For the first time in a least a decade, I actually got around to seeing most of this year’s Oscar nominated movies: Lincoln, Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. Most of them (with the exception of Life of Pie which was not American and Silver Linings which was not per se about being American) were all formulaic, almost delusional homages to American Exceptionalism. Lincoln was probably the most boring of the lot, with all of Spielberg’s trademark dramatic finishing touches (roll call included), saved only by Daniel Day Lewis’ remarkable acting. Django had moments of brilliance from Christoph Waltz and the beautiful Kerry Washington to look forward to, but as a friend told me, it wasn’t like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which you could watch the next night all over again. Once Waltz was off the screen, it was just a lot of blood. Tarantino is fun, but surely no Sergio Leone. Meanwhile, Silver Linings doesn’t even merit special mention. Two nice people with mental illnesses solve their mental illnesses by finding each other? Are we supposed to believe crazy times two doesn’t beget even more craziness? What, was mental illness the only prop missing from the RomCom wardrobe?
Now the two most entertaining films were actually the two most unabashedly Red White and Blue pro-CIA propaganda pieces, both with dubious (and arguably dangerous historical re-scripting): Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. Argo despite its unashamedly fictionalized account of almost all of the historical events depicted in the film, was fun, suspenseful and kept me interested up until the end. But at no point in watching the movie did it ever cross my mind that Argo was going to or even should win the Oscar. It just didn’t feel like that good of a flick. It was, like Ben Affleck himself, completely mediocre and completely acceptable. Then again, mediocrity and acceptability are what it takes to make it in Hollywood.
Zero Dark Thirty, on the other hand, had more elements that were closer to the real historical events and was an all around much better film. And if taken as pure fiction, at least from my own humble perspective, was the most entertaining and engaging of the movies nominated for Best Picture. Having said that, Zero Dark Thirty was also plagued with a series of gross flaws which are the crutch of what I want to be writing about here. Continue reading