Current and former Arts and Entertainment Editors Zachary Zahos ’15 and Peter Jacobs ’13 breakdown as they break down the 2013 Oscar nominations, released this morning.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild
- Django Unchained
- Les Misérables
- Life of Pi
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln leads the Oscar nominations pool this year with 12 nods, miles ahead of the rest of its competitors in the prestige categories. With recognition from the Academy in directing, writing and acting, it is the clear frontrunner to take home the Best Picture statue come February. One potential caveat: Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and every acting category. If they start raking in wins early on in the night, look for SLP to make a sweep when the big awards come up at the end.
Zachary Zahos: I don’t know. Glancing at the nine nominees, I don’t spot any real surprises. With the expanded playing field, critical darling Amour found its way onto the ballot much like The Tree of Life last year, and shut out the little-seen but much-discussed The Master in the process. Thanks to that Oscar machine Harvey Weinstein, Django Unchained was released just late enough in the season to accrue enough buzz to nab a nomination as well. I guess the wild card here is Beasts of the Southern Wild, the little indie film that could. I wasn’t crazy about it — it was lovely, to a point — but it’s welcome to see such a miniscule production rank alongside Hollywood behemoths like Lincoln and Les Mis. I would have liked to see Bernie or The Master take the indie slot, and poor James Bond only has a billion dollars of worldwide Skyfall grosses to wipe the tears as he bemoans missing Best Picture yet again.
Peter Jacobs: I would agree that there are no true surprises (save maybe the heavily stylized violence of Django Unchained). In theory, I would have liked to see The Dark Knight Rises on here, the conclusion of the franchise that may have lead to the expanded nominations, and thus, it’s retribution inclusion. But neither TDKR or my beloved Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was really that brilliant of a box-office smash to take a spot, and many of the nominees are performing strong financially regardless, so there’s probably little concern for attracting viewership. Out of the nominees this year, I would love to see Zero Dark Thirty win Best Picture. ZDT was a smart, incredibly focused feature that didn’t stop to offer opinions, needless backstory or even more needless romance, it just gave the viewer a directed, centered story.
- Michael Haneke, Amour
- Ang Lee, Life of Pi
- David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
- Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
- Benh Zeitlin, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Coming into Thursday’s nominations, if there were any “locks” for Best Director, they were Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck — the first is among the most honored directors in history, the second made history as the first female director to win and the third encapsulated his talent with the tight and well-paced thriller Argo. With only Spielberg surviving out of the three, the five picks for Best Director are arguably the biggest surprises on the whole ballot.
P.J.: I have a very, very hard time seeing anyone but Spielberg winning this category. My money was on America’s new sweetheart Ben Affleck, but that — for better or for worse — won’t be the case. Also a shame that the political discussion that has been encasing Zero Dark Thirty since it’s release may have had a negative impact on Katherine Bigelow’s chances, who, regardless of what the Academy says, directed the best movie of the year. The happy surprise for me was Behn Zeitlin, whose Beasts of the Southern Wild was my favorite movie-going experience of the year. Beasts is an original, whimsical and deeply moving film that is also very clearly the brainchild of its (first-time) director.
Z.Z.: I don’t doubt Zeitlin’s ability as a filmmaker, but Beasts did not sweep me away as it did my fellow Sun writers. Paul Thomas Anderson likely missed out on a nomination due to The Master’s unabashed ambiguity and confusing structure, but, man, did he create a puzzle film buffs will revisit for years to come. Haneke’s nomination makes sense, as Amour is the provocative auteur’s most accessible film yet. And I was just getting used to the idea of seeing “Academy Award-Nominated Director Ben Affleck” on posters and wasn’t that bothered by it.
My bone to pick with the Academy concerns its omission of Kathryn Bigelow for her masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty. Her nomination seemed like a given, due to her 2010 win for The Hurt Locker (though, may I say, I am relieved 2011’s victor Tom Hooper is not here for Les Mis, with its unceasing, queasy close-ups), yet she is nowhere to be found. It’s strange that the near-unanimous acclaim for Bigelow’s work has fallen on deaf ears at the politically correct Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, just as politicians (Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, namely) probe the filmmakers’ contact with the CIA and columnists call it right wing propaganda. It is not propaganda or, I trust, a threat to national security. Bigelow’s snub comes across as the Academy playing it safe and shying away from a film with a message that might (but shouldn’t) scare its members. You’d think her being a woman and all would balance things out, but considering she’s the only female Best Director winner in the Academy’s 85-year history, that probably hurt her chances, too.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
- Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
- Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
- Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
- Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
- Denzel Washington, Flight
It’s tough to argue against any of the picks above — even Bradley Cooper broke out of his handsome but bland comedic typecast to deliver an empathetic performance as a mentally unstable shlub in Silver Linings Playbook. The most crucial snub would be John Hawkes from The Sessions, wherein he plays a paralyzed polio victim trying to lose his virginity at 38 years old. Poor guy. Almost every word of that last sentence screams Oscar, huh?
