Thursday, January 10, 2013

And the Nominees Are,... 2013 Oscar Nominees & What They Mean

Best Picture
Life Of Pie
Les Miserables
Django Unchained
Beasts Of the Southern Wild
Zero Dark Thirty
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director:
Michael Haneke for Amour 
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Ang Lee for Life of Pi 
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln 
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Best Actor:
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Denzel Washington, Flight
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Best Actress:
Emmaunuelle Riva, Amour
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts Of the Southern Wild
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, Argo
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Robert de Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Fields, Lincoln
Amy Adams, The Master
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Best Original Screenplay: 
Michael Haneke for Amour 
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained 
John Gatins for Flight 
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom 
Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay: 
Chris Terrio for Argo 
Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild 
David Magee for Life of Pi 
Tony Kushner for Lincoln 
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Best Foreign Language Film: 
A Royal Affair 
War Witch

Best Animated Feature:
Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman for Brave 
Tim Burton for Frankenweenie 
Sam Fell and Chris Butler for ParaNorman 
Peter Lord for The Pirates! Band of Misfits 
Rich Moore for Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography: 
Seamus McGarvey for Anna Karenina 
Robert Richardson for Django Unchained 
Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi 
Janusz Kaminski for Lincoln 
Roger Deakins for Skyfall 

The complete list of nominees can be found here  and at this site you can officially log your own picks for the year's best! 

The Academy is made up of roughly 6,000 members who will present the prestigious Oscar Sunday, February 24. Personally, the two biggest upset categories are Best Director (where is Kathryn Bigelow?) and Best Animated Feature (what? Pirates Band of Misfits? That's a misfit film!). To many, the prominence of Silver Linings Playbook might seem incomprehensible: it was a nice little rom-com, but come on! No, it wasn't just a nice little rom-com, it's got quite a bit going for it, and the film makers realize it doesn't take James Bond or Steven Spielberg to make a point that's worth making and the Academy (and many critical circles) are acknowledging that; my review is coming up, really, and it will focus on play vs game; note that Bradley Cooper wears a "game" jersey in the in the shot above).  Many of us will FINALLY get to see Zero Dark Thirty this weekend (including myself, along with Gangster Squad); if you haven't caught Beasts Of the Southern Wild, it's at Redbox and Flight (two nominations) will be out on DVD February 5.
One of my favorite approaches to criticism is called reader response theory, which focuses on what the audience knows. For example, in the photo above, in the background, is a poster for a performance of  The Turn of the Screw. Since I haven't seen Amour yet, I can't articulate a connection, but reader response takes the reference for The Turn Of the Screw and asks how that detail creates a dialogue with readers who have read The Turn Of the Screw, how elements of that ghost story play into elements of Amour and what--if any--influence or similarity there is between plot and characters in the two works of art. This aspect of reader response is referred to as the "implied reader," not only someone who has knowledge about a reference the art makes, in this case The Turn Of the Screw  (either about another work of art, a historical event or cultural event or person, etc., but something real outside the boundaries of the fictional world of the art itself), but can also do something with that reference such as "catch a joke," or see a similarity (like in Skyfall with the references of the paintings and how knowledge of those paintings contributes to knowledge of what happens to M (Judi Dench) and how we are to understand her death). A person who does not have knowledge about a reference a work of art makes is the "un-implied reader" (to put it nicely): for example, on the left side of the picture above is a pink and white poster for a work in Italian--probably a musical piece--and I have no idea what that is referencing, so I can't participate in the sub-text dialogue the film wants to establish with the audience (since the three main characters are all musicians, it's probable that there are numerous such musical references).
And Amour?
Nominated for Best Film, Director, Actress and Foreign Film, good luck trying to see it. Still "currently in theaters," but no where near me; with so many nominations, and still more than a month to go before award time, it's likely many theaters will try to get a showing of it in before the Oscars.
Now, isn't it interesting that the three lead stars of The Master have been nominated but the film wasn't nominated for anything else (consider that Zero Dark Thirty is up for Best Picture but only an acting award and writing)? I personally didn't like The Master (if you didn't sit through the 2 1/2 hours in the theater, you have to wait until two days after the Oscars to see it on video, released February 26), and that could possibly be a reference to the workings of Scientology within Hollywood (because only one or two critical groups gave the film much notice but the Academy has really honored it). It could just be a support of art for art's sake, and a continuation of any "daring" performance insuring you get an Oscar nom (such as Helene Hunt for The Sessions about sex therapy) but given how vocal and active the few Scientologists in Hollywood are, it's possible that this is a reaction against that cult-influence.
Why do the Oscars matter?
We have discussed it before, but cinema is the primary, dominating art form of America and Hollywood dominates cinema (the theater is to Americans what the Louvre is to the French), so American culture and who we are, what we feel and think, and how we express all that is dominated by "the winners" of the highest achievement in the motion picture arts because they are the ones future films want to work on their projects so they can make the best film possible; meaning, that Oscar winners largely shape the films being made for the next 1-3 years, so, far from being celebrity-craze or aesthetic validation of an obsession, the voting and recognition that takes place is a permanent and definite statement about the now and the immediate future of American culture.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner