The Oscars. My Superbowl. However, what frustrates me (to a truly unreasonable degree) is that awards should be based on merit and not be popularity contests or recognition for past work when it was overlooked. As much as I love the Oscars and watching them and rooting for films, I end up feeling empty because some “winners” aren’t really winners. That’s annoying. When I fill out a ballot, meaning competition-wise, I go with the odds and popular feedback, because I want to win. And yeah, this isn’t a Criterion post, but exercise is exercise. I’ll italicize films I’ve seen so you can assess the credibility of commentary.
Best Picture (Amour, Argo, Beasts, Django, Les Mis, Life, Lincoln, Silver, Zero): A few years ago, HCC hosted a speaker (my apologies for forgetting his name) that was an Academy voter (and to vote, you had to have gone through this nominating process – it seems pretty involved and insider-ish). He explained this whole new system of having more than five films in the hunt and how it isn’t just most votes but also the ranking of each vote. There’s also the whole being nominated by your peers. Then there’s the weirdness of how foreign language pictures get chosen. Then there’s the final vote. That’s when things get all political and shit. This has been explained in entertainment publications already, but the reason why Argo is going to win is because 1/5 of the Academy are actors, and Affleck, an “actor” (I use that term very loosely – other than Hollywoodland, what has he been remotely good in? I still want my 104 minutes of life back for Reindeer Games [did you know there’s a director’s cut of that movie?]) has been … snubbed … by the Academy! Say it isn’t so?!?! You don’t have to be a math genius to realize that if there are five director slots for best director and nine films up for best picture, there’s going to be some directors that don’t get nominated. So, yeah, Tarantino, Bigelow, Hooper, and Affleck were “snubbed.” The actors are bitter that one of their own was “left out,” (because I dare you to count Tarantino as an actor), so they all will pile on. There’s also that intangible momentum of how many awards Affleck has garnered so far (AFI Movie of the Year, BAFTA [really?], Broadcast Film Critics’ Association, DGA Feature Film [omg, really?!], Golden Globes, National Board of Review – how did he not win at Cannes?), so that can’t account for solidarity of actors alone. The film was good, don’t get me wrong. But, it wasn’t great. What was? Amour, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook. I think they were the best I saw for 2012. Zero Dark Thirty, like Argo, was good. Beasts of the Southern Wild was good, but it was trying way too hard. I really could care less about Lincoln, because it was a great example of Hollywood pooling resources and talent to make a historical feature (and it was effective, but overall not inspiring). You had the most important Hollywood director telling one of the most central American stories. He could have asked Santa Claus to show up and he would’ve. This is Hollywood at its excessive best, but it still couldn’t be the best. Kim thinks the popularity of Argo rests with it being self-congratulatory (the film industry saved lives!!!). There’s something to that. The Artist won last year, and certainly not on box office or popular actors – it was about the glory of film. How else do you beat out Woody, Steven, Martin, George, Brad and all the Hollywood poster children? I’m still having a hard time determining which was the best out of Amour, Life of Pi, and Silver Linings Playbook. One is focused on characters (SLP), one is on technical prowess (Life of Pi) but one gets both (Amour). All three are outstanding and masterful, which makes me all the more pissed off that none will win this category.
Best Director (Haneke, Zeitlin, Lee, Spielberg, Russell): Three people have a pony in this race: Haneke, Lee and Russell. Spielberg’s already won enough (and his movie wasn’t all that impressive), and Zeitlin was trying too hard (still a good movie – wonder how hard it was to direct a 5 year old?). Haneke is just amazing. If you haven’t seen Amour, you don’t recognize what Haneke accomplished with a small group (seriously, watch the credits). The White Ribbon and Cache are devastating films. But, he won’t get it (too outside, filming in French). Lee’s closer inside, and his feat of directing Martel’s unfilmable novel should make him win. To say the visuals in Pi are stunning is a gross understatement (I can’t recall in the last five years being so stunned in a theater as when the ship sinks, or the jellyfish sequence), but that’s not all. For someone like myself who is not a religious person, to find a movie essentially in the pursuit of proving God, it is such a beautiful, eloquent work of art that I am still misty-eyed (out of 8 of the 9 films I saw, only one made me cry, and it wasn’t Amour, proving perhaps that I am a heartless bastard). There is something so profound at the base of Life of Pi. But for Russell, his movie is subtle. The performances were genuine and bare and eloquent. I think his true feat was taking two actors, DeNiro and Tucker, who have only played themselves for the longest time, and made them play characters. But a lot of this film’s success is a shared affair: great acting and writing detract from what the director is doing, meaning he’s not pulling all the rabbits out of the hat. But, he’s pulling enough. The Academy will give it to Spielberg, incorrectly (maybe, just maybe, to Lee, correctly).
