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Zero Dark Thirty a Late Arrival as One of 2012’s Best

It’s a crowded Oscar season for great films. But it’s a good thing everyone had Zero Dark Thirty’s place in line because it is easily one of the year’s most memorable.  Zero Dark Thirty joins Lincoln, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master to tell memorable, vital American stories. It perhaps seems silly to single them out for that reason but after two years of international players in the Oscar race it’s thrilling to have some home grown talent knocking it out of the park.

I will write a more formal review later but some quick thoughts:

1. Jessica Chastain gives far and away the best performance of the year by any actress, at least here in the US — internationally, she gets competition from Emannuelle Riva and Marion Cotillard. It helps that Bigelow and Boal designed the whole movie around her character, not framing her behind, depending on, flirting with any man but instead, holding her own. She’s the smartest one in the room, the most confident and the reason we ultimately “get” Bin Laden. Last year and this year, the Oscar best picture nominees have mostly centered around a male figure whose redemption is the most important thing in the film. Well, for once the opposite is true and it’s breathtaking.

2. They don’t back off the barbarism of torture or of murder. Period. Anyone who thinks this is a movie that gives us a kill fantasy is wrong. The way Bigelow and Boal walked the line of the horrors of the Iraq war, so too do they now give us both sides of our so-called war on terror and the hunt for Bin Laden. Are the torture scenes too much? That’s the reality – the horror of it, the presumed necessity for it, and the complicated relationship our military and CIA have with it.  To have made it more palatable would have been a lie. Bigelow’s characters endure it, and so must we. It’s important to know all that it took to pull this thing off.

3. Bigelow directs the shit out of this movie. The Bin Laden raid involves some of the most exciting scenes put on film this year or any year.

4. Boal’s dialogue stands out more this time, with one zinger after another. He must take the lead in the original screenplay race, I’m guessing.

5. Bigelow wanted Chastain for the role, which meant waiting and juggling schedules. Worth the wait. Chastain is a revelation.

Is that enough hyperbole for you? I will be writing plenty more later, but I’m guessing Best Actress is a showdown between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. Both are very good. The stronger Best Picture contender may end up taking that prize but Chastain carries the whole movie. We shall see how that one plays out.

136 Comments on this Post

  1. Interesting that of all (ok, it was only 4) the reviews I read, yours (who some call a blind feminist) is the only that singles out Chastain as the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR BY ANY ACTRESS.
    But I really hope it’s true, she deserves it already!

  2. IT’S WAR! Between Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain that is.

  3. A lot of reviews I’ve read stated the screenplay is fine, but the dialogue is cringewrothy…”I’m the MFer that’ll get Osama”, etc.

  4. Awesome, can’t wait to see it.

    PS how come you don’t have a comment system like DISQUS here? Just wondering, heh.

  5. Rodrigo JP

    Sasha, is it as good as the hurt locker?

  6. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    You think I should get disqus? I don’t know. What’s the benefit?

  7. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I’m the MFer that’ll get Osama”

    Not cringeworthy – awesome as fuck. Who said that?

  8. I just saw Chastain on stage in The Heiress and she was colorless. I hope her performance in this film is more rewarding.

  9. Haven’t seen either performance, but it’s so refreshing to have a real race going on in lead actress. Seems like that’s one of the first categories to be sewn up in most years.

    These late releases are really making this an exciting year Oscar wise, no small blessing. I can’t be the only one who’ll sink into a minor depression if the AMPAS falls in line with Harvey agin, especially in this of all years. Can’t wait to see if Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” is going to play.

  10. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Sasha, is it as good as the hurt locker?

    Well Hurt Locker was more of an emotional experience, I think, because it about the empty horrors of war and is a masterpiece. Zero Dark Thirty is part of the same coin, the flipside. If she made one more movie about the war on terror/Iraq she would have a trilogy unrivaled by her contemporaries. As it is, the two are, to me, dimensions of the same saga and to that extent, yes, it is every bit as good.

  11. I mentioned it in another post, but I’ll ask again here: We know that the director’s narrative of the film is just as important as the film itself my question is this: More than Argo, Lincoln and Les Miz, does Zero Dark Thirty have the most compelling director’s narrative so far this year? I mean, the media parallels between Chastain’s Maya and Bigelow alone should fuel the discussion for quite some time.

  12. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Actually, the chances of Silver Linings went up after I saw Les Miz because Silver Linings is the only uplifting one in the bunch, unless you count Lincoln (which you really should).

  13. I’m really looking forward to this one. My favorite performances this year are from Nina Hoss (Barbara) and Margarete Tiesel (Paradise: Love). I have faith Chastain will be able to impress just as much.

  14. Thanks for taking the time to write this Sasha. I’m sure you have had a long day and have a kid to take care of but I really wanted to get your opinion on the film. Looks like it will be Chastain V. Lawrence for Best Actress prize. Curious what other nominations you see this being up for apart from Picture, Director, Actress.

  15. As someone who is familiar with the Endowment theory, Confirmative Reasoning and Dan Ariely’s work (especially Predictably Irrational),this is the exact review I expected about this movie in this website.

    Still I am excited about seeing this movie.

  16. Also when you say “They don’t back off the barbarism of torture or of murder”, do you mean it has a pro-torture slant?

  17. Thanks for the impressions Sasha! Can’t wait to see the film myself. Looks like we’ve certainly got an embarrassment of riches this year, as far as films go. Do you have any idea when you will be seeing The Hobbit? With the premiere in a few days, I imagine screenings must be starting fairly soon.

  18. I have been wating all evening to read your impressions of the movie and of Chastain and now I am even more excited to see this. So happy about Chastain too.

  19. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    do you mean it has a pro-torture slant?

    I think it shows both sides of it: that torture is inhumane and why there is a need for it. But it’s told from a CIA op’s point of view so naturally they would fall more on the side of “torture is horrible but necessary.”

  20. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Thanks Aragorn, I feel sure that was an insult but I can’t pretend to know how or why.

  21. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Jerry it is down to those two I think. Lawrence will benefit from being in a movie everyone loves and plays a part most of the straight white male voters fall in love with. Chastain plays the more interesting, admirable and revolutionary character. I think whatever movie heads into the race strongest that actress has the edge.

