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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Oscar Talk 2013 Pt 2 The Suggestion

With even more to come, the second part of our conversations on everything Oscar 2013 covers the Daniel Day-Lewis juggernaut, the across the board amazingly loaded acting categories, our biggest suggestion to improve the Academy Awards overall, and the respective allures of Matthew McConaughey and Susan Sarandon.

Doug: Do we even need to talk about the Best Actor category? Does anyone other than Daniel Day-Lewis really have a chance?

Sarah: Look at the lineup of nominees. I mean, come on. Who else could take it?

Doug: To give props where they’re due, though, Denzel Washington was pretty amazing in Flight. I went off on the writing in that movie, but Denzel’s performance took a movie that, with anybody else in the lead, could have been one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a theater…

Sarah: Which is kind of a great way to look at it. Remember last year, you said pretty much the same thing with Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady.

Doug: And Denzel is on fire in the first 20-30 minutes of Flight. He’s electric. Honestly, anytime he’s on screen the movie is highly watchable, which is amazing that he was able to overcome the terrible writing.

Sarah: You’ve said the performances weren’t really what made Flight craptastic. Unfortunately, we know that generally the overall quality of the film is going to have some weight when it comes to winning an acting category. So, maybe Denzel was great, but he’s not in a good spot to win.

Doug: Yeah. Hugh Jackman, despite the Golden Globe win…

Sarah: He won the Golden Globe, but they have the separate categories for lead acting, the drama and comedy/musical categories, so Jackman wasn’t going up against Daniel Day-Lewis directly, there.

Doug: Right, not even in the same category. And while different groups of people are voting for the Golden Globes than vote for the Oscars, you have to say that the fact that Bradley Cooper can’t beat Hugh Jackman in the same category at the Globes doesn’t bode well for Mr. Cooper. And what to do with Joaquin Phoenix?

Sarah: He wasn’t our favorite, but we’ve already talked about how other actors will probably love his performance, so you never know how the voting could go. But I just can’t see anybody but Daniel Day-Lewis in the end for Best Actor. Again, though, you just never know if actors will vote for Phoenix or not.

Doug: I will say they were totally different types of performances, so there is that. Phoenix, as much as we didn’t like him, had a lot to do with creating a wholly original category. Whereas Daniel Day-Lewis was largely mimicking someone. Which are two completely different skill sets.

Sarah: To inhabit somebody that actually existed, and pull it off the way Daniel Day-Lewis did?

Doug: Oh, DDL is going to win. Let’s just move it along…

Sarah: Actor in a supporting role? Probably one of the strongest categories.

Doug: And we didn’t even get our guy McConaughey in there.

Sarah: We wanted McConaughey. We want him, really, for anything.

Doug: That’s your line.

Sarah: I mean I want him for any of his many great performances this year.

Doug: That’s what she said.

Sarah (laughing): For any one of his many performances. Bernie, a flawed movie, but a great supporting performance by Matthew. And your favorite, Magic Mike.

Doug (in lame McConaughey impression): Alright, alright, alright. This is a super strong category.

Sarah: A strong category, but Alan Arkin?

Doug: When I saw Argo, I remember thinking I’d like to see Arkin nominated. But it turned out to be too strong a year, and I don’t think he really deserved it. He got nominated because he’s Alan Arkin, and he got some memorable line readings. But look at the names here. Arkin, De Niro, Hoffman, Jones, Waltz. That is unbelievable.

Sarah: You know it’s strong when you have a year where you’re eliminating Arkin and De Niro right off the bat. It’s tough, De Niro was good, but compared to the others he’s not as strong. There’s always the “we owe you one” angle, but…

Doug: Or maybe this is his last go at an Oscar. The one thing I love about the Supporting Actor category is that whoever wins, it will be for a performance that I liked a lot. I don’t even like Tommy Lee Jones, but the guy was spectacular in Lincoln.

Sarah: He was a big part of what made Lincoln an alive movie. He added a lot of the energy. Otherwise, it could have been a pretty dull movie.

Doug: It could have been dull. But one of the great things Spielberg did with Lincoln, focusing almost exclusively on the politics of it all, was to use the “lively” politics of the day, to use a kind word, to give the story its life and bounce and intrigue. I mean, if anything, Spielberg soft played the nastiness of the politics of the day, playing that nastiness for laughs in some places. But Jones gave the movie a big part of its heart.

Sarah: I liked Tommy Lee Jones in that, but the two best performances in this category of great performances, I think, come down to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christoph Waltz.

Doug: I’m sure we’ll have more of a picks type conversation before the Oscars, but it has to come down to those two. Man, what about actress? This is one of the wildcard categories.

Sarah: It always is. It may not be as bad this year as it has been in years past, but there are always a couple of nominations in this category for performances in movies that aren’t nominated for much of anything else. A pretty good list of names this year, though. We are thinking it’s going to come down to Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Is Chastain going to win?

Doug: I don’t know, they both got Golden Globes in their respective categories. I think there is a lot of Jennifer Lawrence love out there. I wonder when the voting for the Oscars actually takes place. I think Zero Dark Thirty had its little period of controversy and backlash. That could hurt Chastain, and Lawrence could end up with the win. That one’s going to be interesting.

Sarah: Yeah, the “Hollywood Elite” is also the liberal elite, remember. And a lot of them are not too happy about the torture sections. Susan Sarandon just posted a blog on the ACLU website coming out strongly against her interpretation of the film’s suggesting the use of torture led to capturing Bin Laden as a pure fiction.

Doug: Well, I like me some Susan Sarandon, so whatever she says goes in my book.

Sarah: Straight up.

Doug: I think I’d play ping pong in her ping pong club in Brooklyn if she requested me to.

Sarah: Just ping pong, huh?

Doug: My wife has everything taken care of, so ping pong will suffice. Who knows how the Zero Dark backlash might affect the voting on some of these categories. I think Best Actress is going to be close. Best Supporting Actress, also pretty strong this year. Other than maybe Sally Field.

Sarah: We’ve talked a lot about our favorite, how Amy Adams should get it. But there’s a good chance she won’t.

Doug: And you know what, I’m going to pass on this category for now, because I’d like us to have a different conversation about who should versus who will win in some of these categories. So, I’m piping down as we move on to the nominees for Animation. I have not seen a one of these movies yet, so it’s all yours on this one.

Sarah: I know, you haven’t seen one of these. And you’re missing out on a lot of good stuff.

Doug: I am planning on an…

Sarah: Animation domination catchup at some point?

Doug: Yes, yes I am.

Sarah: Having seen the entire list of feature length animated nominees this year, you know it’s a good year when Brave is the weak link, because that one was great. And I doubt Pirates: Band of Misfits has a huge chance. One of the things I loved about all the nominees is how they’re all about outcasts. I know you made fun of me for that, pointing out that…

Doug: About 92.4% of all animated stuff is about outcasts?

Sarah (laughing): Yes. I’m not sure I agree with your exact numbers. But I like that all the ones this year are more about non-conformists. Brave has a great feminist message, Frankenweenie is about a little artistic boy who just wants to do his thing, doesn’t want to play baseball…

Doug: Doesn’t want to play baseball? Gasp. Dadgum it, that’s just un-American.

Sarah: It’s funny you say that, because there’s a great character, a teacher from a sort of unidentified Eastern European background, making fun of Americans’ not valuing science in a lot of ways. It’s pretty funny. Frankenweenie would be a worthy winner of this category. And we’ve already talked about how Paranorman is one of my favorite movies of the year in any category. Another great message movie, all about a different kind of kid who gets bullied and how terrible bullying is. Kind of a great message to get across in today’s environment. And even Pirates: Band of Misfits

Doug: Which is apparently literally about outcasts, or at least misfits.

Sarah: Yes. And it’s all about family, another message we can all get behind. Things go badly when family doesn’t look out for each other in Pirates. And Wreck It Ralph lets you know that everybody has a role to play that is important, and that’s OK.

