Oscar History

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Flaws and All... The Worst Within The Best (Pictures)

Does a movie have to be perfect to be deemed a masterpiece or a grand success? That's a rhetorical question of course since the answer is no. What's perfect after all? Sometimes mistakes and flaws in judgement (which are, of course, in the eye of the beholder) can make a movie more organic and lively than something that is technically irreproachable.

Encore Entertainment was recently ranting about the weird and unfortunate trend of people rooting for movies to fail... in many cases even before they've seen them. It's a weird truth about Oscar season and I'll admit right here and now before we begin that I've also been guilty on occasion. It's how I've been feeling about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from the moment I heard they were splitting one book into three movies. It rubbed against all of my core beliefs about what's wrong with Hollywood and their willingness to sacrifice good storytelling and goodwill to shake down eager fans for every last penny.

It's easiest to spot this kneejerk HAHA YOU SUCK mentality in the ongoing attacks on Les Misérables around the internet and the almost sadistic joy you could feel rippling out when it debuted to unexpectedly harsh reviews. More...

Les Miz will continue to be this year's easiest target, partially because it's an epic (the larger the target...), partially because it's earnest without any of the protective critical armor of intellectualism or auteurism, and partially because it's a musical. This last point is the exasperating one. Musicals, more than any other genre, are subject to mobs and their torches. A truth: a musical's individual qualities don't matter to many viewers who loathe musicals on principal. A second less forgivable truth: a musical's individual qualities don't even matter to a certain subset of critics, opinion-makers and pundits since it's arguably the only film genre that one isn't required to approach with respect or even understanding of how its internal rules operate when reviewing it. Imagine the beating critics would take online if they didn't know anything about the horror genre and ripped into a new horror film that aficionados were fond of. (This skewed ignorance is acceptable in criticism point became evidently clear to me while reading reviews that took issue with Sweeney Todd's "weak" and "tuneless" score. Argh! If you think Sondheim's masterpiece is a lousy one you know next to nothing about musical theater and have confused the source material's greatness with the weakness of non-musically trained voices and direction). 

Is Tom Hooper a good director? He hasn't changed his approach much for his third feature but people didn't mind last time to the tune of an Oscar winI've seen Les Miz one and ½ times now (blame a faulty screener for the ½), and I stand by my initial excitement. I've yet to write a review which tends to be the last step in solidifying my opinion so perhaps my enthusiasm will wane. But, wax or wane, the movie is special, particularly in its first half since Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman are insanely committed to high-wire work in roles they seem born to play. But, yes, yes, the film has flaws. Chief among them is Russell Crowe who is unfortunately blank in the crucial role of Javert -- as if he was nervous to make bold choices with the character, unable to act while singing, or as if he mistook minimalism for nuance. I wish, along with the haters of the film, that Tom Hooper had a few more visual ideas up his sleeve. His team (art direction, costumes, editing, etcetera) is doing fine work but you wouldn't always know it from his "All Close-Ups! All the Time!" aesthetic. His choice to shoot the key solos in long largely unbroken close-ups is absolutely thrilling -- no moreso than in Hugh Jackman's "Soliloquy" and Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" both of which blow the roof off --  but nobody would gripe about this style if Hooper and his cinematographer Danny Cohen had the visual imagination to vary their technique in the building block scenes between these big payoffs and especially if they understand that it's not the best approach for duets and choruses. I was personally most frustrated by this visual limitation during the Cosette/Eponine/Marius medley. Love triangles work best when the viewer can see the geometry in play. A series of closeups of three beautiful actors just isn't going to cut it when the whole point of the scene is not their own journey but their journey in relationship to one another

But I'm willing to forgive if not endorse Tom Hooper for this frustrating lapse in visual judgment because I understand that this is a very real flaw in about 92% of the movies made nowadays. Blame your beloved iPhones and TVs for modern Hollywood's weird insistence that all movies be shot in such a way that they're easy to understand when reduced to tiny squares. I keep hoping that this trend will turn around now that home screens are regularly quite large but we're still on the downward spiral from decades of pan & scan and TV dominance. I kept hoping that once TV started getting more cinematic (see Mad Men and other acclaimed visual treats) that the cinema would stop trying to get televised but so far that tipping point hasn't come.

