OSCAR RANT 2013
(Honoring the films of 2012)
Rant by Paul Preston
Not a great year.
I really had trouble putting together a top ten.
That being said, there were many good films, but I saw too many flaws in the “upper tier” of 2012’s well-regarded films to take ten and put them leagues above the rest. Unlike in past years where I really labored over whether “Inglourious Basterds” was better than “Up”, my 2012 top ten is a #1 that I LOVE, and #2-10 that are good. The commercial successes that really took off were pretty impressive, and the art films that could have overwhelmed ended up leaving me wanting more.
Again, not a great year.
Here we go:
10. INTOUCHABLES – This French box office sensation translated quite well to this overseas viewer. The story of an unusual relationship between a wealthy invalid and his street-smart caretaker nimbly straddles the line between authenticity and schmaltz…..some would tell you. I bought it all. The two lead performers, Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet, have a palpable chemistry, they are the authenticity, but the script puts them in some “movie” situations that might be considered cheesy. Not this guy. Funny, touching, and at times powerful, “Intouchables” (which means ‘untouchable’) is entertaining as hell with a great payoff.
9. FLIGHT – Thank god Robert Zemeckis made a real movie again. He’s cut with shit with that motion capture stuff that only he championed, and just like that, he’s back in my top ten. “Flight” is a story of addiction, and it’s told with a fascinating backdrop: the main character and addict is a commercial airline pilot. The film begins by showing, back to back, scenes of heinous drug use, then incredible skill behind the wheel of a jet. Denzel Washington, still a wizard at making it look easy, nails the charm and weakness required to make us want to see the story of this man who is both horribly flawed and yet always interesting. A lesser actor and I might’ve stopped caring about an asshole addict early on. Or a lesser director and I might’ve stopped watching, too. Zemeckis’ really seems to have rallied against his animated films here by making a hard R drama that is challenging and surprising and keeps you wondering if this is a redemption story right until the end.
8. DJANGO UNCHAINED – If you’re wondering if director Quentin Tarantino has put out a new film any given year, just look in my top ten list and you’ll know. He did, in fact, make a new film this year, and here he is once again. “Django” isn’t quite the film “Inglourious Basterds” was (which made my #1 in 2009), I thought “Django” had a couple of endings. But when “Django” is moving, it is it’s own beast. Which is to say that this movie doesn’t give a FUCK what you want, what you expect and I doesn’t care about you at all. It’s rolling out its story, doing it’s thing and it don’t give a FUCK. And MAN, is that refreshing. You know what? I’m gonna put Rick Ross’s “100 Black Coffins” in the middle of my western. Suck on that. Oh, and ‘80s icons Tom Wopat, Lee Horsley and Don Johnson will be cast in substantial roles. So blow me. Tarantino breaks rules all over the damn place, and where I’ve crapped on some directors for shifting TONE slightly in a movie, I just can’t fight against what Quentin is dishing out. Ever. It’s best to just give over. And when you do, you open yourself up to a master who consistently makes the most unique quality movies today.
7. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – “The Dark Knight” (my #1 film of 2008) was so universally lauded by critics, people wondered why it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar (YEAH, I wondered, too). So the next year, in one of those “Hey, let’s make the MLB All-Star game mean something” kind of moves, the Academy ‘fixed’ what wasn’t broke, by expanding the number of nominees from five to “up to ten”. This was a blatant attempt to include popular movies in the nominee mix and expand the number of people who give a damn about the Oscars. I get that when they nominated “The Reader” instead of “The Dark Knight”, they won over NO viewers, but then they opened themselves up to nominating the pedestrian “The Blind Side”, which knocks their cred quite a bit. POINT – if “The Dark Knight” deserved an Oscar nomination, where’s the love for “The Dark Knight Rises”? If I had TEN slots to put Best Pic nominees in, there’s definitely room for Christopher Nolan’s sprawling, epic, DARK story of the final challenges of a legendary hero. Upon first viewing, I definitely had issues with Bane. Despite a menacing performance by Tom Hardy, there were major issues with the sound recording (and re-recording) of his voice that were distracting. His voice sounded removed from location, laid over top all the other audio, but this is mended somehow in the home video setting. Upon second viewing, I could settle in more for a thorough UNsettling. This film just got under my skin. Gotham has become really, really unpleasant by the third film in this series, and it made for a complex story thick with character and mood. Plus, this trilogy has been blessed with good actors, and the usual quality of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman was on display, and is now coupled now with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the surprising talents of the she-annoys-me-in-real-life Anne Hathaway. There wasn’t as much humor here as when The Joker ran Gotham, but it’s nevertheless as compelling as the other films in this remarkable trilogy. Good luck to the poor bastard who takes over this franchise.
