Sunday, March 2, 2014

In which this is a FANTASTIC Oscar year!

Welcome everyone to the 86th Academy Awards! It's a new year, with new, excellent films, and there's no Seth MacFarlane! Hurrah!
Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Not nominated: Saving Mr. Banks
This is a shame because: It’s a deceptively deep and tender film, and yet has so many aspects of magic and childhood that it made me want to squee every ten minutes.
What a great year for movies! So many different styles and stories, so many great performances. I’ve managed to see everything bar Nebraska and Philomena, and the pickings are good. Gravity really blew me away as a lesson in how to get beyond the screen and really connect with the audience – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. American Hustle was an odd, darkly funny movie, jam-packed with wonderful performances. Her was, again, something I’ve never encountered, and which actually changed the way I think about certain things. Captain Phillips was enthralling, and The Wolf of Wall Street was full of things to like, though it did suffer from Scorsese’s usual tendency to forget to edit. Funnily enough, I found the favourite, 12 Years a Slave, oddly … underwhelming? I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but perhaps it was just in comparison to the others. Having said all this, the subject matter means a lot to America, and the film is undeniably impressive, especially given it was filmed in something like 35 days, so it’s probably going to take out the Big One.

Who WILL win: 12 Years a Slave
Who SHOULD win: Gravity

Best Actor

Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Not nominated: Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips, and Joaquim Phoenix, Her.
This is a shame because: Hanks gave a top-notch performance here, and it’s not right to overlook him just because he’s always awesome. Also, Phoenix did something really remarkable and difficult with Her, and deserves acknowledgement.

Let’s talk a bit about Leo. He is, inarguably, a remarkably talented actor. His first nomination for his stunning turn in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was unfortunately up against Tommy-Lee Jones in The Fugitive. And while Sam Gerard’s “henhouse, outhouse and doghouse” speech is one of my favourites, one performance is clearly above another. Other films follow, and Leo is either not nominated or up against a blown-out-of-the-water favourite. But this year the word I hear most associated with his performance in the Wolf of Wall Street is “master class”. And it kind of is; don’t think I’ve ever seen a role given so much energy and commitment. However, this year everyone seems to love McConaughey to bits, and it is a very good performance. But I can’t shake the thought that some of the hard-partying, rednecking, sexing lifestyle portrayed in Dallas Buyers Club is … kind of what McConaughey gets up to on the weekend anyway. Too harsh? Well, possibly. And he’ll probably do it. But I’m pulling for Leo. Chiwetel’s BAFTA may have boosted his chances here, also.

Who WILL win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Who SHOULD win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Not nominated: Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
This is a shame because: her performance is really something special, and a great deal more complex than critics have given her credit for.
Meryl Streep, while a fantastic actress, has the opposite problem to DiCaprio. She is frequently awesome and always gets recognition, even when she is less awesome than usual. Despite this, it’s a wonderful year for women on film; strong, complex characters and strong, complex performances. Bullock was the thing that anchored us throughout Gravity, and Adams gave what I think is so far a career-best performance as someone jumping from façade to façade as she tries to escape herself. Ultimately, however, it seems this is Blanchett’s award to lose, and it couldn’t really happen to a more deserving actress. Time to make it up for that whole Gwyneth Paltrow debacle.

Who WILL win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Who SHOULD win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
I know Jared Leto seems to have this all but sewn up, and he probably does, but I kind of want someone else to get it. Not Jonah Hill, I’m not crazy. Fassbender was marvellous, as usual, and Abdi handled a tough, showing-not-telling role really, really well. He also nabbed the BAFTA, but that’s not usually much of an influence in American awards. Bradley Cooper continues to make me like him, not the least because his hairstyle in American Hustle was his own suggestion. I sort of wanted Tom Hanks in this category for Saving Mr. Banks, because I thought his performance was much more subtle and layered than he got credit for, but I understand why all of these people are here (even Jonah Hill). Having said all this, Leto gave a striking performance, and a win would be deserved.