All that said, Les Miz is hardly the only Oscar Goliath with flaws. Let's look quickly at the four other presumed frontrunners. You know which films those are...

This week the media has been buzzing about the "glorifies torture!" charge that's been launched against the movie in pieces from The New Yorker to . Naturally, the film's legion of rabid fans have rushed, foaming at the mouth, to its defense. But the fannish absolutism of the defenders sometimes reduces the argument in the film's favor to a shrill "NO IT DOES NOT!" suggesting, at least to me, that the film is too new and people are too besotted with it to have really worked through it.

Kathryn Bigelow and her team are completely not shy about presenting deeply uncomfortable images and morally confusing messages but Zero Dark Thirty's fans are reluctant to receive them as such. I go back and forth on the charge myself. I think it's ludicrous to suggest that the film can't be read as pro-torture since the film does infer that these torture sessions during the films first act help Maya (Jessica Chastain) develop her (correct) theories. It seems that short of a line of dialogue saying "wow, we would have never figured this out without torture!" the film's most passionate fans would refute the charge.

Moral quandaries aside, the film has a pretty glaring unrelated flaw that you don't hear people talking about. Kathryn Bigelow is a terrific choreographer as directors go and she's always had a gift for suspense but in one key scene involving a CIA agent played by Jennifer Ehle, Bigelow telegraphs an impending disaster so far ahead of time that the scene loses its bite and starts to feel like a sadistic countdown for a lame red herring rather than a gripping 'where is this going?' piece of the puzzle it's previously been presented as.

Tony Kushner's screenplay, adapted in part from two chapters of "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln", is so vivid and entertaining for large chunks and so shockingly special within the usually mundane realm of people-standing-around-in-rooms-arguing drama, that it's easy to brush off the weaker aspects of the film by forgetting them outright: the beginning battlefield sequence never once feels genuine but like a theatrical prologue of noble intent with characters entirely free of character (and period) who are just standing around to impart "Message!" and signify "The Future!". That's also true of Gloria Reuben's entire character which is a shame because in the realm of politics the film is never shorn of complexity. Another quibble: the ending is weirdly insistent on having it all ways about the Lincoln assassination and it doesn't feel tonally connected to the rest of the movie. 

I was recently talking to a frequent moviegoer with fairly high-end taste at a party that had nothing to do with the movies. Her favorite this year is Beasts of the Southern Wild and she was quite insistent that Lincoln was "boring!" and "the most boring" of the Oscar contenders. I heard the same from a member of AMPAS Acting branch recently at a different party with the additional gripe that Spielberg should have edited out at least 20 minutes of the thing. Both times I was surprised. I am generally less forgiving than many critics of movies that sail on past the two hour mark without thinking of the demands they're making on one's ass and patience, but I was never bored by Lincoln. But, again, flaws are in the eye of the beholder.

Ben Affleck's third film, a giant leap forward in his journey to become Clint Eastwood 2.0, has had a weird month. Back in late October it seemed that everyone was in love with it but the bloom went off the rose and suddenly around the internet there was a groundswell of "Argo sucks". Backlash is a common occurence for Oscar frontrunners so it's not entirely surprising but the tide seemed to turn quickly. This started, I think, with the first screenings of Zero Dark Thirty which many pundits like to see as a total equivalency given that both films are Middle East and US Government related. In some ways though it's a false equivalency. Like many critics I also prefer Zero Dark Thirty but in point of fact it's not better at everything than Argo is because THEY ARE TRYING TO DO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS: Argo is a joking rescue adventure about an altruistic hero in the 1970s who risks his life to save his countrymen who are trapped in the Middle East and it also happens to be an ode to the power of make-believe and the movies; Zero Dark Thirty is a stone-faced mystery about a heroine who gives the whole of herself to avenge her countrymen who are trapped psychologically in the Middle East and it also happens to be a riveting procedural about "certainty" in a world where nothing is certain, least of all your own heroism (and we're back to the torture controvery again).

