The 85th Academy Awards

by deerinthexenonarclights

Here we are again, another Oscar night (or afternoon here in Australia). Over the past twelve months we have had a near-endless stream of sure thing winners -first Les Mis was likely to sweep, then people actually saw it, then Argo took top spot before the Academy snubbed Affleck, Zero Dark had the prestige, pedigree and publicity of a good Best Picture but as the hype died so too did its chances, Lincoln loomed large on name alone but delivered too little to live up to its original odds – and now, a few acting categories aside the awards could end up anywhere. There is time enough for one last set of twists and turns.

Overall though I think enough has already been said about the awards during this extensive lead-up – some of it by me. See: Oscar Nominations for my predictions and personal choices, if you wish- so I’ll leave this intro short, say that I currently have a little cash on Lincoln and Ang Lee to come from the outside and then get straight to the winners and weird events in the ceremony as they unfurl. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts about both below. Ready? Just one hour to go.

First a quick legend:

  •  Bold Print means that it is the official winner
  • Italics means that it is my personal preference and
  • Underscore means my prediction.

Makes sense?

So here we go, the stars are seated and Seth is on stage. A few minutes in and he’s already sung multiple times, adding some of that specifically dapper charm to the traditional crude and cutting jokes. Does it all work? No, not so much but the high concept approach to the intro is interesting and satisfying the theme of the night -music in movies – via classic showtunes is a classyway to entertain. It’s a harmless, old-school opening with a fresh structural twist which is what the Oscars should always start with, given the age of their audience and members. They are an ancient institution and so this sort of garb suits them.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin – “Argo”
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

A strange choice for the first award and a strange choice for its winner but despite the class of his competition Christoph is hard to deny. He was the stand-out section of Django, delivering Tarantino’s words with the same wry wit that won him the award last time, adding an adorability to the role that his last one properly lacked.

Short Film – Animated
“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”

It was the only choice really. A short that wowed nearly all who saw it, one that received reactions far stronger than those of  its sibling film Wreck-It Ralph.

Animated Feature Film
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

PIXAR man, who else was going to win this. Sure it was perhaps one of their least positively received but that still leaves it leagues ahead of all other animated films around.

“Anna Karenina”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”


Visual Effects
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Hmmm, two definitely deserved awards, Pi was a story that succeeded because of its pictures, and perhaps a sign of more to come? No-one has given much of a shot to the film to take any of the big awards but who knows? Chances are though that this is the end of its night.

Costume Design
Anna Karenina
“Les Miserables
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Mere frames into it you could see that this film was going to win some of the old-school technical awards, costume design included. The dresses and suits were consistently striking as was the way in which they were shot, if only the same could be said about those wearing them and what they were saying. It was only a Les Mis sweep that could have swiped the award from its grasp. And speaking of, Les Mis took Hair and Make-up.

Short Film – Live Action
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)”

??? Honestly, no idea. My blind-spot.

Documentary – Feature
“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War”
“Searching for Sugar Man”

It didn’t do too much for me but Sugar Man had the critical and crowd-pleasing hype wave cresting ever since its release and so it seemed something of an obvious choice; it’s the only one that normal people would willingly watch, the others tortuously dark.

Foreign-Language Film

“War Witch”
“A Royal Affair”

“I iz vinner!” The real Haneke speaks an awful lot like his fake twitter persona, funny that. Another of the unambiguous awards, the real question around Amour is whether or not it is good enough to win any of the ‘American’ awards. I certainly think so, but can’t see the Academy rewarding a film this challenging, even though it revolve around a challenge that they currently face.

Sound Mixing
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”

I’m not entirely sure what standard one uses to determine the best sound mix – to my mind there are only competent and incompetent varieties, but I’m a Luddite in the field – but as it is the only film that relied on its sound mixing Les Mis made sense for the sound mix award.

