With even more to come, the second part of our conversations on everything Oscar 2013 covers the Daniel Day-Lewis juggernaut, the across the board amazingly loaded acting categories, our biggest suggestion to improve the Academy Awards overall, and the respective allures of Matthew McConaughey and Susan Sarandon.
Doug: Do we even need to talk about the Best Actor category? Does anyone other than Daniel Day-Lewis really have a chance?
Sarah: Look at the lineup of nominees. I mean, come on. Who else could take it?
Doug: To give props where they’re due, though, Denzel Washington was pretty amazing in Flight. I went off on the writing in that movie, but Denzel’s performance took a movie that, with anybody else in the lead, could have been one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a theater…
Sarah: Which is kind of a great way to look at it. Remember last year, you said pretty much the same thing with Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady.
Doug: And Denzel is on fire in the first 20-30 minutes of Flight. He’s electric. Honestly, anytime he’s on screen the movie is highly watchable, which is amazing that he was able to overcome the terrible writing.
Sarah: You’ve said the performances weren’t really what made Flight craptastic. Unfortunately, we know that generally the overall quality of the film is going to have some weight when it comes to winning an acting category. So, maybe Denzel was great, but he’s not in a good spot to win.
Doug: Yeah. Hugh Jackman, despite the Golden Globe win…
Sarah: He won the Golden Globe, but they have the separate categories for lead acting, the drama and comedy/musical categories, so Jackman wasn’t going up against Daniel Day-Lewis directly, there.
Doug: Right, not even in the same category. And while different groups of people are voting for the Golden Globes than vote for the Oscars, you have to say that the fact that Bradley Cooper can’t beat Hugh Jackman in the same category at the Globes doesn’t bode well for Mr. Cooper. And what to do with Joaquin Phoenix?
Sarah: He wasn’t our favorite, but we’ve already talked about how other actors will probably love his performance, so you never know how the voting could go. But I just can’t see anybody but Daniel Day-Lewis in the end for Best Actor. Again, though, you just never know if actors will vote for Phoenix or not.
Doug: I will say they were totally different types of performances, so there is that. Phoenix, as much as we didn’t like him, had a lot to do with creating a wholly original category. Whereas Daniel Day-Lewis was largely mimicking someone. Which are two completely different skill sets.
Sarah: To inhabit somebody that actually existed, and pull it off the way Daniel Day-Lewis did?
Doug: Oh, DDL is going to win. Let’s just move it along…
Sarah: Actor in a supporting role? Probably one of the strongest categories.
Doug: And we didn’t even get our guy McConaughey in there.
Sarah: We wanted McConaughey. We want him, really, for anything.
Doug: That’s your line.
Sarah: I mean I want him for any of his many great performances this year.
Doug: That’s what she said.
Sarah (laughing): For any one of his many performances. Bernie, a flawed movie, but a great supporting performance by Matthew. And your favorite, Magic Mike.
Doug (in lame McConaughey impression): Alright, alright, alright. This is a super strong category.
Sarah: A strong category, but Alan Arkin?
Doug: When I saw Argo, I remember thinking I’d like to see Arkin nominated. But it turned out to be too strong a year, and I don’t think he really deserved it. He got nominated because he’s Alan Arkin, and he got some memorable line readings. But look at the names here. Arkin, De Niro, Hoffman, Jones, Waltz. That is unbelievable.
Sarah: You know it’s strong when you have a year where you’re eliminating Arkin and De Niro right off the bat. It’s tough, De Niro was good, but compared to the others he’s not as strong. There’s always the “we owe you one” angle, but…
Doug: Or maybe this is his last go at an Oscar. The one thing I love about the Supporting Actor category is that whoever wins, it will be for a performance that I liked a lot. I don’t even like Tommy Lee Jones, but the guy was spectacular in Lincoln.
Sarah: He was a big part of what made Lincoln an alive movie. He added a lot of the energy. Otherwise, it could have been a pretty dull movie.
Doug: It could have been dull. But one of the great things Spielberg did with Lincoln, focusing almost exclusively on the politics of it all, was to use the “lively” politics of the day, to use a kind word, to give the story its life and bounce and intrigue. I mean, if anything, Spielberg soft played the nastiness of the politics of the day, playing that nastiness for laughs in some places. But Jones gave the movie a big part of its heart.
Sarah: I liked Tommy Lee Jones in that, but the two best performances in this category of great performances, I think, come down to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christoph Waltz.
Doug: I’m sure we’ll have more of a picks type conversation before the Oscars, but it has to come down to those two. Man, what about actress? This is one of the wildcard categories.
Sarah: It always is. It may not be as bad this year as it has been in years past, but there are always a couple of nominations in this category for performances in movies that aren’t nominated for much of anything else. A pretty good list of names this year, though. We are thinking it’s going to come down to Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Is Chastain going to win?
