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85th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings   6 comments

oscar

Since the Academy’s timeline for this year’s awards ceremony is pretty much different from the previous years, it gives both the voters and viewers more chance to catch up on all the nominated films at this year’s Oscars. Luckily for me, I was able to finally see all nine of the nominated movies for Oscar’s top award. It’s an eclectic group of films this year ranging from musicals to biopics to rom-coms and war films with some foreign language movie also in the mix. And it’s not as if the Academy is lazy this year, as there’s no The Blind Side or Chocolat type of nomination from this year’s group. With that said, here’s how I’ll personally rank the nine films in contention. So, if I was an actual AMPAS voter, this would be my ballot. But since I’m not and I can only dream of that, I’d do it as a blog post. LOL.

9. LES MISERABLES
Director: Tom Hooper

Exactly ten years since the last musical was nominated for Best Picture (FYI that was Chicago and it even won Best Picture), the next in line that followed it is Tom Hooper’s adaptation of probably the most famous musical in history Les Miserables. There’s a lot of things that one can like in the 2012 version. For one, the live singing worked well in its favor as it was able to make the emotions more captured specifically during Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream number. The visual technical aspects were really good as well. Costumes, production design, and cinematography were such eye candies that it’s good to see it in the theaters for full maximum effect. Heck, the opening scene alone was well done. With that said, the main problem lies with Tom Hooper’s direction. The energy that he had during the opening parts instantly died down and wasn’t able to overcome it until the credits rolled. There’s a lot of dizzying and confusing shots (which was my concern during The King’s Speech too), but it was more visible here. With that said, the movie, as a whole, was just okay. I really felt that for a musical with this caliber, just okay is not enough. But see it for Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and the revelation that was Eddie Redmayne. 3/5

8. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Director: Benh Zeitlin

Beasts,which focuses on the relationship of a female kid named Hushpuppy and her ailing father in the middle of an unknown community on the brink of being cut off from the rest of the world, is one of the most heartwarming films in this year’s line up. What I particularly like about the movie is how it works up the viewer’s imagination in the juxtaposition of the feelings of Hushpuppy and the current environmental situation in their place. Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (the youngest ever) was more than capable enough as the lead performer in the film and gives not only her character but the film itself so much heart with her performance. Her chemistry with onscreen father Dwight Henry was raw and organic that it makes you more impressed knowing that these are both their breakthrough performances. Zeitlin’s first feature is remarkable that I’m excited to see what else can he bring to the table in his succeeding efforts. 3.5/5

7. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Director: David O. Russell

David O. Russell’s Oscar comeback was more than welcomed than his previous effort which was The Fighter. In Silver Linings Playbook, we meet crazies Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) as we’re treated to some football, dancing, and Mi Cherie Amour in between. For the most part, I was really hooked and I enjoyed it, particularly thanks to Russell’s writing of the two characters. However, it can’t help but remind us at the end of the film, that it was still a rom-com after all. I could have done without the dolly pan near the end nor the contrived dance scoring. Among the two simultaneous stories though, I prefer the dancing one more than the football. With that said, I’m still a big fan of the film. It was a good character study of two engaging characters that I could also have lived without the other characters popping every now and then, and even if it just focused on Lawrence and Cooper, I’d still buy it. Jennifer Lawrence is the Oscar frontrunner for Best Actress for this performance, and she is, indeed, memorable here and there’s a lot of Oscar clips they can choose from. As a stand alone performance (and not the competition), I wouldn’t be upset if she wins the Oscar this year. However, I wish more attention was given to Bradley Cooper as I find him equally (if not better) here, and while it’s up against President Lincoln, his is one of my favorite film performance this year. This is probably one of the few films in the group that I think I will see again. 4/5

6. DJANGO UNCHAINED
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Inglourious Basterds is probably in my three favorite Tarantino films, so expectations were quite high with this one, but nevertheless, Tarantino succeeds in coming up with an enjoyable take on a film whose main theme is slavery. The violence is prevalent more than ever, and can I just say how much I love the techs here. Quentin’s strongest suit lies with his writing interesting characters to watch and he has a lot of those in here. Ironically though, despite the 2 hour 40 minute screentime, it still somehow feels incomplete or a bit rushed. It occurred to me that he still has some things he’d like to polish or add but they’re probably rushing for Oscar season. I just mentioned that Tarantino has a knack of writing interesting characters, and the two that takes the cake for me are Christoph Waltz and Leonardo di Caprio. I don’t pretty much get the Waltz is playing the same role argument, because while I love Hans Landa, it’s not as if he’s the same here. di Caprio was probably the one who expanded the most in terms of approach and I would have been fine if this was his Oscar winning role (which sadly won’t be because he wasn’t even friggin nominated). Jamie Foxx was restrained here (which is good in my book), but felt quite blah-ish at times. But this was still a fun treat from start to end, though I’d understand if you ahve some reservations with the long screentime. 4/5

