This year’s Oscars have one advantage for cinema goers over pervious years. Whereas in the past to view all nominated films required a pretty long list of films, this year, in the feature film categories (excluding the animated and foreign films) only 24 different films have received nominations. By comparison, last year there were the 32 different films, in 2010, 31 and in 2009 32 films again. So at the very least this year the invite list for the awards ceremony will be shorter than in the past.
OK Let’s get to it.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
I’ve covered this category fairly extensively already. Among the list are a number of eminently Oscar worthy and Oscar bait films. Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook look to be the choices. Les Mis was the early favourite, but faltered when the reviews didn’t match the early hype. Normally I’d think Lincoln is the lock, but it really hasn’t won anything in the run up to the awards. Argo getting the SAG Award for best performance by a cast and also winning the BAFTA for Best Pic suggests that it is the one to beat.
Tip to Win: Argo
My pick: Amour
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (2012)
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (2012)
Denzel Washington for Flight (2012/I)
There is no way Day-Lewis will not win this. Put your house on him to become the first actor to win three Best Actor Awards. His performance is as good as everyone hoped it would be when word broke that he had been cast. He will forever be the definitive Lincoln. It seems hard to fathom that early on there were some complaining about the accent he used. He takes the role and even though we know he isn’t Lincoln there does not come through any sense that acting is occurring. A worthy winner in any year.
Except this year.
Joaquim Phoenix’s acting in The Master is extraordinary. He plays a loathsome character who is someone many of us would have encountered – the type of guy who does things that at first are funny but he keeps going to the point of it becoming awkward and unnerving. There is a scene at the start of the film where a bunch of sailors have made a sand castle in the figure of a woman; Phoenix’s character comes along and begins to pretend to pleasure it. The others laugh but then Phoenix keeps going, and the others not only stop laughing but feel the need to look away.
His performance is daring and complex and constantly interesting. It’s also the kind of role I’d like to se Day-Lewis try. After beginning his career with interesting roles he now seems to have settled into the “big showy this will win me Best Actor roles”. I’m not sure once he got the voice of Lincoln whether he needed to do much more work. I can’t conceive however how hard it would have been to stay within the character that Phoenix has to play. A performance for the ages.
Tip to Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
My Pick: Joaquim Phoenix
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (2012)
Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Naomi Watts for The Impossible (2012)
Firstly Wallis should be discounted. Child acting is pretty easy – moreover she has few lines to deliver and mostly just has to scream or pretend to be scared or confused. The only child acting performance I have felt deserved to be considered alongside adults was Anna Paquin in The Piano. For the rest, let them grow up and show us if they can act in a role that requires a bit more than just to be a child.
I would love Naomi Watts to win this. I think she is among the top women actors going round. Always interesting, often brave in her choices. I can’t wait to see what she does playing Diana Princess of Wales in Diana coming out this year – given the role, if she’s any good and the film is half decent, she’ll be a strong favourite this time next year. Her role in The Impossible sees her displaying all her skill. Unfortunately for most of the last half of the film she is unsighted. Were it a Best Actress per minute award I’d give it to her.
Jennifer Lawrence is the favourite, but I can’t give it to her. The role is easy – she gets to play the standard Oscar role friendly character who has emotional issues (heck even a mental illness). Yes she is wonderful in it (almost impossible not to fall in love with), but I think any actress would be because it’s a great chewy actory role.
Jessica Chastain is quickly becoming one of my favourite women actors. I’d like her to win this if only as a bit of a mini career award for her recent work in The Debt, The Help, The Tree of Life and Zero Dark Thirty. Perhaps the best thing about her acting here is she plays a character based on the same CIA agent as that played by Claire Danes in Homeland. Chastain however does it without having to resort to the Claire Danes Cry Face.
In any other year she would get the award were it my choice.
