The Academy Awards are this Sunday. It’s a holiday in the ZF household. I’ve watched every broadcast for about the past 17 years; the glorious self-celebration of the Academy Awards has become a staple of late winter. It’s a harbinger of springtime that offers a chance to bitch and moan about how absolutely WRONG the Academy voters get just about EVERYTHING (except that Oscar for best Art Direction to Sleepy Hollow. That was a win).
This has been a good year for the American moving pictures industry. A lot of great and strange and surprising films came out of Hollywood (like Looper) and some even got nominated for Oscars (unlike Looper). As I am someone who likes to enjoy movies (not someone who proves my love for movies by generally hating movies), I’ve had a great time at the theater this year. So here are my picks: To the Oscars!
Best Supporting Actress
The nominees: Amy Adams, The Master; Sally Field, Lincoln; Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables; Hellen Hunt, Sessions; Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook.
This is going to Sally Field or Anne Hathaway. Field is probably going to take it, as Hathaway is generally considered brilliant for being brilliant rather than contributing to a movie that is, at best, okay. Sally Field was manic and fantastic. She’ll probably get it. But this category more than any other also throws out curve-balls. So watch out for Jacki Weaver.
Also, this is now Amy Adams fourth nomination in this category. I love Adams and hope she wins, but she’s also perhaps squaring up as the next Meryl Streep, nominated for everything, never a winner.
Best Supporting Actor
The nominees: Alan Arkin, Argo; Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook; Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Master; Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln; Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
It’s got to be Tommy Lee Jones, right? His Thaddeus Stevens carries the heart of the film around the totemic Lincoln. And Jones’ delight in Thaddeus’ recognition of that fact will earn him the win.
The nominees: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Emmanuella Riva, Amour; Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Naomi Watts, The Impossible.
This one’s very tough, made more so by the fact that I haven’t seen Amour, and some folks seem to think Riva’s got this one. Zero Dark‘s Chastain won’t win because I think Zero Dark‘s getting nothing. Wallis would be a sentimental choice for a sentimental movie, but it won’t happen.
So I am going to pick Jennifer Lawrence. Not only was Lawrence excellent in an excellent year for an actress that the Academy obviously respects, but she was excellent at playing mental illness. And everyone loved Silver Linings Playbook. It was a film many thought would be fine, and were taken aback by just how good it turned out to be. I was, anyway. It will win at least a trophy or two, and I think this will be one.
The nominees: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook; Daniel-Day Lewis, Lincoln; Hugh Jackman, Les Mis; Joaquin Phoenix, The Master; Denzel Washington, Flight.
DDL. It is a time to celebrate our success as a nation, on the anniversary of that most important of historic achievements. Not to mention, Day-Lewis was, as he always is, tremendously tremendous. In a film that at times is burdened by the heavy weight of its own importance, DDL loosens the shackles and plays a quiet, moving Lincoln.
I so wish and hope it will be Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom. A flight of amazing fancy that deserves more love than it will receive. But I expect that it will be Tarantino. The Academy loves him; they still see him as some kind of whiz-kid, for some reason. Django is too ferocious for Best Picture, but not writing.
Best Screenplay, Adapted
The nominees: Chris Terrio, Argo; Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlein, Beasts of the Southern Wild; David Magee, Life of Pi; Tony Kushner, Lincoln; David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook.
I’m thinking Argo, but only just. I really don’t know. Argo has a good shot at Best Picture, and if it wins that will have to pick up some others. But Kushner’s talk-fest Civil War movie provides another chance for Spielberg’s very good picture to build momentum, and it’s possible David O. Russel’s movie could take home this one, as well. It’s tough, but I’m going Argo.
Michael Haneke, Amour; Ang Lee, Life of Pi; David O. Russel, Silver Linings Playbook; Steven Spielberg, Lincoln; Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
What a great year for movies. That list doesn’t even include Ben Affleck (a travesty), Kathryn Bigelow, Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and a whole list of Oscar worthy directors that were excluded. It’s always tough to pick against Steven Spielberg in Best Director. I almost love Lincoln, but just not quite. The further from it I get, the less power it holds. When one thinks of best Spielberg films, Lincoln just doesn’t seem to carry that greatness. But it’s excellent, significant, and Spielberg, so I’m taking it to win.
Two months ago I would have said, for sure, Lincoln. But already the impact of Lincoln seems to have waned. Beasts is a feel-good nominee. Amour is foreign. Django is just too much. Les Mis isn’t very good. A win for Life of Pi would be okay with me. Though I wasn’t floored by it, Ang Lee’s picture is a massive achievement of visual style that always favors first and foremost a beautiful, moving story. I can’t see Silver Linings Playbook winning, though if there is a surprise movie that picks up four wins and sneaks out Best Picture, I imagine it will be Silver Linings Playbook.
It’s a rare event when my favorite movie of the year might also win Best Picture. The last time I thought that might happen was 2000, when Traffic was the year’s best and I thought it had a real shot of taking home the biggy. We know how that went. We were all terribly vexed.
Still, I feel pretty good about it this year. I think Argo is going to win. This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, but I think Argo was the best achievement I saw this year. Unlike Lincoln, it doesn’t suffer under the weight of it’s own gravitas; unlike Django, though, it doesn’t lose sight of what its doing. Argo is a lesson in how to captivate your audience: everyone knows how it will end, yet white-knuckles fill the theater. It’s smooth, funny, exhilarating, looks great, is brilliantly acted, and flawlessly directed. All without calling attention to these details, which is perhaps its best achievement. I didn’t have more enjoyable experience in the theater this year.
That Argo is about the power of movies, literally, to shape the outcome world events won’t hurt either.
I forgot to include my pick for Best Animated Feature, which is a shame. I thought that Pixar’s Brave was truly one of the strangest movies I saw this year. By far Pixar’s craziest vision yet, it was moving and beautiful and feminine and powerful and unique in way that rarely makes its way through Hollywood. Another reason Pixar is so valuable, even if they are owned by Disney.