Have you been doing your homework? Not your archaeoastronomy problem set, but YOUR MOVIE-GOING DUTIES. Did you go to the Criterion every week? Did you cry when Naomi Watts cried on screen? Did you pontificate when Daniel Day-Lewis pontificated? Did watching “Life of Pi” make you feel like you just drank a sea full of water? Well, the Oscars are being held this Sunday! Luckily, our savvy WEEKEND troopers have watched and read and digested all the information you need to catch up before Hollywood’s biggest night. Time to make the grade, kiddos.
Becca and Lomax: a dialogue
// BY BECCA EDELMAN AND MICHAEL LOMAX
Becca Edelman: I’d like to start things off with the thought that “The Master” was inexcusably ignored in this year’s nominations. While it may have been a bit inaccessible, the film was an aesthetic masterpiece, gorgeous from start to finish. And when a film’s three main actors are nominated for an award, doesn’t that say something about directorial skill? I was hoping at least for a nod to Paul Thomas Anderson.
Michael Lomax: That Paul Thomas Anderson was robbed of a best picture, best director and best writing nom is simply a travesty. “Master” was a movie with great ambition and astounding scope. What pains me the most is the fact that David O. Russell and his ballyhooed rom-dramedy might walk away with the biggest haul here.
BE: Really? I thought “Silver Linings” was a great story, with great performances. But watching the pre-Oscar buzz, I’m not ready to say that it will walk away with too many awards. Ebert described the film as “so good, it could almost be a terrific old classic.” I think “almost” is the key word here — it’s almost there. For Oscar gold, I’m looking for something with a little more substance, a little more artistry. Which brings me to the real elephant in the room: What in the world has been going on with “Argo”?
ML: “Argo” winning the Golden Globe sent a very clear message to this year’s crop of Oscar contenders: There is no favorite. All we can agree on is that “Argo” will not be winning the big one. I mean, it can’t! It’s a fantastic thriller, but it just doesn’t have the “feel” of a movie that could take home cinema’s biggest prize. But what exactly are those specific extra qualities?
BE: Some combination of the accessibility of “Argo” and the ambition of “The Master.” “Lincoln” certainly cleans up in the latter category, but I found the film to be a meandering disappointment. Perhaps “Zero Dark Thirty” fits the bill.
ML: A “meandering disappointment”? If we’re going to stamp any movie with that label, we might as well slap “ZDT” with it. Not saying it’s a bad film at all, but did it need to be 157 minutes long? Same with “Lincoln.” In fact, all the movies that have been nominated have glaring flaws that could doom them. We’re better off trying to predict the other major awards. Speaking of which, the year’s best director was…?
BE: If I ruled the world, it would be Anderson. But, as he isn’t an option, I would have to go with Spielberg. Even if “Lincoln” wasn’t his finest, I think the Academy will give him the award as a lifetime achievement acknowledgement.
ML: I don’t disagree with your reasoning. But “Lincoln” just wasn’t all that good, though I’ll admit the performances were quite incredible at times (specifically: Day-Lewis’ and Jones’). So I guess you have to honor a director for that. If not, who else?
BE: We’re also forgetting about the most interesting addition to the category: Benh Zeitlin. He’s only 30, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is his first film and he’s nominated in a category with Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee. I don’t think he’ll win, but if he did that would be pretty exciting.
ML: “Beasts” was my favorite film from 2012. It was beautifully incomprehensible and stark in its sentiments, and it’s precisely because of these facts that I don’t think Zeitlin has a chance to win. If anything, Quvenzhané Wallis (aka Hushpuppy) has a better shot of bringing home an Oscar. But we all know the best actress category is coming down to Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. Who you got?
BE: Lawrence has a well-executed and well-managed career: She already has a nomination for a hit indie under her belt, as well as the lead in a lucrative franchise. And Chastain has made a name for herself working with prestigious directors like Malick and Bigelow. But I think the award will definitely go to Chastain. Lawrence is too young, and her part was too comedic. Then again, there’s also been a lot of hype about Emmanuelle Riva’s performance in “Amour.”
