If I Had a 2013 Oscar Ballot


This year’s crop of Oscar nominees is a strong one. And part of the reason this season has been so unpredictable is that there are quite a few films voters seem eager to acknowledge.

I encountered the same problem when writing this post. I’m not foolish enough to say something “should” win an award. I know this stuff is all subjective, and I wish others would wake up and realize the same thing. But I’m a film lover with an opinion, so with the big night just days away, I’m ready to share my fantasy ballot.

One interesting note: A lot these films would have won in a limitless field. Many of my favorite films, performances, and craft achievements were rewarded with nominations this year—a rarity. Strong field indeed.

Best Picture: Beasts of the Southern Wild
No need to dive in too deep here. Check out my review of Beasts of the Southern Wild or my Top 10 of 2012 list for more on why this is my easy Best Picture choice.

Best Director: Benh Zeitlin
The Academy, perhaps, is trying to teach us a lesson this year. Best Picture and Best Director needn’t go hand in hand. But with Kathryn Bigelow sitting this one out, I’m giving this award to Zeitlin—the big surprise nominee whose unique vision floored me this year.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Top to bottom, this is probably the strongest Oscar category, and in any other year, Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Denzel Washington could have won both my vote and the Academy Award itself. But Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln work is undeniable.

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva
Until just a few days ago, my choice here was Jessica Chastain. Emmanuelle Riva, however, blew Chastain out of the water, as far as I’m concerned. Tough choice no longer. Amour‘s leading lady gets my vote.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
Another tough category. I almost gave Phillip Seymour Hoffman my vote, but upon further reflection, Christoph Waltz really was my favorite performance in a film (Django Unchained) full of great supporting performances by actors. I’ll concede the point that he should be considered a lead, but here he is, and I have to acknowledge his work.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
I’m so jazzed Hathaway is doing well. I’ve been a fervent supporter of hers since Rachel Getting Married, one of my very favorite films of the last decade, and Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is the best thing she’s done since. I also think hers will be the strongest Best Supporting Actress win in years.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Both screenplay categories are hard to predict this year. I’m also finding it difficult to single out one as its category’s best. David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook screenplay, however, is what made one of my favorite films of the year really crackle. It gets my vote by a nose over Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom
It’s a shame Wes Anderson’s film failed to earn any other nominations, but Original Screenplay is where it best fits, and it gets my vote over Mark Boal’s strong film-as-journalism work on Zero Dark Thirty and Tarantino’s very Tarantino-esque Django writing.

Best Cinematography: Skyfall
A vote for Roger Deakins is a bittersweet one. On the one hand, you’re helping one of the best working cinematographers win his first Oscar for worthy work in a great film. On the other hand, you’re contributing to the potential defeat of Claudio Miranda, whose Life of Pi work helped make that film so special.

Best Costume Design: Mirror Mirror
This is a bit of a cheat. I only caught about half of Tarsem Singh’s latest film. What I saw of it didn’t exactly inspire me to catch the entire thing, but the late Eiko Ishioka’s costumes were incredible, and nothing else in the category really grabbed me.

Best Film Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Watching Zero Dark Thirty was a surreal experience. By the time Kyle Chandler told Jessica Chastain that the raid on Abbottabad was going forward, I was confused. There had to be a few more steps, I thought. I’m only 70 or 80 minutes into this 150-minute movie. Nope, it was nearly over. It still boggles my mind how such a dense, deliberate film could feel so breezy, but credit editors William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor for making Mark Boal’s fact-driven screenplay so cinematic.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Hitchcock‘s makeup was utterly unremarkable. Les Miserables‘ didn’t do much for me either. The Hobbit? Your winner by process of elimination.

Best Original Score: Lincoln
It’s subtle for a John Williams score. Maybe for that reason, I responded to the musical cues in Lincoln more than I expected. A mostly great lineup, though. I also considered Thomas Newman’s Skyfall score and Mychael Danna’s Life of Pi score.

Best Original Song: Skyfall
The easiest choice of the bunch.

Best Production Design: Lincoln
I’m surprised this nomination never picked up much traction because Lincoln‘s production design was one of my favorite aspects of the film. From the cluttered desks of the White House to the cramped Congressional quarters, it’s a pretty easy choice for me.

Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
I’m admittedly a novice when it comes to the ins and outs of a lot of these craft categories. I like to think I know good production design and sound editing when I see it, however. Zero Dark Thirty‘s raid scene was a showcase for less-is-more sound. For that reason, it probably won’t win, but it’s the one nominee in this category with sound I still remember.

Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
When Tom Hooper’s film is on, it’s ON. His decision to capture his actors singing live contributed greatly to the film’s brightest moments. A mixing award sounds about right.

Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Another really easy choice for men. Magnificent work that simply towers over everything else we saw in 2012.

Best Animated Feature Film: Wreck-It Ralph
There are some solid films in this lineup, but nothing grabbed me like Disney’s ode to the arcade. I loved Wreck-It Ralph. I merely liked Brave, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Best Documentary Feature Film: Searching for Sugar Man
It was a great year for documentary features. I saw four of the five nominees (no The Gatekeepers, unfortunately), and a quick survey of the field makes it feel a lot like Best Animated Feature—only my admiration for everything is amplified. Every movie is really good, and one is simply marvelous. That film is the hands-down favorite going into Oscar night—Searching for Sugar Man.

Best Foreign Language Film: N/A
Regrettably, I’ve only seen one of these films—the very worthy, and very depressing, Amour. By Academy rules, that deems me ineligible to vote, so I’ll abstain here. Really, I just feel kind of weird about acknowledging a film when I haven’t seen a single one it’s competing against.

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