In the end, I managed to see twenty feature films from 2012 that were nominated for at least one Oscar. These films are:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Silver Linings Playbook
Snow White and the Huntsman
I’ve expressed my opinion on the various chances of particular Oscar hopefuls in previous posts, however, a number of people were left out of the nominations altogether and I’d like to address these gaps today. And, of course, I have a few of my own awards to bestow.
Sins of Omission
Actor in a Leading Role: Jean-Louis Trintignant for Amour, replacing either Hugh Jackman or Denzel Washington. Jackman and Washington were fine, but Amour was written for Trintignant and the film is all about the performances of the two leads.
Actor in a Supporting Role: Jude Law and Matthew Macfadyen for Anna Karenina, replacing Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones. I can’t emphasize enough how much I hated Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Not as much as Sally Field, but still.
Directing: Ben Affleck for Argo, Tom Hooper for Les Misérables, and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, replacing David O. Russell, Benh Zeitlin, and either Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg, both of whom should have had the authority and the sense to make the editorial cuts their movies desperately needed.
Writing: Tom Stoppard for Anna Karenina, replacing David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. Besides the fact that this adaptation made me want to read the book; it’s Tom Stoppard for goodness’ sake.
Best Picture: Anna Karenina. This was an innovative idea for an adaptation that was well executed. With four nominations, and real potential for a screenplay nod, I don’t see why it couldn’t have been added in the tenth spot.
Costume Design: Jacqueline West for Argo, replacing Joanna Johnston for Lincoln. It would be nice to see a film with a relatively modern setting nominated for costumes and those in Argo were pitch perfect, a fabulous reminder of how bad 70s fashion really was.
Original Score: Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, replacing John Williams for Lincoln. Besides the incredible performance of Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, much of the impact of this film comes from the incredible score. I’m not surprised that these relative unknowns weren’t nominated, but they really should have been. Lincoln’s score is typical Williams so I’d replace that one; I have no recollection of the score from Argo, but Alexandre Desplat has such a great body of work this year (on Moonrise Kingdom, Rust and Bone, Zero Dark Thirty) that I’m happy to see him nominated for anything.
Original Song(s): Django Unchained. I would put any of the three eligible songs from this film (“Who Did That to You?” by John Legend, “100 Black Coffins” by Rick Ross, or “Ancora Qui” by Ennio Morricone & Elisa) above any of the nominated songs except “Skyfall.” This soundtrack also includes another new song I liked (“Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton), which for some reason wasn’t eligible. And this is in addition to all the music from those great old spaghetti westerns. Really Tarantino should get a special Oscar just for his soundtracks.
Sins of Commission
Worst Hair (three-way tie): Javier Bardem in Skyfall, Victor Garber in Argo, Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Each more horrific than the last.
Most Overrated: The Master. This movie had great performances, and there was a kernel of a good idea buried in there, but ultimately it went nowhere. A prime example of masturbatory filmmaking.
Most in Need of Losing 15 Minutes at the Beginning: Life of Pi. While adding more dimension to the opening of the story was a good idea, they really went overboard. (Pun intended.)
Most in Need of Losing 15 Minutes at the End: Lincoln. This movie would be improved ten-fold if it lost the multiple endings tacked on after the drama of the vote. Shall we stop this bleeding? Indeed.
Hot Mess Award (tie): Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Living proof that you should never judge a book by its cover.
The “Carl Theodor Dreyer Called and He Wants His Close-Ups Back” Award: Les Misérables. I would give up my last loaf of bread for just a few more wide shots in this film.
Oscar Category Most in Need of Elimination: Animated Feature. With only 21 films even submitted for consideration in 2012, this continues to be the most meaningless category of the bunch. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy elements of the four features I managed to see (Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits), but I would rather have the occasional Beauty and the Beast stray into the overall field than have this special category. As a point of comparison, 56 pictures originally qualified in the Animated Short category and 126 in the Documentary Feature category.
Most Difficult for Oscar Menu Planning (tie): Every Best Picture nominee except maybe Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook. Even when a movie’s setting might lend itself to a tasty menu, most of these films revolved around slavery, torture, and/or death—yum!
Best Trailer: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Favorite Shot: James Bond arriving at the casino in Macau in Skyfall. The sheer beauty of this image took my breath away. To see how Deakins made this and nine other incredible shots, click here.
Favorite Shot (runner-up): The blood-spattered cotton in Django Unchained
Most Audacious: Les Misérables
Most Suspenseful: Argo
Favorite Character: Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
Favorite Couple (tie): Kitty and Levin in Anna Karenina; Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom
Favorite Villain: Stephen in Django Unchained
Best Animal in a Supporting Role (Live): The pigeon in Amour
Best Animal in a Supporting Role (CGI): The tiger in Life of Pi
Best Sight and Sound Gag: The cut from the Halloween ringtone to Neil outside in the hockey mask in ParaNorman
Best Use of Voiceover: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Fight Sequence: James Bond and Patrice in Shanghai in Skyfall
Best Fight Dialogue: The group argument in Marvel’s The Avengers
Best Love Scene: The building blocks in Anna Karenina
Most Coveted Bookshelves (Seen): Amour. This spacious Parisian apartment puts the B in bourgeois, but I would kill for its beautiful wooden built-ins. I couldn’t identify where the apartment was in the city, but I have no doubt that it’s a neighborhood I’d be happy to live in.
Most Coveted Bookshelves (Unseen): Skyfall. You just know that Skyfall had an awesome library, even without seeing it.
Most Coveted Outfits: Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman
The “Bret Easton Ellis Called and He Wants His Cocaine Back” Award: Flight
Best Anachronism: The dilapidated Hollywood sign in Argo
Best Dangerous Liaisons Homage: The theater box scene in Anna Karenina
Best Hemingway Critique: Silver Linings Playbook
Best Use of Françoise Hardy: “Le temps de l’amour” in Moonrise Kingdom
Best Use of Johnny Cash: “Ain’t No Grave (Black Opium Remix)” in Django Unchained
Finally, how awesome is Vulture’s depiction of Oscar nominees as pie charts? (Hint: The answer is very awesome.) I love them all, but I think my favorite is Les Misérables.
Happy Oscars, and may the best man (especially if his name is Deakins) win!