In short, it's stupid to attack Argo because you like Zero Dark Thirty. But have at it if you find fault with its excessive dramatic cliches, not entirely ungeneric "thriller" filmmaking, or its weird fudging of facts for drama (why fudge facts when the story is super dramatic already?). Also, I remain mystified that people like the score, which is one of Alexandre Desplat's weakest efforts to date. His score for Zero Dark Thirty is much bet--- ARGH, HERE WE GO AGAIN.

I can't even talk about this movie which I think is the worst film David O. Russell has ever made and is being received like it's his unqualified best. WHY does everyone love it? I found it shrill, chaotic, reductive, absurd, and sexist... though it did have some good laughs. And, Bradley Cooper's surprisingly strong performance aside, it's free of genuine-feeling characterizations and characters though there's star charisma and "characters" to spare... 

Whew. It was good to get all of that out of my system. Generally speaking I love the movies. Even the ones I gripe about. But I'm feeling a touch sensitive about the tomatoes being thrown at my beloved Les Miz. No film is perfect. Shut out the haters and the always terrible character trait of wishing for others to fail and try to enjoy every movie you see, warts and all. Movies are way more fun to love than hate. Wait for the Oscar nominations to arrive on January 10th, and THEN start bitching about the movies that are overappreciated according to you. But give them a fighting chance to find their fans first so someone can argue back at you about their merits. 


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Reader Comments (101)

While we have an almost perfect place to pitch my soapbox on this subject. I love musicals because I love the people who can tell a story through lyrics and music. As the dying actor said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard". One thing you get with the best of the musical actors is RANGE. The same people who can hoof gracefully across a stage can bring you to tears when turned loose on a drama. Fred Astaire (On The Beach), Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity), Judy Garland (Judgment At Nuremberg), Jimmy Cagney (Ragtime), Gene Kelly (Inherit The Wind) etc. So many of our heralded “great actors” can delve into the depths of their method trained abyss, but ask them to whistle a happy tune and you can forget it. Les Mis has great actors who not only can sing, but God can they ACT!!!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

@Liam It's one thing to disagree with a reviewer, but it's another entirely to say that someone only likes something because of their sexual orientation. Not cool man. Also why should Nathaniel write a bad review on his own website for a movie that he loved? Why should he write something he doesn't believe in just for the sake of consensus? Why should any critics or any filmgoer have to ignore their own feelings when it comes to declaring a movie good or bad? It's exactly that kind of sentiment that leads to the kind of stultifying critical atmosphere we have going right now, where critics hedge their bets and ignore their opinions to support things that they think other people will like rather than films they feel passionately about themselves. Not to mention that your claim to a negative consensus on Les Mis is dubious at best it. It's sitting at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. That's hardly a critical failure.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

@TB: He's altering his opinion on things based on others reactions to them. That's about as sad as it gets in my books.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt


"...but I did think Cooper, DeNiro, and Lawrence gave some career-best performances..."

You are kidding when you include DeNiro giving a career-best performance, right?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

The review that went up for Silver Linings Playbook was written by Beau, a regular contributor here, not Nathaniel. Nathaniel has only to my knowledge commented on the film in his podcasts, where he admitted to not liking it.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

There sure are some vitriolic comments around here.

I love how people just say "YOU'RE WRONG."

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

@TB: I don't give a damn about RT. I only follow Metacritic, and "Les Miserables" is sitting at a 56. Lower than "Crash" and "The Reader." So have a seat with that fanboy shit.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiam

I just want to say that I dislike that comment about gaaaayness and taste. Despicable.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

On top of everything else people have mentioned, I think part of my dislike for Les Mis is partially do to your bias for it. You cancel a one-on-one interview with Ben Affleck on the cusp of a remarkable come-back career, but a couple days later run gleefully to some press junket with Hooper and the stars. Hell you didn't even see the Master in the theaters and I'm sure it was in the theaters for over a month in NYC. But here comes Les Mis with its mixed reviews, and yet your favoritism is seemingly blinding your criticism. Can any musical be sub-par to a musical lover? I love sci-fi, a lot of them suck, and none win awards outside tech (even the best ones ie 2001, matrix, star wars...), and I'm okay with that because their greatness stands for itself, and will over time. Les Mis will be in the 1.99 bin in a year, Netflix instant queue next to King's Speech, genre titled Dark Cerebral Regretful Memories of Dated Awards Films: What Were We Thinking At the Time?"

