The wildest Oscars moment happened one year ago when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway gave the Best Picture award to the wrong movie. However, the wildest Oscars as a whole happened five years ago.
The 2013 Academy Awards ceremony was a truly weird event that looks even weirder in retrospect. It was a night that began with a Seth MacFarlane song about boobs and continued in utter oddness with bizarre speeches (Anne Hathaway said “It came true,” Ben Affleck called his marriage to Jennifer Garner “work” four times in two sentences), bizarre winners (Argo won Best Picture), and a very famous actress falling flat on her face on her way to accept an award. It was a night to remember—or rather, a night that would prove to be impossible to erase from our memories.
And with all of that weirdness, Hollywood was set on a path that is still playing out today. In many ways, Hathaway is still recovering from her overly haughty acceptance speech; Affleck and Garner are divorced and no longer interested in “work”; Jennifer Lawrence, meanwhile, is forcing airplane passengers to sing the Philadelphia Eagles fight song, perhaps out of some deep-seated pressure to continuously be the clumsy, affable celebrity who’s “just one of us.”
What would Hollywood be like if we could redo the 2013 Oscars? What if we were able to right some of the ceremony’s wrongs, or erase some of its strange moments? Ringer staff writer Miles Surrey and I set out to do just that. We went through the 12 biggest awards from the show (in the order they were given out at the ceremony) and relitigated them, either confirming the Academy’s choices or reversing them. In each case, we considered not only the quality of the nominees, but the context that surrounded the awards, and how that award impacted the future of the recipient and nominees. Then, because it always helps to have an expert’s opinion, we asked Ringer movie critic K. Austin Collins to jump in and assess whether our determinations were correct.
Welcome to the 2013 Oscars, revisited. — Andrew Gruttadaro
Best Supporting Actor
Who won: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
The other nominees:
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Miles Surrey: We’re looking at these Oscars with the benefit of hindsight, so it would’ve been immensely satisfying to see Philip Seymour Hoffman win a second Oscar for The Master with frequent collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson a year before he passed away. Hoffman was a mercurial talent that could be jovial in one movie and terrifying in the next; it was great to see him flex both muscles in The Master.
Sure, Hoffman winning might not have made for the most memorable moment, but we’d be able to reflect on this win as a crowning achievement for one hell of an actor that left us too soon.
Gruttadaro: Well, that’s dark. But I agree—Seymour Hoffman is the right call here. The Academy already gave Christoph Waltz an Oscar for his performance in Inglourious Basterds in 2009. I don’t know why they felt like they had to give him another trophy for it.
The Critic’s Corner Starring K. Austin Collins: OK, wait, time out, pause. Philip Seymour Hoffman was not the year’s Best Supporting Actor—because he wasn’t a supporting actor! The Master is about two men, one of whom is played by Joaquin Phoenix, who are bound together through a psychological, moral, and spiritual conflict. One man has more screen time. One man opens the movie by humping some sand. Those men are both the same person—but unfortunately for Philip Seymour Hoffman, that person is played by Phoenix, who is indeed the main character of the movie if we had to pick one.
But again, why pick one? Sticking Hoffman in the supporting category is the first sign that someone, somewhere, was a little too eager, a little too strategic, to realize they were seriously shortchanging him. I get the fear of Hoffman and Phoenix being forced to run against each other as Best Actor; I get that category fraud is a reflection of how the studio campaigns a movie, and nothing more. But it’s worth noting that various critics’ groups and major surveys—none of which are beholden to the strategies of awards season studio promotion—made the same error, repeatedly, for the entire season. Everyone was wrong, and ultimately, neither man won anyway.
I say we answer this two ways. There is Best Supporting Actor with category fraud, and there is Best Supporting Actor without it. With: Philip Seymour Hoffman is the obvious winner here, blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back, after being spun in a circle 50 times. If the Oscar were a piñata, he’d still, in a just world, have been able to hit it. He owned that movie. His Lancaster Dodd was fiercely intelligent, deceptively charming, full of rage and confusion, and openly fraudulent. Without: I’d have given the trophy to Tommy Lee Jones, who played Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln with the most attitude Jones has brought to a role since, what, Batman Forever?
Best Animated Feature Film
Who won: Brave
The other nominees:
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Gruttadaro: I think most would agree that Brave is one of the more forgettable movies on Pixar’s shelf. It felt like this at the time, but now even more it seems like the Academy was like, “Eh, let’s just give it to the Pixar movie again.” Now that we’re relitigating this ceremony, I’m stuck between Wreck-It Ralph and ParaNorman. Ultimately, I’m gonna go with the latter because ParaNorman is a pretty good movie, and I think it would’ve been fine to give it the Oscar as sort of a package acknowledgment for the way its animation studio, Laika, burst onto the scene with two Oscar-worthy movies in three years (2009’s Coraline was the other one). Also, Laika is an animation studio determined to make children grapple with their mortality, which I respect. It’s never too early to start telling kids they’re going to die.
