By RACHAEL GROESSLER
Let’s get one thing out of the way – you don’t have to tell me the history of the Academy Awards is littered with many sins of omission. Some years they get it hopelessly wrong – I’m looking at you 1994: Forrest Gump got Best Film over The Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Pulp Fiction.
They are partial to epics and musicals and can be parochial (Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love over Our Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth; there is no other explanation).
There’s a definite anti-comedy bias going on (so many examples, so little time) and, sometimes it seems as though objective analysis of a film’s artistic worth is the last thing on their minds. The Oscars can be subjective, personal, political and probably even factional. It’s like anyone’s workplace really but with gold art-deco statues, fabulous jewellery and broadcast rights.
As for trying to pick the winners, this can be guessed based on the hype around a film, the number of nominations, or the subject matter (like Kate Winslet said in Extras “do a Holocaust film – guaranteed an Oscar”…she then went on to win an Oscar for a Holocaust film, The Reader). The most accurate pointer is what has dominated the lead-up awards, of which there seems to be more and more every year. This year, it’s been changeable and, with a couple of exceptions, picking the winners is a bit tricky. But I shall do my best.
If you are interested in the Oscars voting system – no, wait, come back – the nominations are determined by a peer-based vote ie editors vote on editing; actors vote on acting.
Like Australia’s voting system, it is preferential – no, Antony Green is not available for analysis – so if your first choice doesn’t get up, your vote can still count.
All Academy members get to vote on the nominations in all categories and the winner is simply whoever gets the highest number of votes.
A few years back, the Academy decided to increase the number of films nominated for the Best Film Category from five to ten, so to include commercial as well as the critically successes. It was hoped that featuring blockbusters would make the awards more relevant to the TV audience. I think if they wanted to be more relevant they could do something about their overwhelmingly middle-aged, white, male membership. But back to the nominations…
I’d never seen a stage production of Les Miserables so I really wasn’t expecting such a high body count…the Academy Awards have a long history of loving musicals but Les Mis, despite its eight nominations, might end up being the exception to the rule (unfairly though) and not get much recognition beyond Anne Hathaway. Even Adele is favourite for Best Song with Skyfall.
Beasts of the Southern Wild came and went quickly from Australia’s cinemas last year. So I looked it up, expecting some sort of western set in a snowscape, and was surprised to read a synopsis more like a dark fairytale. I’m kind of hoping it is re-released here because I’m curious to see it now.
If Lincoln shows an episode in its history that makes America proud, Django Unchained shows it things it would prefer to forget so Quentin Tarantino will wait a bit longer before winning Best Film, despite its five nominations. He’s possibly too much of an outsider and an iconoclast, which is a fancy way of saying he makes stuff up, is a bit sweary and didn’t go to film school.
Zero Dark Thirty has five nominations, too, but can be ruled out as there has been controversy around it, including criticism that it is a propaganda piece. Superficially, it might be seen as too similar to The Hurt Locker which won a few years back.
It has eight nominations but Silver Linings Playbookwould be an unlikely winner as it doesn’t have the epic scale of the others. When I said I didn’t like it, I mean that its eight nominations raised expectations which it didn’t meet…in my opinion.
Last year’s Best Film The Artist was French so they won’t want to do that twice in a row but with five nominations Amour is a sure bet for Best Foreign Language Film.
Life of Pi is one of those rare films which both the critics and the box office agree on. I haven’t seen it because I have a rule about not seeing movies with animal characters (like many Australians, Mr Percival’s fate scarred me psychologically). Out of its eleven nominations it will most likely win lots of the technical awards but miss out on Best Film.
Lincoln has twelve nominations which would usually make it a certainty for Best Film. It has everything the Academy Awards loves – an epic centred on American history and it is about America’s great wound. For what it’s worth, this would get my vote but I’m getting the feeling that while it is respected, it is not loved. Besides…
With seven nominations it was always a contender but Argo gained more attention because of the awkward Ben Affleck situation. But it isn’t just a sympathy vote – Hollywood loves nothing better than a film about Hollywood and even better, a film about Hollywood using its powers for good. It might pip Lincoln at the post which would be unfair but it wouldn’t be a howler either.
Best Supporting Actress
This category is easy to pick. I think the rest of the nominees should just enjoy the party. Sally Field is nominated for a third time (won for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) for the troubled and grief-stricken Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln.
Amy Adams is nominated for her performance as Peggy Dodd, the wife of Lancaster Dodd in The Master. It’s her fourth nomination in eight years and she could be forgiven for being over it.
There was a bit of hype/hope around The Sessions but it’s about sex and Americans are weird about that. In the end only Helen Hunt’s performance as sex-surrogate, Cheryl Cohen-Green got a nod. It would be a reward for artistic bravery, which is what they call it when an actress gets her gear off.
Jacki Weaver has her second nomination for her role as Dolores Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook. She did as much as she could with an under-written role and her accent was excellent but…
It’s Anne Hathaway for her performance as the tragic Fantine in Les Miserables. I think from when the trailer was released, everyone could see “Oscar” written all over it. Her version of “I Dreamed a Dream” is a truthful and raw cry from the heart. Not sure where she went to convey such depths of despair – possibly the thought of eating more oat paste.