If Jackman wasn't in the film (he deserves better films in general) I would have little interest in seeing it. And while I've adored Hathaway since Princess Diaries, even touted her in TDKR, her public persona is bugging me currently, the whole entitled spoiled bratty annoying privileged thing is off-putting. I never thought I would be rooting for Helen Hunt

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Liam

Wow. Nathaniel is supposed to disclose how because he's gay he's "predisposed" to love a movie musical? Well, why don't all those straight white male critics disclose about the genres they're all supposed to love in their reviews?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

@Liam I haven't seen Les Mis. And up the thread you'll note that I posted my own reservations about the movie from its promotional footage. I am objecting to your comments about Nathaniel as a reviewer, to your assumptions about his taste based on his sexual orientation (@calroth I'm with you), and your beliefs about critics' responsibilities to their readers. But if it makes you sleep better at night to assume that all people who disagree with you are fanboys (and for the record some people on the internet are fangirls, including myself, and it's annoying that in discussions about movies, male is still the assumed gender, as if women aren't capable of having opinions about film too) then have at it.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

"You're wrong about SLP" - Lawwwwwwwl

you can't really tell someone their opinion is wrong

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip


December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

About Lincoln, a film I loved (maybe because I love DDL), I don't get the boring spiel. Sure, there is a lot of dialogue, and not a lot of action, but I found myself hanging on every word. There was a lot of comedy and emotion in it, and I really liked all of the stories that Lincoln tells people, especially because they are often at the most random times!

That said, I definitely agree with the criticism of both the beginning and the ending as I thought they were clunky and a bit forced. If it had started instead with Lincoln talking about his dream, and ended with him leaving to go to the show, it would be in contention for my favourite film ever. Still, flaws and all, it is my favourite of the year, with the caveat of still having to see ZD30 and Les Miz

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I must agree with Nathaniel that Silver Linings Playbook is deeply flawed and unsatisfying. The acting is not nuanced. The screenplay is often repetitive in what it shows us about the characters. Robert De Niro's character doesn't go anywhere. Jackie Weaver's character doesn't develop, either. Bradley Cooper plays a character who is destructive and self-destructive yet we're supposed to find that charming. Jennifer Lawrence is marvelous but after a half hour we find nothing new about her. The ending is abrupt and makes you think the filmmakers ran out of money. This is the weakest best picture candidate in a while.

Life of Pi, despite its narrative flaws that don't bother me as much as they did several critics, is 10x more vivid and memorable that Silver Linings Playbook. I can't help thinking if a more famous white actor were the star everyone would be salivating over this movie. Thank goodness, Ang Lee didn't make that movie.

I haven't seen Lincoln yet. Its length has made it difficult for me to fit in my schedule. But a highly respected film scholar I know told me she though the first half hour was deadly boring but then she became involved in the story. And she wasn't crazy about Day-Lewis as others have been. But it does seem like Lincoln is going to win the big prize.

I hope to see Lincoln tomorrow so I can finally add something concrete to the discussion.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

I like Anne Hathaway quite a bit and I'm planning on seeing Les Miz but I'm sick of her already. She's a fine actress and a good singer but the movie's not even out yet for crying out loud and I feel like she's been everywhere for months! Overkill is gonna hurt her in the end and help Sally Field, her only significant competition, which I'm fine with since Sally was great in Lincoln and deserving of the award.
But I'd like to judge for myself rather than be told how wonderful she is on weeks on end. To be honest I already am feeling a little less kindly towards it because of the relentless publicity, same goes for Zero Dark Thirty which I have even less interest in seeing and now might skip because of overexposure.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

NathanR - First which Sondheim show would you want to see on the screen. I vote for Into The Woods.

