I have a confession to make. I love The Oscars. No, I do not always agree with their choices, not at all. I don’t think they are perfect in any way. I do, however, respect The Academy. Unlike any other award show, the Oscars still have at least an illusion of credibility. Unlike the Grammys, it is not purely a popularity contest. In fact, The Academy is kind of filled with aged hipsters. The more money a film makes, the less likely it is to get respect from the Academy. The indie and foreign film darling that has made less than $10 million domestically will always get more love than the $250 million blockbuster that wowed audiences in 80 countries. While I do feel that the Academy goes too far in that direction at times, I respect that they discount popular opinion. Fast and the Furious is an entertaining movie franchise, but it’s popularity should never translate to getting artistic credibility the way that Katy Perry and Bruno Mars win Grammys for musical “excellence.” In that sense I feel that The Oscars are by far the most credible awards show, and I do love it. I love the pretentiousness of the actors and filmmakers when their egos are at their highest points. I love the way the camera catches them oddly offended at a very mild joke poking fun at another actor they worked with years ago. I love watching yet another host fail at trying to entertain both the people in the auditorium and the people at home. I love the winners giving extremely emotional acceptance speeches that awkwardly get interrupted by elevator music gently telling them “yeah we know you won it for your dead father, now get off the fucking stage.” I love cursing the TV when they give an award to a movie or performance I was not a fan of. I love it all.
So, being the Oscar fanboy that I am, I felt the need to join the pretentious nature of the Awards Show by sharing who I would give the major awards to, if only I were so important as to have a vote. Also included is a trade I would make for a nominee I felt snubbed unfairly. Agree with my choices? disagree? hate the Oscars or share my love? Let us know in the comments below.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Lining’s Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
*Have not seen
Jeffrey’s Trade: End of Watch for Beasts of the Southern Wild
I have seen all but Amour here. My top 4 of the year would have been all perfect 10 scores for me had I been reviewing films when they came out. Those films are Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi and Lincoln in alphabetical order. Each of those films, to me, fought for the Best Film of the Year title.
I loved Django Unchained. Out of those 4 films, I will most likely watch Django Unchained again more than the others. I think that Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson all had incredible acting performances and all deserved recognition for their work. However, Django Unchained is an homage film. Many of the directing choices Tarantino made were genius because it perfectly encapsulated the genre it was mimicking. However, and I know this will be a contentious opinion, I do believe that it is only great when you judge it based on other films. It isn’t that the choices are so brilliant on their own, it is that they are so brilliant to mimic another film’s choices. So, I have to say that this is the weakest film that can stand completely on it’s own in that sense.
Argo was also an incredible film. Ben Affleck did a masterful job in crafting an incredibly entertaining yet also extremely tense film based on a recent historical event. I feel it is hard to judge Argo this year without comparing it to Zero Dark Thirty, another film about a recent historical event. Yes, the ZDT story is much more fresh in the head of America, and the story of the hostages in Iran may not be as well remembered, but the fact is that neither of these film’s climaxes were surprises. Everybody knew that Osama Bin Laden was killed and everyone knows that the hostages make it out of Iran. However, Argo did a much better job of making those scenes extremely tense and having you at the edge of your seat, wondering how in the hell they were going to succeed.
Lincoln is a masterful biopic of a man that most people felt they already knew. So many things have been written and made about Abraham Lincoln, that a biopic of the man’s life, even with the masterful acting job of Daniel Day Lewis, seemed boring. Steven Spielberg countered this by not taking a panoramic photograph of the entirety of Lincoln’s life, but merely a snapshot near the very end. Lincoln is solely about the passage of the 13th Amendment. So much so, that the rightful title of Lincoln probably should have been 13, as that is by far the central focus of this film. But by making it a small snapshot of Lincoln’s life, Spielberg is can focus on the character of the man more than ever done before. You see the wrinkles and scars not just in the face, but in the morals of the man that we have all idolized our entire lives. It brings color and perspective to a man, not simply an idol. Lincoln also had amazing acting performances from a Who’s Who list of fantastic actors, all managed beautifully by Spielberg.
