Tag Archives: Oscars

Pop-Culture Connoisseur: An Oscars Recap

-Brianna Huber

The winners are in, and I feel like overall, 2012 was a pretty great year in film. From Argo, to Les Miserables, to Zero Dark Thirty, this was the year of the historical drama. We also had both our youngest and oldest nominees ever for the category of Best Actress—9-year-old Quvenzahné Wallace and 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. Oscar night was filled with noteworthy moments, but there were several in particular that I found especially memorable.

I’m having a hard time thinking of one word to sum up Seth MacFarlane as host of the evening’s ceremonies. He actually kept things classier than I expected given what I know of his work, but he still managed to be a bit over-the-line offensive for me on numerous occasions. Some of the moments I found most distasteful were when he described Zero Dark Thirty as a “celebration of every woman’s innate ability to never let things go,” when he commented while speaking about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in Lincoln that “the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth,” and when he took an ethnic jab at Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, and Javier Bardem by saying, “We have no idea what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive.” MacFarlane is a skilled comic, so it’s a shame he had to tarnish his overall performance with some of his gags.

I was very happy to see Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. Anne Hathaway has grown so much as an actress since I first saw her in The Princess Diaries back in 2001 and gave an amazing performance is Les Miserables.  Jennifer Lawrence strikes me as someone who’s very dedicated to her craft, but also very down-to-Earth as a person.  She doesn’t play the Hollywood game, even if refusing to do so sometimes causes her to put her foot in her mouth, and I love that about her. I have to ask what it says about the world we live in that as soon as I saw Lawrence trip on her way to the stage to accept her award, I knew it would be all over the internet in a matter of seconds. Yes, she tripped. Yes, I’m sure it was embarrassing, but she handled it gracefully. Now get over it.

I thought it was cool that Amour was nominated for Best Picture as a foreign film. I feel like it isn’t too often that I see a foreign film make it onto that list, so I’ll definitely have to see that one later.

Given the success of his film Argo, it was a surprise to see Ben Affleck left off of the nominee list for Best Director (actually, it was a surprise to see Kathryn Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty left off of the list too), so it was a perfect end to the night to see Argo win Best Picture. Affleck gave the best acceptance speech of the night, thanking everyone from his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, to Canada and the people of Iran, before taking a moment to note that he never thought he would be on that stage again after winning his 1998 Oscar for Good Will Hunting. “You have to work harder than you think you possibly can,” he said, addressing what he’s learned from others in the film business during his career. “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard, but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you’ve got to get up.”

Now that this year’s Oscars are over, I’m already looking forward to next year. Each year brings new talent, or simply talent that has gone unrecognized, and allows its possessors to shine. This year, I feel like Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, and even Ben Affleck were a few people who had their careers bumped to the next level by their Oscar nominations and wins. I can’t wait to see who will get that opportunity next.

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Movie Reviews: Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love torture

-Casey Klekas

We all know how this movie ends: Bin Laden’s face is made into Swiss cheese. But in order to get to Abbottabad, you’re going to need to torture some people first.

The first thing I said when the ending credits started to roll was, “I’d see it again right now.” Since I’m going to see it again, I’ll hold off my defense of why I think this movie is even better than my other two favorites from this winter, Lincoln and Django Unchained. Right now, I want to talk about torture.

Zero Dark Thirty spans from September 11, 2001 to May 2, 2011. It begins with the date over a black screen, and I have never seen Hollywood depict 9/11 so appropriately. I was expecting another collage of airliners transforming into fireballs on the New York City skyline, but instead the screen stays black and the day’s events unfold through the recorded conversations from that infamous morning. You re-live it all through actual recordings of the desperate pleas from flight crews, people calling home out of their smoke-filled offices, and animalistic confusion of responders and air-traffic controllers asking, “Is this real-world or exercise?” It made 9/11 seem like a fresh wound.

The film then jumps ahead to a torture chamber where a suspected terrorist is slowly drowned and suffocated, which is also known as waterboarding. While he’s subjected to Abu Ghraib-style humiliation, I couldn’t help but think about how life-changing it would be to give up your friends or loved ones to your torturers—an irreversible act that would scar you forever. When you named names. When you screamed, “Do it to Julia!”

I think the general perception of this film will be that the torture of detainees was necessary in order to extract vital information that could lead to Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts. The scenes of torture are interrupted by numerous terrorist attacks, such as the 2005 London bombings, the 2008 Islamabad Marriot Hotel Bombing, the 2009 suicide bombing at Camp Chapman, and the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square in 2010. It puts you back in the days when terrorist attacks were expected like clockwork.

