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Movies, movies, movies

I've done it!! I've actually watched every single film that's been nominated for Best Picture this year. Guess there really is a first time for everything. Some I managed to watch in the cinema, others have conveniently leaked way ahead of their release date over here. I think 2012 was a massive improvement for film overall compared to 2011, even outside of the Oscar race. 

Therefore without further ado, I present my very own ~Oscar review of 2012. Warning: some reviews will be spoilery, so it would be best to skip over those films you haven't seen yet. I'll be listing the films alphabetically, because I'm anal that way.

This film resonated particularly hard with me, because currently both my grandmother and great-aunt are undergoing illness related to old age. Both are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's Disease respectively. Amour deals with the consequences of the wife of an elderly couple falling ill, and how it affects their marriage and the husband who is left to look after her. I think this movie did a terrific job in portraying just how hard it is to look after a sick old person, despite how much you love them, and how it can transform loved ones into caretakers and nurses. It's not a rewarding job at all - it can be frustrating, depressing and can even start to change the way you think of them. Amour is a totally unromanticised and realistic look at old age and death, and how families cope with it. Artistically it was great all around; the use of imagery was subtle yet effective, the pacing was good (a lot of people complained it was too slow, but I think it matched the life of two elderly people just perfectly). And both Trintignant and Riva gave amazing performances; the latter is my favourite to win Best Actress (suck it, JLaw and Jessica Chastain). Isabelle Huppert was great as the old couple's daughter too. 

All in all I thought this was an incredible film about a subject that is rarely so sensitively and realistically dealt with.

Grade: A

Changing career path from director to actor was probably the best life decision Ben Affleck ever made since he and Sydney Bristow got hitched. Yes, he does play the protagonist Tony Mendez, but it's his directing that really stands out here. I thought Argo was a really well made film; it started off slow but picked up very quickly, and builds tension very nicely for a film based on a real life event. For those of you who don't know, Argo is based on the mission dubbed the Canadian Caper, where the Canadian government and the CIA rescued six American diplomats held hostage in Iran in 1980. I included the wiki link above because I'm too lazy to explain everything. (This explains why I'll probably flop at keeping a professional blog). 

Despite its strong points, however, the movie definitely has its flaws. For one thing, I've read many sources which claim that it doesn't give the role played by the Canadian government its fair due or any due at all, for that matter. For another, it unfortunately happens to be yet another Hollywood film demonising the Middle East and Muslims (I'll get to this in more detail later on). I appreciated that in the beginning a short summary of events was narrated which pointed out how America was totally complicit in the sorry state of affairs that occurred during Iran during that time period. It however still reeks of the good ol' white American coming to save the day from the evil brown people, and I just feel that too many of these films have been made over the years in the US. Also, it did contain some action movie cliches; I knew straight away after the son and the estranged wife were introduced that they and Tony would have a ~tearful reunion, and that the movie would end on that note. Hollywood just can't seem to resist that trope at all. 

Breaking Bad and FNL fans will enjoy cameos from Bryan Cranston and Kyle Chandler respectively; Alan Arkin and John Goodman also do their usual thing (although I don't think Arkin deserved that nomination; he just played the same cranky old guy he always does). 

However, overall I thought this was definitely one of the best films made this year, and it's unfair that Affleck didn't get a nomination at the very least. Oh well - he's got two Golden Globes to shove in the Academy's faces, at least.

Unlike Leo.

Grade: A-

I was completely enchanted by this film - there's no other word for it. It was original, fresh, and had the most unique cast out of any movie made this year. Quvenzhane Wallis is a complete revelation as the main character Hushpuppy - after Emmanuelle, I'm rooting for her to take home the trophy. 

One thing I often complain about American films is that they very rarely focus on areas in the US outside of middle to upper class life in big cities, or big military/army based films. Beasts of the Southern Wild takes place in a (albeit fiction) bayou community in Louisiana, and to me it was completely fascinating to watch because I'd never seen life in these places portrayed on film. BOTSW revolves around Hushpuppy and what happens to her after her father falls ill and mythical 'Aurochs' attack and destroy their home after a storm sets them free.

Cons: This film sets up some very complex and faceted concepts that it doesn't end up executing very well. The Aurochs were a cool way to showcase the events as viewed by a six year old girl. It does not however follow through on them completely. I was left feeling very confused by the end, and I wasn't sure what the director wanted me to take away from the story. I wasn't very sure what the Aurochs were supposed to represent - an earthquake? Hushpuppy's fears of growing up, of facing more responsibilities as her father's health continued to fade? I had to scratch my head on that one.

