As usual, the Academy Awards are poised to make some very wrong decisions this year. So as usual, I am prematurely correcting them by releasing my Top Ten of the year.
That year is 2012, of course — real film critics release such lists at the end of December or beginning of January, but since I have numerous other obligations, you get it in late February, once I’ve had a chance to catch up with nearly all eligible films.
Well, I finally saw Django Unchained, and where to begin? I avoided it for quite some time because it seemed most everyone had already seen it, and a Tarantino film is not a thing I like to embark on alone. For one, I’d heard about the over-the-top violence, which seemed like a thing best taken in with a friend or loved one; also, Tarantino films tend to prompt a good debate — I fondly remember a two-hour post-Kill Bill Vol. 2 discussion at a Brazilian restaurant with two compadres.
Django Unchained is no different. In fact, it’s hardly a departure for Tarantino, but rather nestled right at home between the nods toward blaxploitation of early works like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, the genre mish-mash of the Kill Bill movies, and the revisionist history of Ingloruious Basterds. It’s maybe the most Tarantino movie of them all.
As usual in the midst of awards season, my cinematic viewings lately have been pretty heavy. And now it’s time for something completely different.
Girl Walk // All Day is one of my favorite films I’ve seen lately, except that I’m not sure it’s a film at all. It used to be that movies came in pretty much one format — you went to the theater and watched them all in one go. If it was a super long movie, maybe you’d get an intermission, but that was it.
But times have changed, my friends, and so has cinema. What separates the stuff we watch on YouTube from the stuff we’d watch in a theater? Quality and budget, mostly — but not necessarily. Girl Walk // All Day is feature-length with pretty good production value; it takes place all over New York City and is quite competently shot and edited, which is more than you can say about the majority of stuff currently floating around the internet. And yet, content-wise, it has more in common with the flash mob videos your mom still posts on your Facebook wall than it does with Zero Dark Thirty.
In what world is Argo a better movie than Zero Dark Thirty?
This isn’t a response to Ben Affleck’s Golden Globes win for Best Director and Argo’s triumph as Best Drama. The Globes are the Globes, and they can only be taken so seriously. Avatar, The Descendants, Babel, and plenty of other films have proven that the Golden Globes’ pick is rarely the best movie of the year, either in actuality or in the eyes of Oscar.
This also isn’t really about Ben Affleck’s suspense drama not being a good movie, because it is. Let me emphasize that. A good movie. Good… fine, entertaining. It’ll do.
And it’s not even about Kathryn Bigelow’s shocking snub as a Best Director nominee, because Ben Affleck received an almost-as-shocking snub for the same award.
(Originally posted on JustinPlusSix on November 8.) Well, it’s been a hell of a week.
In the time since I wrote my review of Cloud Atlas last week, we’ve had Hurricane Sandy, Halloween, and we re-elected Barack Obama. (I know Sandy was technically more than a week ago, but I wrote my review beforehand.)
I wasn’t in New York for the hurricane this year, but I was there last August for Irene, so I know what the buildup was like, even though the aftermath of Sandy was much more severe. Probably at least half of my friends, in life and on Facebook, are in the New York area, so I was getting a constant stream of information about it the same way I was providing that stream last year. Truthfully, it made me miss New York, because it was emblematic of what makes New York such an amazing place to live in the first place. Anyone who’s spent more than a few weeks in the city knows that it’s not an easy place to live. As Madonna says, it’s not for pussies. Obviously a hurricane is a somewhat extreme event, but New Yorkers deal with extreme all the time. There’s a sense of pride in that city, not just during a hurricane but every day, that we’re all in this together.
It’s here — the ultimate intersection of Hollywood and Broadway. A musical theater-lover’s wet dream. Les Misérables: the movie musical!
Early buzz was good. Like, Best Picture good. Oscars all-around to the entire cast, life-changing good. Its opening day set a best-ever record for a movie musical at the box office, and was also one of the strongest Christmas Day openings on record. Director Tom Hooper had his cast sing live on set (rather than in the studio) for a change. Already, you could hear the kudos wafting in. “Bravo! Revolutionary! Vive la France!”
Kathryn Bigelow has been directing for a few decades now, but it took a long time for us to really notice her.
That happened with The Hurt Locker, 2009′s Oscar-winner for Best Picture and, historically, for Best Director. There are multiple angles with which to approach her win — one, that she deserved it. And she did. Most would agree that The Hurt Locker was one of the most impressive films of 2009, the year in which it went up against Up In The Air, Precious, Inglourious Basterds, and, most formidably, Avatar. Avatar was, of course, directed by Bigelow’s ex James Cameron, and even though we’ve been led to believe there’s no bad blood between them, it’s impossible to deny that many of us enjoyed the “stick it to your ex” subtext of her victory. Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time and revolutionized the way we currently watch movies (for better or worse), and if the Oscars were ever going to be all about commercial appeal, 2009 was the year.
The most sublime moment of Holy Motors features a strange being from the sewers rising up and intruding upon a photo shoot. The photographer, previously enraptured by the beauty of a model played by Eva Mendes, is now captivated by the unique, vaguely monstrous creature he sees before him. “So weird!” he exclaims gleefully, multiple times, as he snaps photos.
It is, in a nutshell, a microcosm of the enjoyment brave cineastes will get from Holy Motors; whether you love it or hate it, “So weird!” will likely be the first words to escape your lips upon exiting the theater.