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Joyful Girl

Andrea Blythe's blog about writing, reading, and everything else

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Best Picture Showcase, Day Two
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Day one of the showcase with my thoughts on Amour, Les Mis, Argo, and Django Unchained can be found here.

Saturday finished up all the Best Picture nominated movies.

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
"In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know that once there was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.”

The movie opens with revelry, the impoverished inhabitants (who don't seem to need money or jobs) dancing around and playing with fireworks and drinking a whole lot of what I assume is moonshine. Hushpuppy takes part in the party with glee, while her daddy spends his time drinking and dancing and making a ruckus.

The squalor of these people is portrayed in loving detail with homemade shanties put together out of whatever can be found, walls made of objects from wood crates to boarded up doors to car parts. The disparate objects and clutter and abandonment has a kind of prettiness that I'm not sure the reality would maintain. The people here, who can make noodling look like it's no big deal, live in drunken joy, as though they didn't have a problem in the world. One of the great maxims is that the people of The Bathtub don't cry. I couldn't really connect with or get a feeling for the dad or any of the other people of The Bathtub, and there were points where the homespun "wisdom" of the swamp people was so — I don't even know the word... hokey? — that I cringed while watching.

Quvenzhané Wallis, however, is amazing in the role and her nomination for Best Actress is well deserved. She's also extremely adorable and it is her alone that really carries this movie. It's her words that are the most vital, the most alive, and it her, the way she listed to animal's heartbeats in the hopes of hearing their secret message or shouting, "I'm the man!" that give this movie all its heart.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it would be more fantastical, more Where the Wild Things Are in the deep South. But the only aspect of the fantastical is the Aurocks, fierce creatures from prehistoric ages that are meant to mirror the tough and brave people of the Bathtub. We see the Aurocks journey, from being trapped in prehistoric ice to accross the land to finally meet Hushpuppy herself and the others from the Bathtub. It was really only at that moment and what comes after that the movie came alive for me (unfortunate that it was so close to the end).

And I have to admit that I got choked up when Hushpuppy says, “When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.” Because that kind of interconnectedness moves me, even if the movie as a whole didn't portray that feeling as much as I would have hoped.

I know a lot of people who loved this movie, and I can kind of see why they loved it, but it just didn't work as a whole for me.

2. Life of Pi
After a steamer ship capsizes, drowning his family and all the crew, a young boy is left to survive on the ocean with only a tiger for company. I didn't know what to make of the trailer when I first saw it, and wasn't drawn to go see it in theaters. I had enjoyed the book, but didn't really connect with it and it seemed like the movie wouldn't be able to fully capture the mystical qualities of the book. I was wrong.

Ang Lee did a fantastic job, filling  the movie with gorgeous cinematography in which the sky and sea sometimes seem to become one. Humor and sadness and hope blend together into a moving and spiritually significant movie. Both Irrfan Khan (adult Pi) and Suraj Sharma (Pi on the boat) do a wonderful job in their respective roles. It's one of those movies where I can't even seem to find the words to explain why.

With its stunningly beautiful imagery, I think this was my personal favorite out of all the best picture nominees.

3. Lincoln
Focusing mostly on the politics of putting together the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, Lincoln simultanteously provides a portrait of Abraham Lincoln during that time period through the incredibly performance by Daniel Day Lewis. He well deserved his Oscar win for best actor. By nature, this historical is a bit slower in plot, pausing several times for Lewis to provide an oratory to whomever is listening. The image is of a silver-tongued Lincoln, who seems to maunder off during an important conversation, only to come back around to the main point and nail it home. The effect is riveting and occasionally is used for appropriate comic effect.

A litany of great actors appear in the movie, including Sally Fields as the wife undone by the loss of her son and by her husband's ambition. She's fragile and heartbroken, but remains strong (see her verbally knock several senators off their pedestals at a party). There's also great performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordan-Levitt, David Strathairn, James Spader, and many others.

It does favor the stories of white people in the time period, rather than given much voice to the black community. However, the scene of two black soldiers describing to Lincoln their experiences in war at the beginning of the movie is really a great moment.

Fantastic movie, even if it was slower paced.

4. Silver Linings Playbook
After getting out of an institution, a man (Bradley Cooper) returns home with the aim of reconnecting with his wife. The only problem is that she has a restraining order against him (due to the incident that got him placed in an institution to begin with) and his bipolar still flares up into chaotic outbursts. Along the way he meets an equally wounded and screwy widow (Jennifer Lawrence), who decided to make friends with him.

I loved this movie, which is wacky in a real life is f*ed up kind a way and heartfelt in an life doesn't stop being rough but we can work through it together way. It was fun and funny, and Booper and Lawrence both present great performances. In fact, I think it was their performances that earned Silver Linings a best picture nomination, because while it's great, it's certainly not artistically on par with ANY of the other movies that were nominated.

5. Zero Dark Thirty
A "based on actual events" version of how al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was tracked down an killed, showing the start of the inquiry (which involved torture), followed by a number of years of stasis, before leading ultimately to his death in Pakistan.

This isn't generally my kind of movie. As the last in a long day of movies, it was rather dry and I found myself wanting to go to sleep. But I think the movie was admirably done and Jessica Chastain did fine in the role, although there didn't seem to be much to it, as she was playing a CIA operative who had to be necessarily emotionless.

I think a friend said it best when she said, "I would have prefered to have watched a documentary about this."

 * * *

I totally forgot the Oscars were actually on Sunday, so I only tuned in to see the announcement of the the last three awards, which I'm glad about. Honestly, listening to the acceptance speeches was rather awkward and uncomfortable all around, even if they were gracious and funny. Also, I'm glad I missed Seth MacFarland's jokes, which I hear were also rather uncomfortable at times, as well (though I did like the Tribute to the Losers song at the end).

I'm happy for all the winners, though, and while I expected Lincoln to win I was fine with the choice and I'm fine with all the other choices, too.

I am stoked to learn that Quvenzhané Wallis has been given the lead role in the new Annie remake, because she's wonderful and I can't wait to see her in future movies. Also, I feel the need to add a link to "The Thing About Being a Little Black Girl," because people have been awful to Quevenzhane this weekend and the post is so loving.

What did you think about how the Oscars turned out?