My Review of the 85th Academy Awards

Aaron Tveit, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Russell Crowe

Well, this year’s Oscars have officially come and gone, and at this point, I am already excited for next year’s show.  But before I start preparing for another amazing year in film, I wanted to share my reactions of last night’s broadcast with all of you.  Even though Seth MacFarlane provided some hilarious laughs, in the end I felt he was just another average host.  I hope next year the Academy employs someone that can keep me feeling pleasantly entertained for the entire show.

Speaking of the entire show, once again, this year’s broadcast was WAY too long.  This is one thing the Academy needs to continue working on fixing because by the end, most viewers were bored and tired.  One of my favorite things about this year’s show, though, was dedicating the ceremony’s theme to music in film.  As you probably saw in an earlier post of mine, I truly feel music is the most important part of a movie in regards to creating feeling and emotion within the viewer.  The various musical performances added an authentic flare to the Oscars.

This year’s Academy Awards had some awesome moments, some not-so-awesome moments, and some downright unforgettable moments, and I am using this post to share my reactions to some of these moments with you:

Best Moment: (Les Misérables performance)

In a night centered on the theme of music in movies, the cast of Les Misérables stole the show.  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Samantha Barks, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, and Aaron Tveit all reunited on stage to perform a combination of three songs from the film: “Suddenly,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” and “One More Day.”  I enjoyed each of these songs in the actual movie, but I was quite glad to see these amazing songs performed once more by this astounding ensemble—definitely the highlight of the show for me.

Worst Moment: (Catherine Zeta-Jones’ performance)

Catherine Zeta-Jones returned to the Oscars stage a decade after her musical film Chicago took home six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Adding to the theme of music in movies, Zeta-Jones performed “All That Jazz” from Chicago.  Even though she did an amazing job in the original film and has put together a pretty successful Broadway career, her performance at the Oscars was beyond dreadful.  She was clearly lip-synching and her faux singing was even more horrendous than Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.  It was most definitely a forgettable portion of the show last night.

Most Endearing Moment: (Acceptance Speech for Inocente)

When the filmmakers for the winner of Best Documentary Short gave their acceptance speech, they included a heartfelt sentiment: they brought the subject of their short film on stage.  The short film is about a teenage artist, Inocente Izucar, who is living homeless in San Diego, California.  Through the attention she has received from the short movie, she is no longer homeless and is making progress as a professional artist.  The filmmakers brought her on stage to recognize the way she has turned her life around in such a short time, and the moment was genuinely endearing.

Most Boring Moment (Barbara Streisand’s performance)

After an already long presentation of this year’s “In Memoriam,” songstress Barbara Streisand performed “The Way We Were” in a special tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.  Even though her rendition of this song originally won the Academy Award for Best Original Song nearly 40 years ago, I was bored out of my mind by her 2013 performance.  I understand it is a sentimental song and added to the “In Memoriam” moment, but this portion of the show dragged on way too long and the song virtually put me to sleep.

WTF Moment: (Tie for Best Sound Editing)

Even though I am a dedicated fan of the Oscars, I was just as shocked as everyone when the Best Sound Editing category ended in a tie.  Yes, a tie with two winners—the sound editors for both Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall received the award.  After doing some research, it turns out that this was actually the sixth occurrence of a tie at the Academy Awards.  The first tie was in 1932 when Frederic March from Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery from The Champ each shared the Oscar for Best Actor.  The most recent tie was in 1995 when Frank Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Trevor tied for Best Live Action Short Film.

Best Monologue Joke: (Ben Affleck and Argo)

Seth MacFarlane began the show discussing some of the films up for major awards.  He commented on the snubbing of Ben Affleck for Best Director: “Argo tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran.  The film was so top-secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy.”

Worst Monologue Joke (Tarantino and his usage of the “N” word)

Seth MacFarlaneWhile discussing the controversy Django Unchained has received for its usage of the “N” word, MacFarlane said, “I’m told it’s actually okay for Quentin Tarantino to use that word because he thinks he’s black.”  Hardly anyone laughed and Seth quickly jumped to the next joke after realizing this one was a dud.

Monologue joke I hated to laugh at, but did anyway: (Chris Brown and Rihanna)

While explaining the storyline of Django Unchained, MacFarlane said, “This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence.  Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”

Best Acceptance Speech: (Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor)

Becoming the first actor in the history of the Oscars to win the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Daniel Day-Lewis had plenty to be happy about.  His acceptance speeches have always been more than eloquent, and this one was no different; however, he showed a lighter side of himself by joking with presenter Meryl Streep, stating that he was actually supposed to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and she was supposed to play Honest Abe in Lincoln.  He has always been a stand-up professional, and even though I felt a couple other nominees should have won this award, he gave a humble speech celebrating his win.