Doug: And it apparently has an awesome array of cameos from various classic video game characters from over the years?

Sarah: It’s true, and I love the support group for the “bad guy” video game characters. It’s all really very fun.

Doug: Since we’re on the Animated category, I’m going to take the opportunity to throw my little suggestion of the year in for the Academy. The fact that they have a separate category for Animated films goes way back. And it’s really cool that they do it. If they really wanted to open things up, like they’re trying to do with the increased nominations for Best Picture, why don’t they really go for it? Make it like the Grammys. The Grammys has a Best Song category. But they also have separate Country, and R&B, and Rock, and Alternative, etc categories. In addition to Best Animated at the Oscars, why can’t we also have Action, and Comedy, and Horror, etc, categories. One of the main points of even having the Oscars is to get us movie fans talking. That would really expand the conversation and excitement.

Sarah: And the Golden Globes already kind of do that with the separate categories for Drama and Comedy/Musical. I like the idea of an Action category.

Doug: And, honestly, if they did this they could probably go back to only five for Best Picture. And the Best Picture category would actually seem even more exclusive than it does now and maybe than it ever felt. You’d be sort of filtering the best of the best movies out of these other categories into the larger Best Picture nominations. Anyway, that’s my idea.

Sarah: And you’d get more recognition for a lot of the movies that end up having more staying power in the long run, or at least the ones you end up watching multiple times as the years go by. And those are often the comedies and action movies, which don’t always get recognized at awards time. I own Biutiful  and So, I Married An Axe Murderer. Guess which one I’ve watched more? And I’m not sure that by opening up Best Picture to as many as 10 nominees that they’re really done what they said they were trying to do, which is open it up to more types of movies.

Doug: Yeah, with some exceptions, it’s mainly the same old types of movies, just often more mediocre ones getting nominated. How much more interesting would Best Picture be if you had, let’s take your favorite from the Animation category, Paranorman, on the list. Throw in Dark Knight Rises, or maybe Skyfall. A movie like Looper. Not just the same old stuff. It would be so much more interesting.

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Oscar Talk 2013 Pt 1 The Kickoff

In part one of our extensive conversations on the 2013 Academy Award nominations, we get all medieval on Les Miserables, talk about what our own personal Best Picture nominations may have looked like, and dip our toes into some of the Zero Dark Thirty controversy.

Doug: Alright. We should have been recording before. See, when the lights come on, I can’t…

Sarah: You get all tensed up?

Doug: When the heat is on, it’s harder to come through with the good material.

Sarah: Well, how do we feel about the nominees?

Doug: How do you feel about the nominees?

Sarah: I feel pretty good about this year’s nominees, definitely better than last year’s.

Doug: One thing that will be fun about talking about the nominees this year is discussing what is best out of a pile of good stuff instead of discussing what is just the least worst, if that’s even a legal phrase.

Sarah: And last year I seem to remember us complaining that there weren’t really any fun, outside the box picks in the Best Picture category. In past years, we were happy that movies like Inglourious Basterds and District 9 got nominations, and last year not so much. This year Django Unchained, certainly not a movie the Academy would normally go for. Even Argo is a little outside the box for a Best Picture nominee…

Doug: Yeah, although you might argue it’s outside the box quality wise, too. Kind of mediocre for a Best Picture. In terms of being more of a pure entertainment, Life of Pi would qualify.

Sarah: That one is very pretty to look at. Zero Dark Thirty isn’t 100% standard Oscar fare, but you kind of get Kathryn Bigelow and Tarantino as repeat nominees in the Best Picture category, like the Academy has accepted them somehow.

Doug: Interestingly, each of the nominees in their own way (maybe except Amour) has some version of a happy ending.

Sarah: I’m not sure how happy I felt at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Doug: But it wasn’t a completely unhappy ending.

Sarah: It was inspiring, at least. And Les Miserables is certainly a bit of a downer.

Doug: I try to not even count that, because I can’t believe it’s even on the Best Picture list.

Sarah: I don’t want to get into it right now, but I could certainly add my two cents on The Miserable Ones, as well.

Doug: Well, go ahead, what are you waiting for?

Sarah: OK, my quip is that it’s named The Miserable Ones not for its content, but for how it makes the audience feel.

Doug: Wow, zinger!!! I’ll take it even further, though, because I didn’t even feel that. I was bored. And I have to tell you that I was in the perfect mood to see it. I really, really, really wanted to like it. And it connected not a wit. I just wasn’t feeling the characters. They weren’t developed at all. And the singing wasn’t even really that good.

Sarah: For the first hour and a half, or even more, I was thinking, “Make this go faster.” But the last 45 minutes or so, I could get behind that. I may even go so far as to say that if the last 45 minutes of the movie had been the whole thing, I might have actually liked it.

Doug: I thought the last 45 minutes was Les Interminables, but I probably had my feelings tinged by the preceding two hours.

Sarah: The best three scenes in the movie happened in the last 45 minutes.

Doug: I don’t remember any of them being very good, so the floor is yours.

Sarah: I liked the scene where Javert pinned the medal to the dead boy’s chest.

Doug: I guess.

Sarah: I know you didn’t like Russell Crowe in this…

Doug: I must have given the wrong impression, I thought he was fine.

Sarah: I thought he had the crappiest role…

Doug: Man, we are on two different planets on this one, because I thought he had the best role.

Sarah: He had a character that wasn’t developed at all, but he at least made something out of it. I thought he did a pretty good job. You didn’t like his singing, and I’ll admit that was not outstanding. But as far as making a character that wasn’t very well developed…

Doug: Which characters in Les Mis were well developed? That’s the problem with the whole movie.

Sarah: That is the problem. They turned a 1,000 page book into a two and a half hour movie. Javert had a whole section in the book, so you could understand him. But in the movie, he’s all of a sudden, like, “Now I’m going to jump off a wall.”

Doug: Right, I’m thinking, “He’s jumping into the abyss now? Because of what just happened?” Nothing that preceded that scene in the movie led to that scene making any sense, or having any context.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s just, whatever. But the scene where Eponine dies was effective. Samantha Barks was really good.

Doug: For sure, she and Anne Hathaway were the best parts of the movie.

Sarah: Didn’t Samantha Barks get nominated? Oh, wait, she didn’t? That is a bummer, but it probably wouldn’t have worked out very well going against Anne Hathaway. When Hugh Jackman is dying, that scene was pretty effective, too.

Doug: The performances were fine, some of them better than fine. But I had nothing invested in the characters. So, I wasn’t feeling very much at any point.

Sarah: I’m not saying this was a good movie. If the best I can say is there were three good scenes in a…

Doug: Two and a half hour movie.

Sarah: Yes. I don’t think we’re really all that far off in our assessments.

Doug: Neither one of us really liked it, so let’s talk about some other stuff. I go back to saying there was a lot of good in the movies this year, some very good, but maybe after I really look at it not a lot of classic. My two favorite movies on the Best Picture list are Django and Life of Pi. And neither one of those are going to win, so…

Sarah: I don’t think we were particularly surprised by many of the nominations. They may not have been exactly our favorites, or what we would have picked. We can pretty much tell some of my favorite movies of the year by the fact that, as of right now, the only category where I’ve seen all the movies is the one for Animation.

Doug: OK, come on. This is our blog, and we can do what we want. Let’s look at Best Picture. Theoretically, you can have 10 nominations, and they made 9. So, tell me what your pics would have been. You can just add one, if you want. Or throw some out and add some in.

Sarah: If it were my Academy Awards, things like The Avengers, things like The Hobbit, they would make it onto the list.

Doug: OK, but what would they knock out?

Sarah: We’re both setting aside Amour for now, because neither of us has seen it.

Doug: And I am assuming that anything would knock out Les Mis.

Sarah: Yeah, so that gives me two slots right there. Actually, I’d probably add The Hobbit and Paranorman. I’m not sure I’d move anything else off the list. Maybe Argo. I think I enjoyed watching The Avengers more than I enjoyed watching Argo.

