I did it! I watched all of the movies nominated for Best Picture this year so that when watching the Academy Awards, I can make my own guesses as to who the winners will or should be. Without further ado, here’s the lineup along with some brief thoughts on each of the nine movies.
Plot: A French film which focuses on an elderly couple, Anne and George, and their lives after Anne suffers a stroke.
Thoughts: Since first viewing Cache, I’ve had an interesting relationship with French films. I did not love or really even like Amour. It wasn’t the story I didn’t like, but the way it was told; long, and drawn-out, almost boring except for one rushed bit of excitement right at the very end of the film. Dying of old age is awful; this I know to be true. The director certainly told it exactly as it is, but that’s life incarnate and not what I want out of a movie.
My score: 5/10
Plot: A dramatization of the CIA and Canadian operation to rescue six escaped Americans during the Iran revolution.
Thoughts: I put off watching this film, because I’m generally not a fan of political movies, but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot was so much more interesting than I initially expected: the CIA attempted to extract the Americans by creating a cover story that Mendez, an exfiltration specialist, is actually a movie producer scouting for locations in Iran for a bogus sci-fi film and the fugitives are crew members. The surprise this movie generated in me, coupled with the team of good actors (Affleck, Cranston, Goodman) earned it a bit more respect in my book than I anticipated.
My score: 7.5/10
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Plot: A hovering storm threatens a Louisiana bayou community called “the Bathtub,” but five-year-old Hushpuppy and her hot-tempered and dying father Wink are determined to stand their ground.
Thoughts: Watching this movie was like reading a poem. A mix of fantasy, drama, heartbreaking reality, and childish magic, this movie was so much more than I expected it to be. I fell in love with Hushpuppy (played by Quvenzhane Wallis) and the way she interacted with the universe around her; that a child her age could exude so much intelligence and beauty is astounding. Yes, it was strange, but it worked.
My score: 8/10
Plot: With the help of a German bounty hunter, Django, a freed slave, attempts to rescue his wife from a plantation owner in Mississippi.
Thoughts: You either love or hate Tarantino films. I happen to love them. This movie is raw, violent, and incredibly entertaining. The two main characters, Django and Dr. Schultz, play off each other famously, and if nothing else, this movie is ethically important in its untamed depiction of slavery.
My score: 8.5/10
Plot: A musical drama in which an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, eludes capture from a persistent police inspector and raises the illegitimate daughter of a former prostitute after her death, set during the backdrop of the French Rebellion.
Thoughts: I have loved the story of Les Miserables since the music first touched my ears, and the pages my fingertips. Something is definitely lost in translation here, though, which is almost to be expected when a film comes out based on a musical which is based on a book. The pace of the movie was a little disjointed, and the transition from uttered words to belted out songs a little disconcerting at times. That being said, the actors passion and sincerity stirred so many emotions that despite its imperfections, it’s mesmerizing.
My score: 7/10
Life of Pi
Plot: A 16 year old boy survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Thoughts: If nothing else, this movie is worth seeing just for the beautiful imagery. The plot itself is interesting, even though the story loses some of its energy in the journey. I found the movie to be a bit too self-reflective and didn’t quite grasp the extended metaphor in its regard to God. Still, I was so impressed with visual journey this movie took me on that I wished I had seen it in 3-D, and normally, I do not care for 3-D movies.
My score: 7/10
Plot: This film covers the last four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life as he struggles with Civil War and his efforts to pass the 13th amendment.
Thoughts: No one could have played Lincoln better than Day-Lewis. Though I was a bit put-off by his voice at first (I expected Lincoln to have a deeper, sterner voice), his portrayal was everything I expected Lincoln to be: patient and humorous with a quiet self-confidence that stirred incredible respect. There’s not a lot of cinematic flair, but the movie was punctuated by many powerful moments that kept it from being too slow.
Silver Linings Playbook
Plot: After a short time in a mental institution, Pat, a former teacher, moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife while striking up a friendship with Tiffany, who shares many of his neuroses.
Thoughts: This movie seems to be the odd-man-out on the lineup for having a sense of humor that all the other movies lack. The chemistry between the two main characters is a bit contrived, but Cooper and Lawrence handle it beautifully. The movie is filled with a nervous energy and, despite being a little weird, is just plain fun to watch. Kudos to Cooper for a performance that actually made me like him.
My score: 7.5/10
Zero Dark Thirty
Plot: A chronicle of the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden through the eyes of Maya, a CIA officer who has focused solely on this mission.
Thoughts: This was the film I was least looking forward to watching. It’s definitely a politically important film, and Chastain does a fabulous job playing the fire-and-ice Maya. It was refreshing to see a strong female lead (without it being an issue), and I appreciated the movie’s lack of commentary on the morally questionable tactics employed throughout the film. That being said, for me, it was another war movie airing America’s dirty laundry and the unspeakable actions of war.
My score: 6.5/10
Overall thoughts: One of my favorite movies of 2012 was Moonrise Kingdom, which is unfortunately not up for Best Picture. Though there were many very good films this year, I really wasn’t blown away by any of them, which left me a little sad. It seems that TV shows keep getting better (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire), but a truly fabulous movie hasn’t come out in awhile. That’s why there’s a differentiation between what/who I think will win and what/who I think should win this year.
What I think should win: Beasts of the Southern Wild
What I think will win: Lincoln
I know I gave Django Unchained a higher score, but though I think Tarantino has an excellent chance at winning Best Original Screenplay, I don’t think Django will win Best Picture.
Actor in a Leading Role
Who I think should and will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Actress in a Leading Role
Who I think should win: Quvenzhane Wallis
Who I think will win: Jessica Chastain
Overall guesses: 24
Note: Some are simply guesses because I have not seen every movie up for an award, just the movies up for Best Picture.