The more I break down these award shows the more I realize how wonderfully subjective they are.
Even if your favorite film doesnt win in a particular year (The Descendants, 127 Hours), it doesnt necessarily mean that it was better or worse than the actual winner (The Artist, The Kings Speech).
In thinking why I chose the (losing) films I chose in consecutive years, I realized it was with my heart instead of my head, something some people would consider a film faux paus. As Im putting together this Oscar-year-end-award-season-extravaganza-palooza, I happened to read Bill Simmons amazing performance enhancing drugs article from Grantland.com.
In the column, he realized that there were two sides to him fighting for word count: Simmons the ESPN talking head/Grantland Editor-In-Chief and Simmons the (sometimes) cynical sports fan. The conclusion ultimately was theres no reason to separate the two because its his dedication as a fan that adds to his effectiveness as a columnist.
I couldnt identify more with that piece given my current state of mind.
It was a weak Oscar year in 2011, which led me to post odds on the nominees to make it more interesting. For the record, I did well enough on last years predictions to live comfortably from wagering, if I did such a thing (which I dont ?).
Back to Simmons point, while I am a critic, it was my mania for cinema that led to where I am. Its years like these that make the critic and the fan a singular entity. 2012 was a year where the platitude, Its an honor to be nominated, was more than empirical.
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
PHOTO COURTESY TOUCHSTONE PICTURES
Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Lincoln.
Bradley CooperSilver Linings Playbook
Hugh JackmanLes Misérables
Joaquin PhoenixThe Master
Breakdown: In one respect, I feel bad for the other nominees as they all had pantheon performances this year. Cooper showed hes more than a pretty face (same for Jackman), while Denzel came back after a glut of shoddy action/thrillers.
On the other hand, as soon as I read the dailies saying that one of the best actors ever is playing arguably the most iconic president directed by one of the best directors ever, I may have to come to terms that my Oscar turn will have to wait another year.
If there is any chance for an upset, Joaquin Phoenix has it. The Master, as convoluted as it was, has great credit with critics and the actor was all raw nerve.
And the winner is: Daniel Day-Lewis. By a mile.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Robert De NiroSilver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour HoffmanThe Master
Tommy Lee JonesLincoln
Christoph WaltzDjango Unchained
Breakdown: This ones tougher. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave the globe to Waltz but Id be surprised if he won this round seeing as Tommy Lee Jones is the odds-on favorite.
I smell upset here. DeNiro has turned in his strongest performance in years, plus director David O. Russells last film (The Fighter) landed Supporting Actor/Actress wins for Christian Bale and Amy Adams. We might see a similar pattern this year. Hollywood loves to give itself a pat on the back whenever the opportunity arrives (See: YouTube George Clooney acceptance speech), so you have to like Arkins chances as film producer Lester Siegel. Siegel helps provide the CIA a cover for rescuing hostages while also providing funny-because-its-true fourth-wall humor about the movie industry. Sounds like a win-win.
And the winner is: Hedging on Arkin because I think Jones will win.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
PHOTO COURTESY THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for Best Picture of the Year.
Jessica ChastainZero Dark Thirty
Jennifer LawrenceSilver Linings Playbook
Quvenzhané WallisBeasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi WattsThe Impossible
Breakdown: Another category that is so anomalous with regard to criteria in this two-horse race. Take Jennifer Lawrence. She was part of an ensemble cast. Does that take away from Jessica Chastain carrying Zero Dark Thirty? Powerful and unflinching, her characters obsession was a foil for our countrys obsession for the past decade. Wallis and Riva were great as well but they were also byproducts of a script nearly tailored to them. Itll be Wallis next film that shows her real potential. Again, shes nine, so she has some time.
...And the winner is: Jennifer Lawrence. She is clearly the star of Silver Linings Playbook. What wins it is that she toggles between crazy, angry, smart, sexy, vulnerable and defensive with seemingly sheer effortlessness. Maybe Meryl Streep should watch out.