Best Actor (Cooper, Day-Lewis, Jackman, Phoenix, Washington): So, Daniel walked around for two years before production started acting like Lincoln. Dressed up as him, even. Yeah, I don’t know what the point of arguing this one is. Cooper was solid, as is Washington in any movie he’s in, the same with the other two guys. But Day-Lewis takes it to the next level. Scary bastard.
Best Actress (Chastain, Lawrence, Riva, Wallis, Watts). I do NOT want to see The Impossible, even though I’ve heard it is amazing. Do you know how long it took me to watch Hotel Rwanda? I had that for years before I put it in the player. Misery porn is not really my cup of tea. It’s not Chastain’s fault she won’t win – no one gave her a real character to play. Wallis is just too young. Who should win is Riva, because her performance, at her age, is devastating. Lawrence was good, and she’s received a lot of accolades for her performance, but great or outstanding? Riva should win, but Lawrence will.
Best Supporting Actor (Arkin, DeNiro, Hoffman, Jones, Waltz): Arkin was in Argo so briefly that they might as well just have nominated Goodman. DeNiro was thankfully not DeNiro, which made Silver Linings Playbook all the more refreshing. Hoffman’s good in anything. Jones is like DeNiro, and I just don’t care about Lincoln. But yet again, Christoph Waltz is the best part of yet another Tarantino movie (the other being Inglorious Basterds, which he won his previous Oscar). For me, it’s between Waltz and DeNiro, and I’d give the edge to DeNiro. Jones will probably win (can someone please explain to me why Strathairn wasn’t nominated instead of Jones? He was much better. Hell, I was constantly waiting for James Spader or John Hawkes to come back on the screen). Odds are laying even right now for Jones and Waltz.
Best Supporting Actress (Adams, Field, Hathaway, Hunt, Weaver): From what I’ve heard, Hunt’s performance in The Sessions is amazing in its raw power. I am looking forward to seeing that movie sometime soon. Weaver was not a very big part of Silver Linings Playbook, so no. But everyone is practically orgasmic for Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Mis, so she’ll get yet another award for that.
Best Animated Feature Film (Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, Pirates, Wreck). Brave was just ok – very formulaic. There’s no anime up for an award this year (although anime was definitely released last year, but whatever). Kim said Wreck-It Ralph was good and had an actual positive message to convey to kids. That’s good to hear. And good that it’s everyone’s favorite.
Best Foreign Film (Amour, Kon-Tiki, No, A Royal Affair, War Witch): I hate it when goofy Academy process splits votes for things, like a film being up for both best picture and best foreign language film. Yet this is how Amour will easily win this category (which, quite frankly, it should possibly win best picture for the whole she-bang). A Royal Affair and Kon-Tiki look like really interesting films. And maybe this is a stupid distinction, but all the films in this category look indicative of the cultures they are heralding from (Germany/France, Norway, Chile, and Denmark), but I have no clue what ties War Witch to Canada. Is it just that the money is from there, because this looks completely incongruous.
Best Original Screenplay (Amour, Django, Flight, Moonrise, Zero): This may be the only shot that Zero Dark Thirty gets for an award, so I lean towards that. I honestly thought Django was the worst Tarantino film I’d seen, but then I saw Deathproof and revised my ranking. What is with movies that are way too long and don’t seem to know how to end? I’d be interested to see if Amour would win, because if this is really based on screenplay, would voters have read the original French script or a translation? I’m not a Wes Anderson fan, so that kicks Moonrise Kingdom out for me. I heard Flight is really good, though. Really surprised to see odds indicating Django for this.
Best Adapted Screenplay (Argo, Beasts, Life, Lincoln, Silver): Yay, my category! But alas, I haven’t read any of the works these movies are based off (though just bought Life of Pi) of, so while I will go with Silver Linings Playbook, this is something else Argo will probably win. ::sigh::
Best Costume (Anna, Les, Lincoln, Mirror, Snow): Um, ok, period pieces and fantasy. Two are about Snow White. How weird. Can I just vote for none of them? Odds on favorite is Anna.
Best Original Song … you know what? I’m not even going to list them. I think this is such a dumb category meant to, I don’t know, make the Oscars more hip? Everyone knows Adele is going to win. Maybe this category was more relevant earlier, when the song from the movie really had a connection to the plot or atmosphere of the film, where radio airplay was like an advertisement. “Skyfall” from Skyfall runs over such a visually engaging opening credit sequence that I didn’t even really catch the words when I watched it. And who listens to radio anymore? The performances of the songs during the Oscars is when I usually get a drink or use the bathroom.
Best Original Score (Anna, Argo, Life, Lincoln, Skyfall): Ok, this I care about. The problem is, John Williams is 81 years old. And while he’s won 5 Oscars, he hasn’t won since 1994 (Schindler’s List), and, well, he’s 81 years old. This is where the Spielberg camp may chalk a win other than DDL (actually, based on odds, and how bad the music was, then no). The music in Skyfall was fun because it was so iconic. But I’m willing to bet the movie with the score being a huge contributing factor was Life of Pi. And Mychael Danna has done some consistently quality work (cool – odds have him out in front).
