Thursday, February 21, 2013


A spectre is haunting Oscar....

My friend John DeVore once wrote a one-act play in which an actor, basically playing John, talked about how much he hated the Christmas song “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Because I had a one-act in the same festival, I ended up watching this monologue—which was brilliant and sad and beautiful—a zillion times, and it basically imbued me with (through sheer perversity) an undying love of that schmaltzy piece of shit song. And, for some reason, it's been in my head for fucking weeks this year as the Oscars approach.

Mostly it's irony. Last year I followed all the minutiae of the Oscar race, accumulating every last bit of data about the entire thing. The result? My predictions sucked and I was fucking miserable for the entire season. So this year I decided to check out. I unfollowed all the awards bloggers on Twitter, I paid attention only to what I needed to for work, and the Oscar blog I started as a joke only has four posts and is going to stay that way. This, of course, means that my predictions this year are going to be fucking gold.

But let there be no mistake. Just because I didn't get down into the muck obsessing about who had what momentum when and all that stupid shit doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. And the thing about that horseshit fucked-up few months last year is that I learned a lot more about how the Oscars actually get picked. I've even come up with a rough list of guiding principles:

1—Disengage all personal preference before entering, kind of like checking your coat.
2—Rooting will break your heart more often than not.
3—The people who pick the awards are, on the mean, old white men from Los Angeles.
4—Pursuant to the last point, Oscar voters pick with their hearts, not as critics.
5—They also give Oscars to people they like, and don't give them to people they don't like.
6—If you're interested in a Best Of for a given year that actually means something, you want the Skandies. (You're welcome.)

So, that's that with regards to how seriously to take the Oscars. But the thing is, there's no reason they can't be fun. There's always the dresses, the Cameron Diaz Brain Cell Memorial Award for most stoned presenter (those and other joke predictions coming this Saturday!), and the off chance someone pulls a Samuel L. and reacts honestly when they lose (the camera caught him saying “shit” after he lost to Martin Landau in '95). Also, if you drink, it's a great opportunity to get sloshed, and if you don't drink there's lots of stupid drunk people to make fun of. At this point, I kind of feel like not enjoying the Oscars is my own damn fault. If I let something as silly and arbitrary get to me, I'm to blame. Why not watch some glamorous people look nervous and confused for a few hours with a bottle of something tasty by your side? If you want to know what has two thumbs and thinks that sounds like a party, look no further than yours truly.

Without further ado, my picks (not in any particular order):

Best Short Film (Live Action): N/A
Best Short Film (Animated): N/A
Best Documentary: N/A
Best Documentary (Short Subject): N/A

As is my custom, I'm not even bothering to pretend that my picks in these categories are anything but random guesses. Best I got for you is a probably-wrong guess that How to Survive a Plague actually does win out over Searching for Sugar Man in Best Documentary, but that may just be because I want it to and thus should not be regarded as an actual pick. Even if it's right.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

If I was giving this award to one of the five nominees, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola would be taking it home for Moonrise Kingdom (and if I had my pick of anything the whole year I'd have to flip a coin between PTA for The Master and Rian Johnson for Looper, but that's neither here nor there). Since it's not up to me, it's between Quentin and Michael Haneke (Amour). Flight has no chance, and the industry was lukewarm on Zero Dark Thirty. So I'm going with Quentin, for reasons that'll be clear in a bit (spoiler alert: this is not the last time Haneke's name is going to appear in this post).

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Chris Terrio, Argo

The WGA gave Adapted Screenplay to Argo (a movie people in the industry fucking adore) and even though it's really, really hard not to see Kushner taking this, I have this feeling this goes to Argo in part because B-Fleck didn't get a nomination for directing, so a lot of the things that were actually B-Fleck papering over the wobbly script are going to be credited to the script. Thus is Oscar Logic (not always a contradiction in terms, but way more complicated than it needs to be). Though don't count Tony Kushner out for Lincoln (the guy who wrote the line “I AM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, CLOTHED IN IMMENSE POWER” really should win; even if it's a real Lincoln quote Kushner was smart enough to use it and make it work, so there), and as a way long shot David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. (Not to be equivocating too much, it's just that this year's Oscars are really up in the air.)

Best Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, Life of Pi

Huge hit worldwide, Hollywood people ate it up, the tiger looked awesome, done.

Best Sound Mixing: Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin, Life of Pi

This is mainly because I'm sensing a lot of Oscars going Life of Pi's way. Just as easily could go Argo or Skyfall. But it bears remembering that the voting in sound categories is notoriously imprecise and capricious, not to mention a lot of people don't watch their screeners on setups that really let you hear the sound.

Best Sound Editing: Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton, Life of Pi

See above.

Best Production Design: Rick Carter, Jim Erickson, Lincoln

We could see a random Anna Karenina shout-out here, or maybe Les Miz, but I still think Lincoln's going to win this, just because every last goddamn design detail in that movie was perfect.

Best Music (Original Song): "Skyfall," Skyfall

A last-minute change (I was initially going with the song from Les Miz for some convoluted reason), because I simply cannot, under any circumstances, do something as tacky as pick someone who is not Adele in a race involving Adele. It's just against the rules, man. And anyway, multiple people day said this was one of three locks in the entire race, so I'm going to do the right thing, not be a fucking asshole, and root for Adele, since it's also rationally defensible.

Best Music (Original Score): Alexandre Desplat, Argo

Which, depending on the order they hand stuff out this year could very well be the moment when it becomes clear it's Argo's night. Also, let's keep it real: Alexandre Desplat's been puttin' in some quality work the last few years. Sure, people'll be bitching “Oh, he shoulda been nommed for Moonrise Kingdom or Zero Dark Thirty” but hey, at the end of the day Alexandre Desplat goes home with an Oscar and I'm good with that, no matter that it's because people in Hollywood came in their pants over Argo. What the fuck, Argo's all right.

