The nominations are in. The excitement is palpable of course, because those scary cliff-hanging elections are over and all the truly important life changing things in the world are all too big to get our heads around. Of course there is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome of the Oscars or the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, People’s Choice or the American Legion pic for best war movie, but somehow we all feel that if we close our eyes on Oscar night, clap our hands and click our sparkly red heels together, our favorite people will win.
It’s been a great year for motion pictures and I’m pleased to say that, yes, some movies are better than ever and some are worse. And it’s always fun to watch all the awards. Maybe one can glean some clue from all of those to determine who will really win the big one. Not.
Here on this page, I confess, I cannot. But I want to play anyway.
“Argo:” A swell action thriller with a tidal wave of enthusiasm and early awards behind it. It has all the ingredients, good acting, handsome people (but for the fact the real hero that Affleck plays looked more like Cheech). Still, I enjoyed it. The Golden Globe was generous, SAG audience stood up and cheered. They will cheer at the Oscars as well, but in my opinion, it won’t win.
“Lincoln:” Calm down and ask Nate Silver. The odds are large for this one and my Hollywood insiders tell me that Lincoln will probably sweep at least eight statues and will probably take it. WILL WIN
“Beasts of the Southern Wild:” The most interesting of the list with a devastating performance by the child, but too dreary, murky, plus it played mostly art theaters and almost nobody saw it. But I love the idea of that little girl sitting on the aisle.
“Silver Linings Playbook:” The best feel-good movie on the list with a room full of stellar performances, and my favorite of the year. It has a glowing stellar cast who all blend together like the ingredients in a perfect lasagna. SLP is like something out of the great studio days of the 30s when we needed something like this. Are times better today? With older members of the Academy, that ain’t bad medicine. SHOULD WIN
“Life of Pi:” Gorgeous, mesmerizing and enchanting, a real children’s story with no blow ups, gunfire or car chases. But it’s overlong and at times you just wanna get off that boat. Not a real contender.
“Zero Dark Thirty:” Another action adventure. Great cast and magnificent direction. Katherine Bigelow is snubbed. Women can now fight in combat, but not get an award for filming it? It’s a big screen adventure and I loved it, but no director? Not a good feeling here.
Haven’t seen Tarantino’s blood fest racial shoot ’em up “Django Unchained” and have no intention of doing so. It won’t win because an overwhelming wave of the Hollywood chattering class are down on it and Tarantino’s bad public face in interviews, and at the Globe’s end of show party were embarrassing.
“Les Miserables:” I know it’s not professional for a film critic not to cover everything, but even critics have sensitive stomachs, and after viewing a trillion ads for it, I decided to opt out. At any rate, this list is about best pic, and “LINCOLN” has its foot on the other pictures necks.
“Amour:” We were all warned about this dark horse and here it is threatening to rise up and take the prize. It’s powerful and depressing and sprinkled with brilliant moments of direction and acting.
BEST ACTOR IN LEADING ROLE
Hugh Jackman is a sturdy, beefy and talented actor. He sings, he dances, he can play gay or straight and women adore him. But for my part, he always seems to be doing the same thing, except without fingernails. The star of “X-MEN” lacks the star gravitas of a Brando, Pacino, Daniel Craig or Lewis. In another year, maybe.
Bradley Cooper: OMG, I can’t believe I’m saying it, but everyone’s “sexiest man alive,” delivers a golden performance, and has won me over. Having said that, he’s not going to take Best Actor, not now, not ever. He’s just a great bankable star.
Daniel Day Lewis: Clearly the favorite horse in the race. This is his year. SHOULD WIN/ WILL WIN
Joaquin Phoenix: Overrated actor in an overrated part. Out of the running.
Denzel Washington: Always a power contender, but the shadow of Lewis is a big one. Not his night.ACTRESS IN LEADING ROLE
Jessica Chastain: in “Zero Dark Thirty” is feisty and up to her usual work, but she only has two scenes that shine.
Naomi Watts in “The Impossible” is always a threat when she’s on screen, but most of her work here is drowning, screaming, suffering and in bed with a oxygen mask. Hard to pull off.
Emmanuelle Riva: Looks and acts like a real threat but cloaked in a gloomy comatose role. But who knows. Dark horses come in so quietly.
Quvenzhane Walls: The tiny girl in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a darling and engaging child actor who will soon be lost in the pic shuffle.
Jennifer Lawrence: in “Silver Lining Playbook” comes out of “Winter’s Bone,” and “Hunger Games,” like someone entirely different, snappy, whippy and powerful. Her role here is like a downed power line in a swimming pool. In her close ups she blows out all the lights. She is my pick for SHOULD WIN/ WILL WIN
Alan Arkin in “Argo” does his walk and talk better than anyone of his era. We love him and he’s much better at it as an ex-con in “Stand Up Guys” with Pacino and Walken. SHOULD WIN
Philip Deymour Hoffman: One of our great actors but this is not one of his better roles. It’s too weird, too long. A short list of fans on the academy.
Christoph Waltz: Waltz’s performance in curiously a showy part in “Inglorius Basterds” brought him into the brighter lights and gave him an Oscar. This time the competition is a bit tougher.
Tommy Lee Jones: brings his brand of tough but quiet stoicism to the role of the grumpy Thadeus Stevens in “Lincoln.” He’s part of the tsunami of “Lincoln.” He WILL WIN not so much for the low key performance, but because he’s Tommy, and it’s his turn.
Robert DeNiro: As the poppa in ‘Silver Linings Playbook” he’s at his best, but it’s too easy a stroll for him. Re-run “Taxi Driver”to see the real pro. ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams: In the murky way too long and boring “The Master” she’s so supporting that she almost disappears. Adams is everyone’s favorite screen personality, but no chance here.
Helen Hunt: A longtime favorite in Hollywood and very talented. But there is nothing in this role that shouts “Oscar.”
Anne Hathaway: Well, at least she’s not hosting this one. Won’t win.
Jacki Weaver: A gifted actress. Keep the camera on her face as she just “watches” the others, and she controls the scene. SHOULD WIN
Sally Field: OMG. Can’t believe it’s been so many years since “Gidget” in 1965, and “The Flying Nun.” Her career should have tanked then, but she persevered, became “Norma Rae,” and the amazing, totally heart breaking Momma in “Forest Gump.” WILL WIN
Michael Haneke for “Amour”
Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of The Southern Wild.”
Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln” WILL WIN
David O.Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook” SHOULD WIN
Seamus McGarvey for “Anna Karenina” SHOULD WIN
Janusz Kaminski for “LINCOLN” WILL WIN
Jacqueline Durran for “Anna Karenina” SHOULD WIN
Paco Delgado for “Les Miserables” WILL WIN
Tony Kushner for “Lincoln” WILL WIN
Mark Boal for “Zero Dark Thirty” WILL WIN
Place your bets and click those heels.