The Oscars: A Wrap-up

(Above is the reaction no one had to the 85th Annual Academy Awards)

Well, as usual, I managed to correctly guess all of the major categories for this year’s Oscars. I mean, Christopher Waltz? Can you say obvious. Ang Lee? Geez, take a chance Academy! Tarantino? Borrrring.

None of this is true. Out of the 11 categories I predicted I was right for seven of them. I think that’s a C- in Canadian universities. My parents would not be proud.

Here’s the full list of winners.

Were the surprises good ones though? Well, not really. Argo was clearly going to win Best Picture and I was never happy with that idea. For three years running now merely competent films have been awarded the top prize (The King’s Speech and The Artist being the other two films I’m referring to).

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Argo as a well-made distraction (as I did Speech and Artist), but shouldn’t we ask for more out of the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR?

Even if you’re going to pick the Oscar bait movie, shouldn’t you pick the best one, which was Lincoln?

The first big surprise of the night was Christopher Waltz winning Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained. Undeserved? No, I don’t think so. He was fabulous in the movie. But he won only three years ago for a similar role in Inglorious Basterds and it would have been nice to spread the love.

Still, it’s hard to hold a grudge against a man that charming.

Django Unchained took another surprise win for Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay. Again, not undeserved, but I believe Zero Dark Thirty should have been honoured here. It’s also a strange day when Quentin Tarantino winning an Oscar feels like a soft choice. Not sure how I feel about that. Turn, turn, turn and all that I suppose.

Ang Lee won his second ever Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi, and good on him. I was rooting for Spielberg, but thought each equally deserved the honour. Pi is an exquisitely beautiful and well directed film.

The award show itself is slightly controversial. And that’s sarcasm. My Twitter feed has been going ballistic since the ceremony started yesterday and hasn’t let up.

People are up in arms over Seth MacFarlane’s hosting, calling his schtick sexist, reductive and, worst of all to him I’m sure, lazy and humourless.

I don’t disagree with all that, but what did you expect? I actually liked the moment near the beginning when he made it look as though he was going to do a standard hosting gig, and then got all MacFarlane-ie all of a sudden with Shatner showing up. I stuck up for him then.

And then he did a song about boobs. Even that I didn’t think was terrible at the time, again given what the Academy was obviously going for.

I think it was the overall tone of the show and the fact that MacFarlane couldn’t do anything BUT schoolyard humour jokes that ruined his hosting. If all he had done was the boob song it would have been a one chuckle, ‘oh that Seth MacFarlane’ type moment, but he went on and on, what with the flu joke, and the Rhianna joke, and the Kardashian joke, and the Aniston stripper joke etc. etc.

By the end we had heard so many jokes about women needing to look good or existing as sexual objects for men (never mind jokes about Jews, Latinos, etc.) it just got…boring, never mind offensive. If he had put the slightest bit of wit or interesting context to any of these jokes they might have gained some traction and we might have been able to forgive him. But they were all crude, simple, lazy one-liners, intended only to get the “I can’t believe he said that!” reaction.

Some would argue the parasitic intolerance found in many of the Best Picture nominees had already set up a night celebrating “the other.” Arabs in Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, the use of the “n-word” in Django, the lack of African-American characters in Lincoln, the inherent white man’s guilt tone of Beasts of the Southern Wild, the depiction of mental illness in Silver Linings Playbook.

While I don’t agree with all of those points of view, I think they all have some arguments and I’m wondering if we need to look deeper, into ourselves and the industry, to see where the nastiness MacFarlane so exemplified has its roots.

I’m going to stick up for him and the organizers of the show in this one way: at least they tried. Billy Crystal was embarrassingly old fashioned and dull last year as the host and proved that things need to change. I’m the only person in the world it seems who at least thought Anne Hathaway and James Franco brought something fresh, even if it didn’t always work. I like these attempts at freshening up the awards.

They haven’t found the right formula yet, but at least they’re looking.

So what I’m saying is I liked MacFarlane better than 2012 Crystal, but not as much as Hathaway and Franco. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to any of those people.

One thing I would like to say is that I had to take a break from Twitter during the middle of the broadcast (lost my internet access), and I was sort of glad. While I’m no innocent here, I’ve been becoming less and less enamored of Twitter. I still think it has many great uses, and I will continue to use it, but the black-and-white view of EVERYTHING it breeds does get to me.

Every award handed out last night was either the worst thing to ever happen to mankind or the most apt recognition of a movie in the history of film. Every joke MacFarlane made was either the lamest, stupidest thing ever uttered by a human or…actually no one disagreed with that.

The negativity is getting to me. I know nastiness breeds nastiness, and people had valid reasons to be upset with MacFarlane’s jokes, but we all, myself included, need to settle down sometimes and try to find something positive to focus on, or talk to one another like human beings. Because while reading all our Tweets it’s sometimes hard to see that we all love movies and love talking about movies.

And I assume we do. Maybe we should try to show it a little more. Call me a softy if you like.

So let’s all watch this, the most delightful Oscar-related clip from last night: Jennifer Lawrence meets Jack Nicholson.

Until next year…

85th Annual Academy Awards

Well moviegoers, it’s that time of year again. The big one. All the marbles. Tea in China. That kind of thing.

Every year I feel the need to justify my love of the Oscars, but it really just boils down to having fun with it. Will Argo winning Best Picture really mean that it’s a better film than all the other nominees, or indeed a whole whack of films not nominated? Of course not. But it sure is fun to get mad about it and share your righteous indignation with all the other movie nerds out there.

Which I’ll be doing via Twitter, so follow me at @CineFileBlog and we can dish and bitch together. It’ll be great.

