California Literary Review

Guessing the Winners: Oscars 2013

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February 22nd, 2013 at 5:30 pm

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It’s that time of year again. Oscar time. When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences give out their awards. This Sunday, we’ll find out who takes home the gold as Seth MacFarlane of this year’s ridiculously overrated Ted hosts the ceremony. Before then, Julia Rhodes, Dan Fields, and I (Brett Harrison Davinger) will place our bets on who will win. Like last year, we’ve color coded our names to identify who we think will win in their respective categories, with this shade of aqua indicating multiple selections. Or you can jump to the end.

But before we get started, some initial thoughts,

BRETT: This year though, it’s hard to say that there is much enthusiasm about the event. It doesn’t feel like 2013 gave us one or two films that we could all rally behind and root for their victory above all other challengers. There isn’t even a good rivalry this year. Maybe Lincoln v. Argo, but that’s more because they’re frontrunners than an actual battle.

DAN: It was hard to get out of bed for this year’s Oscars race – not because there were no good movies in 2012, but the award nominations are unimaginative. It is not our fault that some of the most interesting films of the year were based on comic books, or were decidedly unsafe for family viewing, or simply did not fit the mold in one way or another. It is mainly the Academy’s fault for not embracing the diversity of excellent ideas out there.

Nonetheless, most of the following films are quite good in one or more important way. Even in the near-total absence of cabins, woods, raids, hired killers, superheroes, wolves, or (holy) motors.

JULIA: I’ll be the first to admit my 2012 and early 2013 have been what the kids refer to as “batshit crazy.” I haven’t had the time or energy to watch all of the Oscar-nominated films, though I’ve done my damndest to get through the ones I think I’ll enjoy (Silver Linings Playbook), think are total Academy bait (Lincoln), or are “so controversial” I couldn’t stand to miss them (Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty). Although nothing on the list this year was bad, nothing has been mind-blowing. In a year that offered the first 48fps, 3D film (remember Avatar’s big Oscar year?), a pointedly detached diatribe on controversial U.S. military policies, two opposing filmic viewpoints on slavery, the youngest Best Actress nominee in history (Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s Quvenzhané Wallis), and a Daniel Day-Lewis film about a beloved former U.S. president, that’s saying something.

I’m more comfortable guessing at these than I have been in past years, partly because I’m not invested in the outcomes, but also because none of them stand head and shoulders above the others as an exemplar of great film. Don’t get me wrong, I reviewed and really enjoyed a number of them – but I was always hoping the next one would blow me out of the water. All things considered, this year’s offerings are rather bland.

Best Picture

Argo (Brett; Julia)
Amour
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln (Dan)
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

BRETT: As I mentioned above, the two frontrunners for many of the awards this year are Argo and Lincoln. It’s hard to think of any other movie that might even be considered third in this race. Silver Linings Playbook? Although the Oscars started this season by lavishing praise upon the (I felt, overrated) look at passage of the 13th Amendment, love for the political drama has died down considerably. Over this time, Argo, which is currently my personal favorite of the nominees, has been collecting awards left and right. Unless the Oscars stick to their guns and make 2013 The Year of Lincoln (where it pretty much sweeps everything for which it is nominated), I think Argo will pick up the award.

JULIA: I’ll go ahead and guess Argo, which has been knocking down the competition in the lead-up awards (SAG, Golden Globes, etc). In my notes on Best Picture, which were typed with a face like this, I wrote “ZDT is too controversial, Argo not good enough, Lincoln too easy, Django too…Tarantino.” The Academy, that bunch of hip whipper-snappers, is unlikely to award a film that possibly glorifies torture (it doesn’t), and whose material may have been illegally obtained from the CIA. Bigelow didn’t get nominated for Best Director, I think, for exactly these reasons. Argo, though well done and brilliantly paced for maximum suspense (not easy when we know the outcome), just isn’t mind-blowing. However, considering it largely got snubbed for other nominations, something tells me it could pull this one off. Django’s music is bloody fantastic, and Waltz is great as usual (though not on par with his breakout role in Inglourious Basterds…but historically, the Academy isn’t full of Tarantino worshipers. And then there’s the fact that they couldn’t even come up with a tenth nominee. Sigh.