Who WILL win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Who SHOULD win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Jennifer Lawrence may not be on screen for long, but boy does she resonate. You can absolutely see how Christian Bale’s character would be too dazzled by her zig-zagging logic and complete confidence in her own rightness. She’s one of the most dangerous characters in the film, because you just don’t know which way she’s going to move next. Nyong’o gave a great performance, but for some reason didn’t really stay with me. I suppose I’d be all right if she won, and it’s quite a feat for a newcomer, but it’s Lawrence who impresses me most with how utterly she can slip into a character’s skin.

Who WILL win: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Who SHOULD win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Best Director

David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
A very interesting year. While each of these films was deftly handled, I didn’t come away from any being as utterly impressed as I did with Gravity’s direction. Just stunning. There’s something to love about a film whose direction is so pioneering and bombastic and just flawless. Probably Steve McQueen is the closest competitor, and apparently everyone loves Alexander Payne, but coming off the DGAs and all the other awards I think Cuarón really has this one in the bag.

Who WILL win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Who SHOULD win: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Foreign Language Film

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

Ok, I’ve seen none of these. I have been meaning to watch The Hunt – does that count? Really I’ll just be going on the buzz, which all seems to point towards Italy’s candidate.

Who WILL win: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Who SHOULD win: The Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
I just don’t know. Despite never having seen any of the Before Midnight trilogy (it’s a trilogy, right?) I kind of want it to win. Or Steve Coogan, who has a lot of supporters in America, and I think Philomena deserves something. I don’t know what it is about 12 Years that I find a little … underwhelming, but there it is. Captain Phillips won the WGA, and that says a lot. I’ll be going back and forth about this.

Who WILL win: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Who SHOULD win: Billy Ray, Captain Phillips

Best Original Screenplay

Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Her was one of those movies that really blew me away this year. It’s not a new subject to be tackled by film, but as the possibility of artificial intelligence becomes more and more believable as a probability it calls on the audience to really stop and think seriously about what all this technology will mean for the human race. But quite apart from being about the technology itself, this film is a character study that is played out in conversation, and the script is so well handled. Some might call this Spike Jonze’s consolation prize for missing out on a director nod, but it’s a remarkable achievement all on its own.

Who WILL win: Spike Jonze, for Her
Who SHOULD win: Spike Jonze, for Her

Best Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest& Celestine
The Wind Rises

Oh my god. I had the Ernest & Celestine book when I was little. It is an enchanting story about two friends having a picnic. This movie, the trailer tells me, is NOT about two friends having a picnic, but seems charming anyway. So despite it being about the least likely to win, I want it to. In real life, it’s a race between Frozen and The Wind Rises, the latter of which was going to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, but he seems to have rethought matters now. He’s got good form in this category; better, in any rate, than the Mouse House (when not combining with Pixar), but I think Frozen’s animation was a bit stunning, and it really was a nice nod in the direction of Disney’s glory days.

Who WILL win: Frozen
Who SHOULD win: Ernest & Celestine

Best Production Design

American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
This is the category that Gatsby is most likely to win in, but it might not have what it takes to knock Gravity or 12 Years a Slave out of the water. Catherine Martin is a bit of a pro when it comes to Baz’s big splashy numbers, and if ever there was a movie that called for that flamboyance it was Gatsby. Having said all that, I can’t really say with certainty that any of these has it in the bag.

Who WILL win: 12 Years a Slave
Who SHOULD win: Gravity

Best Cinematography

Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster
Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Roger Deakins, Prisoners

Man, Roger Deakins has the worst luck (ok, within certain parameters). He is the Leonardo DiCaprio of cinematography. This man is an exquisite cinematographer, yet always seems to be up against something that much more groundbreaking or zeitgeisty than his own work. And this year, I’m sorry to say, really and truly does belong to Lubezki and his frankly stunning work for Gravity. His camera work was such a big part of the disorientation and dischordance required to tell this story, and it was technically astonishing. Sorry Roger, better luck next year.

Who WILL win: Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Who SHOULD win: Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor
This award, like much of the technical awards, will be between the all-encompassing flawlessness of Gravity and the rough-and-ready perfection of Captain Phillips. Recent sound awards tilt in the favour of Gravity, although I think Phillips has an edge in this particular category.

Who WILL win: Gravity
Who SHOULD win: Captain Phillips

Best Sound Editing

All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Gravity is mostly effects, and the sound and absence of it is fairly remarkable. I’ll be happy if it takes out this one.

