Review: My Ballot and Countdown

Nominees Luncheon

It is hard to believe that after a few weeks of working hard to blog continuously about my favorite non-sports event of the year, we are finally one day away from the Oscars. In preparation for tomorrow’s show, I am providing all of you with a review of my blog from these past couple of weeks. This review includes all of the winners of the 13 categories in which I have seen each nominated film/performance and have subsequently blogged about, and it also includes my list of the “Top 15 Films of the Year.”

Get caught up on my picks, and feel free to look back over any of my past posts featuring much more in-depth commentary on each of these films and performances. Make sure to tune into the 85th Academy Awards tomorrow night at 7:30pm (CST) on ABC, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA. And don’t forget to check back here after the show to read all about my reaction to the winners, losers, and inevitably unforgettable moments from the broadcast. Enjoy, everyone!

My Oscar Winners:

Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook

Actor in a Leading Role: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Adams (The Master)

Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Directing: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Film Editing: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Original Score: Thomas Newman (Skyfall)

Sound Editing: Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall)

Sound Mixing: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson (Skyfall)

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Top 15 Films of the Year:

1. Silver Linings Playbook

2. Moonrise Kingdom

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

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Best Picture

SLP 1

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

Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 5 – Django Unchained

Django

Django Unchained is a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.  The film is set in the South before the Civil War, and the story follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is bought by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German-born bounty hunter.  Django teams up with Dr. Schultz to hunt down some of the most renowned, murderous men in the slave business.  Django’s main goal, though, is to search until he finds his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was sold into slavery many years before.  When Django and Schultz finally track her down, she is in the confinement of a sadistically ruthless slave owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  The two men must put on an act in order to gain the trust of Candie, but when Candie’s house slave (Samuel L. Jackson) becomes suspicious of their intentions, all hell breaks loose.

To say the very least, I absolutely, unequivocally loved this movie.  I have always been a fan of Tarantino’s work, and his creation of Django ranks right up there with some of his best of all time, including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Inglourious Basterds (my favorite film of all time).  The film takes place during one of the most controversial periods of American history—the years of slavery before the Civil War.  If you have seen the way Tarantino recreated the history of the Nazis during World War II in Inglourious Basterds, then you are in for an equally hilarious depiction of the racist slave owners of the 1800s.

His film has been met with both critical acclaim and controversy, but then again it seems most of Tarantino’s movies are met with this same mix of emotion from critics and the general public.  He has been chastised by many, including the annoyingly outspoken Spike Lee, about his usage of the “N” word during the film, but in order to accurately depict this period of history, Tarantino would have been doing everyone a disservice by avoiding the word and sugarcoating the times.  His script is violently gruesome, but honest, and like most of his films, it is downright hilarious—the scene with the white-hooded horsemen will forever go down as one of the funniest I have ever seen in a movie.

The tour de force that is Tarantino’s screenplay for Django Unchained is assisted by an ensemble of actors and actresses creating unique and illustrious portrayals of their dynamic characters on the screen.  Jamie Foxx gives one of the best performances of his career, ranking behind only his roles in Collateral and Ray, in my opinion.  Surprisingly, Foxx was not nominated for any of the major awards despite his excellent performance.  Christoph Waltz once again collaborates with Tarantino, and like in his role as Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Waltz brings his incomparable and articulate diction to the role, coupled with his fascinatingly comical wit.  His performance makes him a strong frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for which he is nominated.

Some other strong examples of exceptional acting are illustrated by Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen the house slave, Kerry Washington as Broomhilda, Don Johnson as Big Daddy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie.  I was quite upset when both Jackson and DiCaprio were snubbed for Oscars because after seeing nearly every nominated film this year, their performances stood out way above the rest.  DiCaprio has turned in a very triumphant career thus far, but he has yet to receive an Academy Award, and before nominations were announced, I was sure this would be his year.  Django Unchained is rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language, and some nudity.

