In reality our votes mean diddly-squat, especially considering that more than 5,000 people vote for the Academy Awards every year. The voting body includes high-profile directors, producers, writers and actors. None of us are on that list but we definitely have an opinion on such pressing matters. The three surveyed are a journalist (yours truly), a screenwriting professor and a cinema student all from SF State.
The journalist: Jonathan Ramos is a reporter and assistant A&E editor for the Golden Gate Xpress. He has been studiously watching the Academy Awards since 2000. He obviously knows what he’s talking about.
The professor: Julian Hoxter is an assistant professor of screenwriting & screenwriting coordinator at SF State.
The student: Jason Zavaleta is a 22-year-old cinema student at SF State.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Life of Pi”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
The journalist’s pick: “Argo” has won every major precursor award leading up to Sunday night. A best picture win seems inevitable at this point and that’s OK with me. “Argo” hits many high notes and is that rare Hollywood blockbuster that is entertaining, meaningful and timeless all at once. It will age very well unlike “Crash” — the worst best picture winner ever! (Over “Brokeback Mountain?” Really?) It’s only been seven years since its shocking win and no other winner stinks up a conversation more than this shameless piece of manipulation. “Do the Right Thing” this is not. The movie has it merits but I’d say we were all bamboozled that year. I’m looking at you too “King’s Speech!” (Over “The Social Network?” Really?) It’s only been two years since that upset and I’m still rolling my eyes.
I think “Argo” will win, but if I were voting, I’d cast my ballot either for “Django Unchained” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I love movies with attitude and an edge and these two have it in spades. While I enjoyed the former a bit more than the latter, I’d have to go with “Beasts.” Tarantino unfortunately lost this same category back in ’95 for “Pulp Fiction.” He was the toast of the town then and his movie literally gave filmmaking a much-needed jolt of adrenaline. For that reason I have to go with the new kids in town. What better way to usher in an exciting new filmmaker like Benh Zeitlin than by awarding him film’s top honor. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a game changer. My prediction: “Argo.”
The professor’s pick: My pick is “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” There is no competition on this one. “Beasts…” was revelatory and compelling, one of the very few films that even approaches understanding and expressing the connection between a young child and their world. My Prediction: “Argo” (which I also enjoyed), with “Lincoln” coming up fast on the rail.
The student’s pick: I think “Argo” will be best picture this year. It’s been the favorite in most of the awards leading up to the Oscars. It’s a well done film and for a director to also be the protagonist in such a high intensity film is impressive, but that’s just the problem, the intensity. As a filmmaker I respect and appreciate stories that make you feel, but with “Argo” I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack before the movie was over!
Michael Haneke “Amour”
Ang Lee “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
The journalist’s pick: Kudos to the Academy for giving Haneke a shoutout. I love it when they nominate a true auteur in this category. Think back to David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive,” Pedro Almodovar for “Talk to Her” and Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” However, I once again have to go with the new kid and vote Benh Zeitlin. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” has the magic of a Spielberg film, the depth of an Ang Lee film, the frantic energy of a David O. Russell film and the artistic edge of a Haneke film while being a true original. It’s quite the feat and there’s no chance in hell he’ll win. My prediction: Steven Spielberg although this is really a 3-man race including Lee and Russell.
The professor’s pick: A write- in here for Ben Affleck (“Argo”), because he should at least have been nominated, although I’d love it if Benh Zeitlin won (he won’t). As for the others, Michael Haneke is one of my pet hates — sorry, but there it is. Spielberg gimped his own movie with the saccharine opening and by not ending it before the assassination. David O. Russell did a great job, but I rate Zeitlin’s higher. Didn’t see “Life of Pi,” because on a scale from ‘one’ to ‘life’s too short’, “Life of Me” was preferable. My prediction: Steven Spielberg.
The student’s pick: Spielberg has won twice. I love “Lincoln” and would want him to win for both director and picture but I am going to favor the underdog and go with Benh Zeitlin. A first time filmmaker who creates a unique story about life and death and coming to terms with such is no picnic, and doing it with a first time actress of the age of nine is just incredible. The movie was touching and Behn did a great job of manifesting his outlook into the characters and the story.
Bradley Cooper “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix “The Master”
Denzel Washington “Flight”
The journalist’s pick: I worship at the altar of Daniel Day-Lewis. Without a doubt he will deservedly win his third Oscar on Sunday. I’m tempted to vote Phoenix because he was ferociously good and I would love to hear his speech, especially considering that he has made it very clear that he thinks the Academy is a total joke. Congrats to Cooper though for finally proving that he’s more than just a pretty face and Washington for delivering one of the most compelling character studies of the year. We get it Hugh. You like to sing. My prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis.
