Thursday, February 14, 2013

COULD THIS BE THE MOST EXCITING OSCAR CONTEST IN YEARS?


I think it could be. Why? Believe it or not, that snubbing director’s branch of the Academy might have thrown the whole ball of wax into turmoil when they failed to recognize Ben Affleck for his direction of ARGO. And they likely turned his film from a strong contender into a certain winner.
Original caricature "The Year in Movies 2012" by Jeff York (copyright 2013)
ARGO, along with LINCOLN, ZERO DARK THIRTY, and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK seemed to be the four frontrunners before the nominations were announced back in January. But a lot has happened since then. Not only did the Academy’s director members overlook Affleck but unwittingly, the slight seems to have had the effect of inspiring other guilds and critics to correct the Oscar error and honor both the actor/director and his film repeatedly. ARGO has now taken Best Picture and Best Director at the Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics, the BAFTAS, and it won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards too. All in just the past four weeks. ARGO triumphed with the Producers Guild Awards and the Directors Guild Awards as well.

So all those victories mean that now ARGO is the absolute  frontrunner. And that’s extraordinary since nobody thought the film had a shot when Affleck missed getting that director’s nod from the Academy. In fact, ARGO now looks like it might be the best bet of the night come Oscar time on February 24th. There are a few other certain locks in addition that evening, but there are many more contests that are anyone's guess. 

I still think that Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway look pretty unbeatable. And it will be history-making if Day-Lewis wins because he’d be the only three-time Best Actor winner in Oscar history. There are a few other awards that are as easy to predict, but so many other categories can go so many ways this year. It's easily the most up for grabs Oscars in years. 

And that’s probably a good thing. It will certainly make the ceremony more interesting. Hell, even suspenseful! And it will give you, my faithful followers, a better chance to beat me in The Establishing Shot's Oscar pool. So, without any further ado, let’s make some predictions, shall we?

BEST PICTURE – ARGO
I think it should be LINCOLN, but ARGO undoubtedly has all the momentum as previously discussed.

BEST DIRECTOR – STEVEN SPIELBERG
With Affleck out of the race, it seems to boil down to a contest between Spielberg and Ang Lee. Many think underdog Ang Lee will take it because Spielberg already is the king of Hollywood, but I think the Academy will ultimately recognize the impressive directorial achievement that LINCOLN is. Spielberg is a technical master no doubt, but his work with all those actors in the movie was something special.


BEST ACTOR – DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
If DDL doesn’t win, it will be the greatest upset since CRASH took Best Picture instead of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. It would be a tragedy too since Day-Lewis gives a towering performance that is one for the ages.


BEST ACTRESS – JENNIFER LAWRENCE
She seems to have the edge right now with all the torture controversy that has dragged down ZERO DARK THIRTY and in turn, Jessica Chastain’s terrific performance, doesn't she? Some think AMOUR's Emaunelle Riva, the oldest Best Actress nominee ever at 85, is closing in fast on Lawrence, but I'm not as sure. I don't think enough people will have seen AMOUR to vote for Riva. Still, that possibility would make for an extraordinary spoiler. But if you saw Lawrence's interview with David Letterman a few weeks back, wouldn’t you want to see that funny girl give an Oscar acceptance speech? I know I would. (If you missed J-Law's appearance with Dave, you can view it here http://bit.ly/Xwxsx3

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – TOMMY LEE JONES
This category is an utter toss-up.  It's anybody's game. Christoph Waltz just won at BAFTA and he won the Golden Globe too. Alan Arkin is awesome playing a heroic Hollywood producer which has to be catnip for a lot of Oscar voters. And let's face it, Robert DeNiro is way overdue having not won since RAGING BULL in 1980. But isn’t Philip Seymour Hoffman’s accomplishment really the one we should be crowing about? I think so, but so many things affect an Oscar win, not just the performance. Because of that, I’m predicting Tommy Lee Jones because he just got the SAG award, and actors make up the largest wing of the Academy too. But this category is going to be a real nail-biter that Sunday night.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – ANNE HATHAWAY
Despite the backlash and satirical videos (http://bit.ly/VucMrr), Annie should be able to prevent the tigers from coming at night and turning her dream to shame.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – DJANGO UNCHAINED
Many are predicting Michael Haneke for AMOUR, but will sound guys vote for a small, foreign language film over such a big hit as Tarantino’s latest? I doubt it, so I predict Q will win his second Oscar for the very ‘writerly’ script he crafted that is DJANGO UNCHAINED.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – LINCOLN
If the time for LINCOLN came and went, then writer Tony Kushner is in trouble. But I think because he’s a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, he has a prestigious edge over the other nominees.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – LIFE OF PI
This category could go a number of ways. Do the voters honor the dark moodiness of LINCOLN? The lushness of ANNA KARENINA? How about the legendary Roger Deakins who's never won an Oscar? He made something quite gorgeous out of the latest Bond thriller SKYFALL. (And he just won the BAFTA for it too.) It's a tricky category this year, but I think LIFE OF PI might have the edge. Every shot in this masterpiece was stunning. And that should be easy to see, even for the novices. 

