Life of Pi reviews

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:01 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:As a fan of the book, I particularly appreciated the overhead shot of the boat exactly replicating the cover of the paperback.

Was this highlighted in many reviews of the film? Because it was a real Wow moment for me.

I'm pretty much in agreement with you and the overall consensus: a sensual feast, esp. on the lifeboat, but a flat-footed framing device, despite Irrfan Khan's mellifluous voice. How bad must Tobey Maguire's scenes have been that Spall's replaced them?

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:53 pm

I'm reminded of the title of Nick Schager's review of the film: "Life of Pi Is the Story of How Important Life of Pi Is".
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:56 am

What's good about Life of Pi is so good that what's bad about it is galling. What I found good, sweeping and breathtaking is what everyone else finds good, sweeping and breathtaking, and it's the shipwreck followed by the lengthy journey on the lifeboat with Richard Parker the tiger, with all the visual effects (which it's winning; how could it not?), cinematography (which it's winning; how could it not?) and other techie accomplishments necessary to make it work. Putting aside whether the film is actually good or not, it really is worth the investment to pay the premium and watch it on the big screen in 3D. From the very opening shot of the zoo animals, it's a sensory orgasm. As a fan of the book, I particularly appreciated the overhead shot of the boat exactly replicating the cover of the paperback. I don't care how impressive your entertainment center is. If you see it at home in 2D, then you haven't seen it. And let's give a big cheer to veteran filmmakers in general. 3D has been taking more of our money and giving not much back for it while selling itself as the newly tapped future of filmmaking. But it's filmmakers of an older generation who are showing all the young whippersnappers how its done. When the finest examples of modern 3D filmmaking come from Ang Lee, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders - whose introduction to the technology may have been when they were kids watching Vincent Price movies in the theater - it's like a reaffirmation of the relevency of the previous generation of filmmakers.

Also good is the young actor they chose for Pi, Suraj Sharma, who throws himself into the role with aplomb, basically playing off of nothing but a blue screen for most of the time, finding the desperation and essential goodness of the character. I don't know if Sharma's a true discovery or just a lucky casting choice, but he was more worthy of a nomination than the young girl in Beasts of the Sourthern Wild. Unfortunately, the film also has the worst performance of the year, Rafe Spall, who's as bad as the white actor in any Bollywood film. These sections are unnecessarily expository, bland and - towards the end - momentum killing They hurt the book too, but at least there's not as much of it. Other than a four page prologue, we revisit the older Pi and the writer in little half-page long snatches, and the flash-forwards are entirely done away with after the first 1/3 of the novel. They should have been done away with it entirely and just let young Pi's story work as a stand-alone tale. Whenever the story gets a good clip going, it crashes to the ground whenever we're transported back to present day Canada.

But what's most missed is the book's wonderful self-conscious absurdity which characterizes most works of magical realism. (Perhaps that was the "unadabtable" part of the book.) The comedy - which served as the counterbalance for the spiritualism - is gone. While we see - very briefly - Pi's conversion to Christianity and Islam simultaneously, gone is the nasty fight between the pandit, the priest and the imam on the esplanade which nearly comes to blows. The Japanese interrogators are reduced to actors in bit roles, with none of hilarious Abbott-and-Costello interplay between them and very little challanging of the veracity of Pi's story. And as for the "alternate" story, Lee flubs it by having Pi explain a very condensed version of it, teary-eyed, in his hospital bed. The 'Life of Pi' adaptation that plays in my head has the new, ugly story presented to us in a 6-7 minute montage, replicating the shots we had seen earlier, and entirely silent except for Pi's narration. That, I believe, would be a gut-punch of a climax, but Lee softens it as he softens the humor and absurdity. As transporting as the film is, it's also rather dull. 'Pi' ends up being a magnificent feast with no spice, a cinematic milestone with no reason to exist other than its own extravaganza. The book was so much more than that.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:28 am

A nice and well-made movie of course. The central part - with the boy and the tiger and the ocean - reminded me of those adventure stories of my - of our - childhood, and from that point of view Life of Pi definitely works and it's at times very enjoyable. But the spiritual side - which was probably an important element of the novel - is never very convincing or even profound, and in general it isn't a deeply affecting movie - well executed, yes, but not memorable. But I was never bored, which I often am with this kind of movies, so I won't complain if it gets some nominations.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 12:04 am

To me, it doesn't really work to begin your story with the premise of "This story will make you believe in God", and end it with "People will believe whatever they want to believe".

