So the multitude goes, like the flower and the weed
That wither away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that hath often been told.

–A poem President Lincoln loved enough he once said about it, “I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is”

Most of the time, Oscar voters and audiences do not put the year’s best films in the context of our time. We throw around words like “zeitgeist” and “timely” and “relevant” but what we really mean is that we can find something in them that applies to the world around us. It can sometimes be the world defined by a filmmaker — taking place in another time, in another country. Or it can be a world defined by history.

More people know about the daily comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan than they do the ongoing war in Afghanistan, brought about by an eager beaver neocon presidential administration using the war on terror as their battle cry. Soldiers and civilians continue to die as we wait out one more long year before troops will be pulled. This, the last wave of the Bush administration legacy. That legacy, it seems, has birthed the films most likely to compete for this year’s Best Picture Oscar.

Lincoln is about the Civil War but it’s also about the ongoing conflict between the two Americas, about a savage, brutal and senseless war over slavery and how opposing side defended “white power” by murdering one of our greatest presidents. When President Bush left and President Obama ran for office, the McCain campaign had the choice to use Obama’s race against him or not. McCain nixed it. He warned that heading in that direction would be dangerous for the Republican party. That’s how they tell it in Game Change, anyway. But four years later, a slow economy gave rise to fear and hatred of the kind not seen since the Civil War. Though planned by Spielberg and Tony Kushner a decade earlier, Lincoln found himself once again in the middle of a fight between North and South, red states and blue states. His words echo like screams in a rock canyon right up to now. It isn’t just Spielberg’s popularity bringing people to the multiplex, and it isn’t just the good reviews, but it’s the lanky leader himself, our true north, showing us the way.

Spielberg rightly wanted to release the film after the election so that it wouldn’t become a lightning rod for either side. The Republicans in Lincoln’s time stood for freedom. Today, they stand for anything but. Aaron Sorkin said of 2012 that it was the most divided the country has been since the Civil War. It remains divided.

All 50 states have applied to secede from the union at the behest, no doubt, of the lunatic fringe on the right who have now become mainstream, the Rush Limbaughs and the Glenn Becks. Look at this list and know how alive racism is in this country, for even after Bush led us into two catastrophic wars, lazily allowed 9/11 to happen on his watch and sunk the country into the worst recession in modern history, one million signatures to secede from the United States. Gone is patriotism, gone is standing by the elected president. But it will come as no surprise that the South is where racism is alive and well and has the highest number of signatures. Texas alone has over 100,000. This is something none of us has ever seen in the 150 years since Southern fanaticism killed our greatest president.

If bloggers, critics and voters are going to sacrifice that kind of relevancy, popularity and box office for reasons like, “I didn’t like the ending,” or because they say it’s too talky or it’s a procedural, it’s “homework” or whatever else, what then must we do? We must turn to what drives the other organ in the body: the heart.

If their hearts aren’t inclined towards rewarding a decade-long labor of love that resulted in a masterpiece, coming at the height of a notable American director’s long career, with the best performance of the year, and the best screenplay, there is no choice to but to once again try to figure out what will be merely the most well-liked movie across the board to win. Well-liked, as in, the heart want what it wants. Two years of this now means there’s no reason to expect them to stop now.

Les Misérables is about the student uprising LONG AFTER the French Revolution, the underclass unseating the monarchy in France. It’s about that, but many will also see it as a comment on our occupy movement, though markedly more violent and urgent. It is about that in the abstract. Unlike Lincoln, it does not dive into the conflict of the time but uses that conflict as a set piece for a rousing, emotional musical with a love story in it. There is no denying that it’s a rich vs. poor and there’s no denying that it, like Oliver, could be just what the people need to help heal the hurt now being felt all over the world, not just in America. Oliver won Best Picture in 1968, the same year that Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot.

However, Les Misérables is tricky because it is, in many ways, a bold experiment for film. Though many are familiar with the musical, there is the aspect of it being wall to wall singing with no breathing room for dialogue or traditional character development. Many believe that the Victor Hugo book gives it depth and gravitas and that the emotional response to it will drive it home to Best Picture. Tom Hooper would join an elite group of directors who’ve won Best Director and Best Picture for a musical. Robert Wise is one — he directed two musicals — Leo McCary who directed Going My Way and Milos Foreman, who directed Amadeus.

Although none of these were all singing musicals, last year was the first time a silent movie had won the Best Picture Oscar, in decades, much less one directed by a French person; precedents are made to be broken. But so far, Les Misérables as it’s the only film in the Best Picture race right now with not a single review online, which means that its appraisal could go either way. Oscar pundits are banking on rave reviews based on the stacked screenings over Thanksgiving weekend.

One of the best reviewed films of the year is Argo, which has made $100 million without breaking a sweat and, though entertaining, also reminds us of our “crippling” sanctions against Iran and the constant nuclear threat, which have gotten worse since Tony Mendez colluded with the Canadians to free the hostages in Iran. Though not directly related to the War on Terror Bush left us, there is no doubt that our relationships with Iran has only worsened since 9/11, and remains the primary bone of contention by Senator John McCain and others who wish to prove the Obama Presidency is bad for foreign relations. Since the events in Argo took place during the Carter administration, President Carter’s slandered memory also hangs over Argo like a ghostly reminder of bad things can get.

President Obama’s presence hangs over the proceedings on Zero Dark Thirty the same way Carter’s is felt in Argo, except with a little more skepticism. Kathryn Bigelow’s astonishing new film doesn’t take a partisan side but it still echoes the failures of the Bush administration, the fallout from what Bigelow’s last movie, The Hurt Locker, expressed so mercilessly — this continues to be an unwinnable war with an unseen enemy, only now the military and the CIA have to worry about PR. It is even sweeter that this time around Bigelow found a worthy female character to frame her film around. The only female character, in fact, who leads any of the major Oscar BP contenders.

That makes it all the more relevant in our post-2012 election culture because, for the first time in a long time, support for women’s rights issues translated into a fierce coalition which ultimately resulted in many more women getting elected to office than ever before. While Bigelow’s female lead doesn’t strap on the talking points from the feminist movement or even the Obama administration, it is telling that not once in Bigelow’s film does her lead stand behind a man, trust a man’s opinion over her own, or feel the need to strike up a romance with a man, “I’m not the girl who fucks,” she says.

Zero Dark Thirty is unflinching, uncompromising look at our obtrusive role in the middle east and in the war on terror, what lengths we go to to protect our homeland, what kinds of tactics we used to find Bin Laden. And how, at the end of the day, war is dirty business. Like The Hurt Locker it crushes you at the end because Bigelow and Boal offer us no relief. We got Bin Laden but we aren’t safer. The war rages on. The two films are the only major Hollywood films that really get to our enduring conflict not just with a world we don’t understand and can’t change but with ourselves, what we’ve become, what we now do to other human beings. The capture and assassination of Bin Laden is not more satisfying than the news of the deaths in 9/11. It doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t repair the damage. We bandage ourselves up and we limp onward. In Jessica Chastain’s miraculous performance this inner conflict rages. Other than Abraham Lincoln himself, there isn’t a more interesting protagonist this year.

The State of the Oscar race is that we find ourselves at a crossroads once again. We have gritty and meaningful films that define this American life. And we have films that explore the human condition, the endless reach for deeper meaning in our own mortality. Movies like Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Moonrise Kingdom, Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild chase the poetry, the beauty, this mortal coil in unquestioningly memorable ways. We are at war, yes, with other countries, with ourselves.

Through the fog of war, however, love might find its way. As voters reach for the movie that takes them away from everything else, from my perspective, that movie could be Silver Linings Playbook. Because it is the one in the bunch that is beloved by most, hated by few, and makes you feel good when you come out of it. It has the benefit of a director who has never won before, a lead actress who might win, and that ending that makes people want to hug themselves. That’s powerful medicine.

For my money, though, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln continues to tower over the competition. The thing I like the most about it is that no one really thinks it can win. They don’t think it can win for all of the reasons it should win. Who would have ever thought that the scrappy underdog would be a Spielberg film?

The one movie I’ve revisited lately that should not be ignored is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. While the first viewing of it left me a little cold, a second viewing reminded me of the great writing, original characters and permanent charm. It is every bit as feelgood as Silver Linings and Beasts of the Southern Wild though its buzz seems to have died down. To me, looking back on this truly memorable year for film, I feel sure Moonrise Kingdom will be remembered.

We are just about to start in with the critics awards and from here on out, Oscar watchers. Stay frosty. The car will speed so fast downhill we will not be able to catch our breath and when we come out the other side we will look back in amazement at all that happened, all that didn’t, and wonder what it even means anymore to call anything “best.” These filmmakers have delivered so much richness to our ailing eyes, our war-torn spirit and our aching hearts. We owe them nothing so much as our attention, and perhaps, our gratitude.

Cheat Sheet

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Les Misérables: It’s a tough sell, a non-stop-singing movie filmed mostly in close-up. It will divide audiences. Some will love it, some won’t. But it appears to be big enough and bold enough to earn many nominations, and has a winning, standout performance by Anne Hathaway. It played to enthusiastic crowds in New York at guild screenings. Les Misérables is one of the most popular musicals in history. Fans of the musical will flock to theaters to see it.

Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow and Marc Boal deliver the second film of her proposed “war on terror” trilogy. With a brilliant, focused, intense lead performance by Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty is a truthful, exacting story on the Osama Bin Laden raid.  It is one of the best films of the year.

That Lincoln has made $62 million before even reaching wide release should make voters take notice. For a long, talky movie about US history, to make that kind of box office is nothing short of miraculous. But it’s more than box office. There are reports of people crowding theaters, sold out shows, even people sitting on the stairs inside the theater to watch it.

Life of Pi
Though it earned its share of bad reviews, Pi is the other film people are talking about out there in the world. Spiritually moving, thrilling and yet another notable advancement of 3D technology. It takes a director of Ang Lee’s talent to have conceived a dream world in three dimensions that highlights nothing as sinfully indulgent as tiny raindrops gently dripping off what feels like the ceiling. It also made money.

Silver Linings Playbook: While at first it seemed “too light,” now it seems like that lightness i may be its strongest selling point. After the intensity of Les Mis and Zero Dark Thirty, heavy feels to be what most movies are relying upon. But Silver Linings is buoyant, exuberant, and that makes it Lincoln’s biggest threat, I think. Its five Spirit Award nominations bode well for the long haul.

Moonrise Kingdom: a big win at the Gotham’s for Best Picture and five Spirit Award nominations is just the ticket to jolt this film back into the race. It always looked like a promising prospect but buzz had seemed to die somewhat. Now it’s back.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Benh Zeitlin keeps winning stuff, well deservedly, for his great, great work.  Gothams and Spirit Award nods keeps Beasts in the conversation.

Middle of Nowhere:  Four Spirit nominations for Ava DuVernay’s film. Hopefully that will be enough for Oscar voters to take notice.

Strongest Contenders so far:
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Life of Pi
Les Misérables
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom

Will need passionate support:
The Dark Knight Rises
Anna Karenina
Cloud Atlas
The Promised Land

Coming next:
The Hobbit
Django Unchained

Best Actress


Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty – Chastain plays Maya, a CIA op recruited out of high school to hunt down Osama Bin Laden. It is one of the best performances of the year because the entire film rests on her capable shoulders. She isn’t supporting a male character, but is carrying the whole movie. This is virtually unheard of in Hollywood nowadays, but especially so in the Oscar race.

The Strongest Contenders:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

Needs passionate support:
Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere
Emanuelle Riva, Amour
Leslie Mann, This is Forty
Meryl Streep, Hope Springs

Best Actor


Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables – one of the best things about Les Miz is Jackman’s hollowed out performance. His singing is also impressive.  He can probably crack Best  Actor.

Daniel Day-Lewis, the more people see Lincoln, the more they are singing his praises. His buzz is doing anything but die down.