  22. I honestly don’t think Chastain or Lawrence are set to win the Oscar. Not yet at least…this year has been amazing for lead actresses and I can see five different ladies take the prize. Riva, Wallis and Watts could really steal the passion vote in a big way.

    Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
    Qu’venzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
    Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

    Then again, my predictions are usually pretty off…

  23. Bob Burns

    curious about editing

  24. rufussondheim

    For the record, there are many CIA operatives who do not think torture works and is completely and utterly inhumane. There are many who believe the reverse, that torture prevents one from getting usable information (at least in a timely manner.)

    I wish I had cites for this, but I’m sure anyone truly interested could google this and see. I did a fair amount of reading about this when it was in the headlines in the mid to late naughts.

    I’m always reminded of a Time Magazine article printed during the run-up to the Iraq War. the first few hundred words were all about the supposed evidence the administration was touting. It all seemed very convincing. But then almost at the end, the article pointed out that most CIA personnel that analyzed the intelligence did not believe there were WMD. I always thought it odd that Time didn’t lead with that nugget of knowledge.

    Anyway back to my point, people remember what the people in power say, even if it runs counter to what actually is taking place.

  25. I have Andrew R’s best actress prediction too. And I just shifted number 1 to Chastain. My point is that in the past decade, with the exception of Hillary Swank, Kate Winslet and Reese Witherspoon, all the other best actress winners won in a clearly female-centric film, which is rare in Hollywood (unfortunately): Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep. Chastain’s character is the center of the film. Lawrence has to split the center with Cooper.

    I think Bigelow gets the 4th slot and I gotta feeling Ang Lee will be snubbed just like Christopher Nolan for Inception and that the last spot will go to one of the Weinstein trio.

    One note: I truly truly hope that this race doesn’t polarize in Lincoln/ Les Mis before the nominations. This year deserves lots of BP nominees. 2011 is mediocre for cinema compared to 2012 and then there were 9. I really hope full-10-category this time.
    – Lincoln
    – Les Mis
    – Argo
    – Zero Dark Thirty
    – Life of Pi
    – Silver Linings Playbook
    – The Master
    – Beasts of the Southern Wild
    – The Impossible, Django, The Hobbit (yes, The Hobbit must not be underestimated), Amour, Moonrise Kingodom and Flight fight for the last 2 spots.

    WHAT A YEAR!

  26. Sasha, I found Affleck’s turn in Argo flat as a chalkboard. I kinda get a similar vibe from Jessica Chastain’s performance in ZDT, from what I pieced together from various impressions and reviews. Cut off from overt emotions or relationships, VERY self-serious, solely-focused on the mission at hand at all times. A big brick wall as the centerpiece. The kind of refined performance you respect more then you admire.

    You liked Argo a LOT more than I, but perhaps you can go into more detail about the nuances and qualities of Jessica’s character? Trying to get a better feel of the movie.

  27. Tim Corbins

    Any supporting nominations happening? Jason Clarke? Jennifer Ehle?

  28. if its as good as you say i’m excited for bigelow. always a good visual director- but not a great director overall by any stretch. maybe the oscar and success of hurt locker will turn her career and legacy around.

  29. Bball_Jake

    well I guess I’ll have to change my name once again from Jake to Bball_Jake(since i play basketball)because someone up there^ decided to also use the name Jake too. This is the second time someone has taken my name on this site…its starting to get kinda weird haha.

  30. Thanks, well at least they are truthful to history. Guess we are going to have the pro/con torture arguments all over again. If memory serves correctly I think it’s the military that was most uncomfortable with the torture policy because solders had a higher chance of being captured vs. CIA agents. They didn’t want captured soliders to be tortured in turn.

  31. John Flake

    Does anyone think that ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ has a good shot at winning Best Film at the New York Critics Circle? I think so.

  32. Harmonica

    I’m thinking this may get a BP nom, but will be too “divisive” for the win. A 160 minute talky war movie is not something that’s up everyone’s alley. Seems like the BP race is still a four-way race between Lincoln, Les Mis, SLP and Argo (in that order, I’d say).

  33. That was more than enough hyperbole, actually.

    I’m sure the film is great, but given this blog’s feminist slant, it’s hard to read this and truly place the film, and Chastain’s performance, among the years best. There was never any doubt that your heart would bleed for Bigelow.

  34. rufussondheim

    So the 160 minute talky war movie known as Zero Dark Thirty is too divisive for a BP nomination.

    Yet the 150 minute talky war movie known as Lincoln is in the BP race.

    What a difference ten minutes makes!

  35. It’s Spielberg, another showy DDL performance, and Abraham Lincoln, himself, that make the “difference”.

    I fully expect Zero Dark Thirty to get a BP nom, but its chance of winning has to be considered low at this point. I’m sure The Hurt Locker’s win will be a hurdle for this film. It’s ridiculous, but that’s how it goes with the academy.

  36. “Not cringeworthy – awesome as fuck. Who said that?”

    Feinberg, for one.

  37. Kevin Klawitter

    How would you compare it to Harvey Weinstein’s “SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden”?

    I know it’s probably not worth asking, but in general, dueling movies fascinate me.

  38. Sasha, I can’t imagine a movie that relies on a female lead by a female director could ever be criticized by you. If it was a bad movie I think you would still love it and campaign your ass off for it…just sayin.

  39. Bethany Nanc

    Can’t wait. Love this mini review.

  40. Matt was clearly not around for Sasha’s random take down of Lena Dunham for depicting young women as being interested in dating young men.

  41. rufussondheim

    Sasha, please excuse the cynical responses people have about your motives.

    I’m guessing that they’ve never been a member of group of people that’s been underrepresented in film. ‘Cause they sure show no signs of knowing what it’s like. Either that or they are emotionally stunted. Take your pick.

  42. I’m not buying the Chastain hype, and this review confirms it. First, Ms. Stone has been hyping this movie forever, so I’m not sure we are getting an objective opinion. It would be greatly embarrassing to hype a movie endlessly and then say it didn’t meet expectations.

