starts singing along. it was very distracting. so Wolverine is on the run from the Gladiator because Catwoman had a baby at Borat’s house, but now she wants Wolverine to care for her. Time skip. A bunch of kids get shot, and in the end everyone dies. Four stars.” –John Bryson

  15. Okay…

    I want to see Lincoln… I’m a history nerd and that is on my list.

    I saw Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. As a history nerd I enjoyed both. The topics for both were done well and the material was good. While I’m frustrated with the budget situation in this town I do love my government. And what I liked about Argo and Zero Dark Thirty was that I thought you saw the best of our government in action. Often times all you hear are the failures of government (Iraq WMD, September 11, etc..) but here are two stories that showed our government in a positive light.

    I saw Life of Pi and it just oozed with theology. I enjoyed it and walked away deeply thinking about what I saw. I thought the story of the boat bouncing around in the ocean could be an example of a person bouncing around in the ocean of life…where they get hit, deal with suffering, asking why? The tiger represented faith and wrestling and living in fear of it. At least for me it did. One scene that stood out was when Pi stood up on the lifeboat in a middle of a lightening storm, with waves, wind howling and screaming at God. For me its very Job like and that’s how I felt with the “why” questions these past 5 years going through I don’t know exactly what…

    I saw Les Miserables. First thing you need to know about me…is that I love theater. My first musical was seeing Les Miserables in Shubert Theater in Los Angeles. I’ve seen a lot of musicals over the years with the last one being Jekyll & Hyde in the Kennedy Center. I am eagerly salivating at the thought of seeing the Book of Mormon this summer at the Kennedy Center. Oh man I can’t wait!

    So I went expecting Les Miserables to be good. I was so disappointed…it was one of the worst movies I saw. Here’s the deal…you go to see a musical for the music. So with songs like “On my Own”,”Bring Him Home”,”One Day More” I was looking forward to something outstanding. In the end I felt like I wasted $10.00. Anne Hatheway was the best but Russell Crowe as Javert? It would have been more pleasant to listened to a cat being skinned alive. He had some good songs and he just was miscast. One of my favorite songs is “One Day More” with the climax being Javert singing “One more day to revolution we will nip it in the bud, I will join these precious schoolboys they will wet themselves with blood”. And when Russel Crowe did it I was just disappointed. Hollywood and musicals are mixed. I loved how Hollywood did Phantom of the Opera and Evita. They can do a good job, my personal favorite is Evita. Good cast, good singers, good music, strong performances, strong vocals. Just listen to this…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9xyWLjwKDA

    So I’m sorry but Les Miserables was a total disappointment. I’d rathor listen to a John Piper sermon than see it again, as a theater guy I was that disappointed.

  16. Oh and if you’re not familiar with Les Miserables “One Day More” here it is on Youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IddP8AAIGTQ

    Man what talent…Colm Wilkenson, Lea Salonga, Judy Kuhn, etc… beautiful! Yes on top of being a train nerd I also am a theater nerd. :-P

  17. BTW…can I throw out something for you guys to pray for I-Monk community? I’ve slowly been taking baby steps forward in trying to put something together. I’m leaning to live with some issues and work around others. I’m been attending an evangelical church here in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve been nervous and proceeded carefully. I’ve met with the pastors, spoken one on one, asked a lot of hard questions, etc… They have had some good topic about issues such as OT atrocities, and sex which was a relief for me after being familiar with the John Piper view. (or knowing Mark Driscoll’s teaching…) Tonight they announced their next sermon series is on Genesis and Creation. I froze when I heard it. I am hoping that I won’t hear the Al Mohler and Ken Ham party line of “You have to believe in a literal 6 day creation to be a Christian and you can’t believe in evolution.” I’m going to email the pastor about this topic…but I want to move forward and be a part of a faith community again and have a healthy faith. If I hear a fundamentalist approach to this issue that wailing, sobbing and weeping you hear coming out of the Washington, D.C. area will be from me.

    Can you pray that this works out and that it won’t be a fundamentalist approach to creation. I’d like to have a church home again. Thanks guys!

    • Prayed for you!

    • You have prayers, Eagle. And if you want to run anything by me, drop me an email.

    • praying for you- trying to get back into church myself. i sincerely hope it’s a community of encouragement and grace and truth!!

    • I look forward to hearing more about your next steps in this part of your faith journey!!! Prayers going up, Eagle.

      • Asking the Lord to find you the right place for YOU to find Him and fellowship. At least you are not in Hungry Horse, Montana~~IF this is not the right place for you, there are tons and bunches of other churches in the metro DC area…….and your new friends are waiting for you!

    • Praying that you find a place to rest and reconnect. It does feel good, after a long exile.

      If the current church isn’t the right place for you, I pray that you find someplace where you can continue forward and find a few likeminded people.

      And thanks for posting so much on imonk. When trekking through the wilderness, it is good to see that one is not alone.

    • “O Trinity of love and power!
      Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
      From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
      Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
      Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
      Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.”

      “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”—William Whiting

      Praying for you, Eagle.

  18. I’m for you, Eagle.

    Passe avant.

    T

  19. Lincoln was great!

  20. And, it’s Argo.

    And Daniel Day Lewis is now officially my hero.

  21. I loved Argo!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w918Eh3fij0

    Here’s a good article from the BBC on the actual story.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21504409

    • Argo, was wonderful!

      Although the subject matter ought not have this effect, it made me a little wistful that I never took for the foreign service exam.

  22. I haven’t seen any of the movies. I did read the book :Life of Pi and the book the Lincoln movie was based on. Did Brave win for animated movies? I loved that movie.

  23. I watched Searching for Sugarman the week before. Extremely interesting documen. Thrilled that it won an award last night. Wonderful story.

    T

  24. I loved Lincoln and would have given it Best Picture. Argo was also quite good, though, so I can’t complain too much. Highly reccommend seeing both.

    Les Miserables I have pretty mixed feelings about. First of all, while I’ve read the unabridged book, I’d never seen a musical version before. Most of the performances were good, with the major exception of Crowe, and it looks nice and while it probably goes too hard for being emotional, it does succeed a lot of the time. I think having almost every line sung like an opera (as opposed a mix between speaking and songs mixed in) was a mistake though. With the movie being entirely music and always going for big emotional hits, it feels like there’s a dramatic climax every five minutes, which is just exhausting and kind of messes up the pacing.

    Beasts of the Southern Wild was well-done, but I couldn’t help feeling that the director was imitating Terence Malick a bit too closely. Great performance by the girl though. It’s worth seeing.

    I actually hated Django Unchained. It has a lot of good acting, but it just adds up to a mess in my opinion. It tries to be a serious movie about slavery, an ultra-gory splatterfest, and a comedy all at once, and it just doesn’t work. I know this is kind of Tarantino’s thing, but I think he really bit off more than he could chew here. There’s also a major turn of events at the end that feels completely arbitrary and contrived and adds about thirty minutes to its length.

    • And I don’t necessarily dislike genre-bending movies. The Coen Bros’ Fargo is one of my favorite “comedies”, and I even like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. But Django Unchained tries to be so many things at once that it ends up being a lot less than the sum of its parts.

    • I’d never seen a musical version before

      —-

      You’ve never seen Les Miserables in the theater?!? What is this world coming to!!! 8-O I know so many who have seen it, even those who normally arn’t theater folks.

  25. I enjoyed Argo, even though it was a real re-write of history. I guess even though Affleck was made aware of its weakness he went ahead anyway.

    Here is Carter’s take on it:
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2013/02/argo-the-jimmy-carter-experience.html

    And here is the Canadian Ambassadors take:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2013/02/23/argo-taylor-oscars.html