Random Factoid #568

25 04 2013

les-miserables-dvd-blu-ray1Been a while since you’ve seen one of these, hasn’t it?

I discontinued daily random factoids back in 2011 because, well, they were becoming a lot more of a stretch.  Usually they weren’t really factoids, they were just random cultural tidbits with a little bit of Marshall commentary.  I definitely enjoyed doing that, but it became a lot more of a hassle than it should have been.  So I stopped.

But now, I have a real factoid to share with you all, so it felt like a good time to resurrect the series for the first time in two years.

I actually watched a movie with the commentary track on.  For the first time ever.

Aren’t you proud of me?  I sat for 2 1/2 hours and listened to Tom Hooper talk all over “Les Misérables.”  He had some fascinating insights into the film, and I learned a lot from it.  But I didn’t really get to watch the movie, per se.  Is that how they all are, or is Hooper just incredibly long-winded?

By the way, a big ol’ whoppin’ defense of the film’s close-ups is coming your way soon.  Get ready, blogosphere.

Advertisements




Live Blogging the 2012 Oscars!

24 02 2013

12:53 A.M.  To put the finishing touches on the evening, “Life of Pi” was the big winner with 4 Oscars including Best Director.  “Argo” took home 3 trophies to boot including Best Picture, the one that really counts.  “Les Misérables” had a nice haul of 3 as well, winning Anne Hathaway her first Oscar!  “Django Unchained,” “Lincoln,” and “Skyfall” each won a pair of Academy Awards too.

Thanks for tuning in, everyone!  You were a wonderful audience!  And you helped make this a banner night for the site as well, breaking my all-time daily traffic record.

Check back tomorrow for my Monday morning wrap-up where I attempt to break down the implications of the night, the best-dressed women, and the precise moment I went and returned from heaven during the “Les Misérables” cast reunion.  Take care, readers and Oscar watchers!

11:59 P.M.  Aww, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.  And what an incredible speech of redemption, justice, and vindication!

11:58 P.M.  Giving the Academy the finger with the mention of Affleck as a director.

11:56 P.M.  What a wild ride for Ben Affleck.  Congratulations to all involved on this fantastic movie!

11:55 P.M.  BEST PICTURE: ARGO

Ben Affleck for Argo

11:53 P.M.  Because Bill Clinton on the Golden Globes wasn’t enough, Michelle Obama had to upstage everyone at the Oscars…

11:52 P.M.  Does Jack Nicholson always present Best Picture?

11:51 P.M.  Biggest shocker of the night!  A nice, eloquent speech as always.  History has been made … and will probably be made again when he takes his next role.

11:48 P.M.  BEST ACTOR: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, “LINCOLN

DDL

11:43 P.M.  BEST ACTRESS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

JLaw

11:36 P.M.  If “Life of Pi” does not win Best Picture, that means Ang Lee will have won Best Director twice and never won Best Picture.

11:34 P.M.  BEST DIRECTOR: ANG LEE, LIFE OF PI

Netter_PI_1418R - Director Ang Lee on the set of LIFE OF PI

11:29 P.M.  Ugh, really?  Guess my distaste for Tarantino’s latest really killed my ballot.

11:26 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

11:24 P.M.  BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ARGO

Argo

11:17 P.M.  You da bomb, Adele!  The whole world loves you!

11:16 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SONG: SKYFALL FROM SKYFALL

Skyfall

11:10 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: LIFE OF PI

life-of-pi-lop-275_rgb

11:00 P.M.  We miss you, Nora Ephron!

10:57 P.M.  In memoriam, it always gets me…

10:49 P.M.  BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: “LINCOLN

Lincoln

10:36 P.M.  No one can silence a room quite like Adele.  She is unbelievable.

10:33 P.M.  BEST FILM EDITING: “ARGO

Argo BP

10:25 P.M.  YES YES YES!  “It came true,” channeling her best Mia Thermopolis.  And such a beautiful line about Fantines in real life!

10:22 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY, LES MISERABLES

I Dreamed a Dream

10:19 P.M.  TIME FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS!

10:16 P.M.  So cool, never thought I’d see a tie in my lifetime!  This is awesome!

10:14 P.M.  BEST SOUND EDITING: (tie) “ZERO DARK THIRTY” and “SKYFALL

Zero Dark

10:11 P.M.  BEST SOUND MIXING: LES MISERABLES

Les Mis

10:10 P.M.  Glad Seth MacFarlane can joke about his movie’s mediocrity.

"Ted"

10:07 P.M.  Is this what heaven is like?  Oh my god!

10:05 P.M. HYPERVENTILATION!

10:03 P.M.  I CAN DIE HAPPY NOW!  THIS IS SO FANTASTIC!

10:02 P.M.  LES MIS LES MIS LES MIS LES MIS I AM DYING

9:59 P.M.  Jennifer Hudson being amazing is good enough.  Why has she disappeared?!

9:57 P.M.  HOW CAN THEY DO “DREAMGIRLS” WITHOUT BEYONCE!?!

9:54 P.M.  I’ll never look at “Chicago” the same way.  Catherine Zeta-Jones sounds awful and looks like a totally different person than the woman that won the Oscar 10 years ago.

9:53 P.M.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t take John Travolta seriously…

9:50 P.M.  BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “AMOUR

Haneke

9:45 P.M.  “Jaws” theme again?  Wow, so rude.

9:44 P.M.  BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN”

9:41 P.M.  “The actor who really got inside Abraham Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”  Yeah, maybe too soon…

9:40 P.M.  By breaking up the Best Picture nominees into 3 trios, I hope this doesn’t mean they think they can get away with not doing one giant montage…

9:37 P.M.  The modern American superhero who isn’t American … Liam Neeson.

9:36 P.M.  Darn, there goes my streak of getting all the short films right.

9:35 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY): “INOCENTE”

9:33 P.M.  Love that feeling of getting a short film prediction right!

9:32 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): “CURFEW”

9:30 P.M.  This is how I knew who Shirley Bassey was…

9:27 P.M.  Pretty impressive finish for Shirley Bassey there.

9:21 P.M.  So glad “Les Misérables” isn’t going home empty handed!

9:20 P.M. BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: “LES MISERABLES

Anne Hathaway

9:17 P.M.  BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “ANNA KARENINA

Anna Karenina

9:11 P.M.  What a terrible way to play someone off – with “Jaws!”  He was trying to say something meaningful about their company that was going bankrupt and they just totally cut him off!

9:1o P.M.  BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “LIFE OF PI

9:07 P.M.  BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “LIFE OF PI

Life-of-Pi-aerial-sea

9:05 P.M.  Awkwardly missing Scarlett Johansson on “The Avengers” reunion … now it’s a sausage fest.

9:04 P.M.  Adorable flexing Quvenzhané Wallis!  “I really hope I don’t lose to that old lady, Jennifer Lawrence!”

Beasts

9:02 P.M.  Chills all over again for “Les Misérables.”

Les Miserables

9:00 P.M.  Well, sorry for ever doubting Pixar owned this category, except when they don’t.

9:00 P.M. BEST ANIMATED FILM: BRAVE

Brave

8:59 P.M.  So great of the Academy to send out all the short films!

8:58 P.M. BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: “PAPERMAN”

8:57 P.M.  Never mind, misread the envelope.

8:56 P.M.  Screenplay already?!  Not again….

8:55 P.M.  Loving all this “E.T.” music!

8:52 P.M.  Well, I guess lightning does strike twice.  The same performance wins another Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

8:50 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: CHRISTOPH WALTZ, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Christoph

8:45 P.M.  Sally Field, what a great sport!

8:42 P.M.  So THAT’S why Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed up to their first Oscars (which is a fact that surprises me).

8:40 P.M. Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron seem like an odd couple to be doing this dance … but they have some kind of grace!  This reminds me of a “Family Guy” episode with all these random tangents.

8:37 P.M.  This “we saw your boobs” number is true but just rubs me wrong…

8:31 P.M.  Really, Tommy Lee Jones?  Way to break character!  Jimmy Fallon, you are in good company…

TLJ GG

8:29 P.M.  TIME FOR THE SHOW TO START!

Seth

8:20 P.M.  Reminder to COMMENT and I will answer!

8:18 P.M.  By my count, “Life of Pi“ wins five, “Argo“ and “Les Misérables“ take three, and “Amour“ and “Silver Linings Playbook“ steals two trophies.  How’s that for spreading it around?

8:10 P.M.  Best Picture.  The holy grail.

Best Picture

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “The Master

Only the second movie since 1930 to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination – that is the feat “Argo“ looks to pull off tonight.  On nomination day, I wrote “All that talk of it being a surprise come-from-behind winner all just came to a screeching halt with that Best Director snub.”  That has quickly been proven dead wrong as it wins top honors from the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, PGA, DGA, SAG, and BAFTA.  If it only had that pesky Best Director nomination, we wouldn’t think twice.