    Moreover the reason why Ms. Stone has hyped this film is absolutely clear from the review; what is important to her isn’t the quality of the performance but the idea that Chastain’s character as supposedly a feminist hero. This is an idea that is very important to her, but it leads to strange, contradictory results. For example, perhaps the most important feminist character in recent memory, especially as it affected young women, was Katniss Everdeen. Yet Ms. Stone didn’t seem to like this chracterization. In fact, I’m not sure she has been impressed with anything Jennifer Lawrence has done. Yet notice as a major red flag what’s missing from this review. She doesn’t say that Chastain created a character with depth or nuance. She doesn’t praise her technical skill. She doesn’t say that Chastain elevated the part. Instead we are merely told she is “confident”and playing a man’s game; again the feminist hero idea as trumping all.
    In fact if you notice, she doesn’t even cite Jennifer as having “one” of the best performances this year. Again this strangely dismissive attitude toward an actress that someone with Ms. Stone’s preoccupations should seemingly champion. I’ll wait for other reviews, but unless people start saying the same things about Chastain that they have said officially about Jennifer (that she is electric, that she is remarkable, that she elevates the part and the film, that she brings surprisng depth to the role, that she is all natural disasters happening at the same time [my favorite]), saying that Chastain is confident in a man’s world isn’t going to cut it and goes way too close to the (sort-of) feminist obsession of this blog. Especially when this reviewer has such a massive axe to grind that she isn’t credible. This is after all an Award’s blog. Some objectivity should be the order of the day.

  43. What did you think of Les Miserables?

  44. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I can’t imagine a movie that relies on a female lead by a female director could ever be criticized by you.

    You weren’t paying attention during the flurry over Julie & Julia. Because there was no flurry over J&J around here.

  45. Sasha, I continue to come to your site for the way you express unabashed your feelings on cinema. I may not always agree with you (usually do) but I just wanted to say keep doing you. :)

  46. Holy shit, this thing really clocks in at almost three hours?

  47. Ummm I’m not hearing all this “praise” you are talking about over Jessica Chastain. Maybe she is good but where’s the buzz?

  48. chasgoose

    @Winston: Because that fanboy rant about how amazing Jennifer Lawrence is in Silver Linings Playbook is the epitome of objectivity. Sasha’s point is that Chastain’s character is exciting because her plot arc is not tied to a man’s, which for a big war/action thriller/docudrama is a fairly big deal (even if it is based on a “real” person). I loved Jennifer Lawrence in SLP, but she’s not much more than an elevated take on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who mostly exists to “fix” Bradley Cooper. Doesn’t sound like Boal’s script allowed much for characterization and depth/nuance, but it still seems like an exciting performance.

  49. Not gonna happen, Sasha; it can’t happen, is what I should say. The Acdemy cannot hand over the store (again) to a hack whose gender was the only reason her last film even got 9 nominations, let alone win 6.
    *
    And technically, it shouldn’t even be in the competition for 2012 as it opens in Philly January 4. Just because out of how many theaters in America it plays in 1 or 2 places in NY and LA? I could never stand that rule. This year had auch promise, with critic-fan supported films like Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers who would face off against the art house circuit’s top guns. Tnat was my dream scenario for the ’13 Oscars. Now, yet again, we’re being attempted to be convinced that the best films of the year only are released in the last 6 weeks of the year? Bee-ess.

  50. Winston

    You might not believe what Sasha had to say about the film and the performance, you can believe Chastain isn’t impressive in the role because that’s what you WANT to believe, quality has been always subjective, so you can quarrel about it for as long as you want (although you should probably see the film first before criticizing a performance) BUT you can’t fight facts : you have probably read the other reviews by now, so you know that ALL agree that she carries the film, Chastain is THE lead. Is Lawrence THE lead in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ ? Ask yourself this : would she be even in the lead race, had she been an average-looking unknown in her late 30s ?

  51. Jessica Chastain is too old to compete with Jennifer Lawrence, and she is not one of those well-known and highly respected senior actresses.

  52. “The Acdemy cannot hand over the store (again) to a hack whose gender was the only reason her last film even got 9 nominations, let alone win 6.”

    Sigourney Weaver, is that you? Because your film was the one that really didn’t deserve the BP nomination in the first place.

  53. 1. Jessica Chastain
    2. Marion Cotillard
    3. Jennifer Lawrence
    4. Naomi Watts
    5. Emanuelle Riva

    6. Q. Wallis
    7. Helen Mirren

  54. Winston F

    Excuse me, I thought I was the only Winston?!?

    Wth? Lol

  55. @chasgoose-It wasn’t a rant, but maybe a bit harsher than needed. Let’s just say that the buildup from this site has been so over the top that it has made me cynical. I just don’t want to see the better actor get robbed. If Chastain or anyone else is the better actor, so be it.

    The split second you start throwing around tired taglines like “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” you lose credibility. Taglines are an effort at dismissiveness, but they are also exercises in thoughtlessness. Think it through. Here you want to punish Lawrence despite the technical skill she exhibited because she is “fixing” a man (fixing herself a well I guess had nothing to do with it). To be blunt, so freaking what? That’s just the same politics in different clothing. Again: Did Chastain have a better performance? Did she show more techinical skill, depth, nuance? Did she elevate the role? Is your response who cares, her character wasn’t not tied to a man? Seems like it. So here again politics are being pushed as more important than the skill the actors demonstrate. Also if a script doesn’t allow for depth/nuance, maybe it’s not such a plum role after all.

    Come to think of it, given how historically flimsy I think this film is, if I was truly cynical I would say that the feminist angle was a ploy on the part of the filmmakers to use as awards bait.

  56. PaulH

    Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but after all these years, have you ever considered the fact that NO film could/should win BP without at least a nomination-worthy screenplay ? And as stunning as Avatar was to look at, that screenplay was average at best. On paper, a Best Picture HAS TO have it all : directing, writing, acting. In my opinion, Avatar had two of those three, well, more like one and a half : the directing was great, the performances were hit-and-miss with only one real standout (Saldana) and the screenplay was mediocre. That simply didn’t add up to a Best Picture victory, something that was obvious the moment they announced the nominations and it didn’t get any in acting and writing. Films can barely win without one of those, but without BOTH ? Impossible. We can argue about this for days, but completely unnecessary, in the end it will be just one subjective opinion against another. I just thought you should get one from the other side if you felt the need to trash Bigelow once again.