Strongest Contenders:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
John Hawkes in The Sessions
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables

Will need passionate support:

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock

Still to come:
Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actor


Albert Brooks in This is 40 – Brooks failed to even earn a nod for his work in Drive, but he gives a more thorough performance in Judd Apatow’s film.  Both he and John Lithgow give memorable supporting turns as the two dads in Apatow’s warm and sentimental tribute to his family.

David Oyelowo in Middle of Nowhere – he’s kind of hot stuff with a pivotal role in Lincoln, but was also in The Help last year and will be in The Butler next year.  He just earned a Spirit Award nomination.

Matthew McConoughey, Magic Mike – the first real ripple in the awards race just gave him a boost for his work in the Steven Soderbergh film.

Strongest Contenders:

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Alan Arkin, Argo
Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild
John Goodman, Flight
John Goodman, Argo

Sight Unseen:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress


Anne Hathaway – her performance in Les Misérables, even though short, is so impressive it’s mind-boggling.  She’s better than the entire movie that follows her performance.  No one else seems likely to beat her.

Lorraine Toussaint in Middle of Nowhere – armed with a Spirit nomination, Toussaint just stepped forward out of the crowd.

Ann Dowd, Compliance – another great supporting turn that just got recognized by the Independent Spirit Awards.

Strongest contenders:
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
Kelly Reilly, Flight
Maggie Smith, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

  Best Director


Kathryn Bigelow – what a triumph for Bigelow to come back with a second brilliant film about our relationship with the middle east, the war on terror and this time, Bin Laden. That she has made a film with a female central lead makes it all the more poignant.

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild – just got some indie love from the Gotham’s and the Spirit Awards.

Strongest Contenders:
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Longer shots:
Tom Hooper, Les Mis
Robert Zemeckis, Flight
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Still to come:
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Will need passionate support:
Michael Haneke, Amour
Joe Wright, Anna Karenina

Original Screenplay

Strongest contenders:
Marc Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere
Nicholas Jarecki, Arbitrage
Rian Johnson, Looper

Still to come:

Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay

Strongest contenders:
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Chris Terrio, Argo
David Magee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar, Beasts of the Southern Wild
William Nicholson, Les Misérables

Dark horse possibilities:

Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

Still to come:

Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit

Oscar flashback:


The last time Steve Spielberg was nominated for Best Director was in 2005 for Munich. He was nominated alongside Ang Lee who was nominated for Brokeback Mountain. Munich was the defactor frontrunner heading into the race, the sight unseen winner that never quite lived up to the hype. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain remains to this day one of the most rewarded film by the guilds that did not win Best Picture – Ang Lee won both the DGA and the Oscar for directing, the PGA but not the Eddie or the SAG ensemble, both went to Crash (famously). If they are both nominated this year they will be DGA and Oscar nominees together again.  Ang Lee has won two DGA awards and one Oscar. Spielberg has won three DGA awards and two Oscars.  Crash was the film that famously won Best Picture against those two magnificent directors.   If Spielberg wins this year he will join Frank Capra and William Wyler as the third director who has won 3 Oscars. John Ford still holds the record with 4 [wikipedia]

Status Updates:

The Hobbit screens starting November 30, 2012. No word yet on Django Unchained but it will have to start screening soon.

Upcoming Calendar Dates to watch out for

November 30
Killing Them Softly

Award Dates

December 3, 2012
New York Film Critics Announce
Producers Guild starts voting
December 4, 2012
Directors Guild starts voting
December 5, 2012
National Board of Review announces
December 7, 2012
 Los Angeles Film Critics announce
December 12, 2012
 SAG nominations announced

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  • “It isn’t just Spielberg’s popularity bringing people to the multiplex, and it isn’t just the good reviews, but it’s the lanky leader himself, our true north, showing us the way.”

    Right on.

  • Eric

    I hate to be That Guy, but it’s MarK Boal.

  • Aragorn

    “She isn’t supporting a male character, but is carrying the whole movie. This is virtually unheard of in Hollywood nowadays, but especially so in the Oscar race.”

    Ummm..What about Meryl Streep in last year’s The Iron Lady??? Did I miss that she was supporting a male character??? or that was a movie about someone else other than Meryl Streep’s character??? Or nowadays means last week and this week???

  • Aragorn

    In my book, still Lincoln is the winner. I yet to see ZDT and Les Miz but I have little confidence that they will touch me as much as Lincoln did. It is a total package in my opinion. Directing, screenplay, acting, costumes, set design, dialogue, emotional touch. All was there. It is not easy to have them all in the same movie.

    (I had a similar feeling after seeing last year’s Hugo, but Lincoln is much better imo.)

    Maybe Les Miz can come close but it is yet to be seen.

  • Mark F.

    Sasha, you are aware, aren’t you, that every Democrat in Congress except one supported Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan? Can you be less of a partisan hack? Your guy just won, and all you can do is bitch about Republicans and how EVIL they are. It’s tiresome, especially since Obama largly agrees with Bush’s foreign policy.

  • Christopher Lewis

    Great point, Aragorn. Regardless of my thoughts on The Iron Lady, Streep was in fine form and reigned supreme for the entirety of the film. For my money, it’s still an astonishing performance in an overwhelmingly average film, but the award isn’t for the Best Actress in the Best Movie. I think it’s great to see Chastain in a lead role this year, but I don’t think she’s alone in being a strong, female character this year.

  • Matt

    Sasha, great piece as always!

    I wonder if Lincoln could win BP, but Affleck, Hooper or Bigelow picks up best Director? The complete opposite of 1999 and Saving Private Ryan. Crazier things have happened.

  • rufussondheim

    Sad that you left out Barks and Redmayne in their respective supporting characters. I think both are virtual locks at this point and would be surprised if they didn’t get in. Of course, I could be wrong, but, well, to not even list them is a pretty big oversight in my opinion.

  • Steve4922

    “Les Misérables is about the student uprising that eventually led to the French Revolution, the underclass unseating the monarchy in France.”

    No, it’s not. The failed student uprising depicted in both the novel and the musical occurred in June of 1832. The French Revolution, which culminated in the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, happened 43 years earlier, in 1788-1789.

  • Joe

    Watch it Sasha, your bias is showing.

  • ^
    ooh, the Evil Bias

    What some call having a personality comfortable with honest preference.

    But you’re right, we should “watch it” — a blog is no place for honest personal feelings.

  • helios

    Thanks for the history lesson you borrowed from google.

    And don’t come back with a smartass response if it wasn’t from google and you read it in a book; well done.

  • Sasha Stone

    Well, I could see, for instance, Les Miz winning pic and Spielberg winning director, something like that. I don’t think Hooper and/or Bigelow can win again so soon. So O. Russell or Spielberg are your best bets — IN MY OPINION – at least for director.

  • I know that what you’ve written as the movies that are in contention are probably the right ones, based on past history and how Oscar voters usually behave. But I’m still kinda curious about what will happen. I don’t think we’ve had a year like this in a while, maybe ever. There are so many movies, I’m wondering what actually has been seen. What will they see? Will there be so many that they depend on the consensus more than ever before? Or will they totally get into it with the rest of us? Even if I had the access to, I don’t think I’d be able to keep up. I’ve only seen 35 movies this year and I’m already pooped.

  • Sasha Stone

    Yes, I understand that both the dems and repubs decided to go to war in Iraq but it was the Bush administration’s fuck up in the first place to let Bin Laden attack, AND it was the Bush administration’s people who cooked up the phony “evidence” that led to the war (s)

  • manrico1967


    Your post is an argumentative Rube Goldberg Machine.

    Using complex arguments to explain something very simple: they will vote for what makes them feel good one way or another.

    If they really loved something, they will vote for it. Or, if they feel the are correcting an injustice.

    Something that does no make them feel good is to vote for something they don’t like. No matter what the critics or anyone else say.

  • Aragorn

    What’s wrong with borrowing information from Google??? Isn’t it what millions of people do every single day?

    This is not from Google by the way. It says “Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Miserables… “. So it shouldnt come from Google only. It is available everywhere.

    If someone doesn’t know that French Revolution indeed happened in 1789 and lasted until 1799 (that makes 18th century by the way!!!), nothing to say about it. Oh I didn’t need to Google french Revolution’s date by the way…

  • rufussondheim

    Watched Magic Mike today and was pretty disappointed. While it had a gritty feel when they weren’t onstage that I appreciated, I thought the overall story and themes were pretty unoriginal and ultimately too shallow. I actually got pretty annoyed when they took away from some of the interesting stuff to go back to yet another dance routine that added nothing to the storyline. They could have had far fewer shots of them performing and more depth in the offstage stuff.

    As for Matt McConnaghy, he was serviceable and did a good job for him but that’s not worth of an Oscar nominee. And whoever styled his hair should be fired.

  • “Les Misérables is about the student uprising that eventually led to the French Revolution, the underclass unseating the monarchy in France.”

    No, it’s not.

    OMG. Nobody cares. As far as I can remember, the MUSICAL that this is based on is a bunch of French people who are pissed ’cause their lives suck. Kinda like all of Halle Berry’s mens.

  • “Fear and hatred not seen since the civil war”. & sorkin’s quote about being most divided since that time.

    The first thing that came to mind were people murdered during the 1960s for being black and/or their involvement in civil rights. Are you saying were more divided now then during the 1960s? Certainly the US put through civil rights legislation, but People were killed for who they were and what they believed in this country. I don’t see that happening today. And women couldnt get abortions. And being gay was officially still considered a disease in the psychiatric community. Seems more divisive to me in the greater context.

  • rufussondheim

    Some of us paid attention in our European History class. Some didn’t. Some didn’t even take the class. Let’s not let this thread devolve into identifying which one of the three everyone is.

  • “This is virtually unheard of in Hollywood nowadays”

    What about Meryl Streep in last year’s The Iron Lady???
    Or nowadays means last week and this week???

    See that word “virtually”? It’s there in the sentence for a reason.

    By the way, your Streep/Thatcher example is problematic since The Iron Lady isn’t a Hollywood movie.

  • rufussondheim

    Vince, we have great wealth in this country, and also we have an extremely stable government and society in general. That affords us the ability to do a lot of navel gazing about ourselves and complaining about others. We are merely divided because hi-tech computer programs allow us to gerrymander House Districts with greater precision than ever before. But the vast majority of us want an even bigger TV than we currently have. That’s a very uniting factor no one ever mentions.

    I suggest going back to the 1890’s if someone wants to see a truly divided country. But whatever you do, don’t eat the canned ham.

  • Yogsss

    You can’t trust bloggers going bananas with Les Miserables just because a crowd in NY love it to death. Let’s wait until both audience and critics can watch the film. I agree with Sasha, its going to be a divisive film. Its hard to watch a film where all you got is singing. It makes harder to connect with characters.

    No way the academy goes Hooper again, no way. Let him do some other stuff and then give the man other oscar if it deserves to. The best director is still a race between Affleck and Spielberg.

  • dave


    How was Seyfried’s acting in Les Miz??

  • steve50

    (rufus on Magic Mike) ” They could have had far fewer shots of them performing and more depth in the offstage stuff.”

    Yeah – like what was up with Bomer’s character and the wife sharing?

    Didn’t like it much either and I don’t think the smarmy MM deserves a nomination for it.

    Regarding love and war, I’m hoping the voters lean away from both and go for Pi, but I’m dreaming. Lincoln probably is the most deserving, Oscar-wise, after that. I still have a candle in the window for Cloud Atlas and I’m scrambling to find somewhere that’s showing Perks of a Wallflower. I don’t get ZDT or (shudders) Les Mis until next month.

  • unlikely hood

    Aragorn – going all the way back to your first comment – she meant leading a BP nominee. You would have been better to counter with Precious or The Blind Side. But I’d still say Sasha meant that women don’t often utterly carry films set outside the domestic arena – yeah, other than The Iron Lady. I’m still waiting for Kate Winslet to play Benazir Bhutto – I’ll be waiting all my life on that one.

    It’s still a great Oscar race, whether Lincoln or Les Mis or SLP or whoever wins. Let’s not lose sight of that – yet.

    On one level I loved this article. On the other hand, now Sasha’s cards are all on the table, so every wise-ass commenter around here is going to begin their oh-so-brilliant observations with some version of “You’ve been in the tank for [Lincoln or ZDT] forever, so we don’t really have to trust what you say.”

