Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Best Picture Nominees: Nine Movies You May Have Actually Seen

Just realized two things: 1) I haven't handicapped the Best Picture candidates for the 2013 Oscars yet, and 2) I handicapped the Worst Picture candidates for the 2013 Razzie Awards first. That's backwards. I was probably preoccupied or something, but it's kinda telling. Also, I've only seen three of the nine nominated films-- but the three I saw were quite amazing, so I can tell picking a Best is going to be tough sledding this year. I'll venture a guess that this is going to be the first year in a long time where Best Picture and Best Director are going to be split.

Anyhoo, here are the noteworthy nine:

Amour - Didn't see it. Hardly anybody saw it. However, Michael Haneke got a Best Director nod, so if you believe in the conventional wisdom it has a better chance of netting the big tamale than Argo, Django and Zero Dark Thirty.

Argo - Very enjoyable, hyper-tense and pitch-perfect storytelling. Not sure why Ben Affleck didn't get the director nom. Maybe because he's the star as well, and the Academy voters found it too… I don't know, Afflecky. (A measure of quantity, not quality: he was fine in both roles.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Didn't see it. The members of AMPAS have gone for low-budget, little-seen films before (as in last year's The Artist), and they could do it again.

Django Unchained - I get to walk away from objectivity here and say, once again, I hope Tarantino's hitless streak continues. He's still purveying his uniquely unoriginal brand of warmed-over 70s exploitation-film faux junk.

Russell Crowe in Les Misérables, singin' his ass off,
live and mere inches from both Hugh Jackman and the
protective anti-spittle filter on the camera lens.
Les Misérables - There was fascinating article in the New York Times about this film, and why so many critics have savaged it AND the audiences who loved it. It has something to do with Tom Hooper's technique of having the actors singing live and in super-close up. It's so intimate that the audience cannot pull away, to get some emotional distance from the subject. this approach makes it absolutely sincere, emotionally raw and true, which makes viewing and evaluating Les Misérables in way-too-typical ironic detachment mode difficult, if not impossible. Irony is the inch-deep sea most critics swim in these days. Hence the brickbats.

Life of Pi - Didn't see it. But Ang Lee got the nod, and I have a strange feeling this one may just take it.

Lincoln - Saw it and loved it. makes you proud to be an American-- in a good way, not a somewhat guilty Zero Dark Thirty way.

Silver Linings Playbook - Did not see it. Close second in best picture race, I think. David O' Russell has been a player for a while, and he may well get his due.

Zero Dark Thirty - Just saw this, and it is amazing, mature and complex. Far from taking sides on things like torture or detainee interrogation it showed the moral complexities involved in it, issues that go deep into the psyche of the intelligence community and post-9/11 America in general. Unfortunately, Kathryn Bigelow took home statues two years ago for The Hurt Locker.

Interesting note: the three Oscar-nominated films I saw - Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty-- are of the exact same genre: historical fiction. They're dramatized enactments of important but either obscure or classified moments of American history. In fact, anyone with a reasonable good knowledge of history knows how each film ends. But each of the three was compelling and surprising, telling their stories with such skill that I didn't care that I knew how the curtain falls on each one.

Which is why movies are, even in this big effects tentpole and comic book obsessed era of cinematic history,  still so damned great.

More fun Oscar observations after the Stewie Griffin-hosted awards ceremony!

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