Sunday, February 24, 2013

13 Going on Zero Dark Thirty: Chris and Jeremy Unchained at The Oscars

And now, for The Only Oscar Article Longer Than the Oscars™!

Hello and welcome to The Same Dame’s award-winning coverage of the Academy Awa – wait, what’s that? They’re not called the Academy Awards anymore? We’re seriously not allowed to call them the Academy Fucking Awards this year? Well, congratulations, Academy – shortening the official name to “The Oscars” is just the hip, youth-courting shot in the arm your award show has long needed.

Of course, the kids will also be tuning in to see this year’s host, “Ted” director and “The Cleveland Show” creator Seth MacFarlane, who we’d like to officially welcome to the stage.

Seth MacFarlane says: Thank you, Chris and Jeremy –

Jeremy says: Jeremy and Chris, actually.

Seth MacFarlane says: Thank you, Jeremy and Chris. I love you both dearly. And I’m pleased to be hosting this year’s Academy Awa –

Wait, what? Just “The Oscars”? That’s it? Wow, that’s the most surprising thing I’ve heard since that time Captain Planet and Al Gore came over to my house and took a shit and refused to compost their own feces, amirite?


Well, get used to it, folks. That’s what you’re gonna get all fucking night. I literally haven’t prepared any material and I’m just going to be making up jokes as I go along. Just know that even if none of my jokes are funny, I will laugh hysterically at myself anyway.

I really, really like myself.

Chris and Jeremy: We know you do, Seth. We know you do.

Seth MacFarlane says: I would now like to treat everyone to a big band musical number, sung by the greatest singer in the history of jazz, ME! Did I ever tell you I always wanted to be Frank Sinatra? Listen up people, this is going to blow your mind…

Jeremy and Chris: Let’s just mute the TV for a bit. Now, where were we?

Oh yeah, this year’s Oscars. Yes, believe it or not, it’s been a year since last year’s show, which saw the “The Artist” take top honors. And my, how things have changed since then. The triumph of a (nearly) silent film ushered in an entire new era of filmmaking. All of the Best Picture nominees this year are silent films, as Hollywood took the hint and gave the people what they’ve always wanted.

And what an eclectic group of silent films this year’s nominees are. First up we have the prohibitive favorite, “Argo,” about a reality game show in the 1970s that combined the best elements of “The Real World” and “The Amazing Race.” Set amongst a group of nine strangers living together under one roof, this madcap romp forced the strangers to work together in a race to the airport, while a group of friends across town puts together a fun puzzle.

Probably Ben Affleck and Co.’s biggest competition for the top prize is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which tells the inspiring story of a landmark courtroom trial in which our 16th President fought for the rights of Tommy Lee Jones and bald men everywhere to live lives free of terrible wigs. Indeed Mr. Jones wins that fight, triumphantly removing his humiliating mop of boyish curls in the film’s climactic moment. Still, the movie ends on a downer, as a vengeful hair stylist guns down Abraham Lincoln, proving that intolerance of bald people everywhere was still alive and well.

David O. Russell is back in contention two years after “The Fighter,” this time with “Silver Linings Playbook,” the stirring tale of a troubled man who reconnects with his long-lost daughter and fulfills his long-ago promise of going to her dance recital. The movie’s good, but it gets a little weird when he starts kissing his daughter on the lips at the end. Not cool, David O. Russell. Not cool.

Then there’s “Life of Pi,” Ang Lee’s live-action remake of “Aladdin” that courted controversy when it replaced the famous genie with a magical tiger, brought to stunning life in a great feat of performance-capture by Robin Williams. Indeed, the genie tiger grants Pi his three wishes – first (in a strange twist), the death of his evil parents, by whom he was held captive on a giant ship; next, the discovery of a magical island; and finally, years later, a banal conversation with a struggling writer.

The plucky underdog in this year’s race is Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” about a mentally disturbed young girl who thinks baby chicks are telephones and spends the whole movie pestering a local alcoholic. It’s a lovely movie, to be sure, but it sends a terrible message when the little girl and the alky refuse the assistance of some heroic government employees.

The year’s most outrageous comedy comes in the form of Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” a genuine change of pace for the divisive, confrontational filmmaker and Twitter rabble-rouser. The movie tells the story of a couple of retired pranksters and all the crazy hijinks and adventures that prove that age is only a number, as long as you’re young at heart. We were charmed by their childlike humor as they chased their pet bird around their house, like a couple of old rascals! And who can forget the hilarious pillow gag the old man pulls off at the end? Hysterical!

But not all of this year’s nominees are as lighthearted as that one. There was also the disturbing “Zero Dark Thirty,” about a murderous ginger psychopath dead-set on a decade-long quest to kill as many poor innocent Middle Easterners as possible. Kudos are certainly owed leading lady Jessica Chastain, who made for one of the most memorably chilling on-screen villains since Hannibal Lecter.

Speaking of villains, let’s not forget about “Django Unchained,” a story about a disturbed prisoner on the run from justice after escaping his law-abiding captors. The lead character, named after one of the two best jazz guitarists of the 1930s, joins forces with a notorious Nazi and the two go on a murderous rampage across the American South, like a bromantic Bonnie and Clyde.

And finally there’s “Les Misérables,” a deconstructive study of oral hygiene directed by former ear, nose and throat doctor Tom Hooper, who clearly studied Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” before shooting. Utilizing a relentless series of close-ups of its characters in various stages of extreme agony, the film observes its characters’ near-constant screaming and shouting in utter silence, providing a subtle reminder of how the struggles in our lives so often fall on deaf ears.

Seth MacFarlane says: Deaf ears? That reminds me of the time Helen Keller went on safari with Dumbo, and Dumbo was all like, “I’ve got this magic feather that makes me fly!” and Helen Keller was all like, “I can’t hear you, I’m deaf!”


Jeremy and Chris: Thanks, Seth. Thanks for the anecdote.

But without further ado, let’s get onto the nominees!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”

There has been some debate around The Same Dame offices regarding one of these nominees. It revolves around whether a handjob she gives in the film should be considered a “good” handjob, or simply an efficient one. One thing is for sure though, it definitely gets the job done.

Jeremy says: For a while, some folks seemed to think Sally Field had all the momentum after she received awards from some critics’ groups. I found those awards odd because she wouldn’t make my list of the top 10 performances in “Lincoln.” But now the momentum has clearly shifted to Anne Hathaway. And the only surprising thing is that anyone ever thought it was close.

While a churl could argue that Hathaway hurts the film by giving its best performance a quarter of the way through — the movie-stealing wench!—the acting and singing in her performance is staggering. In a movie that’s all about playing up melodrama, she out-melodramas them all.

That said, the award should go to Amy Adams. Her performance as the matriarchal string-puller in “The Master” has an unexpected sinister quality to it. She creates a character who is methodical and calculating, yet whose past and motivations remain mysterious. However, the Oscar voters don’t seem to have a whole lot of fondness for “The Master.”

Seth MacFarlane says: You could say “The Master” is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Oscars!

CUT AWAY: MacFarlane in bad Rodney Dangerfield makeup, standing next to a confused Joaquin Phoenix.

Rodney-Seth says: We can’t get no respect, can we Freddie? Hey, what’s in this drink?

Seth MacFarlane says: GET IT?!?

Jeremy’s prediction: Anne Hathaway
Jeremy’s preference: Amy Adams

Chris says: Whoa whoa whoa, don’t change the subject so fast, Jeremy. Let’s just try to settle our differences amicably. We can certainly agree that the handjob in question was efficient. But good and efficient are not necessarily synonymous. If you like them fast and violent, Amy Adams is your lady. But if you like them a bit more gentle, and for them to last more than 10 seconds, maybe you’re more a “Gong Li in Wong Kar-wai’s ‘The Hand’” type of guy. That’s all I’m saying. Let’s not let our differences come between us, Jeremy.

Jeremy says: Since when did you ever last more than 10 seconds?

Chris says: I should point out that we are in agreement on the category itself. Amy Adams should win, just as she should have won eight years ago for “Junebug.” Hers is a surprisingly powerful figure in the film’s universe, revealing herself to be in far more control (of her husband and, by proxy, The Cause itself) than we expect. Adams has always been a great actress, but this is not quite like any other performance of hers. We get to see an entire new side to her and she pulls it off with brutality and precision.

Ya know, just like her handjobs.

Michael Fassbender says: Hey, you know who likes handjobs? Michael Fassbender, that’s who. And I last a whole hell of a lot longer than 10 seconds, too. You know how many seconds I last? Well, I’ll give you a hint: It’s one for every inch. You do the math.

Chris says: Thanks for the insight, Michael. Sorry about your second consecutive Oscar snub. Anyway, as Jeremy mentioned, she has virtually no chance, as Hathaway has got this thing locked up. And that’s certainly not a surprise. Let’s call it The Jennifer Hudson Syndrome. She brings down the house with a powerful and passionate demonstration of her singing talents, sealing the Oscar on those terms alone. Nevermind whether or not the performance in its entirety is actually a great piece of acting. Nope, bring down the house and you get the Oscar. There’s no doubt she nails the number, but I hardly think her Fantine is any kind of brilliant performance. It’s more a demo reel of Hathaway’s (significant) abilities as a performer, disconnected from any semblance of a character.

But oddly enough, I still think she’s the second-best of the nominees. Field has one great scene where she demonstrates her strength and authority, though I was a bit distracted by the fact that she’s jerking off Abraham Lincoln at the time. But other than that, she’s an adequate but largely forgettable presence. Helen Hunt struggles to get a handle on some kind of Northeastern accent, all while playing a completely underdeveloped character whose emotional arc isn’t even remotely supported by the film.

And then there’s Jacki Weaver, who mostly just blends in with the background of “Silver Linings Playbook” while Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Chris Tucker and Robert DeNiro sweat and bleed through all the film’s major moments. With due respect to Weaver (whose nominated work in “Animal Kingdom” a few years back I was a huge fan of), this was a baffling nomination, to say the least. I would have much rather seen a nomination for Cecile de France in “The Kid with a Bike,” but since we’re not in the business of pipe dreams here at The Same Dame, I would have settled for Judi Dench in “Skyfall,” Lorraine Toussaint in “Middle of Nowhere” or Kara Hayward in “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Chris’ Prediction: Anne Hathaway
Chris’ Preference: Amy Adams

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Interestingly, all five of this year’s supporting actor nominees have already won Oscars. But only one of them will go home a two-time champ.

