so it seems i could use a pair of glasses. it's not the sort of dire need with which i deserve to need glasses after years of wearing empty frames recreationally - o college - but it is the sort of need i probably should have addressed before attempting to see all of 2013's best picture/director/actor/actress academy award nominees (i am nearsighted in my left eye, apparently, and while i don't need glasses to drive, my optometrist noted that i might consider them if i was, you know, super-into film or theatre). i'll be getting a big old black pair from moscot's, for 1) they have been selling specs in our neighborhood for a century and 2) my four-eyed idol is marcello mastroianni in 8 1/2. joe says tortoiseshell frames would look better, and i say compromising one's vision for piddly aesthetic reasons is unforgivable. there will be time to sort these things out, for saving up for a pair of prescription moscot glasses is going to take four thousand years.
i'll be on a train somewhere between new york and washington dc as the oscars are actually distributed next month, - o vacation-planning without one's datebook at hand - but i'm taking this nominee-watching business very seriously this year; i've got just four more to go, in fact. joaquin phoenix, i'll see you in hell.
CONSUMED AT THE BEGINNING OF 2013: A PARTIAL LIST.
amour (film). i saw amour at film forum, a west village indie house known for its banana bread (beloved of derrida, apparently) and its horrible older patrons (after abandoning the 3:30 showing because the only seats left were in the front row, several couples emerged from the 4:00 theater to abuse the manager for heating it too slowly ["it has been freezing in there for several minutes!"]). i went from quietly despising them before the lights went down to squirming on their behalf once the film began, for it's their nightmare: this is the feel-bad movie of the year, a devastating story of infirmity's thefts (in a nutshell, emmanuelle riva and jean-louis trintignant are an octogenarian invalid and her husband/caregiver, respectively). if you're already aware of how it ends or don't mind spoilers, read through richard brody's negative review and how readers have responded to it; amour, as it were, gazes also into you.
django unchained (film). quentin tarantino... can photograph the hell out of a southern landscape (+) but botches a key scene at the end of his movie by front lighting a character who's supposed to be facing a blank wall at dusk (-). he gets away with dropping jim croce's "i got a name" into an antebellum buddy scene* (+!) and spoils the mood of a retributive bloodbath by yoinking a character out of the frame with a vaudeville hook (stylized violence could be fine, but the style should be consistent: this character dies in part because another character is torn apart by dogs, realistically, earlier in the movie). christoph waltz and leonardo dicaprio are great and really really great (+); samuel l. jackson as an old man and QT himself as an australian are distracting and really really distracting (-). can an egomaniac be afraid of his own talent? get out of your way, boss.
the impossible (film). more of a science fair project than a movie in some ways: HOW DO WEALTHY TOURISTS REACT TO A NATURAL DISASTER? a father will run around for two days without a shirt or shoes, even though they are probably offered to him. a mother will save all little boys in her path despite horrific wounds. little boys will grow up fast. the actors responsible for these reactions are all doing good work, but they're a bit stuck when it comes to developing dramatic tension. the impossible's scenes of the 2004 tsunami hitting thailand are fantastic - the CGI deserves a slew of technical awards, and the editing is top-notch - but when we realize fairly early on that every member of the family has survived (the impossible is based on a true story, and it's called the impossible - one could argue that we know this going into the movie, really), all we're left to wonder is how long it will take them to reunite and why the filmmakers spend so little time with the tsunami's domestic victims. the first question isn't especially interesting, and the second - well, that's another sort of movie.
les misérables (film). i did my darndest to give les mis a fair shot, o my brothers. i avoided reviews, i made a point of seeing it at the mighty ziegfeld, i tried to attribute my hatred for the london stage version to the fact that i saw it over spring break when i lived in oxford and was exhausted and kind of ill as i whispered silent prayers for someone, anyone, to shoot the insufferable gavroche. after all that, i think i appreciate the film even less than i appreciated the musical: the female characters are flat and feeble (helena bonham carter's madame thénardier is the only one with significant agency, and she's a grotesque), the history is maddeningly vague (does anyone leave the show knowing what the june rebellion was actually about?), the singing is all over the place (russell crowe's mush-mouthed inspector javert might actually be a somnambulist, poor hugh jackman is obliged to chant like a country vicar, and toothless anne hathaway chews so much scenery in "i dreamed a dream" that she creates an emotional vacuum at the beginning of the movie, forcing everyone else into endless, affectless refrains like singing waiters in times square). i hated les mis so much i'm actually kind of angry at poor old victor hugo, which i realize is like blaming david bowie and freddie mercury for "ice ice baby" and yet i can't stop the feelings. thank god i didn't have glasses.
silver linings playbook (film). the lovely and talented jennifer lawrence is the pork chop hollywood tied around bradley cooper's neck to get me to play with him, and i am okay with that transaction; he's a pleasant surprise in silver linings, more charismatic than i've seen him since the good old alias days. he's no jimmy stewart, mind you, but this is solid romantic comedy, and he and lawrence have fine flawed-boy-meets-flawed girl chemistry. that said, jacki weaver (as cooper's mother and robert de niro's wife) is the only character who consistently presents as more than a collection of symptoms. a cookie for her (and, okay, for the set decorator who name checked the midnight meat train via a neighborhood marquee).
*i am ready for a quentin tarantino v. wes anderson dj battle.