As I told my roommate the other day, Oscar night is my Super Bowl night. It is a night of glamour (well that word kind of ruins my Super Bowl analogy) and glory that I look forward to every year. I do understand that a fair amount of the Oscars is a popularity contest and that the list of nominees are not always the best representation of a year in film. Snubs happen all the time and this year was one of the worst years as far as snubs go. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were both passed over for Best Director, Moonrise Kingdom was not giving a Best Picture nominations and Leonardo DiCaprio did not earn a nomination for his outstanding performance in Django Unchained (the D is silent you racist mother…..). Despite all the snubs and drama I counted down the minutes until the Oscars started and watched every single moment live, even when it dragged a half an hour past its advertised end time. Ultimately it was a great year for the Oscars with some fairly large surprises. I was nervous about Seth MacFarlane as a host but he ended up giving a hilarious and fairly charming performance. I’m not going to talk about every category, just the big ones.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz as Doctor King Schultz in Django Unchained. This year the Best Supporting Actor category was absolutely stacked with each actor in the category a previous Oscar Winner. I could not be happier with the result in this category. While Philip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding in the Master and I am always a fan of Alan Arkin, who was nominated for his performance in Argo, Waltz was my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables. I will go on the record in saying that I did not like Les Miserables. I do not understand how it was nominated for Best Picture. I agree that there were some stunning scenes and some good performances but ultimately I thought it was over-hyped and overrated. One aspect of the film that did not disappoint was Anne Hathaway’s performance. Absolutely heartbreaking as the street prostitute who would give anything and everything to support her daughter, there is no doubt in my mind that Hathaway deserved this win more than any of the other Nominees.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Again, I thought this award went to the right person. Another very strong category, including Helen Hunt for her performance in the Sessions and Sally Field for her role as Mary Todd in Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence gave the performance of a lifetime. Playing a broken, young widower, Lawrence proves her true acting skill time and time again throughout the film. There was one scene in particular that could have been enough to win her the award in which she goes head to head with Robert De Niro in my favorite movie scene of the year.
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. I actually did not see this film but I am not surprised that Lewis won. I would have really liked Bradley Cooper to have won for his performance in Silver Linings Playbook but I do not doubt that Lewis deserved it. He is an outstanding actor and does not take a role unless he can make it Oscar worthy.
Best Director: Ang Lee for Life of Pi. In my opinion this was the biggest shock of the entire night. If I had to cast my vote I would have voted for David O. Russel for Silver Linings Playbook. I am not upset that Lee won, I am just very surprised. The reviews for Life of Pi were mixed and as Oscar night approached, there wasn’t necessarily a strong vote of confidence for Lee to win. After his win I will have to see the film and see if he truly deserved it.
Best Picture: Argo. I am very happy that Argo won. I like Ben Affleck, I have always liked him and am glad that a film he worked so hard on won such a high honor. I think it was quite the shock that Argo won not because it was a bad film or didn’t deserve it but because the film didn’t win any other Oscars throughout the evening. It is very rare for a film to win Best Picture but not take home any other Oscars. I thought Affleck’s speech was heartfelt and true, one of those speeches that makes you realize the Oscar recipient is truly and genuinely honored by the award. In a year of amazing films I have to say I am not at all upset that Argo came through victorious.
I thought this year was a great year for the Oscars, despite them going a half an hour past their end time but hey, its the Oscars, what do you expect? Seth MacFarlane turned out to be a pretty great host and the smattering of performances were very well done. A strong year of Oscar nominated films has come to an end leaving me only to wonder what does 2013 have in store for us?
Everybody loses the thing that made them. It’s even how it’s supposed to be in nature. The brave men stay and watch it happen, they don’t run- Hushpuppy
The age of Best Actress nominees this year ranges from 90 years old to 6 years old (when Beasts of a Southern Wild was filmed) which is an amazing fact. Of all the pictures nominated for best picture this year, Beasts of a Southern Wild is the one I wanted to see most. I was not necessarily interested in the entire film itself, I was mainly interested in the six year old star that managed to command the screen for ninety three minutes.
