Wednesday, February 20, 2013

85th Academy Awards Predictions

We enter the 85th Annual Academy Awards with shifting momentum for all sorts of films.  When the nominations were announced, Lincoln appeared to be the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, especially since both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty failed to earn Best Director nominations for Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow respectively.  Momentum briefly moved to ZDT, until the vocal liberal community within Hollywood railed at the idea of honoring a film that "endorsed" torture.  With Lincoln failing to catch fire the once-dead Argo has been resurrected and is now the clear-cut front-runner and likely winner.

It isn't just in the Best Picture category that we see front-runners turn into also-rans.  Tony Kushner was suppose to have his acceptance speech all ready for Lincoln, when virtually out of nowhere David O. Russell's adaptation for Silver Linings Playbook has come roaring to within the winner's circle.  While certain nominees have been virtual locks (Daniel Day-Lewis, Adele...unfortunately), this year's Academy Awards have been a fun guessing game.  With everyone else throwing their two-cents in, I thought I'd do likewise...and pray I can be brief.

With that, let us begin.

It's a safe bet four of them
didn't vote for the President.


Daniel Day-Lewis: Lincoln
Denzel Washington: Flight
Hugh Jackman: Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix: The Master
Bradley Cooper: Silver Linings Playbook

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should Win: Denzel Washington

First, Daniel Day-Lewis ought to give thanks to God for not putting in John Hawkes in The Sessions among the nominees (I suspect the popular Cooper took his slot), because Hawkes would have either given Day-Lewis his greatest threat or so split the vote that it would give any of the others a fighting chance.  As it stands, only Washington's brilliant turn as the troubled pilot gives Day-Lewis a run for his money.  However, the pull just seems too strong to stop Day-Lewis for picking up his third Oscar.  I personally found Washington to give a better performance than Day-Lewis' strong but slightly remote one.  Day-Lewis is getting praise for sticking to President Lincoln's high-pitched voice.  It was good but I've tired of actors who 'stay in character' and get lauded for it.

For one of them, "Give it to the Old Lady"
could mean ANY of them...

Jennifer Lawrence: Silver Linings Playbook
Quvenzahne Harris: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Jessica Chastain: Zero Dark Thirty
Naomi Watts: The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva: Amour

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva

Poor Jessica Chastain.  She has proven herself one of the most versatile actresses working today, going from white trash in The Help to the tough-as-nails Maya in Zero Dark Thirty.  Yet she will be denied because ZDT is misconstrued as a paean to torture.  While Watts was devastating as the mother caught in the chaos of the Boxing Day tsunami right now the Academy likes them young, and J-Law is the It Girl of 2012.  The Academy loves rewarding crazy, and that's what Lawrence gives us in SLP.  I personally wasn't enchanted by the "I'm screaming so it must be funny" routine SLP took, but she's popular, young, and a genuine talent.  It does, however, squeeze Riva out of the race.

I could out-sing that bitch anytime...


Amy Adams: The Master
Sally Field: Lincoln
Anne Hathaway: Les Miserables
Helen Hunt: The Sessions
Jacki Weaver: Silver Linings Playbook

Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Should Win: Amy Adams

It's bad enough that the most boring Bond Song which inexplicably has been hailed as some sort of musical landmark on par with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring will win.  Now people will win Oscars for merely singing ONE song in a film?  This is one of the categories that truly is as close to a sure bet as anything, but while I think Hathaway is one of the best and brightest young actresses working today, she is winning for all the wrong reasons.  All she did was belt out one song, and then she died.  She had very little to do in Les Miserables other than sing a showstopping number (yes, sing it well but that's all).  Let's be honest: apart from I Dreamed A Dream, what else can ANYONE point to in Hathaway's performance that merits an Academy Award?  Hathaway was in Les Miserables for less than fifteen minutes certainly, perhaps not even ten.  She wasn't integral to the plot, she didn't add anything special to Fantine, but because she did this rendition of I Dreamed A Dream she now has coughed her way to an Oscar.  I think Hunt is a lead performance, and while I loved her it was Adams' turn as the brittle wife of the guru that stood out in a film I didn't care for.

I heard things.
I just won't hear my name...


Alan Arkin: Argo
Robert De Niro: Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Master
Tommy Lee Jones: Lincoln
Christoph Waltz: Django Unchained

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

As Emma Stone so cattily (and I'd say, rather disrespectfully) pointed out, all of them have won before.  I thought it was a rather cheap joke, but yes, we do have a set that has previous Oscar winners.  Truth be told, I was not overwhelmed by any of them, but of the ones listed here the one that impressed me the most was Hoffman as "not" L. Ron Hubbard in The Master.  We never found whether Lancaster Dodd actually believed his own ideas or knew it was all a scam or a mixture. This isn't to say they were bad (though Arkin was to my mind the weakest of the bunch), but I never found anything in particular that I was wild for.


