, Salem, MA


January 21, 2013

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


Also entertaining, a lot more complex and not so broadly recommendable is “Zero Dark Thirty,” the story of Osama bin Laden’s killing, from 9/11 on. Audiences disagree on whether the movie glorifies the torture in its opening sequence. I don’t think it does, but it certainly works to justify torture as necessary in achieving its glorified goal — and that troubles me. I was horrified by the torture, and then not only cheering for but enjoying the end it brought about. It’s both entertaining and disturbing, and I’m not convinced everyone needs to see the movie to have the hard conversations it provokes.

“Life of Pi” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” both may leave you with something to talk about, but the uncomplicated story of the former and unfocused narrative of the latter, coupled with the odd interplay of the grossly realistic with the fantastical, made them interesting to watch but unsatisfying. Both are visually striking, unusual stories with sympathetic characters who spout philosophical observations about the nature of nature and God, but in incohesive ways. For something new, they may be worth a view.

“Les Miserables” is not so different or new, but why would you not see it? It is gorgeous and grace-filled, but maybe too big for its musical treatment. For me, too much of the movie is broad strokes that distract from a few very powerful individual moments of angst and revelation.

I have not yet seen “Django Unchained,” but I will. Quentin Tarantino is an amazing artist, so talented in constructing films that I conclude the good work he does is bad, because his films make human violence beautiful and funny, which is, of course, a hellish lie. I’ll see “Django” and consider the many proposals I’ve read that its treatment of abolition is more true than in “Lincoln,” but I’ll see it with a bias and won’t recommend it for its entertainment if it follows its auteur’s path.

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