I grew up watching the Academy Awards, awaiting them with hysteria, making my predictions and feeling entirely vindicated when I was right, utterly crushed when I was wrong (Shakespeare in Love, really?). I still do it, maybe with a little more perspective, but with the same pleasure.

So here we are, this year’s event. Following is a list of my predictions for the main awards, along with my view on what and who should win, and what and who should have been nominated. Again, all in the name of fun.

I hope you feel the same about it. And away we go…

Best Picture

What will win: Argo. Lincoln seemed like a lock heading into the new year, but Argo has been winning ‘em all ever since then. Out of the nine nominated films I think this is one of the weaker choices (I found it entertaining but shallow), but they never asked me, so it will win.

What should win: Lincoln. I know, I know, this is an Oscar bait film, which I’m usually the first to speak out against (The King’s Speech? Really?) but it’s honestly the most finely crafted film of 2013, full of the spirit that makes movies great but also the subtlety, attention to detail and craftsmanship to make it the best film of the year.

What should have been nominated: Honestly, I thought this year’s nominations was the best group of films the Academy has recognized in some time. Most everything I wanted to see on the list, is. If I had to pick one more though, I would go with Flight, which I thought deserved more credit as an overall film than it received.

Best Actor

Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis. There’s no way Lincoln will walk away empty handed and Day-Lewis as the beloved president was wonderful to watch. Not a bad choice at all.

Who should win: Denzel Washington. As much as I loved Lincoln and Day-Lewis nobody this year defied expectations or blew me away as much as Washington. You sometimes forget what a great actor he is, what with all the yelling, but in Flight he balances fragile and ballsy so well it truly is the best performance of the year.

Who should have been nominated: Suraj Sharma. No disrespect to Quvenzhane Wallis, but if any young actor deserved a nomination this year it’s Sharma. His role in Life of Pi was beyond demanding and it handled it with a shocking amount of talent and charm. Not to mention he did it all in a boat in front of a green screen, talking to an invisible tiger.

Best Actress

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence. I honestly am not sure why, but Lawrence is riding the wave and sweeping the awards. She’s very good in Silver Linings Playbook but her performance is slight compared to the others here. But she’s charming, young, beautiful and a movie star. Hollywood loves her right now and will let that be known come Sunday night.

Who should win: Emmanuelle Riva. I would be thrilled if either Riva or Jessica Chastain won, but I would give it to Riva, for a performance beyond brave in Amour. To see an actor of her age give such a deep, challenging, completely exposed performance was something to behold.

Who should have been nominated: Rachel Weisz. The Deep Blue Sea is a beautiful movie and Weisz’s performance is one of the primary reasons. It’s a quiet, rich performance which perfectly matches the subdued emotions of the film. I like simmering performances, and this is a superb example.

Best Supporting Actor

Who will win: Tommy Lee Jones. There are no standouts in this category. De Niro was good, but only for modern De Niro. Waltz already won for similar schtick. So Jones seems like the frontrunner for a wonderful performance in Lincoln, even if he just kind of did his Jones thing as usual. Which I like, but you know…

Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman. I didn’t love The Master as much as many of my fellow critics did, but if anything stood out it was the performances, particularly Hoffman’s. A robust role, to be sure, full of bellowing and sly coercion, and all handled with the quiet ferocity that Hoffman does so well.

Who should have been nominated: Leonardo DiCaprio. He was the best thing about Django Unchained and I love to see over-the-top performances in this category, especially from people who don’t normally go in for that sort of thing. His performance as a menacing, barbarous slave owner was a exploitation cinema delight.

Best Supporting Actress

Who will win: Anne Hathaway. Most people did not like Les Miz. But most people did like Hathaway in it, myself included. In a truly poorly put together film Hathaway was the one element that worked completely. You can’t take your eyes off her. Her performance is intense and flamboyant and perfect for the material.

Who should win: Anne Hathaway. What do you know? I agree with this one. As much as I disliked Les Miz (and I did) I loved Hathaway in it. Her small performance is a truly great movie moment.

Who should have been nominated: Judi Dench. I actually think this category is a pretty good one. But I think Dench would have been a nice nomination, especially because Skyfall was so darn popular. She has been excellent in her turn as M and had a more substantial role this time around.

Best Director:

Who will win: Steven Spielberg. Some folks are saying Ang Lee will take it, but I think with Argo likely getting Best Picture the Academy will honour Lincoln in this category. And well deserved I think. Spielberg can be such a hack lately (War Horse, ugh) but he was in top form for Lincoln, showing a restraint I didn’t think he had in him.

Who should win: Steven Spielberg. Another agreement. For everything I said above and also his influence on cinema in general, Spielberg deserves this.

Who should have been nominated: Kathryn Bigelow. We all know it. This was the worst non-nomination of this year’s awards. The talent behind Zero Dark Thirty made the film a great one and Bigelow’s directorial touch was superb. That she managed to create a first rate procedural thriller and get an amazing performance out of Chastain shows true talent. Such a snub. And I mean, David O. Russell, really?

Other predictions:

Best Adapted Screenplay: Hard call. But I’m going to go with Tony Kushner for Lincoln, based on the source material and the stock of the writer.

Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty. The academy knows this film deserves an award, and this will be it.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour. If there was ever a lock, this is it.

Best Feature Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man. A crowd favourite, this will take it.

Best Animated Feature: Brave. I haven’t seen any of them, but the buzz says Brave.

Here’s a full list of nominations.

So there it is folks, I hope you enjoy the show. I’ll write a wrap-up afterwards. And join me on Twitter for trash talk. That’s all folks!

The 85th Annual Academy Awards are on Sunday, Feb. 24 on ABC at 4 pm PST.