SLP BP

What looked to be a tough race to predict has been blown wide open by “Argo.”  But if anything will prove us wrong, it would be “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Then “Lincoln.”  Then “Life of Pi.”

8:05 P.M.  Ladies are looking PHENOMENAL tonight.  Scroll down for Chastain, and also check out Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence!

Amy Adams

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

reg_634.JLawrence.mh.022413

8:00 P.M.  Best Director will be more interesting tonight than it has been in quite some time … will they do it before or after the leading acting races?  Hopefully it’s just right before Best Picture.

Best Director

Michael Haneke, “Amour
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will win: Ang Lee, “Life of Pi
Could win: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Should be nominated: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty

Life of Pi

A part of me wonders if David O. Russell won’t steal this, but his nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay could lead to some vote splitting.  Steven Spielberg just doesn’t feel right, not with how “Lincoln” seems to have faded at the end of the season.  Ang Lee’s work on “Life of Pi” just seems director-y, so something tells me I ought to pick him.

7:50 P.M.  The “breath of fresh air” category of all former winners – Best Supporting Actor.  Who will win their second – or third – Oscar?  Saved this category towards the end because I was still thinking about it…

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, “Argo
Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained

Will win: Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
Could win: Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
Should be nominated: Eddie Redmayne, “Les Misérables

TLJ

He hasn’t won anything yet.  But it’s a gut feeling I’ve had since the nominations.  SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones or Globe/BAFTA winner Christoph Waltz seem to be more safe or likely choices.  But if Riva upsets Lawrence, they run the risk of nominating “Silver Linings Playbook” for all acting awards and then giving it zero wins.  I don’t think that happens, so DeNiro wins on sympathy and insurance votes.

7:40 P.M.  The Best Actress race is crazy tight this year, and I will be on the edge of my seat as the envelope is opened.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
Could win: Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour
Should win: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone

Silver Linings Playbook

Between the Golden Globe, the SAG, and “The Hunger Games,” this is Lawrence’s year.  There seems to be a late surge for Riva with her BAFTA win, but I think Jennifer Lawrence should take this one.

7:32 P.M.  How incredible does she look?!

Jessica Chastain

7:30 P.M.  I mean, do I even need to predict the next two categories?

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, “The Master
Sally Field, “Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook

Will win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Could win: Sally Field, “Lincoln
Should win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: Shirley MacLaine, “Bernie

Duh.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master
Denzel Washington, “Flight

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
Could win: Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master
Should be nominated: Jack Black, “Bernie

Again, duh.

7:20 P.M.  Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the night’s most unpredictable races involving five major Best Picture contenders.  Who will win?

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

Alan Arkin

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: “Argo
Should be nominated: “Bernie

Again, since they can’t give Best Director to Ben Affleck, they’ll give “Argo” some consolation prizes so it doesn’t ONLY win Best Picture. Perhaps this is where “Silver Linings Playbook” breaks through, but I think the momentum is unstoppable for “Argo.”

7:00 P.M.  Time to move into the heavy hitters … can’t believe some of these people will be holding a golden statue soon!

Best Original Screenplay

Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Amour
Could win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Master

Amour

Zero Dark Thirty” may be too controversial, but it did win the WGA.  However, it was not competing against Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” nor Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”  I’m seeing a foreign film triumph like in 2002 when “Talk to Her” unexpectedly took the trophy.  Just a gut feeling I have.

6:55 P.M.  Jennifer Lawrence just referenced “Father of the Bride” – MARRY ME!

6:53 P.M.  The sound categories always prove to be a bit of a conundrum – do you predict a split?  They haven’t done so since 2008!

Best Sound Mixing

Argo
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Will win: “Les Misérables
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

Did you know they sang live on “Les Misérables?”  No movie has shone more of a light on sound mixing than this one, so it should handily win.  And musicals always seem to score here.

Best Sound Editing

Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Skyfall
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

A “Life of Pi” technical sweep should get back on track and take the other sound category.
6:46 P.M.  Cute Quvenzhané Wallis and her adorable puppy purse!

puppy purse

6:45 P.M.  Best Film Editing, according to Dave Karger, is an even more necessary nomination than Best Director.  So having said that…

Best Film Editing

Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Argo

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Master

6:35 P.M. Happy one year anniversary, Angelina Jolie’s protruding right leg!

Angie's Leg

6:30 P.M.  Best Cinematography is a category I appreciate more and more each year.  So who will take it for 2012?

Best Cinematography

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Skyfall

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Skyfall
Should win: “Skyfall
Should be nominated: “Les Misérables

I think it would be great if Roger Deakins, a perennial Oscar bridesmaid, won for his superb lensing of “Skyfall.”  But his name isn’t on the ballot, just the movie’s name.  And there seems to be a Bond bias in the Academy.  So I say the technical domination of “Life of Pi” continues here.

6:20 P.M.  That one time I ran into an Oscar nominee.  It’s super casual.

IMG_2647

(That’s Emmanuelle Riva of “Amour,” in case you couldn’t tell.)

6:15 P.M.  Almost forgot the other two short film categories … whoops!

Best Documentary Short

“Inocente”
“Kings Point”
“Mondays at Racine”
“Open Heart”
“Redemption”

Will win: “Mondays at Racine”
Could win: “Open Heart”

I’m thinking heartstrings-tugger “Mondays at Racine,” about two female cancer patients who become unlikely friends, will triumph over “Open Heart.”  The latter seems to similar to “Saving Face,” last year’s winner in the category about reconfiguring women’s faces in Pakistan that have been disfigured by acid.

Best Live Action Short

“Asad”
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Curfew”
“Death of a Shadow”
“Henry”

Will win: “Curfew”
Could win: “Death of a Shadow”

I did my research and “Curfew” sounded right, but now I don’t remember what it was about.  I do remember that Matthias Schoenaerts of “Rust and Bone” was in “Death of a Shadow,” though.

6:05 P.M.  Eddie Redmayne arrives!  Why isn’t he nominated for Best Supporting Actor?!

Les Miserables (2)

6:00 P.M.  What was once “Best Makeup” is now “Best Makeup and Hairstyling.”  So that adds a whole new dimension to the category (slightly kidding, slightly serious).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables

Will win: “Les Misérables
Could win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “Holy Motors

Anne Hathaway

Consider how much that makeup and hairstyling contributed to Anne Hathaway’s soon-to-be-Oscar winning performance.  I think that’s enough to trump the showier styles of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

5:45 P.M.  Time for my predictions for the costume drama awards.  The movies that win here are usually made solely to win these Oscars.

Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina
Les Misérables
Lincoln
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Will win: “Anna Karenina
Could win: “Les Misérables
Should win
: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “Moonrise Kingdom

I mean, “Anna Karenina” is way too gorgeous to be passed up here.

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

Best Production Design

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

Will win: “Anna Karenina
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win
: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Some say the digital scenery of “Life of Pi” will triumph over the traditionally Oscar-y sets of “Anna Karenina,” like how “Avatar” won in 2009.  And maybe it will, indicating a HUGE technical sweep for the movie.  But I think given that the scenery and setting of “Anna Karenina” is a major plot device, it will walk away with the award.

4:45 P.M. 84, soon to be 85 years of Oscar, all in one picture. Awesome.

85 years

4:00 P.M. I saw all the Best Picture nominees so you don’t. Here are some of my favorite quotes from my reviews of each nominated film.

Amour

At times, it can be fairly difficult to watch … but how hunky-dory do you want movies about death to be? How can you even begin to comprehend the ennui of watching someone slowly lose their grip on life when you are treated to watch from a coolly removed distance?

Argo

However, I don’t attribute the success of “Argo” merely to coincidence and fate. The movie works because it was meticulously and intentionally crafted by director Ben Affleck, who continues to make leaps and bounds with each movie he makes.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Have no doubt about it, “Beasts” is a movie that could only by an uncorrupted visionary like Zeitlin. His ambition soars to the sky, and even in the rare occasions where it falls short, we are left in awe of the sheer gutsiness of the decision.

Django Unchained

[R]ather than use the forward momentum to lead to further exploration of his craft, Tarantino chose to take a victory lap fueled by the high of inhaling too much of the exhaust fumes of his own success. ”Django Unchained” just feels like Tarantino on autopilot, lacking the vibrancy or surprising eccentricity of his prior films.

Les Misérables

Even when the novelty of the close-ups wears off, we are still left to ponder just how radical and revolutionary Hooper’s “Les Misérables” is. The musical genre has favored sweeping grandiosity for years in an attempt to replicate the stage experience for cinematic audiences. Hooper, on the other hand, respects the live theatre’s conventions but throws out those that do not translate well to screen.

