Friday, January 11, 2013
Oscar 2013: Nominations and Predictions
At this point, I don’t feel the need to defend my love of the Academy Awards, since I’ve used the opening paragraphs in the last three years’ write-ups to do that. If I haven’t made the point that the Oscars are important, even if they’re not, I should really pack up this whole writer thing and give a real career a shot.
(Break for snide comments and snarky asides.) The real importance of the Oscars is historical. It shows less what films were actually important in any given year but rather what films we (and by we, I mean a council of old, white people) thought were important. If the list of nominations is anything to go by, 2012 was a year primarily concerned with politics, children surviving without adults, and mental health. Which is… Kind of right on the money. Huh. Maybe I’m on to something with this.
This year’s bucket of nominations is both surprising and utterly traditional. Yes, there were some notable snubs, lock-outs, and several surprises. However, all the movies we expected to get nominations got nominations. “Lincoln,” a project staffed with a boatload of prestige and Academy appeal, gained the most nominations, something I could have told you back in September. Let’s get on with the bitching and wildly inaccurate predictions.
The Academy has stuck with the nine film selection for the biggest category, once again arbitrarily excluding another obvious Best Picture pick. Surprisingly, that exclusion wasn’t for “Django Unchained” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a blood-soaked controversial genre riff and a scrappy indie flick respectively, but instead for “The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s new by-all-accounts masterpiece. Maybe there are too many Scientologists in the voting pool. Anderson’s lost is Tarrantino’s and Hushpuppy’s gain.
“Amour,” which seems to be provocateur Michael Haneke’s move into slightly less depressing territory, made a much stronger showing then expected, breaking into major categories. Despite the divisive critical reaction, it’s not surprising that “Les Miserables” placed. After all, there’s nothing the Academy loves more then a big costume-drama musical. The Weinstein’s latest multi-million dollar campaign push seems to have paid off for “Silver Linings Playbook,” which dominated the acting category and naturally earned a placement here. “Life of Pi” is blatant Oscar bait, so it’s not surprising it placed, even if it has a relative lack of buzz.
That leaves the nominations that were fully expected. “Lincoln” had Best Picture written on it from the moment it was announced. “Argo” was my earliest pick for best picture, considering it’s a movie about movies, the Academy’s favorite subject. After topping numerous year-end lists, “Zero Dark Thirty” moved ahead as a possible favorite to win the night’s top prize. Either way, disregarding a possible Weinstein-bought win for “The Silver Linings Playbook” (They’ve done it before), it’s coming down to these three.
Remember how I said it came down to “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Argo?” Well, two of those were snubbed in other major categories, leaving one probable winner: “Lincoln,” likely to be the night’s most unsurprising win.
We all know the Best Picture nominations were expanded to ten to make room for movies audience have actually heard of. In the past, this has meant some summer blockbusters sneaking in. So the total lack of love for “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” surprised me a little. Just a little. Oscar has made it clear, unless someone died, superheroes are of no interest to them. In other news, a snub for “Moonrise Kingdom” is depressing but unsurprising.
The appeal of Bradley Cooper escapes me. He emerged fully form out of the Hollywood Leading Man Generator, with a smug sense of satisfaction, lack of range, and bland good looks, causing him to fall somewhere between Dane Cook and a pre-“Killer Joe” Matthew McConaughey. He seems destined for a career full of forgettable romantic comedies. His nomination isn’t shocking, considering “The Silver Linings Playbook” gathered a great deal of hype. Considering his previous credits include “The A-Team” and “The Words,” a win seems a little unlikely… Assuming Weinstein money doesn’t win the statue for him.
There weren’t any big surprises in the category. The Academy’s general ambivalence towards “The Master” made Joaquin Phoenix less then a lock, even if the general consensus is it’s one of the best performances of 2012. (In a year without a Spielberg film, he’d be the clear winner.) Denzel Washington, in-between indistinguishable crime thrillers, found time to earn critical raves for “Flight.” Oscar loves Denzel and alcoholics so a nod was obvious. Almost as obvious as Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn as Abraham Lincoln, possibly the most Oscar-ly actor/film combination ever. Hugh Jackman mostly seem to sneak in on account of Academy good-will. They clearly like the guy, at least when he’s singing and dancing.
Joaquin probably deserves it, and might still win, but it’s pretty clear to me Daniel Day-Lewis will continue to horde Oscars, even if he’s the last person who needs them.
