While Zero Dark Thirty, admittedly a brilliant, troubling film, has taken two of the major Best Picture and Best Director Awards, I am still a firm believer that Lincoln will take the Academy Award for Best Picture. Steven Spielberg I am less sure about, though the members of the Academy will acknowledge that his brilliant decision to allow the actors and the screenplay to shine was a superb directorial decision, the stuff of Best Director indeed. Audiences use to his stunning visuals, (and who isn’t?), instead found a film that focused on character, thereby performance, on words, and atmosphere, something he accomplished with Schindler’s List (1993) which won him his first Oscar for Best Director.
In 2010 The Social Network (2010) swept the major critics awards, dominated them totally, yet the Oscar went to The King’s Speech (2010), a well crafted biography of King George overcoming his stammer before taking Britain to war against Germany. Though I admired The King’s Speech (2010) I remember sitting there thinking…really? While watching the awards in 1982, before many of you were born I suspect, I sat stunned as Gandhi (1982) an old-fashioned film at best (at best!!!), took most of the awards over LA Film Critics winner E.T. : The Extraterrestrial (1982) which I suppose only to those who did not think Gandhi (1982) was the masterpiece it was declared to be. Today it is regarded as what is was then, an old-fashioned Hollywood biopic that plays like Gandhi’s greatest hits rather than an honest portrait of an important man.
Lincoln is a superbly crafted film, with a performance from the ages from Daniel Day-Lewis as the sixteenth President of the United States. Going on gut feeling, I think Hollywood wants to honor this film as Best Picture, though they may go with Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director or Ben Affleck for Argo. I truly cannot see Bigelow winning so soon after her first win, but John Ford won back to back Best Director Oscars in 1940 and 1941. Let’s not forget Spielberg won his second for Best Director just five years after his first, so Bigelow could win, I just do not believe she will. Best Director seems to be headed to Ben Affleck, and I struggle with that because his achievement as a director was, for me, less than either Bigelow, Spielberg, or Tom Hooper. Argo is a terrific film, a fine entertainment, but it is not the years best film, it might not even make my top five, but it is without doubt among the ten best of the year. Hollywood likes Affleck, they want to honor him because they consider him a comeback, and I suppose to a degree he is. There was a time he was a laughing stock as an actor, and those days are long forgotten and forgiven.
Biographical films usually score well with the Academy, they always have, even when they were not very good, case in point Gandhi (1982). Lincoln reminds me of Patton (1970) a biography that had the courage to show the character warts and all, to explore his failings along with his strengths, and for me this is the hallmark of a great biography. But then again, is it fair to call Lincoln a biography given that it deals with a very specific time in the Presidents life?
Tough call, but since seeing the film for the first and second time, I am convinced it is the years best film, and the Academy will honor it as such. Could be wrong, certainly was last year…thoughts?