A plea for Academy members to consider one of the best pictures of the year
Every season there is a movie or performance that is a head scratcher when it comes to why it does or doesn't appeal to the Academy. Films and portrayals that will be long remembered after a number of other nominated works are getting their share of the best picture spotlight now. Immediate examples that come to mind include "Do the Right Thing" (one of the greatest films of the '80s), "The Ice Storm" (ditto for the '90s), "The Dark Knight" (for the '00s) and, oh yeah, Stanley Kubrick's "2001" (of all time). And as for overlooked actors, last year found both Ryan Gosling ("Drive") and Michael Fassbender ("Shame") of the list of Academy omissions gone wrong. With the advent of the 10 nomination option for best picture, however, you would think that overlooking great movies would be a rare occurrence. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I give you my own best picture of the year, "The Impossible."
The filmmaker discusses the zeitgeist elements of his latest, among other things
The last time I spoke with director Tom Hooper feels like centuries ago. That's because it came the afternoon after his film "The King's Speech" screened for audiences at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival, before that film would go on to the Toronto festival and explode into the season as an unassuming heartwarmer destined for Oscar gold. It was the calm before the storm, and Hooper thinks back on it now with a hint of longing in his voice.
Also: Portman named most bankable star, and Hathaway's Oscar hosting advice
The live-sung approach of "Les Misérables" may have yielded glowing reviews for the likes of Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne, but less vocally gifted stars -- principally Russell Crowe -- have taken some flak. Back in the golden age of the Hollywood musical, his musical numbers might well have been dubbed, as Audrey Hepburn's were in "My Fair Lady" or Natalie Wood's in "West Side Story." Inkoo Kang wonders why we can't go back to that system: "The tendency toward multi-hyphenation is also a treat for celebrity gawkers, who get a glimpse behind the curtain, or at least feel like they are doing so, by watching stars in a rawer, less accomplished form." Personally, I don't mind an imperfect vocal when it's part and parcel of the performance and character: the very narrative of "Chicago," for example, benefits from Renee Zellweger being a more awkward performer than legions of Broadway Roxie Harts. You? [Salon]
The DP worked out distinct visual cues for each of the film's three worlds
Over the past month, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” has firmly entrenched itself as a surefire Oscar contender. Since it opened to outstanding reviews and box office earlier in the year, numerous commentators have lauded it for its portrayal of how Canadian diplomats, American spies and Hollywood big shots worked together to rescue six Americans from Iran in 1980. It has also been praised for its gripping suspense and aesthetic.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto was responsible in significant part for that aesthetic – a look he is the first to admit was also the result of a team. I recently spoke to the Oscar nominee (“Brokeback Mountain”) about his part in creating the film.
A number of Best Picture hopefuls are prompting healthy debate
What are the worst Best Picture winners of all time? Though the answers may overlap, it's a question that's not entirely the same as, "What are the worst films ever to win Best Picture?" Several titles on the Academy's ultimate honor roll are artistically lacking, though that doesn't necessarily make them terrible winners. Accepting as most of us do that the Academy is rarely, if ever, going to agree with us on the year's single greatest film, we begin to value alternative virtues in Oscar champs: durability, universality, pop-cultural standing, provocation, reach.
Rousing source material sunk by directorial affectations
- Critic's Rating D
- Readers' Rating B
(I had scheduled this review to go up yesterday, but held back in the interests of not being a total Christmas Day Scrooge. Keep sharing your reactions.)
"Do you hear the people sing?" blusters the famous closing chorus of stage blockbuster "Les Misérables," and rarely in musical theater has a question been more rhetorical. The line is an imperative, a war cry, sounding not only the purposeful social discontent firing the 1832 June Rebellion, but a proactive admonishment to the show's critics.
Also: Why 'Argo' is still the one to beat, and R.I.P. Charles Durning
What do "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Lincoln" have in common? Beyond both being American Oscar hopefuls that happen to be his two favorite films of the year, A.O. Scott thinks they share something else: a "Spielbergian" quality: "Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.“Lincoln” and “Beasts” are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom... They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like." Good points all round, and also indicative of why, in my opinion, "Beasts" has a cleaner shot at a Best Picture nod than many believe it does right now. [New York Times]
Quentin Tarantino's latest hits theaters this holiday
- Critic's Rating A-
- Readers' Rating B+
If you listened to the top 10 podcast or read through the subsequent column, you know very well what I think of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." It is perhaps for me his best work since "Jackie Brown" and easily one of the year's best films. And it's hitting screens this holiday with a lot of anticipation built-up and ready to pop. So here's your space to tell us what you thought of the film, so rifle off your take here when/if you get a chance to see it, and feel free to rate it above.
Tom Hooper's musical adaptation finally comes out into the spotlight
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating B+
The wait is over for those heavily anticipating the transition of "Les Misérables" from stage to screen as the film hits theaters this holiday season. I'll be very interested to know how it plays for our readers. It's been a funny thing, watching such split reactions. Critics are mostly lukewarm but Academy members eat it up. I'm somewhere in the middle there. I cried a bit, cringed a bit, and mostly enjoyed the enterprise. But do tell us what you thought. And feel free to rate it above.
is she a lock for best supporting actress?
NEW YORK - Having worked in the movie industry for over 15 years, you can probably guess I've seen a lot of films. I've often been asked to attend very early screenings for highly anticipated films. Moreover, I've been lucky to attend numerous premieres in Hollywood, New York and on the festival circuit in Toronto, Telluride and Park City. I have never, however, seen a reaction to a performance in a movie theater like the euphoric response to Jennifer Hudson's turn as Effie White in "Dreamgirls." Spontaneous applause is one thing, an impromptu standing ovation during three separate premieres is something else. And, simply, nothing has ever come close...until this year. Anne Hathaway clearly doesn't have Jennifer Hudson's vocal talent, but she may give Hudson's legendary awards season a run for her money in "Les Miserables."