BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
The awards season reaches its pinnacle on Sunday, February 24 with the 85th Academy Awards, with Seth MacFarlane as the host. There should be plenty of surprises on the way, as some of the categories feature some of the stiffest competition in recent memory, particularly that of Best Director. Although “Argo” is the favorite to win Best Picture as of now, there are still eight other nominees that have just as much clout, and could very well come out on top as the envelope is opened.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams for “The Master,” Sally Field for “Lincoln,” Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables,” Helen Hunt for “The Sessions,” and Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook”
Will Win and Should Win: Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables” – Hathaway’s portrayal as the doomed Fantine has won her nearly every award she’s nominated for, and her trip to the Dolby Theater stage is already a done deal. Her rendition of the sorrowful song “I Dreamed a Dream” is saturated with raw emotional power as her character laments the agonies of a hellish life she doesn’t deserve. Hathaway isn’t just a gifted actress, but a supremely talented singer as well, her voice beginning the song in soft tones, and then building to a crescendo as she belts out her heart shattering despairs. Her performance can be summed up with two words that normally wouldn’t pair up: beautiful tragedy.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Alan Arkin for “Argo,” Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master,” Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln,” and Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained”
Will Win– Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln” – In what is one of the more difficult categories to predict this year, the result can go a number of ways. The Critics Choice Award, the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award have all gone to three different actors, with Tommy Lee Jones winning the latter. Seeing as he won the SAG Award, that shows a lot of support from his fellow actors, which could boost his chances. As abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, Jones commands every scene he’s in with his character’s tough political passion, making him one of the top supporting players in the film’s huge cast.
Should Win – Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook” – It’s difficult to pick out just one good performance from this film, but what caught me by surprise the most was De Niro. Not because he’s a bad actor, but because after doing several movies where it clearly looked like he was just doing it for the paycheck, this film presented a return to form for one of the greatest actors alive. As a gambling-addict father with OCD, De Niro is endearing and loving in his part, reminding audiences that they are in the presence of someone who is still a true master.
Nominees: Jessica Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour,” Quvenzhane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and Naomi Watts for “The Impossible”
Will Win and Should Win – Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook” – Lawrence isn’t just one of the most versatile young actresses working today, but at 22-years-old is also the youngest person to receive to Best Actress nomination twice; the other being for “Winter’s Bone” two years ago. These are two factors the Academy can’t ignore. She plays Tiffany, a depressed widow who becomes Bradley Cooper’s love interest. She’s a standoffish character at first, but Lawrence plays her in such a way that encourages the viewer to peek into her mind to see why she is who she is. She exhibits anger, sadness, humor, happiness and everything in between with the confidence and ability of any veteran actor or actress.
Nominees: Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” Hugh Jackman for “Les Miserables,” Joaquin Phoenix for “The Master,” and Denzel Washington for “Flight”
Will Win and Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”– This has been a done deal since the film was released back in November. How Day-Lewis was able to channel the mannerisms and speech patterns of Abraham Lincoln is near indescribable. His portrayal of the 16thpresident is one of those things where you feel so lucky was captured on film, so as to give you the opportunity to see one of the great performances of modern cinema. Day-Lewis’ talent that radiates from this film is something that can’t be explained, but must be seen for oneself.
Nominees: Michael Haneke for “Amour,” Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln,” and Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Will Win– David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook” – This is another category that’s a challenge to predict, seeing as Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow were both snubbed, and were clear frontrunners for nominations, so Russell is the frontrunner now. He has the exceptional ability for directing an actor-driven film. His 2010 film The Fighter received three acting nominations. This year, Silver Linings Playbook has a nomination in each of the four acting categories, the first time this has happened in 31 years. This is a significant feather in the cap for Russell. He also takes the sensitive topic of mental illness and manages to make careful and respectable shifts between comedy and drama, making his film worthy of all recommendations.
Should Win – Ang Lee for “Life of Pi” – As much as I wouldn’t mind David O. Russell winning, Lee’s work calls to be recognized. He took a novel that many thought couldn’t be filmed, and turned it into one of the grandest 3D experiences ever. His use of the third dimension shows that just because a movie relies heavily on visual effects, it doesn’t mean that it’s simply a “special effects” movie. This film is loaded with artistry, and a filmmaker like Lee uses 3D to help the audience become more immersed in Pi’s situation as we experience both beauty and danger in the journey with him. The film is gorgeous to look at, and the film’s themes of spirituality and survival punctuate the pristine visuals surrounding the narrative. Lee’s latest accomplish is a testament to mystic storytelling.
Nominees: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Zero Dark Thirty”
Will Win and Should Win: “Argo” – It seems like with every movie Ben Affleck directs, each one is better than the last. “Argo” is one of those films that has the power to be a top awards contender and a film that’s highly popular among audiences. Affleck’s film about six escaped Americans during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis has what the Academy loves, including a hugely talented cast and a screenplay that focuses on a tumultuous period in world history; and it has what audiences love, which are the tension-drenched situations with funny and heroic characters, all of which can be found in many blockbusters that a wide population of moviegoers love. It has also won Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, as well as the Directors Guild of America Award for Affleck. Although Affleck is out of the race for Best Director, at least he’s guaranteed some gold for Best Picture.