    Sigh. But this was inevitable; we’re past thanksgiving. Personally I won’t be forgiving any more turkeys.

  • Tommy5

    “OMG. Nobody cares. As far as I can remember, the MUSICAL that this is based on is a bunch of French people who are pissed ’cause their lives suck.”

    That’s such an ignorant American thing to say, Antoinette. Nobody cares because it didn’t happen in America. Tsk tsk.

  • rufussondheim

    Maybe I’m in the minority, maybe people don’t understand musicals the way I do. But to me, singing is the ultimate expression of emotion and it allows you to access the character’s inner thoughts way quicker than most dialogue. A well-written song is extremely revealing.

    I generally hate the song I’m about to discuss because it’s too cutesy for it’s own good, but you learn so much about the 12 year old Cossette when she sings…

    There is a castle on a cloud.
    I like to go there in my sleep.
    Aren’t any floors for me to sweep.
    Not in my castle on a cloud.

    There, in less than ten seconds you get what you need to know. Cosette is being overworked and isolated and uses her dreams to escape her dreary existance. I understand that this is not deep stuff, but, remember, it’s related to us in a way far quicker than creating a scene to give us the same impressions.

    I think the problem some have with this movie is that the character development and storyline moves along at such a great pace that it’s hard to fully digest everything that you’re asked to. What makes the above lyric tragic is that we see that everything Fantine (Anne Hathaway) hoped for before she died failed to come to fruition. We see that Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has failed her. You only have a minute or two to make this connection, and if you don’t, the final sequence of the film will likely not be as effective for you.

  • rufussondheim

    Steve – Yes, I wanted more on some of the other dancers. We didn’t even get to know them. The Bomer scene came so out of the blue, as did the seemingly heavy drug use, that it took me for quite a shock. Not shocked that it was there, but shocked that the movie barely addressed it before then. And then as quickly as it came, it left.

    I mean, I understand what was going on, and understand why it wasn’t the focus of the film, but it just made me angry to know that there was probably a lot of good stuff that ended up on the editing room floor.

  • rufussondheim

    And I will get to your Life of Pi review. I’m just not feeling very smart today.

  • unlikely hood

    Don’t always agree with Antoinette, but with her name, I WILL let her decide what is or isn’t about the French Revolution. Can’t WAIT to see where this conversation be headed.

  • steve50

    This is where the Globes have it over the Oscars – drama and musicals are separate and distinct. Same with the Tonys.

    I can appreciate an entertaining musical, but when it comes down to choosing between emotion and ideas, it’s no contest, imo. Yes, the odd musical wins, but it happens far less frequently than in the past. When it does happen, like with Chicago, there’s a resulting hangover of regret that;s dismiissed with “it was just a bad year.”

    It’s hard enough comparing apples to oranges without throwing in a giraffe.

  • Its hard to watch a film where all you got is singing. It makes harder to connect with characters.

    Says you. Those are my favorite kind. 😛 How can you not connect with people who are baring their souls through song? If they just said what they meant it wouldn’t be the same thing at all. Maybe some of you guys are missing the whole point of musicals. I mean think of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Isn’t the whole relationship between Jesus and Judas easier to appreciate than at church because they’re belting out rock ballads?

  • tim

    Sasha, your politics are great and your views infuse this sight with intelligence and perception — don’t ever stop.

    Just talked to someone who saw Les Mis, thought it was a tedious, overbloated bore. It’s going to be Lincoln, SS and DD-L all the way.

  • steve50

    “How can you not connect with people who are baring their souls through song? ”

    I agree completely, but it’s a different art form. The only thing they share is the medium – film. It’s like saying that anything thing that takes place on a stage is the same – musical, play, magic act, political debate, stripper. They’re not the same.

  • That’s such an ignorant American thing to say, Antoinette. Nobody cares because it didn’t happen in America. Tsk tsk.

    Like I give a crap what happened in America. Pfft.

    This is not a history class. These are movies. Are they entertaining? Were they shot right? Do the actors convince you that they are this other person? Are the costumes sewn funny? Does the music work? That’s the point. What someone commenting on a message board knows or doesn’t know about history shouldn’t have anything to do with it. If a history lesson is necessary then it will be IN THE FILM. If it’s not, then it’s not. If Sasha, or anyone else, doesn’t know the background of Les Miserables, the movie of the musical, then it’s entirely possible that the movie did not make them aware of it. If it’s not in the film, then once again, who cares? If you’re going to films for historical accuracy you should have been disappointed long ago. If you’re coming onto the internet looking for it, you’re going to end up on pills.

  • Yogsss

    “Says you” Of course, its a personal opinion for christ sake.

    I can’t connect with a movie where its all just songs. I really liked Chicago (not my Best pic choice tho) for the reason that dialog felt strong and the songs where very likable. Haven’t seen Les Mis, same as many if not all of us here, that’s why I’m making an idea based on what’s available. In case you think I hate the film and Hooper, I’ve been hyping this film to all my friends on facebook and I plan to see it immediately once it arrives here.

  • Bball_Jake

    Sasha really supporting Middle of Nowhere! Sorry but I dont think it has Academy chances. If Beasts has a hard time getting in with the Academy, Middle of Nowhere has a tiny chance of getting nominated. Just sayin.

  • Maybe I should shut up and champion ignorance. Some of the comments here make me scratch my head. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it, etc. Or maybe I have it wrong. Don’t let facts get in the way, etc.

  • JP

    I truly hope this race doesn’t polarize too soon in Lincoln/ Les Mis. This is one of the greatest years for American Cinema in recent history. It deserves a full 10 nominees category with The Master and BOTSW, for example.

  • I agree completely, but it’s a different art form. The only thing they share is the medium – film. It’s like saying that anything thing that takes place on a stage is the same – musical, play, magic act, political debate, stripper. They’re not the same.

    Yuh huh. All those things are performances. All these are films. The same. A documentary can be nominated for Best Picture. As can an animated film. A foreign film. A comedy. A war movie. A fantasy. They’re all completely different but the same. You have all those other categories to separate the different aspects of filmmaking. But BP is the sum total. The sum of all its differing parts. Neither LINCOLN nor THE HOBBIT are musicals and still they’re completely different. We can still compare them though. No one’s worried about that. I don’t get why comparing films that are sung compared to films that are spoken is such a great feat. Nobody sang or said shit in last year’s winner.

  • “With pleasure.”

  • steve50

    Richard Parker is nuzzling my ear telling me to let this go, but I hear there is a throng of angry French street urchins heading to the airport in Paris, flags ‘n sticks a-swingin.

  • You know what I meant, Smetana. 😛

  • Richard Parker is nuzzling my ear telling me to let this go, but I hear there is a throng of angry French street urchins heading to the airport in Paris, flags ‘n sticks a-swingin.

    All that does is make we wonder why Aladdin wasn’t cast in Les Mis. He clearly has the experience and hasn’t worked in years. It must have been more of that Hollywood racism. This time against toons.

  • Anonymous

    ZDT’s theme and late showings could hurt its Oscar chances in the long run. War is less popular than ever and there is already controversy brewing. The strongest best picture contenders as of this week are Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Moonrise Kingdom, Lincoln, and Les Miserables. With Jennifer Lawrence receiving a Santa Barbara honor I can’t help but wonder if Jessica Chastain will even a chance to campaign before voters make up their minds. FYI, Marion Cotillard has been receiving tributes and awards for months. In any other year I would give Life of Pi better odds but this year i would put Flight or even Skyfall in its place.

  • Ken

    This year, the whole “Oscar race” just seems so pointless to me and watching some people this year obsess over all the little details and possible “frontrunners” before the majority of critics’ awards have started has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This is shaping up to be one of the best years in film in quite some time.

    Honestly, in a year like this, it doesn’t matter at all who wins the Oscars. As you point out Sasha, the past two years explicitly points out that the Academy doesn’t really care about “zeitgeist” or anything like that. It’s about the films that make them feel good, like you said. I agree with that. It’ll probably wind up the same way this year.

    My mentality towards this year is wildly different from years past, I think, because it’s becoming abundantly clear that my two favorite films of the year have pretty much no shot. I loved Lincoln and Argo, but The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild are my #1 and #2 of the year so far. I know they have no shot so I’m more emotionally detached than usual when it comes to the Oscar race. It’s the way to be. I can enjoy the rest of the year’s movies without even thinking about the Oscars, as it should be. I used to care more in the past because I found, thanks to bloggers like Sasha, the Oscar race to be fascinating. But this year, with all these great films (and still more to come), it reminds me just how pointless it all is. It’s about the great movies, that’s always what it’s been about.

    This year is a complete “don’t give a shit” year for me. We’ve got great films coming from everywhere. No film is going to be running away with this thing. It could be Lincoln, Les Miserables, Silver Linings, Zero Dark Thirty… it could be any of them at this point and because there’s so many great films to choose from, I’d be hardpressed to find that the majority of critics groups will agree to any one film. I don’t think we’ll have a clear idea of where this is going until maybe the DGAs and the PGAs. So, until then, fuck the Oscar race.

  • rufussondheim

    If I won 100 million dollars in the lottery, I would spend it all on making a filmed version of the Sondheim musical, Assassins, just so I can subvert all of the assumptions that many of you are making. I, cf cousrse, would get Ang Lee to direct it.

  • Django starts screening this weekend I think here in LA. I plan to see it a week from tomorrow.

  • PJ

    I am 100% in for SLP but would not mind seeing Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln winning. They both, as you write, fit the timing of today.

  • drake

    zero dark thirty at “97” on mc… crazy. exciting.

  • Ken, I’m with you on The Master and Beasts, amazing movies. I’m so excited about Django, though. I remember the Cannes reception for just the bits of it that were shown in comparison to the Master/Silver Linings response, and I just have a feeling QT is coming out guns blazing this year. The race is definitely irrelevant with all the great work on display, but I gotta give it up to Harvey for really picking a strong lineup to go with this year. This is probably the year that The Weinstein Company became as creatively relevant and exciting as Miramax was back in the day. I mean, yeah, they had Artist and King’s Speech, but they also were the same company whose strongest titles just a few years ago were things like Clerks 2 and Rambo. They’ve REALLY stepped it up. Just look at their lineup this year. Now when they have their name attached to something I perk up.

  • Also, next year’s lineup is very exciting as well, with Only God Forgives, Inside Llweyn Davis, The Grandmasters and Bong Joon-Ho’s new film Snowpiercer.

  • Angie

    Hey Sasha, how come you haven’t written an article on Jennifer Lawrence being honored by Santa Barbara International Film Festival for outstanding performer of the year? That is huge! Previous winners are Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, and Heath Ledger. Does this cement her win for the BA Oscar already?

  • Sally Throndsen

    As always, your comments are very thoughtful and well written. People are talking and writing about Lincoln in a way I haven’t seen in years. I watched Meet the Press and Face the Nation this Sunday and they both discussed Lincoln. David Brooks wrote a wonderful column in The New York Times this past Friday lauding the film for reminding us of the nobility of politics. There have been numerous articles discussing and analyzing the issues raised in the film. It is so gratifying to hear people talk about something of substance in a movie. I love history and beautifully written words. I love to be inspired. I loved Lincoln.

  • Josh

    No shot for Redmayne? I hear he’s sneaking in there from screening reactions.

  • RufusSondheim,

    Can I go ahead and preorder my midnight showing ticket for your Assassins film? Just worked on a production of it and can’t wait for the chance to do so again.

  • steve50

    The Master and Beasts round out my top 5 – they both deserve a nod. In any other year either could have won, but this year is about the ride, I agree. I think that’s the reason for the early excitement, pre-critics.

  • Pulp Fact

    How is Ann Dowd supporting in Compliance!? I thought she was clearly the lead in that movie

  • steve50

    Even Roger Ebert is starting early – just saw today’s blog/column:

    Some interesting choices we haven’t been following too closely, too.

  • Eric P.

