Sunday, February 17, 2013

2012 Oscars: Editing and Animated Feature

So there's only a week before the awards, and I've gotten behind on these posts, so I'm doubling up to unrelated categories today.

Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

5. Silver Linings Playbook

There was nothing especially bad or wrong with the editing here, but it was mostly just efficient - there were no particular challenges the editor had to overcome. It was a mostly straightforward dramedy with a few characters in a few locations - I imagine the editor mostly just followed the script. And even so, there were one or two distinct scenes where the film lost all sense of space and direction - the camera was flipping all around the eyelines and the editing didn't do much to fix it. I expect this is more David O. Russell's fault than anyone else's, but it was still a problem.

4. Zero Dark Thirty

On the whole, I thought ZDK was a collection of extremely well-made sequences that didn't amount to that great of a film, and one of the problems was the pacing. The first hour of this already long movie was laboriously slow, it struggled to keep my attention and by the time the movie really got going I almost didn't even care anymore. That said, the entire raid on the compound scene at the end was remarkably crafted on all levels, including the editing, so I don't want to dismiss it's nomination entirely - I just hope it doesn't win.

3. Life of Pi

I had the opportunity to hear Tim Squyres speak about the editing process on Pi and sounded like a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. How do you edit in a way that maintains a logical sense of space when your scenes are set on an endless sea? Ultimately, Squyres held strong to the emotional needs of the story, allowing some interesting layered dissolves to transition through space and time, and keeping the pace of the film spot-on as it moves back and forth between action-filled scenes like the sinking of the Tsimtsum and more contemplative sequences like Pi's stay on the floating island. Not to mention the challenges of editing in 3D with lots of effects.

2. Lincoln

All of the problems I had with ZDK's editing slowing down an already slow story, Michael Kahn avoids with Lincoln. The movie might be 2 1/2 hours, and by the end you might feel like you've been sitting through a lot of history, but while I was watching it, I was constantly engaged - and when a long, dialogue-driven movie that's a difficult think to accomplish. I felt that the story was always driving forward, stopping for emotional beats along the way, but never losing sight of its end goal. In my opinion, Kahn's editing deserves as much credit as Kushner's script for making a seemingly dull legislative process come alive.

1. Argo

This is perhaps the only award Argo truly will deserve come Oscar night. Take all the strengths of the other 4 nominees, and William Goldenberg utilizes them here - balancing multiple locations and subplots, keeping a sometimes dull story or sequence feel exciting, keeping the action and comedy scenes feeling light and the heavier scenes feeling...well, heavy. Unlike Silver Linings Playbook, I feel as though Goldenberg used the script as a tool to inform his work rather than dictate it. His cross-cutting, the inserts of the Iranian press conferences and other historical details, it all works to keep you engaged in a film that, by rights, shouldn't be all that interesting.

Will win: Argo
Should win: Argo
Should have been nominated: Cloud Atlas

Animated Feature
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits

I mean, I guess this was alright and all... it has some funny moments, but I didn't really get why I was watching it, why it was made. The characters were 2-dimensional, the pseudo-history wasn't even that amusing. I...yeah, I dunno.

4. Frankenweenie

I wanted SO much to like this movie, but I just couldn't. I loved the voice acting, and most of the design. I really did buy the love between Victor and his dog. But the 'villains' weren't really villains, they were just brats. The Vincent Price figure was just a rehashing of characters Burton has done better in other films. That one Asian student was... really pretty offensive, wasn't he? There are ways to make stereotypes interesting and funny and insightful, but none of that happened here.

3. Brave

I really did enjoy this one, it was just a tad too traditional - I feel like we've seen this story before in one way or another. It was beautifully animated, very funny, heart-warming, all that. But just kind of "meh" at the end of the day.

2. Wreck-It Ralph

Very funny, great characters, tremendous writing - the "bad guys" therapy session in particular - it has so much going for it. And the more video game-literate of my friends tell me it had an awful lot of added humor if you know where to look for it (apparently the detail of certain lines, sounds, and labels referenced who knows how many other games). It was great. But again, walking out of the theater, what did I leave with? Something about accepting people for more than what they seem? Not exactly new ground.

1. ParaNorman

But then I'm going to sound like a hypocrite because this film has basically the same message - don't write people off just because you don't understand them. But the way it's delivered in ParaNorman was so much more emotionally satisfying than in any other film this year. It's a very dark movie, and not just because it features a boy who speak with ghosts. At the heart of all of it is a very troubled young girl from centuries past who is still scarred from the way she was, essentially, bullied by her friends and elders. There is such a strong theme here about the dangers of bullying and intolerance because it shows its devastation across the generations, rather than just in someone who's a bit sad right now. And when the people in Norman's town are faced with the horror of their own behavior, what an epiphany it is to learn that they are the true monsters, more so than the risen dead walking amongst them. And of course I haven't even addressed the beautiful blend of stop-motion animation and CGI effects - at times this film looks even more real than the ones with real people! This was the best animated feature of the year and if there's justice in Hollywood it will win the Oscar next sunday.

But there isn't, so it won't.

Will win: Wreck-It Ralph
Should win: ParaNorman
Should have been nominated: Not really sure as I didn't see too many animated features this year, but I heard wonderful things about The Painting. I didn't hear too many complaints about Hotel Transylvania and Rise of the Guardians missing out here...

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