Oscar Circuit: Resistance is Futile

As Telluride and Venice ended and we sit in the heat that is the Toronto Film Festival, I’m updating Oscar Predictions slowly but surely.  Screenings are happening daily and the race could change in a matter of seconds.  My solution is to update one category per day for the next 20 days.  By then Toronto would have ended, and we would be sitting firmly in the clump of the New York Film Festival.  I’ve started with the biggest juggernaut, Best Motion Picture, but most importantly I took the opportunity to update the Oscar Tracker with several films and performances added to their respective categories.  

Diving into the Motion Picture category was no easy task.  If you follow the site closely, you would remember my last Oscar Circuit where I declared Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder the one to beat.  All of this was based on politics and the nature of the game that is Oscar prognosticating.  As I hold onto the film with genuine reservation, I struggle to look elsewhere for a presumed Best Picture Frontrunner.  Pundits alike have declared Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln that “one” with all the chops and the gumption to go the distance, and while that remains feasible, the thought of Spielberg winning a third Oscar is pretty cumbersome let alone his film.  I’m in no way doubting Spielberg’s abilities as a director, but in this part of his career, Spielberg has not exactly been the most consistent.  His technical merits however have always been up to par even when the film is not (War Horse).  The trailer for Lincoln will be premiering Thursday and that will either start a steamroll of hawkers declaring it the “winner” or reservationists stepping up to voice their doubts.  The film stands reluctantly at #1.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is becoming the hugest question mark in terms of how voters will respond to it.  Quality may have no factor in gauging its chances; it could simply be the Academy not getting it at all.  The words from Toronto were heard loud and clear but critics are not Academy members.  TIFF at times can offer up a film as a potential contender but when the critics’ awards and screenings start happening, the film can be left off altogether.  I feel confident about Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman making their lineups, though Hoffman can still be swung up into the lead category to accompany Phoenix.  Not since Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus(1984)  has the Academy recognized two actors in the Lead Actor category.  For Lead Actress you have to go back to Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis for Thelma & Louise (1991).  Perhaps that could bode well for Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal for Won’t Back Down.  Amy Adams has been getting good ink and I think has become a default nominee kind of sorts.  Three nominations under her belt, in my opinion all deserved, suggests she’s loved in the acting branch.  The film itself could be this year’s winner or be given the finger.  I watch the film with reservation.

When Ben Affleck came on to the Directing scene with his Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010), I can think of a single pundit that would anticipate Affleck would make a passable picture.  With Argo, Affleck is said to jump to the forefront of American directors working today.  The problem is Affleck has had a hard time breaking through with the Academy.  Both his previous films have only produced one acting nomination a piece (Amy Ryan, Jeremy Renner).  Worst case scenario, Argo brings long overdue character actor John Goodman or Academy Award winner Alan Arkin to the ceremony.  The reaction at TIFF has been deafening.  I only hope that if the quality is there and it is his best film to date, Oscar forgives and forgets.

Tom Hooper and the big adaptation of Les Miserables, has provided heated debates between pundits.  On paper, it’s likely the Best Picture winner of the year.  Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience and Staff Writer Terence Johnson don’t have enough good things about the source material.  Hugh Jackman seems to fit the role perfectly and if you ever saw him host the Tony Awards or clips from his winning performance in “The Boy from Oz,” the man is crazy talented.  Russell Crowe is the biggest wildcard of the film.  Never thought of as a singer, Crowe’s vocals will have to project some major abilities to pull off this role especially if they choose campaign him Lead along with Jackman.  While Rogers and Johnson say Les Miserables is Weapfest 2012, it has some large shoes to fill.  Can Hooper produce two Best Picture winners?  I’m curious to see how the film will end up.

Austria declared Michael Haneke’s Amour, their official selection for Foreign Language Film for 2013 Academy Awards.  While the reviews have been stunning for the film and the performances of Jean-Louis Tringnant and Emmanuelle Riva, the Oscars have not gone for a Foreign Language Film in the top category since Letters from Iwo Jima.  To date, only eight foreign films have been nominated for Best Picture:  Grand Illusion (French, 1938); Z (French, 1969); The Emigrants (Swedish, 1972); Cries and Whispers (Swedish, 1973); Il Postino (Italian/Spanish, 1995); Life Is Beautiful(Italian, 1998); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Mandarin Chinese, 2000); and Letters from Iwo Jima (Japanese, 2006).  The Oscar awarded three films partially in a Foreign Language – The Godfather Part II (1974), The Last Emperor (1987), and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).  With those odds stacked against Haneke and his film, I hold onto the notion that the Academy can look outside their comfort zone one day and embrace the world of foreign cinema.  Is it this year?  That remains to be seen.

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained are all possible crowd pleasers with feasible “flopability.”  Is there a winner in any of those three?  Not sure if too many is carrying faith in any of them at the moment.  Same goes for late entries Promised Land by Gus Van Sant and Stand Up Guys by Fisher Stevens.

The recent word on Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell has had pundits cheering thus far.  There always seems to be a dramedy slot a la The Kids Are All Right, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine.  Perhaps Staff Writer Joseph Braverman’s earlier prediction for the film could come to fruition.  Cloud Atlas and To the Wonder have people as split as they can be.  The former has more positive inks going into its favor while the latter’s detractors are very vocal about their hatred for the film.  Robert Zemeckis’ Flight along with Denzel Washington is building mass appeal and anticipation as Paramount gets ready to unleash a killer campaign.  The return to live action narrative along with leading man Denzel back in a contemporary role delivering great work is sure to rub well with voters.

The Weintein Com