Life of Pi (viewed in theaters December 10, 2012)
Director - Ang Lee
This review does contain spoilers.
Best Director - Ang Lee
Best Adapted Screenplay - David Magee
Best Score - Mychael Danna
Best Song - "Pi's Lullaby"
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Production Design
This is one of my favorite books (I read it in 2006) and Ang Lee is one of my favorite directors - I really love Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and now you can add Life of Pi! I really loved this movie - it's my second favorite movie of the year at the moment. It's about an Indian family who own a zoo and move to Canada for a better life. They take a ship to, ahem, ship all the animals. There's a horrible storm and Pi, the sixteen year old protagonist finds himself alone on a life raft after he's lost his entire family and everyone else who was on the ship. He's not exactly alone, though. A zebra, hyena, and orangutang are also on the boat. And, unbeknownst to Pi for quite a while, the full-grown Siberian tiger named Richard Parker (the tiger's name got confused with the name of the guy who sold it to them) is under the half of the boat that is covered by a tarp. I would have been scared you-know-what-less if I had been in Pi's position. There's a scene where the hyena starts attacking the zebra (who was wounded in the storm) and Pi starts hitting it with an oar. I wouldn't want the zebra to be killed by the hyena (which it was and amazingly the carcass was dumped into the ocean pretty early (not shown) - you think Pi would keep it around so the tiger could eat it instead of thinking about going after him!), but I also would have felt bad if I had to toss the hyena into the ocean (if I could). But let's be honest: if I was in this situation (or anyone, probably), I would be dead within five minutes. It's not long before all the animals are killed by another animal and the tiger and Pi are the only ones left. Pi makes a smaller liferaft that he attaches to the boat and steals the cans of food under the tarp whenever Richard Parker is sleeping and he has the chance. It's been awhile since I've read the book, but I thought the movie did a good job of following the book and I remembered certain things, the island for one. As the movie progresses, Pi is able to get into the boat with Richard Parker. The tiger (not a real one for obvious reasons, but looks very real) becomes an emotional part of the story and you start to root for him to have a happy ending as well as Pi. The movie ends with an interesting question when Pi tells what happened when he is rescued. He tells the authorities what happened and they don't believe he was in a boat with a tiger and the other animals, so he tells them that he was instead with his mother and two other people who we meet on the ship, so it's up to the audience to interpret what really happened. I saw this movie in 2-D because I hate 3-D, but now I kinda wish I had seen it in 3-D. The movie was atheistically stunning and pleasing to the eye. It is by far the most gorgeous movie of this year; it is truly a work of art!
Les Miserables (viewed in theaters December 29, 2012)
Director - Tom Hooper
Best Actor - Hugh Jackman
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway
Best Costume Design
Best Make -Up
Best Original Song - "Suddenly"
Best Production Design
Best Sound Mixing
You know when you see a movie that totally moves you, mesmerizes you, and just captures you in awe and it becomes one of your favorite movies for the rest of your life and when it comes up in conversations, you tell everyone how much you love that movie and they need to see it and when they do, they thank you for suggesting that they watch it because it moved and mesmerized them and captured their heart as well? You know what I'm talking about, right? We all have a few movies that do this to us. Les Mis....is not one of those movies! Sorry to get your hopes up if you did like this movie! I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I had never read the book or seen the musical and knew nothing about the story (besides it was obviously depressing), but I was so bored throughout most of it. Everyone did a great job with the singing and the cinematography was gorgeous - I loved when Notre Dame was in the background. The only scenes I really liked were Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen singing "Master of the House" - that was definitely the most liveliest song!; any scene with the little kid - I thought he was a hoot (to bad he died...) and Anne Hathaway singing "I Dreamed a Dream" Dreadfully boring song, but I gotta give her props..she was singing and acting at the same time and she is amazing. She has snot running down her nose, her face is blotched, and she has this hideous short cropped hair, and she brings it! If she wins the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, I would not be disappointed. If Les Mis won the Best Picture Oscar, I would be very disappointed. With an exception of a couple songs, I found most of the songs to be not that memorable. I knew this was a musical going in (duh), but I thought it was the kind of musical where they talk, sing a song, talk, sing a song - you know, like Chicago. But not in this movie! No, they sing every single line. EVERY SINGLE LINE! EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. LINE. And this movie is two and a half hours. And this movie moves at a S-L-OOOOO-W pace. It was excruciating for me to watch. I haven't seen Lincoln, Amour, or Beasts of the Southern Wild yet (I'll check those out on DVD), but I'm pretty confident when I do see them, Les Mis will be my least favorite Best Picture nominee!
Django Unchained (viewed in theaters January 14, 2013)
Director - Quentin Tarantino
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz
Best Original Screenplay - Quentin Tarantino
Best Sound Editing
Very slight spoilers!