Doug: And if you enjoyed it more, go for it. These are your Academy Awards.

Sarah: You know I like the comic book movie stuff, shit blowing up. I can’t argue with that.

Doug: I agree with you that they mostly got it right on Best Picture.

Sarah: You liked Looper.

Doug: You just want me to give props to JGL, but you’re right. I would add in Looper and The Dark Knight Rises. I think the more I think about it, Moonrise Kingdom deserved some Best Picture love, too. So, I’ve got to knock out two movies in order to be left with the limit of 10. Easily Les Mis gets dumped. And then, as much as I’ve knocked Argo as not being Academy Award material, I think my next movie to be bumped would be between Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild. And, I’d have to bump Silver Linings. Beasts had just a little more going for it.

Sarah: I liked the temperament of Silver Linings Playbook a lot. It was just such a positive feeling movie, and I liked that a lot.

Doug: And normally, I’d be the one talking about how that’s right up my alley, and it was right up my alley. I liked the performances a lot, and it did have a good feel. But it was just a little more average, in the category of movie that it falls into, than the others on the list.

Sarah: The more I thought about Silver Linings, the more I appreciated the directing. The performances were good, but after you watch it, you realize that in order to get that story to hang together, the director had a lot do and had to have a vision.

Doug: It could have easily gotten out of control and overly sappy. I’m sure that’s why David O. Russell got the Best Directing nomination. He definitely deserves credit for that. I’m not a David O. Russell completest, but I have read that a lot of his fans, while they were happy that he got nominated, were a little off that this is the movie of his that would get nominated. He was nominated for The Fighter, but in his list of quirky movies, maybe this wasn’t the best. Things like Flirting With Disaster, I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings, etc may have been stronger.

Sarah: Speaking of the quirky style, we spoke a bit about Moonrise Kingdom. It got the screenplay nomination, which makes a ton of sense because it’s the writing that largely makes that one.

Doug: Any Wes Anderson movie has a particular feel and look. And they are always exquisitely written, and Moonrise certainly was.

Sarah: He’s got that certain tableau, and he’s almost capturing a picture of the world he creates. His movies have that stilted quality, too, though. It’s not a criticism, but I can see where not everyone would get with that. But I loved Moonrise. The story telling is what ultimately made it work, but…

Doug: There were some darn good performances in that movie.

Sarah: Some very good performances. And maybe not a ton of laugh out loud moments, but a lot to smile at, dark comedy…

Doug: He’s got an uncanny ability to play in dark comedy but still have it come out feeling very sweet and innocent.

Sarah: Yeah. Bill Murray in that, as always, he was great. And he should be forced to wear those pants, just constantly.

Doug: I think he would be happy to do that.

Sarah: Definitely would be happy to. And from now on, other movies, real life, he should have to wear those pants.

Doug: Moonrise kind of fell through the cracks, it feels like, Best Picture wise. Part of it was when it came out. A lot of these Best Picture nominees came out in the last third of the year. Plus, a lot of the movies nominated this year were “bigger” movies. And Moonrise wasn’t. Since we’re talking writing, I’m just going to get this rant out of the way. I know you haven’t seen it yet, but…

Sarah: Oh, here comes the Flight rant.

Doug: Flight being nominated for its writing is offensive.

Sarah: It’s interesting that it’s on a list with the writing that was done in movies like Moonrise and Django. It’s nowhere near the same quality, it seems.

Doug: It’s way worse than that. It’s unreal to me that before the nominations came out, it was expected that Flight was going to get nominated for screen writing mainly because other writers loved the screenplay so much. When you see it, maybe you’ll explain what I missed. But my wife and I both hated it. It was terrible on two levels. The writing that dealt with Denzel’s character’s addictions was trite, cliché and lazy. And, especially in the second half of the movie, the directions the story took were so preposterous (Sarah laughs) and unbelievable. I mean, you were supposed to believe the potential realness of this stuff on some level. And there was not one part of the writing that rung true. When you watch it, you will throw something against a wall when you get to a scene where Denzel’s character comes across an open door that leads to a connecting hotel room with a mini bar. It’s that bad and insulting to the audience. Denzel should win the Academy Award for making this stuff watchable. And, we’ll talk about him another time, because he was electric in this. Anyway, this is the only nomination that I’m…

Sarah: Downright mad about?

Doug: Ridiculous. In a heartbeat, Looper should have been up for screenplay. And we’d be left with an awesome screenplay category. Although Zero Dark Thirty, which is getting a lot of credit for being almost journalistic, is…

Sarah: Completely fabricated? I mean, I still have to see it. But you can say Zero Dark Thirty is inspired by true events in the same way Law And Order is inspired by true events.

Doug: I am a little more uncomfortable with that part of it. It, I imagine captured the general feel for how the Bin Laden hunt went down and all, maybe, kind of, sort of…

Sarah: But maybe not. There are plenty of unanswered questions about all of it for a movie to be holding itself up as being definitive in any way.

Doug: And I’m all for artistic license and all, but…

Sarah: I wonder how much thought people gave to all this when they made the nominations. Especially when it came to screenplay. Because you could watch the movie and be drawn in, and think the performances are great, but maybe not think to critically, “Hmmm, I wonder how they constructed this story, how much research did they do, where did they get their information?” And if you’re not thinking about any of that, you could argue that even if it was mostly fabricated, it could still be well written. They’re kind of saying, we snagged some infor from the New York Times, made some stuff up, and put it together. Enjoy.

Doug: And, I may be reading this wrong. But they seem to want full credit for this being a strongly “journalistic” movie, and then they don’t want to own that. They want the credit for the grittiness and realness of it. Then when somebody calls them on what isn’t…

Sarah: Isn’t real?

Doug: Right, then they just say, hey, dramatic license. Lots of movies do that, and maybe I’m being too harsh on Zero Dark Thirty in this regard.

Sarah: Compare it to Argo, for instance. Ben Affleck talked about the great freedom you have when you take a real story and then do a movie on it with the disclaimer “Based On A True Story”. You can really mess with it.

Doug: Yeah, that’s the natural comparison. I like the fact that Ben Affleck is so open about it. I know that one of the big reasons I’m probably being overly analytical about Zero Dark Thirty in this regard is that 9/11 and Bin Laden is still such a fresh wound. Because, let’s face it, the Iranian hostage crisis was a huge blow to the country, too.

Sarah: It was huge. And it’s been 30 years since it happened, but that’s still a sore spot.

Doug: But Argo takes a much, much more playful angle on its story than Zero Dark Thirty does. So, it’s easier to take that for what it is. Again, Zero Dark Thirty is still a movie, so maybe I’m being too harsh. The thing is, I liked it quite a bit.

 

And the Nominees Are . . .

That’s right, it’s Oscar season once again.  And before Doug and I launch into our now patented Oscar nominee conversations, we thought you all might like the opportunity to play along at home.  So, if you haven’t seen the complete list of nominees yet, check it out.  It is difficult to keep up with all these films so, we thought it might help our loyal readers to know which of these are available to rent or will be before Hollywood’s big night so, here’s a list of all the films available now or in the next few weeks in several of the major categories.  For some of them, we’ve even thrown in our two cents on whether to see them!

Beasts of the Southern Wild, nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress in a Leading Role, Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – Doug’s take

Flight, nominated for Actor in a Leading Role and Writing (Original Screenplay) (available on Feb. 5th) – Doug’s take

Moonrise Kingdom, nominated for Writing (Original Screenplay) – Doug’s take

There are Several films nominated in the Animated Feature Film category:

Brave – totally worth checking out, especially if you have a youngster to entertain and want to teach them that the grass is not greener on the other side and they should appreciate the family and, well everything they’ve got.

