Saturday, February 23, 2013


This is one of those years where I saw practically nothing up for an Academy Award -- which judging from my past performance as a predictor can either be good or bad for my chances. So attend my belly-flop below.

I will add here, as I have been meaning to since I saw it, that Django Unchained is terrific -- by far Tarantino's best movie. (Mild spoilers.) In Inglourious Basterds I detected a great advance in his filmmaking, but also a lot of his usual annoying tics, such as the use of photogenic violence to resolve situations he couldn't think his characters out of. And that was strange, because if anything offers a good foundation for germane but over-the-top violent scenes, it's Nah-zis. But Tarantino doesn't make the same mistake with slavery: the eruptions of bloodshed make perfect sense, as illustrations of either the oppressive situation or of the hero's wrath. And Django Unchained is much more efficient than Tarantino's other scripts -- the hero's goal is always before us, and each ratchet of the building tension keenly felt; the digressions, such as the lovely snowy romp to "I Got a Name," are pleasurable interludes instead of oh-God-what-now-do-I-have-to-listen-to-David-Carradine. It's a cartoon, sure, but sometimes cartoons are pretty great; when the horrible Stephen bawls over his horrible, fallen master it's lurid, pathetic, and amazing. The only Tarantino thing still around to bug me is characters allowed to live for no discernible reason except to keep the movie going. But who knows; maybe he'll get to that next.

Okay, let's wrap this turkey before I puke:

BEST PICTURE: Lincoln. Nate Silver's method says Argo, but that method (largely based on other awards' histories) doesn't take Academy history sufficiently into account. What other movies have won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination? Driving Miss Daisy, Grand Hotel, and Wings. Even Michael Anderson was nominated for Around the World in 80 Days. The best chance for Argo is suggested by the weak field in which Daisy won; the enlarged Best Picture field would amplify the effect of a lack of consensus. But there's a big, popular, about-our-beloved-President movie in the running that voters can feel good about electing.

BEST DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln. Him again? Well, the voters seem to let him have it when he does something big and noble and (unlike Munich) uncomplicated.

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. Is there anyone in there they love as much as him? Denzel Washington by all accounts tore it up in Flight; his is the best outside chance.

BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook. If the movie is popular enough, this goes to the new girl everyone loves. Plus, bonus, mental illness! And Away from Her taught me that old people in dire straits just make everyone sad.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR. Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook. Here's my sucker bet! (Carpetbagger's too.) They're all previous winners, so the give-him-one-already impulse is moot. Doing this by ESP, I surmise that there is a deep enough well of affection for the movie that voters would like to honor it beyond the Best Actress category. And I am told that in this one, De Niro finally figured out how to do comedy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. I'm not a total idiot.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Zero Dark Thirty. Shrouded in controversy, is it? Tough titty. This is the movies and movies are magic.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Argo. There was something they loved about it and it apparently wasn't the acting or directing.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi. I went down swinging with Roger Deakins and True Grit a few years back. No more! (Also, look at the Bond films' record at the Oscars.)  Life of Pi got a lot of nominations; there must be something they liked about it, and my uneducated guess is they liked the way it looks...

BEST SCORE: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi. ...and the way it sounds. I was going to pick Thomas Newman for Skyfall, on account of his long unrewarded nomination streak, but as the cinematography category shows, outside the top categories these people aren't sentimental.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lincoln. As Bluto told Flounder, I've given this a lot of thought, and I just don't think the members will vote for Life of Pi three times.  

BEST SONG: "Skyfall," Skyfall.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Anna Karenina. Brutally Honest Oscar Voter is right: They love them puffy dresses.

BEST FILM EDITING. Zero Dark Thirty. It's got action, it's got suspense, Argo already got an award.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Brave. A lot of these voters have little girls. Also, daughters. (Steve Martin did this joke better.)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Searching for Sugar Man.
BEST MAKEUP: Les Miserables.
BEST SOUND MIXING: Les Miserables.

Good luck to us all.

UPDATE. The links are a bit wonky, but here's a fun Oscar quiz.


  1. Raenelle3:23 PM

    "De Niro finally figured out how to do comedy." I'd go with "relearned." Midnight Run. Q.E.D.

  2. edroso4:27 PM

    I suppose. And the first lesson is, co-star with Charles Grodin.

  3. aimai5:00 PM

    I will continue an unbroken string of some 50 years not caring about the Oscars.