Sound Editing
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
Zero Dark Thirty

Again, i’m not overly aware of what constitutes award winning sound editing but Skyfall and Zero Dark were the only two that made any impact on me with theirs so I’m satisfied with this semi-controversial draw. I couldn’t tell you why Les Mis isn’t here though, is it more of a sound effect thing? Honestly, i’m intrigued now. These are two films though that won’t win much of anything else tonight, despite perhaps deserving to, so it makes sense that the Academy would split a small award to give them something to take home.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams – “The Master”
Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

What! Who saw that coming? Hathaway won?

Film Editing
“Life of Pi”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
Zero Dark Thirty

And it begins…

Production Design
“Anna Karenina”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”

Or does it? Thus far there hasn’t really been any kind of consistent sweep to the films that are winning. Lincoln is definitely a deserving winner though: Karenina, Pi and Hobbit had the flashier sets and scenery but Lincoln not only looked beautiful in its own refined way but was entirely convincing in its reenactment of the era. Whether or not it means something else in the long run is secondary to that.

Music – Original Score
“Anna Karenina”
“Life of Pi”

Greenwood’s work for The Master is still easily the best score of the year, but Williams doesn’t disappoint no matter how many sheets he writes. Pi though was seemingly the more exciting score, something that i can’t contest because I barely remember a note of it. This puts Pi in the lead for the night though, might my money on Lee have been a good bet? We’ll soon see.

Music – Original Song
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

As predictable as Anne Hathaway but deservedly so. If it wasn’t for Scajo singing one or Seth nepotising the other in as a live performance then I doubt anyone in the audience could have hummed a single second of any other song. Skyfall will live on longer because of Adele than Mendes or Deakins I daresay, and so she earnt the award.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

“Argo” – Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – David Magee
“Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

This could be the decider, and it swung the predicted way. Argo wasn’t the best script in my mind, but it did have the hardest source to start with, the original novel nowhere near as exciting or entertaining as the film that he turned it into. Bring on Best Picture.

Writing – Original Screenplay
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” – John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

And the audience have it, the applause for Django has been the biggest all night and you can see why. Tarantino is a loveable guy and he sure can write. Did I have some issues with the structure of this particular script? Sure, but am I alone in thinking that? Seemingly and when the small stuff – the speeches, the subtle details – are so strong its hard to be too sore about that.

“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – Ang Lee
“Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

Paydirt! As a longtime lover of Lee’s work it’s nice to see him take the victory and as someone who believed in him and the outstanding visual storytelling in this film enough to put my money down (go Bayesian ethics!) its extra nice. If the film worked at all it was because of what he did, though to my mind the same can be said of the inverse style of imagery that Haneke put to use in Amour.

Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

I’ve loved Lawrence since seeing an early preview of Winter’s Bone at MIFF but have soured on her a little since then, thanks mostly to some strange film choices and the fanatic public reception to all of them. In particular I didn’t see that her work in Silver Linings was really all that phenomenal, especially compared to her competition, but i wasn’t exactly surprised.

Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
Denzel Washington – “Flight”

No pause, no faux-tension, just a quick announcement from one Oscar giant to another that he has done it again, that he has done what no-one else ever has. Day-Lewis may be losing his lustrous hair but he has won another Oscar, as he always does, and yet he seems strongly affected by it all; somewhat shy and genuinely moved. Though maybe he is just a very good actor?

Best Picture
“Django Unchained”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

An Obama giving the award to Lincoln would have been perfect given the similarities between the two presidents, but alas Argo took it home. Given the talent its not such a great loss, but it was my least favorite of the nominee’s. The Academy loves movies and so movies about movies do tend to win, it happens.

And that’s that, another Academy Awards done and dusted. Overall pretty much as recently expected, for better and worse, and despite the length a decent sort of show that kept my interest throughout, though not exactly an award winning one. If you hadn’t already seen all the BP nominee’s then you certainly should have watched one of them instead, but for the rest of us why not?

Agree with the Academy? Disagree with me? Chuck a post in the comments below and let me know.