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Les Misérables (2012)
A Grand Triumph
In a Hollywood where nothing is new anymore, where nothing takes the leap to be called innovative or original, I have finally found a movie I am proud to call both innovative and original. Tom Hooper's Les Misérables is based on the stage musical, which in turn is based on Victor Hugo's epic 19 century novel. As a critic who has had the privilege of reading this epic, I had high expectations for Hooper's film adaptation. This film takes a chance and decides to finally do something new.
The movie was filmed with two major risks involved: first, the actors were to sing live on set, and second, Hooper did not use film transitions, rather he devised a new way of editing I have never seen before in which the cuts are not transitions, rather they follow the songs and the emotions of the characters. Both of the risks paid off triumphantly and the audience is treated to a version of Hugo's classic that could not have been told any other way. For the first time ever we get both the famous songs and the riveting emotions of the characters singing them. Hooper's major cinematic tool was the close-up, which he used flawlessly to capture every single eye twitch and half smile; powerful images that cannot be found from a nosebleed seat.
With that in mind, the most powerful aspect of the film is its images. Some of these images will haunt your memories, while others will hold on to your heart. Each camera angle, each set piece is used to create a painting. Some brush strokes emulate misery, while others signify redemption. The entire cast paints a portrait of what we find in Hugo's classic.
The singing is superb, from each cast member. Hugh Jackman sings a touching "Bring Him Home," Russel Crowe sings a rousing "Stars," and Anne Hathaway will break your heart with "I Dreamed a Dream." Even Samantha Barks in her film debut brings acting on par with that of the former when she flawlessly moves you with "On My Own." The emotions brought forth by the actors are often more powerful than the songs themselves. Each cast member is an actor first, singer second, which allows the film its significance and independence from the stage.
From the first sequence to the final number, Hooper entices you with a poetic journey through Hugo's redemptive tale. This is easily the best film of the year and one of this critic's all time favorite films. It will stay with you, whether you want it to or not. You will cry, you will laugh, and I promise you, even if you do not know the songs when you enter the theater, you will sing.
District 9 (2009)
Science Fiction Has Met Another Masterpiece
NO SPOILERS: District 9 delivers a movie that Science Fiction has been waiting for since the days of Star Wars. Masterpieces of the genre include 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Alien duet (Alien and Aliens), and, of course, the unforgettable Star Wars. District 9 is everything you want and more. It makes itself a masterpiece through originality, great story telling, realistic aliens, both in looks and actions, reality, and meaning. To put the final touch, it delivers a multitude of action sequences that keep your eyes wide open for the second half, without which we would be subject to another movie that you hate to watch because every time you find yourself drifting off to sleep. This is no space opera and it has no complex subtext scattered throughout. It is a genuine story of realistic Science Fiction. The many themes, characters, and emotions within the story make it a powerhouse within the movie universe. The few fallacies lie cluttered in the script, mainly in the lack of dialog aside from f-bombs. On a lighter note is the connection you have with the aliens. Even in other movies where the aliens are the "good guys", you find yourself wanting to care for them. The connection developed with the alien Christopher is more than you could want. The personification of the alien's eyes gives you a hold of the connection reel before it pulls you in. District 9 is the Science Fiction masterpiece of the 2000's. The Story reminded me most of Fargo, which showed greed and selflessness and the effects of both. Movies like Avatar and Donnie Darko are great but hail in comparison to the marvel that D9 delivers. I purchase few movies but this one sits in my library next to Star Wars, Alien, and 2001 as an equal. OVERALL: 9.5/10