5. LINCOLN
Director: Steven Spielberg

The last Steven Spielberg film that I thoroughly enjoyed was way back in 2005 with the Oscar nominated Munich. But alas, after seven years, Spielberg comes back with a film that will doubt those naysayers that he can’t come up with a great film anymore via this year’s Lincoln. The movie, which was the most nominated this year with 12, focused on the process of passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution which focused on the abolishing of slavery and involuntary servitude. This is probably one of the more important films in the line up, but the credit doesn’t go to a sole person. If anything, this film was one of the best collaborations this year. Tony Kushner’s script might come off as wordy, but it was one of the film’s strength. That meshed well with Spielberg’s direction of the movie.  And boy Daniel Day Lewis was magnificent in this. All talks of a possible third Oscar is really warranted. In the movie, he defied all the criticisms about him being a character actor that’s dependent on showy hammy approach. If there’s a performance that will win a deserved third lead Oscar, it’s his Lincoln’s. 4.5/5

4. ARGO
Director: Ben Affleck

Well I already did a review about this, but this is one of my favorite films of the year. While I was already sold with Ben Affleck the director way back in 2007’s Gone Baby Gone, it’s only in this that he made a movie that even casual fans can really appreciate. Well for one, the story is really too good to be true, but given that, I don’t know anyone who wasn’t tensed during the climax airport scene. I still think that there’s artistic license inserted in that part to make it more interesting, but for the most part, it was a solid thriller that was cleverly written by Chris Terrio and tightly directed by Ben Affleck. The film’s strongest aspect is showing that Hollywood, amidst the glitz and glamour, is still in touch with the country and a part of the whole US community. Like what I mentioned in my earlier review, “It is safe to say that Argo is one of the best thrillers of the past few years, and it certainly deserves that distinction. If anything, this is a solid impressive film that benefits from a lot of good characteristics that mix together. That’s enough to be considered as one of the best pictures of the year.” 4.5/5

3. LIFE OF PI
Director: Ang Lee

Probably the ultimate visual treat of the year, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is one of the films that made me cry this year. For a novel that was deemed as “unfilmable”, Lee managed to do more than just film it, but deliver a heart-wrenching story that does not dictate you with what to believe but gives you the freedom to discover it for yourself. I’m in awe of these directors that managed to use the 3D format not for solely ticket sales, but as an integral part of bringing the experience more spectacular to its viewers. Rarely do we use the 3D format in a necessary format and I think before this, only Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and to a certain extent, James Cameron’s Avatar as the more successful ones. But past the 3D efforts, it also managed to convey this story of someone off to discover more about survival and faith without being preachy and being dictated on what to act or how to feel. Life of Pi is actually the opposite of that. It gives you the option to feel and understand and internalize it for yourself, and the credit mostly goes to Ang Lee’s concrete vision. Indeed, it’s one film I’ll recommend you to go straight to the theaters as downloading it won’t give it justice. 5/5

2. ZERO DARK THIRTY
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

On the outside, Zero Dark Thirty can easily be identified as the film that shows the killing of Osama bin Laden. But then again, it was more than that. It was simply not only about that. And that’s what I like the most about this. Bigelow’s follow up to 2009 Best Picture The Hurt Locker is something that even surpasses it, in my opinion. For the most part in the film, it follows a procedural format of what transpired. But it was just never bombing left and right, and I’d even say there are more quiet moments in the film. And in those quiet moments is where the best parts happen. It is where the room is opened for the viewer to take in what’s happening and what’s about to happen. The team up of Mark Boal as the screenwriter and Kathryn Bigelow as the director hit aces once again, and while most of the fouls were directed towards Ben Affleck being snubbed, Bigelow was indeed snubbed as well, and it is such a crime (though she can look at her Best Director Oscar at home if she wants to). And can we spare a moment to talk about how Jessica Chastain totally nailed this role. As Maya, you can see the enthusiasm that she puts into this character and how she’s more focused on portraying it as part of the bigger picture and not as an acting vehicle. So when the final scene sets in, that’s when she all lets loose and that moment was really golden. Definitely a must see! 5/5

