It never fails. Each year, I hope the Academy will somehow get it right. That the collective body of voters will pull their heads out of their collective asses, and nominate movies and/or actors who actually deserve a nomination, to say nothing of actually winning. And each year, I walk away frustrated. Today's nominees are no different.
But I won't let it bring me down. Time to focus on the positive. That doesn't mean I won't bitch and complain about some nominees, but there is a "Silver Lining" to every Oscar telecast, and the smart play is to pick and choose your favorites from each individual category and root for them. So, let's break it down category-by-catgory to find all the winners, losers, surprises, and snubs.
Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Going into today, I really thought this was going to be a close three-way race between Lincoln, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty. Now, with Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck snubbed in the director category, Lincoln is all but guaranteed the Oscar. So much for suspense.
And what a giant middle finger it is to movies like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers that voters chose to keep that tenth slot empty. Isn't that the reason the Best Picture field was expanded from five nominees? The idea was to open up the race to more popular movies that might not otherwise make the cut. In the past, movies like District 9, Toy Story 3, and Inception got a Best Pic nod. Hell, even The Blind Side got one. The race was not expanded beyond 5 so that movies like Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild could get in. That just goes against the whole principle of the matter.
Oh, and where is Moonrise Kingdom? That also could have taken the 10th spot.
Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington
This is a strong crop of nominees. DDL will win. He is the greatest actor of all time playing (arguably) the country's greatest President. It's a done deal. I'm happy to see B. Coop get a nomination, even if it came at the expense of The Sessions' John Hawkes. B. Coop got to stretch some acting muscles and play against type. I thought he was great in Silver Linings. Everyone else is basically the main reason to see their respective movies. Denzel and Joaquin were amazing. Jackman has never been better. But it's tough to go against DDL. If you've got a movie coming out and you know you might be in line for an Oscar, here's a tip. Ask the studio to delay the release of your movie if it means you have to go up against DDL. As freakin' Lincoln.
Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhane Wallis
Watts deserves it for her harrowing, heartbreaking turn in The Impossible. Then again, Watts never got to say the line, "I'm the motherfucker who found this place, sir." Congrats, Ms. Chastain. Julie may hate to admit it, but this is Chastain's category to lose. There was talk of Marion Cotillard getting a nomination for Rust and Bone, but I don't think anyone is too upset about her missing the cut. It should be noted, in all the inexplicable acclaim that Beasts is getting, that Wallis was 6 years old when she made the film, so she really had no idea how to act. Maybe that qualifies as an achievement. I don't know.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin, Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christoph Waltz
Another strong category. As Emma Stone pointed out this morning while announcing the nominees, all of them have won before. The smart money is on Tommy Lee Jones. He hasn't won in a while, and turned in a standout performance in Lincoln. He's no DDL though. Waltz would be my pick, but, then again, he did just win the Oscar for playing essentially the same character in Inglourious Basterds. You can't deny Waltz is awesome in that kind of role though. Also, I don't know who I'd remove, but Matthew McConaughey would have been an excellent contender for his work in Magic Mike.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Jacki Weaver
No complaints here. Weaver is a surprise, but based on these nominations, the Academy has a giant hard-on for Silver Linings Playbook so she just rode that gravy train all the way to the station. Doesn't matter. Hathaway won the Oscar the second she finished singing "I Dreamed a Dream." Just crown her already.
Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, Benh Zeitlin, Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell
Okay, here's where things get crazy. Why Ben Affleck isn't on this list is astounding. And who did they give the nod to instead? The Beasts of the Southern Wild guy (Zeitlin)? Sheesh. Beasts was his first movie, and while it had some impressive moments, it was a typically flawed first feature. Look, I don't mind the Academy showing a little love to Beasts here and there as the "little movie that could" but this is getting out of hand. And Russell should not be here. Nominate his screenplay for Silver Linings, sure, but not director. His slot should have gone to Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, or Paul Thomas Anderson.
I never have a problem with Spielberg winning though. Which is good, because that's exactly what's going to happen this year.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Brave, Frankenweenie, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Paranorman, Wreck-It-Ralph
I would be ecstatic if either Frankenweenie or Paranoman won, but I'm pulling for Paranorman (my No. 10 film of last year). No crazy, totally out-of-left field nominees in this category like last year. Still, Aardman's forgotten The Pirates is kind of like the Salmon Fishing of Yemen nominee here. If we were on Arrested Development, you'd be like, "Her?"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Argo, Beasts, Silver Linings, Life of Pi, Lincoln
Tony Kushner's script for Lincoln is masterful. It should and will win.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty
Strong category. My heart goes to Tarantino and Django, but my head tells me Mark Boal's script for Zero Dark Thirty will win. One question - where is Rian Johnson's nomination for Looper?!!! Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard should have gotten some love for The Cabin in the Woods too. I know that's too "genre" a pick, but the Academy usually makes at least one cool pick in these writing categories.
And here's some quick thoughts on some of the other categories:
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: If there's one category I'm invested in this year, it's this. Roger Deakins absolutely deserves to win for Skyfall. He's been brilliant in the past, has been nominated but never won before. It's his time. Skyfall looked better than any other movie this year. It was gorgeous.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: I bet Les Miserables will win, but I thought the Snow White & The Huntsman costumes were pretty rad. Too bad that movie sucked. Thanks for nothing, K-Stew.
BEST FILM EDITING: This is a toss-up between Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. The last third of both movies is hugely intense and thrilling. I'm betting Zero Dark Thirty has the edge here though. If only because it condenses a decades worth of material into a taut 2.5 hour running time.
BEST MUSIC (SCORE): I can't believe John Williams got another nomination for his Lincoln score. It was terrible! It sounded like every other score he's ever written. Especially for Spielberg prestige movies. They all sound the same. His score was the worst part of Lincoln. His nomination this year is a joke. And this coming from a guy who worships John Williams. I'd like to see Thomas Newman take this one for his Skyfall score. That's the only soundtrack album I purchased of the nominees. Cloud Atlas probably should have received a nomination here. Hans Zimmer's work in The Dark Knight Rises was also worthy.
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): Well, at least Skyfall will win at least one award on Oscar night! Note to Les Mis producers - don't add a new song to your musical just so you can win an Oscar in this category. That "Suddenly" song sticks out like a sore thumb.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Since Amour also got Best Picture and Director nominations, it will win this category even though it loses those.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Life of Pi will win this category, and deservedly so. Its effects, and the 3D technology used to showcase them, are top notch. Oh, and yay! The Avengers got one nomination today!
That's all I got for now. What about you? What surprised, pleased, or irked you?
Join our conversation on Facebook.