##DANIEL DAY LEWIS as LINCOLN##
Set in a time not long after the exploits of DJANGO UNCHAINED, LINCOLN has been NOMINATED FOR AN ACADEMY AWARD IN THE FOLLOWNG CATEGORIES: BEST PICTURE, BEST ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE, DANIEL DAY LEWIS, BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, TOMMY LEE JONES, BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, SALLY FIELD, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTED BY TONY KUSHNER, CINEMATOGRAPHY, PRODUCTION DESIGN, SOUND MIXING, SCORE, COSTUME, FILM EDITING. TWELVE IN ALL. Like apostles attesting the almighty awesomeness of the project.
Field is in fine fettle as Mary Todd Lincoln, Abe’s wife, driven mad with grief over the loss of their eldest son, and damned if she’s going to let her eligible son, Robert, go off to become Confederate cannon fodder. Lincoln is attributed to saying that the only thing that he was afraid of that he knew couldn’t hurt him was a woman, and Field’s fiery performance personifies that fear.
Apart from the three actors who have scored Oscar nods, there is a strong ensemble cast bolstering this prodigious production. James Spader as Bilbo, (oh how this Bilbo would have enlivened The Hobbit!), Hal Holbrook as Preston Blair, David Strathairn as Secretary of State Seward, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln. Ah, shoot, this is such a lively ensemble to name names would fill up the entire issue. Suffice it to say, the casting is impeccable and unimpeachable.
Tony Kushner penned Munich for Spielberg and adapted his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Angels in America, for the screen, and shows astute and stunning structuring of a story that could have becalmed in the doldrums of dusty history but here is given eloquent and vibrant veracity.
Janusz Kaminski has photographed a slew of Spielberg pictures, garnering two Oscars for his work on Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, and again the cinematography here is stupendous..
Film editor Michael Khan has won Oscars for editing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, and again imbues a saga with a distinct and lively rhythm.
This is a class confederacy of talent telling an incredibly important tale about democracy. The scenes in the parliament are peppered with wicked wit and venomous vocabulary, showing sharp tongue can be more persuasive, penetrating and pertinent than sharp tooth.
ZERO DARK THIRTY is Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up film to her Oscar winning The Hurt Locker.
Bigelow reteams with Hurt Locker scribe, Mark Boal, as they return to the military, although this time there is two strikingly powerful female leads, one of which, Jessica Chastain, in the role of CIA spook Maya, has attracted Academy Award accolade.
It is through her eyes that this story of the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden is told; the tactics, the interrogation, and the torture that threads its way through the tracking of the terrorist target.
Her trajectory from innocent idealist to dogged determination that the mission prevails is the piston that drives the dramatic narrative of the picture.
The other prominent female character is played by Jennifer Ehle in a performance that is just as powerful, poignant and pitch perfect. How a voting committee can choose one over the other is one of the pitfalls of prize-giving in the motion picture arts and sciences.
DARK ZERO THIRTY boasts two outstanding performances by Australian thesps, Jason Clarke and Joel Edgerton and the cinematographer is Greig Fraser.
What could have been dusty documentary or worse, tub thumping patriotic proselytising, is transformed by Bigelow and Boal into a heart thumpingly enthralling drama.
A manhunt of this magnitude, to bring a mass murdering mastermind, will, by necessity get mired in a moral morass. The tactic of torture is tacit, eschew the taboo
AMOUR, a till death us do part love story featuring octogenarian actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva playing octogenarian husband and wife, Georges and Anne.
At the commencement of the film, all seems warm and rosy, the world made cosy, by their togetherness, attending a concert, as is their wont, as retired music teachers.
The rosy hue turns to blue as Anne suffers an apparent aberration of the brainpan, a state of suspended animation, with no recollection afterwards.
This attack is harbinger of the horrors of mind and memory malfunction that manifest and become manifold.
This heart breaking and gut wrenching film is nevertheless sublimely beautiful, and totally deserving of its dual Oscar nominations as best film of the year – outright and foreign language. Added to these two nominations, the Academy has also bestowed honours on Michael Haneke for both original screenplay and directing, and leading lady Emmanuelle Riva as best actress.
Pity that JLT was not also nominated, as the roles are so superbly symbiotic. Pity also that Isabelle Huppert as the couple’s daughter, in denial and domineering, is not honoured.
AMOUR – love – a simple title so aptly applied here.
Mental illness rather than degenerative illness is at the core of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which has the distinction of being nominated in each of the acting categories, the first time since REDS in 1982.
The academy has a record of liking the mentally different or challenged, bestowing awards to the likes of Rain Man and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and that infatuation persists this year with bi polar Pat, son of obsessive compulsive disorder sufferer, Pat senior, endeavouring to find the silver lining to his dark cloud of depression, triggered by his adulterous wife.
Into his world like a whirlwind comes the widow of a local cop whose coping mechanism employs craven copulation.
Bradley Cooper, channelling Ben Stiller, plays Pat junior, Robert De Niro is terrific as his OCD dad, Jackie Weaver is his supportive mum, and Jennifer Lawrence is the wanton widder-woman, are all up for Oscars, as is the director writer, David O Russell, film editors Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, and the movie is up for best picture.
At best, THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK gets silver, never gold. The lead performances seemed strained and contrived, little master classes of acting technique but not engaging as characters. Maybe Russell is trying to get the audience to perceive it through the prism of the mentally diseased. Comparisons with Noah Baumbach’s GREENBERG abound, and for my box office dollar, it was a much more honest and funnier take on debilitating illness.
Strangely not nominated for best picture is FLIGHT, the scary story of an alcoholic airline pilot.
This multilayered script by John Gatins, which, thankfully, has been nominated for best original screenplay, chronicles the complex character of an ace aviator, a functioning alcoholic who is flying even when not at the controls of an aircraft.
Denzel Washington, also Oscar nominated, is superb as Whip Whitaker, the less than sober pilot, whose experience and instinct save a devastating incident from being an absolute catastrophe. Whip might fly like an angel but his inner demons are bringing him down.
The ensuing investigation spotlights the flawed flyer’s troublesome addiction to liquor and substance abuse which has cost him his family and now threatens to careen his career and smash the support of those committed to helping him.
An exploration of the fine line between hero and zero, it’s also an interesting examination of the turbulence that buffets any life, professionally and personally.
One of the multitude of great scenes that make up this movie is when Whip encounters two other patients in the hospital he has been admitted, one a fellow substance abuser admitted for overdose, the other a philosophical cancer patient.
FLIGHT soars with not only a dazzling central performance by Denzel but attendant cast including Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Brian Geraghty, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Gerety and Don Cheadle.
It also marks a welcome return to live action as opposed to stop motion of director Robert Zemekis, demonstrating a disciplined directorial hand that is lacking in some of the helmers honoured by the academy.