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Oscars: 5 Things We Learned From The 2013 Nominations

by Oliver Lyttelton
January 10, 2013 2:28 PM
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Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz
Almost Anyone Could Win Supporting Actor
There's one category that really hasn't become any clearer after today: Supporting Actor. For the first time in recent memory, it's made up of performers who all already have Oscars, in the shape of Tommy Lee Jones ("The Fugitive"), Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds"), Robert De Niro ("The Godfather Part II" and "Raging Bull"),  Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") and Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), and none of them have a clear path to victory. Waltz only won -- and for another Tarantino movie, in a not dissimilar role -- three years ago. Arkin's in a similar place, with his "Little Miss Sunshine" performance in 2007, and besides, he's not even the best supporting actor in "Argo," let alone in this bunch. Hoffman's amazing, but the Academy have already shown a certain reluctance to vote for "The Master," even if he made the cut. De Niro's performance is certainly his best in a long time (and his first nomination since "Cape Fear"), but it hardly stands with "Raging Bull," and that he missed out with the SAG and elsewhere suggests that it's not a home run. Tommy Lee Jones might have the fewest negatives, but with Daniel Day-Lewis a likely front-runner for Best Actor, will voters want to spread the love around? It's going to be a fascinating category, and we could conceivably see any of the five taking the prize.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild
You Really Have To Stop Saying That The Academy Are Safe And Boring
Last year's crop was not the most interesting in Oscar history; a mostly nostalgic, sentimental selection, where the edgiest of the picks was "Moneyball," a mainstream crowd-pleaser starring Brad Pitt. And yet this year, an equal number of brickbats seem to be out for the Academy, accusing it of making the same 'ol boring picks. Now, maybe it's a result of the Oscar prognostication industry that means all of these films have been talked to death by the time January rolls around. But guys -- these are not safe picks. It's not like they've nominated "The Turin Horse" or anything, but you still have a micro-budget post-Katrina magic realist indie starring no one they've ever heard of, a violent slavesploitation Western, a 3D meditation on religion, the least Spielbergian film Steven Spielberg has ever made, a near-three-hour spy procedural, and a Michael Goddamn Haneke film. (And for those claiming "Amour" is Haneke's "safest" film, that's like saying that "The Island" is Michael Bay's least explode-y film -- it's still an incredibly tough, bruising watch, more so than anything else in recent Oscar memory). Even the dramedy "Silver Linings Playbook" has David O. Russell's rough-edged feel to it, and the starry musical "Les Miserables" took the risk of having the cast sing live on set. "Argo" is this year's equivalent of "Moneyball," and it's probably the most conventional film on this year's line-up. There are plenty of things wrong with the Academy and their tastes, but in a year where they nominated Michael Haneke (twice!), Benh Zeitlin, Emmanuelle Riva, and three actors from "The Master," you've got to give them a little credit.

Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain
It's Kind Of A Vintage Year
Also being lost in all the awards madness today: this is a pretty good line up of films. Last year, there was only one nominated film that I really felt I could take to my heart; this year, I don't have a serious problem with any of them being nominated. This is, of course, entirely subjective -- there are people out there who seriously dislike "Les Miserables" (quite a lot, in fact), "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Zero Dark Thirty" and even the more uniting films like "Lincoln" and "Argo," but such is the nature of the consensus-killing internet age. At the end of the day, though, we'd argue that there's nothing as egregious as "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Blind Side," "The Reader," "Crash" or "Ray," for instance. Of course there are films I, and you, would rather have seen in that final line-up, but when you turn off the my-favorite-is-the-best-and-yours-is-the-worst blinkers, there's stuff to love in every one of these films, be it the performances of Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence in "Les Miserables" and "Silver Linings Playbook" to the glorious visuals of "Life of Pi" and soaring soundtrack of "Beasts of the Southern Wild." And when you think about the Oscar nominees for 1999, a year deemed by many to be one of the finest in cinema history, and yet one in which the Best Picture nominees included "The Cider House Rules" and "The Green Mile," you see how wrong they could have got things. Awards are silly, and they'd still be silly if they exactly reflected your taste, so why not take a moment to enjoy what we've got here?

