Reflections on Hollywood's awards season so far
I had been saying since mid-October that Argo would win Best Picture, and it’s been an interesting week for that prediction. When the Oscar nominations came out on Thursday, that prediction seemed to get squashed on the spot, with director Ben Affleck being inexplicably left off of the nominations. Only three films in history have won Best Picture without their director being nominated, and only one of those (Driving Miss Daisy in 1989) has been released in the last eighty years.
Well that sucked. In my entire life, I can only ever recall one truly shocking Oscar snub prior to this year, when Hoop Dreams was left out of the Best Documentary race in 1994. People were totally outraged. And that’s the key difference that signifies what happened to Ben Affleck this year was serious. Every single year the Oscar nominations come out and include surprises. But those surprises generally involve the people who weren’t considered “locks” for nominations. Look at every single prediction for the Best Director nominations you can find (including mine), and I guarantee they will all have three names in common: Spielberg, Affleck, and Bigelow. So the fact that two of those names didn’t end up on the final ballot is more than just perplexing. No amount of analysis seems to explain what happened. And Affleck’s Globe win only further illustrates how weird it is. It’s the first time since 1988 that the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Director didn’t get nominated for the Oscar. (Interestingly, that instance was another actor fighting for acceptance as a major director—Clint Eastwood. And he won the Oscar four years later.)
So who will win the Oscar now? Well, with his major competition sitting the bench, Spielberg looks like he’s unstoppable here. But I still think voter fatigue may play a major role. While Spielberg has lost and been snubbed far more times than he’s won, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still one of only four living directors with two Oscars, and no living director has three. (Only three directors in history have ever won more than two Oscars: William Wyler and Frank Capra won three, and John Ford won four. But they were all Golden Age Hollywood directors, and the last time any of them gave an acceptance speech was during the Eisenhower administration.) Spielberg will never have a better chance of winning a third Oscar, but that still doesn’t mean voters will be eager to give him one. Watch out for Michael Haneke here. I’ll write more on this as we get closer to Oscar time, but I think he has a great chance at an upset.
How snubbed was John Hawkes of a nomination? So snubbed that the guy can barely even get credit for being snubbed. He was thought to be the best chance to beat Daniel Day-Lewis before being left off of the ballot entirely, but with all of the attention on Affleck and Bigelow, Hawkes has just been left out of the conversation entirely. But his snubbing is just as bizarre and inexplicable; I challenge anyone to find a set of nomination predictions that didn’t include him.
Anyway, without Hawkes here, we might as well not even have other nominees. Daniel Day-Lewis should just start walking to the stage as soon as the presenters come out.
But that raises an important question: Are we ready to officially call Daniel Day-Lewis the greatest actor of all-time? Only two other men have ever won three acting Oscars, Jack Nicholson and Walter Brennan. Brennan won Best Supporting Actor three times, while Nicholson won Best Actor twice and Supporting Actor once. But winning Best Actor three times is totally unprecedented, and it would seem to separate Daniel Day-Lewis into a category all his own. Is that warranted? Are we okay with this? Are we ready to pseudo-officially unseat Marlon Brando, or Laurence Olivier, or Robert De Niro from the top of the acting mountain? Perhaps we are. While Daniel Day-Lewis hasn’t reinvented acting to the level of any of those aforementioned legends, he’s probably perfected it just as much, and maybe even more.
We knew before last weekend that this was already a two-woman race, and seeing both Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain collect their Golden Globes only further confirms that. But a great speech at the Golden Globes has been known to help people’s Oscar chances. So the question is, did Jennifer Lawrence give a great speech, or was she too snarky? She definitely gave a memorable speech, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it? I think she’s the frontrunner, but only by a tiny bit. An equally interesting element of this race is the ongoing controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty, and what it may do to Chastain’s chances. Will voters feel like she’s the only opportunity to honor the movie, which remains critically adored? Or will the controversies keep voters away? If this weekend’s box office results are any indication, the controversies certainly haven’t kept audiences away. Zero Dark Thirty could pass Silver Linings Playbook in domestic gross by its second week in wide release.
Best Supporting Actor
This is the only category on the board that doesn’t seem to have any kind of front-runner. All of the nominees are previous Oscar winners, and everyone but Philip Seymour Hoffman has already won this category. Christoph Waltz won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of bounty hunter in Django Unchained, but it’s difficult to see him winning an Oscar for a Tarantino movie just three years after winning an Oscar for a Tarantino movie. My guess is Tommy Lee Jones has the best chance. He feels like an actor that deserves to own two Oscars, he’s in the most nominated film (Lincoln), and he gives a memorably showy performance. But he also looked memorably not amused during the Golden Globes, and that could be the kind of image that sticks with people.
Best Supporting Actress
This is the most boring category because no one has any chance of beating Anne Hathaway, and unlike Daniel Day-Lewis running away with Best Actor, this inevitability doesn’t allow us the opportunity to talk about any greater historical implications. Had Hathaway given a disastrous speech at the Golden Globes, she might have hurt her chances. But she gave the best speech of the night.
Because of the monumental snubs in the Best Director category, a lot of other bizarre omissions have been ignored or forgotten about. But for the record, here are some more: The Master was left out of the Best Cinematography race, a race in which it should have been the front-runner. Cloud Atlas didn’t get a single nomination, despite being the presumptive winner of Best Makeup, and being more than deserving of nominations for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design. Flight was left out of the Best Visual Effects race despite the amazing plane crash sequence that opened the film. And Looper failed to get a much-predicted Best Original Screenplay nomination, which it more than deserved.
But on the positive side, Oscar host Seth MacFarlane is also an Oscar nominee for his song from Ted. Have we ever seen someone win an Oscar while hosting the show? Without really checking, I’m thinking no. And even in the midst of so many bizarre and disappointing nominations, I still found cause to celebrate. One of my favorite films from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Norway’s Kon-Tiki, receiving a much-deserved Best Foreign Language Film nomination.