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Thursday, January 10, 2013

And the Nominees Are...

One would expect a continuation of the title, such as a list of the nominees for the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Indeed, I shall share a list with you (compliments of Oscar.org), but first I'd like to compose a short introduction, as I always do. First off, I must apologize for the less-than-steady rate of posts that have been released here. Why, this is the first post of the year, ten days in. Unacceptable, and I strive to make retributions for it in the following weeks before the big day. That's right: the 85th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, that will air on February 24 at eight in the evening on the east coast. Prior to this glorious event, celebrating the cinematic triumphs of the past year, I aspire to familiarize myself with as many of the contenders (or nominees, rather) as made available to me. Of course, there are those films that I have absolutely no interest in, and therefore find it utterly pointless to "see what everyone is talking about" as it must not deserve to be mentioned in the first place. (That must be the third time I said first.) I may have shared which of those unruly pictures I find to be unworthy of the esteem--yes, even being nominated is just as humbling as winning--and I will most certainly ring them up here. (I nearly typed "bing" instead of "bring". How foolish that would have been.) I think how I will do this is the exact manner in which I discussed the Golden Globe nominations. Category by category. Only you have to pronounce it "cat-e-gry", as the British do. I reckon I'll save Best Picture for last, being that it is so important and all. Is it really?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Denzel Washington for Flight
Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

I should mention that there are two categories that already have an absolute victor, with such a trivial amount of uncertainty that it can be ignored completely. This is one of them. Daniel Day-Lewis embodies the Great Emancipator so extraordinarily that, if there was digital evidence, he would have mimicked him flawlessly. Not only that, but he made Lincoln somewhat likable--with his trademark dignified aura and solemn expressions that have a hint of humor. Indeed, Daniel Day-Lewis proves, once again, that he is one of the greatest character actors of the decade, and even beyond that. (Of course, there was only one other film in which I admired him in, though his performance in Gangs of New York will forever be revered by this critic.) Although the winner is basically assured, I'll peruse the other nominees, in respect. I am glad that Denzel Washington received a nomination for his role as a pilot who impossibly landed a crashing plane while under the influence of alcohol; the publicity his character encounters is preposterous in fact (he landed the plane, that is all that matters), and I am positive Denzel provided a great and seriously poignant performance. Seeing both Bradley Cooper and (especially) Hugh Jackman named as finalists in the year's best actor race was, truly, a delight. This implies that John Hawkes would be rightfully excluded from the category, for his pathetic portrayal of a horny man in an iron lung. Thank you Academy, for overlooking this weepy, sick drama. It also muscled out Ben Affleck for the nod, which was, amusingly, a possibility early in the season. I did expect Bradley Cooper did get a nomination for his role in the ever-tantalizing indie (I have yet to watch, but eagerly intend to) where he plays a bi-polar guy who nourishes a relationship with his sport-centric parents and develops one with a mysterious, eccentric young widow. Indies never really have a straightforward plot. Hugh Jackman was the real surprise in this category, as much as I anticipated recognition for Les Miserables, because, well, it just wasn't expected. It may have been predicted by various publications, but I did not delve too much into their beliefs. As for Joaquin Phoenix, he definitely will not win, so I could care less.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Naomi Watts for The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva for Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Quite frankly, this category might as well be shortened to three nominees, for the latter two are merely attempts to set two records in one shot. Emmanuelle Riva, who portrays one half of an elder couple who discovers that she is dying, is the oldest nominee for Best Actress at eighty-five. Quvenzhane Wallis, who portrays a young girl in the face of what seems like an apocalypse both in the natural and emotional-domestic sense, is the youngest nominee for Best Actress at nine. Each of these performances may have been wonderful, considering the international acclaim they are receiving, but they do not really have a place here. However, as I contradict myself now, I do not have much of an issue with their places here, since there really were no other performances by a leading actress that I would deem worthy of an Oscar. I withdraw my pessimistic criticism concerning these nominees because I do not want to be marked as one against the elderly or children. Yes, there are times when blunt opinion should just be kept to one's self. Naomi Watts was simply another slot to fill; her performance may have been touching and dramatic, worthy of a nomination even, but she is as much in the race as the oldest and youngest honorees. The actual competition stands between Jessica Chastain's role as a CIA operative who is involved (or even responsible) for (allegedly) killing Osama bin Laden... Who knows if he really is dead? I'm no conspiracist. and Jennifer Lawrence's role as the alluring yet troubled widow who steals Bradley Cooper's attention and even his heart. In this dilemma, I root for Jennifer Lawrence, seeing as she has had an incredible year and I happen to prefer her and Silver Linings Playbook over Kathryn Bigelow's documentary. The Academy might as well award Jennifer Lawrence with the triumph, for it would be the ideal entrance into the new, sure-to-be productive year.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin for Argo
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

This may be the most cutthroat category this year, including three outstanding performances that, really, are equal to one another. I can, honestly, speak for only one of these great performances and two overall. Of the two that deserved the nomination and quite possibly the honor is Christoph Waltz in the long-awaited Django Unchained. (Yes, I finally watched it and will certainly be sharing my analysis in due time.) With his serene, eloquent German/Austrian diction, he carried the film as delicately as a silk sheet in a production that is otherwise violent and aggrandizing. The fact that he was a European in the Wild West, making a living as a bounty hunter, only accentuated his brilliant performance, for he observes his surroundings with foreign objectivity and even amusement at the bravado masculinity of pompous cowboys. One may wonder why I have not expressed incredulous rage over the snub of Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in the same film, as the maliciously sadistic Calvin Candie. Well, all I shall say now is that perhaps I had my expectations for the film a bit too high, and that his performance was not all that it could have been. In other words, I hate being wrong. The remaining two actors that measure up to Christoph Waltz are Philip Seymour Hoffman, for his charismatic portrayal of a leader of a cult that mirrors Scientology, and Robert De Niro, for his recognizably gruff role as Bradley Cooper's sport-fan father. Although I have not seen either of these films, I am fairly certain they will deliver what they promise, and that is Oscar-worthy excellence. Then again, I've been disappointed before this year. Tommy Lee Jones performs in the manner which everyone would expect of him: stern-faced, monotonous intimidation and disapproval towards each man he encounters. Moreover, not that impressive, and certainly not deserving here. Agent K was much better than Thaddeus Stevens, to be wholly honest. As for Alan Arkin, I simply do not like him, nor do I find him that great of an actor, objectively speaking of course. Like Tommy Lee Jones, he has a monotonous way of speaking, though, unlike Jone, in a way that makes him sound senile and annoying. Also, his acting is just as bland and uncharacteristic as all performances should be when considered for esteem. Unfortunately, Alan Arkin is somewhat in the lead of these contenders, if not tied with Tommy Lee Jones. Then again, there is hope that talent will emerge and triumph. These actors are familiar with the Academy, and how they will favor, so perhaps they are aware of who will be gracing the stage alongside Seth MacFarlane, if he presents. He is hosting, you know.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Amy Adams for The Master
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Jackie Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook
Sally Field for Lincoln

This is the other category whose champion is a certainty, and that woman is Anne Hathaway. I haven't seen Les Miserables (or Les Miz as the hip people call it), but, based on the trailer and word-of-mouth, I can safely assume that it is decent at best. As for Anne Hathaway's performance, she appears to be in sheer suffering throughout the entire film, as she faces poverty and disease and partakes in powerful musical numbers. The most I can gather from her performance is from Uma Thurman's portrayal of the tragic Fantine in the older non-musical film, and hers was an acting feat of awe. Since Anne Hathaway is more than likely to receive the statuette, here's hoping that she has successfully reincarnated another fantastic performance. (I allude to The Dark Knight Rises, where she assumed the role of Catwoman, unofficially bequeathed from the former villainess Michelle Pfieffer. The new Selina Kyle was surprisingly good, considering how low my expectations were and how I do not really care for Anne Hathaway, but she could never surpass Michelle Pfieffer's alluring, duplicitous femme-fatale.) Once again, the only nominee I've met close and personal was a part of Lincoln: Sally Field, whose hysterical and assertive (for a woman of the nineteenth century) demeanor did not astonish me whatsoever. In fact, I was slightly disturbed by her performance because the actress can suddenly become one-hundred years old when she shouts and gestures frenetically. Unimpressive. I am a tad pleased to see Helen Hunt--and only Helen Hunt, not The Sessions--nominated as it satisfies my craving for nostalgia. Remember As Good As It Gets? What a delight. Always pleased to see Amy Adams be recognized for her talent, especially when she plays the wife of a hypnotic leader of a cult. It should be interesting to see how she manages a life with a man who naturally persuades and brainwashes, and I am sure to be impressed. I do not mind Jackie Weaver's nod here as much as I did in 2010-2011, when she stole the honor from a most-deserving Mila Kunis in Black Swan; here, however, she adds another mark for Silver Linings Playbook, which is an indie I hope to behold walking away with more than one win.

