Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — As the day the Oscars tell you what movies were better than the ones most people thought were the best inch their way ever closer, I thought it only appropriate to try and at least squeeze in one more of those chosen in the top nine. Today’s entry may not be the artsiest, but it’ll probably be the closest thing I get in that description since DVDs of those in ridiculously limited released won’t come nearby before the golden tux man is handed out.
However, despite falling greatly into a category that turns quite a few viewers off, I will say this movie ends up being far more deserving a candidate for best picture than last year’s nauseatingly overhyped “Artist.” In fact, I’d say it puts so much distance between itself and that pretend silent punch line that it in fact was one of the rare experiences I have actually followed up with an in-theater repeat viewing. When “Life of Pi” is not putting forth breathtaking visual effects to match one of the most impressive soundtracks of the year, one cannot help be swept up in a story hard to not root for.
The tale initially introduces the audience to an Indian immigrant named Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan), who is living in Canada when a writer (Rafe Spall) comes to his home after he has been told Pi can share something that may inspire him. Patel then delves into a biography of sorts, from an amusing tale of how he got his name from a swimming pool to partly growing up around a zoo and a somber recount of how he survived a shipwreck.
It is the shipwreck tale where the real heart of the flick comes out and where a 16-year-old Patel (Suraj Sharma) must leave behind his teenage ignorance and learn to not only find a reason to live one more day at time, but also with the threat of a very rambunctious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Through this struggle I’m reminded of other classic films that left what is now without much hesitation shown in graphic violence up to our imagination. We realize the gravity and emotion as each minute passes and it seems impossible not to connect with some part of the humanity expressed, be it believably quirky humor or touched by the vulnerability of an animal many may have only previously compared to fear.