What’s opening this weekend? Dark Skies and Snitch. Both look wildly forgettable. If I’m proven wrong and it turns out the Snitch is the film that singlehandedly catapults Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into respected actor status or Dark Skies completely reinvents the Paranormal Thriller genre, then I promise to come back here and write over 6000 words on each movie extolling their virtues and bemoaning my own incompetence. Deal? Deal.
Let’s talk about the Oscars though! This week, in lieu of a Weekend Movie Preview, I’m going to do a very special breakdown of all the Oscar categories, yes, even the ones you probably don’t care about (the Best Sound Editing race is tighter than you think!) People rag on the Oscars all the time but come on, we all secretly love it. Even when the show is terrible or our favorite movies get snubbed, this whole process is entertaining as all get out. Be real with yourself for a second, wasn’t watching James Franco reprise his role from Pineapple Express on stage next to America’s favorite passive aggressive punching bag just a captivating night of television? Sometimes the more terrible it is, the more fun we get to have snarking about it on Twitter. Plus everyone will be dressed up all fancy and we get to hear Adele sing the Skyfall theme. All I’m saying is, good or bad, I don’t see how this could be anything but awesome.
Ok, so aside from Seth McFarlane’s night of a thousand voices headed our way Sunday night, what about the movies? I saw an ad for the telecast recently that touted this year as having “the tightest Best Picture race of all time!” which seems, I don’t know, presumptuous. What hard evidence could that statement possibly be based on? Show your work Academy. I do think this is a fun race though. Last year’s Best Pictures were kind of all over the place quality wise which left us with The Artist sweeping most of the major awards. The Artist is fine, but was it really the best we had to offer last year? Really? The Artist? The silent film? Ugh. I know it shouldn’t but winning all those awards made me retroactively dislike The Artist more than it probably deserves. I’m the worst kind of hipster. In any case, I don’t foresee anything like that happening this year. This is a nice crop. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Actress in a Supporting Role
I really like Amy Adams a lot. I enjoyed The Master quite a bit. I think that the subtle performance that Adams gives in The Master is great. I truly believe it is a worthy compliment to the above average acting and general cinematic prowess going on in that particular film. That being said, she gets a little lost in the shuffle of that one. I mean, come on, Juaquin Pheonix gives an outrageously good performance and even he gets kind of lost in the towering shadow of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I honestly kind of forgot Amy was even in this movie until looking over the nominees for this category. You know who I didn’t forget about ever because she refuses to be forgotten about by anyone? Anne Hathaway. Les Mis might as well just rename itself “The One Where Anne Hathaway Won A Statue Because She Bravely Wore an Unflattering Haircut” and get it over with. At least we’d save ourselves from people obnoxiously pronouncing Lu Miz-Ah-Rob-lah all the time.
Who I’d Like to Win: Amy Adams
Who Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Dark Horse: Jacki Weaver (because I don’t know what Crabby Snacks are but she made me want them more than anything in the world)
This is a pretty fun category all around. Except for Amour. Amour is a good movie, don’t get me wrong, but Amour should never ever be described as fun under any circumstances. I really enjoyed Flight but I don’t believe it was necessarily memorable for it’s screenwriting. In fact, if anything I remember not having issues with this movie all the way until the very end when a certain choice about where to take the story didn’t totally sit well with me. I will go full on in depth about how much I liked Zero Dark Thirty later on (Hint: a lot) but let’s just say that due to the outrageously compelling nature of the actual story, I feel like the degree of difficulty on making this screenplay equally compelling wasn’t very high.
Which brings us to Moonrise Kingdom and Django Unchained. Wes Anderson and QT probably sit at numbers 1 and 2 respectively on the top of my list of favorite auteurs. This makes me either wildly qualified to make this decision or extremely compromised by my own blinding love for them. I’ll let you be the judge.
When you’re discussing the latest work from artists you revere , it’s difficult to have a perspective on where it fits in their overall cannon. For example, I’ve seen Rushmore at somewhere north of 20 times in my life. I know exactly how I feel about that film (Hint: I feel good about it). I’ve seen Moonrise Kingdom twice. Part of what I love about Anderson and Tarantino is how they create films that sort of need to be lived in to be properly appreciated. The flip side of this is that it takes a few years, not a few months, to formulate your opinion on their work. Where does that leave us here? Honestly I don’t know. Both scripts are so different that comparing them doesn’t really help much. I think I’m inclined to lean towards Quentin here just because the writing feels so emphasized in his work. Watching the finished product I just constantly had the mental image of a sweaty Tarantino sitting behind a typewriter at four in the morning, cackling to himself, and cranking out page after page of brilliant dialogue. I don’t feel that way about Wes Anderson. With him I sort of imagine the words just floating out of his brain and landing ethereally in the pages of a well-worn leather notebook. Is this an arbitrary way to hand out awards? Sure. Is it any worse than whatever the AMPAS does to decide these things? Who’s to say?