6. THE INVISIBLE WAR – Kirby Dick’s documentary does what all good documentaries should do – it gets you really fired up! And really pissed off. Dick set out to expose the military’s dirty little secret – an epidemic of rape cases amongst the soldiers. Mostly women, but there are stories of men being raped by other heterosexual men documented as well. Regardless, it is a violent act that is being treated by the military the same way the church is handling the molestation of young boys – by handling it internally and under-punishing perpetrators with as little press as possible. This doc wins in who it’s participants are. There are many brave women who tell their stories in the film, and each of them is fascinating and strong and you want to root for them, and just the right things happen to them, for better or worse, to make the doc vastly compelling. Outside of a score being a bit too ambitious at times, Dick has paced this film expertly, compiled intriguing archival footage and gets the occasional moment every doc filmmaker loves when the right person being interviewed puts their foot in their mouth. It’s one of those making-the-world-better-‘cause-it-exists films.
5. ARBITRAGE – Richard Gere was made for this part. The majority of his career’s success has come from playing white collar guys, especially in his later career, from “Pretty Woman” to the lawyer in “Primal Fear” to Billy Flynn in “Chicago”. Nowadays most white collar guys are considered assholes. So it’s only right that now Gere is totally convincing here as a white collar ASSHOLE! And with that being said, he also makes him human, making this thriller compulsively watchable. As the film starts, Gere’s character is trying to close a big corporate deal and have it all, like these greedy bastards often do. But his greed has mortal consequences and he spends the rest of the movie trying to cover everything up. Tim Roth shows up to look like a seedy cop and crawl up his ass, and he looks like he’s having a blast being shlubby. So it’s shlubby vs. asshole. You don’t get any more current that that. This is the first big feature for Nicholas Jarecki, yet it’s directed with impressive confidence, and he builds real suspense as Gere tries to hold his career together. Once again, as with “Chicago”, Gere’s been Oscar-snubbed for one of the best performances of his career. Shame.
4. LOOPER – Rian Johnson, would you mind telling me why you thought you could even make this film? Having never touched this genre before, writer-director Johnson fashioned a distinctive sci-fi effort worth multiple views. Loopers, in our near future, are assassins who line themselves up at stations and wait for people to appear from the future. Upon their appearance, they are shot and disposed of, thus creating a murder in the future that will leave no traces or body. Follow? It might be tough to follow some of this film, but the film itself has a very cavalier attitude about its adherence to time travel philosophy. It sets up some rules, follows them best it can and then just makes with the action. And the film is better for it. Remember the “Back to the Future” sequels, with all their schematic diagrams and whatnot trying to explain how time travel works? Then they went and broke their own rules anyway (but not in a good way). In short, the “Back to the Future” films say that events can spark new timelines that are followed and people can end up on two different timelines even if they started in the same place. However, when old Biff steals the DeLorean to deliver the sports almanac to young Biff, he returns the DeLorean to the same timeline. He shouldn’t have. His action should’ve propelled him forward to a new timeline where he would NOT have reunited with Marty and Doc and Marty and Doc would’ve been stranded in their future Hill Valley. Follow? See how little you want to listen to all that shit? Wouldn’t you rather just see JGL and Bruce Willis kick ass? Plus, there are moral dilemmas to deal with, too, as Levitt and Bruce Willis, who plays Levitt’s older self, fight to make different futures, and both bring valid ideas tot he table. So, it’s littered with cool sci-fi, great dialogue, unique action sequences AND it’s smart? Sign me up.
3. THE AVENGERS – WHERE IS THIS FILM ON ALL THE CRITICS’S LISTS? So back in May it’s OK to sit in your shorts and T-shirt and give “The Avengers” a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but when December rolls around it’s time put on a tux and start hailing the virtues of “Les Miserables” and “Amour”? PUH-LEEZE. “The Avengers” is a towering achievement, a mass-audience entertainment that is heavy on humanity and wit. And if “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (one of the worst Best Picture statues ever given out) is an award for the trilogy, then can we get some kind of special award for the feat pulled off by Marvel here? “The Avengers”, as a capstone to a series of superhero films, is faithful to those movies and improves on the whole string of adventures in the process. Joss Whedon manages, oh, sixty or seventy ICONIC shots in this movie, and he makes all the characters interesting. There’s no wading through a Jar-Jar to get to the good stuff. Plus, the casting goes a long way. It’s been reported that Robert Downey, Jr. is fully aware of where his bread is buttered and will play Tony Stark as long as they’ll have him. This is good for all of us. Plus, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo are Oscar-nominated actors bringing solid work to their parts and this is easily the best work of Chris Evans’ career. “The Avengers” avoids melodrama and camp, and everywhere you think it will fail, it gets better.
2. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – Oh Martin McDonagh, TWO films into your career and you’re already one of my heroes. The writer/director of the not-enough-people-have-seen-it “In Bruges” returns with another exercise in idiosyncratic dialogue and characters. With a parallel career as a Tony-nominated playwright, I was hoping for great dialogue, he delivered, but “In Bruges” showed he could sculpt an artful film, too. But “Seven Psychopaths” also proves that he can think big. This film has a more expansive landscape and he deftly moves from story to the stories within the story smoothly. And the ride is so much goddamn fun. Colin Farrell, continuing his best work in indie films, plays a struggling screenwriter who gets embroiled in a dog-napping ring. This story of lunatics involving time-tested psychopaths Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell & Woody Harrelson sidetracks to the stories of the screenplays Farrell and Rockwell are working on, and eventually the worlds collide, not in a “Purple Rose of Cairo” fantasy way, but in an ingenious, “Adaptation”-but-more-fulfilling-for-me kind of way. Wildly gory, wickedly profane and the most original of the year’s films, “Seven Psychopaths” is awesome.
1. ARGO – I’ve had “Argo”’s back since it was released in September. I kinda feel like that guy who, when ‘The Joshua Tree’ came out, said, “Sure, now all of America’s in love with U2, I’ve liked them for four albums now!”. So after singing its praises for three months, the rest of the awards’ season kudos are getting in line with me: “Argo” is the year’s best film. It’s time to put the “Did Ben Affleck really write ‘Good Will hunting’?” rumors to rest. He’s an immense talent. Just a second, please, myself from the year 2002 is freaking out at the last sentence I just typed. After impressive turns with “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town”, Affleck earned the right to take a swing at this unique script about a detailed attempt to extract American hostages from Iran in 1979 by pretending they’re part of a film crew making a Sci-Fi movie. This story benefits from a finale that isn’t universally known (seriously, did you really know the details of this event before you sat down to watch “Argo”?). More good casting here (it’s about time we had an Oscar for this) in that the cast is filled with stalwart supporting actors doing great work – John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston – and in many other supporting roles (the hostages), actors who are not household names don horrendous ‘70s hair and clothes, delivering authentic performances laced with fear, anger and bewilderment. Affleck is great here on screen, too, showing a subtlety and confidence we haven’t seen yet, to the point where, when I saw John Krasinski in “Promised Land”, I thought, man, BEN AFFLECK would be better in that part. BEN AFFLECK?!?! There’s first-rate re-creation of place and time in the costume and production design as well as a skillful combination of suspense and humor, as the events unfold in Iran alongside the CIA’s attempt to work with Hollywood (where the humor comes in) to withdraw the hostages. The whole creation from scratch of the bogus film campaign is hilarious. But the film wins in creating palpable tension out of URGENT events being done at EVERYDAY pace. It’s fascinating.
LINCOLN – Spielberg avoids most of the oversentimentality of some of his previous works like “Amistad”, and comes into this project with a great script and a tour-de-force lead performance. A little long and sometimes ploddy, but a real smart, adult work overall.
ZERO DARK THIRTY – Despite knowing the outcome, there’s real tension in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The investigation gets a little analytic and methodical to always be exciting, but Kathryn Bigelow can make a hell of a movie.
THE IMPOSSIBLE – A lovely family reunion movie. Oh, and it’s coupled with some of the most horrifying storm footage ever to explode on the big screen.
MAGIC MIKE – Charming as all hell and a movie that just looks EASY. Soderbergh, please don’t retire.
These were easier to put together than the best:
AMOUR – I get that the pace was supposed to be indicative of the slow torture an old couple went through as one of it’s members dies. But it’s patience-testing to stick to that pace when you’re really offering NOTHING to watch. NOTHING really happens here, and then characters will write or describe to others the nothing that just happened. It’s horrible. The worst film of the year, and the worst Best Picture nominee since “Ghost”.
RED DAWN – This movie is just horrible all ‘round, but mostly it sucks ‘cause of Josh Peck, who looks like he’s falling asleep WHILE he’s saying his lines and making Chris Hemsworth look like Daniel Day-Lewis.