Except this year Emmanuelle Riva played Anne in Amour. A great role acted brilliantly. God she is good. Yes she has to act having a stroke, but it is not done in the “My Left Foot” style where the role is about overcoming physical limitations. At no stage does it seem she is showing off her acting – saying look at me I’m playing someone with a stroke!. She just is a human. Heartbreaking, and honest. Would be great to see her win, but I don’t think she will.
Tip to win: Jennifer Lawrence
My pick: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (2012)
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln (2012)
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012)
Waltz is the best thing in Django Unchained, and I’d be happy for him to win it, but as it comes so close to his award for Inglorious Basterds I doubt it’ll happen. Arkin has little to do except be the comic relief; he’s good but it’s hardly a stretch – and importantly his entire character is a fiction.
De Niro is getting praise, but mostly it is because he is again acting instead of performing self-parody. But how can you give De Niro an award for playing a guy with tics and a compulsion that has him saying lines over and over and then doing the same tic again. That’s so within De Niro’s standard shtick that it hardly counts as acting.
Which leaves Tommy Lee Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’d go for Hoffman over Jones though both are deserving. Hoffman’s is the bigger role, but he is a supporting actor nevertheless. The best thing I can say about Jones’s role is that I wish there had been more of it. And given he is such a sour puss I think the Academy will give it to him just to see if he can crack a smile.
Tip to Win: Tommy Lee Jones
My pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman
This is down to Anne Hathaway or Sally Field. I think if Anne Hathaway loses she will need to display the greatest acting role of her life not to appear disappointed. She is the short priced favourite and has pretty much won everything. If Sally Field wins I think you can lock in Lincoln to win the big prize. But even though Les Mis hasn’t garnered the huge praise that was expected, Hathaway lived up to all the hype and probably went beyond it. The best thing you can say about her portrayal of Fantine is that it will affect those who play the role on stage. Do they now go for the standard big Broadway notes or do they reveal the emotional core and hurt of the song as did Hathaway? No other performance in Les Mis will have any impact on the stage versions, and that I think shows how good hers’ was.
Tip to win: Anne Hathaway
My pick: Anne Hathaway
Best Achievement in Directing
Michael Haneke for Amour (2012)
Ang Lee for Life of Pi (2012)
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (2012)
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Much as I love Amour the directing is not the kind that wins awards. That neither Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow or Paul Thomas Anderson are nominated is a disgrace.
I think Spielberg will win it in a replay of Saving Private Ryan where he gets this award but the film lose the Best Picture gong, but he doesn’t deserve it:
Tip to win: Steven Spielberg
My pick: Paul Thomas Anderson, Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
I haven’t seen Moonrise Kingdom or Flight (am seeing Flight this week). Django Unchained will probably win because the academy loves big dialogue. Amour is a great film. Someone had to write that from nothing. That person was Michael Haneke. He should get it (But where the hell is Paul Thomas Anderson?)
Tip to win: Quentin Tarantino
My pick: Michael Haneke
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Life of Pi probably deserves to win by being the “unfilmable novel”. Lincoln was a bit rote for mine. Argo probably deserves the award for realising the reality was a bit dull and needed spicing up – and bugger the truth! But no – Life of Pi gets it.
Tip to Win: Chris Terrio, Life of Pi
My pick: Chris Terrio, Life of Pi
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Unusually (given I have two young daughters) this year I haven’t seen any of these films, and usually you’d lock in the Pixar film. But Brave didn’t get rapturous reviews.
Tip to Win: Wreck-it-Ralph
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Look I haven’t seen any oft these except Amour, but if you think a film that is also nominated for Best Picture is going to lose this category you’d be quite mistaken.
Tip to win: Amour.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
The standard pick would be Life of Pi – but how much of the amazing visuals is cinematography and how much is special effects? I;m quite surprised Zero Dark Thirty didn’t get a nod, nor Argo, which contained some excellent footage that perfectly gave the impression of old TV footage. That this category is nominated by cinematographers and that they picked Skyfall – and Bond films aren’t normal Oscar fare – I have to think they saw something extra there. And thinking back it was pretty impressive – the scene in the house at the end are really well shot, not to mention the opening bit on the train. Also this is Roger Deakin 9th nomination and he is yet to win. Nine! That’s more nominations than Peter O’Toole has without a win. Give him the damn award!
