It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it brings me great joy to submit my annual post for my picks for the 2013 Academy Awards.
It was a good year for film, and a GREAT year for actors. Every single nominee was exceedingly strong, and there were many snubs, simply because there were just not enough spots. What a fantastic problem!
The following are my picks in the “major” categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay) for who I think will win, who I think should win (that is, MY less-than-humble opinion), and who I think was snubbed.
Buckle up…it’s a long post! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
AMOUR - I would not wish this movie on anyone. It was extremely well done, but I don’t know that I have ever felt such misery and depression from a film. The subject matter in a lot of ways hit close to home, and it was just too much for me. I am glad it is recognized in the sense that it was well done, but I’m sad that I had to watch it, because now I can’t un-watch it. The whole time I kept thinking, “WHY CAN’T THIS BE OVER.” Still…incredible performances, and very interesting choices in terms of direction (all filmed in a small space, no score, etc.). And I guess that torturous aspect is really a credit to the film; it was certainly a visceral experience.
ARGO - The best thing about Argo was that it was just so damn entertaining, and a lot of Oscar films tend to sacrifice entertainment value for artsiness or grand statements. There’s definitely a place for films like those, but films like Argo have a mass appeal without being watered down, mindless blockbusters. It was a joy to watch, and managed to be suspenseful even though the audience knows going in how it’s going to end. I don’t think it was the BEST film of the year, but it was certainly a favorite, and I’m just so happy for Ben Affleck!
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD - This is one of the most original films I’ve ever seen. It felt like watching a Toni Morrison novel, both in the sense that it was beautifully conceived and in the sense that it was often hard to follow. There were many points of confusion for me (namely levee logistics, and confusing the real and the surreal), but that was part of the point. It was a story of survival and of imagination, and had the most supremely beautiful score I’ve heard in years. The biggest snub of the year was not Affleck for director, but BEASTS for Original Score! I’d be fine with this winning, but it won’t.
DJANGO UNCHAINED - I loved Django Unchained, just as I love pretty much all Tarantino films. The writing is distinctively Quentin; he has a very specific feel to his films and is a master at casting actors who just GET it. And the soundtrack is badass. I’m glad there are more than five slots for best picture, because this film likely would have been left out (I wouldn’t leave it out, but I suspect the Academy would), and it deserves recognition. But I don’t think it’s Tarantino’s best, and I don’t think it’s the best this year.
LES MISERABLES - I loved Les Miz as I was watching it. I felt the performances were great across the board, with the exception of Russell Crowe, who I thought was perfectly fine in and of himself (contrary to popular opinion) but just was not in the same league as the other vocalists. But the more I thought about the movie afterwards, the more problems I had with it. The director relied almost exclusively on closeup shots…BORING. When you think of a great movie musical like Chicago, what made it great was infusing aspects of the show that could not be captured on stage. There was nothing special about the filming of this. It was carried by strong performances, particularly from Jackman, Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius. I don’t think it deserved a best picture nomination, but I enjoyed it.
LIFE OF PI - My favorite film of the year. I had so many reservations about seeing it due to my fear of water and my short attention span (you mean…it’s just a dude on a boat? Like, Castaway…but he’s not Tom Hanks?), but I knew that it would be nominated and wanted to see it in the theater in full spectacle. I’m SO glad I did…and I even immediately bought the book afterward! I loved the way the film spoke of faith and religion; it was so open minded and not heavy handed, there were so many layers to it, and I just wanted more and more. It stayed pretty close to the book (despite a lot of what I’m hearing), and I actually think the story is better told on film in the sense that it’s kind of boring to read about a dude catching and eating turtles for three chapters. And it was just…so…GORGEOUS. I still can’t believe that tiger wasn’t real. I left the film unable to stop talking about it, and that went on for at least a week, and reemerges anytime anyone makes mention of it. LOVED LOVED LOVED Life of Pi; it won’t win, but my loyalty remains firm!
