The Best Films of 2012, Part II

Here we are again! Oscar 2013 is right around the corner, which means it’s time for me to release my predictions. I generally do a fairly good job (but of course, the award shows are generally fairly easy to predict), but this year, there are some categories that are definitely up in the air. If you missed my first post, detailing what I consider to be the best films of the year, check it out here. As always, any film marked in red is one I did not see, so take that into consideration. Away we go!

Best Original Screenplay

Amour (Michael Haneke)
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
Flight (John Gatins)
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)
Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)
Moonrise Kingdom and ZDT have a decent chance at this category, but I think Django takes it. The academy recognizes that Tarantino is a better writer than he is a director (though he’s not a bad director by any means!), Best Screenplay is often the consolation category for films that are too out-there to win Best Picture or Best Director.

Best 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)
Here’s where I discuss the dark horse of the night: Silver Linings Playbook. It has a real shot to win not only this category, but many of the categories it’s nominated for, including Best Picture. To be clear, I didn’t like the film. I thought it was sappy, patronizing schlock that was saved from pure awful only through the talents of Jennifer Lawrence. Russell admitted he created the film to show his mentally ill son that mentally ill people can live normal lives. A commendable sentiment, but not one I’m sure is well served by the implication that a mentally ill man can generally shirk or ignore his treatment, be sort of a dick to everyone, be overly obsessed with a woman or life he can never have and still expect that a beautiful woman (Lawrence) will walk up, fall head-over-heels in love with you for no discernible reason and refuse to be put off by your behavior.
All right, I’m done. Sorry about that. Anyway, I think Argo is the favorite here. It was a solid script that turned into a fantastic movie. Life of Pi has a chance, maybe, and Lincoln is a longshot. But in my opinion, it’s between Argo and (ugh) Silver Linings.

Best Visual Effects

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
The yearly “genre movie consolation prize.” The Hobbit is the pretty clear favorite here, in my opinion, simply because the Academy will likely want to recognize that, yes, another Middle Earth movie came out this year, and we didn’t forget about it. The Avengers has a shot, and Life of Pi definitely has a shot (beautiful movie), but I think Hobbit takes it in the end.

Best Sound Mixing

Les Miserables
Life of Pi
They sometimes give this to the action movie (action movie consolation prize!), but I think the musical holds more sway. Give it to Les Mis.

Best Sound Editing

Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
I don’t know man. I don’t think Skyfall will win, but other than that, the rest of the movies have an equal chance. I say Life of Pi, because Academy members will probably want to give that movie something.

Best Live-Action Short Film

Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow
Curfew was my favorite of this list. It revolved around a suicidal former junkie meeting his niece and watching her for an afternoon, and while the subject matter has been done before, Fatima Ptacek does a fantastic job. Death of a Shadow is likely the favorite — it’s a creative, original, and visually arresting film about a man tasked with capturing deaths throughout history with his camera. Buzkashi Boys is also a contender, if only because it’s current — it was filmed in Afghanistan, with Afghani cast and crew in cooperation with an American team. It’s not the best short film, but its subject matter will likely propel it. Asad is a cute story made with Somali refugees, and while it’s clearly not the best acted film in history, it’s still enjoyable. Henry was emotionally manipulative and predictable, even if the acting was good.
Where was I? Oh, right. I’m going to pick Death of a Shadow, but Buzkashi Boys is a close second.

Best Animated Short Film

Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
The Simpsons short was cute, but it was just a reinterpretation of the “Ayn Rand School for Tots” bit from an old episode, and that episode did it better. Paperman got a lot of shares around the old Facebook, but I thought it was a shallow story (guy wants to meet pretty girl, then does!), and I thought the animation was trying too hard to look hand-drawn, which it ultimately failed at. Head Over Heels was an intriguing idea and a nice execution (elderly man and woman have opposite gravity pulls — man lives on ceiling, woman on floor), but ultimately I didn’t think it went far enough thematically.
Fresh Guacamole was my favorite of the bunch. It was a 2-minute long claymation (or maybe faux-claymation) movie about someone making guacamole out of some unconventional ingredients. Nothing flashy, but in two minutes it managed to be funny, charming and incredibly attractive. I loved it.
Adam and Dog is probably the movie that will win. It plops down a lovable dog into the story of Adam and Eve, it’s pretty and it tugs at the heartstrings. It’s my pick for this category.

Production Design

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
I think The Hobbit takes it here, too. There were definitely some issues with the film, but let it never be said that Peter Jackson can’t put together a fabulous production team. Oh, and the less said about Anna Karenina, the better. Ugh.

Best Original Song

Before My Time (Chasing Ice)
Everybody Needs a Best Friend (Ted)
Pi’s Lullaby (Life of Pi)
Skyfall (Skyfall)
Suddenly (Les Miserables)
The general trend is to give this category to the ‘invented song’ for the musical, to recognize the vocal talent on the rest of the soundtrack, which is not eligible for nomination since it is not ‘original.’ There’s a strong possibility of that happening here, but I’m going to go with Skyfall, simply because Adele is Adele, and Suddenly was not a great song, even as ‘invented for the Oscars’ songs go.

