Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

For the films of 2012
Sabin
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby Sabin » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:24 pm

Even though it combines standard Academy preoccupations (righteousness, liberalism, selflessness) into a confection that also manages to pat the industry itself on the back, Argo’s path towards anointment as the year’s best picture is a bit confusing to me. Not because of Ben Affleck’s omission from the Best Director lineup, which may ultimately have had a hand in Argo’s resurgence. One gets the sense that Academy voters look back on their fourth of fifth place ranking of Affleck on their individual ballots with the same kind of “What did I do last night?” regret tantamount to hooking up with a fugly after last call. Did Bruce Beresford get this kind of revaluation leading up to Driving Miss Daisy night at the Oscars? And I can understand The Hollywood Foreign Press, falling down in worship of Ben Affleck, and I can understand The Director’s Guild of America, The Producer’s Guild of America, and The Screen Actor’s Guild of America…but all of them?

What works for Argo is the fact that it doesn’t seem to be running against any other nominated film at this point. There is no The Social Network this year. What is strangely not working against Argo is that the movie itself is a lot like Tony Mendez’s “In & Out” mission to get the hostages out: it’s interesting, it happens, it’s suspenseful, and then it’s over. Nothing really complex going on here, is there? And maybe that’s what’s important. The Academy is going through a Trifle streak. And like The Artist and The King’s Speech, the title itself evokes a vast canvas of highs and lows that the film itself does not deliver. The movie that becomes bigger than itself wins.

For one brief year, the Academy split the honors between Best Production and Best Artistic Picture. Although David O. Russell’s exuberant romantic comedy is hardly an autopilot crowd-pleaser, if voters are in the mood for a trifle then they should favor the crowd-pleaser of the year. And while the phrase “Oscar Nominee Michael Haneke” sounds almost as insane as the phrase “Multi-Oscar Nominee Michael Haneke”, Amour is the kind of masterwork that doesn’t just haunt the soul. It possesses a tenderness that reimagines the entire oeuvre of this Austrian master. Amour is the best film, Silver Linings Playbook is the best movie, and Holy Motors is for sure the experience of the year.

Nothing would make me happier than watching this alleged Silver Linings Playbook surge continue towards Oscar night. I keep hearing about it but until it's yielded what so far? A tactically masterminded late-in-the-game $100 mil gross which makes it the sixth highest grossing Best Picture nominee of nine and a pretty good afternoon at the Indie Spirits. If Silver Linings Playbook wins, I will be happier than I've been since the first Oscars I watched. And I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that if Argo did not come out this year, Silver Linings Playbook would be the winner. If Argo did not come out this year, Silver Linings Playbook would have won the SAG Ensemble Award. If Argo did not come out this year, Silver Linings Playbook would have won the WGA award. And if Argo did not come out this year, Silver Linings Playbook would have garnered a DGA nomination and maybe won. Lots of maybes, none of them mean a win tomorrow night. And although I'm predicting it to win a few awards, the likeliest scenario is it walks away with Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress and even that might not happen. Possible goose egg.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:21 pm

I come to this race with very similar thoughts. I, too, resisted predicting Argo up until the WGA Award, but now I feel like it's the safest way to bet, and I'll be predicting it like everyone else.

But, I can't say I go into tomorrow night feeling like there's no room for suspense at the top. In some years like that -- say, with Return of the King or Slumdog Millionaire -- I felt that no matter how certain down-ballot races turned out, there was no way my prediction would fail at the very top. Frankly, I felt a similar way about Chicago, which was almost toppled, as well as Brokeback Mountain, which actually was upset.

But this year I feel more like I did during Million Dollar Baby/Departed races, where I'll be trying to glean information from those early envelopes. Sometimes that information is a tip-off (like Departed winning Editing), sometimes it isn't (like Million Dollar Baby losing Editing to The Aviator and Screenplay to Sideways, but still prevailing in Best Picture.)

Let me put it this way: doesn't Adapted Screenplay seem like a category that Argo just HAS to win in order to win Best Picture? And doesn't it still seem like Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook have enough credentials to upset there? That's actually a scenario I'd strongly root for, not just because I think Tony Kushner deserves the prize, but also because it would really put into doubt the final envelope.

Of course, the reverse is true as well: if Argo picks up Score and both Sound categories, chances are it's going to have the triumphant night everyone anticipated, and it'll be just a march to the inevitable.

I'll also be closely watching how the three films I view as potential upsets -- Lincoln, Life of Pi, and SLP -- do, because conceivably all three of those movies could actually pull off a slate of prizes that, in retrospect, would look very settled. Picture/Director/Actor/Supporting Actor/Screenplay still seems possible for Lincoln, with maybe even a tech prize. Should De Niro triumph -- not a from-left-field possibility -- Silver Linings could pull off Picture/Director/Actress/Supporting Actor/Screenplay. And Life of Pi could very well dominate the tech categories -- Visual Effects, Cinematography, Score, maybe a Sound category or two -- and push Picture and Director into a six or seven category sweep.

