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Les Miz Opens Big. But Don't Expect That to Silence The Critics!

I started a link roundup but by the time I was two hours into surveying my Google Reader, the post had morphed into a rant as long as Les Misérables running time (which I'm about to indulge in again). It began with these three links:

Antagony & Ecstasy ooh, a list right up our alley: ten best adaptations of stage musicals, to celebrate the release of Les Miz. Interesting disqualifying comments on Cabaret
Slate "I Dreamed a Tween" Excellent excellent piece on Les Misérables' appeal to tweens and its long hold on its young fans once they've grown up
Advocate And another essay on our long histories with this particular musical phenomenon.

All of which are Pro Les Miz so buyers beware.

Eddie Redmayne takes aim. The critics have too.

As y'all know I've been quite touchy about this film. More...

I think a lot of the vindictive response to Tom Hooper's adaptation of the theatrical phenomenon is a part and parcel of two traditions I tend to despise. The annual act of scapegoating at least one Expected Oscar Player each year bugs me because no film deserves ALL the bile that people store up for the complicated moodswings that hit us all during the holidays. This is not to say that films don't sometimes deserve harsh reviews just that it's pretty easy to see the "pile on" effect in summer and Christmas movie season where one film will sort of become target practice as if everyone is suddenly embarrassed about gushing over all the others and finds a mutual target to bully).  And I'm on record regularly as being dismayed by the huge swaths of the population (in the critical community and elsewhere) that raise all their cynical shackles up in the vicinity of the emotionally epic often earnest territory of Musical Theater (If the emotions weren't big, why would anyone be singing?).

I was at a dinner party earlier this week with a good number of gays present and one of them asked, sincerely, if anyone was going to Les Misérables on Christmas?

I wanted to see it but then I heard it was just atrocious."

"Atrocious!". Sigh. This is what I mean about scapegoating. No way in hell is that movie any worse that "Problematic" as adjectives go and I think it's better than that word implies, too. Some people will hate the movie and some will love it and either reaction is just fine. But the conversation has been ridiculously poisonous. That makes going in with an open heart difficult and open hearts are required when approaching musicals, no joke. 

I asked him where he'd heard that and he said 'oh I was just reading some reviews.' The room suddenly turned to me -- aware that I was some sort of movie guy -- and the questions started flying. I was disappointed that the critical bile had already permeated a generally musical-loving community (some stereotypes being true) and I worried about the box office. But I worry too much. Les Miz took the crown with $18 million -- a very strong Christmas Day -- beating Django Unchained and The Hobbit. I had long expected Les Misérables to be a $100+ million hit (like Chicago & Hairspray) but the bile from certain corners of the internet surprised me with its devout fervor -- hating Les Miz being the new online religion! 

I'm fully aware that box office means nothing in terms of quality as each weekend's charts regularly attest but box office does mean something in terms of future film production and if Les Miz can make a lot of bank whilst being a proudly dramatic musical (it's the first musical in some time to not pretend it's anything other than a musical in its advertisements, thank god!) it paves the way for more musicals to go into production and that's the Dream I always Dream. 

If there's a bright side to the extreme negativity greeting Les Misérables in some parts, I hope it's this: Maybe Hollywood will notice the reviews (ha!) and stop casting people who lack the musical gift (Bonham-Carter, Crowe) in musicals and notice that people who have it (Hathaway, Redmayne, Jackman) are the ones people actually love to see singing! Go figure. [/Les Tangent]

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Reader Comments (60)

My big issue is with the placement of the camera. Why bother choreographing movement and fights on set if you're just going to shoot the actors from the chest up? They could have been singing on office chairs while interns pushed them through the set and you wouldn't have known the difference. It was a frustrating decision that took me out of the experience every time it happened.

My secondary issue is the singing live concept. It worked to bring out more authentic performances at the detriment of the score. Rubato only works in a song if it's planned and balanced out somewhere else. You can't just slow down every time you want to hit a big moment, take a big pause to cry, and then slowly...breathe...out...the...song...syl...la...ble...by...syl...la...ble and sound good. There were gaps wide enough in some of those ballads to drive a tractor trailer through.

