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As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has kept tinkering with the way the nominees for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film (recently renamed from Best Foreign Language Film) are selected, the initial shortlist of selections has gotten longer.

That’s a good thing for the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which has become the destination where film-goers can see the largest number of submissions for the award. This year, the festival programmed 51 of the record 93 submissions, including all 10 movies that ended up on the shortlist. The final five nominees were announced Jan. 13, on the last day of the festival.

Several of the shortlisted films were among the festival’s hottest tickets—I got stuck sitting in the front row for two of them—and there’s a general sense of excitement among attendees about seeing these movies before their big awards spotlight. Two of the shortlisted movies, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (from South Korea) and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory (from Spain), already enjoyed pretty extensive theatrical releases before the festival, garnering plenty of attention and prior awards (and deservedly so; they each made the Oscar nominee cut, too). But the other eight were all genuine discoveries, even if they’ve been making the festival rounds for several months now.

The category is still dominated by World War II and WWII-adjacent narratives, and three of this year’s selections (Russia’s Beanpole, the Czech Republic’s The Painted Bird and Hungary’s Those Who Remained) take place in the immediate aftermath of the war. Beanpole and The Painted Bird are both bleak, often-punishing stories about despair and cruelty, while Those Who Remained is warmer and more optimistic, albeit still tinged with darkness.

Beanpole features a haunting lead performance from Viktoria Miroshnichenko as the title character, a tall, pale, soft-spoken young woman working as a nurse in Leningrad after fighting in the war. Miroshnichenko’s Iya is so traumatized by the war that she suffers paralyzing seizures, one of which leads to a horrible tragedy as she cares for the 3-year-old son of her friend and wartime companion Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina). The dire future prospects of the two women are balanced a bit by their strong emotional connection, and Beanpole embeds a tender, well-acted story of queer intimacy in its exploration of postwar misery (although the misery usually wins out).

There’s nothing but misery in Václav Marhoul’s deeply unpleasant adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 novel The Painted Bird, which follows a young Jewish boy’s odyssey across an unnamed Eastern European country in the final days of World War II. At nearly three hours long, the movie is an unrelenting parade of grim torture, as young Joska (Petr Kotlar) drifts from one horrific ordeal to another, taken in by a series of adults who beat, rape, abuse and enslave him, without even a sliver of kindness until the very end. Rather than illuminating the inherent cruelty of human nature, The Painted Bird just wallows in sadism, and its lurid acts of violence quickly become laughable. The black-and-white cinematography is sometimes gorgeously composed, but like the periodic appearances from famous faces (including Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel and Barry Pepper), it’s just superficial gloss on deep, abiding ugliness.

The gentle Those Who Remained is almost the exact flip side of The Painted Bird. It is a sweet story about two traumatized people forging a connection after losing nearly everything. Set in Budapest in 1948, Those Who Remained walks a fine line between heartwarming and uncomfortable in its story of a teenage girl and a middle-aged doctor, both of whom lost their entire immediate families in the Holocaust, connecting with each other in what could be a surrogate father-daughter relationship … or something more. Director Barnabas Toth pulls off a tough balancing act, keeping both main characters sympathetic while subtly questioning whether their relationship is appropriate. Those Who Remained is a quiet and contemplative movie, sometimes to its detriment, when characters’ motivations are unclear. But it points to the possibility of hope in the darkest times, without coming across as treacly or disingenuous.

Moving away from World War II, other shortlisted films grapple with equally serious issues, often in stark and harrowing ways. My favorite of the entire slate is the Polish religious drama Corpus Christi, which takes a seemingly contrived premise (an ex-con poses as a Catholic priest) and uses it as a meditation on the nature of faith and forgiveness. Bartosz Bielenia (who received the festival’s FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actor in a International Feature Film) gives a fantastic performance as a genuinely devout young man whose criminal record prevents him from attending seminary. When he’s mistaken for a priest in a remote small town, he embraces the chance at a new start both for himself and for the town’s residents, who are still healing from a devastating car accident that killed multiple local teens. What could be a story about a criminal taking advantage of trusting small-town residents is instead a celebration of compassion and forgiveness. It was deservedly one of the five Oscar nominees.