Surrey: Andrew, I honestly forgot Brave was even a Pixar movie—I thought it was via Disney, like a pre-Frozen Frozen—which probably has something to do with how Pixar is held to such high standards. So yeah, it shouldn’t be Brave, and I’m going with what just missed your top choice: Wreck-It Ralph.
Whether video games should be perceived as “art” remains a contentious cultural topic, and the Academy as a whole is definitely pretentious enough to think video games are not “art.” (I’d recommend every old fart experiences Shadow of the Colossus and then decide.) You know what’s the next best thing? A movie about video games winning an Oscar. Give it to Wreck-It Ralph, which also happens to be very good.
The Critic’s Corner: What is this, the Democratic primary? All of these nonoptions. Princess Merida, of Brave, is lucky the Scottish highlands never got around to building email servers. Otherwise she’d likely have been the presumptive winner who loses to a Frankenweenie—a familiar story.
For the record: I like Frankenweenie. And ParaNorman. And Wreck-It Ralph! But Brave is notable for being the first feature-length Pixar film to be helmed by a woman director, Brenda Chapman, who codirected with Mark Andrews. She’s not the first to be nominated in this category—Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2) got her beat, in that regard. But Chapman did become the first woman to win in this category, followed the next year by Frozen codirector Jennifer Lee, and that’s not insignificant. We pretend the Oscars never honor female directors, but Oscars go to female directors sometimes … in ostensible second-tier categories such as this and Best Documentary.
Milestones don’t make mediocre art better, and this is a glass ceiling that’d have to wait only another year to get broken. But since I’m not passionate about any of the choices, I’m inclined to leave this as is.
Who won: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
The other nominees:
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Robert Richardson, Django Unchained
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Surrey: I have a bad feeling that at this year’s Oscars, 14-time Academy Award nominee Roger Deakins will once again be robbed of a long-coveted trophy despite some of his finest cinematography on display in Blade Runner 2049. We’re rewriting history here, so let’s fix that. Roger Deakins wins for Skyfall; a flawed, but undeniably gorgeous-looking Bond movie. Justice is served. We can all go home happy.
Gruttadaro: That’s exactly right.
The Critic’s Corner: Hello, police? A crime has been committed: Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s work in The Master wasn’t even nominated. Wow. Wow! OK. Moving on.
I love Roger Deakins. Dude is so good he convinced us Skyfall is better than it really is—to say nothing of Blade Runner 2049 or, frankly, a large chunk of his résumé. He’s the movie whisperer: He makes great movies seem even greater and mediocre middleweights seem almost great. But Deakins didn’t win and maybe shouldn’t have, despite reminding us that the best thing a Bond movie can do is revel in its own glossy, materialistic, and artificial beauty. That’s a feat! A smart one. It’s a genuine shame that Deakins wasn’t hired to shoot the Fifty Shades trilogy: He’d have sold us on those movies’ material fetishism even better.
I’m still going with Lincoln director of photography Janusz Kaminski, however, in part because I admire anyone who can find a way to make a larger-than-life Daniel Day-Lewis performance feel like a part of the landscape of the movie, rather than like a big toe popping out of a raggedy old boot (which happens a lot). Mostly, though, this gets my vote because the visual textures of Lincoln are a universe unto themselves, gothically saturated but not quite gothic. Tony Kushner’s screenplay (more on that snub in a minute) presented the slavery debate like a dark, damp moral quandary, resistant to the easy retellings of history we’re all so familiar with. Somehow, Kaminski found a way to bring that idea alive in images—beautiful, memorable ones. He was robbed. So was the movie.
Best Supporting Actress
Who won: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
The other nominees:
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Gruttadaro: Oh man, remember 2013 Hathaway? Remember how mean we all were to her? To be fair, she did say “blergh” at the Golden Globes and the “It came true!” moment from her Oscars acceptance speech (which she admitted to rehearsing) is still cringeworthy five years later—but Anne Hathaway didn’t deserve that much scorn. The public’s venomous reaction to her Oscar win literally sent her on a sabbatical, and it still somehow lingers.
So let’s erase that from history; let’s say Anne Hathaway does not win Best Supporting Actress for playing Fantine in Les Mis—and does not, you know, compare her personal struggles to those of a 19th-century orphan-prostitute—and life goes on with us merely regarding her as a gifted, if somewhat overbearing, theater kid who grew up. In this alternative reality, Jacki Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook wins the award—because she’s underratedly good in that movie, and because Sally and Helen already have Oscars, and Amy Adams can presumably pick one up at any time.
Surrey: Andrew, I’m going to diverge a bit here. I want that Hathaway win to stay. Not because I liked the backlash—
Gruttadaro: It feels like you’re saying you liked the backlash.
Surrey: No! It definitely wasn’t a good look for her, but people went way, way overboard with the criticism—but what happened to Hathaway’s career after her Oscar win?
