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The Road To Oscars 2013 : The Nominees

Like every year, the nominations for this year in major categories are filled with a mixed bag of movies. Some excellent, some mediocre and some that make you wonder what made the Academy vote for them.  Here is a low down on this year’s nominees in no particular order: 

Life of Pi

Is this another case like Slumdog Millionaire where Indian exotica is enamoring a Western audience but not finding much favour within India itself? Probably. For those who have read Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winning book, the movie is several shades paler. It’s hokey views on religion take away a lot from the film. What redeems it is the effectual use of 3D and special effects. Ang Lee films a book which I never imagined would see the dark of a cinema hall. A boy and his tiger are stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea. How the tiger plays the central character forms the highlight of the film. It may not win in major categories but Oscars for visual effects are beckoning.


Django Unchained

Tarantino fans ought to be disappointed. I know I was. The buildup that he gives to his scenes, the incredible tension that he creates before a violent release is missing. And for the first time, I felt that the violence in his film is gratuitous. Most characters, apart for Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are uninteresting. That’s three too less. In the hands of a lesser director, this could have been a passable movie but not with Tarantino. A bounty hunter and a freed slave set off on a journey to rescue the latter’s wife. The inspirations obviously are Westerns and Blaxploitation films. Only you don’t fondly recall the genres after the film is over.


Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I saw this film some four months ago at the Mumbai Film Festival and what has stayed with me is Quvenzhané Wallis’ innocent visage. She is too good in the story of a young girl whose land is cut off from the rest of the world due the rising flood waters. Told from her point of view, the film takes a surreal turn as she imagines things a child of six would probably imagine. Credit goes to the Academy for recognizing this film which otherwise could have landed up discarded like so many other worthy movies that don’t have a major star.



Performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in the leading roles are so realistic, I could not bear to watch them. Michael Haneke takes a painfully close look at old age and its issues. The lives of an aged couple are thrown out of gear when the lady suffers a stroke and the man has to take care of her. There’s a daughter (Isabelle Huppert) who does little besides paying lip service. The film is slow paced and perhaps beyond tolerance for the viewer looking to have a good time at the movies. For the discerning, this is a masterpiece.


It’s 1979 and the American Embassy at Iran has been taken over by a huge crowd of protesters  A group of Americans escapes and hides at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. In order to rescue them, a CIA operative flies in, makes them masquerade as a film crew and whisks them away to safety. Unbelievable, but true. The story gets a Hollywood treatment with plenty of thrills to keep you on the edge of the seat. Another feather in the cap for director Ben Affleck.


Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

This could have been a serious movie about a person with bi-polar disorder who stumbles into an unconventional romance but David O. Russell turns it into a comedy. Bradley Cooper plays the patient who reluctantly falls for a recently widowed Jennifer Lawrence while still trying to get back with his estranged wife. The wonderful ensemble cast, especially Robert De Niro as the superstitious bookie, elevate the film to high quality entertainment. For Indians reading this, Anupam Kher has a minor role as Cooper’s doctor.   



I love movies that play on the ambivalence of the human character. Much like Separation last year. Denzel Washington is a pilot who tanks up before a flight and as his luck would have it, the plane goes down. Thanks to deft maneuvering, only 6 on board are killed. But the fact remains that he was inebriated and two plus two is seldom something besides four. But was this responsible for the flight going down? Probably not. Yet, how do you prove that in court? Throughout the movie,Washington swings between alcoholism and sobriety. If nothing else, watch it for his performance. Cruelly, Robert Zemeckis has been kept out of nominations for directing.


Moonrise Kingdom

There is no doubting Wes Anderson’s style. His unique use of colour, split screens and Bill Murray leave a distinct mark on his movies. But this time I am not very happy with the convenient turns the screenplay takes. An adolescent couple escapes to live a life on their own but is soon apprehended. So they escape again. Anderson’s actors seem to move around like puppets rather than doing things on their own. If this is an acquired taste, I am yet to acquire it.


The Master  

Paul Thomas Anderson’s thinly veiled account of L. Ron Hubbard and the cult of Scientology. Only Scientology comes off as absolute hokus pokus here. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the eponymous leader but his isn’t the leading role. Joaquin Phoenix as his slightly deranged follower with a penchant for concocting potentially lethal cocktails and violence is the chief attraction. The acting is A-grade, but overall the film does not add up to much.


Zero Dark Thirty

For the first half hour, I was wondering what critics over the world saw in this picture. But then, gradually, it started to grab me. The grip began to tighten until the denouement when I was left with sweaty palms. This despite knowing what’s going to happen to Obama. Jessica Chastain as the lone woman whose persistence tracks down the hideout in Abbotabad deserves her nomination in the Best Actress category. After The Hurt Locker, this is another winner from the writer-director team of Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow


The Impossible

A couple with three little children finds their world torn apart when their holiday in Thailand is disrupted by the 2004 tsunami. The first half when the tsunami strikes and the family are separated will have you holding your breath as if you are submerged yourself. The end reminded me of reunion scenes from Waqt / Amar Akbar Anthony taking away a little bit from the good that the rest of movie had done. But its based on a true story, so we can’t really complain.


The Sessions

A polio affected man of 38 (John Hawkes) breaths from an iron lung and his tilted face is the only part of his body he can move. He has one ambition – to have sex. Okay, there’s another part that’s mobile. He employs the services of a “sex surrogate”, a therapist who will,  guide him into manhood. Sounds like a cheesy nude movie but it isn’t. This one too is based on a true story. Helen Hunt lends respectability to the difficult role of the surrogate. The end was a bit abrupt, otherwise it surely would have competed in most major categories.


After a brief drop in form, Steven Spielberg in back with an epic movie about the final few years of the life of Abraham Lincoln. The Civil War is about to end and the amendment abolishing slavery is to be passed. The intricate machinations that went behind the bill are often difficult to follow, especially if you aren’t completely clued in to that part of history. But the filmmakers can hardly be blamed for that. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the title role as only he can.

Les Miserables

Before watching the movie, I read the massive 1200+ page classic by Victor Hugo just so that I could put comment here saying whether the film lived up to the book. It does not even come close. In fact it does not even measure up to other movie musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Chicago. It’s a pain sitting through the length of the movie, hearing the actors sing out their lines when dialogue would do just fine. And to think this is coming from Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech. What a waste of an all star cast!


By: Devang Ghia
Posted: February 24, 2013, 10:32 am


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