Seth MacFarlane says: Five Oscar winners in one room? That reminds me of the time Edith Head, Timothy Hutton, Whoopi Goldberg, Burl Ives and Stevie Wonder were all sitting in that room together, and they were all like, “Hey, we’ve all won Oscars!”

CUT AWAY: The five winners sitting in a room. Stevie Wonder puts his hand on Edith Head’s head.

Stevie Wonder says: Hey! My piano feels squishy!

Chris says: If you made a list of the 10 or 15 best performances in Robert DeNiro’s legendary career, you’d probably mention, among others, “Mean Streets,” “The King of Comedy” and “GoodFellas.” And you’d probably jot down his two great roles from 1995, “Casino” and “Heat.” And you just might, especially if you appreciate his often-misused comedic talents, mention “Jackie Brown” and “Wag the Dog” (both from 1997), as well as Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”

Well, DeNiro somehow wasn’t Oscar-nominated for a single one of those movies. And yet he was handed a nomination for “Silver Linings Playbook,” which won’t even rank as one of his 20 best performances, let alone one of the five best supporting performances of this year. His nomination is emblematic of a couple of typical Oscar trends – 1) the frequency with which actors fail to get nominated for their best roles, which often leads to them getting rewarded for second-tier work later on; and 2) the way performances so often ride the coattails of a popular movie – in essence, Oscar-worthiness by association. We see this a lot – this year alone, examples include DeNiro, Jacki Weaver and Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook,” as well as Sally Field in “Lincoln.” Last year it was Jonah Hill for the Best Picture nominee “Moneyball.”

But enough of my complaining. I’ll just pretend DeNiro’s nomination was a make-up for those eight non-nominations I mentioned. In any case, neither he nor Alan Arkin seems to belong with the rest of their company in this category. Arkin was reliably good basically playing his patented Alan Arkin persona – and I suppose he and John Goodman deserve credit for providing “Argo” with the film’s only actual characters, by sheer force of personality alone.

Still, it would have been nice to see, in Arkin or DeNiro’s place, Samuel L. Jackson get recognized for his great work in “Django Unchained,” as the duplicitous, contemptible and deceptively wise house slave Stephen.

And despite the fact that “Prometheus” may not have totally worked, Michael Fassbender surely should have been recognized for his brilliant performance as the android David (continuing a long line of great android characters in the “Alien” franchise). Fassbender will probably end up embodying my earlier point – he was snubbed last year for “Shame,” ignored this year for “Prometheus,” and overlooked three years ago for “Inglourious Basterds.” But in a few years, he’ll probably get nominated for some middlebrow Oscar-bait where he plays a famous person.

And what about Matthew Fucking Macfadyen in “Anna Karenina”? I know most Academy members are under the impression that the movie was just two hours of elaborate costumes and nothing else, but they must have missed Macfadyen’s disarmingly comedic performance as Anna’s philandering brother, Stepan Oblonsky.

Also worthy of consideration were Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained” (DiCaprio is another example of what I was talking about), Dwight Henry in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Pierce Gagnon in “Looper,” Bruce Willis in “Moonrise Kingdom,” Micah Lewensohn in “Footnote” and Sam Rockwell in “Seven Psychopaths.” In fact, looking at the strength of the list of folks who didn’t get nominated only makes it all the more unfortunate that DeNiro and Arkin did.

On the bright side, the three remaining nominees are all deserving of attention, even if I would have easily substituted Macfadyen, Jackson or Fassbender for Tommy Lee Jones.

Jones has been the mild favorite, but this race is as close as any in this year’s Oscars. For a long-time I was thinking Jones would take it, following the momentum of “Lincoln” as much as anything else. But with the “Lincoln” momentum fading and the legend of King Schultz continuing to grow, I’m now leaning toward Christoph Waltz taking his second statuette for “Django Unchained.” Yet another magnificent interpretation of a theatrical Tarantino character, Schultz is Waltz at his absolute best, and he’d certainly be a worthy winner.

Philip Seymour Hoffman says: You think that silly kraut is taking my Oscar, PIG FUCK?!

Chris says: Whoa, whoa, Phil, chill out, I was just getting to you. In fact, I was just going to say that, for me, yours is the most deserving of the nominees, with all due respect to Waltz. Your portrayal of the cult leader Lancaster Dodd (great name, by the way), was perhaps the year’s most slyly multi-dimensional performance, and as always you made it look effortless. You’re not something as simplistic as a manipulative megalomaniac, but a man struggling with weakness and harboring a genuine hope – even a need – for The Cause to mean something. It’s one of the best showings yet from you, Hoffy, and that’s saying something considering you’re the best actor alive.

Philip Seymour Hoffman says: You’re still a pig fuck.

Chris says: I know, Phil. I know.

Chris’ prediction: Christoph Waltz
Chris’ preference: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Jeremy says: Going back to what Chris said a few pages back, I’d argue that Cooper isn’t simply riding “Silver Linings Playbook” coattails, and that voters are genuinely excited about the performance. (Which isn’t to say I’d personally nominate it. But back on topic…)

I’d be much happier with Chris’s prediction than my own. Waltz is my second-favorite nominee after Hoffman, who really should be a top contender for lead actor, so it’s kind of a joke that he can’t even get in the running here.

But alas, I think this one is going to go to DeNiro. He and Jones haven’t won anything for a while, and they’re both beloved actors. Without a clear standout (other than Hoffman and Waltz, who clearly stand out but no one seems to care), it’s a question of enthusiasm. Which film are voters most excited about? I’m leaning “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Alan Arkin won for his Alan Arkin persona in “Little Miss Sunshine” (remind me which one of us predicted that correctly?), but unless you accept the narrative that “Argo” is going to win every award because voters are FURIOUS that Ben Affleck didn’t get a Best Director nomination, Arkin’s out of the running.

Jeremy’s prediction: Robert DeNiro
Jeremy’s preference: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Chris says: In the interest of full disclosure, Jeremy made his “prediction” that Alan Arkin would win only because he openly refused to predict any Oscars for “Dreamgirls.”

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
“Hitchcock” – Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane
“Les Misérables” – Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell

Whether singing, talking to a nonsensical mental construct of Ed Gein or sitting in a little room doing nothing for half an hour,  the characters in these films were largely created by makeup.

Jeremy says: Unlike, say, Costume Design, the makeup category doesn’t always go to the most obvious choice. For example, a biopic like “La vie en rose” beat out the makeup showcase “Norbit.” Of course, that could have been because no one wanted to give a fucking Oscar to fucking “Norbit,” but “Pirates of the Carribbean: At World’s End” would have also been a more obvious choice. Of course, that could have been because no one…oh, you get the point.

Had “Hitchcock” been half as good as “La vie en rose,” voters might have been keen to honor it by highlighting the conversion of Anthony Hopkins into a man who looks like neither Anthony Hopkins nor Alfred Hitchcock.

Ed Gein says: Don’t you think you should pick “Hitchcock” because “The Hobbit” is plotting against you? Wait, why am I here? What useful service am I actually providing?

Jeremy says: I can’t see one. Sorry, Ed. Anyhow, depending how much voters liked “Les Miz,” this wouldn’t be a bad category to reward it for all its dirt-ridden, despair-emphasizing details. The makeup is very important to the film’s feel (insert jokes about how the tight close-ups give us ample time to look at it).

But two Hobbit-related films have already won this award, and it’s not unreasonable to think that “The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Middling Journey” will take home another, what with its extensive use of latex, beards, false noses and feet fur. The film is built on details, and requires skilled makeup to establish nearly every character.

Jeremy’s prediction: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Jeremy’s preference: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Chris says: I honestly can’t disagree with a single thing Jeremy said, although I would like to rectify Jeremy irresponsibly neglecting to mention “Holy Motors,” which deserves to have all three spots in this category. The entire fucking movie is a celebration of makeup and hairstyling, and each and every sequence is a discovery of a new and brilliant character, created largely by the makeup department.

Jeremy says: I regret the omission.

Chris’ prediction: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Chris’ preference: “Holy Motors” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Anna Karenina” – Jacqueline Durran
“Les Misérables” – Paco Delgado
“Lincoln” – Joanna Johnston
“Mirror Mirror” – Eiko Ishioka
“Snow White and the Huntsman” – Colleen Atwood

Wait, wait…you’re telling us there are five costume design nominees and all five are either for a pre-20th Century period piece or a fantasy movie? No fucking way! THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

Chris says: I keep forgetting that movies set in modern day don’t have any costumes. Nope, people just show up on set in whatever they’re wearing and the cameras start rolling. There definitely was not any excellent costuming in “Take This Waltz,” “This Must Be the Place,” “Skyfall,” “Killing Them Softly” or “Holy Fucking Motors,” not to mention period pieces from more recent eras, i.e. “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Of the actual nominees, I’m faced with a dilemma. Well, not really a dilemma, but the annoying fact that a probable winner is the most deserving but also emblematic of the problem with the voting in this category. As was the case a few years ago with “Marie Antoinette,” this year’s probable winner, “Anna Karenina,” boasts fantastic work, particularly in the specifically arranged use of color. The way the film’s color temperature shifts from scene to scene to reflect the story’s emotional ebbs and flows is a pretty stunning example of visual choreography.

So that will probably win, and it should. I suppose I can’t necessarily count out an upset. Colleen Atwood is an Academy favorite, and her fellow Snow White nominee Eiko Ishioka could be the beneficiary of one of the honorary posthumous Oscars the Academy is so fond of handing out. And maybe the more significant Oscar attention for “Les Misérables” and “Lincoln” will push one of them over the top. But I’m not betting on it.

Chris’ prediction: “Anna Karenina”
Chris’ preference: “Anna Karenina”

Jeremy says: I agree with Chris, but I’m going to totally give the Academy members the benefit of a doubt and say that they voted based on all the right reasons, not just because “Anna Karenina” has the frilliest, prettiest costumes. I’m also not going to talk about the guy sitting near me the first time I saw the movie, who just thought morphine addiction was hilarious.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Anna Karenina”
Jeremy’s preference: “Anna Karenina”

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
“Inocente” – Sean Fine, Andrea Nix
“Kings Point” – Sari Gilman, Jedd Wider
“Mondays at Racine” – Cynthia Wade, Robin Honan
“Open Heart” – Kief Davidson, Cori Shepherd Stern
“Redemption” – Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill

Best Short Film, Animated
“Adam and Dog” – Minkyu Lee
“Fresh Guacamole” – PES
“Head Over Heels” – Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
“Paperman” – John Kahrs
“The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare” – David Silverman

Best Short Film, Live Action
“Asad” – Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura
“Buzkashi Boys” – Sam French, Ariel Nasr
“Curfew” – Shawn Christensen
“Death of a Shadow” – Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele
“Henry” – Yan England

Things might get weird this year. The Academy is now allowing all members to vote on the live-action and animated shorts (as well as feature documentary), and sending each member screeners in the mail. There doesn’t seem to be an official explanation on why documentary shorts weren’t included. Oh wait, here’s something: “No one’s gonna watch all those long-ass doc shorts!” That clears things up.

Jeremy says: After I saw “Paperman,” Chris informed me that people were touting it as some sort of astounding, magnificent achievement. My response: Really? It is a cute, enjoyable film that’s well done (although the digital projection of it looked atrocious when it was distributed with “Wreck-It Ralph”), but I’m not quite buying it as an instant classic. That said, I suspect it will be a hit with Academy voters. Its biggest competition will probably be my preference, “Head Over Heels,” which emphasizes the disconnect between an old couple by making the husband’s floor his wife’s ceiling. The hand-made stop-motion film’s clever details could woo voters away from the simpler style of “Paperman,” but only if they actually watch their screeners before ticking “Paperman.” I’m going to assume they do and call an upset.

“Fresh Guacamole” is fun, but is very short and doesn’t provide anything that we haven’t seen from PES before. The franchise links of “The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare” will probably work against it, but it features a fun collection of sight gags.

“Death of a Shadow” is definitely the strongest, most memorable dramatic short, but I don’t know that it will be able to beat the sentimental tendencies of the other nominees: two life-is-tough-for-third-world-kids films, “Buzkashi Boys” and “Asad,” “Curfew,” about a suicidal drug addict looking after his neice, and the twist-laden “Henry,” which is like “Amour” without the subtlety, so voters might actually like it more. It’s less confusing!

The big question is how the screener DVDs will affect the category. Will voters actually watch all the films, or will they just watch a few? Are the films on the DVDs alphabetically? If so, will that give “Asad,” about a Somalian boy resisting the allure of piracy, an edge, even though “Buzkashi Boys,” about a couple Afghani boys and their big dreams, is more effective?

Given this category’s trend of going for younger, hipper stuff, I suspect “Curfew” might pull out the win. At least it’s not quite as bad as “The New Tenants.” But maybe “Death of a Shadow” will benefit from some vote-splitting and get the win.

In the documentaries, it's hard to go wrong predicting third-world humanitarian fights against disease. Add in some cute kids, and we have a probable winner in "Open Heart." "Open Heart" is a well-made look at a humanitarian hospital in Africa that's out to help kids who live in poverty and suffer from rheumatic heart disease. It follows several kids as they leaver their parents in Rwanda to go to a medical center in Sudan. We see both the emotional struggle of the kids and the bureaucratic difficulties the nonprofit hospital staff experiences from behind the scenes.

"Mondays at Racine" could also pull of a win. While a bit scattered structurally, the film provides an interesting if sometimes common look at how breast cancer affects several couples' lives.

"Inocente" may hit closest to home, however, as it was shot in California and about pursuing dreams of an artistic career.. It is sure to be a sentimental favorite for its portrayal of a homeless teenage girl who's trying to create a brighter future for herself through her colorful paintings. The film gets a bit syrupy at times, but that usually isn't a problem for Academy voters. This character study really lets you get to know Inocente, and its personal connection could earn it the win.

Jeremy’s predictions: "Open Heart," “Head Over Heels,” “Curfew”
Jeremy’s preferences: "Open Heart," “Head Over Heels,” “Death of a Shadow”

Chris says: I actually like “Curfew” a lot more than Jeremy does. It’s certainly uneven and probably trying to be too hip for its own good, but it’s also buoyed by a disarming but effective sense of black comedy and a strong performance from Fatima Ptacek.

But it’s certainly not as strong a film as “Death of a Shadow,” a haunting and gorgeously shot meditation on death via a surreal sci-fi premise.

The more I think about it, the more I think Jeremy might be right and “Curfew” might actually take it, given how the live-action shorts winners have trended a bit younger in recent years (the terrific “God of Love” two years ago, the horrendous “The New Tenants” the year before). But I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the ones I don’t want to win actually wins. The bottom line is, I always get the shorts categories dead wrong, so don’t listen to a fucking thing I say here.

I liked all of the animated short nominees, though I don’t think any of the five quite live up to the best we’ve seen from the category. I’d be happy if Jeremy’s fave “Head Over Heels” won, or “Adam and Dog.” But despite not being quite as blown away by “Paperman” as some folks were, I still think it’s very strong and will be a worthy winner.

Chris’ predictions: “Paperman,” “Curfew”
Chris’ preferences: “Paperman,” “Death of a Shadow”

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“The Avengers” – Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White
“Life of Pi” – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott
“Prometheus” – Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill
“Snow White and the Huntsman” – Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brenan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

Seth MacFarlane says: Hey, that single shot that whirled around all the characters in “The Avengers” reminded me of that time I tied a camera to my chihuahua and tied my chihuahua to a remote control helicopter, then flew the helicopter around New York City, right past Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man and Jeremy Renner.

CUT AWAY: The scene Seth just described.

Captain America: That’s one hot dog!

Chris says: I can’t begrudge any of this year’s nominees, even if I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the movies themselves, with the exception of “The Avengers.” Whedon’s movie deserves a little credit for modestly improving upon previous incarnations of the Hulk. It’s still far from a perfect effect, but at least it’s a bit better. The other effects aren’t necessarily imaginative, but they’re handled nicely enough. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was an almost entirely pointless movie, but to me the effects were among its strongest elements. Gollum/Smeagol has (have?) never looked better.

And I’ve gotta say, the effects in the otherwise forgettable “Snow White and the Huntsman” were extremely impressive, particularly the sequences in the dark forest. My preference is actually a toss-up between that and “Prometheus,” which for all its faults is a mostly spectacular visual effort, and the effects are a big reason why.

But the winner will be “Life of Pi,” of course. And I’m content with that. The effects are not only expertly executed, for the most part, but Ang Lee pulls some real majesty out of them as well, especially the beautiful whale sequence.

A nomination for “The Dark Knight Rises” may have been in order, though its omission is unsurprising, considering the film’s employment of non-showy effects (both practical f/x and seamlessly blended CGI). Another deserving nomination would have been “The Impossible,” whose greatest strength was its masterfully staged disaster sequence.

Chris’ prediction: “Life of Pi”
Chris’ preference: “Prometheus”

Jeremy says: Yes, “The Impossible” featured some excellent disaster set pieces. Know what else was a disaster? The last 15 minutes! (But seriously, it’s got some good stuff in it. My brother is really good at explaining the film’s strengths, but whenever I go to find him, he leaves the room just before I walk in. So I guess he won’t be able to join us and go into detail.)

I still need to see “Snow White and the Huntsman,” but I’m pretty much OK with any of these nominees winning. “The Avengers” is the strongest movie of the bunch, but its special effects aren’t as polished as some of the other nominees. I’d give “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” the edge preference-wise thanks to the aforementioned Gollum/Smeagol scene, although the likely winner, “Life of Pi,” is also full of splendid visuals.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Life of Pi”
Jeremy’s preference: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
“Argo” – John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, José Antonio García
“Les Misérables” – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes
“Life of Pi” – Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Drew Kunin
“Lincoln” – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ron Judkins
“Skyfall” – Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Argo” – Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn
“Django Unchained” – Wylie Stateman
“Life of Pi” – Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton
“Skyfall” – Per Hallberg, Karen M. Baker
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Seth MacFarlane says: “Skyfall,” eh? That reminds me of the time Chicken Little told me the sky was falling.

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane, Chicken Little and Rodney Dangerfield are standing by the side of a road.

Chicken Little says: The sky is falling!

Seth MacFarlane says: Well you better hurry and get across the road before it does!

Rodney Dangerfield says: I can’t get no respect! The sky keeps falling on me!

Jeremy says: The sound mix in “Les Misérables” is in perfect harmony with the film’s up-close-and-personal visual style. We can hear the breaths and the quivers. It creates a strong sense that the characters are tied to their time and place, not simply singing in a sound booth before being polished to bland nothingness with sound processing. Add this to all the PR about the on-location sound recording, and you’ve got a sure-fire winner.

The sound editing category is a little trickier. The sound design in “Django Unchained” is detailed and precise, but isn’t showy enough to garner as many votes as it deserves. “Skyfall” and “Life of Pi” are the most likely contenders, with “Zero Dark Thirty” looking to swoop in with a consolation Oscar. “Skyfall” features some visceral, exciting action sound design, but “Life of Pi” has sound that’s both flashy and distinct, bombastic and quiet. It lets you hear the creak of a boat and the movement of the ocean, but also features virtuoso sound showcases like the shipwreck. That shipwreck scene alone would probably be enough to bring home the Oscar.

And I assume it would be pointless to point out that “The Turin Horse” should have been nominated.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Les Misérables” for mixing, “Life of Pi” for editing
Jeremy’s preference: “Les Misérables” for mixing, “Django Unchained” for editing

Chris says: Yeah, I think this seems like the category that gets “Zero Dark Thirty” a token Oscar. There wasn’t any ridiculous bullshit controversy about the use of sound in that movie, was there? Was anyone arguing that the sound design is giving the audience subliminal hints to turn to the audience member next to them and brutally waterboard them?

OK, good. I think it’ll take it, though I’d give a slight edge to Wylie Stateman’s work on “Django Unchained” or Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton’s for “Life of Pi.” Jeremy already covered the latter in nice detail. As for “Django,” just consider the aural precision during the chaotic action scenes. Every gunshot, every squib explosion, is a distinct little spice to the action. But that said, I’d be very happy with a “Zero Dark Thirty” win here as well.

