I know my grumpiness is not in vogue here lately, but traditions must be followed. Anyway, luckily, all the nominations in the “top six” categories went to only 13 films, and I saw 12 of them. Add Moonrise Kingdom and the top 8 are covered too. How conveniently compact. I won’t be able to catch The Sessions before the Oscars, but by seeing Les Miserable today (that’s the reason I’m sobbing while writing this) I completed my chores.
My rating: A- the ultimate best of the year, B- very good, would make a decent, worthy winner, C- a nomination should suffice, D- not necessarily bad, but not award material, F- a failure.
1. Amour – Not eligible/B. A relatively decent and frank take on a very common human situation. A good film. *
* Of course, in such a case the real question is not if this is a good enough film to be considered for awards (it certainly is) but why, of all the “foreign” films which are better than any of the English speaking ones nominated this year (or any other year), this is the chosen one. And as in most of these cases, it’s about the viewers (and voters) being able to feel good about themselves for embracing this particular celebrated film, which, surprisingly, is not that hard to do.
2. Argo - B. Ok, it really should have been a very solid C, but since it’s the one I’m going to root for come Oscar night I cheated a little. But really, this one is the full package – well made, highly entreating in an intelligent way and intelligent in an entertaining way. Not the most profound piece ever, but still a respectable achievement (and nominee).
3. Lincoln – C (ish). A sincere attempt at making an American Henry V. So – Shakespeare it’s not. An elaborate, very well crafted and acted school play. And as such, a rather respectable one.
4. Django Unchained – D. To use Tarantino own words, what this film lacks is panache. And genuine wit. But unlike Inglorious Basterds, being personally remote from the subject matter, I didn't suffer watching it. I can see where Spike Lee’s rejection is coming from, though.
5. Life of Pi – D. I don’t do spirituality. My sister, on the other hand, does, and even she was quite dismissive toward this one. (p.s. regardless of the film itself, she loved the early part set in Pondicherry, since she spent a short but very formative chunk of her personal journey there). Saying that, we both enjoyed the Disney aspect of the film.
6. Zero Dark Thirty – D. At one point there’s a state of the art helicopter which must be blown up. The camera lingers around it, the music wallows, requiem like. No lost of human life (and there were plenty in ZDT, thank heaven) received such a display of empathy. Other than manifesting its fetish for everything military, this film really has nothing to say.
7. Les Miserable – D. I knew I wasn't in for subtlety. I knew that musical wise it was not going to be a Porter or even a Rogers & Hammerstein, certainly not a Sondheim. I knew it’s long and laud. I wasn’t ready for it to be so, well, juvenile (ok, that not the all truth – I had my suspicions). As a piece on its own it doesn’t make sense. As an illustration of a classic it’s just plain silly. It’s placed here simply because in its own simplistic way it’s almost an honest piece of bad Art.
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild – D. I don’t do the we-are-one-with-the-universe-or-whatever stuff either. Am I allowed to use the term “condescending”?
9. Silver Linings Playbook – F. I’m not a fan.
Moonrise Kingdom lack of any chances was a given, but in view of its relatively high caliber showing in this year race, it’s a real shame The Master didn’t manage to slip in this extended list.
1. Emmanuelle Riva Amour – Not eligible/A. Her superiority, certainly among these companions, is such an obvious given, isn’t it? But – why now, and why her (and not Moerau, or Girardot, or Audran, or Moerau, or Huppert, or Devos, or Moerau). At least this is a true acting triumph and not a generic display of recognizable, familiar and very iconic FRENCHNESS, the way the last performance by a compatriot of her to be celebrate here was.
2. Jessica Chastain – D. She can act, I guess. Her face is expressive and she is a hard worker. But for all the huffing and puffing, there wasn't any real person there on screen. Not really her fault, though. Still, her hair looked sensational, whatever the circumstances were. Must get her conditioner brand.
3. Naomi Watts – D. Speaking of hard work, give her the employee of the month trophy or something for all the grueling physical stuff she’s been subjected to (assuming she herself did it), but best actress? (And yes, regardless of its quality, it was a supporting turn).
4. Jennifer Lawrence – D. And crown J-Law Dairy Queen of the Spring Festival. The most wholesome display of mental disturbance really shouldn't be overlooked.
-. Quvenzhané Wallis – Unranked. This nomination is miscalculated on so many levels. I’ll leave it at this.