LINCOLN - I recognize empirically that this was a good film, but it was just SO SLOW. The inspiring parts were very inspiring, and the acting was master-class. It’s such a cliche, but it’s so true…it truly felt like we were watching Lincoln the man, and not an actor playing him. It was almost eerie. THAT is the accomplishment of the film; it felt real, it felt sincere, it felt authentic. The music was also very beautiful. BUT…it was super boring at parts. Not my favorite.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - I was seriously concerned I would hate this movie, that it would be a stupid and sappy romcom that was just like “oooooh look how messed up I am, will anyone love me?” And then they’d fall in love magically and it would be super cheesy. But while this IS a love story and it IS funny, it is by NO means a romantic comedy. It is a portrait of mental illness and how it impacts a family, and it is unquestionably one of the year’s best. It deserves all the recognition it’s gotten, and I am just so, so, so happy for Bradley Cooper to have gotten such a moment in the sun. A must see!
ZERO DARK THIRTY - For me, this was also known as “Zero Dark Sleepy,” because I dozed off for MUCH of it. I don’t really have much to say about it; this kind of movie is just not my bag, baby. I found it super boring up until the part where we meet the soldiers and they actually go on the mission. The torture scenes were well done, and the acting was all very good…props especially to Jason Clarke, who was staggering in the torture scenes. I adore Jessica Chastain, but I found her character to be doing a lot of sitting around starting at computers. Like, it’s just hard to make the CIA’s day-to-day “figuring stuff out” work compelling to watch. I also didn’t care for The Hurt Locker so much, but this was more boring than that. Again, not my bag.
MOONRISE KINGDOM - It’s a tiny little movie and thus easy to overlook, but I thought it really stood out against the rest of the pack. It’s so original…well…okay. It’s not original in the sense that it’s a lot like every other Wes Anderson movie, but it IS original in the sense that Wes Anderson has a very unique tone and vision. You KNOW when you’re watching a Wes Anderson film. Sometimes I feel he’s just weird for the sake of it, but this movie was just darling. He created a movie that looked like a children’s adventure book, with the dry humor that grounds all of his films. Love love LOVED this. Those KIDS, man! So adorable! One of the best love stories I’ve seen in a long time. I would have loved for it to have gotten the love. Love!
THE IMPOSSIBLE - Incredible filmmaking. I’m shocked it’s only been recognized in one category; specifically, I’m shocked it didn’t get more technical recognition for its portrayal of the devastation of the tsunami. It was extremely inspiring, and extremely entertaining, albeit hard to watch at times because it was so gruesome. Also, I LOVE EWAN MACGREGOR! Always have, always will! So happy for him!
THE SESSIONS - Another tiny movie that’s easy to overlook, but it has SO much heart. Not a huge snub (as a film, at least…definitely snubbed for Best Actor), but I do think it’s an Honorable Mention.
Will win: Argo
Should win: Life of Pi
There’s been so much outcry against Affleck’s snub that it’s building serious momentum for its Best Picture chances. I loved it, I just don’t think it was the BEST. There is a small chance that Lincoln could eke out a win, but I doubt it…and I hope it doesn’t.
If I were to pare it down to five nominees (as in ANDREA’S choices), they would be…
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
LIFE OF PI
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Daniel Day-Lewis, LINCOLN
Hugh Jackman, LES MISERABLES
Joaquin Phoenix, THE MASTER
Denzel Washington, FLIGHT
SNUBS: John Hawkes, THE SESSIONS; Jean-Louis Trintignent, AMOUR
Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should Win: This is hard for me, because I loved all of these performances plus two more, but there is no question on this one. Daniel Day-Lewis.
This category breaks my heart for several reasons. I saw Les Miserables first, and thought, “It’s a shame Hugh Jackman is up against Daniel Day-Lewis, because this could have been his year.” Then I saw Silver Linings Playbook and thought, “It’s a shame Bradley Cooper is up against Daniel Day-Lewis, because this SHOULD have been his year.” I will say that Bradley Cooper is my FAVORITE performance in this category, but it’s just ridiculous that anyone should ever have to be nominated against Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s just operating on another plane.
