Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mitch Picks Oscar Flix

News & Politics Editor Mitch Perry is also one serious film buff …

Posted by on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 3:49 PM

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Let's get to it immediately: At the risk of becoming the Dick Morris of Oscar predictions, and against the prognostications from the so-called experts who predict that Best Picture at the Academy Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles is between Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Ben Affleck's Argo, we'll go with an upset: David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook.

I mean, who doesn't like this film? I figure Academy members are extremely enthusiastic about it, or at least the actors who get a vote, what with the film getting nomination in all four acting categories — the first time that's happened since Warren Beatty's Reds came out right before Christmas in 1981. Having said that, I'm not naive. This would be a huge, huge upset. But it's the only realistic option other than the two most honored films during this award season.

Here's another prediction: Seth McFarland will dazzle as Oscar host.

If we've learned little else watching the broadcast in the past decade, hosting the Oscars telecast has become a losing proposition, and no one's critic proof anymore. Back in the day (like in the '90s), people loved Billy Crystal as host, ditto Johnny Carson or Bob Hope before then. When Crystal hosted it last year, he was lambasted as old and totally past his prime.

Everybody loves Jon Stewart, right? And Chris Rock? Not after they hosted the Oscars. Let's not even mention James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Haters like to hate, as the saying goes. (McFarland has already joked that he's sure to be succeeded next year by the team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who everybody seemed to adore for hosting this year's Golden Globes.)

Best Actor: Yes, everybody says Daniel Day Lewis will win for playing Abe Lincoln. We've got no huge issue with the former cobbler winning (for an unprecedented third time), but if we had a vote we'd take Denzel Washington as alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker in the underrated Flight. And our vote for the best actor who didn't get nominated is John Hawkes, who plays the Berkeley-based poet living his life in an iron lung who yearns to have an orgasm in the very adult The Sessions.

Best Actress: Has to be Jennifer Lawrence from SLP, no? There's some momentum for 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, which I just saw last weekend. (It's grim, relentless, tough … and ultimately moving.) Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty remains a long shot.

Best Director: Well, it won't be Ben Affleck, who got shut out of even being nominated (as was Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow), even though he ended up winning the Directors Guild of America award, generally considered the surest precursor to who wins the Best Direction Oscar, as well as the ultimate Best Film category. So it's gotta be Spielberg, right? Ang Lee is getting some love for Life of Pi, but I can't see that happening. (I'm just meh about that flick anyhow.) David O. Russell for Silver Linings? That'd be awesome, but probably won't happen. Some believe that Michael Haneke for Amour could be a darkhorse … but not me.

(As an aside: I'm more excited about the Independent Spirit Awards airing on IFC at 10 P.M. ET Saturday night. This is where films like Silver Linings Playbook and The Sessions may do really well, though expect Beasts of the Southern Wild to clean up.)

Best Foreign Film: What I've discovered about this category is that even though most of us haven't seen the nominated films, we will hopefully get our shot in 2013. That's because only one of them has received any type of general release outside the confines of New York and L.A. I'm very excited to see the Chilean film No, starring Gael Garcia Bernal as an advertising whiz who designs a winning campaign to rouse Chileans in 1988 to throw out dictator Augusto Pinochet from office. But that hasn't been released yet. Amour finally did come to Tampa Bay area screens last weekend (well, two of them anyhow). We love the concept of Amour, though it's hardly that original a story. But it does tell it with such reverence. It will win.

Best Supporting Actress: I'm told Anne Hathaway is the favorite. I think I've seen every other film that received a nomination this year, but I just couldn't get it up for two and a half hours of Les Miserables. Couldn't do it. So we can't comment on Hathaway's performance. But we won't be mad if she takes it. Sally Field has won a slew of awards from the critics, who like her, they really like her, for her performance as Mary Todd in Lincoln. I dug Amy Adams in my choice for film of the year, The Master, her fourth nomination in a career that began less than a decade ago. Amazing, and underrated.
But my sentimental favorite is Helen Hunt for The Sessions. Okay, I just saw this a few weeks ago, so it's fresh in my memories. But what a serious, sophisticated film. It's shot up high in my mind, and this was a very brave performance.

Best Supporting Actor: Traditionally this is a very competitive award, and this year's nominees are ALL previous Oscar winners. Tommy Lee Jones as Senator Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln is his fourth nomination. He won for 1993's The Fugitive. Robert DeNiro came up with his finest performance in over a decade in Silver Linings Playbook. Who cares whether he wins or not? The legend came back big time in this film, and he brought back his reputation in his first nominated performance in 21 years (That was for playing the vile Max Cady in Cape Fear). Nobody speaks Quentin Tarantino's words as effortlessly as Christoph Waltz, a fact reinforced by his portrayal of Dr. King Schultz, a German inmigrant dentist turned bounty hunter in Django Unchained. This is the formerly little known actor's second consecutive nomination in a QT joint. Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, playing L.Ron Hubbard, er, Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a new philosophical movement. Unlike the other actors nominated in this category, The Master is not a Best Picture nominee. Any thoughts why not?
And last, and in all seriousness least, is Alan Arkin in Argo. Cute, fun performance as a Hollywood producer. Not going to make it to the winner's circle, however.

Best original screenplay: Quentin Tarentino has to be a favorite, right? Django is a bit controversial and probably won't win much (maybe Waltz for supporting actor). But QT, who was not nominated for best director, will take this award. His toughest competition is probably Mark Boal from Zero Dark Thirty and perhaps Michael Haneke for Amour. And though he won't win, cheers for the Academy nominating John Gatins for his Flight script.

Best Adapted Screenplay: It looks like this will be between Argo and Lincoln. Since acclaimed playwright Tony Kushner penned the Lincoln screenplay, you've got to believe he'll win, deservedly so.

Best Film Editing: Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Production Design: Les Miserables.

In conclusion: I've got a soft spot in our heart for David O. Russell, going back to his first feature Spanking the Monkey in 1994. Two years ago, utterly bored by The King's Speech, I held out hope that Russell's The Fighter could generate some momentum to take home the gold. It didn't happen, and nobody said it would. But it could have been a contender, really. That's also my take on Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln is solid, and a colleague at CL predicted when he saw the trailer online seemingly a year ago that it would take home the Oscar, so it does seem inevitable.

Argo? Argo f*ck yourself, man. This film was quite suspenseful and fun, but once I learned of how many changes had been from this incredible true story, it lost that special feeling.

But how many films that won Best Picture did you really love? I mean, I know this sounds blasphemous, but I couldn't take two hours out of my life last year to see The Artist.. I think back to how Goodfellas lost out to Dancing With Wolves in 1990, Saving Private Ryan lost out to Shakespeare in Love in 1998 and The Player wasn't even nominated in 1992 (though director Robert Altman) was, and you realize, the Oscars ain't very hip.

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