I mean, when I get around to reviewing this, I actually have some very nice things to say about Amanda Seyfried (bless her heart), Helena Bonham Carter (I love her voice and make no apologies for it; great character soprano), and Russel Crowe (Javert should sound rough and intimidating and Crowe's technique is excellent) in the film. The costumes, sets, and lighting were very good. I liked the increased emphasis on humor and added clarity of who was in love with whom. Those were all great choices. I just wish the directorial vision allowed for wide shots of any of the songs before the grand finale.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I'm afraid that all that producers will see from the Les Mis reviews re: casting is that the best reviews are going to famous folks (nevermind that the worst reviews are for well-known folks too). I have noticed that despite people really respecting her talent, Samantha Barks is getting relatively few notices.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Was NINE's advertisement pretending it wasn't a musical? Weren't the trailers just songs set to scenes? I mean, I know I'm way alone in NINE re it being in love with the dreamscape and such, but I've always thought that realistically NINE is arguably one of the hardest "important" 80s musicals to adapt because its score is (deliberately) so incoherent that it's difficult to make it work as a cohesive world without steeping it in some sense of "non-realism". But....I digress... I came her to mention one of the weirdest things for me re the response to LES MIS

"So you made your stars sing live on set, big deal Tom Hooper? Stage performers do it every day."

And, I mean I get that but this is not the stage, it's a movie and I mean Hooper didn't do something like invent sliced bread, but if singing live was something so passe then surely every movie musical would do it all the time, right? It's so weird because I'd see people (theatre people and movie people) criticise movies for having lip synching and now when one doesn't it's treated as some banalities -"live singing? Big whoop."

Movie weirdness.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewK.

A few comments re Les Miserables (the movie) and tweens.

1. My tweens LOVED this movie. Neither has seen the stage version but are VERY familiar with the music. Both were weeping loudly at the end (even the stoic one!).
2. The older one asked this morning-- when is the DVD coming out and can we buy it?
3. The younger one asked this afternoon -- why did she have to become a whore? Weren't there any other jobs? Why did the mean guy jump off the bridge? Was he ashamed? (um, she might be a little young for this story, but...)

All told, this film touched them deeply and they were still thinking about it 24 hours later--a sure sign of a good moive. And watching them fall in love with the story of Les Miserables was worth the price of my ticket. Who cares what the critics say.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I do think it may screw up Anne's Oscar hopes.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

@ Bia

Are you rooting against her?

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I'm of two minds about this.

On one hand, you are absolutely right that Les Mis- like a lot of movies more emotional or explicitly cater to a female (or, really, any audience that is not the 18 to 35 white male)- had a bit of a target on its back before anyone had seen it. I think since the film conversation, at least online, tends to be dominated by white males of a certain age, films not catered to that audience can get an unequal share of vile.

On the other hand, seeing this movie and not knowing anything about the musical going in, I can't disagree with a lot of the criticisms that have been leveled at its direction. I am not a musical-hater or anything, but I felt held at an extreme arm's length by the way Tom Hooper shot and directed this. I was often struggling to keep up with the story's breakneck pace and couldn't follow the characters' emotional journeys. I was never swept up in the grandeur and the melodrama like I wanted to be and like the material really demands. I wanted to give myself over, but I was not really drawn in by the staging or visuals.

At the end of the day, though, I was never under the impression that Les Mis has ever been a critics' favorite in any venue. As I understand, Les Mis has always been an audience favorite, so it would stand to reason that the movie would be no different.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill H

AndrewK, I've seen that argument come out of my mouth for a slightly different reason. The Les Mis teamed claimed they were the first to do this in a film. They lied. Hedwig and the Angry Inch did it and a bunch of other films before it. The only difference is a live pianist in their ear rather than a track, and that probably hurt some of the scenes. Rule #1 of music directing: the actor should never be in charge of the song. They get caught up in the moment and want to slow down to sell its importance.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Your buddy Nick Davis at Nicks Flick Picks hated it apparently, graded it a D- OUCH!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Les Mis has not premiered in my country yet, but today I saw that IMDB rating has risen to 7.9 from 7.6 and gross income has reached 18 million which speaks a lot. Hope Les Mis tops best picture race once more

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNIck

I'm with you nathaniel, and I haven't even seen the movie.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

I saw 'Les Miz' last night and I really liked it but I couldn't help listening to people complaint about it during the movie. "This movie is boring" Rude! I know!
The only turn off for me was Russell Crowe...