Who I’d Like to Win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola – Moonrise Kingdom (Moonrise isn’t nominated for anything else, throw them a bone!)
Who Will Win: Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Dark Horse: Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty (someone should win something for writing a scene in which Chris Pratt plays Horseshoes and discusses Osama Bin Ladin. I loved that. )
So the idea behind this category it to award who ever did the best job adapting a script from source material. I have not read any of the source material for these scripts except for Life of Pi. Does this disqualify me from properly judging this category? Probably. Will I make a pick anyway? Duh.
Who I’d like to Win: Chris Terrio – Argo (I just really liked Argo)
Who Will Win: Chris Terrio – Argo (Because why not?)
Dark Horse: David Magee – Life of Pi (I disliked this book and this movie. For that reason alone it will probably win everything and I will pout about it for weeks)
Animated Feature Film
It bugs me how down everyone seems to be on Brave. I loved Brave. I really think people are just suffering from Pixar fatigue and picking nits just to pick them. Brave was beautiful. It was funny. It was heartwarming. It was animated Braveheart if Braveheart didn’t have the like 40 minutes of the movie I always skip (If I want to watch Mel Gibson fall in love I’ll just watch What Women Want, thank you very much). Get off your high horse Brave haters.
ParaNorman and Frankenweenie were each interesting in their own right, especially the manner in which they were animated , but neither one took me to a higher place emotionally the way great animated films often do (looking at you first five minutes of UP). The Pirates! Band of Misfits….I didn’t see you, however, you’re disqualified from winning any awards from me because of your confusing title. Sorry. Better luck next time.
As much as I love Brave, and will continue to love it, I wouldn’t be upset with a Wreck-It Ralph win here. It was fun and a surprisingly original venture for Disney, a studio that has a pretty tried and true formula when it comes to animation usually. The visuals were gorgeous, it’s heart was in the right place, and it genuinely made me laugh. Good on you Wreck-It Ralph.
Who I’d Like to Win: Brave (Duh.)
Who Will Win: Wreck-It Ralph (Polite applause)
Dark Horse: ParaNorman (The amazing stop motion animation on display here might sneak it past the two heavy hitters. Might. Probably not though.)
Animated Short Film
Like most people, I love The Simpsons franchise. It is the standard bearer for animated entertainment and always will be. I credit The Simpsons for forming many of my own comic sensibilities and will be forever grateful for everything it has given me. That being said, The Simpsons don’t need to win an Oscar do they? I have not seen the short and have even read mostly positive reviews about it so maybe I’m just full of it, but it would feel weird for the Simpsons to win this one.I did not see Head over Heels either but the trailer kind of creeped me out. Fresh Guacamole is a really fascinating way to spend two minutes of your life but it lacks the emotional punch of these next two.
Adam and Dog is and independently animated film that follows a dog befriending Adam. Not just any Adam but, you know, the Adam. It’s animation is refreshingly crude. It manages to reflect the very primal nature of the film while at the same time providing truly beautiful glimpses of a natural paradise. I ran through the entire gamut of emotions watching this one and was surprised at how choked up I was by the ending. This was a truly unique piece of filmmaking.
If Adam and Dog is the scrappy underdog (pun ALWAYS intended) then The Paperman is the big money heavyweight favorite. This Disney entry was featured in front of Wreck-It Ralph this summer and is the most likely to have been seen out of any of these. It is slick and polished and everything you would expect out of a studio backed animated short. It also was genuinely one of my favorite things that I watched all year. It’s like someone instagrammed a heartwarming story and slapped a beautiful score behind it. It pushed every button for me both visually and emotionally. I truly think Adam and Dog was a great film and the awful hipster in me desperately wants to champion the indie flick but, The Paperman made me believe true love might actually exist which, following the news of Amy Poheler and Will Arnett’s divorce last year, was something I didn’t think was possible.
