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85th Annual Academy Awards Poster

85th Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

My Lord, I do not LOVE a challenge. This year, with it’s ungodly Oscar snubs, has left a very uncomfortable, and seemingly incalculable task before me. Not having the opportunity to choose from this year’s best makes a difficult year to begin with, even harder. Each category is soooo close this year that it literally boggles my mind to set the pieces on a playing board and begin to track the race. 6 weeks I’ve been at this and I’ll admit, I’m making an alternate, unofficial pick sheet to guage my “What If’s”. Best of luck to all of the nominees, to all of those who voted, to myself, and to all of those who’ll be watching Sunday night at home. Let’s Let the Games Begin!


Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 12 out of 19 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – Argo Argo
Best Director – Steven Spielberg - Lincoln Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables
Best Animated Picture - Wreck-It Ralph Brave – Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Best Screenplany (Original) – Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook Argo – Chris Terrio
Best Cinematography – Claudio Miranda - Life of Pi Claudio Miranda - Life of Pi
Best Art Direction – Best Production Design Les Misérables Lincoln – Rick Carter and Jim Erickson
Best Costume Design – Les Misérables Anna Karenina – Jacqueline Durran
Best Makeup – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Les Misérables – Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Best Film Editing – William Goldenberg - Argo William Goldenberg - Argo
Best Original Score – Mychael Danna - Life of Pi Mychael Danna - Life of Pi
Best Original Song – Adele - Skyfall - Skyfall Adele - Skyfall - Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing– Les Misérables Les Misérables – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, and Simon Hayes
Best Sound Effects Editing – Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty
Best Visual Effects – Life of Pi Life of Pi – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer, and Donald R. Elliott
Best Foreign Language Film - No pick  
Best Documentary (Feature) - No pick  
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Animation) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Live Action) – No pick  

PICTURE – There are 9 films here this year, with Argo taking home the gold. Argo’s won practically every other major film award this season, just one more stop to make, or so it seems. Did you know that only 3 films, not nominated for best director, have ever won the Best Picture Oscar, the last was Driving Miss Daisy. So what makes Argo so special? What does Argo have that, wait it’s easier to say what Argo doesn’t have that the other nominees do? Check it out. Argo doesn’t have the overbearing dark nature of Zero Dark Thirty, the political boredom (you mean that’s It?) of Lincoln, the Language of Django Unchained (vulgarity), or the Language of Amour (French). Argo doesn’t have the incessant depression and all that singing about it of Les Miserables, the uncomfortable family insanity of Silver Linings Playbook, not even the amazing father/daughter acting talents in Beasts of the Southern Wild, nor does it have a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker like Life of Pi. Yet Lincoln could be the surprise winner, if you follow Trends & Tendencies, but Silver Linings Playbook is the only real competition I believe, and that little Life of Pi movie has 11 nominations for a reason but none of them stroke Hollywood the way that Argo does.

DIRECTOR – Grrrr, this is Ben Affleck’s award and he’s not even nominated, nor was Sam Mendes (Skyfall), I mean Cripes! They took the “Race” right out of the category and left me with work. So of the nominated directors we can remove 2 at the outset: Michael Haneke (Amour): this film is sweeping the Foreign Language categories and getting the lions share of its attention in the Best Actress category, this is called Oscar foreshadowing, so...buh-bye. Following him out is Behn Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) who really has a lot to brag about with his film. Quevenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry are phenomenal, but its way to early in Behn’s career and Beasts is not a Best. Moving forward I find myself in a quandary. I’ve got the feeling that Ang Lee is on the outs this year. Life of Pi really is a great movie but I’m always leery about a 2nd win; I mean its gotta be a Forrest Gump kinda lock and I don’t think Pi does that for Ang Lee this year. Nor does Silver Linings Playbook lock it up for David O. Russell who made his Oscar debut with 2010’s The Fighter, arguably the better of his 2 nominated films, so there’s no denying his ability to make “Crazy” an Oscar worthy trait it’s just not a Best Director’s trait this year. And actually Lincoln doesn’t support another honor for Steven Spielberg, his 3rd, but I’m really feeling he’s favored and I literally cannot vote against him this year.

Note: I looked up these Director’s wins this year at other award ceremonies.
Ben Affleck - 8 wins
Behn Zeitlin - 5 wins (3 of which were “Debut” wins)
Michael Haneke - 4 wins
Ang Lee - 4 wins
David O. Russell - 3 wins
Steven Spielberg - 2 wins (2nd Note: 5 out of 6 Directors here are getting screwed...)

