Predicting the 2013 Oscar nominations

Posted Online: Dec. 06, 2012, 1:13 pm
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By Roger Ebert
With the 2013 Oscarcast moved up to Feb. 24, movie fans already are in a lather over the possible nominees, especially since again this year there can be "up to" 10 finalists in the best picture category. I claim no inside knowledge (I'm still waiting to hear from my friend Deep Oscar), but it's never too early to speculate.
First, this caveat: I've still not seen three films said to be strong contenders, so it's too early to list these here: "Les Mis," directed by Tom Hooper, who made "The King's Speech"; Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," about the killing of Osama bin Laden; and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," with Jamie Foxx as an escaped slave and Leonardo DiCaprio as a plantation owner.
Among the contenders I have seen, the most warmly loved by moviegoers seems to be Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." In many seasons as a critic, I can't remember a film more universally applauded. I wrote a blog entry about it, and my often dubious readers embraced it all but unanimously. Will public affection influence the Academy? Maybe.
Another sure thing is Ben Affleck's "Argo," which is not only a terrific thriller, but tells a true-life story sure to be enjoyed by Hollywood voters, about how the escape of a group of Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis was pulled off by a bold scheme involving the production of a fake sci-fi movie.
Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln" is this year's most prestigious candidate, and its title performance by Daniel Day-Lewis is sure to win a best actor nod. It is, first of all, a great film. Also important is that at Oscar time, the Academy likes to nominate the kinds of films that reflect well upon the industry.
David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," is an offbeat comedy with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro as son and father who are both manic Philadelphia Eagles fans, although only the son has actually been hospitalized with bipolar disorder. The family is held together by Jacki Weaver, as a resilient mom and wife who has long experience with such men.
Jake Gyllenhaal's image-transforming work as a very tough cop in David Ayer's "End of Watch" may help the film win a best picture slot, and Michael Pena is no less effective as his partner in a dangerous Los Angeles police district. They forge a relationship during a series of brilliantly staged action sequences.
Richard Gere should win a long-delayed best actor nomination for his focused, intense work in Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage," a taut thriller about a financial wheeler-dealer who tries to escape his responsibility after a fatal car crash. This fine actor has produced high-caliber performances for year after year, and the Academy doesn't give him the praise he deserves.
Another good bet for best actor is Denzel Washington in Robert Zemeckis' "Flight," one of his career highlights. Will the film make best picture? I haven't heard a lot of buzz, but it deserves to.
"Cloud Atlas," by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, is considered a strong contender, although many audience members (including me) found it difficult to follow. Its story strands spanned centuries and traded genders, and I eventually realized it was the wholeness of the experience, not the plot details, that was important. It's an awesomely ambitious film.
The performances in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" are likely to win nominations for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix (welcome back!), but I'm not sure the purpose of the story (said to be based on the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology) was very clear. The Academy rarely singles out enigmatic films.
Few of the year's films had the emotional impact and courage of Ben Lewin's "The Sessions," with John Hawkes as a polio victim in an iron lung for years, who dreams of having sex with a woman, and Helen Hunt as the sex therapist who helps him. A supporting nod could go to William H. Macy, as his parish priest.
If I had my way, and I don't, a best picture nomination would certainly go to Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," with its extraordinary lead performance by Quvenzhane Wallis, as a young Louisiana girl named Hushpuppy. She lives in an isolated community in the New Orleans bayou called the Bathtub, which is threatened by global warming.
This film, which will make many best 10 lists and year-end awards, is said to be handicapped in the Oscar race because it was filmed outside the jurisdiction of the Screen Actors Guild. If true, how sad. If you've seen the film, how many SAG members do you think could replace Quvenzhane?


Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, Aug. 2, the 214th day of 2014. There are 151 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Because of the National Fast, no paper will be issued from this office tomorrow.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Attracting considerable attention is a sunflower stalk 15 feet high and still growing in the yard of Dr. C. Speidel on 23rd Street in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The municipal bathing beach proposition came up again at the city commission's meeting and a proposition passed, provided that a locker room be constructed at the foot of 7th Street for the accommodation of the bathers.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for erecting a $14,000 warehouse to replace the frame structure at the rear of the Augustana Book Concern were announced.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Hours for tours of the new Deere & Co. Administrative Center on John Deere Road will be changed, effective Monday.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Tuesday night at the Great Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band gave its fans more than they possibly could have expected. The band took the stage at 9:07 p.m. and didn't leave until 10:40.

(More History)