And the Oscar goes to...

Jan 20, 2013, 10:35 IST | Sanjiv Nair

Spielberg's Lincoln maybe the favourite to sweep the Oscars this year, but the nominations are packed with a lineup of great films, many of them capable of causing an upset or two, says Sanjiv Nair

Seth MacFarlane’s presence at the ceremony aside there are quite a few other reasons to be excited about the 85th Academy Awards. Truth be told, this is one of the most solid-looking list of nominations in a long time, with each movie, staking a righteous claim to the Oscars. Consider for example, the calibre of the so called ‘minnows’ on the nominations list — Beasts of the Southern Wild (BOTSW) and Django Unchained.

BOTSW is a metaphor laden story of a young girl’s sojourn into the heart of a bayou to find her mother, and save the world from the ancient aurochs. But before you assume a special effects laden caper, think again, because the entire film comprises shots in the flooded vestiges of Louisiana, post Hurricane Katrina. And the only inexplicable presence in the film is the divine Afro that graces the nine-year-old lead actress, Quvenzhané Wallis’s head, who incidentally has been nominated for an Academy Award. Of course, even though there is a lot of love that the Academies have shown for the film, also nominating it for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the odds of the film winning any of them are quite slim.

(From Left) Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Argo, Django Unchained, Beasts of the Southern Wild

The latter, Django Unchained is one of Quentin Tarantino’s finest films yet. The writing bristles with fury and trademark Tarantino thunder and the performances of DeCaprio, Waltz and Samuel L Jackson will blow your mind. But for some reason, Tarantino’s brand of genre heavy, violent brand of cinema has won little favors with the Academies. The only victory that Django Unchained can envisage out of its five nominations is a surprise Best Screenplay award.

Amour and Life of Pi are two films that most certainly will win at least one Academy Award each, but it does seem unlikely that Life Of Pi will be one of the major wins. Amour on the other hand is a 2012 Palme d’Or winner and is a powerfully moving story about the true pains of love, the true significance of growing old together. The movie is a dramatic tour de force diving into the most unspoken realms of an intimate lifelong relationship. And even though the movie has its claws frozen on the golden statuette for Best Foreign Picture, it may not win anything else. Why? Quite simply put, the day the Americans concede that a French film is better than anything they have made, will witness pigs fly.

Which brings us to two of the most shocking exclusions from the Best Director category — Katheryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck for Argo. Both are extraordinary films, but more than that, both are films, which could potentially have fallen prey to cinematic mediocrity owing to the amount of journalistic accuracy that both films aspire for. However, it is the effort of their respective filmmakers that have elevated both films to become two of the finest political dramas of the past decade.

In an age where a term such as immersive cinema has become the domain of insipid 3D films, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are stark reminders that it is not the science, but the art of filmmaking that makes the audience more than just a recipient of imagery bombardment. Argo might yet go on to win Chris Terrio his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay while Jessica Chastain is a cinch to win Best Actress and Mark Boal a strong candidate to win Best Original Screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty.

Les Misérables is the film that nobody in the Academy knows quite what to do with. It is a musical adaptation of a classic novel. It is overtly dramatic, but looks magnificent doing so. It is not going to win Best Picture, Hugh Jackman is not going to win Best Actor, and nobody really cares who wins Best Costume. Anne Hathway though stands a great chance to win an Academy for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

It is a rare privilege to behold Daniel Day Lewis in a movie owing to his self-perpetuated exile. But every once in a while when the man resurfaces you can be rest assured he will shake you up. He refused Spielberg thrice, every time with handwritten notes of humility, begging Spielberg to consider someone else for the role.

But Spielberg like a child scorned would go back, rework the script and reproduce it for Lewis, until he finally agreed. The marriage bequeathed ‘Lincoln’, probably Spielberg’s greatest triumph since Oskar Schindler got the trains muddled up. Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and all Best Actor trophies except Best Leading Actress, Lincoln can potentially win every single one of them.

Its closest competitor for the major awards is Silver Linings Playbook, a movie so unlike a typical Oscar heavyweight, that when it was initially released it flew under the radar, garnering a little more than 400,000 dollars. That’s a little less than what The Dark Knight made in the first hour of its release. With its eight Academy nominations, the film is being hailed as a renaissance flick for the genre, while Bradley Cooper, nominated for a Best Actor Academy is wondering what more does he need to do to get a superhero flick.

SMD predicts
Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Winner - Lincoln

Best Director
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Winner — Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Best Actor
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Joauquin Phoenix, The Master
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Winner — Daniel Day -Lewis, Lincoln

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Winner — Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Winner — Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Sally Field, Lincoln
Amy Adams, The Master 
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Winner — Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Michael Haneke, Amour
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom 
John Gatins, Flight
Winner — Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Chris Terrio, Argo
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
David Magee, Life of Pi
Lucy Alibar, Behn Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Winner — David O Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Foreign 
Language Feature
Amour, Austria
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Barbara
Kon-Tiki, Norway
War Witch, Canada
Winner — Amour, Austria

Making the cut
>> French actress Riva at 85 is the oldest actress to earn a lead nomination. At the age of nine, Wallis is the youngest contender to make the lead-actress cut.
>> Composer John Williams, competing in the original score category for Lincoln, has the most nominations of any living person with 48. The late Walt Disney racked up 59.


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