Frankenweenie Sarah’s take

ParaNorman –  Sarah’s take

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – totally rent it!  This is great fun for young’uns and adults alike and some great voice talent.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Favorites, General Film

 

Movies 2012- The Conversation Pt 3

With Oscar nominations on the horizon to discuss, we round out a somewhat random discussion of the year in movies 2012. Doug holds court on Django Unchained, Sarah welcomes Doug into the Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan club, and we both agree on what Alan Arkin might tell the Academy if he is snubbed on a best supporting actor nomination.

Doug: We’ve got to talk about Django Unchained if we’re discussing the best movies of the year. And beyond that, who would have thought that Quentin Tarantino, of all people, would make the movie that inspired the most sort of self-reflection for us as a society. I mean, Spielberg makes Lincoln, but it’s Tarantino that hits the hot buttons on race and slavery. I got into it all a bit in my review of the movie. But you’re going to have moments of uncomfortableness about what you’re liking and not liking about this movie. And what other people are laughing at, maybe a little too heartily. For me, Tarantino strikes the right balance, though, and he is really masterful in Django at steering the audience in the direction he wants them to be steered. He’s a master at that in general, but he really does it here.

Sarah: That’s true, he is a master at that. He’s obviously a master at staging violence for effect. And he’s also the best at rethinking how you present stories. In lots of different ways over the years. I haven’t seen Django yet. I was with my family over the holidays and when we were discussing which movies we should see when we were together, I flat out said I’m not going with my parents to see Django. Just not happening. But, yeah, Tarantino’s movies are always conceptual, and they always have a fresh take on how you tell the story.

Doug: Yeah, and I think Tarantino has earned his spot as the best writer, particularly of dialogue, of the great directors.

Sarah: I might disagree with you on Tarantino as the best writer of dialogue. I think I’d have to throw Kevin Smith in there. That’s all he’s really writing is dialogue. Might put him up as the best.

Doug: I always try to defer to you with respect for you Kevin Smith love, but…

Sarah: OK, I won’t try to say he’s better than Tarantino at dialogue. I just wanted to say he’s up there. For writing dialogue, Kevin Smith is up there. But they’re two completely different types of film makers, so it probably isn’t right to really compare them.

Doug: I’m not sure why this struck me so much in Django, but one of the reasons I say Tarantino is the best writer is because he so clearly loves his characters so much. For a guy who is killing so many of them off, he puts so much into them. He’s so all about the characters. Really, when you think of Tarantino’s movies, the characters are what you think about above all.

Sarah: And when you see them on screen, you completely understand them. Even the smaller characters. Obviously, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction isn’t a small role…

Doug: Well, Vincent Vega is a pretty big role.

Sarah: OK, yeah. But there were so many characters in that one that are memorable. And with Travolta, he’s so memorable that you almost forget he dies halfway through the movie, but Tarantino does the great stuff with the story where Travolta “comes back” into it. And it’s the characters that you remember from Pulp Fiction, as much as anything. John Travolta, Uma Thurman…

Doug : Samuel Jackson.

Sarah: Bruce Willis.

Doug: Don’t leave out The Gimp.

Sarah: So many more, too. And they’re all great, interesting characters.

Doug: Well, speaking of great characters, there are plenty in Django. Not the least of which is Dr. King Schultz. Man, the best supporting actor field is loaded this year, but I’d love to see Christoph Walz win again in another Tarantino movie after winning the Oscar for Inglourious Basterds. I’ve been enjoying doing my Dr. King Schultz impression around the house. So well written, especially the particularness and preciseness of the words he uses.

Sarah: I look forward to seeing it, because I have heard he is great.

Doug: In the first third to half of the movie, it’s sort of Dr. King Schultz’s show. But as the film moves along, Django and Jamie Foxx really takes over. Jamie Foxx builds to be one of the baddest asses you’ll ever see in a movie. And I don’t want to overlook the slow burn of his performance, which is key to the movie working. But, again, I give Tarantino full credit for manipulating the audience for the big payoff. Even with the violence. Almost all of the bad guy on good guy (usually white on black) violence is played very, very realistically. It’s visceral and super uncomfortable. But most of the good guy on bad guy (usually black on white) is cartoonish and over the top. You’re really cringing at the violence against the slaves. It walks right up to the line, and gets pretty edgy. Even Tarantino has said he had to pull some of it back, because it…

Sarah: Makes the audience too uncomfortable?

Doug: Yes. He talks about almost losing the audience. And not being able to get them back. In the end, this is a movie with a message, absolutely. But ultimately it’s a spaghetti western, a save the girl movie, a classic revenge film. Tarantino wants to pull the rubber band back as far as he can, so when it snaps back and you get the payoff the audience is primed to see it, and they want to see it, they want to cheer it. But you don’t want to pull the rubber band back so far that it snaps and you lose everything. I can’t speak for everybody, because I can completely understand a person who says Tarantino took things too far. But for me, he got it just right. I’d go so far as to say this is probably my second favorite Tarantino movie.

Sarah: Behind Pulp Fiction, of course.

Doug: Of course.

Sarah: Unless Tarantino puts John Travolta in another movie, and makes it like Django, you’re not going to back off that one.

Doug: You have to like that Tarantino is self-aware enough, too, to kind of no what he does well and stick to it.

Sarah: He could probably do a lot of other types of things, and do them competently, probably even very well. But he does what he does so well, it’s great that he has stayed focused.

Doug: Yeah, Django is on my top tier of movies for 2012, along with Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and probably Dark Knight Rises and even Looper. There are a lot of other good movies from this year, but those 5 stick out in my mind the most.

Sarah: I saw that you liked Looper. It’s nice to see you finally get on the Joseph Gordon-Levitt bandwagon.

Doug: I’m all about some JGL now. JGL is my guy.

Sarah: Oh, and you’ve even adopted the acronym. Even better. You’ve finally come around, even though I’ve been on JGL for a while now. It all started with Inception. I’ve told you about this and you did put me in my place about it, that JGL didn’t actually conceive of this scene, he just played it. But such a great scene. The scene where they’re in the second level of the dream…

Doug: Oh, yeah, Inception. I loved it, even if I still don’t understand much of it.

Sarah: JGL has to figure out how to pull them from the second level to the third level. But on the first level, they’re literally dropping from bridges. There’s no gravity. So, JGL has to figure out what to do. He’s turning the room, he’s on the ceiling, fighting. Then he figures out how to tie his compatriots up, put them in an elevator, then blow everything up so the elevator plummets and they can get to the next level. JGL nailed that entire sequence. He just jumped to a whole new category for me in that movie, and that scene in particular. I knew from there that this guy could do some really awesome stuff. And that’s where I started my “They should put Joseph Gordon-Levitt in every movie” stance.

Doug: Maybe the reason I didn’t latch onto JGL then is because I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it even after you just explained it to me. Inception was much more about a concept and style, I thought, than so much the acting. Even in Looper, the concepts are big.

Sarah: Well, we talked earlier about actors that are good at picking cool films and attaching themselves to good quality. He’s picking cool films and he’s getting the opportunities to be in them. Even in Dark Knight, he has some moments but he’s not incredibly strong in it.

Doug: Yup, I thought he was sort of just there in Dark Knight.

Sarah: Gary Oldman in that movie, as always, did more with less than just about anybody. But JGL has his moments. Particularly when he’s telling Batman without telling him that he knows who he is, or near the end when he’s helping take down the bad guys.

Doug: He has his moments. Although I have to say I’m not sure as Dark Knight Rises ended I was thinking, “I can’t wait to see a ‘Robin’ series with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin.” You just don’t. As opposed to Christian Bale, who was a brilliant Batman. I still wasn’t a JGL convert at that point. Even in Looper, I’m not going to say…

Sarah (laughing): That he should be in every movie? He’s already in a lot, with lots of different types of roles. Lincoln, Looper, 50/50, Batman, several others. He’s able to play lots of different roles.

Doug: I’ll say this, I used to think JGL and Shia Labeouf were pretty much the same guy. But definitely not now. I’m not sure I think Labeouf should be in anything. But I’m happy to see more JGL.

