The Oscars do matter. I won’t necessarily disagree with someone who says that it’s just a bunch of white disproportionately-influential cultural elites making out with a mirror, but it does guilt trip moviegoers into watching actually good, challenging (sometimes) films so that they can maintain their status as the “movie guy” with all their co-workers. Oscar season gives people the drive to catch up on culture and for that reason alone people should stop bashing the awards show. It’s easy to forget that the Oscars are just as much “show” as they are “awards” (why do you think they nominated Quvenzhané Wallis?), and should be viewed more as a celebration than a competition. Of course if you were to tell me that on Sunday I would probably hiss and throw my “Argo sucks!” and “Paul Thomas Anderson for ALL THE WINS!” posters at you. This is actually the first year where I’ve seen all the contenders for the major awards, and all but one of the foreign, so I can’t help but have definite favorites. I have a strong feeling that there is going to be a huge surprise in store for the Best Picture category, and part of me wonders if the academy is going to fudge the numbers a bit to give us a more varied selection of winners as opposed to last year, when everyone made the same predictions and were all correct. Boring. In any event, for the purpose of being exhaustive, I am going to give 3 responses for each awards category, 1) What will win, 2) What should have won, and 3) What better not win. So, in the immortal words of the man that broke the bat… (Also here is a list of the nominations to use as a reference)
Who Will Win: Argo. It’s a politically angled period thriller about Hollywood with a crowd-pleasing mixture of drama and comedy all wrapped neatly together with an up-and-coming talent. (ok, Ben Affleck is not up-and-coming, but he is the new kid on the block in the “big name” director scene.) It’s won best picture at all the other awards shows and given the public outcry of Affleck not getting nominated for best director assures that he will be holding a little naked golden man by the end of the night. Lincoln also has a chance, though I feel Daniel Day-Lewis’ win will be the high point for the film. Keep in mind that I’m just playing the odds here.
Who Should Win: The Master. I was actually shocked that it didn’t get Best Picture, Director, or Screenplay since it easily dwarfs its competition, but I suppose its refusal to pander and to give an emotionally satisfying ending killed its chances. It really makes no difference though, since this is a movie film students will be studying down the line.
Who Better Not Win: Life of Pi. This to me was a movie which succeeded only on a technical level, and if it were to win would fade out of the social conscience in about a week. It claims that it will make you believe in God, but yet it shies away from saying anything concrete in order to speak to everyone, which results in it speaking to no one.
Who Will Win: This is easily the toughest category for me, but in the end I have to go with Life of Pi. I could easily be wrong here. Lincoln is also a strong contender, and Beasts of a Southern Wild even getting nominated makes me wonder if this will be the Academy’s way of promoting new talent. I’m not sure why Silver Linings Playbook was nominated…
Who Should Win: I would personally go with The Master yet again, but I wouldn’t be opposed to Zero Dark Thirty winning. Out of the actual nominees for best picture Zero Dark Thirty was my favorite for a number of reasons, though I doubt it will win after all the “controversy”. Seriously, if they hadn’t of put torture in it they would have gotten just as much criticism. But as another writer pointed out, just as the film features a woman intent on doing her job without thought of award or recognition, so too with Kathryn Bigelow. Also, side note, I was NOT a fan of the Hurt Locker. Just saying.
Who Better Not Win: David O. Russell. It’s well directed, but not Oscar worthy. To be honest I think this particular category makes the least sense to me, at least in terms of judging.
Who Will Win: DDL! It seemed like the ultimate Oscar grasp, pairing DDL with Spielberg in such an iconic role, and wouldn’t you know it, it paid off. I actually think Lincoln is one of the best movies Spielberg has ever made, which took me completely by surprise since I was poised to loath it. Everyone else in this category put in great performances and I would be happy with whomever they pick.
Who Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix. His performance was like nothing else this year by a mile. Too bad he opened his mouth, though part of me is glad he did.
Who Better Not Win: Again, they were all excellent, but I suppose Bradley Cooper didn’t “Wow” me like the others, though that may be due to his particular role.
Who Will Win: It’s neck and neck between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, but I’m going to side with JL. She is the toast of the town and has never delivered a bad performance. At the same time though perhaps the Academy will figure that she will be making many, many more film in the future and that there’s no hurry to give her the win, so I wonder if Emmanuelle Riva will snag it as a sort of lifetime appreciation award, not that she wouldn’t have deserved it otherwise.
Who Should Win: I have never kept my love of Jessica Chastain a secret, so seeing her name called would make up for having to put up with Seth McFarlane for 2 hrs.
Who Better Not Win: Obviously Quvenzhane Wallis. Again her nomination is all part of the show, and adding that little bit of human interest to the show was a smart move by the Academy to build up some buzz, but it also meant not nominating Marion Cotillard.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: To be honest I really don’t care. They’ve all won before so it doesn’t really mean anything. Tommy Lee Jones will probably win because his character was sassy towards racists.
Who Should Win: Leonard DiCaprio. Duh.
Who Better Not Win: Alan Arkin. To be honest I’ve seen very few movies with Alan Arkin, and I’m sure he’s given some legendary performances, but this wasn’t one of them. I’ve already pretty much forgotten him in Argo.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Out of all the other categories this one is the surest. She practically wiped her nose on the camera lens and if that’s not acting, I don’t know what is. I like to hope that the Oscars can look beyond the hype and at what will be remembered down the line, and that single-take shot WILL be remembered, especially when you factor on the weight loss and the hair cutting. Goodbye Disney princess, hello tuberculosis-ridden prostitute.
Who Should Win: I’d be fine with Anne Hathaway winning.
Who Better Not Win: Jackie Weaver and Helen Hunt. Jackie Weaver is a great actress but she didn’t have that “Oscar” moment in Silver Linings Playbook.
Best Animated Film
Who Will Win: This one’s another tough one. It all depends on whether the Academy goes the more artistic route with Paranorman or the more popular consensus route with Wreck it Ralph. I have to pick one so I’ll go with Wreck-it Ralph.
Who Should Win: I’m surprised I’m saying this but I did probably enjoy Wreck it Ralph more than the other contesters, so I’m going to go with it. I think Brave is more unique and exceptional than critics and audiences gave it credit for, but I would need to see it again in 5 years to get a good reading of it.
Who Better Not Win: Pirates! Band of Misfits (what an awful name for a movie) just didn’t work. Great animation but that was about it. Paranorman managed to cover bullying, death of a loved one, social prejudice, loss of innocence and many other themes to boot, making it clearly superior to its fellow Claymation film.
Best Foreign Film
Who Will Win: I really don’t see anything beating Amour. It’s the only film American audiences might have heard about, and Haneke is due for an Oscar win before he dies. The only film I didn’t see that was nominated is No, and apparently it’s great so there’s that.
Who Should Win: Honestly it’s a three way tie between Amour, Rust and Bone, and Holy Motors. Why the last two weren’t nominated makes absolutely no sense, especially considering the buzz they got here in the states. Plenty of people heard about Holy Motors. No one heard about War Witch. (Not that they should be nominated based on their marketing)
Who Better Not Win: Kon-Tiki had some sweet graphics and visuals (it’s basically a Norwegian Life of Pi) but suffered in the exact same way.
PS: TDKR and Skyfall got nada this year, once again emphasizing the Oscar’s refusal to consider action movies as legitimate contenders. Skyfall was loved by both critics and audiences, sported a monster cast and delivered some of the best and most accomplished sequences this whole year. There was so much talent is every department I could barely keep up and Silver Linings Playbook got the nomination. Sigh.
PPS: I was looking at a list of previous winners and I forgot A Beautiful Mind won. I never got what was so great about it.