BEST TEN FILMS OF 2013

Like I’ve said numerous times before, 2013 was a spectacular year for movies, especially with the slate of films that were released in the fall.  It was excruciating to compile this list, let alone conclude on ten films.  Most likely, this list will change throughout the years, but for now, here are my ten favorite films of 2013.

10.  PRISONERS

Seeing this film before even knowing what it was about, I was thrown into a dark and morally conflicting world where we dive into child abduction and kidnapping in a painful and humanistic manner.  Denis Villeneuve’s direction, Roger Deakins’ cinematography, and Aaron Guzikowski’s tightly written script works in all manners, creating an thriller wrapped within multiple themes of religion, tragedy, and what we’re willing to do for our own family, even if it’s criminal.  PRISONERS is a refreshing take on cliche genre, and is a multiple viewing considering how dense the film is.  I specifically love Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performances, and this cast works very well together.  It’s a film that deserves more recognition and is an entertaining but an investigation on the relationship between action and reaction.

9.  THE PAST

In simple words, Asghar Farhadi, the director of THE PAST, is a genius.  The way we layers his films, creating an intimate world between a facet of characters all intertwined within difficult relationships.  This film, another dense and pact cinematic experience, is the epitome of careful and detail outlining with the pace moving beautifully and slowly revealing the truth about the overlying situation and the reality of these flawed characters.  It’s an immense accomplishment, surrounding itself with multitudes of conflict, and the infatuation we as humans have with our past and its inability to propel ourselves to progress.  It’s a film many should watch, and can help us understand ourselves in ways that we may never have wanted to discover.  That’s the purity in cinema.

8.  STORIES WE TELL

The best documentary I’ve seen this year is STORIES WE TELL created by the talented Sarah Polley, and it’s obvious why I would appreciate a film like this.  The story, being centered around her family’s ill-structured dynamic, it’s another tale of misfortune, reveling in the past, and the ability to let go.  There are multitude of revealings that happen throughout the film, and once they all hit, the message works so well in tune, emphasizing how truth is as fragmented as our own stories, only connecting to what our memory serves us to remember.  It’s a great work of art, and I hope this film moves towards legendary status.

7.  GRAVITY

A roller coaster ride of an experience with an emotional punch packed within, GRAVITY, Alfonso Cuaron’s most recent picture, is something to behold.  The visuals on this film will easily be regarded as the best that’s ever been done, but the film doesn’t work just because of its special effects, but it’s hinged on Ryan Stone’s growth into surviving and living, rather than peacefully disappearing from existence.  The entire film is a metaphor to how tragedy can inflict our souls, and how we have two options to make: either to overcome or to wither.  Stone’s surmounting hurdles and obstacles are life’s way of making things never easy, but the power of motivation and the will to live can overcome, and the way it all works together creates a powerful and moving piece of work.

6.  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

The most polarizing film of 2013, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a grand example of a mastermind and auteur of everything cinema.  Yes, it’s a hypnotic and gratuitous watch, infused with sex, drugs, alcohol, and all kinds of debauchery that posts a lost ability to reflect but more to just witness.  But the film is a satire and a commentary of all things evil, and the methods these scums of the States have used throughout time to steal from whoever they can manage.  But we don’t see the victims because Jordan Belfort doesn’t see the victims.  We don’t see character growth because there is no character growth.  We see only one perspective, the shallow and inconsiderate kind, which of these men, to, at the end of day, realize that this kind of life is fraudulent and unkind to all involved.

5.  HER

This is the love story of our generation, our inability to discover true and human relationships, and rely on our computer screens or iPhones to fulfill the emptiness within our souls.  HER is a reflection on our society’s infatuation with illusion, the mere existence we share with someone on the other side.  Spike Jonze creates a world where this has become the standard, not just acceptable behavior.  The film is based in the very near future, not resembling a vast different skyline of Los Angeles or greater technology.  But the near future is a reflection of how close we are to actually falling in love with our computers, and finding our strongest connection with software.  If we really think about it, the behavior we exhume is awkward and definably questionable, but those who dissociate themselves from it are almost looked at outcasts.  HER, with a simple touch of human love and how conflicted we are as people, is an incredible achievement in story telling.  Hail all parties involved as this film will last throughout time.

