So I got some wrong and some right, but most of all it seems I hit one prediction on the nose early on: This is going to be the most interesting Oscar race in a long time, with awards being handed out scattershot across a bunch of worthy films.
Rather than begin with a milky froth of what, in my estimation, Academy members missed and misfired, let me highlight the underlying espresso coffee of what they got right:
No Best Picture for The Master. Nor was PT Anderson nominated for Best Director. Hooray! As I said in my review, I found many decisions made in this film to have been fatal, namely the fact that the focus was on Joaquin Phoenix’s character, not on the Master himself as the title suggests. Nobody has done the Scientology story before, it’s an incredible one, a delirious Citizen Kane, and this movie simply didn’t live up to expectations. Phoenix is unlikely to win Best Actor, but Hoffman has a very good chance for Best Supporting Actor, although he will likely lose to,
Robert De Niro, who gave his finest performance in a decade in Silver Linings Playbook. He was right at home in this superbly written role, and knocked it out of the ballpark. His co-star Bradley Cooper also deserved to be nominated for Best Actor, even though I didn’t feel he was completely right for the role. He is also unlikely to win against Daniel Day Lewis, but there could be an upset here; Cooper seems to be well liked. Jennifer Lawrence, the female lead in SLP, is even more deserving of her nomination as Best Actress than Cooper is for Best Actor, but her performance pales in comparison to,
Naomi Watts in The Impossible. I’ll elaborate later about this film versus Beasts of the Southern Wild when I go in for my froth. I’ll also post my review soon. I haven’t seen Amour yet, but by all accounts it’s amazing—another froth of mine is that this hasn’t opened in L.A. yet, only NYC. I’m often a fan of Michael Haneke (but really didn’t get the point of White Ribbon—the emperor had no clothes with that one—and the American version of Funny Games likewise left me cold), so I’m glad this film got five major awards. I’m also pleased that foreign films seem to be garnering the appropriate attention year after year, rather than just being relegated to the Best Foreign Film category. All of which is to say I haven’t seen Emmanuelle Riva’s performance. She might be the one for Watts to beat.
I was in a pre-nominations froth for weeks that Moonrise Kingdom was going to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director, but I think the Academy realized that it is worthy of neither, and hopefully it will not win Original Screenplay, the one category for which it is nominated. This film is about absolutely nothing, the performances are deliberately wooden and likewise meaningless, and shooting it mostly in master shot was just… grindingly meaningless. I’d call it pseudo-hipster filmmaking if that weren’t redundant. Anderson should stick to animation or grow up.
I haven’t seen Lincoln yet, but I promise I will within the next six weeks before the ceremony itself, when I’ll place my bets. Clearly it deserves the nominations it got, but I’m pretty confident we’re going to see a spread of awards across many films. As of now, without having seen that or Amour, I would bet on Les Misérables winning Best Picture.
Okay. So. What I’m in a froth about:
Most of all, ‘That Bathtub Movie,’ as I call Beasts of the Southern Wild. Dear Academy Members, as long as you’re nominating a film about a deluge, have any of you seen The Impossible? How can you, as filmmakers, possibly prefer the craftsmanship and performances, even between the respective children of those films, of that slight piece of homemade pretention over the most effective, poignant disaster movie ever made? (Yes, more so that Poseidon Adventure—it’s a true story.) And Benh Zeitlin as best director over Ben Affleck (who can at least spell his own name correctly) or Quentin Tarantino? You are taking the piss, as they would say in the U.K.—that nomination is downright offensive.
And if Quvenzhané Wallis wins, academy members can pat themselves on the back that they have outdone themselves from the last time a child won, when Anna Paquin, one of the stiffest, least-believable actresses ever to achieve celebrity, took home the Best Supporting Actress statuette for The Piano. (No child should ever be considered for the highest award in the business to begin with. It’s absurd and denigrates the acting profession in general.)
But wait, last but not least, do you really think That Bathtub Movie is a better adapted screenplay than Tom Stoppard’s for Anna Karenina? This is a case of collective hysteria, clearly. Let me spell it out for you people: Tolstoy. Anna. Karenina. Tom. Stoppard. It’s screenwriting 101 that if you can avoid a voiceover narrator, you should. And they could’ve in That Bathtub Movie. And that’s the least of its flaws as a script.
That Bathtub Movie is an example of something I cannot bear: film critics influencing the nomination and voting process. When A.O. Scott from The New York Times came out with a specious article a few weeks ago comparing Behn Zeitlin to Steven Speilberg, I knew this film was going to get more than what it deserved. It was the kind of article that tailors and stitches no clothes for the emperor. Film critics are not filmmakers, and have no place at the Oscars; they have their own awards ceremonies, not to mention the Golden Globes if they happen to speak in tongues. Anyway, their influence obviously can’t be avoided, so might as well grin and bear it.
Nothing for The Grey? Dudes, that was some pretty awesome filmmaking right there, not to mention Liam Neeson’s finest performance since Schindler’s List.
Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t deserve anything, much less a Best Actress nom for Jessica Chastain, the most overrated actress in Hollywood. She remains expressionless and blank the whole film. Oh, wait, she has one moment of indignation in a conference room. Sorry.
Life of Pi doesn’t deserve eleven nominations, three more than Les Mis, and certainly no Best Picture—I’m sensing a bit of cronyism with this and the ZDT nom. Never mind. It might win a tech award, but nothing major. Just a shame it’s gobbling up slots that could be taken by better films.
I wanted Rust and Bone to be nominated for Best Picture—it’s a far superior endeavor than half of the nominees—but no Best Actress for Marion’s Cotillard’s subtle, riveting performance is a scandal, especially when they gave one to a nine-year-old who just screams and pouts all through That Bathtub… don’t get me started again.
I was probably overly generous with my praise of Cloud Atlas, but I still believe it is the most audacious film ever made in terms of its intricacy and scope, not to mention difficulty in adaptation. As a screenwriter, I wouldn’t have known where to begin. I thought it was masterfully done, and I am the hardest person the Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer could have pleased because the book is one of my all-time favorites. But they were shut out even from the tech categories, which means establishment Hollywood still isn’t ready for these guys.
Last bugaboo: Nothing for Tom Hooper for Les Mis? Dear Academy, if you’re going to hand out nine Best Picture noms, you have to do the same with the director category. I appreciate that producers actually get the film made, but directors make the film. Come on. Aren’t liberals meant to be fair?