DAN: My heart is with the neglected Moonrise Kingdom. Just as The Arist toppled The Descendantsat the last minute a year ago, Argo just might have an ambush in store. I would sooner give Best Picture to something else and give Ben Affleck a directing award. But I have foolishly pulled for longshots too often before, and I am falling under the Spielberg juggernaut because Lincoln was a hundred-and-ten-percent effort on a project that could have been tossed off in the director’s sleep and still have made just as much money. Spielberg was definitely awake for this, and of the choices before us Lincoln is simply the best all-around piece of work.

Best Lead Actor

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln (ALL- Brett; Dan; Julia)
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

LINCOLN, Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln, 2012.

(c) ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. .

BRETT: Like with Best Picture, I think there are only two possibilities in the Best Lead Actor category: Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln and Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master. Nothing against the other performers who all did very good jobs, but those two were operating on completely different levels. My personal preference is for Phoenix, but The Master, which is my favorite movie of the year, has not received a lot of attention, and the Oscars generally don’t award performances as introspectively challenging as Phoenix’s.

JULIA: Daniel Day-Lewis. In reality, are there other choices in a Day-Lewis year? For me, having watched The Master very late in the game (as in Thursday evening), this choice comes down to Phoenix and Day-Lewis, and it’s a political matter, not a question of talent or commitment. Phoenix, whose public persona in the last few years has been…odd, plays Freddy with a deep, abiding strangeness, with generously freewheeling violence and squinty-eyed vigilance. I described Lincoln to friends as “pretty good – it was just Daniel Day-Lewis speechifying for two and a half hours, but if there’s anyone I can watch talk for two and a half hours, it’s that guy.” He is brilliant as always, and will likely win the award.

DAN: Stating this choice seems like a formality. To be fair, I support it in both my heart and my mind. If something upsets this lock, people will cry “foul,” to be sure.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook (Julia)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (Brett; Dan)
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln

TM and Copyright ph: David James/TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp.

BRETT: This feels like an anything goes category. While all the actors are terrific in their nominated performances, it doesn’t feel like any of them are standouts. Additionally, they’ve proven themselves throughout their extensive careers, which is rare for a category that generally has one or two first timers or surprises. Moreover, they’ve all won Oscars, and four of the five have won for Best Supporting Actor (with Hoffman only having won Best Lead Actor).

I believe that Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens obtained the most Best Supporting Actor awards during this awards season, and his performance definitely bolstered Lincoln. Without his presence, the entire middle section of the film, when it became more focused on the 13th Amendment than Lincoln himself, would have floundered instead of being superior to the parts about squabbles in the Lincoln household. At the end, the passage of the amendment seemed more his victory than Abe’s.

JULIA: Robert De Niro. De Niro is a legend in his own right, but he’s gravitated toward puff pieces and comedies recently when his true talent lies in playing a deft combination fragility and toughness (think Taxi Driver). As Pat Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook, he is brittle and severe in spades, and suddenly, he’s also old. None of these nominees would be a terrific shakeup – in fact, all of them have won before – but I hope De Niro pulls it off this year.

DAN: Tommy Lee Jones is outstanding here. His role, like most elements of Lincoln, shows fine, nuanced work where even a more complacent performance would have been acceptable.

Christoph Walz is a close runner-up, but he has won this award working with the same director (and an extra measure of sinister novelty) too recently.

Oh, and by the way, since when is this award too good for Javier Bardem? Shame on you, Academy.

Best Lead Actress


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

BRETT: The Oscars love throwing in a surprise and they don’t like awarding younger performers in lead categories. So, while Jennifer Lawrence has been dominating for her role as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, I can’t imagine them giving her a major award this soon in her career. But if not her, then whom?

Quvenzhané Wallis of Beasts of the Southern Wild is way too young to even be considered. Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain were good but not particularly showy in their respective performances. Further hurting their chances is that neither of them have careers where Hollywood feels like it should award them just for being them. You know what I’m talking about. Sandra Bullock for the heinous The Blind Side? Julia Roberts for Erin Brokovich (and over Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream)? Those statues weren’t given for their performance in their individual movies, they were awarded for their years of high grossing, mass friendly films and tabloid sales.

