THE VERDICT – Best Motion Picture: 2012

I was actually planning of allotting this whole month of May for this year, but since my time was enough and my enthusiasm in writing unusually pumped me to produce the best picture profiles of all the nominees in a short period of time, after less than a week of journeying this year, here are the results.

# 9 to # 6 is really confusing, and any of the four might go ahead of the other if I had posted the results on a different day. They are entirely diverse films, and I hope I will be able to revisit them to give them another chance (Maybe, they will end up having a rating of 5 as well! Who could say?).

# 5 is actually more of a 4.5, but I give it that rating because between 4 and 5, that film leans towards the latter. # 4 also sits comfortably in that position.

The top 3 were so hard to rank because seriously, any of the three could have been my choices and I will be pleased. With those three, I used the denominator of what film stayed with me the most. Of course, all of them did, but more on the severity of the staying power.

And with that, I give you THE VERDICT!

You can click on the titles for their profiles.





9. Lincoln

This film strongly starts this group of nominees. The execution is flawless, the performances are terrific, and the whole environment feels very authentic. That is really admirable for a period film. I cannot imagine the amount of work put into every bit of detail, and the final product shows it.

4Best Performance: Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Best Scene: Humiliation of Thaddeus Stevens at the party




8. Amour

Shockingly realistic performances fulfil the film’s heartbreaking but surprisingly distant observation of a couple’s agony in trying to survive amidst the challenges in their relationship caused by the woman’s illness. Its bone-deep examination of the characters is haunting and unforgettable.


Best Performance: Emmanuelle Riva as Anne Laurent

Best Scene: Georges forcing Anne to drink water




7. Django Unchained

Explosively entertaining though somewhat uneven, the film is held up by the strong cast who supply flawless work in this entirely amusing Western saga from its ever exciting director. It is a brutal but undeniably engaging to watch and the material definitely top caliber. Watch out for the amount of blood – ‘explosive’ really defines that!


Best Performance: Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz

Best Scene: Dinner before the stand-off




6. Argo

The more I think about the film, the more I realize how good it is. There are actually few flaws in terms of the actual execution, just lots of ‘could-have-been-better’ moments, especially in the film’s final act. Still, the film is extremely effective in conveying the ever-lingering sense of threat that makes the experience more gripping.


Best Performance: Bryan Cranston as Jack O’ Donnell

Best Scene: Afternoon visit at the bazaar




5. Life of Pi

The priority given to the question whether God exists is the same as to the answer given by showing the spectacle of everything that happened to the lead character. The visuals are breathtaking, and what goes with that is a really cathartic experience for the eyes, for the heart, and ultimately, for the soul.

5Best Performance: Suraj Sharma at Piscine “Pi” Patel

Best Scene: Afternoon storm in the sea




4. Silver Linings Playbook

This is an intelligent romantic-comedy that is not afraid to go darker at times. The handling of the mental illness in the story is sensitive, and the development of the romance is absorbing to watch. And to see Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence do a duet of acting flair is just as mesmerizing as their onscreen romance.


Best Performance: Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell

Best Scene: Tiffany and Pat’s Halloween date




3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Unlike any other film this year or in any other year, here is a vibrant and completely original story of a child’s viewpoint as she faces the entire magnificence of the universe. Told with an energetic eagerness and urgency, this film has its own pulse and its own soul: this is a lively tribute to childhood and to life.


Best Performance: Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy

Best Scene: Wink’s reminder to Hushpuppy – “No crying”




2. Zero Dark Thirty

If I am complaining the lack of courage in Argo, then this film takes every bit of risk along the way, giving a dauntingly immediate chronicling of a woman’s efforts to capture an icon of terrorism. The relevance to today’s society is present, making the film a more captivating one. The last thirty minutes of the film are sheer breathtaking filmmaking.


Best Performance: Jessica Chastain as Maya

Best Scene: Night raid at the bin Laden’s compound




1. Les Miserables

Victorious in every single way in utilizing every cinematic component to bring to life this classic epic, Les Miserables totally brings every possible fragment of human emotion to the screen to create a certainty of mastery not only in the knowledge of the craft and the artistry of making films, but the deep understanding of the material and of its soul. This film will endure the test of time, I tell you.


Best Peformance: Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

Best Scene: “One Day More”




Well, that escalated quickly.

I admit I was a bit too enthusiastic these past days that I was able to finish this year in less than a week, considering that this year have nine nominees! I am happy with my choice, and though not all of them earned 5 Meryls, all are strong films that could have all been worthy choices. The Academy went with the surprisingly conventional Argo, but it is a really finely made thriller.

And for a short tribute to my choice for this year, here is a terrific video from Youtube, “One Man Les Miserables” by Nick Pitera. Such an amazing video!

Next year to be discussed will be announced next week. I hope that I will be able to slow down a bit (mygosh, that adrenaline rush!).

For the next year, here are the clues:

  • Yes or No?
  • Silence or Sound?
  • Nature or Grace?

What’s you pick? Do you agree with the Academy, or with me, or you have a different choice?

