Les Miserables

Wolverine is on the run from The Gladiator because Catwoman left her baby at Borat’s house…

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My quest to see the remaining Best Picture nominees began today with Les Miserables. Confession- I have never read the book. I have never seen the previous non musical adaptations. I have never seen the play. This was first exposure other than knowing a few of the songs.

Holy Crap. I was blown away.

There is that moment, that occurs in all Motion Picture Musicals, when you stop and say “Oh yeah, they sing in this movie”. Once past that, I was struck by something fascinating- they were not singing to pre-recorded tracks. The vocals that we hear in this film are what was recorded live as they filmed. Normally films are lip synced, in this one the actors are acting as they sing. This might seem a strange thing to focus on, but it really makes a difference.

This is the story of a man named Jean, who serves 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is portrayed by Hugh Jackman. His warden is played by Russel Crowe.  He is paroled, and decides to leave his old name and life behind and make a new one. This is of course against the law as he is supposed to check in with his parole officers.

Several years later, he is an upstanding factory owner. A young woman works in his shop. She is trying to support a child who is living with some innkeepers far away. She is fired and has to turn to a life as a prostitute. Jean discovers the horrible effect the firing has had on his former employee and he makes a promise to take care of her child, just as she dies. Russell Crowe catches up to him, so its away to find the girl. The rest of the story is Jean and the child living their lives. He is afraid of being caught, and she falls in love with a young man tied up in an 1830’s revolutionary movement.

Hugh Jackman

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If Daniel Day Lewis was not getting so much attention for Lincoln (which I have yet to see) the oscar would be Jackman’s. It is well known that he is a song and dance man, of the type Hollywood no longer produces. He is also a hell of an actor. He puts both skills together with amazing effect. This is a career defining role for him, on par with Wolverine. You really feel Jean Valjean’s pain as he tries to balance the scales with God. A powerful performance.

Anne Hathaway

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She will break your heart. Fantine, the woman who turns to prostitution to support her child. She is only in the film briefly, but she leaves a lasting impact on all that follows. She gets “I dreamed a dream” the most famous of the songs in the film, and she nails it. People listening just to the soundtrack are missing the true performance. The major complaint is that her voice cracks a lot, and sounds quite weak. This is not due to a detriment of Hathaway’s performance, but is BECAUSE of it. She is acting, and the song comes at the point where she is at her lowest, and wants to die. Whats even cooler is that she does it all in one take. ONE TAKE, no camera cuts. The few minutes of this song are the most emotional in the film- because of her acting. She deserves the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this one, despite stiff competition.

Russel Crowe

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No one told Russell that he was not in a rock opera. His style is a bit out of place in this film, but I cannot fault the singing. He is an accomplished musician and can belt out a tune. He was just an odd choice compared to the others. Then again, his character of Javert- who chases Valjean is supposed to be a bit out of step with our heroes. Bottom line- he is not the best fit, but does an admirable job. I applaud him taking the role.

Sacha Baron Cohen

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This guy amazes me. He will be forever remembered as Borat, Bruno, and any of his other “Mockumentary” style creations. I enjoyed his schtick, but pretty much wrote the guy off. Then he showed up in Sweeney Todd, quite memorably ad he started showing signs of being more than a one trick pony. Now he shows up here, absolutely playing up his comedic talents as the incredibly corrupt innkeeper that has been taking care of Fantine’s child Cossette with his wife- played by Helena Bonham Carter. She delivers a good performance, similar to things she has done previously, while Cohen damn near steals the movie. After the drama, and sadness of the first section of the film, his character explodes onto the scene and was a crowd pleaser. His next film is Mercury- a drama based on the life of Freddie Mercury of Queen. He can act, he can sing, and he resembles Mercury. That is one to watch for.

Amanda Seyfried

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An actress that is on the cusp of something special. She first popped up on my radar in Big Love, and then she branched out into film with Mamma Mia, and a few unmemorable horror films. Now she pops up here, and has a few high profile pictures in development. She plays the adult Cossette, and has a lovely singing voice.

Eddie Redmayne

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Cossette’s love- Marius is played by Eddie Redmayne who impressed me last year in “My week with Marilyn”. He’s been in a few other productions and looks to be an up and comer.

Tom Hooper:

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Hooper is the director of the film. He first came to my notice a couple of years ago when he made “The King’s Speech” which won everything that year. He also directed a fantastic Mini Series called “John Adams”. You may have heard of it. This is three projects in a row that work for me. Hooper is going on my list of Directors to follow closely.

The question: Does this effect my top films list of 2012? Absolutely. The Cinematography, Costume, Set design, and SHEER QUALITY of this film catapults it into contention.

Top 10 2012: (v3)

1: Skyfall

2: Django Unchained

3: Avengers

4: Moonrise Kingdom

5: Dark Knight Rises

6: Les Miserables

7: The Hunger Games

8: The Artist

9: The Hobbit

10: Dredd

Removed:

11: Prometheus- I am sorry to see this one drop off, but its been a great year.

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