  4. Spaghetti Lee5:12 PM

    I want to like the Oscars-I really do! But, like the unfaithful spouses in the movies they award, they keep breaking my trust. The idea of Seth MacFarlane as emcee this year is filling me with dread. I have no faith that we'll get through the broadcast without one of his dimwitted cartoons showing up in some capacity, and would put money on him making an awkward attempt at a joke about women, Jews, or black people (in the context of Django Unchained) that eats up the headlines the next day.

    I'll probably watch anyway, because I'm an old-fashioned nostalgist and a sucker.

  5. sharculese5:34 PM

    Not weighing in on the whole 'movies that don't get nominated for Best Director don't win Best Picture thing,' which I don't care about at all, but this anti-Nate Silver hissy fit from Slate has to be seen to be believed.

    Key line:

    You know what precursor has a better success rate than that? Getting nominated for Best Director. That has a 96 percent success rate over the past 25 years and a 98.75 percent success rate over the past 80.

    99 percent of Best Director nominees go on to win Best Picture. I know that's not what Kois is trying to say, but if your understanding of statistics is that shitty, you should maybe not comment on statistics.

  6. Doesn't hurt to have Yaphet Kotto and Joe Pantoliano to help, too. Man, I love that movie.

  7. wileywitch6:20 PM

    Me and the sidekick saw Flight on Christmas Eve and Django Unchained on Christmas day. We've always gone for what we think would be the most visually rewarding experience on the big screen, because it's very rare for us to go to a theater any other time of year. During Flight I was impressed by the "bigger than life" scenes of Denzel Washington walking out of a hotel room. When we watched it again on DVD, I could see that a lot was lost in the translation. (Who said John Travolta should have had his part? Boo.) It made me want to go to theater a little more often.

    If there were a category for best disaster the director of Flight should have been at least nominated for his plane crashes in Flight and
    Castaway. They were fantastic.

    We both enjoyed Dango Unchained. I didn't think the music blended with the action as well as is does in most of his movies, but other than that I loved it. The extreme violence in the end was funny to me. The blood was a little orange to be visceral, and it was everywhere. Everyone laughed during the defective hood scene. It was fun to be a part of that audience.

  8. Leeds man7:04 PM

    "...Seth of his dimwitted cartoons..."

    You sure you don't mean Tarantino? American Dad is funny, pasta man!

  9. chuckling7:38 PM

    I wish you'd seen and written about The Master. That's an interesting movie with an incredible performance by Joachim Phoenix. I trust Day-Lewis is excellent as well, but it would be nice if they gave it to the more fucked up younger guy. If you haven't seen I'm Still Here you probably should. That was incredible as well.

    As for Tarantino, I don't get why anyone considers him all that noteworthy, certainly not as any sort of great writer or director. At best (Pulp Fiction, Django), his movies are entertaining. At worst (Kill Bill, Basterds) they are mind-numbingly horrible. I enjoyed Django. My son loves it and has seen it three times. But as I mentioned before, nothing more than a glorified B movie, imo. Nothing wrong with glorified B movies. That's Tarantino's schtick. But I humbly think awards for best of should go to A movies. Unless they have a B movie Oscar, which would be great, and I'd be all for Django winning it.

  10. M. Krebs8:08 PM

    I'm pulling for Michael Haneke for Best Director, just because of The White Ribbon. Fuck Spielberg, but he'll probably win it.

  11. M. Krebs8:08 PM

    I wish you'd seen and written about The Master.


  12. DocAmazing8:13 PM

    A friend of mine is an Academy member and votes in these things. I have great respect for my friend, but not her taste in cinema. I don't hold the Oscars in much esteem--although Red Meat getting an Oscar for the soundtrack to Monster's Ball did redeem them somewhat.

  13. AGoodQuestion8:16 PM

    I basically stopped caring about the Oscars when I realized that the results were basically determined weeks if not months ahead of time. And it's kind of lame that the Academy couldn't think of one fresh face for the Supporting Actor category. That being said, Robert Deniro does deserve a third award for SLP. He's not just Bradley Cooper's dad in the movie. He's everyone's dad, while still managing to be Robert Deniro.

  14. AGoodQuestion8:22 PM

    It's starting to look like Kois peaked when he was a Television Without Pity recapper.

  15. AGoodQuestion8:23 PM

    Ahem. & Dennis Farina?

  16. Malignant Bouffant8:37 PM

    I always figured Oscar® night was an excellent time to do any spring cleaning that was needed.