Michael Haneke: Amour
Benh Zeitlin: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee: Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg: Lincoln
David O. Russell: Silver Linings Playbook

Will Win: Steven Spielberg
Should Win: Ang Lee

We already know that the winner of Best Director will not correspond to the winner of Best Picture because Argo's Ben Affleck and Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow failed to win nominations.  That being the case, it's Spielberg's to lose.  Again, in the early days Spielberg appeared to be the sure bet, but now the star has dimmed on his chances, while both Lee and Russell have risen to challenge him (forget the foreign-language Haneke or the newbie Zeitlin).  Lee is weakened because like Spielberg he's won before (while Russell hasn't) but I still think that Life of Pi will be rewarded in other categories, Russell will have a better chance in Adapted Screenplay and by elimination Steven Spielberg will be one Oscar short of tying the most honored director, four-time winner John Ford.

Curiously enough, the last time Spielberg won was for Saving Private Ryan, again the Best Director winner did not correspond to the Best Picture winner.


5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Will Win: How to Survive A Plague
Should Win: No Idea

The Documentary Feature category loves advocacy films: movies that less chronicle real life and more promote an agenda.  With the exception of Searching for Sugar Man all of them are about issues (the Israeli-Arab Palestinian conflict, AIDS, rape in the military).  I'm at a disadvantage since I've only seen one, but I'm giving the edge to the AIDS-centered How to Survive a Plague.


Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart

Will Win: Redemption
Should Win:  No Idea

Again, given the film industry's stubborn idea that audiences are stupid, we are never exposed to any of the Documentary Short Subject nominees.  It's just a shot in the dark.

Au Bientot, Mon Cherie

Amour (Austria)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)

Will/Should Win: Amour

The consolation prize for receiving a Best Picture nomination and having no chance of winning.  Whenever a movie earns both Foreign-Language and Best Picture nominations, the foreign-language film will always win the former because the latter is thoroughly out of reach.  No non-English film has won Best Picture, and the chances of that happening are as likely as a black President, so one never knows, but not this year.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Will/Should Win: Wreck-It-Ralph

One wonders exactly how The Pirates! Band of Misfits even got nominated given how it flopped (and managed to insult the leper community at the same time...seriously).  Brave was underwhelming, the two horror-centered films well, too horror-centered to gain mainstream audience affection (though Frankenweenie was actually a well-done homage to old-school horror films), but Wreck-It-Ralph, taking a page from Toy Story, is the one that should take home the prize.


Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi

Will/Should Win: Life of Pi

It's unfortunate that Roger Deakins will lose for his beautiful work in Skyfall (about the only thing I enjoyed from that boring, self-important, morose, alleged "Bond" movie).  For the longest time I thought he was finally going to win a long-overdue Cinematography Oscar since all the others, while pretty I suppose, didn't strike me as splendid.  Then I saw Life of Pi and figured Cinematography Oscars were created for films such as these.  Life of Pi is simply too extraordinary-looking to ignore.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables

Will/Should Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Well, I was disappointed by the first part of the inexplicable Hobbit Trilogy, and to think there will be two more films does not make me more enthusiastic.  I however, figure that any movie that can make a dwarf into a hunky figure deserves the Oscar.


Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi

Will Win: Anna Karenina
Should Win:  Les Miserables

The odd thing about this category is that I don't care for any of them.  In short, none of the sets impressed me as 'great'.  A general rule is that royalty and royalty-related films are rewarded, and Anna Karenina is the closest royalty-centered nominee.  I give it the edge because the very artifice of Anna Karenina was the very thing being focused on.  However, I remember the elephant in Les Miserables, and think that it might pull out a surprise.


Amour: Michael Haneke
Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino
Flight: John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Will Win: Amour
Should Win: Moonrise Kingdom

I loved Moonrise Kingdom (which is something I don't usually associate with Wes Anderson).  What's great about this category is that with the exception of Django Unchained (which was just far too long), all of them were well-written films.  Given the wealth of choices, I'm giving the slight advantage to Haneke's script for Amour as a way to award him personally.


Argo: Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar and Behn Zeitlin
Life of Pi: David Magee
Lincoln: Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Will Win: Silver Linings Playbook
Should Win: Life of Pi

I simply don't understand the hold Silver Linings Playbook has over the general and critic world.  It comes from the 'we're all screaming at each other at the same time so it must be funny' school of comedy.  However, it is starting to steamroll over the other main contenders: Argo and Lincoln.  I never thought Lincoln was this brilliant piece of writing (it was good, not great) and Argo was overshadowed by first Lincoln then Silver Linings Playbook.  However, one of them has been ignored: Life of Pi, the novel that was suppose to be unfilmable.  That it was adapted at all is worthy of recognition, and I don't understand why it is never mentioned as the one to challenge SLP's likely triumph.