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actor is unusual this year because all the nominees are previous Oscar winners.
Robert De Niro gets his seventh nomination (he has won twice for Raging Bull and The Godfather II) for his role as Pat Solitano Snr in Silver Linings Playbook. Honestly, I think it was a part he could have played in his sleep.
Philip Seymour Hoffman gets his third nomination (won for Capote) for The Master, which is apparently a critique of Scientology and he is playing the L. Ron Hubbard-esque character, Lancaster Dodd. It’s not a flattering portrait and Hollywood has more Scientologists than anywhere. Nope, can’t see him winning.
Christoph Waltz won this category in 2009 for Inglorious Basterds and is nominated for his performance in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Dr King Schultz, which seemed more like a lead role to me, gives this film its conscience. Don’t think he’ll win though.
Alan Arkin gets his fourth nomination for playing fictitious film producer Lester Seigel in Argo (his win for Little Miss Sunshine was one of the times they got it right) and pretty much steals every scene he’s in but he does that in all his movies…in his favour is that he’s playing a composite character of many a Hollywood producer which Academy members will fondly recognise. There’s also the Argo sympathy vote coming into play. He’s a chance but…
I think Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln is just too good to be overlooked and that will get him over the line for his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The speech he delivers on the floor of congress is a cracker and holding your own against Daniel Day-Lewis is no mean feat. He’s won most of the lead-up awards, too, so has to be the favourite.
Hugh Jackman will win an Oscar one day, I’ve been certain of that for years but it won’t be for playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. If it was an award for being the nicest man in showbiz though…
I wasn’t expecting to see Joaquin Phoenix amongst the nominations because a couple of months back he called the whole awards caper “bullshit” (he later gave a qualified apology). He’s got his third nomination for playing Freddie Quell in The Master. He won’t win but based on his previous statement, he won’t mind a bit.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bradley Cooper is more than a pretty face – he has a Masters degree in acting. Won’t win for Silver Linings Playbook but he gave a quality performance in an uneven film.
Denzel Washington scores his sixth Oscar nomination (won Best Supporting Actor for Glory and Best Actor for Training Day) for playing everyone’s nightmare, a drunk and drug-taking airline pilot in Flight but it is the film’s only nomination. But this is a bad year to be nominated for Best Actor because…
…it is already decided, probably when it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis was to play Abraham Lincoln. Playing a historic character nearly always sways the Academy and none looms larger in US history as Abraham Lincoln. Plus, it’s a fairly brilliant performance. It will be his third Best Lead Actor award (the others were for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood) and makes him the most likely one to equal Katharine Hepburn’s record of most acting Oscars (she got four Best Actress awards).
Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest nominee ever and overcame the challenge of not quite having learnt to read when she played Hushpuppy in Beast of the Southern Wild at age six. I hope she doesn’t win because Hollywood isn’t kind to child stars. Plus, imagine peaking at age nine?
The obstacle for Naomi Watts is that The Impossible is the only film here not nominated for anything else, meaning it will struggle to get enough attention (like Denzel Washington in Flight). Reese Witherspoon’s open letter praising her performance as Maria Bennett most certainly helped secure the nomination, though. Nice one, Reece.
Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest person to be nominated for a leading role and will have sentiment in her favour. In Amour she plays Anne Laurent, an elderly woman in her last days…she picked up the BAFTA award as well. Against her is that it’s a foreign language film (only Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni have won Best Actress/Actor for foreign language films). That said, she’s the dark horse and it wouldn’t surprise me if she won.
Jessica Chastain was considered the front-runner for her role as the CIA agent, Maya, in Zero Dark Thirty but there’s been controversy about the perceived torture-ain’t-so-bad theme among other things so…
Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as the brittle Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook has been getting lots of plaudits and is now the frontrunner. Editorialising bit: I’m a bit mystified as to why. It’s not a bad performance but it’s not great either. Maybe it was the dancing…
David O Russell has been nominated for Best Director for Silver Linings Playbook. You may have picked up on the fact I was underwhelmed by this film so to me, that he’s here and Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper and Tarantino aren’t, is a mystery. Objectively though, there are other nominees more likely to win.
Benh Zeitlin has scored a Best Director nomination for his very first feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild. He might be as surprised as anyone he’s even going to the Oscars. But you wouldn’t want to win for your first film – it would only be downhill from there….
Ang Lee gets his third nomination for Life of Pi. He has succeeded where others have failed in making the most of 3-d technology, which Hollywood will just not give up on despite a collective “meh” from audiences.
Michael Haneke has been nominated for Amour and with five nominations all up, he can’t be ruled out of contention.
Lastly, there is Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. With the most nominations he would have to be the favourite but I always get the feeling they give him awards begrudgingly. Don’t know why.
Mamamia is having an Oscars party tomorrow! Join us on Twitter – follow the hashtag #MMOscars – for live red carpet updates of the weird, wonderful and wtf frocks. And as always, we’ll be updating our fashion gallery as the stars arrive. We’ll kick off at 10am.
So…. who do you think will win?
Rachael is an amateur blogger with a highly retentive memory for useless information, such as Oscar Trivia and even stranger, political history. You can find her blog at here. Rachael’s twitter account remains unused due to lack of a smartphone.