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The State of the Race: Defining an Oscar Frontrunner

“I call to you, I call to you but I don’t call soft enough. There ain’t no cure for love.” – L. Cohen

The Oscar race, like an urgent search for “true love,” is rarely about finding Ms. Right, so much as it is about finding Ms. Right Now. Sometimes you get lucky and the voters lock onto something so deserving that its rightness reverberates through the hall of fame echo chamber for years to come. But more often, a well-positioned nowness is what propels a contender forward in the Oscar race. The breathtaking feat of seeing performers rise to great heights of popularity, beloved for one golden moment — achieving their place in the sun, their unequivocal fireworks burst of confirmed success.

We spend so much time looking for treasures with lasting value that we sometimes fail to appreciate the fleeting passion of the moment. When we make choices frozen in time, our immediate passions exposed for all to see, we reveal ourselves most truthfully. A passionate vote is an honest one. While it can’t be relied upon to define enduring greatness, our impulse decisions can tell us an awful lot about who we are — and when future observers look back on us years from now, it will show them who we were.

Recently on Twitter, Anne Thompson lamented the extraordinary pressure films and actors come under during the heat of the season. We can kid ourselves thinking it is just Oscar season, but the truth is, the Oscar race has swollen to such an enormous size it encompasses nearly every film that isn’t written off throughout the year. Genre films can be readily enjoyed, for the most part, without strict assessment of their artistic flair or flaws. The worse their reviews, the easier it is to separate them from the albatross of “best picture of the year.” Otherwise, we want our tastes validated by “them.” Those 6,000 or so Academy members who vote every year and seek to decide collectively, for all of us, what defines the year’s best in film.

We have alternatives to our Oscar obsession. We can blot them out, as Jim Rocchi attempts to do every year, protesting the very nature of caring about “them.” Film critics want to be above it. And for the most part they can sort of manage that. Until the end of the year comes and it’s time to start defining best. Do we ever settle for the verdict of one critics group to tell us what is best? No, we want the last big prize to decide definitively what will go down in film history as Oscar’s choice for best.

The Oscar frontrunners are those that have captured our hearts for the moment. We are blinded by love at first sight, unable to see flaws, unwilling to look at anyone else. We feel flushed at the mere thought of our favorites and, try as me might, we can’t betray our hearts. An Oscar win is rarely something carefully considered in advance. The critics groups may see themselves above it all, as they draw up decisive lists and sit around in heated discussions about what to call best>. But even these group primarily operate in service of one organ. It’s just that some of us are attracted by overt expression of emotion, some of us are attracted by cinematic genius. But it is still our heart that does the deciding. We are raised to trust our hearts and so we do.

Best Picture

The frontrunner mantle has clearly shifted now from Argo to Lincoln. It is a dangerous proposition to put a difficult film like Lincoln in that position but only someone who knows nothing about the Oscars — or those deliberately blinkered from reality — would fail to see the buzz for Lincoln building in momentum. Argo may still be the more well-liked movie across the board, but Lincoln has a few things going for it no other film can offer, at least, none that we’ve seen thus far. No doubt there will be many who dub the film boring. Many have. But the first-class filmmakers who vote for the Oscars aren’t usually the type who use the word “boring” in conversations. The reason being, thinking people have been ever so slowly squeezed out of mainstream film. They have been forced to take refuge at home on PBS, reaching for their Kindle for brain food. Not only have they just been given a film that doesn’t insult their intelligence, it is such a densely written screenplay there is much to chew on and ponder for days and weeks afterward. Although there will be a fidgety segment of the audience who kick the backs of chairs and twiddle their thumbs refusing to engage in what they see as a history lesson, many more of us welcome the history lesson and gratefully indulge in these shimmering gifts Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner, Doris Kearns Goodwin and their stellar cast have offered us.

It’s been a while since there was a movie with this level of sophistication that’s been able to pack theaters. Few films anymore endeavor to represent such a carefully prepared array of talent. The effort is clear from the time it took Doris Kearns Goodwin to write her loving portrait of Abraham Lincoln (ten years) and Steven Spielberg’s own curious mind developing her book into a working film, historical fiction, he calls it. Daniel Day-Lewis appears to have done the impossible — gracefully avoiding any trace of familiar caricature of the president. How much you love the film Lincoln will depend on how much you know — or care to learn — about the 13th amendment, and Lincoln’s life. If you know nothing about Mary Lincoln’s mental illness, Sally Field’s complex agonizing brilliance will be lost on you. If you didn’t know that Lincoln would pace outside his home while Mary raged, or that their son did in fact eventually put Mary in a mental institution you might think Sally Field’s scenes are “unimportant.” If you didn’t know that Lincoln’s beloved mother died when he was young, or that Lincoln and his older sister would be left in the woods to fend for themselves for a long time before Lincoln’s father came home with a new wife, you might not get why Lincoln ponders the fragility of existence the way he does. If you didn’t know that his older sister, who was like a second mother to him, also died — you won’t know why the specter of death clung like a shadow over the the president’s emotions for much of his adult life.

If you didn’t know that Lincoln was famous for his kindness and sympathy toward animals — confronting children who put hot stones on the backs of turtles, for instance — you might not catch the minor moment when Lincoln says of the leather gloves he’s made to wear, “these would have been better left on the cow.” Tiny details like that reveal a thousand facets of research that went into writing Kushner’s brilliant screenplay. The collaborators on Lincoln knew Lincoln’s story well, and that is, ultimately, what makes this a masterpiece.

Despite all that, how do you translate the fervor felt for a film like Lincoln into the sort of unconditional love needed to get a consensus vote at the Oscars? Is it Ms. Right? Undoubtedly. Is it Ms. Right Now? That is hard to say — especially since right now that exists today is as yet unlinked to the right now voters will inhabit when the ballots are in their hands. The box office results so far tell us, yes, there are strong signs of enduring appeal. Some grumbling males out there say no (and a few were saying no long before they had any basis in fact). People who have become attached to other movies — seen and unseen — are also saying no.

Right behind Lincoln are two films, to my mind: Argo and Silver Linings Playbook. At the weekend I will be seeing two more possibilities — Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables. Django Unchained and The Hobbit are two more that can’t disregarded. Either of those late-bloomers could be Ms. Right Now. Directors of two of these frontrunners have not yet won an Oscar. David O. Russell, who came the closest to winning an Oscar with The Fighter is back, armed with the Weinstein Co and a formidable crowdpleaser. It’s a film that plays to the very sort of people who call Lincoln “boring,” and many are calling this one their favorite film of the year. That splits voters into two factions right off the bat. In the middle of those two is Argo, which may end up being the film most voters can agree upon as best. Lincoln and Silver Linings will divide audiences along lines of temperament and tone. Such is the nature of the Oscar race for Best Picture. Chasing elusive passions, merging shared emotions.

Many of us hold hope for the possibility that Ang Lee’s Life of Pi might rise to the inner circle. Riding 3D dazzle in an entirely different direction, deep into our internal lives and the spiritual realm, Life of Pi is the kind of movie that you don’t merely like, you LOVE. That is sometimes the stuff Oscar dreams are made of. Lee has won the Oscar for directing once and was awarded the DGA prize twice, and is well overdue for one of his films to win Best Picture. One obstacle to overcome is the assumption that Best Picture is often decided by actors. Actors who probably prefer to see films densely populated with actors. Actors they lunch with. If Life of Pi were to win, it would be like The Last Emperor winning — an example that proves it’s possible.

If you’re talking a three-way split between Lincoln, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook you might be more inclined to say that Lincoln and Argo are a thinking person’s movie where Silver Linings is a movie you feel. And that’s possible too. So far, though, the race between Argo and Silver Linings has been crashed by Lincoln, a film that will probably end up towering above both, winning a whole shitload of Oscars across the board, perhaps more than we’ve seen any film collect since Slumdog Millionaire or Return of the King.

Les Miserables could swoop down and take the passionate vote and Zero Dark Thirty could give Argo some zeitgeist heat. Whatever the next few weeks reveals, it’s easy to see we’re looking at a real race this year. It will be interesting to watch what the guilds foretell in the ultimate quest for the Best Picture of 2012.