Sarah: And can I say that a lot of my JGL love has to do with his involvement in several small films and projects supporting civil liberties. So, just a few extra points for his cred. He did one where he was pointing out that you have rights to take photos and video of the police at things like protests at the political conventions. They aren’t allowed to take your camera as long as you’re not interfering with them.

Doug: And I would imagine if you’re a Hollywood hotshot walking up to them with your camera, that would be less of a problem than if you’re just some ham and egger from Haw River, NC doing it.

Sarah (laughing): Yes, and Gordon-Levitt was trying to let people know that they have rights. So, bonus points to him for apparently being a cool guy on top of his acting ability.

Doug: Points to him for that, for sure. So, maybe we’ll both do specific year end rankings elsewhere, but for me my top tier of movies would probably be some combination of Django, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty and Dark Knight Rises. Haven’t seen Amour yet, which is promising.

Sarah: And for me, it would be something like Skyfall, Paranorman and even The Hobbit.

Doug: I’ll say this, too. To pick a random movie, I liked Argo quite a lot, but I doubt it would make my top 10, or maybe even top 15, of the year. That’s how strong a year it was this year. And take Argo and throw it into last year’s movie crop, and it might be top 3 or 4.

Sarah: Well, I liked Argo probably more than you did. So, I definitely agree that it would have been one of the movies of the year last year. But I thought Affleck did a great job with Argo, especially with the suspense of the finish of it all. Argo is no Tinker, Tailor, as a comparison, but I’d put it right there on my second tier for this year.

Doug: Well, yeah, Argo is no Tinker, Tailor. Argo is quite a bit more fluffy than Tinker, Tailor. But going back one last time to the strength in the supporting actor category, Alan Arkin could win for one or two line readings in Argo. One of them was one word—“Taco”. The other was the always to be remembered…

Sarah: Argo f**k yourself?

Doug: Argo f**k yourself. If Arkin doesn’t win an Oscar, that’s what he should tell the Academy.

Sarah: You’re right, though, Argo would be ranked much higher in past years than it would be this year. I mean, I don’t know if I’d rank it higher than that black and white movie from last year, I can’t remember the name of it.

Doug: If you can’t remember the name of it, Argo is probably better than it. I think you’re thinking of The Artist?

Sarah (laughing): Yeah, if I can’t remember it, maybe it wasn’t that great, although I’m not sure I’ll remember Argo a year from now, either. For straight entertainment value, though, you can’t argue too much with Argo. Say what you will about it, Argo is well paced, it moves.

Doug: Yes, it does move. And you throw out there sheer entertainment value. I love Life of Pi. It’s really entertaining in its own right. But part of what I love about it is what it represents and the fact that a movie with a nice, simple message like that can still win us over.

Sarah: Yeah.

Doug: And Life of Pi is right up there. But for sheer entertainment, getting the juices flowing, and watching a movie for the love of movies, I might have to go Django as my favorite. If you think Django crosses too many lines, or you think using slavery is too sacrosanct of subject matter to use as the center piece of a cartoonish, spaghetti western revenge flick, I can respect that. But I am with it. And say what you will about it all. If you’re going to do revenge movies, can you think of two groups of people that you’d love to see get their comeuppance more than Nazis and slave owners. You’ve got to give Tarantino that. He does know how to pick his bad guys. Oh, and by the way, my name is Doug. The “O” is silent.

Sarah: And I’m Sarah. The “H” is silent.

 
 

Movies 2012- The Conversation Part 2

Here’s part 2 of our generally pretty random conversation about movies in 2012, where we get into Zero Dark Thirty, the Bond franchise, and even touch a bit on what a good year it was for stop motion films.

Sarah: What do we do with all the good movies of 2012? Are we going to be able to rank them in some sort of order?

Doug: I don’t know if I can do a real order this year. There is probably a good top 20-25, but can I put them in a real order? It’s tough. Like, I just saw Zero Dark Thirty, probably the best reviewed movie of the year. And, for me, well first of all are you going to go see that? I know you’ve said you have mixed feelings about seeing it.

Sarah: I don’t know, there’s two things working against me seeing it, at least until it’s nominated for an Oscar. First, the concept of it all is not necessarily something I’d want to see. And, second, the previews for it don’t make it look all that great. Remember Crazy Heart? That had the opposite problem. Great previews, not so good movie. I think you said Crazy Heart would get an Oscar for previews. But, it sort of stunk. Zero Dark Thirty, the previews are making it look kind of bad.

Doug: For me, having seen it, I may have been too swayed by the overwhelmingly fawning reviews. This is a really, really good movie. But with all the gushing, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “it’s not as good as everyone says it is” trap. Because it’s a great movie. But I know you’ve said you weren’t sure about how you’d feel about watching it considering the subject matter. Having seen it, your concerns are spot on. There have been a lot of movies made over the years based on real events that tweaked the truth a bit for dramatic affect. But for most Americans, there is probably no story more important or emotional over the last few decades than 9/11. And even though this is just about the hunt for Bin Laden aspect of 9/11 and not so much 9/11 itself, it still colors the way you watch Zero Dark Thirty. I mean, this movie is nothing if not riveting. If it weren’t a true story, you’d be sucked in totally. But you do find yourself wondering, “I wonder if this really happened this way?” and…

Sarah: And how would they know? Most of this stuff still has to be classified. How much of it could they really know they have right?

Doug: Yeah, and unfortunately before seeing it, I read enough conflicting information even about the Jessica Chastain lead character, she being the CIA officer that doggedly chases Bin Laden for years. Some things indicate areas where the film makers didn’t portray her correctly, and some reports even suggest that she isn’t even a she in real life. So, all of this does sort of cloud how you watch the film unfold.

Sarah: It’s got to be a fictionalized thing. And it’s interesting, in a way, to be able to do it in an effective way. Sort of cobble together true information and maybe some things you’ve got to fictionalize. But I do wonder how much I want to buy it or watch as a “true” version of events.

Doug: It’s a great movie to watch purely as a procedural. And even kind of as a pure workplace story, where Jessica Chastain’s character almost starts to be regarded as out there and delusional in her hunt for this one guy. In a lot of ways, the country itself had move on from Bin Laden. The movie portrays the CIA as not devoting as many resources to Bin Laden.

Sarah: He’s barely even relevant at a certain point. Some nice themes you’re talking about here. In some ways, kind of similar to Skyfall, the Bond movie.

Doug: We have to talk about that. With Zero Dark Thirty, as great as it is, I wonder if anything could be as edge of your seat, literally actually, as the famous photo of President Obama and Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton and others sitting there watching the actual raid. No fictionalized account can really make you grasp the seriousness of all of it as that one photo.

Sarah: Yes, just the looks on their faces is something I think you can’t help but be grabbed by. And for a movie to try to match that, it’s tough. And top of trying to do it at all, to try to do it so close on the heels of it actually happening makes it even tougher. How much of the information on what really happen is even non-classified right now. Think about how long it took for the information that Argo was based on to declassify.

Doug: Good point. It’s interesting, because I think part of this movie being made so close in time after the actual events says a lot about how quickly we are moving now as a society, how quickly we’re ready for a movie version of this.

Sarah: Well, and one big reason why I’m a little bit reluctant about seeing Zero Dark Thirty is that I’m not convinced I am ready to watch it. Maybe the rest of the country is, but I’m not sure I am. If I can convince myself purely that this is a fictionalized version of these events, then maybe it would be more acceptable to me to just say, “OK, I’m watching a movie here”, and that’s how I’d view it.

Doug: The problem is, intellectually you can tell yourself that, but you can’t always keep the thoughts about what is real and what isn’t from creeping in.

Sarah: Yeah. The whole time you’d be naturally questioning “is that how that happened?” or “was that person really like that?”. And what are they leaving out, and what are they embellishing?

Doug: It’s ultimately a 2 hour movie, so Kathryn Bigelow had to make choices. You’d likely be more interested in reading an exhaustive 500 page book about it all.

