Saturday, February 23, 2013


My mom has hosted an Academy Awards party nearly every year since 1968, and during that 45-year period, I doubt that I've missed more than three or four of them.  I still miss the days when the Oscar telecast was in late March or early April - I always connected the show with the start of spring, and as a harbinger of warmer weather.  Having said that, there's also something to be said for getting the awards season out of the way before March Madness begins.

We always have a contest, and we always require every participant to make a selection in every category - regardless of how many of the nominated movies they've seen that year.

This year I saw more of the nominees than any other year in recent memory, thanks in large part to a son (#2) who was determined that we hit the major contenders during his holiday break from college.  Last week we (wife and I) saw "Life of Pi," completing our Oscar cycle for 2012-13.  In my book, this was an excellent year, and there are no sore spots for me in the list of major nominees.  And this was a very interesting year in the realm of Oscar buzz, and let's just say that it's a good thing I didn't forge my predictions in stone when the nominations were first announced in early January.  So, without further ado...

Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

I saw all of these except "Amour," and liked them all, but some much more than others.  There's little doubt in my mind that the best movie on this list is "Zero Dark Thirty," but given the snub of Director Kathryn Bigelow and the (ridiculous, in my view) controversy over the movie's depiction of torture, zero would also seem to be the best word to describe its chances of winning.  When the nominees were announced, I would have chosen "Lincoln," but that was before the momentum shifted to "Argo," despite (and in this case, perhaps because of) the snub of Ben Affleck in the Best Director category.  Plus, "Argo" and Affleck have won everything in sight since the Golden Globes.  And Affleck's story, going from ridiculed has-been actor to universally admired director, is hard to resist.  There's no reason to think that the "Argo" trend will change here.

And the winner is:  Argo

Best Director

Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlen,  Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Thanks to the two most prominent snubs in recent memory, this is a really interesting category.  Again, when the nominations first came out, I was prepared to vote for a "Lincoln" sweep, but in its own inimitable way, the Academy seems to have decided that it is the film that needs to be punished for the snub of Ben Affleck.  It doesn't really make any sense, but that's what seems to be happening.  So while Spielberg could win, and in my book he would be a worthy winner, I don't think he will - and there will almost certainly be at least three cameras pointed directly at him to capture his reaction.

And the winner is:  Ang Lee

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

I haven't seen "Flight" or "The Master," but I don't think that matters one bit.  Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as our 16th President is truly extraordinary, one that will be remembered for as long as people are going to the movies.  No contest here.

And the winner is: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quenzhenane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Although an upset is possible - the Academy has done stranger things than to vote for Riva - the deserved favorite here is Jennifer Lawrence, who in a very short time has established herself as one of the great actors of our generation.  She was great in the sometimes silly "Hunger Games," and even better in the harrowing "Winter's Bone."  But this is her best role yet, and as good as Bradley Cooper was in "Silver Linings Playbook" (and he was surprisingly good), when the two were together onscreen, there was little doubt about which of them had the greater presence and charisma.

And the winner is: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

You just never know with these supporting categories.  I could easily see any of these actors winning - they're all pantheon level actors, and they've all won one before.  Arkin was funny in his role, but I kinda wish they've gone with Leonardo DiCaprio for his startling turn as an evil plantation owner in "Django Unchained."  This one is anyone's ballgame.

And the winner is: Tommy Lee Jones

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

On the other hand, this is probably the easiest pick of the night.  Anne Hathaway is as big a lock as there can be, although her big scene left me strangely unmoved.  In fact, I think she was better in, and should have been nominated for, "The Dark Knight Rises."

And the winner is: Anne Hathaway

My other picks:

Original Screenplay: Amour
Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln
Foreign Language Film: Amour
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Documentary Short: Open Heart
Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Animated Short: Head Over Heels
Live Action Short: Curfew
Editing: Argo
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Makeup: The Hobbit
Score: Life of Pi
Song: "Skyfall"
Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Have fun!

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