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIzz

I refuse to believe that this movie is" D- "or" F" worthy. I mean, REALLY.
I don't believe that camera placement and some questionable singing can totally ruin a movie.
I say this as someone who is not a Tom Hooper fan and had been rooting for TSN.

I just feel people are entirely too harsh. Maybe the movie didn't work for you, but an "F"?

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Also, I think strong box office with aid Hathaway with a win, and The Academy will want to give the film something notable besides tech nods.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Les Miz opened here in my country on Christmas Day, so I'm gonna watch it this weekend. So excited.
On a semi-related note, why is there so many long movies this year? Les Miz, Cloud Atlas, Hobbit, Zero Dark Thirty, Django, Lincoln, The Master, Dark Knight Rises... almost half the Best Picture wannabes are really long movies.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

Please. If AMPAS saw fit to reward a hacktress like Jennifer Hudson with an Oscar for Dreamgirls (talk about problematic), "darling Annie Hathaway" has nothing to worry about. Gey it, girl!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

So is Helena a great soprano? I don't understand music but I could never have guessed

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal roth, she's a character singer. Her technique is good. Her voice just has an odd sort of quality to it. It's not ugly, but it's not exactly pretty, either. What she does do well is emote through her voice. She proved that in Corpse Bride. Ok vocal, but very expressive. Catherine O'Hara has a similar kind of voice.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I'm looking forward to it still, but given the way that the fans are talking about it (right from the very first press screening) and the way they've responded to anything remotely negative (don't like Anne Hathaway? You're pretending, Don't think Jackman deserves a nomination? Genre biases? Dislike the use of close-ups? Well, you must hate Passion of Joan of Arc then are all things I've read) makes me want stop reading the internet.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

A D-? Really? Anne’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” was THE most moving moment of cinema in 2012.

At its very, very worst, Les Mis is a “C,” and even that is tough. I totally agree with you Sean; a D-/F is an extremely unfairly harsh grade a movie that features at LEAST three strong acting performances and fine technical finesse.

Say what you want about Les Mis. Complain about the close-ups (a different perspective from the usual arena viewing from Les Mis on stage), Russel Crowe (he worked with what he had) and its melodramatic moments (after all it is a musical, and it doesn’t try to be subtle), but when it comes down to it, Les Mis achieves its goal: it transfers the musical from stage to screen and carries with it the same essence of hope, redemption, and love you’d find in any stage performance. What do some critics expect, a total redo of characters and plot? I kept an open mind watching it (my musical-theater and Les Mis fangirling kept me biased but I tried), and critics should do the same as well.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Oh Nate, I wanted and expected to love this movie. I just didn't. I didn't like the single take closeup version of I dreamed a dream and I felt a potential epic movie was constricted....I'm so disappointed, not only in the film, but at the filmgoing experience.

I will say, that I will see it again just to make sure!

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfilmboymichael

I can't even with this "how can you call the movie atrocious/how can you give this a D/how can you have a different opinion from me?" Like... Nathaniel gave Cloud Atlas an F, and said he would rather be deathly ill again than even consider returning to it. You can't have these feelings on hyperbole go both ways. You can't be pissed off that people legitimately think a movie has no redeeming qualities while saying that a film like Cloud Atlas has no redeeming qualities, lol.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey

And that comment was maybe a bit too bitchy btw but it's just something I'm throwing out there. I was mixed on Les Miz after viewing it yesterday and I find that a lot of the problems I had with it are legitimately being pointed out by reviewers, BUT I also saw the response to it (irrespective of what its quality was going to be) coming from miles away. I ultimately felt a little shocked that there was an overwhelmingly negative response from some people because to me, I was so underwhelmed. I understand how lovers of the musical could simply fall in love with the movie because it was on the big screen for the first time but I don't get how one could give it an F. Doesn't mean I will go questioning everything about them, though. There are some very well written, and scathing, responses to the film.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey

At the screening I saw today people applauded after Anne's number, after the big revolutionary number, at the end and again during the credits.

