So now then. Many things have transpired over the last few weeks that tell me that Argo is the movie to beat this year at the Oscars. How is this possible? Ever since Ben Affleck didn’t receive a Best Director nomination, the film has followed one of two paths.
For the first path, Argo has been pushed by the wayside. Films cannot be considered for the Best Picture trophy if the director isn’t nominated. So what films replaced the prestige that Argo once received pre-Oscar nominations? Three movies, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. Nevermind Beasts of a Southern Wild, even though it did receive a Best Director nomination for Ben Zeitlin. The talk surrounding this one is that it’s just an honor for the film to be nominated, even though it was highly acclaimed by both audiences and critics. Out of the three top heavy-weights, the industry talk has been in favor of Lincolnand Spielberg winning his third Best Director trophy. Some even suggested as of late that Silver Linings Playbook might be Spielberg’s competition. But then the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and Producers Guild unveiled their winners.
This brings me to the second path that Argo could, and has taken. On January 13th the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes) gave Ben Affleck the Best Director award. This was some-what shocking, as the prediction was that Spielberg would take the award. Yet, for the last 15 years, only 8 of the Globe director winners went on to win the Oscar. Historically the director that wins is also nominated for the Best Director Academy Awards. That is not the case this time around. The last time the Globes and the Academy agreed on director was in 2008 with Danny Boyle winning for Slumdog Millionaire. 2011 was Scorsese for Hugo, 2010 Fincher for The Social Network, 2009 Cameron for Avatar.
A few nights before the Globes, Affleck received Best Director from the Critics Choice Awards, and then on Sunday night Argo won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Ensemble. What does all this mean? It’s either that Argo is indeed the best film of the year, or that the industry feels bad that Affleck didn’t receive the Best Director Oscar nomination. What does this mean for the Oscars? It would appear to be clear that Argo will win Best Picture, besting the once-frontrunner Lincoln, and even Silver Linings Playbook. What about Best Director?
The interesting aspect all comes down to who the Directors Guild gives its award to. Affleck, Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) were nominated for DGA, but not the Oscar. Only Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and Spielberg (Lincoln) received nominations from both. If neither of those men win, the Best Director Oscar will most certainly be up in the air, maybe unpredictable. This is probably the most amazing category at the moment. Traditionally the director statue fight is between two people. 2011 Scorsese vs. Michel Hazanavicius, 2010 Fincher vs. Tom Hooper, 2009 James Cameron vs. Kathryn Bigelow, etc. 2012 will be everyone vs. everyone. We can probably rule out a win for Beasts of the Southern Wild or Amour, even though my choice for best director is Michael Haneke for Amour. This means it’s down to Spielberg, David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) and Ang Lee. I feel as if Spielberg is the obvious choice, but there are all sorts of surprises this year.
David O. Russell did direct all of his actors to Oscar-nominated performances (Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress; the first time since 1981 a film has been nominated in all acting categories) Spielberg directed three actors to Oscar-Nominations (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Actress). While Life of Pi did receive 11 total nominations, it did not receive any acting nominations. Even the two directors whose chances are unlikely to win them the gold, directed their actresses to Oscar-nominated performances. 9 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild and 86 year-old Emmanuelle Riva from Amour,who received her first ever Oscar nomination.
As the untraditional director category shapes up to be perhaps rather exciting, the best actress category is shaping down to being a traditional battle between two great performances. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook). Both performances at times required vicious restraint, and explosive determination. I would give the award to Emmanuelle Riva for her performance as the ailing, fragile elderly wife. This won’t happen, as the Academy usually wants to give the gold to Performances! with some sort of complete transformation, not a quieter, calm, delicate performance, even when it takes more strength to be implosive. Chastain and Lawrence won the Globes for Actress Drama and Actress Comedy/Musical, but the Oscar-talk churned even more Sunday night when Lawrence won the Screen Actors Guild. What will happen? On February 24th, we will know.
At the moment my favorite films of 2012 include Amour, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook. All three films are impressive for their own reasons. For screenplay, I was most impressed with what David O. Russell did with Silver Linings Playbook, as the film could as easily been a generic mess, and a sloppy romantic comedy. But Russell, being the bi-polar type of person that he is, found a realistic balance between drama and humor, and the film contains some of the most raw, astute, and unapologetic words spoken in a single film in quite some time. If this won best screenplay (even Best Director and Picture), I would be very happy.