Pre-AA Rambling Thoughts/Predictions

Saturday February 23, 2013

Unlike 2011's overall mediocre offerings, 2012 rebounded nicely with consistently excellent innovative films-which are emphasized by perusing this year's nominees for Best Picture.  Oh, we had the usual bleak summer fare with noisy mindless unoriginal action/remake/sequel dreck.  However, there seemed to be more unique challenging cinema than were accustomed to in 2011.

As usual, the films most nominated had their initial showing in the last part of 2012-which is the main reason studios hold back on releasing their better movies so as to make a bigger impact on the voters' memory.  Of course, there are occasions when this theory fails.  (2009's "The Hurt Locker" comes to mind.  Released in July, it and its director Kathyrn Bigelow, received a well-deserved Best Picture and Director Award.)  However, a good number of this year's nominees are still playing in first-run houses.

Tomorrow's extravaganza offers a couple of firsts:
-Hosting this year is the talented Seth McFarlane whose resume includes actor, voice actor, animator, screenwriter, comedian, producer, director and singer.  Add the fact that his "Ted" (which he starred, wrote, and directed) this year became the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, appears to make his selection a natural .
-Quvenzhane Wallis  ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") and Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour") are both the youngest and oldest nominees ever in the Best Acting category.
-Although not yet a first, the mortal lock tomorrow night will be Daniel Day-Lewis-making him the first actor in Oscar history to win three Best Actor awards.

Here are my thoughts on the nominations announced last month:

-BIGGEST SURPRISE:  Unusual is the film that gets a Best Picture nom but not one for its director.  Ben Affleck got the snub of the year for "Argo".  Personally, I didn't think he was one of the best five directors.  However, the film community is up in arms and has responded by giving him a slew of awards including the Golden Globe, NAFTA, Film Critics, and Director's Guild Best Director.  Expect that support to carry over tomorrow night when "Argo" gets the Best Picture Oscar over the early front runner, "Lincoln"
-2ND BIGGEST SURPRISE:  Kathryn Bigelow snubbed as Best Director for "Zero Dark Thirty".  For me, Bigelow, the best action director in Hollywood, was in the top three in this category.  The last third of the film is so superbly constructed and enacted you felt as if you were actually in the compound when S.E.A.L. team 6 took out Bin Laden.  One can only surmise that the controversy surrounding the waterboarding sequences had a negative effect on the nominating committee.  At least the film received recognition in the Best Picture category.
 -BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  John Hawkes' wonderful portrayal of the polio stricken poet Mark O'Brien, who, despite his almost total confinement to an iron lung, attempts to lose his virginity at the age of 38, clearly deserved to be recognized. 
-2ND BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  Kathryn Bigelow's snub (see above).
-3RD BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:   Year after year the Best Documentary Feature Award list has me scratching my head.  The two best docs I screened this year were Eugene Jarecki's riveting expose on the War on Drugs, "The House I Live In" and Jeff Orlowski's "Chasing Ice"-a comprehensive essay that proved once and for all the affects global warming has on our planet and what devastating effects our planet faces in the not too distant future.  Both films were so expertly realized that at least a nomination recognition was in order.
-MAKING A BIG DEAL ABOUT NOTHING:  A lot has been written lately about the historical inaccuracies in three of the Best Picture nominees:  "Lincoln" with its wrongful depiction of the Connecticut vote on the slavery issue; "Argo" with the liberties it took on the details of the hostage rescue; and "Zero Dark Thirty" in its depiction of the waterboarding sequences and its importance in locating Osama Bin Laden.  Hey folks.  Here's a shocker.  These are Hollywood films about true events and not fact-based documentaries (which, at times, can be subjectively skewed by a director).  Inaccuracies have ALWAYS been injected into the story lines of a lot of "based on true events" narrative films.  That being said, although I liked "Argo", I didn't love it-mainly because of the "Hollywood-type" rescue reenactment in the last real-which had me rolling my eyes.

The envelope, please. . .

