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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 4, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 1
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The Oscar oracle: 2012 Academy Award predictions
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

It feels weird writing up Academy Award predictions only a handful of days into January. Usually the nomination process takes up a large portion of the month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) giving their members plenty of time to view as many of the prior year's achievements as they can before submitting their ballots.

Not this year. With the rise of so many exterior groups stealing a large portion of their thunder, the AMPAS has pushed up proceedings, this year's ballots due back to the organization on January 4 with nominations to be announced January 10 (the award ceremony itself will take place February 24). It's been a crazy process, what with technical snafus involving the new online voting system and cries from members about not enough time to see many of the potential nominees.

So here we are, then, trying to make heads or tails of the 2012 entries and figure out which films and performances the AMPAS will deign to honor with an Academy Award nomination. In most respects this year it might actually be easier to predict the nominees than it will be the eventual winners - something of a switch from previous years, when the frontrunners for each category were well-established but those making up the rest of the field were proverbially up in the air.

With that out of the way, here are my predictions for what films and which actors will wake up to find themselves Academy Award nominees on the morning of January 10. By and large, I'm comfortable with the majority of my guesses but I do admit my personal bias toward a performance here and there might intrude. Kindly make of that what you will. Enjoy!

BEST PICTURE
Last year the AMPAS changed things so that no fewer than five and no more than ten films can be nominated for Best Picture, as long as each nominee gets five percent of the first-place vote. This change produced nine nominees for 2011. I get the feeling we are going to have ten flicks for 2012, the year such a strong one cinematically that meeting the threshold requirement shouldn't be an issue. The locks are readily apparent at this point: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper's Les Misérables, Ben Affleck's Argo, and David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook are without question the belles of this year's ball.

But which movies will fill the remainder of the dance card? Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom? Ang Lee's Life of Pi? Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master? Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained? Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild? Michael Haneke's Amour? Robert Zemeckis' Flight? Any of those seem like naturals to compete for the final five spots. But what about wild cards like the latest James Bond adventure, Skyfall - or the culmination of Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises? Do films like those have a shot for nomination? It's anyone's guess, with answers not to be revealed until next Thursday morning.

My predictions: Argo, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty. Egregious snub: The Master. Likely dark horse: Skyfall. Sadly not part of the conversation: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

BEST DIRECTOR
Again, the locks for this category are fairly obvious - Spielberg, Bigelow, and Affleck sure to hear their names called when nominations are announced. After that, it feels like there are four, maybe five, contenders fighting for two spots - Haneke, Lee, Hooper, and Tarantino the likely quartet in competition, with Anderson on the outside looking in. But don't count Zeitlin out. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a critical and cultural darling, and it wouldn't shock me in the slightest if this newcomer sneaks in and takes a seat at the table with the established heavyweights.

My predictions: Ben Affleck (Argo), Michael Haneke (Amour), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty). Egregious snub: Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom). Likely dark horse: Ang Lee (Life of Pi). Sadly not part of the conversation: Andrea Arnold (Wuthering Heights).

BEST ACTOR
Originally, there were four locks in this category, but since The Master star Joaquin Phoenix went and openly badmouthed the AMPAS and the Oscars, his heretofore guaranteed nomination has been thrown into existential chaos. Will the Academy forgive and nominate him anyhow? Or will they hold a grudge, keeping one of 2012's most explosive and multifaceted performances from being recognized out of industry-driven spite?

As for the rest, Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Denzel Washington (Flight), and John Hawkes (The Sessions) look like sure bets at the moment, with Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Richard Gere (Arbitrage), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour), and Ben Affleck (Argo) the likely contenders for the final two spots (assuming Phoenix's comments have zeroed out his chances). Any way you look at it the announcement as to who will fill this category should be an interesting one. If Phoenix truly is snubbed, it will be an Oscar controversy the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time.

My predictions: Denzel Washington (Flight), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook). Egregious snub: Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour). (Not so) likely dark horse: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables). Sadly not part of the conversation: Liam Neeson (The Grey), Denis Lavant (Holy Motors).

BEST ACTRESS
This category is anyone's guess, as only Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) have cemented themselves as frontrunners. After that there are a slew of talented women competing for those last three spots, 2012 proving itself to be a strong year in regard to complex and challenging roles offered to actresses. Those up for consideration include Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), Meryl Streep (Hope Springs), Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible), with newcomers Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere) gigantic threats to usurp spots many might think would normally go to more established talents.

My predictions: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). Egregious snub: Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea). Likely dark horse: Helen Mirren (Hitchcock). Sadly not part of the conversation: Nina Hoss (Barbara).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
If any category could emerge as the one that surprises pundits and other predictors the most, it will probably be this one. The big question: What happens with Django Unchained? Could its three actors who deliver award-worthy performances (Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson) cancel one another out, leaving the film with no acting nods whatsoever?

From there, it does feel like Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) are almost certain to be nominated, with Alan Arkin (Argo) fairly close to a lock. Also in the conversation are Javier Bardem (Skyfall), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, Bernie), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), John Goodman (Argo, Flight), Russell Crowe (Les Misérables), Michael Peña (End of Watch), and Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

My predictions: Alan Arkin (Argo), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook). Egregious snubs: Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty). Likely dark horse: John Goodman (Argo). Sadly not part of the conversation: Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I get it. This category begins and ends with Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables). We all know she is going to win. The competition is over, so why even talk about it at all?