  17. Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.8:58 PM

    No, it's not.

  18. M. Krebs9:19 PM

    Are we talking about the awards or the TV show?

    The list of Best Picture winners over the last 70 years includes an awful lot of great movies. Now, when it comes to bullshit, nothing can beat the Grammies.

  19. Huh, I always thought Academy members were mythical beings, like MPAA raters. Must be weird knowing one.

  20. If there were a category for best disaster

    And just like that you've created the first bits of a blueprint to make an Academy Awards that are actually interesting.

  21. To the extent that American Dad is funny (and it is reasonably so), it's because it's the least "McFarlane" of the Seth McFarlane cartoons. Long-form humor that doesn't rely 100% on straight-faced reenacments of movie scenes is an automatic step above Family Guy. But that's not a high bar to clear.

    To put it bluntly, fuck Seth McFarlane.

  22. here are some members, pictured in the wild.

  23. During Family Guy‘s seventh season, a young woman began showing
    up at the office. Without explanation, she would wheel a large piece of
    equipment into a lavatory just off the writers’ room and wait there for
    MacFarlane, who would excuse himself and disappear into the bathroom.
    Several former staff members told me that although everyone could hear
    the whooshing sound of a spray-tan machine, no one dared make a joke
    about it when MacFarlane emerged, bronzed and burnished.

  24. Jackie Brown, Jackie Brown, Jackie Brown.

  25. XeckyGilchrist10:28 PM

    I thought the same thing, until I was approached to have my household become a Nielsen family. These things really do exist. (Of course we did it! We called it Getting the Franchise.)

  26. The Academy kind of stepped on its own dick this year while trying to bigfoot the Golden Globes, which has often predicted the best picture/director nominee and has traditionally been held prior to Oscar nominations being announced. And from what I've read, the voters are not in love with the new balloting system. So I wouldn't count Argo out just yet.

  27. Spaghetti Lee11:05 PM

    How long have you been waiting to use that anecdote?

  28. BigHank5311:26 PM

    Best Disaster: On-Screen
    Best Disaster: Off-Screen

    Most Improbably Augmented Body Part
    TV Star Furthest Out of Their Depth
    Worst Screenplay
    Worst Miscasting

    Best Continuity Error

    Though I'm sure the Razzies cover at least a couple of those.

  29. I saw one movie in a theater last year. "Prometheus."

    This year, I've already seen two: "Django Unchained" and "A Good Day to Die Hard."

    I also watched the latest Batman movie and "Cabin in the Woods" on OnDemand and purchased "Melancholia."

    "Melancholia" is the only one of those I really liked.

    I probably should not be making Oscar predictions.

  30. As you as you care about film, aimai. The Oscars can be a glorious, craptastic train wreck (and can fun in that respect), but it is nice to occasionally see worthy work rewarded.

  31. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard12:53 AM

    How badly did you skew their statistics, you mischievous scamp?

  32. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard12:55 AM

    So... you didn't think Christopher Cross was the absolute best artist of 1980?

  33. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard12:57 AM

    That wasn't spray-tan dye... why do you think this process took place in the bathroom?

  34. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard1:04 AM

    Here's where I confess to being a total philistone (sic), but I haven't seen any of these movies. Hell, the last movie I saw in the theater was the Coen brothers' version of True Grit, mainly because I am a huge Charles Portis fan and I figured that I'd vote with my wallet so his books stay in print. I'd joke that I'd rather catch an ass-whupping than sit through a movie, but it's literally true... I haven't been in a movie theater since 2011, but I was in the dojo just fifteen hours ago.

  35. Halloween_Jack1:36 AM

    As much as I like Argo simply because Jack Kirby was a (very) minor character in it, I'm a little mystified that it's even in the running. Ben Affleck is a good director, but the movie itself strikes me as basically a very well made TV movie.

  36. Spaghetti Lee1:39 AM

    As others have said, it's a movie about Hollywood directors and producers saving the day with the magic of movies. It has a certain, shall we say, appeal, to the Academy. (And I say that as an Argo fan myself.)

  37. mrstilton1:54 AM

    I saw practically nothing up for an Academy Award ...

    Why, then, you could be reviewing films (or just about anything) for the National Review!

    ... So attend my belly-flop below.

    On second thought, you show far too much self-awareness to be a conservative reviewer.

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  39. chuckling5:29 AM

    If they had a category for Best Overture, "Melancholia" would have won easily.

