Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars Analysis 2012: Show recap

Writing a post-Oscars recap always feels a bit odd, as the Manifesto's area of expertise is not the telecast itself. (Of course, given the success rate of my predictions this year, it's questionable whether the Manifesto has any area of expertise. No matter.) So if you're looking for analysis on just how adorable Quvenzhané Wallis looked, or whether Kristen Stewart was hammered (nope, she just had a broken foot), or the awesomeness of Anne Hathaway's nipples, you'll find plenty of fodder elsewhere on the web.

I do, however, want to comment briefly on Seth MacFarlane's turn as host. From the beginning, MacFarlane made it clear that he knew he was an outsider ("It's an honor that everyone else said no"), and a prolonged skit with William Shatner – partly painful, partly very funny, particularly the "Flight in sock puppets" bit – instantly established his sheepish, near-apologetic demeanor. In the era of instant micro-analysis and trends on Twitter, where a rabid online audience will ravenously seize on the latest mishap or malfunction, the hosting gig at the Oscars is virtually predetermined for failure. MacFarlane seemed amusingly resigned to that fate from the get-go, with Shatner displaying fake screenshots from the future that read, "MacFarlane worst Oscar host ever". It's the sort of self-insulating shtick that can come off as preemptively defensive, but it showcased a cute self-awareness in which MacFarlane acknowledged that he was swimming over his head.

Except that he wasn't. Sure, some of MacFarlane's jokes were clunkers, but many of them landed (his line about the director of Argo being classified was an instant classic), and his convincing musical performances were natural and seamlessly integrated into the show. (It also doesn't hurt that the dapper comedian is much better-looking than anyone thought the voice of Peter Griffin could possibly be.) But more importantly, MacFarlane found the appropriate tone for emceeing such a ludicrously self-important event as the Oscars. Whereas Ricky Gervais famously spun his outsider status at the Golden Globes into spiteful nastiness, MacFarlane struck the appropriate balance of solemn respect and anarchic humor. "There are so many distinguished nominees here tonight. You guys have made some beautiful, inspiring movies," MacFarlane said sincerely, then deadpanned, "I made Ted." And while quips about the respective ages of the nine-year-old Wallis and 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva were to be expected, MacFarlane's ability to tie those cracks to the telecast's preposterous length – and let's face it, it was way too long – demonstrated a fleet-footed savvy that's critical for such an improvisational assignment (and if they were pre-planned, he sold them well). I for one would welcome him back.

As for the awards themselves, here's my final, extremely brief analysis of each category (in order of presentation):

Best Supporting Actor
Predicted winner: Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln (confidence: 2/5)
Actual winner: Cristoph Waltz – Django Unchained

Well then. I'm happy for Waltz, as any nominee in this category other than Alan Arkin was worthy. Unfortunately, my prediction meant that my father was able to start gloating about his prognosticating supremacy after the show's very first award. Not a good start.

Best Animated Feature
Predicted winner: Wreck-It Ralph (confidence: 3/5)
Actual winner: Brave

Oh dear. At this point in the night, I started wondering if I was in for a "John Starks in Game Seven of the '94 Finals" performance. Also, Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy are two of my favorite comedians – witness Rudd's hilarious Super Bowl commercial with Seth Rogen or McCarthy performance in Bridesmaids – but their interplay in introducing this award was excruciating.

Best Cinematography
Predicted winner: Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda (confidence: 4/5)
Actual winner: Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda

And we're off the schneid! Also, the banter of The Avengers cast, particularly Jeremy Renner pointedly insulting Samuel L. Jackson's age, was natural, sharply timed, and utterly hilarious. In other words, it was the exact opposite of the Rudd/McCarthy pairing.

Best Visual Effects
Predicted winner: Life of Pi (confidence: 5/5)
Actual winner: Life of Pi

No surprise here. And at this point, I would happily co-sign a petition requiring Jackson and Robert Downey, Jr. to co-present every award.

Best Costume Design
Predicted winner: Anna Karenina (confidence: 3/5)
Actual winner: Anna Karenina

That's "Oscar-winning Anna Karenina" to you, thank you very much.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Predicted winner: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (confidence: 1/5)
Actual winner: Les Misérables

O.K., so at this point, I was two-for-two in categories where my confidence was a 4 or 5, and one-for-four where my confidence was 3 or lower. Does this mean that I'm bad at predicting the Oscars? Or does it mean that I'm incredibly good at guessing which categories I'm more likely to get wrong? Doesn't it take a special level of talent to predict the success of your own predictions? No?

Also, I should mention that this award was followed by a terrible, hyperactively edited tribute to the James Bond franchise that was then instantly redeemed by a stunning rendition of "Goldfinger" by 76-year-old Shirley Bassey.

Best Documentary Feature
Predicted winner: Searching for Sugar Man (confidence: 4/5)
Actual winner: Searching for Sugar Man

Of the 21 feature categories at this year's Oscars, I watched every nominee in every single category ... except for this one field. And I drilled it. I don't like what this says about how I spent the past month of my life.

Best Foreign Language Film
Predicted winner: Amour (confidence: 5/5)
Actual winner: Amour

Ho hum. Also, was anyone else prepared for Haneke to deliver an absolutely withering speech, then coldly walk off the stage while the camera smoothly tracked his movements and then lingered on a motionless curtain for the next five minutes? Just me?