    This was so way back in the thread, but a filmed version of “Assassins” has been on my “If I Were A Famous Director”-fantasy bucket list for years. It’s my favorite musical, and seriously blows “Les Miz” out of the water musically, intellectually, and story-wise.

  • The Oscars almost never agree with my favorites. I still get into the race every year. The only problem I have is when there’s no race to be had. This year is great. If you look at my list this year, the frontrunners I’ve seen are in the middle. I barely even like them. But I can appreciate that I have different tastes and this has just been a good year. If my favorite comes in 20th, it’s still a great year and I still intend to go through the whole rollercoaster ride of the Oscar race.

  • Josh

    …..and the AD forums of course. 😉

  • ^Never been there.

    THE HOBBIT premiere is happening. So I guess we’ll start to get word in 3-ish hours? http://www.thehobbit.com/

  • steve50

    “The Oscars almost never agree with my favorites.”

    Tell me about it. The first – and last – time I heard the name of my favorite film announced was 35 years ago – Annie Hall. Damn near died on the spot because expectations were on Star Wars or The Turning Point with the most nominations.

  • g

    Great rundown Sasha,

    Well i just saw Lincoln and now I don’t know what to think about BP. It was sooooo good. And DDL, and well everyone even Danny from MI 5 were sooooooooo good. I don’t even know how to compare Argo to Lincoln. Maybe for me it’s a tie..

  • Jerry

    Female lead quality films in the last few years not supporting a man (off the top of my head there is more that can be added): 1) An Education-Carey Mulligan 2) Never Let me go-Carey Mulligan 3) Winters Bone-Jennifer Lawrence 4) The Hunger Games-Jennifer Lawrence 5) The Iron Lady-Meryl Streep 6) Salt-Angelina Jolie

  • Jerry

    P.S. my list is not intended to take anything from Jessica Chastain, my hat is off to her for this role (and yes I’m a big fan of hers, would be over the moon if she wins) just sayin’ there are other actresses out there who deserve applause for also leading their own films. She’s not the only one.

  • @steve50 Yeah but those movies are all awesomesauce. If I catch THE TURNING POINT on TV I start cheering the minute that purse goes flying. 😀 My favorite all-time movie lost to A BEAUTIFUL MIND. Boo. Hiss.

  • Terometer

    If Les Miserables sweeps, Tom Hooper will win director again. And he will have two oscars, the same number as Steven Spielberg. haha.

  • Nic V

    I agree it’s been a very good year in film although some of the films being tauted as great leave me scratching my head.

    First the score at Metacritic for ZDT is based on six critics. That score isn’t going to hold once everyone else starts weighing and spewing their thoughts on the film.

    The next thing that has me astonished a bit is how ordinary people who are really not film buffs are commenting on Lincoln on Facebook. I have a lot of friends who have no idea of my hidden involvement in film and have seen some amazing comments by them after they’ve seen Lincoln. The “you gotta see it” comments are all over the place.

    I think this year could possibly see ten nominees but my bet is there will be seven maybe eight. I’m sorry but Moonrise Kingdom does not figure in my seven or eight. I kept sitting there watching this film before I walked out thinking I’ve seen this before and not long ago. Then I realized what I was seeing and even though it’s not the same story but the connections between the two were jarring. The cadence in which dialogue was delivered. The way settings were similar to previous animated settings. The ineptitude of some of the characters. The lack of understanding between the generations. In my mind and I stand by this and will forever that I’d seen it in the form of animation. Then I got up and left. It didn’t leave me cold I actually hated it. And hate is a word I don’t use often.

    I’m not a fan of the musical genre translated to film. To the stage absolutely. I’ve sung many song on stage as chorus member to a supporting player. Didn’t have a good enough voice to do a lead. But film is a different medium amd there is a difference between an audience for a film and audience for a theater experience. I’d seen many of the musicals running while Les Miz was playing but never went to see Les Miz. I suppose because I’d seen so many dramatic versions of the novel that it just didn’t interest me. I have it on my list to see and I’ll hold my thoughts on it until I do.

    I liked Argo a lot. I’m seeing SLP this week.

    Here’s my issue with Lincoln. For the first time in years a director and screenwriter did not dumb down a story for an audience. Thank You Steven Speilberg for realizing that there are a lot of us out there who are starving for good scripts and integrity when transferring them to the screen.

    I don’t see anyone but Lewis winning the Best Actor Oscar. In my opinion the only way anyone can beat his performance is if they actually let someone shoot them in the head on celluloid and then win the award posthumously. I may eat those words but if I do it will truly be a sad day for cinema.

    The most tragic award this year will be Supporting Actress. Everyone is claiming Hathaway the winner and I’m sorry but Field is really the winner in that category.

    I could have lived happily if the Social Network beat The Kings Speech. I certainly lived when Crash beat Brokeback. I think I will be terribly dissappointed if Lincoln looses. Yes I can see it as a possibilty but not one I want to embrace just yet.

  • Daveylow

    Hmm…Life of Pi has bad reviews? On Megacritic it lists 37 positive reviews and 7 mixed. And its Cinemascore was A-. I fail to see why it’s ranked below Silver Linings Playbook by anyone.

    I kind of wish this year with so many fine movies we could give up picking just one as the best. Because there really is no such thing. (And of course, several fine foreign films aren’t even going to be in the race.)

    As far as Les Miserables being sung through, I’ll say this once here and then give up. This show has been seen around the world on stage for two decades by an enormous number of people. It is one of the most popular musicals in the world and in theatrical history. And they’ve sat through the sung- through musical without a problem. Yes, it could be hated by those who don’t like musicals (Steve Pond on the Wrap has already said musicals leave him cold). But it’s unlikely to alienate tons of people and most of those won’t go to see movie anyway.

    I hate the idea that Chicago was one of the few musicals to take the Oscar for best picture because in my opinion it’s only a passable film version of a much better stage show–and it doesn’t hold a candle to great film musicals like The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Funny Face, An American in Paris, etc.

  • Nic V

    I do have to take exception to one comment in Sasha’s article and that is that “George Bush lazily allowed 9/11 to happen…” If that’s the case, and I don’t believe that for a moment then Barack Obama lazily let Benghazi happen. I don’t believe that either. You can’t blame someone for actions performed by someone else over which they have little or no knowledge of and have no ability to impact those actions. You can blame Bush for a lot of things but not 9/11 that solely falls on the shoulders of Terrorists that orginated in the Middle East and not in Washington D.C.

  • DaneM

    Jerry, you forgot about Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Viola Davis in The Help, etc.

    Sasha may have just been taking a dig at Lawrence in SLP rather than literally meaning that there aren’t any great female lead roles in which women aren’t supporting men.

  • John Flake

    I really don’t see a split happening this year. It doesn’t happen often. If Les Mis sweeps at the Guilds then its game over. Tom Hooper will be the lucky guy with two Directing Oscars.

  • phantom

    As someone who needs to see the raves (82+ MC) and the BO (100M+) before considering Les Miserables even a runner-up, let alone the frontrunner, I couldn’t disagree more about calling Lincoln the ‘scrappy underdog’.

    Really ? A film about Abraham Lincoln, directed by two-time Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg, headlined by two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis, adapted by Academy Award nominee/Pulitzer winner Tony Kushner, scored by five-time Academy Award winner John Williams, shot by two-time Academy Award winner Janusz Kaminski, edited by three-time Academy Award winner Michael Kahn ALSO featuring two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field, NOT TO MENTION the ‘slackers’ with only one Oscar,Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Kline, OR ‘only’ a nomination, David Straithirn, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley. Basically you needed at least a Golden Globe just to be qualified to change the toilet paper on set.

    This film had been considered seriously for the Oscars long before they started filming, and it turned out to be one of those rare, early, unseen on-paper frontrunners that not only met, but exceeded the remarkably high expectations, so NOW it not only has the ridiculously Academy-friendly cast and crew, it also has BP-worthy rave reviews and excellent Box Office (120-150M in the US alone).

    Also, unlike a film, like Argo, Lincoln will appeal to ALL branches (strong director, strong writing, strong acting, strong production values), so I really don’t think calling it the ‘scrappy underdog’ of the season is going to fly. It had been an unseen frontrunner from the start and it is now a REAL one.

    Had it pulled off only the critics and not the Box Office like ‘Hugo’, it could be the ‘scrappy underdog’…but with its pedigree, reviews and spectacular Box Office, it is anything BUT. It hasn’t been an underdog for one minute since they announced the project. I can see how it would help its perception/campaign if people considered it ‘the surprise’, the ‘film nobody believes in that COULD’ etc., but I honestly don’t think that’s a realistic approach.

  • Radich

    I feel the same way about Lincoln, Nic V. The thought of it losing the gold is not appealing to me. Even if this year is a great year for films. It is so overwhelming, I don’t even know if I am gonna be able to see all of them before the Oscars. I know there is a possibility that Lincoln might not be THE ONE to the AMPAS, but because I LOVED the film, it is disappointing to think it won’t be.

    Another great piece, Sasha. I’ve been reading your thoughts on Les Mis and 0D30 with interest and respect, but I’m still interested in seeing what Les Mis might bring to the table. Looking forward to it because I like musicals, so I think I will enjoy it somewhat (but please, don’t tell me Jackman will take the gold, because you will break my heart 🙁 😉 ). However, lets see if it will inspire me like Lincoln did. I’m a fan of The Hurt Locker, so I had/have high expectations for Bigelow and company. Glad to hear from others it is a very good film, or excellent depending with whom one is talking to. I hope I will feel the same.

  • Luke

    Umm……Bush did not let Bin Laden attack us. Please support yourself if you wanna go down that alley. Sheesh….If that is your logic than I’m assuming you also hold Obama responsible for the Benghazi situation? Of course you don’t!

    Not to mention you totally contradict yourself! In the next line you say “Gone are the days of standing by the elected president” when referring to those who are trying to secede. So, when Bush was president, did you stand with him? Or is bush an exception because you detest him. Had Romney won, would you stand by him? Or McCain?

  • Daveylow

    Lincoln is a film that was manufactured to win Oscars. It’s a miracle, really, that it turned out to be a fine film.

  • Daveylow

    Not sure why The Impossible isn’t in the conversation. This is a powerful film with some fine performances from Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland.

  • Max

    You know what would be awesome? Imagine Django Unchained acheiving Pulp Fiction-esque greatness. I mean Tarantino has yet to disappoint us, and the cast for this film is as stellar as, say, Argo’s. Foxx, Waltz, Dicaprio, Jackson and now even Jonah Hill is in this. It could shake things up pretty massively, notably in Original Screenplay(We’re talking about Quentin “English Motherfucker do you speak it” Tarantino here) and Supporting Actor(Leo is just sooooo overdue).

    IMHO, there is another contender that many of you out there is underestimating, that is the Hobbit. Coming from someone who thinks the LOTR films ranks among the greatest of all time, that may seem biased, but this perception is far from wishful thinking. Just look at the track record. The LOTR films were nominated for 30 FRIGGIN Oscars and won 17! I mean, that’s just unbelievable coming from a fantasy series. How many Oscars have the 8-part Harry Potter franchise won?

    Think about it. What if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey turns out to be Fellowship of the Ring great – 90’s on metacritic, superb box office, GIGANTIC fanbase. Most of the old gang is back, and I could see The Hobbit being the most nominated film after Lincoln and Les Miserables. We might have 3 films with double-digit noms, people. And though I don’t see it winning best pic, I think it’s overall impact on the race would be huge. Peter Jackson has the potential to knock someone off Best Director(so does Tarantino). Les Miserables might lose a screenplay nom to the film, crippling its chances for the top prize severely(very few films won BP without at least a writing nom). And I see it as the only threat to Life of Pi in the visual effects category(all three LOTR films won on that particular category, if you don’t remember). With no outstanding score this year, Howard Shore could easily take Best Score(he won twice for FOTR and ROTK, and only missed out on TT because he wasn’t eligible). Production Design, Makeup and Costume Designs noms are sure bets, and “Song of the Lonely Mountain” could pull an upset over Les Miz’s “Suddenly”. For all I know, Ian Mckellen could score a surprise Supporting Actor nod as well. Noms in the sound categories and Best Cinematography are also possible.