THE WATCH – Somebody tell the generally enjoyable lead actors in this film that they shouldn’t have to work so hard. New material, please.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING – Moms puke, babies puke, there’s a car race with someone in labor who is screaming for drugs. If these scenarios are fresh to you, you’ll love it.
THE HOBBIT – Shit, there are two more movies of this slow-moving nonsense?
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON – Great performance from Bill Murray in an awkward, cheese-fest of a flim
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN – Pedestrian on every level, and, hey, there’s one of those scenes where the family is all dancing together in the living room! E-mail email@example.com if that has EVER happened to your family.
JOHN CARTER – Look around. This “massive failure”, “total bomb” and “egregious flop” isn’t on many ten worst lists. It’s not that bad.
Glaring Omission: I thought “Moonrise Kingdom” had a shot here. It won early award in the season like Best Picture at the Gotham Awards, but then it kind of faded out. But “Les Miz” won no Best Picture awards anywhere, yet here it is. I also thought “The Sessions” might benefit from the large number of nominees and be the indie choide, but there was only room for one indie, and “Beasts” took that spot. Other than that, you saw my top ten, I’d keep two and switch out seven of the nominees.
Runners-up: “Seven Psychopaths”. I bring his name up here – Martin McDonagh – ‘cause you will hear it again.
Great Inclusion: “Django Unchained”. What an unconventional Best Picture. What if it wins? Has anyone thought for a second how much of a revolutionary move that’d be?
Will Win: “Argo” – it’s sweeping the Guild Awards, not to mention the Globes, Critics’ Choice and BAFTA awards. People will also be looking to reward the Best Director-snubbed Affleck in other ways.
Should Win: “Argo” – see my #1 film of the year.
Glaring Omission: Before I launch into any of this acting stuff, let it be known that there’s no way to pick the “BEST” Actor unless everyone is performing the same role. That aside, wrongfully omitted here is Richard Gere in “Arbitrage”. This last decade has seen many unheralded GREAT performances from Gere, including “The Hoax”, “The Hunting Party” and “Chicago” and this is right up there. He’s PERFECT as the kind of corporate prick you could easily hate, but then the script makes him the main character, so you have to want to watch him, despite the unpleasantries. I think Gere in the role is 90% of the reason that totally works.
Runners-up: John Hawkes in “The Sessions”. Thought he had a real shot here. I might’ve put either of the above in, replacing Joaquin Phoenix, who brought truth to his role, but the role did NOTHING for me. And if you’ve read this far, you know I’m a fan of Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet from “Intouchables”, as well.
Great Inclusion: Bradley Cooper, who nailed that frantic energy of his character, and despite being the guy from “The Hangover” and “Wedding Crashers”, I bought it! Good on you, Bradley. I think he surprised all of us.
Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, whose performance made thousands of struggling actors quit the business, ‘cause what’s the point if he’s out there doing THIS?
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”
Glaring Omission: Nothing GLARING here, I hate to say it was not a great year for lead female performances. Last year I could think of three or four that got omitted, and I also felt really strong about the contentders (Streep, Close, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara). This year, I’m sort of…meh about this category. I didn’t always buy Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence’s character was a little too odd for me. “Amour” was just awful and in “The Impossible”, as good as Watts was, the film had her just playing victim a lot. The only actress left out might be Marion Cotillard, nominated for other awards this season for “Rust and Bone”. Helen Mirren in “Hitchcock” is a long-shot, but the SAG actors nominated her over Wallis, which says a lot for the prestige of her name, which could’ve carried her to a nomination in a film that was universally pretty trashed.
Runners-up: Judi Dench in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” maybe? I’m reaching, here…
Great Inclusion: Quvenzhané Wallis, who carries this movie with nothing to rest on. We don’t know her as an actress, she doesn’t bring skills we know about, like humor, she just comes out of nowhere and nails it.
Will Win: Probably Lawrence, just edging out Chastain. I think the Academy, despite admiring Chastain for her talent, is excited to make Jennifer Lawrence the Golden Girl of the evening.
Should Win: Wallis, the rawest performance, whose character risked the most.
BEST 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”
Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring here, either. Lots of good performances in this category this year, and these five have been nominated in pretty much all pre-Oscar awards. The outsider’s chance included Javier Bardem in “Skyfall”, perhaps one of the first Bond films ever to be recognized for ACTING! However, maybe the best supporting actor turn I’ve seen all year, yet not recognized ANYWHERE, is Tom Holland as Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor’s son Lucas in “The Impossible”. As a young man forced to become the man of the family in the face of a tragedy, he delivers a big performance.
