Thanks to the excellent Goldderby.com, I was able to make my list of films to see over a month ago and have been busily whittling it down. Consequently when the nominations were announced I only had four films left to see. Two were on DVD and pay per view and Zero Dark Thirty was opening that Friday. By the end of that weekend only Amour, which opened in Durham on February 8, had escaped me. Goldderby.com may have gotten a few the finalists in separate categories wrong; I think the Best Director nominations surprised everyone, but I didn’t have to add a single film to my list. In fact I was able to eliminate a few.
I am very pleased.
Now on to the picks, with my annual reminder: These are not predictions. For help with your office pool you really must go to Goldderby.com. They aggregate the predictions of several Oscarologists, people who report on the movie business and are familiar with the political winds. What follows are my choices, the films and actors I would give the awards to.
This is always a hard category to judge, namely because different directors work in different ways. Depending on their reputations and resume’s they have varying levels of control over the final product and you never really know if they deserve the credit or the blame.
As a filmmaker Ang Lee takes a lot of chances. I respect that but it does result in a career filled with experiments that just don’t work or only partially so. Parts of Life of Pi are terrific but other parts are flat and uninspired.
I didn’t care for Beasts of the Southern Wild but I admired the way Benh Zeitlin hid the fact that he had no money in his production budget. It’ll be interesting to see what he does in the future.
David O. Russell, I gather, knows from anger issues, which may have been what gave Silver Linings Playbook the extra boost into greatness. I’d have no problem if he won.
I’d give the award to Steven Spielberg, not because he got a great performance out of Daniel Day Lewis (I could do that) but because he fashioned a suspenseful film around that performance and he did it primarily with scenes of white men sitting around talking.
Best Animated Feature
Either this category is maturing or the Oscarologists are way off because they have Pixar’s Brave mired in third place in their predictions. We’ll find out on the night of the ceremony.
I’m sorry but The Pirates! Band of Misfits just doesn’t belong here. They tried for that madcap Aardman humor and failed miserably.
The makers of Paranorman tried hard to make a Tim Burton film. It’s a tall order, one that Tim Burton can’t seem to fill these days. Paranorman is a pale imitation at best.
Frankenweenie is better but still not up with Burton’s best.
Wreck-it-Ralph is a pleasant surprise. It is well voiced, especially by John C. Reilly and has a decent plot with characters you care about especially the title character. I love the way they take the differing styles of the various video games and mold them together. This is a unique and moving film. I wouldn’t mind if it won.
Pixar is still king though and I’d give the award to Brave. Sure it’s a little to Disney sweet but it’s also beautiful, engrossing, funny and touching. It’s a Pixar film.
This is a tough category. I would be happy with any of these ladies.
Even though she was playing one of the most interesting first ladies in history, I don’t think Sally Field was given a whole lot to do in Lincoln. She’s always great but she really wasn’t allowed to show it here.
Helen Hunt was very good in The Sessions but she never really made me forget that she was Helen Hunt.
Jacki Weaver is making a name for herself lately in small independent films. She turns in a terrific portrait here of a woman who’s dealing with a mentally disturbed son and a difficult husband.
Amy Adams is an amazing actress. In The Master she plays the wife of cult leader and she treads that line between supporting her husband and conveying to the audience that she doesn’t believe a word he says.
My choice is Anne Hathaway. She breaks through all the artifice of the musical and tugs directly on your heartstrings. A great performance.
I’ve always said that I’m perfectly willing to pay ten bucks to watch Tommy Lee Jones be Tommy Lee Jones for two hours. I’m not so sure I’m willing to give him an Oscar for it. As many accolades as this performance is getting, I really didn’t see anybody but Tommy Lee up there.
Christoph Waltz is always fun to watch. He was a revelation in Inglourius Basterds, in Django Unchained he’s fun but nothing else.
I wouldn’t complain if Alan Arkin won for Argo. His portrayal of a slick movie producer with more than an ounce of integrity and patriotism is a highlight of his career.
Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn’t give us one of his immersive performances in The Master but it is a convincing one. I wouldn’t mind if he won.
When in doubt give the Oscar to DeNiro. He returns to form as an angry working class father in Silver Linings Playbook.
This is the weakest of the acting categories and yet there are a few worthy choices here.
Quvenzhane Wallis is a very charismatic young lady and that is what carries her through in Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s not acting, however.
I didn’t really feel like Jennifer Lawrence was given enough to do in Silver Linings Playbook. She did well with what she had but the script’s focus was on the male character.
Emmanuelle Riva gives us a harrowing performance as a proud woman descending into dementia. It’s masterful and intense but a little one note.
Jessica Chastain gives a passionate portrayal of a professional woman in a man’s field in Zero Dark Thirty.
Naomi Watts’ harrowing descent into injury and illness gets my vote for best actress.
This is another strong category with five worthy performances.
Joaquin Phoenix gives an eccentric portrayal of an emotionally troubled man who is seeking help even though he doesn’t know it.
Denzel Washington delivers a powerhouse performance as a proud pilot who thinks he can get himself out of any situation and he’s almost right.
Bradley Cooper shocks the world by proving he’s more than a pretty face. He gives us a nuanced view of a mentally disturbed man.
Hugh Jackman can sing, which makes him the ideal leading man for a musical. He also can act, giving us a convincing and moving portrayal of Jean Valjean.
There are five worthy performances but one of them stands head and shoulders above the others. Daniel Day Lewis’s Lincoln is not only the best performance of the year it is one of the greatest performances of all time. His name has been etched on the base of the statue for months now.
Of the nine nominees this year, there are only three that are worthy of the big prize.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Miserables, and Life of Pi are simply too flawed to consider. Django Unchained is entertaining but it doesn’t sparkle with menace like other Tarantino films. Zero Dark Thirty is eliminated because it is propaganda for the CIA. Amour is too much of a downer. Maybe that shouldn’t eliminate it but this is my blog and my list and I just didn’t enjoy it.
I won’t complain if Argo wins it. It’s an enjoyable and important film.
Silver Linings Playbook is that rarest of all things, a good romantic comedy. Its success is good for Hollywood. Maybe they’ll make more now. It probably doesn’t have a chance at the big prize but I wouldn’t mind seeing it win.
If you’ve read this blog long enough to read several of my Oscar pick columns you know I don’t always go for the big Hollywood Oscar bait but Lincoln is a colossus. It deserves Best Picture.