I feel I’m in the middle of a massive existential crisis with the Oscars this year. Why bother talking about them or even speculating who is going to win when it all appears to be a foregone conclusion? We’re at the point where industry watchers, to a man and woman, are hoping for upsets just to keep things interesting. Rather like the recent presidential race.
I’m also hoping for an upset or two, as long as it doesn’t go to That Bathtub Movie, as I call Beasts of the Southern Wild, which makes me feel like such a mean bah-humbug Uncle Scrooge because the movie is so cute and well intentioned, but… Oh, whatever. Bah humbug.
The last of the Oscar ballots were cast today, the ceremony is on Sunday. It’s time for me to stop kvetching and nitpicking and slinging mud at my more fortunate colleagues and cast my lot with the other ‘pundits.’
Years ago a former agent of mine invited me over to her place for an Oscar party, and when I lost most of my picks, she said, “You voted for who should have won. You need to vote for who is likely to win.” Why do I still have such a moral dilemma with that? And, yet, I have followed her advice ever since and won a few Oscar pools.
Okay, here goes:
My best film of the year, of this century in fact, Rust and Bone, wasn’t even nominated. But if I were single-handedly giving out the awards based on all of the qualities I believe a great film should have, it would go to Jacques Audiard’s masterpiece. Yes, even above Amour, which is a lot of emperor’s new clothes as far as I’m concerned, but I tend to feel that way about Michael Haneke. He does, however, get my vote for most inspiring late-life career, which he shares with Clint Eastwood.
Let’s face it, it’s practically a slam-dunk for Argo, and I have no idea why. That Keystone Cops finale at Tehran Airport with the Revolutionary Guard chasing after the Swissair jumbo elicited an audible “Oh, come on!” from me. Nobody seems more surprised by the sweep of key Oscar-predicting awards this film has received—PGA, DGA, WGA, BAFTA and SAG—than Ben Affleck himself. He is right to be so humbled. I’d be suspecting a conspiracy even if I’d directed this because it is not the best picture of the year.
And yet it will likely win.
I’m done trying to figure out the why of Argo. I’m chalking it down to Hollywood patting itself on the back for having been part of a rare act of heroism in getting those embassy refugees out. Not that anyone was entirely selfless or patriotic in the process. And maybe there’s still a bit of resentment for what was done to liberal Hollywood favorite Jimmy Carter by the Reagan Goon Squad, who in all likelihood teamed up with the ayatollahs to keep the hostages long enough to bring down a well-meaning, intelligent president and replace him with a right-wing cowboy with Alzheimer’s.
The Winner Will Be: Argo
The Others: Amour (might upset), Beasts of the Southern Wild (no way), Django Unchained (pfft, why is this nominated?), Les Misérables (might upset, unlikely), Life of Pi (most likely to upset), Lincoln (nah, too uncool, plus nobody likes Spielberg, they just fear him), Silver Linings Playbook (nah, comedy), Zero Dark Thirty (so overrated)
This is a somewhat interesting category in that it seems to be headed to Spielberg, but, again, it seems he’s so disliked, although I’ve never met him and have no personal opinion. Like any filmmaker, I admire his skill, I’m deeply envious of his career, he’s a true genius in the ten-percent-inspiration-ninety-percent-perspiration sense. But I think this award is going to go to an equally accomplished director who isn’t as powerful, who came up through the indie ranks, who takes far greater risks—to wit, Wedding Banquet, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lust, Caution, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain (Hello!)—so I’m going to ignore my former agent and go for who should win, because I just think he might.
The Winner Will Probably Be: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
The Others: Michael Haneke, Amour (might upset, cos he’s old and overrated, just like the Academy itself); Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild (hear me now, O wrathful God: I promise I will never write another script if this man wins); Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (the likely winner, but I’m betting not); David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (would be nice, could happen, but… nah)
Boring. Yawn. Dan D-L’s getting it. His speech will be gracious, however, a fine performance in itself.
The Winner Will Be: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
The Others: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook (he’s not really acting, he’s just bugging his eyes and being himself); Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables (might upset, but won’t); Joaquin Phoenix, The Master (nope, too OTT and freaky for no reason, even though he gets kudos for actually acting); Denzel Washington, Flight (oh, please)
Sadly, Jennifer Lawrence’s SAG win has made Emmanuelle Riva a dark horse in this race, when the octogenarian star of Amour should be as far in the lead as Daniel Day-Lewis is. You cannot even compare the two performances—much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, and liked her in SLP, she’s basically doing a somewhat dark two-hour special of Glee. And yet her peers and critics are all over her with the awards, which is what makes this category the most interesting of the big ones. However, I’m going to bet that the aging Academy voters are going to give it to the right person.
