Sunday, February 24, 2013


Guest post by Ryan Lowe
Although the Academy Awards are not a definitive statement on what’s good and right about cinema, they get people to talk. It’s by far my favorite of all the award shows out there. The Oscars just stand out. It was the first American awards ceremony (This may not be a fact, but rather just something I’ve heard before). More importantly, you remember who wins, and you care who wins. 
The more nominated movies you’ve seen, the more you care about what happens on Oscar night. 2 years ago, I viewed a ton nominated films, and I ended up writing a pithy review/ranking of the Best Picture noms. We’re in the same boat again this year, so I figured “why not try it again?”
As I said my before, the Oscars are not the be all and end all, but it does a great job of generating discussion. My commentary on it shouldn’t be confused for legitimate criticism. I’m simply throwing my thoughts out there. Also, I’ll be linking either a scene or featurette from each film. 
Amour – We’re not off to a great start. I didn’t see this. It was the only one I needed to check off for the past month, and I couldn’t bring myself to see it in theaters. I’ll certainly view it eventually, but for the most part I heard it’s an incredibly depressing film. I just wasn’t in the mood. Since I didn’t see this, the clip to which I’ve linked is from Holy Motors. This is apropos of nothing other than it’s also a French speaking film, but one I actually saw.
Lincoln – A fine film. Spielberg stays out of the way for the most part (although, the opening scene is the film equivalent of patting the audience on it’s head). Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing. He should win for best actor hands down. DDL’s performance fit exactly with my image President Lincoln. Also, James Spader should’ve been nominated over Tommy Lee Jones if anyone was to be given a Best Supporting Actor nod. Spader interjected some much-needed humor. I enjoyed this film, but I never need to see it again. This will probably win Best Picture.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – When I saw this over the summer, I never thought it would get any kind of Oscar buzz. I love Quvenzhané Wallis. I mean, if you liked this movie at all, you had to love Hushpuppy. The great thing about Beasts is its huge moments (e.g. when the storm hits the bathtub, the confrontation with the Aurochs). Beginning to end, I don’t think it’s the strongest story, but maybe more than any other film on this list, I’m excited to see it again.
Silver Linings Playbook – I don’t claim to know a ton about bi-polar disorder, but I imagine issues associated with it aren’t resolved as neatly as one might think after watching this nominee. But this has a good story. The pacing is great. You care about the characters. Best of all, when it turns into a stereo typical rom com, things get wrapped up pretty quickly. Plenty of good acting performances. All in all definitely worth seeing.
Django Unchained – Full disclosure. I’m a big Tarantino fan. I’ve seen and own the bulk of what he has made. His creativity surpasses most everyone else in this medium. Django is a ton of fun. Leo and Christoph Waltz should have both been nominated for best supporting actor. That being said, this is probably my least favorite Tarantino movie. This is easily his most violent film, and violent to the point of taking you out of the story. Toward the end, it’s almost cartoonish how violent it gets. Once again, very entertaining, but his worst film I’ve seen. I will admit I need a second viewing.
Les Misérables – I’m not a musical fan. Plain and simple. I loved this film. It’s shot unlike any musical I’ve seen. The choice to get right in the actors’ faces and have them sing live translated so well. It forced the actors to act through and feel the song rather than dubbing it over later. Apparently that doesn’t make for a great soundtrack to purchase (which seems to be the chief criticism of many), but I’d take good acting and mediocre singing over mediocre acting and great singing any day. It’s a bit long, but let’s be honest, most of the Best Picture noms could stand to lose at least 15 or 20 minutes.
Argo – More than anything else I’ve seen this year, I can universally recommend this film. It appeals to a wide audience. It’s funny. It’s suspenseful. It’s just a great time. When we walked out of the theater, my friend John said to me, “Has Ben Affleck become one our best American directors?” I told him to pump the breaks, but Affleck has put together some really, really good movies. I hope this wins for Best Picture, which seems like a 2 horse race between this and Lincoln. Argo would be far more palatable.
Zero Dark Thirty – HEAVY. If I needed one word to describe this movie, that’d have to be it. This is not a fun time. Not funny. Not an easy watch. But my word, it is remarkable how Kathryn Bigelow can take a story that is so current and give it the detail of something about which hundreds of books have been written. The opening is utterly haunting. Everyone in the theater knows what happens in the final 40 minutes, but they’re all on the edge of their seat at the same time. The final approach to the compound is the most intense scene of 2012. (No scenes available, so I just put up the trailer) 
Life of Pi – I’ve thought and talked about this and 0 Dark more than any other films this year. I almost went to go see this in theaters again earlier this week. I didn’t read this book but from everything I’ve heard, it seemed like an impossible task to get this story to translate to the big screen. This film is beautifully shot. The way Ang Lee uses aspect ratio sucks you in. The 3D in this is the best I’ve ever seen. Instead of it just being a money grab, the 3D is there to actually improve the viewing experience. I’ve felt for some time, that the best films are ones that can’t just be “put on in the background.” They demand that you watch in order to get the full effect. This is the type of movie for which theaters were made, so if you haven’t seen it in theaters, I’m sorry. The whole point of cinema is to take you places you can’t go and show you things you can never see. More than any other film this year; Life of Pi does precisely that.

That is all I got for Best Picture films, right now. Here are a couple of other movies worth checking out from 2012
The Raid – Best kung fu movie in years, and my favorite foreign film of the year
Searching for Sugar Man – I only saw a half a dozen documentaries this year, but this was the best
Looper – Dark. Way darker than you think. Maybe my favorite movie of 2012
Dark Knight Rises – Look. It was good. It wasn’t the Dark Knight, but it was good.
The Grey – Surprise of the year for me. Way better than I expected. A lot less wolf punching than I had guessed given the trailers. (Em said to add that this is also, way darker than you think)
Skyfall – Name me a better Bond movie. 
Cabin in the Woods – Not what I thought it would be at all. Most fun I had in a theater this year.
The Master – Not as good as other PTA stuff, but great performances. I didn't love it, but it's worth checking out because of the acting. 
Seeking a Friend at the End of the World – Surprisingly a very upbeat film given the subject matter (the end of the world)
The Impossible – Loved it, but I’m a sap. It got dusty more than a few times in the theater. Also, the greatest natural disaster sequence I’ve ever seen.
Killing them Softly  Crazy heavy handed with it's message, but if you were to take away gangsters constantly listening to NPR, it's a pretty good movie.
Queen of Versailles – Another good documentary. If you want to get angry with people, watch this.
Seven Psychopaths – Solid follow up to In Bruges. I’m excited to see what Martin McDonagh does next.
Flight – A lot better than I thought, but it wins the award for best completely “on the nose” soundtrack.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for indulging me. Since this is a music blog, here are my top 5 albums of 2012 in no particular order. 
Gossamer – Passion Pit
good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar
Babel – Mumford & Sons
Self Titled – The Lumineers
Be the Void – Dr. Dog

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