THIS year’s Oscar-nominated best picture flicks are bum-numbing lengths, averaging two-and-a-half hours. Alfred Hitchcock famously said “the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Among the movies up for Academy Awards this year, only one, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, is under 100 minutes — it’s 93. Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Life Of Pi run 120, 122 and 127 minutes, respectively. The quartet industry observers predict are favourites to win are Lincoln (150 minutes), Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty (157 each), and Django Unchained (165).
I began my epic day at the cinema with Les Miserables, a grim tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. It was a comfortable two-and-a-half hours — despite Russell Crowe’s busted baritone breaking the musical bliss. A skeletal Anne Hathaway was the tragic Fantine. One coffee, no loo breaks, and a slightly smarting bum. With time for a muffin during the interval, it’s onwards to Lincoln, with bookies’ sure thing Daniel Day Lewis vying for his third best actor Oscar. For politics buffs, this is an absorbing epic, a film with mature audience written all over it. As to its suitability as a Saturday night date movie for teenagers, I’d be doubtful — unless they’re both doing history degrees with modules in period costume. Our wee Daniel is eerily on the button as America’s most revered leader, right down to the reedy voice, peculiar hair combing and magisterial mannerisms. Tommy Lee Jones, as anti-slavery campaigner, Thaddeus Stevens, steals many of the scenes — his careworn face has rightly been compared to an ordnance survey map of Texas. Spielberg delivers his usual genius strokes with the battle scenes, but should have trimmed 20 minutes off the running time. Two coffees, one hasty loo break and a grumbling bum sending the odd shaft of pain down my right knee.
Halfway, so it’s time for romance with Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, as the leads, get eons away from their better-known roles, in The Hangover and Hunger Games, as a pair trying vainly to regain stability after personal traumas. As much a poem to therapy as an old fashioned boy-meets-girl, this would be my sleeper pick for best picture — great acting, razor-sharp dialogue and the rare sight of Robert De Niro turning in a performance as powerful as it is subtle. At just over two hours, this was a piece of cake, and minus any numb bum, as I craned my legs over the unoccupied row in front. After seven hours in the dark, there’s time for an infusion of junk food — quarter-pounder, large fries and a vanilla shake.
As the longest Oscar-nominated film, Django Unchained is 15 minutes shy of three hours — but doesn’t feel a bit of it. A rip-snortin’ journey into the heart of the deep south, with cracking performances from Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, and Leo DiCaprio as a deranged plantation owner, this has it all — action, wit, violence and excellent cameo roles. Most remarkable is Samuel L Jackson as the house slave, Stephen, a role as disarmingly different as it is effective. No loo breaks, because the story doesn’t allow it, but with a killer line every three minutes, my bladder had to sit tight. On to the city streets at a minute to midnight, I want only a good hour’s walk. An illuminating day’s work, but not one my creased bum will be queuing up to repeat anytime soon.