1. AMOUR
Director: Michael Haneke

Definitely my favorite from this bunch is the surprise (or was it actually surprising?) inclusion of Palme d’Or winner Amour in the Best Picture line up. Michael Haneke’s take on a specific old couple where in the wife, Anne, was just waiting for her final days. If some of the films here are what I instantly recommend, I don’t think this belongs to that group. Haneke’s take on undying love is something that is not of the conventional, and in the shallowest way, one can see it in the form of “in pain, there is love.” The movie was mostly quiet, and we’re just confined to Georges and Anne’s house, but it helped in defining an environment of what happens from the most external (their day to day activities) up to the internal (their relationship with each other). And wow at the performances of both Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. By the near climax part, I was already sobbing.  If there was only a way to nominate them both, it would have been better. The love for Amour (no pun intended) is one of the sweetest surprises in this year’s Academy Awards nominations, and I’d be happy if it gets even three trophies this year. I’d always say that it Haneke finally decides to stop doing filmmaking after this, then I’d be alright with that as it’s one helluva way to close his filmography. 5/5

Whew that was pretty long! Anyway, that’s it! That would have been how my Oscar ballot would look like. How many have you seen so far? And how would you rank the contenders? Write them in the Comments section below!

And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

 

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10 Things You Need to Know About the 85th Academy Awards Nominations   4 comments

Hey everybody! How are you all doing? So yeah, Pandora’s box was finally opened as Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone unveiled the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. For now, I’m still nursing a heartbreak due to Nicole Kidman’s snub, but then again, so are many of the supposed to be contenders. My predictions this year were just okay getting more or less 3-4 of the nominees per category (except for my 2/5 in Song and 1/3 in Make Up), but I have no 5/5 prediction for this year. Sucks to be me I guess. And by this moment, I’m wondering if you’re still reading this or you just closed the window already because what the hell am I still talking about when I can’t even get my predictions right. But so is the rest of the predictors as this has been one of the shocking years in terms of actual nominees. Anyway here  are ten things you need to know about the 85th Academy Awards Nominees:

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THE CURSE OF THE 2007 FEMALE OSCAR WINS

2007 Best Supporting Actress winner Tilda Swinton was shafted at the final minute last year despite getting BFCA, Globe, SAG, nad BAFTA nods for her turn as the mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin. It was the first time in awards prognostication history where in a performance hit all precursor noms only to miss in the end (likely, for Rooney Mara). That seems to be the exception to the case though. However, this year, a similar occurrence happened to (incidentally) 2007 Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard who received the same precursor support for her performance in Rust and Bone only to miss again. Mind you, both of these actresses have churned out some of the best post-Oscar resumes in history and they have been shafted countless times since their win. Swinton had Julia in 2009, I Am Love in 2010, and Kevin in 2011. Cotillard had Nine in 2009, Inception in 2010, and even in BP nominee Midnight in Paris last year. What does it take for these gorgeous women to be called back again for another nomination? Hmm.

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SNOW WHITE vs… SNOW WHITE?

While one Snow White themed movie Blancanieves failed to connect with the Foreign Language voters, there are two other Snow White films which are in contention…for the same category. Colleen Atwood was nominated for Snow White and the Huntsman while Mirror Mirror‘s Eiko Ishioka was the other one in competition. While there’s a large possibility that both designers will lose to Jacqueline Duran for Anna Karenina, can we do a write in vote that says Snow White is the most fashionable fairy tale character? Yes?

amour

AMOUR RECEIVING A LOT OF AMOUR 

One movie that received a lot of amour (that means Love if you still don’t get it by now) is Michael Haneke’s Amour receiving four major nods this year for Picture, Directing, Lead Actress for Emmanuelle Riva, and Original Screenplay together with a Foreign Language Film nod. While the possibility of the film making it to all those categories is not far fetched, it’s still unbelievable that voters went all the way to give it nods for such. This is the first film since 2000′ s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to make it both to best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, and the consecutive Palme d’or winner to be Best Picture nominated after last year’s Tree of Life. Of course, there are others that even won such as 1957’s Marty but what I’m referring here is back to back nods.

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MOVIES THAT DIRECTED THEMSELVES

Best Director is the biggest fuckery this year (and probably ever?), as both Ben Affleck and Katheryn Bigelow were snubbed after hitting BFCA, Globes, DGA, and BAFTA nods (plus critics prizes for both of them). Who replaced them? Benh Zeitlin of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and to a lesser extent, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. While I was over the moon happy about Haneke getting in (which there was a really huge probability of happening especially with the BAFTA Director nod, and he was always in fifth place), but this category just felt weird with no Affleck and Bigelow in it especially since they’d probably be winning the televised awards. To be fair though, both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are in a good company with the likes of The Color PurpleSense and SensibilityMoulin Rouge!The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Inception who all received Best Picture mentions without their helmers getting the nod.

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BEST NOMINATION ANNOUNCEMENT EVAH!