ML: Riva’s work was heart-wrenching, but I doubt enough people have seen Michael Haneke’s devastating film. Instead it really does come down to Lawrence and Chastain, and of the two, I would go with Chastain precisely because of the reasons you’ve mentioned. That doesn’t mean I’m counting out Lawrence, but her time doesn’t have to be now necessarily. At least the men’s side is a bit more clear. I’m penciling in Daniel “All Day, Every Day”-Lewis to grab his record-setting third best actor crown.
BE: My true favorite for the category would be Phoenix, but I would bet on Day-Lewis for the win, too. The really interesting race will be for best supporting actor — every actor nominated has already won an Oscar. Waltz won the Golden Globe, but I don’t think the Academy will be quick to give him an award for what some might deem a quite similar role to his turn in “Inglourious Basterds.” As I said about Lawrence, I think that, for De Niro and Arkin, their performances were too light, and Hoffman was great but overshadowed. I think the winner will/should be Tommy Lee Jones, who was responsible for a large proportion of the few shining moments in “Lincoln.”
ML: Tommy Lee deserves it, hands down. But what about best supporting actress? Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln was forgettable and hardly worth any fanfare. Same with Jacki Weaver, Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway (though I’m in love with her, all things considered). As such, I’m staking my claim that Helen Hunt deserves the Oscar. She put herself on the line in “The Sessions,” and she ought to be rewarded.
BE: Hathaway may have a shot, too, especially due to all the press she’s gotten for her role. It seems to me that this year’s awards have less obvious winners than there have been in past seasons. I guess we’ll just have to watch and see!
ML: You’re right. We will see. For the first time in years, there’s no guessable front-runner. It’s anybody’s game, though I think we can all agree that “Argo” isn’t getting lucky twice. If it does, I’ll eat a brick.
Caleb’s picks: a soliloquy
// BY CALEB MADISON
Caleb Madison: For best picture, “ARGO” — UGH I love this movie SO much. I’m so glad Ben Affleck has moved past having a sense of humor (like in “Mallrats” and “Dogma”) and also writing what he knows (like “Good Will Hunting” and “Gone Baby Gone”). “Argo” is about SO MUCH MORE than those movies. The whole time you’re like “Is America going to save them?” and then at the end you’re like “YE SSS!!!” At first Iran is like, “No Americans allowed! We hate America!” but then they realize that Hollywood is totally different from America, and that Hollywood rules! I love that. It makes you think, because the power of movies is what saves those hostages, but it’s ALSO what makes the audience like the movie! It’s about time the Academy recognized a movie about how amazing movies are. I have never seen “The Artist.”
CM: Yeah, totally! And for best actor, Daniel Day-Lewis in “LINCOLN” — YES! What a film. Daniel Day-Lewis transforms himself into Lincoln SO WELL. In the middle of the movie I took out a penny and I held it up to the screen and I was like, “WHAAAA!!!?” It made me realize that presidents have so much power. And, like, what are our presidents of today doing? Lincoln was like, “Sorry, haters, but I have to follow my beliefs.” When’s the last time Obama did that? If ONLY politicians saw and made a big deal about seeing this movie. Also Lincoln’s speeches were crazy. It was like every scene had a different moral! He would go up to a group of confused men and be like, “Hey… let me tell you a story.” Then he’d tell a story that started out totally random so everyone was like “Hunh!??!!” but then at the end you realized there was a moral that totally related to what they were talking about. It’s about time the Academy recognized Daniel Day-Lewis in a role about a conflicted larger-than-life historical figure. I have seen neither “There Will Be Blood” nor “My Left Foot.”
CM: I totally see that. And for best supporting actress, Anne Hathaway in “LES MISÉRABLES” — I dreamed a dream… that Anne Hathaway made me cry with song!!!! But it was real life!!!! I know what a lot of you are thinking. “A two-and-a-half hour musical with no dialogue? About the French?” But “Les Miz” has so many more aspects than that. Like the fact that all the singing was done live on set. When you watch Anne Hathaway sing and cry in one continuous shot, you are watching real life. And she actually cut her hair for the role too! That’s Acting. That’s dedication. We haven’t seen an actress do something so brave since Natalie Portman in that comic book movie seven years ago. It’s about time the Academy recognized the performance of an actress in a musical who uses her tender yet resilient singing voice to express her personal struggles. I have never seen “La Vie En Rose” or “Walk the Line.”
