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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart, we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

Best Cinematography

The nominees are:

  • Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
  • Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
  • Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
  • Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
  • Skyfall, Roger Deakins

John

This is a good crop of nominees though maybe not very flashy. A number of them do interesting things with lighting and color. Django Unchained features a number of interesting shots – think of blood splatter against white cotton bolls – and Lincoln is an achievement of atmospheric lighting, usually framing its noble protagonist. Skyfall‘s probably here for two big scenes: the Shanghai office building where neon lights reflect through rows of glass walls and the shoot-out in the foggy Scottish highlands at the end. Both are pretty fantastic, though there isn’t as much that’s memorable through the bulk of the film.

karenina

Life of Pi will probably win. I feel like the film is more an achievement in directorial vision and visual effects, but good cinematography partially through digital manipulation is still good cinematography. It just isn’t as showy as it was in Avatar. While I think any of the nominees would make fine winners, I’ll toss my vote to Anna Karenina. The first half of the movie wows with its stylistic visuals, the camera swirling through hundreds of extras in intricately-choreographed scene changes. The second half of the film didn’t keep up the visual flourishes, but I think the material provides less opportunity.

Jared

This category has a stellar group of nominees. That said, I’m not a terribly visual person to begin with, so I’m won’t bother stepping through each one and talking about how pretty the pictures were. I’ll just say that I have the order (from last to my pick) as: Robert Richardson, Django Unchained; Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina; Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi; Roger Deakins, Skyfall; Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln. (With apologies to Deakins, who has been the bridesmaid far too many times without ever being the bride.)

lincoln_cin

Do I look good in this light?

But I was continually struck by a very specific aspect of Kaminski’s work in Lincoln. Virtually every shot of Day-Lewis seemed iconic. And where a somewhat similar approach may have felt unearned or over the top in, say, War Horse, it was pitch perfect here. Lincoln wasn’t exactly a hagiography, but it only added to the (mostly true) legend of the man. And virtually every scene saw the character framed and lit so memorably, as if every moment of his life was potentially the one that would make the cover of his biography. This approach may have been a bit much in a movie dominated entirely by the character, but with such a sprawling cast, the decision to constantly glorify Lincoln this way worked magnificently, heightening the dramatic effect and seamlessly enhancing the script.

Best Film Editing

The nominees are:

  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

John

argo_edit

Cut to: dramatic close-up

I’m not very versed in the art of film editing, but I lean towards Argo for its great pacing and skillful use of suspense even though we’re pretty sure we already know what happens. By the same standards Zero Dark Thirty is close, though I didn’t find the bulk of the film’s pace as effective. I think that may have been more in the screenplay, however.

Silver Linings Playbook is getting some notice in this category with its backers citing its comedic timing. It’s a good argument with one major flaw: it’s not funny.

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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart, we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are:

  • Alan Arkin, Argo
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Chritoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Jared

Look, I think it is great that Robert De Niro wasn’t a parody of himself for the second time in two decades (I’m a strong believer in his performance in Stardust). I hope this is a sign he’s getting his groove back. But do we need to give the guy a nomination and maybe even an award for it? He’s got plenty. I understand mental illness is catnip for Oscar, but come on. He’s out-acted by every one of his co-stars in every scene he is in. De Niro’s nomination is one of those things that makes you wonder if the Academy really is qualified to be doing this.

I think it is great that the Academy sometimes finds space for the small roles in this category, and Alan Arkin turns in a fine performance. I personally don’t get the nomination, though, and read it more as a combination of the need to nominate someone from the cast and the irresistible temptation of the Hollywood producer character. Arkin approaches the character with zeal and zest, but I think the role is just too limited.

Tommy Lee Jones pretty much makes everything better. If I had to nitpick here, maybe I’d come up with something about how the character may be too broad, but really the only complaint I could have is that the character occasionally gets lost in the sea of characters the script needs to service. He’s on the bubble for my personal list.

The Master is a horrendous movie, so maybe I’m overcompensating here. But it is kind of astounding how smoothly Philip Seymour Hoffman slips into this mesmerizing persona. The role isn’t always showy, but instead provides a stark spotlight to highlight everything else in the film. I don’t think Amy Adams gets a nomination here without being able to play off of Hoffman. The thing is, while I don’t think the argument is as clear cut as the next guy, because I had to spend some time thinking about it, but I have Hoffman as a lead actor in this role. I’m willing to entertain discussion otherwise, but compare his role to that of Alan Arkin or Tommy Lee Jones.

Your choice pleases me. You will not be killed.

Your choice pleases me. You will not be killed.

My toughest decision in this group was whether to put Christoph Waltz first or last. He wouldn’t have been on my Supporting Actor ballot. Because he’s not a supporting actor. He’s quite clearly a lead actor, and I’d probably argue the main character of this film. And I can’t stand category fraud. But Harvey Weinstein is a genius and made it happen, so if I had a ballot I guess I’d have to go with Waltz. Honestly, I’d probably be transfixed by him reading a set of Ikea instructions. He’s just a perfect match for Tarantino’s dialogue, making every bit of the script count.

Should have been here: I would have gone with a completely different five, I think. Javier Bardem, Skyfall; Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained, Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained; Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike; Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

John

Emma Stone and Seth MacFarlane noted while announcing the nominees in this category that all five men had won it once before. To them it was a joke, but I wonder how many rode their previous successes to a nomination this year.

I left the theater with little impression of Jones, De Niro, or Arkin. All are famous actors and all play characters with memorable lines or story arcs, but never once did I give their performances any special consideration. Arkin, in particular, seems to be taking advantage of his character’s funny quips. And while I agree it’s nice to see De Niro not phoning in a performance, the screaming-OCD-guy act wasn’t wowing me. Then there’s Jones. If he’s not playing a character with such sympathetic morals, does he get so much awards attention?

Another one under my spell

Another one under my spell

I am quite happy with the Waltz and Hoffman nominations, however. I love how Waltz can be so subtly creepy even while turning on the charm. My vote goes to Philip Seymour Hoffman. While I didn’t particularly care for The Master, his intensity is really something to behold. He’s a little crazy but I can see why his followers would feel attracted to him.

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