Krundt’s third annual Oscar Roundup. The awards show was bad enough to make you collapse in tears, but movie-wise, a pretty good year.
In no particular order:
Moonrise Kingdom ****
Nominated: Writing (Original Screenplay)
Click here for Krundt’s post on “Moonrise Kingdom”.
Life of Pi ***
Awarded: Directing, Cinematography, Music - Original Score, Visual Effects
Nominated: Best Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Cinematography, Music - Original Score, Music - Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing - Adapted Screenplay
It’s easy to understand why “Life of Pi" got eleven Oscar nominations: pot is more or less legal in California. Think of those scenes in which the surface of the sea is a sea of stars — among the most beautiful and trippy images in the history of cinema — and then imagine wizened, wheelchair-bound Academy members toking up medical marijuana in their home screening rooms… You get the picture.
"Pi" makes no sense, and doesn’t need to. Apparently the mind-numbing film derives from a book that’s been a huge hit with the youth demographic — a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Siddhartha or Trout Fishing in America for the 21st century. On screen, the microwave-ready ontology seems mighty dumb, but only if your cognitive apparatus is engaged. That’s where the doctor-prescribed dope comes in.
If you are totally stoned, “Life of Pi” must be like a hot-lube massage for the mind. For the rest of us, gorgeous nonsense.
Awarded: Sound Editing, Music (Original Song)
Nominated: Cinematography, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
Click here for Krundt’s post on “Skyfall”.
Django Unchained ****
Awarded: Actor (Supporting Role) - Christoph Waltz, Writing (Original Screenplay)
Nominated: Best Picture, Actor (Supporting Role), Cinematography, Sound Editing, Writing (Original Screenplay)
I’d love to hate Quentin Tarantino. His affinity for exploitation and extravagant eruptions of gore would keep me far away – except that Tarantino made one perfect movie, writes better dialogue than anyone, and even his worst films partake of a vital creative energy that reliably compels my refined sensibility to go fuck off.
“Django Unchained” is yet another Tarantino revenge story coloured by voluptuous spurtings of blood. What’s this guy so cranky about? Last time it was Hitler, now it’s slavery, but it’s always something. Maybe Tarantino wasn’t breast-fed as a babe? The director, who is unmarried, seems to believe that blowing up bad guys turns women on, as it did for Broomhilda von Schaft.
Mixed into this movie – weirdly, wonderfully – is Siegfried mythology from the “Nibelungenlied”, which props up the bizarre, inspired decision to cast the great Christof Waltz as a bounty hunter driving a dental cart. If this isn’t genius, I don’t know what is. Both Oscars are well deserved.
The Impossible ****
Nominated: Actress (Leading Role) - Naomi Watts
Click here for Krundt’s post on “The Impossible”.
The Master ****
Nominated: Actor (Leading Role) - Joaquin Phoenix, Actor (Supporting Role) - Philip Seymour Hoffman
A glorious flop, commercially and artistically, “The Master" is must-see eye candy for anyone who loves movies and a late-night harangue for guru devotees. The signature shot is seawater whipped white in the wake of a Navy ship — an image of nature disturbed by human action.
Allegedly about Scientology, “The Master” is more concerned with delusion and subordination in male relationship, i.e., bromance. Joaquin Phoenix, fully recovered from “I’m Still Here”, plays a violent, alcoholic WWII vet who finds a daddy in Philip Seymour Hoffman, an L. Ron Hubbard without the galactic bits. Amy Adams moves beyond adorable mode, as a woman who has her husband’s power firmly in hand.
This movie doesn’t work, but who cares? Director Paul Thomas Anderson seems to be a divine idiot out of Dostoevsky, immeasurably gifted and totally nuts. For my money, “There Will Be Blood" was the only Anderson movie that worked, but I know people who liked "Boogie Nights" and even (burp) "Magnolia”. (I don’t know what makes me want to die more, Tom Cruise or plagues of frogs.)
In this one, visual beauty and authentic acting more than compensate for a head-scratcher story.