Who I’d Like to Win: The Paperman
Who Will Win: The Paperman
Dark Horse: Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (there’s no way the Academy would give it to Adam and Dog. There’s lots of ways the Academy might just see The Simpsons named attached to this movie and give it the award just because)
I am not an expert on the intricacies of production design, though I do think it’s pretty cool. I mean, imagine being able to respond to the question, “So what do you do?” with “Oh, well It’s my job to make things look good.” Then you get to just put sunglasses on and walk away. That’s the life of a production designer (I assume, again, not an expert).
I feel like period pieces have an advantage in this category just because the degree of difficulty is so high. A movie like the Hobbit has it’s own set of intricate design complications but with Fantasy you’re at least working a little bit more out of the imagination. There are no concrete rules for what Middle Earth looks like (nerds, I know there are concrete rules technically, but go with me on this). In a situation like the movie Anna Karenina, we have a decent idea of what late 19th century Russia looked like, there’s pictures and stuff, so making sure everything looks authentic has a ridiculously high importance on a movie like that. Same goes for films like Les Misérables and Lincoln. Lincoln obviously loses points here since like half the work of making it look authentic was taken care of by Daniel Day Lewis disappearing into the woods with thirty thousand pennies and emerging a year later having assumed the exact visage of our 16th president on his face.
Who I’d Like To Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (because someone had to braid all those beards you guys)
Who Will Win: Anna Karenina (Feels like this movie was made with no other purpose except to win a production design award)
Dark Horse: Life of Pi (seriously, I will complain about every single win this movie gets).
All that stuff I just said about Production Design just a second ago? Ditto here, except with stuff they wear.
Who I’d Like to Win: Mirror Mirror (for variety’s sake)
Who Will Win: Anna Karenina
Dark Horse: You know that point in the Oscars like two thirds of the way through where the show kind of starts to drag and you look down at your watch and are like “Wow, have we really been doing this for two hours already?” Yea. That’s how I feel about this.
Make Up and Hairstyling
Who I’d Like to Win: Someone who will give a short speech
Who Will Win: Someone who will end up getting played off the stage
Dark Horse: What if an actual dark horse won this category?
Who I’d Like to Win: Skyfall (This movie looked awesome, which is like the main point of a James Bond movie)
Who Will Win: Life of Pi (Grudgingly willing to admit that Life of Pi was visually pretty not too terrible I guess)
Dark Horse: Django Unchained (Those amazing landscape shots in Django aren’t getting talked about enough. That movie was beautifully shot.)
Live Action Short Film
I have not seen any of these short films. However, I’ve watched all the trailers, which is kind of the same right? Death of a Shadow looks absolutely nuts. Everything I’ve read about this category seems to indicate that Curfew is going to win so, you know, if you’re betting on The Oscars then A. bet on Curfew B. Please don’t base your bets based on what I’m spitting out here. That’s just crazy irresponsible.
Who I’d like to Win: Death of a Shadow
Who Will Win: Curfew (Bet the house on it! But not because I said so! Only if you truly believe!)
Dark Horse: Buzkashi Boys (That title sounds like a sweet band name)
Actor in a Supporting Role
I think this might be the toughest category for me. I genuinely loved all of these performances so, before I go breaking down tiny, miniscule flaws and nitpicking these guys to death, lets just be clear about something…all of them are awesome. There isn’t a bad egg in the bunch. I wish we could give all of these gentleman different parts of the stature that they could wear around their necks so that then, when they meet up at parties, they could all join their pieces together and yell out “Super Team Best Supporting 2k13!” and I could just die from happiness.
Tommy Lee Jones isn’t the winner here. Again, he was great, but I didn’t walk away from Lincoln talking about Tommy Lee Jones and how he stole the show. You simply don’t steal Daniel Day Lewis’s show. That’s not how these things work. The winner of this category needs to have stolen the show.
De Niro and Arkin suffer the same fate. Arkin was awesome, but I kind of just lumped him and Goodman’s performance together into one great support team that leant some much needed levity to the whole…people might get shot in the face at any moment situation that was happening in Argo.
I think this is my favorite De Niro Role in years. I haven’t liked him this much since he played a flamboyant pirate in Stardust. He plays against type wonderfully and serves as a great extension of Bradley Cooper’s troubled character. But does he steal the show? No he does not.
