In part 4 of this year’s Oscar Talk, Sarah and Doug gush a bit over the respective greatness of Life of Pi and Jessica Chastain.
Sarah: So, let’s try to save you from the last conversation where you were the cranky old fuddy duddy. You did like Life of Pi, so I have to give you credit.
Doug: I loved Life of Pi. I’m a Life of Pi guy. Yeah, let’s talk about it. I’m sure some of the sappy and simple criticisms I have for Silver Linings are the same ones you could make for Life of Pi. It’s interesting that a movie that was so fully focused on religion specifically, and not just general spirituality, has been so well received by critics. Pi may have jumped around in his religious preferences, but he still took from specific ones and used religion in a positive way to sort of get him through.
Sarah: He was certainly committed to the idea that there is a God, and that God was responsible for a lot of what was going on, including him surviving.
Doug: Right. And he also used the dogmas of a lot of religions, to work a Kevin Smith movie reference in, which we always have to do.
Sarah: Always have to work Kevin Smith in, that’s right. As far as the theme of the movie, he was definitely using the teachings of all of these religions, and clearly talking to God throughout the movie, and acknowledging the consistent themes of all the religions he was learning from.
Doug: I think you still have that subset of people that is a little anti religion, and so the popularity of this movie to a more liberal group of people is interesting.
Sarah: I get that, but for me the movie was more inspiring on a purely human level, just his own ability to survive. I loved the way the movie had Pi using his own imagination to craft a scenario in his mind that he could live with as he was trying to survive out on the ocean. It was more about the power of imagination, for me, than about the power of religion.
Doug: I agree with that. I think I’m sort of wondering if a movie that so explicitly and, really, sort of matter of factly and simply acknowledges the good that religion can do for people and the comfort it can provide can win for Best Picture. And I realize I just massively stereotyped Hollywood.
Sarah: And I’m not so sure it deserves to win for Best Picture, anyway. I found it enjoyable and a very beautiful movie to look at. But I think you probably found it much more moving than I did.
Doug: Yeah, probably. What, for me, raises Life of Pi to another level is all the inspirational themes we’ve been talking about plus it was so incredibly cool looking. And really groundbreaking. Maybe not groundbreaking, but this film will be studied by film makers for the right ways to use 3D.
Sarah: The visuals are amazing. And, as we’ve talked about before, I could easily live with Ang Lee winning best director. Because on top of the incredible use of 3D, there’s not really anything there except a dude and a boat.
Doug: Yeah, it was almost more like a play brought to life.
Sarah: And that had to be a real, true vision from the director, and an ability from his actor, Suraj Sharma, to react to that vision. It could have been really terrible.
Doug: And the whole “older Pi” narrating the story for the journalist was super contrived, and that also could have gone horribly wrong. But Irrfan Khan was so good, and he had such a synergy with Suraj Sharma as “younger Pi”. It’s very rare when I see a movie that has the younger/older dynamic where they actually seem like the same person. Here, they absolutely seemed like the same person.
Sarah: They definitely seemed like the same person. The suggestion at the end of the movie that there could have been alternate stories was really driven home by Khan as “older Pi”.
Doug: And Khan as “older Pi”, to use a fancy word, had an absolute gravitas that resulted from his life experience. He seemed wiser than a normal guy. He came out of this experience, and he really gets life. It was cool.
Sarah: I’m certainly not going to knock Life of Pi, and Ang Lee deserves a whole lot of credit for bringing that vision to the screen.
Doug: Director has to be between Spielberg and Ang Lee. If Spielberg wins, you’re not going to be able to say anything bad about it. Michael Haneke isn’t going to win, but Amour will win Best Foreign Language, if for no other reason than that nobody’s heard of any of the other nominated foreign language films.
Sarah: It’s true. Maybe Emmanuelle Riva will get a nod for Best Actress for Amour.
Doug: There seems to be some buzz for that, but I think that one goes to Jennifer Lawrence.
Sarah: I’m putting it out there that Jessica Chastain was great. She had a sort of unemotional character to play in Zero Dark Thirty. And we’ve talked before about how I tend to give more credit to the more subtle performances, and how I think they’re often harder to play. But she also had some really emotional moments in there, too. And she plays those just right.
Doug: She did play them just right. I’m not sure I can put my finger on why I think Jennifer Lawrence should win instead of Jessica Chastain. We’re talking about two awesome performances. There were tiny, tiny moments where I didn’t always find Chastain believable. And, again, I can’t put my finger on when they were. So, if I can’t give examples, I should probably just shut up about it. Chastain was incredible, Lawrence was incredible. I’ll be happy if either one of them wins. Jessica Chastain over the last couple of years has had just an unreal run. Compare the role she gets nominated for this year in Zero Dark Thirty, as real and gritty a character as you can play, with the role she was nominated for last year. I mean, in Tree of Life, she barely had any lines. She was playing almost more a concept than an actual person.
Sarah: Yeah, gosh, I forgot that was her. And she’s fully three dimensional in Zero Dark Thirty. It was interesting because she was often so unemotional. The character was clearly designed to come off as abrasive at times. But yet she had to also play the character as being cool at times, but having the passion and the emotion come flying out at certain times. Her character was often, to be kind, an unpersonable person. And she had to pull that off.
Doug: Like you say, Chastain’s was a full performance. One of my favorite moments of her performance was when she had to convince Edgar Ramirez as the head of the surveillance team to do what she needed to do as far as tracking Bin Laden’s messenger. Ramirez was set on not having the man power to do it, and not believing in Chastain’s hunches. Chastain had tried the abrasive, and she quickly spun into the softer, human connection. She brings him a beer, reasons with him, connecting and getting him to do what she needed him to do through another method. It was a great moment of acting, I thought. Hey, you’ve convinced me on Chastain. Lawrence. Chastain. It’s a tie.
Sarah: I don’t know who they’ll go for in the end, but for me the sort of balls out performances like Jennifer Lawrence’s in Silver Linings are a little easier to pull off, so I give a lot of credit to what Jessica Chastain did.
Doug: It’s a little bit apples and oranges when you put it like that. You sort of wish you could give them both…
Sarah: Split ‘em up.
Doug: There’s going to be a lot of crap to have to live with in the acting categories. Best Supporting Actress, I am perfectly fine with Anne Hathaway winning, and she surely is going to win. But we have both clearly staked our lot with how much we loved Amy Adams.
Doug: Best Supporting Actor, same thing. Christoph Waltz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, freakin’ De Niro? Come on.
Sarah: If I was going with the one I would want to win, it would be Christoph Waltz. But Philip Seymour Hoffman is pretty much the main thing that makes The Master even watchable. He pretty much had to carry that film. And the fact that he’s in the Best Supporting category instead of straight Best Actor seems sort of dumb.