Runners-up: Jason Clarke in “Zero Dark Thirty”, totally believable as a soldier who is really good at torture, yet seems slightly tired of it. Matthew McConaughey in “Magic Mike”, recognized here so that he can be encouraged to stop appearing in bullshit movies and work more with Soderbergh and other quality directors. And not for nothin’, god DAMN I loved Tom Cruise in his out-of-place performance in the otherwise wretched “Rock of Ages”.
Great Inclusion: Philip Seymour Hoffman. “The Master” is a polarizing movie, but in the middle of it are two authentic performances. And Hoffman is so consistent from project to project, it’s crazy-impressive.
Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should Win: Hoffman. Nowadays, if he’s nominated, he should win. He’s that good. Perhaps the best, most emotionally invested actor out there.
Glaring Omission: Apparently I need to see this movie “Compliance” and see if Ann Dowd is truly amazing in it. She’s gotten a lot of pre-Oscar buzz to where she had a shot to be nominated here. I also thought Maggie Smith might squeak through with a nod for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.
Runners-up: Judi Dench in “Skyfall”, maybe? I’m reaching here…
Great Inclusion: Sally Field in “Lincoln”. Once an actor goes to TV (“Brothers and Sisters”), it’s never a done deal that they can return to the big screen triumphantly. Field’s turn in “Lincoln” is just that.
Will Win: Hathaway, she’s on a roll.
Should Win: Hathaway. And let me go on record for a couple of things. First, it’s NOT a big deal that she sang a whole song without cutaways. Actors (perhaps MORE talented) do that every night on stage in a production of “Les Miserables” somewhere in the world. Secondly, every giggling live appearance I see of Hathaway pretty much annoys me, capped off by her “please like me” hosting gig on The Oscars. Based on those appearances, there’s no way she should’ve pulled off Catwoman, but she did. And there’s no reason she should’ve had the gravitas required to play Fantine, but she did. She continues to surprise me.
Glaring Omission: This sounds like a broken record if you’ve read my Oscar rants before, but missing here are four more nominees! A movie doesn’t achieve a Best Picture nomination by the producer’s vision alone. Ever since Rob Reiner said (when he wasn’t nominated in this category for Best Picture nominee “A Few Good Men”) that a Best Picture winner should mean Oscars for the producer AND director, I’ve agreed with that. Who’s behind the masterful vision of “Django Unchained”? Harvey Weinstein? Yet, if it wins, people like Reginald Hudlin and Michael Shamberg will get statues. Doesn’t seem right. But let’s get to the real injustice here. Ben Affleck, winner of the Director’s Guild Award, the BAFTA, Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe Awards, wasn’t NOMINATED? Michael Haneke, whose first screw-up as a director was to fail to hire an editor, gets nominated? Travesty.
Runners-up: Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow, from another Best Picture nominee, “Zero Dark Thirty”, that apparently directed itself. Bigelow brought fierce authenticity to “The Hurt Locker”, and does so again here.
Great Inclusion: David O. Russell. While Lily Tomlin has faded into obscurity, Russell continues to swing for the fences with every project. And as impressive as it is to make an epic or a period piece or an effects-laden film, it’s just as admirable to draw great performances out of your actors, to where they’re nominated in every acting category this year.
Will Win: Spielberg. With Affleck incapable of a write-in, I think the race is between Spielberg and Lee, who already both have Oscars.
Should Win: Russell. Spielberg still fell into the mildest of cheeses here and there, so Russell squeaks out a win in my book.
Glaring Omission: “Rust and Bone”, “Intouchables”
Runners-up: I gotta go with “Intouchables” here. It seems like this year’s nominees are all ‘meaningful’ films. It’s be nice to see a comedy-drama sneak up and steal a spot amongst all this importance.
Great Inclusion: “No”
Will Win: “Amour”, sadly. It’s been WINNING PREVIOUS AWARDS LIKE THE LA FILM CRITICS and the PALME D’OR WHICH MAKES MY HEAD EXPLODE!! WTF??!?!?!
Should Win: “No”, if for no other reason, to say “No” to “Amour”.
Glaring Omission: Pretty good year for animated films. The only nominee I wasn’t too impressed with was “ParaNorman”. The jokes landed flat, the tone was just too odd to enjoy and the kid-who-sees-the-dead-in-order-to-help-them thing was done better in “The Sixth Sense”.