Now this is just the worst. Christoph Waltz or Phillip Seymour Hoffman? It’s so interesting to me how quickly Waltz has just vaulted into an elite stratosphere in my mind thanks, essentially, to two Quentin Tarantino roles. Waltz just seems to speak the specific language of Tarantino so well, if that makes sense. I’d argue that he might speak it better than anyone in the world at this point. Samuel L. Jackson still kind of just sounds like Sam in QT movies (No he can’t stop yelling, haven’t you seen his movies?). All the Reservoir dogs were great but no one actor stole the show. The same could be said for the Pulp Fiction cast. David Carradine was an excellent vessel for it but his sample size in the Kill Bills was so small that I don’t think he ultimately qualifies. Uma was so phenomenal for a lot of reasons in those movies but I always feel like Tarantino has a harder time crafting his own voice to fit the frequency of his female characters. I’m sure there are other candidates but, after taking two successive films and making them his own, I feel Waltz has really cemented himself as the ideal surrogate for Tarantino’s intricate, playful dialogue. Now, with all of that on the table, unfortunately I think this is ultimately what causes Waltz to bow out of this contest. His performance was beautiful but the performance would be impossible without all of the general Tarantinoness of the proceedings. If he weren’t up against such a formidable foe in Hoffman then I wouldn’t think twice about giving this to what really was one of my favorite performances all year but, alas, here we are. Au Revoir Shoshanna!
You probably don’t need me to extoll on the greatness of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but I will, because it’s fun. While this performance doesn’t approach the dizzying heights of his career-defining role in Along Came Polly as Sandy Lyle (I’m very serious about this), PSH is on the top of his game here. His presence lords over The Master even when he isn’t on screen leaving you constantly waiting for him to show back up. In a way, his performance perfectly mirrors the character he plays. Half the time I don’t understand what he’s saying but it sounds beautiful and intelligent and terrifying and inviting all at the same time. He’s charismatic almost to a fault. You find yourself questioning what’re you doing even watching this movie. Why am I putting myself through this? What are they even talking about? And yet instead of just leaving the theater you pull closer, watching for Hoffman to appear, hoping for answers. I clearly have my own quibbles with The Master as a whole but, I can assure you, the experience of seeing the movie is worth it just to be inducted into the cult of PSH. It might be labeled a “supporting” role, but The Master is defined Hoffman’s performance.
Who I’d Like to Win: Christoph Waltz (If he was allowed to win it with Quentin in one of those tandem statue necklace things we talked about earlier)
Who Will Win: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Dark Horse: Tommy Lee Jones (I just don’t trust Lincoln. I’m kind of nervous that it’s going to win every award whether we like it or not. I wouldn’t be as mad about this as I would be about Life of Pi, but I wouldn’t be super excited about it either. More on this later.)
Searching for Sugar Man has to win this award. It just has to. I won’t go so far as to say I would stop watching the telecast if it loses but man, Searching for Sugar Man was just all kinds of incredible and if you haven’t watched it then please, stop reading this, go watch it, and revel in it’s awesome.
This sentiment feels slightly, I don’t know, shallow considering some of the subject matter of the other films in this category. You have two films (The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras) tackling the difficult Israel-Palestine conflict from unique and informative points of view. How to Survive a Plague tells the story of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) who were activist groups instrumental in combatting the AIDS epidemic in the late 80’s. The Invisible War is a startling expose on the troubling history of Sexual Assault in our military. See what I mean? This is heavy, important stuff we’re dealing with here.
Searching for Sugar man, the story of a little known blues singer from ‘70s, seems almost trivial by comparison. I think it’s times like this that it’s important to take a step back and remember that Movie Awards shows are themselves pretty trivial in their own right. Sugar Man winning this award does not lessen the significance of the conflict in the Middle East. If we were trying to decide which movie tackled the most significant subject matter then everyone would be sitting around trying to decide if passing the 13th amendment was more significant than killing Bin Ladin. That’s just not how this works, nor should it be. All we’re trying to figure out is what the best movie was and frankly that’s a pretty inexact science in the first place anyway .
Forget best documentary, Searching for Sugar Man was one of the best movie’s I saw all year. It should win this.
Who I’d Like to Win: Searching for Sugar Man
Who Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man
Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague (I didn’t say much about this one, but it really was a fantastic doc. In retrospect, I was being a little dramatic in that first paragraph, I wouldn’t be upset if it pulled a win out here.)
I have not seen any of these documentary shorts. However I just watched all of their trailers and here is what I have to report:
- If the award is given to the trailer with the most depressingly ironic use of the song “New York, New York”, then the award will go to Redemption.
- If the award is given to the trailer that made me begin weeping openly at my desk, then the award will go to Monday’s at Racine.
- If the award is given to the trailer that had the greatest jumps in tone between inspirational and heartbreaking, then the award will go to Inocente.
- If the award is given to the trailer that forced me to stare directly into the heart of the long, perpetual slog towards my own inevitable demise, then the award will go to King’s Point.
- If the award is given to the trailer that seemed to indicate a slight glimmer of hope for humanity flickering out on the horizon, then the award will go to Open Heart.
It took me about 10 minutes to watch all of these trailers back to back and, honestly, I would put it on the short list of most emotionally draining 10 minutes of my life. Seriously, I’m exhausted. I think if I watched even one of these films right now I would just collapse in to a puddle of tears on the ground and no one would be able to talk to me for a few days. Let’s just move on.
Who I’d Like to Win: Monday’s at Racine (Follows the stories of two women who run a beauty salon and open it once a month to women undergoing chemo. The hardest part of watching this trailer was not being able to transport myself through the computer to hug every single one of these women as they give their testimonials. )
Who Will Win: Open Heart (The story of eight Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease and the one hospital in Sudan trying to help. That just sounds like an Oscar winning synopsis, doesn’t it?)
Dark Horse: King’s Point (There is a slight probability that voters might watch this film first, get really freaked out about old age and death, then just not watch the other ones because they can’t handle any other movies right now.)
You know what had truly phenomenal visual effects? Prometheus. Prometheus is a flawed film story-wise and ultimately was a disappointing overall effort from Ridley Scott and co., but man, that film was absolutely gorgeous to look at. Go back and watch the trailer just to refresh yourself (the trailer was probably better than the actual movie anyway). I watched this thing in IMAX and remember walking out just blown away by the world they had created. There is one shot in which Michael Fassbender’s character discovers a giant hologram of an Orrery, or star map, that is simply incredible to behold The intricacies of the universe are all just painstakingly mapped out on a giant scale and at no point do you ever think to yourself, “wow, what an awesome effect.” It’s like Ridley just saw something cool and pointed his camera at it. I obviously did not see Star Wars in the theaters back in the 70’s, but I think the effects in a film are comparable to what caused people to flip out about those movies back then. There’s something special in particular about the relationship between a Sci-Fi film and it’s audience. When done right, it almost makes it seem like the future is happening in front of your eyes and that literally anything is possible. So few films can take you to a place like that and I applaud the people behind Prometheus for taking that unique relationship so seriously.
Life of Pi will when this award because it pushed the boundaries of 3D technology and changed the way that people believe 3D can be used in cinema. At least that’s what everyone is saying. Everyone won’t shut up about this movie’s 3D visuals. I know I sound like I’m 80 years old but I refuse to bow down at the alter of 3D. I won’t do it. I don’t care how many people tell me that “this this 3D is different from everything else, its used more to accentuate the visual rather than be the focal point.” Come off it. I’ve heard that before and I just don’t see it. I feel like everyone’s trying to Emperor’s New Clothes me. I’m not buying it.
I don’t need the boundaries of 3D technology to be pushed any further. Leave those boundaries alone.
Who I’d Like to Win: Prometheus
Who Will Win: Life of Pi
Dark Horse: The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey (I liked this movie, but I’m getting really tired of typing out the post colon stuff every time it’s nominated for something)
Who I’d Like to Win: Skyfall
Who Will Win: Life of Pi (sigh)
Dark Horse: (….stares blankly ahead at the computer screen)
The one where they sang on set is going to win a sound mixing award, right? I mean, right? Yea, that sounds right.
Who I’d Like to Win: Les Misérables
Who Will Win: Les Misérables
Dark Horse: Life of Pi
Another not super high profile award, but kind of a cool story to go with it. William Goldberg, the editor for Argo, was also one of the two editors for Zero Dark Thirty. Can you imagine how much it would crush you to have two entries in the ring and still lose? I’m pulling for you Willy!
Who I’d Like to Win: Argo or Zero Dark Thirty
Who Will Win: Argo
Dark Horse: I realize now that I’ve kind of been using Dark Horse wrong over the course of this post. It’s supposed to mean an unheralded contender that might surprise people with a win and I’ve sometimes been using it more like evil contender plotting in the shadows. I kind of like it better that way though. The image of evil horses plotting in the shadows terrifies and delights me. Anyway, dark horse for this category is now obviously Life of Pi.
I didn’t realize that Alexandre Desplat did the score for Argo. He’s had some really beautiful and unique scores over the years and I really admire his ability to not exactly have a signature sound but instead craft music that accentuates the broad spectrum of films he’s worked on. You could probably pick up on a John Williams score based on like three notes at this point, which isn’t necessarily a knock on Williams, but there’s something to be said for a score blending in with the film instead of the other way around.