That’s more optimism than you’ll find in any of the other selections, although each has its positive moments. The French drama Les Miserables, also one of the five Oscar nominees, is not yet another adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, but it does feature many Hugo references in its story of tensions between police and residents of one of Paris’ poorest neighborhoods. A thriller with elements of Training Day, Do the Right Thing and landmark French film La Haine, Les Miserables finds room for sympathy on both sides, while still depicting police power as largely destructive. It’s tense and chaotic, although a little thin on characterization and narrative structure.

Class differences are also central to the Senegalese magical-realist fable Atlantics, which is already available to a wide audience on Netflix. Mati Diop’s debut feature pits poor workers against exploitative capitalists in the form of a supernatural romance of sorts. A group of construction workers who drown on a dangerous journey across the Atlantic to Spain looking for work return as spirits to torment the rich businessmen who denied them fair wages at home. The core of the story, though, is young Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), whose longing for her drowned boyfriend grounds the political story in identifiable emotions.

Estonian historical epic Truth and Justice is the stodgiest and most old-fashioned movie on the shortlist, and the one likely to generate the least amount of interest from critics and audiences. Based on the first volume of a five-novel series that is considered Estonia’s defining national work, it’s a slow-moving period drama about rival farmers, spanning nearly 25 years of bitterness between rural neighbors in 19th-century Estonia. It’s handsomely crafted (with some sweeping vistas) but mostly dramatically inert, and while it’s become the biggest box-office success in Estonia’s history (recently toppling James Cameron’s Avatar for that position), its appeal is unlikely to transcend borders.

The biggest outlier on the list is Honeyland, a documentary from North Macedonia that also made the shortlist for documentary feature (and was nominated in both categories). Documentaries aren’t usually submitted in the foreign language/international category, although Honeyland does offer a distinctive representation of rural Macedonia in its portrait of an aging beekeeper and her clashes with a neighboring family who disrupt her time-honored honey-gathering techniques. It’s the kind of perfectly encapsulated conflict between tradition and modernity that makes you question how the filmmakers simply stumbled onto it, and it unfolds with the deliberate (and sometimes tedious) pace of a naturalistic drama, leading to an ambiguous but dramatically poignant conclusion.

Maybe it belongs on this list after all.

Published in Previews and Features

Will La La Land suffer from enough backlash before the Acadamy Awards ceremony this Sunday, Feb. 26, to lose the Best Picture Oscar? Will Matt Damon show up to foil Jimmy Kimmel’s big hosting gig dressed as Batman? Will Ben Affleck stop pouting about how badly Live by Night bombed and re-accept the directing chores of The Batman?

I know that last part was off-subject, but if you mention Damon, you have to mention Affleck. Alternative-newspaper writers are fined $78.53 if they fail to do so.

Honestly, it’s odd to see so many people hating on a movie that is cleaning up at the awards. I’ve personally and publicly recommended La La Land to many people, feeling it was a sure thing, only to be met with scowls when they next saw me. One person actually punched me in the face and threw their drink at me. It was awkward … and it was wine, so it stained. Lawsuit pending.

I just don’t understand the backlash. Ryan Gosling is so dreamy.

Anyway, here’s a detailed rundown of the major categories, along with some quick picks of the secondary ones.

But first, this year’s Oscar drinking game is as follows: Every time Meryl Streep takes a jab at Donald Trump, drink two tequila shots, and go tell your neighbor you despise their taste in shoes. By the time the evening is over, you should be sufficiently wasted, and your neighbor’s garbage can will hopefully be overflowing with gaudy pumps and stinky sandals.


Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

The least-deserving nominee in this pack would be Fences, although it does qualify as an acting powerhouse, and the nominations it received in acting categories are much deserved. Overall, as a movie, it felt a bit narrow with its staging, like something more appropriate for HBO or Netflix than the big screen.

La La Land has been scoring this year. It’s hard to think it will lose out on the biggest prize, but if it does, I think Moonlight will be the film responsible for an upset.

Snubs: The Witch was an outstanding horror film, an audacious directorial debut, and possibly the year’s best-looking film. Of course, it got zero nominations. Not even a nomination for costumes or Best Evil Goat Performance!

Should and will win: La La Land


Best Achievement in Directing

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

It’s so bonkers to see Gibson nominated. Granted, he did a great job, but there were others more deserving, so it feels a bit showy for the Academy to put him in there. They love their controversy.

No matter … Chazelle is taking this one home. If it’s not him, it’s Jenkins.

Snubs: David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water; Robert Eggers for The Witch.

Should and will win: Chazelle


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone (La La Land)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Of those competing, Stone is the most deserving. Her performance was a major feat and will not be ignored. While Streep is fun in Jenkins, she has no chance of winning, and it’s a wasted nom. As for Huppert, she’s a great actress, but Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a bad film.

Snubs: The worst snubs of the year happened in this category. Amy Adams should be here for Arrival, a film that got many nominations and that wouldn’t have worked as well without her at its center. Oscar likes to do at least one or two truly dopey things a year.

Even worse, Annette Bening’s career-best performance in 20th Century Women is nowhere to be found. Perhaps not enough Academy viewers were able to see it in time? That can be the only explanation, because she was incredible, and would be my second choice after Stone.

Should and will win: Stone


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

It looked like Affleck was going to make a clean sweep of the major awards, but, uh oh, he lost the SAG award, and that award is a fine predictor of who will get the Oscar. Being that Affleck is also plagued with controversy this year, I’m thinking the Oscar is going to Denzel.

My second choice in this category after Affleck would be the oh-so-dreamy Gosling, who learned how to play jazz piano for La La Land, and delivered an engaging, funny and sweet performance as well. Someday, this guy is going to get an Oscar.

Snubs: I love me some Viggo, and Garfield was powerful in Ridge, but Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals) and Joel Edgerton (Loving) should’ve gotten noms in their places.

Should win: Affleck

Will win: Washington


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis (Fences)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

All the nominees in this category are deserving, and this is one of the more snub-free categories. It’s a tough one to pick, but Williams shared perhaps the most memorable dramatic scene of the year with Affleck in Sea, and she absolutely rocked it. Davis is the favorite here, but Williams is the most deserving.

Should win: Williams

Will win: Davis


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

There’s no question with this one: It’s going to Ali for playing the controversial father figure in Moonlight. If I were picking, Hedges would get it for Sea, but the inevitable Ali win is almost as deserving.

Snubs: While there were no major snubs in this category, equally deserving actors included Ben Foster in Hell or High Water, and Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen.

Should win: Hedges

Will win: Ali


Best Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

While Kubo is the more ambitious and better film, Zootopia will get the most votes.

Snubs: Whoa … no Finding Dory? That’s just silly.

Should win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Will win: Zootopia


Other Predictions

Cinematography: La La Land

Costume Design: Jackie

Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America

Documentary Short Subject: The White Helmets

Short Film Animated: Piper

Short Film Live Action: Sing

Film Editing: La La Land

Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Music Original Score: La La Land

Music Original Song: “City of Stars” (La La Land)

Production Design: La La Land

Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Sound Mixing: La La Land

Visual Effects: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Published in Previews and Features

One of the highlights of the Palm Springs International Film Festival is its extensive program of films submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar—giving audiences a taste of the best movies from around the world (or, well, at least what government agencies around the world have decided are the best movies).