4.  12 YEARS A SLAVE

Eloquent, graceful, distant, and emotionally careful, 12 YEARS A SLAVE will be the most important film that has come out in the 2000s.  Steve McQueen’s direction is clearly felt, easily having a large creative hand in how the product eventually results.  You’ve got one of the great ensembles piece of the year, with each performance pulling its weight and taking us on this journey of Solomon Northup.  It takes a few viewings to truly understand the grandness of it all, to appreciate the exact execution it took to pull of a passionate, moving, and somber tale one man’s story in a culture that has haunted American history.  It deserves Best Picture, not just for how great the film is, but for important it will be to finally reward this kind of artistry tackling an issue that should’ve been tackled a long time ago.

3.  BEFORE MIDNIGHT

In my opinion, the greatest trilogy I’ve ever seen, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is the icing on the cake, the completed work of three progressive films that get better and better.  A simple and private story of two people falling in love, it’s a realistic but yet also hopeful take on relationships and how love, as twisted as it is, is the only thing we really have in this world that stays throughout time.  Richard Linklater, with the writing aid of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who play the leads) have enabled us with a new range of filmmaking, ignoring the cliche rules and standards of new age American cinema, allowing us to divulge in words and their eloquent ways of expression.  It’s a study that should be constantly taught in film schools and all media classes as the epitome of risky story telling.  It works so well, and is one of the best films of 2013.

2.  SHORT TERM 12

The battle between #1 and #2 was as difficult as ever, but in the grand scheme of things, both films will be in my all time favorites so it’s really a redundant conversation, but it shows just how good SHORT TERM 12 really is.  It’s a film that nails the honesty and the truth of disturbed and pained children and teenagers, and how the victimization of innocence is what truly ruins this country.  But really, it’s a story of appreciation and finding the good in people.  Stripping away all reputation and background from an individual, and giving each and every person a chance is what’s important here.  Destin Cretton does an invaluable job of displaying these difficult stories where tortured teenagers must find ways to survive, regardless of it being healthy or legal.  The performances from each member of its cast including Brie Larson, Keith Stanfield, and John Gallagher Jr. are all essential components to this vast success of storytelling.  It’s a film that I’ll show my kids, and I hope they’ll show theirs.  It’s a recommendation I’ll always make to people because it’s a true human story, and regardless of what we have or haven’t gone through, we can all understand the difficulties of living with pain, no matter how small or big we think they are.  SHORT TERM 12 is a film you must watch.

1.  BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR

It’s hard to really explain my love for this film, from its grand themes of love, identity, individualism, and the road to happiness, but each and every individual that has seen this film has its own personal affection for it and with very good reason.  It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.  It’s a visual display of the power in sexual chemistry, and how overpowering it can be to find love within our physical hunger and appetite.  It’s a thesis of conversations ranging from the beauty of art, the difficulties of maturity, literature, food, and all things important in our daily lives.  It’s a reflection of relationships, and how there’s always that one person that has captured our breaths in ways that no other partner ever has.  It creates this small, intimate world of Adele that infatuates our need to find and discover.  Not just in our sexual exploration or our human interactions, but within ourselves, and to find what completes us and makes us whole.  To label this film a “sex infused lesbian movie” is unjust and unfair.  The film is so much more than that, and deserves an audience willing to explore these thoughts and ideas that provide great detail of the difficulties of living.

One can only hope 2014 emulates something similar to 2013.  What a great year for cinema.

The 2013 Oscar Predictions!

This is it.  It all comes down to this.  The Oscars.  Until it finishes and then we start a brand new year.  But we can all discuss about that and our post-depression after the 85th Academy Awards.  But let’s get straight to it.  Here are my predictions for the 2013 Academy Awards (and who should win).

