On this podcast, Craig, Ryan and I discuss Life of Pi, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty. If you’d like to listen, click here.

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  • Bob Burns

    “recitatif” is the word for sung dialogue.

    you saw/heard recitatif in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg).

    Not Andrew Lloyd Weber…. eww, eww. Les Miz was written by two Frenchmen in the 1970’s as an arena show – as “spectacle” a form of performance we don’t have here in the US where well known performers and pop singers put on a show that is a string of songs around a well known story. It was later adapted to the English stage…. and so on.

    But that history of the show helps answer your difficulty with the story. Les Miz has always been just singing – a string of songs connected to characters and a story the writers assume the audience already knows. Even the stage show added very little narrative.

    I have never thought Les Miserables, the book, was suited to film, but the string of songs is appropriate to Hugo, who gained his first fame writing opera and who was a romantic artist whose medium was evocation of strong emotion.

    I’ll be amazed if the Academy goes for it, but I have long been amazed that a musical championing socialism is so popular.

  • Yashar

    I was really curious to hear about rest of Zero Dark Thirty’s cast but had to stop at 50 min mark or something in fear of spoilers.

    Sasha, if you are reading this, could you talk about Jason Clarke and Mark Strong? Both Clarke and Chastain were amazing in the Lawless and I was hoping that they repeat it. As for Strong, this is a guy that just doesn’t get the love and recognition he deserves IMHO.

  • Bob, I probably said this 12 times in the podcast itself, but somehow I need to reiterate that it will all depend on how many hard core fans of the musical are Academy voters. I feel like there aren’t enough to put this one over the top for a BP win, but probably enough to get it nominated and certainly enough to go for Anne Hathaway who even people who don’t like the movie agree is great.

    Anyway, I might be totally misjudging enthusiasm for this thing and it’ll clean up.

  • Yashar, I’m not Sasha, but I like Clarke for a supporting nomination. Strong was also great, but for some reason I’m not feeling a nomination. It depends though. If there’s a groundswell of love for the movie in general, than I guess anything could happen.

  • Cecilia

    That was a great podcast Sasha, I thought it was the best one for ages! I really liked how you guys dived into deeper thematic discussion about Life of Pi and ZDT, and it made me even more excited to go out there and see them.

    You shouldn’t feel too bad about getting confused by the plot of Les Mis. I remember watching the recording of the anniversary concert on for the first time and I had to stop and go to check the character and plot summary on wikipedia. I love the musical now and I thought you are very fair about it on the podcast. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea and based on what I’ve heard they are trying to please the fans by keeping it close to the stage version instead of changing it more radically to appeal more of the general population.

    I think the best picture race is between Les Mis and Lincoln at this point. I used to have Les Mis as my frontrunner but I’m starting to think Lincoln is going to win since it’d be a nice and safe consensus choice. It’s an inoffensive movie pretty much everybody likes and nobody hates. It won’t have as much passion as many other contenders but voters will respect the crafts and the actors in it. There’s a lot of similarities between King’s Speech and Lincoln in that they are both historical biopics about a leader of a country facing war although TKS is more about personal life and Lincoln about his political life. The King’s Speech had a better metacritic score (88 vs 86) but oscar nominees in 2010 movies got higher scores in general. They are also headed to similar box office runs although Lincoln will probably make more money in the US while likely making less than TKS’s tally of $400 + million worldwide.

    What makes this year a bit unusual is that a lot of directors with major contenders have already been rewarded by AMPAS. If PTA had made movie more like TWBB than The Master he probably would have won, ditto for David O. Russell and The Fighter. Tarantino is the major wildcard left but I think it might struggle to be seen by the critics before their nominations and will struggle to get enough momentum.

  • Really good point about past wins, Cecilia, and that’s one thing that might hold back Zero Dark Thirty. I think it’s deserving, but maybe it’s too soon, whereas as Sasha points out, it’s been a while since Spielberg has won and do we really want recently crowned Tom Hooper to get his second one before Spielberg?

    The big difference between King’s Speech and Lincoln is that Lincoln is awesome and King’s Speech is… well it’s not awesome 🙂

  • phantom

    Sasha/Craig, I heard whispers about several acting contenders from those two films, could you confirm whether they are indeed nomination-worthy players or not?

    – Hugh Jackman (really top2-material ?)
    – Eddie Redmayne (is he really THAT good ? could he make the cut ?)
    – Russel Crowe (polarizing enough NOT to register in the race at all ?)
    – Jennifer Ehle (all about Chastain ?)

    (I got the rest from the podcast and the comments: Hathaway is the frontrunner, Barks might sneak in, Seyfried is a long shot but still a possibility, Chastain is the first real threat for Lawrence, Clarke has the potential to emerge but a long shot for now.)

    P.S. Zero Dark Thirty started strong, 97 on MC based on 6 reviews. I still think it will only have a shot against the ActorsBranch-friendly Lincoln-LesMiz duo, if its critical consensus will be considerably better…like The Hurt Locker kind of ‘better’ (94).

