Hey, Mister Postman: His 2012 Fantasy Oscar Ballot

posted Feb 23, 2013, 10:48 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Mar 14, 2013, 7:47 PM ]
As I stated when I posted his analysis of the Oscar nominations, I have great respect for ThePostman. He is not only a fan of film, but an estudiante of the craft as well. He doesn’t just know about films, he knows about the process of filmmaking. And he infuses his film reviews and commentaries with that knowledge and understanding.

So as I stepped aside from my annual buzz-driven reactions in favor of a more thorough analysis from The Postman, I am doing the same here with his version of Oscar predictions (as opposed to who I just want to win). But instead of simply predicting winners as most of us do, his approach is that of an Academy member filling out a ballot.

As he did with his reactions to the nominations themselves, The Postman provides supports his choices with additional commentary and analysis. But The Postman isn’t just beholden to the list of nominees. For some categories, his selections are based on what he truly considers to be the best of the year in film.

The Postman’s selections for each category are underlined. For those categories where his selection isn’t even nominated, that selection is highlighted in yellow and the closest thing to a selection among the list of nominees is underlined.

Dear Members of the Route,

Though I'm not a member of the Academy, I take the Oscars all too seriously and try to see as many of the nominated films as possible.  I just don't think it's fair to vote in categories where you haven't seen all the contenders.  So, below are my picks for what should win (I never post predictions) in all the categories in which I've seen every nominee.  And because I'm not a member of the Academy, I reserve the right to include write-in candidates, because it's not as if this ballot will count for anything, except - hopefully - conversation.

Best Animated Short - Adam and Dog, Fresh Guacamole, Head Over Heels, Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare', Paperman 

For me, there's only one choice here.  Adam and Dog is a little dull, and its characters are unattractively drawn.  Fresh Guacamole is dazzling, but it feels like an effects reel more than a fleshed-out film (it is less than 2 minutes long, after all).  Head Over Heels has a nice idea (it reminded me of a Claymation Amour) but I find its execution a bit wanting.  And the Simpsons cartoon has nice some smiles in it but few genuine laughs.  Paperman is charming, wistful, and really quite lovely.  An easy pick here: Paperman.  

Best Live Action Short - Asad, Buzkashi Boys, Curfew, Death of a Shadow, Henry 

Death of a Shadow is incomprehensible and somewhat awful, while Henry is a sentimental sop and thoroughly insufferable.  Asad seems like a pointless reduction of the foreign film War Witch with a thoroughly bizarre ending (Oh look, a cat!).  So my two choices are Curfew, the dark story of a suicidal brother and his bond with his mess of a sister's little girl, or Buzkashi Boys, a story of two boys in Afghanistan and their desire to escape their lives by playing the nation's favorite game, buzkashi.  Both are quite good, but because Buzkashi is better-looking and has stuck with me more than Curfew, I'm giving my Oscar to the Buzkashi Boys.

Best Documentary Feature - 5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, Searching for Sugar Man 

While I didn't dislike any of these films, very few of them made any impression on me.  Searching for Sugar Man and The Gatekeepers both kind of bored me, frankly, even though they're the two front-runners.  The Invisible War is well-intentioned, and 5 Broken Cameras is a fascinating inclusion in this category simply because it is so anti-Israeli.  But the only movie that moved me in this category was How to Survive a Plague, a collection of interviews and archival footage about the people who created ACT UP, the coalition that fought bitterly for AIDS awareness and treatment in this country, not nearly enough of whom survived to see the making of this film.  Plague is available via Netflix Streaming, and is well worth your time.

Best Makeup - Hitchcock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables 

If I had to choose amongst these three, The Hobbit would be the obvious winner.  Anthony Hopkins looked fine as Hitchcock, but that just doesn't feel award-worthy to me.  And Les Miserables?  I'd argue that Hugh Jackman wasn't aged aggressively enough by the movie's end: the character is probably into his 60's at that point.  And, what else?  Anne Hathaway's shorn hair?  The whiteface on the whores?  No, I have to go off the board with this one.  I'm tempted to go with Cloud Atlas here, just because there is so much makeup in the film, but since some of it is kind of deliciously awful (though I'd argue that was the intention), I'll avoid embarrassing myself.  Instead, I choose The Impossible, whose stunning portrayals of the ravages of the tsunami on our lead family are part of the reason the film has so much impact, especially in the character Naomi Watts portrays; she looks as if the blood is draining out of her as the movie progresses.  Truly beautiful ugly work.