Which leaves us with Emmanuelle Riva as Anne in Amour. Amour is certainly one of the year’s best movies. A claustrophobic, haunting, powerful, honest character drama about what happens to an elderly couple when one of them (Riva) has a stroke. Terms of Endearment it is not. And while the Oscars generally don’t award foreign performers, or really old performers, in the contest between Riva and Lawrence, I’m going with Riva as an upset.

JULIA: Jennifer Lawrence will most likely pull this one off, although I wish it were Jessica Chastain. Lawrence was lovely in Silver Linings Playbook, scarred and angry and hopeful all at once. In Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain plays a rigid, emotionally armored CIA agent who, after completing her sole mission in life, is devastated and empty. Like De Niro, she is at her best when playing delicate and austere in tandem. I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild as of this publishing, but I wish the best for adorable Quvenzhané Wallis- and that may actually mean not winning that Oscar.

DAN: I sincerely believe Gina Gershon should win this award for her role in Killer Joe, but of the nominees available, Emanuelle Riva of Michael Haneke’s Amour definitely put in the second most courageous performance of the year.

Nevertheless, the smart money lies with either Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence.

(Suddenly I wish I was a pile of smart money.)

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables (ALL- Brett; Julia; Dan)
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

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BRETT: The Best Supporting Actress sweeper for this year, Anne Hathaway seems the obvious choice for Best Supporting Actress. With the supporting category less “norm”-oriented and her giving the showstopping “I Dreamed a Dream” number, I predict Hathaway as Fantine for the win.

JULIA: Anne Hathaway. I’ve been known to complain on Facebook about Hathaway’s recent obnoxiously award-baity red carpet behavior, but hey, girl knows she did good. Her pixie cut and consumptive frame, courtesy Les Misérables, suit her, and she seems genuinely happy – as well she should. As Fantine’s soul and body are consumed by pettiness, greed, and desperation, so Hathaway appears to shrivel away before our eyes in Les Mis. She deserves this one. (But hey, lady, I liked you better when you were a bit more approachable, before the Winslet/Bullock/Witherspoon crazy-eyed “I’m-getting -that-statue-if-it-damn-well-kills-me” phase.)

DAN: This category usually contains my favorite nominees in an Oscars race. Not so much this year. Sally Field did turn out to be a great choice for Mary Todd Lincoln, despite the off-putting rumors of her desperate campaign to land the role.

But you know what? They’re going to give it to Anne Hathaway, aren’t they? For that song, which I actually liked plenty. Yet somehow my heart is not in this. No, not really at all.

Best Director


Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (Julia)
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (Brett; Dan)
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BRETT: Affleck’s nomination snub was definitely noticeable in this category, and with him not in contention, I think Spielberg is the most likely choice. It will allow the Oscars to split the two biggest awards between the two frontrunners. Spielberg’s not an unreasonable winner, and he has a legacy that’s difficult to overcome with the nominees this category. On a personal note, I won’t be disappointed if he wins, and none of the other nominees really stand out to me as particularly more deserving.

JULIA: David O. Russell. A few years ago, I encountered some videos of Lily Tomlin and David O. Russell cussing each other out (NSFW, obvi) on the set of I Heart Huckabees while Dustin Hoffman and Jason Schwartzman tool around in the background unsuccessfully trying to keep the peace. Around this time, I began to think of Russell as one of those directors of whom actors speak very highly, but with very dead eyes. There’s no question that though he can be abrasive, the man draws out impressive, often brilliant performances from his actors – and Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderfully made film. Obviously his style isn’t for everyone, but out of all the choices this year, I think he’s the best contender.