Sarah (laughing): You’d be more interested in reading a 500 page book about it.

Doug: Let’s talk about some more stuff. I know you really liked Skyfall. I did, too, so let’s discuss the return of Bond.

Sarah: I did like Skyfall. Probably in my top 5 for the year. One of the ways I judge how much I like a movie is to ask myself if I’d buy it on DVD when it comes out. And I would buy Skyfall. And let me just say I’ve already purchased Paranorman. That one is already in my house.

Doug: Is Paranorman your movie of the year?

Sarah: It might be close. But let’s go back to Skyfall.

Doug: Can I just say that another guy I really want to see with a nomination this year is Javier Bardem for Skyfall?

Sarah (laughing): His role is so bizarre in that movie. It seems like one of the themes we’ve developed is things are coming in twos. And there are two things about Bardem in Skyfall. The first is that he’s so not the typical Bond villain, at least I didn’t think so. The second thing is, he wasn’t even necessarily the major conflict in the film, which might be part of why I don’t think of him as a typical Bond villain.

Doug: That’s an interesting take, because one of the things I really liked about him is that I thought he actually was a bit of a throwback to some of the older Bond villain types.

Sarah: Well, I think you’re thinking he might be more like a SPECTRE type villain, the guy with the cat, Bardem had a little of that going on.

Doug: Bardem himself said he put a little of the guy who played Jaws in Moonraker, Richard Kiel I think was the guy’s name. The guy with the big grill of teeth. Which was great. And of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, this one was the most throwback-y, with a little tiny bit of cartoonish-ness here and there, even.

Sarah: Well, what they seemed to be trying to do when they rebooted Bond back around Casino Royale the Bourne movies were big, so there was a bit of a shadow there. And you had the Batman movies out there, too. And they were going for a grittier feel with Bond, with all those types of movies. But I don’t think they banked on how much people just kind of wanted their old, standby kind of Bond. Where maybe they were doing too much copying when Bond doesn’t need to copy.

Doug: And you’re taking a pretty big risk if you try to kind of copy, or at least take too much from, other movie franchises. Because you’re probably not going to be able to exactly duplicate what makes that other stuff good.

Sarah: Right, and now you’re getting grief for two things. One, you’re not a real Bond movie. And, you’re not as good as this other stuff you’re kind of trying to be like. I didn’t really think it was a smart move. It might be just one perspective, but I missed the old Bond style. But I’m someone who is willing to defend the Brosnan years.

Doug: Sure. I think Pierce Brosnan was a great Bond.

Sarah: He was a great Bond. Even if some of the Brosnan Bond movies were crap, he was still a great Bond.

Doug: Yes. I think Daniel Craig is a great Bond.

Sarah: I think he is now. But, honestly, after his first two efforts I was not convinced.

Doug: Really? That’s interesting.

Sarah: In fairness to Daniel Craig, I’m not sure it wasn’t that he was bad in Casino Royale, it was more that he was given a role that wasn’t actually Bond. He was given a role that was more like Bourne. You could say the same thing, in a way, about the latest Bourne, The Bourne Legacy. I like my Jeremy Renner, and there was some pretty good stuff there, but it’s not a Bourne movie. And they were trying to make Daniel Craig be like Bourne. But he’s supposed to be Bond. He needs his one liners, he needs his Bond girls. This isn’t supposed to be as deep of a character as they were making Daniel Craig play him. Where was the wit.

Doug: The scene in Skyfall that was classic for that, I thought, was when Bardem has Bond tied up and is getting, shall we say, a little frisky with him. And Daniel Craig plays it completely cool, with a little glimmer in his eye and says, “How do you this…”

Sarah: “Isn’t my first time?” That’s what I’m talking about. A great Bond line.

Doug: And can I say that the costume designer for Skyfall deserves to win an Academy Award purely on the basis of the orthopedic Velcro shoes the designer gives Bardem to sport.

Sarah (laughing): The Double Velcro orthopedic shoes! They were double Velcro. With what appeared to be some sort of janitorial suit on, as well.

Doug (laughing): Oh, my God. It’s gold.

Sarah: And combine it with the weird yellow hair that was just horrible. I don’t even…

Doug: All I know is I wanted more Bardem. That’s all I can tell you about Skyfall.

Sarah: But it’s Bardem with Bond that works.

Doug: You’re right.

Sarah: You can’t have it all work without Bond on the screen with Bardem.

Doug: For sure. But, of course, Bond is on the screen the entire time.

Sarah: Much of the time with no shirt on.

Doug: We can’t overlook that.

Sarah: Just have to lay that out there for the ladies.

Doug: Or the gentlemen, as the case may be.

Sarah: The Javier Bardem-esque gentlemen, apparently. They finally got it right for Daniel Craig with this Bond movie. I was totally all about when “Q” came on the scene. I was all about it. The perfect way to recharge Bond. Have the geek-y computer nerd sitting next to the old school Bond in his suit. That scene summed up for me the point of where they’re going with Bond now. There’s the old and the new and how Bond is going to make it all work. I loved it.

Doug: Paranorman, you loved it.

Sarah: Loved it. The stop motion, I’ll just do a list because it was a good year for stop motion. You had Paranorman, Frankenweenie, and even one I never reviewed but should have, Pirates: Band of Misfits.

Doug: We didn’t see Wreck It Ralph.

Sarah: No, we didn’t. I did see Brave, the Disney offering of the year. A lot of good stuff there. Some good archery in that one, another theme of the year with Hunger Games and its archery.

Doug: Are you a fan of archers?

Sarah: No, I’m not. But my nephew did get a bow and arrow for Christmas, and I was down in the basement trying to teach him how to use it.

Doug: Remind me to wear my protective gear when I’m around your nephew. Wait a minute, YOU were teaching your nephew how to arch? Maybe I need to wear protective gear around you.

Sarah: You might want to consider it.

 
 

The Hobbit: Three Hours of Awesome

Yeah, I know The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey opened almost a month ago and I am, once again, a little late on the draw, but it has come to my attention that upwards of a dozen people in North America have not yet seen this movie so this one is for them.  I, like many of you no doubt, spent much of the last few weeks visiting friends and family over the holidays and I got several questions about The Hobbit and whether is was worth seeing.  For example, my sister asked if it was “another movie about walking”?  She was referencing a, I’ll call it, notorious rant from none other than Kevin Smith about the Lord of the Rings trilogy in which he demonstrated the plot of the movie by taking a few steps on stage during “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2, Evening Harder” and then taking off his wedding ring and throwing it on the carpet near the mike.  This rant would later go on to be featured in Clerks 2.  I do enjoy Kevin Smith, but I have to disagree with his assessment of the Rings trilogy; saying that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is about walking is like saying any Kevin Smith movie is about talking.  A lot of the characters do a lot of talking, but the movies aren’t about talking, they just feature talking.  So, if you change the question to, is this another film that features a lot of walking, the answer is yes, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.

First off, the film just looks amazing.  Peter Jackson has brought Middle-earth to life and, if it is possible, it is even more beautiful in this prequel to the Rings trilogy which is supposed to take place 60 years before Frodo makes his journey to Mount Doom.  Bilbo, still a relatively young hobbit, is hand-picked by Gandalf the Gray, a wizard to accompany him and a troop of dwarves on an adventure.  Adventures, in Middle-earth, almost always requiring a lot of walking, but this one also involves a visit with elves, treacherous fighting mountains, orks, and let us not forget the trolls.  And this adventure is not just a relaxing gamble about in the back woods, no Bilbo has been identified by Gandalf as very necessary in the endeavor to reclaim the dwarves’ home in the Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the dragon.  Yeah, that’s as far into the plot as I’m going to go, but there are plenty of different themes running throughout the book and film for anyone to enjoy.  My personal favorite is the idea that young Bilbo has always been respectable, never going on any adventures and never truly knowing what he is capable of – and he is capable of greatness!  Loyalty, cunning, mercy and what home means are also lovely themes to think about in The Hobbit, but I’m not here to get all deep on you.  I’ll leave that kind of thing to Doug.  All I’m here for is to tell you if the movie is good or not and this one is great, especially if you’re a fan of the book or the Rings trilogy.