Now - Enough with the Hathaway hate. The studio sends her out on a three continent promotional tour. The interviewers keep acting the same questions from their cheat sheets and she keeps cheerfully answering them. I'm sure she is as tired of it as anyone. As to the hair cutting, she herself said that those who are ill have the same thing happen. She did it for work, they suffer. When asked if there was anything she wouldn't do for the role, she answered, "Well I didn't let them pull my real teeth." So give the lady a break. She is doing her job to try and make her film a success.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Anyone who thinks SLP is a weaker BP Nomine than that tripe that got nodded last year in EL&IC and War Horse needs to get their shit together.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

The comment near the top from "Matt Liam" is pretty bizarre. Did someone just create two usernames and have a conversation with themself to diss Nathaniel and stick up for Silver Linings Playbook?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I'm sort of amused that the two people who seem most angry with me in this thread are named "matt" and "liam" and then suddenly there's a post signed "Matt Liam". Is someone talking to themselves or are there three people who think I should alter my opinion of Les Miz to sign up with consensus? (if i altered my opinion so it aligned with everyone elses, everyone please stop reading because I would have NO WORTH as a blogger. your entire worth is your point of view! if a writer has no point of view you should not read them! They're just regurgitating press releases otherwise.)

I do think the internet is an obnoxious place this time of year ALWAYS because the agendas get so crazy. If you dislike a film that other people like you're being contrarian or participating in a backlash and your opinion is deemed invalid. If you love a film that others dislike your opinion is "wrong". If you soften on your reaction to a film or harden -- both of which are EXTREMELY COMMON NATURAL THINGS TO DO IF YOU SPEND ANY AMOUNT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT THE ENTERTAINMENTS YOU CONSUME -- than you are also suspect because you're letting other opinions either sway you or you are deliberating hating on something because others love it.

it's all very crazy. For the record:

Part 1: I was crazy in love with Les Miz the first time through while noting to myself that the camera worked & Crowe bugged me.

A few days later I had calmed down -- perfect screening experience and anyone who claims that the circumstances in which we view movies *DON'T* effect us is kidding themselves -- and realized those two reservations were strong reservations.

a week later i saw the film again (well, 1/2 of it) and realized that I still was in love with it despite its flaws and I noticed more of them but i don't care cuz i love watching it. So i posted this.

Part 2: I saw Silver Linings Playbook at home on a screener after the hype (just as many of you will see Les Miz after the hype) and thought "what is the big fucking deal?" while laughing a few times and thinking Bradley Cooper and Jacki Weaver were both really good in it. I believe i posted a C+ on my review page and I was depressed that for the first time I didn't really love a David O. Russell film (i've been a fan since Flirting With Disaster and I love every single one of his films but this one and the first one 'Spanking the Monkey' which I think is decent but not an artist fully formed.)

a few days later my opinion of the movie had notably soured, not because of the hype or any agenda -- that was already something that had been in the air for months and trust me I wanted to love it since I'm a long time Russell fan-- but because the movie didn't age well for me at all. I realized nobody really had full characterizations to play and the romance bothered me more and more... though when I think about the movie now, Bradley cooper's work seems even more impressive.

Part 3
I then wrote this article and when I got to the end I thought, oh shit, I didn't mention SLP and it would make more sense to talk about all 5 frontrunenrs so I should included it. The End. No agenda in ending with it whatsoever other than it's the one I think about least from the presumed top 5.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

At any rate, I really enjoyed this article. There's a certain knives-ready climate for certain titles, but I find it pretty easy to get my movie news from the two or three movie sites out there that I find don't trade in cynicism and easy glibness.
I also think it's important to recognize flaws in the things you love, and how much you can love something that was deeply flawed. The Paperboy is a pretty good example of a flawed movie that's still one of the best times I had at the movies this year. I liked Silver Linings a lot, but I recognize that the last scene is pretty awful. Anyone out there who likes Cloud Atlas (like me) can't possibly think that movie worked perfectly.
And re: Argo, I think it's biggest problem was a fake tension thing. Are they gonna get the tickets in time? Is he gonna get to the phone somehow? There were a few too many close calls all piled together at the end. (I don't know if those are actually, somehow, accurate, but they read so movie-fake that I was never anxious in those moments.)

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I am certainly not 'Matt Liam'. I agree that was pretty bizzare. I do find it hilarious that Mr. Rogers continues to throw around that 'agenda' word, now in defense of himself. Silver Linings Playbook is not the best film of the year, but to call it 'sexist' is, well to borrow another false term used to describe the film from Mr. Rogers, 'absurd'.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

There does seem to be a weird agenda to 'take down' Mr. Rogers as well.

