February 25, 2013

A Slanted Look at the 85th Academy Awards

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I don’t mean to brag, but I did pretty well this year in my Oscar predictions. I placed second in The Sun’s Oscar Picks printed last week (9/12 for those curious, and congratulations to Zach Zahos on 10/12), and I’m pretty sure I only missed one of my picks for the night’s other awards, which I screamed out to increasingly annoyed housemates. That being said, the winners of the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday night were incredibly expectable. Best Picture winner Argo had been picking up industry awards for weeks, Daniel Day-Lewis gave a performance in Lincoln that will likely stand as the model for a man we will never hear and if “Skyfall” hadn’t brought Adele to spitting distance of an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony), I think there would have been riots.

Predictability aside, there were many, many great parts of this year’s Academy Awards. Not least among them was the Best Leading Actress statue going to Jennifer Lawrence — the presumptive winner since nominations were announced, but never a lock — for her role as a troubled widow in Silver Linings Playbook. One of the best films of 2012 and deserving of many more awards (Best Supporting Actor, Best Actor Who Isn’t Daniel Day Lewis, and arguably Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), SLP gave Lawrence her first, but likely not last, Oscar, after being nominated two years ago at age 20 for Winter’s Bone. Look out for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire later this year, starring Oscar Award Winning Actress Jennifer Lawrence.

There were other winners that were unarguably deserving as well — Day-Lewis, Life of Pi’s visual effects team and Amour (Best Foreign Language Film) come to mind. Another worth highlighting is Searching for Sugar Man, the winner of Best Documentary Feature, which I believe could have been nominated for Best Picture of the year.

However, several films were unjustly looked over. Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for four awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay) and won none, which while expected, was disappointing to see. Zero Dark Thirty, arguably the most controversial film in a year that included Django Unchained and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, went home with only one statue, a split win for Best Sound Editing. Magic Mike garnered zero nominations, but in my humble opinion should have been in contention for Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Soderbergh), Best Actor (Channing Tatum), and, of course, Matthew McConaughey for Best Supporting Actor.

Now, to the bad stuff. The Oscars were long. Very, very long. They were not made any shorter by a 20-minute opening monologue from supremely adequate host Seth MacFarlane and many unnecessary musical moments — although Shirley Bassey and Jennifer Hudson rocked it.

In terms of awards, I am in no place to say that an actor, actress, film, or anyone else is undeserving of recognition. But I will anyway — both Best Supporting Actor (a slight upset) and Best Supporting Actress (the lock of all locks) went to the wrong people. Christoph Waltz was awesome in Django Unchained, but was he a supporting actor? No. Was he doing anything that different from his role as Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, which he won for three years ago? No. On the other hand, in Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro broke type from the typical tough guy he’s been playing for the past few decades and completely sold his superstitious and loving dad. If not De Niro, it could have gone to Tommy Lee Jones, who played a 19th century version of Tommy Lee Jones, but was brilliant and engaging while doing it.

Best Supporting Actress could have been presented at the nominations ceremony, as this was destined to go to Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables since the film first screened. While I haven’t seen Les Mis, nor do I plan to, I’ll argue against Hathaway anyway. My dislike for this stems more from my understanding of the general over-the-top nature of the film and Hathaway’s limited screen time than any sort of hatred for the actress herself. From The Devil Wears Prada to The Dark Knight Rises, she’s consistently been great; but this would have been a great award for Helen Hunt (in The Sessions, a movie I also haven’t seen, but plan to). She takes on a challenging role as a sex surrogate, spends the movie in a vulnerable state (a.k.a. naked) and would have given some recognition to, apparently, one of the better films of 2012. I also would have been happy to see this go to Jacki Weaver for her understated mother in Silver Linings Playbook, or Sally Fields for her overwrought Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, or maybe even The Master’s Amy Adams, who was a bridesmaid for the fourth time Sunday night. Basically anyone but Hathaway.

All in all, the 85th Academy Awards was a predictable awards show that (for the most part) gave recognition where recognition was due. The one true surprise came with Ang Lee’s Best Director win for Life of Pi over Steven Spielberg and Lincoln, but neither of them are Ben Affleck, so whatever.

Original Author: Peter Jacobs