And the OSCAR goes to…

Best Picture Oscar Nominees 2013
Pic: The Academy and Gallery1988

Here are my Oscar predictions made on the eve of the biggest entertainment show in the World along with the winners updated after the ceremony… For most categories, I listed who I thought will win and who was more deserving in my opinion. I did not include documentaries and short films in my original predictions (winners are updated now) as I have not seen them except Paperman – nominee, favourite and eventual winner in the Short Film (animated) category.

Let’s see how many predictions came true, how many favourites won and how many upset wins ruined the leading nominees’ evening…

Best Picture

Will win: Argo, unless the Academy voters do not want to own up to the mistake they made by not nominating Ben Affleck for Best Director

Should win: Zero Dark Thirty, but there is too much negative (and unnecessary) buzz around the film

Upset potential: Lincoln – a good film, but not the best (drags too much). However, it is tailor-made for the Oscars… the Academy loves biopics and add the element of patriotism to it… oh, and there is the Spielberg factor!

What about the others: The Academy seems to love Life of Pi but it’s more like Hugo – too many nominations, too little love in the main categories except the technical ones. Silver Linings Playbook is really a romantic comedy and the Academy rarely rewards rom-coms with the top prize. Django Unchained is a serious contender for Original Screenplay, not for Best Picture. Amour should be happy with an assured win in the Foreign Film category. Beasts of the Southern Wild… other nominees are asking this question – “where did this come from? How many people have seen this film?”

Who actually won: Argo. Hoorah!

Direction

Will win: I do not want to name him but I have no choice, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Should win: Ben Affleck for Argo or Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty; but I’m in denial, these

two are not even nominated

Upset potential: Michael Haneke for Amour, though I want Ang Lee to be the one for Life of Pi

Slim chances but Affleck’s votes may go there: David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Good intentions but seriously, who? Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Who actually wonAng Lee. Not as predicted but as I hoped. Respect.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will win: Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln – the safest bet and he was very good in the film

Should win: Daniel Day Lewis (since John Hawkes is not even nominated for The Sessions)

Upset potential: Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables – who doesn’t like a singing Wolverine?

Upset delight: Denzel Washington for Flight… his win calls for a round of Tequila shots!

Academy is too snooty to vote for you but if you win, it will be the Sandra Bullock moment once again: Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

You killed your own chances: Joaquin Phoenix for The Master. You don’t call the Oscar season bullshit while the voting is on.

Who actually won: Daniel Day Lewis

Actress in a Leading Role

Will win: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty… for all the negativity around the film, her performance has been unanimously appreciated

Should win: Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence, though the latter can wait for the next time

Upset potential: Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, if the Academy shows extra love because of her age. Naomi Watts for The Impossible – it was a film designed to make you cry but Watts’ suffering in the film does not match up to Maya’s (Jessica) determination or Tiffany’s (Jennifer) craziness.

Not possible: Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild… she has too difficult a name to be pronounced by any presenter for a live telecast. On a serious note, she is sweet in the film but I was surprised with her nomination.

Who actually won: Jennifer Lawrence. She was in my deserving list but this one belonged to Jessica Chastain really. 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Will win: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Should win: Tommy Lee Jones or Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master or Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook… all are so good!

Upset potential: Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Why was he nominated again? Alan Arkin for Argo

Who actually wonChristoph Waltz. What was I thinking?

Actress in a Supporting Role

Will win: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables because life killed the dream she dreamed as Fantine

Should win: Anne Hathaway or Helen Hunt for The Sessions (but hers was really a lead role)

Upset potential: Sally Field for Lincoln if the Spielberg love rules the evening

Did we forget she’s in the running? Amy Adams for The Master

Why was she nominated again? Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

Who actually won: Anne Hathaway. It came true.

Adapted Screenplay

Will win: Lincoln or Argo

Should win: Life of Pi, this book was once considered un-filmable!

Upset potential: Silver Linings Playbook

Who actually won: Chris Terrio for Argo

Original Screenplay

Will win: Django Unchained

Should win: Zero Dark Thirty or Moonrise Kingdom

Upset potential: Amour

Who actually won: Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

Animated Film

Will win: Wreck It Ralph

Should win: Wreck It Ralph

May have a chance: Frankenweenie

Major upset: Brave

Who actually wonBrave. The most undeserving winner. It is not about the animation only but how the whole film was! Brave is one of the dullest films from the Disney stable. I have a theory here… Disney really pushed for Brave and got what they wanted. It makes business sense as they are trying to establish Merida among the other much loved Disney princesses – Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, etc. Just go to any Disney store or Disney Land and you’ll see how much they are pushing Brave and most merchandise is on sale. After the Oscar win, I think Merida has a second chance. Sorry Ralph, she stole your Oscar.

Foreign Film

Will win: Amour (Austria)

Should win: Amour

Upset potential: I have not yet seen Kon-Tiki (Norway), War Witch (Canada) and No (Chile) but Amour seems to be the favourite. A Royal Affair (Denmark) is good but not better than Amour

Who actually won: Amour

Film Editing

Will win: Argo

Should win: Argo

Upset potential: any other film will be an upset if Argo doesn’t win

Who actually wonArgo

Cinematography

Will win: Life of Pi

Should win: Life of Pi or Moonrise Kingdom, which is sadly not nominated

Upset potential: Lincoln

Who actually wonClaudio Miranda for Life of Pi

Original Score

Will win: Mychael Danna for Life of Pi

Should win: Mychael Danna for Life of Pi

Upset potential: Lincoln

Who actually wonMychael Danna for Life of Pi

Original Song

Will win: “Skyfall” from Skyfall (Music and Lyric by Adele and Paul Epworth)

Should win: “Skyfall” from Skyfall

Upset potential: “Suddenly” from Les Misérables as a consolation prize (Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil)

Who actually won: “Skyfall” from Skyfall (Music and Lyric by Adele and Paul Epworth)

Visual Effects

Will win: Life of Pi

Should win: Life of Pi

Major upset:  any other film

Who actually won: Life of Pi

Costume Design

Will win: Anna Karenina

Who actually wonAnna Karenina

Makeup/Hairstyling

Will winLes Misérables

Who actually wonLes Misérables

Production Design

Will win: Anna Karenina or Life of Pi

Who actually wonLincoln. Did the voters even watch Anna Karenina?