Who WILL win: Gravity
Who SHOULD win: Gravity

Best Original Score

John Williams, The Book Thief
Steven Price, Gravity
William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her
Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

Oh, Mr Newman, how I love you. You are the knees of a bee, the pyjamas of a cat, and other such things belonging to small, fuzzy creatures. And yet from the soaring Shawshank Redemption to the exquisite How to Make an American Quilt (one of my favourite scores ever composed, but not even nominated), from the dissonance of American Beauty and Lemony Snickett to the empty spaces of Road to Perdition, he has been denied an Oscar. Saving Mr. Banks, one of my favourite films of the year, has a beautiful score, and is well worthy of the award, but I suspect that the sparse, atmospheric (ha, see what I did there?) score for Gravity might just piss me off and take it. And the voters won’t be wrong; they just won’t be as right as they could be. Nevertheless, I will be crossing fingers, toes and anything else I can manage for Mr Newman.

Who WILL win: Steven Price, Gravity
Who SHOULD win: Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

Best Original Song

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2 – Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from Her – Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen

Not nominated: “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
This is a shame because: it is haunting and film-appropriate and comes exactly at the right moment.
Rant time. People are going on and on about Lana Del Ray. Philistines. This snobbery with regard to the Hobbit must cease and desist. Yes, as a whole the trilogy (ugh) has been somewhat disappointing, and yes, it’s kind of confusing how disappointing it is seeing as so many of its components (casting, technical wizardry, etc.) are wonderful. But I’m going to need the members of the Academy to look me in the eye and explain why Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” is not on this list. Because it is freaking beautiful. Yeah! I said it! “Happy” is indeed infectiously fun, and “Ordinary Love” comes from the formidable mash-up of Mandela and U2, but whither the Hobbit? WHITHER!? The only positive is it means I don’t have to feel guilty about voting for “Let It Go”, which is a perfectly fabulous song. I’m quite looking forward to the live performances, actually.

Who WILL win: “Let It Go” from Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Who SHOULD win: “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Ed Sheeran (admittedly, not nominated, but neither was Hal Mohr when he won on the write-in vote for cinematography in 1935. Man, those were the days … bring those back)
Best Costume

American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

The sad thing is, American Hustle, while receiving a buttload of nominations (yes, that is the collective term), looks like it’s going to be squeezed out (really regretting the aforementioned term now) of pretty much everything. But here’s what I like about its chances: each costume fit its character and its storyline perfectly. The dress Jennifer Lawrence was wearing in the club? It was supposed to look like she had been poured into it, and that at any moment she was in danger of busting out – just like her character. I think it has its best chance here, but 12 Years a Slave looks like it’s going to take over.

Who WILL win: 12 Years a Slave
Who SHOULD win: American Hustle

Best Documentary Feature

The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

Weird is not a strong enough word to describe the plot of The Act of Killing, which looks like the frontrunner for this category. Here’s what Imdb says: A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers. Yeah. Look, 20 Feet from Stardom has a lot of goodwill behind it, but I’m not sure there’s any way you can beat that for a headline. Or for the balls of those who made the thing in the first place.

Who WILL win: The Act of Killing
Who SHOULD win: The Act of Killing

Best Documentary (short subject)

Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Here we go, down to the part where I start guessing, eeny-meeny-mo-style. But actually I’ve read some reviews of this, and while CaveDigger is not, say, the most exciting of subjects, it appears it’s far and away the best-made of these documentaries. If we’re going by subject matter (and I suspect that sometimes this happens at the Academy), then Prison Terminal or The Lady in Number 6 have the most compelling premises.

Who WILL win: Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Who SHOULD win: CaveDigger

Best Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave

It’s a funny thing about David O. Russell’s movies; he pays a lot of attention to editing. And while it might not be something you necessarily notice, it has a lot to do with how he tells his story. Which is why Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook both picked up a bunch of editing society awards. Captain Phillips might have an edge due to the more showy nature of its editing, but who knows? Not me, certainly.

Who WILL win: Captain Phillips
Who SHOULD win: American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Not nominated: American Hustle.
This is a shame because: The hair in that movie was some of the most hilarious since No Country for Old Men. I mean, what was going on with Christian Bale?