As it stands now, the Best Actress race has Jennifer Lawrence way out front. No one else can touch her in terms of reviews. Moreover, a strong Best Picture contender always helps the actors win their categories. Lawrence would be a young winner at 22, but she would be 3 times older than her biggest competition right now, Quvenzhané Wallis. All eyes on Jessica Chastain, though, to see whether her role in Zero Dark Thirty has the substance and screen time to propel her forward.

The Best Actor field has one performance towering over all the others and that’s Daniel Day-Lewis on track, perhaps, to win his third Best Actor Oscar — thus making Oscar history since no actor has won three lead actor Oscars. His main competition are Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight and John Hawkes in The Session – all three incredibly powerful performances. These rivals are competing with President Lincoln, however, and Doris Kearns Goodwin has shown us how Lincoln handles his rivals. Also in consideration, Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Perhaps Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, or Jamie Foxx for Django Unchained. Richard Gere could be looking at his first ever Oscar nomination for Arbitrage.

Supporting Actor is a tough call. If Lincoln sweeps, or near sweeps, it could carry Tommy Lee Jones along with it. But Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master and Robert De Niro for Silver Linings might also win. There is no clear frontrunner in this category at the moment.

Likewise, Supporting Actress doesn’t appear to have a clear frontrunner in spite of the fact that many are expecting Anne Hathaway to win, sight unseen. On the face of scant evidence, any blind prediction is a iffy proposition. But if anyone can do it, Hath can. If you remove Anne Hathaway from the equation you have a mightily strong performance in Sally Field. To my mind, you simply don’t see performances like this anymore since screenplays don’t often make room for them. Trained, experienced actors like Field who have been doing it for over 50 years, are few and far between. Most of the featured background player work is given to the pretty young ones. There are plenty of actresses in competition for nominations, and the best performance doesn’t always win, but right now it’s impossible to see anyone topping Field, except perhaps Hathaway.

Best Director signs also point to Lincoln. Although it’s still too early to see where the affection will go — if David O. Russell or Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck start to win Best Director honors among the critics there may be no stopping them. A wave of enthusiasm for any of them will significantly alter the tone of the Best Director race. Right now, I see Spielberg winning the DGA and going on to win his third Best Director Oscar. Because Spielberg is Spielberg, I don’t see anyone objecting. I think the DGA five will be: Steven Spielberg, Ben Affleck, David O. Russell, Ang Lee and Kathryn Bigelow. I think Oscar will match. I reserve the right to change my mind later.

The Best Adapted Screenplay categories have a frontrunner in adapted and that’s Tony Kushner’s accomplished screenplay for Lincoln. You can see where we’re going with this: Screenplay, Director, Actor…I think the Writers Guild will reward Kushner and the Oscars will likely follow suit. His biggest competition would be the screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Life of Pi.

Original Screenplay is a little more fuzzy. I don’t see any frontrunner at the moment because two of the biggest fish, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained, hasn’t yet been seen. Many of us are championing Ava DuVernay for Middle of Nowhere for a well deserving nomination. A perennial strong contender for this category will be Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom.


Cheat Sheet for November 20, 2012

(for the full cheat sheet, which will go out later today, subscribe to our mailing list)

This is the time of year when everything is crammed in at the last minute in time for voting, which is coming up pretty soon. SAG voting starts tomorrow. December 17 is when Oscar voters begin. They will be allowed to cast their ballots online now — which could mean some kinds of shifts, we’re just not sure what they are yet. Will more vote because it’s more convenient or will not make much of a difference either way?

The big news this year, something that’s worth remembering, is that Oscar ballots will be turned in BEFORE the major guild precursors announce their nominations. So Oscar nominations won’t impact guild nominations and guild nominations won’t impact Oscar nominations. It is an odd construct, the outcome to be analyzed later. That puts more heat on any award nominations that are announced before the AMPAS ballot deadline (Jan 3): National Board of Review, Los Angeles and New York Film Critics, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and the Critics Choice. Traditionally, these award nominations came too early in the race and didn’t end up reflecting how the Oscars turned out. This year? The Oscar ballots are being turned in around the same time, thus it’s reasonable to assume that they too will reflect an earlier take on the race. Interesting, eh?

That little detail has shaken things up in the tiny pocket of the world that cares about such trivialities, but there it is.

Another big even will be happening concurrently with the Oscar race – and that’s President’s Obama’s second inaugural. Take that as you will.

Up

Lincoln.

Way way up with its strong box office in limited release, the recent Gettysburg dedication by Spielberg and Doris Kearns Goodwin — it feels like All Lincoln All the Time at the moment. Will its buzz die down or will it continue to rise?

Life of Pi

A publicity blitz has brought Ang Lee and the film’s star, Saraj Sharma to talk ato various outlets. The genius of Ang Lee is ultimately what drives Pi’s strength in the Oscar race. Like Cloud Atlas, without big risks you can’t reap big rewards, and like Cloud Atlas, there will be some that go for it fully and some that reject it fully.

The Impossible: with a push by Angelina Jolie, and plenty of screenings and screeners, voters will have to decide on The Impossible, whether the actors — Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland — have the stuff or not for a nomination.

Strongest Contenders so far:
Lincoln
Argo
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom

Will need passionate support:
Anna Karenina
Amour
Cloud Atlas
The Promised Land

Coming next:
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty
The Hobbit
Django Unchained

Best Actress

Up

Jennifer Lawrence – Great reviews keep her in the number one spot.

Naomi Watts in The Impossible — a last minute passionate push could put her in the race.

The Strongest Contenders:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

Still to come:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Needs passionate support:
Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere
Emanuelle Riva, Amour
Leslie Mann, This is Forty
Meryl Streep, Hope Springs

Best Actor

Up

Daniel Day-Lewis, who could be looking at making Oscar history with his third Best Actor win.

Richard Gere – The ads for Arbitrage hit the web, which serve as a reminder that, to date, no Oscar nomination for Gere.

Joaquin Phoenix – erased his previous bad press with a positive interview about the Oscars, explaining more what he meant about his feelings. Still an uphill climb for The Master because it is a hard sell to begin with. His performance is clearly one of the best of the year.

Strongest Contenders:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
John Hawkes in The Sessions
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock

Still to come:

Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables,
Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actor

Up

John Goodman — an honest, personal interview on CBS Sunday Morning revealed some of Goodman’s demons, alcoholism among them. The trick: figuring out which role Goodman should get a nomination for — Flight or Argo.

Strongest Contenders:
Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Alan Arkin, Argo
Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild
John Goodman, Flight
John Goodman, Argo

Will need passionate support:
Matthew McConoughey, Magic Mike
Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas

Sight Unseen: Anyone in Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty or The Hobbit 

Best Supporting Actress

Up

Sally Field – Her very personal stories on the Hollywood Reporter’s Actress roundtable serve as a reminder that Field may be a pro with 50 years of acting experience behind her but she also had to fight to play Mary Lincoln, and once had to hurl “chubby Sally Field” across the ceiling at the Golden Globes.

Anne Hathaway – that her mother played the same part Hathaway did in Les Mis is just the kind of “Oscar story” that voters eat up.

Ann Dowd – Dowd has been trying to do her own publicity push for her work in Compliance. It’s never easy breaking into the acting race but Dowd’s stellar work in a difficult film earned enough buzz to justify that push.

Strongest contenders:
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master
Maggie Smith, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Will need passionate support:
Lorraine Toussaint in Middle of Nowhere
Doona Bae in Cloud Atlas
Ann Dowd, Compliance

Best Director

Up

Steven Spielberg – his Lincoln has among the best review and box office of the veteran director’s career.

Ang Lee – Life of Pi reminds us how Ang Lee doesn’t ever rest on his laurels but is always stretching as an artist, exploring new mediums and genres. His latest round of interviews have been floating around the web and screenings of Life of Pi have been getting standing ovations around town.