So clearly it's not getting all bad word of mouth.

I loved it and will encourage people to see it.

Hugh Jackman is fatnastic.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Jeffrey, I entirely agree with you.

Nathaniel says we shouldn't prejudge movie. He's entirely right to assert so. But then, doesn't that mean everything from April Fool's Predictions (judging the possible reception of a film based on expected qualities). Hell, how can you not prejudge a movie to a certain extent without being completely impartial (ie, a stone)? When we say a film really surprised us, or disappointed us, isn't it in part because it doesn't match our expectations (aka, expected judgement)?

But here's the thing: a film can be an A and have only B+ qualities - that just means it was more than the sum of it's parts. A film can be an F and have positive qualities - that just means that it was less than the sum of its parts. It's certainly an extreme position, but not one that is inherently meaningless, false or facile.

I've been visiting Nathaniel's website for 10 years (seriously) and I wouldn't give that up for anything - I look forward to purchasing the Film Bitch Awards book whenever it comes out along with ten years more. But sometimes.... the sheer force of his hate has made me a fan of Clint Eastwood for crissakes, and Eastwood himself could barely manage that.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Just saw it, and I have to agree with others who said it was good, not great. I wanted to love it, as I love the book and musical, but I never got swept away with the movie. The trailer had given me chills, but unfortunately the movie itself did not. I thought everyone was really good (especially Anne, Hugh, and the little Cosette) and even thought Rusell Crowe was fine. I agree with those laying the blame on Hooper, I thought he did a horrible job and really hope he doesn't get an Oscar nomination. His decisions were so strange and kept the audience at a distance. Just compare Javerts death in the nonmusical version with Geoffrey Rush a few years ago. He jumps in the water and there was a closeup of the ripples as he slowly sinks which had dramatic impact. In this version he falls on the concrete of a dam, which is just icky.
I was listening to a NPR interview with Barbara Streisand this week, and she was talking about singing live in Funny Girl and then said "Oh I heard they were doing that in Les Miz," which I thought was a very sly way of saying that she had done it first :-)

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdaisy5

Funny how you blame Hollywood for "casting people who lack the musical gift" when, as you yourself pointed out only a few weeks ago, Les Miz is an entirely British production. Of course, it might have been easier for Hollywood (or anyone else) to get that message if Johnny Depp hadn't been nominated for Sweeney Todd.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

"@ Bia
Are you rooting against her?"

No, but it does seem like with the reviews and the hate she's been getting in the press for her personality...I wonder. Still, I don't think voters will go with Sally Field for the 3rd time or Helen Hunt for the 2nd, and they are really her only competition...as far as we know. Maybe voters will prefer Maggie Smith, she's riding the hype wave with Downton.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

To be fair, I don't think Cloud Atlas deserves an "F" either. But I go easy on films, I think. Something has to be totally without redeeming qualities to get an "F." Like....Freddie Got Fingered.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

I have so many problems with the film that has nothing to do with its musicality. Actually, I love musicals but that was the most claustrophobic film I've ever seen. Hooper screwed it by choosing to just focus on their faces. The editing is so bad because it just jumps from one scene to another like a smashcut and it felt like a series of vignettes rather than 1 continuous film. Russell Crowe was just... Badly cast. By himself he was fine if unexceptional but paired with Hugh Jackman he was just badly outsung.

If there's anything good about this movie it's the music minus Crowe and the Sweeney Todd freaks. Jackman is especially alive and amazing. So were Seyfried and Redmayne. Hathaway is very good but I had a problem with her pronunciation. Threw me
Off with the "god" a bit but that scene was magnificent and totally validated the close up!