The Oscars will be handed out on February 24th.

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  • Robert | January 15, 2013 8:47 AMReply

    It's Argo for Best Picture and Haneke for Best Director. You heard this here.

  • F.P. | January 14, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    And yet for as many praiseworthy films as there may be this year, it appears as though the safest choice of them all will win because their golden boy didn't get the Best Director nomination he was 'owed.' And before anyone says, the Golden Globes are just there to give awards to boldfaced names, presumed front-runner LINCOLN won nothing beyond Hollywood's regular tribute to D.Day-Lewis, and ARGO also won the Critics Choice Awards' Best Picture as well. And who would accept that Best Picture win for ARGO? George Clooney. Mark ARGO in your bracket now - Picture, Supporting Actor (Arkin, as the producer all in Hollywood think they are), Editing (Goldenberg), Score (Desplat), and if you want to be bold, Terrio over Kushner in Adapted Screenplay. I'd count 4 or 5 wins for ARGO.

  • F.P. | January 15, 2013 1:03 PM

    I'd agree with Robert above. For director, both Ang Lee and Spielberg have Oscars, and they've (Harvey) already pulled the Picture/Director split on Spielberg once before. I doubt they want to be that sadistic again. If Harvey was smart, he'd put his energy into a full court press on Russell, even though I doubt even he thinks this is his best directing effort to date, but this is a rare moment for the Academy to get their cake and eat it too, by honoring an outsider plus their own home team favorites. ARGO/Haneke seems smart at the present.

  • Jake | January 14, 2013 9:10 PM

    If AMPAS wants to test the wind and try to vote to make up the perceived snub of Affleck they'll vote Argo Best Picture as Affleck is a nominated producer and would win for that category, and give director to whatever film ends up their other favorite, which at this point is a crap shoot between Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi.

  • nightgoat72 | January 12, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    I won't bitch and moan about another dull batch of Oscar nominees (which I definitely think this is, for the most part), but one thing I simply cannot wrap my head around: how on earth did The Master not get nominated for cinematography? I mean, I understand not nominating it for picture and director (no matter how much I disagree), but nothing for cinematography? That jaw-droppingly gorgeous, 70mm cinematography? That just seems objectively wrong.

  • NIGHTGOAT73 | January 14, 2013 3:42 PM

    I agree that The Master should have been nominated for Best Cinemtography but don't agree about the nominees being boring, I never expected beasts or amour to get in.

  • Alex | January 12, 2013 8:45 PMReply

    Great piece.

  • Someperson | January 12, 2013 3:52 PMReply

    Hey now, I really liked The Green Mile.

  • Tobi | January 12, 2013 12:32 PMReply

    Thank you, thank you so much for that last paragraph. It's starting to become counter-productive with all the pissing and moaning; I was up for the nominations and of course that's all everyone did, including myself. But it's been two days now, let it go and let's see who is going to win with what we have now. The nominations are what they are. The Best Actress and Supporting Actor categories are going to be very interesting for sure, since you have a three-way and really, a five-way race, respectively in each category. Looking forward to seeing how that is going to be playing out.

  • Ryan | January 11, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    You make a compelling case against those of us who complain and dismiss; that indeed this year is somehow different than in past years - more edgy and less safe. But ultimately history will prove the complainers are correct. Amour IS Haneke's safest film; it's almost irrelevant that it's directed by the guy that did Funny Games because it's a film that's right in the wheelhouse of Academy members. Ditto on movies like Life of Pi (big and beautiful) Les Miserables (epic and dramatic), and even Django Unchained (it seems like QT has entered his respected statesman faze where every one of his films, even before they're even shot, have Oscar buzz - see Scorsese and Eastwood ten years ago). Before I even saw films like Argo, Lincoln, and Silver Linings Playbook they felt like Oscar-y movies. So the complaints come when the Academy underlines what we thought six months ago. And I don't buy this nonsense that Beasts of the Southern Wild is somehow edgy or shocking - Oscar talk has been near fever pitch since before it came out last summer. Now if you want to go edgy and unpredictable, how about nominated the other Sundance hit, Middle of Nowhere. Now THAT would've been edgy.