Strongest Contenders:
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Ben Affleck for Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Still to come:
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Will need passionate support:
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Michael Haneke, Amour
Joe Wright, Anna Karenina
Robert Zemeckis, Flight

Original Screenplay

Strongest contenders:
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere
Nicholas Jarecki, Arbitrage
Rian Johnson, Looper

Still to come:
Les Miserables
The Hobbit
Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay

Strongest contenders:
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Chris Terrio, Argo
David Magee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Dark horse possibilities:
Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

Still to come:
Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit
William Nicholson, Les Miserables

Oscar flashback:

Thirty years ago, in 1982, Steven Spielberg brought E.T. to theaters. It earned nine Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director and Screenplay. It won 4 – sound, sound editing, visual effects and score. That same year, Spielberg helped get Poltergeist made. It was the same year Blade Runner, The Thing, Fast Times at Ridgement High, Cat People, Frances, My Favorite Year, Sophie’s Choice, Tootsie, and the World According to Garp hit theaters. From among those, only Toostie was nominated for Best Picture.

Status Updates:

Les Miserables will be screening the weekend of November 24, 2012
Django Unchained had a private screening on November 12, 2012
Zero Dark Thirty will screen the weekend of the 25th, 2012
This is Forty starting to screen.

Upcoming Calendar Dates to watch out for

November release dates:
November 21
Life of Pi
Rise of the Guardians

November 23
The Central Park Five
Hitchcock
Rust & Bone

November 30
Killing Them Softly

Award Dates

November 21, 2012
Nomination ballots mailed for SAG Awards, due December 10, by noon.

December 3, 2012
New York Film Critics Announce
Producers Guild starts voting

December 4, 2012
Directors Guild starts voting

December 5, 2012
National Board of Review announces

December 7, 2012
Los Angeles Film Critics announce

December 12, 2012
SAG nominations announced

89 Comments on this Post

  1. Bob Burns

    The reactions I’ve heard about Lincoln from regular folk – even an overheard conversation in an airport – are reverent. I think this will hang around the top five and top ten box office for a very long time; the way Kings Kist, American Beauty and ABM did.

    Liked your comments about the acting, writing and directing strength Lincoln brings to its campaign.

    My feeling is that the Academy will want to add the name Lincoln to their BP list.

  2. Pierre de Plume

    I certainly agree with you, Sasha, that Lincoln looks like the frontrunner. It’s an actors movie, among other things, so the actors branch should love it despite the balanced ensemble work of Argo. However, I’m doubtful at this point as to whether Lincoln will win a boatload of Oscars. Pic, Actor, Director, screenplay, possibly supp. actress or supp. actor. Because the film has been described as restrained, there seems to be room for showier technical work in other films to be rewarded. I think there may be a limit to how much overt love Hollywood is willing to impart to Mr. Spielberg at this point.

  3. Lincoln does seem to be the most important if not the best movie of the year. I think the narrative that Sally Field, DDL, and Speilberg could all win record third oscars together for the same film could become a helpful narrative.

    HOW DO YOU BEAT KUSHNER? Hes a legend and the screenplay is a massive accomplishment.

    All eyes on Les Mis…

  4. cannot ignore tom hooper, quentin tarantino, p.t.anderson and maybe peter jackson. although the five sasha picked seemed most likely.

  5. Good article identifying Lincoln as the current front runner. If the film does continue to gain momentum, I could see a second nominee in supporting actor, either Strathairn or Spader. Also just seeing Sally Field get her third nomination after all these years will be so exciting, like they have finally forgiven/forgotten her notorious speech for Places in the Heart.

  6. Reactions both critical and public to Lincoln is incredible. I haven’t seen that type reactions for a long time. If this wins it will be finest BP winner in past years.

  7. I hope it does win it really deserves it and same with DDL.
    Off topic:a really great interview with Keira Knightley on Charlie Rose http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12659

  8. I believe Best Picture was one of “Tootsie”‘s 10 nominations.

    I tend to agree that Lincoln has a very Oscarish feel. Period, epic in that the story is of great historic significance, pedigreed director, actors and screenwriter. And I think you are right, Sasha, in taking note of the fact that our first African-American president will be taking his second oath of office right in the middle of all of this after a bruising campaign which clearly demonstrated that race is still a powerfully relevant issue 140+ years later. That feels very Ms. Right Now. Historical accuracy may also play into this. I loved Argo, but after I read that much of the movie is pure fiction, I didn’t love it less, but I no longer felt as attached to it as when I first saw it because it no longer seem “true”. I haven’t seen any fact-checking stories on “Lincoln” yet, but given the well-respected source author, I’m guessing that there isn’t too much tinkering with the important points of history there. I’m going to see Lincoln tomorrow night and I can’t wait (it’s exactly the kind of movie that I like… “talky” and character-driven)!

  9. The Dark Knight Rises has a better chance than Cloud Atlas, Promised Land, Moonrise Kingdom, and Anna Karenina.

  10. Lincoln is a good film. But how hard is it to sell a film about Lincoln with talented actors and a director that the academy and the public know and love in the United States ?

    This coming weekend Argo will pass the 100 million mark. It’s already 132 million internationally. I can’t remember the last time a political movie about Persia/Middle East made this much money. It’ll be the story of this weekend together with the buzz from Les Miserables.

    I’m not gonna be mad if Lincoln wins. I’ll rejoice if Silver Linings doesn’t get a sniff.

  11. unlikely hood

    Here’s every Jake post ever:

    Blah blah blah blah Dark Knight Rises blah blah blah blah

  12. unlikely hood

    Genre films can be readily enjoyed, for the most part, without strict assessment of their artistic flair or flaws. The worse their reviews, the easier it is to separate them from the albatross of “best picture of the year.” Otherwise, we want our tastes validated by “them.” Those 6,000 or so Academy members who vote every year and seek to decide collectively, for all of us, what defines the year’s best in film.
    We have alternatives to our Oscar obsession. We can blot them out, as Jim Rocchi attempts to do every year, protesting the very nature of caring about “them.” Film critics want to be above it. And for the most part they can sort of manage that. Until the end of the year comes and it’s time to start defining best. Do we ever settle for the verdict of one critics group to tell us what is best? No, we want the last big prize to decide definitively what will go down in film history as Oscar’s choice for best.

    Great points. Everyone is above the Oscars – until they aren’t.

    I’m interested in how much more box office-y this year will be, compared to last year. Was The Help the only BP nominee that cleared $100 mil? This year feels more like 2010, when even The Fighter and Black Swan surprised people by crossing into nine-figure territory.

    It’s hardly a sure thing, but it seems like all the frontrunners are poised to crack the $100 mil mark – to the point where it may *hurt* a film if it can’t get there (I’m looking at Life of Pi and Zero Dark 30 – not looking happily, because I’m poised to love those films).

    If Beasts doesn’t make it, that will certainly be a big part of the post-mortem.

    Being a $100 mil hit won’t be a sufficient condition – to wit, TDKR and The Hobbit and Django will probably be iffy right up til nomination day – just a possible necessary one.

  13. I too think Lincoln is the frontrunner.

    I think Argo is going to squeak in a win at the Globes, though.

  14. Frontrunners:

    ARGO

    THE MASTER

    After them, LINCOLN.

    The rest, only good possibilities of surprises…

  15. Lincoln became the zeitgeist film when President Obama won re-election. Much more than Zero Dark Thirty. He has tied himself to Lincoln from the day he announced his run for the presidency. Modelled his cabinet around the Team of Rivals concept. He also wouldn’t be president were it not for Lincoln. The film became a Frontrunner due to wonderful reviews, great box-office and gravitas regarding the subject. Even those bored by it respect it. Argo lost steam some weeks ago but Ben Afflect is still Frontrunner for Director as a reward for the film. Lincoln’s reward is BP and BA.

  16. the other mike

    If Day Lewis wins his third best actor oscar, is he officially the greatest actor ever? be hard to argue against.

  17. Lincoln is The Color Purple – it will win 0 of its 11 nominations.

  18. DDL winning over Phoenix? I don´t think so…

  19. Good article. I’ve felt the tide turning toward Lincoln as front runner for about a week now. When I saw it, I immediately thought that its probably one of the most important films of the year. At the same time, its also a great movie. What a relief! We can’t rely on the Adademy voting for most important though, and that’s why I have a nagging feeling ol’ Tom Hooper is going to once again reinforce the “hate” aspect of the love/hate relationship I have with Oscar.

