Friday, February 22, 2013

If I Had an Oscar Ballot...

A play-at-home Oscar ballot

How would you vote if you were an Academy member and had an Oscar ballot?  It's something I hope to be able to experience someday, but right now all I can do is live with the hypothetical.  The Oscars are my Super Bowl.  So many people look forward to that one night of television every year, and the Oscars are that for me.  So with only two more days till the 85th Academy Awards, I decided to have a little fun and do an entire blog post based around the idea of if I had an Oscar ballot and my votes could be counted.  If I were an Academy member, this is how I'd vote this year.  Check out my dream ballot below.  As always, I don't included the documentary, foreign film, or short categories, because I haven't been fortunate enough to see any of those, and for a full list of nominees, just click on this link.


Best Sound Mixing - Les Miserables
Best Sound Editing - Zero Dark Thirty
Best Visual Effects - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Best Original Song - "Skyfall" from Skyfall
Best Original Score - John Williams, Lincoln
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Best Costume Design - Lincoln
Best Production Design - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Best Cinematography - Skyfall
Best Film Editing - Zero Dark Thirty
Best Animated Feature - Wreck-It Ralph
Best Adapted Screenplay - David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Original Screenplay - Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Best Supporting Actor - Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Director - Steven Spielberg, Lincoln


As it is, I am a fan of a few of the perceived frontrunners, such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway, but in the technical categories is where I find myself sticking up for some of my favorite films.  Inevitably, whenever there are scrumptious Best Picture nominees like Life of Pi or Les Miserables peppered throughout the tech categories, it makes the blockbuster fare get pushed by the wayside for more "prestigious" material, it doesn't matter if it truly wasn't the best work of that given year.  Personally, from a production standpoint, from costumes to production design and everything in between, I felt that The Hobbit was the best film of last year on that front, but alas it will be lucky to walk away with even one award come Sunday.  As well, I stuck up for Moonrise Kingdom in Best Original Screenplay, even if it is the most "original" work nominated, it wont win because more "prestigious" films are.  However, if I had a ballot, this is how I would vote.  Now, onto Best Picture.

The reason I saved Best Picture for last is because the way Best Picture is voted upon is different than the other categories.  While in all of the other categories Academy members merely check off the film or performance they liked best, in Best Picture they use what is called a preferential ballot.  This means that every Academy member ranks the nine films nominated for Best Picture from 1 -- being their favorite -- to 9 -- being their least favorite.  In doing this, it doesn't matter which film gets the most number one votes, but  rather which films tend to be in the top three spots on most ballots.  If say Lincoln got a hundred number one votes and twenty second place votes, and then Argo got only ninety first place votes, but had a hundred second place votes, it would win Best Picture because it was the consensus pick, which is probably how it will win Best Picture come Sunday night.

Taking this into account, I figured I would play as if I really had an Oscar ballot and I will rank the Best Picture winners, from my least favorite to my favorite, with a short commentary beneath each film to explain my reasoning for its spot on the list.  So, without further ado, this is how I would rank the films nominated for Best Picture:

9.  Amour
The reason this film is in last place is purely because it is the only film nominated for Best Picture that I have not seen and it would be wrong to give it a sight unseen boost.  I hate that I haven't seen it, but it's just shown up here in my hometown and I probably wont get a chance to fit in a viewing before Oscar night.

8.  Beasts of the Southern Wild
I just was not a fan of this movie and found it to be ambitious, but technically and structurally flat.  The fantasy aspects were not incorporated well enough into the narrative and it made it seem like two films battling for our attention, rather than delivering one good, clean narrative.

7.  Les Miserables
The songs are exceptional, so are the performances, but the plot just featured too many gaping plot holes for me to ever truly get lost in the story or care about the characters.  Then there was Tom Hooper's direction, which never took advantage of the large spectacle that this film could have delivered. 

6.  Django Unchained
As it is, I have never been a Quentin Tarantino fan, and I am also not a fan of movies that see the need to be over-the-top violent for violence sake, whilst rewriting history and being campy and absolutely ridiculous all at the same time.  In my opinion, I'd have much rather seen Skyfall or The Avengers nominated in its place, both were far superior efforts that got snubbed.

5.  Argo
In all likelihood, this film will be the Best Picture winner come Sunday night.  While I enjoyed the film and found it historically fascinating, well acted, and extremely tense, I felt that the characters were purely stock film characters we've seen thousands of times before and I never truly connected with them.  By far not the worst choice the Academy could make come Sunday, but I believe that there are four better.

4.  Life of Pi
Technically, this is the most impressive film nominated for Best Picture, for that alone it makes it an easy to stomach winner.  Not only that, it's also an enjoyable man against nature survival tale that is highly emotional and genuinely thought-provoking, even if it does sag a bit in the middle portions of the film.

3.  Lincoln
I would be personally satisfied if this film won Best Picture, but contrary to popular belief, I don't think it really stands a chance.  Even still, this film is about as perfect as a historical drama can be.  I'm not a huge history buff, but I found the story engaging and informative because Spielberg and his cast and crew represented these historical figures as real flesh-and-blood human beings.  I grew to love these characters, and that is why I am such a fan of this film.

2.  Silver Linings Playbook
Similarly to Lincoln, the reason I love Silver Linings Playbook is because of the genuine characters.  The story gets quirky and absurd from time-to-time, but the likable characters and the loveable actors that portray them keep you engaged and rolling with it every step of the way.  Ultimately, it's an uplifting film that just makes you feel good about being you and not trying to be something that you're not.  In my opinion, if there is to be a spoiler for Argo come Sunday night, this is the only other film that might get enough of a consensus love to get it the surprising win.

1.  Zero Dark Thirty
If I really had a ballot, this would be the film I'd most want to win.  What director Kathryn Bigelow did (an even bigger snub if you ask me than Ben Affleck's) is she made this story we thought we all knew feel fresh, tense, and human.  I was personally surprised by the depths of humanity that this film had, and part of that is because all of the actors give it their all and bare their souls for the audience to see.  This is what drives this film, not the narrative of the CIA's search for Bin Laden.  If it was solely about that and didn't take time to focus on the CIA agents affected by their life's work, this film would not have the massive amount of emotional resonance that it has, but it does, and that is why this film is the number one film nominated for Best Picture.


So there you have it.  I'll be back on Sunday to post my official predictions for the 85th Annual Academy Awards!  See you then.

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