The Oscars are only a few days away now after a hectic awards seasons full of snubs, surprises, and history. Many of the results that were thought to have been too close to call back when the nominations were announced a little over a month ago had their true frontrunners emerge. However, there is still reason to tune in on Sunday other than to find out what dress Jennifer Lawrence is wearing.
Best Original Screenplay is a battle between two past winners both with their most controversial scripts in a tough battle against each other. The aforementioned Ms. Lawrence could be threatened by last minute momentum for Emmanuelle Riva for Best Actress. Things to keep an eye on for sure, but below are the questions regarding both the awards and the surrounding elements in these last days before Oscar Sunday to puzzle over.
Can anything stop “Argo’s” dominance?
The short answer here would be probably not. So why does this questions even bother to be asked? Well, this has been one of the most up and down award seasons in recent memory. “Argo” has been on the war path for the last month, taking all of the big prizes in the precursors, but before it laid its claim as the favorite, nearly every single nominee at one point had a bit of time as the perceived front-runner (save “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, sorry guys).
“Argo” is now in the lead when it matters most and showing no signs of slowing, but “Lincoln”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, and “Life of Pi” still linger right behind it, maybe just a little too close for comfort. “Argo” will likely hold on, go the distance, but we know someone else is going to win Best Director, could the prevailing party snatch Best Picture too? The answer remains, probably not, but the possibility isn’t going anywhere just yet.
Without Affleck in the field, who will win Best Director?
In regards to the potentially dangerous Best Director category, which one of the actual nominees is likely to walk away with the honor? Steve Spielberg has been the easy answer for many but his walk to the podium just doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk. The temptation to go international in this category may keep Spielberg from his third director prize.
Ang Lee and Michael Haneke both seem like the two likeliest men to hear their names called outside of Spielberg. Lee pulled off a stunning visual feat in “Life of Pi”, successfully adapting a story many saw as unfilmable. On top of that he effectively incorporated 3D technology and CGI in new and astonishing ways.
For Haneke, it is his first nomination for director, but not the first time the Academy has recognized him. He was nominated back in 2009 for Best Foreign Film for “The White Ribbon”. He comes in with even more acclaim for “Amour”, which surprised many with a total of five nominations, showing a love for a foreign film outside of its own category. Could that love translate to more than just nominations for “Amour” and Haneke? Maybe it would be easier if the three of them just battled it out with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Who the hell is the lead for Best Supporting Actor?
Director may have three nominees driving pundits crazy, well that’s nothing compared to Best Supporting Actor. A strong argument could be made for all five of the actors in this category.
Alan Arkin could be swept to the winner’s circle with the rest of the admiration for “Argo”. Philip Seymour Hoffman could be the Academy’s chosen recipient to bestow some respect to one of the best casts of the year in “The Master”. Robert De Niro returns to his former glory with his first nominated performance in over twenty years, which could draw in the votes. Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz, though, have been the two racking up the trophies as of late at the Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTA awards.
Arguments can be made against all of them as well. Arkin has the lightest role here, and may have already gotten his share of “Argo” love with a nomination. Hoffman is the critic’s darling, but has been overlooked for some time now. De Niro is thought as the third best performance in his film, and hasn’t been able to snag a trophy from a major precursor either. Tommy Lee Jones could be overshadowed by Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. Finally, many feel Waltz should have been in the lead category, and could receive some backlash for that.
This is by far the toughest category to call right now. The edge right now seems to be leaning toward Waltz after his BAFTA win, but it is on extremely shaky ground.
Will this be Seth MacFarlane’s coming out party?
This Sunday has some intrigue outside of the potential winners pertaining to the emcee for the evening, Seth MacFarlane. People were surprised when it was announced that MacFarlane would host the Oscars, only thinking of MacFarlane as the guy behind the love it or hate it TV show “Family Guy”. Even his first foray into features didn’t help his personal exposure as he simply voiced the foul-mouthed teddy bear Ted in the movie of the same name. So, can the Oscars make him a recognizable face?
Hosting isn’t usually what does that at the Oscars. The nominees are the ones that get the biggest bump from the show. Oddly enough, MacFarlane is a nominee for Best Original Song, but can’t say that will really help; name anyone who has really took off from winning best original song (excluding “Once”).
More often than not it is established celebrities that host the show. The closest case in memory that is similar to MacFarlane’s was Hugh Jackman, but he was already a big celebrity, it was just a wider sampling of his singing and dancing talents that main stream audiences didn’t know where there.
But MacFarlane has lots of unknown talents that could help him make an impression. He can sing; he has an album where he sings sleeper hits from the 1950s titled “Music is Better Than Words”. It should also be interesting to see how his comedy changes when he isn’t speaking through one of his characters. There’s a lot of upside to MacFarlane that the Oscars will be uniquely suited to bring out of him, should make for a fun watch.
How will the Academy be looked at following the results?
It is fair to say that the Academy doesn’t have a glowing reputation according to many of the bloggers and pundits who follow the awards year after year. Claims against them go as far as to call them predictable, unimaginative, and conservative. So will this year start to offer a change of a pace or continuance of past perceptions?
The predictability factor probably won’t be helped this year. If “Argo” takes the top prize like it is widely thought, the Academy would just be following suit of what every major body did before them. It would be especially damning considering the film was widely thought dead in the water after Affleck was snubbed. A win for “Argo” could mean lead many to believe that the Academy is just making sure it follows the trends of everyone else so not to appear out of touch.
The other side of that is that many could analyze an “Argo” victory as the Academy unwilling to stand up on their own and proclaim their own best picture. It has been such a strong year for film and there are six films that you could easily justify winning best picture, so why couldn’t the Oscars spread the love a little?
Either way, the Academy will likely receive some backlash in the days that follow. But we might give too much weight to the winners anyway. Best Picture winners (all the winners for that matter) aren’t the gold standard for what a great film is; it’s a sampling for the year.
There are films that won’t win and some that weren’t even nominated that could prove to be more impactful down the road, and that is what really matters. The Oscars are a pat on the back for the industry and a fun guessing game for the rest of us, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining to pick and prod over.
Be sure to check back with my final predictions later this week.