Best Documentary (5 Broken, The Gatekeepers, How to Survive, Invisible War, Searching): (Note – I will watch SfS tomorrow, and unless it blows me the fuck away, I don’t see this post changing). This is where my blood pressure will spike. Everyone’s so high on Searching for Sugarman. This may be because it is a more happy, light-hearted documentary. Last year’s winner, Undefeated, was about a high school football team that went from underdog to champion. That was a hell of a lot more upbeat than people waiting on death row or the Earth Liberation Front. And the year before, while Inside Job wasn’t a feel-good movie, it was a damn sight easier to sit through than Gasland or Restrepo and had Matt Damon narrating (given his recent release of Promised Land, he would have narrated Gasland instead). One of the most powerful movies I’ve seen lately is 5 Broken Cameras. But, given its politics, no one is probably going to vote for it. That’s a crime. Odds have it dead last. See? What the fuck do I know? I’m deeply offended by this.
Best Documentary Short (Inocente, Kings Point, Mondays at Racine, Open Heart, Redemption): There are three strong works here: Inocente, Mondays at Racine, and Open Heart. I don’t know which one will get it, but if Kings Point or Redemption wins, then that’s a serious problem. Odds favorite is Open Heart. EW favors Inocente.
Best Makeup & Hairstyle (Hitchcock, The Hobbit, Les Mis): A lot of focus was put on capturing everything for real in Les Mis, which requires unbroken takes. That’s hard on hair and makeup people, so they’ve got to be convincing the first time around. We’ve already seen The Hobbit shit in three other movies, so no. Hitchcock failed so hard that it will be forgotten. Odds have Hobbits winning.
Best Production Design (Anna, Hobbit, Les Mis, Life, Lincoln): Ah, another category I love. Filming shit on a boat is pretty limiting, but what Lee does is jaw-droppingly astounding. Like Smeagol says “We’ve seenses The Hobbits four timeses already.” This one’s a three-way between Lincoln, Les Mis and Anna, with the latter two in a dead heat odds-wise and EW going with Lincoln.
Best Editing (Argo, Life, Lincoln, Silver, Zero): Editing usually always goes to the action film, so we’ve got Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. Zero has a lot more ground to cover timeline wise, so I’d give it to that film, but Argo will probably win (odds favorite).
Best Cinematography (Anna, Django, Life, Lincoln, Skyfall): For me, the cinematographer can sometimes eclipse the director in level of importance to filmmaking. I’m cutting Anna and Django out right now. It comes down to Lincoln, Pi and Skyfall. Skyfall was a beautiful film. The sequences in Turkey, Shanghai and Macau were breathtaking. Shot setup during the Scotland sequence (however overly long it was) was deft. I don’t see much inventive camera work happening in Lincoln – just point and shoot. But consider Life of Pi. My god but what a gorgeous film. Odds and Entertainment Weekly have this going to Life of Pi, as well it should.
Best Sound Editing (Argo, Django, Life, Skyfall, Zero): Ahhhh, I love the technical shit. This is where everyone else gets a drink or uses the bathroom. I’m riveted. I get pissed that they don’t show the Scientific and Technical Awards (they always bring on two B-list actors and say “at a ceremony held previously …” Just go here and give these people a minute of your time. Seriously. Anyway, this is between Argo, Zero and Skyfall. Zero is the odds-on favorite, but if you saw Skyfall in a theater, with all the surround channels firing, it was intense. Sound editing in Zero was only a big deal in the final sequence.
Best Sound Mixing (Argo, Les Mis, Life, Lincoln, Skyfall): This is one of the few no-brainers. They live captured all of the singing in Les Mis. No overdubbing, no looping. That’s sick and a huge technical achievement, not just for the actors but all the people trying to capture the sound, in as few takes as possible (shot on film, not digital, nudge-nudge). Ridiculous.
Best Visual Effects (Hobbit, Life, The Avengers, Prometheus, Snow White): While The Avengers had some real whiz-bang moments, this one needs to go to Life of Pi, and I would be shocked if the Academy didn’t vote that way. The majority of the movie, the tiger does not look CGI, and from what I’ve read, it wasn’t.
Best Animated Short Film (Adam and Dog, Fresh Guacomole, Head over Heels, Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare,” Paperman): Paperman will win (it’s Disney), but given what’s going on with my cat Loki right now, I have a soft spot for Adam and Dog. The dog has big eyes like Loki.
Best Life Action Short Film (Asad, Buzkashi Boys, Curfew, Death of a Shadow, Henry): Haven’t seen any of these, but the trailer for Death of a Shadow looks way cool. Odds have Curfew winning. The Buzkashi Boys thing with the dead goat polo is just gross.