Despite the above weaknesses, the scene between Hushpuppy and her father during the last few scenes actually left me in floods of tears. The strong performances are what saved some decidedly muddled directing and storytelling. 

Grade: B+

As a huge Tarantino stan, I'm admittedly very biased when it comes to reviewing his films. I'll just go ahead and say it anyway - I loved the hell out of this film. It was fun, entertaining and just all around amazing to watch. Tarantino is one of those rare directors in modern cinema who still manages to balance substance and style when it comes to film-making. There are those who argue that he values style the most over the story, but I completely disagree. His style carries the film's substance in itself, and that's a very complex piece of writing and directing that's tremendously hard to pull off, IMO. 

If BOTSW had the most unique cast then Django definitely had the best ensemble. There wasn't one single weak performance from any of the leading actors. Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson in particular were outstanding, and even Leo was great! I actually forgot it was Leo I was watching - he disappeared into the role completely, and even made me chuckle a few times despite how awful his character was. Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington pulled off the love story terrifically and the ending was completely and utterly satisfying. I really think that the film managed to subvert the white saviour trope to a certain extent - yes, you had the white guy playing mentor to the black man, but the film was told from the black man's POV, and it was Django who received the most complex character arc and who saved himself and his wife in the end all by himself. 

The film deserved the criticism it got - Tarantino's fetish for the n word does unfortunately make itself known here, and I've seen people who were uncomfortable with the way slavery portrayed, and disliked that such an ugly piece of history was repackaged as a Western spaghetti thriller. I will say this, though; Tarantino's use of violence in the film was very clever and very apt - the brutality against the slaves was shown for what it was - just plain, unjustified and cruel brutality, whilst the aestheticized and more glorified violence was left to the vengeance killing and the death of the evil slave owners. The audience definitely walks away feeling as though they've been on Django's side all along and have been on this revenge quest with him. 

Another point made, and one I don't disagree with, is that this was basically Inglourious Basterds: Slavery Edition. You have an oppressed minority seeking revenge, you have Christoph Waltz again playing a clever and scheming German (the nice version of Hans Landa). And unfortunately, Kerry Washington's character did not display the sort of female strength and resourcefulness that Tarantino's women are known for. I did like what Kerry had to say about it, however. 

The editing was also a bit off - Sally Menke, Tarantino's usual collaborator, passed away last year, and as a result the film's pacing suffered noticeably. It dragged in some places and you could definitely feel the lack of Menke's contribution this time around. 

The soundtrack though was AMAZING. Tarantino still has that knack for picking out great music to go along with his films. If you haven't heard it yet, go hit up Youtube now and search for Who Did That To You by John Legend. Simply incredible. 

Despite his issues, Tarantino IMO still remains the most exciting and creative director Hollywood has to offer. The dude is in a class of his own, and tbh I will not hear otherwise. I also think he is one of the few male directors who gives well written and meaningful roles to POC and women in general. His work is consistently great and immensely entertaining, and as long as he keeps making movies I think it's safe to say I'll always be looking forward to them.

Grade: A

I am a total peasant who has never seen Les Mis on stage nor read the book; therefore, I went into this film not knowing anything about the story, save for the brief synopsis I read on IMDB. That said, I still ended up quite enjoying it. There were a few really amazing performances - Hugh Jackman, of course, and Anne Hathaway in particular. It's quite an effort for me to forgive Eddie Redmayne for playing Angel Clare (aka Worst Character In All Of Literature) but hey! The boy can actually sing. There were fun bits played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter who really need to do more work together. Also, Eponine was my favourite. 

Since this was the only version of Les Mis I've ever seen (and I mean to rectify that) I don't think I can critique the performances as well as die hard fans because I have nothing to compare them to. However, Hugh Jackman succeeded in breaking my heart towards the end. His acting at least was STELLAR. Totally rooting for him to win Best Actor, as I am for Anne to win Best Supporting. But all in all, I felt as if I'd just barely scratched the surface of what is probably an extremely complex story, and I don't know if the musical is the same way. Is Cosette supposed to be this personality-free? Is Marius supposed to be such a flop for 80% of the movie? Is Javert supposed to sound like a drowning walrus? (Although to be fair, I think that's all on Russell Crowe). It did however make me want to put the book on my reading list.

Grade: B-

This is my choice for Best Picture, without a doubt. Life of Pi is an incredibly beautiful film and stands out in every area: writing, directing, special effects and acting. I'd read the book beforehand because I like making book/film comparisons, and even though they left a few of my favourite scenes out, I was still bowled over. Life of Pi has one of those ~ambiguous endings which really work; you basically have to make your mind up about whether you are a faith based person or a logic based person. 

