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The Oscar Nominations…The Good, The Bad, and Very Ugly

Lincoln OSCAR photo

We like you again. We really, really like you again.

I was so thrilled to hear that Seth MacFarlane was going to be hosting the 85th Academy Awards. I always thought Billy Crystal was the best host, but he tanked last year. And seeing what he thought was funny this year (Parental Guidance, the worst movie of the year)…I figured he lost his mojo. MacFarlane’s show Family Guy is funny, and I thought Ted had enough laughs this year to be one of the better comedies of 2012.

I wasn’t about to wake up early just to hear the announcements, but when I did see the list – I was stunned. I disagreed with about 75% of the choices.

Giving Lincoln 11 nominations – wow. It deserved one.

Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook each got 8. They deserved zero.

While talking about them on KOGO AM 600, LaDona Harvey caught me off guard. I was so into my rant about the various actors/actresses that did or didn’t get nominated. She asked me “Which movie do you wish would’ve been on the list of ‘Best Picture’?” I was actually at a loss for words. I hadn’t given it thought, so I couldn’t answer. A few things popped into my head, like Moonrise Kingdom; yet I found that to be good, not great. And the nomination in the screenplay category is enough for that.

I thought of the two animated movies I liked, but they’re both in the animated category. I told her Thin Ice, but would’ve also added The Perks of Being a Wallflower had I thought about it. That includes a nod to the director, and perhaps a few of the cast members as well.

Anyway, I’m bothered by most of the Academies choices. And after watching the Critics Choice Awards tonight (they gave the love to Ben Affleck that he deserved), I thought I’d just go through each category and tell you my thoughts. Sure it’s long, but hey – you sat through Lincoln, Django, Les Miserables, and a bunch of other longer than necessary movies. You can certainly sit and read this!

 

 

Best Picture

 

 
We all know that the Academy Awards changed a few years back. They can now nominate up to 10 movies for best picture. Some years they might have five, others 10. This year they went with nine. I think that would work if you had nine great films. This list is far from that.

 

Argo – I loved this movie. It was one of my favorites of the year, and I have no problem with its inclusion here. I am a bit bothered that director Ben Affleck didn’t get a nomination, as he’s now directed three movies and they’ve all been well-done.
Django Unchained – the first hour of this is the best movie of the year, hands down. The last hour might be the worst. Tarantino really needs to hire an editor. This bloated mess didn’t need to be almost three hours long. I was happy to know that Spike Lee is off somewhere probably screaming at this nomination. I’m also thrilled that Tarantino didn’t get a director nomination. He really didn’t deserve one for the movie he presented us with.
Les Miserables – How is it a movie that critics and audiences both generally hated — snuck in here? Maybe the Academy voters liked that the actors, without the strongest singing voices, gave it the ol’ college try. I’m also thrilled the director of this movie didn’t get a nomination. His constant use of close-ups and a shaky-cam, and not having the sense to make his own movie version and not just a filmed stage version, were bad decisions.
Life of Pi – I have no problem with this movie on the list. It didn’t make my Top 10, but I liked it. Wonderful use of 3-D, and a rare time it added more to it. Watching the animals at the zoo early on was as enjoyable as the creatures in Avatar. The movie was a bit long, and had a cop-out ending that wasn’t nearly as powerful as the book. And yes, director Ang Lee did get a nomination (although this movies success probably owes more to the cinematographer, who also got an Oscar nod).
Amour – They didn’t screen this for the critics here. I’m looking forward to seeing it soon. It is odd that this is nominated here, when it’s also nominated in the best foreign film category. Does that mean if a documentary was really strong, it would get nominated in this category as well? That being said – the foreign film Headhunters was the best movie of the year. I can’t believe it’s not on either list.
Lincoln – This was an average movie, made watchable by the strong cast. I don’t think Spielberg should’ve gotten a nomination, as much of what he did in this movie was awful (the John Williams score coming up all the time to illicit emotion, goofy scenes that shouldn’t be included, and a few different “endings”). I just want people to stop referring to this as “The Abraham Lincoln bio-pic.” It only covered the last two months of his life! You can hardly call it a bio-pic when you learn more about Lincoln from this year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Silver Linings Playbook – This might be the most overrated movie in years. Critics and audiences loved it. The way they took serious mental illness, and handled it like it was an episode of Three’s Company (and it was about as funny as that lame show). This movie was disappointing, and I left before the conclusion. It was such an unbelievable premise that got us to that point, I didn’t care to spend any more time invested in it.
Zero Dark Thirty – A good movie, but far from a great film. It would probably crack the Top 25 for me this year. I don’t think Kathryn Bigelow (first female director to win an Oscar directing The Hurt Locker) deserved a nomination, and was happy to see she didn’t get one. There were certain scenes (the torture scene) that were way too long. I was just hoping she’d win so I could use the phrase “Deuce Bigelow” when referring to her.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – This was an awful movie that was filmed spectacularly. I also loved the performances of the two leads.

Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”. Cooper isn’t much of an actor. I did like him in the underrated Limitless, which also starred Robert De Niro. And his performance was better in that, too (yet De Niro somehow got a nomination for this crappy role).
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”. When Daniel Day-Lewis does a movie, I think we all agree he deserves a nomination. The guy is great at his craft.
Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”. I thought Jackman sang well during the Oscars a few years back, but didn’t care for his voice (or his face) in this movie. I would’ve rather made the entrance he did on Oprah than sit through this again.
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”. Phoenix obviously has talent. He was amazing as Johnny Cash, and he’s done some diverse roles. The problem I had with him in this is that you can see him acting. He’s got poor posture, a snarled lip that seemed to be channeling Elvis, and it was a bit much. The director needed to tell him to take it back a notch (perhaps that’s why the talented Paul Thomas Anderson didn’t get a nomination for directing this mess of a movie).
Denzel Washington – “Flight”. Just like Daniel Day-Lewis, when Denzel does a movie, he’s always great in it. This reminds me a lot of Training Day – a great performance in a poorly written and unrealistic movie. Yet that got him an Oscar. I’d recommend you see Courage Under Fire instead. He plays a more realistic alcoholic, and it’s a much better movie.

Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”. I’m thrilled she got nominated. As I said before, she’s the best actress working today that isn’t a household name.
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”. Her performance in this is great. Her performance in everything is great…Winter’s Bone, The Hunger Games…I just didn’t like this movie, and didn’t buy how everybody would’ve treated this character she played.
Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”. How can you not like seeing an 86-year-old get a nomination? She’s the oldest to ever be nominated in this category. Remember Gloria Stuart of Titanic was for Supporting Actress (she was one year older).
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”. And how can you not love a 6-year-old getting a nomination? This will be the biggest age difference that you’ll ever see in an Oscar competition. She was one of the only things that made this movie somewhat watchable.
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”.  This is a great nomination. The movie was okay. Not much to the script, but her and Ewan McGregor knocked it out of the park with their performances (although he failed to get a nomination with such a strong field of actors to go against). At least when My Week With Marilyn came out, it wasn’t just Michelle Williams that got the nomination that year. I was sure they’d leave Kenneth Branagh out. Usually that’s how it happens and with this movie, that proves that.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin – “Argo”. When I saw this movie I said to my friends “Alan Arkin has been one of my favorite comedic actors since I saw him in The In-Laws when I was 11-years-old, and as a teenager seeing him in the underrated Catch-22. He was fun in Little Miss Sunshine, but he’s going to get an Oscar nomination for this role, and I’m not sure why. He was okay, but it was a nothing role.” Go rent Thin Ice. He should’ve gotten a nomination for that (it was one of my favorite movies of the year). And while we’re on the topic of that movie, Billy Crudup should also be in this category for his role as the sleazy locksmith in that movie. Greg Kinnear was the lead, and he could’ve snagged a nomination for his role in Thin Ice. I guess it works better for academy members when he plays a gay character (he got the Oscar nomination in As Good as It Gets).
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”. De Niro finally started acting again this year. It wasn’t this performance though, but his role in Being Flynn. Rent it. A way better movie than Silver Linings Playbook, and you see characters that have mental problems and are more realistic. You also see people with alcohol problems, and how they are dealt with in a more realistic fashion than that garbage in Flight.
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”. When I heard P.T. Anderson was doing a movie on a charismatic cult leader (loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard), and Hoffman was playing the cult leader, I was thrilled. Imagine my disappointment when this movie was average at best. And nothing Hoffman did showed the least bit of charisma. I have no clue how he would attract followers. A better movie on the subject this year is The Sound of My Voice. Now…Brit Marling is somebody I can see people following!
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”. He was great in this role. When isn’t he? (oh wait, did anybody see that awful Hope Springs?). It was just a bit distracting to hear that same voice we always hear being barked out of that rugged face. It’s basically Tommy Lee Jones playing…Tommy Lee Jones (Although he does play that part well).
Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”. Perhaps he won’t win the Oscar, since he snagged it for Inglourious Basterds. He should. He’s just amazing in this. There are three scenes I can’t stop thinking about. One is where we’re first introduced to his character and he cleverly talks down to two slave owners as he inquires about Django. Another scene has him talking to the town sheriff, trying to explain why he shot the other sheriff. The chemistry he creates with Jamie Foxx is wonderful, and when he has to rein Foxx in a bit and yell at him for getting out of line – you just realize you’re watching an actor that’s among the best working today.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams – “The Master”. I’m a fan of Adams, but didn’t think this was much of a role. I would’ve liked to have seen this spot go to Emma Watson of Perks, Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, or the young Kara Hayward of Moonrise Kingdom.
Sally Field – “Lincoln”. She had to gain weight for the role. She had to fight for the role (the really Mary Todd was a lot younger than Lincoln; in real life, she’s a bit older than Daniel Day-Lewis). It’s nice to see she’s gone from riding in a brown Trans Am, into riding a brown carriage.
Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”. She was one of the only good things in it, so I’m fine with this selection (but she’s the ONLY ONE that should’ve been nominated from this film).
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”. This is, by far, my favorite thing about the nominations this year. I didn’t think she’d get the nomination, and was happy to see they rewarded this brave performance. I’m not a fan of hers usually (she was horrible in Soul Surfer a few years back), but this was an amazing performance. I’m just not sure what the Academy was thinking by leaving John Hawkes out. He had to act with a pencil (and other things) in his mouth.
Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”. I loved Weaver so much in Animal Kingdom a few years ago, that it’s going to be hard for me to ever knock when she’s nominated. This role wasn’t much, though.