This year’s festival featured 43 of the more than 80 Best Foreign Language submissions for the upcoming Oscars—including eight of the nine movies on the Academy’s shortlist. The five nominees, as well as the nominees in all the rest of the categories, will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The nominees in the category generally tend toward the middlebrow, with serious historical dramas—often focusing on World War II—reliably taking up a few spots each year.

Such is the case this year—three of the eight shortlisted movies shown at the PSIFF deal with World War II and its aftermath: Denmark’s Land of Mine, about young German POWs forced to clear land mines in Denmark after the war; Norway’s The King’s Choice, about the first days of Germany’s invasion of Norway in 1940; and Russia’s Paradise, about a Russian resistance member in Nazi-occupied France.

Of these three, Paradise is the most artistically successful, doing more than just dramatizing sections from a history textbook. Shooting in black and white, in the constrained Academy ratio, director Andrey Konchalovskiy combines dreamlike imagery and magical-realist plotting with stark, clear-eyed depictions of life in a concentration camp, and the balance of power between Nazi officers and prisoners. The movie’s conceit of “interviews” with three main characters after their deaths is sometimes a bit heavy-handed, but it allows for poetic moments and quiet reflection that more straightforward historical dramas often lack.

Both Land of Mine and The King’s Choice take a more straightforward historical approach, and while they tell stories that have been underrepresented in historical accounts (at least outside their native countries), they only intermittently bring those stories to life. In Land of Mine, a group of young (most appearing to be in their early teens) German soldiers are kept as POWs in Denmark following the war, and are forced to clear the tens of thousands of land mines along the Danish coast. The movie offers a welcome perspective in which the Germans are sympathetic, scared young men who don’t necessarily understand the consequences of their actions; it’s the often vindictive Danish military personnel are the villains. But the young characters are nearly interchangeable; their eventual emotional connection with their Danish commander is predictable; and the suspense built around periodically exploding kids seems a bit exploitative.

The King’s Choice doesn’t have any exploding kids, and it’s a bit dry in its ploddingly procedural account of the few days between the time when Germany invaded Norway, and when the country’s King Haakon VII made an historic break with Parliament and refused to surrender to Germany. As director Erik Poppe explained before the screening, the king’s actions are an important part of Norwegian history, taught in schools—but without that inherent Norwegian pride, it’s hard to get worked up over this fairly minor military aspect of the war, or to get invested in the principled stands of a pampered (if likable) royal family.

After war movies, the next most-popular genre for the Foreign Language Oscar is possibly the intense domestic drama, represented by Canada’s It’s Only the End of the World and Iran’s The Salesman, both from acclaimed international auteurs. It’s Only the End of the World was adapted from Jean-Luc Lagarce’s stage play by prolific filmmaker Xavier Dolan, and despite its cast of French superstars (Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Nathalie Baye), it remains stagebound and claustrophobic, with the characters tediously talking in circles during a tense family gathering over the course of a single day. Dolan is known for bold, visually inventive films, but here, he sticks mostly to uncomfortable close-ups and stands back as his actors chew the scenery.

The Salesman, from A Separation Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi, is more restrained, even as its subject matter is darker. It’s a slow burn about a married couple whose relationship is strained when the wife is attacked in their apartment, and her husband becomes consumed with finding the perpetrator. But this isn’t some action-packed revenge thriller; it’s a contemplative story about responsibility and empathy, a rumination on the value of vengeance and a look at how seemingly strong relationships can be destroyed in a moment. The lead performances from previous Farhadi collaborators Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti are very good, and while the connection to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (a production of which the couple star in during the events of the movie) is a bit tenuous, both are thematically rich family dramas with satisfyingly downbeat endings.

