Joe’s Oscar Thoughts

I decided to write up a little piece about the Oscars this year, I know a lot of people don’t grant these awards teh credit they deserve, but they’ve been a staple of my TV viewing and film enjoyment experience, with my family, for about 20 years now, so they kinda mean something to me, they’re fun to speculate about, and learning about the nominees allows me to acquire an appreciation for films I might not otherwise see.

2012 was an AMAZING year for movies, and it seems like the awards season is shaking things up a little more than the past couple of years.

For the complete list of nominees, visit the Oscar website here.

DIRECTOR

Ben Affleck is not nominated for Argo. Neither is Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty. Or Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. We need to get over this. One could argue they were robbed, snubbed, that people thought the torture in Zero Dark Thirty was too controversial (yet still liked the film enough to nominate it for best picture?) or that people just don’t like Affleck personally (yet he’s still nominated as producer?), but the fact remains: there are nine Best Picture nominees, and only five allowed for Best Director.

My least favorite argument is the saying “what, did Argo direct itself?” My response to that is, “did Lincoln? Or Silver Linings Playboook?” It’s insulting to the nominated directors to suggest that some films “direct themselves”.

I have not seen Amour, but do know that Michael Haneke is held in high-regard internationally as an excellent filmmaker. Same with Ang Lee, though Life of Pi is not his best work in my opinion. The awkward framework of the telling of this story did not translate well to the screen. David O. Russell deftly handled an amazing cast in Silver Linings Playbook, and directed four nominated roles. Spielberg has put out one of his best films in years, while newcomer Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) washed audiences is syrupy emotions — but what delicious syrup it was.

My gut tells me that Spielberg will get director here. Zeitlin is a first-timer, Haneke’s nomination is enough, in this case, and the same with Ang Lee. David O. Russell is the only possible dark horse, in my mind, because of the stellar cast but also the Weinstein machine is working full-force in his favor.

ACTOR

A lot of the internet blew up at the thought of a Bradley Cooper win, saying he plays too much of a scumbag role. He did quite a solid job here, though, but I don’t think the Academy takes him seriously yet. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) was passionate and dedicated, as was Denzel Washington (Flight) — reliably solid. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) was disturbing and shaped his body to that of a weathered, tortured man — but Daniel Day-Lewis did it better as Lincoln. Some say Day-Lewis just did an imitation, but there is so much more to his performance. His eyes are trusting, his smile is present even in dark moments, and when he was in a scene the screen came alive with a soft comfort that’s hard to feel in most of last year’s films.

ACTRESS

I haven’t seen Amour, but I hear that Emmanuelle Riva is riveting in it, and that Naomi Watts in The Impossible is reliably solid. Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild is the youngest nominee ever in this category, but I feel as though she’s here as a token to the movie, which is unfortunate because she was truly the heart of the film. Which leaves Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain. Both play strong women with great motivations, opinions and commanding presence on screen. I feel like Lawrence showed more heart whereas Chastain remained stoic throughout — yet there’s a strong drive behind Chastain’s character that held up the foundations of Zero Dark Thirty immensely. Tough call, gut says Lawrence.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

I can listen to Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) read a phone book, his delivery is amazing. Alan Arkin (Argo) is a reliable riot, Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) is off-putting and commands the screen whenever he’s around while Tommy Lee Jones holds the heart of Lincoln. But Robert DeNiro really shined through Silver Linings Playbook, becoming a father to Bradley Cooper and us from the very first frame. It’s his best role since Copland.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jacki Weaver, while great in Silver Linings Playbook, didn’t have enough of a role to shine with for a win here. I haven’t seen The Sessions, so unfortunately can’t comment on Helen Hunt. Amy Adams (The Master) I feel has had much better roles in the past, but she’s fast becoming like a Kate Winslet at the Oscars — when will she win?? This is her fourth nomination in seven years! Sally Field might have a small sentimental shot, but there’s no denying the power and impact of Anne Hathaway’s show-stopping song in Les Miserables, perhaps the best moment in the film — the single-shot rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”. Very moving.

ANIMATED FILM

Look at either Frankenweenie or Wreck-it Ralph to win here, sorry Pixar (Brave)!

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Life of Pi did shine here with the seamless blend of CGI and reality, but Skyfall may prove to be Roger Deakins’ winning moment. Lincoln isn’t showy enough, I haven’t seen Anna Karenina, however Django Unchained did feature many beautifully lit indoor shots. I think Skyfall might pull the win here.

FILM EDITING

Life of Pi had a lot of interesting transition choices but a couple of choice awkward moments leaves it dry in this category. Lincoln might be considered too lengthy. Silver Linings Playbook actually carries a great rhythm to it, especially in all the argument scenes. I’d say this is between Zero Dark Thirty and Argo. People are liking Argo this awards season, and might give this award to the film’s portrayal of real events, although the last 45 minutes of Zero Dark Thirty are intense and thoughtfully delivered. Gut says Argo.

MUSIC

I honestly think Argo or Skyfall could carry this category — sorry John Williams. Shame Cloud Atlas wasn’t nominated here.

SONG

Skyfall. Yup.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Argo or Silver Linings Playbook, edge to Silver Linings. There’s a personal connection that David O. Russell has with the material, a fact that the Weinsteins are really pushing, and the dialogue is expertly delivered through. That carries a lot of weight. Life of Pi kept elements of the book’s framework that didn’t translate entirely, Beasts of the Southern Wild was better edited than written, for the most part, and Lincoln will be seen as too lengthy even though it is quite a smart script.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Amour I haven’t seen, though I hear it feels very long. Flight has some off-color moments that don’t quite sit well with the film as a whole, Moonrise Kingdom represents Wes Anderson’s best work in years, but the film’s lack of other nominations hurts it here, and Zero Dark Thirty is extremely without a lot of emotional arcs to attach to. Its current press regarding torture elements might actually help it here, as Hollywood loves to back anything that would buck the government invasion into filmmaking. I think Django might pull a win here, as it’s only win of the night, but the last act hurts its chances. This category is a tough call, edge to Django and Tarantino.

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