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2012-366 Day 364 – 2012 Movies II

Busy day today, if you can’t tell from the fact that I’m posting this after midnight. The day started with two karate classes, lunch, then Jess and I went to the movies (again) to see Les Miserables, followed by dinner, and finally catching up with our friends and their kids for another Christmas celebration. A good, eventful day, although the days in this vacation are rapidly running out.

Having seen many quality movies in the past couple months, and seeing that it’s the end of the year, it’s time to update the movie list and give some short reviews (or refer you to the longer ones where I’ve already made them). Pardon me for a moment while I go check out all the releases so I don’t miss any of them. Ah . . . Here we go, the movies I’ve seen since Brave (where I left off in the last post). Oddly enough, I never did go see Amazing Spider-man, which was the movie I thought I would go see next last time.

Argo – I actually knew quite a bit of this story going in, as I had read the source article a year or so ago. In the lead up to the film, I actually read several different articles on the story behind this, including an article from the man who performed the extraction (which Ben Affleck plays in the movie). I knew that it couldn’t be a fully accurate rendition of the story, because in real life it went so well that they basically walked out of Iran onto a plane. With that in mind, I set out to enjoy the movie as a story, and it was very much worth it. Argo just hit all the right buttons, conveyed all the right moods, but also managed to poke fun at all the right conventions. It was an extremely well made movie from any angle, and really lived up to all the hype surrounding it. I’d put it up there against any spy thriller out there, even if I was still slightly disappointed it couldn’t convey the true to life story (as that would have made it a lesser movie).

Skyfall – This one already has its own post.

Wreck-It Ralph – Jess and I went to see this in Colorado, and we both came back with the same initial one word review: “cute.” The main story follows your standard “finding your place in the world and being happy with it” along with several subplots of mystery and redemption. All are well done, but the true magic in this film lay with those who played all the games represented growing up. Seeing all of your favorite characters again is awesome, and the characterization is spot on. Even further, though, it was the little touches that really put everything over the top. The eight bit character’s frame rates were such that their movements were just a little bit choppy, even in the 3-D worlds. The different terminals in the central station were all the three prongs from the electrical cord of each game. The inclusion of all the classic games like Q-bert and the root beer game I don’t even remember the name of now. It all just fit together into a pleasing nostalgic soup, even if a bit too much time was spent in the super sweet Sugar Rush land.

Lincoln – Jess and I had a list of movies to see over break, and so we started with Lincoln. I knew going in that the movie covered a very limited window of time, and one that was not particularly familiar with, the passage of the 13th Amendment. The main draw for me was Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln. Knowing that he is such a legendary method actor (the joke I heard when the trailers first came out with the unexpected speech patterns and pitch was that he had found an original wax recording of Lincoln’s voice and had spent a year perfecting it), I was curious how he would portray the man. I was not at all disappointed, as his performance as Lincoln was absolutely jaw-dropping. Tender, yet tough, powerful, yet mortal, there were so many moments where I got swept away in the performance and it felt like we had a little window into history. As I said before, I had little familiarity with this section of history and, while I recognize it was dramatized, it was a fascinating section to be caught up on. Watching all of the behind the scenes maneuvering and the conviction that this amendment had to be passed now or it would set the country back decades, the characters truly made you feel the import of it all. The ensemble cast all together was fantastic, and Tommy Lee Jones should certainly receive consideration for Best Supporting Actor. And yes, I’ve seen enough good movies this year to actually have some informed opinions on the awards, which is a rarity.

Les Miserables – Finally the movie we saw today. As amazing as it might be, this will probably be the one I go on the longest about, somewhat owing to the freshness of the experience, but mainly owing to my love of the subject matter (with that said, just consider this whole section to have one giant SPOILER ALERT if you don’t know anything about the story). Actually, in the Rock of Ages link above I explain my initial exposure to Les Mis, but suffice it to say for now that it is the one musical that Jess defers to my expertise in. Much like Argo, I was so familiar with the source material that I knew ahead of time that I had to distance myself from it, otherwise I would not be able to enjoy the movie. This is somewhat difficult for someone who has the entire 10th anniversary soundtrack pretty much memorized. I had also read some initial reviews going in but refused to let them color my judgement.

Yes, we’re going multiple paragraphs on Les Mis, told you it would be a long one. One thing became readily apparent upon the opening scenes, they were going big. Setting “Look Down” to the entire prisoner population pulling a boat into dry dock certainly was something you couldn’t do on stage, and it really helped me further separate the film from the musical. I had heard things about Crowe’s Javert not being up to snuff, but I initially found him visually striking and was merely hoping for a vocally competent performance. Having tempered my expectations, he actually exceeded him over the course of the film, and I actually grew to appreciate his approach to the character and how his character sang. Very rarely was I thinking, “Hey, that’s Russell Crowe singing” while there were several times where I mentally made note that Hugh Jackman was singing Valjean.

One of the reasons that Les Miserables is one of my favorite stories, let alone musicals, is the intertwining stories of grace, redemption, duty, and justice. I can’t explain it all here without being up all night, but there are some very powerful examples of what happens when people accept or reject grace, as well as what can happen when you allow your problems to blind you to those of others and what you can do to make it right (there, the most oblique summary of the plot of Les Mis ever, never say I haven’t accomplished anything here). All of these moments were rendered superbly, but here’s a quick bullet list of what stood out to me, as I’m going far too long on this as it is:
-If this movie doesn’t win Best Cinematography, it will be a crime, as everything is rendered spectacularly and appropriately, and the continuation of theme between story lines and time lines is amazing.
-While I’m handing out awards, Anne Hathaway wins Best Supporting Actress for her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” alone. And kudos to the director for recognizing it, framing her in one unbroken shot with only a out of focus dark background and Anne’s face and voice telling more through the song than any montage or set piece could hope to in any amount of time.
-Speaking of theme, continuity, and framing, the touches that I noticed were phenomenal. When we are first introduced to adult Cosette (Fantine – Anne Hathaway’s – daughter), she begins her song on the opposite third of the screen from Fantine in “I Dreamed a Dream” and was flanked by a beautiful, ornate, in focus background, demonstrating the differences in their stations in life.
-Another subtle item throughout the movie, when Valjean is saved by the Bishop, the Bishop gives him a set of silver candlesticks with the intention that they help fund Valjean’s new life alongside the other silver he had taken. The candlesticks can be seen in every household Valjean inhabits for the remainder of the movie, even ending up on the altar of the room in which he dies.
-Speaking of the Bishop, while I was occasionally misty during several numbers (“I Dreamed a Dream”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” chief among them), it was the Bishop’s sudden reappearance at the end upon Valjean’s death as his escort into heaven, since he was the man who first saved Valjean’s soul, that caused some tears to roll down my cheeks. A perfect decision made a fantastic ending moment.

There were certainly some parts that I wish they had kept closer to the original musical, but, in all, they did a fantastic job of translating everything to make for a great movie musical. The images were striking, the songs emotional, and the story’s impact was retained. While it will not replace the musical in my mind, it wasn’t trying to, but instead I know have a worthy movie version to set along side the theatrical one.

End Les Mis and any attendant SPOILERS.

A final movie I haven’t seen yet, but will soon (though most likely early next year) is the Hobbit. Talk about rounding out the movie year in style. Last year I saw ten movies, and I managed to bump it up to twelve this year. That said, the quality this year was bounds greater than last year, and I truly think this was one of the best years for movies in a long time. I for a long time thought that movies were fading out of my field of interest, that I would merely catch them at home as they came on TV or I occasionally rented them on U-verse. Then a funny thing happened, and Hollywood apparently remembered how to make good movies. Hopefully they can keep it up.

Weight: 222 Loss: 18 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 366.7 miles
Fitocracy Level: 26 ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , .

2 Responses

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  1. Dad said

    I haven’t seen the movie yet but I got misty from your blog just reading about the bishop at the end.

  2. Mom said

    And when dad told me about it, I got verklempt, too. The bishop giving him the candlesticks is my favorite scene. Superior kindness always affects me deeply.

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