I've spent the past few months trying to catch up on what I missed in 2012, which seems to be almost everything, based on the top ten lists I've scoured the internet for. (Okay, for the most part I just used the ones aggregated by Metacritic.) It's gotten to the doldrums of this annual process where I needed sort of a break so I've spent the past few days watching Fritz Lang movies and random film noirs on Netflix. Strangely, I've seen all of Metacritic's top 30 except for two that are readily available on Netflix and ostensibly films I would enjoy (Deep Blue Sea and that Oslo movie). I don't know why I'm holding off on watching them. Anyway, if there is one type of movie I never get tired of watching it's noirish old thrillers. Even clunky old ones like Jules Dassin's gloriously overrated but strangely compelling in its deceptive simplicity The Naked City.
Anyway, it was of course the Oscars yesterday. Like every year, I thought most of the nominees were glaringly mediocre. Even the better ones, for the most part, didn't strike me as particularly excellent. But so it goes. Of the best picture nominees, I would have voted for Amour. I didn't love the ending and think it strange that everyone has been gaga over Emanuelle Riva while seeming to forget that Jean-Louis Trentignant basically carried the movie. But honestly I was impressed by all three of the main performances, the other being that of Isabelle Huppert. But when is Isabelle Huppert ever not phenomenal?
It blew my mind when I realized this, but I probably would have selected Silver Linings Playbook as my second choice. I know a lot of people thought it was simple or trite or I don't know what, but I thought it was, for the most part, pretty well executed. There was some good, snappy dialogue and compelling characterizations that mostly made up for the missteps like the silliness about the letter and the oddly off-key counselor. My third pick would probably be Lincoln, as I did love a fair bit about it. I mean, I thought Sally Field was mindbendingly miscast and for me she seemed to be doing that thing where seasoned film stars gradually revert to playing caricatures of themselves. I found Tommy Lee Jones a little overearnest, but by the end I think he sold it, though I don't think the film really handled the bit about S Epatha Merkerson very deftly. I'm not sure if that fault lies on Spielberg or Kushner, but I have more faith in Kushner so let's blame the king of overblown shlock. It was be uncharitable to say anything about Joseph Gordon Levitt, but Daniel Day Lewis and David Strathairn were quite effective as Lincoln and Seward. I guess I didn't say much nice about it there, but in general it was pulled off well and the correlation to the gay marriage debate was present without shooting too far.
As for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Django Unchained, all I can really say is they were okay. Pleasant enough to watch, but I somehow couldn't connect to the former and found the latter kind of problematic. I expected to find the latter problematic, but it ended up being for different reasons than I anticipated: more narrative than moral. Oh well.
I disliked Argo and Zero Dark Thirty for similar reasons. In general, I found them disrespectful of the truth and the people they depicted. Especially Argo, but while Argo was reckless in a child of the 80s kind of way, I found Zero Dark Thirty almost Orwellian in its lack of context or any discernible morality. Maybe worse than that but possibly because of that, I also found it immensely tedious. Sad to say, but it kind of but a chink in my affection for Jessica Chastain. I don't really have much nice to say about Life of Pi. Or anything at all really. I mostly just thought it was really stupid and half-baked. I guess I didn't identify with it at all.
I didn't really care about any of the acting categories because they didn't seem to nominate any of the right people this year. I'm fine with Daniel Day Lewis, I suppose, because I haven't really thought of anyone else I'd have liked to see win. David Strathairn would have been my pick for best supporting actor, had he been nominated. I also felt like Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch probably deserved acting nominations more than some of the actual nominees. I'd have picked Amy Adams for supporting actress, though I probably would have preferred for Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas) to be nominated. For best actress, I would have likely voted for Emanuelle Riva, but I feel like it would have been more interesting if Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina) or Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going) had been nominated. Or Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), or Michelle Williams (Take This Waltz).
I haven't seen No, but of the four foreign film nominees I've seen I may have picked Amour, although I really feel like I have been rooting for War Witch. Then again, I feel like Romania's Beyond the Hills really should have been nominated because that probably should have won. Of course, I say this having seen only like 11 of the submitted films, so who knows. Anyway, mostly just glad that Caesar Must Die didn't get nominated because it's terrible. I also quite like Christian Petzold's Barbara, but it really had no chance of winning an Oscar. Actually, Beyond the Hills was probably too complicated to win anything either. Oh well.
For the short films categories, I was happy that Paperboy won since it was the best of the mediocre nominees, and while I would have voted for Henry, I'd have been happy with any of the nominees winning except for Buzkashi Boys, which was the weakest to me, but probably just because I don't care about sports, boys, men, or father/son relationships. Especially when it involves headless goat carcasses. I only saw one of the short documentaries, Inocente, which won. Honestly I didn't care for it much at all. I think it's a story that's been told better by other people and I thought the filmmakers made the mistake of exalting the child while slamming the mother. I don't know, based on the trailers for the other films I'm really surprised it won because it seemed the weakest to me.
I haven't seen The Gatekeepers yet, but of the four nominees I saw, I liked them all, though as is typical, I think the weakest film won. It took a great story and mangled it, I thought. Anyway, I would have picked How to Survive a Plague or The Invisible War and I would have nominated The House I Live In and/or Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel over 5 Broken Cameras or Searching for Sugarman.
I thought all of the animated movies were pretty weak, but in my opinion Brave, which won, was the strongest. I really didn't think it was anywhere near as weak as people said it was, and of course I thought the other four nominees were pretty bad. My favorite animated movie of the year was Consuming Spirits, though even if it were up Oscar's alley, I don't know that it would have been eligible this year. Sigh. Maybe next year. As of yet, it remains my favorite English language movie of last year and one of the top five altogether.
Not much to say about the other categories except that the music in Life of Pi is the one thing I liked about it.
Anyway. Not really sure this was very interesting to read, but I felt like I should get back into posting here.