Tomorrow night, the Academy Awards® will be handed out for the 85th time. Despite doomsayers, 2012 was a very good year for film – from blockbusters to the tiniest indies. I don’t like predicting Oscar® recipients and I’m not that good at figuring out what the Academy will honor (despite being in demographic of the majority of members, I find them far less open-minded).
There are a number of categories where everything is wide open and a few that are down to a couple of major contenders. There are also a couple of categories where it would seem that one entry has a lock. But this is the Oscars®. And for every seemingly inevitable winner, there is a dark horse who came out of nowhere to upset a seemingly inevitable winner. So, if I picked the winners, these would be my choices. Beware intermittent commentary.
Nine nominees out of a potential ten slots create a pretty wide variety, though there are no genuine blockbusters (the constant exclusion of which was the reason the category was expanded to that potential number). On the other hand, all but a couple have done upwards of $100 million at the box office, so the public would seem to echo the critics here.
Amour – fine film, very depressing. Will win Foreign Language Film.
Argo – slick treatment of a truly unique historical event but not best film I saw last year (that wasn’t nominated, but I’m not bitter…)
Beasts of the Southern Wild – the strangest film of the year, in the best ways. This what magic realism looks like – Gabriel Garcia Marquez would love it.
Django Unchained – not even Quentin Tarantino’s best film (though very close).
Les Misérables – seriously flawed by an overwhelming experience.
Life of Pi – an unfilmable film and ambitious in other ways (a story spun by a man who claims that hearing it will make you believe in God). Easily the most amazing use of CG in a live action movie, ever.
Lincoln – very much a stagey treatment of Lincoln’s maneuvering to pass the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The performances of an all-star cast lift it even beyond Tony Kushner’s excellent script.
Silver Linings Playbook – I know these people.
Zero Dark Thirty – tense and complex with a truly brilliant performance by Jessica Chastain.
My selection as Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook. (I expect Argo to win.)
Amour – Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi – Ang Lee
Lincoln – Steven Spielberg
Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell
See above comments. My selection for Director is David O. Russell.
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
Denzel Washington – Flight
There are no weak links here, but for me at least, it comes down to Joaquin Phoenix and Daniel Day-Lewis. The difference, for me, is that Phoenix acts the hell out of his role, but Day-Lewis is Lincoln.
My selection for Best Actor is Daniel Day-Lewis.
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis –Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts – The Impossible
This is another collection of incredible performances with not a lot to choose between them. For me, it comes down to Wallis and Lawrence. The difference is that Lawrence is required to do more without being showy. And like I said above, I know this character.
My selection for Lead Actress is Jennifer Lawrence.
Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
There are no losers here – every one of these actors has an Oscar® win under his belt. The obvious choices would be Jones for his hardcore abolitionist in Lincoln and Waltz for his loquacious bounty hunter in Django Unchained – but in Silver Lings Playbook, DeNiro gives a performance worthy of the young guy who won for The Godfather II in 1974, and Hoffman really captures the nerve and desperation of the man who’s making it up as he goes along in The Master.
My selection for Supporting Actor is Robert DeNiro.
Amy Adams – The Master
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
The trend to impressive collections of nominees continues here. Adams is fierce as the power behind the throne in The Master; Field might too old for the role, but she captures Mary Todd’s strengths, weaknesses and frustrations in Lincoln; Hathaway owns the screen as the doomed Fatine in Les Miz; Hunt bares her character’s soul as well as her body in The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver perfectly inhabits the role of loving, worried, yet tough Philly mom in Silver Linings Playbook.
My selection for Supporting Actress is (surprise!) Anne Hathaway.
Animated Feature Film
Brave – Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Frankenweenie – Tim Burton
ParaNorman – Sam Fell and Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph – Rich Moore
There are weak entries in this category, either, though I suspect that the Academy will mostly go for either Brave or Wreck-It Ralph.
Brave is a creative rebound from the mediocre (though financially successful) Cars 2, but the shifts in tone between Merida’s story and the linking bits featuring her parents are not particularly smooth and the film as a whole suffers from that.
Wreck-It Ralph is the first truly great videogame movie. It could not have been made ten years ago, but now videogames have so pervaded our culture that even non-gamers get most of the references. It may also be the best ‘hero’s quest’ movie since Star Wars. The animation is a match for Pixar. Wreck-It Ralph is Disney’s best non-Pixar animated movie in a decade.
My selection for Animated Feature Film is Wreck-It Ralph.
Anna Karenina – Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained – Robert Richardson
Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda
Lincoln – Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall – Roger Deakins
My selection for Cinematography is Skyfall’s Roger Deakins.
Anna Karenina – Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables – Paco Delgado
Lincoln – Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror – Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman – Colleen Atwood
My selection for Costume Design is Mirror Mirror’s Eiko Ishioka.
I have not seen any of the nominees.
Documentary Short Film
I have not seen any of the nominees.
Argo – William Goldenberg
Life of Pi – Tim Squyres
Lincoln – Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook – Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty – Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
My selection for Film Editing is Life of Pi’s Tim Squyres.
Foreign Language Film
Amour – Austria
Kon-Tiki – Norway
No – Chile
A Royal Affair – Denmark
War Witch – Canada
My selection for Foreign Language Film is Amour.
Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli
Argo – Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi – Mychael Danna
Lincoln – John Williams
Skyfall – Thomas Newman
My selection for Original Score is Skyfall.
Before My Time – from Chasing Ice, Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
Everybody Needs A Best Friend – from Ted, Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
Pi’s Lullaby – from Life of Pi, Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
Skyfall – from Skyfall, Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Suddenly – from Les Misérables, Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
My selection for Original Song is Skyfall (not a great song, but better than the rest of this fairly mediocre lot).
Anna Karenina – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables – Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi – Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln – Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson
My selection is The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (which looks great in non-48fps screenings).
Animated Short Film
Adam and Dog – Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole – PES
Head over Heels – Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare – David Silverman
Paperman – John Kahrs
For the first time in years, I’ve seen every nominee for Animated Short Film and they are all extraordinarily well executed. It all comes down to imagination and there, Adam and Dog and Head Over Heels are easily the most imaginative.
My selection for Animated Short Film is Head Over Heels (all the nominees can be found online – go watch them!).
Live Action Short Film
I have not seen any of the nominees.
Argo – Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained – Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty – Paul N.J. Ottosson
My selection for Sound Editing is Argo.
Argo – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi – Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall – Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
My selection for Sound Mixing is Skyfall.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
Marvel’s The Avengers – Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus – Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman – Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
Two words: Richard Parker.
My selection for Visual Effects is Life of Pi.
Argo – Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi – Screenplay by David Magee
Lincoln – Screenplay by Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook – Screenplay by David O. Russell
My selection is Lincoln.
Amour – Written by Michael Haneke
Django Unchained – Written by Quentin Tarantino
Flight Written by John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom – Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty – Written by Mark Boal
This is the only category for which my favorite film of 2012 is nominated.
My selection is Moonrise Kingdom, by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola.