From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]borderstan.com.
Last year when I made my predictions about the 2012 Academy Award winners, I was very cranky about the prospect that some really mediocre films would walk away with gold statuettes. I’m in a much better mood now because I think that most of the films I’ve seen in the past several months have been wonderful.
But I will be cranky about “the past several months” part of that statement.
I hate the fact that Hollywood holds back its Oscar contenders until the season after Thanksgiving in order to — what? Keep them fresh in voters’ memories? Cash in on holiday movie-going? Get publicity enough to make people pay the outrageous prices to see them? Thus, we have to wait all year for the really good films, and then consume such a surfeit of them that we can’t sort them out fairly.
Is it Jennifer Lawrence who’s in Zero Dark Thirty or Jessica Chastain? Or Amy Adams? I wish the movers and shakers out there would let us see a few good films before November.
This year, though, my Oscar choices are almost as difficult as my predictions are iffy. I am clear that the Best Picture award should go to The Life of Pi. My second, sentimental choice would be Beasts of the Southern Wild. The award will probably go to Lincoln, and that wouldn’t be a terrible choice, whereas Django Unchained might make me think about jumping off the 14th Street Bridge.
I wouldn’t be tempted to jump, by the way, if any of the others got the prize. They are all exceptionally fine films, though for very different reasons.
For Best Actor, I must go with the front-runner, Daniel Day-Lewis, for his portrayal of Lincoln. Nevertheless, I get a sense of real genius working in Joachim Phoenix in The Master. Day-Lewis does everything right, but Phoenix seems to cast all calculation aside in acting the role of the drifter Freddie Quell. He gives off the aura of a strange, unsettled and unsettling personality. Again, the other nominees in this category would be sure winners in a weaker season.
For Best Actress, the Academy will probably go for Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, though more serious connaisseuses would give the Award to Emannuel Riva, who plays the dying piano teacher in Amour. I think I’ll have to side with the connaisseuses: The dignity that Riva gives to the agony of dying in that film is unforgettable. For the sheer joy of living, though, I’d vote for Quvenzhané Wallis’ Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Best Supporting Actress
My absolute top choice for Best Actress would have been Helen Hunt for her portrayal of a sex therapist in The Sessions. But then Hunt never got nominated in that category and was relegated, instead, to the Supporting Actress category — a real mistake in my estimation.
I don’t resent the fact that the Oscar will go to Ann Hathaway. She showed her acting chops in Rachel Getting Married (2010) and, besides, I wept buckets during her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Mis. Sally Field does a fine, controlled piece of acting in Lincoln, and she could possibly win because musicals are not as respected as historical epics.
Best Supporting Actor
As for the Supporting Actor race, I have to make one pick and confess confusion and indifference for the rest. My choice would be Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. He manages to create passion from underneath a preposterous wig, though one that seems true to the photographed appearance of the historical Thaddeus Stevens.
And finally, there is the prestigious Oscar for Best Director. It’s clear that I favor Ang Lee, especially if The Life of Pi does not win the nod for Best Picture. The award will probably go to Spielberg for Lincoln, though; I think he’s the favorite this year. I would give the Directing award to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild and let a new kid win one of the big ones for a change!
But I am content. There are too many good choices to quibble about the winners in 2013. (Except Quentin Tarantino, of course.)