My Thoughts on the Academy Award Nominations

The Academy Award nominations have been announced today. Film geeks are now either chiming in with their predictions or declaring the travesty of specific omissions.  Since I was actually paid to review 20 films this year, I think I can sort of declare myself a film critic.  As a sort of film critic, it is my duty to reveal my predictions and thoughts on the 2013 Academy Award nominations.

The problem is that I've actually only seen three of the films nominated for Best Picture.  My current predictions will largely be based off what other people are saying.  But I also aim to correct this flaw and have all the Best Picture nominees watched before the show.  If I do achieve this goal, then I'll eventually be back here with my predictions.

But despite watching a rather low amount of nominated films, I still have thoughts to share.  Because if you own a blog, then you always have something to ramble on about.  Today, it seems appropriate for it to be about the Academy Award nominees.

Now, the Academy Awards have like a billion categories, and so I don't really feel like analyzing the Best Use of a Ham Sandwich in Catering During Filming.  Instead, I'm just going to look at the major categories for now:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Picture:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Django Unchained

This is a pretty good crop with the biggest omissions being Moonrise Kingdom and The Master.  I also would have liked to see Looper get a nomination since it was one of the best and deepest genre films in a very long time.  If we live in a world that films like The Fugitive and Erin Brockovich can be nominated for Best Picture, then Looper shouldn't be considered a huge long shot.  But there really aren't any problems with this list, and so I don't consider any of the neglected films to be a travesty, especially since none of them would have won anyway.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is this year's underdog nomination since it had a first time feature film director, was screened outside of the "Oscar hunt months", stars a 6 year old girl (when filmed), and contains large prehistoric creatures freed from melting ice caps.  It isn't really the ingredients for the typical Oscar nomination, which is why it is so cool this film snuck in.  It has a huge amount of buzz, and if the Academy desires to stir things up then maybe they'll allow the even bigger upset to happen awards night.  The nomination has also convinced me that I now need to watch this movie very, very, very soon.

If you read my recent movie rankings of 2012, you know that Django Unchained was my favourite film.  I don't really think it has a shot winning here.  The committee that votes on Best Picture is known for being a collection of mostly old, white men, which may not be the best demographic for a slaves get revenge fantasy.  I don't see the Academy being comfortable voting on a film this violent, which is why the nomination is a big enough victory, I think.

Argo is another marvelous film, and I'm bummed that Ben Affleck didn't get a nomination for Best Director.  He was superb.  But this film proved he is a true auteur and really knows how to craft memorable stories.  He has effectively erased his less than glorious past and is now ready for the next stage where he is true heavyweight in Hollywood.  I'd consider this nomination the big victory for Affleck, and I'd love it to win Best Picture, but I'm not sure if the hype on the film has fizzled a little too early.

I did like Argo more than Life of Pi, but I'd guess Pi is the bigger favourite at this point.  Pi still has a fair amount of buzz, and is a favourite among some pretty influential critics (though Roger Ebert's favourite film was Argo).  Even though I didn't love it as much as many other critics, I realize it is a wonderful film and the screening was a spiritual experience.  That isn't something I can say about most films.  It was a unique film, and has the accomplishment of disproving all those that said the novel was unfilmable.  Most of the film is about just a boy and a tiger on a boat, yet it remains engaging right until the end.  It definitely deserves all the recognition it is getting.

I haven't seen the other movies, but once again, I hope to correct that in the coming weeks.  Amour is a French film, and so my guess is it will win the Foreign film category to make up for the loss here.  Silver Linings Playbook is a quirky comedy with drama about troubled people, and that type of film hasn't been winning for a little while now.  Les Miserables is a musical and has done really well in the box office, and both those things have done especially well in past Academy Awards, especially if it is in the '60s.  We may be a few decades away from that period, but I'd say it still has a shot.

Zero Dark Thirty must be considered another strong contender, but I'm not sure if the Academy will think, "We already awarded Kathryn Bigelow's last film, Hurt Locker".  The Academy most definitely thinks like that sometimes, and the next film once again being about war may hurt its chances a bit.  This is stupid, but Academy is never really about awarding the actual best film.