Also, this award was followed by a very long, entirely unnecessary tribute to recent musicals, including Chicago (featuring a lip-synching Catherine Zeta-Jones), Dreamgirls (featuring a very loud Jennifer Hudson), and Les Misérables (featuring most of the film's cast, including a knockout Samantha Barks, who completely blew away the rest of the field and sadly didn't then shout, "Where's my Supporting Actress nomination, motherfuckers?"). And they wonder why people complain about the show running too long.

Best Sound Mixing
Predicted winner: Les Misérables (confidence: 2/5)
Actual winner: Les Misérables

Kaboom! Don't tell me I don't know my sound categories. Of course, this was followed by ...

Best Sound Editing
Predicted winner: Life of Pi (confidence: 1/5)
Actual winner: Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty (tie)

Wait, not only did I get this category wrong, but I somehow got it wrong twice? Ouch. Also, kudos to Mark Wahlberg for his visible disgust when announcing that the voting resulted in a tie. Nice work, Academy. Six thousand-plus members, and you still run your ballots like you're electing a fourth-grade class president.

Best Supporting Actress
Predicted winner: Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables (confidence: 5/5)
Actual winner: Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables

Not a shocker. And at this point, Les Misérables had nabbed three Oscars, which was three more than Argo and Lincoln combined. Ang Lee had to be talking himself into an upset right about now.

Best Film Editing
Predicted winner: Argo – William Goldenberg (confidence: 3/5)
Actual winner: Argo – William Goldenberg

Ah, there we go. Any chance of a stunner for Best Picture got quashed right here.

Best Production Design
Predicted winner: Anna Karenina (confidence: 3/5)
Actual winner: Lincoln

God dammit. I was relatively sanguine about this year's Oscars, and as the telecast started, I realized that this category was the only one I really cared about. And they blew it. Lincoln is a better movie than Anna Karenina, but its production design was merely impressive, whereas Sarah Greenwood's design for Joe Wright's film was revolutionary. I hate caring about this stuff sometimes.

Best Original Score
Predicted winner: Life of Pi – Mychael Danna (confidence: 2/5)
Actual winner: Life of Pi – Mychael Danna

Of course, Anna Karenina deserved this one too, but I didn't harbor any delusions this time around.

Best Original Song
Predicted winner: Skyfall – "Skyfall" (Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth) (confidence: 4/5)
Actual winner: Skyfall – "Skyfall" (Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth)

On the plus side, Adele gave a reasonably heartfelt speech and seemed sincerely delighted that she won. On the minus side, her actual performance of "Skyfall" during the show was nowhere near as memorable as Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger". Oh well, she'll have to settle for dominating the world music scene for the next decade.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Predicted winner: Argo – Chris Terrio (confidence: 2/5)
Actual winner: Argo – Chris Terrio

Argo may not have had the breadth of Slumdog Millionaire or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, but it cleaned up where it counted.

Best Original Screenplay
Predicted winner: Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino (confidence: 2/5)
Actual winner: Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino

My best call of the night resulted in the best speech of the night, namely Tarantino's manic, obscenely self-congratulatory paean to the genius that is Quentin Tarantino. Just like with his movies, he may be vulgar and unconventional, but he always has something to say. "If people are, like, knowing about my movies 30 or 50 years from now, it's going to be because of the characters that I created." He's amazing.

Best Director
Predicted winner: Steven Spielberg – Lincoln (confidence: 1/5)
Actual winner: Ang Lee – Life of Pi

Any chance the Manifesto had to salvage its night just went up in smoke. But Lee is a good guy, and he did a damn good job with extremely difficult material, so I can't be too upset.

Best Actress
Predicted winner: Emmanuelle Riva – Amour (confidence: 1/5)
Actual winner: Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook

YES! The nice thing about not actually wagering on the Oscars is that I can root for whom I want to win, even if that desire conflicts with my predictions. So I emitted a roar of approval when Jean Dujardin announced Lawrence's name, even if my record continued to disintegrate. Now here's hoping viewers remember Lawrence for her extraordinary, fearless performance and not for her tumble on the stage's steps.

Best Actor
Predicted winner: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln (confidence: 5/5)
Actual winner: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln

Thank Christ. I really wish that after Meryl Streep introduced this category's quintet with the line, "In a normal year, any one of these performances would have stood out," she would have followed it up with, "Except for yours, Hugh Jackman". I also liked that the camera cut the presentation such that Streep appeared not to even open the envelope. Why waste time?

Best Picture
Predicted winner: Argo (confidence: 4/5)
Actual winner: Argo

I'll be honest: When Jack Nicholson appeared on stage, I immediately had flashbacks to his horrifying announcement of Crash seven years ago. Coincidentally, Argo becomes the first Best Picture winner since that wretched film to win just three total Oscars. Something tells me it'll hold up slightly better.

And that's a wrap. Thanks to everyone for tuning in. For the record, I hit on 14 of 21 categories, a relatively middling performance that equaled my success rate from 2011. Fortunately, there's always next year. Until then.


Omar said...

Beck, nicely done throughout the whole timeline. Always a pleasure to read your analyses. And no, this was not a Stark game 7 performance.

Jeremy said...

Thank you, good sir, glad you enjoyed it.

Chris Kalich said...

Beck - thanks as always, but I'd like to make a functional comment. Your prediction roundup does a nice job synthesizing who will win, who should win, and the snub, but your recap only shows predicted winner and actual winner. I'd love to be able to see the layout similar to the roundup but with the actual winner as well.

Jeremy said...

Kalich: Duly noted. I'll circulate your feedback among the Manifesto's dozens of readers and, depending on the response, implement your idea next year.

Thanks for reading.