And the Oscar goes to…

At the end of February, it will be Oscar night, and in what is soon becoming an annual tradition here at Mountains Beyond Mountains, we’ve written up our annual Oscar Preview. I’m on par with other years in terms of what I’ve seen so far (I’ve seen three), but there are five others still in theatres so I could potentially see 8 of the 9 quite easily before the big night. Still, like other years, it doesn’t stop me from coming up with snarky things to say about the nominees, whether I’ve seen them or not.

Let’s get right to it.

Amour

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From what I can tell from the poster and what little I’ve actually learned about this movie, it is about old people falling in love and having sex. Now I’m all for old people falling in love, but good LORD do they have to have sex? How about some nice cuddles? Or maybe a hug? Maybe they could do something nice and thoughtful for each other, like bake cookies or something. I’d pay money to see that, but no sex please.

Argo

Another candidate for my "Men with nice beards" Tumblr!

Another candidate for my “Men with nice beards” Tumblr!

Despite my inherent dislike of Ben Affleck, I really want to see this movie. I wanted to see it way back last summer when I saw the trailer for the first time, but forces beyond my control have prevented me from seeing it so far, and eventually my dislike of Ben Affleck will win out and I never will see it. Which is a shame, because I think I’d like it, just like I think I would like “The Town” but am avoiding it for the same reasons. It’s got the Affleck taint all over it. #taint

Beasts of the Southern Wild

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I actually saw this one a few weeks ago! The library had a copy checked in and I took it home. What can I say? Whenever my Mom sees a movie that she doesn’t like but she feels like she should like it, she calls it a discussion movie. I think this is a discussion movie for me. I have no idea how this movie even caught the attention of Oscar voters, but I’m kind of glad it’s in there among the big ones, if only to be a reminder that not every nominated film has to be a big budget spectacle. I didn’t hate it, but I’m not sure it was my kind of thing. I’m trying to come up with something funny or snarky to say about it, but I’m at a loss. Yay for the underdog?

Django Unchained

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I saw this movie over the Christmas holidays with my friend, Ed. It was his birthday and we sort of have a tradition of getting together and doing fun things, like going to get a free comic at this one shop in town that lets you pick out a free comic on your birthday, or go out to some “all you can eat” restaurant and literally eat all we can, or check out a movie. These days, with us both having small children, we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like, and we were joking that the only free time we had was at 10:30 pm on a week night. So that’s what we did! We went to see this movie at 10:30 pm on a Thursday. We chose this one because we knew there was NO WAY IN HELL either of our respective wives would ever want to see it , and we were right. We were just so excited that we were actually out at a movie together, that I think we enjoyed this way more than we would have under normal circumstances. This movie was a real mixed bag for me. There were scenes and moments, particularly in the first three quarters, that I totally loved. The opening scene where Django gets unchained, the whole “team up as bounty hunters” thing, and the whole “launching the plot to get his wife back” thing were all wonderful. Sadly, it was only when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character was introduced that the film seemed to drag, and everything after the “dinner party” scene just got deranged, overblown, and almonst ruined the rest of it for me.

Les Miserables

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I HAVE NOT SEEN THIS, and yet I am quite sure it will win.  I am sure it is wonderful and deserves all the good press it’s getting. I’m happy that a musical is nominated for best picture this year. It’s been a while. There is something special about musicals, and I think you either “get” them or you don’t. Some people just can’t get over the fact that the characters will burst into song without warning. But I say to those people: it’s just what happens. It’s a MUSICAL. I’m not saying you have to like it, but don’t hate it just because that’s the form it’s in. My only complaint is that it has taken so long for this musical to be made into a movie. I remember about 15 years ago getting excited when a feature film version of “Les Miserables” was in production. It was going to star about bunch of A List actors like Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman. I couldn’t wait, until I found out that it wasn’t based on the muscial, but an adapation of the original novel. I was bitterly disappointed at the time, and still haven’t brought myself to ever watch it. What’s the point? It would be like doing a non-musical version of  “Annie”.

Life of Pi

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Another one I haven’t seen, although you have to hand it to Ang Lee: that dude knows his way around a movie camera. His films, from “Sense and Sensibility” to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, to “Brokeback Mountain” all have a stunning visual quality to them, and I’m sure “The Life of Pi” is no different. I read the novel years ago, when everyone was going on about it. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember I didn’t care for it. It was a real slog and in the end everything you’ve just read (SPOILER) may or may not have even happened that way. It was a bit of a kick to the balls, I must say, and considering this movie is mostly playing in 3D, it would be a kick to the eyeballs too. I’ll pass.

Lincoln

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Spielberg’s “Lincoln” project seemed to be “on again, off again” for years. I remember all the way back to 2005 when his “War of the Worlds” came out that Spielberg was talking about getting his “Lincoln” project off the ground. And boy did he ever. A stellar cast led by Daniel Day Lewis, this is definitely on my “to see” list. I love stories about historical figures, especially stories about American Presidents. You always learn something you didn’t know before. For example, I just watched “Hyde Park on Hudson” with Bill Murray as FDR. All I knew about FDR before this was that he met with Annie and Daddy Warbucks and sung “Tomorrow” with his wife Eleanor. From “Hyde Park on Hudson” I learned that FDR enjoyed eating hot dogs and receiving hand jobs from his cousin (but not at the same time)! Oh, and also that his wife Eleanor lived with a group of lesbian furniture makers and made lovely lesbian furniture. I could relate.