We tend to think of torturers as members of a different species. But this movie puts a human face, the rugged, surfer-bro mug of Jason Clarke, as that of your friendly interrogator. It doesn’t pit you against the C.I.A.; it shows a small group of people under incredible pressure to produce results in order to foil the next hijacking or car bomb.
Some commentators claim the movie “makes a case for the efficacy of torture.” Others agree that the implication is, “No waterboarding, no Bin Laden.” If torture couldn’t produce useful information at all, there would be no ethical question about it. That’s what makes Zero Dark Thirty so good. It turns you into a bit of a sadist. If we forget about this guy’s humanity, we might get the name of some Saudi playboy or Yemeni gangster that could lead us to someone that might know Bin Laden’s mailman. You’ll do whatever it takes to get the information you need, and that includes beating the hell out of someone until he or she gives you a name. The movie doesn’t endorse anything, but it puts you into the uncomfortable shoes of the real people who were faced with the real task of hunting down the world’s most wanted man.

Grade: A+

Django Unchained: A study in brutality and comic relief

-Eleni Pappelis

Introduced by a chain-gang forcibly marched in the dead of night by two armed white men on horses through the countryside of Texas, I was immediately cast into the deep South set two years before the Civil War.  Directed by Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained follows lead role Django (Jamie Foxx), a recently freed slave who lost his wife in the slave trade, and his bizarre encounter with Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter masquerading as a traveling dentist.  The cart he keeps his bounties’ dead bodies in is a mobile dentist cart with a giant molar springing off on top.

Django and Dr. Schultz team up in efforts to track down and rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  This ultimately leads to the acquaintance of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who owned the infamous plantation: “Candyland.”

This dangerous journey skillfully inspired my every emotion.  I caught myself laughing at comedic instances in which our two main protagonists shed comic relief with their smart and charismatic wit. Director Tarantino did not lessen the brutal and inhumane history of life in slavery during the 19th century.  I could cry due to such horrific realizations of what reality was like and so graphically portrayed for us, the audience, to see in this film.

I strongly recommend this daring movie and praise its gutsy, graphic exposure of the southern slave’s perspective.  And how coincidental that Tarantino‘s Django Unchained would come out around the same time as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Grade: B+

Press photos from http://oscars.org

Pop-Culture Connoisseur: It’s That Time of Year Again – Awards Season

Pop-Culture Connoisseur is an entertainment column.  Here you will find reviews, recommendations, and my take on some of the latest happenings in the world of books, music, TV, and film.

-Brianna Huber

As the daughter of a life-long movie buff, I have come to look forward to awards season every year, especially since starting my journalism classes back in 2009 and developing a greater appreciation for the creative process that goes into media production.  I consider the Academy Awards (a.k.a. “The Oscars”) the pinnacle of the awards season, and just last week this year’s nominees were officially announced.

Unfortunately, as is the case almost every year, I haven’t seen even half of the films that have been nominated for awards.  I have a feeling this is the case for a lot of people, at least once we venture outside of the standard categories of “Best Picture,” “Actor/Actress,” “Music (Original Score),” etc. and into the land of “Foreign Language Film,” “Animated Short,” and “Short Film.”  I feel accomplished if I’ve seen even one of the nominees in a “Documentary” category.  This feeling of cinematic illiteracy led me to wonder how Oscar nominees actually get chosen in the first place.  I had always imagined they were chosen by a small, elite group of bigwig executives sitting together in a closed room.  That isn’t exactly the case.

Nominees are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is a professional honor society for members of the film industry, not the fancy governing body that I had assumed.  Membership is by invitation only, but I was surprised to find that AMPAS members include the very actors, directors, producers, and technicians that are hoping to be nominated for the awards.  To qualify for nomination, the film must meet certain requirements.  Nominees are selected for each category by their peers – film editors nominate film editors, and directors nominate directors – but everyone gets to vote for the category of “Best Picture.”  Members can vote for five nominees in a category.  Once the votes are in, the results are tabulated and nominees are announced.  About a week later, final ballots are mailed to Academy members who then have two weeks to make their decisions and return their ballots.  The votes are tabulated in absolute secrecy and then sealed until the moment the envelopes are opened on-stage at the awards ceremony.  For the category of “Foreign Language Film,” a country is allowed to submit one film for consideration each year.

So put simply, the Oscars are awards given out for achievement in film by peers within the industry.  Those who are the best at what they do choose who to recognize within their own field.  That sounds like a good plan to me.  After all, who else is more qualified to say what outstanding costume design is than someone who has studied and become highly skilled at costume design?  As elitist as it may sound, I don’t think the general public is always qualified to decide who should be recognized for achievement in the field of entertainment.  The public sometimes gets it wrong.  Fans will often band together and boost the vote for someone they consider to be the ‘hottest’ actor or the nicest person.  While those qualities have their place, I don’t think they should be deciding factors in all awards shows.  I trust Oscars to be awarded based solely on talent to those who are best at what they do.  Sometimes though, people that I feel deserve an Oscar go unrecognized, and that sucks, but I can’t have my cake and eat it too.  In the end, now that I have a better understanding of it, even though I’m sure it has its own set of internal biases, I generally trust the process of the Academy, which is why in film, I feel that the Oscar really deserves the prestige with which it has been bestowed.

The Oscars will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane and air at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 24th on ABC.

Image from http://oscars.org