Sound Mixing

Will win: Les Misérables

Who actually wonLes Misérables

Sound Editing

Will winZero Dark Thirty

 

Who actually won: Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall (a tie)

Other winners (not predicted in this post earlier):

Animated Short Film: Paperman

Live Action Short Film: Curfew

Documentary Short Subject: Innocente

Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man

Out of 20 predictions, I got 15 right. Happy about getting the Best Director prediction wrong and pleased with the Best Actress too (Lawrence was in my “should win” bracket along with Chastain). I under-estimated Christoph Waltz’s potential win (his nomination was in my upset category); I should have seen the signs! Regarding Brave’s win over Wreck It Ralph and Lincoln over Anna Karenina for Production Design, I stick with my picks and think the Academy voters failed the deserving winners. 

Post updated: February 25, 2013

 

Life of Pi

In Lee we trust…

Pic source: Wikipedia

When I first started reading Yann Martel’s Booker prize winning novel, Life of Pi, I left it after a few chapters. It was slow and the author spent a lot of time describing the young protagonist’s religious and spiritual discoveries. I re-visited the book after a few years and it was different this time. I was patient initially but then the book started working its magic… Pi’s unbelievable journey became most believable and I connected emotionally with the 13-year old boy and his sole companion on a life-boat, a royal Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.

The book was called un-filmable not only because of the technical challenges but because the way the story plays out; there are large portions where nothing significant happens and how do you keep expressing what a boy is feeling. However, master filmmaker, Ang Lee brought it alive on the big screen and in a way one couldn’t imagine. Life of Pi is not only visually stunning but is a deeply moving film that despite all the technical wizardry is far from the usual holiday blockbusters.

For those not aware of the story, Life of Pi is about a 13-year old Indian boy, Piscine Molitor Patel aka Pi, from Pondicherry (now Puducherry) who is born a Hindu but is also Muslim and Christian. He believes in God and sees a kind soul in everyone… even wild animals. He loses his family in a ship-wreck and finds himself in a lifeboat with some cargo from his father’s zoo – a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a tiger. The rest of the story is about his amazing journey, survival and faith in God.

David Magee has successfully adapted the novel into a balanced screenplay that does not let the first part of the book slow down the film but still lets us relate to Pi’s belief system. Lee keeps things simple without over-doing the emotions. He does however uses special effects and 3D to create a magical setting that invites you to get lost in the middle of the ocean like Pi. Claudio Miranda’s cinematography is stunning – from the opening sequence in the zoo to the calmness of the ocean, this is the best looking film since Martin Scorsese’s Hugo last year. Michael Danna’s background score is beautiful and reminds you a bit about his earlier Indian outings like Monsoon Wedding and Water. Among the actors, Suraj Sharma as Pi has done a fine job for a debutant and shows great promise as an actor. Tabu as Pi’s mother is as graceful as ever but I wish she had a few more scenes. Like her, other actors including Gérard Depardieu, Adil Hussain, Rafe Spall and Irrfan Khan have small roles but all just right. The real star of the film however is Richard Parker, the computer generated tiger. He is so real, so majestic and so beautiful; like Pi, you develop a bond with him and feel disappointed with his indifference.

Life of Pi is not a crowd pleaser but is a cinema lover’s delight, just like Hugo. Some people are not happy with the film’s end but I wonder what else Ang Lee could have done? Those who have read the book may find the end more agreeable than those who haven’t in my opinion. There is a question at the end of the film… ask yourself that, see what answer you get and you’ll know if the film worked for you or not.

 

Lust, Caution

 

Ang Lee at his best…

Lust, Caution; Pic Source: Wikipedia

2007, Chinese with English subtitles

Directed by the master filmmaker, Ang Lee, ‘Lust, Caution’ is an intense espionage / love story (or shall I say lust story) set in Shanghai and Hong Kong during the period of the second SinoJapanese war (the film is set between 1938 and 1942, while the war happened between 1937 and 1945). During this period, China was ruled by a puppet government led by Wang Jingwei.

The film traces a group of Chinese university students who decide to make a contribution to the war by assassinating a high ranking official in the puppet government, Mr. Yee (played by Tony Leung ChiuWai). An elaborate plan is made and a young, shy student, Wong Chia Chi (played by Tang Wei) is chosen to play the most important and dangerous part. She is transformed into a glamourous and rich society lady by the name of Mrs. Mak who is supposed to find her way into the Yee household. All actors are brilliant, especially Tang Wei who has an extremely complex role. Unlike other espionage films, there is not much action but each scene is full of tension. Such is the power of great writing, editing and of course direction. Ang Lee proves that you need not have gun chase sequences to make a good thriller; it is all in the mind.

Lust, Caution is beautifully shot and each frame is just perfect. The production design is outstanding as you are transported in another era. The styling is just perfect, capturing the contrast between the war-striken poor and the glamourously dressed society ladies. The background score also goes extremely well with the mood of the film.

The film won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Lion and was widely acclaimed the world over. The film garnered a lot of press, thanks to the explicit sex scenes, however there is much more to the film. It is a masterpiece and one of the finest movies I have seen. A must watch.

My Rating: * * * * 1/2 Four and a half stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

PS: Anupam Kher has a cameo in the film