My other struggle is that I don’t know if I agree with these five picks. I cannot believe John Hawkes was looked over; he was absolutely charming as a polio-stricken man attempting to lose his virginity, and plus, the Academy LOVES nominating actors who play disabled characters. Despite having a lifeless body, he brought so much vitality to this character, and makes the audience fall completely in love with him. And Jean-Louis Trintignent…holy shit. Unbelievable. But would I oust Denzel and Joaquin? Joaquin probably yes, because I just didn’t feel the same connection to his character…though that was a function of the writing, not his acting. I think Joaquin is one of the best actors out there right now, and I hope he gets his Oscar one day. As far as Denzel, this was a really different role for him, and he brought an unexpected humanity to this ethically challenged addict. It’s tough to say I’d eliminate him from the race, because it was a powerhouse performance…but I feel strongly about the snubs, and I absolutely cannot eliminate Day-Lewis, Cooper, or Jackman. So…sorry, Denzel…but it’s cool. You’ve got two of these statutes already; you’ll probably get another in the future. And you’ll look damn good doing it!
Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Jennifer Lawrence, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Emmanuelle Riva, AMOUR
Quvenzhane Wallis, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Naomi Watts, THE IMPOSSIBLE
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should Win: Quvenzhane Wallis
Silver Linings Playbook is the critical darling of the year, and I’m not sure it stands a chance in the other categories (with the exception of possibly Best Supporting Actor). I loved Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, I’m just not sure it screamed “Oscar WINNER” to me. Jessica Chastain also might take this, because the Academy (rightly) loves her. Jennifer and Jessica are both destined for Oscar wins at some point in what will be amazing careers for both of them. Emmanuelle Riva was certainly haunting in her performance in that EXCRUCIATINGLY DEPRESSING film, but for me it’s gotta go to Q. It’s difficult with child actors, because it’s not necessarily the same attention to their craft. I got into a debate over Shabbos dinner about this; is it fair to compare a child who might be effortlessly delivering lines to an actor who is carefully studied? I say a great performance is a great performance, no matter the “process,” and this is one of the most staggering performances of the year. She doesn’t stand a chance, but she’s definitely my favorite. MAJOR props to Naomi Watts as well; I am actually shocked The Impossible was not nominated in more categories.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin, ARGO
Robert De Niro, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Philip Seymour Hoffman, THE MASTER
Tommy Lee Jones, LINCOLN
Christoph Waltz, DJANGO UNCHAINED
SNUBS: This is more of an Honorable Mention, but how BOUT those little boys from The Impossible!?! All three of them were amazing!
Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones…or Robert De Niro. I can’t choose!
This is definitely the least predictable category. It’s usually helpful to see who has won all the other awards throughout the season, but this category has been extremely inconsistent, with the most recognition going to Tommy Lee Jones and Christph Waltz. All five of these performances are noteworthy, though I think Alan Arkin’s role, while certainly a highlight (really THE highlight) of an already great film, arguably wasn’t as…challenging, maybe, as the others. (“Challenging” isn’t exactly the word I’m looking for, but it’s as close as I can get.) I really just don’t feel like Django’s going to get any love this year, which leaves Tommy Lee. He was my favorite part of Lincoln; the best scenes, in my opinion, were the ones he was in. He brought so much energy to an extremely slow film, and I was excited every time he was on screen. That being said, I would be just as happy with De Niro taking this. He broke my heart in the scene where he has the heart-to-heart with Bradley Cooper as his son; I cried as he cried! It was so refreshing seeing him in such a tender role, and I’d love to see him take the trophy home. I cannot choose between these two in terms of a personal favorite, but I think the statute will go to Lincoln.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, THE MASTER
Sally Field, LINCOLN
Anne Hathaway, LES MISERABLES
Helen Hunt, THE SESSIONS
Jacki Weaver, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Should Win: Anne Hathaway…though it pains me to say it
Between The Dark Knight Rises and Les Miserables, I had to stop denying that Anne Hathaway is talented, as she was the highlight of both films. But every time I see an interview with her I want to punch her in the face, and her hosting of the Oscars was almost as torturous as watching Amour. Still, I give credit where credit is due, and she walked away with the film and with this award. She was the most believable and moving performance in the film, and the close-ups on her song were the only ones that didn’t bother me, because she commanded the screen. So…good for you, Anne Hathaway. And SHUT UP.