CM: Totes, man! And finally, for best supporting actor, Christoph Waltz in “DJANGO UNCHAINED” — Let me get this off my chest: I love Quentin Tarantino movies. When I saw “Pulp Fiction” for the first time in eighth grade I was like, “Yes.” I couldn’t stop quoting it for the next 10 years. I have the Bible passage that Samuel L. Jackson says before he kills people MEMORIZED. Whenever I eat a burger I’m like, “Mmm! That’s a tasty burger!” The thing I like about Tarantino movies is that, even though sometimes they’re serious, everyone talks about the most random weird things! It’s like my real life, and how my friends talk about just random things! And I imagine Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz being best friends in real life. It’s like Quentin calls him up and is like, “Hey, I’m making another movie with witty speeches, do you still have your hilarious accent?” and Christoph is like, “Y’Doy! Does my character speak way more formally than everyone else? Does he use really long words that he has to explain and go on long random wordy tangents?” and Quentin is like, “Y’Doy!” It’s about time the Academy recognized Christoph Waltz. I have never seen “Inglourious Basterds.”
An adequate ode to Jessica Chastain
// BY OLIVER PRESTON AND ISAAC STANLEY-BECKER
Unknown were the snows of Abbottabad
Before good Jessica, about as bad
As Samuel L., or J. Christ’s dad,
Stormed onto the screen, all pantsuit clad.
Jessica, you are the strong woman in consummate form,
Come Hillary, come Michelle, look on and adore!
This love child of Big’low and the good goddess Sass,
Writes boldly in red on our hearts’ shining glass…
(A much-needed digression in couplet form:
Jessica’s competitors and their patent inadequacy.)
Ms. Watts, just forget it, Chastain’s unstoppable,
This awards show will teach you the meaning of impossible.
J-Law, we love you, but this Oscar gold lacks silver lining,
Looks like behind Jessica you’ll ever be climbing.
Emmanuelle, this is AMERICA, so we suggest that you geaux.
Who even are you? No seriously, we want to know.
Quvenzhané Wallis, your name is weird.
Also, you are a child.
Jessica Chastain breaks gender binaries.
She literally breaks them.
She waterboards them.
If you haven’t seen any of the films…
// BY CYNTHIA HUA AND ANDREW WAGNER
Did you spend over 15 hours in a movie theater this year watching all the best picture nominees? Neither did we. Fortunately, we sat through all nine trailers to help you get through even the film-snobbiest Oscar party. It’s just like faking your way through section.
Let’s start with the one movie that nobody cares about —
“Amour”: It’s French and about old people (we can stop here). Every time it comes up, drop a “Mmm … intéressant” and drink. However, that won’t be necessary because we don’t think this will win any awards.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”: We were uncertain whether this was a movie trailer or a Levi’s commercial. The premise is confusing: Why does a woman have cave paintings tattooed on her leg? Why is there a monster with fangs? I thought this was a movie about Hurricane Katrina?
“Zero Dark Thirty”: It’s so dark. So political. Ugh. Literally don’t even feel like watching the trailer for this. Pass. Also, we’re pretty sure it’s actually the same thing as “Homeland.”
Don’t get this one mixed up with “Argo,” which also appears to be very political and set in the Middle East. The only reason Andrew knows about this movie is cause his high school teacher’s daughter is in it (Shout out to Mr. Bishé!).
We have nothing to say about “Silver Linings Playbook” except that the best looking actors are in it, so it gets our vote for best picture. Can’t wait to see what they wear.
“Django Unchained”: We’re not sure, but this might be about slavery. Cowboy slaves? “Lincoln” is definitely about slavery. As far as “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln” are concerned, you should treat these two as opposite ends of the political spectrum, pick a side and fight anybody who challenges you to the death. Also, both of these may or may not be racist — if either of them wins awards, best to play it safe and feign moral outrage.
Finally, there is “Les Misérables” which is everything all at once, and “Life of Pi,” which we forgot about.