Friday, January 11, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 Oscar Nominations

The Hits

I love that Oscar wasn't as ageist as usual and nominated both its oldest and youngest Best Actress contenders ever in one year. Age is nothing but a number for Amour's Emmanuelle Riva, 85, and Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis, 9, though. They would be thoroughly deserving of their Oscar citations even if they were 20 years younger and older, respectively. Although I still think the category is The Impossible's Naomi Watts' to lose, I would love to see Wallis pull one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history by winning for a seemingly effortless effort (she appeared not to be acting, but just being) that was as good as any performance I saw in 2012.

I'm as thrilled as I am surprised to see Silver Lining Playbook's Jacki Weaver nominated for Best Supporting Actress (one of three Aussie acting nominees, as all the news outlets in Melbourne keep reminding me). I'm pretty sure she automatically got swept up in the Academy's wave of love for the Best Picture nominee (the first film since 1981's Reds to be nominated in all four acting categories), but since I adored her as much as I did in Animal Kingdom, for which she deserved to win Best Supporting Actress two years ago, I'm glad to see her back in the running -- even if it means no nod for Compliance's Ann Dowd.

The Misses

This year perfectly exemplifies why the Best Supporting Actor category is usually so dullsville: Every nominee is a previous winner. I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Arkin in Argo, but was his performance more worthy of recognition than Matthew McConaughey's in Magic Mike, or Eddie Redmayne's in Les Misérables, or Ezra Miller's in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Ewan McGregor's in The Impossible? Come on, Oscar! Can you try a little harder to make this category less of a snoozefest? Does Phillip Seymour Hoffman really need to be nominated every time he shows up onscreen?

Ditto his The Master and Doubt costar Amy Adams, who, like Hoffman, was nominated in the supporting category in both films. I like Adams, but another Best Supporting Actress nomination (her fourth in seven years, only three shorter than it took the category's biggest loser, six-time Best Supporting Actress nominee Thelma Ritter, to score a quartet of nods and 16 years shorter than it took Maureen Stapleton, who won on her fourth try for Reds, to rack up hers)? It's beginning to feel like Adams is being honored more for being lucky enough to be regularly cast in Oscar bait projects than for any spectacular onscreen accomplishments in them. 

The Snubs

I'm going to chalk up the omission of Kathryn Bigelow from Best Director for Zero Dark Thirty to this: The Academy may have been ready to finally reward a woman in the category three years ago, but it's still not ready to nominate one twice. But where's Ben Affleck? Who does he have to sleep with to get some recognition from Oscar for his skill as a director? Or maybe he's still being punished for sleeping with J. Lo all those years ago?

If you'd asked me yesterday who I thought was the Best Picture and Best Director to beat, I would have said Argo and Ben Affleck. I totally expected him to boldly go where Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson had gone before, and become the next leading man to win an Oscar for directing, not acting. I suspect that Affleck's greatest blunder might have been casting himself and a not a stronger actor in Argo's central role. Too bad Daniel Day-Lewis was busy resurrecting Honest Abe, because with him as not-so-honest Tony Mendez, Best Director would be as good as Affleck's (and Best Actor totally Hugh Jackman's for Les Misérables).

Unfortunately, directors can't hedge their bets by going supporting. That how lead actress Helen Hunt secured her Best Supporting Actress nomination for The Sessions while the crux of that movie, John Hawkes, was left out of the running for Best Actor (a repeat of their BAFTA fates). The film was probably too small (only $5.6 million at the North American box office) and the Best Actor field too crowded for Hawkes this year.

At least he might still turn up at the ceremony to support Hunt, Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence (his costar in Winter's Bone, for which he received his previous nomination) and Lincoln, in which he has a tiny part. And we can rest easily with the knowledge that there's no way Hunt is going to beat Les Misérables' Anne Hathaway or Lincoln's Sally Field for a second trip to Oscar's winners circle. For now, that As Good As It Gets Best Actress Oscar will continue to be as good as it gets for Hunt.
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