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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 18, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Oscar countdown “Les Miserables”

Seems like it should have been “Lincoln” on President’s Day, doesn’t it? But never mind; we’re continuing our alphabetical Best Picture march today with “Les Miserables,” the first musical to be nominated for Best Picture since “Chicago” ten years ago. “Chicago” cleaned up at the Oscars that year, winning six awards, but don’t expect “Les Mis” to do as well; though popular at the box office, it’s drawn mixed reviews from audiences and critics. Some are deeply moved by the emotional impact of its songs and performances; others found it heavy-handed. (Me, I felt both.) The first screen adaptation of the wildly popular stage musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, “Les Miserables” was a long-in-the-works project that finally came to the screen directed by Tom Hooper, who used his post-“The King’s Speech” momentum to get it done his way. This included the innovative use of live singing (rather than the voice-over that’s standard in film musicals), which served most of the cast very well — except perhaps Russell Crowe, whose voice might have been better served in a studio. Nonetheless, “Les Mis” is a bonafide hit that may well usher in a new era of movie musicals. Then again, everyone said that about “Chicago” ten years ago, and it didn’t really happen. We’ll see. Meanwhile, just try to get “On My Own” out of your head.
Total U.S. box office: $144 million; third among the Best Picture nominees
Total Oscar nominations: Eight, for best picture, actor (Hugh Jackman), supporting actress (Anne Hathaway), costume design, production design, original song, makeup and hairstyling, and sound mixing.
Best chance for a win: Hathaway, who’s been sweeping the pre-Oscar awards in her category, seems like a sure thing; and I’m guessing that the film’s ambitious makeup and hairstyling might be rewarded. Otherwise, “Anna Karenina” might well edge it out in the design categories, and the category where you’d think a musical would have an advantage — original song — seems more likely to go to “Skyfall.”
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: Well, if Hathaway sang her acceptance speech, or if the popular Jackman managed an upset victory over Daniel Day-Lewis, that might liven things up. Or if the film’s cast and crew, outraged by losses, built up a barricade in the theater and started singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
Fun fact: Even if “Les Miserables” magically managed to win all eight of its nominated categories, it still wouldn’t be Oscar’s most-rewarded musical. That would be “West Side Story,” which won ten Academy Awards in 1961. “Gigi,” in 1958, won nine; “My Fair Lady” (1964) and “Cabaret” (1972) won eight each.
lesmis.jpg
Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables” (photo by Laurie Sparham; courtesy of Universal Pictures)

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