Best Picture

Winner: Argo
Who Should Win:  Lincoln/Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Silver Linings Playbook

I hate hate hate how the Oscars are now predictable.  Though you always want to award film thats deserve the statue, it has become such a mammoth of a game with all these award shows and guilds prior to the big one.  It’s like if the two Super Bowl teams kept playing 4-5 times before the actual big game in February.  It’s became that big of a headache and has led to some anticlimactic years.  This year, it’s not so much predictable as frustrating.  Plain and simple: Argo is not the best film of 2012.  If I had a vote, I would probably have put Lincoln or Life of Pi as my number one rank, and Argo would most likely be my 5th or 6th.  Nonetheless, I predict it’s going to win.  Look out for Silver Linings Playbook to have a big night, and if does, this is going to be the icing on the cake.

Best Director

Winner: Steven Spielberg
Who Should Win: Spielberg/Ang Lee
Spoiler Alert: David O. Russell

As you can see, I’m very split between Life of Pi and Lincoln.  But considering I don’t have a lot of courage in these predictions, I’m going to stick with Spielberg just because it makes the most sense.  If Lincoln is somehow number one or number two behind Argo, then it makes a lot of sense that Spielberg will win his third Oscar for directing.  But something tells me Lincoln is not second.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Life of Pi or Silver Linings is ahead of Lincoln, which would lead to Director going to someone else.  I’m betting money on David O. Russell, not just because Vegas has him at +1500, but because I do think he has a legitimate chance of winning.  Over Ang Lee?  Not sure, but it all depends on how the night is playing out.  If we see De Niro and Lawrence win their respective categories, then I’d be a fool not to bet on Russell.  It’s anyone’s game.

Best Actor

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Spoiler Alert: Hugh Jackman

If there’s anyone that could potentially upset Abraham Lincoln is Hugh Jackman, but I don’t see that happening.  If it does, then you truly know that the Academy despised Lincoln and will not win one category throughout the entire evening.  But Lewis is going to win…….

Best Actress

Winner: Emannuelle Riva
Who Should Win: Jessica Chastain
Spoiler Alert: Emannuelle Riva

Though I predict Riva will win, she’s still not the favorite as Jennifer Lawrence is, but I think those who predict Lawrence will win don’t see the changing tide and emotional pull Riva has with the Academy.  They loved Amour, so much so they’re willing to sacrifice a 22 year old’s first Oscar (she’s going to get nominated again) and reward the 80’s something French actress who most likely will be her final film of her long and enduring career.  If you look at last year’s Best Supporting Actor, Christopher Plummer, who definitely didn’t put in the best work in that category, but still won because of his age and career’s work throughout the 82 years he’s been placed on this earth.  It’s more of a congratulatory win rather than it being truly deserving, but this year, it’s both a congrats and a deserving vote.  I would’ve voted for Chastain who delivered one of the all time great female roles of all time, but I don’t think I need to go into much detail about why ZDT has gotten one of the all time screwed over campaigns in Oscar history.

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Robert De Niro
Who Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Spoiler Alert: Christoph Waltz

I think the Academy loves Silver Linings Playbook a lot more than the rest of Hollywood, and when you have Harvey F****** Weinstein behind your campaign, then you’re always a threat.  The favorite to most people is still Tommy Lee Jones or Christoph Waltz, but I’m sticking with De Niro.  Waltz technically is in a poster role (dominates screen time) but still his performance is well deserving.  But he just recently won and the Academy usually doesn’t reward the same actors between small gaps.  I would love to see Tommy Lee Jones win, but I’ll stick to my upset pick.

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Anne Hatheway, Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Sally Field, Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Sally Field, Lincoln

If Sally Field wins this, I’m calling Lincoln for Director and Picture.  But I highly doubt it.  Anne Hatheway has swept this award since December.  It’s hers for the taking.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Who Should Win: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Michael Haneke, Amour

This award all depends on how the Academy feels about these three films.  Django, ZDT and Amour are all in a dead heat race as they’ve split the industry’s votes between the WGA, Golden Globes, BAFTA, etc.  I’m sticking with Quentin on this one, but that’s because I’m going with what my head thinks this year.  My heart tells me Haneke because the Academy is in amour with Amour (someone shoot me, thanks) but I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these three wins, including the one I think deserves to win, Mark Boal.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Chris Terrio, Argo
Who Should Win: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

This is the category that I potentially think will give us a foreshadow of who’s going to win Best Picture.  All four possible BP winners are in this category (including Life of Pi) and whoever wins this category I believe could very well also be on stage for Picture.  The only film that I see winning Adapted Screenplay and not winning Picture is Lincoln.  Tony Kushner’s script is by far the biggest achievement, but as you’ve noticed with the prior guilds, sometimes achievement is not the most important.  If Argo wins here, we can slowly see the blocks tumbling away and it revealing who will win Best Picture.