Runners-up: Well, the best animated film I saw all year was “Finding Nemo 3D”. Does that count?
Great Inclusion: “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”. Did you see this movie? No? You should have. HILARIOUS. Great voice acting and a loose sense of humor that Aardman Animation is known for. And although I liked “Arthur Christmas”, it’s good to see Aardman back to stop-motion animation here. They are so ridiculously impressive with it, they deserve some kind of award for finishing these movies in the first place.
Will Win: “Wreck-It Ralph”. I’m picking “Ralph” ‘cause it won a ton of Annie Awards, even though “Brave” won big at the Visual Effects Society Awards.
Should Win: “Wreck-It Ralph”. I saw “Brave” twice, but that’s because I’m a huge Pixar fanatic. But “Brave” starts out really generic, the ‘ol oppressed-by-my-parents princess tale, but then becomes original halfway through when a spell takes hold of one of the parents. The typical wit and glorious action Pixar is known for is all on display. But “Wreck-It Ralph” is original from the get-go. And although not Pixar, the whole thing, as with all projects now at Disney, is supervised by Pixar legend John Lasseter, so when the film hits you with some heart at the end, “Wreck-It Ralph” hits the heart/laughs/action trifecta, coupled with outrageous animation and loads of inside jokes about video games.
Glaring Omission: Nothing really glaring here. More interesting is the inclusion of “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. It seems that something like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” racked up more nominations for other awards leading up to Oscar.
Runners-up: “The Avengers”. Making the scope of that plot understandable, even to The Avengers uninitiated, and filling it with great dialogue while being true to the themes of heroes and Marvel lineage was quite a feat. Also “The Dark Knight Rises” script was a sprawling epic that held everything together nicely and wrapped up everything together cleanly.
Great Inclusion: “Lincoln”. Tony Kushner’s script was the co-star of that movie, and with a lesser actor in the lead, it might’ve been the star itself.
Will Win: “Lincoln”
Should Win: “Lincoln”, as much as I want to give it to “Argo”, the pontificating of “Lincoln” and the smooth-handed way in which a lot of information is relayed by the President is just cool.
Glaring Omission: Speaking of “Wreck-It Ralph”, no animated movies were nominated. “Ralph” is wall-to-wall originality, successfully setting up an entire world, populating it with interesting characters and a never-seen before plot. PLUS great dialogue.
Runners-up: “Amour”? Seriously”? That script is about ten pages long because NOTHING HAPPENS. So if you discard that festering sore of a script, you could replace it with the wildly creative “Seven Psychopaths”, and the Academy wouldn’t even have to feel like they’re pandering to a popular project. Martin McDonagh already has an Oscar for Best Short Film and his script for “In Bruges” was nominated. I would love to have seen the great story-within-a-story creativity of this film in the mix.
Great Inclusion: “Django Unchained”, ‘cause it don’t give a fuck.
Will Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”. I think it barely beats out “Django Unchained”, but a Golden Globes win could mean a “Django” upset
Should Win: “Django Unchained”. When “Zero Dark Thirty” gets a little bogged down in the procedural aspects of its plot, it reminds you that “Django” has no time for that. ‘Cause “Django” don’t give a fuck.
Glaring Omission: I will admit to failing to do due diligence and not getting out to see all of these films this year. But I also didn’t see anything that wasn’t nominated, so at least I’m consistent…. But maybe “Bully”? I thought that was an annoyingly-made, yet effective, film.
Runners-up: See above.
Great Inclusion: “The Invisible War”. Hey, I saw that one!
Will Win: “Searching for Sugar Man”, it’s been winning many of the lead-up to Oscar awards
Should Win: “The Invisible War”. ‘Cause I saw it, and ‘cause it was excellent.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
“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
OK, now I don’t feel too bad now. NO ONE’S seen these.
Glaring Omission: Maybe “Les Miserables”? I didn’t see all that 48fps nonsense that might’ve made me root for “The Hobbit”, so I’m not left to think anything’s missing here. And certainly, with Richardson, Kaminski and Deakins, you’ve included possibly three of the best EVER shooters that have ever worked.
Runners-up: “The Impossible”, just for the mere task of coupling all the photography with the brilliant visual effects. And any year Wally Pfister shoots a film, you have to take him into account, and “The Dark Knight Rises” looked as good as anything he’s ever shot. Also, “The Master”’s 70MM look was elegant.
Great Inclusion: Roger Deakins. I left “Skyfall” thinking to myself that that was the best shot James Bond movie ever made. It was GORGEOUS.