Best Picture Profile: Argo


Directed by: Ben Affleck

Written by: Chris Terrio

Produced by: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov

Runtime: 120 minutes


Many Americans working in the US Embassy in Iran are held as hostages during that unfortunate event when Iranian revolutionaries decide to finally break in the embassy. However, six of the employees were able to escape and they were given refuge by the Canadian ambassador in the country. The US government starts to conceptualize the different possible means to get the six out of Iran.

One night, as Tony Mendez, a CIA specialist, is talking to his son through phone while watching a sci-fi/fantasy film on television, he gets an idea to retrieve the escapees: to make a fake movie where the six will act as Canadian filmmakers scouting for location in Iran. With the help of a distinguished make-up artist and an acclaimed film producer, they set up everything: the film studio, the publicity, and the whole production to develop Argo, a new science fantasy film.

However, not much time is left, especially for Mendez, to execute their ultimate mission when shredded papers from the embassy are started to be reassembled and it is discovered that some of the embassy personnel, referring to the six employees, have indeed escaped.

Ben Affleck has been welcomed to Hollywood as a serious director through Gone Baby Gone. It is further established by his next feature The Town. Both are well-made, but true to what many have observed, he has continually grown as a filmmaker, and what we have here is actually his best film yet. This film demonstrates the level of expertise Affleck has already achieved in the art of storytelling. Every scene is threaded with a visible knowledge in control of the craft and understanding of the confidence in narrative needed for the material to work.

It is good material, by the way; a potent and surprisingly funny one, thanks to Chris Terrio’s clever screenplay. But when you watch the movie, it is all about Ben Affleck giving his best as the film’s director. My only qualm for giving his work the recognition a great directorial work would get from me is that he did not go for the daring and the dangerous. You see, I do not have any problems with films sticking to the convention; I am completely fine with that. But when you have this kind of material, one should at least realize the potential that there can be a riskier and bolder treatment for the material. That stops me from giving the film the utmost reverence. It could have been really more than a very well-made. I am specifically pointing at the film’s final act. It is a very thrilling climax for the film.


My other complaint also stems from the fact that the ending is not in sync with the film’s stream of threat. This is also Affleck’s problem with The Town, and sadly, it is still seen here. Again, do not have anything against heart-warming endings; I love those kinds of endings. But when you have a thriller that relentlessly creates an atmosphere of dread throughout all its suspenseful machinations and moments of biting humor, I do not think that a soft-hearted ending fits to become the closing moment of the film. But to just clarify things, I am far from being a hater of this film. The work is commendable, and I am sure it is successful to me the same way that it is to others, but my preference for a more complex and intrepid final act slightly diminishes my high regard for this film.

Every cinematic aspect is in its top form: the polished cinematography, the superb editing, effective sound work, and excellent music score, among other things. And what the film deserved in that point is an audacious treatment to it. Not that the execution is not notable. It is, but there is a small feeling inside me saying that it could have been more. And when the moment of realization comes to me, it somewhat lessens the impact of the film. It is still potent work, however.

As Affleck is left with the biggest task of being the film’s visionary, he also has the task of carrying the film as the lead character Tony Mendez, and what he does in his role is worth mentioning. He keeps his interpretation of this man Mendez grounded in truth and honesty; it is a low-key role appropriated with a subdued performance that serve the film’s purpose. Also in display are the solid performances of Bryan Cranston as the Mendez’s supervisor, John Goodman as the make-up artist, and Alan Arkin as the film producer, among others.

The film really has the makings of a really strong thriller film, and it is. However, one cannot help but notice what it could have been. It could have been more, and I mean it, a lot more than it is. And I am saying this while taking into consideration the fact that the filmmakers, especially Affleck, has shown signs that they are capable of doing something extraordinary, but right at that very moment when the first cliché, one can be really frustrated by the fact that the film can be better than that. However, I will not take away anything from the film’s worth: it is a gripping political thriller.

For this, the film gets:

4Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Zero Dark Thirty

zdtDirected by: Kathryn Bigelow

Written by: Mark Boal

Produced by: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison

Runtime: 157 minutes


Maya did not have a life outside the search for Osama bin Laden. Since the start of his career, all she did was to trace the locations and the connections that will lead her to bin Laden, no matter what is needed to be done. Even torture, she uses to force suspected people to reveal information about bin Laden. During this search, she is led to someone whose alias is Abu Ahmed and is said to be bin Laden’s personal messenger. For years, all she did was to search in the files containing confidential data and information to eventually trace the whereabouts of this Abu Ahmed which might be an important factor in the search for bin Laden.

As it turns out, Abu Ahmed is Ibrahim Sayeed and Ibrahim had a brother named Habib whose photo is used by the CIA and is associated with Abu Ahmed because of their resemblance. Through continuous surveillance, Maya is convinced that Abu Ahmed is indeed still in connection with bin Laden. This leads to the rigorous scrutiny of the CIA to finally confirm whether bin Laden is indeed inside the compound where Maya so strongly believes is his residence. And by the order of the President, a raid was executed in the compound.

