After months of much-hyped redundancies, we've reached the one that really matters: the Academy Awards.
Well, not reached, but soon, y'know?
So, without further ado, welcome to The Chill's Academy Awards Previews and Predictions.
This was a strong year for film. The year featured movies from Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, David O. Russell, and Quentin Tarantino. There was bound to be a few good ones in there, right?
It was a bit of a slow start to the year, and there was (as always) a lot of crap that came out along the way. When Flight came out in November, it felt like a Best Picture nominee.
Soon, though, a series of powerhouse films filled the category. Lincoln, the definitive picture on the nation's best President. Zero Dark Thirty, the sophomore offering from one of the country's best directors and a story that every American wanted to hear. Djano Unchained, Tarantino's sequel to Inglorious Basterds. Life of Pi, the "unfilmable" movie.
When awards season started, a few others emerged. Oscar nominations brought Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild to the forefront, and Silver Linings Playbook was the surprise pick for Best Picture.
But despite its director's exclusion from the Oscar nominations, Argo stormed through awards season, racking up a series of wins leading up to Academy Awards. But can it take home the one that really matters?
For our predictions, we'll be listing both our favorite picks in each category, along with our picks for the Oscar. Sometimes, it seems, the Academy doesn't pick our favorites.
Lloyd: My favorite films this year were: The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Looper, and Moonrise Kingdom. At least those are the ones that I can remember.
As for the Oscar, I think it’s between Argo and Lincoln, but I’m gonna say Argo. I just think there’s too much momentum. But I would love to see Silver Linings Playbook steal it.
Jake: There were tons of great movies this year. I saw some horrible movies while I was in Malaysia, but, man, I saw some great movies when I came home. Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, and Amour were my favorites of the year. I really don't get why either Moonrise Kingdom or The Master didn't get picked for the tenth Best Picture slot. Both were great.
As for the Oscar, I also think it'll be Argo. A minute ago, I would have said Lincoln, but I don't see how Argo could win so many awards from lots of people who also have Oscar votes.
With so many great directors doing work this year, this was going to be a tough category. Then, two surprise picks entered the running, and lots of people wound up getting left out.
A number of directors were probably good enough to get nominated in other years. Kathryn Bigelow, the 2009 winner for her work on The Hurt Locker, came back with another strong film in Zero Dark Thirty. Ben Affleck was stellar on Argo. Paul Thomas Anderson's vision in The Master was stunning.
None of those people were nominated, to the disappointment of a real lot of people.
Still, the pool of choices is a strong one. Steven Spielberg delivered his best directorial performance in probably 15 years (having done Saving Private Ryan in 1998). Ang Lee, Hollywood's resident visionary director, came through with a phenomenal version of a book people said couldn't be made into a movie. David O. Russell took fairly ordinary ingredients and turned them into something extraordinary.
The two shockers of the year are Michael Haneke and Behn Zeitlin. Haneke wrote and directed Amour, the incredibly good French film about a couple at the end of life, and Zeitlin came out with Beasts of the Southern Wild, a beautiful film that featured no big-name actors and very little budget.
Lloyd: How can I possibly comment on a category that so horribly excluded Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, and Quentin Tarantino? And I live for the day when Wes Anderson is nominated.
It would make me extremely happy to see David O. Russell on stage. That’s really all I can say. I’ve never been so unsure as to who will win Best Director. I guess I’ll say Steven Spielberg, but how boring is that? But if Ang Lee wins, I’m done.
Jake: My favorites of the year are Michael Haneke and Paul Thomas Anderson, along with David O. Russell. I'm always for the underdog, so I'm hoping it's not Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg, both of whom have won before. Since I'm not confident in any of them, I'm going to go with my favorite, Michael Haneke.
This was a year in which there weren't many surprises when it came to Oscar nominations.
Denzel Washington dominated Flight, probably his best movie since Inside Man and maybe his best acting since he won for Training Day in 2001. Hugh Jackman was one of the highlights of Les Misérables, which would have been better had it been a different movie.
The one nomination that surprised some people was Bradley Cooper, for Silver Linings Playbook. It wasn't the typical Oscar season movie, but it was (and he was) very good, hopefully a sign of things to come from him.
