It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

…well it is if  you’re as addicted to film and film culture as I am. It’s the SUPER BOWL of Cinema! It’s the Oscars!

As I stated a few days ago, I do believe that there are a few certainties for the 85th Annual Academy Awards set to take place this Sunday February 24. Chief among them, Daniel Day Lewis’ win for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway’s win for Best Supporting Actress.  But that means that there are a few of the major categories still up for grabs.  That’s kind of refreshing, considering how quickly the contenders are singled out and whittled down and put into groups with labels like “front runner” or “not a prayer” etc.

Consider how many movies are released throughout the year.  A movie is declared to be “awards worthy” or in “awards contention” by the studio when it is given a coveted year end release date.  The fact that Argo has emerged as the clear front runner for Best Picture, a film released in early October, is almost as much an anomaly as the 2010 winner, Hurt Locker, was when it was released in June of 2009.

Speaking of The Hurt Locker, when the nominations were announced for The Oscars – you’ll notice that AMPAS is not calling them The Academy Awards this year, as well as downplaying the fact that it is the 85th anniversary of the awards – way back on January 10, my jaw literally dropped when that film’s director as well as the first woman to win Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow‘s name was NOT read as a nominee. That pretty much slammed the lid, in my humble opinion, on Zero Dark Thirty‘s chances for Best Picture, despite the fact that it was nominated and had, up until that point, been dominating critics awards. I think either Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) or Michael Hanneke (Amour), both ineligible for the Directors Guild, got Bigelow’s nomination.

They snaked Ben Affleck‘s, for Argo, as well.  Bigelow had been taking those same critics awards for director until Affleck took the big one, the Critics Choice. Since then, as we all know by now, it’s been all Affleck – all the time. What the hell were Academy members thinking? It will be interesting to see how Best Director plays out. The pundits are still scratching their heads. Some are going with Spielberg by default, others Ang Lee. I’m going with David O. Russell. Oddly enough, if Lee wins he’ll have his 2nd Oscar for directing without his film winning Best Picture, as he did in 2006 when he won for Brokeback Mountain but Paul Haggis’ Crash took Best Picture. (But that’s another story.)

The Best Picture list was capped at nine. I’m not at all surprised that the overrated Amour was nominated in nearly every category for which it was eligible. It reinforces the idea that the Academy is comprised of geriatrics with nothing else to do. (Which makes all of this courting of the youth market a tad ironic.) The only film I was surprised not to see on the list was Anna Karenina, but it was recognized in the artistic categories that I predicted it would be.  Lincoln is, of course, the film with the most nods, at twelve. I’m holding in another rant, but as I’ve said before, it doesn’t make any damn sense, having as many as ten Best Picture nominees, but only five directors. Argo will (and seriously, if a movie wins the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Picture is in the bag) become only the fourth film to win without its director having been nominated.

It is important to remember that this is a predictions post. I predict Argo will win although my personal first choice would be Zero Dark Thirty. Argo would still be my second choice and under the Academy voting rules, that would, if I had an actual say, give it a very good chance.

The way it works is known as “Instant Runoff Voting”. It starts by asking each voter, “Of these nine Best Picture nominees, which is your favorite?”

Voters are asked to rank each of the nine from 1st to last. All of the films voted as #1 are put in various piles. If a movie secures more than half of votes cast, that movie wins on the first pass. Otherwise, the movie with the fewest first place votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated film are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining films based on the next preference on each ballot. This process continues until one movie wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

Head spinning yet? Back to my predictions…

It’s important to remember in the Original Screenplay category that Quentin Tarantino was not eligible for the Writer’s Guild Award which went to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. As much as I would like to believe that he will prevail again, I think QT will take the Oscar for Django Unchained.

I’ll stick with Chris Terrio and Argo in the Adapted Screenplay category, although I’d be equally happy if David O. Russell took it for Silver Linings Playbook. (If he does, he won’t get director. If he doesn’t, he probably will.)

I’m sticking with Jessica Chastain for Best Actress despite Jennifer Lawrence’s BAFTA win. They are both amazing actresses, as is Naomi Watts and before I saw Zero Dark Thirty I was in her camp. But not only does she disappear for a huge part of the movie for which she’s touted as the lead, but Jessica Chastain blew me away. Regardless of who wins, all three of these women will almost undoubtedly be nominated again. Emmanuelle Riva, who gave a beautiful performance in Amour is now the oldest (85) Best Actress nominee and going up against the youngest, Quvenzhane Wallis, who was six when she appeared in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Neither of these facts is enough, in my humble opinion, to truly compete with the other three powerhouses.

Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained, which was another surprise, (not at all surprised the film’s star Jamie Foxx was neglected. He has been from the jump) but Christoph Waltz was, and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (although if that award went to the relative new kids on the block, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom, I would not be upset) and Best Picture. Again, no nomination for Quentin Tarantino as director (so it wouldn’t be the 1st time they threw him a screenplay bone instead, as was the case of Pulp Fiction). Waltz won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA but I think SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones is going to take the Oscar for Lincoln.

In the Best Actor Category, either Denzel Washington or Joaquin Phoenix got John Hawkes‘ nomination, although I shouldn’t be surprised by either one. I think both Joaquin Phoenix, as well as his costar Philip Seymour Hoffman, gave exceptional, understated performances. There is not a single scene in the film in which one or the other, if not both, is on screen. Their final scene together is, as it should be, the most powerful.  It consists of closeups on the two men’s faces and it had me holding my breath, watching the oh-so-subtle changes taking place. Phoenix’s characterization is almost entirely physical. He conveys nearly everything we need to know about his character from the way he walks, carries himself, even the way he holds his mouth when he speaks.

Washington was nominated for Flight not just because he’s Denzel, but also because he gave a multi-layered performance in what was ultimately an incredibly flawed movie.

Bradley Cooper‘s award was his nomination, which will surely change his career.  Kudos to David O. Russell for allowing Cooper’s “inner thespian” to shine through. Who knows he may be back next year. Early buzz on A Place Beyond the Pines is very good.

It’s all academic anyway since there’s no way in hell anyone but Daniel Day Lewis goes home with the prize. He will become the first man to win Best Actor three times.

I really want Golden Globe and BAFTA winner Brave to win Best Animated Feature. Conventional wisdom says Wreck-it Ralph (which wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA) will take it but I’m sticking.

Okay so let’s all watch on Sunday night and see how delusional I am for all of the above.  Oh, and then we all have to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s celebrated post-Oscar show.  This year he’s doing a sequel to last year’s film, “Movie the Movie 2V”. One of the stars of the “film”, Gerard Butler, talked to Total Film about it last night at the Artists for Peace & Justice Pre-Oscar Hollywood Dominoes event:

“When we asked Butler if he’d been working on anything on the day of our interview, he told us, “I’m glad you asked that question because I actually have a relatively interesting answer.

“I was with Jimmy Kimmel earlier filming his Oscar spoof thing. Basically I’m doing a piss-take of Taken. I’m looking for my baby, and I’m shouting on the phone – then you cut to a wide shot and I have my baby right in front of me… Then they gave me a flamethrower – so I had this backpack and flamethrower with a baby in tow – fighting sexy aliens.

It’s hilarious. Matt Damon was doing it, and Bradley Cooper. It’s not every day you get to throw on a baby and a flamethrower at the same time.  If there’s ever a day you want a journalist to say ‘so what have you been up to today?!’”

Movie: The Movie 2V, which will also feature Jessica Chastain, Jude Law and Amanda Seyfried:

Here’s a preview.

Movie the Movie starring Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Kimmel

And now, here’s your complete list of Oscar nominees (my predictions are in red):

BEST PICTURE

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi 

Lincoln 

Zero Dark Thirty

Les Miserables

Silver Linings Playbook

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Michael Haneke, Amour

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

LEAD ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST ANIMATED FILM

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

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Anna Karenina,  Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall,  Roger Deakins (If I had a vote I’d go for Deakins who deserves a win)

COSTUME DESIGN

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables,  Paco Delgado

Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

BEST DOCUMENTERY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers
Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague
David France, Howard Gertler

The Invisible War
Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

“Inocente”
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

“Redemption”
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

FILM EDITING

Argo,  William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln,  Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Amour  Austria

Kon-Tiki  Norway

No Chile

A Royal Affair Denmark

War Witch Canada

ACHIEVEMENT IN HAIR & MAKE-UP

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

ORIGINAL SCORE

Anna Karenina Dario Marianelli

Argo Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi Mychael Danna

Lincoln John Williams

Skyfall Thomas Newman

ORIGINAL SONG

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

“Skyfall “from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Lincoln
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

ANIMATED SHORT

“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee

“Fresh Guacamole” PES

“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman

“Paperman” John Kahrs

LIVE ACTION SHORT

“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr

“Curfew” Shawn Christensen

“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

“Henry” Yan England

SOUND EDITING

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers

Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

SOUND MIXING

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Marvel’s The Avengers , Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and M

Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Chris Terrio, Argo

Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

David Magee, Life of Pi

Tony Kushner, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Michael Haneke, Amour

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

John Gatins, Flight

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

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