[disclaimer: this and everything posted on this website written by me is my opinion, my own thoughts on the matter, and should never be confused with absolutes.]
The truth about we crazy humans is that most of us like to be on the winning side. It feels good to win. It sucks to lose. When you lose your testosterone drops if you’re a male and that probably feels like what post-partum depression feels like to women. Just a guess. I’m not a doctor. And I don’t even play one on TV. Hannibal does it to amuse himself!
But the problem with that is that the egg timer starts ticking on the winners and before long, they are hated. With a passion. Many of us fight this urge to hate on a winner we deem unworthy for the big prize. Argo is in the hot seat right now for that one. The Oscars now more than ever feel like a political election more than they do a meditation on the year’s best. Is it the team mentality we all contribute to every day? Is it the inevitable result of the global popularity of reality competitions? Is it the explosion of the awards watching industry? Or os it simply human nature, as old as time, impulses that drove the Romans to make a sport out of life or death? We are living through Paddy Chayefsky’s version of humanity in Network over and over again.
If they Oscar race (the industry race as we should now refer to it) is based on public opinion, sometimes winning an Oscar can really be a drag for one’s career, especially if that win is seen as “underserved.” I think it sets up a winner for ultimate failure because just the win itself seems to generate bad feelings. Why this is, I don’t know. But it just is. Marisa Tomei, for instance, is a good example of someone who won supporting up against four other better performances. She wasn’t really forgiven for that, and didn’t remove herself from the butt of that joke, for many years. She did eventually “prove herself,” however, playing damaged characters. Gwyneth Paltrow was never really forgiven for beating Cate Blanchett and Hillary Swank (who deserved it the first time, maybe the second time) for beating Annette Bening. Twice.
The phenom seems to hit women more than men and I’m not exactly sure why. Men get hit in the directing categories more often than the acting categories. Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Paul Haggis, Hugh Hudson, Bruce Beresford, Mel Gibson are just some of the Oscar casualties who’ve really had to live down what the public thinks is an underserved win, no matter whether people loved the film at the time or not (they clearly did if it won).
Watching the Oscars is always a bit like amateur psychology. Right now, I’m ruminating on the “on the side that’s winning” philosophy that has swallowed up this year’s race. But a few winners will have the curse of the undeserved tagged to them should they pull off a win. I’m not trying to be a downer — okay, maybe I am a little. As the “loser” this year, as in, the film I fought for isn’t doing so well and probably won’t win many Oscars, I am supposed to accept this failure, regroup, change my way of thinking, congratulate the winners and move on. I’m working on it.
In the meantime, what potential Oscar “mistakes” lie ahead?
1. Jennifer Lawrence beats Emmanuelle Riva. This might finally be the tipping point for the lucky gal with two Oscar nominations before she hit 22, two franchises, a whole shitload of money and the love object of many a grown male and young tween girl. No one denies what a great actress she already is but once she beats the 85 year old Riva, Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, and even Quvenzhane Wallis something tells me the public might finally have had enough. Am I right? Or wrong?
2. Argo beats Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi. I’ve covered this territory so no need to beat a dead horse. Affleck will have to deal with that in one way or another. He’ll keep making good films and maybe run for political office. Both of those will serve to disprove what many might consider this an underserved Best Picture win. Most of America believes Lincoln is the deserved winner, not just a few of us rumblers here in tinseltown.
3. David O. Russell beats Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Michael Haneke, Benh Zeitlin — many people LOVE LOVE LOVE Silver Lingings Playbook now. But that’s one that will either sit well over time or it won’t. One thing in Russell’s favor is a body of work with no Oscar win. If he does win I will see him winning for the great movies Oscar ignored, like Flirting with Disaster. Of all five of these directors he wants it the most. So I will fight the urge to hate on Russell should he pull off a win. Spielberg and Lee both already have Oscars though their films are better, but Russell might win for his whole career, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
4. Bradley Cooper beats Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman. Actors don’t usually suffer the same fate as actresses when they win undeserved Oscars. In Hollywood, white hot males like Cooper land on their feet. I suspect he will be celebrated, as men often are, thus the hate will be minimal. Three actors in this category haven’t won Oscars and voters might want to give one out to someone who hasn’t won. Cooper gives his finest performance to date. All will depend on how voters overall feel about Silver Linings Playbook. Working against Day-Lewis is having to make Academy history, with a third Best Actor win.
5. Silver Linings screenplay beats Argo, Lincoln and Life of Pi. Epic fail to the WGA for not honoring Pulitzer Prize winning Kushner. Some Oscar historians will want to pain it as the whole Connecticut October surprise bringing down Kushner but if accuracy were the point, Argo wouldn’t win either. That stupid scandal will smooth out over time and Kushner will earn points for having been overlooked. Maureen Dowd’s beatdown will look like overkill in a year or two. It already does. Argo will take this award but only one writer will be remembered as having not won and that’s Kushner.
6. Roger Deakins for Skyfall beats Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi in Cinematography. No one loves Deakins more than I do and he is more overdue for an Oscar than anyone. But. This will be controversial, probably, but I suspect there will be a bit of an outcry over this decision, should it come to pass. Most of the time, the Oscar goes to the cute kitten in a cup — so no one should ever complain that anyone deserved or didn’t deserve one of those. Deakins deserves any award people would like to give him for his exceptional body of work.
7. Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi beats Roger Deakings for Skyfall. What’s worse, seeing Deakins win for great work but nowhere near his best, or seeing Deakins lose AGAIN? Life of Pi could end up being the recipient of some public scorn if Deakins loses but it would probably be minimal, considering the love for that film and especially its visual beauty.
7. Lincoln pulls of a surprise win over Argo. I am afraid what the mob would do in that scenario – Lincoln already has enough haters but it might reach epic levels should this rare event take place. It won’t happen but if it did Argo and Affleck would instantly gain major industry cred. My honest opinion is that a loss for Argo > win for Argo.
8. Any visual effects nominee except Life of Pi wins. It won’t happen but there would be public outcry if it did.
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild wins in any category. Despite how much I love that movie and believe it deserves to be there, many out there seem to blame it for squeezing out Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow. Why, I have no idea why anyone would complain about a movie that cost 1.5 million about a young black girl written in near-poetry verse but they do complain. A lot. The Academy did the right thing, in my opinion, by honoring a movie like this one in the major categories. It opens doors that haven’t yet been opened. It shows that you don’t need a lot of money just big brass creative balls and smarts. Both Benh Zeitlin and Lena Dunham are two strong youthful artistic forces that should make everyone feel a little more positive about the future. But I can just see it now – if Benh Zeitlin wins in directing or in screenplay. I hope he continues to follow the beat of his own drummer and not listen to what Big Hollywood tells him to do.
10. Silver Linings Playbook beats Argo, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild. See, as an Oscar traditionalist I’d almost rather see this scenario play out simply because there is a director nomination as well. But I’m not talking about my own personal feelings so much as the potential backlash. The Argo fans might burn down the Kodak for this one. The film has four acting nominations – that means it will probably win one of those. You have to go back to 1950 to find a year when a film with four acting nominations didn’t win a single acting Oscar and that was for Sunset Boulevard. But since then, each have won at least one Oscar. From Here to Eternity was the last Best Picture winner to have four. Without a DGA nomination for Russell it becomes an extreme long shot. Who knows how it will play out and what the fallout from it will be.
Do people want to be on the winning side until the winner actually wins? Do they then want to stand up for the underdog?