Best Visual Effects - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, Marvel's The Avengers, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman 

As above, I am sorry places weren't made in this category for Cloud Atlas and The Impossible, though these are fine nominees.  I hate Snow White too much to even consider it, but Prometheus, The Avengers, and The Hobbit are certainly worthy.  But how can I not pick Life of Pi, with its vividly realized tiger, the beautiful ocean work, the meerkat island?  Life of Pi is a stunning visual triumph even if the film ultimately left me a little cold.  And I really want to see Richard Parker come to the stage to accept.

Best Sound Mixing - Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall 

Say what you will about the film (and I've probably said enough), the audacity of capturing live singing on those sets with that big a cast is pretty impressive, even if there are a couple of sync and pitch issues at times.  Les Miz it is.

Best Sound Editing - Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty 

If for nothing else, the relative silence of the last action sequence in Zero Dark Thirty is so riveting that it needs to win something.  I like the fact that neither sound category this year is dominated by the obvious, loud choices, so I'm going to honor that by rewarding the quietest choice.

Best Film Editing - Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty 

If I were confining myself to the actual nominees, I'd pick Argo here.  I think Lincoln - while masterfully put together - is a little long, and I think Zero Dark Thirty's one flaw is its somewhat slack first hour.  But Argo is tight and exciting and just beautifully crafted.  Still, Cloud Atlas brilliantly wove 6 distinct narratives together, causing the narratives to comment on each other in a way that the book simply didn't do, making Cloud Atlas one of the most pleasurable puzzle movies I've ever put together.  Poor, reviled, failed Cloud Atlas wins an Oscar in my world.

Best Costume Design - Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman 

The only nominee here that doesn't really deserve its place is Les Miserables, whose costumes are serviceable but unremarkable.  I'd much rather see A Royal Affair or Django Unchained here in its place.  I am tempted to reward Anna Karenina, for the frocks really are divine.  But in a year with two competing Snow White movies, it's hard not to focus on those.  While I admit that some of Charlize Theron's dresses were spectacular in Huntsman, I was even more impressed by the fanciful creations of Eiko Ishioka for Mirror MirrorMirror Mirror was Ishioka's last film, and though I don't think posthumous Oscars are ever that much fun, this is more than richly deserved.

Best Animated Film - Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph 

After years of animated riches, I must count 2012 as a relative disappointment.  None of these films really did it for me.  The Pirates! is cute but fairly unmemorable.  ParaNorman is visually striking, though it's so ugly, my friend and I wondered who exactly was the target audience for this story and its characters: a group of 12 emo teenagers?  Brave has some beautiful animation and a really moving mother-daughter relationship, but it's tricked up with too much slapstick humor and distractions.  And Wreck-It Ralph just doesn't move me in the way it seems to with everyone else: other than Sarah Silverman, I felt the voice casting was wanting and/or obvious, and the story lacked a little oomph.  I guess my category favorite is Frankenweenie, a slight but very charming Tim Burton creation.  But honestly, my favorite animated film of the year is Rise of the Guardians: richly drawn characters, beautiful backgrounds, and a story that packed more emotional punch than any of the nominated films, Guardians is my obvious fantasy Oscar pick.

Best Original Song – “Before My Time”, Chasing Ice; “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”, Ted; “Pi's Lullaby”, Life of Pi; “Skyfall”, Skyfall; “Suddenly”, Les Miserables 

What's most interesting to me is how understated most of these songs are.  I'm not even sure “Pi's Lullaby” even qualifies as a song in my eyes (or, rather, ears): it's more instrumental underscoring with a woman saying "Ah!" throughout.  So if I discount "Before My Time" and "Suddenly" outright, it's not because I dislike either of them: they just lack impact.  "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" is also perfectly lovely, but it sounds like every big band song that has ever been written and is in no way memorable or special.  So that leaves the default winner of the category "Skyfall", a song that also sounds like a number of past Bond songs.  If I had the time, I'd listen again to the Django Unchained songs - many of which I really liked - or throw a completely wacko vote to one of the funny songs from (not kidding) Casa de Mi Padre.  But Adele will give an adorable speech, so she wins my Oscar.

Best Original Score - Anna Karenina, Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall 

To me, Lincoln sounds like music from The West Wing, and not simply because some of it is set there.  And while I like how Thomas Newman weaves hints of the Bond theme into his score for Skyfall, I can't actually remember much else about the music.  Desplat is very talented, and Argo's music is perfectly proficient.  But I'm more impressed by Dario Marinelli's score for Anna Karenina and Mychael Danna's warm blanket of music in Life of Pi.  Still, no score haunts me like the one from Cloud Atlas, making it my first double Oscar winner so far.

