...for giving me something to do with my weekends until February 24th.
By Alisha Giampola (Actor)
It's awards season, everyone. With the Golden Globes behind us (for the record, "I beat Meryl" was going to be in MY future acceptance speech- thanks a lot, J Lawr), and the SAG awards and Oscars ahead of us, it's time to start paying attention to the films and actors whose performances garnered nominations this year. Or not. You know, whatever you feel like doing.
At my house, however, we are paying attention to the award nominees. Mostly because my husband has totally undiagnosed Obsessive Film Watching Disorder, which compels him to watch every single film every single year that is nominated by the Academy for an award. When I say "every single film", I mean it. He is going to see Prometheus purely because it's been nominated for "Visual Effects". He's going to see every documentary short. And I'm going to see a lot of these movies too. Because it was included in our wedding vows. Haha, no just kidding. I think. Haha.
I'm sure some of you found that previous paragraph surprising. And yes, I'm married. One of my favorite things about living in New York City is that unlike every other place in America, being 27 and married here is- well- kind of weird. And when people find out, their congratulations upon learning that you are a newlywed are always tempered by barely-concealed concern: "Really?! But you're not even thirty yet!"
I for one, absolutely love this. I adore that being a happily-married twenty-something in NYC is as bizarre to NYCers as a happily-UNmarried twenty-something might be to a midwestern grandma. But for better or worse (and of course, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, blah blah blah) I happen to be married, and couldn't be more pleased about it. But we do have these two seasons in our house. Awards season. And baseball season. I hope no one begins anticipating my comments on baseball season, because I won't be making any. But due to my own vested interest in film and performance, I do join Daniel in his excitement about these films.
Yesterday we saw three of the nominated pictures (like all self-respecting New Yorkers, we bought one set of tickets and snuck into the others). Let me tell you: nothing makes you realize what about a movie holds your attention and what doesn't until you sit through 3 dramas in one afternoon with just some popcorn and an enormous movie theater soda spiked with whiskey for nourishment.
So with absolutely no critical credentials, and without having even seen all of the nominees yet (I know Daniel has that all plotted out on a calendar somewhere, but, I mean, whatever), here are my thoughts on a few of the films I saw yesterday, and one that I saw over the holiday break. These are not in any way actual reviews of the films- they are just my immediate reactions to what I liked and didn't like about each one. Please just think of me as a friend that you invited over to your house for the afternoon to chat about film. Feel free to disagree with me, but please provide some kind of refreshment. I like cookies.
Argo (7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture)
First of all, you should run out right now and click on this link to see the rest of the "Honest Oscar Movie Titles", because I said so, and because they're funny. Unless of course, you've been on Facebook in the past week, in which case, you've probably already seen it.
Anyway, Argo totally made me forgive Ben Affleck for Daredevil, and also for Gigli, which was much harder to do. Because who cares that Ben Affleck isn't a great actor, and that we all love Matt Damon so much more? Ben Affleck is actually a really great director, and we should all start encouraging him to direct a lot more often and then maybe he'll even stop bothering to try and act in his own movies! Baby steps, people!
Seriously though, Argo. I loved this film. It was edge-of-your-seat exciting to watch the entire time and it featured Walter White in a pretty bad toupee. I need very little else for a good night out at the movies, but for those of you who may need a little more convicing, let me say that it also contained fun performances by John Goodman and Alan Arkin as a quick-talking Hollywood duo who provide a lot of comic relief and a table-read of an imaginary movie that looks like a high school porno production of Star Wars. Not to mention that this is based on a true story!!! This is exactly the kind of stuff that makes me continue to regret not being a spy. Does Alan Arkin deserve the Supporting Actor nom? Meh. While I totally love Alan Arkin, he's done way better work in other movies, and in my humble opinion, I think the other nominees for Supporting Actor are more deserving this year.
The Master (3 Oscar nominations, including Best Actor in a Leading Role)
You guys. I loved this movie. It was beautifully shot, amazingly acted, contained disturbing and beautiful music that perfectly captured the feel of the film, and left you questioning life, faith, madness and meaning. If that's not a sucessful motion picture, I'm not sure what is. But then, I also loved There Will Be Blood. I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a fascinating director, and yes, maybe he is a bit of a critics' director (even when the critics don't love him wholeheartedly), and maybe his films can be a little heavy and a little oblique, and maybe not everyone is going to like them, but I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was mesmirizing. I thought his glowing, bold, charismatic performance perfectly counterbalanced the physically dangerous, almost ape-like character created by Joaquin Phoenix. Also, Amy Adams is the perfect sister wife of a cult leader. Her sweet, delicate performance contains a vein of dark poison and makes you constantly wonder if she is being controlled or if she is the controller. Ultimately, this movie forces you to make your own decisions about it, and sometimes I find that to be incredibly refreshing.
Django Unchained (5 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Original Screenplay)
I know it's not going to win Best Picture, and I know that Spike Lee doesn't want you to see it, but this movie was total Quentin Tarantino gory-wish-fulfillment fun. Just like Inglourious Basterds reminded us that all we ever really wanted to see was Hitler getting his face blown off, Django reminds us that nothing provides a catharsis for the horrors of slavery like watching Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz blowing up a plantation. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a deliciously sleezy performance as evil slave owner Calvin Candie, but the movie is ultimately a subversively sweet buddy comedy about Foxx and Waltz' characters and all the hilarious white-people-killing scrapes they get involved in. Two of the best moments in the entire film involve a ridiculous cameo by Quentin Tarantino himself and a (SPOILER ALERT!!!) brilliantly funny scene in which an early version of the KKK struggle with their costume choices.
Lincoln (a whopping 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and you know, like everything else)
During this awards season, Steven Speilberg's Lincoln can be seen as the spiritually opposite side of Django's coin. Daniel Day-Lewis, looking so much more like Lincoln than Lincoln ever did, would never personally blow up a plantation and prefers to solve the problem of slavery by passing a little bill that we know as the 13th Amendment.
This movie appears so gigantic in scope at first: "LINCOLN!! SPIELBERG!! THE CIVIL WAR!!! A SCORE BY JOHN WILLIAMS!!! DANIEL DAY-LEWIS WEARING MAKEUP!!!" but in fact focuses its entire attention on just a few short days during Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Specifically, the time it took during January of 1865 to pass the 13th Amendment through the House of Representitives.
If that sounds like a nail-biting plot to you, then you have a lot more patience for American history than I do. I usually prefer my Civil War history to be in the vein of Gone With The Wind: a lot of Rhett Butler, and a little bit of Atlanta burning. However, it is a testament to Tony Kushner's screenplay and Daniel Day-Lewis' trademark disappear-into-the-character acting that I not only stayed awake for this one (the near-midnight finale in our long, long day of movie watching) but found it to be enjoyable.
And now, I'm going to maybe lose some friends and say that I don't really think it deserves the Best Picture award, even though I suspect it will get it. There are great performances in this film (and here, both Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones deserve a special shout out), but I don't think the film as an absolute whole is an actual "best picture", although in reality (or at least in my opinion), that could be said about very few Best Picture winners over the years.
Maybe next week we can discuss my feelings about Les Miserables, although I'm not sure I'll have enough room.
ALISHA GIAMPOLA is an NYC based actor/teacher/writer who has already written her Oscar speech. The first line is: "Oh wow I was totally not expecting this!!"