Superfluous Matter

The Academy Awards are tonight, right now actually. As much as the event itself is a fairly crass commercial spectacle celebrating crass commercialism, I do like movies and many of the movies nominated are often pretty good. So each year I make the effort to watch the best picture nominations before the awards and then skip the awards show itself and read the results the next morning. This got harder after they bumped the best picture category to ten nominees from five but it's still fun to try.

This year I saw all the movies I wanted to see, eight of the ten. I have no interest in Zero Dark Thirty and I've already seen Les live theatre...on Broadway, I don't need to see it as a movie (I've also read the novel by Victor Hugo).

Of the nominees my favourite movie for best picture was "Beasts of the Southern Wild." "Django Unchained" was tons of fun and I loved it immensely, but I don't want to live in a world where Quentin Tarantino can win best picture. It would mean either that he had abandoned his trademark style or that the world had become seriously demented.

Regarding the other nominees; "Silver Linings Playbook" was excellent but the ending was wrapped up way too neatly given the very real mental health issues faced by the main characters. "Life of Pi" was visually stunning and superbly acted. I don't have any real criticism for it, but I just enjoyed "Beasts" more. "Amour" was also outstanding but the subject matter and some of the events hit too close to home for me to really enjoy it. I liked "Lincoln" but it felt more like a documentary to me and as a movie I liked "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" more. I'm not sure what that means. Finally "Argo" had a great story and they did a good job, but it seemed to fall a bit flat, not sure why. I'm obviously not a proper critic.

Of course the movie I like is not necessarily the one that will win. If I had to guess which would win, I would probably pick "Lincoln."

Two other categories are close to my heart: best animated feature and best visual effects. For animated feature I have to go with "Brave." It may not be Pixar's best ever, but it's still really good. For effects I like "Life of Pi." The effects in "The Avengers" are definitely state of the art and set a new bar for action movies. But the effects in action movies have always been stunning and cool. "Life of Pi" applies the technology in a very different context and in many cases is able to make you forget that almost none of the setting or characters are real. Also, the company responsible for the effects, Rhythm and Hues, recently filed for bankruptcy. The effects industry has been a rough place for small and medium size studios lately and a win by this company might help bring some of the issues to light.

Books - Strange Tales by Rudyard Kipling

After two staggeringly epic sized reads I decided to change things up with a small collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Growing up I participated in the Scouting movement for many years (Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers) and this movement was heavily influenced by Kipling's well known works "The Jungle Book", "Just So Stories", and "Kim". So when I was last browsing at BMV and noticed a collection of horror stories by Kipling I snapped it up right away. I had no idea that his range was so broad and I was intrigued to see his take on the genre.

The stories were mainly influenced by his time spent in India but there were a few that took their inspiration from the first World War. I preferred the ones set in India. Most seemed to be based on local myth and folklore, twisted and shaded by Victorian, colonial overload ideology. A lot of the dialogue is frightfully condescending and racist, but it also seems historically accurate given what I know of the history of Britain's rule over India.

As for the "horror" aspect, having grown up reading Stephen King I didn't find any of the stories particularly frightening but there were a few good skin-tinglingly creepy moments.

2013-01 | 2013-03