P.J.: Unfortunately, Best Actor — often one of the most exciting categories of the night — seems kind of boring this year. The nominations, except maybe Joaquin Phoenix’s after repeatedly dissing the Academy, were all fairly set in stone, and while it would have been great to see John Hawkes nominated, I don’t think he was ever truly in the running to take the statue home. The award is likely going to Daniel Day-Lewis for a great role in a movie everyone liked, or Denzel Washington for a great role in a movie nobody liked. It all seems fairly “meh” to me. With Chastain, Lawrence and even Hathaway down in Supporting it seems that this year, the women are having all the fun.
Z.Z.: I agree that there are few surprises in this line-up, and these characters are all biographical, musical or mentally ill, the Academy’s holy trinit
y of sorts. Day-Lewis is truly transcendent as our 16th President, and I have no argument as to why he should or could not take home his third Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, which would set an all-time record. I’ll just say, however, that Jack Black, for Bernie, was robbed. He sang and teetered on the edge of insanity as a character based on a real person. What went wrong, Academy?!
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
- Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
- Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
- Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
- Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
- Naomi Watts, The Impossible
This year notably sees both the oldest ever Best Actress nominee — 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva — and the youngest ever — nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only six at the time of filming. Along with those two, Naomi Watts’ role as a mother separated from her family during the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004 took a spot that could have also been filled by Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone or Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea. The real battle here is between Jessica and Jennifer, as two of the past year’s breakout marquee actresses seek to establish themselves as the rare box office draw with critical chops.
P.J.: One of the questions I found most interesting in the run-up to the nominations this year was “Can a six-year-old truly act?” Put more directly, should the Oscars be honoring Quvenzhané Wallis for work she did at age six, at the expense of older and more more experienced actresses? Personally, I think at that age, more credit goes to the director than to the performer, which is one of the many reasons I’m excited to see Behn Zeitlin up for Best Director this year. That shouldn’t take any of the luster away from Wallis’ achievement though, both onscreen and now with the Academy. While I’ll be shocked if she ends up victorious, this is the best time to invoke the cliche, “it’s an honor just to be nominated.” Between the two J’s, Chastain gave a powerhouse performance, one in a long chain of well-received roles, but I think the thought process from a couple of months ago still stands: This is Jennifer Lawrence’s to lose. The Hunger Games star is not only hugely popular, she’s also a previous nominee from two years ago (becoming the second-youngest Best Actress nominee ever at age 20 for Winter’s Bone, a list she just got bumped down in).
Z.Z.: Who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence? Not only has she reached and far exceeded the critical acclaim quota necessary for a Best Actress win, Lawrence is America’s newest “Sweetheart,” and just at 22 years young. Audiences see her as beauty, talent and personality in one package, and the Academy has long awarded Actresses (Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock) with such an enviable swath of assets. My pick goes to Jessica Chastain, who proved after being in every 2011 movie that she doesn’t only have a good agent but deserves her omnipresence, too. But Lawrence has a year on Chastain (her nod for Winter’s Bone was one year before Chastain’s, for The Help) and will likely win because, really, who doesn’t love her?
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
- Alan Arkin, Argo
- Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
- Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
- Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Probably the hardest category to predict this year, Best Supporting Actor had an abundance of riches to choose from, and ended up with five men who are all previous Oscar winners. With no one for the Academy to “recognize” or “honor” — as the supporting categories often become — it’s anyone’s game.