Life of Pi

The core ideas of “Life of Pi” get diluted, passed over in favor of a little more cinematic grandeur. Don’t get me wrong, Lee’s grand canvas for the movie is exciting and stunning. But I can get that in any movie; few dare to delve into the psyche like he meagerly attempted to do.

Lincoln

Once the process wraps up, it is revealed that Kushner and Spielberg are really more interested in hagiography than biography with “Lincoln.” While it delves deeper than just mere Honest Abe iconography, their film is not one that attempts to tell his story.

Silver Linings Playbook

Russell’s editing facilitates emotional rapport, [and] the two feel like parts of ourselves that we usually try to pretend don’t exist. But on screen and embodied by Cooper and Lawrence, we embrace them and allow them to illuminate the crazy that lives within us all.

Zero Dark Thirty

Through the journalistic proceedings of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Boal cleverly utilizes Maya as an important through-line to keep us drawn in. And Chastain in turns creates a character so scarily resolute that we can’t help but root and cheer for her.

3:45 P.M. Remember when “Zero Dark Thirty” was the frontrunner for Best Picture? Read my piece for “LAMB Devours the Oscars” to see what happened to what was once a prized darling.

ZDT

3:30 P.M. Animation is a little tougher than normal this year…

Best Animated Feature

Brave
“Frankenweenie”
“ParaNorman”
“The Pirates: Band of Misfits”
Wreck-It Ralph

Will win: “Wreck-It Ralph
Could win: “Brave
Should win: “Wreck-It Ralph

Vanellope

A few years ago, it would be unimaginable that Pixar could lose this category. They may not cede their turf tonight, to be fair. “Brave” won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, but “Wreck-It Ralph” had better reviews and took the PGA and Annie Award. I admit to picking the movie I think is clearly better and hoping the Academy feels the same way. But they could remind us that this category belongs to the studio of Woody and Buzz.

Best Short Film – Animated

“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head Over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare”
“Paperman”

Will win: “Paperman”
Could win: “Adam and Dog”
Should win: “Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare”

Disney’s short film “Paperman” should clean up here. It seems like the most substantial nominee, but I could be totally wrong. I saw it before “Wreck-It Ralph” and was very impressed with the way it rehashed silent film charm.

3:15 P.M.Zero Dark Thirty” jokes are fun.

13GoingonZDT

ZD30Rock

3:00 P.M. Visual effects are fun. Check out some of these awesome videos demonstrating how the nominated films came together on a computer!

Best Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Life of Pi

Prometheus

“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should win: “Life of Pi
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

Best Picture nominees have dominated this category since 2008, so I give the advantage to “Life of Pi.” On the other hand, “The Lord of the Rings” did win this category three times in a row, so a sneak attack is possible.

2:45 P.M. Some more predictions for you … again, I consider these to be pretty much no-brainers.

Best Documentary Feature

“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
The Invisible War
“Searching for Sugar Man”

Will win: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Could win: “The Invisible War
Should win: “The Invisible War
Should be nominated: “The Queen of Versailles

Have only seen two of the nominated films, so I can’t speak much from my own aesthetic tastes. But “Searching for Sugar Man” has been totally dominant on the precursors circuit, and I don’t expect its dominance to let up now.

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour
“Kon-Tiki”
“No”
“A Royal Affair”
“War Witch”

Will win: “Amour
Could win: “Kon-Tiki”
Should win: “No”
Should be nominated: “Rust and Bone

Are any movies other than “Amour” in this category nominated for Best Picture? Nope, didn’t think so. Some have speculated crowd-pleasing “Kon-Tiki” could pull a “The Lives of Others”-style upset on Michael Haneke’s downer, but I think that’s doubtful at best.

And I base my should win for “No” on the trailer, which is seriously AMAZING! Shameless plug:

2:30 P.M. Honest posters for the Best Picture nominees. So incredibly accurate.

Amour Honest

SLP Honest

Lincoln Honest

2:25 P.M. Subtext?

2:15 P.M. Might as well start some predictions. What better place to start than with the music categories? This year’s ceremony promises to be quite a celebration of music between performances by Adele, Norah Jones, Barbra Streisand, and Shirley Bassey. There’s also the celebration of “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Les Misérables.” And the show will close with a number by host Seth MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth. Oy.

Best Score

Anna Karenina,” Dario Marianelli

Argo,” Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi,” Mychael Danna

Lincoln,” John Williams

Skyfall,” Thomas Newman

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Argo
Should win: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “The Master,” Jonny Greenwood

Really don’t have any sense of certainty, but “Life of Pi” certainly seems to be headed towards a large below-the-line haul. And it won the Golden Globe. Perhaps if the momentum for “Argo” extends beyond Best Picture, it will lift up Best Score. It would be a much-deserved win for workhorse Alexandre Desplat. Then again, we also should not count out John Williams EVER. But I don’t think that will happen with the lack of “Lincoln” love in the late phase of the season.

Best Song

Before My Time from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph

Suddenly from “Les Misérables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Pi’s Lullaby from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri

Skyfall from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Everybody Needs a Best Friend from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane

Will win: Skyfall from “Skyfall
Could win: Suddenly from “Les Misérables
Should win: Skyfall from “Skyfall
Should be nominated: Who Were We from “Holy Motors

Easiest race of the night to call. It’s “Skyfall” all the way.

2:00 P.M. Kids Oscars. Let’s go!

1:50 P.M. Feel free to comment below and I will respond in the post itself!

1:45 P.M. For reference’s sake, many people will refer to tonight’s proceedings as “The 2013 Academy Awards.” In fact, probably most people will. But I, for whatever reason, choose to refer to the ceremony by the calendar year in which the nominated films were released.

1:40 P.M. Already a quick note to the E! hostesses … stick to fashion, please. Leave punditry to Dave Karger. “Argo” will not win “Best Oscar,” it will win “Best Picture.”

1:30 P.M. Who the heck is already watching Oscars red carpet coverage?! ME, of course! I can’t get enough of this stuff, who cares if no one famous shows up for 5 hours? I’m now on my fourth live Oscars blog, and it has quickly become one of my favorite parts of the night. I love sharing my thoughts with everyone – and also being able to go back and see my thoughts from past ceremonies.

(If curious, check out the live blogs from 2011, 2010, and 2009.)

So who will win Best Picture, Best Director, and other coveted trophies? In a few hours, we will know. But in the meantime, we have this list of nine…

85th Academy Awards Nominations Announcement





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 5 (Best Picture)

9 01 2013

ONE DAY MORE to revolution (I mean, Oscar nominations).  Now it’s time to lock in my Best Picture predictions.  It was an extremely tough year to forecast.  So without further ado, here are the films I think will be called out by Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone early tomorrow morning.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

See my predictions for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

See my predictions for Best Actor and Best Actress.

 See my predictions for Best Director.

Best Picture

  1. Lincoln
  2. Les Misérables
  3. Argo
  4. Zero Dark Thirty
  5. Silver Linings Playbook
  6. Life of Pi
  7. Django Unchained
  8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  9. The Master
  10. Moonrise Kingdom

Silver LiningsThe top five of “Lincoln,” “Les Misérables,” “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” are locked in.  There has been pretty consistent and unilateral support for these all season long (although some critics have savaged a certain musical I love).

I’d say given the critical beat-down of “Les Misérables” and the Senatorial inquisition into “Zero Dark Thirty,” Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” has risen back to the top of the pack.  “Argo” has also benefitted from being the least controversial, most agreeable movie in the bunch.  Find me someone that hated “Argo,” and I’ll find you a flying pig.

But who knows how the passion will play out?  Two years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me “The Social Network” was going to lose.  There is still time for a “Les Misérables” and “Silver Linings Playbook” surge.  If one takes a lot of Golden Globes and then the SAG Ensemble prize, it could pose a serious threat.

Argo FYC

Then again, there’s also time for “Lincoln” or “Argo” to build a consensus with wins from either the BFCA, HFPA, or SAG.  Wins from PGA and DGA in 2012 may be the biggest shaper of the odds; “Zero Dark Thirty” needs at least one of these guild trophies to prove it’s more than just a critical darling.  Hopefully it all gets split up for a fun year!

But beyond the guaranteed five, we are looking at a highly unpredictable field that could include any number of nominees.  I mean, literally, there could be no more nominees – or there could be five more thanks to the Academy’s new sliding scale.  Some are more likely to score nods than others, but there are a few longshots looking to make a few people gasp on nomination morning.  The system also rewards passion because a film needs 5% of the first-place votes to be nominated.  Hence, it pays off to be loved, not liked.

