Monday, February 25, 2013

Les Miserables the Movie: Notes on the Oscars

Congratulations to Les Miserables for winning three Oscars!  While I was wrong in predicting that Les Miz would win the most Oscars without actually winning Best Picture (that would be Life of Pi with four), I wasn't too far off.  Les Miserables won as many Oscars as Argo, the Best Picture winner, and more than critical darlings Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Silver Linings Playbook.  In fact, Les Miserables has a better win percentage than both Lincoln (2 of 12) and Life of Pi (4 of 11), and is tied with Argo (3 of 8).  Not bad, musical movie, not bad.

Overall, it was a rather strange 3.5 hours, not the least because Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy was the host.  Instead of one movie dominating the night, as many predicted Lincoln would, the awards were pretty evenly distributed.  Argo won despite not having any nominees for Best Actor/Actress or Best Director.  I think I prefer it this way, especially since the field was so strong this year, than to have one movie take over.  *cough* The King's Speech *cough*

It was an evening devoted to music in movies, where ghosts of movie musicals past arose and took the stage one last time.  It makes me wonder if this format was planned at the height of the buzz for Les Miserables, but I doubt it.  Anyway, here are some more random thoughts I had about the ceremony:

1.  Anyone think the only reason the "movie musical medley" was formed was so there would be an excuse for the Les Miz cast to sing "One Day More"?  They wouldn't have been able to otherwise, since "One Day More" would never qualify for best original song.  Man, if it did, though, it would have blown "Skyfall" out of the water.

2.  It must have been slightly awkward for Catherine Zeta Jones to reprise her role in Chicago a decade after last performing it.  Some audience members' reactions -- "What is the cast of Chicago doing here?" -- made me think the musical hasn't aged so well.

3.  I think it would have been better to include past musicals (West Side StoryThe Sound of Music) with the three most recent movie musicals, even if the older ones were only shown in clips.  It would have seemed less random.

4.  I'm not a huge fan of Jennifer Hudson's slightly brittle voice, but she certainly did justice to a song that is meant to be a show stopper.  People were giving her a standing ovation.  She was going to be a tough act to follow.

5.  I don't know if the Les Miserables medley quite met the challenge.  For one thing, it was very strangely edited.  Hugh Jackman started out by singing a truncated version of the only song up for nomination, "Suddenly."  I think he actually sounded better here than in the movie.  Then Anne Hathaway came out and started singing the first lines of "One Day More."  "Nice way to get her into the song!" I thought.  I looked forward to her singing "These men who seemed to know my crime will surely come a second time!", but that was given to Jackman.

6.  Then, randomly, Hathaway sang the first few of lines of "I Dreamed a Dream" in place of Marius's "I did not live until today.  How can I live when we are parted?".  That made the following lines, sung by Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, sound weird and clashing.  Damn, Seyfried cannot project to save her life.  She would never make it as a stage Cosette.

7.  Samantha Barks sounded great, as did Aaron Tveit, looking mighty fine in his tuxedo and real hair.  Unfortunately, his lines were cut down as part of the truncating of "One Day More."  Why didn't they just leave the song uncut?  I guess because Seth MacFarlane needed more time to talk about boobs with William Shatner.

8.  As part of the cutting, Russell Crowe's lines were intermixed with Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen's.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Crowe's vocals haven't improved with time, but the clapping from the audience said: "That's okay.  We still love you."

9.  Blink and you missed seeing Ramin Karimloo enter with the rest of the chorus, composed of professional stage performers.  Alas, they came on too late and didn't get to stay long enough.  Still, the ending flourish with the French flags was a nice touch.

10.  Did they lower the notes for "One Day More" so that Anne could more easily sing the lines of "I Dreamed a Dream"?  The rest of the cast showed they could sing it in show key.  Maybe it was so they wouldn't have to risk straining their voices?

11.  I have to think that they placed Best Supporting Actress so far after Best Supporting Actor in order to try and squeeze whatever tension they could out of the least tension-filled category (until Best Actor).  After the pre-recorded skit where Sally Fields even admitted that Anne Hathaway would win, I began to worry that Hathaway was being set up for the ultimate cruel prank.

12.  But no, she did win.  And even though she did seem genuinely excited, it was hard for some of us in the audience to match her.  Though I will say that if Fantine were a big enough role for Best Actress, I think Hathaway would have won that, too.  If Hollywood insisted on rewarding a young actress, her performance was much more intense than Jennifer Lawrence's in Silver Linings Playbook (though I think Lawrence is talented and deserved to win for Winter's Bone).

13.  I knew (as did the rest of the world) that Adele would win for "Skyfall" over Les Miz's "Suddenly," but was I the only one slightly underwhelmed by "Skyfall"?

14.  For one brief, shining moment, I hoped that Hugh Jackman would triumph over Daniel Day-Lewis, whom I also love.  Nope -- almost without looking at the envelope, Meryl Streep announced Daniel Day-Lewis as the winner for Best Actor.

15.  Indeed, Hugh Jackman's most memorable Oscar moment may have been coming to Jennifer Lawrence's rescue when she fell on the stairs on the way to accept her award.

16.  Oh, and this is still gold.

Farewell, Les Miserables, until next time, which will probably be when the full soundtrack or the DVD is released.           

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