My final pick, and to me the film of the year, is Ang Lee’s beautiful Life of Pi. Life of Pi is a film that hit me like an uppercut. I had seen a preview of the film, and thought it looked good, but it didn’t interest me as a story. A kid on a boat with a tiger? Seriously? But Ang Lee crafts a magical story here, and to me a story that will last ages. This film tells a fantastical mythology that is extremely deep and gives you different interpretations within the film itself. This is a film that is impossible not to contemplate when it is finished. It sticks with you for a long time. Besides the story, the film is just incredibly beautiful to look at, and the CGI is so realistic you have to be reminded afterward that the tiger is completely computer generated. This film is a masterpiece in a very cohesive way where each participant is a perfect compliment to the whole.
Jeffrey’s Pick : Life of Pi
Will Win: Argo
Michael Hanneke – Amour
Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
David O Russell – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Jeffrey’s Trade - Ben Affleck – Argo for Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Here is my biggest contention for the nominations. Along with pretty much everybody that watched the top films this year, I was completely shocked that Ben Affleck was notably snubbed for this award. While I think Ryan Gosling was criminally overlooked for an acting award last year, he was in 3 films (Crazy Stupid Love, Drive, Ides of March) that were noteworthy and that likely split the vote leaving him out. There is no such excuse for Affleck’s omission. I feel that David O Russell did a great job with SLP, Spielberg definitely did a great job in getting the best performances possible from an All Star cast and Ang Lee did a tremendous job of crafting a beautiful story, but Ben Affleck did the most with what he had. Argo could have been a flat predictable film, and he made it a masterpiece. The third act of the film is Affleck rally coming into his own as an all time great director, and it is a damn shame that he is not getting recognized for his excellence.
Jeffrey’s Pick: Ben Affleck – Argo; Of actual nominees – Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Will Win: Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
Bradley Cooper – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
Denzel Washington – Flight
Jeffrey’s Trade: John Hawkes – The Sessions for Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
All 5 nominees deserve recognition here, but I definitely think that John Hawkes was a sixth amazing performance this year. When I trade him for Hugh Jackman, that does not diminish Jackman’s performance, I just feel he would be the 6th performance.
I am not going to sway from popular opinion here, however. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves this award. He is the greatest actor alive and he proved it once again with his outstanding and unique performance of our 16th president.
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour*
Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Jeffrey’s Trade: none
Unfortunately, I do not think it was a great year for outstanding female performances. The ladies nominated all did a fantastic job (Again, I haven’t seen Amour), but there weren’t too many other standout performances. Admittedly, I have not seen Rust and Bone, and Marion Cotillard has been given a lot of praise for her work there.
I have to say, I do think the women nominated here all did a great job. While most people are fighting over Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain for the award, I have to say I feel it should be down to Quvenzhané Wallis and Naomi Watts. Wallis is extremely young (6 when Beasts was filmed) but her presence in Beasts is undeniably powerful. Watts was also excellent in The Impossible, but the power of surprise takes the win here.
Jeffrey’s Pick: Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert DeNiro – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Jeffrey’s Trade - Samuel L Jackson – Django Unchained for Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Again, just great performances in this category. Christoph Waltz was great, but I think that he, along with Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio could have been interchangeable in this category. All 3 were outstanding and are cancelled out by being in the same film, fair or not. Philip Seymour Hoffman was also exceptional in The Master, but he is in a category with one of the greatest actors of all time who delivered his best performance in well over a decade in Robert DeNiro. Any of these 5 could win, and they all deserve it, but my pic would go to DeNiro for putting his all into a role once again. It’s been too long.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams – The Master
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jacki Weaver – Silver Lining’s Playbook
Jeffrey’s Trade: none
Another category where I will definitely not sway from conventional wisdom. If there were only one acting award given for all potential categories, I would give it to Anne Hathaway. her performance of Fantine was timeless and classic. She may not be in the film very long, but everybody who saw it remembers her hauntingly beautiful version of “I Dreamed a Dream.” The other women all did great jobs, but everybody was outshined by Hathaway in 2012.
Animated Feature Film
The Pirates! Band of Misfits*
*Have not seen
Jeffrey’s Trade: Rise of the Guardians for Brave
Ralph, Norman and the Guardians were the animated films that really touched me this year. All 3 I felt were excellent in every way you expect an animated film to be. Great films that will entertain both the children and the adults alike. My pick is simply for the one I identified with the most.