    Of course, I am just speculating. The film has to be great in the first place, and will the Academy be willing to rekindle its love affair with Middle-Earth? We will know in a few weeks.

    I’d say the race is far form over.

  • Chris138

    I can really see Richard Gere being this year’s Gary Oldman. I think he has a much better chance than people expect at getting a Best Actor nomination. Like Oldman, he’s been around for a long time and can be considered ‘overdue’, not to mention that he got arguably the best reviews of his career for Arbitrage.

  • The Great Dane

    Whatever happens to Les Miz, it seems poised to break the record for most Globes nominations ever… Will it get 15 Oscar nominations and break that record too? Then Jackman, Barks and Redmayne DO need to all get nominated alongside Hathaway…

    Still, even if it breaks the Globes record, remember, people: So did Cold Mountain almost, and we all know what happened to that film – it went the Dreamgirls way.

  • I love Daniel Day Lewis as an actor, but I have a strange feeling he won’t win for LINCOLN. Firstly, no actor has ever won an Oscar for a role in Spielberg film (though many have been nominated) and secondly it all feels like 2002 all over again. Back then he was nominated for his role as Bill the Butcher in GANGS OF NEW YORK – like LINCOLN, the Great 19th Century American drama by the Great American Director (Scorcese, in this case). He won the BAFTA and was favourite to win right up until the envelope was opened on Oscar night – and it was Adrian Brodey for THE PIANIST.

    However, I will delighted to be proved wrong and probably will be (the last two years I tipped THE SOCIAL NETWORK and HUGO to win Best Picture).

  • Jack Traven II

    With an obvious link to the past
    We are still miserable nowadays

    So many dark territories we enter fast
    Silver dollars we lose in so many ways

    Ergo, we don’t know how this will end
    Or how much life we will have spent.

    Awards and vanities just aside
    Will we ever stop to fight?

  • Christophe

    Dear Sasha,

    May I ask for 5 minutes of your precious time to read this cheat sheet on Post-revolutionary French history? Hopefully, it’ll make this tricky subject a bit clearer.

    The Revolution started in 1789 when the French stormed the Bastille (royal prison in Paris). One month later they marched on Versailles to bring King Louis XVI and his family out of his palace and back to Paris, where he reigned for a while under the supervision of representatives of the people. The King tried to escape abroad and get help from foreign monarchies, but he was caught, tried for treason and executed in 1793.

    The new Republic was crippled with political turmoil and people kept killing each other until Napoléon seized power in 1799 which marks THE END of the French Revolution.

    Napoléon made himself emperor in 1804 and went to war all over Europe. After several defeats he abdicated in 1814, but he came back from exile in 1815 and abdicated again 100 days later. The Brits sent him to a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

    More political turmoil ensues.

    In 1815, Louis XVIII (the brother of Louis XVI) was reinstated as King of France with the help of foreign armies (the Restoration).

    In 1824, Charles X (another brother of Louis XVI) succeeded Louis XVIII as King of France. It ultimately led to the July Revolution in the early 1830’s when the culmination of Les Misérables takes place (the story starts around 1815).

    But more political turmoil will soon ensue again.

    In 1848, Napoléon III (Napoléon’s nephew) is elected president and becomes Emperor in 1852.

    Meanwhile, royalist-turned-republican novelist and playwright Victor Hugo (the French equivalent of Charles Dickens) gets all political and declares the Emperor a traitor, so he is forced to go into exile in the British Channel Islands. He manages to live comfortably there and writes numerous pamphlets and poetry that circulate illegally in France and keep the spirits of the people up.

    In 1870, the Prussian (now-German) army defeats Napoleon III in Paris. More political turmoil ensues but somehow France has been a Republic ever since (except WWII occupation).

    Moreover, the novel was also allegedly circulated among Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and might have been one of the causes behind the wave of desertions that led to the demise of the South (I know that’s a stretch, but still it’s very moving to think our two best picture frontrunners of the year might actually be related).

    So here you have it, notwithstanding what you might think about the musical/film, Les Misérables remains a novel of historical, literary and philosophical significance in the same league as other 19th century masterpieces such as Tolstoï’s War and Peace or Goethe’s Faust.

  • julian the emperor

    “I do have to take exception to one comment in Sasha’s article and that is that “George Bush lazily allowed 9/11 to happen…” If that’s the case, and I don’t believe that for a moment then Barack Obama lazily let Benghazi happen. I don’t believe that either. You can’t blame someone for actions performed by someone else over which they have little or no knowledge of and have no ability to impact those actions. You can blame Bush for a lot of things but not 9/11 that solely falls on the shoulders of Terrorists that orginated in the Middle East and not in Washington D.C.”

    Exactly! It’s an important point to make, otherwise we can accuse anyone of anything, which is not exactly contributing to a worthwhile – or healthy – political debate.

  • Glenn UK

    I agree with Daveylow – why isn’t the Impossible in the mix. I said this in another thread too …… it could be the silent assassin.

    OK for what it is worth I am going to say things from my viewpoint.

    LINCOLN – its very American. Whilst it certainly has the legs in the American market, I doubt that will transfer well to the international market. From my point of view the only thing I want to see this film for is Sally Field. DDL movies have never appealed to me. If the Americans in AMPAS want to get behind an American product then Lincoln is certainly the film they will get behind. Not sure how the international voters will go …… especially with Harvey W wielding his magic for SLP.

    ARGO – great film. I really did love it but I have all films which Affleck has directed. From what I have read about Lincoln (which has been mainly on Awardsdaily) then Argo has dropped a place in the game. Not too sure whether or not that is to do with Sasha’s passion for Lincoln, despite the fact that she really loves Argo too.

    LES MISERABLES – an amazing stage musical with a WORLDWIDE audience waiting in the wings to see it. Its played 42 countries and been translated into 21 different languages. The audience is there. I respect people’s opinion when they do not “get” sung through musicals. I have no problem with it at all. And that is where the division will lie – people who respect and understand sung through and those who simply do not. And that will affect the impact on the awards season ahead for this film. Whilst I know I will love Les Miz, I do not kid myself into thinking it is going to slaughter the competition. I just know that the backlash has begun on this site – “Anne Hathaway – her performance in Les Misérables, even though short, is so impressive it’s mind-boggling. She’s better than the entire movie that follows her performance.” People who understand musical theatre are raving about the movie, those with little or no interest in musicals are directing their love elsewhere. It’s that simple.

    We have a wealth of films this year (holy crap how bad was last year), and I think the awards should be spread BUT I just have a gut feeling that something is going to sweep. I am certainly not looking to the bloggers and critics to decide what is going to win the Oscar but I will be looking closely to the Guilds.

    Remember – its all a campaigning game.

  • Dale

    Inglorious Bastards got 8 Oscar nominations. Tarantino is back with Harvey and a group of talented actors so it could be the wild card. The question is will voters want 2 movies about slavery in the mix. Bradley Cooper doesn’t need passionate support. If you’ve been keeping up he’s right up there with Daniel Day Lewis. The real voters have a lot of love for Silver Linings Playbook.

  • steve50

    Christophe – Thanks for the historical perspective and reminding us of the importance of Hugo’s masterpiece. Can’t wait to see how many reviewers screw it up. They should print up your post and use it as a handout at screenings!

  • Bob Burns

    good essay, thanks. relevancy works for me. Oscar voters have been asleep.

    Lincoln out of the dreaded Oscar frontrunner slot is good news.

    My picks will and want to win:


    The 14 year old kid across the street is reading Les Miserables. He wants to be ready to see the film. Unprompted by his english teacher Mom or me, btw. As good as an Oscar, or better, as far as I am concerned.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    In our schools the French Revolution is automatically studied quite extensively, apparently in USA you need to take a special class for it. No?

    Anyway, when talking about musicals, if there’s one trustworthy person on these comment sections, it is Rufussondheim. He’s such fan of the genre. Which leads me to Dancer in the Dark – IMO best musical of the last couple of decades and I wonder what he has to say about that.

    Dancer in the Dark is about ten times better than Chicago.

  • Sonja

    “Once” also was a great film. But it’s a more a “musician” film than a musical, no?

    But well, I’ve never read the book or seen the stageshow of Les Miz.
    I am quite excited to see it, even when it’s full dialogue sung and three hours long.
    I doubt it will dissapoint at the BO. But we’ll see.

    “Lincoln” seems to be a powerful biopic. The Academy love these films, so I think it’s still the frontrunner, but everything can change, even in the last minute.

  • John

    I’m hoping that Argo, SLP, Life of Pi and ZD30 can shake up the Lincoln/Les Miserables battle a bit – if only because I loved Lincoln, but also love Les Miserable (the musical) and expect to love that film, too. I may not be able to take so much back & forth between the 2 films.

    I expect to love Les Miserables, the film. So that makes 2 films (Lincoln, Les Miserables) that I may be pulling for to win which will make cruising on this and other blogs somewhat … difficult, haha. I hope we can all have open minds about the race no matter which film were pulling for 🙂

    All that said, Django, Hobbit, and a host of other contenders that I haven’t seen yet (ZD30, Amour, Pi) may come along and eclipse my faves and I won’t be as crazily invested. We’ll see.

  • Dominik

    Intresting… so “The Master” looks like a dead duck in your opinion Sasha, even before the Critics Awards are announced?
    I admit I didn´t follow the race attentive this year, but I always found “The Master” to be your perfect choice for a critics darling, something the prestigious, artsy-friendly guilds like NY or National Society could easily fall in love into.
    I just hope this film will be in the running. I would prefer it at any rate to candidates like “Les Mis”, “Pi” or “SLP” which all smell like typical Oscar-junkfood.

  • Nic V

    There’s one thing about this race this year that has me a littel confused and that’s a film called Looper. It had great box office, very good reviews in fact it’s also got an 80 something score. Yet there is no buzz about this film and I don’t get that. Someone wanna explain?

  • AlecFPrice

    “In America, you’re on your own”.

    It’s way too good to be part of the Oscar race but the most politically acute movie to come out this year is Andrew Dominik’s KILLING THEM SOFTLY. It’s unforgiving in its assessment of both Republicans and Democrats and the hypocrisy behind the rhetoric that comes from both sides. In terms of capturing where the nation is right now though, it feels eerily, uncomfortably on point.

    “America is a business….so fucking pay me.”

    These words are spoken as Obama’s first inauguration speech is broadcast in the background. Think these sentiments apply any less four years later? One only need look at his economic advisory committee appointments during his first term to know differently. The US government has become a safe haven for many of those responsible for the financial crisis.

    If America truly is at war with itself, this film envisions what the everyday battleground looks like. And it’s a lonely place.

  • Christophe


    thx but I actually missed something here: right after the action of “Les Misérables” and the demise of Charles X, yet another King managed to take the throne: Louis-Philippe I (a cousin of Charles X), he reigned for another 18 years and was chased away by yet another Revolution similar to the one in Les Miz.

    Gosh even the French can’t keep track of all these kings and Revolutions. The 100 years following the French Revolution (the big famous ONE from the 1790’s) are one big sloppy and deadly mess!

  • Christophe

    OK now to keep it simple, let’s just all agree the French Revolution took place from 1789 to 1799 and was followed by 70 years of strife during which Emperors, Kings and Republicans battled for power, giving rise to numerous popular uprisings. Les Misérables tells the story of one of them, during which the people actually chased one King away only to be replaced by his cousin… Sigh!

  • Christophe – Thank you for the VERY informative rundown. I have a horrible memory, but every little bit counts. Thanks!

  • Hosutonrufus

    Thank you Christophe! I’ve read the novel, but didn’t know or have forgotten how tumultuous that period of French history was. Your recap certainly helps set the backdrop for the novel, stage musical and now film.

  • Falz

    Sasha 9/11 happend because your dear leader (the old one not the current one) refuse to take down Bin Laden, the terrorist planned and come to America long before Bush was President.

