My Take on the 85th Academy Award Nominations

Yesterday, the nomination list for the 85th Academy Awards was announced.  I consider myself a relatively informed moviegoer – I’m not at the movies every weekend, and there are a fair number on the list of nominees I’ve never heard of.  I probably also won’t stay up to watch the Oscars, because they like to hold them on a Sunday evening, and I can’t muster the energy to wrangle a classroom of second graders if I stay up past midnight to see the Best Picture winner.  I’m content to read about it the next morning.

Anyway, I figured I might as well weigh in, with what little gift of prophecy I have when it comes to predicting Oscar winners, about the films I did happen to see in 2012.

Actor in a Leading Role

If I could vote – which I can’t – but if I could, Daniel Day-Lewis would get my vote for his portrayal of the 16th president in Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

Having done some relatively extensive reading and research about Abraham Lincoln, I truly appreciate Day-Lewis’s portrayal of a complicated and often misunderstood man.  Everything about the characterization felt so spot on, matching up with contemporary sources about Lincoln.  Day-Lewis got it right, from the rather high pitched, nasal voice (Lincoln was often described as having a poor voice for oratory) to the lanky, stooped and shuffling way he walked.  We see the extremes of temper the President often displayed, as well as a glimpse into the emotions of a man who took office during the nation’s most difficult time (up till that point, at least, though it could be argued that it remains the single most challenging moment in American history).

Actor in a Supporting Role

I go back to “Lincoln” for this.  Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens was superb. There are times I come away from a Tommy Lee Jones movie, whether he’s a leading actor or not, and feel rather, “Eh,” about his performance.  But I felt he did an excellent job with this character.

Actress in a Supporting Role

I’m on the fence with this one.  Part of me wants to go with Anne Hathaway for her breathtaking, heart-rending portrayal of Fantine in “Les  Misérables” (if you haven’t seen her singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” get out from under your rock and do so).  But then, Sally Field’s portrayal of the emotionally wracked and perhaps slightly unstable Mary Todd Lincoln struck a chord with me as well.  I predict Field will walk away with the Oscar, but it would neither surprise or disappoint me if Hathaway gets it.


Okay, I admit I haven’t seen most of the movies on this list.  “Lincoln” would be my pick for this, because Janusz Kaminski did a spectacular job, in my humble opinion, of showing the grittiness of the Civil War, from battlefields (good Lord, the ride through Petersburg!) to the streets and corridors of Washington City.

Though, honestly, I fail to see why “The Hobbit” didn’t make this list. I mean, hello!  Sweeping vistas of places that actually exist in New Zealand and intimate, cozy corners in Bag End?  Somebody was sleeping during the nomination process.

Costume Design

“Les Misérables” gets my vote on this one, only because “The Hobbit” again was overlooked/snubbed.  How can you not nominate a film that turned Richard Armitage from a handsome, all around charming Brit to, well, the hottest dwarf I ever thought I’d see:


Spielberg. “Lincoln.”  End of story.  Only because I didn’t see “Life of Pi”, which I assume was a challenge to direct.  I mean, kid on a lifeboat with a freaking tiger?

Makeup and Hairstyling

If it’s not “The Hobbit”, it’ll be “Les Misérables.”  Really, both films had a challenge.  One had to make regular people look like, well, dwarves and hobbits, and the other had to turn beautiful people into wasted, starving, pitiful people. Except Amanda Seyfried.  She just gets to look like a cross between Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Music (Original Score)

Seriously?  Howard Shore didn’t get a nod for “The Hobbit” soundtrack?  Have they not listened to it? Sure there are some melodies from the LOTR soundtracks that echo back, most notably what I’d call the Shire theme and the Rivendell theme.  But “The Song of the Lonely Mountain”, when turned into an anthem, is just as stirring as the Fellowship theme.  I’ve been humming/singing it everywhere I go since I bought the soundtrack.

Boo, Academy music nominators.  You suck at this.

Music (Original Song)

A lot of people were incensed about the addition of the new song “Suddenly” in “Les Misérables,” and I can understand why.  They did it with the thought that it would put them in the running for this category, but the filmmakers also stated that they wanted/needed to find a way to show the moment when Jean Valjean realized he not only would give his life to keep Cosette safe, but that he loved her as his own.

The song struck a personal chord in me.  I won’t go into it here.  But it’s emotional, stirring, and I’m sorry to my fellow rabid Les Miz fans (really, I’m still one of you – it took every ounce of willpower not to sing along in the theater), but I loved it.

Plus it was written by the original composers and lyricists. So it’s not like they just pulled somebody in off the street.

Production Design

I’m going with “The Hobbit”, though “Les Misérables” is a close runner up.

