Today’s blog is not about Mexico. Nor is it about the series of events that led to my moving to Mexico. Before I fell in love with travel, I fell in love with movies – since I was a child, actually – and although I don’t obsess about them to the degree I once did, they still provide much enjoyment in my life – especially when I’m not traveling.
Oscar season is a particularly fun time of year for me. I always enjoy predicting the nominees before they are announced, reacting to them when they are (well, not at 5:30 am when they’re read off, but later that same day), and watching the big show, typically the only night of television that – at least in the U.S. – rivals the Super Bowl as the year’s most-watched broadcast.
In years past, my conversations about the predicted nominees were limited to a few seconds of office water cooler chit-chat, and a couple hours’ worth of internet movie message board postings. I always made it a point to see as many of the nominated movies as possible, so most of my moving-going friends simply couldn’t keep up. I’m a bit behind this year, as some movies released in the last months of 2012 still haven’t opened here (Les Miserables, for example, doesn’t open until February 15th). Still, I’ve seen two-thirds of the contenders, and the amateur critic in me has come up with my own “wish list” of nominees.
Never fear, I won’t share the full list with you, but I will comment in the paragraphs below about whom I predict the likely nominees to be, with just a bit of commentary and a bit of wishful thinking as well. The nominees are announced tomorrow, January 10th, and I’ll make a shorter, follow-up blog that day with my reactions. For now…my predictions! These guesses are mine and mine alone. Happy reading!
Argo, Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty are sure things. I practically called it for Argo when it opened three months ago – and I wasn’t the only one to do so – but its buzz has since waned a bit, particularly after Steven Spielberg’s better-than-expected Lincoln opened to rave reviews (“A” grades across the board) and strong box office. That said, Argo will still make the cut, especially since many believe that Argo director Ben Affleck’s last film, The Town, was snubbed in the top categories just two years prior. Les Miserables may be the only film to earn more nominations than Lincoln, with perhaps half falling in the technical categories. I’m including Zero Dark Thirty as a sure thing also, as the critics seem to adore it. The fact that its source material is apparently shrouded in mystery and top secrecy will probably keep it from winning the top prize, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t seen it yet, but methinks Zero Dark Thirty is more for the critics than for mass audiences…just like ZDT director Kathryn Bigelow’s last movie, The Hurt Locker…which just so happened to trump a little film called Avatar on Oscar night. She’s in, and so is her movie.
Academy rules state that there can be as few as five or as many as ten Best Picture nominees. 2012 was a strong year for movies, and I’m thinking tomorrow will see a full slate of ten nominees. They could also include Life of Pi, Django Unchained (both of which have divided critics but have been well-received by audiences), The Sessions (too slight, so probably not), The Impossible (too heavy), Austria’s Amour (too, well, foreign), Moonrise Kingdom (which – though it would make the first-ever Best Picture nomination for long-revered writer-director Wes Anderson – will probably have to settle for a Best Original Screenplay nod instead), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Master, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s supposed dissection of the early days of Scientology (it’s not really about that at all), and/or Silver Linings Playbook (driven by “it” celebs Bradley “The Hangover” Cooper and Jennifer “The Hunger Games” Lawrence, who knew?) Mega-mainstream cinema will surely be represented by one of the following films: The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, or Skyfall. My gut says it’ll be Skyfall, which nearly everyone proclaims as the second coming of James Bond. In a just world, The Avengers would earn a nod, as it’s better than all three of the others I just mentioned. Seriously, it’s an epic adventure with big themes, larger-than-life characters, and better pacing than TDKR…not to mention that it’s just so much fun! But as it goes with comic book movies and the Academy Awards, always a bridesmaid, never a bride….
This category is fairly easy to predict. Ben Affleck for Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln in spots 1-4, with Ang Lee (Life of Pi), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) duking it out for the last slot. I’ll give Ang Lee the edge. Whichever one squeaks by, that means no love for Peter Jackson, even though The Hobbit is no less impressive a directorial feat than his beloved LOTR trilogy, and certainly no love…not even a handy, for the Cloud Atlas trifecta of Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski. I really expected their ambitious – albeit polarizing – multi-generational sci-fi drama to perform better than it did both critically and commercially. Seriously, drop everything and go see Cloud Atlas (after you finish reading this blog, that is).
