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DAILY BULLETIN: Nom nom nom… Analyzing the Academy’s Oscar nominations

2013-oscarsHey everyone. Yesterday’s bulletin was preempted due to my Internet connection being shite (though to be fair I was dead tired anyway so anything I did post would’ve been phoned in). But today I’m back with a vengeance, due to (drum roll please) the Oscar nominations! They were announced this morning, giving bloggers everywhere a chance to weigh in and talk about how dumb the Academy is for picking/not picking the worst/best whatevers…

Anyway, before I put my two cents in, why bother listing everything here when I can just do this: the nominees are…

(Hopefully at this point you’ve clicked the link above for the full list.)

So, now I’ll run through some of the categories and offer some commentary on things. I’ll save predicting the winners for another day, although I might speculate a bit as I go through. Also, a caveat: there are a ton of movies that I’ve yet to see, which I’ll let you know about as I go through.

Best Picture: This year’s field includes nine nominees. I’ve only seen four (the ones I’ve missed so far are: Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Misérables). I’m not sure what to think about these selections. I liked all four that I’ve seen to date (although Argo feels a bit over-praised), so that should bode well, and yet… Les Misérables is getting merely average reviews, Silver Linings Playbook strikes me as Oscar bait (my love of Jennifer Lawrence notwithstanding), and as for Beasts Of The Southern Wild… Confession time: I sat through half of it and could barely keep my eyes open. I’ll definitely give it another shot when I’m not ludicrously over-tired though.

On the bright side, I still have really high hopes for Amour and Zero Dark Thirty. And again, the four nominees I have seen (Lincoln, Life Of Pi, Django Unchained and Argo) are all somewhere between good and great.

In terms of what’s missing, I’m maybe a little surprised to see The Master left off the list. And it would’ve been cool to see Margaret get a nomination after its torturously long road to the big screen. And in a perfect world, The Grey would’ve been nominated here, although I recognize it’s not a “prestige picture” of the sort the Academy tends to favour.

Best Director: This is always a fun category to pair with Best Picture, because it lets you know which movies the Academy is really serious about (apologies to Tarantino, Bigelow, Hooper, and Affleck).

What a great day today must be for Benh Zeitlin! I always thought the “it’s an honour just to be nominated” thing came off as trite, but he’s gotta be feeling pretty honoured, I would guess. This is a guy who’s putting out his first feature film (he has a few shorts to his name as well), and here he is, nominated for an Oscar alongside Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, David O. Russell and Michael Haneke. You may have heard of them.

I mean, Spielberg alone has three Oscars and 10 previous nominations plus an Irving G. Thalberg award to his name. Throw in Lee, Russell, and Haneke, and your total comes to: four Oscars, 13 nominations (14 including Haneke’s The White Ribbon getting picked as Germany’s entry for Best Foreign film at the 2010 Oscars). And the Thalberg award of course. So yeah, not to put too fine a point on it, but Zeitlin is in rarefied air.

Out of who’s listed here, I’d pick Spielberg as my favourite. But again, I’ll save my official predictions for later.

Best Actor: Of the five actors nominated, I’ve seen only two: Daniel Day Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix. I’m a bit confused by Denzel Washington’s presence here. Not that I think he’s a bad actor, of course. Quite the opposite in fact. But for Flight? Okay, again I haven’t seen it but it just seemed so mediocre based on everything I did see about it. Buy hey, if anyone can turn crap into gold it’s Denzel, so good for him. And for what it’s worth, his performance in Flight also garnered him nominations at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. So hey, maybe the Academy members do know what they’re talking about after all…

I’ve heard good things about the work done by Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper in their respective films, so I don’t have anything to add there.

What I do know is that Day-Lewis and Phoenix were excellent, so if their performances are a reflection of the work done by the other nominees, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Or maybe I do. No nominations from Django Unchained? I get that a lot of the acting was over-the-top. But that argument goes out the window when you look at 2010’s Best Actor winner, Christoph Waltz. How is that performance anything but over-the-top? Obviously the lead performance in Django is a more restrained, subtle bit of business from Jamie Foxx, but I really liked what he did and I wish his work wasn’t so overshadowed by the showy (and admittedly awesome) work done by his co-stars.