I mentioned “Killer Joe” and Matthew McConaughey earlier. The dude never had a chance, considering the movie’s limited release and brutal content. I was still rooting for him, as he managed to turn my entire opinion of his acting ability around in a few minutes.
John Hawkes was definitely at his Oscar bait-est in “The Sessions” and, despite a previous nomination for “Winter’s Bone,” the Academy didn’t bite. The same goes for Ben Affleck and “Argo,” a movie Oscar apparently liked way less then expected.
Is Quvenzhane Wallis’ nomination really a surprise? That the Academy even remembered a tiny independent film like that existed is surprising, despite it’s presence on numerous top ten list. However, Wallis probably gave the break-out performance of the year. The movie’s placement in any other category is a shock, but not this one. None of that really matters because she’s not going to win. They don’t give Oscars to little kids. (Tatum O’Neil and Anna Paquin were both technically teenagers.)
Especially not when there are way friendlier choices. Jessica Chastain earned a crap load of hype at last year’s ceremony, some of it actually deserved. Unless the voters are totally polarized by the film’s political content, I’d say she’s the clear winner for “Zero Dark Thirty.” She’s actually the main character of the film, which works in her favor.
Jennifer Lawrence, who should have won two years ago, broke into the mainstream with a bow-and-arrow boom this year. Her nod here is representative of that. (And of the pre-oft-mentioned Weinsteins influence.) If the torture controversy of “Zero Dark Thirty” proves too much, Lawrence is the likely winner. I guess I’m rooting for her, even if her post-“Winter’s Bone” career choices have underwhelmed me.
Some were surprised by Emmanuelle Riva’s nomination. Honestly, I wasn’t. Oscar loves dying old ladies. She actually has about a 50/50 shot of winning too. The politics of “Zero Dark Thirty” and the light(er) tone of “Silver Linings Playbook” are likely to split the voting between Chastain and Lawrence, allowing a runner-up like Riva to sneak off with the award, similar to what happen with Marion Cotillard in 2008. Riva is my official dark horse choice. Also, Naomi Watts was in some movie called “The Impossible,” which I think is about a flood or something?
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: I’m sticking with Jessica Chastain, though I’m prepared for an upset in Riva or Lawrence’s favor.
Speaking of Marion Cotillard, she made some movie about a lady getting her leg bitten off by a killer whale. I guess Oscar deemed that too hilarious. I can’t pretend to be upset about Keira Knightly/“Anna Kerina,” Helen Mirren/“Hitchcock,” and whichever old British lady was in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” being ignored, because all of those are fucking boring. I am upset about Kara Hayward not receiving a nod for “Moonrise Kingdom.” The odds were low but if that movie had a shot in any category, it would be this one.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Welcome to the most boring category of the night! Every single one of these guys has an Oscar all ready and, out of the five, there isn’t one stand-out. Alan Arkin and Robert DeNiro both got in because of their film’s overall momentum, I suspect. Christoph Waltz, despite probably giving the best performance out of the group, won’t win again this soon.
In my opinion, it comes down to Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” and Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln.” Both are important supporting roles and both played historical figures. (Thinly-veiled in Hoffman’s case.) Of the two, I’d bet on Jones. He already has a statue but it’s for “The Fugitive,” a crowd-pleasing thriller and adaptation of an old TV show… Which means it barely counts in Oscar’s opinion. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Academy wants to legitimize Jones’ Oscar-winning status with an award for a glitzier project.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Tommy Lee Jones, unless Robert DeNiro gets an old-favorite, “look how much his career sucks these days” pity win.
I was pissed off that Christoph Waltz got nominated for “Django Unchained.” Not because he isn’t a great actor or didn’t give a great performance, but because it excluded two actors that had much better chances of winning. I was really rooting for Samuel L. Jackson, who made up for a career full of awful movies with a fan-fucking-tastic performance as the film’s real villain. Similarly, I figured an eye-catching part like Calvin Candie made Leo a shoo-in. Last year, I guessed this was his chance at finally getting a little gold man. By intentionally ignoring the two performances that actually had a shot at winning, the Academy has lowered “Django’s” odds of winning anything all the way down to zero. I’m sure they think it’s where an inflammatory, exploitation movie variation probably belongs.
