The 2012 Oscar year was one of the best in memory, with a diverse slate up for nine Best Picture slots and very few lock-ins. After finally clearing the slate yesterday, seeing Life Of Pi in 3D, it’s time for my “Should Win / Will Win” list – and in a crazy year that could be all over the map, I’m willing to bet heavy, because, frankly, in the chaos I see a certain logic.
Should Win: ARGO
Will Win: ARGO
A no-brainer. Besides being the “Best All-Rounder” of the year, it’s won everything leading up to the Oscars. Why is that important? Because it’s subsets of the same people. Thus the fact that the Director’s Guild, the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Producer’s Guild and the BAFTA all voted for it (along with many others) means that those people are going to vote the same way at the Oscars. After all, your Best Film is your Best Film, right? So, Tom Hanks, for example, is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy. We know he likely voted for Argo at the SAGs – and he does again at the Oscars. Or say Ridley Scott is a member of the Director’s Guild, the Producer’s Guild, BAFTA and the Academy. He voted for Argo then – he’s doing it again. Those are the simple maths of the thing. It’s a numbers game, and Argo has the numbers.
Why is it the “Best All-Rounder?” That’s my opinion. Two other movies may have astonished me, or thrilled me, or just generally blown my mind more (those would be Beasts of the Southern Wild and Django Unchained) but Argo was flawless, with not a single moment of drag, not a single foot in the wrong place, entertaining from start to finish – for everyone. Beasts, Django, Amour, Les Miserables – all will be favorites among certain clientele, but Argo is the ultimate crowd-pleaser (unless that crowd is in Iran, perhaps, but even then, I gotta say its politics are pretty well spread). A great film and worthy of the statue.
Really Should Win: Ben Affleck, ARGO (not nominated)
Should Win: Benh Zeitlin (BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD)
Will Win: Ang Lee (LIFE OF PI)
Firstly, forget all concept of a “snub”: the Academy members don’t collude (where do 6,000 people gather and conduct a practical meeting in secret?) and besides, they like and admire Ben Affleck. What happened to him was an accident. Here’s how:
Imagine you and I are part of the Academy’s 350 members of the Director’s Branch (that’s how many there are, give or take a few – they’re the smallest branch of the Academy, and they pick the Directing nominees). I “know” that Affleck’s gonna be nominated – hell, I “know” he’s gonna win – so, to make my vote useful, I go for Benh Zeitlin, because Beasts of the Southern Wild was the most audacious, bold, original, exciting, exhilarating, ballsy feature debut in years, perhaps ever, was obviously very much a “director’s work”, obviously declares the arrival of a major new director, and, even as a debut, could be argued to be The Best Film Of The Year easily.
Now you “know” that Affleck’s gonna be nominated / win, so you vote for Michael Haneke: Amour moved you to tears; you admired its thematic coherence, its amazing performances, its incredible precision and control, its powerful subject matter, and besides, you’ve loved the work of Haneke for years: he’s a Master Filmmaker, and deserves your vote. So you sling it to him: everyone else is voting for Affleck, right?
That’s what happened.
So now on to the actual nominees: Well, Zeitlin should win, because Beasts of the Southern Wild was the most audacious, bold, original, exciting, exhilarating, ballsy feature debut in years, perhaps ever, was obviously very much a “director’s work”, obviously declares the arrival of a major new director, and, even as a debut, could be argued to be The Best Film Of The Year easily. But the Academy will definitely, as some sort of collective organism, consider that Zeitlin’s nomination, young upstart that he is (though by all accounts a real gentleman) to be its own reward.
But Life of Pi is audacious in its own way, within the studio system, a massively expensive movie that has proved its legs and become a worldwide massive success (somewhat surprisingly); Ang Lee is considered a master Filmmaker and is held in unbelievably high regard in Hollywood Director Circles (much higher than Spielberg: you know that some directors think Spielberg’s a Soppy Populist, whereas Lee is a Master whose only bad film – Hulk – was simply a studio-abused aberration). Pi’s level of difficulty was immense: the novel was “unfilmable” (until it was filmed); almost its entire length is on a single raft with a kid who’d never acted in a film before and a CGI tiger; and it works. Like Avatar and Hugo, it is a natural 3D film, shot in that format, best viewed in that format, designed for that format, reveling in it and stepping it up not a notch but many notches. It’s moving, it has a message (even if you don’t like it) and it’s for all ages. And the tiger is awesome.