It’s worth noting that all of these ladies were exceptional, as they always are. I absolutely loved The Sessions, and I hope to look as bangin’ as Helen Hunt does when I’m that age. (She’s naked for a good part of the film…full frontal!) Jacki Weaver’s quiet performance was so honest and heartbreaking, and such a departure from her FUCKED UP role in Animal Kingdom, for which she was formerly nominated. Sally Field was solid, but not as memorable for me; I love Amy Adams 110% percent of the time, but her character was not as memorable as other nominees. She’ll get her Oscar someday; just not today.
Michael Haneke, AMOUR
Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Ang Lee, LIFE OF PI
Steven Spielberg, LINCOLN
David O. Russel, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
SNUBS: Ben Affleck, ARGO, Wes Anderson, MOONRISE KINGDOM
Will Win: Steven Spielberg
Should win: Ang Lee
I feel the strongest about this category, above all the rest, and here’s where I get on my Life of Pi pedestal. There is no reason Life of Pi should have been possible to make. Between the water AND the shipwreck AND the tiger AND working with a lead actor who is 90% of the film and who has never starred in anything before…it is shocking that the end product is so remarkable. And it REALLY is. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but I was completely captivated the whole time. As I mentioned, I did NOT want to see this film because 1) I’m afraid of the ocean and 2) I thought…how could this possibly not be boring? But I wasn’t bored for a second. I was RIVETED. This will be a prestige thing, so they’ll give it to Spielberg…also, a lot of the content of Lincoln is very timely, and I think they’ll want to recognize that. But it’s a crying shame. As far as Ben Affleck, I wish he would have gotten the nomination, but no one else accomplished what Ang Lee did, with the exception of Benh Zeitlin, whose immense creativity deserves major props. I’ve never seen a movie like Beasts of the Southern Wild, and that’s a huge accomplishment. Moonrise Kingdom is more of an Honorable Mention here, mostly because he’s up against such powerhouses. But every choice of shot in the film was so careful, wistful, and storybook-like. It was just so…refreshing, and might have gotten more recognition in a weaker year. Were I to eliminate one of the nominees, it would likely be Haneke…or, honestly, Spielberg. I didn’t love Lincoln.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Michael Haneke, AMOUR
Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED
John Gatins, FLIGHT
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, MOONRISE KINGDOM
Mark Boal, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Will win: Mark Boal
Should win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
I’m a little surprised about Flight being in this category, but I liked that movie; I guess I’m okay with it. These are all strong entries, but I think they’ll give it to Boal for the research that went into it. But Moonrise Kingdom was the most original of all of these, and was just magical. I’d also be happy with Tarantino taking this, but I just loved the twinkle in the eyes of everyone in Moonrise Kingdom, and that was largely a function of a wonderful, charming script. I do think it has a chance, but it’ll ultimately go to Zero Dark Thirty.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chris Terrio, ARGO
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
David Magee, LIFE OF PI
Tony Kushner, LINCOLN
David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Will win: Tough to call! Probably Kushner or Russell. I’m going to say Russell.
Should win: David O. Russell
Tony Kushner is a playwright, not a screenwriter, and I think that came through. Silver Linings Playbook had everything…it was funny but touching, harsh and light, and just very three dimensional and humanized. It was also just a supremely entertaining film, and I think it’ll get the recognition it deserves.
If you’ve gotten to the end of this, I applaud you. I recognize how insanely verbose I am, but I allow myself this indulgence at Oscar time, because I fancy myself a film critic. I’d love to hear what you think…and there will definitely be a red carpet dress-specific follow-up post!