Animated Feature Film
“Brave”. Beautiful animation, weak story. Let’s see (or hear) more Billy Connolly.
“Frankenweenie”. I’m not a fan of Tim Burton. I’m not a fan of him constantly remaking pictures that don’t need to be remade. This is him remaking his own early short film. And I’m glad he did. It was a lot of fun and one of the bigger surprises of the year.
“ParaNorman”. This made my 10 best of the year. Animated movies never make my list (aside from Up and the first Toy Story).
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”. I didn’t see this. Hey, I’m not 10!
“Wreck-It Ralph”. This also made my Top 10 of the year. Perfect casting, and even with it borrowing from Toy Story, I adored it.

Directing
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin. This was his first time directing, but geez, what a mess of a movie. What the other critics see in this is just beyond me. Drop him and nominate another first time director – Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
“Life of Pi” – Ang Lee. Great nomination. Lee is a true talent, and aside from ruining the ending and making it longer than it needed to be…he gave us a good movie.
“Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg. This is the worst selection of the year. Give Lincoln all the accolades you want, but there are many complaints to have with this movie. I find many of those lie with the director. His poorly done scene in the beginning with a few soldiers; the fact that he didn’t end it earlier, in a much better moment (Samuel Jackson has been ranting about that, too…yet he’s been quiet about how poorly Django ends. I digress). The way Spielberg has the John Williams score come up in the middle of some important speech or conversation just seemed so amateurish.
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell. There was so much I hated about this movie, but I think most of that was the screenplay. Oh wait, Russell did use a lot of the shaky camera. Yeah, scratch him from this list. I’m just not sure who you would put in his or Spielberg’s place. I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a genius, but he blew it with The Master. Perhaps I’d throw Wes Anderson in here for Moonrise Kingdom, or maybe Jill Sprecher from Thin Ice, even though she was so angry by the edits the studio made to her film, she demanded they take her name of the movie (they didn’t).

