Saturday, January 12, 2013

So...... the Oscars

The Oscars. What is there to say?

Look, no matter how you slice it, this is a damn solid group of BP nominees. 2012 was a great year for film and it would've been hard for the Academy to fuck it up. They didn't do such a bad job:

"Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
"Django Unchained"
"Les Miserables"
"Life Of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"

That's not a bad group at all. Surely, they could've added a 10th film. Of course, I'd want that tenth film to be The Master, but they probably would've picked something like Flight so you take the good with the bad. Taking the good with the bad is pretty much the motto, when it comes to the Oscars. I'll take the good... a foreign language film (Amour), the little film that could (Beasts), the violent, indulgent, auteur-driven, slavery spaghetti western (Django), the controversial film for our times which may or may not "endorse torture" (Zero),  that rare Hollywood film that did pretty much everything right (Argo). And then, you know, Lincoln. I enjoyed Lincoln too. With those, it's hard not to at least respect Life of Pi's placement among the BP lineup. Silver Linings Playbook has gotten a lot of love, more than perhaps it deserves, but I can't hate on David O. Russell too much. Really, that just leaves Les Miserables. Whatever. A lot of people loved the film, what can you do?

Could The Master been included? Perhaps, but methinks The Master needs time to really sink in with people. A lot of people just don't like the ambiguity of it, besides, all the principal actors got recognized and I'm sure that means more to Paul Thomas Anderson than himself getting a few noms.

What's most curious about the Oscar nominations is Best Director: Spielberg and Ang Lee should be obvious. Their films got 12 and 11 nominations respectively. The Academy loved Life of Pi apparently, and why shouldn't they? It's visually impressive and has an emotional story. But of all the other films nominated for best picture, how do they leave out Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow? Not just one. But both? Argo is arguably the most solidly directed film of the year. By that I mean, it just works on so many levels, it's a well-made film for sure. I can understand Zero Dark Thirty being a bit too rough on the edges to fully embrace but, in my mind, it's a much more impressive directorial effort than Hurt Locker.

At the same time, I can't hate on Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin. David O. Russell is the one who is the bigger head-scratcher to me. In a normal year, I can absolutely take him being nominated for best director even if I wasn't crazy about the film. After all, Michel Havazivicus (or whatever) won for The Artist last year and... ugh, whatever. Russell's effort with SLP was just as good. But no, this was a really solid year for directors, an amazing year. I just can't see how you can put Russell over Affleck and Bigelow. Or Tarantino!

It's hard to hate on Benh Zeitlin even though Beasts of the Southern Wild is his first effort. It really is a great film and given how small the film is in its budget and how big Zeitlin was able to make it feel, that definitely takes a lot of talent. All this means is that Benh Zeitlin's gotta bring it next time around as well. There have been many great directors who have made great directorial debuts, almost none of them get nominated for it

Michael Haneke might go down as one of the best directors of this current time. I mean, he's only been making films since the mid'80s or so, but he just seems like a legend. His name just has a certain pedigree to it. He's got two Palme D'ors. His films don't always go down easy, in fact, none of them do, but I totally respect him being among the Best Director nominees. How could you not? It's always great when they recognize foreign filmmakers in such a big way.

It is an odd mix though when you put them together: Spielberg, Ang Lee, Benh Zeitlin, Michael Haneke, and David O. Russell. But look at the list you could make of the directors who weren't nominated: Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ben Affleck. If those were the five nominees, nobody would bat an eye, really. In fact, I think I'd take those five over the five that were nominated.

In the coming weeks, I'll talk more about the rest of the nominees but here's what I'll leave you with for now: Lincoln's gonna win pretty much everything. It seemed obvious for awhile and it was fun to see all these "oscar prognosticators" go crazy trying to figure out what would happen during Oscar season, but when Lincoln came out and got the type of box office it got, it just seemed obvious to me. It's got everything the Academy would want in a BP winner. It's got historical and cultural relevance, a big name director, a box office smash, a best actor winner. I mean, forget it. Silver Linings Playbook has a lot of the big nominations too, but it's got zero buzz. Unless, the nominations themselves are the buzz. But I don't think so. If anything, whatever buzz SLP gained, Lincoln gained even more of it.

As I've said before, I never take much stock in those Oscar bloggers because what most of it comes down to is how those bloggers feel about those movies. They wind up simply championing the films they loved the most and they don't really try to think like an Oscar voter. Some try to, but they still let their biases get in the way. So, people railing against Lincoln will probably say it won't win because they don't want it to win. We KNOW Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild don't have a chance. We know Life of Pi not having a single acting nomination kind of hurts it a little (although that didn't hurt Slumdog Millionaire, huh). The bottom line is that Lincoln has everything going for it. Last year, there wasn't a film nominated that audiences really loved so the Academy shunned them and picked The Artist for themselves. The King's Speech had the same sort of pedigree Lincoln has except for its then-unknown director. Of course now Tom Hooper has since proved unworthy of winning that Best Director Oscar, but whatever. As an aside, I was happy to see him miss out on that nomination. But Lincoln has that pedigree and I won't be surprised to see it win at least Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Screenplay. I could also see it winning Score, Costume Design and Cinematography. Editing? Maybe. But I'd be surprised if either Argo or Zero Dark Thirty got passed over for the Editing Oscar.

So yeah, Lincoln for Best Picture and Best Director. That, I'm 100% sure of. God help me if I'm wrong.

Next time around, I'll talk more about those who were "snubbed."

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