Worst Acceptance Speech: (Claudio Miranda for Best Cinematography)

The cinematographer for Life of Pi received his first Academy Award last night.  And if he wins in the future, hopefully he learns to make a better speech.  He was breathing as if he had just run a marathon, and he was staring into space and making odd noises in between sentences.  He started getting way too much into detail about specific camera shots from the film and could hardly get his words out.  I know he was happy and overwhelmed, but it was odd to watch.

Biggest Surprise (Ang Lee for Best Director)

85th Annual Academy Awards - ShowWhile most people were angry that Ben Affleck was snubbed in this category, it was a common consensus that this award was Steven Spielberg’s to lose.  Lincoln has been one of the most recognized films of the year, and with Affleck out of the category, it seemed like a guarantee that Spielberg would go home with the gold.  However, Ang Lee, the director of Life of Pi, shocked everyone by winning over the heavyweight favorite.  Also, for the first time since the Oscars ceremony held in 2006, the winner of the Best Director award was not the winner of the Best Picture award—interestingly enough, the last time this happened, it was in fact Ang Lee who won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain but lost to Crash in the Best Picture category.

Best Quotes from my family’s Oscar Watch Party: (Leslie Froman and Marcia Towle)

While watching the Academy Awards with my family, some unforgettable quotes were uttered, and I feel the need to share these with you as an added bonus.  During William Shatner’s cameo appearance in the monologue, he mentioned the Academy Awards, to which my girlfriend Leslie remarked, “Hang on, rewind that.  He messed up.  He said ‘Academy Awards’ instead of ‘Oscars.’”  Yes, she learned last night for the first time that the Academy Awards and the Oscars were actually one in the same.  The next best quote was from my own mother.  As they announced the nominees for Best Supporting Actor, they showed a clip from Tommy Lee Jones’ role as Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.  During the clip, my mom said, “He is an ugly Lincoln!”  No, Mom, that’s not Lincoln, that’s a congressman.

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Best Picture

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This year, one of nine nominated films will be inducted into an exclusive society of movies that have received the Academy’s greatest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture.  Some of the films that this year’s winner will be joining include Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Rain Man, Gladiator, The Artist, and many more; needless to say, this year’s Best Picture winner will be joining an elite collection of the world’s greatest films of all time.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Picture:

WINNER: Silver Linings Playbook

2. Zero Dark Thirty

3. Django Unchained

4. Life of Pi

5. Amour

6. Les Misérables

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild

8. Argo

9. Lincoln

Films snubbed in this category: Moonrise Kingdom

Best Original Score

Skyfall Score

The Oscar for Best Original Score is awarded to a musical composer for the best body of musical work in the form of underscoring for a particular film.  This is perennially one of my favorite Academy Award categories because in my opinion, music is essentially what makes or breaks a film.  A movie is just a bunch of images and words, but with the addition of a musical score, the film develops feeling and emotion in a way that better connects with the viewers.  This year’s nominees include four composers with deep roots at the Oscars and one well-known composer earning his first nomination (Mychael Danna).  Between the four previously nominated composers in this year’s group, they have received 61 nominations in the Best Original Score category, winning six of those.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Score:

WINNER: Thomas Newman (Skyfall)

2. Mychael Danna (Life of Pi)

3. Alexandre Desplat (Argo)

4. Dario Marianelli (Anna Karenina)

5. John Williams (Lincoln)

Best Adapted Screenplay

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The Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay is awarded to the writer(s) of a particular screenplay adapted from another source, such as a book or play.  This year’s nominees are writers who, for the most part, have little history at the Academy Awards; in fact, between the nominees, they have only received two previous Oscar nominations in writing categories.  Some marvelous screenplays are nominated this year, but it is still pretty up in the air in regards to who will win—David O. Russell has won the BAFTA in this category and Tony Kushner has won the Critics’ Choice Award.  After seeing each of the nominated films, I have my produced my own assessment of the nominees; thus, the following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Adapted Screenplay:

WINNER: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

David O. Russell, also the director of the film, adapted this screenplay from Silver Linings Playbook (2008), the debut novel of author Matthew Quick.  The film itself is among the best of the entire year, and much of the acclaim is directly due to Russell’s unblemished screenplay.  The screenplay is entertaining and captivating, and Russell’s words led to Academy Award nominations for each of his principal actors and actresses (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver).  David O. Russell faces stiff competition from a year of astounding adapted screenplays, but I believe his work stands alone among this group of heavy hitters.  Russell has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

2. David Magee (Life of Pi)

David Magee adapted this screenplay from Life of Pi (2001), a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel.  The original novel has received a great deal of critical acclaim, including the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and Magee uses a spectacular screenplay to help director Ang Lee recreate this remarkable story.  Even though the film utilizes some extraordinary special effects, the movie would be nothing without the superb script from Magee.  David Magee was previously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Finding Neverland (2004).

3. Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Lucy Alibar and director Benh Zeitlin adapted this screenplay from Juicy and Delicious, a one-act play originally written by Alibar herself.  The film has received a high level of critical praise, including a nomination for Best Picture, and that says a lot about the script considering the film features a group of amateur actors with little to no previous acting experience.  The biggest advantage for the writers is the fact that Alibar wrote the original play, giving her a much more in-depth perspective for the feature-film version.  Neither Alibar nor Zeitlin have been previously nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

4. Chris Terrio (Argo)

Chris Terrio adapted this screenplay from a 2007 magazine article by Joshuah Bearman, detailing the true events of the covert mission “Canadian Caper” during the Iran Hostage Crisis.  Terrio is a little-known personality in the film industry—his only major involvement with a full-length feature film was as the director of the 2005 movie Heights.  In my opinion, Argo is not one of Ben Affleck’s strongest directorial efforts, but the film is carried throughout by a solid script.  The root of the drama and emotion in the film is Terrio’s writing, and his nomination is well deserved.  Terrio has not been previously nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

5. Tony Kushner (Lincoln)

Tony Kushner adapted this screenplay from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005), a biographical book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Even though the book covers Lincoln’s entire presidency, Kushner focused his script on the final four months of the president’s life, specifically his efforts to abolish slavery.  Kushner’s work is by far one of the most fluent and eloquent screenplays of the year, but in my opinion, it is rather bland and boring.  I feel that covering such a short, specific period of time in American history takes out all opportunities for creativity in a script, and it simply lacks a whole lot of action or entertainment.  Kushner was previously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Munich (2005).

Writers snubbed in this category: Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Best Cinematography & Best Film Editing

Bond Cinematography

The Oscar for Best Cinematography is awarded to a particular film for the finest artistic and technical decisions in regards to the creation of the moving images on the screen.  The award is presented to the Director of Photography (Cinematographer) from the film.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Cinematography:

WINNER: Skyfall (Roger Deakins)

2. Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)

3. Anna Karenina (Seamus McGarvey)

4. Django Unchained (Robert Richardson)

5. Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)

Zero Film Edit

The Oscar for Best Film Editing is awarded to a particular film for the finest post-production digital editing.  The award is given to the film’s principal editor.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Film Editing:

WINNER: Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg)

2. Life of Pi (Tim Squyres)

3. Silver Linings Playbook (Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers)

4. Argo (William Goldenberg)

5. Lincoln (Michael Kahn)

Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 15 – Argo

Argo 15

Argo is a film directed by Ben Affleck, with a screenplay written by Chris Terrio.  The movie is based on true events during the Iran Hostage Crisis that were previously unknown to the general public for many decades.  On November 4, 1979, Iranian revolutionaries famously raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage.  During the attack, six Americans snuck out of the embassy and made their way into the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran.  CIA operative Tony Mendez, knowing the agency must act quickly in order to protect the six Americans from being found out and assassinated by the revolutionaries, develops an ingenious, but hazardous plan to retrieve them and return them to the United States safely.  His plan was to create a fictional movie and act, along with the six Americans, as a film crew visiting Iran to find filming locations before heading back to the states.

After this movie was released, it quickly garnered critical acclaim in every category imaginable.  This praise led to the film winning numerous pre-Oscars film awards, including Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Director (Ben Affleck) at the Golden Globes, and being nominated for seven Academy Awards.  Even though I found the movie to be quite interesting and entertaining, in my own opinion it was not as amazing as everyone was making it out to be.

For starters, I was surprised to see this film nominated for Best Picture.  I personally rank this film as the third best out of the three Affleck-directed movies in his filmography.  Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2010) were both much more complicated, enthralling films and yet neither was nominated for Best Picture.  The general consensus is also that Ben Affleck was robbed this year by the Academy for not being nominated for Best Director.  After hearing all of the universal acclaim his directorial efforts were receiving, I felt bad for him, too, but then I saw the film.  And after sitting in the theater for two hours watching this movie, I left completely and utterly un-blown away.  Do not get me wrong, it was a great movie, which is why it is featured on this countdown of the year’s best films, but it did not do enough for me to show Affleck’s growth as a director.

Also, the film features some great acting performances that carry this story through until the end.  The obvious bright stars were Ben Affleck himself, portraying the real-life Tony Mendez, and Alan Arkin, playing Lester Siegel, a fictitious film producer.  Even though these performances were definitely worth watching, the most impressive performance, in my opinion, was by Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad).  He depicts Jack O’Donnell, Affleck’s character’s supervisor at the CIA.  Throughout the nerve-racking covert operation, Cranston illustrates the overwhelming tension involved with the mission, and he does so in a way that makes you feel his real-life anxiety pulsing through your own veins.  Argo is rated R for language and some violent images.

Academy Award nominations for Argo:

Best Picture (Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, and George Clooney, Producers)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin)

Film Editing (William Goldenberg)

Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)

Sound Editing (Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn)

Sound Mixing (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio Garcia)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio)

Argo trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w918Eh3fij0