Again, this category is fairly easy to predict, and its pre-ordained winner even more so. Alphabetically: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, John Hawkes for The Sessions, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, and Denzel Washington for Flight. On the radar for all of five minutes (and now not even wild cards) were Anthony Hopkins for Hitchcock and Richard Gere for Arbitrage. Can you believe Gere’s never been nominated?! As good as he was in this indie, playing an unscrupulous Wall Street type that you can’t help but root for anyway, 2013 won’t be his year either. Bradley Cooper could sneak in there (for Silver Linings Playbook), but he has no chance of ousting Daniel Day-Lewis or Hugh Jackman. He could trump Joaquin Phoenix perhaps, and that would really be too bad. Joaquin’s performance as a twitchy, high strung sex pervert and substance abuser is truly one for the ages, and probably the best performance by a male actor since Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. He’s that good. Too bad I can’t say the same thing about his movie, a wannabe-daring film that has a few intense scenes yet never quite reaches the high notes, despite an amazing cast’s best efforts. The Master is one very frustrating film in which the whole does not equal the sum of its parts.
Will it be Jessica Chastain for her role as a driven CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty or will it be Jennifer Lawrence for her work as an angry young widow in Silver Linings Playbook? I can’t say – and I haven’t seen either film – but early Vegas odds list them as the front-runners. Both are ingénues and prior nominees, but then so is Naomi Watts, so good as a wounded tsunami survivor in The Impossible. That leaves four others competing for two slots – and two of the competitors are from France: 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (playing a woman of deteriorating health in Amour) and past winner Marion Cotillard (playing a double-amputee in Rust and Bone). The last two competitors are equally interesting: ageless cougar (and past winner) Helen Mirren, playing the famous director’s wife in Hitchcock, and nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis as a resilient Hurricane Katrina orphan in the wonderful Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’m betting on Riva and Wallis…and I’m rooting for Wallis all the way.
Best Supporting Actor
As is usually the case, this is one category in which five slots is just not enough, not even by half. This year’s contenders are a motley bunch that includes several newcomers and even more veterans. Alan Arkin (Argo’s comic relief), Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook’s comic relief) Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln’s comic relief), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master’s creepy religious mentor) Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained’s “heart” – a word not often used to describe Tarantino characters), Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained’s menace), and Javier Bardem (Skyfall’s provocative Bond villain) are the veterans. Jason Clarke (playing Zero Dark Thirty’s most controversial character), Dwight Henry (a loving – but irresponsible – father in Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland (playing father and son in The Impossible), and Eddie Redmayne (Marius in Les Miserables), are the newcomers. Seven of them must go, and I’m betting Arkin, DeNiro, Hoffman, Jones, and Clarke will be the ones who stay. Hey, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Not really in contention for the category but on many people’s wish list for a nomination is Tom Hiddleston for his devilish turn as Loki in The Avengers; I’m not quite as enthused as you lot. He was great fun to watch – and was the best out of a generally-strong cast – but he gave a better performance playing the same role in 2011’s Thor. The two people whom I’m sore about not being in contention are Michael Fassbender (the android David in Prometheus) and, not for the first time, Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Hobbit). Fassbender’s hypnotic performance was the best thing about Ridley Scott’s very strange Alien prequel. Likewise, Serkis’s memorable voice work as Gollum was easily The Hobbit’s high spot. And frankly, this is the Academy’s last chance to recognize how fully Serkis inhabited his character – and his motion-capture suit. I told you this was a crowded category. It usually is.
Best Supporting Actress
If you know anything about this year’s Oscars, it’s that Anne Hathaway had better clear space on her mantel for the Best Supporting Actress trophy she’s about to receive for her role as Fantine in Les Miserables. I haven’t seen the film yet but am told she earns that Oscar with just one signature number, “I Dreamed a Dream.” If that’s not enough, she shaves her head onscreen and has been one of Hollywood’s “it” girls ever since Brokeback Mountain came out in 2004…and that was a long time ago. Then again, Sally Field has a small-ish chance at pulling an upset for her work as Mary Todd Lincoln in – duh – Lincoln. Lead Daniel Day-Lewis and director Steven Spielberg both have strong chances at winning their third Oscars for the biopic; momentum could carry Field forward to her third statuette as well. It’ll certainly garner her a nomination. Frankly, she hasn’t been this good – or as restrained – in years. Expect Amy Adams to get her fourth nomination in this category for The Master, Judi Dench her fifth overall nomination (third in this category) for portraying “M” in Skyfall, and Helen Hunt her first in this category (second overall) for her very revealing role in The Sessions. Yowsers!