But besides that, the movie was overall disappointing. I think Nathaniel you're a little too enamored with the movie and the fact that it's a musical that you can't get past its atrocious qualities. Maybe people are just very critical because they see something from you.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClarence

I'm starting to think that maybe musicals on film will never make enough people happy. Most of the film versions of the last 10-15 years have been criticized pretty harshly, and I suspect that it just doesn't work on film. Hairspray is the only one that seems to have worked really well, and that's a campfest.

I love Les Miz from the theater and I loved the film last night. I just don't think there are other choices Hooper could have made to appease the critics. My god -- great performances from Hathaway, Jackman, Redmayne, Barks, Seyfriend, Tveit, the kids!, SBC... even HBC and Crowe weren't that bad. And if not closeups, what do you want from a musical with little action and no dancing? Thank god it wasn't the dizzying quick cuts going everywhere that makes for ridiculous action sequences these days.

The problem is that the expectations of the critics are too high.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

And I'd rather they stop making film versions of great musicals if they're just going to criticize them to death. Does anyone really think the film versions of Wicked and Book of Mormon aren't going to get savaged?

Let's just have a bazillion superhero movies and violence-fests instead.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

mikey67 - it's not that critics expectations are too high. It's that they don't have respect for the musical genre. Musicals will always have more haters than non-musicals because it's a divisive genre. That's just the way it is. Even musicals that people largely seem to love today (like Little Shop of Horrors) had their haters upon release. I'm not sure why the world is so much more in love with the superhero genre or the ultra violence fest (neither of which require suspension of disbelief the way singing onscreen does those everyone on earth is more likely to break into song at some point in their life than to fly with just their own bodies or develop super strength or to slaughter other people with a gun)

clarence -- not sure i understand your last sentence.

BVR -- Nick and I often disagree. Plus he's not really a musicals guy and admits so.

Pam -- thanks for sharing. I'm so curious about why kids love it. It seems so adult to me. which is why i linked to that Slate article

j.p. -- i almost always speak of "Hollywood" in the larger cultural sense which is to say "Mainstream Cinema with Movie Stars" rather than the actual place.

arkaan -- LOL. good diss there. :) but i remain puzzled that people focus so much on the things I don't like since for the most part, I try to ignore it and talk about things that thrill me.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

The biggest problem with Les Miz the film is that being on a big screen totally exposes each and every single flaw the source material has. Hooper's direction didn't help, but after seeing this, I question whether ANY film version of Les Miz that wasn't significantly altered could make for a great film. This might just be the best version that we could ever realistically get.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Let's talk about what improved on the stage version:
1) I love that they added some father/teenage daughter "fighting" to "In My Life". On stage, it's just words, while in the film it felt like a conflict. It brought more to the character of Cosette and fueled Valjean's internal conversation about how to handle her future.
2) Added comedy -- I loved the staging of Master of the House and the new lines/jokes added by SBC and HBC. "I saved your life" got a loud guffaw from me and i really appreciated how they cut the tension.
3) Anne's first scene in the factory has to be considered an improvement over the stage version -- great work by the supporting cast and Anne was just magnetic from the get-go.
4) Building the barricade -- I thought that entire sequence was clever and fun.

I find the complaints about the transitions and the disconnects in the story to be rather amusing. Hooper puts in more backstory than the stage version has, and still...imagine how much longer it could have been.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

Why isn't Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne getting as much attention as Anne Hathaway? That's pretty much the first question I asked myself when I saw the film. The second question I asked was... was it just me or did we really need all those close ups? Anyways, I'm a Les Mis virgin and I think I liked it more than not. I'm seeing it again though, so we'll see.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Chiming in:

1. Hooper. I think he did a brilliant job. Every single one of those characters (even Crowe) were telling a story when they sang. I cannot even tell you how often I have heard "I Dreamed a Dream" and "On My Own" and other than Patti Lu's original of the former, no one has told the stories in those songs complete with acting beat changes and a dramatic event. That didn't come from thin air. Hooper got that out of them. Jackman's soliloquy? Hooper. Eddie Redmayne managing to make Marius actually interesting . . .or Amanda Seyfried investing a thankless role (and Cosette is thankless) with some specificity? All Hooper.

