I've mentioned that I really enjoy trying to see all the Academy Awards best picture nominees each year. I did such an abysmal job last year in seeing movies (darn that terrible pregnancy) that this year I redoubled my efforts and I'm happy to report that I saw all nine best picture nominees, plus some of the films that were up in other categories. It was a huge time commitment (and is one of the reasons I haven't been blogging lately) but I really love cinema and miss not going as much as I used to. I consider this part of my efforts to cultivate myself outside of motherhood.
In general, I think it has been a great year for movies, for which I am thankful because in the past few years I don't think there's been many great films released. I think both Moonrise Kingdom and The Master should have been nominated for academy awards. And while perfectly fine, I don't think Life of Pi was quite good enough to have been given the Oscar nod. It was average in my opinion. I thought the acting was weak and the special effects looked too fake-y to me. I liked the story (I liked the book too), but overall, it was nothing to write home about.
I also liked Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook, but I don't think they were as great as everyone keeps saying they were. I think The Master did a much better, more sophisticated job of dealing with the themes of mental illness and an outsider seeking love than did Silver Linings Playbook, which felt very much like a typical romantic comedy to me.
I wasn't looking forward to seeing either Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained because I have a really hard time watching violence (age and motherhood both have seemed to strengthen my aversion) but I loved both movies. I'll admit to closing my eyes during both though. I thought they were both compelling, interesting, well acted films that kept me thinking about them long after the movie had ended. I also really liked that Django Unchained was something different than we've seen before. Everything from the camera work to the music helped propel the story and reinforce this notion of the recreation of the genre of westerns while also being a reinterpretation of historical fiction in general. Hands down, I think Quentin Tarantino should win the Academy Award for best director for Django Unchained, and I think it's a shame that he's not even nominated. What were they thinking?!
I hadn't heard of either Beasts of the Southern Wild or Amour before Academy Award nominations. I'm glad each was nominated otherwise I might have missed these two great films. BOTSW gives such a wonderful sense of place, culture and lifestyle. It is deftly told through a child's perspective, which I think is really hard to pull off, and Quvenzhane Wallis' performance was remarkable for an actress of any age. (In case you're unfamiliar with the movie, she's five years old.) Amour so accurately captured a sliver of the human experience that often goes un-talked about. It's about how an elderly couple copes when the wife has a stroke and the slow and difficult journey towards death. Having watched three of my grandparents' cope with long term, debilitating illnesses before dying, and having provided full time, live-in care to two of them in the months leading up to their deaths, I identified so strongly with this movie. I strongly recommend it to anyone.
Argo and Lincoln are probably the two most talked about, and heavily favored to win, movies in the category, and rightfully so. They are excellent. Argo is exciting, well told, and well acted. I loved the story and the pacing. Lincoln was interesting and moody, by which I mean you really feel the mood of the era and the players in the ratification of the thirteenth amendment. Great films.
Now for my picks! I don't necessarily think these are the movies that will win, but they're the ones that should win. (See the full list of nominees here.)
Best Picture: Zero Dark Thirty
I couldn't get it out of my head. It had so much food for thought, was a great story and well acted. Honorable mentions to both Argo and Django Unchained. I would be happy if either of these won too.
Best Director: Michael Haneke for Amour
But really, it should be Quentin Tarantino, seriously.
Lead Actor: Daniel Day Louis for Lincoln
Honorable mentions to Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables). In any other year, either of these performances would win the Oscar. All three are transcendent. (Note: I didn't see Denzel Washington's performance in Flight.)
Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained was robbed of a nomination in this category. I thought his performance was better than every other person in this category, other than Hoffman.
Lead Actress: Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty
Honorable mentions to Quvenzhane Wallis in Beast of the Southern Wild and Emanuelle Riva in Amour. (I didn't see Naomi Watts' performance in The Impossible.)
Supporting Actress: Amy Adams in The Master
Honorable mention to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables. (I didn't see Helen Hunt in The Sessions.)
Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Honorable mention: Lincoln
Original Screenplay: Amour
Like best picture and leading actor, this category is full of great nominees and in any other year I think most of them could have won. However, my honorable mention goes to Django Unchained. (Moonrise Kingdom is right up there in my estimation too though.)
Costume Design: Snow White and the Huntsman
I didn't see Anna Karenina or Mirror Mirror and I actively hated the costumes (and hair and makeup) in Les Miserables.
Cinematography: Django Unchained
Honorable mentions to Beast of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, neither of which were nominated.
Film Editing: Argo
Visual Effects: Snow White and the Huntsman
Seriously so much better done than Life of Pi.
What are your picks? Are you going to be watching the awards tonight? I bought popcorn and red vines especially for the occasion.