Some good moments along the way, especially once it's just Pi and the tiger, probably would've appreciated it more if it hadn't been the most appalling 3D presentation I've ever seen--it was out of focus half of the time. Should've really complained and gotten a pass for another show, but I also don't really want to go back to that theatre again.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby rudeboy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:57 am

I adored it. I've loved the book for a long time and was anxious about this film right up until the opening credits rolled - when that wonderful opening sequence of animals in the zoo, set to Mychael Danna's beautiful score, won me over instantly. I do wonder what original directorial choice M. Night Shyamalan would have made of this story - a pig's ear, little doubt - but I thought Ang Lee did a marvellous job. In IMAX 3-D, this film is a wow.

Sabin, I had no problem with the framing sequences - true they slow things down but they were lifted straight from the novel and, as it's up to the audience to deduce whether or not Pi is an unreliable narrator, they are a necessary inclusion. I liked Irffan Kahn's performance very much. Rafe Spall is a sometimes very good actor who was undeniably miscast here, but he's hotter than his dad Timothy so I cut him some slack.

Richard Parker is a brilliantly-designed CGI character, Suresh Sharma has heaps more talent than the trailers suggested, the 3-D is sensational (best use of the gimmic I've seen by a long stretch and first time I'd recommend someone see a movie in that format)... I loved it. The lion's (tiger's) share of Oscar-contending movies have yet to be released here but this is my favourite film of 2012 so far by a substantial margin.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:51 pm

One of the least deserving nominations this February will be David Magee's adaptation of Yann Martel's novel. To be fair, it's possible that nobody involved with this film either understood or cared that the framing device involving Irrfan Kahn telling the story of his life to an awful actor named Rafe Spall doesn't succeed in launching the story forward as quickly as possible so much as grind it to a halt at every opportunity. Or perhaps they were all just blinded by Martel's prose. Maybe not an awful script but an uninspired one, for sure. And not a terribly effective one. Some thirty or forty minutes into the film, Spall recaps the five whole things that have been told to us to make sure we haven't miss a'one, and then it's the shipwreck and the part of the film worth watching.

Yup, he's on a ship with a tiger all right. That stuff is pretty cool.

Claudio Miranda's cinematography suffers from motion-blur at "night". I should be straight up in admitting that the screen I saw the film on wasn't quite as big as I'd have liked it to be, so I might not have been captivated by The Pretty enough to forgive everything else. But boring on the small screen is boring on the big screen. The middle hour of Life of Pi is pretty good stuff. Magee's screenplay doesn't sufficiently set-up spiritual moments like when Pi equates the eye of the storm with God and begins to open the ship up to the waters. Suraj Sharma is a good actor but he's given some pretty abysmal OTN dialogue that I don't think anybody could sell. Most of the film, he's silent though which is a good thing.

I haven't read Life of Pi so I don't know how its hokey spiritualism plays out on the page. Ang Lee's film never really establishes the world in which Pi lives, which ultimately is the point of the final scenes. You take it as you will, which is a nicely mildly sacrilegious note to end on. I was able to take the tiger literally, which is a good thing because for a little while Ang Lee flirts with anthropomorphizing his animals and world. An orangutan named Orange Juice wistfully looking back over the waters when Pi asks about his son breaks the 180, so to speak. The carnivorous island is another thing altogether. What [I think] is suppose to be an Incredible World We Live In didn't quite jive with me. Lee's film evokes Robert Zemekis' Cast Away and both Zemekis and Sam Raimi are better at selling "Hero Moments". And stumbling across an isle 'o plenty certainly requires a blending of the fantastical entering reality that Lee doesn't seem too concerned with tackling. I don't entirely know how intellectually or ideologically invested Ang Lee is with what Yann Martel is selling in his book, in truly leading us through a spiritual journey. Underline: journey. What Ang Lee understands is what emotions look like and feel like. And he understands framing very well, which is why most of his films are about rooms that people walk through to each other, and people looking at each other through doorways. Life of Pi proves him incapable of making the first act of his film compelling at all, but he certainly knows how to frame an Indian boy and a tiger on a boat. I think he succeeds in those moments because the struggles are very simple.

I can't tell people not to see Life of Pi because they will like it and I liked quite a bit of it. I can't remember the last time I gave a mild recommendation to a movie where I actively disliked half of it. It was the best of Lee, it was the worst of Lee.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Greg » Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:28 pm

dws1982 wrote:I think anyone who saw the 25th Anniversary Concert saw that Nick Jonas is not up to the demands of the role.