The professor’s pick: Daniel Day-Lewis. Not the strongest lineup for this category in 2013, but his Lincoln felt like the Lincoln of my imagination. A little shout out here to the lad Bradley Cooper, whose performance completely changed my mind about him, and that’s rare. He’s not going to win, but he’s proved his talent this year. My prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis.
The student’s pick: Daniel Day-Lewis, period. No other choice. Time after time Day-Lewis has awed me with his passion and dedication to discover the essence of the character’s he plays and this is no exception. His funky walk, raspy high-pitched voice, and power in his moments of anger and frustration make the man a master. This would be the first time any actor has won the Academy Award for best actor three times, so I am counting on this historical victory.
Jessica Chastain “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts “The Impossible”
The journalist’s pick: I worship at the altar of Jessica Chastain. That’s right DDL: I serve multiple masters. She is the actress of her generation and if she loses this time it won’t be a big deal. In two years she’s already carved out an impressive body of work and I can’t even begin to imagine what she’ll accomplish in the coming years. Her character in “ZDT” is a true original in the pantheon of great heroines. Her final shot in the movie is one that I’ll be studying for a long time to come. Lawrence will most likely win. She’s good in “Silver Linings Playbook” even great but C’MON! Her only purpose in the film is to save the day by being hot. I’ll admit, even I felt a slight tickle while watching her prance around in spandex, but I don’t think she deserves an Oscar for it. I cast my vote for Chastain, but I’m secretly rooting for Riva. At 85, she could become the oldest winner ever. Her 86th birthday is on Oscar Sunday! It’s easy to discount her performance as a housewife in the twilight of her life and say that it’s not a stretch. Wrong! Her performance is a master class in physical transformation and emotional depth. My prediction: Jennifer Lawrence with Emmanuelle Riva gaining a lot of momentum.
The professor’s pick: Quvenzhané Wallis. It’s always tricky trying to assess really young actors. For this one I’m trusting my gut that the complex connection we make with her performance was neither an accident, nor just the result of bravura editing. My prediction: Jennifer Lawrence (she’s the actress of her generation and is worth the plaudits, so good for her if she wins).
The student’s pick: Underdogs for the win, Quvenzhané Wallis for Best Actress. A 9-year-old who has no idea how to act, never taken a class or even a summer camp is nominated for the most recognized achievement in film acting for a woman, and damn, she’s the youngest person to get nominated in that category. I don’t think she fully comprehends the honor after saying that what she was looking forward to most about the awards was meeting Disney Channel stars, but what a sweet honor if she did win.
Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin “Argo”
Robert De Niro “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz “Django Unchained”
The journalist’s pick: Let’s keep in mind that they’ve all won before, so I’m not investing too much into this category. My pick is Christoph Waltz. He has become an unlikely muse to Tarantino and his performance was pitch perfect. Now that’s a bingo! I do love me some PSH though and his performance in “The Master” is the most complex of the bunch. The jerk-off scene in the sink is the most unnerving of the year. I have your attention now, don’t I? My prediction: Robert De Niro. He’s been red hot on the campaign trail this season.
The professor’s pick: Tommy Lee Jones, because nobody chews the period scenery with such ecstatic minimalism as he does. Although I’m also tempted by Alan Arkin’s gorgeous, if slight, turn in “Argo.” Also, wasn’t it nice to see De Niro actually act (in “Silver Linings Playbook”) for the first time in years? I confess I haven’t seen “Django Unchained” yet, so Christoph Waltz went unrated! My prediction: Tommy Lee Jones.
The student’s pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master.” While every nominee has won previously in this category, I think Hoffman’s performance was the most intriguing and unique of all the roles. He was poised and convincing and had me thinking the whole film and that’s Oscar worthy.
