BY PAUL D. MILLER
The Oscars are on Sunday. Here is a wrap-up of coverage from Schaeffer’s Ghost on some of the nominees.
For Best Picture, we reviewed seven of the nine nominees–all except Argo (the current favorite to win) and Silver Linings Playbook.
Kendrick Kuo found Beasts of the Southern Wild, a coming-of-age story set in an impoverished Louisiana-coast slum, “a film of art that is to be savored and appreciated, more than to be enjoyed,” and judged that he “would not watch it again for its entertainment value,” although he found plenty of material for reflection–from environmentalism to Hurricane Katrina to poverty.
Kendrick also appreciated the nuanced portrayal of religion in the antebellum South in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, an epic historical slavery-western mashup, and its deconstruction of the idea of a racial hierarchy.
Alexis Neal wrote that “few films are as fraught with Gospel themes” as Les Miserables. The themes of grace and forgiveness resonate strongly in the story of Jean Valjean and the lives of the desperate poor in 19th Century France. Also, Anne Hathaway is a lock for Best Supporting Actress. Coyle agreed that he has “seen few better pictures of the Christian doctrine of the new life” on film.
Life of Pi, an adventure travelogue that follows a young Indian boy lost at sea with a tiger, is favored to win Best Cinematography for it gorgeous visuals, and Kendrick thought the movie was essentially “an argument for the existence of God based on the experience of beauty”–but an argument that was, in the end, empty and unsatisfying.
I wrote that Zero Dark Thirty, about the ten-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden, was “a sensitive and respectful film, one that honors the people who lived its story,” and that it successfully avoided the trap of becoming a cheap and gory revenge fantasy.
Amour, a French drama about the difficult choices of aging, is up for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, and is a shoe-in for the latter. Christian Hamaker, however, disliked it strongly, and thought it compared unfavorably with Quartet, another film about aging that wasn’t nominated for anything.
I wrote that Lincoln was a “luminescent” film that contained one of the best moments of “sentiment and poetry on screen” that director Steven Spielberg has brought us (he’s likely to win Best Director). It also reminded us of the vital truth that “without moral purpose, war is simply murder.”
Finally, for Best Documentary, Kendrick Kuo found NO, about a surprisingly successful political campaign to deny Augusto Pinochet another term in Argentina’s highest office, an occasion to remember that “the politics of this world is also in need of redemption and that perfect politics will only occur when the perfect polity has arrived.”