In part 3 of this year’s Oscar convos, Sarah and Doug make their peace (sort of) with Zero Dark Thirty, Sarah reveals (maybe) her favorite of the Best Picture nominees, and Doug is revealed (or not) as possibly being a cranky party pooper.
Doug: Well, I don’t think either of us has gotten in the right mood to watch Amour yet.
Sarah: It does seem to be a bit of a downer, although I did read a review of it in Rolling Stone. Of course, I don’t know if it ever really played around here.
Doug: More curses to the demise of the beloved Galaxy Theater. It’s a tough one to say you’re just going to sit down and mindlessly watch it on a Saturday. Being subtitled, you actually have to…
Sarah: Pay attention to it? Well, to keep the Zero Dark Thirty conversation going, I read an interesting article with Kathryn Bigelow and the writer guy, whatever his name is.
Doug: Mark Boale?
Sarah: Sure. Well done, Doug. Anyway, they were saying what we were talking about, that the Maya character wasn’t one person, but for Boale he wanted to make the character a woman because there were so many women involved in the process that he wanted to emphasize that. He said he was struck by just how many women were in a lead role during the search for Bin Laden. And also, they were saying how originally the movie was going to be about a failed attempt to capture Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but in the middle of scouting for locations they got him. So they had to basically start all over.
Doug: Yeah, I had seen that. Kathryn Bigelow was sort of like, crap, this is one of the biggest stories of our generation. We get the guy, so who’s going to want to see the movie about us not getting him? Like you said, start it all over.
Sarah: I also saw Kathryn Bigelow on Stephen Colbert addressing the torture conversation. She was saying that the point of the movie was that they didn’t get the key information from torture, that they ended up getting the key information out of a file, and that information had been there all along. Which is interesting, because I wouldn’t think the connection would have been made to the “found” file without the information that got about the Bin Laden messenger guy from some of the tortured people in the beginning of the movie. Seemed like Kathryn Bigelow was putting forth a pretty liberal interpretation of her own movie.
Doug: Hmmm. I see what you’re saying. It seemed to me that the movie was trying to throw out the idea that a lot of pieces of information came from a lot of different places and through several different methods. And, on top of it all, some of the key breaks came through pure luck. A lot of a viewer’s interpretation, I think, is exactly how much information the viewer thinks certain methods actually produced. But I definitely didn’t think the movie was trying to say that torture had nothing to do with it, I agree with you on that.
Sarah: And Kathryn Bigelow’s point was that they were absolutely not trying to make the case for the detainee program. They only wanted to acknowledge that the program took place, so they couldn’t just ignore it. Which I think is probably pretty fair.
Doug: We’ve talked a lot about Zero Dark Thirty in our conversations. And I’ve kind of softened up on the whole over analysis of the politics of it. I enjoyed the movie a lot and, as for the torture, yeah would it have been better if they had just pretended it never happened?
Sarah: And that’s kind of what Bigelow and Boale were saying. They were saying they had to acknowledge the detainee program’s existence. Now I will say that I thought they put an awful lot of emphasis on it in the movie, and I thought maybe they put too much emphasis on it. But I guess if, at the end of the day, their point was to start a conversation about the detainee program and how long it lasted, etc, I’d probably say that the way they handled it in the movie was probably as good a way as any.
Doug: One problem is that in a movie like that, the amount of screen time you give to any one method used to get information at least gives the suggestion to how important the film makers thought each method was. So, when they come out after the fact and make their arguments, it doesn’t make the arguments invalid, but what they put on the screen is what they put on the screen. At times, the movie got a little bit unfocused and the viewer was left lurching around a little bit as to what methods were producing what. Even the politics that were going on, the changing tides against the detainee program and whatnot. They were touched on, but they weren’t always focused on quite as clearly as I thought they could have been.
Sarah: Although the one scene where the male agent decided he needed to go home, and he was talking about the changing politics, and he said, “Be careful, you don’t want to be the last one holding the dog collar.” That was pretty telling there.
Doug: That’s a good point. And, to be fair, while I would have liked a little more detail here and there, it’s still a movie and you still have to have some dramatic license. I doubt, for example, that the “found” file happened exactly like that, with some low level staffer finding something in the back of a file cabinet. But something like that surely happened, so if it’s not portrayed exactly correctly, it’s fine. So, if Bigelow and Boale want to say they weren’t endorsing any one method, I buy it. I felt like the movie threw it all up against the wall and said, there’s no real science to this. You take the information and find it any way you can. But, hey, in the end I still like the movie the same. It was very good, not at the tip top of my list, though.