Chris’ prediction: “Les Misérables” for mixing, “Zero Dark Thirty” for editing
Chris’ preference: “Skyfall” for mixing, “Django Unchained” for editing

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
“Anna Karenina” – Dario Marianelli
“Argo” – Alexandre Desplat
“Life of Pi” – Mychael Danna
“Lincoln” – John Williams
“Skyfall” – Thomas Newman

Seth MacFarlane says: Man, all this music reminds me of what a great big band singer I am! I’m like Sinatra reincarnate.

CUT AWAY: A zombie Frank Sinatra emerges from his grave and bites off Peter Griffin’s arm.

Peter Griffin says: Man, I like Sinatra reincarnate way better than zombie Sinatra. He doesn’t bite off my arm!

Chris says: Look, we can argue all day and night about which of these nominees is most deserving of the trophy. But we can all agree that none of this year’s nominated scores raped Kim Novak. Progress, right?

All five of these non-rapist nominees did strong work, though Dario Marianelli (a former winner for Joe Wright’s “Atonement”) is the clear standout for “Anna Karenina,” largely because of the way the music (like the production design and cinematography) was inseparable from the narrative itself. A pretty great fusion of technical and storytelling elements, that movie is.

Of the remaining nominees, we may have two sentimental favorites in Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat, who have 16 nominations between them but no wins. Newman’s lack of Oscar gold is more than a bit surprising considering how long he’s been around, how distinctive his scores often are, and the fact that seven of the movies he’s scored have been nominated for Best Picture. Alas, he’s in the same boat with Roger Deakins, nominated once again, but for a movie facing an uphill climb simply because of its genre and franchise legacy.

Desplat’s output over the last several years has been even more impressive than Newman’s, and he’s actually been one of my favorite composers for quite some time (along with the likes of Carter Burwell, who has still never even been nominated for an Oscar). But his score for “Argo” may not have even been his best score of 2012. You can take your pick, really: In addition to “Argo,” the man scored “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Rust and Bone” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

John Williams deserves credit for not writing something as ludicrously overbearing as his score for last year’s “War Horse,” instead underplaying the nobility and importance of “Lincoln”’s subject matter with more subtlety without sacrificing the emotional resonance he always likes to go for.

But personally, it wouldn’t have broken my heart to remove any two of the non-Marianelli nominees in favor of Jonny Greenwood for “The Master” or Jon Brion for “ParaNorman.” Greenwood was fucked over by the Academy’s arbitrary eligibility rules five years ago for “There Will Be Blood,” so I figured his equally daring and idiosyncratic work this time around might earn him a sympathy nod if nothing else. But apparently not. Meanwhile, Brion was a crucial component to the success of “ParaNorman,” providing the already emotionally charged film with a true emotional backbone.

Chris’ prediction: “Life of Pi”
Chris’ preference: “Anna Karenina”

Jeremy says: The use of a typewriter as percussion helped Marianelli’s “Atonement” score stand out and win the gold in 2007, and he again incorporates props like stamps into his “Anna Karenina” score. The interplay between the film and the music perfectly emphasizes the melodramatic nature of Tolstoy’s novel. However, I worry that the visuals are so majestic, voters will forget what a big part music plays in the film.

Williams, like Spielberg and his collaborators, showed great restraint in Lincoln, favoring nuance over the bombastic. It’s a refreshing return to form after “War Horse,” but it also seems to be earning the film a reputation of being boring. “How dare they not hit us over the head with everything! Yawn!”

Thomas Newman’s score quotes classic Bond themes while adding his own material to the series, but it’s a Bond movie and won’t win.

That narrows it down to “Life of Pi” and “Argo.” Desplat’s score, which incorporates Middle Eastern flavor into its thrill-laden orchestrations, is more interesting than “Life of Pi,” but “Life of Pi” is more Oscary. Oh, the dilemma! I was curious about Chris’s rationale for “Life of Pi,” but apparently he didn’t think the score was worth mentioning. I don’t either, to tell the truth. So I’m gonna give it to Desplat. After all, HOW DARE THEY not nominate Ben Affleck for Best Actor! Errr… Best Director.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Argo”
Jeremy’s preference: “Anna Karenina”

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice” – J. Ralph
“Suddenly” from “Les Misérables” – Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” – Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall” – Adele, Paul Epworth
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted” – Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane says: “Pi’s Lullaby”? That reminds me of the time I sang a lullaby to my teddy bear friend. Named Ted!

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane sits in bed with Ted and sings:“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Ted says: I’ve got an erection!

Jeremy says: The full title of the nominee from “Les Misérables” is actually “Suddenly We Realized We Could Get Another Oscar Nomination if We Threw in a Pointless New Song.” Seriously, folks, what the fuck? To cease the epidemic of cynical, tacked-on original songs, the Academy should make a rule that if you adapt a musical and DON’T add any new songs, one of the existing songs is eligible. That way, Cole Porter and I can win an Oscar for my upcoming adaptation of “Anything Goes.”

CGI Tom Hanks says: HOT HOT HOT! WE GOT IT!

Jeremy says: Fortunately, Adele’s “Skyfall” theme has become the frontrunner here. Adele and Paul Epworth recall the James Bond songs of old, but this is a compelling, original number. Plus, did you know that Adele’s boyfriend dumped her, and then she wrote a whole hit album out of that and kicked ass at the Grammys? I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned that before. Now we just need to get her an Emmy and a Tony…

Jeremy’s prediction: “Skyfall”
Jeremy’s preference: “Skyfall”

Chris says: OK, so we just listened to all the songs back to back, and I’m pretty sure the songs from “Chasing Ice” and “Life of Pi” are the same exact song, only in different languages. And “Life of Pi” throws in some exotic percussion and shit. In any case, those two are canceling each other out. They’re also mediocre songs (not that the Academy cares).

Adele’s “Skyfall” is the best song in the bunch by an absolute landslide — it sounds like a classic from another era (which is, of course, part of the point of the movie), and it’s moody and seductive as hell. And that’s a good thing, too, because she’s a lock to win it. I assume she knows she’s a lock to win it, but that won’t stop her from acting totally shocked when she goes up on stage. Cut it with the humility, Adele. You know you’re winning this fucking thing. And you deserve to win it. So fucking OWN IT.

The second-best of the nominated songs, despite my mixed feelings about the movie itself, is “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted,” which shows MacFarlane’s talents at their best. It’s a pity his talents at their best don’t show up with more frequency. In another year, he might have been my preference to win it, but in the long run it’s best he doesn’t go home with an Oscar. Otherwise FOX might give him like four more animated series or something and I just don’t think I’d be able to handle that.

Seth MacFarlane says: Hey guys, this seems like a good time for me to sing one of my big band songs!

Chris and Jeremy: Um, that’s OK.

Chris’ prediction: “Skyfall”
Chris’ preference: “Skyfall”

Best Achievement in Production Design
“Anna Karenina” – Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright
“Les Misérables” – Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson
“Life of Pi” – David Gropman, Anna Pinnock
“Lincoln” – Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

Wait, wait…you’re telling us there are five production design nominees and all five are either for a pre-20th Century period piece or a fantasy movie? No fucking way! THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

(We know, calling “Life of Pi” explicitly a “fantasy movie” is a bit of a stretch, but shut up.)

Chris says: While we’re talking about fantasy movies, I’ve gotta say, this is another category where “Snow White and the Huntsman” would have been a worthy nominee. Jeremy would know that if he’d ever bothered to see the movie. Even more egregious is the absence of “Moonrise Kingdom.” In fact, a Wes Anderson movie has never been nominated in the production design (née art direction) category, which seems absurd for a guy whose films consistently boast some of the most unique and brilliantly designed sets and locations in all of cinema.

Another puzzling omission was “The Master.” Then again, maybe that just means the Anderson boys need to learn their lesson and start setting their movies in Victorian England if they want any love in this category, right? They had cult religions and adolescent angst back then, right? OK then. Consider the lesson learned, Paul and Wes.

Of the nominees, the clear standout is “Anna Karenina,” for many of the same reasons I mentioned about its costume design. But to take it further, in much the same way that “Holy Motors” is, in a way, explicitly about makeup artists, “Anna Karenina” is about its own production design. At the very least, its impact is greater than that any of the other nominees. It’s rare to see a movie genuinely driven by its sets and costumes, but this is one such example. Working on a soundstage that’s constantly in motion, shifting and transforming between scenes, director Joe Wright weaves his entire narrative around the placement and visual style of each piece of the production design. There might not be a more deserving winner in any category.

Chris’ prediction: “Anna Karenina”
Chris’ preference: “Anna Karenina”

Jeremy says: Yeah, sometimes we complain about the Oscar going to the most obvious choice, but in this case the most obvious choice is also the best choice. The production design is brilliant in “Anna Karenina,” and Wright showcases it perfectly with his direction. Was he nominated? I assume he was. I’ll check when we get there.

In addition to the snubbed films Chris mentioned, I would have liked to see “Looper” nominated for its vision of a not-so-radical future. Production designer Ed Verreaux and director Rian Johnson created a world in which poverty and luxury live together in constant conflict. Note the fine details like post-converted electric cars.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Anna Karenina”
Jeremy’s preference: “Anna Karenina”

Best Achievement in Editing
“Argo” – William Goldenberg
“Life of Pi” – Tim Squyres
“Lincoln” – Michael Kahn
“Silver Linings Playbook” – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
“Zero Dark Thirty” – William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor

Seth MacFarlane says: Know why I love editing? Because without editing, you couldn’t cut away to this joke!

CUT AWAY: Fat Albert and Seth MacFarlane run toward an ice cream truck driven by Wolverine.

Wolverine says: HEY HEY HEY!

Fat Albert says: Hey, you stole my catch-phrase!

[Wolverine violently slices up Fat Albert’s face with his claws.]

Fat Albert says: Hey hey hey! Wolverine is a murderer!

Jeremy says: Argo fuck yourself…on the way to a Best Editing Oscar! HAHAHAHAHA!

Editor William Goldenberg and director Ben Affleck milked the shit out of that cross-cutting suspense scene at the end of “Argo.” First the airport shuttle driver is like, “Where the hell did I put my keys?” And then the Iran intelligence guy is all, “Hey, they finished pasting the photo together!” And then Alan Arkin and John Goodman are like, “I wish we could cross the street to answer the phone and save Ben Affleck! Hurry up, movie shoot!” And then the Iran intelligence guy is like, “Hey, something’s fishy here…” And then Ben Affleck’s like, “Shit, time is ticking.” And then the airport shuttle driver is all, “I’ve got to run to the bathroom, be back in a sec!” And then Alan Arkin’s phone rings some more. And then the airport shuttle driver hops in the shuttle and says, “Hey, has anyone seen my lucky baseball cap? I can’t drive you to the plane without my lucky baseball cap!” And so on.

Anyhow, it’s a pretty thorough exercise in suspenseful cross-cutting that, while overdone, is still entertaining. Most importantly, it’s exactly what many Academy members think editing is.

I would like to see this one go to Goldenberg…and Dylan Tichenor, for “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Twist!) Their taut, no-nonsense work on the film’s set pieces is thrilling and efficient.

Michael Kahn’s work in “Lincoln” is an example of fine craftsmanship that can easily go ignored. However, Tim Squyres could pull off a surprise win if “Life of Pi” dominates the so-called technical categories.

Seeing as the Academy gave the film more love than expected, I would have liked to see Crockett Doob and Affonso Gonçalves nominated for piecing together the cinematic symphony that is Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” but I guess that was too much to ask. I held little hope of any recognition for Melanie Oliver for “Anna Karenina” or Mark Magidson and Ron Fricke for “Samsara.”

Jeremy’s prediction: “Argo”
Jeremy’s preference: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Chris says: Yeah, “Samsara” was the first one I thought of as well. This is a film entirely created by its editing. The images themselves are spectacular enough, but without being put together with that precise design, they may have been little more than postcards. But Ron Fricke compiled them into a genuine narrative.

I, too, would rather see “Zero Dark Thirty” take this category. “Argo” has been noted for its efficiency and cleanliness, but “ZDT” is no less efficient — perhaps more so. I know certain people — maybe even certain people in inexplicably high-ranking positions at trade publications like Variety — think a 160-minute run time means bad editing, or even a lack of editing. But in fact, Kathryn Bigelow and her editing team are incredibly disciplined and economical in their shot selection.

Chris’ prediction: “Argo”
Chris’ preference: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“Anna Karenina” – Seamus McGarvey
“Django Unchained” – Robert Richardson
“Life of Pi” – Claudio Miranda
“Lincoln” – Janusz Kaminski
“Skyfall” – Roger Deakins

Seth MacFarlane says: “Lincoln” AND “Django Unchained”? The last time I saw this many slaves, I was at a stag party at Thomas Jefferson’s house!

CUT AWAY: Seth stands with a collection of men in late 18th Century attire. For each man, there are five slaves. Seth walks toward a door to open it and peek inside.

Seth MacFarlane says: Hey, is this where they keep the slave girls? Oh, sorry Tom!

Thomas Jefferson says: No problem Seth, I was just finishing up with Sally. Wanna go kill some Indians?

Chris says: We sing this same, sad song every year. “The best cinematographer in the world has never won an Oscar,” we say, “and that makes us sad.” Well, the same will probably be true after this year, despite the groundswell of support to finally rectify the Academy’s many wrongs and give Roger Deakins a fucking Oscar. If anybody other than Claudio Miranda is going to win this category, it’ll probably be Deakins.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of “Life of Pi,” what Miranda and Ang Lee did was a remarkable feat, first and foremost during the spectacular tempest setpiece – large-scale filmmaking at its finest. The rest of their work was equally impressive, taking a fundamentally bare story and imbuing it with a sense of dreamlike majesty. If it weren’t for that embarrassingly simplistic screenplay, “Life of Pi” might have been a great movie.

But back to Deakins. It speaks well of his abilities that he’s able to get consensus award-season attention for a James Bond movie, of all things. And indeed, his efforts are a huge part of lifting “Skyfall” from a solid thriller into a more substantive piece of cinematic pop art. The sequence in the Shanghai high-rise is an instant classic for good reason. Just look at the way he utilizes the glares and shadows, the neons of the city shining through the wall-to-wall glass. Shot any other way, the choreography of the scene would not be possible, but Deakins uses the lighting to hide and maneuver the two characters before finally bringing it home with that brilliant fight-scene silhouette. It’s glorious work and I’d be happy to see it win.

However, my vote would actually go to Seamus McGarvey for his stunning visual translation of “Anna Karenina.” We’ve already talked about this plenty, but this movie is about as pure an example of visual storytelling as you’re going to find. The dance sequence alone (while certainly owing to a lot more than just the cinematography) somehow covers more narrative and emotional ground than many entire screenplays. It’s just great, great filmmaking.

As for Robert Richardson, his photography in “Django Unchained” is typically great, but he stole Emmanuel Lubezki’s Oscar last year, the fucker. Three trophies are more than enough.

Janusz Kaminski’s work on “Lincoln” was stately and handsome, but in a category that features some truly special cinematography, “stately and handsome” ain’t enough to compete. Especially not when a pair of magnificent 70mm experiments, Mihai Milaimare Jr’s “The Master” and Ron Fricke’s “Samsara,” were totally overlooked.

Chris’ prediction: “Life of Pi”
Chris’ preference: “Anna Karenina”

Jeremy says: First of all, yeah, what the fuck no “The Master” or “Samsara?” Secondly, I mostly agree with what Chris said.

Seamus McGarvey has been one of my favorite cinematographers since “The War Zone,” and it’s been great to see his collaborations with Joe Wright lead to the virtuoso cinematography of “Anna Karenina.” This is only the second time McGarvey received a nomination (the first was for “Atonement” in 2007), and he’ll likely have to save up a Deakins-size collection of nominations before he can redeem one for an Oscar.

Michael Fassbender says: Deakins-size? Might want to upgrade to Fassbender-size, amirite?

Jeremy says: Speaking of which, I suspect that Deakins won’t get the same amount of Oscar pity as Randy Newman did, because he’s not a lovable loser. He doesn’t want your pity, he doesn’t need your pity, so he’s probably going to fall just short of winning an Oscar. Maybe we’ll be surprised, though.

All these nominees would be completely justifiable choices. Kaminski’s subtle use of different lighting and color tones in the different locations in “Lincoln”  isn’t going to catch the eye like “Life of Pi,” but it’s nevertheless exceptional work.

Chris says: I think the word you’re looking for is “handsome,” Jeremy. “Lincoln” is a handsome film. A damn handsome film.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Life of Pi”
Jeremy’s preference: “Anna Karenina”

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
“Argo” – Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – David Magee
“Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

Seth MacFarlane says: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was a total letdown. When I went to see it, I thought it was going to be like that time I went down to the deep south and saw those big ol’ beasty pigs.

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane is hanging out at a dude ranch watching pigs scrap in the mud.

Pig says: Oink!

Jeremy says: First off, Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill should have been nominated for their “21 Jump Street” screenplay, which featured constant laughs while it mocked its very right to exist. Tom Stoppard also deserved consideration for his “Anna Karenina” adaptation.

On the bright side, it’s nice to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild” here. Given its unconventional form, I thought it might be too, um, wild to be nominated.

The popular opinion is that the winner in this category will be either “Argo,” the WGA winner, or “Lincoln,” which needs to get a few Oscars to feel good about itself after losing so much momentum. My gut, however, tells me something else. “Silver Linings Playbook” has been nominated for a shitload of Oscars, and it’s exactly the kind of film that the voters like to honor in this category: a character- and dialogue-driven work that probably won’t get much return in the craft categories.

Now, I don’t claim that my gut has any special powers of prediction, so you might be wise to ignore it. I can tell you, however, that if “Life of Pi” wins in this category, my gut will likely go into serious fits and I will have to be taken to the hospital. Chris, would you like to use some clunky exposition to remind us of things we’re foreshadowing?

Jeremy’s prediction: “Silver Linings Playbook”
Jeremy’s preference: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Chris says: You think you’re worried about that terrible “Life of Pi” screenplay snagging an Oscar? Dude, I’m one gay black kid getting punched in the face away from a nervous breakdown — David Magee winning for that shit script would put me over the top.

But yeah, as Jeremy mentioned, “21 Jump Street” would have been an inspired choice. I thought the Academy was finally getting more comedy-friendly after nominating “Bridesmaids” last year — but apparently not. “21 Jump Street” would have been a nice substitute for “Life of Pi” — or even, for that matter, “Argo,” which turned a scenario rife with complexity and turned it into an exercise in suspense that chose the path of least resistance. Any opportunity writer Chris Rossio had to simplify, he took it, to the point of reducing what was actually at stake to a series of cheap plot points.

Like Jeremy, I’ve been thinking that “Silver Linings Playbook” might scoop up an Oscar in this category. But then again, Jeremy predicted that Robert DeNiro would win, so I’ve got a feeling he has a bookie somewhere that has big money riding on “Silver Linings Playbook” making a big showing at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night. In short: Jeremy cannot be trusted. In which case I’ll probably say “Lincoln” takes it.

Chris’ prediction: “Lincoln”
Chris’ preference: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” – John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

Seth MacFarlane says: Hey, that movie “Flight” reminds me of that time Superman met me on my apartment balcony and flew me around the city after correctly guessing that my underwear was pink!

CUT AWAY: Superman and Seth MacFarlane, in a sheer nightgown, are flying around the city.

Seth MacFarlane In Voiceover Narration says: Can you read my mind?

Superman says: Yes, but you can’t read mine!

[Superman drops Seth.]

Chris says: Hey remember a little while ago when Jeremy was (correctly) talking about what a disaster the last 15 minutes of “The Impossible” were? Well, Jeremy, I see your “The Impossible,” and I raise you “Flight.”

Seriously, what the fuck was that shit, John Gatins? How the fuck did you manage to keep your movie consistently complex and surprising for two solid hours, and then turn it into a fucking PSA during the last 15 minutes?


So you’re disqualified. Way to waste a great Denzel performance and Robert Zemeckis’ best behind-the-camera work in more than a decade.

This one seems like a contest between “Amour” and “Django Unchained.” “Flight” and “Moonrise Kingdom” don’t have any momentum, and certain sectors of the P.C. left have convinced the voters that “Zero Dark Thirty” is an elaborate piece of pro-torture propaganda that culminates in Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and Jessica Chastain tag-teaming to give Dick Cheney a sloppy blowjob at Guantanamo Bay while he personally tortures a whole roomful of innocent people.

So it comes down to Haneke and Tarantino. This seems like a prime spot for the Academy to reward “Amour,” unless Riva pulls off the upset many are expecting in Best Actress. However, “Amour” will almost certainly take Best Foreign Film, so even without a screenplay win, it won’t go home empty-handed.

Tarantino has already won an Oscar in this category, 18 years ago for “Pulp Fiction.” But he was also upset by vicious terror advocate Mark Boal three years ago, whose script for “The Hurt Locker” defeated QT’s superior screenplay for “Inglourious Basterds.” This might be a mini-makeup Oscar. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. “Django Unchained” has been a little more awards-friendly than I expected, which may be a sign that the establishment has finally welcomed Tarantino into the club. A few years ago, his “Kill Bill” saga couldn’t get any love from the Academy, and now his equally bloody and silly and vengeful and indulgent “Django Unchained” is one of the most decorated films of the year.

Which is certainly fine by me. Tarantino’s “Django” script may be a bit more unwieldy than some of his previous work, but he still says a lot more about his subject matter than Haneke does in “Amour.” Tarantino’s virtuoso filmmaking has never been in question, but in terms of his writing, people mostly just focus on his great ear for dialogue. That is on full display again in “Django,” but that’s not solely what makes the script great. It’s the way Tarantino clearly absorbs and understands all the meanings and implications of every writing decision he makes — every character, every plot development, every use of every word. For a movie that is ostensibly an old-fashioned spaghetti Western revenge picture, it sneakily ends up having a hell of a lot to say about the legacy of violence and dehumanization in America. And come on, the klan sequence alone would be worthy of an Oscar, right?

GOB Bluth says: COME ON!

Chris says: I wouldn’t necessarily mind a Wes Anderson/Roman Coppola upset for “Moonrise Kingdom,” but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Of course, the best script of the year was that of “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” which used an overnight murder investigation as the backdrop for a brilliant deadpan comedy and sociopolitical critique.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two worthy contenders in non-traditional categories (horror and sci-fi, both of which the Academy hates), Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard for “The Cabin in the Woods” and Rian Johnson for “Looper.”

Chris’ prediction: “Django Unchained”
Chris’ preference: “Django Unchained” or “Moonrise Kingdom”

Jeremy says: I wouldn’t have been heartbroken to see “The Master” here, either, but, you know…

Seth MacFarlane: NO RESPECT!

Jeremy says: I agree with Chris that “Django Unchained” is the most deserving winner here, but for some reason “Amour” seems to be the favorite. Why wasn’t Haneke up for all these awards for “Caché?” Damn it.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Amour”
Jeremy’s preference: “Django Unchained”

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
“Brave” – Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
“Frankenweenie” – Tim Burton
“ParaNorman” – Sam Fell, Chris Butler
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” – Peter Lord
“Wreck-It Ralph” – Rich Moore

Seth MacFarlane says: This category reminds me of that time I was hanging out with all those pirates in that swashbuckling video game and we kidnapped a Scottish princess from a zombie and then she died and we reanimated her.

CUT AWAY: All the stuff he just described happens.

Reanimated Scottish princess says: Got any haggis? I’m dead hungry!

Jeremy says:  In a shocking turn of events, my two favorite nominees are the least likely to win anything! “ParaNorman” features stellar visuals to match its screenplay, and “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is madcap Aardman fun. Both films contain some of the best laughs of the year, and “ParaNorman” features a surprisingly emotional payoff.

Of course, the best animated film of the year was Don Hertzfeldt’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” but I can’t complain about it not being nominated — its earlier release in the form of three shorts rendered it ineligible.

It’s generally unwise to bet against Pixar, but “Brave” wasn’t the company’s most beloved film. Meanwhile, “Wreck-It Ralph” has garnered a lot of affection as the Little Non-Pixar CG Animation That Could. Both films are charming but flawed, but “Wreck-It Ralph” sports a more original concept in its tour through old-school videogame nostalgia, and will take home the Oscar.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Wreck-It Ralph”
Jeremy’s preference: “ParaNorman” (with honorable mention to “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”)

Chris says: I agree “Wreck-It Ralph” will probably win, and its dominance of the Annie Awards a couple weeks back probably sealed that. Although maybe all those septuagenarian Academy voters who don’t see animated movies because they think they’re just for kids will just default to Pixar again. Wouldn’t shock me.

But Jeremy is correct about his preference. “ParaNorman” is not only the best animated film of the year — it’s one of the best films of the year, period, not to mention one of the most interesting and beautiful pieces of visual artistry in recent years. The film’s mature understanding of human nature was kind of a stunner, as it took the “child outcast” prototype and fashioned a touching fable about tolerance, forgiveness and compassion.

“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is certainly the second-best nominee of the bunch, while “Brave” and “Frankenweenie” are enjoyable but slight. Probable winner “Wreck-It Ralph” was my least-favorite of the bunch. Though I enjoyed the originality of the premise and what it was trying to do, it took such an uninspired  visual approach to its material. It basically had a blank canvas to work with, and wound up creating colorful videogame worlds that looked accurate but not especially interesting.

Chris’ prediction: “Wreck-It Ralph”
Chris’ preference: “ParaNorman”

Best Documentary, Features
“5 Broken Cameras” – Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
“The Gatekeepers” – Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon
“How to Survive a Plague” – David France, Howard Gertler
“The Invisible War” – Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
“Searching for Sugar Man” – Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

Seth MacFarlane says: The documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” reminds me of that time I stopped by Benjamin Franklin’s house when I ran out of sugar.

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane, dressed in 18th Century attire, walks up to Benjamin Franklin’s house. Benjamin Franklin is flying a kite outside.

Seth MacFarlane says: I’m searching for sugar, man.

Ben Franklin says: Eureka! I’ll find some for you. Hold this.

[Ben gives Seth the kite. Lightning strikes, and Seth is electrocuted.]

Chris says: This year’s documentary nominees make for a nice case study, especially with the way the discussion has played out among cinephiles and on social media. The frustrating narrative that emerges is that the four “important” nominated docs — “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” “How to Survive a Plague” and “The Invisible War” — are inherently superior to “Searching for Sugar Man,” simply because of the importance and social relevance of their subject matter.

This line of thinking is, of course, complete and utter bullshit, because the importance of a film’s topic has little if anything to do with its effectiveness as a film. That’s not to say these nominees are bad, but people seem willing to conveniently ignore a film’s glaring flaws solely because the message is one we can rally behind. Sorry, but to me, the subject matter in “The Invisible War” is far too important to be left in the hands of an inferior filmmaker like Kirby Dick. A more nuanced approach — and something less reliant on title cards that use dubious semantics and vague declarations to try to get a point across — would have been preferable. And I haven’t even mentioned the awkward staging of some of Dick’s footage.

In truth, I’m not in love with any of the five nominees. The odds-on favorite, “Searching for Sugar Man,” is a great story that blends personal mystery with political history en route to an inspiring story of redemption. But it also descends into hagiography too often. As the movie tells it, Rodriguez basically singlehandedly ended apartheid. Which is kind of like saying Woodstock ended Vietnam.

“How to Survive a Plague” is built on powerful testimonials about the history of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States, and is commendable in the way it places those personal stories in a historical context, offering commentary on the treatment of the issue by elected officials, and dramatizing the grass-roots activism that emerged. It’s powerful stuff packed with a lot of information and footage. But the film itself is also structurally messy, and doesn’t figure out how to handle an abrupt left turn in the last 20 minutes, when the film basically argues, “Yeah, you remember all that stuff we did when we were fighting for the victims of HIV and AIDS? Yeah, whoops, that was kind of a waste of time.” Whether or not the activists’ more recent pragmatic approach is more effective, that shift in attitude can’t help but undermine some of what came beforehand.

Probably the best in the bunch is “The Gatekeepers,” a decades-spanning reflection on Israel’s Shin-Bet security force, told through the recollections of the men who ran it. Utilizing the interviews as well as some nicely crafted computer-animated recreations, it’s a smart and inventive documentary that questions both the morals and the politics of the ongoing Middle Eastern struggle.

But all of the five nominees pale in comparison to Ron Fricke’s “Samsara” — although in fairness to the voters who neglected to nominate it, you could argue that “Samsara” isn’t really a documentary at all (at least not in the commonly accepted sense). It’s created from years’ worth of 70mm footage from places across the globe, woven together in the service of an abstract, existential narrative about the cycles of human civilization and spirituality, depicted through one stunning image after another.

But alas, it wasn’t even nominated, so I won’t waste any more of your precious time extolling its virtues.

Chris’ prediction: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Chris’ preference: “The Gatekeepers”

Jeremy says: “Searching for Sugar Man” wastes time that could be spent on more interesting topics by meandering on about the money that Rodriguez never got paid. Sure, that’s part of the story, but the filmmakers didn’t actually learn anything in their research that couldn’t be summed up in 30 seconds. It is a compelling film, but it’s not quite the year’s best documentary.

“How to Survive a Plague” is a remarkable feat of archival mining, and while it doesn’t entirely succeed (I agree with Chris’s point about the last 20 minutes), it does a reasonably good job of highlighting footage to put the history in context. However, “a reasonably good job” doesn’t exactly translate to “Oscar worthy.”

My guess is that “Sugar Man” will take the prize, especially since I don’t trust the Oscar voters to actually watch all their screeners. If they did, they might find that the strongest films are the Middle Eastern entries. “The Gatekeepers,” if a bit sterile, provides a slick inside look at Israeli’s anti-terrorist unit with a frank assessment of what went wrong. Its polished production value could earn it a win. On the flipside, “5 Broken Cameras” explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the other point of view, with a raw, daring style that’ll scare off many voters.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Jeremy’s  preference: “5 Broken Cameras”

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
“Amour” (Austria)
“War Witch” (Canada)
“No” (Chile)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)

Seth MacFarlane says: These foreign-film nominees remind me of that time I tried to hit on that witch in Salem.

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane, drunk and dressed in 17th Century colonial attire, stumbles over to a 17th Century goth chick who looks like Winona Ryder.

Seth MacFarlane says: War witch, mi amour?

Witch says: No.

Seth MacFarlane: A royal affair, mi amour?

Witch says: Uh … kon-tiki. Or something.

Jeremy says: The good news is that none of these films are as bad as “Ajami.” The bad news is that none of the films are really great, either. Michael Haneke is one of the best directors working right now, and his greatness is apparent in his directorial choices in “Amour.” But the film doesn’t really have a lot of ideas to explore.

Being nominated in other categories is no assurance of a win here (see “Amélie,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”), but in this case I think the hype will translate to an Oscar for “Amour.” Its expression of despair at growing old will surely appeal to all those old Academy voters.

The next-choice favorite, “No,” was shot on shitty ’80s video so that archival material could be cut into the film seamlessly. The downside of that choice, of course, is that you have to stare at shitty ’80s videos the whole movie. The behind-the-scenes drama shows the making of the anti-Pinochet campaign in Chile, and it stars that adorable Gael García Bernal, but it never quite gets beneath the surface exploration of campaign strategy.

If “Amour” isn’t going to win, I would expect a contender other than “No” to take home the Oscar. “War Witch” has strong emotional appeal with its story of a 14-year-old girl struggling through a tough life in a war-torn African country. Nonprofessional actress Rachel Mwanza gives an excellent performance, and the tragic story will surely tug at heartstrings.

“Kon-Tiki” may have a little less appeal with its story of a Danish anthropologist who goes on a foolhardy sailing expedition to prove his hypothesis, but it does contain some strong visuals and exciting scenes.

As for “A Royal Affair,” you can never rule out a lavish period piece when the Academy is involved, especially with such an expertly crafted film.

As foreign period dramas about royalty go, I liked “Farewell, My Queen” more. However, France chose not to select that or Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors” or  Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone” as its official submission, instead favoring “Intouchables” (that’s its French title — it means “Untouchable”). Smooth move, Frenchies.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Amour”
Jeremy’s preference: “Amour,” he supposes

Chris says: Part of me was elated that the aggressively simplistic “The Intouchables” was a surprise “snub” from this year’s Best Foreign-Language Film category. And part of me was sad that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to make fun of its nonsensical title. So I just decided to say fuck it and make fun of its nonsensical title anyway, apropos of nothing.

Because seriously, the English-language title of that movie makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

Jeremy says: That’s American English. In England, they called it “Untouchable.” Because they’re not morons.

Chris says: There’s no such thing as an “intouchable.” “Intouchable” is not a word. No one has ever said the word “intouchable.” No one in the movie “The Intouchables” ever says the word “intouchable.” It’s just some bullshit made up by Harvey Weinstein when he was high on bath salts. You deserve this snub, Harvey. You deserve it. Next time, come up with a title that actually fucking means something.

But anyway. It was a good year for movies in French — so good that even something as solid as “Amour” (which is hardly among Haneke’s best achievements, but is still a pretty strong film) could have been easily passed over in this category by either “Holy Motors” or “Rust and Bone,” two of the year’s better films overall. Either would be a worthy winner, let alone nominee.

Jeremy’s right on about “No,” which seems to have garnered an inexplicable amount of affection for a movie that’s abominable to actually look at, and which isn’t nearly as funny as its satirical conceits suggest it might be, and which arbitrarily throws in two scenes of supposed danger and suspense to artificially raise the stakes.

The best eligible films may not have made the cut, but “Amour” would certainly be a much more worthy winner than some of the films they’ve honored in years past. I’m looking at you, “The Counterfeiters,” “In a Better World” and “Departures.”

Chris’ prediction: “Amour”
Chris’ preference: “Amour”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

Seth MacFarlane says: Watching “The Impossible” reminds me of that time I got amnesia and hooked up with a struggling young actress and went to the Club Silencio.

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane is in bed with Naomi Watts.

Seth MacFarlane says: Good night, Sweet Betty. You’re not gonna be “Silencio” once I get going!

Naomi Watts: Show me your tits.

Chris says: Jessica Chastain can’t catch an Oscar break. She gave at least three of the best performances of last year, but was left with just one nomination, and wound up losing to one of her very own co-stars. Then she turns right around and kicks fucking ass in “Zero Dark Thirty,” only for her frontrunner status to evaporate once the absurd, politically correct, manufactured controversy about the movie itself began to take hold. So that leaves the category — which for a while seemed like a showdown between Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence — a bit more open. Lawrence will probably take it, but there’s a been a lot of talk about Emmanuelle Riva pulling off the upset for “Amour.”

Much of that stemmed from Riva’s BAFTA victory …

…ahem, as I was saying: Much of Riva’s rumored momentum is stemming from her BAFTA victory, but in truth that may not have been the kind of harbinger people are making it out to be. The BAFTAs have a history of honoring European stars in the acting categories over presumed stateside favorites.

I have no doubt that Lawrence is an actress deserving of accolades, and will be for years to come. But her work in “Silver Linings Playbook” doesn’t seem like the type of performance that everyone’s going to remember her for 20 years from now. (She was much better, for example, in “Winter’s Bone.”)

As for Riva, though I actually thought her co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant had the more challenging and more effective performance, she would still be a worthy winner. And she has a legacy of excellent work to help make her case.

Having said that, her countrywoman Marion Cotillard would have been an even stronger choice in this category. In “Rust and Bone” she navigates an increasingly complex wave of conflicting emotions and states of mind — sadness, anger, defiance, serenity — and makes it all look effortless. Just look at what she can do with her eyes. Is there any doubt she would have been a magnificent romantic lead in the silent era?

In her place is Quvenzhané Wallis, who carried “Beasts of the Southern Wild” by sheer force of personality. She’s certainly an invaluable figure — she is our guide through the entire film — but what has been a point of contention is whether what she does could be considered great acting in the same way that what the other nominees did can (as well as those not nominated). Is she acting, or is she just being herself while a camera happens to be rolling? And does her voiceover — recorded after the fact — bias our impressions of her performance?

I don’t want to take anything away from “Beasts,” which I loved. But I can certainly understand someone grimacing at Wallis’ inclusion in Best Actress over the likes of Cotillard, Nina Hoss in “Barbara” or Michelle Williams in “Take This Waltz.”

You’ll notice I haven’t yet mentioned Naomi Watts for “The Impossible,” mostly because it’s hard to notice her given the fact that she’s mostly a background figure whose primary function in the film is to lie on a hospital bed in pain or delirium. This is nothing against Watts, who is one of my very favorite actresses, but this performance is neither a lead role, nor an award-worthy one. Is this just the Academy making up for the fact that they somehow didn’t nominate her for either “King Kong” or “Mulholland Drive”?

Chris’ prediction: Jennifer Lawrence
Chris’ preference: Jessica Chastain

Jeremy says: I think the complaints about Wallis’s nomination are bullshit. Yes, she might carry the film by sheer force of personality. Yes, she might not prove to be a versatile actress who will excel in many different roles. But this isn’t about that. It’s about her contribution as a performer in this particular film. (The voiceover is part of that contribution.) If people want to make the case that it’s not that good of a performance, they can go ahead. But complaints that she doesn’t deserve to be nominated because she didn’t pretend to be a retarded Australian are ridiculous.

Chris says: If it’s just about someone’s contribution to a film, then by that logic any memorable character from a documentary could be nominated for a Best Actor or Best Actress Oscar, too. All I’m saying is it’s worth discussing whether any acting is actually taking place in this performance. And if it’s an award for acting, then that’s at least a question worth asking. Many of the complaints have apparently been coming from actors themselves, and while maybe some of that is jealousy or sour grapes, actors tend to also know a little bit about acting, so their concerns are at least worth addressing.

Jeremy says: It is a performance by an actress. In this film, she is an actress playing a role. That role may be influenced by her own personality, but it is not the same as a documentary subject.

I do think Watts gives a good performance when her character is conscious, but the arbitrariness of the category assignments becomes clear when you compare Watts’s contribution here to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s in “The Master,” which received a Best Supporting Actor nod.

I agree that Lawrence is still the favorite, unless the emotional power of “Amour” just knocked the shit out of those old-ass Oscar voters. Riva is a good long bet if you need a category to pull ahead in your Oscar pool, but it could also lose you a point that everyone else gets.

I also agree that this isn’t Lawrence’s best work — although you can say that for pretty much every actor nominated for “Silver Linings Playbook.” Except Bradley Cooper, but that says more about his past performances than the one in question.

Jeremy’s prediction: Jennifer Lawrence
Jeremy’s preference: Quvenzhané Wallis or Jessica Chastain

Jennifer Lawrence says: Yeah, that’s right. I’m the motherfucker who stole Jessica Chastain’s Oscar.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

Are we at the part of the article where we put in a joke that confuses “Lincoln” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?” I hope we are. Why hasn’t anyone thought of making a joke about that yet?

Seth MacFarlane says: I did! You wanna hear it?

Jeremy and Chris say: No thanks.

Jeremy says: If I were Abraham Lincoln, I’d tell you some bizarre story that related to my prediction in a very roundabout way, and it would be charming, because Daniel Day-Lewis would play me.

This category isn’t even a contest. When the trailer for Lincoln came out, many complained about the higher-than-expected tone of Day-Lewis’s voice. It was more historically accurate, we were told, but it was off-putting to people who had been hearing Lincoln speeches in bold, deep voices their whole lives. Once they actually watched the full character portrayal in the film, however, it was clear that Day-Lewis had again pulled off a fine, full performance. That he was in a historical biopic only made Oscar voters more excited. Sure, Denzel Washington gave another excellent performance in “Flight,” but when Day-Lewis is in a movie that isn’t as shitty as “Nine,” he’s hard to beat.

Joaquin Phoenix deserves the Oscar, however, for his portrayal of the war-battered, alcoholic mess of a man that is Freddie Quell. That’s the performance that will live with me long past this year.

Seth MacFarlane says: You could say “The Master” is the—

Jeremy says: You already told this one, Seth.

I do wonder if the Academy voters happened to see “Holy Motors.” I mean, I understand that they wouldn’t be keen on the film itself, but you’d think they’d appreciate the makeup craftsmanship that Chris mentioned, and Denis Lavant’s lead performance, which pretty much serves as a showcase to his versatility and physical presence. We know they saw one French movie. Why not watch another?

Jeremy’s prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis
Jeremy’s preference: Joaquin Phoenix

Chris says: Look, it would be hard to beat Lavant’s performance in any year, even one as competitive in Lead Actor as this one. Lavant doesn’t just give one great performance, but several — each one as impressive as the last. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime role. But there I go, spouting off about the un-nominated again.

