February 24, 2013

2012 Oscar picks announced


---- — People — myself included — love to complain about Hollywood. There’s a lack of originality, too many sequels and too many movies aimed at viewers with single-digit IQs.

Things, however, really aren’t that bad. In fact, 2012 was a very good year for movies.

There were a dozen movies last year that earned A or A-minus grades in my personal opinion (10 in published reviews, two that I graded off-the-record). Unless I’m just getting soft in my old age, that’s an above-average number for any 365-day period.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t always agree with me, but four of my top-five movies of 2012 did earn Oscar nominations, and only one (“Les Miserables”) of the nine Best Picture nominees got less than a B grade from me.

For my mom, who will want to know what movies she should rent, here’s my personal top 10:

1) “Moonrise Kingdom”; 2) “Lincoln”; 3) “Argo”; 4) “Silver Linings Playbook”; 5) “Django Unchained”; 6) “The Dark Knight Rises”; 7) “Bully”; 8) “Looper”; 9) “The Avengers”; and 10) “Searching for Sugarman.”

Um, mom, you should probably skip “Django Unchained.” And if you want a good cry, the two documentaries — “Bully” and “Searching for Sugarman” — nearly made me a little misty.

Near misses on the “Best of” list included Best Picture nominees “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Life of Pi,” along with “The Hunger Games,” “Lawless,” “Flight,” “The Hobbit,” “End of Watch” and 2012’s top guilty pleasure, “Cabin in the Woods.” Which I also won’t recommend to my mom.

This column isn’t really about what I think, however. It’s what the Academy thinks. Without further ado — and probably a day or two too late to help you at all in your Oscar pool — here’s a look at what to expect in tonight’s 11-and-a-half hour Oscar broadcast.

Unlike the actual show, I will not save all of the biggest awards for the final paragraph.


It’s supposed to be nearly impossible for a picture to win if its director was not nominated for Best Director — it’s happened just three times, the last “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989 — but Ben Affleck’s inexplicable snub in the directing category seems to have given “Argo” an added boost in a crowded nine-horse field.

The Winner: “Lincoln” is a little better, but “Argo” has all the momentum.

Upset Chance: Actors make up the biggest percentage of the Academy, and actors love both David O. Russell and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Still annoyed that “Moonrise Kingdom” didn’t even get a nomination ...


Yes, technically there are five nominees, but one guy has swept virtually every pre-Oscar competition. It’s hard to say no to Honest Abe.

The Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis will add to his collection. Everyone else is just happy to be there, except for Joaquin Phoenix, who is unlikely to actually be there, or be happy.

Upset Chance: That Day-Lewis accepts his award dressed as Hawkeye from “Last of the Mohicans.”


There’s considerable drama and no clear consensus in a talented field that includes both the youngest and the oldest nominees in history.

The Winner: Someday Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain will both win one of these, but Jennifer Lawrence was a little better this time around in “Silver Linings Playbook.” She may have earned a couple of extra votes for her “The Hunger Games” performance as well. 

Upset Chance: Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis is outstanding in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (she read for the part when she was 5), but there’s no way the bitter old people of the Academy would reward her with a victory. Emmanuelle Riva, however, is the oldest nominee ever, and could be a sentimental choice for “Amour.”


It’s not that Affleck necessarily would have won — though he captured several other directing honors for “Argo” — but not to have been nominated is mind-boggling. The “Gigli” backlash is apparently long-lasting.

The Winner: Ang Lee worked wonders with a new actor, a CGI tiger and 3-D cameras, but have you heard of this Steven Spielberg guy?

Upset Chance: Can Affleck win on write-in votes? No? Well, don’t fall out of your chair if Russell sneaks in instead.


Traditionally, the Supporting Actor awards offer the biggest surprises, and almost anything could happen here, with five former Oscar winners vying for another statuette.

The Winner: Robert DeNiro is the favorite, but Tommy Lee Jones was able to do the impossible: steal scenes from Day-Lewis in “Lincoln.”

Upset Chance: DeNiro could definitely win, but it wouldn’t be an upset. If Christoph Waltz snuck in again to take an Oscar for “Django Unchained,” that would be an upset.


OK, so maybe Day-Lewis isn’t the only slam-dunk winner.

The Winner: It was one song, but Anne Hathaway nailed it in “Les Miserables.”

Upset Chance: How about some support for Helen Hunt, outstanding in the little-seen “The Sessions.”

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