Who will win, based on a compendium of online bookies, odds-makers, and trendsetters, and who SHOULD win, in an ideal world, based on capsule reviews first published in The Moss Problem but then removed because of “spoilers.” Spoiler alert!
Odds: 12 – 1
This shameless crowd pleaser has very little chance seeing how the last time a musical won an Oscar was like… never. Though it’s not a musical in the strictest sense, since it’s actually a dramatic feature about a documentarian’s failed attempt to create a feature length non-fiction film about the making of a film based on the musical version of Victor Hugo’s classic story of lust, dentistry, and false accusation. Orson Welles did it much more simply, by merely reading in front of the camera, but alas his film has been lost. Director Tom Hooper has come a long way since his classic Texas Chainsaw films delighted children of all ages, but with a nearly four hour running time, one wonders if editing is the first thing to go as the mind atrophies with age. The casting of real-time porn superstar Huge Jackman in the lead is daring, if not misguided.
Odds: 18 – 1
Quentin Tarantino’s “’Blaxploitation” approach to the historical drama is a breath of fresh air among this years mostly stuffy “big movies,” but Oscar has not been known to shine kindly on the “postmodern” approach and it isn’t likely to start this year. As a simple “western” the movie shines as a cross between High Plains Drifter and Blazing Saddles, but one wonders about the lack of historical accuracy in favor of an idyllic, harmonious depiction of what is generally thought to be a brutal period in this country’s history. Still, one can’t help enjoy QT’s trademark humor (men on horseback unwrapping their “Royale with Cheese,” KKK members cutting mouth holes for their Slurpee straws, and QT’s inevitable cameo: “Do you see a sign that says ‘Dead African-American Storage?’” —as offensive as it sometimes is.
Zero Dark Thirty
Odds: 12 -5
What we’ve seen this year is a trend of what once would be documentary films that take a dramatic approach so as not to be “ghettoized” in the overlooked documentary category, ZDT being basically the most audacious with its mix of lusciously filmed night-vision footage and grainy security camera spy video, hot-button subject matter, and nearly four hour running time. Still, director Kathryn Bigelow’s past snubs by Oscar make this a dark-horse long-shot in what is turning out to be “The Year of the Woman II.” The story of the intrigue and backstabbing behind the development of the eponymous energy drink has the stuff of John le Carre, though the misguided casting of Jessica Chastain in the lead nearly sinks this ship (despite the “sports-bra moment”) as she hasn’t quite made the transition from soccer star to leading man.
After pic's uphill battle of being confused with animated kids pic with same name, Ben Affleck’s mockumentary on the Iranian hostage crisis could pull off victory as Oscar wants to justify Himself for crowning a wet-behind-the-ears Affleck for Good Will Hunting—while snubbing him in director category this year. Going for Argo, also, is the 2 hour running time, meaning voters will have been able to see entire pic on NYC to LA flight, between meals. While the movie within a movie within a movie structure confused some, others delighted in the classic Hollywood approach to the basics, and the cruel yet hilarious ridicule of light-skinned, non-Jewish ethnic groups.
Odds: 8 -1
The title alone insists that pic is the last word on the subject despite the long-playing Hollywood franchise of our most celebrated President. The brilliant casting of Bruce McGill in the lead is a fine assault on the gold-standard version emblazoned by Hal Holbrook, but the nearly four hour running time and ticking-clock device in the attempt to dramatize the art of speech-writing, while leading up to the (spoiler alert!) Gettysburg Address may have tested the attention spans of voters. That and reports that Academy members have been rankled by assertions that Spielberg now has so many Oscars he fashioned one as a hood ornament for his Prius.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Odds: 18 – 5
Low-budget Sundance pic fought an uphill battle after misconceptions that it was animated, but this quirky, Southern tale of the power of the magic of childhood certainly has struck a chord with voters who look at their own children and are able to remember the pain, confusion, magic, and misguided perceptions of their own childhood. Very little chance, however, that unpronounceable names will challenge those presenters tipsy at the podium, and that includes names of the director, screenwriter, lead actress, and much of the cast. Unconfirmed at press time is that the optimal running time may be compromised by opportunistic and misguided attempt to infuse Superstorm Sandy’s tragic devastation into the plotline.
Odds: 28 – 1
Undoubtedly the artiest of the nominated films, pic has not a snowball’s chance in LA for several reasons: it’s about old people, it’s about French people, the title is not in English, and its director, Michael Haneke is not allowed in North America due to his movie, Funny Games (1997), one of the rare films that is considered, itself, a crime (and in a bizarre twist was remade in 2007 by someone impersonating Haneke). Amour is also a horror movie, and the last time a horror movie won the Oscar was like… never. It’s edginess, and the controversy surrounding the director, increase the weight of the nine nominations, however—however, it’s a foreign language film and the Academy has a foreign language film ghetto for foreign language films.
Life of Pi
Odds: 7 – 1
BO stands for “box office” in Hollywood, unlike Peoria, and that counts for a lot when figuring the odds. Plus, having been snubbed by Oscar in the past, director Ang Lee has an inside track, though he might just be the kind of guy, like Scorsese, they continue to snub. The biggest things pic has going for it, CGI and 3-D, are also detrimental, as those features are unable to be exploited on a flight between NYC and LA. But is it live action or animation? Oscar voters are likely to be as confused by that issue as they are about pic's dream within a dream within a dream structure. Also, there are no movies stars within a thousand miles, except for the great Gerard Depardieu—who is like the final nail in the coffin.
Silver Linings Playbook
Odds: 2 – 1
Accolades abound for this delightful and offbeat romantic comedy about mental illness, violent jealous rage, sexual addiction, and sports betting, and the time might be right for director David O. Russell who was previously snubbed by Oscar for his undisputed masterpiece, I (heart) Huckabees. While the excessive attention to the particulars of pharmaceutical details will put voters on comfortable ground, the bizarre, existential ending—essentially a retelling of the “donut shop” scene in Buffalo 66 (and the donut shop scene in Boogie Nights)—is liable to leave them scratching their heads.
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