IT’S SHOW TIME! OSCAR DAY!

I’ve gone fishin’ and today we have a guest blogger, and a wonderful, unvarnished, opinion piece from a dear friend who kindly allowed me to publish it. Hope you have a blast tonight! And, three cheers for Jan!

By the way, this is our beloved Meryl Streep backstage after her win for “The Iron Lady” — don’t ask me what she’s doing, I don’t know.

Meryl backstage 2012 after win for Iron Lady

IT’S OSCAR DAY!!!!! Another wonderful Oscar Day, and this year celebrates the 21st edition of Jan’s Annual Picks for the Oscars – Who Will Win, and Who Should Win! And this year, there are many new readers participating, so welcome, you new people. And please do not be offended when I slam your favorite film (Django anybody?) or your favorite director (Spielberg anybody). This is meant to be fun, and after all, the title is JAN’S PICKS….so if you are reading this, you must be wanting my opinion.

So, that said, on we go!

And just so you know, I see no slam dunk in any category this year, so if you are placing bets….be warned!

***Howdy all, this is the management – it’s all over now but I wanted to leave up this portion of the predictions because it’s so thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks again to Jan!!!

21. – BEST ACTOR:

WHO WILL WIN:

Really? Daniel Day-Lewis. I know it’s a long shot…

WHO SHOULD WIN:

I’ve seen all of these performances, and they are all worthy.

Bradley Cooper in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: Who knew he was more than just a pretty Hangover face? He is great in this movie, sympathetic, subtle when he needs to be, and completely unhinged when the script calls for it. I like it when a handsome guy has talent. But should he win? Maybe in any other year…

Joaquin Phoenix in the MASTER: This is a great performance in an otherwise unsatisfying movie. Talk about unhinged. He seems like he’s about to burst apart at any time. Definitely deserves this nomination. But should he win? No…

Denzel Washington in FLIGHT: Denzel is just such a good actor. I’m afraid of flying and if I have to have a drunk pilot, I want it to be Denzel. SPOILER ALERT! The plane crashes, but even under the influence, Denzel saves the day. I liked this movie a lot, and Denzel gives a very confident solid performance. He’s Denzel, another handsome guy with oodles of talent. But…

Hugh Jackman in LES MISERABLES: He’s good in this. I have to admit, I got caught up in the hokey emotion of this movie.  More on that later. Okay, a handsome guy with talent. And he sings.

Daniel Day-Lewis in LINCOLN:  He is just amazing in this role. He is Lincoln. He isn’t Lincoln the Statesman, Lincoln the God-like President, Lincoln the…fill in the blank. Daniel Day-Lewis gives us Lincoln the man, the husband, the father, the human person, who is willing to play dirty politics for his cause, who suffers for his choices, and who breathes, like a real person. This movie is often ponderous and heavy handed, but Daniel Day-Lewis is one of our finest actors ever. He should win. Another handsome guy with loads of talent.

I am sorry Joaquin, if you are reading this, not such a handsome guy, but still really talented.

 

22. – BEST ACTRESS

WHO WILL WIN:

Jennifer Lawrence for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

WHO SHOULD WIN:

Again, these are all worthy performances. Well actually, I don’t know about Emmanuelle Riva in AMOUR, but I’m sure she is fantastic.

The nice surprise here is that cute little girl, Quvenzhane Wallis, from BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. I can’t wait to hear the presenter mispronounce her name. This little girl is a refreshing new talent in a very creative picture. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.

Naomi Watts in THE IMPOSSIBLE: She is really good in this little-seen movie. I liked this movie very much. It’s a good example of every heart-tugging cloying trick, that somehow works, at least it did for me. Naomi carries much of this movie, along with the sweet little boy that plays her oldest son. Her performance is worth seeing. Watch this movie, with a box of Kleenex handy.

I liked Jessica Chastain in ZERO DARK THIRTY, but not so much in the beginning. To be fair, I think that was a script problem, not an acting one, and she would probably be my runner-up. When this movie picks up, so does she, and her final scene is a stunner.