  20. I’m not a predictor but I feel like guessing the BP nominees right now. :P

    Argo
    Cloud Atlas
    The Dark Knight Rises
    Django Unchained
    Les Miserables
    Lincoln
    Silver Linings Playbook

    *steps back and looks at it*

    Yup. I like it. Only 7. All big guns. ZERO DARK THIRTY and THE HOBBIT aren’t there because of recent recognition for their peoples. But if there were going to be 8 or 9 then them. But I think this year, because all the films will be seen, there’s going to be bunching. Popular films will be popular but they’ll have their factions and many people will probably be going “eeny, meeny”.

    And I still don’t know what the hell LIFE OF PI is. I’ll see it. But I’ve been avoiding anything but the non-descript trailers. I’m wondering if I have to see it in 3D or what. I have no idea what it’s supposed to do to me. Either way it seems too obscure to make it, especially with all those heavy hitters out there.

  21. julian the emperor

    The Other Mike: I happen to think that DDL winning a third Oscar has next to nothing to do with him being the greatest actor ever or not.
    Of course, the discussion is pretty pointless to begin with, but even it it wasn’t, who says that statuettes on the mantelpiece has anything to say concerning the matter? That make the likes of Kubrick and Hitchcock some of the least likely contenders (they wouldn’t even qualify, really) for the gong of best director ever, which is equally absurd.

    I think the wise thing to do, is to completely separate the domain of Oscar from the domain of all time excellence, or whatever. The two just don’t fit that well together. The Oscars, as Sasha often points out, is a popularity contest and as stated above, about the right now. You cannot base a definition of all-time excellence, in my view, on popularity in-the-moment (which is just as often about the lowest common denominator as not).

    My personal view on DDL: He IS, actually, a viable contender for that coveted (or not so coveted?) spot. I would call him one of the most dedicated actors ever. That counts for something. I think DDL himself would prefer that tag over any claim to be the “greatest ever”.

  22. julian the emperor

    Antoinette: Life of Pi is too “obscure” to make the bp line-up, yet you keep a spot for Cloud Atlas?? I can’t say I get the logic behind that.

  23. rufussondheim

    Was going to see Lincoln today, but my schedule went askew and opted for The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

    If any film I see from this year makes me feel more excited and alive than Perks did, I will be an ecstatic camper for sure.

    So far, my fave 3 of the year (Only three really worth promoting at this point)

    1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower
    2) Take This Waltz
    3) Argo.

    I know there will be time for this later, but I’d love to see other people’s choice for faves of the year thus far, please list as many or as few as you like. (I’m asking because I want to try to catch up on some films from earlier this year that I missed and can catch on DVD)

  24. ChrisFlick

    I’m not getting Maggie Smith in Marigold Hotel as a frontrunner nominee. I’d watch her in anything but it seems to me that category would have to be awfully weak for her to get in. But since everyone here likes to dole out history and parallels here’s another, Marigold Hotel / California Suite. Still maintain PSH is Lead in The Master, that would be the worst form of category collusion. Otherwise I find myself unexpectedly in the Lincoln camp, surprised at how strongly it has stayed with me; the pure pleasure of that script and the opportunities it afforded that terrific cast. They can engrave the Adapted Screenplay Oscar now and hand it out at the Governors Awards.

  25. Well, The AFI’s greatest actor of all time only has one Oscar. The second greatest won zero Oscar. As such I don’t see DDL winning a third Oscar pushing him toward the greatest actor of all time.

    That said, DDL officially replaced De Niro and Brando as my favorite actor of all time. The guy has given greatish performances in classics/masterpieces, unlike the acting goddesses who have been shinning in pooh pooh films.

  26. I think Bob Burns made an astute observation:
    “My feeling is that the Academy will want to add the name Lincoln to their BP list.”

    That sums it up – “important” prestige film, extremely well made and acted, and a noticeable step up in the evolution of Hollywood’s most successful director. I don’t think anybody can beat that.

    Personally, I was completely bewitched by The Master and had the movie-time of my life with Cloud Atlas when I lost my first-run IMAX cherry; next is Life of Pi (first time I’ll be going for the 3D version) and Zero Dark Thirty. I fully expect these to be in my top seven, with Lincoln, Beasts, and Argo. For the first time in a very long time I don’t know which one I would deem the best of the year.

    Also, a little shout out for Ben Whishaw of Cloud Atlas – astounding performance deserving of a supporting nom.

  27. You said that there was a private screening of Django on the 12th…how have we not heard anything of this? Any word on how it is?

  28. And I really really wish that there would be room for David Strathairn for supporting nod. I thought he was great.

  29. Team of Rivals was one of my favorite books, and I am expecting wonderful things from Lincoln this weekend despite DDL not being a favorite actor. If it does do will at the Oscars, I won’t be upset despite being a major Les Mis backer. However good the rest of the movies might be this year, and there are many wonderful ones, none come close to the power and universal human themes that these two films present. For the first time in years, it feels as if there will truly be an Oscar show with actual suspense and interest.

  30. That Film Awards Show

    Great post. I enjoyed very much your commentary on certain items I wasn’t aware of about Lincoln. What a significant picture this is. Such a combination of restraint and skill. Time will have to tell on the masterpiece status of this film amongst Spielberg’s. I was most impressed by Day-Lewis who is just absolutely in a different league from other actors. The detail he inhabited in this role, the melancholy, the wit, the command through restraint and the opposite of showboating and pomp. But, the sadness is just so apparent throughout. But I could name off countless other members of cast and crew to praise. The incredible thing is, though 3 acting nominations are in the bag, in my opinion, past those 3, there are perhaps 8 others that could be next in line to get nominations, at least. One of the deepest casts I’ve seen in years. Hawkes, I mean talk about the detail of minor characters, another triumph for John Hawkes and he hardly even gets mentioned due to how frickin deep the cast is… including, allow me to digress, Mel’s husband from Flight of the Conchords! Even if it doesn’t win Best Picture, I think it deserves at least the honor of Best ensemble, because there is no denying the acting assemble put together here. Absolutely spectacular. I guess some may say it’s boring, but its the kind of boring where you could sit through 3 hours and then just go back and see it again right away.

  31. Oh, and by the way, I definitely think the inauguration adds a lot to Lincoln’s chances. This movie is all about zeitgeist, and that at least keeps it in the forefront of people’s minds with the history aspect.

  32. QUIET – Sweet Smell of Success is on and I’ve never seen it.

  33. Couldn’t agree more about “Lincoln.” It could win Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design and Film Editing. It even has a chance to tie “Ben-Hur,” and “Titanic,” if it manages to win Best Makeup or Best Original Score as well.

  34. Measuring passion from Metacritic (100 = 2 pts, 88+ = 1 pt), as passion is important for noms:
    Beasts (21*2)+9/44=116
    Master (15*2)+10/43=93
    Argo (13*2)+12/45=84
    Lincoln (11*2)+12/41=83
    Silver Linings (7*2)+13/40=68
    Moonrise Kingdom (8*2)+13/43=67

  35. Just saw Lincoln last night and all I can say is “Wow.” How long has it been since we’ve seen such an intelligent and masterful film that doesn’t need to appeal to the most common denominator. I’d have to agree with you that right now Lincoln is the one to beat. The only other film that I think could have a chance is Les Miserables…it’s one of the all-time great stage musicals, and if it’s done right, it will be a knock-out. I might even say that Hugh Jackman – if he nails it – could take the John Hawkes spot. But we’ll have to wait to see…

    Oh, one addition to your Adapted Screenplay: Don’t count out The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’ve seen this film 4 times already, and all four times, the audience has bursted in applause and have seen young and old alike sitting there in tears… It’s quite a remarkable achievement, and for me is second only to Lincoln as best film of the year.

  36. Great piece once again, Sasha, by the way can you write about Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty this weekend or there will be some kind of an embargo-situation ? And if that will be the case, can we expect at least a few crucial breadcrumbs right after you see these two ?