ZDT

Despite what I keep sensing as a lack of passion for “Life of Pi,” I think it will ultimately wind up with a Best Picture nomination.  I thought the flame had been extinguished for “War Horse” and “Moneyball” last year, but apparently 5% of the Academy voters thought they were the best movies of 2011.  So if they can do it, so can Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”  All three movies were feted by BFCA and HFPA, so I’d say it’s a good bet – especially with Lee’s DGA nod.  (It’s also effects and craft heavy, so those smaller but no less important portions of the Academy may buoy it to a nomination.)

Life of Pi

Ditto “Django Unchained,” which I had initially written off for a Best Picture nomination.  Nothing felt right at first.  When it only received Critics Choice nods for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, something felt fishy.  Then when it was totally snubbed at the SAG Awards, I thought it was dead.  (Most shrug this off as due to the fact that it wasn’t widely screened for their nominating committee.)

Yet even when the Golden Globes rescued it with 5 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, I still didn’t buy into “Django Unchained” striking it big with the Academy.  Every year, the Globes give an absurd amount of nominations to a movie that shows up in only a minor way at the Oscars.  In 2011, it was “The Ides of March.”  (In the past, examples have been “Revolutionary Road” and “American Gangster.”)

But now, with “Django Unchained” being quite the box office hit and the discussion topic of choice at the hypothetical critical water-cooler, I think it’s probably going to be a nominee.  Surely more than 5% of the Academy voted for “Inglourious Basterds” for Best Picture in 2009.  I expect that same contingent to come out and vote #1 for “Django Unchained” since most (but not I) consider it to be superior.

Skyfall

So … where do we go beyond these seven nominees?

Do they go for more bang and blockbuster with “Skyfall?”  Crowd-pleasing comedy with “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?”  Indie comedy with “Moonrise Kingdom?”  Indie drama with “Beasts of the Southern Wild?”  Foreign drama with “Amour?”  Polarizing drama with “The Master?”  I’d say these six films are the most likely to grab any of the three remaining spots in the Best Picture category.

“Skyfall” provides perhaps the most interesting case.  Had you told me a few months ago I’d be writing about it as a Best Picture contender, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Yet here we are, and the film has grossed over $1 billion globally, racking up series-best praise in the process.  The Academy recently announced, too, that they were planning a James Bond tribute at the ceremony.  Might that be indicative of Oscar love to come?

At first, I warmed up to it being nominated for some technical nods.  Then, I started to wonder if Dench and Bardem weren’t real threats for Oscar nominations thanks to notes from BFCA and SAG.

Now with “Skyfall” making the PGA top 10 list, I’m left to wonder whether it wouldn’t be a smart prediction to land a Best Picture nomination.  The PGA did get the ball rolling for “District 9” in 2009, but they gave us false hope on “Star Trek.”  Whichever mold “Skyfall” is cut from is anyone’s guess.  If it makes the cut for Best Picture, it could easily have a whopping ten nominations!  Although if it doesn’t get the big one, it could become one of the most nominated movies ever to not be nominated for Best Picture.

MoonriseThe PGA also showed some love for “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” two summer successes that many thought might have some hidden pockets of support.  But will they choose both, one, or neither?

“Moonrise Kingdom” has been the more visible of the two throughout the season, kicking off the precursor season with a Best Picture win at the Gotham Awards.  It then dominated the Indie Spirits nominations, where it could triumph over “Silver Linings Playbook” the night before the Oscars.  Topped off with a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture (musical/comedy), the case looks good.  But I wonder if there are enough people who think it is the best movie of 2012, not one of the best.

Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” on the other hand, seems to drive more passionate support.  But will it be enough for a Best Picture nomination?  The critics groups did not speak up loudly enough for it (only 2 wins and they were for long-shot Best Supporting Actor candidate Dwight Henry).  It was blanked at the Golden Globes where young Quvenzhané Wallis should have at least gotten a novelty nomination.

Amour

Part of the trouble with predicting “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is its ineligibility with the SAG.  We have no idea whether the actors love this movie, and they are one of the most crucial voting blocs.  It’s hard to tell where the support for the movie exists, if it even does.  I’m hoping that the PGA nod is telling of invisible passion for the movie.  “Moonrise Kingdom” is assured a Best Original Screenplay nomination, and I think that may be its limit.

Some have floated “Amour” as a possible nominee based on how well its done with the critics groups.  Indeed, I like the idea of a foreign film making the cut because that’s the kind of movie the expanded field is supposed to allow.  But I don’t think this will be that first movie (of the new Best Picture era, that is) – it’s too austere and cold.

Perhaps it pops up in various other major categories like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” did last year, but that too faltered because people admire it more than they love it.  And if Haneke can’t win Best Foreign Language Film for the critically praised “The White Ribbon,” I don’t think he’s going to cut it in competition with some real heavyweights.

I’m surprised people think there’s more of a chance for “Amour” to be a Best Picture nominee than “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”  What part of the equation doesn’t SCREAM Oscars?  The old cast of prior Oscar nominees and winners plays right into Academy demographics.  It played extremely well with audiences over the summer and managed to stick around in people’s minds.  It got two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical/comedy) as well as two SAG nods including the coveted Best Ensemble.  If any movie is poised to pull a shocker like “The Blind Side,” this could be it.

But I’m putting my chips on there being nine films in contention, and that final nominee is “The Master.”  I know it is by no means a smart pick.  Other than the Critics Choice nod for Best Picture, it’s been pretty silent for the season.  It has little guild support.  The critics remain fairly divided.  But I think that this film could galvanize the Academy, and the people that like it will love it and vote #1.  The voters who appreciate it probably know it’s in peril.

So mark it down, I’m going out on a limb for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” hoping I’ve just predicted this season’s “The Tree of Life.”  If not, it just goes in the pile of other failed Best Picture predictions including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Town,” “Crazy Heart,” and “Invictus.”  But no guts, no glory, right?





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 4 (Directing)

8 01 2013

TWO MORE DAYS!  I’m slowly starting to lose my mind … or at least become so consumed with thinking about the Oscar nominations that I can think of little else.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

See my predictions for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

See my predictions for Best Actor and Best Actress.

Best Director

  1. Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln
  2. Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Ben Affleck, “Argo
  4. Tom Hooper, “Les Misérables
  5. David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook

Kathryn Bigelow ZDTIn case you caught on, yes, I did intentionally structure my prediction breakdown so that I would get to publish post-Directors Guild nominations.  If you didn’t catch those this morning, they were Ben Affleck for “Argo,” Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Tom Hooper for “Les Misérables,” Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” and Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln.”

It’s worth noting, though, that the DGA has perfectly matched the Academy’s nominees only twice since 2000.

Having said that, Spielberg, Affleck, and Bigelow are in.  I don’t think anyone will debate that.  Even as “Zero Dark Thirty” seems to have knocked aback with the fatuous claims of torture endorsement, Bigelow remains firmly in place.  Heck, I think any of these three could win.  Who knows, maybe we could even have … a split year!

Spielberg won Best Director in 1998 for “Saving Private Ryan” even though “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture.  Could a similar surprise be in store this year?

Bigelow’s direction has earned her tremendous accolades again.  She’s been the critical choice pick of the year, often times winning even when “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t take Best Picture.  Will she take the prize again for her follow-up to “The Hurt Locker” just three years after winning her first Oscar?

Argo Best Director

And if “Argo” surges and looks poised to win Best Picture, Ben Affleck will likely win Best Director.  I don’t think he would benefit from a split.

Beyond the three of them, it gets dicier.  If you assume there are seven “safe” Best Picture nominees, you have four men competing for two spots: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Tom Hooper for “Les Misérables,” and Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained.”  That’s an impressive group that contains two winners and two nominees.

Some people seem to think “Les Misérables” is weak because the critics have defined people’s perceptions of the movie’s standing in the race.  This is “The King’s Speech” on steroids.  That movie beat the critical favorite, “The Social Network,” with no trouble at all.  And it didn’t need the critics groups at all; it only took one Best Picture prize.  Colin Firth was keeping the movie in discussion and taking most of the accolades, just as Anne Hathaway is doing now.

Hooper beat out David Fincher, who almost undeniably did more impressive work in “The Social Network,” in a year that perhaps more than ever screamed for a Picture-Director split.  If he can win for “The King’s Speech,” I don’t see how he doesn’t get nominated for “Les Misérables.”

Life of PiWhile many would say Ang Lee was just below the “big three,” I would say Hooper is far more secure.  I think the movie will play well with Academy voters, and I still think it could win Best Picture.  It will likely win three, if not four Golden Globes.  It could also win the ensemble award at SAG.  And if “Les Misérables” made them feel anywhere near as much as “The King’s Speech,” they know who pulled the strings of their tear ducts.  A nomination feels pretty secure to me.