    Ultimately, it appears that Lincoln will sweep, something we all predicted over a year ago. This is exactly what happened last year when after all the hoopla surrounding Viola Davis and the supposed "race" for best actress, Meryl Streep ended up getting the award we all knew she would get. Ditto on the year before, when the front runner The King's Speech was supposedly losing ground to A Social Network only to be the ultimate winner come Oscar night. At the end of the day, what we initially think will happen usually ends up happening. I see no difference this year.

  • Matt-S | January 12, 2013 6:27 PM

    Actually The Social Network was the frontrunner before the Guilds gave their awards. People knew that TKS would've won BP but some still had hope for a Best Director win for David Fincher.

  • Edward | January 12, 2013 1:57 PM

    Again, a pretty silly argument. Haneke's film is perhaps his "safest," but it's still an emotionally bruising and brutal picture in comparison to a lot of these nominations. It's not an easy film to watch. History is not gonna prove jack. Aside from maybe Django (though it's really a thoughtless cartoon at the end of the day in comparison) and ZDT (which is grueling in its own right), it's easily the most uncompromising of all the pictures here. I also wonder if half the people bitching about Amour/Haneke have even seen the film.

  • AE | January 11, 2013 11:11 AMReply

    Yeah, I've been bitching about the end of the movies all year but the Best picture list is pretty great and there are still notable omissions. Overall I think the Academy have been discerning, and rewarded based on excellence of craft. At first glance the Best Director list may appear random, but if you consider that Ang Lee kept us interested in a boat, a tiger and a boy for an hour and a half, and Ben Zeitlin conjured the strange, mystical world of BOTSW with next to nothing, then the choices begin to make sense, and I'm not a big fan of either of those films overall. Now if Emmanuelle Riva and/or Haneke win one of the majors, that would be something.

  • Rafael | January 11, 2013 7:19 AMReply

    Robert De Niro WAS nominated for the SAG's.

  • ^_^ | January 11, 2013 3:25 AMReply


  • Jake | January 10, 2013 8:22 PMReply

    Oh, also, 1999's not a great year to say they were weak compared to just how good film was that year. Cider House Rules might be schmaltzy and not as strong as some other possibles, but The Green Mile is an excellent film, and far outside of the Academy's wheelhouse. I'd go with 2007, a year that featured movies like Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James, Eastern Promises, & The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and we got Juno as a Best Picture nominee instead.

  • Jake | January 10, 2013 8:18 PMReply

    JLaw has been the frontrunner for Best Actress for a long time, and SLP's much stronger showing vs ZDT, her already accomplished track record & impeccable performance in Winter's Bone, it being a huge year for her by helping to cement The Hunger Games franchise, and just the type of performance it is suggests she could take it in a cake walk. She's got the china-smashing Oscar clip for goodness' sake, Chastain's is an internalized performance, and those don't play for the win with AMPAS.

  • Jake | January 14, 2013 9:06 PM

    We're not talking about challenge-level of the roles, we're talking about what AMPAS will vote for, and as you said given the type of role it's a shock Riva was even nominated, Lawrence has all she needs to win, also I love how you can just say "it really was not a difficult part" as if you're an actor, and anyone could do what Lawrence has been able to in the past few years. No it isn't the most difficult role ever, but she had to prove she could do it just to get the part, this is a wounded, widowed character played impeccably the very same year she very-convincingly carried a new franchise in a role as a teenager. Watch Winter's Bone & tell me that's not a "challenging role". AMPAS goes for extraneous things, not the single performance alone, and on top of all the things I already said, they love press and crowning a 22 year old that's the star of the biggest surprise smash of the past 12 months would definitely earn them plenty.

