Oscar Preview: Precursor Winners & Losers, Week 13

There you have it. The 85th Annual Academy Awards have finally finished and although the Costume Designers Guild and Spirit Awards also happened this past week, their results had no impact on the ultimate results. Here are the winners and losers of the week. I’m not including the winners and losers of those two groups because they really didn’t go for anything beyond what was expected. I hope to have a longer, more detailed analysis in the next couple of days.

Big Winners

Argo The momentum began early in January, long before the infamous Best Director snub, but Argo managed to hold onto it all the way through Oscar season and came away as only the fourth film in Oscar history to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. In the last 30 years, only Editing has had a better predictive track record. Argo didn’t pick up any unexpected awards and carried all the ones that were expected. In the end, this was a pretty big year for the film and ends up as the ultimate winner.
Life of Pi came into the night the favorite in four categories, won three of them (it didn’t place in Production Design) and then carried away the biggest non-Best Picture prize of the night. As a Best Director winner, Ang Lee joins a small group of directors who lost Best Picture for the first two films they won Best Director for. And being in the company of legends Frank Borzage, John Ford and George Stevens isn’t bad at all. The film ended up the top winner, capturing a total of four prizes, marking one of the lowest top tallies of all-time, a trend of the last decade.
Django Unchained was Quentin Tarantino’s one of his most popular, but least prominently praised films to date. Going into the night, all of the races it was expected to compete in were tight competitions where another winner was equally as possible. In the end, Tarantino picked up his second Best Original Screenplay Oscar, his first in almost 20 years (Pulp Fiction in 1994 was his first Oscar). His film also brought a second Oscar to Christoph Waltz one of a small number of actors to win multiple trophies under the tutelage of the same director.

Mixed Results

Lincoln entered Oscar season last year as the film to beat, but various factors contributed to a sliding decline through precursor season and in the end, it took away only two awards, one it had been expected to and another that came as a bit of a surprise (it’s my opinion that it was the biggest surprise of the night) for Production Design. The mixed bag of awards season was epitomized in Steven Spielberg’s loss of Best Director to Ang Lee. Spielberg hasn’t had the best of luck with the Academy even though he already has three Oscars and an Irving G. Thalberg award. It started in 1975 when his film Jaws was a box office sensation and nabbed a Best Picture nomination, but he was left off the list. Then in 1985 when The Color Purple earned eleven nominations, but he wasn’t one of them for Best Director (the film eventually lost all eleven, an ignominious distinction). And in 1998, Saving Private Ryan was on the road to a Best Picture win. He won Best Director, but the film was toppled by Weinstein darling Shakespeare in Love one of history’s biggest upsets. The only time converging forces prevailed for him was when Schindler’s List expectedly dominated the Oscars. Will his luck ever change? Perhaps, the Spielberg Acting Curse was finally broken when Daniel Day-Lewis became the first actor nominated for a Spielberg film to win an Oscar. Things are looking up, but it’s taking time.
Skyfall had an excellent night picking up the franchise’s first two Oscars ever. The title track won as did the Sound Editing, which did so in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty. However, the notable lack of a Best Picture nomination contributes to its mixed results and the fact that Roger Deakins lost a deserved trophy for Best Cinematography, Skyfall has to be considered a winner with losing moments.
Les Misérables also did pretty well securing three expected Oscars, but none of the rest of the potential panned out as its BAFTA win for Production Design was ulimately frustrated by Lincoln. This was another film that started out last year as one of the films-to-beat that ultimately disappointed critics, but was a smash with audiences and earned more than its fair share of Oscar nominations, even though Best Director wasn’t one of them. So, three Oscars is great and is the best peformance by a musical at the Oscars since Chicago‘s stron showing ten years go, but it wasn’t nearly what was expected going into the season.

Big Losers

Beasts of the Southern Wild earns the dubious distinction of earning zero Oscars. The film came out of nowhere to secure three top Oscar nominations including a stunning inclusion in the crowded Best Director field. Ultimately, though the film was overshadowed in every category and evenmanaged to lose nearly all of its awards at the Spirit Awards, which would typically have adored such a movie. In the end, a handful of Oscar nominations are grand, but losing every single one of them and being the year’s only Best Picture nominee to win nothing is a bit embarrassing.
Harvey Weinstein, for all his blustering, pushing and cajoling, could not replicate his successes of the last two years. His movies took home a grand total of three Oscars, which might seem like a strong number, but considering how many upsets he could possibly have engineered, it was a bit disappointing. His go-to film of the year only pulled one Oscar for Jennifer Lawrence and Django Unchained did better than expected. He’ll make up for it next year with August: Osage County, but this year he had a disappointing one.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey started out with potential, having come off the most Oscared franchise in history, but when critics came down on the side of dislike, the Academy followed suit giving it a scant three nominations, all of which it lost to other films (even if it did deserve the Makeup prize). It becomes the first film in the franchise not to score any Oscars and the first to lose Best Visual Effects. Will Peter Jackson learn from his mistakes an rebound next year? We’ll see.

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