Will Win: “Life of Pi”. I think this film sneaks past “Lincoln” to win here,
Should Win: “Skyfall”. Deakins DID win the American Society of Cinematographers Award, so he’s got a shot to break the long streak of being nominated and never winning, but that damn “Life of Pi” has been in the mix every time…
Glaring Omission: Did anyone else make a Snow White movie? No? Then, OK, no glaring omissions. I’m also always put off by having all the nominees be fantasy films or period pieces. How ‘bout “Magic Mike”, huh? GREAT costumes…you gotta admit…
Runners-up: “Moonrise Kingdom”. Once again, Wes Anderson movies defy all place and time and simply exist in Andersonville, where everyone dresses….like they’re in a Wes Anderson movie. His look is so distinct, maybe we throw it an Oscar nod? Also, if we’re gonna go period piece, go “Argo”, those guys were horribly ‘70s.
Great Inclusion: “Lincoln”. The old statehouses of America were filled with guys who looked just like they do in those old paintings. You know the ones.
Will Win: This one’s pretty wide open. I’m gonna go with “Snow White and the Huntsman” ‘cause they loooooooove Colleen Atwood.
Should Win: “Lincoln”, ‘cause Lincoln looked more like I know Lincoln looks than Snow White looked like I know Snow White looks (editor’s note: that is a stupid reason)
BEST 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
Glaring Omission: Outside of the latter half of “Zero Dark Thirty”, where are the action movies? Films like “The French Connection” set the standard for how modern-day, fast-paced films can be expertly edited, but there’s no “Skyfall”, no “Looper”, which edited not only action, but time-jumping, with ease
Runners-up: “Cloud Atlas”. I didn’t like it so much, but it was one of those films that didn’t work for me, but I did admire the effort, and film that jumps many locations and six time periods asked a lot of the editor. I was never lost and the film kept a tight pace.
Great Inclusion: “Argo”, for doing the exact opposite of an action film, and finding a pace that coaxed a real tension out of the movie, without having to move at Jason Bourne-like speed. Plus, there was constant continent-jumping and sharp ability to support a film that can jump tone from tense to light.
Will Win: “Argo”
Should Win: “Argo”
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“Hitchcock,” Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
“Les Misérables,” Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Glaring Omission: “Cloud Atlas”? Nobody’s been singing its praises, but perhaps they should. ‘Cause not only is there a good makeup design here that decorates different worlds and time periods, but the makeup often has to modify the same actor in each of those time periods.
Runners-up: “Looper”, for making JGL look like a young Bruce Willis.
Great Inclusion: “Les Miserables”, for achievement in muck-making
Will Win: “The Hobbit”, probably for the mere AMOUNT of makeup and wigging.
Should Win: “Les Miserables”
Glaring Omission: I expected animated scores to be represented here. They’re usually pretty lively and you can whistle ‘em. The “Brave” score, especially, did a fine job of incorporating Scottish musicality into its melodies. And outside of Bond, no real action movies represented, either. I left the theater humming the theme from “The Avengers”. The only composer whose work sticks with me anymore is Michael Giacchino, so to be humming someone ELSE’s music was a big deal (thanks, Alan Silvestri). By the way, Giacchino’s animated score won an Oscar (“Up”).
Runners-up: Well, the best score I heard all year was “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in IMAX. Does that count? Also, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” had a cool score that didn’t entirely mimic the music of Louisiana. It found its own style, often dreamy, and still worked. And is “The Dark Knight Rises” score “original” since it incorporates themes from the previous Batman films? I loved it, and it might be one of the more mimicked scores of the year.
Great Inclusion: “Lincoln”. Is this even a category without John Williams?
Will Win: “Skyfall”. I think it’s got a real chance. And I love all those Bond scores that incorporate old Bond scores AND the theme song into the music.
Should Win: “Skyfall”
BEST 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
Glaring Omission: Once again, no animated films! Not too long ago, animated movies DOMINATED this category, with Alan Menken bleeding gold out of the Academy for nearly a decade. But these aren’t the old days, and even Will Smith put out a “Men in Black” movie and didn’t record a song. We were instead served up a Pitbull tune that’s impossible to listen to.
Runners-up: In fact, there’s only one song outside of one that’s nominated that I even remember hearing, let alone remembering how it goes, and that’s “Live to Rise” by Soundgarden from “The Avengers”. And even that is unremarkable by Soundgarden standards.
Great Inclusion: “Skyfall”, an improvement on whatever the song from “Quantum of Solace” was.