Best Makeup: Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell, Les Miserables

Has the benefit of going up against two pictures very few people liked—and in full disclosure, I should admit I haven't seen any of them—and is thus in line for the “I liked this movie best” vote independent of its actual excellence in makeup design. And shit, for all I know it actually does deserve it, but remember, deserve's got nothin' to do with it.

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour

Last year blew my time-honored “the picture everyone's heard of doesn't stand a chance” theory when A Separation, which was fucking amazing and everyone (the royal everyone) actually saw, pulled it out. So this year Haneke follows up on his Palme D'Or with an Oscar . . . and he's not done. (FORESHADOWING!)

Best Film Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo

Totally deserved. B-Fleck managed pacing and tone masterfully in this picture, with Goldenberg a key element in that. Even if I was still sulking about Argo not being one of the 25 best movies of the year—which, hey, life's too short, fuck it—I'd still be banging the gavel for Goldenberg to take this Oscar.

Best Director: Michael Haneke, Amour

BOOM! Haneke should throw fucking gang signs when he wins this. Everybody's going to be fainting about what a shock this is, but let's break down the whole category: Benh Zeitlin's just happy to be there. David O. Russell probably called one too many voters a cunt at some point. That leaves Haneke, Ang Lee, and Spielberg. Ang Lee's got a real shot, because people loved Life of Pi. But the fact that he already won Best Director might work against him. And Spielberg has always had an uphill battle with Best Director Oscars. Yeah, he has two, but the first one took him forever and the second one was for a movie with some of the most amazing filmmaking anyone's ever done in the medium (yeah, I'm not big on Saving Private Ryan as a movie overall, but Spielberg fucking brought Peak Spielberg for it and Peak Spielberg is basically why they invented cameras in the first place). And Lincoln, for as much money as it made and as much critical acclaim it received, has also had a lot of weird backlash-y stuff happen (including some staggeringly stupid historical accuracy nitpicking).

So I think Haneke takes it. It sounds bizarre because it's foreign and stuff but I think people really, really fell for Amour. I was left cold by it but a) I have massive issues with Haneke that aren't entirely objective and b) I'm not an Oscar voter. Even setting aside a), I gotta say it would rule to see Haneke two-fisting his Best Foreign and Best Director Oscars. It'll be the weirdest cool thing to ever happen at the Oscars.

Best Costume Design: Paco Delgado, Les Miserables

Not my most confident pick of the night. Could go to Anna Karenina or Lincoln. On a side note, I think it's really funny that both Snow White movies that no one liked from last year are nominated in this category.

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi

Man I wish Roger Deakins would take it for Skyfall, but his problem is he keeps getting nominated against people who shot really gorgeous movies. And Life of Pi sure does look gorgeous, not to mention it's a movie people really, really loved.

Best Animated Feature: Brave

Near-total guess, but fuggit. Twitter is going to be absolutely insufferable when this happens, by the way.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

She's had this one in the bag since before the movie even came out. The only thing that was going to change that was if Lincoln swept, which it's not going to do, although Sally Field was excellent in it. Damn shame Amy Adams didn't really have a shot for The Master, because she's amazing in it and I'd pick her if I had a vote. Someday, Amy Adams. Someday.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Argo

I should offer the disclaimer here that all five dudes in this category have a dead-even chance of winning. This is the most what-the-fuck wide-open Oscar category I can ever remember, and I've been spending way more time than I should the past quarter-century thinking about this bullshit. So why Arkin, when he just won a couple years ago? “Argo fuck yourself,” that's why. People in Hollywood loved Argo. Thus, Arkin, the only acting nomination the picture received. And hey, why not, he's Alan Arkin.

Best Actress: Emannuelle Riva, Amour

This is not as bold a pick as it was when I first made it, a day or so after the nominations were released. Unfortunately, since that prediction was made privately by typing her name into Notepad and I didn't mention it publicly until about a week and a half ago, I don't get to accept credit for being on the Riva bandwagon early. She's looking suspiciously like a lock at this point, despite all the talk of Jennifer Lawrence still being the frontrunner. Also, Jean Dujardin is going to be presenting, so they're going to have someone who can pronounce both her name and the title of the movie properly.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

DDL had this on lock since he took the part. Might even be a unanimous vote this time out. Woulda been nice to see it go to Joaquin Phoenix but, hey. It'll be nice to see it go to DDL again, too.

Best Picture: Argo

Again: people in Hollywood really, really like Argo. I'm not gonna get up on a horse of any size, let alone a high one, about it either. Argo's fine. It's exciting when it needs to be exciting, it's about actual shit, it's brainier than a lot of bullshit that wins Oscars, and B-Fleck is a real director who's only just getting started. So the writing's a little meh in places. So B-Fleck's acting isn't all that hot in it. Fuck it, it's fine.

This is the thing about getting bent out of shape about the Oscars, if you start thinking too long about the fact that Holy Motors and The Master came out in 2012 and weren't neck-and-neck all through awards season, you start getting pissed off. The brutally stupid media annihilation of Zero Dark Thirty's reputation, that'll piss you off too. There have been way, way worse things to happen than Argo winning Best Picture. The King's Speech, for one, and that was only just the other year. Argo's actually kind of a good movie, even if the way it's good is like a Sydney Pollack thriller from the 70s than some huge masterpiece. Is it perfect? No, but if you remember “Best Picture” really means “Best Picture within this specific (arbitrarily defined) context” things get a lot easier.

Look, I refuse to let this bullshit make me unhappy. I'm just taking it in stride. And waiting til Upstream Color comes out.