AMC Best Picture Showcase Day 1

Today is the first day of the Best Picture Showcase. I will be updating posts on the Kirkham A Movie A Day Facebook Page, and later will transfer them here. If you want the live updates, just go to Facebook. Looking forward to a great day.

OK, I had a little trouble here. There was a post about the first two films we saw but when I went to update, I accidentally posted an earlier draft and wiped out my comments.

So here are some insights on the movies we saw today. A little later than I had hoped for, but worth talking about nonetheless.

AMOUR

I had been warned that the movie was bleak and that it was claustrophobic. It is after all about two old people in their apartment facing death. No spoiler here because the very first scene reveals that the wife Anne is dead in her bed. The film chronicles the sudden decline and painful process of coping with a debilitating illness while still maintaining the love and dignity that a partner of many years deserves. I found it much more interesting than I had expected. There were some light touches here and there, the kinds of daily moments that all of us have that make a hard day bearable.

The dialogue is all in French, and there is basically no film score. Music does play a part in the story but it is not used in background, it is integrated as a small part of the events that take place. One blog I read said that it is not a movie, in large part because nothing happens. It is very deliberate in it’s pace, but there are small events chronicled and the characters do go through an arc of developing changes.  My friend Anne sat next to me and there were two moments where she jumped and grabbed my arm in alarm. That is not a movie that has no drama in it.

Having been married to my wife for thirty two years, I understand how complex the emotions were for the two people involved. Sometimes we are at our best, but it does not take long for us to be at our worst either. The two lead actors in this are amazing. The story is small and slow and mostly painful, but it is also filled with the kind of love that is deep and abiding. May we all make it to the end with this kind of courage and devotion.

Les Miserable

I have already written about this film but I do have a couple of minor modifications. I found the music still quite good, and the main songs are often excellent. The problem with the singing transitions and lack of tunefulness continues. Anne Hathaway will deserve her award, she has the two most moving moments in the film. I thought Hugh Jackman did himself credit and the last sequence where he reconciles  his love with having touched the face of God, brought the tears that I had missed the first time around.

I think for a neophyte like me, the immersion into the story the first time, with it’s talk singing transitions was a bit overwhelming. I still see flaws and it almost certainly works better as a stage show. On stage the pace would break for scene changes and applause. The big moments would feel more like they were earned rather than dumped on us. The film tries to overpower continuously, and the camera work is much to busy and excessively close.

ARGO 

This continues to be the favorite for the Academy Award and it was my favorite from the moment I saw it. Nothing has changed for me. The tension starts right away, you are plunged into a world of terror masquerading as a people’s revolution, and nothing ever feels safe. I will add a couple of comments on issues that I did not discuss before. I was provoked to laughter when watching the Iranian Foreign Minister criticizing the Canadians for their supposed breach of International Law. That actually happened while the Iranians were holding the hostages. I also liked the authenticity of the era even more when I remembered that the Warner Brother’s logo at the start of the film was the 1979 era design. It was a clever little touch that I’m not sure everyone noticed.

The brave part of this film making is to actually acknowledge that our people there were just doing their jobs. Many of them despised the Shah also, but what they got in his place is not much better and in so many ways worse. The C.I.A. are the good guys in this story, and we get some Hollywood history to boot. One of my wife’s friends thinks this is really just a TV movie. I’d like to subscribe to the programming she must be seeing, because this is top notch film work by everyone involved.

DJANGO UNCHAINED

Quentin Tarantino makes movie for people who like movies more than films. Yet there is also an aspect to the movies he makes that raises them to art status. This revisionist western, that attacks the easy target of slavery, does so with gusto and outrageous violence. There is so much to laugh at in the film, you might sometimes miss the stern rebuke our ancestors receive for allowing this institution to thrive anywhere in the U.S.

This made my list of the best films of the year but it is not necessarily Tarantino’s best film. The three leads are all excellent but once again I suspect that Christoph Waltz has stolen the show. His bounty hunting dentist, with a clearer grasp of English than all the Americans he interacts with, is a character to treasure in your movie going memory. Django gets the big shootout, but Dr. King Schultz has all the best lines. 

Next week we have the other five nominees. Three of those will be new to me and I will try to write them up a with a fresh attitude. See you all next week.

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