  57. “7. Helen Mirren.”

    If The AMPAS nominated Mirren for The Last Station over Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins, her higher profile role in Hitchcock will get her into the category with so few solidified nominations like there was in 2008 … especially if she wins the Globe for Drama. (and Lawrence lands in the musical or comedy category)

  58. That list above is not mine. Nice impersonation.

    @Phantom-I would say Lawrence was involved enough and had a demanding enough role to be in the lead category. Easily as much as Reese in Walk the Line. I wouldn’t automatically but a single lead above a co-lead actor. And it sounds like Zero Dark Thirty is an endless array of characters. All central leads carry a film to some extent. How well they do it is another question. Also there is truly carrying a film based on the actor’s skill and charisma (Winter’s Bone, Hunger Games) as opposed to just being the main lead. Again, if Chastain is better on the merits, fine. So far I’m hearing a massive jumble of politics.

  59. I’ll wait for other people’s opinin because it was obvious that you will be thrilled. You would be even if movie sucked simply because it is directed by woman.

  60. Vince, is Mirren campaigned in Drama ? I’m not sure, they opted for Comedy with a similar film (My Week with Marilyn) last year. Also, even though I consider Mirren seriously for the top5, ‘The Last Station’ had considerably better reviews and a considerably less prominent male lead, it might have been easier for her to stand out then.

    By the way, could ‘Hitchcock’ stay afloat with mediocre reviews (56 MC) and Box Office (unspectacular limited OW) ? Due to the early Academy-deadline, Mirren will need a damn good precursor-showing in December to convince voters she IS top5-material. What will NOT help her, that BAFTA nominations will be announced AFTER the Oscar-voting ends, so even though she is a shoo-in there, it won’t influence Academy members. She NEEDS the SAG-GG-BFCA trio.

    Also, I’ve had Cotillard in my top3 since May, but now I have doubts. The film didn’t turn out to be the critical darling I thought it might and the limited release wasn’t a success, either. I fear this could be another ‘We need to talk about Kevin’…too obscure and divisive for the Academy even if everyone else embraces the performance.

    By the way, am I the only one SERIOUSLY doubting Riva and Wallis ? I LOVED both performances, but I think it might be time to face the cruel facts :

    – ‘Beasts’ wasn’t well-received at its Academy-screening and even if it had been, in a time when there is a new frontrunner every week, they would have already forgotten about it by now, add the June release date and SAG-ineligibility, and all these might be damaging factors impossible to overcome in the end.
    – ‘Amour’ is a beautiful but remarkably depressing film, looking at recent Oscar-winners, that’s not exactly the Academy’s ‘type’, they also RARELY nominate foreign language performances, ESPECIALLY not two in the same category in the same year, ESPECIALLY not an understated one ESPECIALLY not in a depressing film. I’m starting to think it will be either Cotillard, or they will cancel each other out.

    Thoughts ?

  61. WINSTON THROWDOWN

  62. Winston F

    Who are u?! LOL

  63. Winston

    That’s just it, Witherspoon had no place in the Lead category, either, it’s good that you brought her up, because that’s the perfect comparison : impressive, crowdpleasing female performances played by Box Office queens, questionably placed in lead. Witherspoon’s lead campaign wasn’t backed up by either the film’s narrative OR her surprisingly limited screentime.

    Having said that, I accept your ‘co-lead is still a lead’ theory, I guess I just look at these things differently. To me, ‘THE-lead-contender’ ALWAYS has the edge over the ‘A-lead-contender’. Anyway, now I am REALLY excited to see both films.

  64. @Winston “In fact if you notice, she doesn’t even cite Jennifer as having “one” of the best performances this year. Again this strangely dismissive attitude toward an actress…”

    I don’t think Sasha has ever liked Jennifer Lawrence. She’s been trying to use Jessica Chastain to throw her off for a while now.

  65. I believe Jessica Chastain is being hyped up here for nothing while there’s no buzz over her performance on twitter or anywhere else. Anne Hathaway was literally declared a winner after the Les Miserables screening. So was Jennifer Lawrence after her TIFF screening. Somethings missing if Chastain really is going to win the Oscar next year……

  66. I’m starting to believe that this has become the ultimate feminist blog. Anyways I can’t wait to see this movie. The new trailer looks really interesting.

  67. Rodrigo JP

    Sasha, do you feel the hobbit may get in the race as a strong contender? Or as an exciting adventure movie with 0 chances at the oscars?

  68. Winston/Lynn, you have to quit this ‘Sasha doesn’t like Jennifer Lawrence’ nonsense when it is SO obvious that she DOES. Two years ago Sasha had a big part in spreading the word about her performance in ‘Winter’s Bone’, without her constant, months-long championing, Lawrence might not be an Academy Award nominee today and even since then, she has published a bunch of pieces PRAISING Lawrence, including SEVERAL for The Hunger Games. Even if she doesn’t consider her Tiffany THE best lead female performance this year, she ALWAYS acknowledged her frontrunner-status in the race. These theories, that ‘Sasha doesn’t like Jennifer Lawrence’ AND ‘if you don’t root for Lawrence, you have a problem with attractive women’, are quite simply ridiculous.

  69. alexi / November 25, 2012

    “Jessica Chastain is too old to compete with Jennifer Lawrence, and she is not one of those well-known and highly respected senior actresses.”

    @ alexi ??? what have you been smoking ???

    &_& “_” @_@ %_%

  70. Not so fast. After the screening of Zero Dark Thirty, Hollywood Reporter is still predicting that Jennifer Lawrence is the front runner to WIN. That’s saying a lot. Jessica is good and has a nomination locked but she isn’t the front runner according to critics, sites and twitter.

