This week's English cinema picks
ROME - Oscar-prediction rages as English cinemagoers have a handful of Best Picture nominees to choose from. In each of my top picks for the week, there are no flirtations with the avant-garde or the gritty realism the Academy occasionally applauds – instead, each film is a star-studded affair with straightforward storylines and pitch-perfect performances. All three films have enjoyed both critical and commercial success, once again opening the old-hat Oscar debate about whether or not a film’s blockbuster status and empirical quality are mutually exclusive. Decide for yourself – each film has multiple showtimes this week at Multisala Barberini (Piazza Barberini 24-26, tel. 0686391361) and Cinema Lux (Via Massaciuccoli 31, tel. 0686391361). Django Unchained and Lincoln are also both showing at Nuovo Olimpia off Via del Corso (Via in Lucina 16/g, tel. 066861068).
The sweeping sentimentality of the stage version is in full effect in this latest adaptation, the largest-scale of its kind. The emotional tale of redemption still packs a punch on screen, thanks in part to director Tom Hooper’s insistence that the actors sing live rather than lip-sync their performances. The raw immediacy of the stage isn’t lost in the translation to the screen, but improved upon. Hugh Jackman’s spirited performance as escaped ex-convict-turned-mayor Jean Valjean is particularly inspired, and as fatally ill Fantine, Anne Hathaway has climbed up a rung or two on the A-list ladder.
This quasi-Western stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a freed slave who sets out to rescue his wife from an oppressive plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) after striking a deal with a charismatic bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Director Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to controversy and criticism, and with Django Unchained, he continues to test the boundaries of stylized violence and sickeningly clever dialogue. His signature comic-book violence and kitschy soundtracks are both here, meaning it’s style over substance as usual, but that’s not to say that the formula doesn’t work. Waltz’s work in the film has already earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, and the film features searing, stomach-wrenching performances by DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, one of Tarantino’s trademark collaborators.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth U.S. president, a role that would intimidate even the most meticulous method actors. One of those himself, Day-Lewis delivers a nuanced performance that humanizes Lincoln and never indulges the cartoonish long-beard-and-top-hat image that so many audience members might hold of such an icon. Director Steven Spielberg’s mastery of his craft is evident as always, but the film is decidedly understated, relatively speaking; don’t expect swelling scores and epic action sequences – the film is set mostly in dark rooms where decisions are made, taking more of its cues from Twelve Angry Men than Titanic.