If I were to watch a Quentin Tarantino movie without knowing it was a Quentin Tarantino movie, I'm pretty confident I would be able to tell it was directed by him because he has such a distinct way of directing his films. I think that's what makes his films so much fun to watch - they give a little nod and wink to the audience. The way he uses different camera shots, the way he pays homage to other movies, and even the way his credits are - it's all very Tarantino-esque. Oh, and you can always tell by the language and amount of violence! This movie is pretty heavy in both aspects. There is A LOT of blood in this movie. By people getting shot, by people beating the crap out of each other, and one guy gets mauled by dogs, but mostly by people getting shot. It seems Tarantino has lately been interested in playing around with world history. His last movie, Inglorious Basterds, was set during World War II and he sort of changed the way Hitler died - just a tad! This movie is set during pre-Civil War when slavery was abound in the South. Jamie Foxx plays Django (the D is silent!), a slave who is given his freedom with the help of a German dentist/bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (played by Austrian actor, Christoph Waltz). They set out to rescue Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who knows German, so it's easy to track her down since she's the only slave woman who knows German. She works for Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the villain of the film. Samuel L. Jackson rounds out the cast as Calvin Candie's best confident and he plays an older man and he is absolutely great. He provides a lot of humor and yet he's very sinister. Even though I haven't seen all the Best Picture nominees, this movie is most definitely the most violent out of all of them...and probably the funniest! I laughed quite a bit at some scenes. The KKK scene was hilarious. Only Tarantino could make a scene involving the KKK hilarious. I loved the scene where Django and King visit Don Johnson's character, Big Daddy (they call him "Big Daddy" because he's big!) and after he learns that Djanog is a free man, he tells one of his female servants, "Make you you don't treat Django like a slave now!" and she says,"Should I treat him like a white man!" and he goes, "No!" and she says, "Well, how am I suppose to treat him, then?" It was just really funny how it was done and I found myself laughing quite a few times during the film. It's a very gorgeous film as well and I can see why it's nominated for Best Cinematography. The use of the landscape is beautiful, especially when they were on a plantation in Tennessee. I'm not a tree expert, so I don't know what they were, but there were these huge trees with hanging foliage (not weeping willows) that were really pretty. Christoph Waltz steals this movie (and is the best part along with Sam Jackson) and although he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, he was more co-leads with Foxx. He is not in the last third of the movie and I noticed that once he was gone the movie dragged on a bit. Of course, the movie, which is about 2 hours and 40 minutes, could have easily been trimmed down by 30 minutes. There's a scene with Quentin Tarantino and it was just really random. It almost felt like he was filling in for another actor who was suppose to play that part that didn't show up on the set that day - it was just so out of place! Plus he has an Australian accent which makes it even more weird. Quentin Tarantino asked Will Smith to be Django, but he declined and I wish he hadn't because I think he would have made a way better Django than Jamie Foxx, who is fine, but I think Will would have been very dynamic...I would have loved to see what he would do with the role.
Silver Linings Playbook (viewed in theaters January 21, 2013)
Director - David O. Russell
Best Director - David O. Russell
Best Actor - Bradley Cooper
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actor - Robert De Niro
Best Supporting Actress - Jackie Weaver
Best Adapted Screenplay - David O. Russell
This is an unconventional romantic comedy. Bradley Coooper (who would have ever thought that good ol' Will Tippin would ever be nominated for an Oscar?) is Pat, a guy who has just been released from being in a mental institution for almost a year after he caught his high-school teacher wife with another teacher in the shower and beat him up. His wife divorced him and has put a restraining order on him and has moved and Pat is working to get her back because he wants to prove to her that he's changed. Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany, the sister-in-law of one of Pat's friends. Her husband was killed in an accident and she got fired from her job. Pat and Tiffany meet when they both have dinner at Pat's friend's house and from there they begin an interesting relationship. Since Tiffany's sister knows Pat's ex-wife, she tells him that if she writes a letter, she could find a way to give it to her, but says if she does this, she wants something in return and wants Pat to join a dance competition with her, something she's always wanted to do with her husband. It's a very charming movie and Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver are great as Pat's parents. (And I just realized that this is the second time Cooper and De Niro have worked together - they were also in Limitless).
Zero Dark Thirty (viewed in theaters January 28, 2013)
Director - Kathryn Bigelow
Best Actress - Jessica Chastain
Best Original Screenplay - Mark Boal
Best Sound Editing
This is about the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden. The movie starts in 2003 (after a little prologue of 9/11) and ends at his capture which I'm sure we all remember that Sunday night in May of 2011 when Obama came on our TVs for a special report. Jessica Chastain plays Maya, the CIA agent who had a big hand in finding the compound Bin Laden was hiding at in Pakistan. As she told the CIA director (played by James Gandolfini) who asked her who she was, she replied with, "I'm the mother****er who found that place." She's very bad-ass, but not in a Sarah Connor/Lara Croft kind of way. She's badass in a realistic way and I would love to see Chastain win the Oscar. Bigelow was definitely snubbed of a directing Oscar - I liked this movie more than The Hurt Locker, which she won for. It's interesting that this is up for an Original Screenplay when it's based on true events. I guess they didn't use a book to write this, but used other sources? I really liked the guy who played Dan, Maya's partner during the first half of the film. I had never seen him in anything before and it turns out he's Australian in real life. There are a few torture scenes in the movie (being an avid fan of 24, I'm used to watching them - the things they did on 24 were worse than what they do in this movie!) At first Maya is very uncomfortable watching them, but then as the years pass, she is not shy to use it as a tactic to get information. Jennifer Ehle plays another CIA agent who works with Maya and she has found a huge lead with someone she thinks can lead them to Bin Laden. She and some others are supposed to meet him and you just know things are not going to end well. I kept gripping my seat waiting for a bomb to explode. Even though I knew what happens in the end and that they get the bad guy, I still felt a little jumpy when the Seal Team 6 invaded the compound they had reason to believe Bin Laden was at. They had no visual confirmation that he was there, but they strongly believed it could be him because there was a male that never left the compound at all. They had no way to see if it was him because they didn't want to spook him in running to a new location. Chris Pratt plays one of the Seal Team 6 members and it was a bit humorous to think of Andy from Parks and Rec going to kill Osama Bin Laden. The movie is two and a half hours - it's exactly the same length as Les Miserables, 157 minutes. But while Les Mis was excruciatingly long - it felt like it would never end!, Zero Dark Thirty did not feel like that at all - it went by pretty quickly. If you can make a two and a half hour movie and make it not feel long, then more power to you! It does a good job of keeping you interested and has a nice flow.
And here is my review of Argo.