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1/9/13

The Les Miserables Potential Oscar Breakdown

With the Oscar nominations due out tomorrow morning, it was only a matter of time before I threw out my opinion on the film version of Les Miserables. Because with the casting hype and excitement that began around this time last year, this was supposed to be the most epic film of forever.

As it turns out...yeah, not quite.

I find the reception around this film a little bit baffling though, as both a theater aficionado and a kind-of movie junkie. I thought it was a pretty good adaptation of the original Victor Hugo novel, with the bonus of stylistic elements that echo the feel of the stage version. But while the overall film fell short of its own excessive hype (which was pretty much inevitable), it wasn't the offense of the senses some people have hyperbolically claimed. Save that superlative for the Rock of Ages film.

Let's discuss the all the elements and delineate the awards and epic fails.

Best Picture? By Default, I Guess - When the Best Picture category expanded to ten nominees, this superlative became the "everyone wins" category. With only five slots, Les Miserables is very cusp-ish. With the expanded count (or in this case, the flexible expanded count), it's a lock. There is too much right with this film - the story, the music, the set pieces and costuming, select performances - for it to be shut out here.

Tom Hooper for All NONE Of the Awards - If there is a reason why the film struggled to hit it's high marks, it was, shockingly, Tom Hooper's direction. How this man, responsible for the directing masterpiece of The King's Speech, turned up this hunk of camera junk is beyond me. He should, in theory, have knocked it out of the park.

But no, most of the film and every solo number it seems was shot and performed the same way - medium close-ups with the soloist off-center, one (awkwardly) obtuse camera angle thrown in, the character moving out of frame with the camera trailing, the actor's FACE EXPLODING WITH FEELZ as he/she sings, which then turned to them getting tearfully-overwhelmed at the expense of song quality. Um, Tom Hooper...got anything else? Sure, "One Day More" was flawlessly done - probably my favorite number from the film - but some of his group numbers and multi-character interactions had so many bizarre cuts and angles, I started laughing at some of the least appropriate moments. ESPECIALLY the cuts to Aaron Tveit's Enjolras (more on him in a little bit), which are absolutely hysterical with his default, "Who, THE EFF, are you looking at?" facial expression.

You Can't Sit With Us New Song - Allow me to call it like it is: "Suddenly" is many different types of awful and out-of-place given the rest of the score soundtrack. It what is clearly a ploy for a "Best Song" consideration - and it's clearly working given it got a Golden Globe nomination, because how can you deny the biggest movie-musical ever a song nom - this half-assed attempt at songwriting 101 was something we've all could have done without.

Hugh Jackman, why so restrained? - I like Hugh Jackman. Our Aussie song-and-dance man can work the hell out of gold lame pants and host the Tonys like no one's business. His Jean Valjean should have been the most commanding performance of the year, but there were times when he kept getting lost in the shuffle and I couldn't even tell if he was the male lead. When he's belting like his life depends on it however, it is wonderfully cathartic and a nice redemption for the instances where he's just "meh." Worthy of a courtesy nomination, but nothing more.

Russell Crowe GTFO - Ugh, this was supposed to be awesomesauce. Jackman and Crowe in a belting cockfight? That's "pull up a chair" worthy stuff right there. Unfortunately, Crowe's Javert is a glorious disappointment, given that he can't multi-task between acting and "singing." He sings every song in the same octave and as the film goes on, his vocal limitations kept revealing themselves. "Confrontation" was supposed to be a jaw-dropping sequence, but it was pretty disappointing, not helped by the fact that Jackman can out-sing him in his sleep. But the fact that he plays Javert so one-dimensional, like a really smug bitch and nothing more, is what is really grating. Where was the Razzie nomination for this one?

Anne Hathaway FTW! - Girl is working the media poledance for all of its awards potential - what with her bald head, her diet of grapes and her weight loss - but she really did inhabit the role. And where Fantine's "I Dreamed of Dream" could have been an overwrought cliche (which under Tom Hooper's direction, was veering dangerously close to fruition), her performance guided the song to what it really is - a devastatingly emotional realization of life's pitfalls and a longing for a better one. This is basically her Oscar award to lose and from what I can gather regarding other potential nominees, she's not going to.

The Thenardiers are...Just...There - I don't really have much to say here. The Thenardiers get the most fun song in "Master of the House," and having nonsensical, klepto shenangians is right in Sacha Baron Cohen, complete with his revolving door of weird accents, and Helena Bonham Carter's wheelhouse. Also, singing...they can't do it. At least they don't even try to obscure that fact and given the relatively non-importance of their characters in the grand scheme of things, let's just relish in the fact that Cohen and Carter played off each other well and didn't mess it up totally.

We Need to Talk About Eddie - Namely, how good he is. Marius, in my opinion, is the least interest character of the show, what with his eternal love for a girl he has known for five minutes (according to the musical, at least) and his undeterred self-love. But Redmayne plays him more low-key and a lot less-douschey, but still in-character (mostly due to his questionable instincts and his lack of awareness for Eponine's pining for him). And despite being one of the least experienced singers of this motley crew, you wouldn't have known it from his rendition of "Empty Chairs of Empty Tables." No matter how much the camera angles makes it look like he has lipfillers, he was working that number like everyone really did just die around him.

Theater Actors to the Dance Floor - It's no surprise that the best singing came form the eight-times-a-week stage-trained actors, but other then Hathaway and maybe Redmayne, they also fulfilled the acting portion for their respective characters. Daniel Huttleson's Gavroche was a wise-cracking, well-sung mini-badass. I wanted to kidnap him, as usual. Samantha Barks didn't quite cut a presence like when she was in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables, but she deserves an award for just being Samantha Barks. Oh okay, her Eponine is still awesome and "On My Own" is nicely done. When she belts out "IT'S JAVERTTTTTTT," I believed her. And, of course, Aaron "Superb Ass" Tveit killed it as Enjolras, the show's resident, rebelling BAMF. Whether it was singing about freedom, vamping on a barricade, giving a riveting speech or just dying in style while falling out of a building, trust Mr. Tveit to BRING IT! Redmayne and Barks may get a surprise nomination in their respective supporting categories, but for my money, Tveit transcended the screen time limitations of his character to bring one of the best realizations of Enjolras that I have ever seen. Yes, even with that pubic hair he is sporting atop his head.

Cosette, Where Art Thou - The fact that Amanda Seyfried is in it for, like, ten minutes goes to show how funny and misleading the film's promotion is - they treated her like she is in the entire film (although to be fair, the they did the same treatment for Hathaway). But no, Seyfried and her incredibly sharp singing show up for a number or two and then she basically goes bye bye. All of the opera training she boasted to have...well, she clearly left that back home when she was shooting. Besides, let's be honest; no amazing portrayal of Cosette ever was going to make anyone like her, let alone be considered for awards.



Photo Credit: MeetInTheLobby.com
Photo Credit: NewYorkDailyNews.com
Photo Credit: Broadwayworld.com

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