I usually thumb my nose at all things 3D, but this is a film worth donning those special glasses for. Ang Lee really makes it worth your while. 

IT IS A COMPLETE AND UTTER CRIME THAT SURAJ SHARMA WAS SNUBBED FOR BEST PERFORMANCE. WTF, Academy? It was the boy's very first acting job ever and he completely pulled it off and more. Even seasoned actors have trouble carrying a film by themselves, but Suraj knocked it out of the park. He and Quvenzhane Wallis were by far the best breakouts of this year. 

Whether or not you are a fan of the book, this is definitely a must-watch. It's a really nice movie to watch with family members as well - it's innocent enough without being too childish, and I enjoyed seeing a film that didn't make me feel awkward in front of my little brother. 

Grade: A+

This. Was. So. Boring.

Like, I don't even have much to say about it because it was that dull. I'm all for political drama - I especially enjoyed Conspiracy which was really just about a group of men talking around a table. But you flopped hard with this one, Spielberg.

Objectively I suppose this was well made and well directed, but it just failed to pull me in. DDL got his method on and all and was great as usual, but it's because he is such an obvious shoe-in that I don't want him to win. 

Also, there was apparently a whole bunch of white-saviouring going on which doesn't surprise me, I guess. I won't pretend that I'm an expert on this particular era of American history, because I'm not. But I did get the sense that the black people in this film were barely given any autonomy or agency about an issue that concerned them most of all. And ffs, even I know about Frederick Douglass. 

LBR though, this will in all likelihood win because the Academy loves them some old white dudes and an American martyr. 

I guess if you're having trouble sleeping and happen to be out of chamomile tea this is a film I would recommend. Although, to be fair, if you're a Civil War buff you'd probably enjoy it more than I did. But I think it speaks to the film's flaws in that it fails to reach a wider audience.

Grade: C

This was a cute movie with some great performances. Bradley Cooper was way better than expected, although unsurprisingly it was Robert Deniro who stole the show. Jennifer Lawrence? Meh, overrated in my opinion. I mean, she's definitely one of the more talented younger actresses, but people make way too much of her in this film. 

I don't really think that this film deserved a nomination for Best Picture. However, it's definitely an extremely refreshing romantic comedy for the current times. Let's be honest - the modern rom-com is now no more than a 2 hour infomercial for New York City and the latest set of Apple gadgets. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Mila Kunis's tatas and salivate over Chris Evans's abs, but that's it, really. So it was in a way very pleasant to see romantic film tackle issues that were actually complex and relatable, and which had characters that were three dimensional and interesting. I did actually laugh out loud during a few scenes and was actually touched by the film's ending. But the fact that such a mediocre film was such a high for the genre to the extent that it had to be nominated is actually a sad reflection on the genre itself as it stands today. 

I think it tackles mental illness quite intelligently - I've seen people say it was the most accurate depiction of bipolar disorder they'd seen in a while. 

I don't think SLP deserves to win. It does however set the bar for what current romantic comedies should be like. Stop being so fucking lazy, Hollywood. 

Grade: B

Ohhhh boy. In a way it's a good thing this is the last because I have a lot of ~feelings about this film.

Short version: I hated the fuck out of it. I thought it was blatant propaganda and the jingoistic tone completely pissed me off. I know there are people out there who feel the exact opposite way, but I simply can't shake off the feeling of disgust and contempt I felt for Kathryn Bigelow after I finished watching it.

Warning, I have many strong opinions about this, and many of them are political. 

I'll just copy and paste what I wrote on my Tumblr:

"Overall, I thought it was a well made and well directed film, and Jessica Chastain’s performance was indeed Oscar worthy. I wouldn’t mind if she won it.

But in my opinion the entire production was extremely problematic and the negatives far outweighed the positives.

For one thing, the torture scenes were entirely gross and unnecessary. The opening scene was placed there on purpose to justify the horrifying torture that went on afterwards. Bigelow can say what she likes, but the film’s stance on torture was completely unclear and muddled, and I was very unhappy with how it was portrayed. I don’t mind gore and violence at all, but if you’re going to include it, make it stand for something. And I felt that had they cut those scenes out, it would not have made a single difference.
The torturer himself, who dehumanised his victim by stripping him half naked, dragging him around on the ground by a dog collar placed around his neck as though he were an animal (and not even a dog deserved to be treated that way) and locking him inside a box, was more or less portrayed as a sympathetic person in the eyes of the protagonist. Am I supposed to feel sorry for him because he lost his monkeys? Give me a break.