2. The close ups. I saw Chicago recently and it bugged the hell out of me that not ONE number allowed me to witness the singer/actor for more than 10 consecutive seconds. I also think Les Miz (let's face it) is CHEESE. And the simplicity of the character work combined with good acting added something new to the material for me.

3. Crowe. I admit he is the weak link here. But I think it's an acting choice gone wrong. I don't know what he was playing (my theory is repressed homosexual in love with Valjean) but it just didn't work too well for Javert. It was just a bit too subtle. But he wasn't HORRIBLE the way DDL was in Nine (or hell the way everything was in Nine).

4. Adaptation. I think Hooper and Co. made some welcome changes to the show. Bringing the Bishop back (and casting Colm Wilkinson), aligning Eponine more with the way she works in the novel, shuffling some of the songs around . . . the storytelling was a lot clearer and the film very rarely dragged.

5. Live singing. Regardless of how "inventive' it is. It was a really powerful choice for this film. I felt Sweeney Todd felt sooooo lipsynced as does everything on Glee. With a pop schlock score like this (and I love it but Sondheim it ain't) I think some rough around the edges vocals that pair with excellent acting cuts some of the cheesetastic elements of the material (go on YouTube and watch some of the concert versions of the show and most people just Park and Bark it . . . )

It was not a perfect movie, but it was the best Broadway musical adaptation we've gotten since Chicago. It reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver! and made me wish we could have lavish well made movie musicals like this all the time.

December 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

Alejandro -- I love every second of this comment. Thanks for bringing such a thorough opinion. was really interesting to read. Agreed that some of the changes really help the material. As for your first points about "All Hooper" this gave me things to think about because though I love the movie I believe his direction *is* the weak spot. But then, he was also responsible for some of these things so...

December 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R


I love your website, but this rampant Les Miz fanboyism makes me think that you never get to bad mouth Christopher Nolan fanboys again. :-) you're almost as touchy as they are about bad reviews!

I'm excited to see it though.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim -- well, come now. I've never wished death on anyone who didn't like it like Nolan fanboys do. Some of my best friends don't like the movie! Also I've admitted as to which criticisms i think have merit which is far more than the Nolan or Eastwood fanboys can do (to name two camps I regularly piss off)=. In short, Les Miz: The Movie is not sacred to me nor do I think it (or any movie) is above criticism, nor is it my favorite picture of the year. I just don't think it's getting a fair shake at all and I don't like bullying.

I'd be a lot more okay with the "zomg i hate closeups!" argument if any of these same people had ever complained about the extinction of the wide and medium shot before in other movies but they haven't. That's *my* pet topic and other people are trying to steal it from me to complain about a movie I like! NO FAIR ;)

December 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

No, but it does seem like with the reviews and the hate she's been getting in the press for her personality...I wonder. Still, I don't think voters will go with Sally Field for the 3rd time or Helen Hunt for the 2nd, and they are really her only competition...as far as we know. Maybe voters will prefer Maggie Smith, she's riding the hype wave with Downton.

We won't know where the Academy will go until televised prizes are handed out. Nathan believes she has it but I think Field and Hathaway could split the vote in their category for a third party to take it in an upset. That of course won't happen in Actress where it's Chastain vs Lawrence.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Can you imagine the criticism if it actually wins Best Picture? "WORST WINNER SINCE CRASH!"

The ugly side of awards season u.u

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpaco

It would be the worst winner since Crash. In fact, I liked Crash more. At least I connected with some of the characters in that movie. Hathaway was the only character I gave a damn about and she died thirty minutes in. It's not a terrible movie, but it's definitely B- material. The King's Speech and The Artist are better movies and even they aren't Best Pic caliber.

So, yes, there will be blood if Les Miz wins.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthatone

"So, yes, there will be blood if Les Miz wins."

