Film Review: Les Miserables (dir. by Tom Hooper)


I was recently talking to one of my fellow film bloggers when the subject of this year’s Oscar nominees came up.  After I told her that I thought that Beasts of the Southern Wild was the worst of this year’s nominees, she rather vigorously shook her head and said, “No film this year was less deserving of a nomination than Les Mis.”

Now, I have to admit that it’s rare that her and I ever agree on anything.  For instance, she thinks that Barack Obama is going to save the world whereas I … well, let’s just say that I don’t.  She watches Glee and I would watch Community if it would ever come back on the air.  However, we do usually agree about films and, in fact, our friendship was initially the result of our shared loathing for Avatar.  So, I was curious why her reaction to Les Miserables was so different from mine.

In her own words, Les Miserables was “bombastic” and over-directed by Tom Hooper.  She complained about Russell Crowe’s singing and she felt that Sacha Baron Cohen appeared to be acting in a totally different film from everyone else.  The term “style over substance” came up more than a few times and she felt that even the things that did work — like Anne Hathaway’s draining performance as Fantine, Samantha Barks’ poignant work as Eponine, and Aaron Tveit’s charismatic performance as Enjorlas — simply served to highlight how uneven the film was when taken as a whole.  Finally — and I think that this is actually the key behind a lot of the online backlash against Les Miserables — she admitted that a part of her reaction was due to the fact that she still resented the fact that Hooper’s previous film, The King’s Speech, defeated The Social Network for Best Picture way back in 2010.

What’s ironic is that I found myself agreeing with a lot of what she was saying.  The fact of the matter is that Hooper does over-direct Les Miserables and the frequent jump cuts do tend to detract from the film’s performances.  It’s not a coincidence that the film’s best performance is given by one of the few performers (Anna Hathaway, of course) who is actually allowed to sing an entire song in close-up without Hooper cutting away to distract us with something else.  And yes, Sacha Baron Cohen does feel out-of-place and yes, Russell Crowe is a bit miscast in the role of Javert.

And yet, despite those not minor complaints, I still loved Les Miserables and I think it’s more than deserving of its nomination for Best Picture of the year.

Les Miserables in an adaptation of the Broadway musical that was itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel.  The plot will be familiar to anyone who has ever taken an English class.  In 19th century France, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) serves 19 years in prison for stealing bread.  When he’s paroled from prison, he adopts a new identity and starts a new life.  Eventually, he becomes a factory owner and a local politician and is known for his kindness and honesty.  When the tragic prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) dies, Valjean adopts her daughter, Cosette.  However, when the obsessive Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) learns of Valjean’s true identity, Valjean and Cosette are forced to go into hiding.  Many years later, the now grown Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) has fallen in love with the revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne, who gives a performance that is just as good as Hathaway’s much more lauded work). As France descends into revolution, Javert again discovers Valjean, much blood is shed on the streets of Paris, and Sacha Baron Cohen keeps popping up and offering some awkward comedic relief.

Yes, Les Miserables is all about style and yes, it is a bit bombastic but is that necessarily a bad thing?  I loved Les Mis specifically because it was such an old school spectacle.  There have been several very serious, very sober-minded adaptations of Les Miserables and most of them, especially the nearly 5 hour French version from 1934, deserve to be seen.  Both the Broadway musical and Hooper’s adaptation play up the story’s inherent melodrama and the resulting show is one that is designed to get more of an emotional response than an intellectual one.  Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is a film that has specifically been made for those of us who aren’t ashamed to shed a few tears at the movies.  When I walked out of the theater after watching Les Miserables, I had mascara everywhere and I can’t think of a higher compliment to pay this uneven but ultimately triumphant film.

By the way, here are the Satellite Award Nominations…


In even more Oscar season news, the International Press Association announced their nominations for the Satellite Awards yesterday.  Les Miserables led with 10 nominations.

If you’re like most people who don’t obsess over film awards then chances are that you’ve never heard of the International Press Association.  And that’s okay.  The main thing to know is that it’s Oscar season and that means that everyone’s giving out an award.  The Satellites are a lot like the Golden Globes, just with less credibility.  As far as serving as a precursor is concerned, a Satellite win can help a film maintain momentum but a loss doesn’t really hurt.

That said, for the past few years, I’ve always ended up agreeing more with the Satellite Nominations than with either the Oscars or the Golden Globes.  For instance, back in 2010, the Satellites nominated Noomi Rapace for her performance in the original (and the best) version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

BEST PICTURE
“Argo”
“Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
“Life Of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Les Misérables”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“The Sessions”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Skyfall”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck, “Argo”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Kim Ki-duk, “Pieta“
Ben Lewin, “The Sessions”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ACTRESS
Laura Birn, “Purge”
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Emilie Dequenne, “Our Children”
Keira Knightley, “Anna Karenina”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Laura Linney, “Hyde Park On Hudson”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