The internet is SO weird.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

His opinion has soured on a film in BP Contention just as many negative reviews come out for the film he's rooting for, I'll call it 'coincidental' because I'm not a conspiracy theorist. But to call it sexist is just unfair and unjust and is doing the same thing he's complaining about critics doing for the Les Miz reviews.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Well The Silver Linings Playbook may be better than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but neither are Best Picture material.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Matt -- actually it's interesting that you single out sexist as unfair and untrue. Because this is not my idea. I can't guarantee that it would have occurred to me alone (no way to know since I didn't see the movie before everyone else) but i read several reviews before I saw the movie (something I don't normally do) and I definitely found myself agreeing about the charges of sexism.

Tiffany is a fascinating roscharch in a way as a test for how bipolar and extreme you can push the cliche manic pixie dream girl template thing and still get away with it. People really need those girlfriends who exist to complete the hero in their entertainments. Not once did that character ever feel genuine to me. (though in general I think Lawrence is a pretty terrific actress so I don't mean this as a knock against her so much as a casting problem -- 10 years too young for the part -- and a writing problem)

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Matt -- actually it's interesting that you single out sexist as unfair and untrue. Because this is not my idea. I can't guarantee that it would have occurred to me alone (no way to know since I didn't see the movie before everyone else) but i read several reviews before I saw the movie (something I don't normally do) and I definitely found myself agreeing about the charges of sexism.

Tiffany is a fascinating roscharch in a way as a test for how bipolar and extreme you can push the cliche manic pixie dream girl template thing and still get away with it. People really need those girlfriends who exist to complete the hero in their entertainments. Not once did that character ever feel genuine to me. (though in general I think Lawrence is a pretty terrific actress so I don't mean this as a knock against her so much as a casting problem -- 10 years too young for the part -- and a writing problem)

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Then why call it the worst BP contender in a while? EL&IC got nominated last year.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

People need to get over the age difference, she did a good job at 'playing up'. That's such an easy, lazy criticism. In fact, it's exactly the type of lazy criticism you're accusing the Les Miz detractors of.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I guess the reason some critics are attacking Les Mis is because they were miffed about the embargo.

These negative reviews always come out when critics are ordered not to publish their reviews until much later. Some critics think they walk on water and love to destroy a book, a record, a play, a musical, a movie, a restaurant etc etc.

I'm still predicting Les Mis will win Best Picture but I'm going for Spielberg to get the Director nod. There is no way they are going to give Bigelow or Hooper a second Director Oscar so soon after their first.

And there will be the usual complaints that another non-US movie won the big prize (Kings Speech, Artist and now Les Mis).

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Wow, I agree almost 100% with this post, Nat! So on point.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

If SLP takes the Golden Globe they might as well name it The Harvey Weinstein bought and paid for Prize.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Check the reviews Jamie. One is well liked, one is not. Weinstein's movie is. Get over it.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I think there's something else Nathaniel, that again goes back to The King's Speech. Two years ago, people were Looking down on The King's Speech, putting it down and mocking it for being "pure Oscar bait", because it was about real people and british royalty and dealt with disability (although not a major one, such as DDL in My left foot or Hawkes in Sessions). People made of fun of it because it was taylored for the Oscars, with everything they would fall for- it was about white males, royalty, historical, about overcoming personal issues and there was world war two there just in case.

So I ask: Isnt Les Miz as Oscar-Baity as it can get? It is about white males. It has a historical background based on real event. It is based on one of the greatest novels ever written, it has been validated as a musical-one of the most beloved musicals of all times-is super dramatic, traditional, emotional! Its about justice and ideais and redemption! People sing and cry and die!!!

How is Hathaway's role not pure Oscar Bait????? Suffering abandoned single mother + singing+ prostitute+ weight loss + hair cut + major deglam + sacrifice for the sake of her child/motherly love + pain + famous dramatic song + death- could it be any more of an Oscar bait????

