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Life of Pi (***)

The visual masterpiece of 2012…

life of pi1New York Film Festival: There are a lot of positive and admirable things about Ang Lee’s latest Life of Pi.  Cinematographer Claudio Miranda captures the most uproarious and glorious shots captured this year thus far.  The 3D effects are some of the best ever seen and feel absolutely necessary in a film so heavy-handed with religious tones.  What Mychael Danna achieves in Lee’s film has just placed him in the forefront of great film composers working today.  He continues to impress with his musical range, envelopes the film’s message and thematic narrative in somber and beautiful melodic notes.   On Visual Effects alone, Life of Pi will likely land a nomination for Best Picture.  What Lee invents with the ocean and the integration of the tiger and the other animals is spectacular.  He allows the mood of the film and the imagery to marry each other in a ceremonial experience that stands next to Sci-Fi epics like Avatar (2009) and Hugo (2011).

Newcomer Suraj Sharma puts a valiant effort in the role of “Pi,” a performance that may land him more critical and impressive roles in the future.  The work is reminiscent of great breakthrough performers like Rudy Youngblood (Apocalypto, 2006) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008); both were impressive turns but sadly will not catch any awards attention.  Irrfan Kahn, who has delivered in great supporting turns like The Namesake (2006) and A Mighty Heart (2007), could have his best chance ever for serious awards attention.  His hurdle will be a minimal screen presence and a supporting actor race that’s crowded with “movie stars.”

lifeofpi filmeditingLee directs the film with a firm hand.  He knows what he wants to say and for the most part gets his message across.  Unfortunately an unfocused and at times jumbled screenplay by the great David Magee creates an atmosphere that relies more on the visuals then the narrative.  Also, I’m unfamiliar with the book by Yann Martel, never read it before, so I have nothing to compare it to but much of the story’s elements of surprise feel rather cheap and ill-fitting.  Not sure how it will play with others but the film remains pretty consistent on the entertainment sector.

Lee explains his preparation for the film at the New York Film Festival with such passion and delight.  He speaks about getting Sharma properly prepared by placing him on a boat in the middle of the ocean and meeting a real life shipwreck survivor; Lee’s love for the project comes through, all four years in the making.  It’s a directorial achievement that the Director’s branch of the Academy could easily get behind.  Other technical merits like Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Film Editing are also very likely.  Miranda’s uses of colors, especially in the opening sequences of the film are extraordinary.  Cinematography could be an award that’s locked and loaded.

The film lands solidly on the front door of awards season with ease and could rally a loyal legion of followers.  Look out for the National Board of Review to kick it off…I can almost put money on it.

Life of Pi is a visual sensation!

What do you think?

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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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“On Visual Effects alone, Life of Pi will likely land a nomination for Best Picture.”

If it does get a nom (which I’m still iffy on, but it could happen) I feel like it’ll get Picture and tech noms, but probably miss out on Director and Screenplay (Screenplay definitely…and only two films in the last 60 years have won Best Picture without a writing nomination). As for the tech categories, it’s more likely, but I still think this and Les Mis are two real wild cards going into the Oscars this year.

Joey Magidson

I’ll chime in with my thoughts soon, but I didn’t like it quite as much. Well directed and a visual treat, but the script and story did nothing for me…

John H. Foote

I have been worried about this one for quite some time now and I cannot explain why — looking forward to seeing it very soon, but will the effects alone get it in the Best Picture race? Love Ang Lee, he’s a gifted director who almost always brings us something very special…maybe not this time?



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