You're talking about the concert shown on PBS, right? Nick Jonas actually did better than I thought he would; but, that is mostly because I never was a fan of the Jonas Brothers and had low expectations for Nick.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:47 am

FilmFan720 wrote:They have pulled several names from the Broadway stage to fill key roles (where the could have easily gone for big names...I for one kept waiting for the Nick Jonas or Zac Efron casting), choosing ability over ticket-selling.

I think anyone who saw the 25th Anniversary Concert saw that Nick Jonas is not up to the demands of the role. And after he finished his High School Musical obligations, Zac Efron made it clear that he is done with musicals. I am glad they didn't pick Lea Michele, although based on the 25th Anniversary Concert, Samantha Barks is every bit as annoying in her own way.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:26 am

Some of these ideas have been touched on by others, but I wanted to elaborate on some of them...

I am not going to say for certain whether Les MIserables will win Best Picture or not...we will have to wait until SOMEONE sees the film before we can even begin to discuss that. But from this vantage point, two and a half months before the film comes out and with very little else that has been seen and universally loved, it certainly needs to remain in the conversation.

People here keep bringing up the previously-hailed musicals that have come and gone without much buzz, but Les Mis is already a step above them: Nine and Sweeney Todd were never a musical that were audience-friendly, not even Dreamgirls' supporters can argue it has great nuance to it, Phantom of the Opera is an audience-favorite that people in the business have never much adored and Rent is a piece that has been supported purely by younger audiences. None of them have the wide-range of love that Les Mis brings to it...I know people of all generations and all interest in musical theatre who love the piece.

Second is that Les Mis seems to be being tackled correctly. Aside from the possibly questionable choice of Russell Crowe as Javert, there has been nothing that gets people to be scratching their heads: Nine had the Daniel Day-Lewis casting, Phantom and Rent had the directors choices and Sweeney Todd had a slew of questionable casting choices. Here, they are going for strong actors who can also sing, being able to handle all sides of the characterizations. They have pulled several names from the Broadway stage to fill key roles (where the could have easily gone for big names...I for one kept waiting for the Nick Jonas or Zac Efron casting), choosing ability over ticket-selling. Certainly one of the big things that brought down Nine, Sweeney Todd and Dreamgirls (along with Hairspray and Rock of Ages) was the lack of singing ability or acting chops to handle the roles that were thrust on people. They didn't settle for a Hollywood hack to take on the piece, but instead gave it to Tom Hooper...it is easy to forget that Hooper earlier made the very successful John Adams and Elizabeth I miniseries, which seem strong precursors to this: he can handle the grand scale, he can handle the historical detail and he can make the complex political backgrounds palatable to a mass audience.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Hooper seems to be leaving the piece in tact. If you look back at some of the great musicals, and certainly some of the Best Picture winners of the 1960s, is that they kept the tone and story of the original piece in tact: West Side Story took Jerome Robbins' telling of the story and made it cinematic, My Fair Lady kept the bulk of the cast and design from Broadway to Hollywood, Sound of Music and Oliver kept most everything everything except a few songs, even Chicago didn't change much except taking a couple of songs out of the piece (Cabaret is the great exception to the rule, but that had Bob Fosse at the helm). Then look at some of the biggest disasters in Stage to Screen: Bye Bye Birdie rewrote the entire second act of the play to include Russians spies, Annie added unnecessary characters and plotlines, Hello Dolly! completely miscast the age of the heroine, Mame and Man of LaMancha went with star name over vocal ability, Nine threw the entire book of the score out and invented new characters and a whole new plot, Sweeney Todd changed the whole tone of the piece from the beloved Broadway favorite, etc., etc. Les Mis seems to be making very few changes except taking the Broadway favorite and moving it to the screen. It certainly looks to follow more in the Sound of Music and West Side Story mode.

Of course, most of this could have also been said about Dreamgirls at this point in 2006, but do not forget that even without Picture and Director nominations, Dreamgirls still ended up with 8 nominations (the most for any film that year) and in an expanded Best Picture slate would have most likely picked up a dark horse Best Picture nod.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:15 am

Another item that needs to be considered is that the only reason Tom Hooper and The King's Speech won was because they were flogged by Harvey Weinstein. It's not the kind of movie the Academy typically recognizes. Not even in its glory days. It was a small, period-style comedy-drama about royals. Royals don't win Best Picture. The Last Emperor is the closest thing ever to a film about royalty that went on to win Best Picture. The Lion in Winter couldn't do it. I'd even say that the closest forebear to The King's Speech in terms of tone Shakespeare in Love back in 1998. Before that, I'd say Driving Miss Daisy. Most of the rest of the winners since then have been heavy-handed, heavily dramatic or somewhat epic in nature and Chicago seems completely out of place among all of them. The Artist had a lot more in common with those films as well and what's the overriding connection between those four features? Three of them were flogged by Harvey Weinstein. He knows how to push a borderline dramatic, largely humorous feature to the end-race. The King's Speech would have been nothing were in the hands of a genuinely talented studio like Focus Features used to be.