  • rufussondheim

    Dancer in the Dark is easily my favorite von Trier film, and I loved Melancholia and The Kingdom a great deal. It’s also definitely my favorite traditional musical put to film after Singing’ in the Rain, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Cabaret (I don’t consider Once a traditional musical.)

    What was groundbreaking in Dancer in the Dark is that all of the musical numbers were imagined. Selma always used musicals to escape her dreary life, and when events in her life became to much to bear, she imagined them in her head as if they were occuring within the musical genre. It’s a powerful way to define character. And it’s a great trick so people who ignorantly say “But people don’t break out into song in real life” while they await the next Iron Man movie, can’t complain about the musical numbers. It was such a great concept that Rob Marshall used it in Chicago (but not as well.)

    There is no weak spot in Dancer in the Dark. Bjork’s performance should have won the Oscar that year, easily. And the songs are amongst Bjork’s best she has written and recorded. And with her career that’s saying something.

    Perhaps the most impressive thing about Dancer in the Dark, and it’s placement in movie musical history is that even though it’s structured like a traditional musical, it’s not really related to any of the musicals I have seen. It’s certainly not in the Rodgers/Hammerstein type that dominated up until 1965, It’s nothing like a Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Weber show.

    It’s closest relative is probably Cabaret which had musical numbers puntuated throughout a rather serious plot. But those songs commented on the action that was going on, rather than adding to the psychological complexity of any one character. Dancer in the Dark is a truly great film, not only as a musical, but as social commentary (which I didn’t even get into here.)

  • rufussondheim

    Sasha 9/11 happend because your dear leader (the old one not the current one) refuse to take down Bin Laden, the terrorist planned and come to America long before Bush was President.

    I really didn’t want to address this, and I won’t now since I need to exercise and get ready to go see Lincoln, but I do want to point out that this is an extreme distortion of what happened, approaching even an outright lie.

  • Freddy Ardanza

    While the novel “Les Miserables” was published in 1862, the events depicted in that book ocurred in 1832. At that time France was under the reign of Louis Philipe of Orleans who ruled from 1830 to 1848.

  • Christophe

    @Freddy Ardanza

    Agreed! Thx for keeping facts straight. I confused the June Rebellion of 1832 with the July Revolution of 1830 in my comment above. But in any case it is not about the French Revolution as is often believed.

  • There’s one thing about this race this year that has me a little confused and that’s a film called Looper. It had great box office, very good reviews in fact it’s also got an 80 something score. Yet there is no buzz about this film and I don’t get that. Someone wanna explain?

    Well it doesn’t look like an Oscar movie. It’s the wrong “type”. So I think you have a situation where a) people don’t expect it to be in the race and b) some of those people are responsible for the film and don’t put it in the race.

    Joseph Gordon Levitt was on one of the talk shows promoting LINCOLN last week. Do you think there was any talk about himself getting any buzz or either of his other movies? People sometimes mistakenly disqualify themselves. Everyone should push. That’s why I keep calling on us to do it for them. If you still have a favorite or favorites that aren’t getting any press don’t let them be forgotten. LOOPER is also one of my favorite films of the year. I like it much better than the “frontrunners”.

  • moviewatcher

    I genuinely don’t understand Sasha. What happened to your love for The Master and Cloud Atlas? They are both great, amazing films (groundbreaking even). And you wrote rave reviews for both! What happened? None of them will win BP so Lincoln wouldn’t lose anything if they got nominated. You should be campaigning for both of them, but it seems like you’ve given up on them!

    Or has your enthusiasm diminished?

    for eg: “In Jessica Chastain’s miraculous performance this inner conflict rages. Other than Abraham Lincoln himself, there isn’t a more interesting protagonist this year.”

    Ok, but no mention of Joaquin Phoenix’s “brando territory” performance (as you called it) in The Master? Why aren’t you campaigning for Doona Bae’s amazing perf in Cloud Atlas?

    Why, Sasha? I beg you to answer!

  • Christophe

    After researching some more and realizing I know barely anything more than Sasha about Les Miz, here come my new…


    1789-1799: FRENCH REVOLUTION (Monarchy ends officially in 1793 with King Louis XVI’s execution but political turmoil goes on for the next
    10 years until the rise of Napoléon)

    1804-1815: EMPIRE (Napoléon I)

    1815: Napoléon I defeated and exiled


    1830: SECOND REVOLUTION = the king is replaced by his very own cousin



    1851: SECOND EMPIRE (Napoléon III)

    1855: Victor Hugo goes into exile after calling Napoléon III a traitor


    1870: Napoléon III is defeated by the Prussians (Germans)

    After 1870: REPUBLIC

    Does it even matter? Will anyone bother reading my comments again? I doubt it. But at least now I can be at peace with myself.

  • Armando

    I don’t get it when people say they don’t like musicals because people don’t go around singing all the time… but as soon as Batman 457, Superman 2385, X-Men 4625, The Avengers 3756 or Star Wars/Star Trek 496960 open they eat it up like those films are the real thing because everyone goes around flying in tights, right?

  • unlikely hood

    Christophe: I’m reading you! Can you find out if it’s really true that US Civil War soldiers loved the Hugo novel? This rumor is flying out there, spread by Wikipedia-smart people like this guy:


    In that link he says that Confederates called themselves “Lee’s Miserables” after the novel. I don’t believe him or this “fact.”

    As you point out, Hugo’s book was published in 1862 – in France. Ok, let’s grant that Hugo was the Charles Dickens of France. This was NOT a time when an author like JK Rowling could rely on her French translation to hit the bookstores the same day as her original novel. No, a translation takes a year (I have a friend who does it). Then figure another year for the print-set, translated book to arrive in the States – maybe six months if we’re being nice. So we’re to believe that in 1864, four years after the war started and a few months before it ended, Hugo’s Les Miserables hit the US and was an immediate sensation among soldiers? Why does that sound like odd wishful thinking on the part of some?

    Let me know. 🙂

  • Christophe

    Exactly, I had my doubts too so that’s why I put in a lot of “mights”. Nevertheless I found on a resale web site first editions of Les Misérables that states “CARLETON PUBLISHER, NEW YORK, 1862” (http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/les-miserables/author/victor-hugo/first-edition/pub-min/1862/pub-max/1862/sortby/1/).

    If this is true, I guess they translated the book before it was even published in France, which is highly likely since Hugo was already a world-famous author at the time.

    Now I also found this mention in a Telegraph article:


    They say “both sides devoured the book”. Still no idea where that story started but it’s a damn beautiful story, that would make a wonderful conclusion to next year’s Oscars if Les Miz and Lincoln were to sweep together.

  • unlikely hood

    true or Falz? Our “dear leader” (I like how you’ve made Bill Clinton North Korean) fired missiles at Al Qaeda in 1998 and was excoriated by Republicans – they said it was borderline illegal and besides a distraction from Monica Lewinsky. Repubs took control of the Senate that fall. In the Constitution, a document you won’t have read, it says that actions of war are supposed to be approved by the Senate. So in your fantasy world, as Bill Clinton was coming up for impeachment – or after he barely survived it by a handful of votes – he should have done something else impeachable, something that the GOP had already warned him about?


    In other news

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt does deserve an award this year – the Ewan McGregor Award for Uncanny Imitation of an Extant Celebrity. JGL’s Bruce Willis in Looper was kinda awesome.

  • Robert A.

    “In that link he says that Confederates called themselves “Lee’s Miserables” after the novel. I don’t believe him or this “fact.”

    This was also mentioned in the novel Gone With the Wind, so it must be true! 🙂

    Seriously, though, I think this is true. I’ve read it several different times and in several different sources. I think there’s even a Civil War history book called Lee’s Miserables, that explains the title as a reference to Hugo’s novel.

  • Princess of Peace

    I really hope that Richard Gere gets in. He deserves to. I wish that Jack Black could get in for Bernie but there just aren’t enough slots. And if there are ten nominees it is possible that Skyfall will get in. Oh, and don’t count Javier Bardem out for supporting actor in that film. I hope to see a few surprises the morning of the nominations.

  • Christophe

    @unlikely hood and Robert A.

    Early references to Lee’s Miserables:


  • Thanks Christophe et al. Glad to see some people still care about history. 🙂

  • Haha, reading some of those early comments. Antoinette not caring about the revolutions in France is hilariously ironic! Lol.

  • Al

    Opposition from the president must only come from fear and ignorance, and has to be seen as hatred, and not just, you know, disagreeing with policies.

    Gotta love the party of tolerance….

  • *bakes a cake*

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt does deserve an award this year – the Ewan McGregor Award for Uncanny Imitation of an Extant Celebrity. JGL’s Bruce Willis in Looper was kinda awesome.

    It was awesome. Mainly because he did it to his face. lol Anyhoo, I can’t believe I’m drawing a blank on the McGregor reference. Help me.


  • Listen up, everybody tryin’ to know about stuff that I don’t know about.

    In a couple of days I will have seen both 1930s film adaptations of Les Misérables.

    One shot by Greg Toland in 1935 starring Fredric March, Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwick. 4 Oscar nominations.

    One directed by Raymond Bernard shot by Jules Kruger in 1934. 5 hours long and it’s in French for added realism.

    Both those versions were named Top Ten Films by the National Board of Review.

    So pretty soon I’m gonna know some shit about Les Misérables that Victor Hugo never even knew.

  • Christophe

    @Ryan Adams

    Now that’s dedication! I wish you a good screening!

  • But then you’re gonna be contaminated for the new one. *sigh* My point about Les Mis is that it’s a movie based on a musical based on a book based on history. They’re not real people like Abraham Lincoln. That’s actual history. This isn’t. It’s a made up story. Calling it “historical fiction” would be a stretch, imo.

    btw, how do you put an avatar (profile photo) on this site?

  • btw, how do you put an avatar (profile photo) on this site?

    Go to gravatar.com and register an image using the same email address you use to sign on here. The avatar will follow you all over the internet.

  • Nic V

    The 1935 Frederic March version isn’t bad.

  • Christophe


    Well it is historical fiction (fiction based on history)

    Even though the characters did not exist as such, Victor Hugo drew inspiration from real-life people and archetypes he had either met or heard of. The same can be said for the events in the book, they are mainly based on experiences of the time, the student-led rebellion and the barricades were very real, you can read about them in history books, and Hugo was a prime witness of it all. That’s why he decided to write a novel based on all the experiences and stories he had gathered.

  • steve50

    Ryan, I think there’s a silent version, too. So old probably Hugo was an extra.

  • LillyB45

    “The 1935 Frederic March version isn’t bad.”

    I agree. It’s actually pretty good. And Frederick March is beyond handsome in it.

  • rufussondheim

    The film version of Les Miserables you should be watching is the 1995 Claude Lelouch version. It is easily the most inspired movie I’ve seen based on a classic novel. But it’s certainly not a literal version (It takes place in WW2) it’s not even remotely faithful, and yet it is to an extraordinary attempt.

    I know that makes no sense, but I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises. Of course, you need to know the story very well to truly enjoy this version.

    Trust me, it’s worth it.

  • rufussondheim

    I don’t know what goes through my head at times. But I have no idea why the word “Attempt” ends my sentence in the first paragraph above. I should have used the word “degree.” Sometimes I feel like my brain is playing tricks on me.

  • rufussondheim

    I should point out that French was widely spoken in the US during the Civil War. It was also a fundamental part of most people’s education at that time. Many soldiers probably didn’t need an English version. ANd if they had one, they very well might not have been able to read it anyway.

  • Christophe

    “French was widely spoken”

    good times… good times…
    I don’t get your last sentence though do you mean they didn’t know how to read or what?

  • When it all boils down to it, one’s attempt to depict history using fictional characters isn’t diminished compared to another using real life characters. They’re both stories captured on film. Artistic license was been taken either way. Lincoln was a movie, not a documentary (though it did fall somewhere in between) otherwise we wouldn’t have had to suffer through that Campbell’s soup kid playing his younger son and that absurd shot of him in the theatre.

    What’s more important is for one to be able to separate fact from fiction and be able to discuss a work as a film, and also the time that it was made in, as well as what it was trying to say about that time, as well the time were living in now.