Not a vintage year. Again. I haven’t seen Weisz or Hunt yet, but hopefully they’ll do. Williams was good in the not that good TTW, so she could be in. I’d even consider Streep had HS not been such a misfire.
1. Joaquin Phoenix – A. A great performance.
2. Daniel Day-Lewis - B. The kind of performance people like to call a master class. And although the film he’s in at times aims at the other direction, he truly manages to go for a person rather than an icon. A very deserving winner had he not been second best this time.
3. Bradley Cooper – D. So bland. I know he’s placed surprisingly high on this list, but it’s only because I’m basically indifferent to him -
4. Denzel Washington -D. – as opposed to being actively aggravated by this one, who, objectively, is a much better actor. But, alas, so smug.
5. Hugh Jackman – D. (I need to introduce an E ranking). When it comes to musicals, he should stick with the Curlys. He’s honest and committed, he just lacks the gravitas, acting and vocal wise, this role so desperately needs.
I don’t include “foreigners” on my list, but really, if they go for Riva, couldn't they find a room for Trintignant? Anyway, Hoffman should be on this list. It’s very probable I’ll find Hawks deserving once I see his film. And if after all is said and done I still won’t have a fifth contender, I’ll consider Tommy Lee Jones, HS being such a misfire and all.
1. Amy Adams - B. Her usual blandness is a masquerade here for the ruthless determination which is the true engine which drives fanatic movements, and she captures this complexity perfectly.
2. Sally Field - C. She is a good actress and thankfully she doesn't slip into a territory of over emoting and hyperactivity which has too often become her safe zone, acting wise. A perfectly fine performance.
3. Jacki Weaver - C. It all about relativity. I wouldn't call her redeeming, since nothing can save SLP, but she's the only one involved with this mess who manages to project any sense of something reminding of human existence. She has nothing to do, but she’s likable.
4. Anne Hathaway – D. There was a discussion round here on what this year theme is, and I guess it’s about suffering for one’s Art, or at least for one being rewarded for one’s Art. And no one, but no one, suffered more than her, so her status as the safest bet for winning is fully justified. I guess.
It’s probably too small a role, but Laura Dern was very good in The Master. Frances MacDormand is good as ever in MK.
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman - B. He really blossoms into the kind of grand presence classic character actors used to have. He’s charismatic, joyous and persuasive. Add to his persuasion Phoenix’s desperation and Adams’ determination and voila – this is what religion is all about.
2. Tommy Lee Jones - C. He’s really a great actor who can do no wrong it seems. Not the broadest of canvas for him to manifest his abilities, and there is something familiar in this performance, but it’s still a very good one.
3. Alan Arkin - D. This is such a lazy, self indulging pick by the Academy. Nothing wrong with this performance, nothing genuinely notable either.
4. Christoph Waltz - D. A laborious, meticulous and at the end of the day, rather exhausting turn - and after seeing him in 3 films I must add – as usual. He’s just not fun.
5. Robert De Niro – F. Tragedy is what happened in Darfur. But the way his acting has evolved is an extremely sad sight. And whatever one might think of the quality of it, in what way shape or form is his turn here any different from what he’s been doing in the past 20 years or so? An abominable display of caricaturistic hum acting.
Samuel L. Jackson is everything his film should have been like and actually isn't – grandly and amusingly over the top yet filled with rage and contempt. Edward Norton is lovely in MK, and if one is pressed this film offers other options too.
1. Michael Haneke - B. It’s a delicate, restrained and thoughtful work. Not as masterful as he was in some of his other films, but again, it’s an indication of his artistic intelligence he didn’t go for grandness and flare which would have been wrong here.
2. Steven Spielberg - C. For all his cinematic gifts and energies, he’s just not intellectually intriguing enough.
3. Ang Lee - D. He’s a favorite of mine for being such a sharp yet subtle observer of human behavior, and especially for understanding the delicate ways it interacts with social and historical structures. None of it is in evidence this time. I should avoid him when he has tigers on his mind.
4. Benh Zeitlin - D. I’m sure he’s a nice Jewish boy who means well.
5. David O. Russell – F. As I said elsewhere – I understand he was motivated by a very personal and I’m sure noble motivation, but despite it all, or probably because of it, his work here is what I see as defensive on one hand and compulsively reassuring on the other. And both make for a very misguided film making.
Poor Ben. And being an Anderson is tough. They should perhaps remake Around the World in 80 Days.
Last edited by Uri
on Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.