Which brings me to my point. Tom Hooper wouldn't have won a few years ago for The King's Speech in most views of the race. Had that happened, I don't know that Les Miserables would be considered a frontrunner now (especially after the woeful reviews of recent years that musicals have gotten). But I wonder if the difference here between Les Miz. Let's also remember that neither Dreamgirls or Nine were really theatrical behemoths. What made both film versions seem like strong contenders were pedigree. Do we doubt that Dreamgirls would have been nominated in a 5-10-possible field? No. The reviews were quite a bit better than those of Nine. The big screen version of Phantom was probably the closest comparison one could find the the Les Miz phenomenon. Both were behemoths on the New York Stage. Both were period-set dramas based on a classic French literature (Dreamgirls was distinctly American and Nine was trying to be Italian). What killed Phantom was that it was directed by Joel Schumacher. Looking back, I really don't know what we were all thinking at the time, but considering it was one of the first big musicals to hit after the colossal success of Chicago, I think we all thought a new era might have been upon us.

No, history doesn't bear that out and I'm more cautious of musicals than I have been, but that Anne Hathaway scene alone suggests to me that the film will be far more relevant and approachable to audiences than anything I saw ahead of Nine or Phantom. I think Dreamgirls is probably the film we need to look at as an example of where the Academy may sit on the Les Miz situation. We have 5-10 spaces in Best Picture to fill up and Dreamgirls would possibly have been number 6 or 7 at the time. You don't pick up EIGHT Oscar nominations and not get considered for Best Picture. Les Miz is certain to nab a number of creative nominations with Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Sound Mixing all fairly likely. If the critics love it, you can bank on it for a Best Picture nomination and even if they are lukewarm to the film, this may be the film Hugh Jackman needs to nab his first Oscar nomination (were he ever to take on The Boy from Oz, I'd say he'd be guaranteed a nomination).

All that being said, I don't think Les Miz is a lock for a win. Matter of fact, I'm still on the Silver Linings Playbook bandwagon. And right now, Argo's less than exciting box office performance may nullify that once potential spoiler in the race. I'm willing to wait for reviews to come out, but I think we would be ill advised to write off Les Miz in this race just because the musical track record has been abysmal. This is a musical about the poor and downtrodden being uplifted by kindness and compassion even at the risk of one's own life. It will resonate with the liberal Academy in ways that Phanom and Nine never could have. Contemporary relevance can be a powerful voting motivator.
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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:37 pm

Well, since I was asked to chime in...

First of all, let me say that I think Les Misérables looks quite impressive. Certainly the trailer suggests that visually, Tom Hooper may have a lot more cinematic potential in him than The King's Speech suggested, and I like the fact that the cast is (mostly) full of genuine SINGERS. Plus, the widely-hyped singing-on-set aspect will likely be seen as a technical innovation that I assume will give the movie an extra boost critically and commercial. (Though, I have to say, both Tom Hooper and Anne Hathaway come off as totally pretentious in that ad that's been running in theaters -- they act as if every movie musical before this stunk because the vocals were recorded off the set.)

But until the movie's release, I have to say I'm not convinced it's the ace-in-the-hole Oscar-wise that some do. As Mister Tee said, Dreamgirls was widely seen as the odds-on favorite to win at this point (including, admittedly, by me), and Nine -- with all those Oscar winners involved -- was seen as a major player until the reviews hit. And talk of Sweeney Todd as a possible winner was widespread as well, during a period when a lot of people thought No Country for Old Men was far too obtuse to actually prevail. It's possible that major Tony victories for all of these musicals gave people the assumption that these properties would automatically garner awards in another medium.

But my biggest hesitation about declaring Les Mis a probable Oscar sweeper has to do with statistics. As we know, Best Picture and Director typically go hand in hand, and films that are strong Best Picture candidates almost NEVER lose Best Director...but do people realize how hard it is for a director to win Picture and Director two times at bat?

Unless I'm in error, I only count TWO living directors who have accomplished this. Screen legend Clint Eastwood, in a twelve year period, and with a likely second-place finish in both categories in between. And Milos Forman, in a nine year period.