    Rufus >> I almost typed Russ. I have those brain slips all the time in regards to “degree/attempt” and they’re only getting worse. (I.e. my initial inclination to always address you as Russ). Proof reading in comment sections become all the more necessary as I age.

  • mdbDuke

    What a spectacular year for movies! It makes me happy that Anne may have a real shot at the Oscar.

  • rufussondheim

    (error! not a valid e-mail address! Fuck!)

    Take 2

    Just got back from Lincoln and I will say it’s a good film but not a great film. I was expecting it to be more talky and procedural than it was, and would have preferred it if it were. I was even more interested when the film veered into philosophy and sociology and wish we would haven gotten into that stuff even more. While it’s important to know names and dates, I think it’s even more important to undestand what people were thinking when one studies history.

    I also enjoyed the forays into his personal life (even though some criticized these portions.) I thought it important to know what was going on his life and how that affected what he wanted to accomplish as president. It showed that this battle wasn’t just political, it was personal as well.

    Kushner was really on his game in some of these scenes and they were exciting to watch. But even with such a great script there were some traditional Spielberg moments that kept me from enjoying the film more than I did. For example, the scene that took place in the War Department when suddenly we discovered Lincoln sitting unobserved at one of the partitions. How he got there unnoticed is beyond me and why he would want to go there is even more puzzling. It was a typicall Spielbergian moment that was meant to cause an audience reaction rather than be truthful to what was taking place.

    Another scene that wrankled me was the one that took place in the same dark office space when he was sending the telegram and the two officeworkers were there assisting him. As soon as I saw how the scene was framed I knew we were going to get a Lincoln spouting some wisdom that was more intended for the audience than the two office workers. Spielberg needs to learn how to be more organic when setting this stuff up, it just comes off as stagey and insincere.

    Another scene I disliked was the one with the wheelbarrow dripping blood. There is no way amputated arms would be dripping blood at this point. He just did it to get a reaction out of the audience and it makes his attempts at being realistic in other ways look shallow rather than sincere.

    One scene I hated was the final vote. Now I have no idea what the procedure was back then, but in this scene it looked like all of the Republicans had voted first and they were just going through the Democrats. I doubt it worked that way. But even if it was, I still hated the little notes that various people were making themselves. “8 to win” was written, more for us than for the person writing it. This was a bad choice.

    But the worst choice was the ending of the film. Now I thought it was ending spectacularly with the cheesy but utterly awesome line “I have to go, but I prefer to stay” followed by that beautiful shot of him walking away. If the movie had ended there, I might have overlooked some of the faults.

    But, no. Spielberg had to play fast and loose and like in SPR he had to trick us, if even for a moment. The shot in the theater was purposely deceptive and then the shot of the his child clinging to the railing was pure manipulation. Wouldn’t it had made more sense if the child asked “is he OK” rather than assuming the worst. But either way, it doesn’t matter the scene was unnecessary and annoying.

    And the shot of everyone around a dying Lincoln with that angelic lighting also needed to go. It’s such a bad decision to include it. These are not minor flaws. I appreciate that Spielberg has tempered some of his worst instincts in making this film, but he needs a more critical eye in the future.

    DDL was amazing. Now I have no idea what Lincoln was like, I didn’t know him and I’ve never seen any video footage of him, so I am not going to say anything idiotic like “he really inhabited Lincoln.” But I will say he really nailed this ‘character’ and made it work. I pity the fool who next has to play Lincoln in a film.

    I also thought Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones were amazing. I wouldn’t have a problem with either winning, even though I think neither will.

    And now for my updated top 10 (in order)

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    Take This Waltz
    Life of Pi
    Cloud Atlas
    The Hunger Games

  • I found this informative and interesting blog, so I think so it’s very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me. I really thought that blog is spreading its wings rapidly…

  • @Christophe

    Well it is historical fiction (fiction based on history)

    Even though the characters did not exist as such, Victor Hugo

    The whole point I’ve been trying to makes is that this is not Victor Hugo’s LES MISÉRABLES. This movie is based on a stage production. The show was based on the book. The movie doesn’t have to stick to anything in the book. Judging the movie by comparing to the book isn’t fair. So thinking the film should be historically accurate is way too much to ask, imo.

    It’s like how people do impressions of an actor, say Christopher Walken. Well at some point people start doing impressions of other people’s impressions of Christopher Walken and they sound nothing like him. This is like that. It’s a version of a version of a version.

    The movie is an adaptation of the musical. It’s not a remake of previous films. Watching film adaptations that precede the opening of the stage musical doesn’t make sense. Neither does brushing up on French history. The buck stops with the musical.

    When you guys watched Joel Schumacher’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA did you go back and watch PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and the Lon Chaney PHANTOM OF THE OPERA? That’s all I’m saying.

  • rufussondheim

    Watching Joel Schumacher’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA? As if!

  • CJ

    rufussondheim – Your criticism of why would Lincoln be down in the War Department…and how would no one notice him is a good one if you don’t know much about Lincoln. He would often go to the War Department telegraph office for hours and read ALL of the correspondence between the various generals/officers etc.. He would grab pages and pages of this stuff and go into the corner and basically read all of it till he came to the most recent stuff. Then the next day he’d basically pick up where he left off.

    Because he would be there so long, much of the time they acted like he wasn’t there. Kind of like how people might become used to a camera following them in a documentary…at first it’s a big deal, but after awhile you don’t even notice it anymore.

  • unlikely hood

    (been away from a computer all day)

    Antoinette – Ewan McGregor was my reference to his imitations of Alec Guinness in the prequels. Again, uncanny. Inspired. Someday let’s hope Kevin Spacey can play a younger Christopher Walken.

    Christophe and others – thanks for the look-ups. Ok, I now believe the book was popular amongst Civil War soldiers. That IS really something.

  • rufussondheim

    CJ, thanks. I guess I have to retract that complaint, but then it brings up another one, how are we to know that? It’s something that could have been addressed with a simple line.

    Too often, facts are simply ignored or not addressed, such as why aren’t there 435 representatives (I’m guessing this is because the southern ones simply weren’t present, but then they should have been included in the final count) and what about the states ratifying the amendment which the Constitution clearly requires.

    And it opened up other aspects that made me curious, like when did the 14th and 15th Amendments pass? There were lots of other small things along the way. Of course, this makes me want to do some research once I leave the movie but I wish it could have been a little more comprehensice. I don’t fault the movie for this, it’s just something that was nagging at me during the film.

  • Evan

    “This is where the Globes have it over the Oscars – drama and musicals are separate and distinct. Same with the Tonys. I can appreciate an entertaining musical, but when it comes down to choosing between emotion and ideas, it’s no contest, imo” –Steve50

    This is one of the lolziest comments I’ve read in a while. So non-musicals are only about ideas and musicals only about emotion? What an excellent film critic you must be.

    I’d like to hear you tell Sondheim that his musicals aren’t about ideas. Or George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the work on which My Fair Lady is based. I’d like you to watch Next to Normal, about the way in which we treat the mentally ill, or even that horrific musical film, Nine about the creation of art. Then tell me that no “ideas” were conveyed.

    And I’d love to hear how Sasha feels about your assertion that Lincoln is devoid of emotion. Or The Hurt Locker. Or The Social Network. Or The King’s Speech, Avatar, Life of Pi…

  • CJ

    The House didn’t have 435 members yet because of lack of population. They capped the number at 435 about a century ago because if they kept adding members by the way the constitution originally described we’d have about 1000 members by now.

  • unlikely hood > It don’t know if this counts as a young Chris Walken (ca. 4:45)


    RE: Phantom of the Opera the movie >> Joel Schumacher+ Andrew Lloyd Webber = permanent deafness and blindness

    Rufus >> Number kept growing with additional states, population growth etc, until the number was fixed in 1913. I’m too lazy to see if the provision provided for any new states, but it does address redistribution. I had the same thought.

  • unlikely hood >> of course, there’s also this gem from 1996/7::


    Kevin Spacey as Chris Walken screen testing for Han Solo no less.

    The clip includes other impressions and is only two minutes long. I watched the episode when it originally aired and I’m pretty sure there are more Spacey impressions if you hunt them down, as I recall these screen tests being peppered throughout the episode.

  • Speaking of Next to Normal, Alice Ripley’s acceptance speech for the Tony was some serious bat-sh!t craziness. Perfect example of someone with their head so far up their ass they lose all perspective. Yikes.

  • rufussondheim

    Yeah, I looked up some of these facts myself, plus I started reading Team of Rivals again. Lincoln just met Mary Todd. I’ve a ways to go.


    And the recent discussion brings me to why I will be rooting for Les Miz to win the Best Picture Oscar even if I don’t think it deserves it. I’d simply like more musicals to get adapted into films. I know it’s a hard bargain to bring adapt some, but every time one is successful, it shows the studios that it can be a viable option.

    Sadly, only the big musicals ever get adapted. I’d love to see any Sondheim show get adapted, even if it’s not as good (Sweeney Todd) I like to see someone else’s vision of it. But I still think Into the Woods would make a great movie with the right talent behind it, but I’d even love to see his commercial failures make the big screen. Anyone can Whistle and Merrily We Roll Along are, of course, impossible dreams.

    But even moving away from Sondheim, seeing Next to Normal in a film version is quite viable. Or Avenue Q. And something like William Finn’s Falsettoes isn’t out of the question, although I doubt that will happen. Yeah, I know we’ll get The Book of Mormon into a film version (It’s funny, but the music is really quite dull upon repeated listenings)

    But the best way for this too happen is for the rare musical that does get adapted to be successful. And with the Live Singing aspect apossibility for future adaptions, studios may get a little adventurous with some options if they feel they can get some awards attention.

  • danemychal

    russosondheim – The Republicans didn’t all vote first. If you noticed, they were adding tallies at the army headquarters for both sides during the vote as they came in through the telegraph. On film, they singled out mostly Democratic members of the House to show for 1.) brevity, the movie was already long enough; and 2.) because we already knew they had all the Republican votes, so what would be the point?

    Also, the scene you didn’t like with just a worn out Lincoln and two telegraph operators was my favorite scene in the movie. And I’m not just a Joe Schmoe filmgoer. Was it manipulative? Who gives a fuck? If it’s good enough to manipulate me, I’m going to give it all the props in the world. “We begin with equality.” Great line. I’m glad he worked it in because society still hasn’t learned it yet.

  • DaneM

    Sorry about butchering your name, rufussondheim 😉

  • rufussondheim

    Perhaps manipulative is not the best word to use there to describe how I feel about the scene. Predictable is the better option. As soon as the set up was established, it had to go where it eventually went. This is what I mean when I say I can see the gears grinding when I watch a Spielberg film. And because of that, so much in his filmmaking has very little surprise for me.

    The vote scene, yeah I get he doesn’t want to show the Republican voting because it would be dull, but the way he chose to show it was misrepresentative of what actually happened. Spielberg, in interviews about this film, spoke about getting the lighting right and costumes and so much of the period details. I wish he would be so faithful about actual events.

    Now I know we can’t get a tracking shot that covered all of the events in that day in a manageable time frame, but that’s no excuse for the deceptive options he chose. It’s edited to make it look like things are happening continuously. We start with the Connecticut delegation and only a few names are called, then we go to Missouri. The way it’s edited it appears only Democrats are called. There’s nothing there for us to infer Republicans voiced their consent to the amendment.

    Now I don’t know how to edit it to make it interesting (I thought the whole scene was quite a bore) but that’s not my job. That’s Spielberg’s and in this scene he failed. I thought that most of the highlighted representatives really gave poor performances in this section. And since some are great actors, I kind of blame Spielberg for giving them bad notes. Too many of them looked far more tortured than they should have looked in my opinion, since they were reconciled to their votes ahead of time. And on a more meta level, we know the thing passed so why do we need to see each individual vote anyway?

    (Now this is where I have to use my own knowledge. I know that in today’s votes, if the votes aren’t there, the vote is delayed or the speaker doesn’t bring it up for a vote. I imagine things were the same back then.)


