A walk through the 2013 Oscar nominations
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
The time when the various countries of the Commonwealth complain about perceived Oscar snubs (according to a brief perusal of the online tabloids this morning, Australia: not so snubbed! England: snubbed to buggery!)! The time when people take out blisteringly embarrassing "CONSIDER..." ads in the trades! And the time when we gather around the laptop's warm glowing warming glow to discuss just who deserved and didn't deserve their nominations.
So, let's take a look at the major nominees, and offer some thoughts on each batch.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
* Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"
* Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"
* Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
* Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
* Denzel Washington in "Flight"
Hard to argue with this bunch. Jamie Foxx's Django work is a noted omission (especially in light of his co-star Christoph Waltz's supporting nom, see below), as is Affleck in Argo. I was hoping Channing Tatum might get a nod for Magic Mike, since Oscar likes to go out on a limb sometimes, but it was really a fool's hope. Who'll win it? Probably Day-Lewis, though Cooper and Phoenix would deserve it equally, but his is one of the rare cases where the shoo-in winner's paperweight is warranted: his Lincoln really was one of the year's most beautiful performances.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
* Alan Arkin in "Argo"
* Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"
* Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master"
* Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
* Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"
Again, this is a fine spread. Picking just Jones from the smorgasbord of supporting talent in Lincoln was a good bet (though David Strathairn was just as fine), and De Niro was heaven as Bradley Cooper's OCD father in Silver Linings. Waltz's Django performance was divine, as usual, and I'm glad he scored the Supporting nod and not his showier castmember, Leonardo Di Caprio, whose Calvin Candie left me cold (and not just because he was a sociopathic racist). This lot's winner, as is generally the case with the Supporting brackets, is anyone's guess.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
* Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
* Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"
* Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"
* Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
* Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"
Here's the group that has the entertainment journos losing their minds: at 9 years old (5 when the movie was shot), Wallis is the youngest ever Best Actress nominee, while Riva, 85, is the oldest. Acting nods from Best Foreign Picture nominees' casts are rarely more than acts of diplomacy, as are (with obvious exceptions being Tatum O'Neill for Paper Moon and Anna Paquin for The Piano) super-young nominees, and I wonder whether enough people have seen The Impossible - though Oscar loves a true story - so it comes down to Chastain and Lawrence. Given the unease about Zero Dark Thirty's seeming "pro-torture", even though Chastain is terrific, I think Lawrence has it in the bag. Even though it was ostensibly Cooper's starring vehicle, she made Silver Linings shine.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
* Amy Adams in "The Master"
* Sally Field in "Lincoln"
* Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables"
* Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"
* Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"
Surprising to see Hunt, who was exquisite in The Sessions, considered "Supporting", but the Academy works in strange and mysterious ways. Supporting Actress has been taken out by musicals before (Catherine Zeta Jones for Chicago, for example), so don't discount Hathaway's two-squares-of-oatmeal-paste Big Time Emotionality. In reality, I think this one will be a fight to the death between Field and Weaver: both were fantastic, and both held their own in the face of Major Acting from their male co-stars (Day Lewis and De Niro respectively).
Best animated feature film of the year
* "Brave" Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
* "Frankenweenie" Tim Burton
* "ParaNorman" Sam Fell and Chris Butler
* "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" Peter Lord
* "Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore
It should be Wreck-It Ralph, which was for Gen Xers and long-time gamers what Toy Story was for baby boomers, but Brave - despite a weak plot and curiously childish humour - looks so beautiful, with its Miyazaki-inspired forest sprites and "mum-bear", will probably snatch glory for Pixar from its stablemate Disney Animation. Then again, there's a lot of love for ParaNorman. OMG who knows!!
Achievement in cinematography
* "Anna Karenina" Seamus McGarvey
* "Django Unchained" Robert Richardson
* "Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda
* "Lincoln" Janusz Kaminski
* "Skyfall" Roger Deakins
Life Of Pi, despite its heavy use of CGI, is in with a chance here; remember that cinematography still counts even if the things being photographed don't exist (Avatar won it), but I'm inclined to think that Janusz Kaminski's downbeat beauty will just edge ahead of Roger Deakins' work in Skyfall, which only really comes into its own once Bond and M reach the titular estate in the final act. I'm beginning to think the Academy has it in for Joe Wright, so that leaves Anna out of the running, despite looking like a painting come to life (what Seamus McGarvey should have been nominated for was his astounding work on We Need To Talk About Kevin, last year, which I am still steaming about). Django looks fantastic but like so much of Tarantino's work, is arguably pastichey in its approach, which may colour the Academy's decision.
Achievement in costume design
* "Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran
* "Les Misérables" Paco Delgado
* "Lincoln" Joanna Johnston
* "Mirror Mirror" Eiko Ishioka
* "Snow White and the Huntsman" Colleen Atwood
It would be bittersweet were Ishioka to win, as she died last year of pancreatic cancer, but unless the Academy is feeling especially sentimental (and I'm not), Mirror Mirror wasn't her finest hour, and she won for Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992. Jacqueline Durran's work in Anna goes beyond mere period slavishness, as she melded Dior's New Look bodices with period-appropriate crinolines; if the emphasis here is to be on design itself, then it should be a race between Durran and multiple-winner Colleen Atwood, whose Snow White costumes were truly astounding.
* "Argo" Screenplay by Chris Terrio
* "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
* "Life of Pi" Screenplay by David Magee
* "Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner
* "Silver Linings Playbook" Screenplay by David O. Russell
It should be Kushner, given the richness he was able to create for Lincoln with so little recorded dialogue (recorded on paper, dummies) to rely on. Russell would be another worthy winner. The Academy doesn't think much of adaptations of things nobody's seen or read, so that discounts Beasts.
* "Amour" Written by Michael Haneke
* "Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino
* "Flight" Written by John Gatins
* "Moonrise Kingdom" Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
* "Zero Dark Thirty" Written by Mark Boal
Achievement in directing
* "Amour" Michael Haneke
* "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Benh Zeitlin
* "Life of Pi" Ang Lee
* "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg
* "Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell
This is anyone's guess. Interesting ("interesting") to see Kathryn Bigelow didn't make it through for Zero Dark, which I thought was far more tightly directed than The Hurt Locker. It would be nice to see Zeitlin awarded, if only for sheer chutzpah, but a truly pleasing result would be either Russell for the controlled hysteria of Silver Linings, or Haneke for the uncompromising Amour (which is more likely to take out Foreign Film). Then again, it's easy to dismiss Spielberg's achievement with Lincoln simply because it seems like the obvious choice; that was a big cast of BIG actors he wrangled, which is no mean feat.
Best motion picture of the year
* "Amour" Nominees to be determined
* "Argo" Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
* "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
* "Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
* "Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
* "Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
* "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
* "Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
* "Zero Dark Thirty" Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers
Ever since the Academy expanded this field from five to eleventy million, I've lost interest in its seriousness as an accolade (particularly given this is the one where the producers really go gangbusters on the schmoozing). So really, this shitfight is probably decided by tossing a coin. Which picture deserves it, though? I'd go for Django, Amour, Lincoln, Silver Linings or Zero Dark Thirty. Which, whaddya know, is five nominees, just like the olden days!
* * *
You can read the rest of the field here and get into the nitty gritty of the technical (my money's on a split between Skyfall and The Hobbit), short and documentary nominations.