Best Achievement in Directing
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
Michael Haneke for Amour
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

It is not customary for me to ever discuss the directing field of the awards season, unless there happens to wander a completely inane consideration by the name of Ben Affleck. How he got into his enormous head that he is some sort of directing savant will be one of those perplexing mysteries rooted in shameful cinematic records. What urges me to cover this category is merely to announce a delightful piece of news: Ben Affleck has been "snubbed". Indeed, the Academy has made the wonderfully wise decision of omitting that pretty-boy auteur (which is a term I mean to be insulting) from this ceremony. Also "wrongfully" ignored is Kathryn Bigelow for her marvelous feat in directing another documentary. You are aware that all her movies are documentaries, that they just happen to star a variety of actors in the place of real people? Her year of The Hurt Locker--where Inglourious Basterds was outrageously snubbed for all the major awards--is enough. Isn't being the first woman to win Best Director satisfactory enough of a title? Aside from Spielberg and Ang Lee, the rest were total shocks. Perhaps David O. Russell was not as much of one, for he merely assumed a slot that could have easily been occupied by Ben Affleck giggles menacingly or Quentin Tarantino. The last two on this round-up are absolute shocks, being as the majority of the public has never seen nor heard of either of them. More of them in a moment because they are also--spoiler alert--of the nine nominees for Best Picture.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Lincoln
Argo
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Les Miserables
Amour
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained

Here they are. The nine assumably best films of the past year. I find it rather irritating that, ever since a new rule has been instated that declares only the five-to-ten number one voted pictures receive a nomination, there have been nine chosen films. They might as well make the rule nine films, or, better yet, back to the simple and succinct five nominees. Having so many nominees diminishes the idea of having the Oscars, quite frankly, for it suggests that all of these films have a chance of winning, which further suggests that there really is no "best" picture. Regardless and nevertheless. Of these nine, the five that are truly the ones to take seriously as a contender are Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Life of Pi. Obviously, I do not agree, but that is besides the point. Which is what? The other four are mere placeholders, chosen to satisfy a particular group of critics or sociological realm of the industry. The one that has me both perplexed and even a bit aggravated is the nomination of Amour, which also has a well-deserved nod in the Best Foreign Language Film, has absolutely no place in the overall Best Picture race! That deserves an exclamation point, as it infuriates me when a foreign film finds its place among the other films. It's as if they get a second try of receiving another award. Utterly arbitrary--courtesy of Thesaurus.com. I am slightly surprised to see Django Unchained here, desolate as I am to admit it, for it was just as edgy and over-the-top exaggerated as the critics say it was. Truly a disappointment, especially knowing that this follows the glorious masterpiece that is Inglourious Basterds. Ben Affleck's pseudo-intellectual piece received a nod, I think, because he was neglected of one. Doubtful that it's remarkable enough to be taken seriously. As for Beasts of the Southern Wild, that is just a complete bombshell in terms of unexpected blows. Where did it come from? And more importantly, where will it go? Just a thought for future Oscar ceremonies: I believe it should be made a prerequisite for each prospective nominee to have been at least heard of by a certain amount of people, as well as have accumulated a modest box-office. Future plans of one individual voice can, quite possibly and with much hope, be heard and held in regard by those who can make that difference. Or, more likely, I am just another person with a computer and an opinion.

First post of the new year completed. That should gratify me for the next few days. Though, never fret, for I shall post some judgments of more than one film listed here. Looks as if we'll be having an interesting race, one that will have me hoping against certain contenders, as well as for. Oh, and, have you heard? Seth MacFarlane garnered a nomination of his own, for Best Original Song in Ted called "Everybody Needs a Best Friend". That's right, Seth MacFarlane is nominated for an Oscar. Let that resonate through your mind for a while. Feels good, doesn't it? Cheers, on yet another awards season coming to its climax, and will immediately dissipate once the Oscars are over. Oh, how I love the holidays. Here's to a divine new year! Or, to steer away from religious allusions, a marvelous new year.

Best Original Song
Should be Best Picture, but whatever.

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