Lincoln is a historical, epic drama about a beloved President that has a veteran director.  So, sort of like the exact opposite of Beasts of the Southern Wild.  If any film has a chance of doing a massive sweep of the Academy Awards, then this would be the film.  Even without seeing this film, I'd say it is the favourite at this point.

I also think this is one of the more unpredictable years.  You look around on sites owned by critics who have actually seen all these films and there is definitely not a consensus among them.  There are several films that could squeak out the win, but based off Academy history, I'm thinking the historical drama has the strongest chances at this point.  We will likely have a better idea as we get closer.

Best Director:

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Michael Haneke, "Amour"
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Fun fact, a film with a director not nominated in this category hasn't won Best Picture since Driving Miss Daisy (1989).  This category can often help you figure out the real hopeful in the Best Picture categories.  I'm not sure if that will be the case this year.  The films this year without Best Director nominations are also the highest grossing films and have been highly acclaimed by critics.  I also think Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck where probably in the running for this category, but just got nudged out.

My guess, is that Zeitlin will just have to be happy for being nominated with his first film.  He probably is still asking people to pinch him to ensure this isn't all a dream.  He has to be the huge surprise pick in all this, but I'm assuming the party stops here.  Though that all changes if Beasts of the Southern Wild is Best Picture, of course.

Haneke and Russell are both guys who have played this game before, but now are probably ready for a win.  I haven't seen either film, so I'm not entirely aware of their merit at this point.  Since I don't think either film is winning Best Picture, I'm predicting they fall short.  Haneke will likely get his victory in the Foreign Film arena, and Russell will get another shot in the coming years, I'm sure.

Academy loves them some Spielberg, especially when he gets all historical on them.  If we have a Lincoln sweep then Spielberg isn't being left out of the party.  I'd consider him the favourite in this category, but once again, it is a competitive field.

Plus you have Ang Lee, who was responsible for making a masterpiece out of material that was claimed to be unfilmable.  He also is responsible for actually properly using 3D technology and making it a crucial component of the storytelling.  The film is visually stunning, and several scenes are effective in pulling out your emotions.  The key is that Lee didn't play it safe and took on more challenging material and created a magnificent film.

Part of me is leaning towards Lee, but I never bet against Spielberg, especially with the film he has directed this time.

Best Actor:

Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Bradley Cooper deserves tons of props for this nomination, because he doesn't have anything in his collection of work prior to this that would get Best Actor attention.  This is a major shift away from being the A-Team and Hangover star, and this is his chance to be seen as a diverse leading man.  I don't think he has a chance to win here, but the important thing is that he now does in the future.  He needs to be smart with his roles in the next year and hopefully, keep up the buzz as a respected actor.  He probably shouldn't take any roles that resemble a 10 year old boy in the body of a 40 year old.

Denzel Washington was incredible in Flight, and he made that movie.  It was a star making performance, except he has been a star for two decades now.  He is one of the best actors around, and it would be great if he could walk away with a second Best Actor.  He deserves it.  Flight has no buzz besides this performance, and so I'm worried that it might hurt his chances here.  Especially since he is competing against. . .

Daniel Day Lewis.  I haven't seen Lincoln, but everything I had read has been rave reviews over Lewis' portrayal.  I'd consider him a big favourite at this point, especially if Lincoln has a strong night.  But I'll have a better idea of how good Lewis is in this film when I see it.  At this point, I'm still rooting for Denzel, because his performance was nuanced and layered.

Joaquin Phoenix won't win, because he even stated he doesn't want the award.  Now, that may have been reverse psychology, but The Master is another film that fizzled in the home stretch.

I've heard people who are in Hugh Jackman's court.  But again, I haven't seen the performance yet.  Since he did theatre and musicals before becoming a film star, I have a feeling this film played well to his strengths.  I look forward to him impressing me.  I still don't see him unseating Lewis or Washington.

Best Actress:

Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

The fun fact for this category, we have the youngest ever nominee (Wallis), and the oldest ever (Riva).  I would love for Wallis to win, because she is adorable and it would be history making.  I'm guessing they'll decide she has a long future and pass her up until her age gets into double digits.  Riva is a French legend, but likely that won't help her on an American awards show.  But I could be totally showing my ignorance here.

I really like Watts, and I'm happy she finally got some recognition here.  I haven't really heard anything about her performance that makes me think she has a chance.  She is also someone who will likely get a shot again in the future, and will have a stronger performance to ensure victory.  I hope.

