27 Days of Oscar, Day 7: American Sniper, Tangerines, Begin Again, and Life Itself

I considered titling this blog piece: regroup and rearrange, but if you are familiar with me and this site, and more specifically this series you know that I am going to do my best to follow a plan, and more than likely something will get in the way.  I will somehow watch all of the nominated films before Oscar night, February 22nd, but the plan will change, I can promise you that.

I had hoped to watch 6 nominated films this weekend, and alas, I watched 3 as well as a film that most thought would be nominated.

First, my father and I saw "American Sniper."  I knew going in that I was going to do my best to watch the film without even thinking of the word controversy.  I scoffed when critics of "Zero Dark Thirty" claimed inaccuracies when discussing the film and I had to give Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" the same courtesy.

I knew early on that the film wasn't going to be one of the great war films, of which I include Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima."  He decided to not take the opportunity to really dig deep into the questions of whether or not the war was truly worth it, not even allowing us the pleasure of making much consideration for ourselves.  Instead he simply told us a very thin version of Chris Kyle, the American sniper of which the film is titled.  We had a tiny bit of depth with the questioning of his wife and the addition of his "weaker" brother.  The film even begins with a stereotyped (and actually effective, in my opinion) depiction of a Dad who did not want his sons to be anything but wolf like-noble.  (I think I'm getting the description correct there.)  But as the film went on there was very little there to even discuss, in my opinion.  It was well shot, well acted...but a bit shoddily written.  The "love scenes" between the Kyle's played almost as badly as "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones."  And the film finished in a way that seemed as if a reel was missing.  Maybe even two. (Thanks Rick for that perfect description!)  To begin the film with the dynamic between Chris and his brother, give us a great scene between the two of them years later after both have been deployed, and then never go back to it was a thematic mistake.  And then to not address the reasoning behind Chris's (SPOILER ALERT) murder, was very, very shoddy.  Instead, Eastwood gave us "Schindler's List" lite with an unnecessary montage of Chris Kyle supporters.  A huge disappointment of a film not even worthy of controversy.

I then saw a great film, Estonia-Georgia's Foreign Film entry, "Tangerines."  I am not going to go into much detail here because I plan on writing a piece for Awards Daily where I will go into much detail.  And expect the film to also land on my Top 10.  Unless somehow everything else I watch happens to be better.

I also saw "Begin Again," nominated for Best Original Song...another film that will most definitely make my top 10.  More on that later as well!

I also watched the snubbed "Life Itself" documentary about Roger Ebert based on his memoir of the same name.  Having not seen 4 of the 5 nominees for Best Documentary I can't quite say if it deserved a slot.  But I will say that Steve James's relationship with Ebert, who was a huge supporter of James's other Oscar snubbed documentary "Hoop Dreams," allowed the audience to see Ebert in his very difficult, harrowing last months.  Ebert has been an inspiration to me over the years and the participation of the possibly better halves of both Siskel and Ebert (Chaz and Marlene) allowed us to humanize both of them in a way I had not ever seen.  Showing both of their faults, similarities and a wonderful behind the scenes rivalry that morphed into an unusual brotherly...something.  Roxy and Velma of the film critic world.

Now...I have a lot of work to do in the next 3 weeks.  Here is the list and where I stand.  I have no clue which film I will attempt to watch today, but I can assure you I will try to watch something.

28 Films and shorts left to go!

The Theory of Everything

The Judge
Two Days, One Night

Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam

Wild Tales

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguyu

Mr. Turner
Inherent Vice

Beyond the Lights
Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me


Additional Films:


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