Since I was a young lad, I’ve cleared my calendar of any plans (read: none) to prop myself up in front of the television and sit in judgment on Oscar Night. This year’s slate of 9 Best Picture Nominees is the best they’ve given us in years. I’ve seen all but one of them, and I’m happy to tell you what’s good and bad about each one, so you can discuss them at your Oscar party without seeing them. I’ve ranked them in order of worst to first on how they’d appear on my ballot if the Academy were smart enough to recruit me as a member.
Life of Pi…This is the one film I haven’t seen yet, and I WILL see it before the Oscars on Sunday. I’m still going to tell you what’s good and bad about it, though. Good: The film comes alive with lush visuals in 3D and prolific artistry to match the spiritual undercurrents of the story. Bad: The book on which the movie is based is pretentious, purports to tell you how deep it is and contains a “twist” ending in the spirit of M. Night Shyamalan.
Beasts of the Southern Wild…Good: You can witness a star being born in a young 6-year old, Oscar nominated actress while the film builds an original world of characters in a swampland rife with lore and fantasy. Bad: This is an awful movie that people pretend to love because they are supposed to and then assign depth and spirituality to characters that make awful life decisions. Handheld camera shakiness makes the Blair Witch Project seem smooth and pleasant.
Django Unchained…Good: Exciting Tarantino action and dialogue meet a slavery revenge story set in a Spaghetti Western tableau. It sure is nice to see horrible people get shot. Bad: This extremely violent movie is 43% comprised of the n-word and gunshot wounds. It’s like Inglourius Basterds with a third of the scintillating dialogue and character development, and three times the bodily harm.
Les Miserables…Good: The soaring harmonies and heart wrenching performances alternatively give you chills and palpitations. Anne Hathaway knocks her song out of the park. Bad: You wonder why French revolutionaries have British accents. Extreme close-ups force you up the nose of otherwise lovely singers. Russell Crowe ruins everything when he destroys your favorite song from the musical. (That may only apply to me.)
Lincoln…Good: History buffs rejoice at the highly detailed portrayal of Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. Everyone in the movie is awesome, particularly Daniel Day-Lewis, who I assume is more like Lincoln than Lincoln ever was. Bad: There are moments in the movie where you must shake yourself awake and remind yourself that it’s not people dressed as 19th Century dandies, reading you an audiobook.
Amour…Good: It’s an emotional body blow of a film about a Parisian couple. When the wife has a stroke, the husband must take care of her to the bitter end. It is harrowing and beautiful at once. Bad: A fun fact about this movie is that I haven’t laughed out loud once since I’ve seen it. There are some things you can’t un-see, and they’re coming for us all.
Silver Linings Playbook…Good: Finally, a film about that psychosis of Philadelphia sports fans, the joy of dance and the perils of mental illness. We should all have crushes on Jennifer Lawrence. Bad: It’s not a movie for those who resent their films with perfect endings tied in a tidy bow. It’s very sweet and funny, but not exactly groundbreaking.
Argo…Good: It’s a seamless combination of an international thriller, a comedy about Hollywood, and a procedural drama. Even though you know the ending, you’re still on the edge of your seat. Bad: There’s really not much bad to say about it. It’s a people-pleaser. I guess it’s tough to see if you’re a contrarian.
Zero Dark Thirty…Good: It’s an incredibly suspenseful and controversial exploration of how the CIA was able to track down Osama Bin Laden through the eyes of a monomaniacal female agent. It forces you to confront the USA’s methods of operation in times of war. Bad: Smaller minds may reason that the film endorses torture. The final 45 minutes is not for the faint of heart.