by March 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]

"oscar"Well, I don’t have to Jump off the 14the Street Bridge. I threatened to do that if Django Unchained won the Best Picture Award at this year’s Oscar handouts.

But I do have a moral qualm about my 14th Street Bridge promise in light of Django winning two other major prizes — for Best Original Screenplay and for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Shouldn’t I demonstrate my disapproval of these? A comic-book plot with “scintillating dialogue”?  Really?  And another award for Christoph Waltz for very similar thespian effects in Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds only four years ago?

I feel excused and consoled, however, that my pick for the best film of the year did win a bunch of major awards. Neglected by the pre-Oscar forecasters, Life of Pi surprised everyone by winning Best Director, Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Music. It should have won for Best Picture.

It seems that Life of Pi didn’t get Best Picture because of politics — both Oscar and national politics. Inside Hollywood voters felt it was time for Affleck to win a big one because he had gone from the unhappy pastures of his youth to the draft-horse work of his maturity. His turn-around story is so compelling: from J.L.o to Jennifer Garner and three children in 10 years!

And then the political correctness of an inventive American rescuing other Americans in captivity, with no disasters — it was a workman-like job. It also offset two other politically awkward front-runners in the Oscar race.

Those movies had problems in terms of political “truthiness.” Zero Dark Thirty suggests that some members of the CIA waterboarded some prisoners to get information that helped in the search for Bin Laden. These suggestions summoned the wrath of some powerful senators — one of whom deserves an Oscar for Sorest Loser. They were offended by the suggestion that something that nasty could ever, ever happen under the supervision of our guys.

And then some representatives from Connecticut — citizens of the Nutmeg State, the Provisions State, the Land of Steady Habits – were upset that Lincoln depicted two of members of their Congressional Delegation voting “No” on the XIII Amendment in 1864. This factual lapse, coming in a movie proud of its research, may have given Academy voters the push they needed to vote against Lincoln for Best Picture.

Lincoln tried so hard for authenticity that it gave Tommy Lee Jones a horrendous black wig to match the hair of Thaddeus Stevens. That authentic hair may have robbed him of Best Supporting Actor Award, handing it over to Waltz — a more graceful and less wrathful foe of slavery, after all.

Now that it’s all over, I do think the Best Supporting Actress Award should have gone to Helen Hunt. Anne Hathaway’s Award-winning performance in Les Mis looks too needy once you’ve seen a marvelously revealing parody of  dreaming her dream on You Tube. Very few women could parody Hunt’s tender nudity in The Sessions without a major gym makeover — unlikely.

This season after the Oscars seems to be the season of parody. I wonder whether Downton Abbey can command the affections of American Masterpiece aficionados once they’ve seen Jimmy Fallon’s takeoff in Downton Sixbey. That parody, and several others, is also making rounds on You Tube these days.

I know, I know, Downton Abby is TV. I’m watching more on my little screen post Oscar–renting some of last year’s nominees like Brave (good animation, boring story), trying out recommendations of lowbrow box office smash hits like Pitch Perfect (good singing, boring story), or catching up on Downton.

But then the Sequester may shut down Masterpiece Theater, and I’ll have to read a book!

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by January 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]

moviefanAnyone who read The Life of Pi back when it was a best-seller in 2001 was apt to wonder whether the tale could ever be adapted to film.  Well, all praise to Ang Lee, the director of the current film; he has done the near impossible by bringing the novel to the screen.

In making The Life of Pi Lee has not only done the impossible, he has done it stunningly.  When you go, take the 3-D option; it’s really worth it for this film, where the third dimension really does occur! The images are beautiful and exciting.  They serve the fable far better than any animation could (though there is a lot of CGI* in the film).

Why Not More Awards?

There is also wonderful acting by everyone, especially Suraj Sharma, playing Pi as a boy, and Irfan Khan, playing Pi as an adult, and the beautiful Tabu playing Pi’s mother.  I was so taken by the film and these actors that I wondered why The Life of Pi has not received more awards.  Perhaps it’s the provinciality of Hollywood?  The film community out there can give a nod to Ang Lee because he has done some fine film-making, and his name is easy to pronounce.  But Suraj and Irfan and Tabu are more strange and so remain unknown?

But the movie that Ang Lee puts them in is far, far better than its publicity has been.  I put off viewing it till late because I didn’t see how the novel could be filmed.  And because there was so little splash around its launching.  But I finally went out of a sense of duty as an amateur film critic, and I am glad I did.  For me The Life of Pi is probably the best, most beautiful, most exciting movie of the year.

Why the Allure of Django Unchained?

As for Django Unchained I am at a loss to explain its allure.  It seems to be the favorite film of many critics and film-goers, despite its punishing length.  And it swept two major Golden Globe awards the other night.  I hated it, myself, but I wonder what I’ve missed in a film that seems to me to be a huge, steaming pile of self-indulgent sadism.

Why do I respond so fiercely to this, and other, Tarantino films?  Have I been too affected by the Sandy Hook school massacre, not to mention gun violence in our own fair city?  Am I too much a literalist, and too ignorant of the memes of Spaghetti Westerns to miss the rollicking satire of Tarantino’s carnage? (Am I using the word meme correctly, even?)

Or. . .am I just too old?  These are sincere questions, Dear Readers, so if you have an answer to them, would you let me know?  Just write a comment, and I’ll read it carefully.  And try to take it to heart.

*CGI means “Computer Generated Imagery.”  So there.

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