Jennifer Lawrence in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: Now here is one of out best actors ever. And she is only twenty-two. Really? What the heck?!?!? Does she have a fantastic career ahead of her or what? She is great in this movie. She is spot on, always. Now, those of you who have followed my list over the years know that I like those little moments, those flickers across the eyes, the subtle things an actor does that speaks volumes. Jennifer does this in at least two places, the best being near the end. SPOILER ALERT! After the big dance, she and Bradley are hugging, he spots his ex-wife, who he has carried a torch for the entire movie. He leaves Jennifer, and makes a bee-line for the wife. In Jennifer’s eyes, you see her world crumble, in a split second. You see her love for him, her hope for the future, and all her hopes dashed, in the flick of a eye. Your heart breaks for her. Now that’s acting. Jennifer Lawrence should win, for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

 

23. – BEST DIRECTOR

WHO WILL WIN:

Steven Spielberg for LINCOLN. No, Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI. Um, which is it? I do not know… If it’s one or the other, can I have the point?

WHO SHOULD WIN:

Kathryn Bigalow for ZERO DARK THIRTY. Oops, not nominated. WHAT THE HECK?!?!?!?!

Okay, Ben Affleck for ARGO. Oops, not nominated. WHAT THE HECK?!?!?!?!

Well, given the choices I have, this is very very difficult. I didn’t see AMOUR, so I can’t comment on that. Benh Zeitlin for BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD? I applaud this film, it’s very creative, and I want to see what he does next, but this film, much as I liked it, isn’t up to Best Director snuff for me. Benh will be, after another one or two movies…

David O. Russell for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK? This is very well directed, no question, with just the right amount of heart, just the right amount of nuances, just the right shots to tell the story. He’s right up there for the Should Win.

Steven Spielberg for LINCOLN? Maybe, but here’s why not. Because this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ movie. Picture Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln as he does (because you KNOW the choices he made were his, and nobody else’s) and then picture any other director. You still feel the same way about the movie, right? Yes, I thought so. Now, picture any other actor in the role of Lincoln, any other good actor, with Steven as the director? Not the same movie, right? You don’t breathe with Lincoln, feel with him, fight with him, and hold your little son with him, do you? Nope. And that’s why Steven shouldn’t win Best Director. To be fair, I am not a fan of Steven Spielberg, but he was remarkably restrained on this movie, so my personal opinion doesn’t much enter into this. Well, maybe a little. Here’s an example: the end of the movie. SPOILER ALERT! Lincoln dies. Right? We all know that. But before that, Lincoln says one of the best, most appropriate lines ever. He says to his staff  “I suppose it’s time to go, though I would rather stay,” then walks away, out of the room, down the corridor, and out of the White House. That should be the end of the movie. We don’t need to see Lincoln die. But Steven just cannot quit. So that’s another reason why he shouldn’t win Best Director.

That leaves us with Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI.  Sort of by default. There is much to like about this movie, and Ang Lee does a masterful job, especially in the water sequences. He got a good performance out of the very inexperienced Suraj Sharma, and the difficulty of working with all the CGI, 3D and water is enormous. So given that, I guess Ang Lee should win Best Director. Or maybe David O. Russell. Yes, right now, on reading through, I pick David O. Russell. See how difficult this is?

But really Kathryn Bigalow should win for ZERO DARK THIRTY. I want her for my new BFF.

24. – BEST PICTURE

WHO WILL WIN:

ARGO, or as many are calling this, BEN’S REVENGE.

WHO SHOULD WIN:

Whew, we’re almost at the end. And I am tired. I have the flu.

For the new readers, this is how we do this:

The Best Picture is not always the one I liked the best. What the Best Picture has to have is the best of all the elements, the best script, the best performances, the best cinematography, the best production design, the best directing, etc. You get the idea. There almost never is one picture that has all of those things, so then you have to weigh all those elements against all the pictures, finally arriving at the Best Picture.

So here we go, the lineup, from bottom to top:

AMOUR

This is only at the bottom because I didn’t see it. So no slight on this film; I’m sure it’s good and deserves to be here.

