Friday, January 25, 2013

Argo and Silver Linings Playbook

I figured I would include the films in question in the title, to avoid initial confusion on what the post is about. It seems that the most viewed posts are those with a straightforward title. What I have to share this evening is an analysis on two of the major Oscar nominees, all of which are nominated for the big one. Best Picture, obviously. Why place them all in one basket of a post, one may wonder? There happens to be a logical and ever-so unique reason for this, a very unique reason indeed: They are exceptional. Perhaps this statement will look like an exaggeration later on, but for the moment I must express both surprise and jubilation on account of their great, great quality.

Argo - This portion requires significant attention, for there is an error of judgment to be accounted for in addition to praise. Prior to actually watching this film, I have scoffed at the prospect of Ben Affleck directing, let alone him being a sensational director. I have prematurely declared my animosity towards this picture--following the heated events of the Iranian hostage crisis of the 1970s--and targeted my allegiance to Quentin Tarantino's "masterpiece" Django Unchained. Since that was such a great success and I'm being sarcastic here, I figured to try another darling that was heavily followed by the awards circuit. I've been bombarded with glowing reviews on Ben Affleck's magnificent directing feat, sulking in my own loathing and prejudice against any success that faces that goofy man. Yes, I once considered Ben Affleck to be the joke identified by disasters such as Gigli and Surviving Christmas, where he in particular revealed his talent, which was limited to cheesy dialogue and resorted to merely flashing his good-looks grin. In short, I had little, if any, regard for Ben Affleck. With all this out in the open, I must bow my head in ignominy and request forgiveness because: Argo was, indeed, the great film it has been said to be. That required a colon mid-sentence solely to emphasize the shock value of such a statement. I imagine you appear to be shocked, do not attempt to mask your reaction. I, personally, was stunned at my own reception of Argo, a film I figured would not grasp my interest for even twenty minutes. I expected to stop watching barely halfway through, just as I did with Ben Affleck's previous directorial endeavor The Town, yet, almost immediately, I was intrigued. Of course, the topic of the Iranian hostage crisis during the era of shaggy hair-dos and Jimmy Carter did not have me intrigued to begin with, nor did it attract the interest of the general public, I'm sure. (Yet the film maintains a solid box-office to this day, being one of the highest-grossing Best Picture nominees.) However, the content of Argo was anything but dull and uninteresting; throughout the film, I had the urge to continue watching it, delaying certain natural urges whilst watching.
Once you've checked the historical background of the film--because I won't be telling the entire movie--the film is quite informative and even entertaining. Suspense was laced through the film, adding that coveted element of intrigue I mentioned, which heightened my concentration as well as my level of enjoyment. Remarkably, even Ben Affleck himself displayed impressive acting ability here, proving the film's overall amazing quality. Because, if Daredevil can be a fine actor, the entire movie should be held in high regard--one to be reckoned with, as I usually say. Alan Arkin, the only acting nominee of the film, was neither incredible nor awful. Whatever you'd expect of him is what was delivered. Is he really ever different in one role or another? That answer would be absolutely not. He will not be crowned Best Supporting Actor, I guarantee it. Rest assured, I was, surprisingly, greatly satisfied by Ben Affleck's picture. I no longer hesitate in saying that he has accomplished an extraordinary feat: He has crossed the threshold of pretty-boy actor and mediocre director, and reached a status of one worthy of respect. Along with respect, naturally, comes esteem. This leads towards his outrageous Oscar snub in the Directing Achievement field--he failed to receive a nomination this year, losing out to an Austrian (who has no place there) and an amateur (Beasts of the Southern Wild). My former self would not fathom what I am about to say: Ben Affleck was utterly robbed of that place among the best directors of the year. At the Golden Globes, he triumphed, beating Steven Spielberg, who now has the Oscar "in the bag" without Ben Affleck in the running. Perhaps that was the plan all along. Those damn, scheming Academy members. Despite his despicable snub, Argo was an expertly directed picture deserving of the esteem it did receive, and deserves the consideration of everyday viewers also. That means you, readers. Please, if you were as ignorant as I was, please take the time to prove yourselves wrong with Argo. If you even more narrow-minded than I once was, Argo fuck yourselves.

Bravo, Ben Affleck. Sincerely.

Silver Linings Playbook - This film calls for no apology or element of surprise. I expected ingenuity and amusement and was tickled pink to be granted the satisfaction of expectations well met. Although I questioned its value of Oscar worthiness, I was glad to be far from right in those doubtful assumptions. Even though the film itself has that "indie" quality that is often shunned by my watchful eye, it was one of the most endearing films I've seen thus far, of the past year. Silver Linings Playbook possessed sweetness, heart-warming scenes likely to be captured in my memory, and fantastic on-screen chemistry between each cast member. Oh, but allow me to introduce the cast: Bradley Cooper portrays Pat Solitano, who spent time in a mental institution on account of his bi-polar disorder and divorce, and reconnects with his family and a new friend, while fixating on his wife (separated) as well; Jennifer Lawrence by far the greatest performance of the film portrays Tiffany, a recently widowed and troubled young woman who captures the interest of Pat and helps him in his recovery, and unleashes her own personal demons along the away; Robert De Niro portrays Pat Solitano Sr. who clashes with his son oftentimes and has a few obsessive-compulsive habits himself, mainly concerned with sports; and Jacki Weaver as Dolores, Pat's mother, whose meekness and maternal warmth serve as a light accompaniment to the film's overall airiness, much like her delightful culinary appetizers. By that, wouldn't you already have a craving to see what has me aflutter with nothing but praise? Well, maybe the fact that each of these actors has scored an Oscar nomination will add to your drive to watch it? Indeed, each of them has most-deservedly earned a nomination in their respective categories. Meaning Best Leading and Supporting Actor or Actress. Obviously. Do I still have to tell you all this? 
The film is a sheer delight, truly, one that should not be denied the pleasure of being watched. Bradley Cooper, for those skeptical of his dramatic acting prowess based on his stints in comedy, definitely proved his worth here. As someone in serious denial, as someone with strong tendencies towards releasing sudden rage, as someone realizing reality through moments of compatible intimacy--he definitely deserved that Oscar nod. As for that compatible intimacy, the other half of the equation presents itself through Jennifer Lawrence. And, might I say, how simply flawless she was in that impressive undertaking. The role, I mean. It is always a challenge, I'm sure, for actors to portray a character with such penetrating issues, which are accentuated by the death of their spouse; therefore, the task Jennifer Lawrence accepted by taking the role of Tiffany was all the more difficult to deliver well. Well, she most certainly nailed it, to speak commonly. Her performance was marvelous, in every sense of the word, as she masterfully slipped into such a damaged role and improved the expectations of the vision (of the director, I suppose) by making mental uneasiness alluring and even desirable. Not to say she was sexy--even though she was--but she made her problems attractive to a point where I related with her. Not to direct the topic onto me, but I have a few obsessive-compulsive issues of my own, and her confidence made me embrace my own flaws by ignoring the glaring "need to do everything that little voice tells me to do". It's a complicated affliction. How her character relates with Bradley Cooper's is very much believable; her so-called insanity embraces his in a manner that brings them that much closer together, and soon they realize they are perfect for each other. This final realization, of course, is achieved through hours of disagreement and acquaintance, and, as a viewer, I can say that this process is totally worth it on account of the delightful amusement that accompanies it. Jennifer Lawrence deserves every single word of flattery she is so far receiving, which does not exclude a certain golden statuette to honor her performance. 
Robert De Niro, in a daunting supporting role, shines in the background as a revered Hollywood actor who proves to blend right in the cozy atmosphere of this "indie" picture. As always, the legendary actor expresses humility by assuming such an under-the-radar role as a sport-obsessed man prone to gambling and organizing his remote controls just so. (I realize that Silver Linings Playbook is far from unnoticed, based on its astounding eight Oscar nominations, but, one must admit that this is the sort of film to pass by unrecognized. Though, based on my own reception I'm glad that it did not. Go by unrecognized.) In his Oscar comeback, after an eleven-year hiatus since Cape Fear, Robert De Niro most deservedly hones a place among the honorary. I enjoyed each fleeting moment with him on the screen, most notably when he fights with his son in a battle of mental instability and basic rage over their personal demons. The overall father-son relationship between Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro is so adorable and, subsequently, a nod towards their skill as actors as well as their on-screen chemistry. Exquisite display, if I do declare. Do not be dissuaded by the lengthy title, as my dad nearly was, for the film is an absolute pleasure in all ways imaginable. It has the pleasant air of a romantic comedy, yet the serious undertone of a drama--a dramedy, if you will. There is nothing corny, nothing tragic, nothing downright silly. One would call it the perfect film of the year. I would be that one.

Sensational couple.

Well, there you have it. Two genuinely entertaining films that just so happen to be significant Oscar contenders. If my own accounts of these films have not yet convinced you to experience them on your own, I cannot help you there. It's your decision of avoiding such cinematic entertainment as I have just described. By all means, deprive yourselves of that. Or, perhaps you will take interest in this year's awards season by taking a chance on a seemingly dull history-centric piece about Iran, and a seemingly ordinary comedy-slash-drama romance about two troubled victims of circumstance. I highly recommend the latter, meaning the path I said last. As for the time being, be grateful that I had an incredible urge to write in my severe state of exhaustion. I have to get up early in the morning. Good night, and good luck.

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