Doug: I don’t know, they both got Golden Globes in their respective categories. I think there is a lot of Jennifer Lawrence love out there. I wonder when the voting for the Oscars actually takes place. I think Zero Dark Thirty had its little period of controversy and backlash. That could hurt Chastain, and Lawrence could end up with the win. That one’s going to be interesting.
Sarah: Yeah, the “Hollywood Elite” is also the liberal elite, remember. And a lot of them are not too happy about the torture sections. Susan Sarandon just posted a blog on the ACLU website coming out strongly against her interpretation of the film’s suggesting the use of torture led to capturing Bin Laden as a pure fiction.
Doug: Well, I like me some Susan Sarandon, so whatever she says goes in my book.
Sarah: Straight up.
Doug: I think I’d play ping pong in her ping pong club in Brooklyn if she requested me to.
Sarah: Just ping pong, huh?
Doug: My wife has everything taken care of, so ping pong will suffice. Who knows how the Zero Dark backlash might affect the voting on some of these categories. I think Best Actress is going to be close. Best Supporting Actress, also pretty strong this year. Other than maybe Sally Field.
Sarah: We’ve talked a lot about our favorite, how Amy Adams should get it. But there’s a good chance she won’t.
Doug: And you know what, I’m going to pass on this category for now, because I’d like us to have a different conversation about who should versus who will win in some of these categories. So, I’m piping down as we move on to the nominees for Animation. I have not seen a one of these movies yet, so it’s all yours on this one.
Sarah: I know, you haven’t seen one of these. And you’re missing out on a lot of good stuff.
Doug: I am planning on an…
Sarah: Animation domination catchup at some point?
Doug: Yes, yes I am.
Sarah: Having seen the entire list of feature length animated nominees this year, you know it’s a good year when Brave is the weak link, because that one was great. And I doubt Pirates: Band of Misfits has a huge chance. One of the things I loved about all the nominees is how they’re all about outcasts. I know you made fun of me for that, pointing out that…
Doug: About 92.4% of all animated stuff is about outcasts?
Sarah (laughing): Yes. I’m not sure I agree with your exact numbers. But I like that all the ones this year are more about non-conformists. Brave has a great feminist message, Frankenweenie is about a little artistic boy who just wants to do his thing, doesn’t want to play baseball…
Doug: Doesn’t want to play baseball? Gasp. Dadgum it, that’s just un-American.
Sarah: It’s funny you say that, because there’s a great character, a teacher from a sort of unidentified Eastern European background, making fun of Americans’ not valuing science in a lot of ways. It’s pretty funny. Frankenweenie would be a worthy winner of this category. And we’ve already talked about how Paranorman is one of my favorite movies of the year in any category. Another great message movie, all about a different kind of kid who gets bullied and how terrible bullying is. Kind of a great message to get across in today’s environment. And even Pirates: Band of Misfits…
Doug: Which is apparently literally about outcasts, or at least misfits.
Sarah: Yes. And it’s all about family, another message we can all get behind. Things go badly when family doesn’t look out for each other in Pirates. And Wreck It Ralph lets you know that everybody has a role to play that is important, and that’s OK.
Doug: And it apparently has an awesome array of cameos from various classic video game characters from over the years?
Sarah: It’s true, and I love the support group for the “bad guy” video game characters. It’s all really very fun.
Doug: Since we’re on the Animated category, I’m going to take the opportunity to throw my little suggestion of the year in for the Academy. The fact that they have a separate category for Animated films goes way back. And it’s really cool that they do it. If they really wanted to open things up, like they’re trying to do with the increased nominations for Best Picture, why don’t they really go for it? Make it like the Grammys. The Grammys has a Best Song category. But they also have separate Country, and R&B, and Rock, and Alternative, etc categories. In addition to Best Animated at the Oscars, why can’t we also have Action, and Comedy, and Horror, etc, categories. One of the main points of even having the Oscars is to get us movie fans talking. That would really expand the conversation and excitement.
Sarah: And the Golden Globes already kind of do that with the separate categories for Drama and Comedy/Musical. I like the idea of an Action category.
Doug: And, honestly, if they did this they could probably go back to only five for Best Picture. And the Best Picture category would actually seem even more exclusive than it does now and maybe than it ever felt. You’d be sort of filtering the best of the best movies out of these other categories into the larger Best Picture nominations. Anyway, that’s my idea.
Sarah: And you’d get more recognition for a lot of the movies that end up having more staying power in the long run, or at least the ones you end up watching multiple times as the years go by. And those are often the comedies and action movies, which don’t always get recognized at awards time. I own Biutiful and So, I Married An Axe Murderer. Guess which one I’ve watched more? And I’m not sure that by opening up Best Picture to as many as 10 nominees that they’re really done what they said they were trying to do, which is open it up to more types of movies.
Doug: Yeah, with some exceptions, it’s mainly the same old types of movies, just often more mediocre ones getting nominated. How much more interesting would Best Picture be if you had, let’s take your favorite from the Animation category, Paranorman, on the list. Throw in Dark Knight Rises, or maybe Skyfall. A movie like Looper. Not just the same old stuff. It would be so much more interesting.