Oscar Watch 3: Locks and Longshots
If you enjoy Oscar night as much as I do, you’ve spent a great deal of the last month anticipating who will be able to add the illustrious title “Academy Award winner” to their names in film previews. Some categories have pretty much been decided, if the results of awards season are any indication, but nothing is set in stone, much less the little placard on each statuette.
So, which groupings are likely to have a surprise in spite of previous history? Let me break it down for you.
First off, let’s talk about those half-dozen entries that are way too difficult to judge, unless you have a masterful technical ear and have managed to see all those documentaries and shorts that nobody else succeeds to catch except for those who might have exclusive connections. In other words, just like in my column last year, your guess is as good as mine.
Best Sound Editing — Life of Pi
Best Sound Mixing — Les Misérables
Best Documentary Feature — Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short Subject — Redemption
Best Live Action Short Film — Curfew
Best Animated Short Film — Paperman
And now for the selections I can discuss intelligently…
Best Foreign Language Film
By the Numbers: Besides being a favorite across the board for the big national awards, Austria’s French-language entry Amour, about an elderly couple coming to terms with mortality, struck a chord with countless regional cinematic groups, ranging from Dallas-Fort Worth to Kansas City to Toronto, along with plenty more.
On Second Thought: Though there are exceptions, year after year we rarely see much competition among foreign films, with one frontrunner almost always jumping out ahead and never looking back. Just take a glance at last year’s juggernaut, A Separation.
Best Animated Feature
By the Numbers: Since the introduction of this newest category to the Oscars, the winner has more often than not been the recipient of the same prize at the cartoon-centric Annie Awards. If that’s the case, Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s paean to classic arcade games will likely pummel its way to victory. The number of other honors the title goon has grabbed with his gigantic mitts doesn’t hurt either.
On Second Thought: 2012 may have had one animated flick in theaters after another, but let’s be honest: plenty were good, but none were great, leaving no concrete winner. Wreck-It Ralph has an edge, but Pixar’s Brave has nabbed a good many big awards, while the morbid duo of Frankenweenie and ParaNorman have also netted some lesser accolades to even the playing field. Even The Pirates! Band of Misfits has just as much chance with the vote being split thusly.
Best Costume Design
By the Numbers: The sweeping story of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has been portrayed better in past versions, but you can’t deny Jacqueline Durran’s work in recreating the wardrobe of imperialist Russian aristocrats made a middling adaptation much more notable. They don’t just hand out a BAFTA Award to anyone, after all.
On Second Thought: The elegant clothes of Anna Karenina next to Paco Delgado’s well-worn rags of Les Misérables is a matter of apples and oranges. Frankly, anything set in the 19th century always has a chance to win here, so don’t count out Joanna Johnston’s fashion sense in Lincoln. Sadly for the people involved, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman pretty much cancel each other out with their separate tales of pure-hearted princesses and evil queens.
By the Numbers: With eye-popping vistas, it’s no wonder the Brits gave the BAFTA Award in this category to Claudio Miranda for the incomparable look of Life of Pi, which captures not only the fantastic elements of a tale of a boy, a tiger and a lifeboat but also the kind of divine subtext that isn’t easily communicated.
On Second Thought: While Miranda may have greater numbers, he lost out on getting a pat on the back this year from the American Society of Cinematographers, a distinction that went to Roger Deakins for Skyfall. Everyone loves a James Bond movie, but just because the industry professionals in camerawork went that way, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else sees things framed the same way. Pi doesn’t have too much to worry about.
Best Production Design
By the Numbers: With an altered name, the category formerly known as “Best Art Direction” has a likely winner in Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer for their panache in Anna Karenina. Those elaborate, revolving sets tended to distract viewers from the action onscreen, but as the voters for the Critics’ Choice Awards noted, those same set pieces were no less outstanding.
On Second Thought: Middle Earth, the White House, battle-torn France, an island with a mind of its own. You can’t say there’s a lack of variety here, and any one of the nominees could come out on top.
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Featured image: Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/Claire Folger.