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Oscars: Coulda, woulda, shoulda

By Philip Martin

This article was published January 18, 2013 at 1:47 a.m.

— It’s not my job to care about the Oscars, and sometimes I find it hard to.

It is, after all, a self-congratulatory evening established by an industry to flatter and market itself. I do root for specific films and performances to win, but I’m so often disappointed that I’ve learned not to invest much in the spectacle. I will watch at least most of the telecast, more out of a sense of professional obligation than genuine interest.

That said, I don’t think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got anything terribly wrong last week when they announced 2012’s nominations. I was especially pleased with the nine best picture nominees; four of the films I listed in my Top 10 list - Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Zero Dark Thirty - made the cut.

And of the other nominees, well, they’re all good enough movies, I guess. I dislike Les Miserables not because I dislike musicals, but because I don’t find that particular musical terribly compelling. Neither the music nor the lyrics move my heart of stone. And I really don’t understand the love for Silver Linings Playbook - it’s not exactly terrible and I can understand why the voters went for Jennifer Lawrence (and Jacki Weaver), but I think it may be the least of David O. Russell’s movies.

Otherwise, I’m fine with the noms - had I been in a different mood, Lincoln could have made my Top 10 list. Same goes for Life of Pi. I’ve yet to see Django Unchained yet (I’m busy and it’s long) but I’m sure it’s at least interesting.

I’m fine with that. I do think it’s unlikely that any of my favorites will win - I’m rooting for Amour or Beasts, even though I made Zero Dark Thirty my No. 1 movie of the year (I’ve explained before, those are transitory moods, I change my mind) - but I won’t be unhappy if Lincoln (which I still say is the front-runner) or Life of Pi wins. (And I would love it if 210-to-1 shot Django did, just because it would shake up the conventional wisdom of these things; it’s really to easy to predict Oscar winners.)

As for the other categories, I think it’s interesting that Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck weren’t nominated in the directing category (for Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, respectively) but I don’t have any problem with those who were nominated. (Well, Russell was nominated for his weakest film to date.) Steven Spielberg seems to be a prohibitive favorite based on the British bookmakers (who actually take action on the awards), with Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Benh Zeitlin (42-to-1 on some boards) the longest shot. My pick would be Zeitlin, or Michael Heneke for Amour. But if I’m predicting, I’ll go with Spielberg.

In the best actor category, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) looks like a lock. And you can’t fault his work, though I think Joaquin Phoenix (who won’t get it because he says he doesn’t care about awards) was amazing in The Master. The rest of the nominees, Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Denzel Washington (Flight) and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) should be happy to be there.

The most interesting race may be for best actress where I assumed Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) would be the heavy favorite. Turns out she’s not; the bookmakers like Jennifer Lawrence’s (Silver Linings Playbook) chances better. I still think it’s Chastain, though I would love to see either 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) or 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) win. And Naomi Watts (The Impossible) is certainly worthy.

Chastain or Lawrence will win - but they’re all deserving.

Then there’s the best supporting actress race, which to my mind is very blah. I like Sally Field (Lincoln) but she didn’t show me anything special as Mary Todd Lincoln and favorite Anne Hathaway’s turn in Les Miserables bordered on self parody. Weaver is good in a film I don’t care for (Silver Linings Playbook), and Helen Hunt was serviceable in The Sessions, a film that was elevated from movie-of-the-week status by the performances of it cast. My pick would be Amy Adams in The Master. But she’s a long shot.

Similarly, I don’t feel much about the best supporting actor category, where all of the nominees already have at least one Oscar. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) ought to win, though I admit I haven’t seen Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained yet. Alan Arkin (Argo) is almost always good, as is Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), but they’ve both been better. Maybe that’s not fair, but I’m not sure I want to see them win an Oscar for something other than their best.

And Robert De Niro was good enough in Silver Linings Playbook, but he wasn’t at his best either (and, to belabor a point, I didn’t like the movie).

Anyway, I don’t hold myself out as any sort of Oscar seer - I only know that there are people who can pick the winners with a fairly high degree of confidence. Every year when I invite a few select Oscar watchers to predict the winners, we have a couple who get more than 90 percent of them right.

So long as they can do that, the Oscars won’t be as exciting as they could be.


MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 01/18/2013

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Jackabbott says... January 18, 2013 at 8:50 a.m.

Nice summary. There are just too many questions regarding the truthfulness of "Zero" for it to be given any type of award.

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btwice says... January 18, 2013 at 2:12 p.m.

re: the Oscar predictions - "Every year... we have a couple who get more than 90 percent of them right"
Is it the same couple every year, or different ones from year to year?

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bork says... January 18, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

Pretty much the same ones. Jay Russell, Sam Blair, Danny-Joe Crofford and Blake Rutherford probably all average around 90 percent. Some years others sneak in but they're consistent.

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