Recurring Theme

Recurring Theme

Silver Linings Playbook

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I’m just going to say right up front that I am “no friend” of Bradley Cooper, and that I had very little interest in seeing this movie. The title is confusing, it has boringface Julia Stiles in it, and it seemed to be on the wrong side of quirky for me. The other night we were out at the movies, and our choices were “Les Miz”, “Lincoln” or this one. I would have been happy with either of the first two, but “Silver Linings Playbook” was the only one that hadn’t yet started, so in we went.

Boy, was I WRONG. I will freely admit it. This turned out to be one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. I’m going to gush here for a bit, so fair warning.

I LOVED everything about this movie. Bradley Cooper (I will no longer call him Bradley Pooper) was brilliantly adorable, as was Jennifer Lawrence. You really want to root for the two of them, and the movie pushed all the right buttons for me. It says a lot about the strength of the cast when Robert De Niro, although great, does not outshine everyone else. Whenever you see him you’re not thinking, “It’s Robert fucking De Niro!” You just see him as this blue collar dad who’s worried about his son and is doing the best he can. I could TOTALLY relate to those scenes where he’s trying to get Bradley Cooper’s character to sit down and watch the game with him. That was me and my Dad for real. That’s the other thing: the dialogue felt very real and raw to me. It all felt very natural, and I’m wondering how much of it was scripted and how much of it was the actors ad-libbing on set.

I think it helped that I didn’t know a thing about the movie going in. I just let the story work its magic on me, like when you finally find out that Daddy Warbucks is going to adopt Annie for realz!

The writer/director, David O. Russell, is a master at choosing the right musical cues for the right scenes. I still remember the soundtrack for “Three Kings”, and the way he used U2’s “In God’s Country” at the end of it. In “Silver Linings Playbook” he uses Dave Brubeck in two scenes to great effect.

Personally, I want this movie to win EVERYTHING, and I will need to be careful when I fill in my Oscar ballot that I don’t let that cloud my choices.

I’m not usually one to want to see a movie again, but I could SERIOUSLY go see this movie again in the theatre, and again, and again. That’s how much I loved it.

Zero Dark Thirty

The controversies surrounding this film just won't go away.

The controversies surrounding this film just won’t go away.

Well, I guess I tipped my hand as to which movie I’ll be pulling for come Oscar night, but I still need to finish this list. I think I’d like to see this movie, the same way I want to see anything by Gaspar Noe: I think it would be satisfying on a morbidly voyeuristic level. Technically, I’m sure the movie is finely crafted. Her last effort won Best Picture. I haven’t brought myself to see it, because spending a couple of hours with an army bomb squad in Iraq seems a little too stressful, like watching Annie get kidnapped by Rooster and Bernadette Peters.

But I’ve seen a number of Kathryn Bigelow movies over the years, and I’ve enjoyed all of them in their own way.

I remember seeing “Point Break” the summer that I taught myself how to windsurf, and so I felt like I had a connection, however tenuous, to the bank-robbing surfers. It was the summer my Dad died, and I just thought this was something I wanted to do. I spent a weekend at a friend’s cottage and his Dad was a windsurfer. He showed me the basics and then left me to it. I remember falling off that board so many times, and scraping my knees to the point that they bled and getting terribly sunburnt, but I didn’t give up until I could actually manoeuvre the damn thing with some small level of skill. I wasn’t going to be doing any tricks (or robbing any banks) any time soon, but I felt a certain level of accomplishment.

“Strange Days” still ranks up near the top as one of my favourite science fiction movies, and she does things visually in that movie that I’ve never seen done since.

I feel like I have a special connection to “K-19: The Widowmaker”, as part of the movie was filmed in a small town about an hour north of where I live. It was big news at the time. The film crew descended on this sleepy town on the edge of Lake Winnipeg for about a week to film one scene. It was the scene where the submarine surfaces through the ice near the north pole. The soldiers are given some R&R time to play soccer on the ice. The captain, played by Harrison Ford, addresses the crew from the sub’s tower. This whole scene takes up about 2 minutes of screen time, but it’s impact feels much bigger. I happened to be off work one morning when they were filming, and I thought I’d drive up and see what I could see. My Mom, always up for an adventure, called in sick to work and came along. Marla was working and didn’t come, but her MOM did.

The three of us headed up, wondering what we would see. It was actually pretty cool. The movie crew had built a full sized conning tower about 300 feet off shore on the ice. You could tell from the angle that it was just a backdrop (you could see the scaffolding behind it), but from head on it looked like the real thing. When we got there, it was lunch time for the crew, and the local hotel had the catering contract. The film crew had built an ice road from the shore out to the set, and there was a constant flow of ATVs, jeeps and full sized trucks back and forth. This was March, and I was wondering how thick that ice actually was, but I’m sure it was all checked out ahead of time. The big prize would be to spot Harrison Ford, obviously. He had arrived the night before and was probably out there near the set somewhere, or maybe he was up in one of the hotel rooms and he would walk through the lobby any second! We ended up having lunch at the hotel, and looking out over the set. We were far enough out that we couldn’t really see what was actually happening, although we could see a bunch of young guys with shaved heads (Russian sailors, no doubt), kicking a soccer ball around out in the cold. We couldn’t tell if they were rehearsing or actually filming, but it didn’t really matter. It was just cool to be “close to the action”. I assume Kathryn Bigelow was there too; I doubt this was all second unit work, but we never spotted her and more importantly, we never spotted Harrison either. But it was a fun way to spend a day off, and when the movie came out my Mom and I went opening night. We stayed until we say the “Special Thanks to Gimli, Manitoba” credit at the end.

Hollywood North.

Hollywood North.

So you have it: a rundown of the best picture nominations of 2013. If Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t win Best Picture, it’ll just be a reminder that it’s a hard knock life.

Til next time, amigos!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “And the Oscar goes to…

  1. I like Affleck! The Town is excellent, as is Argo.

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