Thinking about it now, I must say that the material that they had is extremely dangerous because it is definitely political in nature and it would definitely keep many people away from this film. Luckily, in the hands of Kathryn Bigelow, the director of the anti-war masterpiece The Hurt Locker, the material is given the same amount of respect with edge. The film is full of really brave directorial choices and they are all seamlessly threaded together by the robust screenplay by Mark Boal. The film is as interested with the battle against terrorism the same way it is interested with Maya’s battle with herself, and the latter is actually given a very careful treatment.

What really fascinates me with this film is the persistence in finding the core of the story. The film is more than a way of showcasing America’s efforts to finally kill one of the world’s top leaders of terrorism. It is how someone who is so dedicated in this goal of hers that it already builds her personality the same way that it deconstructs her life because of the amount of the dedication the job requires. Maya’s struggles are completely universal, and the screenplay understands that, and finally, the direction gives the story a much humanized backdrop for the ensuing events. The moments of terror are executed with very visible display of expertise in filmmaking, but what makes it a lot more terrifying is the morality play the film actually subtly presses on beneath all the painstaking work Maya and the government has to go through in achieving their goal.


I would also be confident to say that the film gives attention to the technique the same way that it does in the storytelling process. The brilliance goes from the austere cinematography to the skilful editing to the adept sound work and even to the film’s haunting musical score. The thought allotted to the different technical parts help a lot in carrying out the film’s vision of a completely fleshed out retelling of this sinister part of our history.

Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton, and Jennifer Ehle supply the film with an authentic aura of intelligence to make the setting of the film feel genuine with all of these characters, but when we talk about Zero Dark Thirty, we really talk about two strong women: one onscreen, one off-screen. Of course, Bigelow was the latter and Jessica Chastain obviously was the former.

Jessica Chastain has officially put herself into the pedestal of these actresses that can possibly do anything. She immediately climbs up beside Meryl Streep (the comparison between the two are understandable), Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, among other actresses, with her strong work from 2011’s The Tree of Life and The Help and this film is no exception.

Her characterization of Maya is fully realized, astonishingly detailed, and rivetingly multi-layered. She masterfully underplays any kind of vulnerability to show us this disturbing toughness necessitated by the process that this woman undergoes through in achieving her ultimate goal of capturing bin Laden. Only an actress of high calibre could possibly do this role any justice, and luckily, the film had Chastain to provide Maya the fierce and strong facade that the environment dictates her to be. It is quite exhilarating to see her move around while armed with grace, beauty, and uncompromising determination. By giving a completely electrifying but totally nuanced and haunting portrayal of this woman Maya, Chastain has confirmed her status as a great actress.

Lastly, I would like to praise again for its no-prisoners attitude of executing the scenes. Nothing is hidden in this gripping account of the struggle one woman has endured for sake of almost everyone. Everything is executed with immediacy and urgency. It is a fearless story told in a fearless manner and is done with fearless usage of the technique, giving us nothing but a completely fearless film.

For this, the film gets:

5Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Django Unchained

djangoDirected by: Quentin Tarantino

Written by: Quentin Tarantino

Produced by: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher

Runtime: 165 minutes


Django is an African American slave who has been separated from his wife Broomhilda. One night, his owners, the Speck Brothers, were shot dead by Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter, freeing him and the others slaves chained with Django. Now, Dr. Schultz and Django make a deal: Django will help Schultz in finding the Brittle Brothers while Schultz, moved by the feeling of responsibility, will help Django look for his separated wife. As the pair arrived in Mississippi, Schultz discovers that Broomhilda is currently owned by Calvin Candie, the charismatic but sadistic owner of a plantation called Candyland.

Now, Schultz and Django plan the scheme to get Broomhilda from Candie: to involve her in an intriguing “ridiculous offer” in exchange for one of Candie’s fighter. Things does not go quite as planned when Stephen, Candie’s steadfastly loyal house slave, immediately express to Candie his concern that there is a very strong possibility that Django and Broomhilda know each other and the deal to be made with Schultz involving his fighter is just a mere front. This raises suspicion to Candie, and his agitation becomes the trigger to the ensuing scenes of violence involving the deal.

It is quite known to everyone that Quentin Tarantino is such a distinctive filmmaker and there is a certain high regard to his work. Equal to that is the pressure put to him in making a string of great films. His last outing, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, surely did not disappoint. In fact, I think it is the best of that year. This one pales a bit in comparison, but the end product nevertheless is rock-solid entertainment.

Tarantino is never afraid of playing around with the material that he has given because he fully knows it, given that he wrote it. His screenplay is again an intelligent one and able of simultaneously reconciling humor and violence at the same time. It is quite obvious that as a director and a screenwriter, he opts for the fearless than the flawless, not that he does not care if his films are flawless or not. But here is someone who has a voice and he is not afraid if it is all right with everyone.

Like what I said, he opts for the fearless than the flawless, and it is quite obvious during the last thirty minutes of the film where it slightly goes off track to actually wrap the narrative with a bang that is either too ridiculous to actually work or simply not as intelligent as the rest of the film. I for one think that there could have been a better ending, but here we are with that ending, and though very well-executed, it is not as well thought of as the rest of the film. It does not achieve the brilliance of the ending of Inglourious Basterds, but the ending itself is quite remarkable, bringing to us a shocking last image that has a staying power. And like the ending, the film has that power to stick with the audience, but I am sure that there could have been more chiseling off of the excesses.