I mean no disrespect to any of these aforementioned ladies, but in contrast to Best Supporting Actor, the Best Supporting Actress category had rather slim pickings this year. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing newcomer Kelly Reilly earn a nod as Denzel Washington’s support system in Flight, though I’m not expecting it, either. Standing head and shoulders above everyone else in this category, however (figuratively speaking, as she’s quite short) – and in my opinion – is Doona Bae for Cloud Atlas. Though famous in her native South Korea, she is unknown in the U.S. Her performance as Sonmi~451, a clone from the future who discovers that everything she’s been “programmed” to believe is a lie, makes for one of the greatest character arcs in cinema this year. She’s terrific…and sure to be overlooked, like the rest of the film in general.
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
I’m combining these categories for the sake of length (too late!), and also because I’m not always sure which films are based on material previously written. Sure to be nominated regardless are the screenplays for Argo, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Master (though that last one shouldn’t be). Rian Johnson’s one-of-a-kind Looper screenplay is a bit of a long shot, but a welcome one, and I’d love to see Zoe Kazan get recognized for Ruby Sparks, the freshest romantic comedy in ages. I’m sure that’s wishful thinking, however, so I’ll settle for Moonrise Kingdom, another unconventional romantic comedy. Its chances are good.
Interesting side note: In 2009, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds screenplay went up against Mark Boal’s screenplay for The Hurt Locker in one of these categories, and the latter trumped the former. Color me shocked at the time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this year. Methinks Tarantino – whom I revere as a writer but who should sometimes listen more than he should talk – won the only Oscar he’s ever going to win with 1994’s Pulp Fiction.
Best Foreign Film
I can only recall four foreign films from 2012, and two of them are from France, so that means one is out (each country can submit just one film for contention in this particular category). I expect Austria’s Amour to face off against France’s The Intouchables. Also likely to get nominated is Denmark’s costume drama A Royal Affair. If you’re wondering, the other French film I was thinking of was the dark, gritty Rust and Bone, but I’ve read that France chose to submit the feel-good international smash The Intouchables instead. Probably a smart move on their part.
Best Animated Feature
This is a fun category, though ironically its existence also reduces the chances that any animated film will ever win Best Picture. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) likely came closer to accomplishing such a feat than any film since then. I’m going simply with my gut here and guessing that Wreck-it-Ralph will earn a nomination – and a slight lead over – Pixar’s Brave. There can be as many as five nominees in this category, but I don’t have any guesses on who will get the other three potential slots. Frankenweenie?
Are you still reading? There are too many categories to list here, so I’ll simply generalize that the films likely to score nominations in at least a couple of these areas include Les Miserables (Sound Mixing, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design), Anna Karenina, (Cinematography, Production Design), Zero Dark Thirty (both Sound categories), Lincoln (Original Score, Costume Design, Cinematography), Skyfall (both Sound categories), The Master (Cinematography), The Hobbit (Visual Effects, Makeup & Hairstyling), and Life of Pi (Visual Effects).
What do you think?
I’m just an amateur film critic and a novice blogger. That said, I moved to LA in 2000 with a couple of (horrible) screenplays under my belt, and my love of movies – as well as the internal knowledge of what was good and bad about my own writing – has kept me watching what Hollywood, Bollywood, and Pinewood put out year after year after year. I rather enjoy the Academy Awards ceremony that follows each February or March. Some worthy movie or great performance almost always gets snubbed – and not every winner stands the test of time – but it’s a fun event nonetheless. I doubt one of my own screenplays will ever get me a personal invitation to the Big Night – especially since most of them are gathering dust in a pile whilst I travel the world instead – but that doesn’t stop me from pretending I kinda know what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going to choose.
Do you know? Thursday morning, we’ll find out how right or wrong we were.