Kathryn Bigelow on the set of "The Hurt Locker."
AT: As someone who roots for women directors and watched the role of women in Hollywood all my life, we've been so proud of Kathryn Bigelow, and yet here she is with rising star writer Mark Boal -- the two of them are together as an item, a team, who defer to each other a great deal. And now this political firestorm is rising around the movie about whether it's pro-torture. It's a press campaign like anything that has to do with the Oscar.
CR: I think it's much larger than Oscar politics. This is about a lot of people from the right saying that Obama said we didn't torture anyone but we did.
AT: Oscar campaign people are taking advantage of it. When you start to deny a film's veracity, that can hurt it, as it did with "Hurricane" back in the day.
CR: I believe that. The New York Times really tried to kill "Hurricane," and it's a great movie.
AT: "Zero Dark Thirty" has a marketing problem, too. They're trying to sell it as a SEAL adventure movie even though it's actually a CIA procedural of a brainy nature led by this fabulous woman character who didn't play well with men.
CR: It's a really strong and fascinating movie. I have a lot of other movies on my top 10.
AT: But you didn't like "Life of Pi."
That's one anomaly this season -- a much more uplifting, spiritual movie getting some traction this season. It's maybe even a bigger crowdpleaser than "Lincoln."
CR: Well, I've seen a movie with more talk than "Lincoln."
AT: I was surprised that the Indiewire poll gave Best Screenplay to Tony Kushner for that movie.
Critics tend to be divided on Spielberg. A lot of people expected grating sentimentality, but found Kushner's screenplay added a greater intellectual dimension.
AT: I think there's a magic alchemy between Kushner and Daniel Day-Lewis, the two of them almost counteracting Spielberg so that he was forced to shape this movie around their aesthetic.
CR: The two movies Kushner and Spielberg have done together, this one and "Munich," have been really interesting. They bring stuff out in each other. Both movies have a lot of talk in them as well as the emotionalism of Spielberg and the political context that Kushner is good at. I love the scene where the Lincolns are having a domestic fight. It's an amazing scene. I guess I thought about the Reagans and Clintons' domestic life. I always bought the idea that Marry was batty, but it never occurred to me that she was batty because she lost a son and didn't want to lose another one. That was great context.
AT: But "Life of Pi" has a spirituality that will bring people to it over the holidays. It's like an "Avatar" that takes you into an entire different world.
CR: I never thought of it as a spiritual movie but rather the stories we tell each other to deal with life.
AT: But it's also about god. Richard Parker, the tiger, could be seen as god. What kept him alive?
Well, let's not spoil the movie. What you can see from this conversation is just how diverse moviegoers' options are right now. Is this an unnaturally good year?
CR: This is one of the best Christmases I can remember in a long time. Two CIA movies, plus "Lincoln" having parallels with our political times. You have the standard movies for Jews on Christmas: "The Guilt Trip" and "Parental Guidance."
Then there's "Jack Reacher."
Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher."
CR: I loved "Mission Impossible 4," but this just seemed really an attempt to be two things at once: A fast-moving, slightly comic action movie but it really seemed to be about what war does to people and civilians can't understand it. The interesting parts of the movie are the relationship between Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall, because they've been to war and nobody else understands it. The movie almost seems like it's been designed for Iraq vets. I was surprised by all of that.
AT: Is it fun?
CR: It wasn't for me. I was disappointed, but came in with high hopes because of the Cruise-Christopher McQuarrie relationship. It was thin. There was a good performance by David Oyelowo.
AT: And he's also in "Middle of Nowhere."
CR: I loved "Middle of Nowhere." He's great in that. He's even in "Lincoln," in the opening scene.
AT: And he's in "The Paperboy"!
CR: He's fantastic in that! There's a huge variety of movies right now.
AT: Also, both "Amour" and "Barbara" just opened.
CR: Among foreign films, I really loved "Sister," which is fantastic, beautifully acted, well-shot.
AT: I was very taken by "A Royal Affair."
CR: I was really disappointed by "Hyde Park on Hudson."
AT: That was my least favorite film. I don't understand why Laura Linney wanted to make the movie. The whole thing about FDR and women was offensive, icky and gross -- not to put too fine a point on it. It was like bad Masterpiece Theater.
CR: It was like "My Week With Marilyn." The private lives of public figures -- but my joke was it was like "pubic lives." I really didn't want to know about it. So I was disappointed in that movie -- but as a year, 2012 was great. My 16-year-old and her friends love "Wreck-It Ralph." While I liked parts of "Brave," certain parts of it didn't work.
AT: Brenda Chapman was thrown off of that project, so we don't know what it would've been.
CR: We can guess. All those shots of men getting drunk were added in. It was frat party. That stuff threw off the rhythms of the movie. But that's just a guess. Anyway, "Wreck-It Ralph" is very strong. The boys want to see "Jack Reacher."
Maybe they're better off with "Les Miz."
AT: To answer the reason of why we have so many good studio holiday movies this year: "The King's Speech" opened up the gates again. For a long time, dramas were a dirty word. They weren't allowed. There are two reasons for optimism: The drama is now permitted and adults now drive the box office. The boomer generation is the one that still goes to the movies and likes adult dramas. The studios have finally figured this out.