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February 16, 2013

Weekend Reviews: Oscar frontrunners hold relevance

By Maggie McVey
The Daily Star

---- — Once again, it is that time of the year: either you’re complaining about the weather or your lack of a valentine, or attempting to view all of the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t really have much pull with the weather deities this year. Every good hair day I’ve encountered has ended in either a downpour or random wind storm that pushes each person brave enough to venture outside around like pawns in a game of chess.

And as for the valentine problem, well … I like you, but not that much.

However, I am very happy to report that I have your guide for must-see 2013 Oscar movies. Some were amazing and some weren’t, so to save you from your curiosity, I have compiled a list of my favorite Oscar films (because you know, I’m always right about what each person should see …). 

That last remark was sarcasm. But I do hope that you are able to see at least some of these movies and make your minds up for yourselves.

So to begin, I will suggest that the movie to see for this year’s Oscars is “Silver Linings Playbook,” which stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro. The film follows the story of Pat and Tiffany, played by Cooper and Lawrence respectively, as they form a friendship based off of near-necessity and relate to each other’s dealings with mental illness.

I was very unaware of the movie’s basic plot when I sat down to watch it. I only knew that it was getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and that it starred De Niro as Pat’s father, who also suffers with mental issues of his own.

Given that, the movie completely surpassed the expectations I had of it. Despite the roles I had previously seen Cooper in, such as “Wedding Crashers” and “The Hangover,” “Playbook” showed me that he has more acting chops than those films allowed him to portray.

Playing the role of a man battling mental illness was definitely a new one for him, which was pleasantly fresh coming from an audience’s perspective. The story follows Pat as he attempts to become a “better man” for his wife after he finds her cheating on him with another man and has a mental breakdown, resulting in his placement in a mental facility to work on his anger.

I found this film to be extremely relatable in its content. Although I enjoyed many of this year’s Oscar picks, this one wasn’t too far-fetched. They weren’t chasing the world’s most wanted terrorist or on a hunt for revenge. The characters are simply trying to live and better themselves after life has handed them some unfair hands.

And speaking of “chasing the world’s most wanted terrorist,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” which stars Jessica Chastain, was another of the year’s best films. The film follows Mya, who was recruited for the CIA right out of high school, as she works with the agency in the Middle East to track down Osama bin Laden.

I’m not typically a huge action movie fan, but the plot of “Zero Dark Thirty” (which is based on true events, although its accuracy has been cause of much controversy) kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film even though I knew what would end up happening at some point.

At the end of the movie when all is said and done, I honestly felt bad for Mya. Her work was complete, and after 10 years, she had nothing to dedicate herself to anymore. I found her character such an inspiration; not only as an amazingly hard-working CIA agent, but as a woman in such male-dominated world to have been as in command of her work and team as she was is truly an inspiring story.

As soon as I saw the trailer for Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables,” I knew I would love it. I’ve been a fan of “Les Mis” since the drama club in my high school put on the production when I was a freshman. I was blown away by the performances given by Hugh Jackman, who plays Jean Valjean, the story’s protagonist, and Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine, the young mother who sacrifices everything for her daughter, Cosette.

Although I enjoyed the story as well as the music and performances, I think a lot of the positive reception was due in large part to the theme of disillusionment with government and an attempt to rise up and change the country’s direction. Not only are those themes relevant in the U.S., but worldwide.

Films like “Django Unchained” and “Argo” are also well-deserved Oscar films with worthwhile themes. Take a few hours this week before the Oscars are awarded on Feb. 24, and view at least some of the movies on this list, and hopefully you will be able to make some connection between your lives and the themes of these films.

Maggie McVey, a 2012 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.