I wish I could tell you one single thing about Despicable Me 2 beyond the fact that Pharrell's "Happy" was used in a throwaway montage, but since "Happy" is the only reason I watched the film in the first place, I guess that's fine. Far, far, far better was the French-language animated feature Ernest & Celestine, which plays like a children's fairy-tale but which is filmed with such lovely watercolor delicacy that I totally fell in love with it. It doesn't reach the highs of Frozen, but it also doesn't have Frozen's structural issues, so it might get my vote for Best Animated Feature.
With the Animated Feature category knocked out, it was time to turn to the documentaries. I liked Cutie and the Boxer and The Square both quite a bit, despite the fact that they could not be more different. Both are rather lived-in. Cutie is a character study about a marriage of artists who love and (perhaps more often) put up with each other. The Square nails the you-are-there elements of the uprising in Egypt better than Karama Has No Walls did for Yemen in the short-film category, mostly because it manages to provide necessary context. Still, a double-feature would be an illuminating, if intense, experience.
Which left three stragglers. I made it to the theater to catch Omar, a familiar-seeming but still fairly gripping story of Palestinian youths caught up in revolution and secrecy. I've seen it before, in a few different guises, but lack of inventiveness doesn't mean Omar isn't worthy. I'd place it higher than The Hunt and The Great Beauty at least. It's tough to compare it, or the other nominees, to The Missing Picture, which is such a different kind of project. Almost more of an art installation than a film, its look at the Cambodian genocide makes a rather simple contrast of wooden figurines and dioramas to represent the unspeakable, but it's effective enough. Finally, I left what everybody told me was the most devastating one for last. At some point, The Broken Circle Breakdown becomes an operatic rendering of high-volume pain, and I'm not sure I loved the lead performance of Johan Heldenbergh, but it can be incredibly powerful, and the music is the right kind of heartbreaking.
And that was it! Finished! Every single feature film nominated for an Oscar in 2013: seen! Mission: accomplished? Well, in a way. There were also the shorts. I saw all the live-action shorts and half the documentary and animated shorts, but as the clock ticks down to the Oscars, I have left five shorts still unseen. I blame the Olympics, frankly. How was I supposed to tear myself away from all that figure skating and curling and sports cross-bred with shooting? I wasn't.
So I guess I have something to shoot for for next year.
Current Tally: ZERO nominated feature films unseen. Five short films unseen.
Alone Yet Not AloneDISQUALIFIED
The Book Thief
The Broken Circle Breakdown
Cutie and the Boxer
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Great Beauty
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Invisible Woman
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger
The Missing Picture
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