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Movies 2012–The Conversation Part 1

08 Jan

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.

 

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