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy AdamsThe Master
Anne HathawayLes Misérables
Helen HuntThe Sessions
Jacki WeaverSilver Linings Playbook
Breakdown: This years nominees are similar to 2011, which was filled with strong performances but one clear winner. Sally Fieldlike Denzelhad a comeback year, showing what theyre capable of when the right script meets the right amount of effort. Amy Adams was more than capable of holding her own in a film full of actors actors. Helen Hunt was utterly fearless, compassionate and committed to her role as a certified sex surrogate in The Sessions. Her performance would be a no-brainer winner in most years. However .
And the winner is: There has to be something that Anne Hathaway cant do well, right? Besides being bad at losing. I Dreamed a Dream was the showstopper in a film full of showstoppers.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
BraveMark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
ParaNormanSam Fell and Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of MisfitsPeter Lord
Wreck-It RalphRich Moore
Breakdown: This category is the best example of art versus commerce. Brave may have been the best seller but was certainly the least artistic of the lot. Frankenweenie all the while is Burtons love letter to his youth and the influences and culture that have come to define him. Similarly, Wreck-It Ralph plays on the heart strings of Millenials creating an interesting, existential story within the confines of 8-bit.
...And the winner is: You dont bet against Pixar. You just dont. Sigh.
Achievement in Directing
Beasts of the Southern WildBenh Zeitlin
Life of PiAng Lee
Lincoln Steven Spielberg
Silver Linings PlaybookDavid O. Russell
Breakdown: There are five slots available and each director is obviously deserving but I think hindsight will show the directors who werent nominatedRichard Linklater (Bernie) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)had extraordinary works that play with revisionist history while still possessing their auteur trademark. It's insane that Kathryn Bigelow isn't in this race. The Hurt Locker won Best Picture in 2009 while the exponentially better Zero Dark Thirty isn't even nominated for Best Picture. Crazy.
And the winner is: I thought Zeitlin had this category locked up since June. To pull the performance out of nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis that he did, is an art in itself. Then I saw Silver Linings Playbook. Its the first film in over 30 years to have a nominee in all four acting categories. With the screenplay also adapted and nominated by O. Russell, the director has the auteur streak thats essential to film.
Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man
Best Foreign Language Film of the year
A Royal AffairDenmark
And the winners are: Amour/ Searching for Sugar Man. Hanekes meditation on love and loss is so palpable that it forced its way into the Best Picture category. The film, the director and Riva run into stronger performances in their respective categories but its refreshing to see a foreign film receive as much attention as it has.
Extra credit goes to No from Chile. Director Pablo Larrain and Gael Garcia Bernal give a thoughtful, satirical (and accurate) look at the medias pull in politics. Malik Bendjelloul went looking for a story and found one in Rodriguez, Cape Towns version of Bob Dylan. Rodriguezs Searching for Sugar Man is a tragedy/commentary on the environment of the turbulent 60s, the music industry and apartheid resistance.
Content is essential in documentary filmmaking and Bendjelloul keeps the audience questioning.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
AmourNominees to be determined
ArgoGrant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
Beasts of the Southern WildDan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
Django UnchainedStacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
Les MisérablesTim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
Life of PiGil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
LincolnSteven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
Silver Linings PlaybookDonna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
Zero Dark ThirtyMark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Breakdown: Seriously, how do you define Best Picture? Do you go strictly by nominations racked up (Lincoln), visual masterpieces (Pi, Beasts) or by emotional stunner (Amour)? Big musicals (Les Misérables) and historical pieces (Argo, Djangosort of) are always strong. Did I mention that Silver Linings Playbook is the first film in over 30 years to have a nominee in all four acting categories along with O. Russell being nominated for Best Director on the script that he wrote, which was also nominated? I tend to look historically. Twenty years from now, I want fans to look at the winner and think, Yeah. Of course it won. Hopefully, history is on my side.
...And the winner is: Zero Dark Thirty.
Think about it. The Kings Speech. The Hurt Locker. Schindlers List. Platoon. Patton. Bridge on the River Kwai.
All Best Picture winners that have real-life war as a major force in the film, if not on the front line. These films are not only a thematic device but moreover serve as a subtle (although not always) commentary on our nations view of war from the Greatest Generation to the psychological turmoil of Vietnam, the ripple of the Holocaust to our current zeitgeist regarding the Near East.
It will be interesting to see what revisionist history will say about this film besides winning Best Picture of 2012.
That is, unless, the juggernaut of Argo has anything to say about it.