FEELING a bit out of the loop when it comes to all the hype surrounding the Academy Awards? Hieu Chau has you covered with his guide to some of this year’s esteemed nominees – from a tale of a boy lost at sea with a tiger to a dramatisation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
It’s awards season in Hollywood. With the Golden Globes wrapping up recently, movie buffs are now awaiting February 24 – when the Academy Awards are handed out to the year’s best films.
If you’re behind with what’s going on in the world of film, well have no fear. We’ve searched through forums, blogs and videos from film critics and experts alike to try and build an easy-to-follow guide to some of the biggest films at this year’s awards show. Consider this your primer for any future water-cooler conversations about the Academy Awards (also known as The Oscars) from now until awards night.
We’ll walk you through why these films made the cut. And we’re sure you’ll find this guide useful when you head to the cinema in the coming weeks and can’t decide which new releases to watch!
The films mentioned in this list are the ones most people will be talking about as they’ve all been nominated for Best Picture. They’re the ones the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences view as excelling overall – from the directing to the music compositions to the writing, editing and more.
What’s it about: Set in America’s south during the 1850s, a slave by the name of Django is freed by a German dentist-cum-bounty hunter and goes on a blood-soaked revenge rampage to find his wife who is enslaved by a cruel plantation owner.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography
Why it could win Best Picture: Some feel Django Unchained is the sum result of everything that writer/director Quentin Tarantino has endeavoured to create in film ever since he first debuted with Reservoir Dogs.
In other words, Django Unchained may very well be considered his best film to date.
It’s a daring film and can be considered to be quite a surprising choice considering its subject matter and gratuitous violence.
Tarantino uses his signature brand of violence, humour, snappy dialogue and memorable characters to force Americans to acknowledge their own history but in a way that doesn’t feel completely shameful.
It’s a film that only Quentin Tarantino could have made and for his brazen attitude in the world of cinema, his efforts could very well be commended.
A cathartic experience for some and a possibly offensive experience for others, there’s no denying that Django Unchained may cause some dissonance within the voters of the Academy.
Where and when can I see it: Django Unchained is currently screening in cinemas.
What’s it about: A biographical film about the struggles that America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, went through in order to abolish slavery in the United States.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing
Why it could win Best Picture: With a total of 12 nominations, Lincoln leads this year’s Oscar race with the most nominations. This alone goes to show just how enamoured the Academy were by director Steven Spielberg’s sterling depiction of one of America’s most influential presidential leaders.
Having scored multiple nominations and wins at these awards throughout his career, Spielberg’s proven track record with the Academy unquestionably makes him an immediate favourite for Best Director.
Daniel Day-Lewis, also a favourite of the Academy, is an actor whose commitment to his craft is unparalleled to any other actor working today and, at this point, seems like a lock for Best Actor.
Combine these elements with a story about one of America’s defining moments as a country and you have a recipe for a bonafide Oscar winner.
Where and when can I see it: Lincoln democratises its way into cinemas on February 7.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
What’s it about: When her short-tempered father falls ill and nature begins to attack her home, a young girl by the name of Hushpuppy sets out in search of her mother.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
Why it could win Best Picture: Since debuting at Sundance Film Festival early last year, Beasts of the Southern Wild has gone on to win audiences and critics with its whimsical charm and imaginative approach to storytelling.
The film has won numerous critical awards including the Grand Jury Prize award at Sundance Film Festival and the Camera d’Or, a prize awarded to the best debut feature film at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Working with a cast comprised of non-actors, first-time director Benh Zeitlin manages to construct a magical film that resonates in spite of the inexperience of its leading actors.
While the film’s inclusion in the Best Picture and Best Director categories is certainly a surprise for many, the Academy’s choice to select Beasts of the Southern Wild is quite telling of their attitude towards ingenuity and originality in filmmaking.
It’s seen as the underdog of these awards but if Beasts of the Southern Wild wins, it would be heralded as a triumph in the world of independent filmmaking for years to come.
Where and when can I see it: Beasts of the Southern Wild is currently available for purchase on Blu-ray and DVD. Alternatively, Cinema Nova is currently having an encore screening of the film.
Zero Dark Thirty
What’s it about: Based on recent events, Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatisation of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Film Editing
Why it could win Best Picture: In 2009, the war movie The Hurt Locker won Best Picture. Its director and screenwriter, Katheryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, both took home awards in Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay respectively.
The Academy Award-winning pair returns to familiar territory with Zero Dark Thirty, however, due to its dramatisation of relatively recent events, it may prove to be something of a cathartic experience for some Academy voters – particularly those eager to relish one of America’s most liberating victories.
The film is not without controversy however. It has been labelled as propaganda by some while others have labelled it as a movie supporting the use of torture – opinions which may hurt the film’s chances of winning.
While, Bigelow isn’t nominated for her directorial efforts this time around, Zero Dark Thirty has already won many critic awards, including top prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, which certainly swings awards momentum towards its favour.
Historically speaking, however, the winner of the Best Director award is normally indicative of the film that will end up winning Best Picture.
Where and when can I see it: Zero Dark Thirty will be deployed into Australian cinemas on January 31.
Life of Pi
What’s it about: Based on the novel of the same name, the film tells the story of a young Indian man stranded at sea who goes on a journey of self-discovery and spirituality.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, Best Original Song
Why it could win Best Picture: In some ways, Life of Pi can be viewed as this year’s Hugo – a 3D family film made by a veteran director stepping outside his comfort zone.
The film has accumulated a total of 11 nominations which makes it the second highest nominated film in the Best Picture category this year.
Two of Life of Pi’s biggest accomplishments as a film rest in its adaptation of its source material as well as its sumptuous visuals.
Ang Lee, a favourite of the Academy, took on the task of adapting a novel that was largely viewed as an “unfilmable” piece of literature. Getting the audience to become emotionally invested in a film about a boy stranded at sea with only a Bengal tiger to interact with is certainly a tough sell and that alone is perhaps something worth considering when the Academy submits its votes.
Additionally, the film is gorgeous to look at and unlike most 3D films, the use of 3D technology in this film is akin to how it was used in Avatar, another fellow Academy Award-nominated film.
Where and when can I see it: Life of Pi is currently screening in cinemas.
What’s it about: A dramatized account of the 1979 – 1980 Iran hostage crisis where a secret CIA operation to extract six Americans is carried out under the guise of a fake movie production.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score
Why it could win Best Picture: Early on, Argo was considered by many pundits to be the leading frontrunner at the Academy Awards and it certainly had the look and feel of an Oscar-winning Hollywood film.
Argo’s handling of its subject matter, astute attention to historical detail and cast of seasoned actors demonstrated that it was a serious contender for Best Picture.
Although director and actor Ben Affleck was not nominated for his directorial efforts in Argo, he and the film have already won several awards leading up to the morning of the Oscar nominations’ announcement, including top prizes at the Critics’ Choice Awards and at the Golden Globes.
Like Zero Dark Thirty, however, Argo too has a difficult task ahead of itself considering its lack of a directorial nomination.
If it is of any consolation though, Argo has a fan in Roger Ebert, the widely revered movie critic, who named Argo the best film of 2012.
When and where can I see it: Argo is currently screening at the Cinema Nova.
What’s it about: Based on the famous novel and musical of the same name, the film tells the story of a convict and the various characters that he encounters in the midst of a revolution in France.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design
Why it could win Best Picture: Musicals are usually risky business and to do a musical on film in this day and age can be tough, especially when almost the entire film – even fleeting moments of conversation – are played out completely in song.
Yes, Les Misérables is a daringly ambitious film to say the very least and it’s to director Tom Hooper’s credit that he could manage to create a film like this at all.
It’s a sprawling period epic, the type of film that the Academy is usually crazy for.
Interestingly enough, in 1935 the first film adaptation of Les Misérables managed to score a nomination at the 8th Annual Academy Awards which says a lot about the pedigree of the source material.
With this in mind, Hooper, who previously won for Best Picture and Best Director for The King’s Speech, certainly puts a great deal of effort into Les Misérables’ extravagant production and manages to extract fine performances from the likes of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway along the way.
When and where can I see it: Les Misérables is currently screening in cinemas.
What’s it about: An elderly man’s love to his wife is tested when his wife’s basic motor skills begin to deteriorate.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film
Why it could win Best Picture: Michael Haneke might not be a hugely familiar name to the average movie-goer but for some of the more serious movie aficionados, Haneke is already an established veteran.
To his credit, Haneke has been previously nominated for his 2009 film, The White Ribbon, although that was only in contention in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Amour is a painfully devastating movie in the best possible sense and although the film’s tone is much darker compared to its fellow competitors, Amour’s inclusion in the Best Picture category – as well as the Best Director category – makes it stand out all the more.
Being that it is a foreign film, it may have a hard time getting over with the Academy as foreign film seem to be rarely afforded a spot in the Best Picture category.
Amour has already made it onto several top ten lists from various film critics and film buffs all over the world.
Furthermore, renowned film publication, Sight and Sound ranked the film third on its best of 2012 list of films.
Where and when can I see it: Amour will break hearts in select Australian cinemas on February 21.
Silver Linings Playbook
What’s it about: A romantic comedy/drama about a mentally ill man who moves back home with his parents when one day he meets an equally distressed young woman with problems of her own.
What’s it nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
Why it could win Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook is the only film in this year’s Best Picture category to have nominations across all the acting categories which might say quite a lot about the film’s potential to take home Best Picture.
Taking into account the categories that the film is nominated for – all of which are considered to be the major awards of the evening – and considering that Best Picture is voted primarily on the quality of the film across all departments, it would be fair to say that Silver Linings Playbook has a great chance of winning Best Picture.
The film’s light-hearted demeanour means that it shouldn’t have too hard a time winning over voters.
Consequently, the accessibility of the film may also be mistaken for being too pedestrian, especially when standing next to the likes of Lincoln or Life of Pi.
Nonetheless, Silver Linings Playbook has shown its formidability as a contender having won several critic awards in the United States and earning nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and the BAFTAs.
Where and when can I see it: Silver Linings Playbook will dance its way into Australian cinemas on January 31.