The mother of all awards shows is fast approaching and now we have the names of who’s in that Oscar race.
On January 10th host Seth McFarlane and the lovely and talented Emma Stone got up at the crack of LA dawn to announce the names of the contenders.
Usually, every film and performance nominated is so obvious, so transparent and so boring that by the time we get to the big night many of the winners have been pretty much set in stone.
It makes the ceremony about as exciting as a high school graduation.
This year, instead of reacting immediately and raging in the pre-dawn of the nomination announcement, I decided to take a few days to really think about my feelings on the 2013 Oscar hopefuls.
And I have a lot of feelings -- especially about the important issue of Oscar recognition. Now that I’ve had that time, I’m ready to talk about these feelings.
What The Academy Got Right
1. Love for Beasts of the Southern Wild
This is the kind of independent film that deserves to be honored. Described as a fantasy drama, it's the opposite of the usual Oscar bait.
Unlike other Best Picture nominees Django Unchained and Lincoln, this film is about black characters without any demanding white saviors. This post-Katrina film is something different and special.
The debut performance from six-year-old Quenzhane Wallis is exciting and vibrant. Her next film is Steve McQueen’s latest and also stars big names like Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Michael Fassbender.
She’s the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.
With nods in some of the biggest awards -- Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director -- this is something more thrilling than the latest Spielberg venture we all know is designed to attract metal statues like a magnet.
2. Love for Amour
Michael Haneke has been making fantastic films for years and years and years. And he’s been making films in different languages.
Not like these lame-ass American directors who only work in English. He’s got French and German in his wheelhouse too.
This year his film, Amour, is up for three awards (Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director). They're Haneke’s first Oscar nominations in his career.
And again, another exciting bit of Oscar trivia: Emmanuelle Riva is nominated for Best Actress and is, at 85, the oldest actress to ever be nominated.
Riva will walk the red carpet and potentially receive her first Oscar on her 86 birthday. This is all very exciting and not boring.
There is some solid variety this year. Foreign performers alongside American ones. Comedies, dramas and musicals all cozied up together.
Big budget and small nestled together on the same ballot. History and imagined history, modern stories and adaptations of classics.
There are tastes to please all comers. Well, unless you’re a genre fan, then you’re kind of out of luck. But that’s not new, it’s just how the Oscars operates.
4. Tight races
So many films could take the top prize this year. I feel like, for once, I have no idea what those oldies in the academy are going to deem the best of anything.
There’s only one acting category that is set in stone. Best Supporting Actress is going to the extreme emotive singing skills of Anne Hathaway.
And if she doesn’t win it’ll be a huge upset and then that’ll be exciting.
And ok, Daniel Day Lewis is a force and a treasure, but Hugh Jackman could steal his Oscar like a loaf of bread.
It’s nice to watch one of these awards shows, which I like to think of as the movie Olympics, elicit expressions of shock and surprise.
What They Got Wrong
I’ve clearly gone on about this enough, but Lincoln does not deserve 12 nominations.
It’s frustrating to see this getting so much attention. The good part is that so far it hasn’t been receiving lots of hardware.
Both the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes chose to honor Argo instead.
2. Directing Nominations
Yes, there are many worthy directors in the mix, but there are some serious snubs.
Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck (who’s been racking up director awards this past week) and Tom Hooper were all denied for their Best Picture-nominated films.
Clear oversights, but when there are more slots for Best Picture than there are for Best Director, it’s tough to narrow down which film was helmed by the best.
3. Matthew McConaughey
Magic Mike was a sleeper hit and an unexpectedly satisfying film about male strippers.
One of the best parts of that film was Matthew McConaughey. He was the elder stripper statesman showing the young pups how to rip off their underpants and also an aging guy who’s career hinges on his looks.
The Best Supporting Actor category is tight, but Alan Arkin or Tommy Lee Jones could have been bumped to fit in this more interesting, fun and nuanced performance.
More props for the man who entertained so hard and sang “Ladies of Tampa” with such verve.
4. Boring Song Picks
Ok. This might be another category that is locked down. Adele’s Skyfall theme, entitled “Skyfall”, is likely going to take the trophy.
And I can’t fault Adele winning anything. She is so charming that it just feels right.
The usual tripe is there -- songs written specifically to garner these nominations -- but a lot of songs were released by pop artists that were eligible and not chosen. Always a missed opportunity.
Remember the good old days when Eminem was winning Oscars?
And it wasn’t that long ago that Three 6 Mafia taught us that “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” and were handsomely rewarded for their efforts.