The Oscars matter to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, and this isn’t limited to those in “the biz.”
But for those in the filmmaking world, the effects, both positive and negative, are obvious. Whether you directed it, starred in it or make-up’d it (that’s right, I just turned make-up into a verb), the number of Oscar nods and wins your film gets will ultimately play a huge role in determining how much cash your project will pull in, what your next job will look like/whether you get a next job at all, not to mention how your work will hold up historically (i.e., what kind of legacy it will leave behind).
Think about this: When you and your friends are having the inevitable silly debate (one with no clear answer) on whether Denzel Washington had a better career than Leonardo Dicaprio, for example, wouldn’t somebody look up their Oscar records? Isn’t this the closest thing we have to hard evidence? It’s like queuing up Kobe and Jordan’s career numbers to determine who’s better (Spoiler alert: It’s probably Jordan).
For the actors themselves, Oscar nods and wins represent their livelihood. Actually, livelihood might not be the best word: A lot of the time, it’ll help determine whether they’ll be a millionaire movie star or a multi-millionaire movie star. I don’t think their livelihoods are at stake unless someone can find me the Latrell Sprewell of Hollywood. For these guys and gals, more nods and statues means more lucrative offers from movie studios, more freedom to pick and choose passion projects over boring can’t-miss blockbusters, not to mention bragging rights for the rest of their lives.
It’s like winning the NBA championship. You don’t think Kobe invites Shaq to his house to show off his five rings? Or at least tweets at him? You don’t think Jack Nicholson lunches with Tom Hanks to show him his three statues compared to Hanks’ mere two? OK, maybe these things don’t happen but at the very least, there’s a strong sense of self-satisfaction to know you’ve beaten out your rivals. As with any job, career success in the movies has to have some sort of barometer and, for better or worse, that measuring stick is the Academy Awards.
In short, those involved in filmmaking wear nominations and victories like badges of honour, the same way scouts sew those crest things onto their uniforms. It’s the ultimate validation of all the hard work they’ve done. And moviegoers aren’t much different. A hypothetical yet entirely conceivable conversation:
“Let’s go see Movie A. It had six nominations and two wins,” Moviegoer #1
“But this one had 12 nods and three wins!” Moviegoer #2
“OK, sold,” Moviegoer #1
The effects of exchanges such as these should be obvious. Higher success at the Oscars equals a higher level of curiosity in seeing your particular piece of work equals more money earned and so on and so forth. So with all the fame, all the money and all the “livelihoods” at stake, who’s making the decisions here? Who’s helping to seal the fate of a particular actor, director, editor or make-up artist? Well, it turns out, like many who pull the strings in our world, it’s a bunch of old, white guys. According to CBS, the Academy (the 5,000 plus team that decides Oscar nominations and winners) looks something like this:
- 54% are older than 60 and 2% are younger than 40
- 94% are white and 6% are something other than white
- 77% are male and 23% are female
I’m not one to judge but given these stats, is it really that surprising that films such as Brokeback Mountain or The Social Network didn’t pull off the Best Picture category? Gay cowboys and some Internet thingy called Facebook didn’t speak to a bunch of senior citizens? Quelle surprise.
This is all to say that people should take into account the way in which Oscars are decided when making their own picks. One would assume in order to make the most accurate picks, one should pretend, to the best of one’s ability, that one was born in the 1930s. But because I wasn’t born that long ago, I’ll just divide my Oscar picks into two categories: “What will win” and “What should win.” And I’ll throw in a random thought for fun. Disclaimer: I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees except for Amour and Les Misérables. I swear I have nothing against the French. Here we go.
What will win: Lincoln
You can’t get much more Oscar-friendly than a biopic about an American hero who freed the slaves and one that shows democracy at work.
What should win: Argo
In my opinion, this is the movie of the year. It’s well-paced and suspenseful, with a nice dash of humour thanks to John Goodman and Alan Arkin.
Random thought: Flight should have been nominated at the expense of one of the French ones. Actually, I’d replace both with Flight and Looper. Again: nothing against the French here.
Who will win: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
I believe this will happen for the same reasons it will win Best Picture. Probably not as deserved as his other two Best Director award-winning films (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan), both of which were vastly superior to Lincoln in my opinion.
Who should win: Ang Lee for Life of Pi
Lee should win for the simple reason that he took a book about a kid and a tiger lost at sea and made it into something highly watchable for, at the very least, aesthetic reasons.
Random thought: David O. Russell will win this category at least once in his career. Just not this year.
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Probably well-deserved although it’s hard for me to pick him given that I wasn’t crazy about the movie.
Who should win: I’ll say Bradley Cooper in a squeaker over Denzel Washington.
Both were amazing in their roles but Denzel’s already won two of these things so let’s give the young’un some love.
Random (Denzel) thoughts: Number one: How did he not win for Philadelphia? Number two: It’s a testament to his career that it’s extremely difficult to think of a bad Denzel movie. I even have a soft spot for Unstoppable, which basically involved Denzel trying to stop a train that wouldn’t stop.
Who will win: Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Academy has a tendency to choose winners that will make for the best story. Not only is she nine friggin’ years old but she also put in a great performance in a great movie. Bonus points for the idea of journalists trying to spell her name as they prep their stories for the next day.
Who should win: Probably Quvenzhané actually!
Yes, I just copied and pasted her name. Although Jennifer Lawrence (aka J-Law) may pull off the upset.
Random thought: Although many have pegged Jessica Chastain as the favourite here, there was nothing about her performance that was incredibly Oscar-worthy in my mind.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook
One of the best actors of our generation deserves to have a third Best Actor win and I think he gets it here. The fact that he’d win it for playing a fragile father figure after winning his other two playing cold-hearted gangsters speaks to his impressive acting range.
Who should win: Probably De Niro.
I’d say Christoph Waltz but his character felt too much like his role in Inglourious Basterds, just less multilingual.
Random thought: Waltz should send Quentin Tarantino a bouquet of flowers (or whatever guys send guys) for rejuvenating his career. Or should I have said ‘juvenating? Wait, that’s not a word. Moving along…
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
I haven’t seen this movie but this is the part of the show where the 2013 Oscars celebrates the musical. And then ceases to for the rest of the night.
Who should win: I’m not really sure I know or care so I’ll go with Sally Field, only because that would make it 29 years since her last Oscar. Almost as long as I’ve been alive.
Random thought: Helen Hunt is still acting? I wonder what Paul Reiser’s up to these days.
That’s it, that’s all. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I like Curfew for Best Live Action Short Film and Fresh Guacamole for Best Animated Short Film. Just kidding. I didn’t even know those categories existed. Mmm guacamole…