Saturday, February 10, 2024

2023 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominee - All Quiet on the Western Front

This one doesn't rate highly on the list of best picture nominees, for either Chris or myself.  In fact, Chris's comment was, "This movie was much more terrible than I expected. I connected most strongly with the goose."

To my happy surprise, the movie was dubbed in English, and I didn’t have to deal with subtitles. One nice thing is that with English being a Germanic language, the dubbing works extraordinarily well. As I've aged, I've grown to prefer dubbing over subtitles (I used to strongly prefer subtitles, wishing to hear the actor's original voices), but subtitles make the movie a lot more work for me.

Both of us hated the score. It was like a typical score most of the time, interspersed with a jarring discordant synthesizer - clearly intended to tell the viewer, “This is a dramatic, horrifying moment.”

It was beautifully filmed - the cinematography was simply outstanding, but it focused too much on the horror of war (which it captured well) and too little about the characters (though the actors did an excellent job with what little they had to work with). The story, which is already a little weak in the novel, was barely present in this movie.

I went into this new movie kind of excited about it. I taught the novel during one of my brief stints as an English teacher, and while it's not my favorite novel of all time, I like it OK, well enough in fact that after we completed that unit at school, I read it to Chris, who remembers it being slow, but not the worst book he's ever read (high praise!).  We've both seen the 1979 version with Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine (and we agree that it was OK but a little boring). That version had one thing going for it that this movie didn't - it focused on the characters of Paul and Kat enough that you cared more about them and connected with them. 

With this version, we didn't really care about the characters, because it took a step back and felt like an art-house film whose sole purpose was to show the horrors of war (and it did that very very effectively - there were many horrifying, powerful scenes, but they were separated by many boring ones), and because it stepped away from Paul and Kat, neither Chris nor I connected with them at all.  The only human character Chris felt strongly about he wanted dead (the German commander who sent the soldiers on a suicide mission at the end so they wouldn't be dishonored, a senseless attack that resulted in many dead soldiers for no gain whatsoever).  Chris's main comment (and it will only make sense if you watch the movie) was, "The goose was the protagonist." 

I cared slightly more for Paul Baumer than Chris did, but I, too, felt a lack of connection.  So, it was a beautiful movie that showed the ugliness of WW1, but in the end was an epic failure because nobody cared about the people living (or dying) because of that ugliness.

    (Pithy Reviews; and Rankings of 9 out of 10 nominees):
    - Originally written March 1, 2023

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