It's funny, I never really cared about the Academy Awards until a few years ago. Like most people, I wondered why popular films never made the cut and a bunch of movies that "no one sees" earn recognition.
How wrong I was! It all started with the 2011 Academy Awards, when amazing films like The King's Speech, The Kids Are Alright, True Grit, The Fighter, The Social Network, and Black Swan were fighting it out.
What I've found is that the weight of an Oscar nomination is important to me - it speaks to a film's quality and originality. It's not a guarantee by any means, but it does help a film to rise above the rest of the Hollywood noise. For example, recently caught up on past winners Winter's Bone and The Ides of March and was absolutely blown away.
Last year was the first time that I watched the Oscar ceremony and cared about what films were picked - I wasn't too far off in my predictions!
My goal is to watch at least half of the Best Picture nominees so I can have some stakes in the outcome. Sadly, I've only seen 2 of the 9 this year - Life of Pi and Argo. Which also means I've missed most of the performances nominated for acting. But I have seen a majority of films competing in the technical categories (sound, visual effects, and music).
I won't judge a movie I haven't seen, but from all of the buzz, I won't be surprised when Spielberg's Lincoln sweeps everything. It has the right feel for an awards washout - Big Director + Big Actor use the Big Past to say Big Things about Our Present.
Here are my other Oscar observations for 2013:
Life of Pi (3D)
The 3D was impressive without being overbearing and I'm always curious to see what a heavyweight director will do with the technology. The tiger was especially good, but I think the sinking ship sequence is when my jaw dropped the most.
I am surprised that Suraj Sharma (the character Pi) didn't get an acting nomination. Think about it - he did that entire story in front of a green screen yet brought fantastic depth and poignancy to his character. You never doubt for a second that he isn't stranded in the middle of the ocean trying to survive against insurmountable odds. It's a shame - would have been a great and deserved opportunity to honor an Indian actor too.
Nominated: Best Picture, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay
My Vote: Strong showing in all of the technical categories. Personally would like to see it take Original Score and Cinematography.
WON: Cinematography, Directing, Original Score, Visual Effects
Ok, Affleck was definitely robbed for directing here, but the film is at least up for Best Picture. I really enjoyed this film and I think its greatest strength is making it suspenseful when you already know the ending.
Well made, quality film. Now I need to go rent The Town because I think we're going to see more from Affleck in the years ahead - this is going to give him huge creds no matter what the film takes home.
I love Alan Arkin, but I personally don't know why he got nominated. He plays the same version of a character he's been doing in recent years. Don't get me wrong - I love that character - but I didn't see anything new here. His role in Little Miss Sunshine is so much more.
Did you know that John Goodman has never had an Oscar nomination? He's a prolific character actor and every bit as good as Arkin in this (as well as his side-busting appearance in Flight below). Someone give this man some credit!
Nominated: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
My Vote: Screenplay and Film Editing. Seriously, film editing is an invisible art and it plays an enormous role in this movie to get the pacing just right.
WON: Best Picture, Film Editing, Adapted Screenplay
If you are scared of flying, skip the first 45 minutes - the airplane crash is intense and realistic to the core.
So is Denzel's performance as a heroic pilot who happens to be a drunk. We watch him descend time and time again into alcoholic fits only to snort crack to stabilize his binge. Any actor can slam back a bottle or inhale powdered sugar - it takes someone with chops to bring an emotional complexity to a character bent on self-destruction and give the audience reasons to root for him.
Nominated: Best Actor and Original Screenplay
My Vote: Daniel Day-Lewis is going to walk all over this category, as he should, but I think Flight should win for Screenplay - I've never seen another film like it.
WON: no wins
It's pretty rare for a Bond movie to have any Oscar recognition, but let me tell you, Skyfall deserves each nomination. I was absolutely impressed with the cinematography. Fight scenes can be pretty stale across the genre, but not so in this 007 installment - they're inventive, engaging, and nothing like what I've seen before in an action movie.
Nominated: Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
My Vote: The cinematography won't happen (sigh), but everybody's in love with Adele so Original Song and I'd put money on either sound category.
WON: Original Song, Sound Editing (tied with Zero Dark Thirty)
Costume: Either Snow White movie - Atwood is a legend but Eiko Ishioka's designs in Mirror Mirror were more inventive (Anna Karenina snatched this one up).
Animated Feature: Brave is the only one I watched, but it's good enough to win (and it did).
Visual Effects: Only category I've seen all of the movies in. The tiger in a boat will grab this one by the teeth, but I think all of these movies have a place here this year (right again).
What are your Oscar thoughts this year?