My favorite line in the book Li of Pi is at the very beginning when Pi is describing his father's zoo and says, "I wish I could convey the perfection of a seal slipping into water or a spider monkey swinging from point to point or a lion merely turning its head. But language founders in such seas. Better to picture it in your head if you want to feel it."
And those last few words would be how you could describe Ang Lee's film adaptation, there simply aren't enough words to do justice to how beautiful the film both looks and feels.
We have been led to assume that 3D films are very much the preserve of big budget action-packed films such as Avatar and Prometheus along with a sprinkling of 3D animated films. Indeed some have suggested that after Avatar that 3D has become so overused it has pretty much had its day. Life of Pi challenged this making the concept of a 3D film being used to create something that is the preserve of action-packed films with explosions galore. As James Cameron noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Life of Pi challenged the 3D film paradigm by creating something that is both visually and artistically amazing, yet at the same time being something that is also dramatically engaging.
From the outset Martel's book about a boy stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a tiger doesn't exactly make it a recipe for an award winning film, in fact some critics even said Life of Pi was practically unfilmable.
Life of Pi won one out of the three Golden Globes it was nominated for; it was nominated for Best Film and Best Director, but won Best Original Score. Even if the Life of Pi doesn't succeed in the Best Film category or even Best Director, which Lee should win, it is more than a worthy winner in the more technical categories, and is likely to win Best Music even.
Ang Lee has been known for helping to launch or propel the careers of young actors; Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility, Zhang Zi Yi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tang Wei in Lust, Caution, and some could argue Anne Hathaway would have been stuck in the same typecast Princess Diaries roles had she not done Brokeback Mountain.
Suraj Sharma was something of a find — a completely unknown philosophy student from New Delhi has become the talk of the town in a film where it is basically him on his own with a tiger for the better part of two hours. For Sharma to be able to convey emotions ranging from fear to loss to anger, on his own makes it one of the best acting performances not just of the year, but also by any newcomer.
Although credited for directing a diverse range of films ranging from comedy to action, Ang Lee is more widely known for his ability to direct drama, and also possesses that ability to strike that balance between the drama and the action in a film. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee changed the face of martial arts films by making the story just as beautiful and as compelling as the fight scenes. And with Brokeback Mountain he contrasted the scenic American west with the harsh brutalities of homophobia. Similarly with Life of Pi, the visual effects in the breathtaking and otherworldly visual effects of the film balance perfectly with the drama of the isolation that the protagonist feels. That Lee can pretty much turn his hand to any genre of film and make it a success is testimony to his abilities as a director.
Life of Pi is a worthy Oscar nominee in its own right because of a compelling story, breathtaking visuals, an engaging protagonist, and a talented director.