  71. Look y’all I cannot hide the fact that I really like Chastain.

    But objectively speaking, the Zero Dark 30 hype can overrun the Silver Linings Playbook hype and very powerfully so. Why?

    – the film will be released at the best possible time and will be fresh in people’s minds
    – I’m not American, but Americans will strongly connect to it
    – Chastain’s momentum is equally strong as Lawrence’s momentum! While I like Lawrence and I think she’s perfectly lovely, it is Chastain who is the ACTOR here, and she’s also in a play right now.
    – I think Harvey will have to go full-blown aggressive with Lawrence’s campaigning (something like Streep last year) to be able to provide a close call as the Streep/Davis one.

    I do think that the subject matter of ZERO will help Jessica win the Oscar.

  72. HahaLives

    Jennifer Lawrence’s performance has been oddly overrated by the critics (her character is not much more than a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, except the “depressed” and “messed up” version of one, a very misogynistic archetype). It’s also incredibly inconsistent and not very memorable. I really hope that Chastain wins!

  73. Phantom, it does seem like it’s time to face the facts on certain films and performances. I’m still think it’s a week or two away awaiting some buzz that may generate from some of the precursors, but if nothing changes between now and then some will be dead in the water.
    I think Beasts of the Southern Wild has the best shot, taking Wallis with it. I think Haneke is gone if Amour doesn’t win a few of the precursors (entirely possible) I think The Master will suffer the same fate.

  74. Bball_Jake

    The Best Performance by an Actress this year is Anne Hathaway in TDKR! No one has even come close to being as good as her this year. The oscar world is really political.

  75. “without her constant, months-long championing, Lawrence might not be an Academy Award nominee today”

    Phantom, that’s just silly

  76. “I don’t think Sasha has ever liked Jennifer Lawrence. She’s been trying to use Jessica Chastain to throw her off for a while now.” by Lynn

    Jeff in a female version. In the end, they all come to that, just in different approaches.

  77. Craig Z

    The phrasing might be, but it’s the truth. Ask anyone who was a reader here two years ago.

  78. “without her constant, months-long championing, Lawrence might not be an Academy Award nominee”

    What? Lawrence was nominated because she received great reviews and support. Not because of Sasha. If it were in Sasha’s hands, Kristen Stewart would have been nominated 5 times already. Even for Twilight for which she won a Razzie!

  79. Jack Traven II

    ZD30 might get nominated for Picture, Actress, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing. That’s it.

  80. Sasha, do you think it will get a screenplay prize? I’m rooting for silver lining’s, saw it today and it gave me all the emotions a human being could experience!

  81. Yay! I love that each of these unseen contenders are delivering. It’s great for film and it’s great to see some decent competition in the Oscars. I don’t understand why some people begrudge the success of a film or performance just because they want another to be more loved – I say the more quality films (and performances), the better!

  82. julian the emperor

    I too find it problematic (or at least not convincing) that Sasha emphasizes Chastain’s part on behalf of its “female as hero”-credentials and not much else. I don’t see how that has anything to do with the actual performance. I am a great admirer of Chastain’s work, so I do want her to succeed (and I would love to see her win the Oscar), but this is either lazy criticism or a very deliberate ideological representation on Sasha’s behalf.

    On the other hand, all the commenters going on about Sasha campaigning against J-Law should take a step back. Sasha was very positive about both WB and HG, so just because she doesn’t love SLP, she is anti-J-Law? That seems farfetched and just a tiny bit conspiratorial.

  83. LOL

    Jennifer Lawrence didn’t get the nomination solely because of Sasha, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t one of her most vocal supporters, so accusing her of being anti-Lawrence is ludicrous.

  84. its soo funny reading all ur replies and how Sasha’s got some sorta power to determine who’s to be nominated or not.. I am a great fan of Sasha… all her reviews moved me. Including this one.. cant wait to see the movie and how Chastain worked in that film. I hope she’ll win for this movie.

  85. and Sasha, its better for you to get disquss installed in this website. It’d be more organized

  86. Des Brown

    Read the TIME review this morning and the film sounds gripping. It’s so much about the here and now that I think it really has the edge for Best Picture. THE MASTER and ARGO are loosing ground fast. It’s unlikely DJANGO UNCHAINED and THE HOBBIT will be contenders. So I can the see the fight for Best Picture a three way one between LES MISERABLES, LINCOLN and DARK THIRTY ZERO.

  87. it is really great to have many excellent films this year Lincoln being in front.

  88. Great overview and my interest levels have seriously gone up on this film. HOWEVER …… how come you got comments up so quickly about ZDT and yet we still have complete silence with Les Miz? You made one comment that confirms Les Miz is NOT feel good but then neither is the show – it physically drains …… but I really hope you plan on putting us out of our misery soon. Or could it be that you see Les Miz as a serious contender and you don’t want to give too much hype because you favour another movie????? TKS v TSN !!!!!!!

  89. Bob Burns

    Do we really need to go through sexism 101 again?

    When a woman director makes a serious war film with a female lead who more than holds her own in a man-land, it’s news and Sasha is right to report it. period.

    She’s also right to celebrate it, as I do and many other men and women.

    The bottom line is the film. if it’s good, give it praise and awards. Overcoming sexism seems to be a subtext of the film a worthy one given the transformation underway within the military…. more reason to praise the film. period.

    What I read from some here is that Sasha isn’t objective about films about women…. sounds creepily like the argument that Judge Walker should have disqualified himself from the Prop 8 trial. Wait… it’s just creepy, no qualifiers.

  90. Jessica Chastain for the Oscar and Tony next year.

  91. @Lynn-That’s my impression right or wrong.

    Bottom line is that Lawrence took a role that no one foresaw as a serious Oscar contender and made it one by her acting. I’ll reserve judgment otherwise, but this site has been pushing Zero Dark Thirty to remarkable degrees even before anyone ever saw the film. Hopefully it’s all a matter of merit and not a matter of politics.

  92. If Hurt Locker’s win disqualifies Bigelow from winning again so soon, why doesn’t that argument also apply to Hooper?

  93. There are too many furious fans of the Hunger Games praising Jennifer Lawrence, that starting to bother me. Please go to school.