“Life of Pi” support is fading.  Though I still think it will power through and get a Best Picture nomination, Fox seems to have dropped the ball on keeping the momentum going.  Lee did get nominations from HFPA and BFCA, albeit in a field of six for the latter.  And the DGA nod certainly helps.

But for all this talk of Lee getting a nomination for “Life of Pi” simply because it is incredibly ambitious or challenging do little to persuade me.  I know this is a totally different case, but that didn’t help Christopher Nolan for “Inception” in a tight year (the directing branch of the Academy loathes Nolan but likes Lee for some bizarre reason).  While he’s now in my good graces because of “Les Misérables,” artistic merit often takes a backseat to feel-good stories as shown by Hooper’s triumph in 2010 over Fincher and Aronofsky.

I can’t help but wonder if Lee will get the cold shoulder like David Fincher did last year for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  That film was getting love from the guilds left and right but was largely shunned by the Academy, including high-profile snubs in Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  Is “Life of Pi” that technical marvel that guilds will admire but Academy members won’t quite appreciate as much?

LincolnHowever, the Academy directing branch, comprised of only about 300-400 members, is notoriously snooty, arty, high-minded, or whatever adjective you want to use.  So maybe that will benefit Ang Lee.  But often times, it’s a boon to someone they respect but has received little recognition leading up to the nominations   With their out of the blue selections, they often provide some of the biggest surprises on nomination morning.

The ultimate case was in 2001 when they nominated David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive,” a movie that received no other nominations.  But more recent and reasonable examples are Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life,” Paul Greengrass for “United 93,” and Mike Leigh for “Vera Drake.”  I think the most likely person to snab this kind of nomination would be Paul Thomas Anderson for “The Master.”  As much as I’d love to see that happen, I doubt it will.

They also like to nominate directors with vision working in foreign languages.  In the past decade, we’ve seen Best Director nominees Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Fernando Meirelles for “City of God,” and Pedro Almodóvar for “Talk to Her.”  For that reason, we can’t count out Michael Haneke popping up for “Amour.”  It’s certainly had the critical plaudits to be a non-shocking surprise.

David O

Maybe they really respect and admire the vision of Tarantino in “Django Unchained.”  They’ve been fans twice before, providing him nominations for 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” and 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds.”  Both of those, however, were preceded by DGA nominations.  The Weinstein Company has been floating the excuse that his passing over is due to DVD screeners not going out to DGA members.

But I think it’s telling that the Academy will stay away.  His only major nomination so far has been from the Golden Globes, and it’s clear they were high on “Django Unchained.”  I think it has proven to be much more of an audience success than a critical or guild one, though it has supporters amongst those groups.  The “Inglourious Basterds” nod was looking good from the beginning; this time around has not been so fortuitous for Tarantino.

I don’t feel that PTA or Haneke are nearly as revered as Malick and thus have the power to displace a sure-fire Best Picture nominee.  With all my reservations about Tarantino and Lee, I’m left to predict David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Though overlooked by the DGA and the HFPA, he was a Critics Choice nominee and (perhaps more importantly) a nominee for Best Director for “The Fighter” in 2010.

Academy voters are creatures of habit.  If something works for them once, it often works again.  Why do you think so-called “Oscar bait” was born?  Once the studios figured out their tastes, they play right into their wheelhouse time after time.  “Silver Linings Playbook” is very similar to “The Fighter” in terms of tone and emotional payoff.  The only real difference this year is that he has directed a comedy as opposed to a drama.  (Although there is little funnier than Charlene beating up Micky’s white-trash sisters.)

So it looks like I’ll be predicting a more conservative, sure-fire Best Picture nominees slate here.  I know it’s at odds with the whole notion that the season is one of the most unpredictable ever.  But I’ve watched for the signs (to quote “Silver Linings Playbook”) and don’t get the sense that anything radically wacky is going to happen in Best Director.





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 3 (Leading)

7 01 2013

Only three days until Oscar nominations are announced!  It’s so weird to have them this early … I feel like I barely predicted at all this year.  Nonetheless, it’s time to lock in my final picks!  Today, it’s one last glimpse at the leading acting categories.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

See my predictions for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Actor

  1. Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
  2. Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables
  3. Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook
  4. John Hawkes, “The Sessions
  5. Denzel Washington, “Flight

I was wrong, this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ race to lose.  My gosh, he is winning everything!  Look at this chart of dominance.  It turns Anne Hathaway’s dream to shame.

DDL Dominance

He’s going to come charging into the Kodak Theatre to get that record-setting third Oscar for Best Actor.  This is like Phillip Seymour Hoffman for “Capote,” Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland,” and … well, Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood” levels of momentum.

Les Miz

If anyone takes him down, though, it’s going to be Hugh Jackman.  He had many doubters until the film was unveiled, and he’s taken the big three nods from BFCA, SAG, and HFPA.  He will almost certainly win the Golden Globe.  Maybe, just maybe, he can stage an Adrian Brody-esque upset.

The nomination will likely be the win for Bradley Cooper, who has triumphantly exceeded expectations in “Silver Linings Playbook” and likely redefined how the industry sees him.  Well done, sir.  I’m pleased that a clear path to a nomination emerged with Critics’ Choice, SAG, and Golden Globe recognition.  I thought it might be a more uphill climb, but I have been very pleasantly surprised.

Beyond DDL, Jackman, and Cooper, my certainty stops.  I am almost positive the final two nominees will be John Hawkes for “The Sessions” and Denzel Washington in “Flight.”  They were feted by BFCA, SAG, and HFPA.  Joaquin Phoenix, on the other hand, missed with SAG and will likely be left out in the cold (much to my chagrin).

Master

I’m on the record as being nonplussed by Hawkes and Washington, though I greatly admire many other performances by the two actors.  For my money, Phoenix was the best performance of the year.  Several others have seen what I have seen, and he’s picked up a few critics’ groups notices.  He was also nominated by the Golden Globes, albeit in the segregated drama category, and the Critics’ Choice Awards, which had six nominees.

Sadly, it looks like Phoenix will follow the trajectory of Michael Fassbender’s work in “Shame,” my favorite performance of 2011.  Fassbender and Phoenix were both winners of the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival.  Their work was widely acclaimed, and their movies were polarizing.  They won Best Actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association among several other prizes.  They picked up key nominations from BFCA and HFPA, but their SAG snub raised some red flags.

FlightPhoenix’s journey will likely end the same way Fassbender’s did.  Repelling the Academy, Fassbender was left on the outside looking in at the Best Actor category.  Phoenix shouldn’t mind being put in the same position, however, because he hates awards season and thinks the Oscars are BS.

So it looks like I’ll be predicting the SAG nominees to repeat five-for-five.  Boring, disappointing, I know.  But there’s nothing screaming to go against conventional wisdom here.

I don’t think Richard Gere for “Arbitrage,” Jack Black for “Bernie,” Denis Lavant for “Holy Motors,” Jean-Louis Trintignant for “Amour,” or Anthony Hopkins for “Hitchcock” really have much of a chance.  Each has a few respective laurels, but the frontrunning five are just too strong for there to be a major surprise.

Then again, last year gave us not only Demian Bichir but an out-of-nowhere nod for Gary Oldman.  So we’ll just have to see.  Maybe the Academy has a few tricks up its sleeve in 2012 that we just have no way to forecast.

Best Actress

  1. Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
  4. Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone
  5. Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Zero Dark Thirty FYCThe dynamics at the top of the race have changed little over the past month.  It’s still a Chastain vs. Lawrence cage match, and I think we won’t really know until the envelope is opened.  They will go head-to-head at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the SAG Awards, but Viola Davis won both of those last year and lost the Oscar.  The Golden Globe will do nothing to clear up the picture as they will compete in separate categories.  I give Chastain the edge now.

But below Chastain and Lawrence, so much is fluctuating.  This is the most fluid acting category of the four in 2012, capable of many unsurprising surprises.  And if any race is suggesting that conventional wisdom and historical precedent simply won’t do, this would be it.

It would seem that Naomi Watts and Marion Cotillard would be assured nominations for “The Impossible” and “Rust and Bone,” respectively.  They’ve scored the BFCA, SAG, and HFPA hat trick of nominations, just about the best safety net you can have.  Both also look to be the only nominations for their respective movies as “The Impossible” missed the cut for visual effects and France chose “The Intouchables” over “Rust and Bone” to compete in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

WattsI’m much more bullish on Watts, a prior nominee for “21 Grams” back in 2003, perhaps because I haven’t seen the movie yet and can visualize her more as a statistic (sorry for the bluntness, but that’s the name of the game).  I’ve read that “The Impossible” has really played the guild circuit, ginning up admiration for Watts and the cast along the way.  She got a high-profile shout-out from a mere acquaintance, Reese Witherspoon, in Entertainment Weekly that a lot of people saw.

For whatever reason, she just seems very strong to me.  The movie seems like the emotional tour de force they look for in leading performances for women.

