I have spent a lot of time and money at Bow Tie Cinemas this winter. I try to see as many ”critically acclaimed” movies as possible, so that when Academy Award time rolls around, I’ll be able to weigh in with an expert opinion. This is becoming increasingly difficult though, as the number of nominated movies seems to increase every year (I barely made a dent in the list of nine nominated films last year). But this year, I took advantage of winter break to check off a few of this year’s most buzzed-about movies from my list.
First I saw Hyde Park on Hudson, which focused on an affair between Franklin D. Roosevelt and his distant cousin. At first I thought this was going to be just another boring historical movie that my parents dragged me (all the way to Bethel) to go see. I ended up really enjoying the movie because it took place over a weekend in 1939 when the king and queen of England visited the President’s estate in New York. This movie was a great complement to The King’s Speech (which I first saw when it was nominated for Best Picture in 2010). Combined, the two movies taught me more about World War II than I’ve ever learned in history class.
On the day after Christmas, my brother and I needed an escape from the overwhelming smell of roasting ham at my grandmother’s house. We decided to see Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie. We went into the movie with different motivations; he wanted the action and pizzazz that every Tarantino film promises, and I was in it to see my favorite actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Both of us left the nearly three-hour movie satisfied. I wasn’t expecting to learn anything from this movie, thinking it was just another high-budget bloodbath. On the surface, it is: a bounty hunter partners up with a freed slave and travels around the southwest hunting down fugitives. Underneath this fantasized story is a plot line that confronts racism and delves into the economic foundations of slave culture. For the first time ever, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a villain. After seeing Django Unchained, it’s hard to believe the same actor played Calvin Candie, a ruthless plantation owner, and Titanic’s Jack Dawson. I can’t wait to see Leo (in my dreams we’re on nickname basis) in The Great Gatsby next year. I was pleasantly surprised by Tarantino’s latest movie, which proved to be much more than just a bloody action film.
On a very different note, I next saw the highly anticipated Les Misérables. Before I saw the movie, I was unfamiliar with the story. However, I know the music very well because we’ve been rehearsing it in band for the past month for our winter concert. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway were all perfectly suited for their roles. My favorite character had to be Marius, played by Eddie Redmayne (who I first saw in My Week with Marilyn when Michelle Williams was nominated for Best Actress in 2011). I can’t think of much criticism for Les Mis; the acting was top-notch, the singing was surprisingly impressive, and the sets were so authentic I felt like I was in revolutionary Paris.
Hopefully this year I’ll make it to see all of the Best Picture nominees. Watching the awards is much more fun when I’m familiar with the nominated movies and actors. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the Academy Awards on Feb. 24 to find out who will take home the golden statue.
Jillian Finkelstein is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.