Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar time, not Pistorius

'Beasts of the Southern Wild'
With the Academy Awards this Sunday, we'll finally get a reprieve from the Oscar Pistorius murder saga in South Africa.

"Blade Runner" Oscar, so named because he has no legs but rather carbon-fiber prosthetics, shot his girlfriend multiple times and is now in jail for her killing. End of story. Please.

Not so with the Oscars of Hollywood.

Granted, only those with real fast smartphones know who won in any category last year.

Like Detroit, the Oscars have seen better days.

There used to be only five films nominated for Best Picture. Now, we have 10, or just nine this year because there weren't enough worthy films to round out the field.

Still, there is money to be lost in wagering who will win and who won't.

Of course, I never wager on the Oscars, or anything else, but I still have opinions about the nominees, since I've seen a couple of the films. So, in the order of how the oddsmakers see it, here are the favorites to win Best Picture:

"Argo": No. 1 chance of winning, according to this website. The movie was entertaining, but painful to watch to those of us who lived through that age. Those polyester suits, horrible haircuts and grossly over-sized glasses are all part of my past and I didn't need to be reminded of it. Plus, the hostages were so inept and, at times, unlikable, that they didn't seem worthy of being rescued. Still, I was rooting for them. A well-done thriller even when you know the outcome.

"Lincoln": This Steven Spielberg opus could easily win since it showed how our government could get past its dysfunction and pass something truly consequential. That hasn't happened since women got the right to vote in 1920. While I liked the movie overall, I wasn't as awed as others. The opening, with a meaningless battle sequence followed by a contrived meeting between "Honest Abe" and some soldiers was cringe-worthy. And yet, it's always worth watching Daniel Day-Lewis. He's the best male actor alive. He is "Lincoln." There is no contest who will win Best Actor. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones is the narrow favorite to win Best Supporting Actor.

"Silver Linings Playbook": A great acting ensemble led by Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. They're all nominated in the four acting categories. The film is a tough, profane look at two damaged souls and how they get together against all odds. I did get nauseous while watching the film at Pilot Butte Six. Don't know if it was the large popcorn I devoured or the fact the camerawork is so unsteady and almost all in closeup that it was difficult to watch with the seats at the theater so close to the screen. I'd wait until it's on DVD. One pet-peeve: The lead characters walk or run in the middle of the street throughout the film and rarely come across moving vehicles. This lent an air unreality to what, in general, is a realistic drama. Directed by David O. Russell who did the classic, "Three Kings." Lawrence is the favorite to win Best Actress.

"Life of Pi": Did not see this Ang Lee fantasy, but it does look great and would be worth watching on the big screen unlike most of the nominees in this category. Just haven't carved out the time.

"Les Miserables": Haven't seen this one yet even though it's directed by Tom Hooper, who helmed "The King's Speech," one of the best films in the past 10 years, at least. Les Miz is a great story and has a good cast including Oscar favorite Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. I'll probably catch up to it on DVD.

"Django Unchained": Typical Quentin Tarrantino. An outrageous take on slavery with his usual mix of good and bad violence. QT writes great dialog and set pieces, but he does get carried away with the mayhem. Another DVD pick.

"Amour": Not sure why this foreign film is nominated here, as well as in the foreign film category. The film's director, Michael Haneke, has a history of making provocative and confounding films -- "The White Ribbon" and "Funny Games" -- and it's surprising to see him make a film that looks at love between a couple in their 80s. Kudos to him. I'll see it on DVD.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild": Probably the most accomplished film in the bunch considering that is was made for $1.8 million. It's a Terrence Malick-influenced film about people living in the "Bathtub," the outermost bayou of New Orleans. It's astonishing that people in this country choose to live the way they do in such deprivation. Equally amazing is that the director, Benh Zeitlin, does not look down on these characters, but rather humanizes them. A friend found this difficult to watch at Pilot Butte Six, much like I did when watching "Silver Linings Playbook" there. The hand-held camera work is hard to view when sitting so close to the screen. Luckily, I saw it on DVD.

"Zero Dark Thirty": Sadly, it seems like the controversy over the portrayal of torture in the film has given it the longest odds to win Best Picture. Then again, I haven't rushed out to see this movie because watching torture for the first half-hour or so of the film doesn't thrill me. But, Kathryn Bigelow is a good director and Jessica Chastain is one of the best actresses working today. Also, I love the fact that Chastain portrays the CIA woman who tracked down Osama bin Laden, a man who represented a culture that treats women as second-class citizens or worse. At this point, another DVD rental.

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