UPDATED: I just finished watching the Oscars. See, I told you about Ang Lee and Argo! Jennifer Lawrence was a real shocker but I do think she was worthy of it. The “James Bond” material was weak, very weak. I could have put together a much better tribute. Seth McFarlane was terrible and very narcissistic. When they had Mrs. Obama announce the winner, I knew it was either Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, or Lincoln that would win. The microphone that Norah Jones and Adele used was bad and it kind of ruined two of the best voices a person could hear.
As promised, four days from the Oscars, here are some ideas, themes, and quirks I notice about this years 9 best picture nominees (Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty) You can read the brief reviews for each film at previous blogs (Part One, Part Two).
First, there is a definite anti-bureaucrat theme. We find that theme most powerfully in Zero Dark Thirty were the operatives on the ground keep getting sidetracked by mid-level management. By the way, did anyone else notice that the dad from the t.v. show Friday Night Lights played pretty much the same character in both Zero Dark Thirty and Argo? Coincidence? Hum. Nevertheless, the theme is also in Les Mis, Argo, Lincoln and even Silver Linings Playbook. In Silver, the people who should know how best to help the poor guy really do more harm than good (with the exception of his football loving therapist.)
Second, history is a theme. Last year’s theme was primarily about movie making, but this year the theme is historical. Six of the movies are essentially historical narratives. Even Pi is historical in that it is political unrest in India that causes Pi’s family to take the fateful voyage with Richard Parker. Beast’s is definitely made to remind us of Hurricane Katrina, even if it is not specifically alluded to.
Third, oppression is a theme. Amour faces the oppression of illness and death, Argo faces the oppression of extremist, Django and Lincoln are against the back drop of slavery, Silver is the oppression of mental disorders and Zero is the oppression caused by terrorists. I can’t determine whether the makers of Beasts are intentionally trying to play the theme of oppression against poverty and ignorance, but there is a good chance that they are.
Before I move onto predictions, let me sermonize on one more “theme” I see, and that is profanity. Only Life of Pi is the kind of movie I would let a 10 year old see. Les Mis is not profane, but it does have very adult themes. Every other film, even Lincoln, relishes profanity and vile speech. For Argo and Zero, it makes sense in historical context but the “F” word in Lincoln, Amour, and the unbelievably harsh speech in Django make me cringe because they were plot necessary. The trend is toward increasing potty mouth and, while I’m on it, a film that has the “F” word should not be PG-13.
Now that the moralizing is over, predictions. Lincoln is the favorite and Zero Dark Thirty is close on its heels. However, Argo has an outside shot, and here is how. Last year I correctly predicted that The Artist would win because Hollywood loves movies about itself. Argo casts Hollywood as a hero in its film. That fact alone could tip the hand toward Argo.
As far as I am concerned, anyone of those three could win and I would be happy. If Amour, Beasts, or Django win I will be writing a strongly worded letter to someone.