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.
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.
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.
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