DJANGO UNCHAINED

I know this is blasphemy, but this is Jan’s Picks for the Oscars, after all, and DJANGO UNCHAINED is not my pick. Now, I did not hate this movie. Not like I hated all other Quentin Tarantino movies. But I can’t say that I liked it. Oops, I can say that I liked SOME of it. I thought Christoph Waltz was fabulous. I actually found myself LAUGHING during the first hour. Do not tell anybody that I enjoyed even part of a Quentin Tarantino movie. I will never admit to it again. And really, wasn’t the best part of this movie the DDG? The DJANGO DRINKING GAME! Yes! (Note that the D is NOT silent. It really doesn’t work to have JDG.) Here’s how you play: you must down a shot (something good like single malt Scotch or tequila, not some pansy wine. If you must have beer, then at least make it an Irish Car Bomb) whenever somebody gets a bullet through the head. An exploding horse head counts as only ½ a shot, and a gut bullet only ½ a shot, but if the guy writhing from the gut shot gets finished off with a bullet to the head, well, down some more tequila! In about fifteen minutes, you’ll be on your way to never seeing the end of this movie! Not such a bad thing, in my opinion. Oh, the “n” word, or the “f” word DOES NOT COUNT when playing the DDG. Remember that. You don’t want alcohol poisoning.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

This movie is exactly why I like the extended Best Picture category. Should it really be here? No, probably not, but what it should have is notice. People should see this very creative, daring movie, and with this nomination, I hope people will. This was made on a shoestring budget, with virtually unknown and inexperienced actors, in a very depressed area of Louisiana. It’s heartfelt, about something, at times uplifting, truthful, and completely worth seeing. The little girl is very good. I’m looking forward to seeing more from her and the director.

LES MISERABLES

I am ashamed to admit that I got caught up in the schmaltzy and cloying emotion of LES MISERABLE. I have not seen the play, but of course, I know the music (I Dreamed a Dream, anybody?) and the story. I liked this movie way more than I thought I would. I loved the cast actually singing, not singing to the normal playback. That was a great choice on Tom Hooper’s part. Performances are good all around, the script drags a bit, and the directing is weak. Every musical number is shot the same, and I got tired of all the close ups. I suspect Tom Hooper made these choices for a reason, but they didn’t work for me. Still, the production design, the costuming, the cinematography, all top. Worth seeing, if only for Anna Hathaway’s three minute song. Have your Kleenex handy. Not a Best Picture, though.

LIFE OF PI

This is a magical film, when on the water. Not so much in the beginning, or at the end. But the water, the tiger, Pi, all that, really, really works, for me. The voice-overs were a bit too lengthy, and became distracting for me. I didn’t need them, and at times, they were intrusive, taking me out of the film. But really, for the water sequences, this is amazing. As most of you know, I have some trouble watching 3D, so I didn’t see it that way, but for those of you who enjoy 3D, I think LIFE OF PI must have looked just fantastic.  Parts of this are Best Picture, but not all.

Okay, from here on, any of these are real contenders. I can’t really make up my mind…

LINCOLN

Yes, I put Lincoln way down here. I’m not completely sure why, but I think because the directing isn’t there for me. The performances are certainly good all around, as is the production design, the cinematography, and the costumes. All the technical work is first rate. The script is heavy handed at times, but this is a ponderous subject, and it’s hard to make a movie like this that isn’t heavy handed. The beginning, with the black soldiers talking to Lincoln was just too blatant for me. The movie almost lost me right there. And I guess that’s why I put LINCOLN way down here. I love history, I love war movies, but something was missing in this for me. I cared, but not as much as I should. I was more participating in this movie, rather than living in it. Except for Daniel Day-Lewis. He is amazing. See it for him. I’m sure you all have seen it anyway.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

This slot is really a toss up with the next one. I’ve gone back and forth on this, but I’m keeping SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK here, for now. I liked this movie a lot, at times I loved it. The performances are so good, from everybody. Well, maybe not so much from Jackie Weaver, not her fault, just not a lot to work with. The characters are all very endearing, and you want them to win. I cared about them, a lot. That’s big for me. So, it’s very well directed, the script is good, the performances top, why don’t I put this movie higher? I’m not entirely sure, but maybe because the other technical aspects didn’t jump out at me. Now, in this kind of a movie, they really shouldn’t, so is that a lack, a fault, or appropriate filmmaking? You see my quandary. This could really be my Best Picture pick, on any given day…

ZERO DARK THIRTY

This could also be my Best Picture pick on any given day. But here’s the big problem this year: I didn’t LOVE any of the nominees. I liked them, I loved parts of them, but not one of them made me soar. Anyway, on to ZERO DARK THIRTY…