  40. El Manquécito9:21 AM

    Dude, December of 1989 for me. What's that make me a paleophilistone?

  41. TGuerrant9:44 AM

    I keep voting for the Big Lebowski, but a guy I know claims they don't accept write-ins, don't look at films that came out more than a year ago, and don't want to hear from me anyway. WTF? If Walter finds out, he'll be really pissed Donnie died in vain.

  42. XeckyGilchrist10:13 AM

    Pretty badly. We represented some tens of thousands of families and I was a hetero male watching Project Runway.

  43. montag210:16 AM

    The funny thing is that spending two or three hours watching the awards ceremony is hardly time well-spent unless you're a nominee. Doesn't it make more sense to spend that time, uh, watching a movie?

  44. mortimer10:44 AM

    Me, too. Some random reasons I cannot give shits for Oscar:
    1964: Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers all lose to My Fair Lady. George C. Scott isn't even nominated.

    1975: Art Carney (Harry and Tonto) wins over Dustin Hoffman (Lenny), Jack Nicholson (Chinatown) and Al Pacino (The Godfather Part II)

    1976: Network, All the President's Men, and Taxi Driver all lose to fucking Rocky. John Avildsen wins Best Director for Rocky over Ingmar Bergman (Face to Face), Sidney Lumet (Network), Alan Pakula (All the President's Men) and Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties). Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader aren't even nominated. Bernard Hermann loses to Jerry Goldsmith.

    1980: Kramer vs. Kramer beats Apocalypse Now. Fosse (All That Jazz) and Coppola (Apocalypse) lose to Robert Benton (Kramer).

    Some years were worse than others, but it's still too fucking meaningless and arbitrary for me too watch. (And I never again want to see that thing where presenters form the Circle of Tongues to slather each Best Actor/Actress nominee with the most embarrassing flattery.)

  45. Bettencourt11:26 AM

    Huh? The only Oscar MONSTER'S BALL won was for Halle Berry, it wasn't even nominated for music.

  46. And "Tree of Life" the year before that.

  47. Roy T.2:55 PM

    A more recent travesty was Crash winning Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain in 2005. Even Nicholson swallowed his gob when he announced that.

  48. wileywitch3:02 PM

    I thought that when two Hollywood men were more convincing as sheepherders than lovers, then there was a serious problem with casting.

  49. Roy T.3:04 PM

    1994 for me, when I took a little nephew to Toy Story. Rather have a root canal than sit in a movie theatre, and that's based on memory of times past. God only knows what present-day reality is with pads, phones, and AR-15s. Same with flying. Haven't been on a plane since 1991. Can't even imagine what it's like since 9/11, not even in a fevered dream.

  50. Big_Bad_Bald_Bastard3:25 PM

    I haven't seen it, but, judging from the ads, it looks like the worse retelling of the quest for the Golden Fleece EVER! I mean, c'mon, Ray Harryhausen's version is a bit dated, but it still holds up well.

  51. Everything about the Oscars is a travesty.

  52. RogerAiles4:47 PM

    We need a sane version of PJTV, with Roy and a co-host handicapping the Oscars instead of Rog el-Simon and Lionel Shatwynd.

    The fact that those two loads get votes makes the entire enterprise questionable. And not because of their politics.

  53. Leeds man6:46 PM

    It's amazing that, every single year, there is something else on the telly that I prefer. Luckily, this year it's Foyle's War.

  54. chuckling7:00 PM

    I thought Antichrist the best ever.

  55. LookWhosInTheFreezer8:02 PM

    Not to mention Good Night and Good Luck.

  56. M. Krebs8:47 PM

    AlicuTV? Somebody get Soros on the line!

  57. DocAmazing8:54 PM

    Excellent series! One of life's great pleasures is watching Honeysuckle Weeks. Another is typing out her name.

  58. DocAmazing8:55 PM

    My bad. I was sufficiently delighted when the orchestra played Red Meat's tune.

  59. Leeds man9:05 PM

    "One of life's great pleasures is watching Honeysuckle Weeks."

    And listening to her. Sigh.

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  62. GeoffZoref5:03 PM

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    Surely you jest. Pulp Fiction is better. I liked IB better. This is his third best film. but yes, the scene, "when the horrible Stephen bawls over his horrible, fallen master it's lurid, pathetic, and amazing." I found that the most affecting scene in the film, and it stayed with me the longest.

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