A number of directors have come close, only to come up one trophy short -- Spielberg in a five-year span, Oliver Stone over three years, and Coppola in two. Note the status of director we're talking about, as well as the fact that the losses in every case were considered significant upsets.

Going further back, we see these double-double wins with a bit more frequency -- Kazan, Wise, Wilder, Zinnemann, Lean, Capra, even triples for Wyler -- but in all of those cases, the directors had additional nominations prior to their wins, or losses in between. And in many cases, significant time passed between the sets of wins. Which is, to say, directors usually have to have a fairly healthy Oscar resume in order to win that second Picture/Director pair, and it usually won't come right away.

And, even in the studio era, we still saw big-deal directors come up a prize short; Ford and Mankiewicz nearly accomplished back-to-back doubles, but missed a Best Picture prize.

You can probably see where I'm going with this. Tom Hooper is still considered a young director. He's only on his third feature. His last film -- only two years ago -- won Picture and Director. Many grumbled about his victory in the latter category. Statistics seem to suggest he'll have quite an uphill battle to a repeat so soon.

Which, of course, isn't to say it couldn't happen. But I think it's worth a lot more consideration than some people have given.

EDIT: Oh, and I'm sure some folks will argue that Les Mis can be a strong frontrunner even if voters have decided Hooper has had enough reward in the Best Director category. But some of us know better than to bet on a split like that, especially this early in the game.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:17 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Expectations always run high for proven properties be they adptations of books, plays or musicals. When film adaptations of Broadway musicals were done right (The King and I; West Side Story; The Music Man; My Fair Lady; The Sound of Music; Oliver!); Cabaret among them) in the past they were surfire Oscar contenders and/or winners. Les Miserables has greater heft than most of the musical adaptations since Chicago. If it livs up to expectations in a year when there is no consensus best film, with critics' prizes will likely be split all over the place, it should have easy sailing to a slew of Oscars.

Well, I'll stipulate that, if this were 1966, Les Miz would be an odds-on favorite, given the number of mediocre-or-worse musical films (The Music Man, Hello, Dolly!) that scored best picture nominations in the era, not to mention the bunch that outright won. My point is, that was then: in this age, Chicago is the anomaly, not the norm.

And as far as proven properties...it seems half the debate here is people looking at an adaptation of a beloved international best seller, which has been directed by a world-class talent and received many enthusiastic early reviews, and saying, Nah, we'll bet on the completely unseen musical adaptation. I feel like BJ ought to weigh in with his bird-in-hand spiel.

Of course, Les Miz COULD win. But the degree of certitude reminds me sharply of the similar certitude around Dreamgirls, and the excessively vernal expectations for Nine.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:40 pm

Expectations always run high for proven properties be they adptations of books, plays or musicals. When film adaptations of Broadway musicals were done right (The King and I; West Side Story; The Music Man; My Fair Lady; The Sound of Music; Oliver!); Cabaret among them) in the past they were surfire Oscar contenders and/or winners. Les Miserables has greater heft than most of the musical adaptations since Chicago. If it livs up to expectations in a year when there is no consensus best film, with critics' prizes will likely be split all over the place, it should have easy sailing to a slew of Oscars.

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Re: Life of Pi reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:46 pm

It might be noted that, except for Dreamgirls, dramatic musicals -- even Phantom and Rent, two monstrously long-running shows -- have flopped pretty hard on screen. It's been the musical comedies -- Chicago, Hairspray, Mamma Mia -- that have been the biggest hits. You could also point out that Chicago is the only traditional-Broadway-score musical to do very well -- Motown/pop/rock shows have done better on the whole (though Rock of Ages is an obvious glaring exception).

On the other hand, even a less-than-fervent fan of The King's Speech like myself will acknowledge that Tom Hooper is a far better director than Joel Schumacher or Chris Columbus, so one assumes Les Miz will be a better effort than recently seen.

But I'd ask a slightly different question: what is about film versions of Broadway musicals that make Oscar bloggers expect them to be Academy fodder to a far greater degree than has proven out? I mean, Chicago is the one and only Broadway adaptation to get a best picture nomination in this era; yet, Dreamgirls and Sweeney and Nine were all on most folks' lists into December (and Phantom headed Dave Poland's). Is there such overlap between the sort of person who loves Broadway musicals (and, yeah, you can read that as gay, but I mean alot more by it) and the Oscar blogging community that they let personal taste override their usual acumen?


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