Movie Highlights: 2013 Awards Season

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Awards season is in full swing!  If you’re behind, there’s still time to catch up.  These are some of the films up for best picture or whose actors/actresses are nominated for their acting.  They’re still playing at select theaters in San Diego County.  The 2013 Academy Awards will air on February 24, 2013.


MV5BMTc3MjI0MjM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkOn November 4, 1979, an angry crowd storms the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, demanding return of its deposed leader.  Unbeknownst to the Iranians, six Americans are able to escape and end up holing up in the abode of the Canadian’s ambassador.  An expert in “exfiltration” is brought in and leads the covert operation with an outlandish plan, pose the six Americans as Canadian film crew scouting an exotic location for a fake sci-fi movie and then depart from the airport.  Not only that the film is both intelligent and entertaining, it’s riveting from start to finish.  Supremely-crafted script and storytelling.  Brisk pace, witty dialogue and suspenseful actions, with tonal balance between lighter humor and dour reality.  Authenticity with period costume and design, newsreels and footage from the era weaved into the story.  Human approach provides connection to the characters and care about their fate.  Solid, ensemble acting.  Based on a true historical story, “Argo” is stranger than fiction and it’s an absolute feat.  Best film of 2012!  Check out the full review here.


MV5BMTQzNzczMDUyNV5BMl5BanBnXkLong, laborious… yet fascinating.  Irish-born and British actor Daniel Day-Lewis disappears and becomes a real, living, breathing Lincoln.  He truly captures the most beloved and storied American political figure, down  to the hunched posture, slight limp of gait, war-weary eyes, high-pitched voice, sunken cheeks and chin-strap beard. A skilled statesman and good man, Lincoln leads the country, divided by years of civil war and dark period of slavery.  He does what’s necessary for the greater good – negotiating, persuading, cajoling, compromising, convincing, biding time, trading favors, bribing.  “Lincoln” is not a biography, but a window into the most historic time in the life of  the 16th President of the United States.  It’s a revealing window of the backroom political deals that go into the process of the abolition of slavery and uniting of the nation, as well as Lincoln’s own personal relationships with his family.  When it boils down to it, this is Day-Lewis’ picture; he’s perfection.  Check out the full review here.

“Life of Pi”

MV5BNTg2OTY2ODg5OF5BMl5BanBnXk“You don’t know the strength of your faith until it has been tested.”  And tested it has.  One teen’s survival, while sharing a lifeboat space with a bengal tiger in the vast emptiness of the sea, depends on his faith, belief, hope, spirit to go on, endurance, and at some point, acceptance of what is and letting go  The visuals and special effects are imaginatively exquisite.  Dreamlike imageries will linger in your mind. “Life of Pi,” filled by magical visuals, is an artistic achievement.  It’s a fantasy fable, at the same time, somehow the story feels real and plausible.  It’s a testament of its captivating storytelling and convincing acting.  When another story is revealed toward the end, the ending will let you choose which journey you’d like to believe.  Spiritual or realistic, or both – what you believe may possibly reveal more about yourself and your own belief.  Check out the full review here.

“Les Miserables”

MV5BMTQ4NDI3NDg4M15BMl5BanBnXkThe film tells a story about a man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child, gets freed after 19 years, but breaks parole and continues to be on the run from a relentless inspector. He makes an honest and respectable life for himself after a kind gesture from a priest gives him a chance to turn his life around.  The man’s run-in with a poor factory worker turned dying prostitute affects her life considerably, and he eventually becomes a protector of her daughter. The story extends through the years with the grown-up daughter experiencing her first love with a young man during the turbulent post-revolutionary times in France.  There are solitary, haunting scenes that will stay in your mind. A spectacular musical adaptation, one could only imagine the herculean efforts that go into this kind of undertaking.  With over 2.5 hours, it’s overlong and may test one’s patience, especially those who are not into Broadway shows or musicals, but it’s definitely worth seeing.  Check out the full review here.

“The Impossible”


Over 230,000 lives lost in 14 countries.  Based on a true story, this is a survival story of one family during the 2004 tsunami.  Within moments of impact, the monstrous tidal waves engulf and steamroll everything and everyone in its path.  And the aftermath, unimaginable.  The wounded and the dead, and miles and miles of destruction and desolation.  The wrath of nature is re-created so masterfully that it feels like a documentary.  It shows how dangerous and frightening to get swept away among downed trees, power lines, cars, boats, sharp debris and anything in between could be.  “The Impossible” is a real tear-jerker.  It’s impossibly gut-wrenching, and often times, difficult to watch.  At the same time, it’s also uplifting and healing to see resilience, kindness and love of families and community coming together and helping one another.  Miracles do happen and this is an example of that.  Check out the full review here.

“Zero Dark Thirty”

MV5BMTQ4OTUyNzcwN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTQ1NDE3OA@@._V1._SY317_A chronicle of a decade worth of intelligence efforts that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden on May 6, 2011. The film shows the controversial waterboarding, degradation and humiliation, but also analytical research and mundane briefings, meeting up with foreign sources and following up on leads, as well as bribery. “Zero Dark Thirty” is well-crafted, but it’s very clinical.  It feels cold, but it has a real sense of unpredictability and danger, without any glorification or glamorization.  The final moment of bin Laden’s life might have been met with a shot by a member of the SEAL Team Six, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears had been shed prior to the mission. It’s a reminder of and insight into the extraordinary efforts that went into capturing and killing the world’s number one terrorist. The greatest manhunt in history was no single shot. It also brings a somber sense of closure to 9/11, even when the war on terror never ends.  Check out the full review here.

Copyright (c) 2013. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, film columnist and lifestyle/travel writer.  She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter:

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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