Who I’d like to Win: Argo
Who Will Win: Argo (!)
Dark (Evil) Horse: Life of Pie
There’s no way Adele’s Skyfall isn’t winning this category. But on a different note, can we talk about the fact that Wide Awake by Katy Perry from her documentary was eligible for this category and wasn’t nominated? That’s horrifying and something I find hard to abide by. As soon as I’m through with this thing, many a strongly worded letter will be sent to the Academy. Hopefully it’s not too late.
Who I’d Like to Win: “Wide Awake” from Katy Perry: Part of Me
Who Will Win: “Skyfall” from Skyfall (I do love this song. It’s one of my favorite Bond themes of all time and Adele is a treasure.
Dark (Evil) Horse: “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Foreign Language Film
A Royal Affair
Amour is the only one of these films also nominated for Best Picture. Logic pretty much dictates how this will play out.
Who I’d like to Win: Amour
Who Will Win: Amour
Dark (Evil) Horse: Life of Pi (I don’t know how it would pull this off, I just wouldn’t be surprised if it did)
This category is a little more notable for who isn’t nominated than who is. Affleck for Argo, Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, and Tarantino for Django Unchained. I won’t dwell on it too much because I only have one egregious wrong that I can fight today (Katy Perry) but I will say this: Bigelow won for the Hurt Locker a few years ago, Tarantino is pretty constantly being told how great he is by everyone (including me) anyway, and Affleck has kind of been going on a little redemption tour of his own winning Best Director at most of the pre Oscar award shows anyway. These three are fine.
Out of the actual nominees, I liked Silver Linings Playbook the most. Russell is an interesting director to me because he seems to coax interesting ideas and performances out of very simple premises (except for I Heart Huckabees, I’m still not totally sure what I watched there). Three Kings was, at it’s core, a heist movie. The Fighter was an underdog sports movie. Silver Linings Playbook was just a romantic comedy. Within the framework of these basic genres Russell manages to layer his own manic energy and unique comedic tone right alongside very real darkness and pain. It adds depth and heart to he proceedings, which makes for an overall more satisfying movie experience. I really loved Silver Linings Playbook, I came away from it almost startled by how fully realized it was as a film. From beginning to middle to end it was so very assured of who it was and what it was trying to accomplish. Every scene and every character felt so real and lived in. A lot of that has to do with the fantastic performances that the movie is just littered with, but that all starts with the director.
That being said, this one probably goes to Spielberg. I feel like when faced with a difficult choice the Academy will usually fall back on voting for Spielberg.
Who I’d Like to Win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Who Will Win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Dark (Evil) Horse: Ang Lee, Life of Pi (I do really like Ang Lee as a director and Life of Pi isn’t nearly as bad as I’m making it out to be. Most of my hatred comes from a place of despising the source material. The movie’s fine, it looks good and the Tiger is cool and whatever, but I can’t get over how much I just dislike the story. So yea, it’s not Ang Lee’s fault but I really hope that this movie doesn’t win things)
Actress in a Leading Role
This is a super competitive category with lots of really interesting performances to choose from. Not totally sure how Naomi Watts from The Impossible snuck in there though. I don’t even think The Impossible is nominated for anything else in this show. I didn’t see the Impossible, but honestly, I kind of forgot it existed. I had to look it up to remember it’s the one about the Tsunami. Anyway, Naomi’s not going to win.
Neither is Quvenzhané Wallis, though I do think she’s adorable and can’t wait to watch her in various red carpet interviews and what not. Beasts of a Southern Wild was a super weird movie but it was really fun to watch and Wallis gave one of those captivating child actor performances that leave you wondering what you’re doing with your life because this freaking nine year old is blowing you out of the water talent wise.
Emmanuelle Riva was great in Amour a.k.a. the saddest movie of all time. Like Wallis, she is adorable and will probably melt all of our hearts during all of the red carpet interviews and, should she pull off the upset, will likely give and incredible speech that leaves us all wondering what we’re doing with our lives because this freaking eighty five year old women is blowing us out of the water talent wise (also, Oscar night is her birthday. I almost want her to win just so I can see what happens when my emotional sensors get overloaded).
I’m having a really hard time deciding between Chastain and Lawrence. Lawrence was just incredible in Silver Linings Playbook. I mean, who didn’t see this movie and immediately offer up some comment along the lines of “Holy cow that Hunger Games girl can act her face off!” She had crazy amounts of energy and chemistry with her counterpart, Cooper, and managed to convincingly portray how broken and hurt her character was inside this great outer wall of strength and confidence she projected on the world. Also, no nominee in any category made me laugh as hard as she did with the line “You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.”
