OMG It’s Oscar Time, Y’all

I was going to say this is my obligatory Oscar post, but it appears in nearly six years of blogging I’ve neglected to write one.

Ooops, my bad. Ah well, this is my chance to rectify that oversight. Let me first say, there may be some spoilers ahead. So consider yourself warned.

Mr. Beale and I are huge movie buffs. Oscar night is like our Super Bowl. We’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees this year, with the exception of “Les Miserables.” However, we saw that “no one’s ever tried it this way before!” promotional featurette so many times, I feel like I’ve seen the movie. Really!

We kept saying we needed to go, and yet, we just couldn’t manage to do it. We finally realized that we just … weren’t interested. Isn’t that awful? I don’t know why, but we just didn’t want to see it. And I really, really love musicals. I loved “Rent” on the big screen. Whenever we go to New York, which is often, I always make sure a musical is on our theater schedule. In January we saw “Once,” which I loved. So, I don’t know why we just couldn’t drag ourselves to “Les Miserables,” except it just looked like a real downer. But plenty of other movies this year were downers, I mean Jesus, “Amour” is about old people who die. Yikes. So I don’t know why we just didn’t want to go.

For me, the Best Picture is one which transports me to another world, touches me on a deep emotional or spiritual level, makes me think differently about something, and uses all the amazing storytelling devices a film maker has at their disposal to make a larger point about our world. While there are a lot of really good films nominated for Best Picture this year, the only nominee that really stood out as Best Picture for me was “Beasts Of The Southern Wild.” That film was magical, mystical, spiritual, beautiful, and everything else I want in a movie. I loved that movie so much I wanted to hug it. It probably won’t win because it was a small, low-budget independent film made by unknowns, but for my money, it should.

A movie which met all of my Best Picture criteria yet wasn’t nominated was “The Sessions.” It really should have been. If you haven’t seen that movie, by all means go. But bring a box of tissues with you, you’ll need them.

“Life of Pi” surprised me. That is one of my all-time favorite books, ever. I thought I would hate the film for that reason alone, as I just couldn’t imagine it ever being turned into a movie. But I thought it was excellent, really, really excellent.

Something about this film really sticks with me and it has to do with that horrific gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus last December. I had read that the young woman and her male friend were on their way home from seeing “Life of Pi” at the theater when the attack occured. That information just breaks my heart in so many ways. “Life of Pi” is an allegory. It’s about human nature’s struggle with the animal savagery that lives inside us all — the very brutality that this woman and her friend met on that Delhi bus. The very savagery that fills our newspapers every day. It bothers me that every discussion of this film focuses on the amazing special effects. The larger message seems to have been lost, even when a shocking news event like what happened in India points us to it in such a huge way.

By the same token, the larger message of a film like “Silver Linings Playbook” seems to be overplayed for me. Okay, I get that it’s supposed to be about mental illness and all that but, erm, it’s really not. It’s a quirky love story and it really didn’t delve much deeper than that.

I just didn’t like that movie all that much. Maybe it hit too many buttons for me; I just felt like these two characters were way too unstable and way too early in their recovery to make responsible relationship decisions. And there really wasn’t much time devoted to exploring their issues at all. I wanted to tell them both to go to a Zen retreat and meditate for a year or something. (Let me add, Mr. Beale adored “Silver Linings Playbook,” and completely disagrees with me. Duly noted.) I wanted to tell Jennifer Lawrence that any guy with these kinds of anger issues is not a guy you want to date.

I also didn’t love “Lincoln.” I liked it, but didn’t love it. Steven Spielberg’s direction always seems a little too emotionally manipulative to me. I am the only person in the world who hated “E.T.”

“Lincoln” had too many obvious awards-baiting scenes for me. Every time Daniel Day Lewis, or any character really, started a speech, it’s as if there were blaring sirens screaming, “ATTENTION MEMBERS OF THE ACADEMY!” The color palette was all cold, gray, and dour, which gave the whole film a washed-out feel to me. I felt like I was supposed to be uplifted by the film, but I never felt that way. That said, I’ve already made peace with the idea of “Lincoln” raking in the awards this year. It just seems like the kind of film that the Academy adores.

We liked “Argo,” but it was like a thriller movie, not really a Best Picture-caliber film. It was interesting for me, since I well remember the Iran hostage crisis, and it was a little time-trip for me. I’ve heard President Carter say that the real heroes of the Argo story were the Canadians, who were really the ones responsible for getting our six embassy staffers out of Iran. It bothers me that the film took those liberties with the story, as if the story wouldn’t be as powerful if the heroes were Canadians.

