, Salem, MA


January 21, 2013

Oscar season: Talking about the movies everyone's talking about

With the Golden Globes over, 2013’s “award show season” is official, culminating in the Oscars on Feb. 24.

Entertainment awards matter. The Academy Awards matter in particular, despite the often awkward show itself, because they reflect what our mass entertainers present as “excellent entertainment,” in all the complexities of both those terms. The nominated movies don’t always make the most money, so they don’t reflect the “people’s choice” — although social media certainly brings us critics populous out in force.

Indeed, here I go.

This year, the Academy nominated nine films in the Best Picture category. As of this writing, I’ve seen seven. One of the remaining two, “Amour,” hasn’t yet been screened near me, and the other I’ll see later. As a film professor, I try to see every nominated film in the top categories by Oscar night. But should you? With just a few weeks remaining, you may need to make some choices.

After all, movies offer us many different experiences: We’re entertained, persuaded, challenged and connected. Do you want to see the movie everyone’s going to be talking about? Or a movie that will amuse you, make you — for a while at least — feel more happy or excited than usual? Do you want to see a movie that will teach you something new, or provoke you to think or act in more enlightened ways? Or perhaps you’re looking for something well-crafted, aesthetically excellent as a whole?

The most flat-out entertaining film of the lot is “Argo,” and with its Golden Globe win for best picture, it’s a hot water-cooler pick, too. I could fake an international relations conversation about it, but ultimately, this story of a CIA agent extracting a few American embassy employees from the middle of the Iranian revolution includes great dialogue, pacing, visual design and concept, and not much nuance or insight.

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