Best Production Design - Anna Karenina, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln 

The Hobbit might have won this award had the 48 frames per second not made all the sets look tacky to me.  Otherwise, this category is easily taken by Anna Karenina, whose fanciful theater-as-life conceit is brilliantly realized (until it gets largely abandoned about halfway through the film).  But until that halfway point, the use of the theater to approximate real-life locations is simply gorgeous, providing some of the year's greatest visual excitement.

Best Cinematography - Anna Karenina, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall 

I'll say this: Janusz Kaminski is one of the most annoying cinematographers to me, but I did enjoy his warm look in Lincoln (mostly because it seldom called attention to itself).  Life of Pi really seems to me more a visual effects achievement than in a cinematography one, but maybe I just need to get used to that sort of thing.  Anna Karenina and Django Unchained are also very good looking films.  But Skyfall looks smashing.  Roger Deakins - one of the best cinematographers around - takes the big budget of a Bond film and makes one of the most beautiful films of the franchise, if not the most beautiful.  Skyfall it is.

Best Adapted Screenplay - Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook 

It is precisely the adaptation of Life of Pi that I have the biggest problem with (oh, that ending!), so strike that off the list.  And though I like much of the dialogue of Silver Linings Playbook, that candy-coated ending tastes bitter in my mouth, so again... next!  Beasts is a nice film, but I can't say I see it as a writing achievement, and though much of the dialogue of Lincoln is spun gold, I think some editing would have been wise.  So the category winner would be Argo in an easy race -- if it weren't for my favorite film of the year, however.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a wonderful film, but it is all the more remarkable an achievement because writer Stephen Chbosky adapted his own book and peeled away the sentimentalism and preciousness that makes the book less than a favorite of mine into an impossibly moving narrative with far richer characters to boot.  A special shout-out as well to Cloud Atlas for cramming six narratives into a 3-hour film, but Perks is the only real choice here.

Best Original Screenplay - Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty 

With original screenplays as rich as Looper and Seven Psychopaths this year, the inclusion of Flight here is almost upsetting: it's a perfectly good script until an ending that I just couldn't believe at all.  And my problem with Zero Dark Thirty is not the controversial torture scenes but the lack of a heartbeat or anything resembling a motivation for Jessica Chastain's character.  But when you have scripts as strong and varied as Amour, Django Unchained, or Moonrise Kingdom, how can you possibly complain about this category?  Honestly, if I could justify a three-way tie here, I'd stop right there, but that's less fun.  So for dialogue that sings and zings throughout its long running time, I'm going to go with Django Unchained.  Tarantino's work is less gimmicky than his previous films - the structure is more linear, there are fewer digressions - but I also think it's more mature.  It's a masterful script.

Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams, The Master; Sally Field, Lincoln; Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables; Helen Hunt, The Sessions; Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook 

I think Adams does as well as she can with an underdeveloped, somewhat confusing role.  And Field's acting is great in Lincoln, but her age still distracts me more than I know it should.  Jacki Weaver is very good in the quiet part of the enabling mother, but it's hard for me to single her out in this category.  And as much as I really do like Hathaway's bravura work in Les Miserables, my category favorite - no contest, really - is Helen Hunt in The Sessions (despite some people's complaints about her Boston accent).  My only reservation with embracing Hunt's sensitive portrayal as a sex surrogate is that I really feel that hers is a leading role rather than a supporting one.  So do I go with her or Pauline Collins' beautiful work in Quartet as a woman slipping charmingly but devastatingly into Alzheimer's?  Dementia is going to get its due shortly, so I'll stick with Hunt for the win.

Best Supporting Actor - Alan Arkin, Argo; Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook; Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master; Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln; Christopher Waltz, Django Unchained

Historically, this is my least favorite acting category in the Oscars.  Compared to the many iconic leading roles and the many juicy supporting female roles, supporting actor roles just pale.  Seriously, beyond your Claude Rains (who, tragically, never won) and George Sanders, and your leads-slumming-in-smaller-roles like Gene Hackman or most of the men nominated this year, the track record isn't that impressive.  Presented for your delectation: Jack Palance?  George Burns?  Tommy Lee Jones, for The Fugitive?  Walter Brennan for Kentucky?  Don Ameche for his break-dancing done by a body double?  Please.  So imagine my surprise when I survey the year in supporting male performances that weren't nominated: Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables.  Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike.  Ewan McGregor in The Impossible.  Leonardo DiCaprio or Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.  Christopher Walken in Seven Psychopaths.  Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Any one of these performances is worthy of a nomination, is better than half a dozen past winners in this category, and many of them I'd happily see up on that stage this year, more so certainly than Alan Arkin, Tommy Lee Jones and to some extent Robert DeNiro, all of whom play somewhat familiar versions of their onscreen personas.  So who do I single out?  I don't honestly know.  Of the category choices, Philip Seymour Hoffman - an actor for whom I have little tolerance - is my runner-up, but Christoph Waltz is my clear favorite, even though, again, one could easily make an argument for him belonging in the leading category.  And I'm really tempted to give Ezra Miller this Oscar, especially in a year with such wonderful work from young actors.  But my heart really goes out to Christopher Walken for his career-capping work in Seven Psychopaths, a quiet, deadpan and heartbreaking performance.

