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?