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams “The Master”
Sally Field “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver “Silver Linings Playbook”
The journalist’s pick: My favorite female supporting role wasn’t even nominated! Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy” pees on Zac Efron, simulates the most bizarre blowjob ever and somehow captures our hearts. (Wasn’t 2012 an unusually phallic year in film or is it just me? Actually, “Killer Joe” takes the top prize here. Let’s just say I won’t have KFC anytime soon. And well “Magic Mike” was just meat swords galore. Notice the Matthew McConaughey connection in all three. I’m on to something!) Back to Kidman: The movie is a mess but she brings an actor’s dedication to a whole other level. We all know Hathaway will win and rightfully so. However, I’d cast my vote for Helen Hunt for the same reasons I was so taken by Kidman sans the urination. Hunt bares all in “The Sessions” literally and figuratively. Her sex surrogate to John Hawkes’s polio-stricken, middle-aged poet wanting to lose his virginity, win for the year’s best on-screen couple. Their portrayal of sex and intimacy is unlike anything I’ve seen depicted on film before and it’s due in large part to Hunt’s tender and raw performance. My prediction: Anne Hathaway.
The professor’s pick: None. I liked Jacki Weaver, but I don’t feel any of them really rated an Oscar. However, there’s only so many singing French peasants one Englishman can take, so I have hidden from “The Glums” (as we call “Les Misérables” over the pond). My prediction: Anne Hathaway (because everyone says so and I want to be one of the popular kids).
The student’s pick: Sally Field held her own against the powerhouse that Daniel Day-Lewis puts out. She was strong and confident in each scene, serving as a crucial support just as Mary Todd was to Abraham.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Chris Terrio “Argo”
Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
David Magee “Life of Pi”
Tony Kushner “Lincoln”
David O. Russell “Silver Linings Playbook”
The journalist’s pick: I’m tempted to go with “Life of Pi” only because it was the book that Hollywood deemed unfilmable for so long. Magee accomplished the impossible here but I’m still not sold on the movie’s ending. I’ll vote Kushner because he is a national treasure among American artists. With “Lincoln,” he also achieved the impossible: an elegant script that gives us great insight into politics and into the great man who until last year had not been given the proper film treatment. Although, I did somewhat enjoy “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Hey, why isn’t that nominated?! It’s based off a book too! PS… What does the Academy have against teen dramedies? “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” should’ve been nominated and won. My prediction: “Argo” is the one to beat but “Silver Linings Playbook” is the one to watch out for overall.
The professor’s pick: Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin. This is a tough one with little to choose between them. One of the strongest categories this year. I haven’t had a chance to read the screenplays yet, so my vote is based on story as expressed in the finished films. My prediction: Tony Kushner.
The student’s pick: “Life of Pi” is truly a masterpiece. How do you write a script about a boy and a tiger on the ocean for two hours and make it interesting and compelling? Magee went through more than 100 drafts, so I hear, and that’s dedication. What came out was incredible and did the adaptation justice.
Best Original Screenplay:
Michael Haneke “Amour”
Quentin Tarantino “Django Unchained”
John Gatins “Flight”
Wes Anderson “Moonrise Kingdom”
Mark Boal “Zero Dark Thirty”
The journalist’s pick: How can I resist Tarantino? I could’ve sworn I thought of this same concept in the second grade when learning about Harriet Tubman. But you know what? I’ll vote for Wes Anderson here. He’s cut from the same zany Gen-X cloth as Tarantino. He’s never won and I tend to have a love/hate relationship with his work. However, anyone smart enough to put Edward Norton in a tiny, nut-hugging Boy Scouts uniform for the duration of their film gets my vote. PS… What does the academy have against edgy sci-fi films? “Looper” should have been nominated and won. Yes, I know the Academy has recognized sci-fi gems in the past. “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Star Wars,” “Avatar,” “District 9” and “Inception” come to mind. The real question is what does the academy have against my alter ego Joseph Gordon-Levitt? “(500) Days of Summer” and “50/50” were totally snubbed in this category recently. Anyway, just hand the award over to the Boy Scout! My prediction: Quentin Tarantino. “Zero Dark Thirty” has unfortunately been mired in too much controversy lately. A complete shut-out Sunday night will be its last nail in the coffin.
The professor’s pick: None. “Zero Dark Thirty?” Really? Oscar nomination? Really? Haven’t seen a couple of these, so I don’t feel qualified to vote with confidence. “Moonrise Kingdom” was charming, but something of a curate’s egg. My prediction: A toss-up between Mark Boal and Michael Haneke.
The student’s pick: Wes Anderson for “Moonrise Kingdom.” The film was a great homage to the olden days of 16mm filmmaking and what being a kid on an adventure is all about. A meaningful original story that made you laugh and smile, and those are the
qualities of a great original screenplay. Plus, I was a Boy Scout so the concept of the camp had a special place in my heart.