The cinematography completely goes for the violence embedded throughout the film. The choice of dominating warm colors adds to the stealthy threat imbued by each scene. It is quite a brilliant work, actually. The editing also fares well, though like my own disappointment in comparison with Tarantino’s last work, there could have been more tightening done. Some scenes, I think, could have been composed in a much more menacing manner, but when we also have some really tense scenes here that quite surpass the tension of other films (the dinner scene before the stand-off is really a heart-throbbing moment), it should be acknowledged accordingly. The music complements to the air of ridicule strongly present in the film. Also, kudos to the production design and costume design that are simply worth mentioning.

As with any other Tarantino film, what we have here is a strong ensemble of actors giving life to the rapid-fire intellect of the screenplay.

Jamie Foxx does a fine work as the title character. He is fit for the role, and while I do not think that he actually did wonders in this role nor did I think that he is the most interesting thing in the film, the fact that I see that he feels comfortable with his role and that he does justice to the role is enough with me.

The other actors actually outshine the lead actor. The other lead actor, Christoph Waltz, is nothing short of amazing as Dr. King Schultz. I had my initial doubts with him before seeing the film, fearing that it would be Hans Landa all over again, but I eventually was proven wrong by that. The only similarity is the razor-sharp delivery of the lines that is totally due to Waltz; he has mastered how to handle difficult bunches of dialogue and deliver it as if they were that easy to say.

Leonardo DiCaprio had never been this terrifyingly larger-than-life as Calvin Candie. I have seen almost all of the important performances of his career (he is actually my favourite actor), and to see him reach this high level of intensity as the monstrously merciless antagonist is a real accomplishment that must be seen to be believed. Every line is spoken with a petrifying touch of peril that makes Calvin Candie a truly effective villain.

Kelly Washington and Samuel L. Jackson provide invaluable supporting work that can really attest to their acting skills, both giving performances that completes the brutal world of the film by showing the different dimensions of the violence present in the story.

As I reach my last paragraph, I must apologize for continuously comparing this film with Tarantino’s other works. I know a film must be judged according to its own merit, but because of the kind of filmmaker that Tarantino is, I am sorry but I cannot help but to compare. I repeat, the film pales a bit in comparison with Inglourious Basterds and it definitely does not belong to its company, but I think this might go with Pulp Fiction as a really strong Tarantino film that one can see. Now that is a good company.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Lincoln

lincolnDirected by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Tony Kushner

Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

Runtime: 150 minutes


America is in Civil War, but President Abraham Lincoln believes that the war will end soon. In accordance to that, he starts the aggressive effort to finally pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the one which would finally put an end to slavery. What he is doing is not supported by the popular opinion due to differences in interests, principles, and priorities. Conflicts between the Republicans, Democrats, and the Confederate government initially become hindrances to the immediate passing of the amendment, but as President Lincoln remains immovable, his quest to pass the amendment continues amidst his own personal crisis with his unstable wife Mary.

After the film was released, many people have hailed this film as Spielberg’s finest motion picture since, I do not know, I guess Saving Private Ryan. And while I do not fully embrace the notion, I understand the logic behind those kind words because it is indeed a very finely crafted film that is unlike any other biopic that I can recall. There is a certain air of authenticity in the whole milieu that can only be pointed to the filmmaking process, and Steven Spielberg, being a very competent director himself, is the one mainly responsible for that.

Not a single second of the film do I doubt the legitimacy of the whole setting, and it is due to the strong showing of the directing prowess. He is definitely under control, and it is quite evident in the scenes where he skilfully lets the actors breathe the air in the scenes and move around the space and capturing those moments with an uncontainable love for technique and detail. In those small moments, he proves that he has already mastered the craft of turning reality to cinema and vice versa.

As far as we all know that a talky film like this relies on the actors to give life to these characters, it is Tony Kushner’s deft screenplay that provides a sharp backbone to the story. The way each scene is written, there is an obvious amount of focus that suffices in the proceedings, making each subplot cohesive with the others. Obviously, the screenplay gets the spotlight in this film, and it is no way near a bad idea. It is furnished by the display of appropriated knowledge. The jargon is not alienating nor is it too generic for it to sound awkward. The choice of words contributes to the over-all intricacy present in the film.


Ace cinematography tops the list of the technical merits of this film, pitting the dark with the light and the area in between to further add the necessary shading to the film to make the whole environment seem tangible. The editing provokes an ambience of unhurried but insightful tactility of the different dimensions of each movement in the story. The music shows emotional restraint that very well suits the tone of the narrative. The production design even impresses more with the amount of care in handling the details in the creation of the environment. It is a really solid work that reflects the utmost dedication to specificity by the filmmaker and the same goes with the costume design.