Making the (alleged) sexiest man alive look absolutely anything but is certainly something to be applauded, but I’m not sure there aren’t other films more worthy. Having said that, I sure as heck don’t want to see anything with “Jackass” in the title win an Oscar. I guess that leaves me The Lone Ranger, which I have not seen and which is probably the least likely to take out this award..

Who WILL win: Dallas Buyers Club
Who SHOULD win:  Someone else! Oh, I don’t know, Dallas Buyers Club, I suppose.

Best Animated Short Film

Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Room on the Broom

Disney came back in a big way with this beautiful little short straddling the era of animation. It’s one of those shorts you just want to give a big hearty slow clap to at the end: “Yes, well played, Mr Disney. Well played.” Plus it gave Mickey a chance to star in his own little charming short, and everyone loves a comeback kid.

Who WILL win: Get a Horse!
Who SHOULD win: Get a Horse!

Best Live Action Short Film

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem
Nope, I haven’t seen any of them, although I do like all the titles. Helium, for example, sounds a lot funnier than it probably is. I’m quite intrigued by The Voorman Problem, and not just because Martin Freeman is in it. Ok, mostly because of that, but nevermind. However, the one I hear the most buzz about is the reportedly exquisite French offering, Avant Que De Tout Perdre.

Who WILL win: Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Who SHOULD win: Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)

Best Visual Effects

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

It’s not that I don’t think Gravity deserves to win, because I do. But I also think they did a heck of a job with Smaug, which was really the one reason this second instalment of the Hobbit was so much better received than the last. In the event of a tie, I’ll be laughing smugly. Meanwhile, the visual aspect of Gravity was one of its main, stunning, achievements.

Who WILL win: Gravity
Who SHOULD win: Gravity/The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In Which I Hastily Pick Some Oscar Picks!

Love the look in her eyes in this poster.

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

I’ve actually managed to see all but one of these (sorry, Amour, you may well be incredible, but I haven’t had the time). I was on the edge of my seat for Argo, refrained from singing all the way through Les Miserables, and enjoyed the heck out of the Silver Linings Playbook. I was a bit underwhelmed with Zero Dark Thirty, possibly just because I wasn’t interested, and though I loved most of Django Unchained I thought the last thirty minutes or so should have been cut, did not add to the story and, quite frankly, after Leo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz were gone I was no longer interested in the main characters. Lincoln had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and Beasts of the Southern Wild was a sweet little indie movie. My pick, though, and the one I enjoyed the most, for its story, character and storytelling, is Argo.

Who WILL Win: Argo
Who SHOULD Win: Argo

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

Some great performances out of the men this year. Hugh Jackman really carried the role of Jean Valjean marvellously, and I loved his choices with the character. Denzel Washington gave a better performance from him than I’ve seen in a long time. Bradley Cooper is fantastic, and really elevates his film. I haven’t seen Phoenix in The Master but I hear it’s a powerhouse of a performance. But then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, and man, that guy is in a class all his own. The voice, the stature the little smile and the steely eyes—it all culminates in a character who is more Lincoln than Lincoln. You never once see him show his hand to the audience. Like the Grand Canyon (I’m told), this guy is worth the hype.

Who WILL Win: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Who SHOULD Win: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

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

Here’s the thing. Quvenzhane Wallis is adorable. She does fine in her film. But it’s not challenging. It’s a performance that the director got from her, as opposed to one she gave. Take her performance against Tom Holland’s in The Impossible, and you’ll see the difference in child actors. Moving on, I think it’s quite possible Emmanuelle Riva will take this one. Jennifer and Jessica are the favourites, with Silver Linings Playbook edging out to take the lead, but if there’s an upset it’ll be from Amour. Which is sad, because the best of the performances I’ve seen is given by Naomi Watts in The Impossible. Having said that, I’d be very happy to see a worthy Jennifer Lawrence take the award—she really lights up the screen in her film.

