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Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

An Oscar Night to Remember?

‘Lincoln’ in the lead for trophies

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Lincoln
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2012 was the best year for movies in many seasons. Ticket sales were up, and along with the requisite big-budget blockbusters came films that people—other than fan boys—were talking about. This bodes well for the Oscar ceremony, whose ratings have tottered precariously in recent years as the Academy dithered over whether to reward films few had seen or brain-dead movies with big box office numbers.

With 12 nominations, Lincoln is the picture to beat. It may well lose in several top categories, mostly because Argo provides an entertaining, acceptable contender that challenges no one’s moral sense, intelligence or political sensibility. Life of Pi clocked in second with 11 nominations, though its dominance on Oscar night will likely be in the technical categories as Academy members scratch their heads over how director Ang Lee placed such a realistic tiger on a raft with a boy in the middle of the ocean.

A couple of excellent, non-Hollywood films were nominated for Best Picture, including the American indie Beasts of the Southern Wild and Austrian director Michael Haneke’s Amour. They deserve the acknowledgment, but lack a constituency within the Academy’s voting members. Attention trivia buffs: This is the year of the oldest and youngest Best Actress contenders ever, with Emmanuelle Riva, 85, for Amour, and Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

Best Picture

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Lincoln

 

Best Director

Will Win: Stephen Spielberg

Should Win: Stephen Spielberg

One would think that Best Picture and Best Director are inseparable, but the surgeons at the Academy are known for accomplishing impossible operations. Oscar often likes to split the difference and this year the spoils will probably be divided between Argo and Lincoln. Amour and Haneke are marvelous, but the scope of Lincoln is greater, the subject less painful and besides, Amour will win Best Foreign Picture.

 

Best Actor

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

There is some sentiment in the Academy for rewarding Les Misérables by giving this award to Hugh Jackman—but only some.

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva

Let’s call this one a coin toss. Some voters will want to honor Riva for an outstanding performance (and a long distinguished career); others will want to celebrate Lawrence as Hollywood’s rising star.

 

Supporting Actor

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones

 

Supporting Actress

Will Win: Anne Hathaway

Should Win: Sally Field

Lincoln’s Tommy Lee Jones will probably pick up Supporting Actor, but Anne Hathaway has an edge for victory over Sally Field, given her remarkable role in Les Mis.

 

 

Home Movies/Out on Digital

The Sessions

John Hawkes is great as Mark O'Brien, stricken by polio and able to leave his iron lung for only hours at a time. O’Brien’s essay "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" is the basis for this oddly heartwarming true story about a disabled man seeking fulfillment. Helen Hunt co-stars as Cheryl Cohen Greene, the caring sex therapist who finds him to be a challenging case, emotionally more than physically. William H. Macy plays the tolerant if flummoxed Catholic priest who supports O'Brien's quest.

Jedi Junkies

Star Wars took viewers to another place and some have never returned. In this affectionate documentary, the geeks tell their stories. For some, fandom is an attempt to live out the bright memories of childhood; others were inspired by Star Wars to pursue meaningful creative careers. One commentator describes Star Wars fandom as encompassing the best values of the saga and, sometimes, those things the wiser characters warned against, including self-absorption and distraction from the greater reality.

Hollow

In this British riff on Blair Witch composed of ostensibly "found" footage, four 20-somethings arrive for a weekend in the country at an ancestral vicarage. Odd events occur soon enough and a gnarly old tree is the center of the strangeness. Hollow is told in fractured pieces forming a coherent narrative; the dialogue is clever, the disorienting potential of handheld video is explored and the gap between unthinking skepticism and the uncanny is crossed—to everyone's doom.