Chastain and Lawrence would be the strongest contenders.  They are both actors that Hollywood is banking on being the nest big "It" girls.  Chastain is marvelous in everything she does, and apparently, has a powerful performance here.  Lawrence has the added oomph of having a massive blockbuster hit this year in the Hunger Games, and things like that do matter even if it doesn't make sense.  But both are stars and I don't see either fading.

I've heard way more buzz over Lawrence's performance and everyone wants her to break through to the next level.  I'm pretty sure this should be her year.  This is awesome, because she is still pretty young.  Not Wallis young, but still has many years left.  I'm looking forward to finally seeing her film soon and being able to decide if all the hoopla is justified.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This categories fun fact?  Everyone here has won before.  There definitely won't be any "it is your turn" wins here.  All these guys can be absolutely awesome, and to some degree, I've heard positive buzz for each guy.

I have to admit I'm bummed Leonardo DiCaprio didn't get a nomination.  I'm guessing they didn't want to hand out nods from the same movie.  DiCaprio was glorious in Django Unchained, and totally played against type.  He was an amazing villain, and no one except jealous boyfriends ever imagined him a villain.  This was a stellar show, and I'm sad he got snubbed.

But Christoph Waltz was brilliant in Django Unchained, and I have no problem with him being recognized here.  His character was so layered, and he really brought a lot to the film.  He was able to make a quirky and prideful character very relatable and likable.  He also had many subtle moments and was able to tell a story with his facials.  At this point, I think Waltz should be a super strong contender, but again, I admit I only have seen one other performance here.

Arkin was fun in Argo.  I love Arkin in almost everything he has been in.  He was more comic relief here rather than someone bringing in a powerful role.  At least compared to Waltz, not a performance that I'd say was award winning, but a lot of that has to do with the role he was cast.  I must admit he did shine in his role, and did amazing with everything he was handed.

I'm also a big fan of De Niro, Hoffman, and Jones.  I've heard a lot of good things about Hoffman's portrayal of the L. Ron Hubbard-like cult leader, but like Denzel, he may be hurt by a film that has lost some sizzle.  Jones may benefit from the strength of the entire Lincoln package.  It would be nice if De Niro won so he realized he doesn't need to do any more Focker movies or be the villain to a cartoon Moose.

Best Supporting Actress:

Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master

Confession time, I had to Google who Jacki Weaver is.  I know who she is now, and I had an idea who she was in the film (Cooper's character's mom), but I must admit IMDb proves I haven't seen much of her work.  My ignorance doesn't mean she won't win.  After I see the film, I may feel awful about my lack of recognition.

Helen Hunt is fantastic, and there is often a winner in a film that otherwise didn't get much recognition from the Academy.  The Session was loved by the critics, so her win could be the big pat on the back for the entire film.

Though, Amy Adams could also be the whole winner from the film not nominated for Best Picture.  She is an actor that is pretty hot right now, and a person most hope will continue to rise.  The win could be a pretty big play for her.  It would probably mean more for her than Hunt who won before.

Speaking of won before, Field has made her mark at the Academy Awards and is an established veteran.  I wouldn't write her off from a win, but Academy like giving it to rising stars when matched up against an already award winning veteran.  Of course, this could be one of those times they make me look like a fool.  Which won't be hard, and I know I will be proven wrong many times in the lead up to the awards.

After saying all that, I think Hathaway will be the winner.  She is a scorching star at the moment, and it is only a matter of time before she wins an Academy Award.  She looks great from what I've seen in the trailers, and I've only heard positive reviews on her performance.  Plus the Academy loves it when a beautiful woman gets all dirty and battered for their role, and Hathaway definitely does that.

Of course, my thoughts only mean so much when I haven't seen most of the films.  It is a lot of mere guessing.  Well, it will always be guessing.  My guesses will be far more informed when I've seen more of the films.  I'll be able to better judge the films I've currently seen when I am able to compare them to the others.  Plus then I also get the fun of complaining about certain nominations if I walk away totally hating a film or performance.  At this point, I have to trust the Academy that there was good reason that stuff I liked was shunned and what is here is better.

This is our major Academy Award nominations.  What do think about them?