Having said that, Marion Cotillard shows the same level of emotional devastation, just on a more subtle level.  If she hadn’t won for a French language performance, I’d be hesitant to think she could be nominated for one.  But she has, and I feel a hunch that the Oscars won’t snub her brilliant performance.  Apparently, the Academy voters really responded to “Rust and Bone,” and if that’s the case, why wouldn’t they nominate its star?

So I’ll go ahead and predict that Watts and Cotillard make it, although I could see a foreseeable outcome where one gets knocked out.  I doubt they slap these precursors in the face so hard that both get turned away.

HitchcockSAG’s fifth nominee was Helen Mirren for “Hitchcock,” who also landed a Golden Globe nod.  Mirren has become a recent darling of the Academy.  I got fooled once by not predicting her in 2009 for “The Last Station,” and a part of me thinks I might be making the same mistake again.  Check out how eerily similar these two cases of Helen Mirren in Best Actress contention are:

“Common sense would say it is going to Helen Mirren for ‘The Last Station.’  She has the respect; we know because she won this award three short years ago.  She has been nominated by the SAG and the Golden Globes, two very crucial precursors.  But she has no victories and, more importantly, no passionate supporters.”

Going back and reading this is actually kind of scary because this year, she has SAG and HFPA in her corner … and basically no one else, unless you put a lot of stock in the prognosticating abilities of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association.  The movies even received the same lukewarm reception: “Hitchcock” got a 66% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while “The Last Station” scored a 70% fresh.

I fear that the British contingent, which was a major part in making a Best Actor nomination for Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” a reality, might be muddling our ability to make a prediction here.  Will this sizable portion of the Academy come through and give Mirren a fourth nomination in seven years?  I’m not picking Mirren because a 5-for-5 match with SAG just doesn’t feel right for this field rife with contenders.  (And especially with the men looking likely to perfectly align with SAG.)

RivaPerhaps that same European bloc of voters will be split among several other contenders from across the sea.  The French Cotillard could steal some European love, as could the British-Australian Watts.  Emmanuelle Riva could also make a play for that contingent for her work in “Amour.”

The Critics’ Choice nominee has quite a case to make for her nomination.  At 85, she’s a respected figure from the French New Wave that many recognize and respect.  Sony Pictures Classics has even gotten her to do some press for the film, including an in-depth session with The New York Times that’s well worth a read.  Many critics’ groups have aligned behind her, including such notable groups from Boston, Los Angeles, New York Online, and the National Society of Film Critics.  Perhaps worth noting, she won the European Film Award for Best Actress.

But why did SAG and the Golden Globes overlook Riva?  Neither are particularly xenophobic; the Globes’ dramatic actress category has seen a number of foreign-language nominees, including a rather strange nod for Kristin Scott Thomas in 2008 for “I’ve Loved You So Long.”  And at her age, it would seem that the SAG would want to bow down at her feet, and at the very least nominate her!

Rust and Bone

I can’t predict Riva with these two high-profile misses.  Perhaps she will be the exception, but I think her nomination is a pipe dream of critics.  She’s the Sally Hawkins for “Happy-Go-Lucky” of the year, a nominee that they try to make happen but just doesn’t click with the Academy.

Even less likely is British actress Rachel Weisz, in play for “The Deep Blue Sea” thanks to the New York Film Critics Circle reminding voters that her movie exists.  A March release automatically faces an uphill climb for a nomination since it has to fight to be remembered, and the Golden Globes did reward her performance.  Perhaps she’s the big surprise, but a SAG nomination would have been the more helpful precursor notice to pick up.

Also feted by the Golden Globes was Judi Dench for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”  This wouldn’t really be worth mentioning if it wasn’t … well, Judi Dench.  However, the movie is more likely to see recognition in the Best Supporting Actress category for Maggie Smith.  For that matter, Dench is more likely to see recognition in that category as well for her work in “Skyfall.”

And now, we arrive at our final contender, Quvenzhané Wallis for her extraordinary performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  Now 9, the pint-sized but spunky Wallis would be the youngest Best Actress nominee ever.  Even more impressive is that she was 6 when the movie was shot.

However, at the moment, she’s going virtually unnoticed.  Could Scott MacDonald have been right in his article on The Atlantic?

“Though she’s nine now, she was a mere six when the film was shot. To put it another way, she was not quite seven, which is the year developmental psychologists like to refer to as the age of reason: when kids start making decisions based on logic and causality. I’m no psych expert, but it seems to me this might be the sensible cut-off point for acting plaudits.

Acting requires some intentionality on the part of the actor, some conscious effort to adopt a persona other than his or her own. Even adult actors who get criticized for “playing themselves” are engaged in a series of more or less conscious decisions about how best to be themselves onscreen. A young child, meanwhile, likely isn’t thinking at all about how to be herself, let alone a character. She’s a kid, and she just ‘is.'”

Beasts

So is that it?  Have most considered her too young and written off her candidacy?  MacDonald did note that 8-year-old Justin Henry was nominated for “Kramer vs. Kramer,” so a nomination wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented.  But all she’s netted is a Critics Choice nod for Best Actress and a handful of breakout performer awards.

We will never know if she had a shot with SAG because the non-union production “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was ruled ineligible to compete.  However, the novelty of her contention should have been enough to attract the Golden Globes, but they totally snubbed the entire film.  I already floated the “too American” rationale for its exclusion, citing “True Grit” as an example, but the snub is really troubling.

The Oscars do love young nominees, though.  There have been plenty of pre-pubescent nominees in Academy history, most recently Abigail Breslin for “Little Miss Sunshine.”  Saiorse Ronan and Hailee Steinfeld, though quite a bit older than Willis, nonetheless were nominees.  And in 2003, lest we forget, 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes’ performance in “Whale Rider” knocked out Nicole Kidman for “Cold Mountain” and Scarlett Johansson for “Lost in Translation.”  The young are often a force to be reckoned with at the Oscars.

I’ll lay out that Wallis would be a shocking Best Actress nominee.  If I was thinking by rules and precedents, the obvious pick would be Mirren.  If I was attempting to focus on just this season, I might have to go with Riva.  Yet I’m going with Wallis on little more than a gut feeling that maybe the Academy’s hearts were taken by a precocious tyke.

Check back tomorrow, January 8, to see my final predictions for Best Director!





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 2 (Supporting)

6 01 2013

With the 2012 Oscar race now immobile until nominations are announced Thursday morning, January 10, now it’s time to take one last look at the contenders and the pretenders before the dust settles.  Today, I’ll be looking at Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, two categories replete with former winners and nominees all vying for Oscar glory.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
  2. Sally Field, “Lincoln
  3. Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
  4. Amy Adams, “The Master
  5. Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy

The race is Anne Hathaway’s to lose, and I’d be amazed if she did.  Even though so many critics are against “Les Misérables,” few can deny the power of her performance.  Some of the snootier groups have snubbed her, but take a look at this impressive domination of the category!

Hathaway Dominance

Safe to say, wins from the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards should lead her charge to take the stage at the Kodak Theatre.  Or they will hear the people scream.

FYC Anne HathawayAlthough, in the event of a “Lincoln” sweep (and me sticking my head in an oven), Sally Field could go 3-for-3 and win here for “Lincoln.”  She’s certainly had her fair share of recognition along the precursor circuit, including a high-profile win from the New York Critics’ Circle.

But in a year that could crown Daniel Day-Lewis (and maybe Robert DeNiro) a three-time champion, people will be aware that they would be ranking Field in an elite pantheon with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, I bet they think twice and vote Hathaway.

Or maybe they vote Hunt, who’s all but assured a nomination for her work in “The Sessions.”  It’s the kind of role the Oscars eat up (good-hearted woman who likes to let loose), and the Best Actress of 1997 for “As Good As It Gets” has picked up the Big 3 nominations (Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG) along the way.  I think lukewarm support for the movie hurts her chances to win.  So does the fact that she’s competing against Anne Freaking Hathaway.

Beyond Hathaway, Field, and Hunt, the other two nominations are pretty much up for grabs.  The way I see it, there are 3 women vying for those two spots are Amy Adams for “The Master,” Maggie Smith for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and Nicole Kidman for “The Paperboy.”  Each has missed a key stop on the circuit: Adams crucially at SAG, Smith with the Globes and Critics’ Choice, and Kidman only with Critics’ Choice.

The PaperboyOn paper, the smart money would be on Nicole Kidman to snag a nomination.  SAG is always the best indicator of actors’ sentiment, and she also has a key Globe nod.

But the Golden Globes are notorious for sucking up to stars so they have to show up to the ceremony.  They are also notable for having many favorite actresses who seem to get nominated for just about anything they do, and this goes well beyond your obvious Meryl Streep.  Nicole Kidman has been nominated for a whopping 10 Golden Globes and has won 3.  So I take their nomination with a grain of salt.

