'Zero Dark Thirty' and 'The Impossible' feature women who want answers
Now that the Academy Awards were announced yesterday (Jan. 10), moviegoers locally will finally get a chance to see two of the nominated films, the hunt for bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty and the hunt for survivors after the horrifying 2004 tsunami in The Impossible.
Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who teamed up for the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker, have successfully gone to war again with this intriguing and suspenseful look at the decade long search for Osama bin Laden.
Who could ever have imagined that the CIA in this modern era would be defined, in artistic terms, by a couple of determined women, Homeland’s badass, Carrie Matheson, and in this film, the focused Maya, played in Oscar-nominated fashion by Jessica Chastain. The concept of an all boy’s club has been shattered — except for the male superiors who aren’t willing to go all-in as soon as Maya wants — as we watch the focused CIA analyst track down the tiniest bread crumbs in the drawn out search for a wily opponent whose understanding of spy “tradecraft” makes him nearly impossible to locate. However, Maya, who appears to have no life beyond her job, will not give up.
In the course of the film we see torture used as a tool to extract information, as well as bribery, wiretaps and endless research. We also see suicide bombers and other acts of terror that continue to take lives.
The torture scenes have earned the film some unfair backlash, the assumption being that showing the torture somehow suggests that the filmmakers condone such actions.
My take on Zero Dark Thirty is that because it is based on classified information, the filmmakers are making their best guess on how such as action would take place based on their extensive research. It is a fictionalized account of the events, and to slam it for not being accurate is ridiculous. This is not a documentary. It is a drama that provides a thrilling look at how difficult it was to find bin Laden and the years of research and dedication it took to finally find him, with an exciting early morning raid on bin Laden’s compound as the breathtaking finale.
Zero Dark Thirty (the term refers to 12:30am in Navy SEAL-speak) is as tough-minded and focused as its heroine in front of the camera and its heroine behind the camera.
Deadly Water World
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage), The Impossible, based on a true story of one family’s survival after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, slams you with the force of that wall of water with such brilliant authenticity and magnificent cinematography, you almost feel like you are drowning watching it.
The riveting footage focuses on a family literally torn asunder by the raging water while on Christmas holiday in Thailand. Oscar nominated Naomi Watts finds herself clinging to a tree with a badly injured leg helpless as she watches her 14-year-old son (superbly played by Tom Holland) float by. She lets go, hoping to reach him. Eventually they are reunited and desperate to know if the rest of the family is alive, played by Ewan McGregor as the dad, and two younger brothers, played by Samuel Joshlin and Oaklee Pendergast.
I don’t like the term top movies of the year. Defining them as your favorite movies is more on point, but if you’re a film critic you are not supposed to whine about how movie taste is subjective, not objective.
While in general the Academy Award nominations went as expected, the two exceptions were jaw dropping: No best director nomination for Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and no best actor nod for John Hawkes (The Sessions). Both of these omissions really have me steamed.
I’ve been a crafty film critic over the decades, which means I have learned to avoid movies that look horrible in the coming attractions. Of course some movies featuring major stars and high profiles simply can’t be avoided.
I've got a new movie to champion. David O. Russell, writer-director of Three Kings and more recently, The Fighter, introduced his latest, Silver Linings Playbook, to a gala audience last night at the Toronto International Film Festival, and this morning (Sunday, Sept. 9) to the press with a media screening and press conference.
Some would say being a Quentin Tarantino fan is a matter of taste, or perhaps in some minds, it’s a matter of being swayed by his utter tastelessness. Put me in Camp Tarantino every day and twice on Sunday.
While admitting this is damning with faint praise, Sylvester Stallone delivers a better aging action hero in Bullet to the Head than Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Last Stand.
This is an exciting year for predicting the Oscars because except for a couple of mortal locks, it is a wide-open battle in the major races. So let the speculation begin. I’ve decided to weigh in with a weekly series of articles on the Academy Awards, which will be handed out on Sunday, Feb. 24.