Best Original Score

Anna Karenina
Life of Pi
None of these scores really stood out in my mind. But Lincoln has John Williams, and John Williams is to Oscars what Adele is to Grammies. 

Best Makeup

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Les Mis was nominated mostly for Anne Hathaway here, I’m pretty sure. And it was good. But I think the dwarves and goblins of The Hobbit get the gold here.

Best Foreign Language Film

A Royal Affair
War Witch
So, as you can see, I’ve only seen one of these, but I’m still confident in predicting the win for it. If it doesn’t win, there’s not a lot of sense in the category. If, say, Kon-Tiki won Best Foreign Language Film, shouldn’t it have been nominated for Best (Overall) Film instead of Amour? Also, Amour is very well made. Slow-paced and personal, yes, but well made.

Best Film Editing

Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
I was originally thinking I’d pick Argo here, for reasons you’ll see when we get to Best Picture. But I actually think it’s going to go to Zero Dark Thirty. ZDT had some great editing, especially in the raid scene, and giving it Best Editing means that it gets some recognition, even if it got snubbed for director.

(Note: I saw none of the documentaries this year, so I have no opinion on them)

Best Director

Amour (Michael Haneke)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
Weird fuckin’ category. The fact that Russell edged out both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow is pretty much a travesty. With what’s left, Steven Spielberg is obviously the pick. That might have been obvious even with Affleck in there, but it’s definitely true now.

Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina
Les Misérables
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman
Let’s go ahead and throw Mirror Mirror and Snow White out of consideration. I trust no one will object. Anna Karenina was a meh movie, but it has the ‘period piece’ thing going for it, so it’s at least in contention. I’m going to go ahead and give this to Les Mis, though, because I loved the Thenardiers’ outfits.

Best Cinematography

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
As I intimated in the previous post, the fact that The Master wasn’t nominated here was the biggest snub of the night, hands down. Not only should it be nominated, it should win the category. In light of that, I have no idea who the Academy will actually pick. Fuck, I’m surprised Silver Linings Playbook isn’t nominated here as well. I’m going to pick Life of Pi, though, because it was probably the runner-up after The Master.

Best Animated Film

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph has a shot here, but not a big one. You just can’t beat Pixar, and Brave was a lovely film.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams
Sally Field
Anne Hathaway
Helen Hunt
Jacki Weaver
Yeah, it’s Anne Hathaway. No question here.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin
Robert De Niro
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Tommy Lee Jones
Christoph Waltz
I don’t think Arkin nor Waltz will win here; their performances were too comedic. Great, but comedic, and the Academy prefers drama. De Niro might well be the favorite here, especially if Silver Linings starts winning things like Best Screenplay, and Tommy Lee Jones is also a possibility, since he was (IMO), the best part of Lincoln (and I normally don’t like him). I think Hoffman is the objective winner, though. He was simply astounding as The Master, and I’ll consider it a pretty big misstep if he doesn’t win.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain
Jennifer Lawrence
Emmanuelle Riva
Quvenzhané Wallis
Naomi Watts
Wallis did a great job, but they aren’t going to give the award to a kid. Won’t happen. Naomi Watts did fine as well, but she spent most of the movie in a hospital bed groaning and vomiting, so I can’t see that happening either. Amour is too obscure for Riva to win, so it’s really between Chastain and Lawrence, and either woman could easily win. I’m going to pick Chastain simply because I have to pick one, and she has a slightly better chance. But I would not be surprised at all to see Lawrence win, and I would not complain.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper
Daniel Day-Lewis
Hugh Jackman
Joaquin Phoenix
Denzel Washington
DDL is clearly the favorite here, and it would be a huge surprise if he didn’t get the trophy. Jackman is a dark horse, but I’d say he only has a 10% chance to win, with DDL at 75% and everyone else at 5%. I’m not opposed to this. I thought Daniel Day-Lewis did a competent job. I wasn’t blown away like everyone else was — it’s not the performance of a lifetime. But it was good.

Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
So let’s talk about what won’t win. Amour is too foreign. Beasts is too experimental. Django is too Tarantino. Life of Pi is too hamfisted with its moral. 
That leaves us with Argo, Les Mis, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and ZDT. Silver Linings is a possibility here, as I mentioned before — if the Academy starts giving it awards left and right, and De Niro, Lawrence and Cooper (ugh) end up sweeping, it could happen. Sad, but true.
The rest have about equal chances. Les Mis probably the least of them, but it’s an epic musical with inspiring performances, so I wouldn’t count it out. Zero Dark Thirty was sort of damaged by the controversy, so I imagine the Academy, as a fairly left-leaning group of folks, will likely not award it the Big One. Really, it’s between Lincoln and Argo, and if there’s any justice, Argo will win. Lincoln was simply not that great of a movie, for many reasons. It wasn’t really about Lincoln, for one thing, meaning that from the very title the film had trouble managing its tone (it should have been called The 13th Amendment or something). Argo, on the other hand, simply worked from beginning to end. Even though I knew the ending, it was the most tense film I’ve seen all year. Argo should win, if for no other reason than to give Affleck recompense for the Best Director snub.
So there you have it! My predictions for 2013. Let me know what you think in the comments, tweet me @MatthewBorgard, and be sure to check back after the ceremony and let me know how wrong I was.

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