Sarah: I’m with you, it was a very good thriller, if nothing else.
Doug: I’ve been bumming a bit that The Dark Knight Rises didn’t get more end of year and awards love. We’ve talked about how good a year 2012 was, so I get it, but Dark Knight was right up there as one of my top 3 of the year. But it’s not on the Oscar list, so I don’t want to go off too much about it.
Sarah: It was certainly better than Les Miserables. But alright to you on your Dark Knight love. Let’s talk some Silver Linings Playbook. This isn’t the weightiest of movies, but as far as just being an enjoyable film, it’s right up there for me. You definitely feel good when you leave the movie theater. And of all the Best Picture nominees, that’s probably the only true feel good movie on the list. You’re not skipping and whistling out of too many of the others.
Doug: I’m with you on that. None of the other movies have the champagne wishes and caviar dreams feel that Silver Linings has. You can’t say it’s not a nice feeling movie. You might say it’s a little too cotton candyish in the way it deals with some pretty serious issues. That is, if you want to overanalyze, as I often do.
Sarah: The problem was more how neatly tied up the story was at the end. I don’t think you can say David O. Russell treated mental illness too cavalierly, though. He never made any light of any of these serious problems.
Doug: Definitely. Not only did he not make light of bipolar disorder, he correctly pointed out that these are all just regular folks. And also that every single one of us have our own issues. Every character in that film had strong issues of their own. But every single character, including the two leads, were treated super respectfully and not judged or used as a comedy bit at all.
Sarah: Right, the leads certainly had mental illnesses, and have been treated for it. But the characters around them were often presented in much less favorable lights, which made the case that we’re all dealing with things. We’re always figuring out how to manage.
Doug: All those parts of it, I liked a lot. The thing that made it fall just short of great for me was how tidy everything was wrapped up at the end. Which is ironic, since the feel good stuff is usually right up my alley. We’ve all got complications in our lives…
Sarah: Your “people are complicated” line that you say a lot. The bottom line is I, and most of the people I’ve talked to about this movie, left the theater feeling really good.
Doug: If you want to see a movie and leave the theater feeling good, which is a pretty good reason to see a movie, maybe Silver Linings is tops on the Best Picture list. Are you saying that Silver Linings is your favorite on the list.
Sarah: It’s probably the one I enjoyed the most on the list.
Doug: Now, let’s talk about this. Because when we saw Lincoln, it was us and all of you political folks in the group we saw it with. And, I liked it, but when we were in the theater, I’m thinking that you guys are going to be all over this movie. You political wonks are going to see this as straight up red meat. So, did you like Silver Linings better than Lincoln?
Sarah: Yes. Spoiler alert, Lincoln gets shot. So, Lincoln is not exactly ending on a true, feel good note.
Doug: And you don’t really get to see the results of this momentous political victory.
Sarah: Right. Lincoln was certainly inspirational in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t feel good by any stretch. The doggedness, the speeches, the people that really wanted to see this get done were all really inspirational.
Doug: In those ways, I thought it was almost less inspirational than it was just a really great procedural.
Sarah: For sure in showing how it all got done, it was very procedural. For me, the putting your head down, wanting to get something done, and getting it done was very inspirational. In the middle of the Civil War, they win these political victories. It was the end of slavery, the granting of rights to an entire group of people who had been denied them…
Doug: Oh my gosh, how much of a jerk do I look like now for saying it wasn’t so much inspirational. I mean, when you put it like that!!! I guess it was pretty inspirational.
Sarah (laughing): I just thought I’d correct you on that, Doug.
Doug: You’ve now called me out to all the readers of Triangle Movie Talk as a non-feeling jerk.
Sarah (laughing some more): Yeah, you didn’t really like Silver Linings Playbook as much as you should have, you’re not fully inspired by Lincoln, you’re really starting to become a downer.
Doug: I’m supposed to be the Candyland, everything is always supposed to be happy and work out guy, and I…
Sarah: What’s going on over there, you getting cynical on me?
Doug: I’m becoming cranky, cantankerous old guy over here. Lincoln? Bah, humbug. What’s inspirational about that?
Sarah: It’s just a procedural.
Doug: And Silver Linings? Two people who have faced super hard periods in their lives and fall in love in a heart-warming way? Don’t try to get me to buy that.
Sarah: I’ll dig you out of the hole, because I know you really liked Life of Pi.
Doug: I loved Life of Pi. And thank you for bailing me out. So, let’s talk about it next time.