Two performances stood out above the others this year. Joaquin Phoenix was tremendous as Freddie Quell in The Master. His acting went largely unappreciated, as the movie went largely unwatched having missed a Best Picture nomination, despite being one of the year's best pictures.
The king of the mountain, though, was Daniel Day-Lewis, who needs to start acting more. He was great as Lincoln, and people actually watched that movie.
Lloyd: As you might guess, Philip Seymour Hoffman gave perhaps my favorite performance this year—just in the wrong category. Joaquin was too raw to be an absolute favorite. I really think Bradley Cooper should win. But I confess I think Daniel Day-Lewis will win.
Jake: I think Daniel Day-Lewis is the only choice. He was great. People loved him. He's been universally praised, and I think anybody else getting on stage would be shocking. Joaquin Phoenix was my other favorite of the year. If there were six nominees, I'd probably add the French master Jean-Louis Trintignant from Amour. Yeah, I liked that movie.
The female nominees put up perhaps an even stronger (and more interesting) field for this year's Oscars than the men.
As has been noted 2,403,859 times and counting, the year's nominees feature both the oldest-ever and youngest-ever nominees. Emmanuelle Riva was unbelievable in Amour, conveying both elegance and helplessness as a woman nearing the end of her life, and newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis—who, along with co-star Dwight Henry, had never acted before—was inspiring as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Naomi Watts is probably the least heralded for her work in The Impossible, probably because the rest of the pool is so strong. It's become a bit of a two-woman race, as Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain each have crowds of supporters heading into Sunday. Lawrence had a Moment this year with SLP, House at the End of the Street, and The Hunger Games, while Chastain continued to demonstrate her versatility in ZDT.
Lloyd: Oh, the women. Chastain and Lawrence are equal favorites, but it will be Jessica Chastain.
Jake: Agreed. I loved Chastain, Lawrence, Riva, and Wallis. For anybody that hasn't seen the latter two, you gotta see them. Hushpuppy was unstoppable, and Riva's was some of the best acting I have ever seen. I think the Oscar will go to Jessica Chastain. I would love to see Riva win it.
The Best Supporting Actor category is probably the most difficult to figure out this year.
Robert De Niro hasn't been picked for an Oscar in a minute (or, since 1980, when he won for Raging Bull). Christoph Waltz, on the other hand, won this very award a minute ago (or, in 2009, for Inglorious Basterds).
Alan Arkin (who was vital in Argo) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who may have been an equal lead with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master) have also both won Academy Awards, leaving Tommy Lee Jones as the only actor in here that has never made the stage.
Lloyd: All fine performances, Hoffman, Waltz, and De Niro, being my favorite. My heart is yearning towards De Niro for some reason. But I suspect the Austrian, Christoph Waltz, will take it.
Jake: Yeah, I was a fan of all of these guys. I thought Hoffman, Arkin, and De Niro were all very good. De Niro, especially, was the best we've seen him in years. It was like he was actually acting, or something. Arkin is always great. Hoffman, I thought was pretty stunning, although not everybody thought so. Kind of like how not everybody thought The Master was all that grand. I'll take Tommy Lee Jones. He played Tommy Lee Jones in the Civil War era, but he was very good in that role.
This one, on the other hand, has become a one-woman show, as Anne Hathaway has dominated from start to finish. She only showed up for the first part of Les Mis, but she stole the show and hasn't been stopped since. She was so good in that movie that people immediately forgot how good she was in The Dark Knight Rises, in which she also stole the show. Great year for her.
Jacki Weaver, Helen Hunt, and Amy Adams were all very strong this year, although they've faded into the background a bit as Sally Field has gotten the most attention other than Hathaway. The people love here (they really love her), but maybe not enough to topple Hathaway this year.
Lloyd: I think this might be one of the better categories this year, in terms of an equal playing field. I was never truly sold on Amy Adams in The Master, and found Jacki Weaver more interesting. However, Anne Hathaway is my pick. (Here’s hoping to being wrong.)
Jake: We disagreed on Adams—I thought she was huge in The Master. Jacki Weaver was also very good in SLP, one part of a great cast in that movie. I'm excited to see more of her in Stoker. I actually wasn't all that high on Sally Field. I don't think there's any way Anne Hathaway loses this. (And I loved her line at the Golden Globes: "Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt.")