DAN: Ho-hum. My soul is forfeit. We know. I dislike Seth McFarlane so much I may not even watch the Oscars broadcast anyway. Please read on.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio, Argo
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee, Life of Pi
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (ALL- Brett; Julia; Dan )

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, from left: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper,

ph: JoJo Whilden/©Weinstein Company

BRETT: I’ve been a fan of David O. Russell since his Oedipal tale Spanking the Monkey, and I consider Flirting with Disaster a much funnier version of the Meet the Parents. While he has become a bit more “mainstream,” I actually like all of his films and appreciate how he continues to recognizes the importance of characters. Even something like Silver Linings Playbook, which for all intents and purposes was a very conventional film, had an energy that made it better than it should have been, and that was significantly due to Russell’s efforts and dialogue.

Is it even likely that this movie will win this award over biggies Argo and Lincoln? No. But I got tired writing about those two, and they might split the vote leading to the other high profile movie taking the win.

JULIA: Silver Linings Playbook. For me, this choice was between Argo or Silver Linings Playbook. Argo is smart, suspenseful, and funny. Silver Linings Playbook takes two gruff, emotionally scarred characters, swirls them around each other in a dervish, makes them hate and love one another, and still allows us to feel ambivalent, pitiful, and hopeful. It’s a delicate balance, very well executed.

DAN: Tony Kushner’s script is a key part of why Lincoln is so great, but this award seems like a better fit for either Argo or Silver Linings Playbook. I would prefer Argo to win, but maybe not for the right reasons. Mainly to avoid a total shutout. Playbook is more about characterization, and its buzz is too much to ignore.

Best Original Screenplay

Michael Haneke, Amour
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained (Brett)
John Gatins, Flight
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom (Julia; Dan)
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

BRETT: Although I’d prefer Moonrise Kingdom, it’s difficult to imagine that movie winning this award. And, along with being an awards favorite, Django Unchained has one of the most entertaining and quotable scripts of the year. It takes a Quentin Tarantino movie to really remind you just how well he can craft memorable, one-of-a-kind dialogue.

JULIA: Moonrise Kingdom. Honestly, I want this to go to Moonrise Kingdom more than I think it actually will. Anderson and Roman Coppola make films that are a little too too for some people. Too perfectly calculated, too affectless, too twee, too quirky. Though it’s arguably subject to some of those criticisms, Moonrise Kingdom is a smart, sweet, idiosyncratic dream we all had as kids. Watching it play out through Anderson’s rose-tinted, 1960s-tinged lens is perfection.

DAN: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s elegant tale of misfit romance deserves this prize, and not simply because it’s been criminally shortchanged with only a single nomination.

Animated Feature

Brave (ALL- Brett; Julia; Dan)
Frankenweenie
Paranorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

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BRETT: My personal favorite animated feature of the year was The Pirates! Band of Misfits, but, I think the honor will go to Brave. Along with Pixar pretty much owning this award, Brave is superior to its competitors (though I haven’t seen Paranorman yet).

JULIA: Brave. I wish Brave had been better. Don’t get me wrong, I cried – mother-daughter stories get me – but I wanted Merida to be a little more badass, and Brave lacked some of the emotional depth of its counterparts. For me, it was on par with the Cars movies – fun, cute, good, even moving! But not the best of Pixar’s stuff. It’s still Pixar, though, and that gives it a distinct Academy advantage.

DAN: This is a tough race to call, but despite being the best animated feature of the year, The Pirates! Band Of Misfits may be too offbeat to pull out a win. Disney/Pixar’s Brave is simply a more sensible bet.

Cinematography

Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Robert Richardson, Django Unchained (Brett)
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Roger Deakins, Skyfall (Julia; Dan)

BRETT: Between Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino has shown himself as a very visual director. One who combines his grindhouse sensibilities with a genuinely epic style. A man who appreciates scenic vistas as much as bloody violence and clever lines. Django Unchained is a wonderful movie to look at and remembers that part of the joy of the Western is seeing the human against the overwhelming expanse of nature. Though Deakins did an incredible job with Skyfall, I can’t imagine the Academy honoring an action film, let alone a Bond film, with this honor.

JULIA: Skyfall. Actually, I haven’t seen Skyfall yet. This guess comes solely from the fact that everyone I know who has seen it gushes immediately about the cinematography – and that isn’t something to which your average moviegoer pays close attention. If my mother, who sees about two movies a year, tells me breathlessly that a movie was gorgeous, I know it’s a likely candidate for this category.