Django Unchained trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUdM9vrCbow

Academy Award nominations for Django Unchained:

Best Picture (Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, and Pilar Savone, Producers)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Christoph Waltz)

Cinematography (Robert Richardson)

Sound Editing (Wylie Stateman)

Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

Best Original Screenplay

Tarantino

The Oscar for Best Original Screenplay is awarded to the writer(s) of a particular screenplay that is not based upon any prior published work.  This year’s group of nominees features some established, acclaimed writers and a couple Academy Award newcomers.  Between the nominated writers, they have been nominated for four writing Oscars and have won two.  Although there are some great scripts up for the award this year, one writer has already been sweeping the award shows for his screenplay, winning the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Award—this year, it just so happens that I am in full agreement with the major award shows on this category.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Screenplay:

WINNER: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Tarantino, also the director of the film, has created one of the greater scripts in modern cinema.  It has created a significant amount of controversy, but it has also been met with rave reviews from the critics—Quentin would not want it any other way.  Even though he did not win the Oscar in this category for Inglourious Basterds, which is by far my favorite movie of all time, he still has penned another masterpiece in Django.  Tarantino has a knack for creating some of the most remembered characters in the history of film, such as Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, and Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, and in Django, he does not disappoint, creating unbelievably dynamic characters like Dr. King Schultz and Calvin Candie.  I will never know how the inner workings of Tarantino’s mind operate, but I am most unquestionably thankful for the written work he has given us.  Tarantino was previously nominated for two writing Academy Awards, both in the Best Original Screenplay category, and he won for Pulp Fiction (1994).

2. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)

Wes Anderson, also the director of the film, and Roman Coppola have collaborated for their second screenplay together—their first was The Darjeeling Limited, a film they also co-wrote with Jason Schwartzman.  The end result of their most recent work together is an incredibly hilarious, wildly entertaining script.  This screenplay has the best shot among the other nominees to upset the heavyweight Tarantino, and if things fall correctly for Anderson and Coppola, they just may find themselves raising the Oscar statute.  This story is one of a kind.  It tells the story of young love from a unique perspective that only Anderson, one of the most distinctive writer-directors of our time, could do.  It is a refreshingly different film, and it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.  Anderson was previously nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).  Coppola has not previously been nominated.

3. Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)

After Anderson and Coppola, Mark Boal has the next best chance to knock off Tarantino at the top in this category.  This is only Boal’s second screenplay, but just like his previous one for The Hurt Locker, it is action packed and beaming with award-winning quality.  Boal tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, the most dangerous man on earth.  The Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal collaboration may not be quite the masterpiece it was for The Hurt Locker, but it is most assuredly not far behind.  I was on the edge of my theater seat throughout the entire film, and a lot of this is due to the spellbinding script Boal has written.  Mark Boal was previously nominated and won for Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker (2009).

4. Michael Haneke (Amour)

Michael Haneke, also the director of the film, has finally been nominated by the Academy for his superb writing abilities.  Haneke is one of the most unknown writer-directors to the general public in the United States, but I have been aware of his work for quite a few years now.  The biggest film festival in the entire world is the Cannes Film Festival, and the top award at this festival is the Palme d’Or, an award given to the top film of the festival.  Only seven filmmakers have won this award twice since 1939—Michael Haneke is one of those (The White Ribbon, 2009, and Amour, 2012).  Haneke’s French-language film is intriguing, matchless, and invigorating.  The words he penned for this film not only earned him an Oscar nomination, but it also resulted in lead actress Emmanuelle Riva being nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.  Haneke has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

5. John Gatins (Flight)

Gatins is an established screenwriter, but to be completely honest, none of his scripts have been anything close to award worthy.  His screenwriting filmography includes Summer Catch, Hardball, Coach Carter, and Real Steel, but his big break finally came with the 2012 film Flight.  In this film, Gatins uses an incredibly entertaining story line to keep our attention, but it is the complexities he has created in regards to human morality that truly sets his script apart.  I am surprised that he received a nomination, but after seeing the film, it is definitely justified.  Gatins has not previously been nominated for any Academy Awards in either of the two writing categories.

