Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sunday Top Ten: Pet Peeves and Highlights of the 2012/13 Awards Season

I decided for this last piece of Oscar coverage to split the difference between stuff that bugged me and stuff that made me happy. I could probably come up with ten highlights and ten pet peeves, but it feels cleaner to go with five of each. I will however acknowledge some things that just missed the peeves list (the Lincoln makeup snub and Global TV's SAG Awards snafu) and just missed the highlights list (Argo making history and Barbara Streisand).

And now, my top five pet peeves, and top five highlights of the 2012/13 awards season:

Top 5 Pet Peeves of 2012/13 Awards Season

5. The 'Canada' thing
This controversy made very little noise down in Hollywood where it mattered, but up here north or the border I couldn't avoid it! Many of my fellow Canucks, led by the Toronto Star's foremost critic and Oscarologist Peter Howell, were annoyed with Argo's unabashed Hollywoodization of 'The Canadian Caper'. Indeed, the rescue mission depicted in Ben Affleck's Best Picture winner was actually more of a collaborative effort between the Canadian and U.S. governments, but nitpickers like Howell have blinded themselves to the one fact that should be obvious: Argo is a damn good movie. The fabrications of the script are what make it such an efficient, structured, and dramatically focused story.

4. The 'torture' thing
The film that took the biggest hit from the press this year was Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's Zero Dark Thirty. The film's unfeeling depiction of torture was apparently so uncomfortable for some that they developed the false idea that the film was endorsing torture. Anyone who takes a good hard look at this journalistic procedural should be able to tell that it isn't endorsing or indicting anything, but the flawed perception caught on, and it wasn't long until regional critics groups started jumping ship to Argo. At the end of the day, the once-presumed frontrunner was lucky to walk away with one Oscar (by a single vote).

3. Inevitable losses for Skyfall's Oscarless craftsmen
As soon as nominations came out I reserved a spot on this list for this pet peeve. It was just so obvious that 10-time nominee Roger Deakins, 11-time nominee Thomas Newman, and 16-time nominee Greg P. Russell were all going to lose again, and on the same night, and for the same film. The fact that Skyfall's other two nominations for previous winners Per Hallberg & Karen Baker-Landers, and first-time nominees Adele & Paul Epworth both resulted in wins only adds insult to injury. Seriously, Academy, I'm getting sick and tired of this.

2. Searching for Sugar Man
I hate to bestow this title upon a movie that I actually liked, but Searching for Sugar Man was the most overrated film of the year. In a season chalk full of excellent documentaries, watching this relatively slight profile of obscure musician Rodriguez win literally every industry award a documentary could win became taxing and anticlimactic. Surely the ACE could have sprung for How to Survive a Plague? Was it too much to ask that 5 Broken Cameras or The Queen of Versailles or The Invisible War win something? Group-think is a terrible thing. Sure, it made predicting the Oscar easier, but at what cost?

1. Oscar telecast hatred
I know I'm in the minority on this, but I honestly didn't think this year's Oscar show was that bad. Maybe after three consecutive years of telecasts that ranged from lacklustre to flat-out bad, I was more willing to let the sub-par material of this one slide and focus on what I liked about it. Apparently that's impossible for most people, who are quick to judge the show and its host entirely on what they did wrong, while giving no heed to what they did right. I suppose it was a doomed enterprise from the start. As soon as it became apparent just how musical the show would be, I knew the critics would have their knives out. I just didn't think their hyperbole would bug me so much.

Top 5 Highlights of the 2012/2013 Awards Season

5. The Golden Globes
After three years of being forced to put up with Ricky Gervais, I couldn't be more pleased with this year's Golden Globes, hosted with knock-out hilarity by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It was a quick, spirited affair that spread the wealth and ended up being fairly predictive of the Oscars in many categories, including Argo for Best Picture. This was one of the first big turn-around wins for Ben Affleck's film, which had only recently suffered the “blow” of a Best Director snub a few days earlier. All said, it was quite an enjoyable evening.

4. Oscar night surprises
Surprises at the Academy Awards are rarities in this day and age, but there were a few that made last Sunday's worth watching all the way through. Whether it was a surprise performance like Shirley Bassey or Charlize Theron & Channing Tatum, or whether it was an unexpected result like Lincoln's inspired victory in Best Production Design or that shocking tie in Best Sound Editing (indicative of how tight a year it's been), they were highlights that I'll not soon forget. At least, not until it's time to start thinking about next year's Oscars!

3. Jodie Foster
I could have lumped this in with the Golden Globes, but really, Foster deserved her own spot. When she first started her acceptance speech of the Cecile B. DeMille Award it was rushed and all over the map. I honestly couldn't tell what she was going on about. I heard her mention something about “coming out” -- and how she already did that to her friends years ago -- before segueing into a plea for privacy, and something about this speech suddenly felt important. I have since re-listened to it a couple of times, and have come to recognize it as a brave and honest record of our celebrity culture, beautifully written despite a slightly frantic delivery. It might go down as one of the most memorable and significant award speeches of the decade.

2. Benh Zeitlin nomination
I might have been miffed by Ben Affleck's surprising exclusion from the Best Director lineup if I weren't so elated by the surprising inclusion of another Ben(h), who directed the best film of the year but had been largely written off by pundits. The directors branch dug deep in their nominations this year, and Zeitlin's was an awesome one, even if it was obvious that neither he, nor his film, would win anything. Yes, I am a little irked that Beasts was the only Best Picture nominee to go home empty-handed, but let's face it, the four nominations it reaped are its reward, giving it some valuable exposure for potential audiences post-Oscars.

1. Paperman
My big cinematic love affair of the year began in November when I sat down to watch Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. I had read in a review that Disney had produced a delightful short to play before the film, but was not prepared for how much I would absolutely love what I saw. The gorgeous line animation felt familiar, and yet its combination with CG-rendered characters looked like nothing I had ever seen before. The charming, unspoken romance played out in just over six minutes, but every second of it was perfect. As soon as I left the theatre I wanted to buy another ticket just to see Paperman again! I downloaded an MP3 of Christoph Beck's beautiful score for the film, and listened to it frequently. When Disney had the savvy to make it available online once voting opened, I eagerly rediscovered its visual and narrative splendour. I superstitiously refused to predict it for the win (given how seldom the studios win Best Animated Short), but it was my biggest rooting interest of the season, and it was a pleasure to bang the drum for it all the way from the theatre to the Oscar stage.

And that concludes my Oscar coverage for the season. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to next year. I'll be back in spring with some advanced predictions for the 2014 Oscars, and I'll toss up reviews for new movies as see them.

Ta for now.


  1. Zeitlin's nomination made my year. No other movie represented the power of filmmaking this year like Beasts did (that I saw).

  2. I know this is off track, but just out of curiosity, what do u think was a better directorial achievement; Guillermo Del Toro for Pan's Labyrinth or Alfonso Cuaron for Children of Men?

    1. Six of one, half dozen of another. Those two movies are so clearly the best of 2006 in my opinion, but picking between them is a chore. I might give an edge to Del Toro, but yeah, really tough call.

    2. O really? Though I think Pan's Labyrinth was Best Picture that year (for sure)... I think I would give the edge to Cuaron for Best Director; for his edgier style. All those long takes and his construction of a dystopian future was pretty awesome.

  3. So, how much longer before your 2013 predictions go up?