P.J.: For me, this was the Year of McConaughey. There is nothing I wanted to hear more than “Academy Award-Nominated Actor Matthew McConaughey.” He took on not just one, but four roles this year — Magic Mike, Bernie, Killer Joe and The Paperboy — that have completely revamped his image from shirtless sex idol to challenging and thoughtful actor. His work as strip club owner Dallas in Magic Mike, one of year’s more underrated movies, could and should have been a contender for an Oscar. He broke type, worked with a well-respected director (Steven Soderbergh), and perhaps most importantly, delivered without a doubt in my mind one of the best performances of the year. The Academy will have a chance to make it up to him next year with Dallas Buyers Club, the true story of an underground AIDS drugs smuggler. Within those who were nominated though, Robert De Niro was absolutely stellar in Silver Linings Playbook. He gave a compassionate and totally quirky performance in a movie that could get a lot more statues than people think (or hope).
Z.Z.: Neither Alan Arkin nor Christoph Waltz, great as they were, had roles too different from their Oscar-winning characters already: Arkin was still a cursing old man like in Little Miss Sunshine and Waltz wasn’t too far removed from his genteel, scheming Nazi from Inglourious Basterds. In the case of Django, Leonardo DiCaprio appeared to not only have a shot at being nominated but winning the prize as well, so I am unsure what happened there. Every man here has already won an Oscar, so there’s really no predicting who will take it. I’d love to see Tommy Lee Jones nab it, just for the way he said, “You are more reptile than man,” to a pro-slavery Congressman.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
- Amy Adams, The Master
- Sally Field, Lincoln
- Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
- Helen Hunt, The Sessions
- Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Anne Hathaway is going to win (she plays a devoted mother, a prostitute and an angel, all while singing!), but the rest of the previously Oscar-nominated (and in the case of Sally Field and Helen Hunt, Oscar-winning) actresses above landed on the final ballot with career-best work. This is one of the least surprising categories and definitely the least competitive — Hathaway can thank Susan Boyle for that.
Z.Z.: This one’s pretty dull. Unfortunately, the unforgettable, non-lead roles almost always go to men (see above), and this year revealed such imbalance. Hathaway should clear aside a spot on her mantel; I wish I could say the same to Amy Adams, who was incendiary in The Master. For an understated but layered performance along the lines of Jacki Weaver, the Academy missed out on Jennifer Ehle from Zero Dark Thirty, as the rival turned friend to Jessica Chastain’s character. Perhaps the role is too understated, because she’s been unjustly shut out from most awards this season.
P.J.: Am I the only one who felt like Jacki Weaver kept slipping into her native Australian accent in Silver Linings Playbook? I would have been fine seeing Nicole Kidman’s role in The Paperboy, nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award, in it’s place instead. It’s about time the Academy recognize those who have publically peed on Zac Efron. However, from what I hear (I haven’t seen Les Misérables), it’s Anne Hathaway’s world and we’re just living in it. If she was half as good in Les Mis as she was in Batman this summer, that’s fine with me.
- Given the Academy’s love of (liberal) politics, the Academy missed its chance to deliver a significant statement by omitting This Is Not a Film from Best Documentary. Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s “film” chronicles his life at home, where he is awaiti
ng trial for violating his country’s infamously strict interpretation of “freedom of speech.” Not only is his “film” (again, the quotes) a profound meditation on art and cinema, it is a protest against a monolithic government intent on sending a singular artist to jail for the rest of his life. Shame on the Academy for missing this one.
- Zero Dark Thirty missing out on Sound Mixing and Cinematography nods in favor of Lincoln and Anna Karenina, respectively, shows the wider resistance to nominating this controversial film. I call chicken.
- No Make-Up nod for Cloud Atlas? I guess the whole “white actors playing Asians” struck the wrong chord.
- Cinematographer Roger Deakins may finally win his long overdue Oscar for Skyfall. Whether you loved the film or hated it, there’s no denying Shanghai bathed in blue looked pretty cool.
- Quick thoughts on screenplays: Tony Kushner + Steven Spielberg + 16th President of the United States = Oscar. Possible spoiler: David O. Russell. With the Originals, please, oh please, for all that is good in the world, Moonrise Kingdom. Possible spoilers: I hope none.
- I unfortunately missed most of the documentaries this year in what was supposedly an exceptionally strong year for the genre. One that I did catch, the nominated Searching for Sugar Man, was one of my favorite movies of the year, regardless of form, content or style. Everything I heard about Queen of Versailles was excellent as well, and although I haven’t seen it yet, I was surprised to see it left off the nominations.
- This is being pointed out elsewhere online, but is worth noting: The Dark Knight Rises getting completely shut out of awards, even tech ones. Would have loved to see some recognition for Bane’s voice or the flying Batmobile.