“Zero Dark Thirty” was kind of the same way, a gripping thriller and really good film but maybe not Best Picture. Liberals are mad at “Zero Dark Thirty” because it depicts torture as actually being an effective way to get intelligence, and the left’s talking point has always been that torture doesn’t work. That doesn’t really bother me about the film, as it does show that faulty intel was obtained through torture and it shows that there were other tools used to obtain intel that were just as effective. I think the left needs to take a steaming cup of STFU and give Kathryn Bigelow a break.

I thought I would hate “Django Unchained,” because I really hate gratuitous violence in films, which means I am not a Quentin Tarantino fan at all, ever, full stop. I usually want to tell him to grow the fuck up, he’s like a little kid. But honestly, the violence in “Django Unchained” was so over the top and the entire film was so stylized and such a caricature that I was able to handle it. I’m not sure it deserved a Best Picture nomination; I think the Academy voters were more attached to the filmmaking than the film.

And that brings us to “Amour,” which I dragged Mr. Beale to when we were in New York. I saw this film after reading the book “Me Before You,” which also takes up the issue of assisted suicide and disabled people. I really, absolutely hated that book for reasons I won’t go into here, but which dovetailed with my view of “Amour.” I just don’t get the European view of people with disabilities. As someone whose mother was incapacitated by several strokes and so who has kind of been through this, I found myself puzzled by Anne’s desire to die. She really seemed to be in pretty good shape for a stroke patient. Hell, my mom was in worse shape than Anne, and we took her to Las Vegas for her birthday. We packed up her wheelchair and took her to movies and concerts and festivals. We made big outings out of a trip to the grocery store. She went all sorts of places, even though she could barely talk and was fed through a tube in her stomach.

I find the European approach to disabled people, at least as depicted in this film and that book, very backwards. Life doesn’t end because you’re in a wheelchair.

Alright, I’m gonna wrap this up. What was your favorite movie of the year?

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18 Comments

Filed under movies, pop culture

18 responses to “OMG It’s Oscar Time, Y’all

  1. I’m disagreeing with you on the reality distortions of ARGO, Lincoln, Zero Dark 30, etc. If entertainment based on historical events were not integrated into a false reality, then it would be fine to take liberties and make the good guys be the Americans and the torturers, instead of the Canadians and the old fashion down in the trenches information analysts. But people DO integrate entertainment into a false memory. Didn’t a Bush official use 24 as one of the justifications for torture to prove it works? The effects of historical distortion are too grievous to allow, given the human species penchant for self delusion in its decision process. When history is distorted to tell a story it really means that the story teller can’t tell a great story based on facts, even though the facts behind these stories are pretty riveting as they really are.

    S

    • The effects of historical distortion are too grievous to allow,…

      Well, I think you’re agreeing with me then, because that was my point, as well. Or at least, that was the point I was trying to make in regards to “Argo.” Guess I didn’t state it clearly enough.

    • Flying Junior

      But people DO integrate entertainment into a false memory. Didn’t a Bush official use 24 as one of the justifications for torture to prove it works?

      Maybe you are remembering Antonin Scalia famously asking, “What would Jack Bauer do?” (h/t Southern Beale)

      As far as allegory, I saw the timing of the film as a love song and maybe a thank you to the American people for re-electing president Obama and perhaps a prayer that he not be assassinated in his second term. I know that sounds nutty, but that was the mood of the day for me. As far as revisionist history, I had to call out Spielberg for the momentous debate on the house floor in which one democrat argued that if given the basic rights of citizenship a day would come when negros would be given the vote and even, (gasp) a call to extend the vote to women would someday resound! The entire chamber roared their “Hell Noes!” A little bit contrived and over the top. Did enjoy the gas lamps and telegraph machines in the ready room amongst other historical treasures and antiquities.

  2. Min

    I didn’t see many movies this year. I really loved “Lincoln”, but that may be because I saw so few movies with which to contrast it. “Flight” probably was the most thought provoking movie I saw, because the movie was so totally not what I thought it was going to be.

    I truly regret that I didn’t see “Beast of the Southern Wild”, because that one really called out to me. I just didn’t have the time or opportunity. I didn’t see “Life of Pi” for the same reason you mentioned–I had read the book and loved it–but you may have changed my mind. I’m going to have a lot of time to kill while I’m in Memphis this week, and I tend to go to movies when I’m in Memphis with time to kill.

  3. cckids

    Thank you for your comments re Amour & the European ( & often American) attitudes towards disability. I’ve got a son, now 30, who’s been disabled from birth, he’s always used a wheelchair , had a feeding tube & been nonverbal, & we took him everywhere-National Parks camping, lots of hikes (we have a all-terrain chair that is like a baby jogger for these); swimming, LOTS of movies, just out & about in our daily lives with our other kids. He’s even ridden an elephant & camel at the circus, with me holding him of course. And we’ve gotten some degree of attitude all his life about “what kind of life does he have?” A pretty decent one, thanks! The best we can give him. He enjoys life at about the level of your average 2-6 year old, and who loves life more than a small child?
    Now, since a hospital f*ckup in 2007, now he needs a respirator, colostomy, catheter, & is just pretty medically fragile. We still take him out when we can, though camping is beyond him now. And oy, the attitude is SO much worse. We’ve gotten it from docs & nurses for the past 5 years. (and he has a DNR, we aren’t blind to reality) Do they expect us to put a pillow over his face ? This life is tough enough without that.

