All I asked of BAFTA was that they not close the door too hard on any potentially interesting contests, and, except for the ongoing Argo onslaught, they obeyed. I don’t have a major issue with Argo as ultimate best picture victor; I was suggesting that possibility back in December when these nominations started appearing. What I can’t fathom is the bizarre unanimity being displayed. Since this January/February obstacle course of Broadcast/Globes/PGA/SAG/DGA/BAFTA was set up, only a few films have gone on this sort of run: American Beauty, Return of the King and Slumdog Millionaire. All of them, of course, had Academy directing nominations. And they didn’t stage their runs in years where there seemed to be a great number of credible best picture winners. (Of course, not quite everyone agrees it’s been an impressive year – Uri and Precious Doll in the Evaluating the Nominees thread put the kibosh on the idea. I find it interesting -- in an “I don’t know quite what it means” way -- that they end up being two of this site’s biggest Argo supporters)
The Riva win certainly isn’t a throw-out-all-the-formsheets moment, and BJ makes a good case. But a televised season that’s had Chastain winning at Broadcasters, she and Lawrence splitting at the Globes, Lawrence taking SAG and Riva triumphing here, makes me feel like the bidding shouldn’t be closed just yet. (When the awards split last year, we ended with a winner that surprised many)
Anne Hathaway’s candidacy shows not the slightest sign of vulnerability. The better question now might be whether she’ll ever give a speech that makes audiences glad she won. She just doesn’t seem capable of striking the right tone. I should add that, now that I’ve seen her film, I’m a little puzzled by her utter dominance. I thought she was terrific in Rachel Getting Married, but here I found her mostly one-note – 15 minutes of Abject. She certainly sang her song well, and the long close-up gave her supreme focus. But I don’t think the song as a number is remotely in the class of “And I Am Telling You…” I saw it with a substantially populated house, and there were no audible sobs or bursts of applause. It’s just a popular song, the way “The Impossible Dream” was in Man of La Mancha (by the time I saw that show, the audience applauded when the song showed up in the overture). I don’t see how this has led to a sure-thing Oscar. I haven’t seen Amy Adams as yet, but I’d rate Hathaway third, behind Hunt and Field.
Supporting actor remains a huge question mark. As do, I’d say, BOTH screenplays, as well as director, with strong implications for best picture. Which, no, I still won’t 100% concede to Argo, despite its extraordinary season. That lack-of-director thing isn’t just a tiny footnote; it essentially flies in the face of the entire history of the Oscars. (Remember when everyone wanted to give Fincher the best director prize because the only thing he hadn’t won was the DGA? Turned out it was the most important one) Obviously there’s a strong temptation to get behind Argo now, and I may decide it’s the safest way to bet. But it still doesn’t feel right.
And if it does triumph, what wins director? People are saying Spielberg, but it’s impossible for me to envision Lincoln as a directing winner not in conjunction with a best film prize. Lincoln may be the least directorially distinctive film I’ve ever seen from Spielberg; Schindler’s List had far more bravura shots. I’d argue that Kushner is far more the auteur of Lincoln than Spielberg. So, who, then? Ang Lee? David O. Russell, for a movie not even nominated by the DGA?
Not to say the most commonly predicted slate (Argo/Day-Lewis/Lawrence/Jones/Hathaway/Spielberg) may not come up two weeks from now. But for right now I still view this as the least settled Oscar field in several years. And the many surprises of nominations morning have me thinking there could be surprises still to come.