The Probable Winner Will Be: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
The Competition: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (bah, she is utterly blank the whole movie except for one scene); Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook (the frontrunner who might not be); Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild (SHE’S A CHILD, for fuck’s sake!); Naomi Watts, The Impossible (deserves it over Lawrence, too, but won’t get it because nobody liked the movie)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Okay, so now that I’m breaking it down, the Oscars aren’t so predictable this year. My existential funk passes like a cloud of pessimism to go rain on next year’s race.
This category is all over the place. Any one of them stands a good change of winning, and they’ve all won before. But someone hasn’t won in a few decades. “You talkin’ to me?” Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Robert.
The Maybe Could Be Winner: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
The Others: Alan Arkin, Argo (nope); Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master (very good, could upset); Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (doubtful); Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained (really good, but already won for basically the same performance, so no way)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Again, boring. Shoo in. But Anne’s sure come a long way from that Disney movie with Julie Andrews about a princess my nieces were watching yesterday…
The Definite Winner: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
The Competition: Amy Adams, The Master (why is she nominated for this?); Sally Field, Lincoln (she’ll only ever win again in a parallel universe where she never gave That Speech); Helen Hunt, The Sessions (didn’t see this, but she plays a hooker with a degree, right? Yeah, known a few of those… this is unlikely); Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook (hmmm… no.)
I don’t know why Chris Terrio is pegged to be the frontrunner in this category for Argo. I think he should have been nominated and that’s it, not the favorite. I likewise have no clue why Behn Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar are nominated for That Bathtub Movie, either, but I don’t know why that’s nominated for anything at all, other than a cozy hot-apple-cider-after-skiing Sundance award. David Magee did a tepid job with Life of Pi, I was disappointed; I was smitten with the book—so shoot me: I’m a sucker for a Man Booker Prize winner. David O. Russell did a great job with Silver Linings Playbook. But I think the academy is going to give it to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angels in America, who struggled so valiantly to bring such a sacred subject to the screen. (But, Tony, you had to whittle it down from a five hundred-page script? Really? You need that OCD checked out, girlfriend.)
The Probable Winner: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
The Others: Chris Terrio, Argo (my former agent would bet on this); Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar, Beasts of the Southern Wild (just shoot me); David Magee, Life of Pi (not feeling it); David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (just might surprise).
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
I have no idea why Mark Boal won the WGA award for Zero Dark Thirty. Maybe I need to sit down and actually read the script to get it, because what I saw on the screen was a bunch of expositional and technical mambo-mumbo strung together with lifeless characterizations that I still can’t forgive. Haneke’s script is deceptively simple, but it’s also not deceptive: it’s just simple. I can’t talk about Wes Anderson… the bile starts overflowing and wrecks other, kinder internal organs. As much as I feel Django Unchained would have been an absolute masterpiece had QT played it somewhat straight and not with that ridiculous self-conscious spoofing, from a screenwriter’s standpoint, of all the nominees his is hands down the best script (which is not to say it is the best original script of the year, just of the nominees). Again, I am going against my former agent’s advice and calling it for who should win.
The Winner: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
The Others: Michael Haneke, Amour (might upset); John Gatins, Flight (huh?); Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom (merciless God, please, no); Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty (no… see above)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Again, this should go to Rust and Bone, at the very least. But my peers have no taste, or there was a conflict of interest somehow at Sony Pictures Classics and they didn’t believe in the film as much as they should have to promote it properly. Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks that watching a gorgeous amputee with cryptically tattooed thighs having sex—played by a deserving Oscar-winning actress—is riveting, unusual and moving.
The Winner: Amour (Austria)
The Others: Kon-Tiki (Norway) (haven’t seen it, but love the story); No (Chile) (haven’t seen this either, but it’s apparently great); A Royal Affair (Denmark) (no opinion); War Witch (Canada) (um… Canada. Say no more.)
I haven’t given much thought to the technical categories, except for cinematography, which I think will go to Roger Deakins for Skyfall, much as I loved my buddy Seamus McGarvey’s nominated work for Anna Karenina. Deakins is shamefully overdue. McGarvey will have his day, although he could upset because that camera of his is so balletic.
Production design should go to either Sarah Greenwood for Anna Karenina or to Eve Stewart for Les Misérables, even though Stewart once walked off a production of mine huffing, “You don’t need a production designer, you need a set dresser.” I guess I was being a little intractable with my design specs. Ooops. Sorry, Eve. Still, you’re a funny gal who works damned hard, so I hope you get it because I loved what you did with Les Mis.
I usually don’t have an opinion about the other categories until the very last minute during the show itself, when I tend to blurt out the winner like a gypsy in a trance, and I’m right about seventy-five percent of the time. Which means you’ll have to invite me over to your place to find out. Just have lots of vodka.
And if you lose money because of me, you’ve got too much money to begin with. Broke or flush, enjoy the show. I know I will. It will be interesting in some of the aforementioned categories, and that’s a prediction I can make with absolute certainty.