2013 BEST PICTURE–THEMES AND A PREDICTION

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).

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO . . .
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO . . .

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.

DJANGO AND LUKE SKYWALKER

First a confession.  This is not really a blog.  It is more of a thought that I am sharing.

Kim and I watch all of the films nominated for best picture.  I finally saw Django Unchained Thursday night.  I only have two more to go (Argo and Amour).  Don’t worry, I will post full blogs about the films later, after I have seen all of them just like I did last year.

Last Year’s Oscar Films Part One

Last Year’s Oscar Films Part Two

Last Year’s Oscar Films Part Three

But that is not what I am blogging about today.  I will tell you my thoughts about Django later.  But for now, I want to tell you what I have decided.  I have decided that Django Unchained has the same plot as Star Wars (Episode IV, which to me, will always be just, Star Wars).

Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker?
Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker?

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

Do not read any further if you have not seen the film and want to be surprised.

Django is Luke Skywalker.  He is freed from the shackles holding him back–in Django these are real manacles, for Luke they are metaphors.

They both find a mentor–the same one who frees them–a mentor with a white beard and a funny accent (Obi Wan is English, Dr. Schultz is German).

In Django, the mentor serves as both Obi Wan and Han Solo, “Come with me kid, you’re not too bad in a fight.”

The basic plan is to break into the bad guys territory (Plantation=Death Star).

Leonardo DiCaprio is Darth Vader.

Slavery (The Old South) is identical to the evil Galactic Empire.

Princess Leia is tortured.  So is Broomhilda.

The mentor figure fights the bad guy and dies doing it.

There is a final battle.

Django blows up the plantation with dynamite.  Luke blows up the Death Star with a torpedo.

Kerry Washington even looks a little like Princess Leia at the end.

When George Lucas made the original Star Wars, he said it was like an old western set in outer space.  In Django, the outer space story has now become the western.

WATCHING BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

With the exception of an absolutely wonderful day of worship with my church family on Sunday, the Greenbeans spent most of the weekend trying to watch as many of the best picture nominees as possible.  Here are my impressions so far; in the order we have seen them.

The Help–Okay, we saw this film about two months ago before we knew it would be nominated for best picture.  I think Kim liked it more than I did; but I have to say it was a very good movie.  I have heard some chatter from some corners that it is not very historically accurate, be that as it may, it was a very good movie.  The acting was spectacular and, as a man who spent his childhood in a racist, bigoted culture, I can tell you it did capture the ugly essence of racism.
 
Midnight in Paris–This was the first of three movies on Friday.  Kim and I purchased it on demand while the kids were at school.  I loved this movie.  It has all of the strengths of the classic Woody Allen movies without the weaknesses (an unending narcissism, fatalism, and self importance).  As a writer and reader who loves T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway I find the premise absolutely engrossing.  I was hooked.  This movie has the added benefit of staring the greatest living actor of our time:  Owen Wilson.
 
The Tree of Life–Two hours, which regretfully, I will never get back.  I hated this movie.  I understand the metaphor and the images and the ‘put everything into perspective’ aspect but give me a break.  I need something linear.  Is clear exposition too much to ask for?  The only saving grace is that the acting is really good.  Too bad the actors are so rarely on screen or ever saying anything.  My 17 year old daughter saw this one with us (again, on demand in the basement) and kept saying, “make it stop!”
 
War Horse–We saw this film Friday evening (finishing the triple feature Friday) with our youngest daughter (12) at the historic Dragonfly Cinema in Port Orchard.  I liked this movie even though it featured an animal as the lead; and usually I do not like animal oriented movies.  I think what I liked most was the portrayal of the global impact of war on all the earth; man, land, and beast.  By like, I don’t mean that I enjoyed it, I mean it was moving.  It made me think of Isaiah’s prophecy of of the wolf lying down with the lamb as the context for universal peace.
 
Moneyball–Again, we purchased this on demand on Saturday evening.  I’m not a very big fan of Brad Pitt (I can’t forgive him for ruining Achilles in Troy) so two Pitt movies in two days was pushing it.  The film was good but the cast was what made it.  Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and all the character actors did a fantastic job.  On the negative side, the story is nice but it is not that compelling.  The movie has hard work to do–it is trying to make us feel sorry for million dollar athletes and professional sports clubs.  As a man who lives in a community that pulls for our miserable Mariners every year, it is hard to root for the A’s.  A few reviews say that it is to baseball what “The Social Network” was for Facebook.  I’m sorry, but no.  “The Social Network” was a far better film.

Okay, those are the ones we’ve seen.  I’ll update you later when I’ve finished the rest and will hopefully have a blog predicting the winner, as well as a pick or two in the other categories before the Academy Awards.

FINALLY FINISHING BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

BEST PICTURE OSCAR ROUNDUP 2012