Jeremy’s right about Phoenix, who completely caught me off guard with his strange, bemused and passively intense interpretation of a desperate and wayward character. It’s easily a career-best performance for Phoenix, and I would love nothing more than to see him pull off the upset. But that would be an upset the likes of which the Oscars have probably never seen. And despite my love for Phoenix’s work, I can’t argue with another win for Day-Lewis, either. The most surprising thing about his performance in “Lincoln” is the fact that his entire take on the character surprised everyone. From the moment he was cast, people were predicting a third Oscar for him, but I don’t think any of us expected the performance we got. Greatness was no surprise. But the soft-spoken, hesitant, yet deceptively forceful performance we got? Beautiful work that actually made Abraham Lincoln a human being, and turned that human being into a great and heroic character, as opposed to simply turning him into a statue of a man, or a caricature of his most famous physical and behavioral traits — approaches we so often see in biopics.

I certainly wouldn’t have nominated Cooper (effective, but not extraordinary) or Jackman (though he came off better than most of the cast of “Les Miz”), and I actually would have preferred to see John Hawkes (who seemed to be a probable nominee) picked for his warm and likeable performance in “The Sessions,” even though I have no real fondness for the film itself. However, I would have really liked to see the Academy throw a curveball in there and nominate someone like Muhammet Uzuner from “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” Willem Dafoe in “The Hunter,” Matthias Schoenaerts from “Rust and Bone,” Thomas Doret from “The Kid with a Bike” (one of many great child performances this year), Liam Neeson in “The Grey” or Anders Danielsen Lie in “Oslo, August 31st.”  But like I said, it was a hell of a year for this category.

Chris’ prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis
Chris’ preference: Joaquin Phoenix

Best Achievement in Directing
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Seth MacFarlane says: Hey, this reminds me of that time I directed a movie. Remember that?

CUT AWAY: Seth MacFarlane sits in his director’s chair while shooting a dance parody at a bar.

Crew member says: Hey Seth, they already did this exact same scene in “Airplane!” — I think a lot of people have seen that movie.

Seth MacFarlane says: It’s called a reference!

Chris says: My favorite thing about the Internet these last few weeks has been the number of complete fucking idiots who actually think Ben Affleck will win Best Director in a write-in vote.

I suppose a win for his directorial work on “Argo” would fit right in with our running theme of people garnering attention for their second-tier work while getting ignored for their best. Indeed, Affleck has done much better work as a director, most notably in his great debut, “Gone Baby Gone,” which was completely overlooked at the time. If nothing else, maybe the success of “Argo” will give some folks the opportunity to give that superior movie a chance.

Though some are calling for a Michael Haneke or Ang Lee upset, my money’s still on Steven Spielberg taking the Best Director prize, which would be his third. The film may not have the momentum it once did, but with Affleck not in the running, Spielberg remains the likely choice.

Personally, I think the runaway winner (of the five nominees, that is) should be Benh Zeitlin, but I was shocked that he even got nominated in the first place. It’s so rare for a great filmmaker to get nominated for his first film (or even first great film). It took Martin Fucking Scorsese until 1980 to get a nomination in this category — no nod for “Taxi Driver,” no nod for “Mean Streets.”

But I digress. I suppose even the slow-to-catch-up Academy must have been able to recognize that we might have something special with Zeitlin, who with “Beasts” displays an uncanny sense of visual poetry and atmosphere. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” has more of a sense of place than probably any other movie this year.

I suppose it’s pointless to mention the snubs, like Nuri Bilge Ceylan for “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” or Paul Thomas Anderson for “The Master” or Leos Carax for “Holy Motors” — or even someone who actually had a chance, Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained.” But I’m mentioning them anyway. So there.

Chris’ prediction: Steven Spielberg
Chris’ preference: Benh Zeitlin

Jeremy says: Yeah to the people Chris mentioned, and what about Béla Tarr for “The Turin Horse?” Oh wait a second, we don’t live in fucking Fantasyland. Nevermind.

You get the chance to see a lot of new filmmakers’ work at the Sundance Film Festival, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is the kind of rare debut that people attend the festival to see. Zeitlin orchestrated an exhilarating film with more “wow” moments than some directors achieve their entire careers. That those moments lead to a monumental conclusion is even more impressive. He’s the most worthy of all the nominees.

But I suppose I should talk about the people who actually have a chance of winning. At this point I get the impression that “Lincoln” is dead in the water. I hope I’m gauging this wrong, but I think the visual showiness of “Life of Pi” may distract people from the fact that “Lincoln” holds together much better as a complete film. Ang Lee has made better films, and he will likely make better films again. But he will probably win another Oscar for this one.

But wait. Here’s a thought. What if the Academy voters are bummed out about Ben Affleck not being nominated, yet not sufficiently excited about “Life of Pi” or “Lincoln.” What if they instead look to a man who made a foreign-language film — that’s right, a film that’s not in English — that they liked so much, they nominated it for categories other than Best Foreign Film. Why, it’s just crazy enough to work! As a huge proponent of Michael Haneke films like “Caché” and “The White Ribbon,” I’m a little bemused to see his new film nominated for Best Director and Best Picture when it isn’t near his best work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still extremely well made and features fine performances, but it doesn’t match his greatest work by a longshot. If he takes home two Oscars for what is clearly not his best film, well, I suppose that’s how it goes in Oscarland.

Jeremy’s prediction: Ang Lee Michael Haneke
Jeremy’s preference: Benh Zeitlin

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Django Unchained”
“Les Misérables”
“Life of Pi”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Well, we’ve finally come to the big one. The end-of-the-evening shebang. Let’s get this thing over with.

Seth MacFarlane says: But first, I’d like to sing a big band so—

Jeremy says: For the reasons described above, I’d love to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild” win this thing. I also wouldn’t mind seeing “Django Unchained” win for its general all-around brilliance in writing, directing, acting, etc. Can we make that happen, Academy?

What? No?!? You’re too busy writing Ben Affleck in on all the ballots? Well shit.

I guess this one is going to go to “Argo.” Now, I don’t like to shit on films just because other people have overestimated their esteem, but I do it constantly. “Argo” is a good, fun, suspenseful little thriller. I didn’t get the impression that it was aiming to set the world on fire. (As Chris mentioned, “Gone Baby Gone” is Affleck’s best film.) But I thought it was a nice throwback to the days of old, when you could do a small film for adults and, you know, release it in theaters. I guess the Oscar voters were a little more excited about it.

Also, is everyone buying the idea that “Argo” never would’ve become the frontrunner if Affleck had received a Best Director nomination? It all seems mighty silly to me. And now I have to listen to everyone say “Studios are going to start working snubs into the Oscar campaigns.” Come on!


Jeremy says: Anyhow, that’s not as silly as the idea that “Zero Dark Thirty” condones torture, or that that alone would be a valid cause for it not to receive awards. I mean, the message of a movie does matter inasmuch as it probably wouldn’t be good PR to give an Oscar to a shot-for-shot “Birth of a Nation” remake. But what actual textual evidence is there to support the claims that “Zero Dark Thirty” glorifies torture? The part where they torture the guy, but he doesn’t give them any useful information and then people die in an attack? Yeah, torture worked great there! Maybe the part where the guy who did the torturing says he doesn’t trust the information from torture sessions? I’m confused.

I found the film a bit conventional in its revenge-movie format, but Chastain’s performance and Bigelow’s direction elevate it considerably. But people should vote for the film if they think it’s the best nominee, political nonsense be damned.

Jeremy’s prediction: “Argo”
Jeremy’s preference: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Chris says: I just realized I’ve gone this whole article without pointing out that “Les Misérables” is a redundant, badly written, monotonously directed, emotionally pornographic piece of shit, so now’s my last chance. And what better place to mention it than in Best Picture, a category in which it was inexplicably nominated? OK, OK, it’s certainly no “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” but ….oh goddammit, now I just thought of a dozen different Tom Hooper Camerawork jokes. Fuck! I’m trying to resist. Let’s just move on.

Seth MacFarlane says: Not me! I won’t resist! Check this out:

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”? What is that, the alternate title for “Les Misérables”?

Chris says: Uh…thanks, Seth. I guess you just went right for the obvious joke that was so obvious it didn’t even need to be made. OK then. Let’s —

Seth MacFarlane says: No, WAIT! I can do better. (Just like I could do a better job writing song lyrics than those “Les Miz” guys, amirite?)

Chris says: Oh, I’ll give you that much.

Seth MacFarlane says: Anyway, let me think, let me think… Ooooh, I’ve got it. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”? That reminds me of that time Gilbert Gottfried was, uh … uh … playing Jean Valjean in that movie, and the director Tom Hooper put the camera … Oh goddammit, nevermind, fuck this.

Jeremy says: I was surprised “Les Miz” didn’t come up earlier, but I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Tom Hooper’s best choice was to use long-take close-ups. Given the nature of the source material (and yes, the lyrics — at least the English version’s — are often terrible), the smartest thing to do was embrace the emotional indulgence of it all. By shooting in close-ups and not scrubbing out vocal imperfections, Hooper emphasized the humanity of the characters. It’s actually when he goes to wider shots that his direction is less assured. People can make fun of those lyrics all they want, but there was clear motivation for those close-ups, and they were shot with the knowledge that they were unconventional and hence open to mockery. So fair play to Hooper on that one. This isn’t one of my favorite films of the year or anything, but I do find some of the charges against it rather unfair. Hooper adapted the musical in a way that suited the source material. Without rewriting the libretto, he wasn’t gonna solve all the problems, and “Les Miz” fans would have rioted. Sure, it’s emotional porn, but emotion is to the face like cum is to the vagina. Or something. So all the face shots are like vagina shots. Not like face shots. Those are something else.

Chris says: Anyway, moving on: In the back of my mind I still think “Lincoln” might win this thing, though the front of my mind has now been swayed to think “Argo” is going to take it because apparently everyone feels sorry for Ben Affleck or something. But look, they already gave him an Oscar for his mediocre “Good Will Hunting” screenplay — are we really prepared to make him a two-time Academy Award winner?

I’d be happy with three of the nominees taking top honors — “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Django Unchained” — and in my silly little brain I’ve devised ways that each of them could win. (It’s called “vote-splitting,” motherfuckers.) But my silly little brain is also operating on very little sleep. So I’ll go with the status quo.

Chris’ prediction: “Argo”
Chris’ preference: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

1 comment:

--UtahMixologist said...

Great post! And very educational. Have you guys noticed that it's mathematically possible to win best pic with 12% of the vote? What is the Academy thinking?