The film is told from the point of view of six year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis). Living with her father in the Bathtub, an area in the Louisiana bayou. A rather unconventional community, the people of the Bathtub work together to fend for themselves. Hushpuppy lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry), who is tough and seems to be mentally unstable but loves his daughter very much. Hushpuppy’s mother left the two alone when Hushpuppy was very young. Hushpuppy is obsessed with finding her mother. This film, in my opinion, is told in three acts. The first introduces us to the Bathtub and all the people in it. It is in this act that we learn about Wink’s failing health. The second act comes with a literal storm, a storm that horribly floods the Bathtub. Hushpuppy and her father stay through the storm and attempt to survive in the severely flooded area. When the flood begins to kill everything, the people of the Bathtub take matters into their own hands. The final act looks at life after the flood as Wink’s health deteriorates and Hushpuppy may have to face life without him.
Hushpuppy is clearly the main character of this film and Wallis is on screen almost the entire time. I do not understand how director Benh Zeitlin got a six year old to do what she did but Wallis commanded the film. Much of the story was told through voice over but Wallis is able to add to the story with her body language and actions. Wallis’ nomination for Best Actress was not a fluke or a gimmick, it was well deserved. Wallis gave an amazing performance, out acting every other actor in the film. What I thought was fascinating was that the whole film was from Hushpuppy’s perspective, a hard thing for veteran actors to do, but Wallis makes it look easy.
While this is a rough, odd, experimental film, it also had a folksy, fairy tale element to it. I don’t know if it was because it was told from the point of view of a child but there was something grand and magical about the film. Ultimately thought this film is about life. Hushpuppy is constantly talking about life and the world, listening to the heartbeat of any animal or person she encounters. The sounds of heartbeats permeate the film’s soundtrack, a running theme for the film. The shots themselves are full of life. The screen composition is always teeming with people and animals and plants. The film, much like the Bathtub, is overflowing with life.
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, I have heard many people speak out skeptically against this film. Because it has such a young actress and a unique filming technique, some think that the film was not nominated based on merit but simply due to its uniqueness. I can honestly say that is not true. Zeitlin deserved his nomination as much as the film as a whole did. Personally I am torn between Quvenzhane Wallis and Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. This film was a unique and emotional experience, one of those movies that you will never forget watching. I give it a 9 out of 10 and can say that it is a strong contender for this Oscar season.
Dysfunction is the name of the game in David O. Russell’s most recent Oscar nominated film Silver Linings Playbook. While the dysfunction is obvious in some characters, it takes some characters longer to prove how “crazy” they really are. Nominated for eight Oscars, including a nomination in every one of the big seven categories, Silver Linings Playbook is a darkly comedic masterpiece.
Opening in a mental hospital, the film shows glimpses of main character Pat Solitano’s (Bradley Cooper) final days just before his release. Picked up by his mother Dolores Solitano (Jacki Weaver) Pat is taken home to live with his parents in Philadelphia. Greeted by his father Pat Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro) it becomes clear that Pat and his father have a strained relationship. It appears to be due to Pat and his problems but as the film progresses we come to realize that his father, an obsessive compulsive book maker, has problems of his own. Released from the hospital with a bipolar disorder and anger issues, Pat becomes dead set on seeing his wife which is impossible. After the tragic incident that landed Pat in the hospital, his wife took a restraining order out against him. Pat desperately tries to contact his wife through his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) who are friends with Pat’s wife. It is with them that he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).
A young woman who is just as damaged as Pat, the two strike up an odd friendship. After being widowed at an extremely young ate, Tiffany becomes a depressed, non-trusting sarcastic person. Coping with her lose by sleeping with strangers, Tiffany starts down a bad path with a number of men treating her as an object. When Tiffany and Pat first meet, their relationship grows out of necessity. Pat is hoping that Tiffany will bring a note to his wife while Tiffany needs a dance partner in an upcoming competition. The two spend time together, eventually realizing that they are not only good for one another mentally but that they care about each other.
Brilliantly written and directed by David O. Russell, this film highlighted the struggles of living with a mental illness. We watch family and friends that clearly love each other very much struggle to express themselves and understand each other. Tiffany and Pat once reference matching each other’s crazy, an odd way of saying that they are starting to understand each other. In a stroke of pure brilliance, O. Russell uses the camera to try and get the audience to understand what the characters are going through. It’s as if he made the camera bipolar. Mirroring the mood swings of the characters, the camera jumps from manic to depressed. Sometimes it can’t focus on just one thing, panning around a room while a character is talking rather than focusing on the speaker. At other times there is chaos but the camera can only focus on one thing, be it anything from a person’s face to a building. The camera stays tight on that one thing in a POV close-up. The camera, like the main characters, has mood swings and some times has trouble focusing on what’s important. Normally this would not work but for this film it was a brilliantly creative move.