    Unless Les Miserables is a masterpiece, Lincoln will win this WITHOUT A DOUBT. If Les Miserables IS a masterpiece, they could cancel each other out, considering they are going head to head in the very same categories with the exception of Score/Song : both have strong male central characters, neither has a female lead, both will compete in adapted screenplay, either could sweep the supporting categories (Hathaway vs. Field / Crowe vs. Jones), both are considered very strong contenders in the very same technical categories (cinematography, editing, costume, set, makeup and maybe sound, sound editing).

    So to me, there are only two questions left about Best Picture (and neither is relevant if Les Miserables disappoints, in that case, Lincoln will go all the way) : if Les Miserables and Lincoln go head to head with comparable success (rave reviews+strong BO), will they cancel each other out (they compete in the same categories) ? IF they cancel each other out which film is the lucky third ?

    My money is on Zero Dark Thirty. If it becomes a top5 player (BP/BD), it will be probably the only one with an original screenplay (and clearly the Academy uses the term loosely), Argo-Playbook-LesMis-Lincoln are all in adapted therefore in a separate battle, and if ZD30 hits the right notes, it could have acting nominations (Chastain, Ehle, Clarke), picture/director nods and could EASILY take Original Screenplay considering it would be the only top5 contender in the category.

    It would be fascinating to me if Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained would all turn out to be masterpieces. THEN what ? Les Miserables and Lincoln are going head to head in the very same categories minus score/song; slavery-themed Lincoln and Django could weaken each other; ZD30 and Argo – both dealing with real life top secret secret service operations – could cancel each other out in the final stage, so basically the ones without direct genre competition, would be Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook, but latter seems rather light fare compared to its massive, massive drama competition. We’ll see, we’ll see !

    For now :

    1. Lincoln (frontrunner)
    2. Les Miserables (on-paper biggest threat…on paper)
    3. Argo (solid top5 contender, probably won’t win, though)
    4. Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow-Chastain pair will be hard to resist)
    5. Silver Linings Playbook (BD-nod over Lee, PTA, Tarantino, Jackson, Nolan ?)
    6. Django Unchained (might be too divisive for the Academy)
    7. Life of Pi (great potential to make the top5)
    8. The Hobbit (the Academy LOOOVED LOTR…)
    9. The Impossible (could be the season’s biggest surprise)
    10. The Dark Knight Rises (I know…wishful thinking)

    11. The Master (arguably best directing achievement yet no bp/bd nod ?)
    12. Beasts of the Southern Wild (the competition is simply too strong)
    13. Skyfall (the Academy-screening was a smash, could it actually happen ?)
    14. Moonrise Kingdom (I might be wrong, but is there any buzz left ?)
    15. Anna Karenina (the Academy surprised with P&P and Atonement)
    16. Cloud Atlas (pulling a Tree of Life ? the 5% rule definitely helps)
    17. Amour (no foreign language film made it since they expanded the category)
    18. The Sessions (the director has the kind of story the Academy LOVES)
    19. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (could it resonate with older voters ?)
    20. Quartet (ditto + Academy fave acting legend’s directing debut + Weinstein)

  37. @Julian the Emperor

    Well I don’t think CLOUD ATLAS is obscure at all. I’ve said that many times. People who can’t figure it out probably can’t work a paper bag.

  38. Sorry, but Life of Pi seems to me like something M. Night Shymalan would do. What, 3 different directors tossed their hands up and said this unfilmable, hallucinogenic clusterfuck makes Cloud Atlas look mainstream in comparison. Also, I think Tarantino will be the equivalent of being on a milk carton, so missing in action he and Django Unchained will be.

  39. Matt O'Callaghan

    PaulH, I want to know what your favourite films are so far this year? Aside from The Avengers and Here Comes the Boom.

    I want to hear some positivity from you Captain Laugh-a-minute

  40. This year is turning out to be absolutely amazing for Oscar followers….and I’m hoping that Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, and The Hobbit all turn out to be excellent to keep us all guessing. It’s no fun when one film or one performance sweeps everything. The acting races are stacked with so many potential three-time winners. I do think the Academy will *not* give a third for Actor or Director lightly, though Spielberg and DDL have done some of their best work in Lincoln. If one solid alternative emerges, Oscar will probably go that way…but that’s a giant if. Lincoln is the one to beat, and boy was it a powerful film.

    Phantom–your thinking is quite keen in considering what could happen if votes start canceling each other out. If Les Mis and Lincoln prove strongest, could another picture sneak in and surprise?? I keep thinking back to past Oscars, and how we’ve seen genre films weaken each other. I’m sure Saving Private Ryan fell victim to this with Thin Red Line and Life Is Beautiful, as Shakespeare In Love surged. Could this become Sound of Music (huge musical, one-time Best Director winner) VS. Dr. Zhivago (sprawling epic, two-time BD winner) all over again with Les Mis and Lincoln??

    God I hope this stays interesting.

  41. My predictions so far…

    1. Lincoln
    2. The Dark Knight Rises
    3. Cloud Atlas
    4. Flight
    5. Silver Linings Playbook
    6. The Impossible
    7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    8. Life of Pi
    9. Les Miserables
    10. Argo

  42. Also–when there is so much strong competition, another example of something we might see could happen in the acting categories. I think back to the Adrien Brody win, when the Academy could have awarded Jack his fourth, DDL his second, Michael Caine his third, or Nicholas Cage his second. But what did they do? They awarded the newcomer. In what we all presumed was a two-man race between Jack and DDL, Adrien Brody was able to sneak in. (I actually think that had Richard Gere been the one nominated he could have won.) Since there are so many previous winners in the game this year, we may see someone like Hugh Jackman come out on top in Best Actor…or others who have never won before.

  43. Robert A.

    I don’t know. Am I the only AD regular who doesn’t consider Lincoln the second coming of film-making?

    I did like Lincoln and admired it. I think DDL is going to be only the second actor (after the Great Kate) to win a third lead actor Oscar. The movie is terrifically well-acted. Check. (Plus, could I put in a personal plug for Sally Field, who I’ve had a soft spot for since Sybil, and who I thought was also wonderful in Lincoln?) The movie is also very well-written. Check. Finally, Lincoln is for the most part beautifully shot. Check. So why do I feel that the individual parts of Lincoln are greater than the whole of Lincoln?

    I admit that this may be my own bias. Like I said, there’s so much to admire about the movie–the acting, the literacy of the script. If people are going to this movie in droves, this can only be a good thing, certainly better than flocking to Twilight or to one of the Paul H. movies like Hunger Games. But for me, Lincoln is just so damned NOBLE, so semi-sermonizing that I feel a little separated from it. In a way, Lincoln as a BP winner feels a little like a 1980’s BP winner such as Gandhi, although Lincoln is both similar to Gandhi and a far better movie than Gandhi, if that makes any sense.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only seen seven 2012 releases to far this year, and already I’ve liked The Master (loved it!), Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Argo better than I liked Lincoln. The fact that so many AD posters are treating Lincoln like it’s the best movie to come around in years, frankly, surprises me. Is this an AD “echo chamber” reaction, or is it really a legitimate force that I’m just not responding to? Probably the latter.

    This may be the last post I make to AD for awhile because I have this feeling I’m going to get heckled off the thread. I just wanted to offer an alternative viewpoint to what I feel is this group-think developing about Lincoln. How we respond to movies is a little like falling in love–sometimes there’s a person/movie who we know we should fall in love with, and yet we just DON’T! That’s how I felt about Lincoln. (Please tell me Jeffrey Wells and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way, because I may have to slash my wrists if I’m left alone on an island with Jeffrey Wells). And Sasha, please don’t defriend me on FB, because I love all your pro-Obama posts! :)

  44. Pierre de Plume

    I won’t heckle you, Robert A. You make good points. I think one reason people are so excited about Lincoln is that it’s a very good film AND it’s noble in an Oscary sort of way AND its timing and publicity have lucked out — a combination that’s difficult to top.

  45. The German

    Why are some of you comparing Lincoln to Obama? It is totally unwarranted. This is solipsism run wild. Sure, the country is divided. But it is nowhere near the hostilities that persisted during the Civil War. Some of you need to read a history book once in a while.

  46. Adamina Lambert

    “I reserve the right to change my mind later.” – You already shifted your attention from Argo to Lincoln and you still want to change later? Oh fickle lady.

