Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: Oscar Season Begins!

Clockwise: Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln; Alan Arkin and Ben Affleck in Argo; Stephen Dillane and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty; Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
Well readers, it's been a month since my last post and it was a very well-deserved vacation!  And now that we are heading into Winter, there is one thing that is on everyone's mind in Hollywood: The Oscars and who will be nominated this time around.  The nominations will not be announced until the morning of January 13th and it is during the month of December that those ballots will be filled out by Academy voters as to which of this year's films deserve the top prize.  Because the Oscars have moved their schedule up an entire month, all the other awards on the circuit have tried to accommodate that with the Golden Globes (the most high-profile Oscar precursor) announcing their nominees next Thursday.  So which films are the front-runners in the race to be nominated for the biggest award?  Well there are certainly a few.  And with the Academy's new rule that allows for anywhere from 5 to 10 films to be nominated for Best Picture, the race has become that much harder to predict.

However, amid all the predictions are 3 films that are definitely going to be in prominent contention come Oscar night.  When Argo was released in September, Ben Affleck received the best reviews of his career (as a director, actor and co-screenwriter).  His thrilling and suspenseful adaptation about a secret CIA mission to retrieve American Embassy workers during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis was far and wide considered a surefire bet for Best Picture.  In addition to Argo, critics then lauded the most recent Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln.  In this stunning political biopic, two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis has received raves for his role as the 16th President of the United States and is in definite contention for a third Best Actor statue.   But the buzziest film of 2012's Oscar season has yet to be released for audiences.  Academy Award winner Tom Hooper's adaptation of the iconic stage musical Les Misérables has been receiving Oscar buzz ever since the first trailer appeared in theaters over the summer (especially for Best Supporting Actress contender Anne Hathaway) and will not be released until Christmas Day.  So at this time, I have seen both Argo and Lincoln and can assure you that both deserve the attention they are getting.  I will soon be seeing Les Misérables (thanks to a perk, I'll get to see it a week before Christmas Day!), so I will be able to let you know if the buzz is correct in placing it alongside the other two.

But in the last few days, another film has been getting attention that most likely would have belonged to the three films mentioned above.  Kathryn Bigelow, who two years ago made history when she became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, has made yet another topical film that has captured awards attention.  And that film is Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow's adaptation of the operation that took down Osama Bin Laden.  Over the weekend, the New York Film Critics named Bigelow's movie the Best Picture of the year with the National Board of Review following suit just a few days later.  The National Board of Review also named Bigelow Best Director and star Jessica Chastain as the year's Best Actress.  However, my father pointed out that these wins may have more to do with the movie's subject matter than with the merits of the movie itself (even if it is a great film!).  But with these new developments, I would not be surprised to see Zero Dark Thirty (a film I have yet to see and now have more interest in seeing!) among the top contenders come Oscar time.

There are two other films that are getting mentioned (at least by the critics) when it comes to the contenders for Best Picture.  One is David O. Russell's dark relationship comedy Silver Linings Playbook which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two people with deep personal problems who connect with each other despite several differences.  The film is being hailed across the board and Lawrence is considered the top front-runner for Best Actress.  And Bradley Cooper shouldn't be out of the mix either having won the National Board of Review's Best Actor award (over Daniel Day-Lewis!).  The other film being mentioned is Ang Lee's sweeping Life of Pi, which garnered much praise after being viewed at the New York Film Festival.  Several critics pegged it as a surefire Best Picture contender.  And with Ang Lee's previous Oscar pedigree (winning Best Director in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain and Best Foreign Language Film in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), it has a pretty good shot with the critics behind it.

Now I could leave these predictions at six films, but what kind of Oscar predictor would that make me?  There are several other films that are being mentioned on message boards (and by a few critics).  There's Paul Thomas Anderson's faux-Scientology drama The Master (which won at the Cannes Film Festival) and Benh Zeitlin's critically-lauded Beasts of the Southern Wild (which won at Sundance).  The Denzel Washington-led Flight and Quentin Tarantino's new film Django Unchained (which is an homage to "Spaghetti Westerns") are also audience faves (even though Django Unchained is yet-to-be-released!) Let's not forget the Foreign Film Amour, which won Europe's top Film prize and is on several critics' top 10 lists.  And among all these typical awards-fare, three franchise films (or genre pics!) are being thrown into the conversation.  Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Sam Mendes' Bond film Skyfall are all on some lists when talking about Best Picture.  All this said, it shall be a very interesting mix of movies being lauded at the Academy Awards this time around.

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