Watching the Best Picture Noms for 2013

Ok – to date I have seen Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Misérables, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.  That leaves Amour, Django Unchained, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook.  I can tell you now that it is highly unlikely that I will see Amour and Life of Pi, not because I think that they are not good, but because neither really appeals to me.  I have made a decision about not going to see something because it is a movie that you should see, but to go and see it because it is a movie that I want to see.   The films nominated for the Best Film category in 2013 are, by their nature, the movies you should see.  So that I have seen five of these movies, is a massive surprise to me.  It was not intentional. 

I actually did want to see Argo.  It was very good, and you can see what I said about it here.  It is fun and exciting and a throwback to the medium sized films made in the 1970s.  I wanted to see Beasts of the Southern Wild and Les Misérables, as both films are challenging existing formats in an interesting way, especially Beasts of The Southern Wild, which was the toast of Sundance in 2012. It was financed and produced completely out of the Hollywood system which makes it possibly the most interesting of nomination for Best Picture as it is a glimpse of what the US film industry may be like in 10 years time.  Here is a great article about the story in the New York Times.  It is magical, tragic, challenging and insightful with great performances from the then six year old, Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry (who plays her father), both acting for the first time.

Les Misérables is the latest in a long line of stage musicals brought to screen, but this time they recorded the singing live on set as the actors performed.  Just like on stage, but with massive close-ups.  This approach does make the film feel more raw and less polished, and gives it a nice edge.  However, this is a very long movie and it drags a bit in the middle.  I am happy to have seen it, but I don’t think I could sit through it again. 

Zero Dark Thirty is one of those movies you should see.  Gritty subject matter, controversy, previous Oscar winner director, but boy you know it is going to be intellectually interesting but tough going.  And it was.  Thankfully I was invited to watch it without having to pay, as I would have struggled to find the enthusiasm to go and see a political essay at my local cinema for fun.  I must however question this 'controversy' around the depiction of torture.  The film quite clearly shows these scenes without emotional manipulation and with a documentary-like straightforwardness.  Torture was used by the US in this situation.  That is what you see.  It is not pleasant.  The key piece of information that actually led to the 'capture' (and I use that word lightly) of Osama Bin Laden, was intelligence that was given to the US just after the attach on the World Trade Towers in New York in September 2011.  They just did not find it until nearly 10 years later.   But go and watch it and decide for yourself.

If I had not been given tickets to Lincoln, it would have joined Amour and Life of Pi in the unwatched list.  It is Oscar bait by numbers.  And long.  I don’t really recommend this overblown, slightly condescending, emotionally manipulative history lesson.  Lincoln is portrayed as a messianic (the final image hammers this home) and is given depth by a terrific performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.  But that is the only bright spot in this film. 

Next on my want to list is Silver Linings Playbook followed by Django Unchained.  I will let you know how that goes.