  47. Shouldn’t Les Miserables be on the adapted screenplay. Victor Hugo’s book and then the stage muscial.

  48. Simon Warrasch

    Personally i’m most interested about the Category “Performance by an Leading Actress”. And in that category my Dream Nominations would be:

    Marion Cotillard – Rust & Bone
    Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
    Emanuelle Riva – Amour
    Naomi Watts – The Impossible
    Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook

  49. To me Lincoln isn’t perfect, but is the one “I fell in love with”. I cannot help but admire the effort’s quality and beauty. It doesn’t mean others are not on the same level, however. But so far I’m doubting any other film will make me so engaged and inspired. I simply was transported to a different time when I saw it; made me want to know more, learn more and contribute more when it ended. And this story is not even the story of MY country and people.

    Unless Les Mis or 0D30 can WOW me too, this is it, this year, Lincoln are going to be “The One”.

  50. “I’ve liked The Master (loved it!), Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Argo better than I liked Lincoln…. is it really a legitimate force that I’m just not responding to? ”

    No, Robert A, you are not alone. Many of us are just responding to the fact that the film is as good as it is and (the Gandhi success is a good comparison) Lincoln is exactly what AMPAS like to reward when it has the opportunity to do so.

    I’m with you on The Master and Beasts. Argo could be this year’s French Connection. I was elated by Cloud Atlas and expect great things from Pi and Zero. Where Lincoln falls when the dust settles is an unknown right now, but it is a great piece of work from SS, Kushner and cast, and that’s what most are reacting to, I think.

    Oscar prognosticators see its accomplishments and are calling it accordingly; for me, while it currently sits in 3rd or 4th position, it is still a surprising gem.

  51. steandric

    Naomi Watts for “The Impossible” IS in the race despite your endeavor to play her down.

  52. As the title suggests, I think unless Les Miserables surpasses the hype surrounding it by a mile, Best Picture is Lincoln’s to lose. Sorry, Argo.

    I mean, Lincoln has everything an Oscar-Winning Film needs and more. It has no weak spot. Prestigious subject matter? Check. Critically and commercially popular(and arguably the greatest) director? Check. The “World’s Greatest Living Actor” in the leading role? Check. A star-studded cast other filmmakers would die for? Check. A screenplay written by a Pulitzer-prize winner? Check. Flawless production design and technicals? Check. Sly humour? Check. Box-office showing? Check. Raving critical acclaim? Audience love? Check-a-roo.

    Lincoln seems all but secured for 12 categories(Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Production Design, Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup) and may be nominated for two more(Sound Editing, Sound Mixing). Two previous films with 14 nominations(All About Eve, Titanic) ended up sweeping the Oscars. If Lincoln does emulate the feat, it will be difficult to see it losing Best Picture. With Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay wins nearly in the bag, it does seem unstoppable at the moment.

  53. rufussondheim

    Robert A, I am with you on all of the pro-Lincoln sentimentaround here. It feels very much like groupthink. And it saddens me that so many are giving it a sense of inevitability before other films even open.

    I don’t see the critical concensus around Lincoln just yet. Beasts still has far more 100’s on Metacritic (21 to 11, I think), as does The Master and Argo so it’s unlikely Lincoln will start sweeping critics awards when December comes around. If it does, then I can see the inevitability factor surrounding it.

    It’s still early, although Lincoln does seem positioned well. But I still think Les Miz is the one to beat. Along with Hugh Jackman.

  54. Wow, reading this makes me kinda sad. So, you’re telling me that if I don’t know things about how Lincoln was I won’t be able to recognize how great a film it is? I hope it won’t be like that, because I’m from Chile, and I know just the basics about Lincoln.

  55. Loved your post, phantom.

    And I also want the big 4 that are left to be seen to come through – making it one heck of an Oscar year.

  56. I think the rule of Lawrence will come to an end in the next few weeks. Chastain will take over and bring it home.

  57. Thanks, John, after all these clean sweeps in recent years, it would be nice to have an open race for once. If the early word on Saturday isn’t unanimous praise for Les Miserables, the race is basically over. So I really hope the unseens will turn out to be masterpieces. If they don’t, we will have another boring season, although this time around at least it would end with a deserving winner. That would be an improvement already…

  58. I’m still clenching to my prediction that the BP race will be a manages-a-trois between Lincoln (clearly the frontrunner before Les Miz), Les Miz (if it does its thing, will easily overtake Abe) and Silver Linings (small in scale, big on heart and needed for balance)

    Doubt anything else will break that mold too much, and I’m a huge fan of Life of Pi (for those wondering if you should see it in 3D or not, yes you should definitely see it in 3D. Never has it been used so magically after Avatar) and Argo (expertly executed but sucks that its accomplishments have been/are overshadowed by Lincoln – a film with bigger names and more importance playing in the same sandbox, American history).

    As for Lincoln getting all this praise .. what I think it really is, is that Spielberg has finally made a movie that’s worth the stature his name brings (even though, in my opinion, that stature is overrated). And it’s got Day-Lewis delivering another one for the ages. Even if you walk out hating everything about the film, you still couldn’t say that Day-Lewis doesn’t deliver one of the best performances of the year.

    Lincoln still has flaws that people are casually ignoring as they get swept up in all the hullabaloo. Sally Field overdoes the hysteria for my own tastes and borders on the comical in a few scenes – unless history is meant to teach us that Mary Todd was a nuisance to Lincoln more than anything, they didn’t do a great job on her (but then again, Spielberg is not famous for having strong female roles in his films). John Williams’ music is a schmaltzgasm of uplifting horns that always sounds the same and is irritatingly cheesy. That’s one Oscar nomination that the film easily doesn’t deserve. And then there’s the perfect ending coming 10 minutes before the actual ending. Not a big surprise since we’re talking about Spielberg here. The last 10 minutes has one of the best dissolves in the film, but they are completely needless.

    Despite having just said all that, Lincoln is a great film because of its story, actors, screenplay and cinematography. I think people are just happy that Spielberg’s made another great film after seven years of WTFs.

  59. unlikely hood

    steve50 – I’ve quoted this before but just want to make sure you read it –

    “The Oscars seems to have been confused with the Nobel Peace Prize.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times, in April 1983, reacting to Gandhi’s near-sweep

    That’s a good quote to keep in mind thirty years later.

  60. I’m surprised by the lack of attention for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s clearly one of the best pictures of the year in my opinion. It SHOULD be in the top 3 for considering a best picture winner, but yet many prognosticators and comments here have it as only maybe in the top 7 or worse only in the top 10, on the outside looking in for a best picture nomination…what gives?

  61. Sooo happy to see Ann Dowd mentioned here. I look at that Hollywood Reporter Roundtable and I see a bunch of women who are starving themselves to death and look like they haven’t eaten a decent meal in months.

    And you put Ann Dowd in the middle of that group, and well, she looks like a real woman. A mother of three and two of her children are special needs cases. The youngest is an African-American child from the South Bronx whose name is Trust.

    When the academy gets wins of her story, plus the excellence of her performance.

    Magnolia is waking up and said they’d help her with the mailing and postage of the 6000 DVD screeners she has to pay for HERSELF to said to every academy member.

    And then there’s the SAG nominating committee.

    And the HFPA(but that’s only 94 or so people.)

    Sasha has always been a phenomenally powerful force in recent years. Esp. when it comes to Actresses in Indie Films. Like for instance Melissa Leo in “Frozen River’ and like for instance Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” which Sasha kept advocating for and voila! They got their nominations. But they also had companies that were willing to pay for Oscar ads. Something I think Ann Dowd cannot do herself.

    Oscar campaigns COST.A. LOT. And if it’s Disney or Universal they have the money, goodness knows, and the man-power.

    It’s a wonder ANY small films get recognized at all. Never mind a middle-aged character actress like Dowd who is just simply a brilliant talent.