Earlier I mentioned that the film was nominated for the big seven Oscar categories which are Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro) and Best Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver). Cooper and Lawrence both deserve their nominations and possibly both deserve to win. Cooper will have a harder time than Lawrence, who won the Golden Globe for her performance, going up against heavy hitters like Daniel Day Lewis and Denzel Washington. De Niro also deserves his nomination for the whole film but specifically for a tear-jerking speech he gives to Pat. As of right now I would give David O. Russell the Oscar for Best Director and don’t see me changing my mind in the near future. I give this film a 10 out of 10. It certainly has the stuff to win Best Picture but in a year of amazing films, Silver Linings Playbook will have to fight for its win.
I’m going to be upfront and honest here, I am very excited for the Hunger Games. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for a movie premiere. I think it’s because, in my opinion at least, this film has the potential to be better than the book it is based on. It has almost become an unflinching rule of mine that if a movie is based on a book, the book is generally better. This is not always because the movie is bad. If you have read the book before seeing the movie version, the book tends to be better. For my specific tastes, this rule has been absolute; I have never knowingly liked a film version of a book better than the book itself. Why do I think the Hunger Games is going to e the first film to break my rule? There are two reasons.
- I think that the Hunger Games storyline is brilliant and unique and I think the characters are well formed and very real. The problem with the novels is the writing itself. Grammar has taken a back seat as sentence fragments, run-on sentences and tense changes pepper each page. The book reads more like a fifteen year old girl’s diary than a published, polished novel. This may have been strategic, considering the novel’s main character and target audience, but overall it hurt the series.
- As I mentioned, the cast of characters Suzanne Collins created in the Hunger Games is an amazingly diverse and real group of characters. Casting stars to play such iconic (I think the book is popular enough to merit this phrase) characters can be risky business but the film makers have created such an interesting cast that they may have pulled off a difficult cinematic feat.
The cast of the Hunger Games: An overall complaint about most of the kids is that they seem a little too old but that is a common practice, especially when the film contains such dark subject matter.
- Katniss Everdeen: Jennifer Lawrence. I think this casting is perfect. Lawrence could be a perfect Katniss. She looks the part and has already proven on screen (X-Men First Class and Winter’s Bone) that she can play both aspects of Katniss’ character. She can play the love story part of Katniss but can also embody the fierceness that makes Katniss such a great character.
- Peeta Mellark: Josh Hutcherson. I think this was yet another great casting. Having literally grown-up on camera, Hutcherson can easily harness the charm and verbal dexterity that makes Peeta a crowd favorite (in the books as well as, for some crowds, in real life). Though he looks odd with blond hair, I think Hutcherson should be a solid Peeta.
- Gale Hawthorn: Liam Hemsworth. I don’t believe I have ever seen a film with Hemsworth init so I can’t judge this one. That being said, he looks like what I imagined Gale to look like and should do a fine job.
- Haymitch Abernathy: Woody Harrelson. I would have never even thought of Harrleson for this role but I think he is perfect for it. I can’t wait to see how Harrelson portrays the alcoholic, past Hunger Game winner. No matter how he does it, I predict a great performance from him. (and a full head of hair!)
- Effie Trinket: Elizabeth Banks The shots of Banks from the previews in her Effie costume look amazing. Every word she says and every move she makes in the few scenes you see her proves that she can be an awesome Effie. My first thought was to complain about this casting but after seeing her in action I have to say, Banks has the potential to be an amazing Effie.
- Cinna: Lenny Kravitz. Much like Banks, I strongly opposed this casting until I really thought about it. Lenny Kravitz is an insanely unique artist with fashion, style and personality to match. Cinna is an insanely unique character with fashion, style and personality to match. If Kravitz can act, specifically the ability to portray the strong bond that forms between Kantiss
and Cinna, he may actually be a perfect choice. That hings on quite a large “if” though.
- Ceasar Flickerman: Stanley Tucci. I am of the opinion that everything Stanley Tucci touches turns to gold. I think he is going to be a perfect Ceasar.
Overall, I am very happy with the cast that is, come March 23rd, bring the Hunger Games to life.