SAG also usually throws a major out-of-left-field nominee into the fray, which at first sight could be considered Kidman.  (Then again, since Maggie Smith has shown up nowhere else, maybe that would be her.)  Last year, it was Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar,” although most thought it was Demian Bichir for “A Better Life” … until he got an Oscar nomination.  In 2010, it was Hilary Swank for “Conviction.”  2009 gave us Diane Kruger for “Inglourious Basterds.”

But “The Paperboy” is, well, quite frankly a bad movie.  And a part of me thinks the Academy will recoil at just how trashy and terrible it is.  There’s certainly precedent for an actor being nominated for a bad movie: Cate Blanchett got a Best Actress nomination for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which had a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sean Penn was nominated for the 34% fresh “I Am Sam.”  “The Paperboy” currently sits at 39%.

I predicted the snob factor would keep out Melissa McCarthy of “Bridesmaids” last year because she was crass and defecated in a sink.  I was wrong.  McCarthy didn’t even have the Globe nod that Kidman earned.  So, with that in mind, I will predict Nicole Kidman to get a bizarre Best Supporting Actress nomination for a role that involves her urinating on Zac Efron’s face.

The other spot, I believe, will go to Amy Adams for “The Master.”  Yes, the SAG snub hurt.  But she’s a new Academy darling, garnering three Best Supporting Actress nominations in six years.  And I’ll continue to assert that the Academy, though perhaps not quite ready to anoint her with a statue quite yet, wants to increase the inevitability of her win.  At four nominations, the cries of “why hasn’t she won yet?” will grow louder and louder.

Best ExoticAlthough don’t get me wrong, maybe they will not go with a perennial Oscar bridesmaid but rather a crowned Oscar queen.

Two-time winner Maggie Smith’s SAG nod makes her a formidable foe, though the fact that the Globes didn’t nominate her is troubling.  They were big fans of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” nominating it for Best Picture (musical/comedy) and Judi Dench for Best Actress.  If they loved it so much, where was Maggie Smith?  I suspect SAG got sentimental for a more senior member, like they did in 2010 for Robert Duvall in “Get Low.”

Another possibility I wouldn’t count out is Judi Dench for “Skyfall.”  It’s a sentimental swan song for Dench in the M role, and it will be one of her final roles since she’s going blind.  She won in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love,” which she was in for all of six minutes.  In this meaty, tragic role, could the Academy be won over?  The BFCA was and gave her a Critics’ Choice Award nomination, although that was in a field of six.  I don’t think Dench is out of the question, but I would still be shocked if she cracked this field.

The BFCA also nominated Ann Dowd of “Compliance,” a character actor who has paid her dues … and now is paying for her own campaign.  She won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review, although that group has faded in relevancy since they are no longer first out of the gate.  Perhaps a surprise nomination is in store for a hard-working non-star, in the Demian Bichir/Richard Jenkins mold?  A more relevant precedent, however, might be Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”  However, she had the awards machine of Sony Pictures Classics working for her all fall.

But I’m sticking with Adams and Kidman.  I don’t have strong enough of a gut feeling to predict Dench or Dowd, and I don’t think Smith has enough heat to make it in the field.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
  3. Alan Arkin, “Argo
  4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
  5. Javier Bardem, “Skyfall

Arkin

There are four set nominees in the field: DeNiro, Jones, Arkin, and Hoffman.  The latter three all scored the trifecta of nods from the BFCA, SAG, and HFPA, which essentially assures them nominations.  Last year saw two such actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, get snubbed by the Academy.  I can’t pinpoint precisely why they got knocked out other than a strong field for DiCaprio in Best Actor and a strong competitor for Tilda Swinton in Rooney Mara.

The person I would assume is in the worst position is Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” since it isn’t a slam-dunk Best Picture nominee like DeNiro, Jones, and Arkin’s movies are.  But Hoffman, the movie’s only SAG nominee, appears to be the one performance everyone can line up behind for the film.  And he’s been nominated for movies that did not play well with the Academy at large, as demonstrated by his nod for 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Argue as you might about the former being a sure thing because he missed out on a Golden Globe nomination, but watch his acceptance of their highest honor, the CecilB. DeMille.  Now tell me if you think the voting body of less than 100 would want to nominate someone after he essentially slapped them in the face a la Ricky Gervais?

If he’s nominated, I think DeNiro could win.  Though he has won twice, he hasn’t been nominated in two decades.  There’s a comeback narrative for one of the greatest actors of our time, and it may be too soon for Arkin and Hoffman to win again.  In the event of a “Lincoln” sweep, a rising tide could lift all ships including that of Tommy Lee Jones.

But who gets the fifth slot to compete against these four prior winners?  I had hoped it would be Eddie Redmayne or Russell Crowe for “Les Misérables,” but those are highly unlikely now.  If they were to pop up, put all your money on “Les Misérables” to win Best Picture.

Magic MikeCould it be Critics’ Choice nominee Matthew McConaughey for “Magic Mike?”  He’s had quite the career turnaround in 2012, and a nomination would be a nice pat on the back.  A nomination would be in the pattern of Robert Downey, Jr. in 2008 for “Tropic Thunder,” another unconventional comedic role from a resurgent actor.

McConaughey is unlikely, however, because the SAG Awards and Golden Globes overlooked him, two groups key to making people take Downey, Jr. seriously.  Though he won prestigious prizes from the New York Film Critics’ Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, McConaughey might have to wait until next year for his shot at Oscar glory.  Something tells me his massive weight loss for “The Dallas Buyer’s Club” is screaming Oscars 2013.

SAG didn’t leave off Javier Bardem for “Skyfall,” on the other hand.  Bardem, himself a prior winner in the category, would fit right in with the rest of the nominees.  His Silva from the movie would be the first Bond villain ever to be nominated for an Oscar, and though I was averse to his creepiness, others don’t seem to share my reservations.

Villains have been dominating the Best Supporting Actor category since Bardem’s win for “No Country for Old Men” in 2007.  There was Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for “The Dark Knight” and Christoph Waltz’s victory for “Inglourious Basterds.”  We’ve also seen nominations for Josh Brolin’s murderous monster in “Milk,” Stanley Tucci’s creepy rapist in “The Lovely Bones,” and Jeremy Renner’s tough-as-nails Jem from “The Town.”  Being bad has never been so good.

But the same argument could be made for Leonardo DiCaprio’s vile slave owner Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained.”  Tarantino wrote the despicable Hans Landa, the character that won Christoph Waltz an Oscar.  Could he earn DiCaprio his fourth Oscar nomination – or perhaps his first win?  I’d love to see it, but I’m worried about vote-splitting between DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, back in the race for a character in “Django Unchained” not all that different than his Oscar-winning Hans Landa.

DjangoBoth DiCaprio and Waltz received nominations from the Golden Globes, but neither showed up on the Critics’ Choice list nor the SAG.  The latter can be explained by a lack of screeners being sent to the nominating committee, but the former is troubling.  I considered “Django Unchained” to be a non-factor in the season until it found some very vocal critical supporters and a large audience.  So I have to think at least one actor from the movie will show up, but I don’t think there’s a consensus on who that should be.

Waltz has won from a number of critics’ groups across the country, but none of them are particularly worth noting.  DiCaprio won from the National Board of Review, which is a far more significant accolade than anything Waltz has received.  If it was just Waltz from “Django Unchained” that DiCaprio had to contend with, I would predict him to receive his first Oscar nod since 2006’s “Blood Diamond.”  But there’s also Samuel L. Jackson from the movie, and many people are also a big fan of his performance.

Had “Django Unchained” unfurled earlier in the season, perhaps there would have been time for consensus to form around one actor.  DiCaprio could have helped himself by doing some press for the movie, yet he’s been remarkably silent.  The moment just doesn’t feel right for him either; I suspect 2013 will be more fortuitous for him with a juicy role in ‘The Great Gatsby” and another re-teaming with Martin Scorsese in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

So, in the absence of consensus, I think vote splitting will knock out all Tarantino’s performers, paving the way for Javier Bardem’s fourth Oscar nomination.

Check back tomorrow, January 7, for my final predictions in the leading acting categories!





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 1 (Screenplay)

5 01 2013

Well, folks, it’s over.  Kind of.

Time is up for movies to impress the Academy voters before the nominees are announced.  The race is frozen now before nominations are announced early Thursday morning, January 10.  So with nothing left to influence the nominations, I’ll be offering my final take on the race before we find out who gets to compete for the golden man, the Oscar.