  • Danny

    Only recently listened to Oscar Podcast #8, and feel a bit rankled by Sasha saying (in an aside where she was lauding Spielberg’s track record casting African Americans) that “Peter Jackson only casts white actors” (or “never casts black actors” – either way the meaning is the same). Not true. And I’m not thinking of the Maori actors cast as many of the Uruk-Hai (although that should count too). I’m thinking especially of Evan Parke cast as Hayes in King Kong – a role specifically written for the remake and played by a black actor. There, I got it off my chest. It just felt like such an unnecessary cheap shot against Jackson when Sasha said it, never mind that it wasn’t even factual.

  • Eoin Daly

    Let me just tell you “Les Miserables” is not an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical it is done by Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil.

  • Phantom, I’m the wrong guy to ask about Les Miz because my heart is just not in it. If the film captures enough imaginations in general, then you probably have to consider Jackman in an already crowded field. I interviewed Barks and Redmayne yesterday and it gave me a new respect for what they accomplished even if I’m still a little iffy on the film as a film. Barks especially is a real charmer and will make a great impression in Q&As and Oscar interviews during the campaign. Redmayne had sung before but not since he was a kid and he really threw himself into this. Unlike Crowe, he actually comes off really well. Crowe… I just can’t see it.

    Ehle was terrific in Zero Dark Thirty, but similar to Clarke I think it’ll be a coat-tails thing. If the film catches fire, she could get in, but I’m not sure it’s a part or a performance that jumps off the screen all by itself. It’s not that showy.

  • Let me just tell you “Les Miserables” is not an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical it is done by Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil.

    We’re all humiliated by that. Sasha could’ve cut it out but left it in the three of us could be rightfully pilloried.

  • Ted

    PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has been on Broadway for nearly 24 years now… I think LES MIZ eclipsed at 16, but got that revival only 2-3 years after it closed in the early 2000s. It is STILL running on the West End, though. Must be atleast 30 years by now.

    PHANTOM… is the most successful musical in the world. Including all of its productions (touring, Broadway, West End, Vegas, etc.) it has made some ridiculous number in the multibillion dollar mark. The number I saw a few years ago was around 16-17 billion, but it’s definitely gone up since then.

  • Ted

    Should have included this : LES MIZ is produced farrrrrrr more than PHANTOM OF THE OPERA regionally mostly because the rights to PHANTOM were released much later than LES MIZ (due to B’way closing date).

    I wouldn’t doubt for a second that more people have seen LES MIZ. PHANTOM has just made more money.

  • phantom

    Thanks, Craig !

  • sw

    Fact check: On stage “Les Mis” has been seen by more than 60 million people worldwide. (source: http://www.lesmis.com/uk/history/facts-and-figures/ ) And that’s just for professional productions.

    In 1998 “Les Mis”s worldwide box office was estimated at $1.8 billion U.S.
    (source: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/37130-Bways-Les-Miz-To-Hit-4500-Feb-20 )

    It is the longest running musical in the world, because of it’s London production which has been running since 1985 (that’s longer than “The Phantom of the Opera”)

    So let’s talk about the differences between the “Les Mis” movie and the movie of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Even the fans of “The Phantom of the Opera” (they call themselves “Phans”) have written off Andrew Lloyd Webber — who, although he did not write “Les Mis,” did write “Phantom.” ALW has been doing some strange things in the last 20 years that has largely offended the Phantom fan base. Things such as *threatening* to cast Antonio Banderas in a movie version and repeatedly trying to write a Phantom sequel. While he never did the first, he did do the second — the sequel flopped. So when he finally did make the movie there was a feeling among the fans of “please ALW leave it well enough alone.”

    The soundtrack came out ahead of the film version of “The Phantom of the Opera” and it was clear that Gerard Butler couldn’t sing. That sort of word travels fast on the internet.

    So even though I’m a huge musical theater fan (I loved the movies of “Chicago” and I even enjoyed “Nine” and “Evita” — all of which I saw at a movie theater) I skipped “Phantom” because I didn’t need to watch ALW trash such a great show. I’m as hardcore a musical theater nut as they come. But I skipped the movie of “Phantom.”

    So back to “Les Mis.” If the movie version appeals to the fans, then word of mouth will draw in the musical fans who might be inclined to skip this one.

  • sw

    Ted, the worldwide spread of “Phantom” is far less than “Les Mis.” Phantom has sold more tickets and probably has made more money than “Les Mis.” I don’t have current worldwide box office figures for “Les Mis” to compare it to “Phantom.” “Phantom”s worldwide box office is currently at about $5.6 billion U.S.

    But when we look at where the shows have played professional (and non professionally) there’s a huge gap in “Les Mis”s favor.

    “Phantom” has played in 27 countries and 145 cities. It has been preformed in 15 languages.