This is not THE HURT LOCKER. Darn, I wanted it to be. It’s close, but not there. Yet, I am a sucker for a war picture. Understand that I do not like war, but I think we must never forget about it. And I think a war picture should show war, what really happens, not what we think we would like war to be. Kathryn Bigalow, Mark Boal, and their team experienced a great deal of negative press about this movie, all of which I believe is completely unfounded. I believe that the Arts reflect society, not the other way around. Here is an excerpt from Kathryn Bigalow’s recent comments regarding her movie:

“First of all: I support every American’s 1st Amendment right to create works of art and speak their conscience without government interference or harassment. As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind.

But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen.

Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.

This is an important principle to stand up for, and it bears repeating. For confusing depiction with endorsement is the first step toward chilling any American artist’s ability and right to shine a light on dark deeds, especially when those deeds are cloaked in layers of secrecy and government obfuscation.

Indeed, I’m very proud to be part of a Hollywood community that has made searing war films part of its cinematic tradition. Clearly, none of those films would have been possible if directors from other eras had shied away from depicting the harsh realities of combat.

On a practical and political level, it does seem illogical to me to make a case against torture by ignoring or denying the role it played in U.S. counter-terrorism policy and practices.

Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue. As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn’t mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn’t ignore. War, obviously, isn’t pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences.”

I love her! Can’t she be my BFF? Should she be blamed for depicting what was? No. All right, I’m ready for the onslaught of negative comments. I do not care. I agree with Ms. Bigalow.

I will stop preaching now. ZERO DARK THIRTY is a very well made movie. She should win for Best Director. Nobody does tension better than Kathryn Bigalow. The picture should probably win for Best Picture. The only reason I don’t have it there is because the cast is not as strong as the Argo cast. But tomorrow, I may change my mind. I’m almost changing my mind now. But much as I liked it, Jessica Chastain’s character doesn’t work so much for me at the beginning. She is described as a “killer,” but I didn’t see that “killer” in her until much later. Part of the problem is that nothing much happens between 2001 and about 2006, so nobody grows and changes much. That’s a script problem that I can’t see how they could fix, given that the history is so fresh for the audience. You can’t really encapsulate time, as one might be able to, say, during the Civil War.

I almost love ZERO DARK THIRTY; I love much of it.

ARGO

ARGO, or BEN’S REVENGE, is the entertainment film of the year. It’s very well directed, albeit with some clumsy shots here and there, but for the most part, really well done. I think Ben is on his way to becoming one of our best. He too, is apparently more than just another pretty face. He has talent. The ARGO script is tight, energetic and well paced. The technical elements are all there. The performances are all there, even the “minor” roles of the hostages. Even Ben’s performance is good, though many people thought it too wooden. I didn’t. I thought it contained, like the character. If I need rescuing, I want him. He’s quiet, confident, trust-worthy. I love how this movie honors the unsung hero. This is a movie you root for. It’s got everything going for it. I cared about the people, characters grew and changed, subtly, but they did. Maybe not as much as in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which is why it’s so hard to pick the picture that should win. But, I did. ARGO should win Best Picture. Well, maybe ZERO DARK THIRTY. Or SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

I guess you all will have to decide for yourselves.

So there you have it. Whew, this was a long one, and I am tired! My flu is now sending me to bed.

Be sure to mark your ballots and I hope all your favorites win! Forgive me if I insulted your favorites, but well, I suppose you’ve come to expect that by now! Most importantly, have fun!

All you new people, well, I hope to see you next year!

Jan

3 Comments »

  1. Such a brave thing to do and with reasons too – congratulations (sometimes).

    Only a shame you didn’t see Amour – a wonderful work from Europe’s greatest living auteur.

    Perhaps not Haneke’s finest film but certainly his most affecting.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Jan and I both didn’t see Amour… I expect when we toughen up a little emotionally (her mother has been ill, my mom died a little less than a year ago) we will sit down with that bottle of whiskey and see it through.

      • Then your omissions are entirely understandable.
        I lost a dear grandfather to dementia after a protracted illness, it is an unpleasant illness in extremis.
        However, I found” Amour” rather like “Iris” before it a deeply cathartic experience.

        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

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