  94. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    how come you got comments up so quickly about ZDT and yet we still have complete silence with Les Miz?

    There’s no review embargo on Zero Dark Thirty. No one is supposed to be publishing official reactions to Les Mis for a couple of weeks. So until the embargo on Les Mis is lifted, there’s plenty more time for you guys to cook up paranoid suspicions about hidden agendas.

    Sasha and Craig did discuss Les Mis on the the podcast last night when we hooked up to record. Sasha will have that uploaded later today.

    Here’s something to consider — some people are not going to like Les Mis. Hard to believe, I know. But some of you will need to steel yourself for the possibility that it will not receive unanimous standing ovations. Not everyone who fails to sail over the moon about Les Mis is an evil person.

  95. re: torture – “I think it shows both sides of it.”

    There’s only one side to it.

  96. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    A lot of reviews I’ve read stated the screenplay is fine, but the dialogue is cringewrothy…”I’m the MFer that’ll get Osama”, etc.

    That’s a misquote. Now somebody will misquote your misquote.

    How about a link to “a lot of reviews” so we can see what you actually read. Or you could just go find the sentences that have you worried and copy-paste one of them.

  97. As my memory recalls when the season started Jennifer Lawrence was being championed in the “supporting actress” category and not the lead. This kind of reminds me of the True Grit predicament. I think in the True Grit case it cost Halle the Supporting Oscar. The same thing could easily happen with Lawrence.

    I wasn’t a real fan of Lawrence until I saw her in the Hunger Games. I’m still not a big fan of that movie on a critical basis but I sure did like enough as escapism to actually buy the damn thing and have watched it numerous times. What clips I’ve seen of Lawrence in Silver it seems to me she turns in a damn good performance. The question is is it a supporting performance or a lead. I’ll figure that out when I see it later this week.

    I’m a very big fan of Chastain. I really even liked her performance in The Debt which I think was underrated as a film. But as I said in an eariler comment the film leaves me cold and if it runs longer than Lincoln ain’t no way you’re getting me into a theater.

    I hate to say this but I’ve put off seeing Beasts and have based my opinions on Beasts from the reviews and what I trusted I’ve read here. It’s available now On Demand and so I caught the 10 minute preview. Felt to me more like a documentary than a film but it was a preview afterall. What I do think is that if anything impacts Wallis as a contender for Best Actress at this point as I haven’t seen the entire film yet it’s her age. The boys from Shoeshine never won any awards for their performances. The children in Fanny and Alexander never won any awards for their performances. The boy in the Bicycle Thief never won an award for his performance. The boys in Au Revoir Les Enfants never won any awards for their performance. Judy Garland who was amazing as a child actress never won an Oscar. Shirley Temple has to suffice with a Special Oscar. Children as a focal point of a film rarely win Oscars or any other film award. Tatum O’Neal is really the exception rather than the benchmark. It just doesn’t happen so I don’t even think that Wallis will get a nomination.

    I do think however that with Amour having almost the highest critical rating of all the films we’ve been talking about that the woman to watch is going to be Emmanuelle Riva. I think she’ll pick up steam as the critic awards begin to fall out and I really think with the history of the LAFC that she may very well win there and has a good chance at winning in New York. If that happens then Riva is the one who will be the one who could change the Oscar race for Best Actress. Remember Riva is older and has been around a very long time and if everything everyone says about the geriatric status of the Academy counts for anything then she may well be the one to get the attention.

  98. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    If Hurt Locker’s win disqualifies Bigelow from winning again so soon, why doesn’t that argument also apply to Hooper?

    It does.

  99. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    I’ll wait for other people’s opinin because it was obvious that you will be thrilled.

    I hope you have the patience to wait until yesterday.

  100. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    how come you got comments up so quickly about ZDT and yet we still have complete silence with Les Miz?

    Ryan is correct. There is a review embargo. Also, I didn’t exactly want to start writing about a film that didn’t appeal to me personally. That doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to you or to many others. But how do I write about something I had no connection to? I don’t want to write a negative piece. That’s not my style so I will let the people who loved it do the talking. Ditto Silver Linings Playbook. Although the latter was a film I at least understood. I guess I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan? I don’t know. But it was a frantic, loud, strange pop opera. Many people around me were crying but I only cried at Hathaway’s part. Many people were clapping at the end and I wanted to but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Does that satisfy your question? My apologies. I don’t like bringing this public.

  101. SallyinChicago

    I want to see it, I love Bigelow,…..but at over 2-1/2 hours? And then Les Miserables at 3 hours? WTF hollywood? That’s like babysitting half a day….what happened to the 2 hour movie?

  102. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Sasha, do you think it will get a screenplay prize? I’m rooting for silver lining’s, saw it today and it gave me all the emotions a human being could experience!

    I currently believe Silver Linings is the only movie that can beat Lincoln. That’s just my own thoughts on the race. Lincoln will win screenplay if they have a brain in their collective heads.

  103. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    - re: torture – “I think it shows both sides of it.”

    – There’s only one side to it.

    Whew. End of discussion. Sure glad that’s settled.

  104. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Winston says: “The split second you start throwing around tired taglines like “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” you lose credibility.”

    then Winston says: “if I was truly cynical I would say that the feminist angle was a ploy on the part of the filmmakers to use as awards bait.”

    The split second you start throwing around tired taglines like Feminist Angle, you lose credibility.

    Wait, no. You lost credibility a split second earlier when you said you think the film is historically flimsy. You think so? Based on… all the CIA files you’ve read? Based on seeing the movie and spotting a bunch of factual errors?

    Or just based on your cynicism?

    if I was truly cynical I would say that the feminist angle was a ploy on the part of the filmmakers to use as awards bait.

    Let’s break that down. You did say it. So there’s no “if.” You are truly cynical.

  105. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Thanks Ryan! Feminist blog – pro-Obama blog, a blog that discusses racism, Fincher fangirl. Yup, heard ‘em all. Feminism isn’t a bad word. I for once am tired of the status quo. It has resulted in nearly 100% of the Best Picture nominees being about white males. Surely that has to bother any thinking person.