  62. Catherine

    rufussondheim:
    groupthink? Oh the snarks are always ready with the cospiratorial masses-are-gullible BS. If anything, Lincoln is the anti-Oscar bait contender. It expects you to know stuff. Its a too-bad-if-you-don’t-history-no-compromise film on so many levels. As Sasha said, if you don’t know that Mary Todd was “too much”, then you certainly won’t get Sally Field’s performance. If anything, they may have toned Mary down.
    The reference to Gandhi is a funny one: how exactly do you make a film about great people? I love that Lincoln wears its heart on its sleeve by all parties involved. If your too-cool-for-schooland/or cynical to appreciate it, than that’s not Spielberg’s problem.
    I mean, in that line of thinking, no one could ever make a film about great people or great things without the cynics snarking about ‘groupthink’, as if its corny to be moved or have a reverence for something or someone.
    Lincoln dares to be great, and dares to be important – but also seems rooted in the passions and creative visions of its particpants.
    Reject it if you will, but don’t pretend that Lincoln is some kind of Goliath spoiling the Oscar party for all the little Davids. Lincoln is the ultimate underdog, rogue film.

  63. Unlikely hood – Yes – and I agree with that. The comparison was only that they are both grand period biopics that have a thread of “importance” that Oscar loves. Comparing them in quality, Lincoln is superior (I though Gandhi was a rambling mess).

    Good points, Catherine. Indeed, this is the first Spielberg movie where you are better off knowing “stuff”, which is definitely rogue of him. For most (not all) of his previous work, you didn’t to know anything, just have reflexes to react.

    I would also say that it’s the favorite in the race so far because it’s so damn good, not because it’s “baity”. Naysayers are way off on this one.

  64. rufussondheim

    Catherine, I wasn’t commenting on the quality of Lincoln, I haven’t seen it. Just commenting on how everyone seems to have drunk the kool-aid. Now, when I do see it, I might also drink the Kool-aid. I have no idea, just pointing out how it looks like from someone on the outside looking in.

    Don’t forget that two months ago, everyone here drank The Master Kool-Aid flavor. Everyone was saying how it was a shoo-in and Phoenix was a shoo-in for Best Actor.

    And in between we had Argo.

    So I take all this praise with a grain of salt. There is no way I think Lincoln has this wrapped up. It’s still way too early for final proclamations.

    ———————

  65. rufussondheim

    Saw Silver Linings today.

    It got off to a nice start, I was digging the film for quite awhile, was captivated by Cooper and then Lawrence, and especially the scene they met and discussed the various mood-altering drugs they’ve taken.

    I felt I was watching a film that others seemed to have missed. I didn’t find it as lightweight as people suggested. After all, people with manageable mental illnesses are uncommon characters in film, and the early themes of how does one adust to the world when the world puts so much pressure on them to conform is far more meaty an idea than I expected from this film.

    And just when I was totally captivated, it all fell apart. When Patrick (Bradley Cooper) decided to go back on medication, something he fought against the entire film, that was the last we heard of it. Early on, he complained it made him feel suppressed, but apparently that never happened this go round. He never once commented on how this drug affected him.

    And the movie just got worse from there as every romantic comedy cliche began to take root and blossom in the second half. By the end I can’t say I hated or even disliked the film. It was competently made, but it’s in no way interesting enough to recommend it over any of the other quality films out there. (In a lot of ways, this movie has a lot of common with Perks of Being a Wallflower, but that movie was so sincere and so heartfelt, it’s quality is vastly superior to this conventional Hollywood film.)

    Now I thought Jennifer Lawrence was good here, but for once I will agree with PaulH – she was much more interesting in The Hunger Games and if she gets a nomination I’d much prefer to see it come from that movie instead.

    Now David O’Russel’s first three films were Spanking the Money, Flirting with Disaster and then Three Kings. All three were vastly more interesting than The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook. It’s a shame. Three Kings is amongst my very favorite and I thought O’Russell was about to have an amazing career. Oh well. I guess I was wrong.

  66. unlikely hood

    Right, it’s not that Attenborough’s Gandhi is terrible (I think I like it more than you Steve) but that there’s something particularly easy about casting a vote for a biopic about a world-historical figure who’s practically a secular saint. That shouldn’t take away from Lincoln, but somehow, for its declaimers, I think it will.

    You know, I liked Sasha’s points, echoed by some of you, that the more you know, the more you like Lincoln. Let me celebrate a case in point that hasn’t yet come up on this site (or any other, as far as I know).

    I went back and re-read “Team of Rivals” to confirm my suspicion: Thaddeus Stevens is literally in one line of Chapters 25 and 26 – the book’s only chapters that discuss 1865. If movie Stevens is based on Goodwin, he’s based on things Goodwin didn’t put in the book. Goodwin profiled other radical Republicans more thoroughly. But see, I suspect a (not well) hidden agenda from Spielberg.

    Every semester, in university classes around the country (that Spielberg subsidizes, through generous donations), intro-to-film students watch D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915). Thaddeus Stevens – renamed Austin Stoneman, but clearly identifiable through his hair, clubbed foot, radical abolitionism, and black girlfriend – is the villain. Griffith exploited – maybe coined – the easy cinematic shorthand of a disabled person equalling evil. And it isn’t just Griffith – 30 years later, Lionel Barrymore played Thaddeus Stevens as the bad guy in an MGM film about Andrew Johnson.

    Now, Spielberg could have just rehabilitated Stevens’ reputation, and that would have been enough and jus’ fine. But he did more. He put Tommy Lee Jones in the role and let him chew some scenery. He saved Act 3’s best surprise for the Stevens part. But then there was that final shot of Stevens/Jones – that close-up, that long Mona Lisa smile into the camera. With that smile, the film said “Rest in peace, Thaddeus. This is how you will be remembered from now on, not as Griffith had you. Thank you for what you did.”

    This is what Sasha means about the more you know.

  67. unlikely hood

    Rufus – I take your review seriously because I felt very similarly about those first three films, and more lukewarm since.

    If you’re right, and I’m guessing you are, at this point the SLP brigade is sounding like the Romney campaign – willfully ignorant.

  68. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    If you’re right, and I’m guessing you are, at this point the SLP brigade is sounding like the Romney campaign – willfully ignorant.

    I said something like that on the Oscar Podcast this week. (Not sure if it was off the record).

    In the wake of Obama’s re-election, Lincoln’s legacy reminds us how Americans can be inspired to stand up with dignity and fight for what’s right.

    Had Romney won, Silver Linings Playbook would’ve paid tribute to people who try to win us over by lying to us about who they are and what they represent.

  69. Just came back from Silver LInings as well.

    This movie would have been a completely different animal if it wasn’t for O Russell. The thing that struck me the most, beyond any performance or piece of dialogue, was the editing and the camerawork. The camera was as OCD and whacked out as Patrick and it worked brilliantly. The editing is frantic and patient at all the right moments. Great example is the cop’s first appearance; oddly enough, one of my favorite scenes. “Since when do cops have business cards?” made me burst.

    That said, I kinda feel like Rufus that it was a bit too conventional and neatly packaged by the end to really stand out in such a crowded year. I feared it would be like that even before I saw it, by just reading Sasha’s headline about it – “Dr. Feelgood”.

    Jennifer Lawrence was excellent, the best I’ve seen from her (better than Hunger Games, better than Winter’s Bone, that’s all I’ve seen from her) but like someone else pointed out before, she doesn’t do anything remarkable to warrant an Oscar. That’s just Hollywood politics through and through, pushing the “it” factor because she’s such a charming, young, beautiful, all-American kinda gal. If anyone who saw Rust & Bone, Amour, The Impossible and Silver Linings says that Lawrence gives the best female lead performance I wouldn’t be able to take them too seriously. PLUS she still looks way too young for the role.

    Cooper is the one that surprised me the most though. He was excellent. I really felt for Pat, moreso than any other character in the film. De Niro delivers a performance worthy of a nomination, he reminded everyone that he’s still around when he wants to be, but is he better than Jones in Lincoln? Or Hoffman in The Master? Definitely not.

    With all the buzz and the TIFF audience award stuff, Silver Linings is officially overrated. It’s got a sharp script, solid performances, terrific editing and camerawork, but ends up being a well-constructed, mechanical Hollywood toy that does everything its manual says it will, and nothing more.

  70. rufussondheim

    I can’t imagine SLP winning BP, and I have doubts it will even be nominated at this point. But then I’m often wrong about these things. I think it’s easier to predict the nominees not having seen any of the films.