And we are left with the actors who had done exemplary work in their roles. Daniel Day-Lewis is admirable as the title character, giving all in creating this character and surprisingly doing it with full restraint and control. It is quite perceptible that he knows the psyche of the character and acts, moves, talks, and behaves in accordance to that. In the end, what we have here is a virtuoso work from a masterful actor.

In the other end of ht spectrum but still in sync with the film’s over-all tone is Sally Field as the disturbed and worried First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. She only has a few scenes to really flesh out her character, and she takes advantage of that to craft a fascinating and enigmatic character of a woman whose inability to take hold of what is around her is the same as her ability to actually show her love for her husband and her children; making Mary Todd a captivating character.

Aside from Field, almost all of the significant characters in the film are men, and they are all played by a group of actors that gave solid work: David Strathairn, Michael Stuhlbarg, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, and particularly Tommy Lee Jones. Also not to be forgotten is Gloria Reuben as Mary Todd’s personal assistant/maid.

Bottom line is that the film is a very strong production from a distinguished filmmaker. We all know that Spielberg could pull this off, it is just the matter of how will he be able to do this. He mostly succeeds. My only hold back stems from the fact that I would have wanted an ample amount of sentimentality enough for me to care more for the characters. I know, many criticize Spielberg for being too much of a sentimental filmmaker (his 2011 film War Horse would be a perfect example), and his decision to tone it down a bit has earned him some really high admiration. But because of the source material, I would have wished for a tiny amount of sentimentality. Still, I cannot discount the over-all impact of the film.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Life of Pi

lifeofpiDirected by: Ang Lee

Written by: David Magee

Produced by: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark

Runtime: 127 minutes


Pi Patel has lived a dynamic life. He has been constantly bullied in school because of his real name. He and his family lived in a zoo for they are the caretakers. He tried to befriend their tiger Richard Parker, but his father did not allow him. He has also fallen in love with a beautiful lady from a dancing class. Lastly, his family is about to embark on a trip by water to Canada. One unfortunate night, a storm caused the ship to sink, leaving Pi all by himself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However, things do not go as expected when he was forced to share the lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan, and last but not least, Richard Parker. As days pass, he must learn how to survive as he witnesses the grandiose beauty of nature.

The film is as glorious as cinema can be. The whole soulfulness of the film is present in all aspects of the film, and it is due to the cleverness that Ang Lee puts in it. There is no need for him to prove himself anymore. He has already given us a string of films that possess visual splendour and emotional richness (Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain, to name a few). But with this one, he simply does more, making him much more deserving of the acclaim that he earns as a filmmaker. The understanding of the material, its spirituality and the majesty of the beauty present, is very much present in how the scenes were executed with such grace and elegance. It is quite hard to do, because one can easily fall into style over substance. Luckily, the style employed in the film is quite elemental in making the substance fully work.

The feels very alive, and that makes the film work so much. David Magee’s screenplay is a really full of substance; the spiritual side of the story is inevitable, but the screenplay does its very best to also provide the full characterization of the lead character of Pi Patel for us to be able to establish a strong connection with him. The spirituality hits you in moments that are not actually unexpected, but there has been enough mounting of the idea for the realization to be absolute, leaving one a rewarding experience for the soul.

life of pi screen

The cinematography conveys the essence of the material quite successfully. The images are gorgeous, almost ethereal. The strong images supply the film its strongest asset. The film is a visual experience, and it deservedly earns that phrase because it is indeed quite an experience. There is no single moment that feels as if the aesthetics is forgotten; every shot guarantees that there is magnificence in everything that we see in this film. Of course, it is more obvious in the scenes where there are visual effects present (which are indescribably terrific, I must say), but even those small moments before the sinking of the ship, the images offer a complete interpretation of beauty in varying degrees.

Also, the skilful weaving of scenes is also worth noticing, providing an ample amount of space for each scene to move so that the organic feeling can be sustained throughout the entire course of the film. The music is immensely rich, creating a very reflective and almost solemn atmosphere for the film. There is also an evident display of expertise in its sound work, flawlessly forming the entire sensory experience.

But as the film is a technical marvel, it is also a story of very human proportions, thanks to its strong lead actor Suraj Sharma as the title character. He exemplifies a deep awareness of the internal struggle of the character that he plays, making the film a really worthwhile emotional journey. His facial expressions are just as functional as his voice in constructing one man’s passage from curiosity to an actual exploration of himself and the world where he is in. Anchoring the film’s narrative thread is Irrfan Khan in a nuanced performance as the aged Pi.

The film’s question to the audience of whether you should believe in God is probably the most controversial aspect of the film and the one that keeps some people away from this film. Honestly, from a standpoint of someone who believes, the film is a compelling way of raising that issue, and possibly, it might persuade some to go back to believing. But to those who would rather not believe in God, I suppose the film will still work for them because like what I have said, the film is a human experience the same way that it is a spiritual one. One can easily appreciate the beauty of the film, but for someone who believes, it is more profound because it transcends what meets the eye.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Les Miserables

lesmisDirected by: Tom Hooper

Written by: William Nicholson

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Runtime: 158 minutes


A man imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a piece of bread – that is Jean Valjean. Upon being given parole, he tries to live a normal life, but his papers indicating that he was a convict prevents him from doing so. He has had enough. Not even the eager prison guard Javert can stop him. He has changed his identity and has been the owner of a factory.

