Special to AMFM Magazine by Jimmy Willden

2012 was a big year for movies. A lot of blockbusters, including the culmination of Marvel’s Phase One with The Avengers, a lot of critically acclaimed smaller films, and a lot of the in-between. Last month the Academy released its Oscar nominations, and baffled many with several highly notable snubs (Tom Hooper, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio). But, nonetheless, we push forward with the nominations at hand, and choose our picks and predictions. First, let’s review the nine nominees for Best Picture:

Amour (dir. Michael Haneke)
‘Amour’ is quiet. It is painful. It is, essentially, terrifying. And, of course, it is heartbreaking. The story follows a man and wife, late in their lives. They are comfortable. They are happy and in love. And then the wife is tragically beset with a physical ailment that will test the bounds of that love. Directed with a slow determination, Michael Haneke has crafted a film that leaves you numb long after you leave the theater. Emmanuelle Riva’s portrayal of gradual deterioration will haunt you for weeks.

Argo (dir. Ben Affleck)
Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ has two different styles and tones that merge to tell the lesser known tale of how the CIA, along with help from Canada, extracted six American diplomats out of revolutionary Iran in 1980. On one hand, the film is deeply serious and by the numbers, as Affleck’s Tony Mendez puts the ultimate plan in play to get the diplomats out. On the other hand, the film is a genuinely entertaining look at the insider workings of Hollywood. There are standout performances from John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston. Overall, ‘Argo’ is a strong film, but it lacks one final element to make it truly great: Emotional resonance.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Benh Zeitlin)
One of the most unique films I have seen all year. A highly imaginative look at social class within the strength of humanity. Beautifully shot, and painfully intimate, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ will be hard to forget. Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest best actress nominee to date, gives an amazing turn as a young girl having to learn to stand on her own amidst a crumbling world around her.

Django Unchained (dir. Quinten Tarantino)
‘Django Unchained’ is quite literally perfected Tarantino. Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of the titular slave-turned-bounty-hunter is fantastically quiet and cool all at the same time. Christoph Waltz is just amazing as Schultz, a German bounty hunter who buys Django to help assist him with his latest job. And then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio, whose insanely perfect and unhinged turn as the owner of Candie Land steals the entire show. It is truly a shame the academy failed to honor this performance with a nomination. Of course, though, this show is entirely Tarantino’s. His screenplay is a brilliant balancing act of humor and drama, creating an excitingly fresh and entertaining look at one of American history’s most darkest chapters. And since he is Tarantino, and he basically just rocks, he directs ‘Django Unchained’ with a cool that only he could deliver.

Les Miserables(dir. Tom Hooper)
While commendable for its wonderful performances (namely Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman), interesting visual style, and raw choice to shoot the film’s songs live, Tom Hooper’s ‘Les Miserables’ had moments that completely tested my patience. By the time a certain character is literally dragged through feces, I knew the film had lost me.

Lincoln (dir. Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner deliver a nearly perfect look into the end of the civil war, via Capotil Hill, and Abraham Licoln’s uncompromising stance on the end of slavery. This is one of Spielberg’s most intimate films in years. It doesn’t rely on overly complicated camera movements nor huge set pieces (though occasionally we get a glimpse of one) to tell the story. Instead, he keeps us rooted with the characters. He allows us to be in the room, to almost feel involved in the decision making. And thanks to the tireless research and work from Kushner, and to Daniel Day-Lewis’ genuis performance, ‘Lincoln’ stands above the rest of the pack as the most poignant of the nominees. Unfortunately, it is not perfect. It quite nearly is, but falters only by the inclusion of one scene at the end of the film. If the editor had just deleted this single scene, ‘Lincoln’ would be one Spielberg’s best films, period.

