A friend told me this morning that “every time I ask an actual Oscar voter ‘what are your favorite films?,’ they all say the same thing: Lincoln and Les Miz.” I admit that I flinched at first…aaack. And then I weighed it on the scale, and I thought it all through, I sighed, I exhaled. And I wrote him back:
“‘Lincoln or Les Miz‘ — that’s your standard sleepyhead sentiment talking…the current chant of the tired, the aging and (no offense) those who are not busy being born. People who are defaulting to safe & familiar emotions…to the old and crusty idea of what a Best Picture winner has looked, felt like, strutted & sounded like in the past. Tried and true. Fortified by history. Tradition. Same old. Belongs to the ages. Blah blah.
“Having seen it last night I completely get and feel the beating heart of Les Miz (particularly during the last act) and I’ve worshipped the great Abraham Lincoln my entire life (or since I was seven or eight), but we’re talking about the movies here. Not the play and the music and the great sadness & heartache behind Les Miz (which is unmistakably there) but the Tom Hooper film that delivers it on a screen (big or teensy). Same with the effort by Mr. Spielberg. It shouldn’t be a vote for the great patience and political finesse and tragic ending of Abraham Lincoln, but for the honorable and finely acted but mildly stodgy and milky-white-light Janusz Kaminski movie that Spielberg composed.
“The only truly alive & crackling movies on the planet earth in the Best Picture competition right now are Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook. These are the only completely honorable choices that have fresh juice and truly pronounced spit and conviction and vigor to burn, and which are about life as it’s being lived & felt & grappled with right now (or at least over the last three or four years). Yes, Silver Linings look at the present through the prism of ’30s screwball mixed with Russell’s own anxious, edgy mentality, but it belongs to the here & now. Les Miz‘s here-and-now factor is in the echoes of the Occupy movement in the lamentations of the early 19th Century poor, but only to a degree. It is basically generic compassionate humanist schmaltz, albeit done with great feeling during the last act.”