Silver Linings Playbook ****
Awarded: Actress (Leading Role) - Jennifer Lawrence
Nominated: Best Picture, Actor (Leading Role), Actress (Leading Role), Actor (Supporting Role), Actress (Supporting Role), Directing, Film Editing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Click here for Krundt’s post on “Silver Linings Playbook”.
Awarded: Foreign Language Film
Nominated: Best Picture, Actress (Leading Role), Directing, Foreign Language Film, Writing (Original Screenplay)
Don’t see “Amour” if you’re suffering from the slow decline of someone you love, or if you’re too young, or too scared, to appreciate the fragility of life. Cinéastes willing to suffer for love may adore Michael Haneke’s elegant, revelatory study of a married couple approaching the end of life.
Those of us who grew up with the nouvelle vague will be touched by the sight of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in their eighties, much as we loved seeing Michel Piccoli in “We Have a Pope” or Peter O’Toole in “Dean Spanley”. (Here, again, is the link to a 1959 filmed interview with the glorious Riva.)
Awarded: Best Picture, Film Editing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominated: Best Picture, Actor (Supporting Role), Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Click here for Krundt’s post on “Argo”.
Marvel’s The Avengers ***
Nominated: Visual Effects
If you like this sort of thing, “The Avengers" is not bad. The best bit comes after the closing credits, when the gang gathers for shawarma.
Marvel obsessives and other comix geeks might want to read Leaping Tall Buildings.
Zero Dark Thirty ****
Awarded: Sound Editing
Nominated: Best Picture, Actress (Leading Role), Film Editing, Sound Editing, Writing (Original Screenplay)
You can hate the politics of “Zero Dark Thirty” and love the film. Kathryn Bigelow scores again. So does Jessica Chastain, who shakes off her delicate “Tree of Life” image with such lines as, Do your fucking job – bring me people to kill! The cast is adorned with such little-known greats as Édgar Ramírez of “Carlos” and Mark Strong of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”.
The action is totally credible (even when it may be factually wrong) and it’s exciting as hell. Bigelow chooses to spend little time with the SEAL team before the attack on the Osama bin Laden compound. She paces the attack itself with slow deliberation. The result of such unusual choices is high suspense despite the familiarity of the events onscreen.
Beasts of the Southern Wild ***
Nominated: Best Picture, Actress (Leading Role), Directing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” wins the Oscar for Best Marketing. People went to this movie expecting to love it. Many of them, including Krundt, were disappointed. The production design is brilliant, the casting and acting are exciting and fresh, and the feeling of unfettered imagination is almost powerful enough to carry the picture. The problem here is the story, which is sour and ugly. And we could have done without the pigs in makeup.
Awarded: Production Design, Actor (Leading Role) - Daniel Day-Lewis
Nominated: Best Picture, Actor (Leading Role), Actor (Supporting Role), Actress (Supporting Role), Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Sound Mixing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Click here for Krundt’s post on “Lincoln”.
Anna Karenina **
Awarded: Costume Design
Nominated: Cinematography, Costume Design, Music -Original Score, Production Design
“Anna Karenina" is cheekbone porn with Keira Knightly. Director Joe Wright, whose "Hanna" is a Krundt fave, trashes Tolstoy and creates an onscreen energy void, but brilliantly, beautifully.
The beauty belongs to to Knightly, who gets the full Garbo treatment as Wright’s camera more or less licks her perfect features. We see so much of her that we start to notice Knightly’s few physical imperfections: the horsey teeth, the scrawny chest. We loved her better in “Bend It Like Beckham”.
By the way, Joe? The story doesn’t work if Vronsky is a girl.
Snow White and the Huntsmen
Nominated: Costume Design, Visual Effects
Nominated: Actor (Leading Role), Writing (Original Screenplay)
The best film Robert Zemeckis has ever made — faint praise — “Flight” opens with an overpowering visualization of an airplane crash. If you doubted that Zemeckis, who has dedicated his career to ever-more-fruity films, could speak to you, get over it: He can. What he needs is a story about credible human beings in more or less realistic situations, to which he can apply his phenomenal technical skills as a filmmaker. “Flight” may be the film that he — and we — have been waiting for,
Denzel Washington plays an ace commercial pilot who happens to be addicted to booze, drugs, and sex. You should be so lucky. Here, while fried on chemicals, he pilots a plane through a severe mechanical failure, brilliantly landing the craft with minimal loss of life. Turns out the secret is flying upside down. But the crash exposes him to investigation by the National Transportation Safety Bureau, as personified by Melissa Leo, which forces him to confront his demons before the closing credits.