Writers snubbed in this category: Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Waltz

Like the Best Supporting Actress nominees, each of the Best Supporting Actor nominees has previously been nominated for at least one Academy Award.  One of the characteristics that sticks out among these nominees, though—these men have already accumulated a combined six Oscar wins and sixteen nominations prior to this year’s ceremony; moreover, each of these nominees has at least one Academy Award victory!  This is definitely an assemblage of actors with well-established careers in the film industry, and even though the lead actors usually get all of the hype, it is the supporting roles that steal the show this year.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

In Django Unchained, Christoph Waltz portrays Dr. King Schultz, a German-born bounty hunter that purchases a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), to assist him as he hunts down white slave-owners all across the South.  Ultimately, Dr. Schultz and Django go off seeking Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a slave-owner that took Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Just as he did in 2009, Christoph Waltz turns in an absolutely spectacular performance in his second Tarantino-directed production.  I have seen Waltz in a couple other American movies, and he truly does a great job; however, it seems Quentin Tarantino always gets the absolute best out of him for his movies.  I believe it has to do with the dialogue Tarantino creates for Waltz’s characters.  Just as in Inglourious Basterds, the character Waltz plays is exemplified by his specific diction and unwavering wit, along with a calm determination to always get what he seeks.  The opening scene of Django Unchained, just as in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, is enough to rationalize awarding Christoph Waltz with this great honor of Best Supporting Actor.  Waltz was previously nominated and won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

In The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a religious cult known as “The Cause.”  Even though director Paul Thomas Anderson has not come right out and said it, it is highly inferred that Hoffman’s character is based off of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology; moreover, as the film plays out, “The Cause” begins to greatly resemble Scientology.  In the movie, Dodd and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) take in Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and Lancaster attempts to make Freddie a believer and promoter of the philosophical movement.  Hoffman’s character seems to be calm and inquisitive in an almost calculated manner, and this behavior lends to the dark mystique surrounding Lancaster Dodd.  This film includes critically acclaimed showings from each of the three main characters, but Hoffman still finds a way to stand out in his own way.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Actor for his role in Capote (2005).

3. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

In Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones acts as Thaddeus Stevens, the real-life Republican Congressional leader and fanatical abolitionist.  Historically, Representative Stevens was one of the most influential figures in the Reconstruction Era.  He fought for the rights of all people in the United States, but his significant efforts towards abolishing slavery engulfed much of his political focus.  From the moment Jones appears on the screen, you are mesmerized by the passion and vivacity in his voice as he pushes President Lincoln to free the slaves, end the war, and unite the nation as one.  In a film that features Daniel Day-Lewis giving a superb performance as Abraham Lincoln, Jones holds his own and rightfully deserves this nomination.  Tommy Lee Jones was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fugitive (1993).

4. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

In Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro plays Pat Solitano, Sr., the father of the lead character, Pat, Jr. (Bradley Cooper).  When Pat Jr. returns home, he learns that his father has lost his job and is bookmaking in a desperate attempt to make some money with aspirations of starting a restaurant.  Pat Sr. suffers from OCD, and De Niro plays this disorder flawlessly, illustrating his character’s wild and crazy superstitions based around the Philadelphia Eagles football team.  In one of the year’s biggest films featuring bright performances from young stars like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the veteran De Niro shows it does not take a serious, dramatic role for him to bring out the best in himself on the screen.  De Niro was previously nominated for six Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Best Actor for his role in Raging Bull (1980).

5. Alan Arkin (Argo)

In Argo, Alan Arkin portrays Lester Siegel, a film producer during the late 1970s.  Siegel, along with John Chambers (John Goodman) and CIA Operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), sets up a fake movie studio, creates full storyboards for the film and publicizes those plans, and makes the fictional film “Argo” seem like a full-fledged feature to help establish a credible story so that the covert operation to rescue six Americans stranded in Iran can be achieved successfully.  Even though Arkin gives a grand, witty performance in the film, I was surprised he received an Oscar nod because the character in my opinion lacked substance.  Alan Arkin was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Actors snubbed in this category: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) and Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)