The Hobbit looks even better than the Lord of the Rings movies did, if that is possible.  Rivendell is especially stunning and the dwarves are played to perfection.  The orks are suitably nasty and brutish and the fight scenes are tremendous, but the heart of this movie is, of course, Bilbo and Martin Freeman plays him to perfection.  Bilbo is just the rights amount of trepidatious, eventually throwing caution to the wind in order to join the travelling Company as their thief – because every adventure needs a thief – and Freeman brings a nice balanced sense of humor to the role that makes this hobbit absolutely endearing.  You root for him from the beginning.  Between the dwarves and the trolls, there are plenty of laughs in the movie too.  While in the book, the scene with the trolls is actually pretty tense, in the movie it is played almost entirely for laughs, but the comic relief was well placed.

I will admit that I think making The Hobbit in three parts and releasing it over the next several years as Jackson is planning to do has ticked me off.  In an effort to placate me, Doug reminded me that at the end of the day, I’ll have nine hours of amazing movie to watch and I won’t be ticked then, but I still say it is kind of a dick move to make a 300 page book into three separate movies and this brings me to my one and only criticism of the movie.  It is a long movie, almost three hours.  Not that at any point it felt long, but that speaks more to the beauty of the film than anything else.  The 3D, while not strictly necessary helped give Middle-earth depth and lend a quality of wonder to wandering through the woods and clamoring through goblin tunnels and then there was, of course, the precious.  Bilbo and Gollum play a game to determine whether Gollum will help Bilbo or eat him.  Again, Freeman plays this scene perfectly with just the right amount of humor and Gollum looks even more real and expressive than he did in the trilogy.  Andy Serkis described Gollum in this movie as the young and sexy Gollum, but he is far from that.  He is manic and frightening.  Bilbo, in obtaining the one ring from Gollum must be both crafty and daring and he learns through that experience, first winning the ring and then sparing Gollum’s life, exactly what he is made of.  It is exactly this daring and empathy that Bilbo discovers in himself that allows him to risk his own life to save the leader of his Company.  I can’t wait to see what the next film will bring us.  Tricksy hobbitses, indeed.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Reviews

 

Movies 2012–The Conversation Part 1

Before the Oscars get here, we offer a pretty decent, and at times pretty random, break down of the year in movies. At least as we see it. Here’s Part 1. Enjoy, or at least tolerate. Thanks for your time…

Doug: What did we think of 2012 as a movie year in general?

Sarah: I thought it was a good year, although I’m not sure I thought it was as good as you thought it was. I would say it was probably a pretty good year for Oscar contenders. I’m a little more about the bigger, epic movies, the super hero stuff, The Hobbit type movies. And there weren’t quite as many of those this year. It was a great year for stop motion movies, which I love, so that was good.

Doug: For me, I don’t think I can say 2012 was a year of all-time great, classic movies. But there were so many very good movies that I think made 2012 really good. We have this list of movies in front of us that we saw this year, and the list is longer than usual and is almost totally filled with stuff I enjoyed. I could probably list a good 20 movies that I liked, which is pretty unusual and definitely better than the last couple of years. So, how do we start? I forgot The Hunger Games was a 2012 movie.

Sarah: There you go. Certainly one I liked better than you did, the type of movie I like to see that we didn’t have quite as much of in 2012. You’re right, though, there was a lot of good stuff this year when you look at year end lists. And I think you have to be fair to The Hunger Games and remember that it’s just the first part of a trilogy. But I know we differed on what we thought of it, and folks can go back to our dueling reviews from early in the year if they want to revisit that.

Doug: I’ll tell you what, how about in 5 years when you get me The Hunger Games trilogy on closeout DVD from Ollie’s, I’ll sit down and watch it.

Sarah: And it will all come together for you.

Doug: One thing that I can say was great about The Hunger Games was Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. What an awesome year all the way around for her. We’ll get to some other actors who had great years, too. But she was brilliant in Silver Linings Playbook. She is on an absolute roll. So, Jennifer Lawrence… Go.

Sarah: Well, she kicked it off big with Winter’s Bone, the movie that really put her on everybody’s radar. A lot of pressure to keep it up. Agreed that she was great in The Hunger Games. I know you loved her in Silver Linings, I thought she was more just OK in that. Not bad, not great. Not to suggest that you or I thought either one of them was bad in the movie, but I thought Bradley Cooper was better in Silver Linings than maybe you thought he was.

Doug: That’s fair. I think we’re both splitting hairs, and we both liked each performance, but…

Sarah: For me, Jennifer Lawrence had a bit of an easier role to play. She was mostly able to just play more out there the whole movie. Whereas Bradley Cooper had to be a little more nuanced. There were sections where he was really losing his shit, but he had to play the role of the guy trying to gain control, too, and that for me is a harder thing to pull off. Maybe it could be easier if he was playing a split personality, but he had to make all the sides into a coherent whole. And I thought he did it really, really well.

Doug: You know, I liked Cooper in the role and to be fair to him, maybe one of the things that distracted me from the performance is that he’s just such a pretty man.

Sarah: Maybe that’s why I liked the performance better because I don’t really find him a pretty man at all.

Doug: Now, I mean pretty in a complimentary way, by the way, since pretty might not come off as a big compliment for a guy.

Sarah (laughs): I get it, and I also don’t want to demean Mr. Cooper. He is a perfectly decent looking man.

Doug: I don’t want to get too negative about him, either, because mostly in the stuff I’ve seen him, he’s been fine. I shouldn’t make it about him, but one of the things that bothers me a little is that a guy like him can do so many blah movies and keep getting chances to finally hit, like he does with Silver Linings. That I’m fine with. But we were talking about Jennifer Lawrence. And I think we both know that if she had made a series of just sort of decent movies like Bradley Cooper did, as a young female actress she wouldn’t keep getting big second chances. She has to keep being great. Again, I’m not knocking Bradley Cooper, I like him just fine. I guess I’m hating on the game, not the player.

Sarah: We’ve talked about George Clooney in the past. And you were saying that he had the same sorts of chances. And look where he is now. You’ve talked about how Clooney is as good a chooser of roles as he is an actor. And maybe there’s the same sort of thing developing with Bradley Cooper, where he is good at putting himself in the right spots. But you still have to play the role. You can’t stink, I don’t think, in the roles you’re playing and keep getting chances.

Doug: Speaking of actors having good years, how about our guy Matthew McConaughey?

Sarah: Good segue, because Matthew McConaughey also reminds me of George Clooney in a way. Whereas George Clooney is often just George Clooney playing a role, it’s the same with Matthew McConaughey a lot of the time. It’s Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer, and the same Matthew McConaughey as a male strip club owner.

Doug: That’s true, but put McConaughey as McConaughey in the correct role, and it comes out as genius. His over the top, cartoonish Texas justice sheriff in Bernie was just right on the money.

Sarah: And some have pushed Jack Black as a fringe Oscar contender for that movie.

Doug: A pretty decent little movie, and Jack Black was spot on in it. And McConaughey was great in a smaller role there. But come on, McConaughey in Magic Mike? Genius in casting and acting. Why can’t a role like that get a nomination? Part of me says that they should do what they’re doing with Best Picture with all the categories. Not every year has multiple great performances, for example, but if a year is a really good one and they want to nominate more than 5 actors or actresses in a category, why can’t they. McConaughey deserves a nom for Magic Mike, and I’d love to see him onstage performing “Ladies of Tampa” as a best song nominee. What other songs, other than the Les Miserables stuff, do you remember from a movie. And, yeah, as for the nominations, if there are 3 good performances in a given year, nominate 3 people. If there are 20 good performances, nominate 20 people.

