A continuation of my thoughts on this year’s nominees.
Life of Pi:
If I had my way, this film would win all the awards. If you read my review, you know that Life of Pi is a story that will forever be my favorite. I was surprised by its nomination for Best Picture, but it is well-deserved. This film is a work of art, and if the Academy judged on looks alone, it would surely sweep in all categories. As it is, I’ll settle for a Cinematography win and the nod it received for Best Musical Score. This is a movie I will watch again and again, for years to come. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. The world will be a better place for it.
Every awards season needs a period piece to fawn over, and Lincoln is this year’s baby. Less about Abraham Lincoln himself than it is about the end of the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment, this film has a star-studded cast and manages to be funny and light in all the right places, without making it any less suspenseful. Daniel Day-Lewis, as always, completely disappears into Lincoln and makes you completely forget that it’s him behind all that make-up and costuming. Sally Field and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play members of the Lincoln family to perfection, but the real star of this show is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, an opponent to slavery and driving force behind the Thirteenth Amendment. His nomination for Best Supporting Actor is well-deserved, and I hope he wins, as his performance was one of the best I’ve seen in the last few years.
That said, I hope the Academy is able to look past the gorgeous costuming and make-up this year. So often, good and solid films are overlooked in favor of big, sweeping historical pieces. While I would love to see the individual performances in this film be recognized and rewarded, I’d like to see the Best Picture Oscar go to a film that tried something different.
Silver Linings Playbook:
The first time I saw the trailer for this film, I could never have predicted the overwhelming amount of praise from the public and from critics that it has received. It is the first film to earn nominations in all four performance categories since 1981, and all of them are well-deserved. Bradley Cooper turns in a performance I didn’t believe he was capable of as Pat Solitano, a bipolar optimist on a quest to get his life back. Jennifer Lawrence, who earned the Golden Globe for Best Actress, goes dark as Tiffany Maxwell, a widow with a chip on her shoulder and a troubled past. Robert De Niro is the best he’s been in years as Pat’s misguided but deeply concerned father. Jacki Weaver gives a solid performance as Pat’s mother, who is torn between wanting him to get help and wanting him to be home with them.
This movie was emotional for me. It was funny in places, acutely painful in other places, and left me with a bittersweet and thoughtful feeling. Relationships are messy and life gets hard, and this film illustrates the twists and turns and the way we sometimes get lost along the way in a realistic and touching manner. Up against giants like Lincoln, I don’t think Silver Linings Playbook has much of a chance at Best Picture, but the sheer amount of nominations it has earned shows that is an important film nonetheless.
Zero Dark Thirty:
This film, predictably, was hard to watch. I found myself flinching within the first five minutes. It is a gritty and clear-eyed look at our nation’s greatest modern tragedy and the way we reacted to it. It’s painful and it’s rough, and it’s incredibly important.
Jessica Chastain takes point on this film as Maya, a young FBI agent in the Middle East who is searching for Osama Bin Laden. The story follows Maya as she hits dead ends, faces death each day, and finally creates and executes a plan that accomplishes her goals.
But this film is not just a dramatization of past events. This film subtly raises points that are current and important: Maya’s attempts to be taken seriously by her colleagues and superiors indicated that inequality between men and women in the workplace is a serious problem, not only in the government, but in all occupations. This film forces us to face the consequences of war, no matter what the cause or mission. In the end, Maya kills her enemy. She gets what she wants, and yet there is not a feeling that this is a happy ending, because war is never that clean and painless, even when the bad guys lose. War is painful, and so is watching this film that so sharply opens our eyes to that fact.
If the Academy judged these films based on what is current and what is topical, Zero Dark Thirty would be the clear winner. Chastain has already taken home a Golden Globe for her performance, and Kathryn Bigelow, who won Best Director for The Hurt Locker in 2009, has received another nod for her work on this film.
The Academy and I do not always agree (case in point: where is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar?), and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this year. Regardless of who wins the awards, 2012 was a fantastic year for movies, and there isn’t a bad film in the bunch. My pick? Argo, already winner of the Best Picture Golden Globe, is cleaning up this year, and I’d love to see it go the distance.