    I should add that all of these are nitpicky, I know that. The real crime is the ending. Oh the ending. It’s simply terrible.

  • Tony

    Ryan, you definitely should add LeLouch’s “Les Miz” from ’95 to your marathon.

    Sasha, your politics, as always are insane. No need to get too nostalgic for the Carter years; high inflation will be joining high unemployment soon enough.

  • unlikely hood

    Thanks Vince Smetana. I’d seen these years ago, but they’re still hilarious. I think it was only after Spacey that *everyone* started to do a Walken impression.

    Sfunny Rufus’s big beef is with the ending. My big beef is with the beginning and that horribly stilted way they shoehorned in the Gettysburg Address. Omigod, that had me cringing. Thankfully it all got better from there.

    I enjoyed the ending but I would love someone (Christophe?) to tell me if Lincoln really did raise his arms on those words. If he didn’t, yes, of course, that’s within the realm of creative license. But it’s also in another realm – and I’m sure all these smart people can think of another great person with arms famously akimbo who was killed over Easter weekend.

  • rufussondheim

    yeah, I had issues with the beginning too

    but I was more struck by how casual Lincoln was just lounging around and barely anyone cared that he was there – now that might be the way things were, which would be highly interesting indeed. But I have no way of knowing.

    And that’s what’s kind of irking me about this film the more I think about it. Not sure where truth ends and artistic license begins.

  • The vote was one of the scenes that struck me as typical Spielberg schmaltz (along with every scene involving the Campbell’s Soup kid), forced drama shoe-horned into an otherwise sobering account of political jockeying. It was as if he didn’t have the faith of his own convictions to allow the story to just be.

    The blood dripping out of the wheelbarrow struck me as Spielberg’s attempt for some Private Ryan Realness (and it didn’t work), since he had such few opportunities. And Gloria Reubens: loved her on ER, but her casting fit into the Spielberg schmaltz. I generally find Joseph Gordon-Levitt miscast and here it was no different.

    I take exception to the critics in the initial reviews who derided Sally Field as miscast. She was perfect. Even more fascinating when you put it into the context of the Hollywood Reporter Actress Roundtable Interview where she revealed how she had to fight tooth and nail to keep the role after Liam Neeson left the project. I had worries about her age in regards to the part and her role opposite Day-Lewis, which she completely extinguished from her first scene. Field was exceptional. And it made me cringe that Spielberg gave her as well as others something “to do” while the vote was being tallied. Oh brother. Or maybe I’m just a cynic.

    Day-Lewis was flawless, even in that hammy scene (I forget when, but towards the end) when Lincoln gets fed up and can’t take the lack of faith in his cabinet. Probably my favorite moment in the whole film. My favorite would have been the theatre moment (where you think one thing and then realize you’re wrong), but as, I think it was Rufus or someone else pointed out, it became unrealistic and uber-silly.

    I was expecting more from Tommy Lee Jones, given the outcry of support for a nomination, but he was still good. Loved Epatha Merkerson. And James Spader was my favorite after Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.

  • steve50

    “This is one of the lolziest comments I’ve read in a while. ”

    Not sure what that means, Evan, but I get the gist. You’re oversimplifying my remarks. Of course I wouldn’t tell Sondheim his musicals aren’t about ideas. I know the great socialist GB Shaw wrote Pygmalion and probably would have raged at “I Could Have Danced All Night. And Nine was a crap attempt at turning 8 1/2 into a hootenanny. And I’m slightly aware of the emotion in the dramatic films you list. Stop being a dunce.

  • CJ

    Again, maybe I know too much about Lincoln for my own good. But the theater stuff at the end was never a fake out to me, because the play was too “magical” to be MY AMERICAN COUSIN. And I knew Tad was at ALADDIN, so I made the connection pretty quick.

  • I shouldn’t have made a generalization. My apologies.

  • Christophe


    Adaptation doesn’t mean re-imagining, you still have to respect the original story, especially in terms of feel and atmosphere. The musical actually achieves masterfully methinks, no betrayal or anything. And I expect the same from the movie, even though Hooper shot the whole thing in the UK (like he can’t even take a 2hr high speed train), and certain scenes in the trailers look way too much like London to my taste. Martin Scorsese on the other hand shot the studio scenes for Hugo in the UK and the exterior scenes in France. The end result looked perfect (recreating times, places and moods), I only hope Les Misérables will do the same.

  • Christophe

    and when I say “you” I mean “it” the adaptation 🙂
    I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of seeing the movie yet I’m also worried it might not live up to expectations and even go as far as betray the source material (there is such a line between adaptation and betrayal that should not be crossed, unless it is voluntary and artistically meaningful)

  • Evan

    Steve, I don’t think I’m being a dunce. I think implying that a film about various classes in 19th-Century France is a film of “emotions” is reductive, not to mention that you haven’t even seen the film yet.

  • Catherine

    ‘but I was more struck by how casual Lincoln was just lounging around and barely anyone cared that he was there – now that might be the way things were, which would be highly interesting indeed. But I have no way of knowing.
    And that’s what’s kind of irking me about this film the more I think about it. Not sure where truth ends and artistic license begins…’
    That’s one of the great things about the film…
    It presumes you do know. Your assessment is fair, but realize that much of the ‘nitpicking’ is perhaps rooted in, as you suggested, not being sure about the the historical accuracies in little details like this.
    Lincoln was very accessible, at a time when it was very dangerous to be so….Seward was always trying to put a stop to his openness with people outside the White House.
    That scene with the two telegraph operators is a perfect example. Like cj, it’s also my favorite moment in the film.
    What may have seemed stagey to you, ‘set up’ for the audience was one of the great ‘aha’ moments for many of us.
    Lincoln was known to think, work through things verbally, as if he was constantly questioning himself, always trying to find clarity…..he would do this in front of anyone who happened to be around, whether it was his cabinet or two random telegraph operators. People never knew if he was addressing them or simply talking things out to himself….his mind was always working. Like when you’re in your car and talking to yourself trying to make sense of something – “things that are equal to the same are equal to each other…. that’s a self-evident truth’.
    Lincoln always grappled with his thoughts on equality…he new instinctively that any oppression was wrong, but he was constantly trying to convince himself, as a leader, that that belief was worth fighting for – in amending the constitution, righting a wrong that the founding fathers institutionalized. He had to find the moral meter of the war, that it was about more than preserving the Union. This is perhaps why, if you didn’t know that fact, these moments in the film may seem ‘set up’….but they ring so natural and true. And his physical demeanor, the way he would sprawl on the floor, let his legs hang from the legs of a chair….there is an account from someone in the Goodwin book about how he would just throw himself on a couch – legs akimbo, almost childlike.
    I’m excited that this film, for all your ‘nitpicking’, has led you to Goodwin’s book.

  • J Ham

    the “politics talk” section of this article is filled to the brim with hypocrisy…
    you do realize that “standing by the elected president” is exactly what every democrat in America failed to do when Bush was president! And I am far and away a democrat. I’m just saying, republicans are not always the only ones in the wrong. I believe that there are just as many country-loving republicans as there are democrats, they may not be as vocal, but the reality is they just think different politically than we do!
    I just wish that you would not group the entire republican party as the radical racists that some singular individuals actually are.
    There is a lot more depth and love of the United States in a republican heart than you give credit to

  • rufussondheim

    I think it’s fair to call the Republican Party racist. If you define racism as supporting policies that end up benefitting one race over another. I know that’s not a typical definition, but it’s one rooted in sociology and it’s the one I prefer. (I prefer prejudice to racism when it’s used casually.) Note that some Democrats support the policies I am about to list.

    1) The reent push by Republicans to require voter ID systematically hurts minorities.

    2) Lack of gun control causes a surge in violence in inner city neighborhoods where minorities are more likely to live.

    3) Not supporting the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare leaqvin minorities uncovered at a disproportional rate.

    4) Many Republicans campaign on Abolishing the federal department of education where the funding for public schools is more likely to go to minority-dominated schools who do not have the property tax base that more majority-white schools have in the suburbs.

    5) The trumped up accusastions agains ACORN (that were incidentally shown to be a hoax) which caused funding for this organization that disproportionately helped poor minority residents.

    6) The constant threat to shut down Planned Parenthood, an organization that disproportionately helps poor minority women get basic health care.

    I could go on and on, but I need to start to get ready for work soon. But I hope you get the gist. Policies that support the continued economic suppression of minority citizens are routinely back by Republican Politicians, and even the party as a whole.

    So, you might not think you are racist, but your supporting a party that has racist policies makes you, in my opinion, a racist.

  • rufussondheim

    Hooray, it turns out one of my favorite films is returning to DVD after an absence.

    After Life by Hirakazu Koreeda! If you missed it back in 1999 when it came out, you really need to search it out this time before it disappears again.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Have watched The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray twice already and it is truly one of the best of the year. In a way it’s “sad” that we have such a great year now and a film like this has to lose the BP nomination.

    I’m sure it will remain on my Top 10 list when I’ve seen all 2012 releases that matter.

    Still kind of hoping a surprise nomination for it, but surely Warner Bros. places all their bets for Argo.

  • “Well, I could see, for instance, Les Miz winning pic and Spielberg winning director, something like that. I don’t think Hooper and/or Bigelow can win again so soon. So O. Russell or Spielberg are your best bets — IN MY OPINION – at least for director.”

    This appraisal from Sasha does sound to me like a likely scenario, even though I as a person have not been fortunate to see LES MIZ yet. But I am a huge fan of the Broadway fan, and can at least speculate here. It does seem unlikely that they would go with Hooper or Bigelow, and can divide the spoils, going with LES MIZ for the big prize, and giving LINCOLN Lead Actor and Director. Most conceivable, methinks.

  • I think it’s fair to call the Republican Party racist. If you define racism as supporting policies that end up benefitting one race over another.

    Exactly right. Moreover, most of the Republican Party’s loudest grossest spokespeople are blatantly racist, misogynistic creationist homophobes.

    Yes, there are millions of Republicans who are none of those things. And yes, the millions of Republicans most likely to appreciate diversity and intelligence in movies are probably those who have true “depth and love of country.” Our readers here at AD include some the coolest Republicans in America.

    There must be certainly be fine honorable Republicans who aren’t religious fundamentalists or pathological liars. You know what? Might be a good idea to run one of those normal Republicans as a GOP Primary candidate once in a while.

    It’s so easy to make a list of Top 10 Most Dangerous Conservatives who are nothing more than hateful monsters. And the GOP gives those monsters such power! Now look at this right-wing hate-list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Liberals and see the difference. We have Michelle Obama. You have Michele Bachmann. Who’s the most ludicrous horror show? There’s your perception problem. Don’t like it? Then fix it.

    “..just wish that you would not group the entire republican party as the radical racists that some singular individuals actually are.”

    I don’t do that. But as long as you good Republicans allow the radical anti-gay vagina-probing evolution-denying racists to occupy virtually ALL the top key positions of authority in your party, then you have to live with the public perception your own party leaders have chosen to project.

    No doubt it’s hurtful and embarrassing for millions of genuinely respectable Republicans to know they’re associated with slick oily lunatics like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck. If you’re embarrassed by these clowns, then why don’t you shout them down? Shun them. Exile them. Instead, your silence is tacit endorsement.

    If you’re ashamed of the radical right, then take measures to disassociate your party from them. Ostracize the kooks and find a way to put the normal compassionate Republicans in charge.

    Look at your ridiculous party. It’s a global laughing stock. When 70% of Latino citizens, 70% of single women, 75% of gay voters and 95% of Black citizens regard the Republican Party as unfriendly, you have two choices: Continue to blame all of us for not seeing not seeing how good-hearted you are, or else do a better of showing us some of that heart.

  • Still kind of hoping a surprise nomination for it, but surely Warner Bros. places all their bets for Argo.

    Which would be incredibly sad for me, since my two favorite films of the year are CLOUD ATLAS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I wonder which of the three will be watched repeatedly and cherished years from now. Prosperity will sort it out I’m sure. But ARGO is the third best. You guys can contact me in 30 years to tell me I was right. If we’re alive that is. 🙂

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