Tip to win: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
My pick: Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Best Achievement in Editing
Argo (2012): William Goldenberg
Life of Pi (2012): Tim Squyres
Lincoln (2012): Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty (2012): William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor
Take your pick between Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. I think ZD30 gets it – lots of back and forth, lots of narrative to keep under control, and it certainly does that.
Tip to Win: Zero Dark Thirty
My pick: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Achievement in Production Design
Anna Karenina (2012/I): Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright
Les Misérables (2012): Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi (2012): David Gropman, Anna Pinnock
Lincoln (2012): Rick Carter, Jim Erickson
Rule out Life of Pi and The Hobbit due to CGI laden design. Lincoln? Yeah I guess it was all good, but nothing stunning. Les Miserables was good, but the way Hooper shot it in such close up the design was never realyl given much of a show. For mine, Anna Karenina was brilliantly staged. I think it’ll win as well.
Tip to win: Anna Karenina
My pick: Anna Karenina
Best Achievement in Costume Design
I think Snow White wins this for no reason other than I think it has a big wow factor that’ll get it some votes
Tip to Win: Snow White and the Huntsman
Well The Hobbit I guess. Do you really think I watch films and think about the hairstyles?
Tip to Win: The Hobbit
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
None of the scores really grabbed me this year – not like say Trent Reznor’s Hand Covers Bruise from The Social Network did a couple years ago. And there was no jaw dropper/ instantaneously part of culture score like Gustavo Santaolalla’s score for Brokeback Mountain. Skyfall? Meh the work was in the opening song, thereafter nothing really stood out for me. Lincoln? John Williams’ score was nothing special. Argo’s score mostly kept out of the way – it fitted with the film and did it’s job well – and perhaps that is the mark of a good score? The music in Anna Karenina by contrast was noticeable – but given the movie includes trips to the opera and many dances, that is no surprise. It gets my runners-up prize. The best one for me was Life of Pi, and I think it’ll win it as well.
Tip to Win: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Chasing Ice (2012): J. Ralph("Before My Time")
Les Misérables (2012): Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer("Suddenly")
Life of Pi (2012): Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree("Pi’s Lullaby")
Skyfall (2012): Adele, Paul Epworth("Skyfall")
Ted (2012): Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane("Everybody Needs a Best Friend")
If Adel doesn’t win this then you will know that someone time tomorrow the world has ended. And seriously, it deserves to win as well. Try and hum any of the rest (and surely the Thunder song from Ted must have been a chance??!)
Tip to win: Skyfall
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Argo (2012): John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, José Antonio García
Les Misérables (2012): Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes
Life of Pi (2012): Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Drew Kunin
Lincoln (2012): Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ron Judkins
Skyfall (2012): Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson
Combining live singing and cannon fire? I think Les Mis gets this
Tip to Win: Les Miserables
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Argo (2012): Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained (2012): Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi (2012): Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton
Skyfall (2012): Per Hallberg, Karen M. Baker
Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Paul N.J. Ottosson
I liked the sound effects editing in the final part of Zero Dark Thirty mostly because the gunfire didn’t sound like movie gun fire. It was actually understated. So I’ll go with that.
Tip to win: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
The Avengers (2012): Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
Life of Pi (2012): Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott
Prometheus (2012/I): Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson
The tiger. Seriously. That’s all you need know.
Tip to Win: Life of Pi
The rest I must admit I haven’t seen so I won’t bother even guessing. Though I did see. The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare (2012), and I think that is the best thing The Simpsons have been involved with for about 15 years, so I’ll give it the win.
Anyhoo, enjoy the red carpet, enjoy the speeches (remember the caveat – those actors who first acted on stage always give the best speeches – which alas is why this year’s speeches will no doubt be dire)