You Oughta Be “at” the Pictures

The Oscars are coming. On Saturday night, in fact. You probably already know that unless you haven’t watched television in months or read the paper or checked the Internet. We’ve already had the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild awards. The Oscars may feel anticlimactic about now, but hang in there. This year there are real choices and good ones.

I’ll confess I rarely go to the movies. Or rather I rarely DID. Then in the fall we moved ten minutes away from a wonderful theater with stadium seating, wide aisles, comfy chairs and discounted rates on Tuesday evenings. That coincided nicely with a surprising trend. Suddenly there were movies I actually wanted to see. Not Comic Book 3, Return of the Bad Guy, but original films, with more happening than car chases (in or out of outer space) or heroes with superpowers fighting villains with superpowers.

2012, though, saw a resurgence of beautifully filmed and acted dramas and musicals. I’ve been mesmerized. And now some of my favorite films of the year will be butting heads at the Academy Awards ceremonies.

I haven’t seen them all, but here are my thoughts. Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis was breathtaking. From the moment he came on screen Daniel Day-Lewis WAS Lincoln. The dialogue, the costumes, the acting, the cinematography were magnificent. Really, how could it get any better?

Well, wait. Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman was breathtaking. (Yes, I already used that word, I know.) I am a confirmed Les Mis addict. I never grow tired of the story or the music. In fact I’ll see it on the stage (again) next month. But the movie was extraordinary. (New adjective.) While not everyone agrees, I thought it was brilliant (keeping count?) to film the real actors singing the roles at that actual moment and not dubbing in voices, even theirs. This was real time performance, and while not one of the actors had a Broadway quality voice–whether they’ve sung on Broadway or not–they had real voices (far better than most of us real folks singing in the shower) and the emotion carried the day.

Then I went to see Argo. I really didn’t expect Argo to be great. Good, yes. But wow, what a ride. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half. And yes, I was pretty sure I knew how it was going to end. But, you know, the filmmaker might have had a different view of this event than my memory provided. Who knew exactly how the ending had come about? My paltry grasp of Iranian hostage history went skittling out the door and I was putty in the hands of Ben Affleck, the director.

I’ll see two more of the films before Saturday. We’ve just rented the DVD of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Tuesday we hope to see Zero Dark Thirty. I read Silver Linings Playbook and only just liked it, so I’m waiting for the DVD. I will have missed Life of Pi (which gets superb reviews), Django Unchained (I don’t do Quentin Tarantino) and Amour, which is 45 minutes across town and terribly sad.  My time was limited and I chose the films I most wanted to see.

So what does a novelist get from watching such fine films? Besides hours of quality entertainment?  I can tell you what I’ve gotten.

  • An appreciation for the power of storytelling.
  • An appreciation for quickly creating memorable characters.
  • An appreciation for editing.
  • An appreciation for the value of creating suspense by doing all the above well.

So which movie should win the Best Picture?  My vote would go to Les Mis, simply because of the breadth and power of the story which was so well captured in the film.  But I won’t be surprised or disappointed if I’m wrong.

What about you?


  1. Lil on February 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Loved Les Mis! Came home very emotional and wanted to learn the lyrics to several of the rousing songs. Also enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook; was a much more thought-provoking movie than I had thought it would be. I thought Kristin Lawrence was mesmerizing in that role. I still want to see Lincoln; the movie length has made me hesitate. Don’t think I want to see Argo or Zero Dark Thirty. For so long, I would look at movie listings and not see any that I was eager to see or willing to pay the expensive price to see and I have been pleased to see that trend reversed.

    • Emilie Richards on February 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Me, too. Argo is great suspense and watchable. You might be surprised at how much you like it. Will know more about Zero Dark Thirty tonight.

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