There, a single mother in the name of Fantine is fired because of the supposedly morally corrupt past she had. Forced to support her daughter Cosette who is currently in the hands of the abusive couple, the Thenardiers, she commits herself to prostitution. An illness restricts her from living any longer, but due to Valjean’s intervention, he promises her that he will look for Cosette, and that he will find her.

Nine years later, an uprising spearheaded by the students led by Marius and Enjolras is starting to heat up. Eponine, the Thenardiers’ daughter, is secretly in love to Marius, but he ignores any indications of her affection due to his instant attraction with the grown up Cosette. As Marius’s courtship to Cosette ensues, the revolution officially begins, initiating a fight between the soldiers and the students. Pushed to the barricades as their last place of defence, the students continue to fight for freedom, to no avail.

As all of these happen, Javert still relentlessly hunts down Jean Valjean.

I think everyone can agree that we have all encountered the source material before we have seen this film – either the stage play or the novel. Either way, there is an enormous amount of pressure on the filmmakers to make this film stand out. Thankfully, the film does not disappoint. Tom Hooper, fresh from his last outing The King’s Speech, provides another sweeping but very intimate tale of epic proportions.

No, I will not talk about his choices to make the film a sing-through musical, or to record the singing of the actors live, but those are very noteworthy achievements. But I just want to recognize the courage that he has put in to make the film the way that it is – full of courage, skill, and vision. There is always visceral quality in the clarity that we see. Each scene is manoeuvred with utmost control and confidence that seems so delicate and overpowering at the same time. We get this feeling of amazement in how he projects the film; it is sensitive as it is powerful. Basically, this film is a confirmation of what I thought after seeing The King’s Speech: Tom Hooper is no one-hit director; he is going to stay.

les mis screen

Eloquence is the first thing to be noticed in the film’s screenplay. The film maximizes the miserable from the source material without making it too much of an unsettling experience. Yes, there are really those moments when the reaction could really be upsetting, but those moments are strategically well-placed and done with good taste and noticeable heart.

The cinematography has aroused too many words of disapproval, but let me say this: I absolutely loved it. Framing each scene with a complete knowledge of the know-how of the technique does make a very pleasing watch even if it does push the envelope of what one might expect in a film like this. The same is with the canny editing, strongly anchoring the movement of the story so well. The music is obviously the best that it can be, filling each scene with the strong register of notes and tones. Also worth noticing is the intricacy present in the impeccable craftsmanship of the costume design, production design, and the makeup work.

But with an epic film like this, it must be noticed that the film has one of the strongest ensemble that I have seen for quite some time.

Hugh Jackman’s unnerving metamorphosis from a convict to a runaway is hugely impressive, completely vanishing inside a role that demands every bit of physical and emotional commitment. Russell Crowe also scores well as the fervent Javert, providing the stiffness and equalled passion in his role. Anne Hathaway is devastating as Fantine, make the most of her brief screen time with a performance the completely surrenders any sense of glamour by completely baring her soul that reaches its peak with his rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” where every bit of despair and hopelessness bleeds in her soul.

Eddie Redmayne take full advantage of his role by giving a completely honest portrayal of the real meaning of what is role is: slightly reckless, but totally devoted. Samantha Barks is particularly affecting as unreciprocated lover of Marius, using every bit of subtle expression to point out her aspirations, her dreams, and her wishes. Amanda Seyfried capably drives her good-natured character with an understandable innocence and purity. Aaron Tveit is particularly surprising as Enjolras, shaping his character with complete flare for freedom and the distinctive panache that makes him especially fit for his role. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter cap this ensemble with their steely playfulness surfacing above the sly evilness in their characters.

This is a film that finds every bit of emotion in the story, providing us with a very humane assessment of this legendary story. By the time we reach the last frame of the film, there is a feeling of confirmation that what we had just seen is a really great film. The feeling is inexplicable. It left me speechless. The beauty cannot be ignored. It is an emotional powerhouse, it is a heart-wrenching experience, and it is a life-affirming movie.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Amour

amourDirected by: Michael Haneke

Written by: Michael Haneke

Produced by: Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz, Margaret Menegoz

Runtime: 127 minutes


Georges and Anne is a couple of retired music teachers residing in Paris. One breakfast, Anne’s consciousness stops, worrying Georges. As it turns out, she is diagnosed with a degenerative disease that restricts her mobility to a wheelchair. They try to improve her condition by performing surgery on her. It did not go quite as planned as her condition becomes worse: half of her body becomes paralyzed. Both Georges and Anne experience physical and emotional fatigue as they try to live with her condition by taking care of her with the hindsight that she is experiencing the agonizing process of slow death. Not even their daughter who occasionally visits them in their apartment is able to get away from the feeling of helplessness the couple feels in the process.