For Denzel, this is just another hotshit performance. But for Zemeckis, it’s a breakthrough.
As for the booze, load “The Lost Weekend" into your device of choice, take a seat at your local bar while the sun is still high, and watch it. Worthwhile experience, I promise.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits ***
Nominated: Animated Feature Film
A fine amusement for children, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is a cheerful, well-made animated film that offers no special pleasures to adults.
Nominated: Visual Effects
You can skip Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, a ponderously ambitious episode in the “Alien” mythos. Instead, see Scott’s under-appreciated 2007 “American Gangster”, followed by “Thelma and Louise” (1991), “The Duellists” (1977), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Black Hawk Down” (2001), and “Gladiator” (2000). Few directors have made so many great movies, and almost none have Scott’s range.
“Prometheus” does have its virtues. Its subtle use of 3-D may be the most effective of any film to date, giving us a visceral experience of tunnels and other enclosed places instead of poking us in the eye with Angelina Jolie’s bosom. The production design, with its colossal statuary, is extraordinary. Michael Fassbender is fun to watch as HAL’s love child. But I wish Noomi Rapace, so brilliant in the “Dragon Tattoo” movies, had stayed in Sweden. And once was enough for Scott’s gross-out aliens.
A Royal Affair ****
Nominated: Foreign Language Film
Who doesn’t like 18th century costume drama? “A Royal Affair" gives us a genuinely interesting moment in Danish history — who knew? — as the court of mad King Christian VII cedes power, and the love of scrumptious Queen Caroline Matilde (Alicia Vikander), to a man of the Enlightenment, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who’s got more cheekbones than 20 Kiera Knightleys and played the villain Le Chiffre in the latest “Casino Royale”.
Searching for Sugar Man *****
Awarded: Documentary Feature
Nominated: Documentary Feature
“Searching for Sugar Man” is a quest story with a payoff. During the early 1970s, a Detroit musician named Rodríguez became a superstar in South Africa without attracting much attention anywhere else. Then he vanished. Rumor had it he’d killed himself onstage. Decades later, with documentary cameras rolling, two South African fans hunt for the truth about Rodríguez. It’s no spoiler to say they found him – and revived his career.
This much is sweet. There’s nothing like good luck to improve a documentary film. But the producer’s good fortune is not limited to finding Rodríguez: It’s the nature of the man himself that makes this movie great. Rodríguez turns out to be some kind of self-taught Hispanic sadhu, who persists in working as a lowly manual laborer even after he is rediscovered. There’s something eerie, in a good way, about the virtuous vibe of this quietly charismatic man.
Speaking of Oscar-nominated documentaries, make sure you see “Senna”, the superb story of the Brazilian Formula One racing driver Aryton Senna, who won the world championship three times and died in a fiery crash. Because he was hugely popular and performing on a public stage, his short life was richly documented on film. As Director Asif Kapadia recognized, it also had the qualities of great drama: high ambition, severe challenges, powerful enemies, beautiful lovers, and more. The movie that Kapadia assembled from these elements is socko filmmaking, one of the most satisfying documentaries you’ll ever see. Incomprehensibly, “Senna” wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.
Les Miserables ***
Awarded: Actress (Supporting Role) - Anne Hathaway, Makeup and Hair, Sound Mixing
Nominated: Best Picture, Actor - Hugh Jackman, Actress (Supporting Role) - Anne Hathaway, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Hair, Sound Mixing
This one is really good, if you watch with the sound off.
Oscar Roundup 2012
Oscar Roundup 2011
Silver Linings Playbook
Bond James Bond
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
X-Men Who Hate Women
21 Movies Worth Watching
Seven Films You Can Skip
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
More Much Missed Must See Movies
Three Films in Spanish
We Have a Pope