Oscar's 2013: A film enthusiast's picks for the big winners

By Caroline Miller  ‘15Staff Writer

Adele will be performing during the show. Enough said.

Besides host Seth Macfarlane’s two big reveals about Adele and a tribute to the 50th year of the James Bond franchise, not much has been revealed about the upcoming award show. The Academy Awards have had a range of ups and downs over the past few years and due to a number of reasons, including the expansion of the Best Picture category and a variety of underwhelming hosts.

The 85th Academy Awards Show is shaping up well so far—and that is largely because of the solid range of films this past year. The nominations represent a variety of films from independent to blockbuster, and stories that range from musicals like Les Misérables to contemporary political films like “Zero Dark Thirty.” Having seen most of the nominated films, I can say that it is a strong field and that the show (and of course the red carpet) should be exciting.

Best Actress: Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

I was moved to tears by the power of Naomi Watts’ performance in “The Impossible.” Never before had I given her much thought as an actress. Watt’s performance is so poignant that it almost becomes possible to feel her character’s dedication to and love for her family. Without that love and dedication, she would not have been able to survive the harrowingly intense tragedy and trauma which struck out of nowhere. The tangible power of her performance is awe-inspiring.

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”

It is one thing to portray someone who is insane. It is another thing to portray someone who, because of the intricacies of their words and actions, causes the viewer to question their own sanity and reexamine what exactly it means to be mentally sound. Bradley Cooper does exactly that with his portrayal of a recently released mental hospital patient who has to re-engage with life and find a way to reconcile his own understanding of self. His performance is relevant because it is contemporary and thought provoking. His performance inspires a full range of emotions in his viewers.

Best Original Screenplay: “Moonrise Kingdom” for Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

A big hit at independent film festivals in the past year, “Moonrise Kingdom” is a unique and touching film because of its engaging original screenplay. The writing is sharp and witty and the subtleties of each character make it a very engaging film.

Best Adapted Screenplay:“Silver Linings Playbook” for David O. Russell

It is because of the spectacular writing that this film is now making its third appearance on my personal list of films that should be receiving an Oscar. The attention paid to each of the characters and their specific quirks makes this film special.

Honorable Mentions:

"Argo”

Great (and true) story. Ben Affleck should have been nominated for Best Director.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Another film festival standout. Wonderful cinematography for a first feature film from Benh Zeitlin.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

One of the only films about high school that I feel actually matters. Stephen Chbosky should at the very least have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe even should be the winner in that category.

“Skyfall”

An exceptional way to recognize the past 50 years of the James Bond franchise and prepare for another 50. Judi Dench and Javier Bardem both should have been recognized in the supporting actor categories and director Sam Mendes should have been at least considered for Best Director.

Best Director: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”

Directors are not advised to work with animals, water, or 3D—and each of those aspects is a part of this film. Ang Lee has described this film as the hardest one he’s ever made, and it is clear why. It is also clear how much devotion and care was put into this film in order to make it as stunning as it is. “Life of Pi” is by far the most visually breathtaking film I have ever seen and it is an example of pure craftsmanship. It is clear how delicately Ang Lee labored over each shot and frame of this film and his vision for it is magical. That being said, the story it tells is much less intriguing than the visual spectacle of the film. What is mind-blowing about the film is the wonder and awe it inspires by what it shows, not what it tells.

Best Picture: “Silver Linings Playbook”

In 2011, predictions for Best Picture were evenly split between “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech” (although I’d still make an argument for “Black Swan”). But the ultimate winner, “The Kings Speech,” was pure Oscar bait. Although it is certainly a highly-regarded film with solid acting, writing, and directing, it did not have nearly as much impact on moviegoers as did “The Social Network.” That was a relevant movie. It doubled as social commentary which caused viewers to examine preexisting beliefs about the nature of people and the world. This year, I feel as though the competition between “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” strikes a similar chord.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is fresh, captivating, and thought provoking. It cannot be pinned to any particular genre. It is part drama, part romantic comedy, part social commentary, and even part dance movie (although not quite on par with “Step Up,” a guilty pleasure).

What I found to be most significant was the way “Silver Linings Playbook” causes the audience to reconsider what the term ‘crazy’ means to them. It could have been a scathing commentary on the lack of understanding and attention there is for mental health disorders and their treatment. Thankfully, it is not. It is more organic than that, and each character in the film represents a different facet of what some might refer to as insanity or craziness. It causes you to laugh, cry, and above all, think. It is a contemporary film rather than a historical epic, and it is strikingly poignant in its relevancy.

Special attention should be paid to all of the acting in this film and in particular to the natural chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Robert De Niro is also notable in his performance as the father of Bradley Cooper’s character.