Sunday, February 25, 2024

Best of 2023, #10: Maestro

Some thoughts:
  • I thought I was going to dislike this movie because of the make-up, which looked terrible in ads, but in the actual movie, it was fine and I forgot all about it.
  • But I kept asking “Why the 4:3 aspect ratio?” What did it mean? What was Cooper trying to say with the black bars on the sides of the screen? I can’t imagine.  I have no problem watching old movies and TV with the black bars, but I can’t figure out why any modern movie would do it.  
  • At times, this movie was quite beautiful, but there were other times I was frustrated that the camera wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Again, as with the aspect ratio, I found myself taken out of it.
  • I kept comparing the movie to Tar, which ultimately was a better movie. Conducting is a fairly silly-looking job, especially for a viewer like me who isn’t into classical music, but Blanchett did a better job selling me on its not-silliness than Cooper did.
  • Ultimately, there’s not as much drama as there could be, but I’m not sure if that’s a problem. According to the movie, Leonard Bernstein had various problems in his life and marriage, but ultimately was a pretty happy, successful guy who managed to basically get away with having it all. It’s to Cooper’s credit that he doesn’t fall into “tortured homosexual” cliches, and captures a certain joie de vivre in Bernstein’s voice in every phase of his life. Cooper’s Bernstein is a happy family man who also sleeps with men, not because of some dark compulsion but simply because it’s fun. If he was more tortured, maybe he would actually win the Oscar, but it’s probably to his credit that he won’t.
  • Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife gets more drama than he does, as she eventually dies of cancer. She’s excellent, and there’s more of a case to be made that she should win, but it’s probably not her year either.

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