A friend in my real life said that some of those outcomes just seem crazy, but it's worth noting that all three of those movies did VERY well on nominations day -- not only did they pick up nominations that were on the bubble, but each one surprised with a nod or two beyond that which few expected. And, to bring things full circle to what Mister Tee said, Argo didn't (as well as Zero Dark Thirty, which seems to have just about fallen off the planet). Slant Magazine summed up Argo's Oscar nom morning pretty succinctly -- it wasn't nominated for Best Director, it's only the fifth most nominated movie, and it still doesn't seem like there are that many categories it can win. So, essentially everything is telling us that Argo will win overwhelmingly except the Academy Awards nominations themselves.

I'm not sure what that ultimately means. As I said, I've come around to predicting Argo. But I'm hoping the night provides some '02 level suspense, where by the time we get to the Best Picture envelope, a seemingly certain outcome suddenly feels like it could go a totally different way.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:07 pm

We're probably at the point where nobody's even going to read these, but let me just weigh in, hopefully briefly.

I know I should feel, like everyone else, that Argo is a fait accompli. But the me that's followed the Academy for half a century now just can't surrender to it, despite the peer pressure. Literally up until last weekend, when the Writers' Guild happened, I was planning to go with Lincoln, as I went with Out of Africa nearly 30 years ago -- because I just couldn't toss aside all that precedent re: the directing nomination. People who cite Driving Miss Daisy don't get that Miss Daisy wasn't really a proper precedent. That film had come along late in the game, as a sleeper, and the Directors' Guild hadn't nominated it, either. The only true forerunners of this year are 1985 and 1995 -- and in both those cases, the DGA win was less meaningful than most believed.

That the writers joined the bandwagon made me, finally, into a prediction wuss: I'm picking Argo now, like everyone. But I'm just not as fully convinced as so many seem to be. I still think a film/director tandem -- Lincoln/Spielberg, Pi/Lee, even Silver Linings/Russell -- is more believable than Argo/whoever. Spielberg as director/not film doesn't fit the historic pattern (where the directing winner has almost always made a more bracing, darkish film that the more more reassuring, even light best film). I'm not dismissing Argo's extraordinary run. I'm just saying it doesn't fit into any Academy result to which I've been a witness. And, as I said a number of years ago (during the '06 contest), the best predictor the Oscar outcome, along with the DGA, is still the Oscar nominations themselves.

So, keep this in mind -- throughout this long series of awards leading up to the Oscars, one day stands out as having confounded expectations more than any other: the morning of the Oscar nominations. Things we thought certain till that moment were suddenly uncertain; people we thought would be omitted turned up, others we thought would be involved got boxed out. The Academy seemed to be working from a different center of gravity than anyone else. Maybe it was the early deadline. Maybe it was confusion over online voting. Or, just maybe, the Academy saw things differently from the way all these other groups that call themselves The Precursors did. Which might mean we're in for another set of surprises tomorrow night.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:14 am

It's Argo in all likelihood, but I started out awards season championing Les Misérables and I'm not going to change my tune now (pun intended).

It's probably not going to happen, but I'd rather be wrong and lose a contest than jump on the same bandwagon as everyone else only to find that my first instinct was right.

The musical's highly vocal supporters seem to have been cowered into silence by the naysayers, but their silence doesn't mean they've changed their tune either.

I like Argo, it's a fun popcorn movie, and a refreshing alternative to another Harvey Weinstein win, but there are other alternatives that should be getting greater traction - Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty would be my second and third choices. Still, it's not an objectionable choice, a far better one than a lot, and I'll smile when it does win.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby criddic3 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:14 pm

There is the possibility that Silver Linings Playbook becomes the one to rally behind. The actors branch obviously loves it, giving it 4 acting nods. But I'll admit that it would be tough to beat the top three you mentioned.

It appears to be Argo's to lose, but it feels like a compromise pick, even without the pic/dir split. Lincoln appeals to history buffs and those who admire Spielberg. Life of Pi appeals to the emotion with a story of self-discovery by a well-liked director, Ang Lee. The actors are probably more likely to lean towards the Spielberg movie, while the technical branches would probably go for the Lee film. Then there's the director-less Argo. Maybe its late surge is too hard to beat, but seems like a played out, anti-climactic victory. Still, it's hard to see any of the others making a come-from-behind surprise.
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Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:41 pm

With Visual Effects and Actor being pretty much foregone conclusions and hardly anyone knows anything about Live-Action Short and Documentary Short, I guess we'll skip ahead to Best Picture. Is Argo going to be the first Best Picture winner without a Director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy or is Life of Pi or Lincoln gonna Braveheart its Director win to a Picture win?


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