Tuesday, February 13, 2024

2024 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominee - Maestro


Chris's review: Maestro was a miserable slog. The characters and situations were frequently pregnant with possibility but then not developed enough to make me really care. On the occasion that I did find myself starting to care, the movie would invariably jump five years forward and abandon my engagement. For more than half the movie I found myself wishing he'd just get on with it and die of lung cancer. I don't normally think that I know enough about filmmaking to credit the director vs. other elements of the film, but in this case, it felt like the acting was all marvelous, and the direction, or maybe the writing, let the actors down.

Cathy's review: I think a conductor is an artist who paints music with the brush of his baton, using other musicians as the paint and canvas. Bradley Cooper played both a great conductor and he directed and wrote the movie. He succeeded at the former but failed to utilize his filmmakers to tell a good story. There is a reason "birth of a superhero" is a (sub)genre of its own, but "superhero gets even better" isn't ... because the latter is BORING. This slice-of-life movie STARTED with his big break and went from there, but left all kinds of big weird gaps in it, and there were serious pacing issues.  

The Good: The movie was beautiful to watch, and lovely to listen to. The acting was great, and I found myself completely unbothered by the prosthetic nose, though the main character was a little more nasally than the real person (Cooper otherwise captured the cadences of Bernstein's voice pretty well). Like Oppenheimer, the movie uses color and black-and-white to indicate different time periods, and it does that very well.

The Bad (and it's a doozy):  There was no STORY. It strings together one conflict in his life after another but denies us the resolutions, shying away from important stuff - the very things that make his life interesting, the problems to be solved, the things that make scenes come together as a story. Like how did Bernstein come to terms with his bisexuality in an era when it wasn't accepted?  How did Bernstein's unhappy wife reconcile herself to her husband's infidelity? (In one scene, she is desperately unhappy with him, then in the next, she is content ... and it never shows her acceptance or their reconciliation. She forbids him from telling their daughter about his affairs with other men, and he lies to his daughter's face about it, but later, the daughter somehow knows, without showing us how she found out, though it does hint at her feelings of betrayal.  Then his wife gets sick and it skips over the immediate aftermath of her death.

Interestingly, I also hated last year's Tár, another best picture nominee about a conductor. And I loathed that main character so much, I couldn't even finish the movie.  I was able to finish Maestro (if nothing else, Bernstein was a likable man and I grew up listening to his Peter and the Wolf) but I was glad when it was done.  In the end, I hated how Maestro wasted itself. So much potential to be a GREAT movie, and I resent it more than I probably should for having failed.

(Pithy Reviews; and Rankings of 2 out of 10 nominees):

  • Anatomy of a Fall (Beautiful courtroom drama; Cathy:1. Chris: 1)
  • Maestro (Gorgeous, well-acted boring slog; Cathy: 2, Chris: 2)
Currently unranked:

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