See my predictions for full reviews, but in a nutshell, Paperman and Curfew respectively.
It helps when you see the films.

Better luck next sequel...


The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Snow White and the Huntsman

Will/Should Win: Life of Pi

I'm knocking out both Prometheus and Snow White & The Huntsman because they weren't big with audiences.  Of the three left, Life of Pi is the one that best blended the effects with the story.  Let's remember that the tiger was wildly realistic to where we hardly ever questioned it was real.


Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Mirror Mirror
Snow White & The Huntsman

Will Win: Anna Karenina
Should Win: Mirror Mirror

The fact that Mirror Mirror received a posthumous nomination for Eiko Ishioka is a positive given that Mirror Mirror came out early in 2012.  It does have a legitimate chance given the general rule that royalty-centered films win the Costume Design Oscars.  However, I think Anna Karenina, also a costume picture, might come out on top.  Still, I wouldn't write out a posthumous winner.


Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Will/Should Win: Argo

I'm tipping my hand, but the Film Editing and Best Picture winner tend to go together.  That and the fact that the final escape from Tehran are so tense is a great editing job.


Les Miserables
Life of Pi

Will Win: Les Miserables
Should Win: Any except Skyfall

They sang LIVE!  They are also a musical, and what do you have in a musical?  SOUND!  Go with that.


Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

Will/Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

I'm giving it to the war movie, where things have to be loud.


Anna Karenina
Life of Pi

Will Win: Life of Pi
Should Win: Not Skyfall

I can't recall anything in the nominated scores that was overwhelming and memorable.  I don't remember one note of Skyfall's score, and while I do remember Argo and Lincoln, I remember them because I figured they went the way I thought they would (vaguely Middle Eastern/Islamic for the former, a touch schmaltzy for the latter).  I do remember Life of Pi's score, and thought it beautiful. 

The song's ugly too.

Before My Time: Chasing Ice
Everybody Needs a Best Friend: Ted
Pi's Lullaby: Life of Pi
Skyfall: Skyfall
Suddenly: Les Miserables

Will Win: Skyfall (unfortunately)
Should Win: Suddenly

I simply don't understand why my fellow critics basically masturbate to Skyfall's theme song, declaring it the Greatest Bond Song in the franchise's history (with the possible exception of Goldfinger).  Skyfall is slow, boring, and with a rather dull chorus:  Let the sky FALL, watch it crum-BLE, we will stand TALLLLL and face it allllll TOGETHER.  It's almost as if Adele were sleepwalking through it all.  OK, so the bridge is nice, but this theme is nowhere near the romanticism of Nobody Does it Better or the action of Live & Let Die and certainly nowhere near the brilliant bombast of Goldfinger.  THOSE are the Bond themes people will remember, not this morose little ditty that people have said sounds like something for a funeral.   It will win because she's popular, because it's Bond's 50th Anniversary, and because it's been pushed fiercely by my fellow critics, who are enraptured by the Dark Bond Rising.  I agree that A View to A Kill is a bad movie, but at least I enjoyed it, which is more than I can say for this pathetic Dark Knight rip-off I was treated to.   As for why I chose Suddenly, I think it is because I was pleased as to how Suddenly was seamlessly integrated into Les Miserables.



Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Will/Should Win:

Well, being at a slight disadvantage having not seen Amour, I go by what I have seen.  Of the other nominees, only two earned an A from me, and while I still loudly complain about Ben Affleck casting himself in the lead (because he's not a good actor) and casting himself as a Hispanic (because he isn't, making a mockery of his left-wing viewpoints), the film itself was so well-done it cannot be denied. 

Now for the final predictions:

ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Haneke (Amour)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: How to Survive a Plague
MAKEUP: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
SOUND MIXING: Les Miserables
SOUND EDITING: Zero Dark Thirty
ORIGINAL SONG: Skyfall (Skyfall)...unfortunately

I have Life of Pi and Lincoln winning three, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Anna Karenina, Amour and Les Miserables winning two. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Django Unchained shut out, Zero Dark Thirty all but shut out.  No clear cut dominant picture as in other years.  Perhaps that is good, showing that with so many to choose from one is rather spoiled for choice.  Then again, it might mean that they just don't make them like they used to, and that pushing certain films doesn't necessarily mean one will win.  

On Monday, I will see how well I did.

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