DAN: Roger Deakins is the stud in this race, and the Academy knows it. I happen to agree.

Production Design

Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration), Anna Karenina (Brett; Dan)
Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration), Les Misérables
David Gropman (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration), Life of Pi
Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration), Lincoln (Julia)

ANNA KARENINA, Keira Knightley, 2012.

ph: Laurie Sparham/©Focus Features .

BRETT: Joe Wright’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel certainly has a unique look to it, and one that helps it stand out and become something more than Conventional Period Drama, something I don’t think Les Mis overcomes quite as well, despite being the bigger movie. While Life of Pi certainly has a strong look, I think this honor tends to go towards films with conventional sets and props rather than a heavy CGI emphasis.

JULIA: Lincoln. The Hobbit rings a little false to win this award. Likewise, Les Mis appears to have played on its stage roots to good effect – but though it looks good, it doesn’t always look real. Life of Pi is a gorgeous movie, but let’s be honest: most of it was set on a lifeboat. I haven’t seen Anna Karenina yet. My powers of deduction bring me to Lincoln, which features a lovingly rendered White House filled with gorgeous knickknacks and beautiful lighting. Without the benefit of seeing Karenina, this is the easy choice.

DAN: An airy rendition of Tolstoy’s amazing novel, Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina sacrificed too much of its narrative to one of the most ambitious visual presentations of the year. However, let us give credit where credit is due. This movie is well worth seeing for the spectacle alone.

Costume Design

Jacqueline Durran , Anna Karenina (Brett; Dan)
Paco Delgado, Les Miserables
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln (Julia)
Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman

BRETT: The Costume Design category regularly disappoints me. It tends to honor period pieces with the fluffiest dresses rather than creative/sci-fi-y costumes like those in Watchmen (which didn’t even get a nomination). While I thought Mirror Mirror had the more interesting costumes (especially compared to the lazy Snow White and the Huntsman), it’s hard to see it winning. Anna Karenina, on the other hand, does fall under the period drama category, but its outfits have more liveliness to them than something like Les Mis or Lincoln.

JULIA: This one comes down to Les Mis or Lincoln for me, as I haven’t seen Anna Karenina. Lincoln, featuring truly masterful attention to detail, particularly in men’s clothing, is my best guess. Costumers took into account every aspect of day-to-day life for Civil War-era men and women, and Day-Lewis spends most of the film covered in a shawl to ward off the natural chill of an enormous White House not fully heated by fireplaces. It’s well done and deserving.

DAN: An airy rendition of Tolstoy’s amazing novel, Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina sacrificed too much of its narrative to one of the most ambitious visual presentations of the year. However, let us give credit where credit is due. This movie is well worth seeing for the spectacle alone.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Brett)
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, Les Miserables (Julia; Dan)

BRETT: Cloud Atlas. Wait, that wasn’t nominated? That was the only thing that movie was good for.

Fine then. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

JULIA: Les Misérables. From its opening scene to the final moments, Les Mis offers up beautiful people like Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, et al. in dismaying states of fatigue, age, and injury. Truly great makeup should move you emotionally while not removing you from the story, and Les Mis does just that. Out of the three nominees, this is most likely.

DAN: Not too inspiring a set of choices, but Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth style, while impressive, is nothing new. And the makeup in Les Mis looks very good, especially considering Tom Hooper’s decision in favor of pervasive, prolonged close-up shots.

Music (Original Score)

Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi (Brett)
John Williams, Lincoln (Julia; Dan)
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

BRETT: Listening to snippets of each of the nominees’ original score, the one that really stands out to me is Skyfall. However, best score rarely goes to action movies even though the music plays a huge role in ratcheting up the suspense, developing character themes, and producing a memorable experience.

So I’m going with Life of Pi for no real reason. Though I would like to see Alexandre Desplat win his first Oscar for Argo because he’s written the scores to a number of movies I very much enjoy, such as The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and Tree of Life.