It was a great year for writer-directors, as Lloyd has pointed out in the past, and this was a year filled with great writers.
Wes Anderson's film, Moonrise Kingdom, was a fresh twist to his style, focusing on oddly adjusted children rather than oddly adjusted adults, and it was Best Picture-worthy, despite not being nominated. Michael Haneke also wrote and directed Amour, while Quentin Tarantino pulled double duty with Django Unchained.
Flight fell a bit short in the bigger Oscar picture, but its originality got due credit with the nomination for John Gatins.
Meanwhile, Mark Boal has come under perhaps the most scrutiny for his work on Zero Dark Thirty. An important movie for the country, ZDT has been controversial for a portrayal of torture that many found questionable.
Lloyd: I thought Argo not being an original screenplay would make this easier, but it’s incredibly difficult. They’re all so good: Amour, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty. The WGA went to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty, and I suspect the Academy will award him similarly.
Jake: Yeah, I liked all of these movies. Except for Flight. And they're all so different. I actually think Wes Anderson's movie had the best screenplay. It was just phenomenally done. He has that very unique style with the wide, straight angles, and the result in this one was that it came out looking like a storybook. Beautiful movie. (I got to see it in the little movie theater at my grandmother's retirement community. That was pretty cool.) I also liked ZDT a lot. I wish I could pick Anderson's movie, but I'm going to have to go with Zero Dark Thirty.
A ton of strength in this category. With four potential Best Picture winners in here, this is perhaps one of the most interesting categories of the year.
What it should come down to is how well each of them took the story they had and put it onto the screen.
Silver Linings Playbook was working with the simplest source material, but it delivered an awesome on-screen version. Life of Pi also came from a novel, but it was a novel about a boy drifting the ocean in a tiny lifeboat, with a tiger on the boat, and he reaches an island with a bunch of meerkats, and other weird stuff happens.
The other two powerhouses of the category were based on nonfiction works, although both have gotten criticism for diverging from the actual account of what happened. Writer Chris Terrio added some drama at the climax of Argo, where it seems like our heroes may not escape from Iran. Tony Kushner has had to deal with even more criticism for switching some votes in Lincoln. This has probably been the biggest year in recent memory for political protests to the top movies, although all of the writers have defended their artistic decisions.
Lloyd: God, can you please give David O. Russell everything on Sunday night? He’s like my surrogate for Paul Thomas Anderson and the only thing keeping me from not being completely depressed. Jake, please fly to Austin if Argo wins and shoot me in the face—which I think might just happen.
Jake: Yeesh. You know, if Argo weren't winning everything, I would say this would be a lot tougher to pick. I mean, all of these are great movies. In terms of screenplay, I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild. That's a movie that was just beautifully shot. But I gotta go with Argo.
The last category we'll be predicting is the category for Best Original Score.
All of these choices featured powerful, important scores. The music set the pace for each of them, and they all worked very well. In Lincoln and Argo, the music helped to add drama, suspense, and emotion to stories the conclusions of which viewers already knew. Anna Karenina and Life of Pi benefited similarly in stories that lots of people had read before. And for Skyfall, Adele made James Bond even more of a badass.
Lloyd: This is ridiculously difficult. I feel like they’ve got to give something to Life of Pi, so Mychael Danna, congratulations.
Jake: This is one category where I wish I could go back and watch the movies again. I mean, I'd like to do that with some others, but this one would benefit the most. With no knowledge of which movies have won awards in this area leading up to the Academy Awards, I'm going to say Anna Karenina. I thought that was a lovely, under-appreciated movie.
Because I feel totally underqualified to give picks for most of the other categories, here are some notes on the rest of the show:
• Best Cinematography: Like I said, I loved Anna Karenina. Some people found the theater setup to be gimmicky, but I really enjoyed that.
• Best Animated Short: I feel cool for having seen these movies. Adam and Dog Forever.
• Best Animated Feature: I did not like Wreck-It Ralph. That one might win, but it wasn't very good. The issue is that Brave also was not good. Honestly, the best one that I saw was The Pirates! Huge cast in that one.
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