    But SLP is not a good film. The best word I can use to describe the second half is “insincere”

    Like I said above, I don’t hate the film, but it’s certainly not one of the best of the year. If anyone ever says to me this was their favorite of the year (or even near favorite) I won’t be able to trust their opinion on just about anything.

    (And Ryan, comparing SLP to Mitt Romney is disturbingly prescient. Kudos for coming up with the comparison!)

  71. rufussondheim

    Nik, my dislike of the second half of the film has less to do with how nicely it wraps up (Perks of Being a Wallflower wraps up nicely and I find no fault with that film at all) but that it forces its characters to fit into that conventional ending. All of the obstacles the characters face early on just magically melt away. They never really seem to stuggle honestly, all of their advances are unwarrented. Apparently the cure for Bi-polar disorder is to come up with a (not very) good dance routine. If life were that simple!

  72. “Apparently the cure for Bi-polar disorder is to come up with a (not very) good dance routine.”

    Okeedokee, then. Due to time constraints and my location on a mountaintop, I know I’ll have to give a pass to at least one of the big contenders for now, so SLP can wait for home-viewing. I was going to try and squeeze in a double show with SLP after Pi, but it sounds like an Ang Lee buzz-killer. Don’t need that.

  73. saw Middle of Nowhere at The Wrap screening last night and was very moved not only by the film but the filmmaker. i’m glad to see ms. duvernay on your list. she rocked that film and that q&a something fierce. kind of an undeniable talent type of person. very very great movie.

  74. rufussondheim

    I saw them both in a double feature today, but I did see SLP first. Almost lost my desire to see Life of Pi as a result. But as soon as I watched the fun and playful opening credits of Life of Pi, I knew I was in for a good experience.

  75. I see now what bothered you the most about SLP rufus. You’re right that it feels that way and like most unrealistic Hollywood films it’s all much too simple in the end.
    But when I watched it I never really bought into the whole Bi-polar thing (though Cooper acted his socks off in that scene with the doctor – but it was only that one scene where it was mentioned – they downplayed it so much that it lost importance and relevance) so the way it eased out of the story didn’t really get to me as much. I don’t think anyone was cured by the end of the film because there was no serious medical disease to be cured from.

  76. Rufus, how can you accuse people of group think if you haven’t seen the movie? Maybe it’s just that good? Critics seem to agree.

  77. rufussondheim

    More on Silver Linings… (spoilery spoilers)

    I think the other thing I really hated about the movie was that it all comes down to this bet (that the Eagles win and they get a 5 on the dance.) First off, I can’t imagine Randy accepting the bet under the circumstances. Since the DeNiro character already had bet “nearly everything” on the previous bet and lost, how could he have paid the double or nothing? Would Randy, clearly a close friend since he was the house quite frequently, expect them to sell the house or possessions to pay for the debt? You could argue that these people were addicted to gambling, but there’s no evidence of that elsewhere in the movie. It’s just that the filmmakers needed a plot device to hang on the end of the movie. And they came up with a really contrived one.

    So then let’s go to the aspect of the bet that involved Lawrence and Cooper. Is there happiness going to be defined by whether they get this score of Five? It seems like a lot of pressure to put on these two people of arguable mental illness. Now I agree that this is quite a dysfunctional family, but this seems to go beyond the pale. When you stop to think about it, it makes DeNiro look like quite a villain.

    And I really hated the score reveal… 4.9, 4.8, 4.9, 5.4… so it averages perfectly to five, when you know damn well they are going to win the bet. Do the filmmakers think the audience is stupid? Was he trying to trick us, making us think that they will only get a 4.9? It’s a small thing, I know, but it kinda isn’t, it’s just indicative of the thought process behind the film, how everything is pre-planned, how nothing organic is allowed to happen. It demonstrates that the whole film is nothing but a contrivance, there to manipulate you.

    The more I think about how this film ended, the more I hate it.

    ————————

    The one thing I did enjoy is the accuracy of the 2008 season both the Eagles and the Phillies. They got the games right (save one slip by Lawrence when she mentioned the Seattle Score being 14 to 7 – note that this counteracted the 21 to 7 score that came earlier in the movie.)

    It should also be noted that the NY Giants/Eagles game they went to was a night game, so I guess they did a ton of tailgating in the parking lot before that game began. But the weather was 48 and clear (I looked it up) so that was pretty accurate.

  78. unlikely hood

    (And Ryan, comparing SLP to Mitt Romney is disturbingly prescient. Kudos for coming up with the comparison!)

    Uh, his podcast hasn’t aired, so I got there as quick as he did. I’d call you a name, but it’s Thanksgiving. Take the stuffing out of your head. :)

  79. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “Uh, his podcast hasn’t aired…”

    I think it’s been online since Sunday night — but if you didn’t listen yet then you arrived at the same place through your own route. You can be Edison. I’m satisfied being Tesla.

  80. Unlikely hood – Your post about the redemption of Thaddeus Stevens gave me chills. Good stuff, mate.

  81. If the Oscars were announced tomorrow.

    BEST PICTURE:
    1. Argo
    2. Lincoln
    3. Playbook
    4. The Master
    5. Life of Pi
    6. Flight
    7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    8. Moonrise Kingdom
    9. Skyfall
    10. The Sessions

  82. Joaquin Phoenix is still the frontrunner for Best Actor.
    There was nothing exciting or overwhelming about Day-Lewis as Lincoln.
    yeah, yeah, looks like him (costume/make-up), sounds like him….big deal…
    we’ll see what hugh jackman does next month, but doubt it will top joaquin.
    never watching lincoln again! boring as dull. i guess you had to actually be there when they passed the 13th amendment.

  83. Sasha, I have been reading the twitter feeds, because Les Miserables has had some special screening in London. All the reviews are great. Praising Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, & Broadway’s Aaron Tveit. Even, the highly respected , Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye is praising the film and the performances. He mentioned that it will be a contender for Oscar and Bafta Awards. EW’s Anthony Breznican saw the movie, and he expects Oscar nominations. He said Hathaway is the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress.

    I really believe, now, Les Mis is the one to beat. I expect many acting nominations: Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, Barks, Redmayne, and possibly others.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2237100/Les-Miserables-Why-Hugh-Jackmans-proud-singing-Les-Miserables-.html

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/21/les-miserables-hugh-jackman-anne-hathaway-2/#more-87877

  84. This is another example of Sasha trying to influence the race through hyperbolic rhetoric.

  85. Catherine

    Rufus,
    If you haven’t seen Lincoln, how can you accuse the ‘masses’ of ‘drinking the Koolaid’?
    I get that you don’t want to blindly anoint a film sight-unseen based only on its pedigree: Spielberg, Kushner, Abraham Lincoln etc…and the easy reaction to the kind of praise its getting is a natural *yikes* to the objective film goer, commentator etc…
    ‘Oh, another IMPORTANT SUBJECT MATTER OUT TO BAIT OSCAR’
    I used to get that feeling every time a Merchant/Ivory film would come out…or yet another British period/set piece about this queen or that king…
    Around Oscar time, I generally root for the underdog films/passion projects that regenerate my love of film and scoff at the usual suspects who get lauded year after year….
    And I’m telling you: Lincoln is not typical popcorn/epic fare. Its got some balls.

  86. Correct me if Im wrong but, I dont believe any actor has WON an Academy Award under Spielberg’s direction, however there is a good chance 3 might win with Lincoln.

  87. rufussondheim

    Catherine, everyone (until yesterday) was practically anointing Lincoln as the clear winner. This has happened before. Like twice. With The Master and then with Argo. It’s flavor-of-the-month. And now it looks like it’s about to be Les Miz’s turn. All Kool-Aid, all groupthink. I’m not anti- any of these films. I’m pro-let’s-see-them-all-and-then-make-up-your-mind-on-what-is-best.

  88. unlikely hood

    Thanks Dane.

    Whoops Ryan.

    Onto new posts.

  89. Terrific post Sasha.

    BP reality based on the way the current is moving: Argo or Lincoln.
    BP hope based on my own personal enjoyment: Cosmopolis

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