The pain inflicted to these characters is given an unusual restraint that removes any bit of sentimentality in the whole film. Of course, the slow descent of Anne to death is painful to watch, but the film is rid of any moment that one might call as emotionally manipulative. Handled with utmost care by renowned filmmaker Michael Haneke, the film connects us to the characters the same way that it distances us from the pitfall of making the sufferings too intimate, making this more of an observation of the process of agony.

It breaks any expectations of this film being the tearjerker that we would predict it to be, and I am glad the material was given that treatment, but I was actually hoping that the coldness of the storytelling was a bit toned down. Not that it is bad, but I was hoping that I can fully invest my emotions to the story. Instead, there is the sterile feeling to it that makes it distinct from the rest but at the same time disappoints because it could have been more involving.

Luckily, the film houses three headstrong performances that will eventually be the key for making the whole film work.


Isabelle Huppert gives a startling supporting performance as the couple’s daughter. Her character is the most emotive of the three, so it is up to her to make her character in sync with the film’s mood, and she provides the film with a complete characterization of the daughter role that is beyond what one might see. She paints a history of her character through her body language whenever she converses with either Georges or Anne. There is a slight discomfort whenever she is in the couple’s apartment, but Huppert furnishes each scene with an assurance of the control that she has for this character. She is a fascinating creation from a fascinating actress.

However, the film is more of a celebration of the two veteran actors’ triumph as they give complete performances filled with visible acting experience and skill.

Emmanuelle Riva is haunting as Anne, the ill half of the couple. Her movements are limited to a wheelchair, and as the film progresses, the bed, but the dedication that she gives is very evident. She knows when to hint the pain that she experiences; she knows when to fully hold back her emotions. It is an extremely difficult performance as both the physicality of the role and the intention of the filmmaker limits what Riva can show. But instead of using it as a limiting factor, she embraces that and uses that to make her performance unique: it is a testament on the actress’s capability of conveying so much by basically applying truth in her scenes.

Jean-Louis Trintignant also does some pretty fantastic work as Georges, the longsuffering husband of Anne. The insight that he gives in the distress of this man all out love is very evident in his work and the result is no less than thrilling. The very natural approach to the man that is behind Anne’s perseverance to continue with this fight is entirely believable due to the emotional commitment present in his acting despite the fact that he is overshadowed for most of the time by Riva’s showier work. The exploration of the character that he undergoes in the whole film must be seen to be believed; here is a fleshed out and bone-deep understanding of a man tested by his faith in love.

The excellence of the film also transcends to its technical achievements. The cinematography is worth noticing because it is indeed very special. The same way can be said about the production design’s work in the couple’s apartment. The editing is also capable, providing no easy way out for us to experience the complications of the process the characters undergo.

I have my small qualms about the film. Like I said, I would have wanted the film to have heart-warming qualities, but the film goes the entirely opposite way. It opts for a complete but surprisingly distant examination of the relationship that undergoes turmoil. It has strong performances to thank for in making the film work on a very high level. It has its moments that I really loved, but as a whole, I doubt that one could fully love this film because it is just too hard to love this film because of the treatment to the story. But I will not discount any of its merits. I have high regard for this film.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Silver Linings Playbook

silverliningsDirected by: David O. Russell

Written by: David O. Russell

Produced by: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon

Runtime: 122 minutes


Pat Solitano loves wife, there is no doubt about that. And after being released from a mental institution, all he wants to do is to see her.

That is not going to happen.

He is under a restraining order, prohibiting him to go anywhere near his parents are also having problems by the discomfort and disturbance Pat experiences as he stays home. Incidentally, as he tries to go back to the normal cycle of life, he starts jogging and meeting old friends. There he meets Tiffany, a young widow that he had known before. They spark an undeniable attraction to each other, but they also do not get along that well. Now, in order to ask Pat the big favour of joining a dance competition with her, Tiffany makes a deal with him to be the bridge of communication between him and his wife. In the process, Tiffany realizes that she got more than what she initially bargained.

Come to think of it, something must be said about the frontrunner/dark horse status that the film had during the awards season. The fact that a romantic comedy like this ended up as a serious contender is really something, a complete rarity (the last time that I can recall was in 1998 when Shakespeare in Love eventually won; no, I do not think 2011’s Midnight in Paris had anything much to do with the actual contenders). However, it should be no surprise at all since the film itself is quite great.

David O. Russell, the one that gave us 2010’s The Fighter, employs the same amount of energy that is evident in his last work and is even more visible here. Each scene is crafted with a surprisingly dark touch that makes the issues present in the characters more than just a leeway for more dramatic content. Instead, the choice to go dark at times is consistent throughout the film, giving the film a slightly bittersweet tone, and it all works, largely due to the intelligence present in its direction.

And the depth given to each situation and each character is also worth noticing. Each character is humanized, nobody is a walking caricature of a stereotype, and most importantly, we care for them. There are noticeable tonal shifts, but they are not jarring. There is care given in every scene, treating the mental illness side of the story with a deft handle of humor to make the jokes leaning on it not even close to offensive. Of course, there is the familiar ground of the romantic comedy, but it never felt tired or clichéd. Contrary to that, the scenes involving the romance feel fresh and extremely witty. With this film and The Fighter, Russell establishes himself as a director and screenwriter that cares much to the energy the same way with the soul.