Thanks to the creation of an additional executive committee several years ago, the selections for the Foreign Language Film Oscar category have gotten a little more diverse, and a few of this year’s shortlisted films fit less neatly into familiar genres. Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, Germany’s Toni Erdmann and Switzerland’s My Life as a Zucchini are all lighter than their fellow shortlist selections, with more emphasis on unique artistic visions. Ove is the most conventional, a feel-good dramedy about a grumpy old man who comes to appreciate life thanks to the efforts of his friendly neighbors. It’s the kind of crowd-pleasing, gentle movie that could star Tom Hanks if it came from Hollywood, and while star Rolf Lassgård makes for an appealing curmudgeon, the flashbacks slowly illuminating his tragedy-filled past eventually tug way too hard on the heartstrings. But Academy voters seemingly love to have their heartstrings tugged, and with its mix of the heavy and the heartwarming, Ove comes across as typical Oscar bait.

The most critically acclaimed movie on the shortlist, Toni Erdmann, is the frontrunner to win the Oscar, and it’s certainly the strangest and most challenging film of the eight shown at the festival. Running nearly three hours, Maren Ade’s film is a combination of cringe comedy, family drama and sociopolitical commentary, with plenty of strange detours along the way. The title character is the alter ego of Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), an eccentric, lonely old man who wants to reconnect with his corporate go-getter daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). It takes almost an hour for Toni to emerge, as Winfried follows his daughter to her work assignment in Romania, and the movie unfolds at a meandering pace, with dry corporate meetings next to uncomfortable scenes of Winfried’s attempts to insert himself into his daughter’s life. Many have found the film moving, funny and profound, but for me, it was like listening to a long, rambling joke with no punchline.

The best of the eight shortlisted movies I saw at the festival is also the unlikeliest selection, the Swiss stop-motion animated movie My Life as a Zucchini. It’s also eligible for the Best Animated Feature award, but it’s a bit of a dark horse in both categories. That’s a shame, because director Claude Barras’ film is utterly charming, beautiful to look at and sweetly affecting. It’s the story of a young orphan (who goes by the name Zucchini) adjusting to life in a group home and eventually finding a makeshift family. The material isn’t groundbreaking, but the hand-crafted animation gives it a wonderfully skewed perspective, while the dialogue is funny and realistic, and the characters are very likable.

It was the last movie I saw at the festival—and it ended my experience on a high note. Hopefully Oscar voters will feel the same way.

Published in Previews and Features

I remember watching the Oscars back when Johnny Carson hosted. This was before I knew the whole thing was bullshit; I would get all excited when those envelopes were opened, and even when stupid Paul Williams showed up singing a song.

Even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences usually doesn’t get it right with the awards, I still look forward to the show, especially when that idiot Billy Crystal isn’t hosting it. This year, the host will be Seth MacFarlane. Should be interesting, and perhaps delightfully profane.

Here are the nominees, along with my predictions. Drink chocolate milk every time I get one right, and regular milk when I get one wrong. (I don’t endorse alcohol-drinking games.)

 

Best Picture

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Misérables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Let’s immediately eliminate Amour, Beasts, Django and Life of Pi. None of these films have a chance.

Zero Dark Thirty had the momentum going into awards season, but that momentum has shifted significantly, probably thanks to stupid Ed Asner and his lame comments. (Go to Hell, Lou Grant!) A few months ago, I would’ve thought Les Mis (my personal favorite of the bunch) had a good shot, but I think it’s going to get beat, because everybody hates Russell Crowe.

That leaves Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Argo. Admittedly, I would’ve gone with Lincoln or Silver Linings a recently as a month ago, but with the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes all giving awards to Argo, I’m thinking it’s Argo for the win.

Snubs: This is a pretty good crop of nominees. Since there’s room for 10, a nom for The Impossible would’ve been nice, or perhaps Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Should win: Les Misérables.

Will Win: Argo.

 

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Denzel Washington (Flight)

Washington and Phoenix have no chance, and I ain’t talking football. This is a race between Cooper, Jackman and Day-Lewis. Cooper was brilliant, but my vote would go to Jackman’s incredibly durable, tear-jerking performance in Les Mis. However, I think Day-Lewis will nail down his third Oscar for his Honest Abe. I didn’t like Lincoln, but I must acknowledge he was wonderful in the movie.

