Yes, it’s true, ladies and gentlemen! You have arrived at our annual Academy Awards contest column, wherein readers of same are challenged to pick the winners of the 85th Academy Awards, which will be revealed on ABC-TV on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Once again this year, due in no small part to a couple of friends who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I have seen all 10 nominees for Best Picture. (Well, to be perfectly honest, 9 1/3 of the films; more on that below.)
And if you can hang in there until the end of this column, there’s a challenge awaiting that could win you a $100 gift certificate to the Mattituck Cinemas.
But first, my picks:
BEST PICTURE—“Les Misérables” is the film I could not make it all the way through. (It was, in fact, miserable.) I’ve always had trouble with dramatic musicals (see 1962’s “State Fair,” with Ann-Margret and Pat Boone crooning in their underwear when normal, red-blooded people would have had other things on their minds), and Russell Crowe’s croaking forced me to admit defeat long before the credits rolled.
Conventional wisdom might indicate Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for the top award, and my personal favorite was “Zero Dark Thirty,” which turned off some moviegoers because its core is a procedural about an obsessed CIA analyst who won’t quit in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But this contest isn’t about who should win, but who will win. And in that case my vote goes to “Argo,” director Ben Affleck’s engaging, if somewhat predictable, retelling of another CIA-based tale. Note: With the exception of “Les Mis,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” which was a tad too fantastic for my taste, I really (really!) liked the seven other finalists.
BEST DIRECTOR—And the winner is: Spielberg, mostly via default because neither of the real best directors, Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), was nominated.
Longshot: Michael Haneke (“Amour”) — because he got the very best out of his lead actors, 82-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. But when asked by a friend if I liked the film, I emphatically responded: “No, it’s way too depressing.”
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”). You may safely bet the ranch on this one. If ever there were a prohibitive favorite in this category, it is Mr. Day Lewis. His bravura performance as our nation’s 16th president actually outshines his earlier bravura performances in “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” etc.
Longshot/Should Be: Don’t even bother.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”). She may be young, but she’s building an impressive body of work, including in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter.” And there would have been no “Zero Dark Thirty” without her riveting performance.
Longshot: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Like Chastain, she’s young and previously overlooked. But as with her 2011 performance in “Winter’s Bone,” this one may be a tad too dark and too quirky for the decidedly conservative Academy members.
Honorable Mention: Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), who was 5 years old when this movie was filmed, and is the youngest actress ever nominated for this award.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”). This time, his deadpan delivery, bloodhound eyelids and southern inflection work to perfection as Lincoln’s vice president.
Longshots: Alan Arkin (“Argo”) and Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Both of these old pros chew up the scenery in engaging but predictable roles.
And the winner should be: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but not for his performance in “The Master,” for which he is nominated. Rather, for his performance in “The Late Quartet,” an outstanding ensemble piece roundly snubbed by the Academy.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Sally Field (“Lincoln”) in a brave performance as Honest Abe’s somewhat-unsympathetic mate. It’s also the safe pick, me thinks.
And the winner should be: Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”). Speaking of brave, what other 50-something actress would consider a role that requires her to appear in the buff for what seems like most of the film?
And now, the chance to claim that $100 gift certificate. All you must do to win is locate this column online at suffolktimes.com and be the first to post a comment below naming the most winners in the six categories cited above — having done so, of course, prior to the Sunday, Feb. 24, airing of the Academy Awards broadcast. Sorry, but in the event of a tie, the value of the gift certificate will be divided by the number of winners. But once again this year, popcorn is included.