  106. rufussondheim

    Les Miz is not Andrew Lloyd Weber.

    It’s easy to identify an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. There’s just four songs in it that are used over and over again until it practically forces one to admit they know the location of the nearest Al-Qaeda sleeper cell.

    But Sasha does hit on one of the problems of Les Miz that’s only been mentioned briefly here, it packs a lot of plot into the story and it can be a bit confusing when you first experience it.

  107. rufussondheim

    I’m rooting for silver lining’s, saw it today and it gave me all the emotions a human being could experience!

    Funny, the only emotion I experienced was regret.

    It’s kind of pissing me off that Silver Linings is getting all of the attention when Perks of Being a Wallflower was infinitely better and covered much of the same territory, but in a much more interesting, touching, sincere and ultimately satisfying way.

  108. Hey Sasha,

    Thanks for the thoughts on ZD30; can’t wait to see it as I’m one who believes Chastain to be one of the best of her generation.

    Just an fyi, Les Miserables is not Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s Boublil and Schonberg (same writers as Miss Saigon). Just curious if you, generally speaking, are not a musical fan? Certainly understand musicals are not everyone’s cup of tea, so just curious your general thoughts on musicals.

  109. Julian Walker

    Enough of this damn Chastain vs Lawrence talk!! How about some of the supporting cast in this film?? How’s Mark Strong, or Joel Edgerton or Kyle Chandler?

    Damn! Talk about something other than the whole Chastain debate! I’m going into this film not for her but for the story.

  110. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Les Miz is not Andrew Lloyd Weber.

    Well what is it then?

  111. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Whew. End of discussion. Sure glad that’s settled.

    XD

  112. I’m excited to see this (although I know I’ll inevitably and unfortunately compare Jessica Chastain to Claire Danes’ character in Homeland…) but I thought I would mention something that happened during my theater at home while viewing Lincoln this weekend…

    A longer trailer for ZDT came on and afterwards the crowd, which was a decent variety of people and quite full, seemed to have a consensus of “Jeez….this already?” From almost all of the audible comments behind me, it seemed like this movie sort of repulsed them or seemed ridiculous/cheap to them. For example: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” “That’s a movie now?” “They’ll make a movie out of anything these days…” Weird.

    Middle East war movies have never done very well at the box office. Do you think the general public will differ for this one? Will it affect it’s Oscar chances. Just something to think about.

  113. The way fanboys/girls freak out over different opinions is comical and a bit sad. They feel threatened by the slightest opposition. Relax and enjoy the films.

  114. It’s the ole “whore with a heart of gold” story. It ALWAYS wins Oscars. Going back to the day when Shirley Jones won a Supporting Oscar for “Elmer Gantry” circa 1961.

    Jennifer Lawrence is this year’s WWAHOG. That USUALLY wins Oscars. However, should Jessica Chastain win Best Actress at the New York Film Critics next we’ll really have a race on our hands.

    I can see the National Board of Review going for Chastain, too. She’s considered a New York actress(Juilliard) and the NBR has more women voters in it(and gay men) than any other voting body. They are the majority in fact, I think.

    And the LA film critics could go for Emmanuelle Riva. They almost ALWAYS pick a foreign actress in a foreign film.

    Sasha wrote ssssooooo many articles on Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” that I feel basically that J-Law owes Sasha her career ~ at the Oscars.

    Sasha did the same thing for Melissa Leo back in the “Frozen River” period.

    She’s very effective when championing women in indies. The same thing might even happen for Ann Dowd in Supporting for “Compliance”. Who else but Sasha(and myself) had been championing Dowd to that extent.

    I just wonder what HW will do if Chastian wins the NYFCC & the NBR and Riva wins the LAFC? That gives Lawrence Zero Dark Three.

  115. Thanks for clarifying on the Les Miz embargo. I guess my expectations were a little too high that you may come back and just give a comment – “it blew me away” or “not my cuppa tea”! I don’t expect it to have mass appeal, no film has that. And my apologies if my comments came across as paranoid. It wasn’t that, it was just a case of we have waited and waited for this film to be seen and when it was there was no reaction on Awardsdaily like on other bloggers sites. I come here first and foremost ………….

  116. steandric

    Well darling Jessica should have made it already if she were to play Valerie Plame in Fair Game last year.

  117. The only description I’ve seen of Chastain’s acting is that she allegedly went the minimalist route. (That’s from the Hollywood Reporter). That doesn’t sound like an actress digging too deep. It sounds like a great role and a great script and an actress that didn’t get in the way. Kind of like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. My idea of acting excellence is more along the lines of Alec Guinness in Bridge On the River Kwai; a true challenge where an actor has to balance things on the edge of a knife and breaths life into the part.

    Not sure Lawrence owes anyone her career. Winter’s Bone took off after Sundance and and you had major publications calling her the most talented actress of her generation. But I went back and looked. It’s unfair to say anyone from this site is anti-Lawrence. Whether this site has an unhealthy infatution with Chastain is another story. :)

  118. And here’s that report! Wonderful. I’m looking forward to ZD30 and the word-of-mouth has been exceptional.

  119. Winston > I don’t recall Sasha pimping out Jessica Chastain for Best Supporting Actress in The Help. But, Chastain in ZD30 may be another story.

  120. I have no interest in seeing a movie that presents a circumstance where the torturing of prisoners by U.S. personnel is acceptable behavior. There is no such circumstance.

  121. Let’s all take a step back here a moment. Sasha, whether you agree with her or not has championed many actresses at this site and I’ve never got the feeling that she championed them for any other reason than she liked or believed in the performance. I certainly for one have not agreed with some of her choices but to rail her for them seems to me a bit of a mistake. She did champion Jennifer Lawrence but there’s no way that Lawrence owes her career to blog. Ya gotta perform a little to keep getting work unless you’re doing Porn and then all you have to do is take your clothes off and have good breasts and a great ass. Come on people let’s real here or a least a bit objective. The only issue I’ve ever really had with some of the championing has been when it’s been based on other issues rather than a performance.