Isnt Jackman's role bait as well? Deglam+ physical transformation + weight gain AND loss + saves abandoned child + singing + redemption+ sacrifices + imprisionement+ injustice + fatherly love + ideological arch + death!!!!

And I dont ser people mocking it as they mocked TKS. It appears to be a double standard!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I'm personally sick of hearing about all of these films and haven't even seen Les Miz nor ZDT. I hate Oscar season.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

WOW! this has been an inflammatory blog....

Movies are just movies and when you love one,maybe others don't share that opinion, and vice versa..

I have been a fan of Nat's blog for years now and look evrey day...

Do I always agree with him? No. But 90% of the time I do ... but you can't get angry over such a subjective media ..

People... please back off!

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Isn't it fun how two or three people can drag the whole thing down?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Sondheim musical I want to see filmed? Follies directed by Todd Haynes starring Meryl Streep.;

From Nathaniel: "A truth: a musical's individual qualities don't matter to many viewers who loathe musicals on principal."

You really could replace musical with "western" or "horror movie" quite easily, honestly.

From Nathaniel: "Imagine the beating critics would take online if they didn't know anything about the horror genre and ripped into a new horror film that aficionados were fond of. "

Or comic book movie. Like receiving death threats for writing a mixed review of The Dark Knight Rises. Or having a star say you should be fired for not loving The Avengers. At any rate, imagine just how stupid those people seem to others.

From Nathaniel: "Wait for the Oscar nominations to arrive on January 10th, and THEN start bitching about the movies that are overappreciated according to you. But give them a fighting chance to find their fans first so someone can argue back at you about their merits. "

What? Come on, Nathaniel, now you're just whining. Les Miserables isn't Cosette being beaten by the Thernardiers. It's a musical that grossed billions of dollars world wide and has been made into a film that has it's partisans. Are you really asking people to "give Les Miserables a fighting chance to find their fans first." Seriously?

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Great piece.

The weird thing with Les Miz is that a lot of people continue to use the "suspension of belief" angle. As in, they can't suspend belief that people would sing, and yet they believe superhero movies and so forth with nary a niggle. It's frustrating and seeing the film listed amongst the worst of the year seems ridiculous.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

@Mike in Canada- I haven't seen Argo yet, but I have read comments from the hostages and people who were actually there. They seem to accept that the movie is riffing on actual events and isn't realistic. The Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor, bought the plane tickets ahead of time, going to 4 different places and paying cash, and there was no trouble about the tickets. The hostages were driven to the airport in a Canadian embassy vehicle, and there was no chase, or difficulty in getting on the plane. One former hostage said that Tony Mendoza slept in and they had to phone him to get him up to come.

The justification the Argo filmmakers use is that sticking to actual events isn't tense or dramatic, although Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln seem to have done a pretty good job with it. I liked Inglorious Basterds, which totally played with the truth, so I don't demand documentary fidelity. And I'm pretty sure I'll find Argo at least somewhat entertaining. I just wish they were more upfront about being very loosely based on a true story.

December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

@Glenn -- I don't think anyone has called Les Miz the worst of the year. But several critics find it to earnest or too much or just badly edited with too many closeups. Yet the film has gotten BFCA nominations, Golden Globe nominations, and SGA nominations. If people hated it so much would it be getting these nominations? I mean, The Impossible, a very good film, has barely been nominated for anything! (And it's much better than Silver Linings Playbook.)

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Oh my God thank you, I also do not like Silver Linings Playbook nor do I think Jennifer Lawrence is anything more then loud. I hear she's getting an Oscar nom for this? Wha??

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Thank you Nat,
Somebody had to say it. The internet backlash of Les Miz is frustating and biased. I hope they find another target for their "sadistic joy".

@Matt: What's your problem? no need to be that rude.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

I'm so glad you didn't like Silver Linings Playbook - I was beginning to feel like the only one!

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Arkaan -- yes, I really am. More and More I find that this happens to unreleased films. This is a war not just for Les Miz to be given a fair shake but all films that people decide they hate (or love) before seeing it. This is not good for film culture and I keep hoping the tipping point will come soon.

