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It’s that time of year again. This Sunday the 85th Academy Awards will announce their winners for the most highly publicized film awards in the world. After copious politicking and campaigning these past few months it should be interesting to see whether winners are chosen based on merit or on successful campaigns.
Frontrunner: Argo. Argo has been receiving the most pre-awards buzz over any movie. Argo won both the Golden Globe and the more respected Producers’ Guild Award for Best Picture. When you couple that with the immediate backlash for leaving the film’s director, Ben Affleck, out of the nominee pool for the Oscar’s Best Director award it could end up being a perfect storm. Unfortunately Argo is not deserving of the award if it wins.
Main Competition: Lincoln. For me, Spielberg’s Lincoln was the best movie this year. Almost every performance was great and each hit the exact tenor of the character. The juggling of storylines from Lincoln’s family aspects to the people he hired to secure votes for the amendment was excellently executed. Les Misérables also has an outside chance mainly because award shows love rewarding the harder to pull off musical.
Frontrunner: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. No explanation required.
Main Competition: Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. This really should be a two-man race. DDL will win and he should win but to not give Phoenix his due for his portrayal of Freddie Quell, the animalistic and demented World War II veteran, would be a travesty.
Frontrunner: Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook. 2012 was the year of Jennifer Lawrence and I don’t see the Academy gumming that up. They will probably want to celebrate its best up and coming young actress and connect with the younger crowd who love them some Hunger Games.
Main Competition: Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty. I won’t lie, Chastain is the only other performance I have seen from the nominees in this category. Chastain gets the slight edge over the rest because she was nominated for Supporting Actress last year but didn’t win. Everyone loves a good story and seeing Chastain win an arguably bigger honor after losing the previous year for a lesser one would be a pretty good one.
Frontrunner: Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln. This might come as a shock but in a race with so many worthy competitors (despite DiCaprio not being nominated at all for Django Unchained) there really isn’t a bad choice. Jones gets the nod because his portrayal of curmudgeon Thaddeus Stevens offered levity to the film and allowed Mr. Jones some excellent posturing.
Main Competition: Everyone else. There’s no wrong choice in this group. Alan Arkin probably had the smallest role of any of the nominees but did play an integral part in Argo. Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained is incredibly deserving with his subtle but exuberant performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman was magnetic and flawed as the leader of his Scientology-esque group. And Robert De Niro is De Niro.
This award is discussed in greater depth.
Frontrunner: Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables. Hathaway’s brief performance was incredible and deserving.
Main Competition: Sally Field in Lincoln and Amy Adams in The Master. Field had a tough task having to act next to Daniel Day-Lewis but more than held her own as Mary Todd Lincoln. Amy Adams’s understated role in The Master was performed perfectly but, as mentioned in the article above, the Academy doesn’t usually award understated greatness.
This is the most ballyhooed of all the categories mainly because of the snubs in Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow. Affleck’s directing was solid but unspectacular. Many of the characters in Argo were one-dimensional, static characters. His choice to recreate real images and events as closely as possible helped the realism but how hard is it to trace over a picture? Bigelow may be the bigger snub as her movie was unlike many others this year. Zero Dark Thirty was more like a moving timeline than anything else. Instead of trying to delve into the characters mindsets and psyches Bigelow decided to offer little to know personal life drama into the movie. Her direction of the final scene was incredible and tense and the fact that this movie was interesting without turning to sympathetic character scenes or the more trumped up action style scene in so many spy thrillers (like Argo) is commendable but the movie did feel lacking throughout.
Frontrunner: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. The performances were well directed. The camera was used to just record the action instead of becoming its own character like in many of today’s movies (think ridiculous angles and movements that make no sense). The movie looked great and aside from the unneeded last five minutes was superb.
Main Competition: David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. To get Oscar nominated performances out of terse funnyman Bradley Cooper and the much-too-young-for-her-role Jennifer Lawrence is an achievement in itself. His loss for The Fighter also may garner him some sympathy votes.
Flyby for Other Awards
I could see Beasts of the Southern Wild winning for best adapted screenplay as the original material was a one act play and the Academy may want to reward the indie movie if it is shut out of the other categories. A selection of either Moonrise Kingdom, Django Unchained, or Zero Dark Thirty would be fine for best original screenplay, although I’d give the edge to Django.
The race for Best Cinematography is a good one with Life of Pi and Skyfall the most deserving in my book but Anna Karenina also warrants consideration. Special Effects should go to The Avengers for the sheer scale and impressiveness of what they accomplished. Film editing has to go to Zero Dark Thirty for the for the difficulty of the story structure and knowing exactly how and when to cut some of the more gruesome/impressive scenes.
Come back on Monday, February 25th for my reactions to all the winners of the 85th Annual Academy Awards.