Because, as great as she is in that musical (and she is magnificent, make no mistake), there were plenty of other supporting turns in 2012 worthy of being singled out as the year's absolute best. The women competing to lose to Hathaway include Ann Dowd (Compliance), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Amy Adams (The Master), Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy), Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Frances McDormand (Promised Land), and Samantha Barks (Les Misérables), all of whom are more than deserving of a nomination.

My predictions: Ann Dowd (Compliance), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Sally Field (Lincoln), Amy Adams (The Master), Helen Hunt (The Sessions). Egregious snub: Frances McDormand (Promised Land). Likely dark horse: Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy). Sadly not part of the conversation: Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), Gina Gershon (Killer Joe).


Beautifully acted Land doesn't fulfill its promise
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

PROMISED LAND
Opens January 4


Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and his charmingly sarcastic partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), have come to the rural farming township of McKinley to sell the citizens on allowing their employer to mine for natural gas. It's safe! It's not intrusive! It will bring needed jobs to the community! It will help fund the rundown schools! It will make those with large amounts of acreage rich beyond their wildest dreams! These are the claims Steve and Sue are making, and not to put it mildly both of them are extremely good at their jobs.

But obstacles arise. First off, local high-school science teacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), an MIT grad and former senior-level engineer for Boeing, has looked into all the pros and cons of gas drilling and has discovered more than a few holes in the pair's seemingly innocuous pitch, some of them extremely dangerous. Second, a driven environmentalist, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), has come to town ready for a fight, using images of dead cows and devastated farmlands to make his point that allowing drilling will be a danger to the entire community.

McKinley is going to vote as a town whether or not to allow the reps to go forward with their plans. But as the days go by and the debate goes on, Steve can't help but begin to wonder if he's actually on the right side of this fight, learning things about himself and his company that he had refused to look at in a clear-eyed fashion at any time before this.

BY THE NUMBERS
It should be noted upfront that Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant, scripted by Damon and Krasinski from an original story by Dave Eggers (Away We Go), offers up very little in the way of surprise. There's one, maybe, but to call it a shock would be something of a stretch, and by and large I had my suspicions about some of the shenanigans going on right from the start, so a third-act revelation hardly caught me off-guard. For the most part I knew exactly what was going to happen and where things were going to go next, Steve's moral and ethical evolution as paint-by-numbers as they come.

At the same time, Krasinski, Damon, and Van Sant's (the latter pair reuniting for the third time after Good Will Hunting and Gerry) little opus never bored, annoyed, or bothered me. The central characters are richly drawn, both Steven and Sue so sharply written I felt either of them could have jumped off the screen at any second and sat down to watch the rest of the picture right next to me. There are also plenty of little beats - small moments of warmth, depth, and honesty - that hit home, the trio delivering much of their narrative with distinct flair and welcome subtlety.

HOLBROOK, DEWITT WASTED
But it goes without saying Promised Land could have been much more than it is. Holbrook's science teacher is wonderfully introduced, intriguingly developed, and then subsequently forgotten for a large portion of the proceedings only to reappear at just the right moment to deliver pitch-perfect fatherly advice to a wayward soul desperately in need of it. Even worse off is the luminous Rosemarie DeWitt. She's stranded with a one-dimensional role and ends up being little more than a romantic ping-pong ball that Damon and Krasinski shuffle back and forth. So breathtaking in Your Sister's Sister and Rachel Getting Married, DeWitt deserves much, much better.

Still, I find it difficult to come down as hard on the film as I could. McDormand steals scenes with little effort, her final conversation with Damon an impeccably refined heartbreaker that gets right to the core of a complex issue in a way nothing else in the script comes close to equaling. There are also tons of little moments, scenes of deep understanding and mesmeric depth, that held me captivated - haunting little bits of brutal honesty that spoke volumes but did so without raising the decibel level past the point of didacticism.

DAMON DELIVERS
Then there is Damon. The guy is proving to not just be a good actor, but a downright exceptional one. Somewhere along the line - maybe it was The Talented Mr. Ripley, it could have been his transformation into an action star with The Bourne Identity, or it might have been teaming up with a cadre of talents in Ocean's Eleven - the guy has become one of the more intriguingly multifaceted actors working today. Fearless, keen to take risks, Damon is willing to allow audiences to despise him, knowing that if they follow a story all the way through a character's core will speak for itself, allowing them to analyze the man as a whole and not as specious fragments.

I wanted more from Promised Land - that I cannot deny. The final sequences, while beautifully delivered and composed, handled with uniquely disquieting subtlety by Van Sant, are so foregone that the emotional resonance of them ends up being muted. Yet thanks to the quality of the central performance, because Damon and Krasinski's script gets so many of the little beats right, I do find value here, and as such I can hardly dissuade those interested in the subject matter or the scenario from taking a look at the film for themselves.






Spin doctor: DJ Almond Brown keeps the beats flowing on Capitol Hill
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Live and local: The best Seattle-area theater of 2012
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A tango with Beethoven
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The truth is in here - Engrossing Zero Dark Thirty an explosive procedural
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Best Original Song
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Deep inside Hollywood: A random handful of things to come in 2013
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2012: Our favorite hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions of the year
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The Oscar oracle: 2012 Academy Award predictions
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Beautifully acted Land doesn't fulfill its promise
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Easy Street Records closing Queen Anne store
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Northwest News
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Letters
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