Best Editing

Winner: Argo
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Silver Linings Playbook

If anything except Argo wins editing (which it should) then anticipate an upset at Picture.  The only film that wins this category but it eventually meaning nothing will be ZDT.  What a shame…

Best Cinematography

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Lincoln

I don’t necessarily think Skyfall deserves to win, but I do think Roger Deakins does deserve his first damn Oscar.  He’s been nominated for the ninth time, but still is empty handed.  He’s the best director of photography working today, and almost no one touches him in terms of the quality of work he puts on year in and year out.  But I predict Life of Pi winning, and Deakins will have to sit out another year.  What a shame…

Best Production Design

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Anna Karenina

Okay, honestly, Anna Karenina is most likely going to win, but I just don’t want to feel stupid that if it does win, I at least have written it somewhere.  Well, I predict Les Mis is going to win a few categories and this is where it’ll win at least one Oscar.  It’s not the favorite, but I think the Academy just votes which film they enjoyed the most in certain categories.  Lincoln deserves to win, but it will be ignored.  Of course.

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Skyfall

All depends which film they enjoy more, Skyfall or Les Mis.  I’m going to stick with history here and say Les Miserables because musicals usually take this category.

Best Sound Editing

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler Alert: Life of Pi

I put Life of Pi as both winner and spoiler alert because I’m picking the upset here.  Skyfall and Argo are technically ahead of Life of Pi in terms of who’s in the lead, but Life of Pi sweeping the MPSE was enough for me to choose it.  Zero Dark Thirty deserves to win this award though, hands down.

Best Costume Design

Winner: Anna Karenina
Who Should Win: Lincoln
Spoiler Alert: Les Miserables

Anna Karenina will win the Oscar here.  If Lincoln does, potential big night for Lincoln.

Best Original Score

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Lincoln

John Williams will lose, but if he somehow doesn’t, then like Costume, could lead to bigger things.  Life of Pi though deserves to win this category.  Great great soundtrack.

Best Original Song

Winner: Skyfall
Who Should Win: Skyfall
Spoiler Alert: Anything other than Skyfall

If Adele performs and attends, you better give it to Skyfall.

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: Amour
Who Should Win: Amour
Spoiler Alert: Kon-Tiki

Amour will win its first Oscar here (unless Screenplay is before Foreign Language film).

Best Documentary Feature

Winner: Searching for Sugarman
Who Should Win: The Invisible War
Spoiler Alert: How To Survive A Plague/The Invisible War

Searching for Sugarman has swept, but the Academy has a track record of not voting with the trends for documentary.  Only if this were true for everything else.

Best Animated Feature

Winner: Brave
Who Should Win: Wreck-It-Ralph
Spoiler Alert: Frankenweenie

I hope hope hope Brave doesn’t win, but I think it will.  the most deserving film here is Wreck-It-Ralph, and most experts are picking it to win.  But Pixar is the new monster, and it usually wins this category.  Also add in the fact it’s won many of the precursors, and I think you have your eventual winner.  Don’t be surprised if Tim Burton somehow goes up on stage and creeps everyone out.  And then Helena Bonham Carter will come up with him for some reason.

Best Visual Effects

Winner: Life of Pi
Who Should Win: Life of Pi
Spoiler Alert: Anything Else

Richard Parker is the greatest achievement this year.