Best Actress: Wow, a complete miss! I’ve seen none of these performances (except for a piece of Quvenzhané Wallis’s work in Beasts Of The Southern Wild). I’ll keep this short then, and throw in a prediction just for the hell of it. Jessica Chastain should win for her work in Zero Dark Thirty. I’ve heard literally nothing but good things about her work, while I’ve seen a broad spectrum of opinions about everyone else on this list. Well, except Emmanuelle Riva, who I haven’t heard anything at all about. Anyway, can you tell I really want to see Zero Dark Thirty?

Again, woulda been nice to see Anna Paquin pick up a nod here for Margaret. A really great film that far too few people took the time to see, I think.

Best Supporting Actor: Okay, now this category I can get behind. I’ve seen all the performances except for DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook. And they are all great. Christoph Waltz’s second film with Tarantino brought another great performance out of him. King Schultz is pretty much everything you want out of your mentor character in a movie. Alan Arkin was just playing a really fun character and one of the best parts of Argo. Argo-fuck yourself indeed! Philip Seymour Hoffman gave yet another great performance in yet another great film from Paul Thomas Anderson (I think the secret of their power lies in their three names). And Tommy Lee Jones is simply superb in Lincoln. So much so that I could’ve watched him in his own film called Stevens focused entirely on him as Thaddeus Stevens. Just plain fun to watch.

Best Supporting Actress: Back in the dark here a little bit as I’ve only seen two of the five nominated performances (Amy Adams in The Master and Sally Field in Lincoln). They are both good, but neither one really sticks out to me. I think it’s because both of those films are so dominated by the men (Hoffman and Phoenix in the former and Day-Lewis in the latter).

I haven’t heard much about The Sessions, so Helen Hunt’s nomination makes me want to see it. And I don’t think I even knew Jacki Weaver was in Silver Linings Playbook. She’s amazing, and I was looking for something to get me to watch this movie, so that should do. If I had to guess a winner here, I’d go with Anne Hathaway. Even the negative reviews of Les Misérables usually highlight her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” as a standout moment.

At this time I don’t have any alternate picks for either of the supporting categories. Still too much stuff I haven’t seen. Maybe someone from Moonrise Kingdom?

Best Cinematography: As a film nerd, this is always a fun category for me. Even in movies I’m bored by, I can usually get myself to pay attention just by watching what the camera is doing and what shots are being used and things like that. I’m not saying the films that were nominated here are boring, mind you. Just offering that bit of commentary as an aside.

I’ve seen everything here except Anna Karenina, and I like this list! It’s full of heavyweights. Everyone here has been nominated for at least one Oscar in the past. Roger Deakins leads the field with 10 nominations (including this year’s nod for Skyfall), but has never actually won. Robert Richardson is the Academy favourite with eight nominations and three wins under his belt (1992 for JFK, 2005 for The Aviator, and last year for Hugo). But both Deakins and Richardson feel like longshots this year. If the Academy really decides to jump aboard the Lincoln train, I could see Kaminsky getting a win here. Miranda is also a strong contender. I think Life Of Pi is certainly the most visually stunning film on the list (and Hugo, which was also shot in 3D, got the win last year, so that may bode well).

Another movie from this year that leaps to mind when I say “visually stunning” is Cloud Atlas. It had two cinematographers (John Toll and Frank Griebe). And as a two-time Oscar winner (1994’s Legends Of The Fall and 1995’s Braveheart), Toll would fit right in with the rest of this group. I think Cloud Atlas both succeeded and failed in a lot of ways, but I liked it for its sheer ballsiness. It was bold, it was outside-the-box, it was challenging, it was exciting. Sad to see the Academy look past it.

I think that’s good for now. As usual, I’ll be posting my official picks the night before the Oscars, along with my own top 10 films of 2012. Good god, I have a lot of stuff to see in the next month and half.

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