Saturday, February 23, 2013

OSCAR 2013 - Pre-Show Thoughts & Predictions & Rants

"Why yes, that Anne Hathaway was quite good. But Daniel Day Lewis, now there's a *real* actor. Also, Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed. Oh, and why didn't Spielberg put any vampires into his movie about me?" - Abraham Lincoln


- Well, it's once again almost Oscar time, and as usual all anyone can talk about is the politics behind the awards, rather than the actual merit of the films, actors, and directors that are nominated. Personally, I found this year's nominees an odd mix of deserving talent peppered with some truly jaw-dropping omissions. The reason I say jaw-dropping is that you would think that Kathryn Bigelow getting a Best Director nomination, for example, would be a no-brainer - not just as a movie fan, but also if you're going by the Academy's usual tendencies. Sure, last year, many of my favorite films like Drive and Young Adult were snubbed altogether from the Oscar race. But that, at least, was somewhat expected (and it was similarly but sadly expected that some of 2012's most incredible movies - like CLOUD ATLAS - would get excluded). But this year, the Oscars don't even necessarily seem to follow any sort of internal logic. Zero Dark Thirty up for Best Picture, but no Bigelow for Best Director (despite the film's incredible direction)? Okay ...

Again, it comes down more to politics and cult of personality - in terms of nominations, winners, and in the public discourse. Example #1: Ben Affleck. Look, Argo was a fantastic film, and Ben Affleck's transition from actor-in-bad-movies to director-of-awesome-movies has been really cool to watch. But is it reasonable to say that there were at least five other films in 2012 that were better-directed than Argo? Yes, very reasonable in my estimation. Is it also reasonable to say that there were several films in 2012 that were, overall, even better and more impactful than Argo? Yes, also reasonable. So, people, stop talking about Ben Affleck. The man will get his due in due time.

Of course, there are many great films and great performances that I would have loved to have seen recognized at this year's Oscars. To that end ...


1.) Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director (Zero Dark Thirty)
2.) Moonrise Kingdom for Best Picture
3.) Wes Anderson for Best Director (Moonrise Kingdom)
4.) Quentin Tarantino for Best Director (Django Unchained)
5.) Dwight Henry for Best Supporting Actor (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
6.) Frank Langella for Best Actor (Robot & Frank)
7.) Jim Broadbent for Best Supporting Actor (Cloud Atlas)
8.) Tom Tywer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski for Best Director (Cloud Atlas)
9.) Doona Bae for Best Supporting Actress (Cloud Atlas)
10.) Safety Not Guaranteed for Best Picture or Best Original Screenplay
11.) Rian Johnson for Best Director (Looper)
12.) Liam Neeson for Best Actor (The Grey)
13.) The Grey for Best Picture
14.) Jason Clarke for Best Supporting Actor (Zero Dark Thirty)
15.) Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Supporting Actor (Django Unchained)

No doubt, many of the Academy's picks this year are "safe." Even a movie like Zero Dark Thirty, which in past years would be a shoe-in, may end up getting penalized for the political controversy surrounding it. And of course, despite efforts to make the Oscars feel a little younger and fresher, with indie picks like the very-much-deserving Beasts of the Southern Wild, there is still a pretty wide gulf between what is and isn't considered an "Oscar movie." Suffice it to say, the big exclusion this year in that regard was clearly Moonrise Kingdom - one of Wes Anderson's best-ever. But several other notable indies with quirky sensibilities - Safety Not Guaranteed and Robot & Frank, for example, were also left off the list completely. So too goes it for 2012's big action flicks that were deserving of consideration. Movies like The Avengers, The Grey, and The Raid: Redemption were all pulpy and over-the-top in their own way, sure - but all were also absolutely impeccably-made and deserving of awards consideration (The Grey, in particular, was really overlooked by critics in general - it's a future cult classic, no question). Similar sentiments could be shared about the superlative Cloud Atlas. It's a big, epic, sweeping, emotionally-charged movie - with Oscar-friendly actors like Tom Hanks and Halle Barry and Jim Broadbent. But I suppose that the future-shock sensibilities of the Wachowskis are still a bit too much for most people (especially when removed from the confines of hard sci-fi a la The Matrix), most especially Oscar voters. I know that opinion was divided on Cloud Atlas, but man, to me it was the year's most epic cinematic tour de force.

With all that said ... that still doesn't make it cool to hate on great films just because they *were* showered with golden Oscar love (hmm, that sounded wrong -- oh well). Chief example - LINCOLN. Okay, so perhaps Spielberg flubbed the ending a little bit, but still - this was a phenomenal film, and certainly one of the year's most towering cinematic achievements. I'll be very happy for actor-supreme Daniel Day Lewis should he win Best Actor, and for living legend Spielberg if he were to win for Best Director. Honestly, after the disappointing War Horse, Lincoln was a great return to form for him. Silver Linings Playbook is another one that certain people have been hating on. I'll defend the movie to anyone - it's just a fantastic film, and it's got everything - amazing lead performances, knockout direction from David O. Russell ... And trust me, it's such a well-done, fell-good movie - part of me really *wants* to hate on it, just because. But again, forget the cult of personality stuff, forget misgivings about anything labeled as a romantic comedy, and just watch the movie with an open mind. I did, and I loved it. Has part of me loved it not-as-much after it seemed to inspire hundreds of annoying Facebook posts stating stuff to the effect of "ZOMG NEW FAV MOVIE EVS!". Yes. Ugh. Please, go away. And was Jackie Weaver's part really substantial enough to deserve an Oscar nom? Probably not. But my point is: don't hate on Lincoln just because it seems ready-made for Oscar love, don't hate on Silver Linings just because you find Bradley Cooper annoying from making the godawful Hangover movies (it's a hurdle to get over, I know), and hey, don't even hate on Amour because you haven't seen it yet and/or the idea of a movie about two old people slowly dying makes you want to run and hide and cry.

So here we go, here are my picks:



Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Will Win: Argo

- This one annoys me, because I feel like an Argo win is going to have more to do with politics than anything else. No question in my mind: Zero Dark Thirty was the better film of the two. Whereas Argo simplified its story by packaging it as a Hollywood-style thriller, Zero Dark Thirty had zero pandering - it was challenging, smart, and thematically ambitious. But Argo is a story about how Hollywood saved the world. Therefore, there's probably no beating it.


Should Win: Daniel Day Lewis
Will Win: Daniel Day Lewis

- There are few things that movie fans of all stripes can agree on, but one of them is this: Daniel Day Lewis is a beast. The man can do no wrong, and when he's got a role this good, this iconic, this well-written (kudos, Tony Kushner) ... there's no stopping him.


Should Win: Jessica Chastain
Will Win: Jessica Lawrence

- I'm actually a huge fan of both Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty and of Lawrence in Sliver Linings. Personally, I give the slight edge to Chastain, because her role in that film was subtler, more nuanced, and ultimately more powerful and iconic. But Lawrence was also fantastic - both very funny and very fearless - and she'll probably be rewarded for it. This was one of those "I just made America fall in love with me" roles - and Lawrence's real-life lovability probably also doesn't hurt her chances.


Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

- TLJ was just a firecracker in Lincoln, and it's one of those incredible roles that quite simply brings the house down. It was a reminder of why Tommy Lee is such a damn fine actor - I mean, he steals the show in a movie that's basically bursting at the seams with A-level actors. My only regret is that this award will come at the expense of the always-awesome Christoph Waltz. But the weird thing about his role in Django is that it's really the lead role. Same goes for Philip Seymour-Hoffman in The Master (and that movie's mixed reactions will hurt it - justifiably so in my opinion - despite its two incredible lead performances)


Should Win: Anne Hathaway
Will Win: Anne Hathaway

- Hmm ... I don't really like the nominees in this category, which is quite weak this year overall. That said, Anne Hathaway unquestionably tore the house down in her part in Les Mis. But my feelings about the film as a whole were very mixed, and it makes you wonder about how Oscar votes should be considered. It's like picking the NBA MVP ... can you really give it to the player with the best points-per-game average if his team has a losing record? Not really. So, personally, I don't like giving Hathaway a prize if the film as a whole was only okay (though, somehow, it's nominated for Best Picture). But Hathaway will win, and unfortunately, there are no other nominees who make a strong enough of a case to knock her out.


Should Win: Frankenweenie
Will Win: Wreck-It Ralph

- Man ... Frankenweenie was one of my favorite films of 2012, and in my opinion one of the most unfairly overlooked. People have apparently so soured on Tim Burton that they decided not to pay attention to a film that was a true return-to-form for him. No question in my mind, Frankenweenie should win. But what movie did Oscar voters' kids and grandkids love most this year? No question on that one either - Wreck-It Ralph FTW.


Should Win: toss-up
Will Win: David O. Russell

- This is easily the hardest major category to call and in which to pick a favorite. Spielberg may be the favorite in some respects, but Lincoln is also not really a director showpiece (it's an actor showpiece). Spielberg could still win, but I think ultimately David O. Russell will take it for the way he skillfully framed Silver Linings Playbook, to get the most out of his actors, and to really take the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride. I also really like Ang Lee's work on Life of Pi. But I wonder if some of the more controversial creative choices he made on the film (the sometimes-awkward framing device, for example) will hurt him. And ... I also give incredible props to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. In some ways he might be my personal pick here for what he accomplished on a low budget and with a cast of mostly untrained actors. The whole category feels off without Kathryn Bigelow though - she was my clear #1 pick as Best Director of 2012 ... how is she not here? But ultimately, Russell, I think, takes it (and if he does, I expect a huge backlash from film geeks, to whom I say in advance "stay calm").


Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Will Win: Zero Dark Thirty

- I have a feeling that ZDT will win this category as a sort of "we really did love ya', but hey, our hands were tied" sort of make-up prize. It also helps that writer Mark Boal has a great reputation, and is known as the rare screenwriter who does true journalistic-style research while crafting his scripts. I will say, this is a loaded category. Tarantino and Wes Anderson are two heavyweights and personal favorites, and would be more-than-deserving winners.


Should Win: Lincoln
Will Win: Lincoln

- Lincoln had a phenomenal screenplay, packed with memorable moments and quotable lines. Tony Kushner nearly topped his previous collaboration with Spielberg, Munich, and delivered a definitive account of Lincoln's presidency and the passage of the 13th amendment.


Should Win: no opinion
Will Win: Amour

- Amour - also nominated for Best Picture, making it a seeming shoe-in for this award. Have also heard great things about films like Kon-Tiki, but seems like Amour's got this one locked.


Should Win: Life of Pi
Will Win: Les Mis

- To me, Life of Pi was the most visually-beautiful film of the year. But Oscar loves a period piece, and Les Mis is likely this year's winner in many of these categories.


Should Win: Lincoln
Will Win: Les Mis

- See above.


Should Win: "Skyfall"
Will Win: "Skyfall"

- Come on now, "Skyfall" is the only legit song in this category - and it's a pretty excellent song too from no less than beloved songstress Adele. Plus, it's an acknowledgement of the quite-good latest Bond flick, which many feel was snubbed from other categories.


Should Win: Lincoln
Will Win: Lincoln

- John Williams ... the man is a legend and an institution, to the point where you almost want to discount him just because, well, been-there, done-that. But let's be honest, the score for Lincoln literally gave me chills ... DURING THE TRAILER. On a sidenote though, how in the heck was Cloud Atlas not nominated here?! Whatever else you think of the film, its score was incredible. Damn you, Oscars.


Should Win: no opinion
Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man

- Man, there are a couple of films on this list that I've been dying to see - most of all The Gatekeepers and Searching for Sugar Man, which I've heard universally great things about. It seems like this story about a long-forgotten musician who finds he has a following across the globe is the one to beat.


Should win: Life of Pi
Will Win: Life of Pi

- Life of Pi, again, looked stunning. I've got to go with it here. Skyfall is perhaps a close second, and a Skyfall win would mean a win for the great Roger Deakins, who's somehow never won an Oscar. But still, Life of Pi is my pick. I mean, come on - that flying-fish scene? Incredible.


Should Win: Argo
Will Win: Argo

- Here's one where I give it up for Argo - the film was impeccably edited. The way the movie creates tension and builds up to its harrowing finale is incredible, and deserves to be rewarded (and also, for its amazing opening sequence with the raid on the U.S. embassy).


Should Win: The Hobbit
Will Win: Les Mis

- The Hobbit has Gandalf and Bilbo and Orcs. That, to me, makes it worthy (even if the movie does use too much CGI, in places it should have stuck to practical f/x). But Les Mis will take it.


Should Win: Argo
Will Win: Argo

- Argo wins this, and deservedly so. On a technical level, the movie is top-notch - and its mixture of real-life news footage with new footage (particularly in terms of audio) is also aces.


Should Win: Les Mis
Will Win: Les Mis

- Here's where I do give Les Mis props - the way they captured live singing and somehow made it work in the context of a film is actually a pretty amazing trick.


Should Win: Life of Pi
Will Win: Life of Pi

- Part of me wants to give at least a shout-out to Prometheus. Script issues aside, it was one of the most visually-stunning films I've seen, well, ever. That said, Life of Pi creates a CGI tiger (as well as an entire menagerie of wild animals) that are utterly convincing. That tiger becomes not just one of the year's most impressive visual effects, but also one of the year's most compelling characters. Now that's award-worthy.


Should Win: Paperman
Will Win: Paperman

- There is a SIMPSONS short nominated here. The Simpsons could win Oscar gold, and hey, that would be sort of awesome. But Paperman ... I mean, it's incredible. I think it got a round of applause in the theater when I saw it. It's one of those pieces that makes you just smile and think "wow, animation kicks ass."


Should Win: ???
Will Win: Asad


Should Win: ???
Will Win: Redemption

- And that's it for now. Feel free to leave comments or picks of your own. Or just go watch Cloud Atlas and cry about it not getting any nominations. Or watch The Grey, and be awesome. But hey, no matter who wins or loses, just, you know, don't be mean. Because as Lincoln said ..."shall we stop this bleeding?" Yes, Mr. President ... we shall.


  1. Loved Skyfall. Best picture imo, but then again I tend to enjoy movies rather than "films."

  2. Nice - I'm with you, in general. I try to watch all kinds of movies with an open mind, and there's nothing to say that a well-done action movie can't be just as worthy of awards as a more highbrow film. From 2012, I'd put a few awesome movies like The Raid: Redemption, The Grey, and The Avengers in that category.