This category could get personal: more people just like Ang Lee more than they like Steven Spielberg. He and Haneke are my second and third picks, but the Oscar’s going to Lee – and when it does, it will be his second after Brokeback Mountain, equalling Spielberg.
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva (AMOUR)
Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva (AMOUR)
There’s a lot of chatter for Jennifer Lawrence, but, really, it comes down to a conscience vote: when you’re staring at your ballot, are you really going to vote for a 22 year old bombshell with her entire career ahead of her – for playing an “offbeat chic” in an offbeat RomCom – when you can vote for a woman who turns 86 on the day of the Awards, who has 78 feature credits, and who plays the woman who deteriorates and dies in front of our eyes in the Best Picture-nominated certified classic about a woman who deteriorates and dies – in front of our eyes?
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis (LINCOLN)
Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis (LINCOLN)
You’ve seen Lincoln? Enough said.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should Win: Anne Hathaway (LINCOLN)
Will Win: Anne Hathaway (LES MISERABLES)
See above, but substitute Les Miserables for Lincoln.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman (THE MASTER)
Will Win: Robert De Niro (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK)
Hoffman was the best thing about The Master, he played The Master, and he was surprising, confronting, intriguing and overall quite brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones has a fantastic part in Lincoln, facing the most complex choices, but Silver Linings Playbook, with eight nominations, is going to be the big also-ran at these Oscars – so this is where it’s going to pick one up. “Gee,” says Academy voter, staring at their ballot, “I haven’t given Silver Linings Playbook anything… Oh look, I can give it to De Niro.” Tick!
BEST SCREENPLAY – ORIGINAL
Should Win: Quentin Tarantino (DJANGO UNCHAINED)
Will Win: Quentin Tarantino (DJANGO UNCHAINED)
Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty screenplay is an amazing piece of research, but the film has been ruined by weird press; Moonrise Kingdom is beautiful, but unsubstantial. Django is vibrant, original, funny as hell, thrilling, full of its master’s voice – and also deeply confronting, ripping open the closed wound of American slavery. Haneke’s Amour is the only real contender here.
BEST SCREENPLAY – ADAPTED
Should Win: ARGO (Chris Terrio)
Will Win: Tony Kushner (LINCOLN)
Star power is going to carry the day here: Kushner is lionized in the US, the closet to a rock star – or a Rushdie – a high-brow playwright/screenwriter can get there – higher in the firmament even than Sorkin. Also, Lincoln is not going home with much Gold – here’s a chance to sneak it just a wee bit more. Argo’s screenplay, however, is a perfect movie screenplay, for the same reasons, mentioned above in Best Film, that Argo is a perfect movie. The outsider with a chance is David Magee for Life of Pi; the movie drags, and the dialogue is often risible – especially in the framing scenes – but that novel was considered “unfilmable”, and the screenplay is considered a real “tough nut to crack” of an adaptation – and that’s what this category is meant to be about.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Should Win: AMOUR
Will Win: AMOUR
In a very strong and diverse field, Amour will deserve its win, and then some. A wonderful film, by a filmmaker who’s held in serious regard.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Should Win: SKYFALL (Adele Adkins / Paul Epworth)
Will Win: SKYFALL (Adele Adkins / Paul Epworth)
The lyrics are bonkers – “It’s this mo-vie… here’s the name of this mo-vie…” – but it’s Adele, and she sounds incredible. And let’s face it, it’s a catchy, hooky melody: can you hum “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted, or even the new one created specifically for Les Miserables, called “Suddenly”? Thought not.
Should Win: Claudio Miranda (LIFE OF PI)
Will Win: Claudio Miranda (LIFE OF PI)
In another year, we may have had the joy of seeing Roger Deakins – in his tenth nomination – win – for a Bond movie! And Skyfall would deserve him that Oscar. But Life of Pi is mind-blowing – and that’s before the 3D.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Should Win: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott (LIFE OF PI)
Will Win: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott (LIFE OF PI)
Yes, Prometheus, The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsman were all state-of-the-art, amazing effects movies (I didn’t see The Hobbit). But Life of Pi is a human story that uses effects perfectly rather than being an effects movie – and that’s going to be respected. Plus, the lion is awesome.
So that’s it… other categories I haven’t seen all the nominated films. Please comment – and don’t forget to watch the Oscars!
Friday, 22nd February