Life of Pi (dir. Ang Lee)
Ang Lee brilliantly crafts a visual poem. The film is an epic tale of a boy’s journey through questions of belief and faith, all the while being stranded on a life-boat with a Bengal Tiger. The questions are not answered. Instead, ‘Life of Pi’ leaves you with one last question, and it is up to you to think about, and answer. The character of Pi is Suraj Sharma’s definitive breakout role, as he carries the film the ease, mostly interacting with only a CG tiger.

Silver Linings Playbook (dir. David O. Russell)

David O. Russell is quickly becoming one of the best directors in Hollywood. His films are powerful character studies that draw you in and connect you to the world in which they live. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is the beautiful story of two broken people who help each other learn to let go, and move on, from the pains of their pasts. Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Tiffany, a young woman still dealing with the death of her husband. Bradley Cooper does an extraordinary job as mentally unstable Pat, as he tries to reconcile with his estranged wife. In fact, this is Cooper’s first role that seriously spotlights his powerful acting abilities. Yes, the final act of the film turns into a dance movie, and the cinematography is a little distracting for my taste. But overall, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is spot on.

Zero Dark Thirty (dir. Katherine Bigelow)
Jessica Chastain is simply heartbreaking as Mia, as we follow her unflinching quest to track down Osama bin Ladin for ten years. A solid film with a flawed script, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ mostly falters within its own structure. Instead, it remains an important story that could have been one of the bests films of the year had the flaws been fixed. Look for Jason Clarke, also giving a standout performance.

And without, further ado, here’s AMFM Magazine’s Oscar Picks & Predictions:

Best Original Screenplay:

AMFM’s PICK:
Django Unchained, Quinten Tarantino
Runner-up: Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Django Unchained, Quinten Tarantino

Best Adapted Screenplay:
AMFM’s PICK:
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Runner-up: Argo, Chris Terrio

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Argo, Chris Terrio
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Lincoln, Tony Kushner

Best Original Song:

AMFM’s PICK:
‘Skyfall’ from Skyfall, Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth
Runner-up: ‘Suddenly’ from Les Miserables, Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.



Best Original Score:
AMFM’s PICK:
Lincoln, John Williams
Runner-up: Argo, Alexandre Desplat

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.

Best Foreign Language Film:

AMFM’s PICK:

Amour
Runner-up: Amour

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.

Best Animated Film:
AMFM’s PICK:
Frankenweenie
Runner-up: Brave

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Wreck-It Ralph
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Brave

Best Film Editing:
AMFM’s PICK:
Zero Dark Thirty
Runner-up: Argo

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.

Best Cinematography:
AMFM’s PICK:
Django Unchained
Runner-up: Life of Pi

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Life of Pi
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Lincoln

Best Directing:

AMFM’s PICK:
Steven Spielberg for ‘Lincoln’
Runner-up: David O. Russell for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.

Best Supporting Actress:
AMFM’s PICK:
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Runner-up: Sally Field, Lincoln

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables NO CONTEST

Best Supporting Actor:
AMFM’s PICK:
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Runner-up: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Actress:

Actor Bradley Cooper and actress Jennifer Lawrence attend the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)

Actor Bradley Cooper and actress Jennifer Lawrence attend the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)

AMFM’s PICK:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Runner-up: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Same as our picks.

Best Actor:
AMFM’s PICK:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Runner-up: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln NO CONTEST



BEST PICTURE

BEN AFFLECK as Tony Mendez in Warner Bros. Pictures' and GK Films' dramatic thriller "ARGO," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

BEN AFFLECK as Tony Mendez in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and GK Films’ dramatic thriller “ARGO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

AMFM’s PICK:
Lincoln
Runner-up: Django Unchained

AMFM’s PREDICTION:
Argo
Runner-up (might-still-snag-it): Lincoln

Considering ‘Argo’ has swept the last of the awards leading up to the Oscars, including the Golden Globes, DGA, PGA, SAG Ensemble, it in nearly certain that Ben Affleck’s historical drama will take home Gold at the Academy Awards, on Sunday, Feb. 24th.
Disagree with our picks and/or predictions? Comment below, and let us know what you think!

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