December 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

First off, I'm not trying to "take Mr. Rogers" down. That's a dumb thing to even suggest. I haz so much power! LOL. And two, I have no idea who "Matt Liam" is. That was weird even for me.

The only thing I was getting at (and I guess I could have said things better--I'll work on that!) was that when you get partisans of a film project to see something way before everyone else does who you know are going to love it (partly b/c they get to see it first), that offers a skewed view. The hypemakers know what they're doing in that respect. That seems to happen all the time with these tentpole films or Oscars releases. So when the critical community comes along and said, wait a minute there buddy, this one's a dud, I was just wondering if Nathaniel would then say, maybe I overreached here a bit. And I see his comments now on Crowe being miscast and Hooper's awful close-ups, so that's something. But really, if you love "Les Miz," then love the shit out of it. Do your thing. I didn't mean for you to backtrack and hate something you loved. You really wouldn't be worth a damn as a blogger if you did that. I just meant would you qualify your views to your readers in light of these glaring issues the film seems to have with critics (mass audiences remain to be seen)? Maybe that's just the road that the film has to climb. I don't know.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiam

Nathaniel, WORD on your entire post - although I haven't seen "Les Mis" and am reserving judgment until I see it. But I am one of its target audience (love musicals, love "Les Mis," love Hugh and Anne) so I'm definitely seeing it, no matter how the reviews shake out. Also looking forward to "Zero Dark Thirty," and while it does seem to have upstaged/displaced/diminished "Argo" you are so right that the comparison just isn't fair. (I personally loved "Argo" despite its playing a bit loose with the facts, and think it also suffered from coming out so "early" in the season, Oscars prospects-wise.)

And I'm joining the chorus of those who were distinctly underwhelmed by "Silver Linings Playbook." It was pleasant enough, but I really fail to see why the critics love it so, apart from Bradley Cooper, who was very good. It was certainly vastly inferior to "The Fighter," which dealt with a lot of similar themes/threads but handled them with so much more nuance and insight.

Oh, and that opening battlefield scene of "Lincoln" was indeed truly terrible. Spielberg at his most earnestly bad. Rest of the movie was better, but so very very STAGEY. Not really my cuppa.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterprincesskaraoke

Liam -- i appreciate the clarifications. it's always good to get a second chance at explaining things. For the record though,Les Miz being perceived as a dud by some does not affect me other than making me sad because that feeling is spreading to people who haven't even seen the movie and people are starting to just regurgitate the negativity without considering it like "HOOPER'S TERRIBLE CLOSE-UPS". no no no. His closeups are not terrible. They are thrilling in the key numbers. It's just that he doesn't have the visual flexibility in scenes wherein you need different approaches. (I wouldn't change one moment of I Dreamed a Dream or Soliloquoy. Bring on the nostral flaring eye watering closeups!) .

i know i'm getting worked up again but here's the thing. I 100% don't trust critics with musicals so why should negative reviews of Les Miz shake my faith in it?. Critics are not to be trusted with musicals. period. There are too many examples of the knives coming out in disporportion to the alleged cinematic sins and sometimes the reactions are confounding to the point of feeling like critics are just taking the piss: For example, I love Guy Lodge and think he's unusually smart but his take on the film is so straight up insane (he actually thinks Crowe is better than Jackman which is like saying that Christina Ricci was better than Charlize Theron in Monster or Leslie Howard just demolished Vivien Leigh's performance in Gone With the Wind. I mean... it's c-r-a-z-y talk.

One of the most vicious reviews of Les Miz is from Richard Corliss at Time and all you need to know about that is he took a few potshots at Mamma Mia! back when he reviewed that but ended up liking it. I mean Mamma Mia! So I don't think we can trust his reviews of what is a "bad" movie and what is not when it comes to the musical genre.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Nathan, we are way overdue for a great movie musical, so I am keeping the faith in Les Miz. Continue to fight the good fight!

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

God, thank you for honestly and fairly pointing out the trashing that Les Mis has gotten in the recent weeks. It's as though reviewers feel that because a musical (particularly one directed by "I don't know why he's so hated" Tom Hooper) had the collosal affrontery to reach for the gold that it needs to be taught a lesson. Every film has flaws and I'm glad you acknowledge that.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermovielover101

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