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What should win? What coulda been?


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On the eve of the Academy Awards, National Review Online gathered discerning moviegoers for some predictions, preferences, and recriminations.

JAMES BOWMAN
Since the movies I like best are almost never nominated for Academy Awards, except in the Foreign Film category, and since among those that are nominated, I often have a hard time finding even one or two that I like, or at least don’t hate, there must be some reason for hope this year in the fact that I liked eight of the nine nominees for Best Picture. The exception was Quentin Tarantino’s stupendously bad Django Unchained. All the others I liked well enough to recommend as worth seeing, though none so well as to think it a must-see.

Of the eight, I think David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook the best, though I assume (like everybody else) that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln will win, largely because of the remarkable performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. He deserves to get, and probably will get, the Best Actor award. Jennifer Lawrence ought to win Best Actress for Silver Linings, though Emmanuelle Riva would be a worthy winner for Amour. For Supporting Actor (or anything else), I will always root for Alan Arkin (Argo), and I think that Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings was a Supporting Actress in the same league.

My own nominees for Best Picture would be six, two by American directors and four by foreigners. The two American movies are Whit Stillman’s delightful Damsels in Distress and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Among the foreign ones are Boy, by the Maori New Zealander Taika Waititi; Monsieur Lazhar, by the Québécois Canadian Philippe Falardeau; and Sister, by the Franco-Swiss Ursula Meier. Maybe there’s something about mixed ethnicity that makes for top-notch filmmaking? But I would give the prize to Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus, which may be the best Shakespeare adaptation for the movies since Grigori Kozintsev’s King Lear, in 1971.

 

 James Bowman is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

 

GINA DALFONZO
I can’t predict with any confidence which movie will win Best Picture this year. It’s one of those years where everything seems a little up in the air. Argo appears to be the frontrunner, but not quite the overwhelming favorite. But I know which one I believe should be the winner, and that is Les Misérables.

No other film this year has drawn me in so completely or moved me so deeply. No other film this year compelled me to go see it three times — something I haven’t done since Tom Hooper’s previous effort, The King’s Speech.

It’s no easy thing to take a beloved stage musical and turn it into a lovable movie (witness the execrable version of The Phantom of the Opera several years ago). Hooper and company have not only succeeded in this, but they’ve gone above and beyond, bringing the world of Victor Hugo’s original novel to vivid life. The film tells the classic story of the ex-convict transformed by God’s grace, and depicts the tumultuous society around him, with a raw urgency and power that make it seem like a whole new story.

As for the copious close-ups and other unusual techniques that drove many critics crazy, well, some critics once felt the same way about Orson Welles. I know that’s a bold comparison, and I don’t make it lightly. But I have a feeling that with Les Misérables, as so often happens, tomorrow’s critics will look back at today’s critics and wonder what on earth they were thinking.

It was a good year for movies on the whole, and there are several excellent and deserving films in the Best Picture category. But there’s only one I’ll be rooting for.

 Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog.


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