Though McConaughey deserved a nomination for “Killer Joe,” “Magic Mike” or “Bernie” were friendlier, more-likely nods. Goose egg. It’s weird the voters were able to ignore Bradley Cooper’s resume full of terrible movies, but not the Shirtless One’s.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Here’s a category were everyone’s all ready been nominated, with few wins, leaving the field pretty open. Oscar really liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” didn’t they? I didn’t even know Jacki Weaver was in the goddamn movie. Helen Hunt in “The Sessions” seemed like an early favorite but the movie’s otherwise lukewarm response with the voters makes a win unlikely.
Amy Adams could win since Oscar likes her and have passed her over a few times. I hope Sally Field doesn’t win since, of course, Sally Field sucks. It is a come-back role for a previous winner in a movie that’s going to dominate the night, so she’s still a possibility. Anne Hathaway seems the likeliest choice though. She has the most buzz of the five, which is, let’s face it, what wins awards. Her turn in “Les Mis” is by all accounts the best thing about the movie. Perhaps more importantly, she’s a good actress. As far as I’m concerned, her nomination is a stand-in for her clearly superior turn as the best Catwoman ever.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Going with Anne Hathaway though any of these ladies could get it.
Ann Dowd, with her self-financed campaign for the hugely unpleasant “Compliance,” never had a chance. That’s a bummer because the movie really deserves the attention and Dowd did a good job with the most difficult part in a difficult movie.
I’m going to just condense this part with the SNUBS section because that’s what everyone’s talking about anyway. The two most likely choices for winning this category, Katheryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck, weren’t even nominated. It’s clear the torture controversy is what forced Bigelow out but I’m not sure why Oscar decided it didn’t like Affleck all of a sudden.
Without those two, this category is without a strong contender. Michael Haneke is probably too mean, Ang Lee is probably too boring, and Benh Zeitlin should be happy they even let him in the fucking building. Considering the lack of competition, that Weinstein money will help David O. Russell out a whole bunch. However, “Silver Linings Playbook” is almost definitely not winning Best Picture and we all know Best Director goes where Best Picture goes. And Best Picture is going to “Lincoln,” so…
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Steven Spielberg. There’s pretty much no other choice. I’m hoping for an upset though just because that would be more interesting.
These two categories are almost entirely filled with best picture nominations. Writing is the one category were indie scrappiness actually helps, since Academy likes to stick smaller, better movies with an award here, since they have no chance of sneaking into the big league.
Tarantino’s writing is always a good bet but I suspect “Django” is too action-y, racist-y to win, especially since the Academy doesn’t give a shit about his direction. Nobody gives a shit about “Flight” and “Amour” has better odds in other categories. Controversy is somewhat unlikely to affect “Zero Dark Thirty” in this category, were ripped-from-the-headlines freshness is beneficial. In its sole showing, “Moonrise Kingdom” is the clear winner in my eyes. The Academy will probably go somewhere else.
As for adapted screenplay, ignore “Life of Pi” and “Lincoln.” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” being the indiest of these, has the most hype. “Argo” and, assuming it doesn’t sweep the acting categories, “Silver Lining Playbook” are more Oscar-friendly and one of them will get it, in all likelihood.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: “Moonrise Kingdom,” even if “Zero Dark Thirty” has better odds, and “Silver Lining Playbook.”
OTHER FILM CATEGORIES:
In the Animated Film category, “Brave,” “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman,” and “Wreck-It Ralph” were all shoo-ins. That the Academy remembered “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” at all really shocked me, considering nobody else remembered. They have shown love for Aardman before, so it’s not without precedence. “Brave” will probably win, even if “Wreck-it Ralph” and “ParaNorman” are better movies. The video game jokes of the former and the edgy humor of the latter will probably polarize Academy voters.
“Pirates” took the fifth slot that should have gone to “The Secret World of Arrietty” (Oscar obviously doesn’t give a shit about anime unless it’s Miyazaki. This is probably Disney’s fault) or some indie faire like “The Rabbi’s Cat” or “Consuming Spirits.” Good for them for ignoring “Hotel Transylvania” and whatever crap Fox Animation and DreamWorks vomited up this year.
I’ll admit ignorance in the Foreign Language category. The spread of nominations across bigger categories can both help and hurt “Amour.” Help in that it’s unlikely to win in any other category and is the nominated film here people are most aware of. Hurt in that voters might steer towards one of the other titles because it is so well known. It’s easy to see why the political content of “War Witch,” “No,” and the epic scope of “A Royal Family” and “Kon-Tiki” would appeal to Oscar. The movie about the old people is still my bet.
