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by Leonard Maltin
February 25, 2013 2:57 AM
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Photo by Kevin Winter - Courtesy of Getty Images

When there are so many excellent films in contention for the Oscars, the only sensible thing to do is spread the love around, and that’s what Academy voters did Sunday night. Admirers of Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, and Amour all had reason to be pleased. It’s also heartening that so many of these films have been box-office successes. Of the Best Picture nominees, only Zero Dark Thirty was slighted, winning just one award for Sound Editing.

I might have chosen differently in some cases, but when there are five worthy nominees in virtually every category there’s no perfect solution. For instance, Christoph Waltz is absolutely riveting in Django Unchained; I’m just sorry that the Supporting Actor race couldn’t have been a five-way tie. I feel the same about the Best Actress competition, although I think Jennifer Lawrence gave an astonishing performance that belies her age.

(Speaking of age, does anyone remember that once upon a time the Academy had a separate category for Juvenile Performance? It wasn’t given out on a regular basis, but Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Bobby Driscoll and Hayley Mills were among the winners of this honorary award. Only in recent decades have such youthful actresses as Tatum O’Neal, Anna Paquin, and now Quvenzhané Wallis competed toe-to-toe with their elders.)

What matters most is that good movies were promoted to an enormous worldwide television audience. I’d like to think that people who haven’t seen this year’s documentaries, foreign language films, or even home-grown movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook will be inspired to watch them after seeing highlights on the Oscar broadcast.

The show itself had its usual ups and downs. (Note to future show runners: don’t bring four or five people onstage at once to present an award. It just doesn’t work, and the poor actors just look awkward.) I don’t think producers Craig Zadan and Neal Meron reinvented the wheel, nor did Seth MacFarlane. Every year, it seems, new producers start out thinking they can streamline or energize the program, only to come to grips with the reality that multiple awards are being presented to behind-the-scenes artists few people recognize. But that’s what sets the Oscars apart from the Golden Globes or the People’s Choice Awards. Once you get past the fashion and the glitz, the gags and musical numbers, they remain true to their mandate: to celebrate the best and the brightest in filmmaking. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  • JLEWIS | February 25, 2013 5:52 PMReply

    Oops! Forgot about GRAND HOTEL in THE APARTMENT...

  • JLewis | February 25, 2013 5:45 PMReply

    Funny little tidbit regarding ARGO... not that it is all that important and maybe not even worth mentioning here. Yet it still tickled me.

    There is a "peekaboo" shot that may be considered a bit of foreshadowing: while an official is leafing through a trade paper in a scene set in January 1980, you get a full page spread of KRAMER VS. KRAMER just before an article stating that the bogus film "Argo" will start shooting in March.

    Now... is it possible to predict that a picture will win Best Picture if it references another Best Picture from the past? Well... not exactly. FIELD OF DREAMS lost to DRIVING MISS DAISY despite a nod to THE GODFATHER in a flashback time-travel scene. On the other hand, MIDNIGHT COWBOY's Jon Voight discussed John Wayne on screen... and he won the actor award the same ceremony that film won the top prize.

    Just silly fodder to have fun with. You know how us movie buffs go qwazie.

  • ralch | February 25, 2013 4:57 PMReply

    Greetings. Ok, last year, the award for best cinematography was given to 'Hugo', which is more a triumph of post-production and art direction than cinematography per se, and Emmanuel Lubezki's astonishing work on The Tree of Life (regardless of what one may think about the film as a whole) was ignored. This year, Life of Pi --a film virtually made in post-production-- was rewarded with that same price. I'm sorry, but the whole Oscar thing is more enjoyable the less one takes it seriously. It's true that many of the films it nominates would not be as recognizable if it were not for this show, but it is also true that the Academy would be clueless about what to nominate if the endless stream of critics associations' awards didn't give it such direction. Even if the Academy ends up declaring the winners with questionable criteria.

  • mike schlesinger | February 25, 2013 5:48 PM

    Right on. Giving Cinematography to a movie that was 75% created by computers is a joke, especially when it (with justification) won Visual Effects, thus winning two Oscars for essentially the same task. (Perhaps it should have competed in the Animated Feature category.) And once again, poor Roger Deakins goes home empty-handed.

  • Filmfinatic | February 25, 2013 3:52 PMReply

    You state that "Of the Best Picture nominees, only Zero Dary Thirty was slighted..."

    I would like to contend that Beasts of the Southern Wild was slighted even more so, as they were the only Best Picture nom to walk away with nothing (being nominated in 4 categories).

    That being said, this year seemed fairly fair and balanced as opposed to some recent years prior.


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