Best Actress - Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Emmanuelle Riva, Amour; Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Naomi Watts, The Impossible 

I'm dismissing Wallis and Lawrence from consideration right off the bat.  Wallis is adorable, but I really don't see the brilliance in that 6 year-old's performance that everyone else seems to see.  And while I loved Lawrence in both Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games, I find a distinct disconnect between the actress and the character she portrays in Silver Linings Playbook.  I still just see her as an actress reciting lines foreign to her rather than someone who fully embodied that person.  Naomi Watts is really good in The Impossible, but much of what she's called to do is simply suffer: the heavy lifting is done by her co-stars.  Chastain is very good and might win this award from me in a less strong year.  My second place choice is not nominated: Maggie Smith for her marvelous work in Quartet, a performance that has twice the nuance of the ever-charming work she does on Downton Abbey.  But my winner is Emmanuelle Riva who not only aces the technical brilliance of three different stages of old age and disease but nails the emotions even when her body has begun to betray her.  What she communicates with her eyes is worth minutes of dialogue from other actors.  It is a heartbreaking piece of work and richly deserving of my Oscar.

Best Actor - Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook; Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln; Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables; Joaquin Phoenix, The Master; Denzel Washington, Flight 

Well, not Joaquin Phoenix, who gave a performance I hated more than almost any piece of acting I can think of since maybe Sean Penn in Mystic River.  It just reeked of insufferable self-indulgence to me.  Next up would probably be Bradley Cooper, whose work I quite liked in Silver Linings.  Then probably Denzel Washington, who really is excellent in Flight.  Or maybe Hugh Jackman who proved himself a better actor and a more appropriate singer for his role in Les Miserables than I ever thought he'd be.  Still, my roster of nominees here would look very different.  I'd dismiss at least three of those fine gentlemen to make room for John Hawkes in The Sessions and two extraordinary young performances: Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and especially Tom Holland in The Impossible.  Having said that, none of these actors can topple Daniel Day-Lewis off his throne.  As much as I hated him in There Will Be Blood, I love him in Lincoln.  It is a musical, effortless, engaging, and beautifully unhistrionic performance that I really really like.  And he just makes it look and sound so easy.

Best Director - Michael Haneke, Amour; Ang Lee, Life of Pi; David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook; Steven Spielberg, Lincoln; Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild 

As to the year's most controversial category, would Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow have made my list of five?  Likely for both.  While I really do respect Steven Spielberg for almost never calling attention to himself as the director of Lincoln, his work is perhaps too subtle to merit inclusion.  And while I do respect Russell's work with his ensemble, Silver Linings wouldn't make my short list either.  Haneke is the category's favorite here, for his tight, mysterious, beautifully moded work.  And as much as I might suggest Quentin Tarantino needs a place here for Django Unchained, my winner here is Wes Anderson, whose Moonrise Kingdom seems absolutely perfect to me.  Everything is in tune: the performances, the look, the music, the pacing, the editing, the writing, and that kind of harmony can only be achieved with a very fine director at the helm.  As much as I'd soured to Anderson's live action films, Moonrise Kingdom makes me hungry for much more.

Best Picture - Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty 

Because I've already published my Top 10 for the year, you know I'd write in The Perks of Being a Wallflower in as Best Picture, with Django Unchained, Amour, and Argo as my favorites of the nominees.  So I might as well rank the rest of the Best Picture nominees, just to have fun and take my last revenge on some films.  That's unkind: there isn't actually a movie on this list that I hate.  So, coming in at #4 would be Zero Dark Thirty.  5. Lincoln.  6. Life of Pi.  7. Beasts of the Southern Wild.  8. Les Miserables, more for what might have been than what actually is.  And 9. is Silver Linings Playbook, as much for the appalling new ad campaign that positions the film as a beacon shining a light on mental illness in a new way.  That would be true if mental illness could be cured by entering a dance contest and exchanging true love's kiss, but I'm not sure there are too many medical journals who support such a position.  I think the ad campaign is one of the most cynical, despicable things that Harvey Weinstein has ever done, and that bar is pretty damn low to begin with.  So, with that, the ballot is complete, and we have only to wait for the actual results in a week.

The Postman

You want a fantasy Oscar ballot???  I'll give you... a FANTASY OSCAR BALLOT!!!