JULIA: Lincoln. Frankly, none of these scores are memorable in the slightest – and as I mentioned above I haven’t seen Skyfall yet, but my money’s on that one for Best Original Song. It’s not as though John Williams is a brave guess for this category; after all, dude has a little bit of a record.

DAN: The winner of this award is Hans Zimmer, for his fittingly aggressive score in The Dark Knight Rises. Of the titanic Hollywood composers, he has been the most inventive in recent years. Since he has been overlooked by the nominating powers, his chances are slim at best. If tradition holds, the award falls by default to John Williams, to whose classic style it is virtually impossible to object.

Music (Original Song)

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Skyfall” from Skyfall, Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth (ALL-Brett; Julia; Dan )

YouTube Preview Image

BRETT: No need to explain this one.

JULIA: “Skyfall.” Tell me you weren’t impressed the first time you heard this song. Adele is overplayed, sure, but you cannot deny her voice is gorgeous, and its deep, resonant chanteuse qualities are perfect for a Bond theme.

DAN: I am softer than many critics have been for Les Misérables. Flaws and all, it got through to me. However, penning a gratuitous and sappy new number simply to fish for more awards is bad form. No argument can justify “Suddenly.” The song is not award-worthy on its own merit, and additionally should not win on grounds of artistic principle, any more than the infamous addition of Jabba the Hutt to Star Wars Episode IV should have been praised even had it been competently executed.

None of the other entries are anything to write home about, with the exception of Skyfall‘s rousing title song. Skyfall succeeds and stands out because of its deft marriage of classic Bond elements and fresh contemporary quirks. Its title song is a strong entry in the former category. While no longer exactly a novelty, Adele is still red-hot and at the top of her game, and singing a James Bond number allowed her to connect directly with classic chanteuses, such as Shirley Bassey, with whom she has frequently been compared.

Film Editing

William Goldenberg, Argo (Brett)
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Michael Kahn, Lincoln
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty (Julia; Dan)

BRETT: The editing played a huge role in making Argo such a fun, suspenseful journey. I can’t say it helped any of the other movies in as strong a fashion.

JULIA: Zero Dark Thirty. Considering the blowback, Bigelow’s snub for Best Director, and the unlikelihood it’ll score any other awards, I think this one will go to Zero Dark Thirty. The final thirty minutes of the film are tense, heart-pounding, and frankly all the more frightening since we know the outcome. Only a brilliant editor can make a video game-like Steadicam, night-vision raid into a thing of such power.

DAN: Zero Dark Thirty has helicopters, correct? Warfare? Torture? In general, a load of highly charged content, and a less than even chance of winning many other awards (let’s face it)? It all fits.

Visual Effects

Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick, The Avengers (Dan)
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Brett; Julia)
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott, Life of Pi
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill, Prometheus
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson, Snow White and the Huntsman

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, l-r: Hugo Weaving, Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, 2012,

ph: James Fisher/©Warner Bros. Pictures

BRETT: In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson didn’t just re-transport us to Middle Earth, easily one of the richest cinematic universes of all time, but he did it at a completely different frame rate, which should earn him extra points. Will the sense of “been there, done that” plague this nomination due to Lord of the Rings? Possibly. But I doubt it…unless they want to hold back and not give him anything until The Hobbit: There and Back Again in 2014. Still, I think The Hobbit is the best bet with Life of Pi second.

JULIA: The Hobbit. The question in this category is whether the Academy will award breakthrough technology or excellent specimens of the old standby. All of the nominees are good-looking. As they did with Avatar (which, though awful, utterly deserved that win), I think they’ll give Visual Effects to The Hobbit. As an aside: I saw The Hobbit first in 24fps 3D with my family, and the audience was practically giddy with excitement and giggling at jokes; when I saw it a month later in 48fps with my beau, the audience was silent and contemplative. Gizmodo published a great piece that touches on audience reactions to 48fps. After the initial ten minutes of brain-shock, it looked great in 48fps – but the technology has a long, long way to go before it is perfect.

DAN: Will the Academy throw a populist bone to the fanboys? Maybe not, but hopefully. A longshot win for Prometheus would not be so terrible either, although it should have garnered a nomination for Production Design instead.


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