Today, I’ll be discussing the writing categories, Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Django Unchained
  3. The Master
  4. Moonrise Kingdom
  5. Amour

ZDTI think this is probably the biggest no-brainer race of them all for 2012.  It’s an extremely thin field, filled with several past nominees and winners.  “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Django Unchained” will vie for the win; I think it’s Mark Boal’s to lose, but Tarantino could take it if they feel Boal’s win for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009 was too short a gap.  Going through the two categories is tough to find gaps between wins, but I think Boal’s back-to-back wins would be unprecedented.

Even if “The Master” doesn’t score a Best Picture nomination, it is a sure bet to get a writing nod.  The writers’ branch has always loved Paul Thomas Anderson, nominating him for “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” and “There Will Be Blood.”  I think the Academy respects him more as a writer than a director, and I’d hedge my bet that his first Oscar comes from the screenplay categories.

Though “The Master” is not unilaterally acclaimed, I think the fact that they nominated the challenging and polarizing “Magnolia” means they’ll nominate just about anything he writes.  (Except “Punch-Drunk Love,” but that was just a terrible movie.)

Wes Anderson was recognized here for his work on “The Royal Tenenbaums” back in 2001, and his “Moonrise Kingdom” is playing a lot better on the precursor circuit than that one.  Though it may miss out on a Best Picture nomination, it will at least have this prize to compete for.  I doubt it has a shot to win, but it’s another feather in Anderson’s cap for an eventual win down the road.

AmourAs for that final slot, people (including myself) seem to have finally caught onto the fact that the writers’ branch sees foreign films and isn’t afraid to nominate them.  Despite everyone declaring “A Separation” the winner for Best Foreign Film all year, very few seemed to see the Best Original Screenplay nomination coming.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Barbarian Invasions” had turned their goodwill from Best Foreign Film into writing nods.  Not to mention “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “City of God,” directorial triumphs recognized by the directors’ branch, were also recognized for their screenplays.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention “Amelie,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” and “Dirty Pretty Things.”

Looper

And I nearly omitted Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her,” which WON in 2002.  (Perhaps it’s the subtitles that remind them that they are reading a movie?)

The writers think global.  Thus, no one wants to get caught off guard, and the smart money is on Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”  While I think it’s much more of a director’s movie, I think it glides in simply on the weakness of the pool of eligible nominees.

Perhaps they will pull a “Margin Call” surprise and go with Nicholas Jarecki’s “Arbitrage,” a kindred spirit in its vilification of Wall Street big wigs.  Or maybe they take original to heart and nominate Rian Johnson’s superb “Looper,” a critical favorite that has popped up sporadically throughout the precursor circuit.  Heck, maybe John Gatins’ script for “Flight” shows up like it did on the WGA list.

But I’ll stick with “Amour,” in spite of my reservations.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Lincoln
  2. Argo
  3. Silver Linings Playbook
  4. Les Misérables
  5. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Argo Screenplay“Lincoln,” “Argo,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” are locks.  Inarguable.  If they don’t get nominated … well, I won’t finish that sentence since it’s a waste of time.  IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

The last two slots are a mystery to me.  I think it’s ultimately a decision of whether the writers go along with groupthink or go out on a limb for a script that they love.  Will they make sure the heavy-hitter Best Picture contenders have a writing nomination to add to their tally?  Or will they provide a lone nomination (or a high-profile one) for a movie not nearly as beloved?

Just as a reminder of how hard it is to predict, let’s look back at the past three years of the category since those reflect Best Picture moving to beyond 5 nominees.

Last year, it looked like “The Help” would ride the coattails of its Best Picture nomination to a screenplay nod.  And “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which most thought would be a Best Picture nominee, looked good too.  The writers snubbed both of these, opting for the well-wrought “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and a lone nod for George Clooney’s “The Ides of March.”  (“War Horse” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” were two other Best Picture nominees that were not recognized.)

LincolnIn 2010, the category was 5-for-5 with Best Picture nominees “Winter’s Bone,” “True Grit,” “Toy Story 3,” and “127 Hours” all scoring here.  The eventual winner was – obviously – Aaron Sorkin’s visionary script for “The Social Network.”

2009 saw a surprising triumph for Best Picture nominee “Precious” over fellow nominees “Up in the Air,” “District 9,” and “An Education.”  Only one other adaptation was in the Best Picture field, but it was “The Blind Side” – a nominee few saw coming.  So unsurprisingly, an outside nominee charged the field – “In the Loop,” a British political comedy that came in from out of the blue.

So since there’s no clear precedent, what to do?  Predict that the writers just go with the flow and nominated “Life of Pi” and “Les Misérables?”  Or attempt to forecast a big passion play?

I think William Nicholson’s script for “Les Misérables” is a more likely nominee, despite many naysayers who think it won’t be appreciated because it was a musical.  “Chicago,” the last stage-to-screen musical, was nominated here; you have to go so far back to see a movie musical in the Best Picture field that it isn’t worth looking for a pattern.  We really have no idea whether it’s a contender, though, since it was ineligible at the WGA Awards.  But it did miss out on a Golden Globe nomination, and that was a nod “Chicago” did pick up in 2002.

Les Mis FYC 2-page

Basically, in my prediction of “Les Misérables” for Best Adapted Screenplay, I’m counting on the movie playing really well with the Academy (which it apparently has, in spite of the critics’ attempts to destroy it).  There’s nothing but a gut feeling telling me to predict it, and a slight inkling that they love the movie enough to nominate it a lot.

There’s much more of a reason for me to predict “Life of Pi,” which has the WGA nomination to its credit.  But a lot of people have criticized David Magee’s script for being the major flaw of the movie, and that gives me hesitancy.  Could it be that it only scored a nomination because of all the ineligible movies?

Life of Pi

I had similar hang-ups about “Hugo” last year, a movie that was visually impressive but took a lot of flak for its weak writing.  Yet John Logan’s script for that was nominated for a WGA Award … and then received an Oscar nomination.  Does “Life of Pi” have the strength of “Hugo,” though, which went on to win 5 Oscars in 2011?  I don’t think it does, and Fox seems to have little confidence in it.

But if it’s not “Life of Pi,” what will it be?  Does any film have the passion necessary to score an outside nod?

There’s an outside chance “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” gets a Best Picture nomination, but I doubt it would get nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for the same reasons “The Blind Side” missed out here.  Its success is in its feel-good nature, not because of good writing.

Though I’d say it’s written like a sitcom, there are fans of Ben Lewin’s script for “The Sessions.”  But the only heat that movie has lies with the performances of John Hawkes and Helen Hunt; love of the movie doesn’t go much beyond that.  And if it was a serious contender, why wasn’t it nominated for a WGA Award in spite of all the ineligible movies?

Perks

Heck, maybe even John Logan’s script for “Skyfall” will show up.  Some have suggested it will show up in the Best Picture field after a slightly surprising nomination for the Producers Guild’s prize.  I’d say the script, though flawed, is the smartest part of that movie – but I just don’t see it happening.  Other than “Toy Story 3,” I can’t find any franchise entry nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

A more likely nominee is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which has been nominated for the WGA Award and the Critics’ Choice Award.  It’s adapted by the writer of the novel, Stephen Chbosky, who also directed the film.  I could definitely see it being 2012’s “The Ides of March” since it’s unlikely to be recognized anywhere else, and the writing is a major strong suit of the film.

But I just have a hard time predicting the movie since it flew under the radar all season.  It didn’t do particularly well at the box office, and it doesn’t have much big name talent beyond Emma Watson.  “The Ides of March” had 4 Golden Globe nods and a PGA mention.  Likewise, “In the Loop” had popped up in a number of critics’ groups awards.  I’d be surprised if the Academy stood up for “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Beasts 2

If any movie unseats “Les Misérables” or “Life of Pi,” I think it would be “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  It has been uniquely hard to gauge love for the film because it was ineligible not only for the WGA Awards but also for the SAG Awards.  I considered it dead when it blanked at the Golden Globes, but I’m beginning to rethink my assessment after it shockingly popped up as a nominee for Best Picture for the PGA.

Had it been eligible for the guild awards, would we have seen a groundswell of support for the movie?  And lest we forget, the HFPA blanked “True Grit” in 2010 – and that went on to received 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Some say the HFPA doesn’t like quintessential American stories, and you could make an argument that “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is just that.

I think the movie’s biggest strength is its direction, not its writing.  However, I have similar things to say about “Amour,” and it appears to be cruising towards a nomination.  The writers may really admire this unconventional movie, adapted from a play and transmuted into something wholeheartedly cinematic.

Thus, the degree of difficulty gives me the confidence to say Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar’s script for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” will knock “Life of Pi” (although it could just as easily be “Les Misérables”) out of the category.  So, to answer my own questions from the beginning of the discussion, I believe the Academy will be part groupthink, part cavalier.

Check back tomorrow, January 6, for my take on the Supporting Actor/Actress categories!