Haha as I was saying...

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpaco

Nathaniel, I saw this last night after months of waiting and having to barrel through the negativity, though your initial reaction kept me staying positive. And I agree that the onslaught of hatred for the film is a little ridiculous. I loved every second of it, but taking my love out of the equation as much as possible, I sincerely cannot see how Les Mis is a bad movie. The singing and performances were incredible, and I think Hooper's filmmaking choices were both to honor the actors as much as possible and in keeping with his cinematic style.

I even though Crowe was awesome, though do feel like Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen thought they were in a different movie (but isn't that the fault of the source material?)

In fact I think a lot of criticism must have to do with disliking the source material. Why not focus on HOW that source material was executed and transformed, because at the end of the day it's basically the most musical theatery musical with big bombastic sentiment and melodramatic (but effective) emotions. And nothing can be done about it, as much as the haters/critics wish there could.

Another interesting note, I've seen literally zero negative or mediocre reactions from real life friends on facebook and twitter. Even non-Les Mis-truists, just regular movie goers are all going gaga for it.

I really think the media scapegoating missed the mark with this one, I've never seen a more completely opposite reaction between the critics and audience for any movie that I can remember in recent years.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I really hope INTO THE WOODS benefits from some of the decisions made with Les Miz. I hope they also do the vocals live, get Anne Dudley to orchestrate, and really investigate the acting. Unlike Les Miz, INTO THE WOODS will need good singers. I hope now that Meryl's been cast (and maybe throwing Anne Hathaway in there as Cinderella), they can take a chance on Raul Esparza and NIna Arianda as the Baker and his Wife . . . and Cheyenne Jackson as Cinderella's Prince.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

Saw it t the Ziegfeld in NYC last night. Theater was 90% full (big theater). Very approving crowd. Applause after many numbers including, Anne, One Day More, On my Own, Bring him Home, the finale, and the end-roll credits for Anne, Hugh, Eddie, Colm. I thought Hugh was fantastic; Crowe was a slight drag; very strong Eddie Redmayne. B+ overall. Haters love to hate musicals, so I wouldn't think too much of it.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Since I've been invoked personally in these comments, I'll speak up for why I or someone else might deplore this movie of Les Mis. I truly think this movie is awful, particularly in its direction and its production choices. I understand a lot of other people relish it, Nathaniel included, but I am not going to chalk up my reaction to vituperative agendas or genre antagonisms; I'm taking for granted that my reactions are as genuine as those of the people who like it or love it or feel mixed or indifferent to it. I'm pretty sure I was defending Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as a wildly but interestingly mixed bag and totally going to bat for War Horse last year when they were the "scapegoating" victims of that season - including around here - so I don't feel too intimidated by that particular accusation.

I think Les Mis is aesthetically at war with itself throughout, chasing competing, disorderly impulses toward undoctored realism vs. utterly slipshod artifice that drag each other down from the get-go, not least because of the many failures that plague each approach separately, in the way Hooper tries to implement them. And don't even get me started on how the movie - much more than the the show - evinces virtually zero idea of what the entire uprising is about, or what's going on within or among the characters who are participating in it, i.e., the entire second half of the piece. All I see is a romantic, fashion-plate pantomime of Something Sexy And Righteous To Sing About, repeatedly crammed into whatever space is left in the shadow of an astonishingly callow and under-characterized love triangle. The hollowness and yet the relentlessness of how the movie confronts religion is even worse than what it does to revolution. And that's pretty big game for a movie to hunt when it can barely even muster a plausible sense of acquaintance, much less of familiarity or actual love, between Jean Valjean and Cosette... just one example of a widely missed target that ought to be really easy to hit.

