And the Oscar for Best Preview goes to. . .

I went to the movies four times between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Here, as a public service, is all you need to know about “Les Miserables,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “Hyde Park on Hudson.”

I saw “Zero Dark Thirty” with my wife and daughter, and you must see this film with the two of them. It’s tense and those two women really get into stressful movies. Also, my wife is a stress eater, like me, so the two of us consumed enough popcorn to fill a Mini Cooper. Of course, our popcorn consumption was fueled in part by the fact we had to watch seven previews before the movie. Yup, seven. Not an exaggeration. And most of the trailers involved car chases and shootouts. I like a car chase and shootout as much as the next guy, but the theater’s speakers were set at jet engine and I am pretty sure I left with a noise-induced hearing loss.

Zero Dark Thirty” also features an actor named Jason Clarke, who deserves way more Oscar buzz than he has been getting. Listen for his line about a dog collar: It is intellectually challenging, morally disturbing, and very, very memorable.

My daughter and I saw “Hyde Park on Hudson,” which stars Bill Murray as President Franklin Roosevelt. I like Murray a lot as a performer, but Daniel Day Lewis has nothing to fear when they dole out the award for “Best Presidential Impersonation.” Just for the record, this movie has both the single most uncomfortable presidential sex-in-a-car scene ever and the single worst line of dialogue an Oscar nominee has ever had to utter. That line? It belongs to Laura Linney and involves sharing a president. It suggests either Hyde Park was a pioneering sexual commune or FDR was a Mormon. Also, the movie has way too many actresses named Olivia.

The Silver Linings Playbook” has the “Best Hemingway Joke” of the four films, but “Les Miserables” has the “Best Singing.” You would think “Best Singing” would be a slam dunk for “Les Mis,” but it’s not. Exhibit A? Russell Crowe. A lot of people have thrown Crowe under the bus because he has nowhere near the singing voice of everyone else in the cast, but it didn’t matter to me. I thought Crowe was terrific. Also, his character’s body makes what might be the most incredible sound in the whole movie when it cracks into the stones in his (spoiler alert) suicide. Big props to the foley artist for that little moment. Awesome.

Most people who see “Les Mis” have seen the musical on stage somewhere, so I was really pleased that no one around me was mistaking the movie for a French Revolution story and asking where and when the guillotine would show up. I wasn’t able to sit near my daughter because the theater was packed, and so I had strangers on either side of me. They were both sobbing through the final hour. I wanted to reassure them that I had seen Anne Hathaway host “Saturday Night Live” and it was clear she was eating again, but I didn’t. I’m a stickler about not talking during movies.

Altogether, I saw three actresses crying in close-up: the aforementioned Hathaway in “Les Mis;” Jennifer Lawrence in “The Silver Linings Playbook;” and Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty.” A lot of folks want to hand “Best Tears” to Hathaway for the rawness of her sobbing in “I Dreamed a Dream,” and it is a great performance. I loved every tear. But I’m going to present “Best Tears” to Lawrence. Hers were the sort of rom-com tears that are authentic and honest — and, thus, rare.

“Best Audience Texting” during a film — or, I guess, least audience texting — was during “Hyde Park on Hudson.” But I believe that’s only because the average age in the theater was somewhere between 75 and embalmed. I’m not sure anyone other than my family even knew how to text.

So, there you have it, my thoughts after 10 hours in the dark. Happy viewing.

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on January 6, 2013. His new novel, “The Light in the Ruins,” arrives on July 16, 2013.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

4 thoughts on “And the Oscar for Best Preview goes to. . .

  1. Sandra McCullough says:

    Thanks for the previews!!  Will definately go see “Zero Dark Thirty”!!


  2. alanpotter says:

    Thanks for the reviews Chris. I have to admit I have not seen any of these and have decided to avoid Hyde Park on the Hudson having come to the conclusion that Bill Murray will never be good anything not directed by Wes Anderson (although his cameo in Zombieland made the movie). Thanks again.

  3. Beth Moore says:

    You crack me up! Love your writing, your insight, your intellect, and your humor. I will be watching all of these on Netflix since my salary as a librarian prohibits buying tickets to a theater!

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