BEST ACTOR
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Omar Sy, “The Intouchables”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Samantha Barks, “Les Miserables“
Judi Dench, “Skyfall”
Helene Florent, “Café De Flore”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Javier Bardem, “Skyfall”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
John Goodman, “Flight”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Eddie Redmayne, “Les Misérables”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
John Gatins, “Flight”
Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, “The Intouchables”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master”
Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Kim Ki-duk, “Pieta”
Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Tom Stoppard, “Anna Karenina”
Chris Terrio, “Argo”
David Magee, “Life Of Pi”
Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
Ben Lewin, “The Sessions”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Amour” (Austria)
“Beyond The Hills” (Romania)
“Caesar Must Die” (Italy)
“The Intouchables” (France)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“Our Children” (Belgium)
“Pieta” (South Korea)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

BEST ANIMATED OR MIXED-MEDIA FILM
“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“Ice Age 4: Continental Drift”
“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”
“Paranorman”
“Rise Of The Guardians”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”
“The Central Park Five”
“Chasing Ice”
“The Gatekeepers”
“Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”
“The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”
“Searching For Sugar Man”
“West Of Memphis”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Seamus McGarvey, “Anna Karenina”
Ben Richardson, “Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
Claudio Miranda, “Life Of Pi”
Janusz Kaminski, “Lincoln”
Mihai Malaimare, Jr., “The Master”
Roger Deakins, “Skyfall”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Sarah Greenwood, Niall Moroney, Thomas Brown, Nick Gottschalk and Tom Still, “Anna Karenina”
Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh, James Hambidge and Naaman Marshall, “The Dark Knight Rises”
Rick Carter, Curt Beech, David Crank and Leslie McDonald, “Lincoln”
David Crank and Jack Fisk, “The Master”
Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson, “Les Misérables”
Niels Sejer, “A Royal Affair”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline Durran, “Anna Karenina”
Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud, “Cloud Atlas”
Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux, “Farewell, My Queen”
Paco Delgado, “Les Misérables”
Manon Rasmussen, “A Royal Affair”
Colleen Atwood, “Snow White And The Huntsman”

BEST FILM EDITING
Alexander Berner, “Cloud Atlas”
Jeremiah O’Driscoll, “Flight”
Chris Dickens, “Les Misérables”
Lisa Bromwell, “The Sessions”
Jay Cassidy, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Dylan Tichenor, “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dario Marianelli, “Anna Karenina”
Alexandre Desplat, “Argo”
Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts Of The Southern Wild”
John Williams, “Lincoln”
Jonny Greenwood, “The Master”
Thomas Newman, “Skyfall”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Learn Me Right,” “Brave”
“Fire In The Blood/Snake Song” “Lawless”
“Love Always Comes As A Surprise,” “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”
“Suddenly,” “Les Misérables”
“Still Alive,” “Paul Williams: Still Alive”
“Skyfall,” “Skyfall”

BEST SOUND (EDITING AND MIXING)
“Flight”
“Les Misérables”
“Snow White And The Huntsman”
“Kon-Tiki”
“Life Of Pi”
“Prometheus”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Cloud Atlas”
“The Dark Knight Rises”
“Flight”
“Life Of Pi”
“Prometheus”
“Skyfall”

Trailer: Les Misérables (International)


With all my attention on horror-theme last October I had forgotten that the latest trailer for this holiday season’ upcoming feature-length film adaptation of the musical Les Misérables has already come out.

The film will be directed by Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper (fresh off his win for The King’s Speech) he leads a star-studded ensemble cast in putting on the big screen the much-beloved musical that dominated the 80’s and most of the 90’s. I don’t know any kid growing up during that decade who didn’t get dragged to see the musical in the big cities it entrenched itself in. Instead of hating the experience most kids ended up loving the musical. I know that I was one such highschooler who ended up loving it and musicals in general.

This international trailer shows more of the story compared to the teaser which arrived 5 months earlier. We get to see snippets of Crowe singing as Javert and Seyfried as Cosette. Whilethe West End and Broadway productions have come to an end or at the very least not as popular as they used to be) hopefully this film adaptation will introduce this classic to a new generation of kids. Show them that there’s more to music than the pop hits that dominates the radio waves and internet radio sites.

Les Misérables is set for a December 25, 2012 release date.

Image Source: JWoodhams Deviantart

Trailer: Les Misérables (Teaser)


The moment I saw the news feed that one of my most anticipated films of 2012 finally has an official teaser trailer out I knew that my expectations would only grow with each viewing.

Tom Hooper doesn’t go for small in following up his Academy Award-winning directing work in The King’s Speech by adapting the hugely popular and beloved stage musical Les Misérables which in itself was adapted from the classic Victor Hugo novel of the same name. The cast stars Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe in the roles of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Anne Hathaway comes away with the role of the tragic Fantine with Amanda Seyfried taking on the role of Fantine’s grown-up daughter Cosette. In what could be a star-making turn, Samantha Barks gets the coveted role of Eponine which was the same role she played as part of the musical’s 25th Anniversary Concert.

Details about this film musical has been scarce, but it’s already been reported that every actor in the cast does their own singing and done so live in front of the camera. This stylistic choice may keep some of the songs from reaching epic levels, but should do well in better conveying the emotional impact for some of the more personal character songs in the musical. In fact, the song that Anne Hathaway sings in the trailer, “I Dreamed A Dream”, is one of those character songs that seem to sound much better with it being less is more style.

Les Misérables is set for a December 14, 2012 release date.