Best Makeup and Hair

Winner: Les Miserables
Who Should Win: The Hobbit
Spoiler Alert: Les Miserables

Technically, The Hobbit is the favorite, but what I think most people are forgetting is the new addition to the category, Hair.  I don’t think Academy members know squat about makeup and hair, and I really don’t think they liked the Hobbit and its HFR nonsense, so in response, they’ll make sure it loses the one category it most likely should and would win.  Les Miserables, take your Oscar.

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Curefew
Spoiler Alert: Henry

Best Animated Short

Winner: Paperman
Spoiler Alert: Adam & Dog

Best Documentary Short

Winner: Open Heart
Spoiler Alert: Inocente

Well, there they are folks.  I do expect my predictions to get demolished tonight, but hey, who cares?!  But good luck and enjoy your Oscars night.  And in tribute for the films of 2012, here is a great video.

The 2013 Oscar Preview: Acting Categories

Acting!  Now, for our four acting categories.

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

There really is no discussion here.  Anne Hathaway is going to win Best Supporting Actress.  She steals the film and she will still this win, as almost no other actress will come close.  Performance wise though, I Sally Field in Lincoln matches Hathaway’s vibrato and intensity.  Her crucial part as Mary Todd Lincoln is crucial for the film, and her astonishing work would’ve been recognized in almost any other year.  I will say this.  If for some reason Hathaway doesn’t win and either Weaver or Field shock the world in a huge upset, their win would be a foreshadow for both Director and Picture.  But I’d bet my left arm on Anne Hathaway.  In other news…Russell Crowe is performing at the Oscars.  Shoot.  Me.  Now.

Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

This is most likely the closest race out of any category this year at the Academy Awards.  There is no lead, no favorite and more advantage.  Technically, Waltz should be the favorite considering he has received the most guild awards including the BAFTA and Golden Globe, but he just recently won for Inglourious Basterds which usually is an automatic no win.  But his role in Django is so fascinating that many seem to think that just can’t ignore his performance.  But I’m still sticking with the assumption that most voters will realize that they can’t give him two Oscars in the same category with less than 2-3 years apart.  That moves on to Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.  His win at the SAG and Critic’s Choice is very important, considering the acting branch in the Academy has the most amount of members.  But winning the SAG does not always equate to winning the Oscar.  My guess is that if Tommy Lee Jones win Supporting Actor, then you can safely assume that Spielberg will win Directing, but then again, I’m betting on myself to look like a complete fool come Oscar night.  That’s why my pick will most likely be Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook.  I think people love Silver Linings, but I also think people love De Niro even more.  Though he’s already received two Oscars before, it’s been 21 years since his last NOMINATION.  And considering how my picks are going, I think the Academy will feel it necessary to reward Silver Linings for its achievement in some category.  Though most people will bet on either Waltz or Jones (which is the smartest and safest thing to do), I wouldn’t be too shocked if De Niro’s name is inside that envelope.  And you can make sure I’ll be bragging all night on this blog.

Best Actress

Emannuelle Riva, Amour
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

This is also another category that’s almost impossible to predict.  The race for Best Actress has changed constantly over that last few months, with a new leader taking the top spot every week or so.  After Zero Dark Thirty was released, it was almost certain that Jessica Chastain would receive her first Oscar, establishing the start of a marvelous career we are about to witness.  But when that shit storm hit of ZDT’s pro-torture nonsense, it took down any chance for ZDT to dominate, let alone win one Oscar on Sunday.  I do hope ZDT wins at least one, but I don’t think it’ll be in this category, which is a shame.  Chastain turns in an amazing performance, as does Wallis and Watts.  Both are amazing works of art, and their respective film truly rests on their shoulders, supplying the emotional and psychological toll of their situations.  But the favorite here is Lawrence mainly because Silver Linings Playbook is a film that the Academy eats up, a la Argo.  Her performance is great, and just like Chastain, will have an amazing career with future nominations and win(s).  And because of this huge potential and promise from both Chastain and Lawrence, I believe they will cancel each other out and make room for 82-year old Emannuelle Riva, the oldest actress to ever be nominated.  Amour is adored, and she pulls in one of the most harrowing performances of the year.  Amour will win at least 1-2 Oscars, and Best Actress is a strong possibility.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Denzel Washington, Flight
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Again, another category filled with great performances.  This is definitely a strong year for Best Actor, and anyone of these actors not named Daniel Day-Lewis had a legitimate chance of winning if not for, well, Daniel Day-Lewis.  There really is no need for discussion here because just like Anne Hathaway, Lewis is running away with this award ever since people first flocked to see Lincoln.  If there’s any chance of an upset, which then I will throw my remote at my television set and then cry, is Hugh Jackman.  The Academy is raving over his performance, and just like Lewis, rests on his abilities to carry the film.  I don’t see it happening, but if there was any possible chance that another name could be called, it’d be him.  Even smaller chance for Bradley Cooper, but there’s no reason for anyone to think this is going to anyone else except Daniel Day-Lewis.