    Sorry to vent, but the subject hits too close to home. I love your writing, you make me smile often.

  4. Bias Alert. Just saw “Beasts of the Southern Wild” last night in my effort to catch up. Everything you said, Magical, mystical, spiritual. Stunning. ORIGINAL. Wow! Alas…I don’t get a vote. BTW, I was OK with Silver Linings just being a quirky love story. May be because I regularly interact with an Indian psychiatrist and lol when I think of him saying “DeSean Jackson is the man.”

  5. Joe

    I copied your quote

    “the Best Picture is one which transports me to another world, touches me on a deep emotional or spiritual level, makes me think differently about something, and uses all the amazing storytelling devices a film maker has at their disposal to make a larger point about our world.”

    My wife & I went to see Le Miserables this afternoon and I’d say all of the above. In fact, I left the theater saying to my wife that I fully expect Lincoln to win tonight, but that this movie could give it a run for its money. It made me want to read the book and I can see why the man who is my spiritual could preach so powerfully about Victor Hugo’s book. My wife was surrounded by me on one side and another guy next to her, both of us in tears. I did not expect to like it much, although I’d heard it was very good and very moving. I was absolutely stunned by it. And I liked Lincoln a lot, but I could see this winning. And frankly, I thought Jackman was remarkable and should be a solid contender for the Oscar, although the deck’s likely stacked against him. Ann Hathaway was also incredible. I don’t think I’ve been as moved by a movie as this one in eons.

  6. ThresherK

    I didn’t see any of the Best Pic nominees.

    But as a theater geek I am amazed that Les Miz was made with non-singers (except Hugh Jackman) singing live. There’s a reason that hasn’t been done for about eighty years. Once they perfected the technology to do away with it, they did. It allowed song and dance men and women to dance, and Marni Nixon to give voice to women who needed it.

    (Disclaimer: My taste in the modern epic musical is sorta limited; I think Phantom of The Opera is a show with good songs which works despite everything one’s ever heard about it, but other blockbusters like Les Miz and Miss Saigon have songs which leave me a bit cold.)

    I don’t know that the latest run of big musical plays turned into movies has done much. For every Dreamgirls and Chicago there are relative disappointments like Phantom, The Producers (2005), Mamma Mia, and Rent which weren’t well served, for my money.

    What musical have you seen on the stage, lately, which you’d like made into a movie, but just seems too risky to spend the money on?

      • ThresherK

        Yeah, that sounds worth the effort, if it’s better than the other two “big” movies Parker and Stone made. Now, how to not ruin it from the stage to the screen.

        (I’m forgetting about “Baseketball” because it was a low-rent, low-budget non pre-sold name, unlike the film version of “South Park”.)

        PS Josh Gad is a panic in “1600 Penn”.

      • I didn’t like 1600 Penn. We just watched the first episode, it was too … I dunno … something. Wrong? Too wrong.

      • ThresherK

        If you want something unfigureoutably wrong, may I submit this short-lived comedy from Parker and Stone.

        It wasn’t funny, and I couldn’t even figure out what kind of comic angle they were going after. No scenario would fix that show.

        Mind you, this was before 9/11, and before how unfunny living with W. as president would be, and how Parker and Stone would go to the mat insisting that there were WMDs in Iraq, and how they tried to make biting right-wing satire out of that.

  7. democommie

    I don’t go to theaters. I hate the lighting, sound and assholes in the shoeboxes.

    There are some theaters like the Cabot Cinema in Beverly, MA which are still great places to see movies but they are few and far between.

    It’s 360 miles from my house to the Cabot, so I’m not going there anytime soon.

    • Hey demo you don’t have to go to a theater to see a movie anymore. Maybe you’ve heard of this newfangled thingie called Netflix?
      :-)

      • democommie

        I watch Netflix a lot. It is very difficult to watch anything more recent than several years old that isn’t crap.It’s also got a really bad set of parameters for its search functions. Type in an actor’s name and you might see three movies with his name in the listed credits. Type in somebody else’s name and you might see that same actor’s name come up a dozen times, mixed into thirty pages of “Dora the Explorer”, “Little Mermaid” and other fare.

        Netflix also lacks a function to simply opt out of being offered complete crap. But, at $7.99 a month, it’s a better deal than cable.

  8. I haven’t seen any of the Oscar nominated films, but I have a feeling I will like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Life of Pi. I usually wait for the dvd to come out.