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Analyze This: Why 'Argo' Won Best Picture, Ang Lee Won Best Director & More 2013 Oscar Fallout

by Rodrigo Perez
February 26, 2013 12:42 PM
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Ang Lee, Best Director, Oscars
How Ang Lee won Best Director
The answer in many ways was easy: Ben Affleck wasn't nominated. With the actor-turned-filmmaker out of the picture, the competition was essentially Lee, David O. Russell and Spielberg (Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin never had a shot at winning and their nomination was a "welcome to the crowd" nod). Spielberg wasn't going to win for the reasons already illustrated. "Lincoln" barely touched anyone outside of the craftspeople, who were in awe of its admittedly admirable texture, but it ultimately was the Daniel Day-Lewis show and he scored his gold. David O. Russell was Lee's biggest threat. Featuring a combustible and intoxicating energy, "Silver Linings Playbook" balanced myriad human tones and beautifully expressed the heartbreak and pain parents endure with problem children (something the Academy's average median age of 62 could probably relate to). But Lee had the VFX edge. Not only was "Life Of Pi" dramatic, soulful and beautifully compelling, Lee created a massive spectacle and easily the most immersive story told in 3D. James Cameron himself got behind "Life Of Pi," and it’s easy to see why; he too was impressed with the spectacular achievement -- utilizing a realistic CGI tiger that co-lead the movie, employing an unknown as the star, shooting a film set on the ocean on a soundstage, yet all to the film's benefit rather than detriment. Lee, when you think about it, was the logical choice.

Christoph Waltz, Best Supporting Actor, Oscars 2013
Best Supporting Actor
Let's not get into Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) as they were obvious locks since December and their respective narratives never wavered. We’ll admit it: Christoph Waltz winning for “Django Unchained” was the biggest head-scratcher of the bunch. Yes, groundswell support for the actor crested late in the game, but three actors seemed to be in line for the prize ahead of him. Tommy Lee Jones had won the SAG award. Philip Seymour Hoffman had won the fluffy but good-augur Critics Choice award, and Robert De Niro had his first good role in what felt like over a decade. While Jones seemed like the frontrunner, many assumed De Niro would eventually take the prize. But Waltz, who won the Golden Globe earlier in the season, snuck in there. It’s slightly odd if only because he won the same prize only three years ago for “Inglourious Basterds,” and worse, the roles were pretty similar; that of an effete, flowery and mannered German individual (the main difference being an antagonist in the earlier film, a protagonist in the latter). So why did Waltz win over the others? Both actors campaigned and were repped by Harvey Weinstein who knows how to grease the voters' wheels, but Waltz is a lovely gentleman while De Niro can be frosty and reticent at best, so that could have been the deciding factor. Oscars are just as much about the likeability factor, folks.

Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress, Oscars
Best Actress
The Best actress race at the end was always between Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) and the rest (Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, Quvenzhané Wallis) would just have to be happy to be there, even though they all delivered great performances. But when you boil it down to a popularity contest or easier pill to swallow, “Silver Linings Playbook” beats “Amour” by a mile. Did “Amour” – about an elderly couple whose love is put to its ultimate test when the wife suffers a debilitating stroke – connect with the Academy? With five nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, hell yes. But, while life-affirming and beautiful in its own way, "Amour" is also punishing and brutal; you’re watching an old woman slowly die. “Silver Linings Playbook,” on the other hand, features this raucous, uncensored, loveable (and gorgeous) freak of nature in Lawrence’s erratic character trying to survive the death of her husband by sleeping with her entire office. She’s looney tunes, but has a good heart, and she’s a big part of why the off-the-charts chemistry of David O. Russell’s movie works. She’s a total firecracker. And in person, as we all know, she’s an unfiltered, riotous hoot. While Riva has somewhat of a language barrier to campaigning, the lovely and appealing Lawrence will charm your pants off. Was Riva deserving? Hell yes, but again, deserve ain’t got nothing to do with anything when it comes to Oscars.

Agree, disagree? Tell us below. Until next year... 

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  • Matt | February 28, 2013 3:23 AMReply

    Riva deserves it. Simple as that. Her performance was just heartbreaking.

  • cinematic_high | February 26, 2013 5:13 PMReply

    Amy Adams, Chastain and Zero Dark Thirty should of won. Everything else was decent and overhyped.

  • jesse wylie | February 26, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    here's a stunner: "argo" won best picture (and i feel really good being able to say this sincerely) because the script was very fine, and in particular the editing was just right--suggesting a collaborative job among perceptive people. not too long, not cut too harshly. just right. and the film was both admirable and--this is important--thoroughly enjoyable.

  • Alan B | February 26, 2013 6:40 PM

    Yeah, that "fine" script had all those memorable characters, who had such depth and pathos. The script had good structure: this is why a film deserves Best Picture?

  • Edward Davis | February 26, 2013 5:27 PM

    Yeah, again, that's not all of it. If Oscars were based on merits alone it would be a completely different show.

  • Rob | February 26, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    I'm particularly sad, though not surprised at all, that Lawrence took the Oscar over Riva.
    For me, this proves only two things:
    1- Most people that voted for Lawrence didn't see "Amour" (or are French-haters)
    2- Young hot women are always the frontrunners in this category
    (during the last 20 years only 2 women over 50 have won: Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. And both of these Hollywood English-speaking celebrities won by playing British celebrities)
    When you think about all of this... the Academy choosing Riva would have been a MAJOR upset (though absolutely deserved and a beautiful exception to the hot&young-gals-rule)

  • Pamela | February 26, 2013 2:14 PMReply

    To be honest I don't get how Jennifer Lawrence won, she wasn't acting in that movie, she was just being herself, there were more worthy performances this year, but Oscars are not about worth, they're popularity contests, that's why at the Golden Globes she said "Harvey, thanks for killing whoever you had to kill to get me here"

  • Dryer | February 26, 2013 1:29 PMReply

    "Argo" itself, a taut, and engaging nail-biter, that was awarded on its own merits Affleck directed the shit out of the movie, it’s got great, engrossing, do-or-die stakes, excellent suspense and tension and a crackling pace...
    All this time I must've been watching a different movie. There's more ".. engrossing, do-or-die stakes, excellent suspense and tension and a crackling pace.." in a single episode of Mike & Molly. It's a below average film, stop trying to be an apologist for a polish turd; this site is better than that.

  • RC | February 28, 2013 12:01 PM

    NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN stands as one of the best winners for best picture. And THERE WILL BE BLOOD was in the category that year.

  • Rodrigo | February 26, 2013 5:31 PM

    Dryer, Umm. no. I reviewed it in August and called it a "Terrifically Suspenseful & Entertaining Thriller" nothing more, nothing less. Did it reinvent the wheel? Hell no. But i was reviewing it based on its own merits nothing more. Problem is everyone is looking at it as a "THIS IS A BEST PICTURE?" and in that sense nothing ever really stands up. But regardless, there was no revisionism on my part. I liked it to begin with and never needed to be an apologist for it. Good film. Yes. Best Picture film? Thankfully I don't need to make those decisions and whatever, they don't matter.

  • tomincmh | February 26, 2013 1:23 PMReply

    It's a tremendous shame how much politics seemed to factor into this Oscar race in particular. I feel especially bad for Chastain, who was considered a frontrunner for Best Actress when Zero Dark Thirty came out, but then was taken down with the film when the pseudo controversy started. Lawrence was amusing and quirky, but that was not an Oscar worthy performance. I can only imagine how large that ego of her's is going to be now.

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