ACTOR – I struggled here for a moment. Not with Joaquin Phoenix, nor with Denzel Washington, cause they won’t win. I gave Bradley Cooper a chance until I saw The Silver Linings Playbook. Don’t get me wrong Bradley is great, but great is not good enough this year. Not when the Academy has an opportunity to award the singing & dancing Hugh Jackman, a long standing Academy favorite, who turned in an Oscar caliber performance. But even Hugh gets sidelined by the incomparable President Lincoln. Man, I almost called him Daniel Day-Lewis; that would’ve been my bad. Seriously though, in a year wrought with Academy snubs, Daniel’s omission here would be the Ultimate Insult.

ACTRESS – I wasn’t able to get to The Impossible this year, and I’m a bit saddened by that, but I am comfortable with the film landing in the “Big Enough To Be Recognized but Small Enough To Not Win” category, henceforth removing Naomi Watts from contention; this is her 2nd nomination. Now the Academy loves to recognize young talent but hasn’t awarded a youth since 11 year-old Anna Paquin (1994: Best Supporting Actress), and never in the Best Actress category. Despite the joy she brings to the screen Quvenzhane Wallis will not reach the final lap of this year’s race. Neither will Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) sadly, unless our frontrunners cancel each other out; this is a year where this type of upset is completely possible; remember that Foreshadowing I was speaking about earlier? Sunday night though it’ll be all about the “J’s”. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). This year, these 2 ladies have a combined 80 nominations with 44 wins, including a Golden Globe each. So what separates them…? The nature of their films, respectively. Zero Dark Thirty, is a truly remarkable film, but its far darker, uglier in this case, than Silver Linings Playbook. It may be something a very conservative Academy might want to turn away from; as so blatantly demonstrated by snubbing the film’s director Kathryn Bigelow. However, while not awarding the film, awarding an actress who traverses this ugliness and emerges the stronger for it is a welcome Academy trait. But this year, I’m going with the lighter side, this year I’m going with Crazy. David O. Russell produced 2 supporting acting performances worthy of Oscar in 2010 (Christian Bale and Melissa Leo) Jennifer Lawrence, a previous Best Actress nominee, emerges not stronger than her fellow nominees, but victorious..

SUPPORTING ACTOR – All nominees are previous winners; all but 1 in this category in fact. Making this year’s pick all the more difficult. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) is the only easy out, the film will not win a thing. Alan Arkin, who was my favorite this year, should be passed over in light of the 3-way “Your Guess Is As Good As Mine” nominees: Tommy Lee Jones who has some real muster this year, gives a strong supportive performance to Daniel Day Lewis’ Lincoln on more than one level but is it enough? Robert De Niro is my “Favorite” in this category, a two-time winner who hasn’t been nominated since 1991; and what a great performance to award him for. Which moves us along to the “Odds-on Favorite” Christoph Waltz, with 7 other award wins this season, he’s the best dollar bet in the lot. What my gut is telling me, is that David O. Russell, who has a knack for getting the best out of Hollywood’s wares, gets another One-Two punch of acting awards this year. It’s time for your close-up Mr. De Niro.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Really this was the 2nd shoe-in category for me when they were announced (Original Song being the 1st). I wanted to give Amy Adams some credit here though first because the Academy is really fond of her, and this is her 4th nomination. In this year’s race Amy cannot match the emotionally impacting performance of Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables. Despite what anyone thought of the overall film, the Power of Anne’s performance as Fantine is pure Oscar gold.

ANIMATED FEATURE - This has got to be the worst nominated film category this year. 2 of these films are garbage, in my opinion: The Pirates! Band of Misfits and Paranorman. Seriously I hated them both, Frankenweenie was a close 3rd; I’ll give some respect to Tim Burton, but I really didn’t like his movie either. Brave itself was not a Great movie either, but it was Good, and it covered something Disney itself hasn’t dealt with in a while through it’s films, and that’s Consequences. As a result, Brave has a heavier, more dramatic hand to play and emerges, this year, a pretty little Loser. Wreck-It Ralph had a really good idea, that got lost when they tried to be cute with it. Too bad this is all this category has to offer this year. Wreck-It Ralph wins but I’ll be darned if it deserves it.

SCREENPLAY ORIGINAL – In a landslide vote, the Academy decides to piss off Spike Lee even more than I thought was possible and gives Quentin Tarantino the Oscar for Django Unchained. Nobody else comes close.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – What a good set of source material this year. The only question I have here is contention with the Big Name in the category? Since that name is David O. Russell and since he’s going to lose in the Director category for the 2nd time, this award is a perfect Oscar gift and so totally like the Academy (think Sophia Coppola for “Lost In Translation”, Alexander Payne for “The Descendants”). Don’t think about how long it took to get Lincoln to the screen.

PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION – I don’t see a reason to fight this one. There’s plenty of good things to look at in all the nominees but c’mon man, it’s Les Mis, you now it is…

CINEMATOGRAPHY – Now we’re waist deep into the tough meat of this year’s Oscars race. Here, the films are all equally viable. Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina) I think loses because it’s simply the least interesting film of the lot. Robert Richardson (Django Unchained) is not so far ahead of Seamus when compared to Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln) who has made a film of richly dense images set in a rather bland time. The real race for me comes between Roger Deakins (Skyfall) who’s really captured the most brilliantly looking Bond film, and Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi) who’s delivered an ocean of wonder in a lifeboat. I’m going against my gut here, believing Skyfall has its Oscar for the night and I’m setting my sights on a boy and his tiger. Richard Parker, bring me some Pi.

FILM EDITING – A massive upset here last year when The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo surprised pretty much everyone. This year I’m picking between our two “war-on-terror” films. You see, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are missing the dreamlike transitions of Life of Pi, so while you’re basking in the smooth fades, that Terror still looms. And since William Goldenberg is nominated for both Argo (alone) and Zero Dark Thirty (w/ Dylan Tichenor) why not give him the award for the horror less expressed? Argo wins the Oscar.

COSTUME –I may be shooting myself in the foot here but I’m not even willing to look at the rival Snow White films nominated in this category. Lincoln is set in such a bland time for attire that it makes itself a boring pick. Since a good old-fashioned English period piece can always go home with an award in this category, regardless of it’s impact in any other category, we have a quandary. See our English choices are actually not English at all, rather they’re French and Russian. The sweeping Russian designs of Anna Karenina sport some lovely Russian aristocratic attire while everything in Les Misérables is covered in French shit. Don’t fight me on this one, I may not like the way it smells but Oscar never said it was pretty. Here’s another one for that horrible old-fashioned French period piece.

MAKEUP – What I can’t believe is that Lincoln isn’t nominated in this category. What I can believe is that Hitchcock and Les Misérables both lose to a movie filled with hairy people wearing makeup. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wins.

ORIGINAL SCORE – Is this Alexandre Desplat’s year? I ask myself this question every time I sit down to write my predictions out. I listen to him, I watch him, I vote for him; and he loses. This year, I’m openly voting against him and it could cost me. First up is Anna Karenina and its Russian period music. It sounds plinky and single noted, in a damaged music box kinda way, I have no reason to be unkind, it just feels that way to me. Next is Lincoln, and look, John Williams is anthemic to me, think Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jaws, etc... Lincoln gives me none of that; I have to move on. Alexandre Desplat is here for his work in Argo. It’s quite fascinating actually, a very modern sounding score with Iranian flavors. Argo sounds very adult and the final sequence music is wonderfully uplifting, perfect again, for Hollywood. But Thomas Newman’s interweaving of classic Bond themes with a new generation of urgency creates a score that’s tight and intense, even in it’s calmer moments. The cream of the crop, for me however, is Mychael Danna’s Life of Pi. Similar in influence to Desplat’s Argo, Danna, in his score, has somehow captured the peaceful movement of a human heart becoming.

ORIGINAL SONG – This contest was over the moment the Title Sequence began. Give Adele and Skyfall an Oscar night highlight, the Academy Award; well deserved.

SOUND MIXING – They were Really singing! I mean, C’mon, how could you not reward that? The rest are, well they’re not Les Mis, okay...? Lincoln, I’m totally unimpressed with here. Skyfall and Argo are the normal type nominees in this category, no more exceptional than a Transformers film for example, probably less so because they’re “real world”. Life of Pi may have some good mixes, but even it feels limited, I mean there’s a boy in a boat, with a tiger, in the ocean; not a whole lot going on sound-wise. At least not as much as Les Mis. It’s the only argument I have.

SOUND EDITING – Bada-Boom! All I can think about is the last half hour of Zero Dark Thirty. It was crazy, like Oscar winning Crazy!

VISUAL EFFECTS – I think Snow White and the Huntsman is the easy out. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is almost as easy to discard because we’ve seen this, and we’ve awarded it before; and then still we have 2 more Hobbit films on the way to award if we ever feel the need. Marvel’s The Avengers is the tough one to discount because the movie made so much money and was so entertaining, but a portion of those effects were old hat, I mean falling cityscapes, again? And how about Prometheus… Say what you want to about the overall movie, but Ridley Scott and his VFX crew Took You All the Way There. Granted, they left you but what a ride! What’s better than all of that you ask? Well how about this: Give me a boy and a tiger, put em in a lifeboat and lose them both at sea. Life of Pi is a gift; an evolving canvas of cinematography and visual effects. Its simply gorgeous, as gorgeous as Oscar gold.


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

Matthew Gilbert © 1999-2017 All Rights Reserved

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