And the Winner of Lipreading Mom’s Captioned Movie Oscar Race Is…


I think we have an Oscar upset.

In my quest to watch all of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture in their captioned glory, I’ve seen seven out of the nine films. In last week’s post, I was a Life of Pi fan, due to my inaugural experience with watching a 3-D movie with Sony Entertainment Access Glasses. The movie and captions were so state-of-the-art, I was convinced that this would be my favorite captioned Oscar movie for 2013.

I was wrong.

In the past week, I have watched three additional contenders. One of them stands out as having the goods when it comes to best captioned movie experience. Will this major motion picture over-ride Life of Pi to win the coveted Lipreading Mom’s Best Captioned Oscar Movie of 2013?

And the remaining nominees are…

Beasts of the Southern Wild – This was the one Oscar contender I watched from the comfort of my living room. Released early in 2012, Beasts is now available in the DVD rental selections at various storefront and online venues. I rented Beasts from Redbox. The magical thing about DVDs is most of them have a subtitled option in their menu selections. Beasts was no exception. The PG-13 movie about a 6-year-old girl trying to save her Louisiana home from toxic flood waters is, hands-down, one of the best movies I’ve watched as far as youthful narration goes. The captioning allowed my hard-of-hearing self to understand young Hushpuppy’s narrated words. And those words were bittersweet: rough yet poignant, painful and often healing, too. Someone deserves a screenplay Oscar for this film. Rent this movie, but be forewarned: The setting, characters, and words can, at times, be dark. Hushpuppy’s words shine, though.

Doremi CaptiView at AMC

Doremi CaptiView at AMC

Les Misérables – I’ve struggled with musicals for years because without captions, I just can’t lip read singing lips proficiently enough to know what is being sung. The last filmed musical I truly enjoyed was Grease from 1978, and that was because I didn’t have hearing loss then and could actually hear the lyrics. Fast-forward almost 35 years to today. It was a treat to watch a movie musical production from a comfortable recliner at the local AMC’s Fork and Screen, my Doremi CaptiView captioning cup holder device at hand. Les Misérables is so visually magnificent that when watching, I often had to remind myself to glance at the CaptiView. Yet how could I take my eyes off character Fantine’s heartbreaking face as she sang about lost innocence and love? I forced my eyes back and forth between screen and CaptiView, all the while balancing a plate of Asian food in my lap. The smell of teriyaki sauce wafted in the air as Hugh Jackman’s lead character sang about duty and honor. Word-for-word, my CaptiView brought the story to life. Without captioning, this movie still would’ve been a visual masterpiece, but the storyline would have fallen on my deaf ears.

The Silver Linings Playbook – If I were to award a movie based on its comedic merits, Silver Linings would be the Oscar race’s hands-down winner. The film took me inside the heads of a man and woman dealing with depression, death, and dancing in a freshly humorous way. My Doremi CaptiView at Cinemark caught most of the words spoken. I say most, because my movie-going friend and I watched some scenes in which lips moved, but captions didn’t. Some sentences appeared to have been edited out in the captioning room, thus making for awkward pauses on the CaptiView. Another thing missing: the captions to song lyrics playing during scenes. Don’t those of us with hearing loss deserve to know the words to movie music? Regardless, Silver Linings put a smile on my face with its Happy Hollywood Ending. Then the closing song started, the credits rolled, and my CaptiView screen faded to black.

The captioning sign at Cinemark

The captioning sign at Cinemark

Amour – This French movie with English subtitles tells the story of finding love at a later age. It was also impossible to find this movie showing anywhere near Lipreading Mom’s home. If someone had paid me to fly to New York or LA for the screening, I would’ve been there. But the reality was, I didn’t get the opportunity to see this film at press time.

Django Unchained – The one and only Quentin Tarantino film I’ve ever watched—Pulp Fiction—gave me nightmares for a couple of days. Sorry folks, but I didn’t have the stomach to sit through another violent-for-the-fun-of-being-violent Tarantino movie. Lipreading Mom passed on screening this captioned movie.

Once again, the nominees for Lipreading Mom’s Best Captioned Oscar Movies for 2013 are… Amour (not screened), Argo (reviewed here), Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained (not screened), Les Misérables, Life of Pi and Lincoln (reviewed here), The Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty (reviewed here).

And the winner is…

It was a close call, but Les Misérables comes out as champion. In my mind, there is no greater captioning experience than to feel powerful emotions simply through the words on my CaptiView screen. Les Misérables was such a musical feast of words that I would have been moved even without the screen images. And the captioning put me in the characters’ heads. I felt Fantine’s pain from her captioned song. I fell in love with Hugh Jackman’s unwavering captioned words of unconditional love. Captioning brought this movie to technicolor life for Lipreading Mom. And that, my friends, makes Les Misérables Lipreading Mom’s Best Captioned Oscar Movie of 2013.

What do you think?

Do you agree with my movie pick—why or why not? Lipreading Mom wants to know.

Sorry folks, but no captioned movie previews.

Sorry folks, but no captioned movie previews.


23 thoughts on “And the Winner of Lipreading Mom’s Captioned Movie Oscar Race Is…

  1. Pingback: Lipreading Mom’s Nominees for Best Captioned Oscar Movie Are… « Lipreading Mom

  2. I agree with Les Miserables. From the time I read the book in high school, to the live presentations I’ve seen and now the movie – this incredible story of grace coupled with magnificent music – wins hands down!

  3. Shanna, did you know that you can request the use of an assistive listening system in addition to the captioning device? If you have telecoils on your hearing aids, you can then turn them on for use with a neckloop attached to the receiver which the theater should provide upon request. (Alternatively, for your own use, you might purchase double silhouette inductors that have 3.5 mm plugs since they work with even weak receivers and in places of high electromagnetic interference.) Using assistive listening technology that provides a cleaner. clearer signal, you can experience the best of both worlds—-hearing more clearly the emotions present in the music and people’s words in “Les Miserables” while also reading the captioning.

