Because even though the nominations are coming out tomorrow (brought to us by none other than Emma Stone!), we still like to think that we have some kind of say in it or something. And in all honesty it was a great year for film, and even though some categories seem locked up, some are definitely wide open. I’ve also paired these lists with my favorites in each category for the year. It will make you wonder why I’m not an academy voter.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Best picture can be anywhere between six and ten this year, and with the field that’s out there, I’m thinking it’s going to be either eight, nine, or ten. Possibly additions/upsets in this category include the fogey-favorite The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tarantino’s slavery adventure Django Unchained, and possibly even Moonrise Kingdom and Skyfall, although the popcorn crowd already has Les Mis in the mix.
My favorite film of the year: Life of Pi. As I said in my review (which you can find here) Lee made the film work when it never ever should have. I really didn’t like the book. I shouldn’t have liked the movie. But I loved it. When a film that is an intimate portrait of one man’s ability to survive feels more epic than the search for bin Laden or the Iranian Hostage Crisis or even a Paris uprising, that’s an achievement.
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Tom Hooper (Les Misérables)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
Expect this list to double the Director’s Guild of America’s nominees, which were announced yesterday. That list, as well as the BAFTA nominees, announced earlier this week, both left Silver Linings Playbook‘s David O. Russell off, previously nominated for The Fighter. It is unlikely he’ll sneak in tomorrow, but you never know. It’s likely the snub will be him or Life of Pi‘s Ang Lee, despite it being my favorite movie of the year.
My favorite director: Ang Lee. I do believe the reason that Life of Pi achieved so much was that it had Lee behind the wheel. He took the stunning visuals and the liberty afforded by 3D and went far beyond James Cameron or anyone else who has used the medium. And despite it being fantastical everything looked real. The story was larger than life, down to earth, and well, simply breathtaking.
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Denzel Washington (Flight)
This category is as locked as locked can be. A while ago Joaquin Pheonix was in the mix for The Master, but the film’s buzz has faded since September, while everything else has pushed on.
My favorite performance: Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Say what you will about the ending to this movie (and I’ve said plenty) but it was a great film and it was great because it had Cooper at the center. Jennifer Lawrence may be getting all the attention for her flashy performance, but Cooper’s more understated Manic-Depressive character was a sight to see in the film. It was his story, and he ran with it.
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Chastain and Lawrence are mortal locks in this category, and Cotillard is as close as you can get to a sure thing. The other two spots are up for grabs. Wallis was ineligible for the SAGs and snubbed by the Globes, but the Oscars love a tyke who can really do something. It’s not exaggerating to say that she mad the movie what it was. And while SAG chose to nominate Naomi Watts for The Impossible and Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, those are both low-profile (and not even very well liked) films that really only have a shot in this category. I’m going to go with Riva instead, whose moving performance in Amour is right up the Academy’s alley. It would be something if we had the oldest and youngest performers ever nominated in the same year.
My favorite performance: Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Say what you will about the line between acting and playing yourself as a kid, but if Wallis was playing herself it was a good character. Her performance helped rocket this tiny indie into Best Picture contention, and it is not at all undeserved.
Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Christopher Waltz (Django Unchained)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Django has a powerhouse three all up for grabs in this category, Waltz plus Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. I’m giving Waltz the edge because he wheedled into this category despite the role being more a lead. Javier Bardem also has the chance to upset here, with his boundary-pushing villain in crowd-favorite Skyfall, but I fell like the BAFTA nom was his reward.
My favorite performance: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Again, he’s not the actor getting all the buzz, but his performance plays against type, soft, understated, and with a fabulous wig. With Daniel-Day Lewis being larger than life and Sally Field being just this side of whacky, Jones’s Thaddeus Stevens emerged as the heart of the piece, pulling the most emotion from the audience, down to that beautiful home scene near the end.
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
The surprise here could be Nicole Kidman’s trainwreck of a performance in The Paperboy, which, despite being in one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a good long while (read why here), managed to squeak a SAG and Globe nod. I refuse to entertain this possibility in my mind. Another upset could come in the form of Ann Dowd in Compliance, whose performance has been pushed by the entertainment press.
My favorite performance: Samantha Barks in Les Miserables. Surprise! Not even an underdog in this year’s Oscar race, Barks, a newcomer to film but an old hat in the London theatrical scene, gave a fabulous performance in the musical that has been drowned out by Anne Hathaway’s tears. Sure, Barks’ performance is a much more traditional Broadway-style portrayal of one of the greatest ingénues in history as opposed to Hathaways gritty, realistic, singing bad on purpose method. But in a movie where everything and everyone was trying too hard, it was refreshing to see Barks’ understated, dressed-down take on the musical’s most famous song. It was Eponine’s death, not Fantine’s, that felt more tragic.
Best Original Screenplay:
Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Rian Johnson (Looper)
Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
This is the category for the little film, the indie, the sci-fi or fantasy flick. Looper is possibly the weakest here just because sci-fi is a harder sell than the whimsical tale or a hard journalistic investigative piece. Flight also has a chance, although, Denzel Washington’s antagonistic journey could be a hard sell.
My favorite story this year: Moonrise Kingdom. In the best film Wes Anderson has put out in awhile, this story of two kids running away from the clueless adults that control their lives was the most endearing story of the year.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
David Magee (Life of Pi)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Argo is also probably a spoiler here, and if it gets in it will oust Life of Pi or Silver Linings Playbook. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is almost a sure thing, given that the author of the original novel both adapted the screenplay and directed the film. That’s too much for the Academy to handle.
My favorite adaptation this year: Life of Pi. Probably pretty unsurprising to you all by the end of this post, but I really liked Life of Pi. And I was surprised, because I really didn’t like the novel. That is not only the sign of a good adaptation, but a GREAT adaptation. How is it possible that this film made a kid and a tiger on a boat as dramatic, suspenseful, and also humorous and beautiful as they did? How did they take one of the most introspective novels of the past twenty years and make it so utilitarian? A wonderfully adapted script and directed film, that’s how.