In a town and in an industry that possesses political leverage and is forever being accused of using it for political gain, this years academy members may have voted to side step the political fray. Four of the nine best picture nominees deal with politics head on, less than fifty percent, but they all happen to be in other respects odds on favorites.
There may have been some academy members who wanted to avoid politics, but there also may have been those who wanted to let their political voice to be heard, and that could have played havoc with voting this year. Just for the record, the academy is made up of six thousand movie professionals, giving cover to any one individual, but as a group, their voting speaks volumes.
In terms of shear movie making, Lincoln is superb. The sets, acting, writing, wardrobe and tone of the movie are par excellence. That being said, this biopic immerses the viewer into the intense political wrangling of the end of the Civil War. Steven Speilberg deserves kudos for meticulously playing the account straight down the line without embellishment. However, for some whose party loyalty runs deep, an uncomfortable reality is that Republicans were on the righteous side in this bitter time of American history and that could have swayed votes.
Ben Affleck also did all in his power to stay out of the political fray with Argo, his adaptation of the Iran Hostage crisis. President Carter is referred to obliquely and the focus of the movie centers on the human drama of those in peril. It is the basis of the movie’s success. But as fate would have it, a tragic embassy crisis unfolded at the time of the film’s release. Four Americans were killed in an attack on the Libyian embassy in Benghazi, making a vote for Argo a reminder of the current failures of the United States.
It does not appear that Quentin Tarantino intended Django Unchained to be a political treatise on slavery. It is, in fact, a gritty action movie in the mold Clint Eastwood’s 1960’s westerns in which he would take on a despicable establishment figure. However, it is the crossing of an action hero with the very real, tragic and intense racism that took place at that point in America’s history that may not garner as many votes.
Zero Dark Thirty stands alone in that it is not a perception of being political, but is actually embroiled in political controversy. Government denials have been made that torture was instrumental in the capturing of Osama Bin Laden. Any academy member who wanted to avoid perpetuating this political fight would have stayed away.
Other nominees are easier to dismiss as winners. Les Miserables is great movie making in all respects, but Oscar puts an emphasis on originality. Silver Lining is a solid story starring Robert Deniro and Bradley Cooper, just not ground breaking enough. Amour is a delicate, poignant and artful foreign film which is heavy on story, but probably not enough to carry the day.
That leaves Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild as safe bets for six thousand people who may have wanted to avoid politics, and incidentally, both worthy nominees.