    “Les Mis” has played in 43 countries and over 300 cities. It has been performed in 21 languages

    Then factor in the huge number of regional and high school productions of “Les Mis.” 3,000 schools have put it on since 2002, making it the most successful musical ever produced in schools.

    So large amounts of young people have grown up with it. This is going to make a difference. How many teenagers knew “Phantom” very well in 2004 when its movie version came out?

    Les Mis: http://www.lesmis.com/uk/history/facts-and-figures/
    Phantom: http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/the-show/facts-figures

  • Yashar

    Craig, thanks for your reply. I wasn’t sure that you would post here so I presented the question to Sasha but was definitely interested to know both of your opinions about Clarke and rest of cast. Thanks again and really looking forward to seeing this one.

  • Evan

    I’m not sure why we’re debating whether a musical that ran on Broadway for 16 years (and that has been running on the West End in London for 27 years) will connect to audiences. Clearly, the musical does something for the public.

    Will 100% of people like it? No. No film gets universal love. But to say it will be divisive, or that something only “theater geeks” will want to see? Not sure I can take that argument seriously.

  • Eager to hear what you think of ZDT when you see it, Yashar. I obviously was really knocked out by it and I really do rate it a bit higher than Hurt Locker though I can see conventional wisdom already settling in that it’s not.

    For the record Les Miz fans, and speaking only for myself, I’m totally only guessing how much built in love there is for it and how much that will translate into box office and Oscar love. I’m gambling that it won’t be enough to put it over for the win, but if I’m wrong and it’s way bigger and more intense than I imagine, then I’ll be the first one to belly up to the bar and eat a giant crow…. just not of the Russell variety.

    I admire the film’s ambition and I suspect I’ll even warm up to it when I see it again, there are just too many really good films this year for it to seem like a slam dunk.

  • The other thing too is that right now it’s just Oscar watchers buzzing back and forth to each other. There’s really no hard evidence yet to back one film over another. If critics and NBR and guilds start coming down and a lot of them go for Les Miz, then I’ll happily change my mind.

  • Evan

    You reiterated my point though, Craig: why are we talking about “built-in love”? To be one of the longest-running musicals ever, you clearly have to have the ability to bring new people into the fold. Instead, you seem to imply that only those who know and love the show will go see it or vote for it.

    If someone said the same thing about the book-turned-movie Life of Pi, perhaps the questionable nature of that claim would be more apparent.

    And for the record, I’ve never seen the show. I could maybe name five songs from it and that’s simply via cultural osmosis.

  • Evan, I just think musicals in general are a stumbling block for a lot of people, just like Shakespeare or subtitles. If the base of support is big and strong enough and the movie becomes an event that everyone is talking about, that’ll go a long way to getting people off their asses and a lot of that will depend on the hard core fan.

    As I said though, I’m fully prepared to be wrong on this one. I’m making an early call based on nothing other than my own unreliable gut.

  • Igor

    Hey guys,

    New five clips of “Les Miserábles”:

    Heart Full of Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVFr56GR1mo
    At The End of the Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHwyCp6ah6U
    Javert Releases Prisoner 24601 on Parole: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8WSysB5vKM
    Who Am I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx7K42uyrts
    On My Own: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvzLZIiD5TU

  • thnaks Igor!

  • Igor

    I’m glad for help, Ryan.

    And stay on look here: http://www.universalpicturesawards.com/#/lesmis

    Maybe they release some songs soon, like the other Universal movies.

    By the way, there’s a lot of pictures and stuff of the movie in the press kit available on that site.

  • Joey

    Forgive me if this sounds similar to someone else’s answer. I am also very behind on my Oscar podcasts, so I am sorry if this is late news.

    I am a theatergeek. Studied musical theater in college, and I still perform to this day. Musical theater people (at least from my experiences) are ALWAYS super excited for musical movies, so there is always noise within the community. I think the anticipation for Les Mis is so high for musical lovers because it actually looks good. It looks like a faithful, balls-to-the-wall experience.

    I was in college when Chicago came out in theaters, and the theater department went nuts over it. That was the last good musical adaptation that I can think of. Musical theater nerds are so jazzed for Les Mis, because musical adaptations don’t really come out that much. There is always anticipation and excitement for them to hit the big screen, but we don’t always love them.

    Rent was abysmal. Nine reminded everyone how bad the musical actually is. You guys brough up Phantom of the Opera, and I will say that I can’t find anyone who actually likes that movie. The costumes were gorgeous and the art direction was what we expected, but that was not appreciated by musical theater fans. I remember seeing it with my dad who loves Phantom. Half way through, he leaned over and told he wanted to leave because it was destroying his memory of the show.

    I went to see Anna Karenina with a few theater friends, and when Anne Hathaway sang I Dreamed a Dream, we all covered our mouths with our hands. I feel like Les Mis is going to be huge. If it brings a huge emotional response, I don’t think anything can really touch it.

    Sorry for the long comment!

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