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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart (and I, at least, have impeccable taste), we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

The nominees are:

  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook


I don’t get what people see in David O. Russell’s direction. I feel like the whole world has gone crazy. I mean, it wasn’t as bad here as in The Fighter, but that’s the lowest of bars. To his credit, he presumably had some role in coaxing great performances out of Lawrence and Cooper, and one of the first non-mailed in one from De Niro in ages. So there’s that.

There’s lots of stuff going on in Beasts of the Southern Wild. And it is technically pretty impressive. So props to Benh Zeitlin for that, but when a ninety minute movie feels like it is twice that long, I’m going to dock the director, even taking the script into consideration.

I found Amour mostly forgettable. It wasn’t quite as terrible as I was expecting, so tip of the hat to Michael Haneke for that. The film started out pretty strong. Opening up on the audience shot was fascinating. And I thought the scene with the running faucet was very well-executed.

Life of Pi has some of the smallest scenes of Oscar contenders (much of the film takes place on a lifeboat, after all) but also some of the largest (the shipwreck, that crazy island). Ang Lee superbly executes this wide range of cinematic effort. When a book that many said was unfilmable ends up looking this great, you have to applaud the work of the director.

spielbergLost in all the hubbub surrounding the omissions in this category is the fact that Steven Spielberg turns in another fantastic effort. He wrangles a massive cast of supporting characters while still always highlight the main one, creating a riveting movie out of a Congressional vote. I’m going through a number of scenes in my head at the moment, and they are all differently memorable and nearly perfectly shot.

Should have been here: I’d keep Spielberg. Ben Affleck, Argo and Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, obviously. And then I’d throw in Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises and Robert Zemeckis, Flight.


The more I think about Silver Linings Playbook the more I dislike it and it is Russell’s project through and through. The tone is especially off. Meanwhile, those who love Amour likely do so based heavily on Haneke’s direction. But I was underwhelmed for the same reason. For me, it’s just too sparse.

The other three movies have their directors’ fingerprints all over them. Isn’t the best adjective for Lincoln “Spielbergian?” Exquisite production elements, powerful John Williams score, and a lack of subtlety. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Life of Pi are more directors’ showcases. Zeitlin has such a neat vision for Beasts with the music, surrealism, and bayou shantytown grunge. It didn’t always work for me, but I love the vision and it probably doesn’t work at all without it. Indie film is full of gritty poverty realism and Zeitlin tries something with much more imagination.

LOP-485  Director Ang Lee on the set of Life of Pi.But Ang Lee is my winner. Life of Pi is all vision. Think of what goes into this film: spectacular visuals, spiritual and surreal elements, and long periods of time with one character alone at sea. This movie lives and dies on how it’s realized and Lee nails it.

Should have been here: Speaking of directorial showcases, how about Django Unchained? This is Tarantino through and through (and is also a better movie than all those that were nominated).

Gonna try something new here.  There’s no way I can do a proper write up of all the Oscar and Spirit movies.  Besides, I have no business doing reviews or anything resembling them.  So let’s try out some compliment sandwiches.  First up, Life of Pi.  Mmm…a pie sandwich sounds delicious.  (All pictures from the film’s official photostream)

Look at the pretties – The movie is visually stunning, there’s no denying that.  Certainly worth the extra dollar to see it in 3D.
But were they just a distraction? – I firmly believe the visuals should support the story, quickly getting bored with a beautiful film if it doesn’t go anywhere.  A few times the movie seemed to veer off and be pretty for the sake of being pretty.
No, thanks to confident directing – Ang Lee generally did a great job utilizing the film’s overwhelming strength, the pretty visuals, having them cover for underdeveloped parts of the story.  A flashy movie like this may give its director a leg up for awards consideration, but I’d say it is deserved here.

We love Irrfan Khan  The Grouches have a running joke that whenever there’s a prestige film featuring Indians, Irrfan Khan has a role (e.g. Slumdog Millionaire and The Namesake).  But that’s OK, since he’s pretty great.
The rest of the cast, maybe less so – Rafe Spall wasn’t helped out by the bland writing, but milquetoast much?  (That said, I’m still definitely looking forward to next year’s I Give It a Year.)  Suraj Sharma was put in a thankless situation, having to carry most of the movie on his own, but he just barely acquitted himself.  The comparison, in my mind, is Naomi Watts in King Kong.  There, acting against a CGI monster, Watts was constantly riveting, giving a jolt to the film that Sharma couldn’t provide.
Except for Gerard Depardieu – Who else is dying to see the prequel about the cook’s origin story?

Surprisingly, stuff actually happened – Not having read the book, I was just expecting two hours of a dude on a boat with a tiger, which, frankly, sounded pretty terrible.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the film had an actual plot.
But not that much stuff – Probably wasn’t a good sign that partway through the middle section I kept wondering when we were going to jump back to the rather trite framing device of Irrfan Khan telling his story to Rafe Spall.  I also, frankly, found everything that happened prior to the shipwreck to be more interesting than the story of survival on the boat.  Which…isn’t ideal.
Still, I was never outright bored – Considering the bulk of the movie is just a dude on a boat with a tiger, the story moved along at a generally decent pace.

If the movie were a sandwich, it would be: Something from a recently remodeled Safeway or Giant.

February 2020
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