Chastain though. Wow, Chastain isn’t just the glue that holds together the truly phenomenal Zero Dark Thirty, she’s the engine that drives it. She plays such a wide range of emotions throughout the film and she manages to convey a fully realized character to the audience without the benefit of any real outside exposition. I mean, If you really think back on that movie, everything you know about that character comes from what Chastain gives to you through her performance. You know why I keep calling her that character? I can’t even remember the characters name, which is fine, because that’s not what’s important about who you’re watching. It’s an interesting element of the movie that Chastain is really playing an amalgam of people, so what she is portraying isn’t just a woman, but more the idea of the hunt for Bin Ladin. She’s embodying the drive and the perseverance and the frustration and the pain of everyone involved. She takes the overall toll of everyone’s sacrifice and channels it through her performance. It’s something that I can’t really remember ever seeing before, or at least, seen done before this well. I am truly in awe of what Chastain was able to do here and I hope the Academy chooses to reward her for it.
Who I’d Like to Win: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (unfortunately, I think a lot of the controversy surrounding ZDT will hamper most of it’s award chances, which is really a shame)
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook (Lawrence has absolutely crushed every element of the whole “make everyone in America fall in love with you” strategy in the Win An Oscar Campaign playbook. She’s going to win this. Not upset about that.)
Dark (not Evil this time) Horse: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Actor in a Leading Role
I mean, the guy who traveled back in time to the 19th century, embedded himself in the Lincoln cabinet as senator James Harlan from Iowa (prove to me this isn’t Daniel Day-Lewis, you can’t) and studied him for four years is going to win this right? It feels silly even to discuss this.
Denzel…He was very good in flight. I like it when Denzel plays a damaged character. Not going to win. Hugh Jackman? Get out of here.
I’ve waxed on and on about how great Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in The Master but Joaquin was pretty incredible too. He constantly had me on edge and really sold the relationship between his character and Hoffman’s. His whole performance felt like a raw, exposed nerve and his dedication to that idea was breathtaking to watch. It was also kind of terrifying to watch.
It was refreshing to watch Bradley Cooper in this role and you could tell he was sort of energized to be playing a character with this much depth for him to explore. I mean, I loved him in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover, but those are pretty one-note characters that he could probably play in his sleep. Here he was angry and manic while being sad and vulnerable at the same time. Both he and Lawrence were so charismatic every time they were on screen, which is part of the reason the movie was just so appealing in spite of the fact that you’re spending two hours dealing with the very real and very unsettling face of mental illness.
Who I’d like to Win: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (I’ve been making a lot of jokes at DDL’s expense, but this performance was remarkable. He’s one of our greatest living actors and it truly was a treat to watch him tackle such an iconic historical role with his trademark dedication.)
Dark (Non Evil this time, but possibly Crazy) Horse: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
That’s a pretty solid collection of movies up there. I’ve done a decent amount of nitpicking about everything so far but, taking a step back, every single one of these movies was well crafted (even you Life of Pi) and I am glad that I got to experience them.
Les Misérables was a very entertaining movie that was ultimately just a bit disappointing. I don’t know if that was the movie’s fault or just the fact that expectations for this story are just so high or if the musical just doesn’t translate as well to the big screen as everyone wants it to or if I was just unsettled by how hard we were thrust in the face of the actors over the course of this seven hour film…I just don’t know. Take your pick. It was a good movie, just not a best movie.
Life of Pi, I don’t want to get into this again. Look I get it, people loved Life of Pi, both the movie and the book, but I just wasn’t one of those people. It leaves me cold every time.
Amour, you were so well done and beautifully shot, but man were you sad. Like, make me want to sit in a dark room with a blanket around my shoulders while I stare into a fire sad.
Beasts of a Southern Wild was the most unique and imaginative thing I saw all year. It was like watching a live action fairy tale. I loved the idea of an unspoken sort of magic and mysticism being woven into the fabric of our world that feels real and organic. The Bathtub as a setting is beautifully brought to life and it is extremely rewarding to watch Hushpuppy, the child heroine played by Quvenzhané Wallis, navigate her way through it. This was a weird, uplifting and ultimately very rewarding cinematic experience. It may not be the Best Picture, but I think it’s okay with that. It was never trying to be. Beasts of a Southern Wild is a different animal.
