By Tim Posada, 2/21/2013
With only a few days left until the Academy Awards, it’s time to catch up on all those movies Oscar plans to celebrate. You might need a bit more time than normal since Oscar favored quite a few lesser-known flicks. (So find an open Blockbuster quick (if you can) since mail-order DVDs won’t make it by Feb. 24.)
What the Best Picture nominations lack in wide audiences, they make up for in repeat offenders: films directed by Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino. Oscar likes to keep this category in the family, hence Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” — a delightful film with splendid visuals but hardly Best Picture worthy — and “Les Miz” — which got the nom because of its connection to the long-running stage show and director Hooper’s win two years ago with “The King’s Speech”.
More than most years, this category appears fueled by Hollywood’s favorite creators than the year’s best. For example, “Skyfall”, easily a top film of the year, didn’t make the cut because awards must be given to “serious” films, not “actioners”, even if they’re sensationally acted, spectacularly executed and more memorable than most Best Picture winners. And while “The Dark Knight Rises” can’t elevate itself above its predecessor, it’s far more memorable than more than half of these top-honored films. Each year, many nominations don’t reflect the average moviegoing experience, or what will be remembered in years to come. Remember previous Best Picture winners like “Crash”, “American Beauty” or “A Beautiful Mind”? Most people don’t.
That said, the Academy tends to stumble across a few gems along the way (and “Family Guy” creator, Seth MacFarlane, as the evening’s host is a sublime choice), but you’ll just have to read on to find out what they are.
Best Picture: Considering the options available, “Amour” deserves to take home the “W” (regardless, it’s an easy win for Foreign Language Feature). Too bad Oscar only cares about “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Argo”. But even though the Academy snubbed Ben Affleck (“Argo”) for Best Director, “Argo” is a shoe-in, especially considering how well it’s done recently at other awards shows.
Best Actor: I’d love to see Bradley Cooper win for his sensational performance in “Silver Linings Playbook”, but unfortunately, Daniel Day-Lewis never loses. He’s a force of nature, and you can’t negotiate with nature.
Best Actress: I’m sure Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) has her fans — and I’m not opposed to a nine year old winning (in 2008, Saoirse Ronan was robbed because of her age) — but the role just wasn’t as engaging as others in the category. The real battle is between Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) swoops in for the steal.
Best Supporting Actor: While Oscar overlooked “The Master” for Best Picture and Best Director, Philip Seymour Hoffman (another Oscar favorite) might be the film’s only hope. But politics aside, Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”) provides the only compelling performance of note here.
Best Supporting Actress: “Les Miz” might’ve been a major disappointment, but Anne Hathaway is the only shining light in a miserable film experience. It’s difficult to imagine her losing to such weak competition.
Best Directing: Ben Affleck should win, but since he didn’t make the ballot, Michael Haneke (“Amour”) deserves it. Spielberg (“Lincoln”) is favored. However, Oscar might feel like correcting a 2006 mistake and give it to Lee along with a note that says, “Sorry about ignoring ‘Brokeback Mountain’.”
Animated Feature: Oscar likes Pixar films, but last year’s “Cars 2” murdered the can-do-no-wrong record for the studio, and “Brave’s” blandness doesn’t provide any signs of light at the end of its digitized, low-res tunnel. Not to worry, if Oscar’s smart, “Wreck-It Ralph” is the obvious answer. If the Academy can transcend its highbrow sensibility for a moment and consider a film about video games, it just might find something more complex and wildly better executed than anything else this past year. If not “Ralph”, “ParaNorman” was truly delightful, but a touch too narratively modest for the grandeur associated with this award.
Sound off…and editing, visual effects, etc.: Expect “Life of Pi” to sweep in technical categories, and “Zero Dark Thirty” to sneak in a few, with “Les Miz” for costuming. And I can only hope Oscar realizes how incredible the song, “Skyfall”, by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, is and avoid the easy choices like “Suddenly” from “Les Miz” or “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”.