  122. Winston, just because a performance isn’t flashy (=minimalist route), doesn’t mean it can’t be extraordinary or that it didn’t require ‘digging deep’, it simply means it didn’t have the luxury of conveniently flashy acting opportunities, like for example mental illness.

    P.S. Before you convince yourself that the stellar early word is just our imagination, take a look at these :

    Pete Hammond (Deadline)
    “Chastain is simply remarkable in the role and a certain Oscar nominee for Best Actress in playing a person who becomes obsessed over the course of several years in finding and killing bin Laden. It’s a fascinating, singular portrait of blind ambition toward a greater cause. She nails it.”

    Drew McVeeny (Hitfix)
    “Jessica Chastain does a tremendous job as a CIA analyst at the heart of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’…Chastain inhabits this woman fully. It’s a very lived-in performance, and she continues to blow me away in terms of how much technical skill she exhibits as an actor, and yet how natural every choice she makes seems to be. Chastain is one of those performers where I’m sure there’s a ton of craft behind every beat of what she does, but she never appears to be “acting.” ”

    Scott Feinberg (THR)
    “Chastain () essentially is asked to carry a movie for the first time, and she rises to the occasion. As most of us learned last year, she has the talent, looks and charm to be a superstar. ”

    Todd McCarthy (THR)
    “Chastain carries the film in a way she’s never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt.”

  123. @rufussondheim

    Well I am me and you are you, and we definitely have different taste in movies. Question though, why Regret? The movie had a very happy ending, as it should be, and you’re feeling regret. Wonder why….

  124. Sasha,

    My comment above (wayyyy above) was not meant to be an insult at all.

    On a different note, are those “torture” scenes too graphic? I really dont want to be caught off guard. If I know what to expect then I dont chicken out too much when those scenes come to screen:)

    Even though I dont like violent scenes, I think it is plausible to expect such torture scenes in this kinda movie. They are not irrelevant to the topic. I am sure Bigelow wouldnt have those scenes just to have some blood on screen!

  125. rufussondheim

    regret that I didn’t see Red Dawn instead.

  126. @Phantom-That’s nice. I’ve seen her work. Those are the type of reviews Lawrence has gotten since she was 16. (Couldn’t resist).

  127. My nonsense aside, it’s only “on” when Chastain gets a review like this:

    “And you might not even notice that he is there, because Jennifer Lawrence is playing opposite him, and she is — I mean, she is Godzilla stomping a building, she is a Just Blaze beat, she is all the natural disasters at once. Her Tiffany — married to a dead cop whose wedding ring she still wears — is all brave exposed nerves, honest about herself to the point of sadism.”

  128. Zero Dark Thirty is currently 100% on RT after 8 reviews, with an average score of 9.7. Raves from almost everyone who’ve seen it. No shit?

  129. Phantom:

    “but after all these years, have you ever considered the fact that NO film could/should win BP without at least a nomination-worthy screenplay?”

    Avatar was nominated for the WGA’s original screenplay award. And if you really want to pick nits, THL should have been in the *adapted* screenplay field. Fact is, early on, there was enough support from the writing community. If there wasn’t, then wouldn’t have there been an effort to put any film in that final OS slot? ABA; anyone but Avatar?

    “And as stunning as Avatar was to look at, that screenplay was average at best. On paper, a Best Picture HAS TO have it all : directing, writing, acting.”

    In the eyes of the moviegoers, it had all three. Why did people go and see it again and again and again? Because it succeeded in those areas beyond their wildest expectations.

    “In my opinion, Avatar had two of those three, well, more like one and a half : the directing was great, the performances were hit-and-miss with only one real standout (Saldana) and the screenplay was mediocre.”

    If 42 West and its minions didn’t conduct a dishonest, deceitful publicity campaign, scaring the actors branch into believing performance capture technology would be the end of the acting profession, there would’ve been a SAG ensemble nomination as well as Oscar noms for Saldana and Weaver. But the actors were spooked beyond belief, and once you lose the actors’ branch, it’s game over.

    “That simply didn’t add up to a Best Picture victory, something that was obvious the moment they announced the nominations and it didn’t get any in acting and writing. Films can barely win without one of those, but without BOTH?”

    What can I say? Mass osmosis ruled here, a mad rush to honor a woman director above all else. Guilds took leave of their senses in early 2010. Shit happens. The fact she was Cameron’s ex was an extra added bonus. I hope a book comes out one day about just what happened that led to the worst best picture choice of my half-century on this earth.

  130. “worst best picture choice of my half-century on this earth.”

    Good lord, paulh – I had you pegged as a teenager. sorry. carry on.

  131. Re: Ryan is correct. There is a review embargo. Also, I didn’t exactly want to start writing about a film that didn’t appeal to me personally. That doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to you or to many others. But how do I write about something I had no connection to? I don’t want to write a negative piece. That’s not my style so I will let the people who loved it do the talking. Ditto Silver Linings Playbook. Although the latter was a film I at least understood. I guess I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan? I don’t know. But it was a frantic, loud, strange pop opera. Many people around me were crying but I only cried at Hathaway’s part. Many people were clapping at the end and I wanted to but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Does that satisfy your question? My apologies. I don’t like bringing this public.

    I know I’m not the first one to point out that Les Miz is not Weber, but Sasha, it’s important to note that if it were Weber, you probably would have easily “gotten” the film the first time around, (and likely hated it… Weber is a hack). Having come to this site for many years now, I can understand why your consistent championing of films/performances that are positive and interesting representations of female characters can be a little over the top, but I think that the only reason why there is frustration is because the overwhelming bulk of your writing is beautiful, informative, and as objective as possible. Maybe you, (and the readers), need to re-contextualize your reviews as more of an Op-Ed portion of the website. There is the Sasha that wants Chastain to win and the Sasha that thinks Chastain might win. Some people are interested in hearing both sides, but for those of you that are only interested in where Sasha thinks the lowest common denominator is going to fall, just skip her reviews and read the State of the Races.

    As for Les Miz, I have yet to see it, but I have seen the musical more times than I care to admit and judging by the reactions of my friends who have seen the film, I think I will love it. I can only hope that in time and with repeat viewings, you will come around as well, because Les Miz really is one of the all time great musicals.

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