Tag Archives: Les Misérables

Quality and The Oscars

So it’s Oscar time. Which means award times. And, well, I’m mildly disappointed with some of the nominations. I find that movies, video games, and so on can’t be judged subjectively or comparatively. Least not on a flat scale of quality+writing+cinematography+explosions.

Here’s how I judge stuff: did it accomplish what it set out to do, and did it do it well? It’s an odd scale, yeah, but it’s one that works. Like Lincoln, the movie that snatched a dozen nominations: Spielberg set out to create the definitive cinematic biography of Linocln and the passage of the 13th Amendment. Not only did he accomplish that, he made it look good. So yes, Lincoln was a good movie.

In a similar but different vein, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter presented itself as a biography of Lincoln’s life, only this time vampires were woven in as the primary antagonist. Did it pull it off? Yep. Was it the dramatic/kickass action movie it billed itself as? Oh yes. So yes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was also a good movie. But it would never win an Oscar.

Do I want Lincoln to win Best Picture? No, not really. It’s a great movie, but it’s, well, it’s obvious. I guess Amour is too, though I haven’t seen it and won’t say anything. I’m going to watch Beasts of the Southern Wild sometime before tonight because I want to see it.

And the others? Zero Dark Thirty had the best portrayal of a military raid in cinema that I can think of. Not only did it follow proper procedure, but the whole way it was done gave it the tension and moral ambiguity that it deserved. Les Miserables was a great musical and definitely deserves the nod, but that’s about it.

I read Life of Pi seven years ago on a ship in Norway and enjoyed the book and the movie captured it perfectly. Lastly, Django Unchained is Tarantino being Tarantino, and hey, no complaints there. It’s not as good as Inglorious Basterds, but it’s not crap either.

That leaves Argo and Silver Linings Playbook and they’re my favorites of the nominees. Why?

Argo was different. It was a drama/thriller, but it was also funny. It was intense, but it remained fun without negating any of its intensity. Any idea how hard that is to pull off?

Then Silver Linings is about broken people and I love it because it takes a movie about a romance and gives it weight and worth. But it won’t win because it can be passed over as a romantic comedy and who’d want one of those to win? (Also: Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in that movie was fantastic)

So what movies would I want nominated and why? So glad you asked, dear reader, because you’ll find out.

Right off the bat: Skyfall. Yes, it’s a James Bond movie which means it shouldn’t win, but it’s just too dang good for it to not even be recognized. It’s smart, well made, and, hey, I’ve been over this before. At least we all know it’ll get the Oscar for Best Original Song.

My favorite movies of 2012 will forever be The Avengers (with Silver Linings second). Joss Whedon and crew set out to create an ensemble superhero movie and they pulled it off. At least give the man a writing nomination for being able to balance six main characters without any being terribly overshadowed. It’s simply a well made movie but gets precluded due to its ‘light’ subject matter. So no Oscar.

Beyond those two, Looper should’ve gotten a nod at least for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s makeup and Ted for special effects. The Cabin in the Woods had a wonderfully clever script, but we all knew it wouldn’t be nominated.

At the end of the day, though, doesn’t really matter who’d I want to win. Heck, I’ve never even watched the Oscars before (I will tomorrow, though). All they do is piss me off because the movies I want to win never win. I find them to be so… not predictable but routine. Up or District 9 or True Grit would never win because they were either genre or just too fun. By nature Oscar movies have to be better than other movies. Not The Dark Knight better than Batman and Robin sort of better, but rather the Lincoln better than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter better. Oscar movies need to be serious, maybe inspirational, but certainly dramatic; earnestness, spirit, and heart need not apply. But movies like Silver Linings Playbook and Argo have heart to spare.

Finally: If Paperman doesn’t win Best Animated Short I will strangle a baby narwhal.*

*Writer’s note: I will not strangle a baby narwhal due to a) my lack of access to a baby narwhal and 2) why would anyone want to strangle a baby narwhal (besides Paperman not winning)?

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Old Made New

So y’know how Les Misérables came out over Christmas? Of course you do: your neighbor’s been singing it incessantly since (which song? All of them, duh). While musicals are nothing new, Les Misérables was special because they recorded the actors singing live on set and added the orchestration in post-production. Usually, the songs are recorded beforehand and lip-synched to during filming. The route Les Mis took allowed them to try the songs several different ways on set. The result is a fantastic musical and a radical breakthrough in the production process.

Only, well, it’s been done before. Several times, in fact. A quick wikipedia check reveals that some early talkies as well as a couple movies I’ve never seen used it. So why the hullabaloo?

Well, when was the last time a massive musical people were this excited about came out? It seems almost as if musicals fell out of fashion a while back and suddenly we have this daringly massive new one (based on a stage production based on a book) coming out. People are excited. And rightfully so, it’s a great movie, one that might remind us that musicals are viable films. Even though Les Mis really didn’t revolutionize anything, the film has an impact and will now be the one people think of with regards to recording the songs live.

Quick! Think of a comicbook/superhero movie before X-Men came out in 2000! Besides Tim Burton’s Batman and Superman and the sequels. Unless you cheated and used wikipedia, none should really come to mind. Sure, there were quite a handful of rather crappy b-movies that came out, but no one really cared about them. Then along came X-Men and Spider-Man and suddenly superhero movies mattered. Well, not immediately, but look at the movies coming out now.

Within the span of a little over a decade superhero movies went from being absolute rubbish (Batman & Robin) to a viable economic investment (Spider-Man 2) to a legitimate dramatic form of storytelling (The Dark Knight) to an incredibly enjoyable piece of cinema (The Avengers). Was superhero movies a new idea? Nope: the first Captain America serial came out in 1944. But it took proof that it was worth it to give us this new slew of movies. Which I’m certainly not complaining about.

We like to clamber over movies as being new and revolutionary for pioneering old techniques. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, and I’m not saying it isn’t revolutionary. Just because something’s been done to death and cast off as being a waste of time (see: Batman & Robin) doesn’t mean it can’t be done differently (Batman Begins). Good reboots are this: old things made new, done right. We can complain all we want about a lack of originality, but Star Trek and Captain America: The First Avenger are the movies we want to see.

So go see Les Misérables, go enjoy a superhero movie. Never mind it’s not entirely new or revolutionary; they’re trying on old hats, enjoying something new.

And who knows; maybe Les Mis will spark a new offering of cinematic musicals.

Writer’s Note: Apologies for the shorter/lackluster post; I’m in Spain on a school trip. Yes. That is my excuse. Now let me go get tapas.

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