The film also has a noteworthy technical proficiency. There are some interesting choices in the cinematography. The editing could not be any better. The music is unobtrusive to the storytelling. But seriously, when we talk about Silver Linings Playbook, we talk about the performances.

Bradley Cooper gives his role the distinct quality of familiarity that makes his character so easy to sympathize to even with his condition. His characters do some really unfortunate actions, so it is now left with Cooper to make amends with the audience to make us care for an initially dislikeable person. And that is where I must recognize him: for adding so much humanity to this character that we just simply surrender and completely give in to the poignancy of his work here.

To counter that is Jennifer Lawrence in a performance that really matches with the word astonishing. Each scene, she effortlessly holds everyone’s attention, and it all feels very natural and instinctive. It is as if she is a ticking bomb that is always near explosion. She brings a very on-the-edge feel to Tiffany, and her creation of that character is no less than stellar. She punches in the electricity that makes her character so fascinating to watch.

Robert DeNiro has been in the industry for quite some time already, but he never loses his touch. Here, he concocts Cooper’s instability with a fatherly assurance that feels sincere and profound. If you know DeNiro’s filmography, you might not be very much impressed by his work here, but by giving his character the delicacy that a father has. Jacki Weaver brings everything down to one word: home. Her warmth in every scene feels very close to the heart, and it feels very real. Again, if you have seen her towering performance in Animal Kingdom, you might not be fully impressed, but given the fact that she utilizes restraint to the fullest extent to benefit the realization of her character is very noteworthy.

Fans of the genre would be delighted with this one, but it is more than a mere crowd pleaser. It commits to the humanity of the characters unlike any romantic comedy film that I have seen. The film is packed with vibrancy and urgency that makes the film feel as if it is fully living. It provides a breezy film going experience that actually sticks with you as the end credits roll. Now, that is really something for a feel-good film.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Beasts of the Southern Wild

beastsDirected by: Benh Zeitlin

Written by: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Produced by: Michael Gottwald Dan Janvey, Josh Penn

Runtime: 93 minutes


Innocence and experience in life – that is what we see in the eyes of Hushpuppy. Raised in a community located near a water basin they all call the Bathtub, Hushpuppy realizes the majesty of life and everything around her through her tumultuous relationship with his father Wink. In the process, through her father, her friends, her father’s friends, and her own experiences and views in life, she undergoes the slow burning growth to become the “man” that her father wants to be. At the same time, big black beasts from the melted ice caps of the Polar Regions embark on a journey to go to Hushpuppy.

Like Hushpuppy, the film itself is full of life and is very soulful. The film’s pace is set in an unstoppable movement where every scene is packed with synergy and vibrancy without making it a tiring film to watch. And actually, it is loose enough for me to sense the free-flowing nature of the film. And it is largely due to the direction’s fresh take on a very different, if not actually original, concept.

Each scene feels new and treated with the foreknowledge of the need for it to feel like it has life in itself. Benh Zeitlin’s direction makes the film different and recognizable from any other film from this year or even from any year. The film also benefits from a really rich screenplay that effectively paints out the sincerity of the words of Hushpuppy as she sees the world in her eyes. It is the creativity and imagination very much present in this tale that makes the film work unlike any other movie.


The film is also technically proficient. The cinematography is very much in great help to further certify the freshness of the treatment in the material. The editing weaves the shots with tightness and looseness at the same time that makes the feel of each scene very organic. The visual effects used are also noteworthy piece of work, seamlessly mixing the two contrasting worlds of Hushpuppy and the beasts into one milieu that constitutes the magical realism part of the plot. The music used is as fresh as the direction; it sets the film into a triumphant mood, a work that celebrates the spontaneity of life and everything that makes life the wonder that it is.

But in everything that I have said about this film, we are all left with two things that make the film a very emotionally affecting one: Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.

Much has been said about this little girl Quvenzhané, and I will not digress. She is an undeniably strong force of nature that is essentially the heart of the creative ingenuity seen in the film. The understanding that she puts into the character of Hushpuppy manifests in every scene; she does not merely bank on her adorable face to reach out to the audience. She uses intellect when she acts to effectively convey her sadness, her amazement, her joy, her anger. She is captivating in every sense of the word which makes me wish only the best for the actress; for I believe that she will not be a one-hit wonder if we base it in this performance because she has proven herself with this one.

But not to be neglected is her also great scene partner Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy’s father Wink. The rawness of his line delivery effectively supplements Wallis’ very natural creation of Hushpuppy. He does not go for the easy way out by simply supporting Wallis. He fully realizes the potential of the character Wink and he takes it that he invests enough selflessness for us to believe the father figure that he is: a persona of a man needed to be tough for him to give his child the care that she needs.

In the end, we are left with a film that possesses a certain amount of inventiveness and inspiration that makes it a very different film. It is a weird film, and for all the good reasons. It is unlike any other film that I have seen before. Here is a small film that has a very complete vision that takes filmmaking on a whole new level.

For this, the film gets:


Agree or disagree?