BEST EDITING – ARGO
Again, a number of nominees here could take it. I think that LIFE OF PI and ZERO DARK THIRTY could easily win, but I'm predicting ARGO. (It can't just win Best Picture, right?) It stands to reason that part of the reason ARGO was so effective was due to its nail-biting tension which its crackerjack editing had a lot to do with. So ARGO it is.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – LIFE OF PI
John Williams is a legend and could score his 6th Oscar for LINCOLN. On the other hand, Mychael Danna’s score for LIFE OF PI was big and dramatic. And Thomas Newman is long overdue, plus he just won the BAFTA for his work on SKYFALL. And isn't it about time Alexandre Desplat got some Academy love too? Could his score for ARGO prevail here as part of a sweep? Maybe, but I think I'll go with the movie where the music was most notable. That's probably how the average voter regards categories such as this. They don't appreciate all the nuances, but they know what they like. And hear. And LIFE OF PI's music was more essential with so little dialogue throughout the journey at sea.

BEST SONG – SKYFALL
In a category that is usually an utter embarrassment, how can the Academy voters not give it to a good song from a movie that is a global phenomenon and happens to be sung and penned by the international superstar Adele? The answer is they can't. This is an easy one to predict. Almost as much of a lock as Hathaway.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – AMOUR
If a foreign film ends up making the list of Best Picture nominees, how can it not win the foreign language category? It can’t.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – WRECK-IT RALPH
I would love to see FRANKENWEENIE prevail in this category, but alas, the Annie Award went to the big hit Disney pic. They’re both terrific films, but I suspect Ralph will wreck the poor pooch’s chances.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – LES MISERABLES
Again, what sets and locations will the average voter notice and thus vote for? Perhaps a period piece with gigantic Parisian ones, with a huge ship canal and a lumbering barricade? Certainement!


BEST COSTUME DESIGN – ANNA KARENINA
Everyone in the Academy votes for the final ballot so that means the movie with the most costumes or most obvious costumes usually wins. Thus, this Keira Knightley period piece should win for its exquisite Russian pageantry. 

BEST SOUND EDITING – ZERO DARK THIRTY
Sound categories are hard to call. How much do the voters know about the nuance of sound? Arguably, very little. And what's the difference between the sound in ZERO DARK THIRTY versus things like SKYFALL or DJANGO UNCHAINED? I think that most Academy members equate sound editing with complicated location shoots or action sequences that require real sound effects mixed with those created in a studio. Hence, a film like ZERO DARK THIRTY probably has an edge. The final half hour of sound during the Bin Laden compound raid was an amazing mix of location recording, sound design and Alexandre Desplat's sparse but eerily synthesized music.

BEST SOUND MIXING – LES MISERABLES
This category is a little easier to predict due to all the press that  director Tom Hooper and his sound team received for recording the actors singing live throughout LES MISERABLES. I wish they would have auto-tuned the straining Russell Crowe a bit in post, but nonetheless, the movie's recording achievements are still significant and will likely be rewarded.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING – THE HOBBIT
My guess is that all those snaggle-toothed dwarfs with their grungy beards and putty noses will eclipse Anne Hathaway’s spotty hooker complexion and lost teeth. (I'm catty, but still not as mean as Rex Reed!)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – THE LIFE OF PI
This shot from LIFE OF PI of the tiger Richard Parker is not real. It's a CGI effect. In fact, all the animals in this movie were CGI creations. It will win for that, and richly deserve to.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – PAPERMAN
Don’t be surprised if ADAM AND DOG wins here, but I think the Disney charmer PAPERMAN may have a slight edge due to its optimistic and lyrical romanticism.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – CURFEW
This one is the most accessible of an intense lot of very dark live action shorts this year, and that should get it more Oscar votes than the others. They're all special though, and I could see any of them being called.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – OPEN HEART
OPEN HEART is about Rwandan children getting much needed open-heart surgery as part of a humanitarian mission. It’s all very inspirational and incredibly moving. That should tug at the (ahem!) heartstrings of the Academy. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
This film about looking for a long lost rock star has won a dozen awards throughout the festival circuit and awards season, including a special jury prize and audience award at Sundance just last month. It seems to have the most momentum so that's my pick.

Those are my predictions. What are yours? Share your picks and if yours best mine, you'll win the prize of an original caricature of your favorite actor or actress done by yours truly. Oh, and in case there’s a tie, what film will win the most Oscars, and how many?

Remember, the Oscars are Sunday, February 24th.  And you have until the 23rd to enter my contest here. I am looking forward to this year's show like few in the past. And I hope that Seth Macfarlane rocks the house. (I think he will.) And remember, if ARGO wins, Ben Affleck will get an Oscar. Not for directing the film but for producing it. Something tells me Ben’s going to have a very good night. (And then he gets to go home with Jennifer Garner too. Some guys have all the luck.)

2 comments:

  1. I dunno. I am torn between Argo and Beasts of the Southern Wild for Best Picture.

    And that little girl? Amazing little actress.

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  2. Bart, I think that this year's list as so many worthy nominees and nothing embarrassing in the Best Picture category? So...are you going to predict the winners?

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