Snubs: When I picked my five favorite actors at the end of 2012, four out of the five nominated were on my list, with the exception of Denzel Washington. I would’ve liked to see Liam Neeson in that slot for The Grey, a performance that didn’t get the accolades it deserved.

Should Win: Jackman.

Will Win: Day-Lewis.

 

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Dammit, when is Naomi Watts going to win an Oscar? It’s not going to be this year, but it damn well should be. Her performance in The Impossible, a movie many have not seen, is jaw-dropping.

Even though she is the clear winner in my eyes, all of the performances nominated are deserving. Wallis is miraculous in Beasts; Riva is devastatingly good in Amour; and Chastain is a solid anchor in Zero. Lawrence is terrific in Silver Linings—and I believe she will win the Oscar. She has the momentum now. I would’ve never picked her a couple of months ago, but after the Globes and SAG awards, it looks like it is all hers.

However, don’t underestimate the age factor. Riva, 85, could sweep in and upset.

Snubs: Once again, another well-done category, with four of the five matching my Best Actress list. I loved Wallis, but I would’ve nominated Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her place for Smashed.

Should Win: Watts.

Will Win: Lawrence.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin (Argo)

Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Enough people dislike Django to disqualify Waltz, and the same goes for Hoffman in The Master. Arkin is fun in Argo, but his performance was not Oscar-worthy.

De Niro was back in fine form for Playbook, and I think he’s the most deserving of those nominated. But Jones keeps racking up awards for his dull turn in the dull Lincoln. Nothing he does in the film is different from what he did in The Fugitive. (It’s basically Tommy Lee Jones starring as Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.)

Ah, screw it, I’m predicting a De Niro upset.

Snubs: Sam Rockwell was extraordinary in Seven Psychopaths, as was Edward Norton in Moonrise Kingdom.

Should and will win: De Niro.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams (The Master)

Sally Field (Lincoln)

Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)

Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Anne Hathaway is going to win, and she deserves it. There’s no reason to discuss any further.

 

Best Director

Michael Haneke (Amour)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Well, if Argo is going to win Best Picture, and Ben Affleck didn’t get a director’s nomination, what in the heck happens here?

Steven Spielberg wins his third Best Director Oscar, that’s what. While I love Spielberg, I think Lincoln is a rare misstep for my hero. Of this group, I would have to say Ang Lee is the most deserving. But it’s Spielberg all the way.

Snubs: Affleck, Tom Hooper for Les Mis and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty are all surprising omissions—especially Bigelow and Hooper; both directors outdid their previous Oscar-winning efforts. How Les Mis got snubbed here is beyond me. The cast sang live, for Christ’s sake.

Should Win: Lee.

Will Win: Spielberg.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

ParaNorman

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

This is a tough one. While I found Brave to be quite charming, a lot of folks found the whole “mom turns into a bear” thing stupid. I don’t think Pirates stands a chance, although it deserved the nomination. Wreck-It Ralph is my least-favorite in this bunch, and I suspect it will be least-favorite among voters, too.

I’m thinking Brave will continue a long legacy of Pixar victories, although my personal favorite in this bunch is ParaNorman. ParaNorman was innovative, creative and slightly demented, a true standout.

Snubs: Nothing really got snubbed here, unless you inexplicably worship Hotel Transylvania.

Should Win: ParaNorman.

Will Win: Brave.

 

Other predictions:

Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo

Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Best Costume Design: Lincoln

Best Production Design: Les Misérables

Best Sound Mixing: Les Misérables

Best Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Best Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Original Song: “Skyfall,” Skyfall

Best Score: Argo

Best Short Film, Animated: Paperman

Best Short Film, Live Action: Asad

Best Documentary (Short): Redemption

Best Documentary (Feature): How to Survive a Plague

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour

Published in Reviews