Writing – Original Screenplay
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino. This man can write some great dialogue, even when he’s borrowing from every other movie in the history of Hollywood. If only he knew how to edit, and tone things down and not make such crazy films that spiral out of control.
“Flight” – John Gatins. This movie was so flawed. Nothing about it was realistic, and I blame the director for many decisions, including the fact that Don Cheadle starts out being a thorn in Denzel’s side…yet soon tries to help him. It would’ve been a much better film the other way.
“MoonriseKingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola. Okay, at least Anderson is getting some love with this nomination.
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal. Ouch. It’s got to hurt Kathryn Bigelow to not get nominated, when her movie is being praised by everyone. I’m wondering how you can truly call this “original,” when Boal is writing stuff that (well, some of it) happened in real life!

Adapted Screenplay
“Argo” – Chris Terrio. Give this man the Oscar write now. He wrote an amazing screenplay that has you on the edge of your seat – even if you knew the outcome of the movie. And it was all based on a small story about the case.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin. Booo.
“Life of Pi” – David Magee. I would have no problem with this nomination, even they didn’t blow it so bad on the ending the book had. Although that being said, everybody I know that loves the book tells me they can’t believe they were even able to make a movie out of this story.
“Lincoln” – Tony Kushner. I have a problem with a nomination for a screenplay that read like something you’re forced to watch in history class.
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell. I’ve complained enough about this movie, but many of those complaints in the characters. They were all written with the same voice. It was an awful screenplay and a waste of the best cast in a movie all year.

Music – Original Song
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph. I have no clue what this is. Anybody?
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane. What? This song beat out the great “Thunder Buddies” tune?
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri. The music in this was fabulous.
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth. In my mind, Adele can do no wrong. She fits nicely with the classic Bond themes we think of.
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil. Wait a second. There was an original song in this? Now I’m confused (but too tired to research it).

Foreign Language Film
“Amour” (Austria)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“No” (Chile)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

I still don’t understand why Amour is listed here, and in the Best Picture category. Anyway, where is The Kid with a Bike? Oh wait, maybe that was officially released a year earlier. Anyway, where is my favorite movie of the year – Headhunters? If you see this and don’t like it, I’m kicking you in the crotch.

Cinematography
“Anna Karenina”. Great cinematography. That and costumes is about all it had going for it.
“Django Unchained”. I agree with this pick.
“Life of Pi”. Wow…a category the Academy seems to be getting right!
“Lincoln”. I spoke too soon.
“Skyfall”. Using Roger Deakins was a great choice. What a well shot Bond film. If only the last 30 minutes wouldn’t have been so bad.

Costume Design
“Anna Karenina”
“Les Miserables”
“Lincoln”
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”.

Do we really care about costume designs? This is the category when you’re in an Oscar pool, you just look at your card and hope you don’t lose because you didn’t see half the movies. And hey – two Snow White movies. I guess those are the costumes to do if you want an Oscar nomination.

Documentary – Feature
“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War”
“Searching for Sugar Man”.

I’m biased, because my friend, the very talented comedian Allison Gill is in The Invisible War (a powerful documentary about women raped in the military). How to Survive a Plague is powerful, but the best documentary of the year isn’t even here – The Imposter. I will say Searching for Sugar Man is a close second, but that and Imposter played around with editing to not tell us the full story. Sugar Man is about a forgotten singer from the early 70s. You’ll enjoy the ride this takes you on.

Documentary – Short
“Inocente”
“Kings Point”
“Mondays at Racine”
“Open Heart”
“Redemption”.

I haven’t seen any of this. I’m guessing most people haven’t.

Film Editing
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”.

I hate commenting on this category because I know so little about what goes into editing. I thought Argo was edited nicely, but think Life of Pi needed a few cuts. The last three needed scenes edited out of them, but I don’t think that’s exactly what they mean by “film editing.”

Makeup And Hairstyling
“Hitchcock”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”.

This was one of the few good things about Hitchcock. Anthony Hopkins rocked that fat suit. The Hobbit was disappointing, but deserves a nomination in this category. I can’t comment on Les Miserables, because I slept through most of it.

Music – Original Score
“Anna Karenina”
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”.

My favorite of the bunch was Life of Pi.

I won’t comment on the rest of the categories, as I just don’t know enough about what is involved in the selections.

Production Design
“Anna Karenina”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”

Short Film – Animated
“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”
“Paperman”

Short Film – Live Action
“Asad”
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Curfew”
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)”
“Henry”

Sound Editing
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Skyfall”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Sound Mixing
“Argo”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

Visual Effects
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
“Prometheus”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”