Since the 60s, it has been a tradition of the Academy to have its current president together with a past Oscar acting nominee to present the nominations. It was a in a formal manner where the ten major categories are announced and the names of the nominees were alphabetically one by one mentioned starting from Best Supporting Actress up to Best Picture. However, for this year, we got host Seth MacFarlane and still Oscarless actress Emma Stone to do the presentation job and boy was it the best announcement evah. Starting from Stone’s fake entrance as if she was called to win an award to the Hitler joke in between up to Bryan Cranston’s teeth, this was such a breath of fresh air in terms of announcing. Not only that, but names were randomly announced too that adds the pleasure of the prediction process. If this is an indication of MacFarlane’s hosting stint, then count me in.

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BOND. JAMES BOND.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall was the first Bond movie in 31 years to receive nominations in any Oscar category. Add to that is the fact that it got five(!) nods for Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song  (for Adele’s Skyfall), Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, and it becomes the most nominated Bond movie ever. As for a quick Bond history with Oscar, prior to Skyfall, there have been only nine nominations since its inception winning two; one is for Goldfinger in Sound Effects in 1965 and a Visual Effects win for Thunderball the following year. The last nomination though was in 1981 in the Original Song category for For Your Eyes Only from the Bond movie of the same title.

silver linings playbook

MAJOR, MAJOR ACTING NOMINATIONS

Four acting nominations for a film is really possible within the Academy. In the past few years, Chicago and Doubt managed to achieve that feat. However, it’s more interesting when the four acting noms came from the four acting categories. After 31 years, Silver Linings Playbook becomes the 14th movie in Oscar history to grab nods for the four acting categories for its stars Bradley Cooper (Lead Actor), Jennifer Lawrence (Lead Actress), Robert de Niro (Supporting Actor), and Jackie Weaver (Supporting Actress). There’s a huge possibility that with this, SLP is expected to win at least one acting trophy (as per history), and our bet is on Jennifer Lawrence to take Best Actress. From the thirteen prior films that managed this feat, only two went Oscarless in all four acting categories: My Man Godfrey in 1936, and Sunset Boulevard in 1950.

riva wallis

BEST ACTRESS… OLD AND NEW

Presenter Emma Stone already mentioned this yesterday, but for Best Actress, a record was made when we had the oldest and the youngest Best Actress nominees ever and they happened to be competing with each other. French actress Emmanuelle Riva, currently at 85 (though her birthday will exactly be on the Oscar telecast), becomes the oldest Best Actress nominee ever for her turn as the wife in Amour. Previous title holder was 1989 winner Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy who was 80 when she was nominated and won the Oscar. On the other hand, the youngest now is Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild who was nominated at the age of 9. It’s pretty fascinating to learn that while shooting the movie, Wallis was just 7. She beats previous record holder, 2003’s Keisha Castle Hughes, who was nominated for Whale Rider at the age of 13. Moreover, co-nominee Jennifer Lawrence became the youngest actress to receive two Best Actress nods by the age of 22.

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THE JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT SCREENPLAY CURSE

If you’re an aspiring Hollywood writer, there’s no better person to write a screenplay for than Joseph Gordon Levitt. Maybe it’s because of his immense talent, or he really has just a knack for interesting stories, but for the past four years, Joseph Gordon Levitt has made films whose screenplays always receive Oscar buzz particularly in the Original Screenplay category. However, there always seems to be a hurdle at this. The buzz is there, but the nod is not. In 2009, his 500 Days of Summer despite getting WGA and NBR wins failed to make it to the final list. The same can be said for his cancer movie last year 50-50. And despite getting critics nominations and a WGA nod again, Looper also failed to make it to the final line up. You know what the exception was? The one film he starred that nabbed an Original Screenplay nom is the one where he was in supporting… Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

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ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID… FOREVER THE BRIDESMAID?

In a span of eight years, Amy Adams has already received four Supporting Actress Oscar nominations for 2005’s Junebug, 2008’s Doubt, 2010’s The Fighter, and this year again for her role in The Master. Pretty impressive achievement I must admit. However, with no such luck, she still wasn’t able to snatch an Oscar of her own for the four performances (yes, four, because Anne Hathaway has that thing locked up). Now while it’s an achievement of its own, I fear for dear Amy, sweet Amy, that she’ll belong to the list of voters just want to nominate but not win. After all, eight years is pretty quick to gain 4 Oscar nods (Julianne Moore got 4 in five years), what lies for her future Oscar chances? Among all actresses, Thelma Ritter, Deborrah Kerr, Glenn Close (the only one left still alive) hold the record for most nominations without winning (6), followed by Irene Dunner (also gone now) with five. From those living, Adams is currently in the same page as Annette Bening, Jane Alexander, Marsha Mason, and Julianne Moore that can still win despite four losses while Rosalind Russell and Barbara Stanwyck are the other four time Oscarless winners who were already departed. Here’s wishing the next time Amy Adams get nominated, she’ll finally win.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl