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Oscar Winner Predictions: The Impossibility of Reason

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Argo_oscar_winner_predictions

I’ve taken somewhat of a backseat to much of this year’s Oscars and how they’ve unfolded. Maybe I don’t have as much time on my hands anymore, or perhaps I’m getting a little bit lazy. However, there’s also the immutable fact that this is, without a doubt, the weirdest Oscars I’ve ever bore witness to. Pundits like myself have bitched and moaned for years about the Oscar race becoming a predictable formality. Now, we’ve had so many wrenches thrown into the works that all of the precedents, reason and logic have just gone clear out the window. 2012 is the ultimate crapshoot.

Perhaps it’s a good thing, overall. Because while this year’s awards season has spiraled into an enormous whirlwind of indecision and confusion, I believe we can all find a consensus in the overwhelming class and quality that was on display in filmmaking during the past year. I can’t have enough good things to say about 2012 and I believe it will go down as shining star in the chronology of cinematic history, up there with the likes of 2001, 1980, 1976, 1960 and, of course, 1939. I also believe that, in some way, the less focus on awards and accolades, we can foresee that it’s ultimately the movies that we’ll remember decades from now, while fiasco over the gold will simply be an afterthought.

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Nevertheless, at it’s roots, this is an awards site and it’s time to get down to business. Bottom line, the award for Best Picture (and more than a few others) was completely thrown for a loop the morning that the nominations were announced, when two of the year’s biggest heavyweights were absent from the shortlist. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being left in the cold was perhaps the strangest occurrence in this category since Ang Lee and Ron Howard failed to receive nominations for their respective work back in 1995 (“Apollo 13” and “Sense and Sensibility”). Yet, this may have overall worked in Affleck’s favor, for since that morning, every critic, actor, producer, director, grip, PA and their mother has seemed to fall head over heels for the film. At this point, it seems that enough voters will sway towards “Argo” for the Best Picture, out of sheer sympathy, more than anything else. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a fantastically entertaining and uplifting piece that pulls at Oscar’s heartstrings like a toddler on a hoop earring.

Meanwhile, there’s a flip-side to every equation. “Argo” may have taken every award since that fateful morning, yet that doesn’t change the fact that the snub still happened. Affleck missing out on Best Director makes a huge statement. It has to be more than just a fluke or the notion of the Academy leaning so heavily on what the guilds have done in the past. Plus, while one can compare the strangeness of this year’s circumstances to ’95, it’s important to be reminded how that year turned out, with neither Lee or Howard taking home the big prize at the end of the night. For now, I’ll go with the odds-on favorite, but can easily see the winds shifting. This weekend’s WGA will may be a largely determining factor.

Alas, my first round of winner predictions for the 85th Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE: “Argo”

alternate: “Lincoln”

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Guilds, Guilds, Guilds Galore!

January 8, 2013 Leave a comment

sally_field_guild_awards_norma_rae

In the last several weeks, we’ve seen the top dogs of Hollywood’s guilds announce their nominations for best of the year. Nowadays, the precedent for any of these awards-giving bodies lining up with their equivalent Academy Award is virtually non-existant. However, they have always been the closest predictors of any precursor on the table. The Screen Actor’s Guild was the first to arrive with disappointments and surprises abound.

Undoubtedly, the guild elevated Nicole Kidman to a place of prominence in the Supporting field (simply a Golden Globe nomination could have been dismissible). Everything is pointing towards a nod, but I’m sticking with her just missing the cut for a surprise indy favorite in Ann Dowd from “Compliance”.

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While the SAGs gave a boost to Kidman, they tied a cinderblock to perhaps my personal favorite performance of the year, none other than Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”, in an attempt to drown it in the deep end of the pool. No doubt this miss of a nomination is due to Phoenix’ lack (or even disdain) of a campaign. He still managed the Globe and BFCA noms, however, and I doubt that Bradley Cooper will be able to garner as many No 1. votes on the ballots to squeeze him past such a die hard performance. Either you love it or hate it, but ask Terrence Malick how that methodology worked out for him last year.

Here’s the list of SAG nomination, color-coated with whom I think will advance:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role 
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
John Hawkes – “The Sessions”
Denzel Washington – “Flight”
Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role 
Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Helen Mirren – “Hitchcock”
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”
Marion Cotillard – “Rust and Bone”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role 
Alan Arkin – “Argo”
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
Javier Bardem – “Skyfall”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role 
Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway – “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
Nicole Kidman – “The Paperboy”
Maggie Smith – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

As far as the Producer’s Guild is concerned, things couldn’t have gone more predictably. Generally, this field has a penchant for box office fair, with the Hollywood big whigs patting each other on the back over who managed to secure the best profit even when making decent cinema. Therefore, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” with its minuscule budget and purebred independent production, showing up here is a bit surprising and more than a little admirable.

Daniel Craig

Meanwhile, I doubt that the mammoth monetary returns of the latest James Bond entry are the only reason for it’s appearance. “Skyfall” has been steadily gathering momentum since its release and a Best Picture nomination to follow would not be at all unexpected at this point. Given that it’s become a near lock for 4 nominations and a safe bet for 3 more, it may already be in the top tier in its total tally, so why not?

It’s really difficult to translate the PGA to Best Picture, given that one has a set amount of nominees, while the Oscars will be an unpredictable number between 5 and 10. Therefore, I’ve highlighted the definite locks and noted which films are surely on the bubble:

Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
“Argo”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Django Unchained”
“Les Misérables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Skyfall”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

As usual, the Writers Guild of America continued its inclusive, snobbish routine of listing all of the films that would not receive nominations based on the rules and regulations of the union and its membership. Some of the most prominent ineligibles include “”Django Unchained,” “Amour,” “Brave,” “Seven Psychopaths” and “The Intouchables” in in the original field, along with “Les Miserables,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and “Anna Karenina” absent from adapted.

Given that it actually did make the cut of qualifying films, “The Sessions” not showing up here is a major blow. It will have a hard time eking in a nod competing against a wider field on Thursday. “The Master” finally scored an important guild mention here after being largely shut out everywhere else. Will it be booted by QT’s “Django” in a few days. I severely pray not.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce Willis

A joy to see on this list is definitely Rian Johnson’s mind-blowing sci fi action film “Looper,” which has risen from a financially unappreciated flop to a legitimate awards contender. Hopefully, it hold its ground for Oscar.

Here’s the two categories and my perspective:

Best Adapted Screenplay:
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
“Silver Linings Playbook”

Best Original Screenplay:
“Flight”
“Looper”
“The Master”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Finally, we come to the newly announced Directors Guild nominations, which, for the first time, were released after the close of Oscar balloting. Whether this proves a massive difference from other years will surely determine how much of an influence these nominations have on the hearts and minds of Oscar voters.

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Not a lot of surprises abound in this group of five. There were some who believed (and maybe a few who hoped, myself included) that “Life of Pi” had gone quiet in the final stretch of campaigning, leaving the coveted final spot for “Silver Linings Playbook” helmer David O’Russell. However, with nods from the PGA, WGA and now the DGA, it’s full steam ahead for this cartoonish storybook epic. Ang Lee is such a legend in this day and age that there might never have been a question about it.

I’m predicting a five-for-five line-up here, but would be thrilled to see either P.T. Anderson (“The Master”) or Michael Haneke (“Amour”) make surprise coups.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film:
Ben Affleck, “Argo
Tom Hooper, “Les Misérables”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Stay tuned for my final Oscar predictions tomorrow evening. At this state in the race, it’s every man for himself until curtain call. Don’t be surprised if even what I’ve said above changes in the next 24 hours.