Tomorrow we will dive into the Directing category.

The Attack of The Singing Face: My Love/Hate Review of Les Miserables

There are some things that are best left alone, and it’s very possible that Les Miserables should’ve been one of them.  From the Oscar winning director of The King’s Speech comes Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Miserables, the ever popular and musical sensation that is as ever polarizing and difficult to rate as any other film I’ve witness.  This review will be broken up into two parts, why I loved it, and why I hated.  Hopefully by the end of this review, I’ve reached my conclusion and rating of Les Mis.  I am truly “On My Own”….

Why I loved Les Miserables.

Well, if you know me personally, I proclaim Les Miserables as the greatest musical of all time.  The plot is complex, confusing and very assumptive, but the music is gorgeous, beautiful and completely unmatched.  I have absolutely no connection to the French Revolution or with the characters, but when I hear them sing, it’s an emotional experience that cannot be compared with any other production I’ve seen on screen.  This biased opinion of the stage production is the main reason why I love the film.  Okay, I’m being overdramatic when I say love and hate (haven’t gotten to the hate portion yet).  I didn’t really love the film, but I really wanted to, mainly because I love the Broadway musical.

And just because I loved the stage version so much, I can say I like this film too.  It has way too many failures and mistakes to even put it near the stage version, but it’s good enough.  I loved witnessing the grand scope of the film, setting us in a believable atmosphere that compares to the French Revolution.  The opening scene where we are introduced to Jean Valjean, Javert and the ever so talented group of prisoners pulling in a damaged ship is the beauty of transitioning a musical to the big screen.  Big sets, special effects and an actual legitimate budget allows for our imagination to be put in actuality, allowing us to fully dive into the world of the musical.  This is where the film truly succeeds.  The world fits, and the set design is at its best.  The world Tom Hooper and his crew created is top-notch quality work.  As you can see, I’m trying to find things to praise…

In all honesty, the cast here is mostly good if not great.  Hugh Jackman, though I have my issues, was perfect for Jean Valjean.  I can’t think of any actor working today that can carry this role.  The vocal range and talent, the physique, the Broadway background.  Hugh Jackman was born to play Valjean, and we witness this on screen through song after song.  The rest of the cast does its part, especially Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Samantha Barks as Eponine and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.  But who really shines is Anne Hatheway.  Completely deserving of Oscar praise, Hatheway plays Fantine the way it’s supposed to and more so.  Her version of “I Dreamed A Dream” is as good as it gets, and her emotional pull in her performance was the ultimate climax.  Unfortunately, “I Dreamed A Dream” is sung in the first 45 minutes…

Why I Hated Les Miserables.

Yes, I’m being overdramatic (just like Hugh Jackman’s acting), but there are just some aspects of this film I just couldn’t forgive or let go.  Much of it is the impossibility of transferring Les Mis from stage to screen.  There’s a reason why there’s never been a film adaptation of the musical.  It’s too difficult, as what works for Les Mis on stage doesn’t work on film.  The audience needs a break.  Heck, even the theater audience gets an intermission.  We get 2 hours and 30 minutes of non-stop sing and song, where the rare dialogue is like needed oxygen for a drowning man.

