So the big night is coming up, and this year I have put as much effort as I could into knowing all the runner ups. I tried my best to watch all the contenders but I was either too busy (Life of Pi) or too uninterested (Les Miserables) which resulted in a 55% coverage of this years’ nominees. With all my pre-existing wisdom, I wanted to share my predictions (or maybe wishes) for the Academy Awards in the category “Best Picture”.  

Argo

A very busy fall season was kicked off for me with Argo which was a movie with such a high ratings and so much praise that it was almost impossible to keep its promise. However, I walked into the theatre and saw a fantastically paced piece by Ben Affleck which had all the elements of Hollywood entertainment. After The Town and Gone Baby Gone, I think Ben Affleck is really playing with the big shots now – even though I still think his first movie was his best work so far. With Argo, he created an intelligent spy thriller about the escape of US-diplomates during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. And all the detail which has been put into the production and direction of this movie truly deserves a nomination. I have extensively written about Argo in my review but if I had to point out 3 things which made this movie really great, I would say the following:

  • Pace: This movie manages to keep you engaged and on edge for its entire duration with a spectacular finale
  • Detail: Great staging of real-life events and fantastic capture of the late 70s with an immense focus on small details
  • Focus: A movie about the Islamic Revolution could have easily fallen into an “Iran-bashing” trap but it focused primarily on the Agent Mendez idea, execution and determination to get the hostages out of the country…a very wise choice in my mind

Zero Dark Thirty

A movie which was surrounded by a lot of controversy about one of the big topics in the war on terror – is torture really a necessary evil? (BTW, there is a great piece about this topic by David Chen in his article on slashfilm.com). My simple answer is that the movie could have taken a clearer stance against torture but I fully agree and understand Kathryn Bigelows response to this discussion: “[….] that depiction is not endorsement”. The fact that I already spent so much time on this topic shows the problem which the movie had in the nomination process, it came with some baggage and thus will have only limited chances to be a big winner tonight – despite being a fantastic piece of art. I thought this movie was absolutely terrific and a true masterpiece. Why did I like it so much:

  • Cinematography: Fantastic camera and great shots with great inclusions of real life events
  • Thrill: Long movies have often the problem of being able to keep the audience at edge for the entire duration, not this one.
  • “Realism”: One can argue about the facts but I really like how the movie showed the longevity and tediousness of the gruntwork which is required to catch the world’s most hunted terrorist

Django Unchained

As I had already stated in my review, if this movie was made by any other director than Tarantino it would have been superb and fully met (or even exceeded) my expectation. But whenever the Tarantino stamp is on a movie, I expect a little more. And whereas Django’s opening hour and build up were absolutely fantastic and the acting staff (especially Waltz, Di Caprio and SLJ) was splendid, I left the movie with longing for a more well-architected finale. The last third of the movie could have just been those magic 30 minutes shorter. Nevertheless, this movie deserves the nomination as it was without a doubt one of the best movies in 2012. Pointing out the great things is not hard:

  • Acting: Composition of the acting staff especially the evil ones (Di Caprio and SLJ)
  • Dialoges: Only Tarantino is capable of these pointed dialoges and yet again he shows his outstanding talent
  • Cinematography: Great landscapes and great pictures, capturing the beauty of the Wild Wild West

The Silver Linings Playbook

One of the more “quiet” contributions of this year which matches David O.Russel’s style pretty well (comparing it to The Fighter). A likable piece about real life and real people dealing with real problems. It was a pleasure to see Robert De Niro star in big production again after having a lot of mishaps in the past years. He truly deserved to have some more big shots as he is and was without a doubt one of the greatest actors of our times. Even though compared to his long legacy this is most certainly not his best work, I would really be happy for him to win the Oscar tonight. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Bradley Cooper but I did really like him in this movie, especially his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence worked really well for me. Having said that, I don’t think it will stand a chance against the other big contenders tonight due to its “everyday’ness”

  • Likable: Every character in this movie is kind of an anti-hero but that makes them even more lovable
  • Reality: This movie is portraying a very real problem (manic depression) and does not sugarcoat it

Lincoln

My most recent Oscar endeavor was so far the worst of all. Even though I do understand why it got nominated and I agree that the acting staff of this movie was wonderful, I still don’t get all the hype. This movie was overbearingly long and with all that dialoge it still left me asking on some of the details around the 13th Amendement. Also some more entertainment than just 150 minutes of pure dialog (yes, that is a long time for just talk) would have been applaudable. If I had to point out the good things:

  • Acting: Both Daniel Day Lewis and his supporting cast are delivering a splendid performance
  • Detail: This point is more two-sided, it almost went into too much detail but I understand Spielberg motives to show the longevity of the political decision-making process
  • Contemporary: A call for more “reaching across the isle” to the legislative body of America today by showing them that politicians over 150 years ago under much more dire circumstances were able to achieve much bigger accomplishments

And the Oscar Goes to…Argo

I have thought long and hard about who deserves to win and who actually will win. I believe the biggest achievement of this year should be granted to the team who made Zero Dark Thirty possible, it is truly a masterpiece and deserves recognition. But as I also stated it comes with a lot of baggage and controversy and thus will probably not win the trophy. The Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie but it is not really good enough to deserve an Oscar for Best Picture as it does not have anything “exceptional”. Django – in my mind – has a similar issue to be a great movie in general but this years Oscar theme is all about America’s greatness in the world and thus the race will be decided between Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty (with Lincoln in my mind being the biggest disappointment). The only other true contender I would see in this race is Life of Pie but I don’t think that a movie outside the mentioned theme will stand a chance this year. That leaves Ben Affleck and team who did some brilliant work with Argo and in this case the topic was more of a “feel-right” chapter of “American exceptionalism” which makes it the most acceptable candiate to win the trophy.

Now the red carpet is filling up, so let’s hope for a night full of surprises and entertainment. 

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