Ignorance crops up again in Documentary Feature, as it usually does. “Searching for Sugar Man” definitely has the most hype of any of them, but Oscar doesn’t always like small, character-oriented docs. “The Invisible War” seems a little more in tune with Oscar’s sensibilities. But, honestly, so do the other three nominations.
I honestly don’t think the Academy knows what makes a good score, since they inevitably just gather up a bunch of generic shit from the other, more important categories. “Argo” is a typical thriller score with lots of straining strings, thundering drums, and occasional moments of world music dopiness. John Williams score for “Lincoln” is a… John Williams score for a historical drama. In other words, it’s as blandly listenable as everything else he’s done recently, without being powerful or interesting. Only when Williams is humping Copeland’s corpse does it come alive. Thomas Newman’s work on “Skyfall” is okay but lacks the strong identity an action movie score needs. That’s a genre were most of the music sounds the same. Dario Mariannelli’s “Anna Karenia” mostly made me go “Eh,” though it’s at least sort of jaunty. Mychael Danna’s “Life of Pi” is kind of pretty, actually a little fun, even if I'll admit all that world music blooping and blopping just puts me to sleep. It’ll probably win.
Original Song is a little better. “Suddenly,” from “Les Miserables,” is what you’d expect from the movie-exclusive song from a Broadway musical adaptation. It’s an overwrought love song but with a smidge of legit emotion. Presumably “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted” got nominated so Seth MacFarlane wouldn’t storm out of the show halfway through. What’s good about that one comes strictly from Norah Jones sunshine-and-roses delivery and less from MacFarlane’s route, big band music. “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” has pretty orchestration even if the Bollywood style singing puts me off and it only has, like, six lyrics. “Before My Time,” from climate change documentary “Chasing Ice,” is obviously the best song. Clearly sang by Scarlett Johansson of all people, with simple music that underlines the emotional frankness of the lyrics, it’s touching and quietly sad. It won’t win though because Adele’s big, brassy “Skyfall” theme has got the right mix of commercial viability and over-the-top theatrics that Oscar drops its pants for. It’s a good modern pop song while also sounding like a classic James Bond film.
All my favorite scores of the year, like Alan Silvestri’s kick-ass powering “Avengers” theme, the elegant beauty of “Cloud Atlas’” score, the Celtic mist of Patrick Doyle’s “Brave,” or the retro-synth fun of “ParaNorman,” were disqualified for having melodies you can actually hum, presumably. I’m really shocked “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which actually had a decent score, didn’t earn a nod in this category since it made tracks in so many others.
As for songs, I guess “Touch the Sky” from “Brave” and the adorable “Strange Love” from “Frankenweenie” sounded too much like actual pop songs for Oscar. It would have been awesome to hear the over-the-top parody of “Casa de mi Padre” at the ceremony but it wasn’t meant to be. Tarrantino courted this category for the first time with “Ancora Qui” and “Who Did That to You?” One is haunting, the other is funky, and both are perfectly placed within the film. The Academy was unimpressed. Assholes.
There’s little too talk about in the technical categories. I hope “The Avengers” or “Prometheus” win in Best Visual Effects, since both of those films had seamless effects. “Skyfall” had gorgeous cinematography but Oscar will probably give it to “Life of Pi,” because Oscar is boring. Speaking of boring, expect a stuffy costume drama to sweep Production Design and Costume Design. (I don’t know how to feel about “Mirror Mirror” getting a nod in costumes. Sure, the movie was awful, but the costumes were impressive. Ornate and ridiculous, but impressive.) The practical monster make-up in “The Hobbit” probably deserves to win in Make-Up. Since “Cloud Atlas,” which beautifully balanced six different stories, isn’t nominated, I don’t give a shit who wins Best Editing. The overall shut-out for “Cloud Atlas” and “The Avengers,” my two favorite films of the year, just makes me sort of sourly grumpy.
Reviews of some of the above films will probably crop up between now and February 24th. On the 24th you better be here reading my bitching, moaning, screaming, and drunken blabbering during my fourth annual live-blog of the ceremony. I’m sure watching Seth MacFarlane try to put a leash on his vulgar sense of humor while singing lots of big band standards will be deeeeeeelightful. Be there or have something better to do with your night.