It's interesting that Cloud Atlas and Nathaniel's feelings about that one came up here, because honestly, I can barely think of a problem he has with that one that I don't have with this one. At the very least, neither movie can stop swatting you with just how impressed it is with its own grand conception and with the difficulty of its own execution. Both are guilty of indecision about selling their fussily made-up actors as characters vs. flaunting all the expensive stars they were able to wrangle, even when they're wrong for their parts. From my perspective, they both assume a viewer prepared to forgive a lot out of affection for the source material, admiration for the scope of the attempt, and eagerness to embrace the homilies they are tossing out in the guise of themes. So, I agree it's ironic to see Cloud Atlas nailed to the wall on this site while dissenting opinions about Les Mis, even strongly dissenting ones, are dismissed or rationalized away as either personal, generic, or media-wide bias. I might point out here that a putative theme of Les Mis concerns the value of dissent, though I get it that many of the movie's champions feel like the ones defending themselves at a barricade against hostile or pre-decided critics. For this particular spectator, Cloud Atlas at least has several performers who are willing to go "small" even when the movie keeps going big - something Les Mis and its cast are seldom allowed or inclined to do, so the overstatements just pile up. (I'll make some exceptions for Redmayne and best-in-show Tveit, and for Hathaway during the captivating first half of "I Dreamed a Dream," before, from my POV, she goes too big, and a little crazy... possibly because Hooper says he only decided in the editing room to hold the whole time in that close-up.) I also thought Cloud Atlas emanated a sense of trying to wrestle with ideas or notions that somehow felt boldfaced and elusive at the same time, even if I often disliked the executions. That might be a taste thing, and I might feel differently on a second pass - the Wachowskis are terrible at staging or conceptualizing "revolution," too, even as they revisit that idea over and over - but that's how I felt. Hooper's Les Mis plays to me as arrogantly confident of its stranglehold on incredibly simplistic ideas - visual and stylistic, as well as thematic - and all the more inclined to slap itself on the back. I almost preferred the ideas it blurs or mishandles (monomania, revolt) to the ones it ironically diminishes with the power of kitschy hyperbole (faith, love, sacrifice).

Other people obviously love it, and more power to you/them. I'm interested to hear the arguments. However, I think it's completely legitimate to think it's wretched—as it seems fair and reasonable to think that about Cloud Atlas, or other movies that go so far out on precarious limbs.

December 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Nick -- I'm surprised you feel that this is an attack on ALL people who don't like Les Miz since I know you to be a careful watcher of movies without much in the way of an agenda going in. But I will also never leave the barricade to defend the musical genre from the grotesque treatement it gets among contemporary tastemakers. It's too easy to spot the ways in which people hyperbolize their discomfort with the genre itself or misunderstand it outright (I read a review that complained it was no fun which is an Utter Bullshit complaint since Les Miz is a Tragedy Tearjerker not a Musical Comedy. I read a review that said it was embarrassed to be a musical which is also Utter Bullshit surely leftover from reviews of other musicals which needed some sort of a "way in" to the material to make singing onscreen "plausible"). I've read reviews dissing the live singing as a bad idea when usually you hear the opposite about lipsynching. You yourself complained that Dreamgirls was lipsynched and should not have been if I recall correctly.

Each and every time a musical has appeared in my conscious lifetime, i.e. the 80s and onward, regardless of quality (with the possible blessed exceptions of Once, Chicago, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch) there have been divided and often extremely harsh reviews. Even movies that have obviously won the cultural wars in retrospect, like Moulin Rouge! debuted to far more it's a disaster!" dismissals than people care to remember.

It's getting to the point where I feel I need warning disclaimers in front of all reviews indicating which previous musicals passed muster with the critic. If the only ones that do are snarky musical comedies or canonical films that everyone understands they Have To Love (Singin' in the Rain) than I'll know that that person's opinion is of no consequence.

December 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Also I have to object to the categorization of The Film Experience as "scapegoating" War Horse or Extremely Loud... neither of which made any sort of "worst list" around here -- I was appalled at the reactions to Extremely Loud myself (few of which seemed to actually delve into the movie but serve as receptacles to all sorts of complicated feelings about 9/11 and Sentiment in film) or The Reader before it. (another example of seasonal scapegoating)

I did think War Horse was hokey and too self-conscious about its overt stylizations but i hardly "hated" it.

December 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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