The Master is the best movie I have seen this year. There, I've said it. No need for a Top Ten list, no need for a full fledged explanation why but it's just that damn good. Just like last year's best film -The Tree Of Life- Paul Thomas Anderson's masterful film provokes, angers and ultimately reinvigorates your love of the cinema. With that said, did The Master get a Best Picture nomination this morning? Of course not. It's too daring and ambitious a movie to get that kind of love. Instead we got safe fare nominated instead, which is not to say that the nominated films are all bad. Steven Spielberg's Lincoln was a master class in acting -focusing on dialogue more than bombast, Ang Lee's Life Of Pi is the most visually sumptuous movie of the year even when it sometimes trips on its own ambitions and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is pure Tarantino, a feast for the eyes and ears with a story that doesn't give a fuck for the too timid. Kudos must also go to Amour, Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts Of The Southern Wild - all critically loved. As for the rest .. here's my take on the undeserving.
Les Miserables (PG-13) ★★
Tom Hooper's Les Miserables comes at you like an Oscar-ready gift wrapped present. That's a bad thing. Focusing on Victor Hugo's famous play, the film is 95% musical and 5% dialogue. Ok, I could deal with that. Then again, if you're not a musical junkie, welcome to movie hell. I won't go into detail with the already known story but suffice to say there isn't much comic relief in this miserably depressing tale of French revolution grief and perverse turmoil. The one true catch is Anne Hathaway, who not only deserves her Oscar Nomination but deserves to win. She's that good ! Too bad she only has 20 minutes of screen time, because whenever she shows up on screen the movie goes on a high it cannot sustain otherwise. Nevertheless, the film has its moments. Hugh Jackman is his usual strong self and Russell plays mean-ass bad guy Jean Valjean with ferocious power. Everything else falters in the film's overtly long 158 minute running time. Amanda Siegfried is not well cast ditto director Hooper whom I'm just not a real big fan of. Alas Oscar got suckered into nominating this one.
Argo (R) ★★
Then there's Argo. Directed by Ben Affleck, who kinda -almost- proved in his last movie The Town that he could turn out to be a good director. Many think that has already happened. I don't. His direction stinks of basic directing 101 - there is no personality or unique style to his work. Argo is based on the Iran/U.S hostage crisis in the 80's and does have solid performances in it. Alan Arkin for one -nominated this morning- a solid character actor, does good work here ditto John Goodman as a Hollywood makeup artist working for the CIA. Affleck is the CIA agent that concocts an outrageous plan to get American consulate escapees out of Iran by masquerading them as Canadians and making them play pretend that they are part of a Hollywood film crew shooting a B-Movie Science Fiction film. Preposterous but based on a true story. Affleck is miscast as the CIA agent showing no sign of emotion in his face, if he would have cast a different actor in his role maybe this could have all worked out but it doesn't. People will forget about Argo 10 years from now.
Silver Linings Playbook (R) ★★★
Here's one I kinda liked. David O Russell has made solid and ambitious films in his career. Silver Linings Playbook represents a sort of departure for the director, this is romantic comedy territory but with a slight little edge. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic and deserves the Best Actress nomination she got, ditto Robert Deniro who does the best work of his last 20 years of -mostly- dreadful performances. Goes to show, if he's willing to push himself he still has the potential to knock us out. So far so good, right? Here's the thing. This is playful stuff, dealing with themes such as Depression, OCD, ADD, regret, yearning and football. Russell is the right man for the script but there isn't anything here that we haven't seen before. The performances are fantastic but the script is not really an original. This is not supposed to be anAwards contender but Harvey Weinstein -the marketing genius himself- has pulled enough strings with this one to make it seem as if it's a more important movie than it actually is. I'm not gonna lie, I'll give it another chance soon and see if I missed something the first time around but as far as I'm concerned the Best Picture nomination this film got is underserving.