Sarah: Well, I’m putting out Jack White for Paranorman for best song. You know I love me some Jack White. Or Bruce Springsteen. I just wanted to say Bruce Springsteen. Why does a song have to be specifically written for a movie to be nominated, anyway? Just pick the best songs.

Doug: They’re not going to just pick the best songs. I’m still bitter from 1977 when the Bee Gee’s got snubbed on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. What sort of world do we live in?

Sarah: It’s crap, Doug.

Doug: I’ll never get over it. Speaking of songs, Les Miserables. Here’s where I ask the question I’ve been dying to ask. You are someone who has been involved in the theater, so what is up with your steadfast, almost antagonistic, stance against seeing Les Mis.

Sarah (laughing, and adjusting in her seat, as if preparing for a fight): Well, there are two reasons.

Doug (also adjusting in his seat, settling in for this one): I’ve been waiting for this.

Sarah: We’ve discussed this before. Generally speaking, I don’t want to go out of my way to see a movie that I know ahead of time is going to be horribly depressing. Just not how I want to spend my spare time. Alright?

Doug: OK.

Sarah: I read the book and, yep, it was horribly depressing.

Doug: I didn’t know anybody actually read the book. I thought people just saw the musical.

Sarah: Yeah, I read it at some point. Although, actually, I’m willing to bet money that there were sections of it I skipped. Because everybody just dies in it.

Doug: OK, that makes more sense. You didn’t really read it. What’s your second reason for not seeing the movie?

Sarah: Because I saw the musical, and it was even more horribly depressing. It was just a musical version of everybody dying.

Doug: I can’t really argue with a line of reasoning that says you’ve read the book the movie is based on, seen the stage musical the movie is based on, and hated them both, so therefore you won’t go see the movie. Pretty solid logic.

Sarah: Well, you and I commit to seeing as many of the Oscar nominated films as we can, so if it gets nominations, I will likely end up seeing it. But seeing it because I think I would enjoy it is not really on my radar. I don’t want to pay to be depressed.

Doug: I’d say you made the right choice skipping it. I was intrigued to see it, and was in the right mood to see it. I wanted to like it. But it missed on too many levels. I’m all for giving credit to sincerity of effort in anything, but I didn’t love the fact that with a couple of exceptions (Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks) the singing in a movie that was 100% about the music was not up to a professional level. Not to mention, the emotional punch, which for better or worse is the whole point of Les Mis, was sometimes there and sometimes not. It was so hit or miss overall. I’d love to see Hathaway and Barks get nominations. Anne Hathaway was sheer genius in this movie. There’s no way around it, and I actually found myself feeling sorry for any actors having to play a scene with her. She was that good.

Sarah: And some of the others can sing. Like Hugh Jackman. He can sing. But I hear what you’re saying, that you don’t necessarily want to subject yourself to whatever some of the others, like I’ve heard Russell Crowe was tough to sit through.

Doug: Even Hugh Jackman. He was fine. But if I’m going to watch a movie built around singing, fine really isn’t good enough.

Sarah: Having seen the “making of” vignettes, it seemed like they were taking some big risks with the way they did this one. And, like you say, respect has to be given to the effort. But if you’re left with a million closeups on Hugh Jackman’s face while he sometimes just says his lines in a sing song way instead of properly singing them, it may not come off.  And you told me that one of the problems you had with it was that it dragged at times. So, that all factors in with why I wouldn’t want to see it. It’s going to go on and on, and it’s so damned depressing. Everybody keeps dropping dead.

Doug: I sort of feel like we’re talking too much about a movie that doesn’t really deserve a ton of conversation. It wasn’t even really that depressing. It was just too often boring, and lacked a sense of place, both physically and historically. It didn’t stick.

Sarah: Ultimately, it’s a weird thing to try to do a story where everybody dies, and a huge war is about to break out, that is supposed to kind of still be uplifting. You’re invested in all of these characters, and they keep dropping.

Doug: We could probably have a debate about how the movie could have been done to make it uplifting, but it wasn’t done that way. It was just sort of blah mostly. So, I agree with you. But sticking to one of our themes. It was a great year for Anne Hathaway. Incredible in Les Mis, also awesome in Dark Knight Rises. Which is a movie that is going to end up sadly overlooked in this pretty good year. I liked that movie a lot, one of my favorites of the year. Christian Bale is always too taken for granted with what he’s done as Batman.

Sarah: Did you always think of Anne Hathaway as a bit of a lightweight as an actress?

Doug: I will confess, yes. But not anymore.

Sarah: She was good this year, and those two roles were very, very different. A lot of range there.

Doug: Here’s where I’m torn, though. As much as we loved Hathaway, I think we’re in agreement that we want to see Amy Adams win a best supporting Oscar for The Master.

Sarah: And some people are calling her the long shot now. Which kind of pisses me off, because you know that Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both going to get nominated. If Amy Adams doesn’t at least get nominated, I’m going to be mad!

Doug: If she doesn’t at least get nominated, we’ll have an hour long discussion simply about that. Maybe the best performance of the year, in any category. Somehow they seem to be weaseling Hoffman into the Best Supporting category.

Sarah: They have. And he deserves to be in Best Actor. Flat out.

Doug: Agreed. The more I think about The Master, the more I think somebody completely different would have been better in the Joaquin Phoenix role.

Sarah: Absolutely. In fact, let’s throw Matthew McConaughey in that role.

Doug (laughs). Yeah. McConaughey. So, at the end instead of having Hoffman singing “Slow Boat To China” to Phoenix, we could have McConaughey wind things up by singing “Ladies of Tampa” and then sliding over and grinding a little on Amy Adams sitting in that chair. Loosen her up a little.

Sarah: Perfect ending to The Master. You know? Imagine McConaughey playing that role. In all seriousness, I can see him playing it in a way that really could have made more sense to the role and the character. Essentially all we had with Joaquin Phoenix was an actor doing actor-y exercises.

Doug: And I want to watch a movie. I mean, if somebody wanted to record his performance and play it for acting class, OK, I guess.

Sarah: His performance were the types of exercises that actors literally do before they go on stage or perform. So, I guess I can see why other actors would vote for him and praise the performance. It’s the kind of stuff other actors just loooove. They lap it up. Phoenix could even win it, and that would be another one that would just make me mad.

Doug: If it makes you feel better, I’d be mad, too. I did hear somebody say that one of the reasons they are pushing The Master is because they felt that it was movie you’d remember in 20 years as opposed to say, Life of Pi. Which I suppose is true, but probably not for the right reasons. And I loved Life of Pi.

Sarah: Speaking of performances, one of your nominations for Best Supporting Actor is Richard in Life of Pi, right?

Doug: Yes, if we are in agreement that Amy Adams has to win for Best Supporting Actress, then Richard Parker (playing himself) deserves to be the first tiger decked out in a tuxedo for Oscar night, too. Life of Pi sticks out, of for no other reason, because it’s just such a nice movie, with a pretty straight ahead, simple message that it might be nice for people to grab onto in an increasingly cynical, over analytical world. Plus, what Ang Lee does with 3D in this movie should be an absolute model for other film makers to follow. This is absolute genius visually.

Sarah: It was a great looking movie, #1. A good use of 3D. And if you think about the way that it would have had to have been made. I mean, that was a kid on a boat in front of one of those big blue screens. I love your Richard Parker nomination, but as we both know, he wasn’t even real. The directing and the performance of Suraj Sharma are what the entire movie hinge upon. Ang Lee has this elaborate vision that he has to transfer to the screen and that kid had to react to a non-existent tiger to put together his performance. Suraj Sharma won’t get a nomination, but he darn sure deserves one for the skill it took to make that role so powerful and real in a fake atmosphere. He’s out there by himself in a really, really tough role to play.  My two cents on Life of Pi is that it’s a really good movie carried by Ang Lee and Suraj Sharma.

Doug: If you think Life of Pi deserves nominations, and obviously we both do believe that, you’re right, they both should get nominated. Ang Lee really, really continues to impress with the breadth of range he has as a director. He is approaching genius levels.