  • Umsure | January 13, 2013 11:21 AM

    **she being Lawrence not Riva.

  • Umsure | January 13, 2013 11:20 AM

    Seriously?? She was good in Silver Linings but it really was not a difficult part - and definitely not even close to Riva's challenging role. Now thats what I called an astonishing performance. I was even shocked she got nominated (although now I get thats its ALL about PR and not necessarily talent) - there were so many more impressive lead female roles this year.

  • rtyhghh | January 10, 2013 6:10 PMReply

    $500,000 constitutes a "micro-budget" according to whose definition? And word is that Beasts may have cost closer to 1 million. That term is usually reserved for under $100K. Not that it isn't a shocking pick, but let's not exaggerate

  • Edward | January 10, 2013 6:08 PMReply

    "You Really Have To Stop Saying That The Academy Are Safe And Boring" Well said. The opposite is a dumb knee jerk response.

  • cirkusfolk | January 10, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    I like your analysis of the Best Supporting Actor category. I'm fine with all those actors getting nomed, but it is definately a tough one to call. Arkin was good in Argo but much better in Little Miss Sunshine for which he won. Same for Waltz and Inglourious Basterds. You are also right about there may being a reluctance to honor Tommy Lee if Daniel Day takes the lead statue and Field possibly one as well. I can honestly say I think they might give it to Hoffman since the other two Master players don't really have a shot, but I'm personally hoping DeNiro will win. Like you said, it's his best performance in years that offered some very crappy ones, so it very well be his last shot at the gold in his lifetim, especially considering he hasn't been nomed in 20 years.

  • DG | January 10, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Maybe the academy wasn't playing it safe with the nominations this year (and good on them) but I have a gut feeling they will with the wins. Icould be totally wrong but I think Lincoln will probably sweep. I hope Jenifer Lawerence wins she is amazing but Riva would be great too. So glad Django didn't get too much attention it was easily QTs worst movie in a decade. Also anyone else think The Master should have gotten a mom for editing? The editing and pacing in that was like no movie I've ever seen before.

  • StephenM | January 10, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    I kinda think nominating The Tree of Life last year was edgier than Moneyball . . .

  • Duddi | January 10, 2013 3:32 PMReply

    Come on, dude !!! Moneyball was more than a crowd-pleaser for sure... That was one of the best sport movies ever made... too bad you think of it as a crowd-pleaser..

  • Melissa | January 10, 2013 3:12 PMReply

    If Jennifer Lawrence is too young to have "paid her dues", what does that say about Quvenzhane Wallis?? Wallis' nomination was a total stunt.

  • Ted | January 10, 2013 3:06 PMReply

    I'm pulling for Riva. Not just because she gave an astounding performance in Amour, but c'mon she's 85 years old and an icon of French cinema (her performances in Hiroshima mon amour and Leon Morin were incredible also). Plus, Jessica Chastain & Jennifer Lawrence are going to have plenty of opportunities to win again.

  • Terry | January 10, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    McConaughey gave two of the most electrifying performances of the year in what might be the two riskiest roles any actor took on. Really gutted to see him get snubbed. I realize one film was an ultra-voilent, NC-17 indie that no one saw, and the other was about male strippers, but still...

  • Alan B | January 11, 2013 2:14 AM

    I predicted McConaughey because I thought there would be at least ONE newcomer to the Supporting Actor field. But it was a genuinely strong year, and someone (and - by 'someone' - I mean lots of people) had to miss out.

  • coke | January 10, 2013 5:32 PM

    He was amazing in Killer Joe!

  • Melissa | January 10, 2013 3:07 PM

    He was outstanding in Killer Joe, wasn't he???

  • MAL | January 10, 2013 2:42 PMReply

    Great article and balanced perspective. Of course, my favourite -- Moonrise Kingdom -- should have been in the race. Silver Linings Playbook... not so much.

  • Tom | January 10, 2013 3:01 PM

    I agree that Moonrise Kingdom should have been a contender in the Best Picture race, but not at the expense of Silver Linings Playbook. If anything, it should have replaced Les Misérables, or even Life of Pi. Ideally, it should have been the tenth nominee.

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