    • Dana – Yes, I did. In the case of Les Mis, I was looking at the film more from a captioning point than sound quality via assistive listening device. It’s wonderful to know such options for the hard of hearing exist.

  4. I agree with Dana. The Fidelio works well with personal loop system and cochlea implants. I do not usually ask for it. Not all movies come with that feature or depending on whether the auditorium is equipped with the feature, it may not be available. Best to ask customer services beforehand. I will ask for it this weekend when we see “Les Miserables”.

  5. Shauna, I agree with you about Tarantino. I don’t want those images in my head no matter how many actors tell me that I can’t vote (I’m in the Directors Guild of America) if I haven’t seen everything. I think we will be surprised. I’m not sure Les Mis is a slam dunk – but I will find out during my captioned Oscar Viewing Party – the invite specifies the *event* has captions and if you don’t like them (even for a short time), I have two other sets in two other rooms! But none of my friends seem to mind. Still haven’t seen “Lincoln” – politically, I think it’s between “Argo” and “Lincoln”. All will be revealed on February 24th.

    P.S. “Amour” was brilliant but one of the most depressing films you will ever see.

  6. I watched “The Life of Pi” this past Saturday, using both the captioned classes and a receiver. Sitting in the back of the theater due to arriving late, I noticed that this time, using an ALS really made a difference in the sound quality as otherwise, the background sounds overwhelmed the speech. (However, there were severe reception problems, and I don’t recommend sitting in the back of the theater; I had to hold up both devices with my hand during the entire length of the movie as otherwise I was losing captions or audio.)

    In other movies, it’s been okay to just use my hearing aid with the captions. For a movie that has a lot of singing in it, though, I’d recommend giving one’s self the option to switch between an ALS and one’s hearing aids so that you can select the best audio experience.

      • No, it didn’t, but I had had a rather awful experience and asked them to refund my ticket *and* give me a return pass to compensate me for my loss of time—it’s not enough just to get a refund. The captioned glasses didn’t show the captions at all the first time I tried them, nor the second time, and then the third time. The ALS had been set to the wrong theater. (The walk was quite long from the theater to the guest services desk, and upon my THIRD visit, I asked the manager to accompany me back to the theater so that he could see for himself that I wasn’t getting any captions and do more troubleshooting himself. After he did so and saw no captions, he disappeared into the booth upstairs and after about 4 or 5 minutes, the captions finally started appearing. By then, I had missed twenty-five minutes of the movie.)

        This theater (the Majestic 20 in Silver Spring, MD) had the most poorly trained staff I’ve encountered despite having numerous theaters and despite charging a whopping $16.50 for the 3D movie. The female staff person initially was going to give me just the captioned glasses with no 3D filter for the movie, but since I had used captioned glasses with a 3D filter at another theater, I knew a filter was needed, whereupon she looked for an envelope and found a single filter. She never located a neckloop for me to use with the ALS (I ended up providing my own silhouette inductor) and she didn’t know that I would need a separate receiver programmed to act as an ALS. The ALS wasn’t set properly even after I came back 3 times. (I figure I need to learn how to set it myself!) The other theater that had 3D captioning had properly trained staff and happened to cost less, too. I did get a refund for both tickets and also got a return pass for a 3D movie, but I think anyone should be compensated for the stress of dealing with all of that!

  7. I agree with Shanna’s movie selection of Les Miserables. Incidentally, I have the 25th anniversary celebration of that movie on DVD with the 02 in concert. The T-switch on my hearing aid picked up all sounds beautifully. I didn’t miss anything sung in the movie. Lea Salonga has such a beautiful voice. Also, the captioning was so clear. I’ll recommend Les Miserables to anyone!

  8. Great article and I love your photos – always great to see photos of the devices used and how it is advertised. In the UK we have open captions which I am massively grateful for but apparently the CEA are looking at the “personalised subtitling” options that you are describing here. (I’ll blog on that soon!)

    I saw Les Mis – albeit uncaptioned – only because I’ve seen the musical and knew the story and songs so was confident I could follow without. I think I would’ve wanted to sing along if I saw it with captions 😉 (and no one needs to hear that!)

    • @iheartsubtitles – You bring up an excellent point: If the UK shows primarily open captioned feature films, why isn’t the U.S. as well? Did the UK hearing loss/deaf community advocate for open captions, or is it a market trend there? I am sharing your comments with fellow captioning advocates, as well as these questions. Many of us in the U.S. would like to have more open captioned movie options.

      • I think that people in Europe are much more accustomed to seeing subtitled films from different countries than we in the U.S. are, and there’s much more acceptance of people who have different communication needs. In the USA, however, there are many people who seem to associate foreign languages or open captions with second-class status or undesirability, so they get upset when they’re in a theater with open captions and they often ask the theater for their money back. There are also a number of Americans who find open captions distracting and baffling (the theater doesn’t usually provide any education about it; coupled with this, if they can’t read quickly or well, they may get upset at not being able to follow or to personally disregard the written words). Theater managers encounter these problems and simply don’t want the hassle. Thus the cultural, environmental and personal context is quite important to take into consideration.

      • Hmm, I would guess yes. In part because the technology was there first for open captions. When UK cinema chains made the move to digital screens it meant for the first time subtitles could easily be switched on or off (assuming the distributor provides them). So that combined with a push from associations working on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing communities helped to get open captions. The UK is a much smaller country and so I would imagine all UK cinemas moved to digital relatively quickly compared to a country the size of the USA. That meant it was probably a little easier to advocate/organise this in the first place.

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