Who WILL Win: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Who SHOULD Win: Naomi Watts for The Impossible

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

I’ve got very little idea about this category—it’ll be a race between Hoffman, Jones and Waltz, I think. Arkin is good, but it’s nothing new, and not any better than Bryan Cranston in the same film. De Niro is great, actually, but he hasn’t garnered the buzz that the others have. Jones may have lost some ground in the lead-up to the awards, and Waltz has won the SAG and the BAFTA. Which is great, because I love him, and because he’s a phenomenal actor. Hoffman, from all reports, gives a wonderful performance, despite the fact that I find him so icky. So I think he might deserve it. But Waltz has a lot of momentum…

Who WILL Win: Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
Who SHOULD Win: Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

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

As close to a lock that we have tonight—this award is Hathaway’s to lose, and with good reason. She’s not long on screen, but boy does she make an impact. Her presence, in fact, carries through the rest of the film as a reminder of what poverty and an unjust and corrupt system can do to the fringes of society. Lovely.

Who WILL Win: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Who SHOULD Win: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

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

Wow. Just…wow. Wither Ben? Wither Bigelow? What the heck, in other words, is the Academy doing in this category? Embarrassment upon embarrassment is piled upon the Oscars with every directing award young Affleck gets, but let’s look at what we’ve got. Ang Lee does something magical with Life of Pi, and Spielberg has SO not lost his touch. Haneke might actually be an upset here, but the safest money is between the two heavyweights.

Who WILL Win: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Who SHOULD Win: Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Django Unchained
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Tarantino has been winning a lot of awards for Django lately, but his script really loses it in the last act. Amour has a lot of weight here, but I think the award will go to Zero Dark Thirty, inasmuch as a consolation for Bigelow’s absence from the Director category as for the accolades this script has received.
Ah, red. The colour of blood and
Tarantino movies.

Who WILL Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Who SHOULD Win: Amour

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook

Tricky. Very tricky. I’m going to say Argo because no-one’s talked much about Pi, even though it’s a faithful adaptation of a great book that people thought was unfilmable. Beasts is a nice concept, but I’m not sure how much of a challenge the script was—although it certainly was evocative. Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are strong contenders, but I’m sticking with Argo.

Who WILL Win: Argo
Who SHOULD Win: Argo

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Only seen two of these, I’m sorry to say. Brave is Pixar, it’s set in Scotland, it has a female heroine with AWESOME hair…but it’s not the best thing to come out of that studio. Having said that, it’s winning pretty much everything. Reports give more favourable reviews of Wreck-It Ralph, and I LOVE the Pirates! books and Aardman studios, so I’d love to see them win. Frankenweenie was great—dark, Burtonesque, but great. I’m going with Pixar, I think.

Who WILL Win: Brave
Who SHOULD Win: Frankenweenie

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Amour (Austria)
War Witch (Canada)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)

Now hold on, let’s not forget the great Amelie debacle of 2002. All of these films sound fantastic, really, and it’s most likely that Amour is going to take it out. My biggest pick for an upset would be A Royal Affair.

Who WILL Win: Amour
Who SHOULD Win: Amour

Perfect. Just perfect.
For lovers of the musical in particular.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi

Goodness. When will Roger Deakins catch a break? The man is one of the great cinematographers of our time, but unfortunately his work in Skyfall is up against Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. And just look at it.

Who WILL Win: Life of Pi
Who SHOULD Win: Life of Pi

Best Achievement in Editing
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

This one is between Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. These really use their editing to its best advantage, showcasing the tension and terror of their respective situations. Plus they’re both done by the same guy. William Goldenberg for the win!

Who WILL Win: Argo
Who SHOULD Win: Argo

Best Achievement in Production Design
Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi

Anna Karenina’s stunning stage-themed production design is a winner here, I think. Les Miserables is the only one with the goods to beat it. Just shows that a bad movie isn’t necessarily made up of bad people.

Who WILL Win: Anna Karenina
Who SHOULD Win: Les Miserables

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman

Hee. Oh go on, admit it. You laughed at a Kristen Stewart film getting nominated for something too. Harsh, I know, but it’s so fun to be harsh. The same two will fight it out here as did for production design. Anna for the win.

