Oscars 2013: 3 Movies You Have to See Before Watching

It’s not too late to catch up on the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards. Presented for your benefit are three more films at the top of their game. Do they deserve the limelight? Don’t they? Let us know in the comments section.

The Invisible War


The Invisible War is an unusual documentary, in that it has attained near universal critical acclaim despite, or perhaps due to the sobriety of its subject: rape within the U.S. military. The film provides an in-depth exploration into how women have settled into what used to be, and largely remains, an all-male profession. This is presented alongside interviews with both servicewomen and men who have been sexually assaulted by nominal comrades, and found no justice for their injuries from military leadership.

The combined testimony paints a disturbing picture of an organization with an understated and institutional tolerance for rape. If that sounds like a ludicrous generalization, that’s the point the film is trying to make — that it really is that bad. One of the central stories in the narrative concerns Kori Cioca, a former seaman in the Coast Guard who suffered severe facial trauma as a result of her rape. The Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to cover the cost of treatment, arguing she cannot prove that the injury occurred during her military service. For Cioca and many nameless others, physical recovery and official acknowledgement of her rape have become inextricably linked.

The Invisible War is already making waves; after the film’s premiere at the Sundance Festival, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered an immediate restructuring of how sexual assault cases are handled, and the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 adds new official measures for handling same.

Whether or not these measures will hold any water, the film is as powerful as it is groundbreaking, and audiences appear to agree; the film has been nominated by the Academy for Best Documentary.

Wreck-It Ralph


John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman star in Disney’s newest animated feature. Reilly plays the part of the titular Wreck-It Ralph, a video game character who is shunned by dint of his job as an antagonist in an 8-bit arcade game. Seeking to break free from the scorn his role earns him, he unwittingly sets in motion a plot that threatens the same game characters who despised him. With the help of Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman), Ralph must find a way to set things right on his own terms.

It is difficult to decide what most to be astounded by, whether the breathtakingly stark aesthetic, the cute-yet-witty writing, or characterization that is as well-paced as it is relatable; true to Disney form, every major character undergoes a distinct arc of personal development that dovetails with the central moral theme of the movie. Perhaps most mind-boggling is the pains Walt Disney Studios has taken in recreating iconic video game characters, some of whom passed out of public consciousness long before the current generation grew out of diapers (Seriously, who remembers Q*bert?).

Considering the rave reviews, Wreck-It Ralph has so far received, it is unsurprising that it has been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Django Unchained


Django Unchained is director Quentin Tarantino’s newest cinematic offering, starring Jamie Foxx, Cristoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a violent rendition of an already violent genre.

The movie’s plot is nothing special. Here it is in six words: Man saves wife from slavery, bang. A simple premise, but as with any of Tarantino’s films, that alone is no reason to avoid it. Tarantino manages to weave language, environment, tension, and paces in a delicious mix that is immediately recognizable to anyone who has seen his previous work, Inglorious Basterds. Viewers of that film will also be relieved to find that Waltz’s legendary charm remains intact, if subdued.

The film is ripe with controversy, as is par for course where Tarantino is concerned. A number of commentators have raised objections concerning the number of times the word “nigger” is uttered. Others have complained about the film’s loose grasp on history. Still others decry it as a modern take on the Blaxploitation films of the seventies, notably Spike Lee, who sees Django as an affront to his heritage, never mind that neither “historical accuracy,” nor “restraint” are terms commonly used to describe Tarantino’s movies.

Django has been nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

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William Kang

William Kang earned a B.A. in Physics from UC Berkeley, and a M.Eng. in Systems Engineering from Cornell University. Do not ask him about either of these things.

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