Will Win: “Skyfall”
Should Win: “Skyfall”,
BEST 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)
Glaring Omission: Much like the costume category, there’s a distinct lack of contemporary design. “Skyfall” won the Art Director’s Guild Award, so I thought they might be represented here.
Runners-up: But for my money, the real winner is “Zero Dark Thirty” for the authenticity of not only the bin Laden compound, but all the war zones and foreign locations. “Argo”’s place and time were also expertly recreated in the Hollywood, Washington and Iran locations.
Great Inclusion: “Lincoln”. Spielberg’s team, outside of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, has been on top of their game for years now.
Will Win: “Anna Karenina”, my guess is they’ll award ‘fancy’, just edging out “Life of Pi”, which is mostly visual effects.
Should Win: “Lincoln”
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“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)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
“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)
One of the great misfortunes of this year was that I missed all the short nominees, except “Paperman”, which got a welcome theatrical run, playing with “Wreck-It Ralph”. “Paperman” is outstanding, a real valentine to love in the big city, with nods to old-school animation and Disney storytelling. Usually, I can make the LA screenings of all the shorts, the Academy itself screens them in their theater with Q&As with the filmmakers, but not this year, sadly. I believe they all show up on iTunes this week, so we all have some homework to do in this category.
BEST 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)
Glaring Omission: I’m harping on it at this point, but straight-up action and animation are missing again. This category is all about the creation of sounds and sound effects and huge, green screen adventures or animated tales have thousands of visuals that aren’t real that are MADE real by the audio effects. I thought “The Avengers” would be nominated here, as well as maybe “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” or “Wreck-It Ralph”
Runners-up: The best use of audio I heard all year was in “The Impossible”. The re-creation of the 2004 tsunami was horrifying and made most horrifying by the sound effects of breaking, smashing, water, drowning, relentless, smothering – it was palpable. If it’s not too late, see that one in the theater.
Great Inclusion: “Django Unchained”. I saw “Reservoir Dogs” recently, and wasn’t aware just how 1992 that movie was. Tarantino’s technical elements have gone from “that indie feel” to top notch. He’s got a great crew, and the team that built all the western and gunfire FX are no exception.
Will Win: “Life of Pi”. For the Academy, this is like awarding an effects-laden action film, except they can feel smart about it.
Should Win: “Skyfall”. The Bond film with the best production value in the history of the franchise.
BEST 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” (Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins)
“Skyfall” (Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson)
Glaring Omission: Again “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, again “Wreck-It Ralph”
Runners-up: “Les Miz” wasn’t the only musical out there. What about “Joyful Noise”, man? “Rock of Ages”? Something like “Pirates!: Band of Misfits” would do well to be nominated here because of the life the sound mix gave to CLAY!!!
Great Inclusion: “Les Miserables”. The whole let’s-record-the-actors-on-set thing and mix it with the music later was rather ingenious, and brought out the best (and worst) in the actors, so I think for that experiment…
Will Win: …”Les Miz” will win.
Should Win: Sticking by “Skyfall”, ‘cause “Les Miz” did bring out the worst in some of the actors!
BEST 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 Martin Hill)
“Snow White and the Huntsman” (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson)
Glaring Omission: “THE IMPOSSIBLE”! That tsunami, if I may gush again, was so horrifying, and I gotta believe that very, very little of it was actual water crushing people and buildings. Those long shots of Naomi Watts and Tom Holland floating on a mattress in the middle of a giant wave of water filled with debris and cars and buildings and trees – HOW THE HELL DID THEY DO THAT? And anytime you ask that question – Oscar.
Runners-up: “Cloud Atlas”. Looked great! Not really sure what it was about, but it looked great. “Total Recall” was also super-slick and sharp about its integrated effects. Bought every inch of that weird future world, from minute details in the living spaces to the giant train that roared through the center of the Earth. “The Amazing Spider-Man” benefited from being released in 2012. The effects were noticeably improved from 2002, allowing the director to craft really exciting action sequences that trumped what’s been done in the past with this franchise. And “Wrath of the Titans” LOOKED great. Too bad it really, really sucked.
Great Inclusion: “Prometheus”, if for no other reason than the ‘abortion’ scene.
Will Win: “Life of Pi”
Should Win: “The Avengers”. I was just in New York City recently, and it looked nothing like it did at the end of this movie. That VFX in action.
That’s it! Tune in Sunday, Feb. 24th for the awards, and let’s rejoice that it’s less than three months until “Star Trek: In Darkness” and “Iron Man 3” are in theaters!