You know how I feel about Silver Linings Playbook at this point. Well crafted from start to finish with some incredible performances. Ultimately, it will probably not win Best Picture but it will likely be the movie I re-watch more than any of the rest nominated here.
Django Unchained was wildly entertaining and proved yet again that Tarantino is one of the true great, original filmmakers working today and someone who we are all lucky to get to watch. It cracks me up when I read people talking about how this film felt overly self-indulgent. Have you seen any Tarantino movies? They are ALL self-indulgent. Indulging in the stuff that he loves and throwing it up on screen is the definition of his style. If Tarantino ever made a movie that wasn’t self-indulgent we would all look at ourselves and wonder what happened to Quentin. It just feels like a hollow criticism to me. At the end of the day, I think Django will probably not be my favorite QT outing. There was something about it that didn’t just hypnotize me and draw me in the way Inglorious Basterds did or the Kill Bill’s did. I think I like it better when Tarantino applies the Western genre on something that isn’t traditionally a Western versus just simply making a Western. I don’t know. Either way, the Academy definitely isn’t giving this film Best Picture, so we should probably just move along because I could sit here and dissect Tarantino films all day.
I would love to see Argo win this award because I think Argo is pretty close to being a perfect movie experience. It is funny when it needs to be funny and tense when it needs to be tense. It has incredible performances across the board and tells just a riveting story. There’s government espionage intrigue and Hollywood inside jokes. There’s a heartwarming father-son relationship. I mean, Argo really hits like every entertainment beat and it hits them perfectly. A lot has been said about Affleck really coming into his own as a director with this film and I wholeheartedly concur with that sentiment. If the main goal of a movie is to entertain you, then this movie has accomplished that goal as thoroughly as anything else out there.
I mentioned it earlier, but I feel like all the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty is going to hamper it’s chances of winning many awards here. This is unfortunate because the controversy turned political awfully quick with each side grandstanding loudly and publically without much nuance or respect to what Kathryn Bigelow was trying to accomplish with this film. I don’t want to get into it here because I want to focus on the film itself, which was excellent. The raid on the compound in Abbottabad was one of the best action sequences I’ve ever scene. Period. It baffles me how, in spite of knowing exactly how almost every detail of that mission went down, I was still riveted by what was going on screen. There was this tension that had slowly built up over the course of the movie that Bigelow managed to hide in the shadows at a low volume right up until she wanted you to feel it. Those guys start walking towards those helicopters and everything is dark and starts to look weirdly familiar because we’ve all watched the news enough and seen what this mission probably looked like. All of a sudden you can’t think because the pit in your stomach is growing and your palms are sweating. Your nervous because you’ve lived like 10 years in the past two hours and you know exactly what’s at stake. Man, I’m breathing hard just thinking about it right now. This was an important film and is going to remain an important film the further and further we get away from the event. It will be fascinating years from now to look back at this snap shot of what we went through and see how much our perception of it has changed. I think people will look back on these Academy Awards years from now with disbelief that Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t acknowledged more.
Which brings me to Lincoln. I have a sneaking suspicion that Lincoln is going to win this category because sometimes the Academy just does this type of thing. It is a fine movie, but it is the cinematic equivalent of making a decent hamburger. Steven Spielberg directed Daniel Day-Lewis in a period bio-pic about one of the most revered men in the history of our country. I mean, of course it’s going to be good but…I mean, was this really the Best Picture? Remember when the Kings Speech won best picture two years ago and we all applauded and were like, yes, that was an excellent movie. I suppose it did deserve to win, what an excellently crafted film. Meanwhile, the Social Network came out that year and perfectly captured what will end up being one of the defining qualities of a generation of people. Like Zero Dark Thirty this year, The Social Network was an important movie and it was one that had something unique and intelligent to say about our society. Like Lincoln this year, The Kings Speech was a well-made biopic that featured and excellent performance but was, in the grand scheme of things, not very important. Just watch, Spielberg is going to win for Best Director. Then Day-Lewis will win for Best Actor. All of a sudden you’ll realize, oh my god, is Lincoln about to take three out of four major categories tonight? Is Lincoln going to be the movie that defines this year in film? Then whoever is presenting will open the envelope and say, “The award for best picture goes to…” and you’ll shut your eyes and clinch your fists and say a quick prayer and then… “Lincoln.” You’ll stare ahead for a bit and zone out during the speech and then you’ll sort of just realize that, you know what, I was probably taking these awards a little to seriously in the first place.
Who I’d Like to Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Who Will Win: Lincoln
Dark (Evil) Horse: Life of Pi