I was also not here for the ‘Fuck Yeah America’ vibe of the film. The depiction of the Middle East and its people was consistently negative and derogatory and for a (non fictional) story dealing with such a complex and delicate issue, the tone was unsuitably one-dimensional and definitely not nuanced enough.

The fact that they actually showed the killing and murder that took place in the compound made me extremely uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure whether Bigelow wanted to shed some light on how gruesome the entire mission was, or whether she was trying to give her audience some weird sort of gratification. I will not deny that Bin Laden was a bad person and that 9/11 was a tragedy of the unspeakable kind. But I just didn’t need to see and hear parents being killed, children crying, soldiers bullying little babies just to get to their target. I didn’t feel satisfied or triumphant watching that. I felt disgusted and grossed out.

As someone who isn’t from the US, I’m still not entirely sure that America is fully aware of how the rest of the world views them and their foreign policy. I don’t think this film will do anything to improve its reputation abroad. Now whether that was Bigelow’s intention or not, I have no idea. But one thing’s for sure, she could have executed what she was trying to do in a far, far better way."

(I have since changed my mind about Chastain's performance).

The point of it all is, you CANNOT afford to be ~ambiguous or excuse your weak directing as artistic license when you're dealing with a subject like TORTURE. Wtf. Kathryn Bigelow directed a film that tried to make us feel bad for the torturers and for the CIA agents who without remorse committed these ruthless and unforgivable deeds. By depicting the American protagonists as heroes or as those who are fighting the good fight, the film becomes inevitably jingoistic by definition. If Bigelow did indeed exaggerate and fabricate certain instances of torture then that is quite frankly unforgivable. You just don't play around with these things just to give your film some dramatic tension and win an Oscar. Not in this current political climate, not in this current Islamophobic global attitude. Film and media does not exist in a vacuum. And don't listen to what the film's defenders are saying: if this film doesn't exactly promote torture, it does definitely defend it. It's shown to work in one instance despite what the experts say, and Chastain's character - the protagonist we are supposed to sympathise with - goes from being horrified by torture to actually using it herself during an interrogation. 

There were no conflicts or tensions that arose between the characters who went with torture. None at all. No arguments about it... it was just accepted as fact. It was all so distasteful. 

I'm not sure if Bigelow intended for this film to come across this way, but if she didn't, it just goes to show how poorly directed and written the entire film was. I'm glad she was snubbed - harsh, but true. And it's just so bloody disappointing that one of the few prolific female directors in Hollywood had to be behind this piece of trash. I actually loved the Hurt Locker and was glad that it won - this is just such a huge let down, I almost feel angry. 

I'll end this with a quote from this article (it's very good, read it):

Bigelow and Boal further defend Zero Dark Thirty by arguing that "the film doesn't have an agenda, and it doesn't judge... I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience". This statement betrays an even greater ignorance of the "true story" upon which their film is supposed to be based. They completely miss the fact that the "boots on the ground" - that is, the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and the trillions of dollars of war-making they brought with them to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and who knows how many other countries in the last 12 years - represent the purest form of political action imaginable. Politics lies behind not merely the torture that everyone is debating, but behind bin Laden himself, who was trained, financed and supported for years by the same US military-intelligence machine whose boots on the ground Zero Dark Thirty so faithfully follows, and who began his jihad against the US precisely because of the unending presence of American boots on the ground in his homeland of Saudi Arabia.

Grade: D


( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 22nd, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
lmao, good to know!

I can't wait to read it. I usually always read the book before, but it was so long I just didn't have the time. But it's def moved up my reading list.
Jan. 22nd, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I love these reviews! You've definitely made me curious about seeing Life of Pi (though I want to read the book first before I see it.)

I've only seen the stage version of Les Mis once, but Javert's big piece, "Stars," is one of my absolute favorites and I just knew Russell Crowe wouldn't do it justice. Sigh. Also I think people are generally in agreement that Enjolras >>> Marius and this is not just a function of Aaron Tveit pwning the guy who plays Marius. xD

It's been a long time since I read the book so I don't know if I'd see her differently now, but I do think the musical can't possibly paint a full picture of her b/c of time constraints (and though her songs are incredibly pretty, they don't really have the emotional depth and...individuality that Fantine and Eponine's songs do--sometimes you can "get" a character in just 1 song but whoever wrote the musical didn't really do that for Cosette.) But I found her a lot more interesting when she was a child and a young woman, before she met Marius. It's her relationship with Javert that probably provides the most insight into her character.