Who WILL Win: Anna Karenina
Who SHOULD Win: Les Miserables

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Had to look hard for this, but I love the mysticism
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables

Sad that Hitchcock wasn’t better received, because it was a fun movie to watch. “Good evening,” indeed.  I’m thinking Les Miserables for this one, despite Hobbit being as beautifully crafted as the other Middle Earth films. I fear it didn’t make a big enough impact this year.

Who WILL Win: Les Miserables
Who SHOULD Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Anna Karenina
Life of Pi

You know what Alexandre Desplat does really well in Argo? Underscore. You don’t even know it’s there but believe me, it’s working. John Williams gives us a really good score this time around for Lincoln, though, and he’s pretty much the king of the Oscars. I would love, as always, for my beloved Thomas Newman to win for Skyfall, but at the same time I don’t want it to be for music I haven’t heard yet. 

Who WILL Win: Alexandre Desplat for Argo
Who SHOULD Win: Alexandre Desplat for Argo

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Before My Time in Chasing Ice
Suddenly in Les Miserables
Pi’s Lullaby in Life of Pi
Skyfall in Skyfall
Everybody Needs a Best Friend in Ted

I LOVE the song from Chasing Ice, even though, yes, it’s sung by Scarlett Johansson—it’s gorgeous. Soulful and bittersweet. So that’s my favourite. Then there’s “Suddenly”, which sounds like it fits perfectly into a score written 25 years ago, and in itself this is a beautiful piece. I suspect Adele has the best odds for Skyfall, but I’m saving “Suddenly” as a possible upset.

Who WILL Win: “Skyfall” in Skyfall
Who SHOULD Win: “Before My Time” in Chasing Ice

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Les Miserables
Life of Pi

Lots of familiar names in this category. Les Miserables did something a bit revolutionary, and it’s a bit of a showpiece of their film, so that’s a big contender. Skyfall is a big film with big action pieces and therefore a necessity for great sound mixing. And then there’s Argo. Sheesh, it gets harder every year.

Who WILL Win: Les Miserables
Who SHOULD Win: Les Miserables

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

These kinds of categories love war films, which makes me think Zero Dark Thirty is in with a big chance. Surely gunshots can only be edited so many times for a particular movie, which is why I think Django Unchained is not. Skyfall, again, has a great team on it. And then there’s Argo.

Who WILL Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Who SHOULD Win: Argo

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
The Avengers
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Snow White and the Huntsman

It’s unfortunate. This category always wants something bigger and better. And while the effects for the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are just as brilliant as they were in 2002, when they were REALLY brilliant, I just think it might not be enough to wow people. Gollum is spectacular, and so are the rock giants, so you never know. But then, in Life of Pi, this team gave us a riot of fantasy and spectacle, with the most realistic CGI tiger anyone’s ever seen. Plus they were working with water, and you should know that’s not an easy thing to simulate.

Who WILL Win: Life of Pi
Who SHOULD Win: Life of Pi

Best Documentary, Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Ahh, the time has come for me to pick things based on their titles. I love the sound of 5 Broken Cameras, and it’s premise might be my favourite. How to Survive a Plague is a similarly great name, and has gotten some good press. But Searching for Sugar Man just won the BAFTA and the WGA awards, and it’s giving a musician a chance at the success many feel he deserved the first time around. Plus I like the name.
I love the centre strip and that the eye colour
pops out from the black and white.

Who WILL Win: Searching for Sugar Man
Who SHOULD Win: 5 Broken Cameras

Best Documentary, Short Subject
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart

Eenie, meanie, mynee…mo.

Who WILL Win: Innocente
Who SHOULD Win: Open Heart

Best Short Film, Animated
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare

I’ve actually seen one of these! No, TWO! The Simpsons short is great fun, silent and featuring Maggie Simpson as herself, with a nice little payoff against the baby with one eyebrow. Fresh Guacamole I saw on YouTube, and it’s SO. CLEVER. Difficult to describe, but it’s stop motion and has such attention to detail. So I’m voting for it.

Who WILL Win: Paperman
Who SHOULD Win: Fresh Guacamole

Much more excited about this
poster than about the movie.
It's awesome!
Best Short Film, Live Action
Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow

Here we go again. Um…

Who WILL Win: Curfew 
Who SHOULD Win: Buzkashi Boys

Happy Oscars everyone!!!