Oscar Quest Update: Well, I Did It! (Sorta)

As Oscar day turns to Oscar night, the quest to watch every single Oscar nominee is completed. If you look at it a certain way.

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As Oscar day turns to Oscar night, the quest to watch every single Oscar nominee is completed. If you look at it a certain way.

Previous Tally:  Nine nominated feature films (below) and seven short films still unseen.

Progress Report: It's bee quite the last ten days! A whirlwind, you might say. Like the filthy anglo that I am, I knocked out the remaining English-language films first. Starting with The Book Thief, which begins with with a rather whimsical-sounding omniscient voiceover by an unseen entity that turns out to be Death. Of all the things that I expected a Holocaust drama to remind me of, Pushing Daisies was not one of them. As strange as that beginning was, I'd have rathered follow the film down that rabbit hole, baffling and potentially tasteless as it might have been, instead of experiencing the flat tale that The Book Thief actually presents. As for its nominated score, it's classic John Williams, not bombastic John Williams. Again, I'd have preferred the latter

Next up was the pleasantly surprising The Invisible Woman, Ralph Feinnes' adaptation of the tale of Dickens (Feinnes himself) and his mistress (Felicity Jones). Jones has never done it for me, and I was let down by Feinnes' previous film Coriolanus, but the moody charms of this one worked on me. The costumes aren't flashy at all, so I'm left being either impressed that the Oscar voters really looked beyond the obvious or bummed out that costume dramas are rubber-stamp nominees no matter how standout their garb is.

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 Picturewhich 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. 

The Book Thief
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Croods
Cutie and the Boxer
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Grandmaster
The Great Beauty
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Invisible Woman
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger
Lone Survivor
The Missing Picture
The Square

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