Edited at 2013-01-22 10:35 pm (UTC)
Jan. 22nd, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
I'm really curious to read Les Miserables now.

Aaron Tveit really was good. It's so weird to see all these Gossip Girl actors who had small roles get all these big Hollywood parts, lol.

Life of Pi is sooooo good. I would read the book beforehand, just to prepare for the ~emotions and so on. I really hope it wins but... I know the Academy won't be able to resist the triple combination of Lincoln/DDL/Spielberg -.-
Jan. 22nd, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
Ugh sorry, there was a typo in my comment, it should be "her relationship with Valjean." *smacks self upside head* I was still butthurt over Javert not being done justice in the movie, LOL, "Stars" is one of my favorite musical songs ever. Here's a really wonderful version of it.

The book is highly recommended BTW, I really enjoyed it.

It's so weird to see all these Gossip Girl actors who had small roles get all these big Hollywood parts, lol.


Life of Pi is sooooo good. I would read the book beforehand, just to prepare for the ~emotions and so on.

Oh, I'm glad to hear the book is good! When I just heard the title I actually thought it was about a mathematician, um... xD

I really hope it wins but... I know the Academy won't be able to resist the triple combination of Lincoln/DDL/Spielberg -.-

Heh. But didn't The War Horse lose out at the Oscars? I can't remember, I barely keep up with the Academy Awards nowadays outside the Poor Leo meme. :D

Edited at 2013-01-22 10:48 pm (UTC)
Jan. 22nd, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
Yiiiiikes, that is a HUGE difference from Russell Crowe! I've heard that Hugh Jackman's voice wasn't quite suited to Valjean either, but damn... at least Hugh can actually sing.

At the beginning of the book I thought that Life of Pi was kinda preachy because there's a lot about religion and so on. But I really like the way the story develops and concludes. It's quite powerful.

I think if War Horse had DDL method acting as the horse itself, it would be a whole different story. lol. idk, the Academy is so old fashioned and predictable.


Jan. 22nd, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC)
Yiiiiikes, that is a HUGE difference from Russell Crowe!

I remember hearing it live and it just gave me chills. I don't even know the name of the person playing Javert in the performance I saw but he was amazing.

I think if War Horse had DDL method acting as the horse itself, it would be a whole different story.




Edited at 2013-01-22 11:02 pm (UTC)
Jan. 22nd, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)

But hey, at least he dated Gossip Girl's wife!!!

this cracked me up sfm lol
Jul. 19th, 2013 06:28 am (UTC)
Its interesting
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:53 am (UTC)
Jul. 29th, 2013 10:58 am (UTC)
Jul. 29th, 2013 10:59 am (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2013 08:45 am (UTC)
Very nice
Aug. 5th, 2013 09:14 am (UTC)
i like this one
Aug. 5th, 2013 10:49 am (UTC)
good one
Aug. 21st, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
good one
Aug. 31st, 2013 07:49 am (UTC)
Sep. 1st, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
Sep. 5th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
Sep. 6th, 2013 06:08 am (UTC)
Sep. 7th, 2013 05:12 am (UTC)
Sep. 7th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC)
Sep. 8th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2013 09:07 am (UTC)
Sep. 10th, 2013 09:01 am (UTC)
Sep. 12th, 2013 04:24 am (UTC)
Sep. 20th, 2013 03:38 am (UTC)
Thats tremendous
Sep. 21st, 2013 09:34 am (UTC)
Sep. 24th, 2013 04:48 am (UTC)
Sep. 28th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
Oct. 9th, 2013 03:49 am (UTC)

Really good
Oct. 12th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC)
Oct. 15th, 2013 06:07 am (UTC)
I like it
Nov. 5th, 2013 11:00 am (UTC)
Nov. 20th, 2013 06:02 am (UTC)
Dec. 19th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
Its fascinating
Dec. 23rd, 2013 03:45 am (UTC)
Jan. 16th, 2014 05:23 am (UTC)

Thats fabulous
Jan. 23rd, 2014 05:06 am (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2014 06:50 am (UTC)
Jun. 10th, 2014 06:19 am (UTC)
Apr. 29th, 2015 09:30 am (UTC)

Thats exceptional...
Jun. 4th, 2015 10:56 am (UTC)
Its trendy
Jul. 2nd, 2015 10:53 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2016 04:18 am (UTC)

Thats very good...
Aug. 30th, 2016 02:36 am (UTC)
( 47 comments — Leave a comment )

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