Why it works on Broadway is mainly because we witness the music live.  There’s a huge difference experiencing an actor singing “On My Own” or “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” live on stage than seeing it on screen.  And instead of trying to find a solution for this, Hooper decides to connect the audience emotionally by delivering close up after close up on the musical numbers, giving us this trapped and suffocating experience where I feel like the movie theater has increased my fear of claustrophobia (I don’t suffer from claustrophobia…).

I don’t think Tom Hooper understood what you can get away with on stage and what you can get away with on screen.  The plot of Les Miserables is ridiculous and extremely ignorant.  Characters fall in love for no reason, Jean Valjean keeps escaping Javert point blank and individuals are stupid at best.  But it works on stage.  We give them the benefit of the doubt because we’re not there to criticize or not-pick at these flaws or shortcomings because we go to a musical to witness the music.  The problem with film is that though the music is the most important aspect, it’s not the only one.  You need a working plot, you need some sort of character development, you need actual substance.  Great singing just isn’t enough to save a film.

There’s the other problem with Les Miserables (the film version).  Tom Hooper did something revolutionary.  He created the first film to ever record the actors singing live while being shot on film.  The actors wore an earpiece with just a piano accompaniment, giving them the freedom to sing live with change of pace, emotion, and variation.  Sounds great right?  But here’s the problem: you’ve created an editing nightmare.

The main reason why we’re given so many damn close up performances is because you cannot integrate multiple angles because the actor or actress changed the song in his or her preference each take.  They had the freedom to do something different every time, so there’s no possibility of recording the same performance or getting anywhere near the consistency of one version when you’re doing it live.  That means we’re stuck with this three-minute song watching Russell Crowe sing one continuous note.  Instead of giving the audience a change of scenery or angle, we’re completely stuck, and though that works on stage, it is miserable (no pun intended) for film.  The character development, the struggle and difficulties of these characters are shared in song, but instead of connecting with their musical processing, we’re focused on this giant face.  When I truly fell in love with the film is when the ensemble is singing together and Hooper is allowed the freedom to gracefully cut and interact multiple scenes together.  It’s wonderful and gives us that “grand” scope musicals cannot.  But if you know Les Mis, there are not many of those.

90% of the film’s flaws fall under a predicament that can’t be solved, and I don’t necessarily blame Hooper for this.  You can’t do the traditional lip-synching other film musicals have done with Les Miserables.  The story isn’t good enough for that.  The heart is in the music.  But when they decided to do live recording, it ultimately decided and unfortunately limited the film to what it was: a masterful effort with mediocre result.

There are some things that Hooper could’ve done like the overacting, the laughable cuts of Jackman’s sudden singing or the confusing use of real dialogue and singing dialogue, but in the end, the choice to adapt Les Miserables on screen was the biggest mistake.  This film, though succeeds in some aspects, is tiring, enduring and eventually exhausting to watch.  Unlike my standing ovation for the theater production, I needed a blanket and a nap as the credits rolled.  The music will live on, but the film will unfortunately be forgotten.

Les Miserables gets 2 ½ stars (out of 5).

Ladies & Gentlemen: The New Favorite For Best Picture

National Board of Review:

Best Film:
  ZERO DARK THIRTY

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY

Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED

Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE

Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Best Animated Feature: WRECK-IT RALPH

NYFCC:
Best Film: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actress: Rachel Weisz, Deep Blue Sea

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field, Lincoln

Best Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Bernie and Magic Mike

Best Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln

Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser, Zero Dark Thirty

The race is too early to call for almost any category except maybe the screenplays and Best Actor, but even then, we never truly know what the Academy will do.  Though I’m willing to put Zero Dark Thirty as the favorite, I’m waiting for the Les Miserables monster to awaken anytime soon.  Here are the early favorites so far in my opinion:

Best Picture:  Zero Dark Thirty
Right Behind: Lincoln and Les Miserables

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Right Behind: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Best Actor:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Right Behind: Hugh Jackman (Les Mis)

Best Actress:  Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Right Behind: Jennifer Lawerence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Supporting ActorMatthew McConoughey, Magic Mike & Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Right Behind:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Best Original Screenplay:  Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Right Behind:  Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Right Behind:  Chris Terrio (Argo)