Sound Mixing

“Les Misérables” all the way on this one.  Because did you hear how they recorded it? The actors wore body mics and tiny speakers, and somebody off set played piano while the actors sang live.  This was done basically to keep everybody on key, and allowed them to actually act, rather than try to lip sync to a previously recorded soundtrack being piped onto the set.  It creates an intimacy with the characters as they sing, at least in the solo numbers like “I Dreamed a Dream”, “On My Own”, and “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables,” in a way you can’t get even with the stage production.  The huge chorus numbers were thrilling as well.

Visual Effects

Do I really have to say anything here?  “The Hobbit,”  hands down.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Though I haven’t seen it, I bet “Life of Pi” is a front runner here.  I think this because I recall not being overly impressed with the book, and based on the trailers, I would say it was a bit of an impressive feat to adapt the novel for the screen.

Then again, “Lincoln” is right up there in my book too.

Animated Feature Film

My vote and prediction for this one goes to “Brave.”  Has there ever been a year when a Disney animated flick didn’t win this category?  Probably, but I can’t think of one.  But “Brave” puts a new spin on the standard princess story.  Merida, the princess and heroine, isn’t out to find her prince – she’s out to find herself.  I thought the movie sent an excellent message to girls everywhere (and boys too, for that matter), that it’s not all about finding “true love,” it’s about discovering your own strength and what’s truly important in your life.  And yeah, maybe someday, true love too.

Maybe I also just really love Merida’s hair.

Best Picture

Usually the nominees for Best Picture are a collection of films I either a) didn’t see, b) didn’t hear of, or c) thought were boring as hell.  Every so often, there are nominees that I, a less-than-lofty moviegoer, appreciate making the list.  Like the year “Return of the King” won – because that really was for the full trilogy.  I bet we’ll see a similar thing happen after the third “Hobbit” movie.

But of the movies on the nominee list, I’d say the front runners are “Lincoln,” “Les Misérables,” and “Life of Pi”.

My prediction is that, due to the historical significance and timing, both in terms of release and, you know, that whole 150th anniversary of the Civil War thing, “Lincoln” will bag the Best Picture Oscar.

Movies I Can’t Wait to See

After several months of ho-hum movie releases (at least in terms of what I get fired up about at the movie theater), there are a handful of films coming out in the next three months that have me oh so excited.  Here they are in the order of their release dates.

“Cloud Atlas”

I have to admit that I’m not totally sure what this movie is about, other than being one of those “everything is connected” movies.  From the descriptions and the trailer, it looks like a combination of “Love Actually” and “Orlando.”  But most Tom Hanks movies are pretty dang good.


I thoroughly enjoyed “The Conspirator” when it came out last year, mostly because of (no surprise) how historically accurate the filmmakers strove to be.  So I was pretty (aka beyond) excited to hear about Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic project.  Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones – pretty big names too.  The movie is based on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, so I expect more historical awesomeness.  I almost squealed out loud when I first saw the trailer.

“Anna Karenina”

I saw the 1948 film version of this classic Russian novel, the one that stars the one and only Vivien Leigh, several years ago. It’s going to be hard for Keira Knightly to live up to Leigh in my opinion, but I expect good things judging from her performance in “The Dutchess”.  Plus it stars Jude Law – and I never mind a movie with Jude Law.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Do I really need to explain this? Okay.  Well, I’m a huge LOTR fan.  I was long before the trilogy was ever conceptualized as film, at least as far as I’m aware.  I was a relative newcomer to The Hobbit, having read the LOTR trilogy and The Silmarillion before picking up Tolkien’s original venture into Middle Earth.  But any film relating to Tolkien’s work is more than okay by me.  LOTR was amazing, and I expect the same from Peter Jackson’s return trip to Middle Earth.

“Les Misérables

This is my most favorite musical ever. I know every note and every word of every song.  I prayed, in vain, that we would do this show for one of our yearly musicals when I was in high school.  I would give just about anything to perform in it, even as a lowly ensemble member (though playing Eponine would be beyond awesome).  I finally had the opportunity to see it performed on stage with a Broadway touring company in February (yeah, my favorite show, and I just saw it on stage this year), which was amazing because I was literally only two months late to see it on Broadway before the 25th anniversary run ended.

This film release really ties with “The Hobbit” on my highly anticipated must-see movies list for this winter.  And it might edge into first place.  But the producers have been surprisingly mum about production stuff – no doubt they want to surprise and awe us all with the awesome performances.  I’m most curious to see how Russell Crowe fares as Inspector Javert, and if Hugh Jackman can hit those high notes in “Bring Him Home.”

So what films are you chomping at the bit to see in theaters?