What will win:  "Argo" 
What should win: "The Life of Pi"
As noted above, Affleck's take on the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation Iranian hostages' rescue is now the clear leader in the clubhouse.  Spielberg's "Lincoln", although technically proficient with superb acting, in the end, I predict, isn't exciting enough to sway the voters.  That, plus the "Argo" tsunami mentioned above, will give the Oscar to this enormously popular movie.  However, for me, "The Life of Pi" was clearly the best film of the year.  This extraordinary magical film gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.  Masterfully constructed, Ang Lee's beautiful adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 best-selling novel about an Indian teenager adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger has it all:  cinematography (which should win the Oscar), score (which also should win for Best Original Score), story, acting, directing, charm, spiritual message-you name it.   Although I am not a fan of  the format, this film should clearly be seen in 3-D to fully appreciate the milieu presented in nearly every scene.  The novel was said to be unfilmmable.  It took a true genius to make it so.  Ang Lee has consistently proven throughout his career to be that genius.  My second favorite film of the year was "Silver Linings Playbook".  Nice to see this wonderful Indie nominated-especially in the four acting categories which should get an Oscar for one, or possibly two, of the cast members.

Who will win:  Ang Lee
Who should win:  Ang Lee
I might be going with my heart instead of my head on this one.  The Academy might decide to give the Oscar to Spielberg as a consolation to "Lincoln" losing out as Best Picture.  However, as wonderful a job Spielberg did on his film, Lee was that much better for "Life of Pi".  Making a film based on a novel no one thought could be translated to the screen, and remarkably pulling it off to such a high degree, should, hopefully, give him a nod in this category. 

Who will win:  Daniel Day-Lewis
Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Don't be surprised if his name isn't already engraved on the statuette when it's handed to him tomorrow night.  As mortal a lock as Heath Ledger was for Best Supporting Actor for "The Dark Knight" in 2008.  That being said, I loved Bradley Cooper's turn as a bipolar dude trying to reunite with his ex in "Silver Linings Playbook".  However, Cooper's acting is a very distant second to one of filmdom's all-time great actors. 

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence
Upset possibility:  Emmanuelle Riva
Another tough prediction.  Jennifer lost out as Best Actress a couple of years ago starring in the Indie hit "Winter's Bone".  As a lady pursuing Bradley Cooper's character, who has her own mental issues, her performance is affectingly dead-on and could bring her to the podium.  Jessica Chastain, as the CIA analyst instrumental in bringing down Bin Laden, is her closest challenger.  However, Emmanuelle Riva as a disintegrating Alzheimer's patient in the French love story, "Amour", might slip by the equally competent roles portrayed by Lawrence and Chastain-who might be cancelling each other out in the voting .  One of the more interesting races to watch.
Who will win:  Robert De Niro
Who should win:  Robert De Niro
Another race that is too close to call-except for me (hey-it's my job).  The consummate actor early in his career, De Niro has disappointed me lately sleeping through roles that seemed like it was taken only to cash a pay check.  However, his role as Bradley Cooper's character's father in "Silver Linings Playbook" completely won me over.  He's never over the top, while making it clear why his son didn't fall far from the tree.  A wonderfully nuanced acting job should put the golden statuette in his hand for a third time in seven tries.  A very close second will be Tommy Lee Jones but De Niro should get the nod.

Who will win:  Anne Hathaway
Who should win: Anne Hathaway
The second slam dunk of the night.  Her singing of  "I Dreamed A Dream" in "Les Miserables" is one of the most extraordinary musical performances captured on the silver screen.  If her beautiful rendition wasn't enough, losing all that weight and most of her hair for the role while realistically crying through that emotional song will give her the Oscar after her second nomination.

Who will win:  "Amour"
Who should win:  "Amour"
One of the few categories that can be counted on for an upset.  Michael Haneke's 2009 "The White Ribbon" was the strong favorite to win but was edged out by "The Secret In Their Eyes".  His "Amour" is nominated for five AA's this time around.  The fact that Haneke has never won and that every foreign film nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Picture has walked away with the latter award, clearly makes "Amour" the favorite.  However, don't hold your breath.

What will win:  "Amour"
What should win:  "Zero Dark Thirty"
Another close call.  Tarentino should get a lot of attention.  However, his racially charged script might be a turn-off for a lot of voters.  Personally, I thought Mark Boal's script added greatly to the utter realism of "Zero Dark Thirty".  However, winning for "The Hurt Locker" might ultimately hinder his chances allowing for the multi-nominated "Amour" to win a second Oscar.  A real toss-up,

What will win:  "Argo"
What should win: "Silver Linings Playbook"
More love for Affleck.  However, the fabulous indie hit's extremely poignant and funny script might allow Matthew M. Quick to walk away with the award in a major upset.

Stop back for my post-AA report next week.