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Entertainment

The Outlook’s Oscar Options

This Sunday is the only time it’s respectable for filmmakers to say they want to go home with a tiny naked golden man: The Academy Awards. It’s Hollywood’s prom night. The Academy decides who their favorites are, and audiences decide what they have to pick up on DVD. As entertainment writers, we all have our own personal favorites. These are our picks for the coveted Best Picture award.

Violeta Pietronico’s Pick: The story of Les Misérables, one of the longest running musicals in our history, has once again captured the hearts of people around the world. The film opened on Christmas Day to generally positive reviews from critics and audiences alike—despite the fact that the film clocks in at a whopping 158 minutes, includes virtually no spoken dialogue, and is entirely musical.

To old fans, the tale of ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) attempting to avoid capture by his former prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after avoiding his parole will undoubtedly be familiar. However, to new generations that are seeing Les Misérables for the first time, the stories of Valjean, his desperate employee Fantine, her daughter Cosette, young student Marius, and the relationships that bud between each of these beloved characters during the time of the French Revolution will certainly reel in the young audience members.

While the film has received some backlash over the possibility that director Tom Hooper—who also directed The King’s Speech—created this film as simply a means to get awards, Les Misérables has mostly been praised for its undeniably incredible musical performances. Hugh Jackman anchors the film with his powerful voice, while Anne Hathaway absolutely nails her big scene in which she sings the famous number “I Dreamed A Dream.”

 Despite the movie’s length, Les Misérables is an instant classic, and Hooper appears to do justice to the well-known story. In addition to Jackman and Hathaway deserving their own respective Oscars for their acting, this film should definitely overtake the other movies in the Best Picture category at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Matt Mancuso’s Pick: Quentin Tarantino, director of films such as Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, is no stranger to brutal and gratuitous violence. This is evident once more in his latest film Django Unchained.

The movie follows the story of a slave in the year 1858 who calls himself Django (Jamie Foxx). When he is freed from his bonds by a man named Dr. King Schultz, (Christoph Waltz) the two set off on their journey as bounty hunters to track and kill assigned targets. Along the way, they encounter many opposing men willing to do anything to stop them in their bloody campaign. When thev men strike a deal for their own interest with a man named Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is the owner of a slave plantation, the two bounty hunters find themselves in a world of entirely new obstacles.

Despite the dark themes centered on black slavery and bloody shootouts, Django Unchained provides enough humor to save itself from becoming an overly dark film. The old western theme plays into the film to great effect, as well as gives a good glimpse of the struggle Django and Dr. Schultz endure.

Later in the film, Tarantino throws a curveball which can either make or break the ending. For me, this surprise came as a great choice. The movie may slightly overstay its welcome, but the lengthy runtime is well worth the price of admission. This is a film that I can recommend to nearly any film-goer (as long as they are at least 17 years old!).

Peter Quinton’s Picks: Though many of this year’s Oscar nominees managed to slip by my radar, I did get around to seeing both Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, and while I thought Lincoln was a wonderful film, it was Zero Dark Thirty that really took me by surprise. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who previously won an Academy Award back in 2011 for The Hurt Locker, the film is a dramatization of the CIA’s finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The film is incredibly compelling in its daring approach to depicting the sometimes unpleasant events surrounding the operation. From gruesome torture scenes to the gritty, night-vision filmed SEAL Team 6 raid, Bigelow presents these events without all of the Hollywood glitz and glamour to pretty them up, opting for a much more visceral presentation that really beefs up the films tension.

What really took me by surprise, however, was the performance of Jessica Chastain, who played lead CIA operative Maya. As her character progresses from a fresh-faced officer to the obsessed ringleader of the operation, so does Chastain’s performance, with her timid uncertainty early on in the film progressing into the arrogance and passion needed to fit the role. She would certainly have my vote for Best Actress this year.

However, Lincoln is not only the absolute most epic and impressive movie about Abraham Lincoln to be released last year (take that, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), it was also one of the year’s best movies, period.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Lincoln is a historical drama film that follows the titular president (Daniel Day Lewis) as he faces various struggles, from his efforts in passing the controversial Thirteenth Amendment, which would grant all slaves in America freedom, to his hardships within his personal relationships, including his wife, Mary Todd (Sally Field), and his son, Robert (Joseph Gordon Levitt).

The weight on Lincoln’s shoulders is immense, and this tension translates spectacularly in many scenes. This is especially felt in the scene where Congress must vote on the amendment, as the space between each vote presented is ripe with heart-stopping suspense.

While these scenes certainly pull their weight in presenting the drama, it’s the films performances that really bring the film to its dramatic heights. Lewis executes a commanding yet completely personable presence in the role of Lincoln. He brings a strong level of wit and charm to the president that really helps audiences understand why he was so loved.

I also have to give it up to Tommy Lee Jones, whose performance as congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens was both brilliant and hilarious. The characters dry, witty comebacks added a necessary level of comic relief to even the film’s most serious scenes, but Jones still keeps the character as serious and passionate as to not let him feel out of place at any point.

Though the U.S. history buffs will certainly flock to the film, Lincoln is a strong and endearing enough film for all movie fans to enjoy.

Nicole Calascibetta’s Pick: Argo is a fantastically compelling film that undoubtedly deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. Directed by Ben Affleck, it’s hard not to be completely immersed into the heart stopping tension that makes the two-hour historic thrill ride seem like twenty minutes. Based on true events in 1979, the plot revolves around six Americans who escaped Iranian revolutionists and hide out in the Canadian embassy. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) develops “the best bad idea” to rescue the six Americans from Iran with the help of Hollywood producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman).vv

From the script to the music and down to the set design, it’s an excellently crafted movie and proves difficult to find even a glimpse of poor acting. Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman disappear into their characters while Scoot McNairy’s performance as Joe Stafford, one of the Americans in hiding, confirms he’s an actor to look out for in 2013. One of the many continuing themes in this pulse-pounding film is “no man left behind,” that arguably can connect with almost every hot-blooded American. The best picture should go to a film that hits the mark on seemingly every aspect of movie production. Argo is that film.

Those are our picks for Best Picture, but also nominated this year is Amour, a French film about an elderly couple. When Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) has a stroke, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must learn how to be her fulltime caretaker. The film is the only non-English nominee in this category.

Beasts of the Southern Wild follows a six year old girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) as she uses her imagination to deal with the harsh realities of the world, which include natural disasters and her dying father. The indie also scored a nomination for Wallis, who is only nine years old.

Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man who is trying to get his life back together after being released from a mental institution. Pat meets Tiffany, a girl with plenty of her own issues, and they begin to form an unexpected relationship as Tiffany helps Pat win his wife back. The film just surpassed the $100 million mark at the box office.

Life of Pi is based on the bestselling book. The son of a zookeeper (Suraj Sharma) escapes a shipwreck on a lifeboat with a tiger, orangutan, hyena and zebra. The special effects have been hailed by many to be on the same level as James Cameron’s Avatar.

Who will take home an Oscar statue for Best Picture? Find out by tuning in to The 85th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 7:00 pm on ABC.

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