She did vanish for a while, but now we’re in the age of DGAF Hathaway. I don’t think she’d have starred in a movie as fun or bizarre as Colossal if she didn’t have this negative public reception following her post-Oscars. Jason Sudeikis’s abusive character in that movie feels like a stand-in for all the misogynistic backlash Hathaway has received, and by the end of Colossal she gets to cathartically throw him across the sky via the Kaiju she’s telepathically connected to (did I mention Colossal is WEIRD?). And now, I look forward to Ocean’s 8 and The Hustle coming later this year. Long live the age of DGAF Hathaway.
The Critic’s Corner: If you aren’t compelled to throw a barrel of Oscars Amy Adams’s way for brutally jerking Philip Seymour Hoffman off into a hotel sink—showing, long before Phantom Thread’s Alma and Cyril, that Paul Thomas Anderson’s oeuvre of tortured men is equally populated with vexatious, powerful women—then I don’t know what to say to you. She was robbed! And not for the first time (but I’d rather not revisit her losing for Junebug—still too furious),
I’m a Hathahead, but giving her an Oscar for slum-singing her way through Les Mis won’t make up for snubbing her for The Princess Diaries—a much more perceptive, exciting, but admittedly less self-serious performance—and that’s that. Same to Jacki Weaver. She ought to have beaten Melissa Leo (The Fighter) in 2011 for her performance in Animal Kingdom, solely for the way she blankly, maybe nefariously—the beauty is that you can’t tell!—dipped a tea bag into her cup during one brief but remarkable moment. But she didn’t win then and shouldn’t have won this time.
Best Original Score
Who won: Life of Pi by Mychael Danna
The other nominees:
Anna Karenina by Dario Marianelli
Argo by Alexandre Desplat
Lincoln by John Williams
Skyfall by Thomas Newman
Surrey: You know who’s the Roger Deakins of composers? Thomas Newman. This guy has also been nominated for 14 Oscars—including the spectacular score for Wall-E, a near-silent Pixar movie that uses music better than any Pixar movie before it—and hasn’t won a thing.
Skyfall isn’t Newman’s greatest work, but let’s consider this Oscar a glorified lifetime achievement award. Once again, justice is served. (Apparently, when I’m rewriting Oscars history, I turn into Oprah.)
Gruttadaro: [Oprah voice] The winner is … THOMAS NEWMAAAAAAN!!!
More seriously, I certainly can’t claim to be a viable critic of film scores—I heard Jonny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread and was just like, “Oh yeah, pretty tight.” For that reason, my only rule in this category is “John Williams doesn’t need another Oscar.” The man has won five and has been nominated 51 times. We must be capable of honoring other composers. In 2013, the Academy gave the award to Mychael Danna, who had not been nominated before and has not been nominated again. This category needs more one-hit wonders, so I approve this decision.
The Critic’s Corner: Argo had music? Interesting.
As for the others: I respect Williams doing his best Aaron Copland impression in Lincoln—it’s literally the most obvious choice imaginable for a movie about a revered U.S. president, and that’s fine; obviousness is not a crime. Dario Marianelli waltzed the fuck out of Anna Karenina, and it served that film’s constant sense of movement and theater. I appreciate his Tchaikovsky shout-outs, too—but again, how obvious. It’s Tolstoy, it’s Russia, it’s the light bouncing off of Keira Knightley’s aristocratic cheekbones—we get it, Dario. Most of Newman’s Skyfall score typifies what’s universally bland and bad about most action movie scores today: It’s just there to help you digest your popcorn and remind you this is a Bond movie.
Meanwhile, Danna’s score for Life of Pi is kind of beautiful. Soft, spiritual, and with enough personality to convince you the movie is more interesting than it is. Danna set the tone for Ang Lee’s best ideas. I support the Academy’s choice here.
Best Original Song
Who won: “Skyfall” by Adele, Skyfall
The other nominees:
“Before My Time” by J. Ralph, Chasing Ice
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” by Walter Murphy, Ted
“Pi’s Lullaby” by Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
“Suddenly” by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Les Misérables
Gruttadaro: My take is that it’s good for entertainment value when the Academy falls over itself to give an award to an extremely famous musician. “Skyfall” was a good call here. More specifically, anything but a song from the movie Ted was a good call here.
Surrey: I agree that anything but Ted should win, but specifically, I want the Les Mis song “Suddenly.” All right, technically the Oscar would be given to Claude-Michel Schönberg, but it’d be for a song that Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean sings rather well. I can’t guarantee this because we don’t have the technology readily available, but perhaps if Jackman’s musical itch were scratched by Les Mis picking up this Oscar in 2013, The Greatest Showman would never have existed. And I really want that to be true, even if only in the realm of fantasy.
The Critic’s Corner: This is a Bond song the Academy got right (not for the first time). Too bad they let Sam “first openly gay man to win an Oscar, lolz” Smith ruin it a couple of years later with a stupid song, an even worse performance, and an acceptance speech that made my head spin Exorcist-style. Will I ever get over that? I’m working on it in therapy.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who won: Chris Terrio, Argo
The other nominees:
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee, Life of Pi
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Surrey: I’m going to give this to Tony Kushner for Lincoln, because just thinking about the sheer amount of Abraham Lincoln–adjacent books Kushner had to read to make this script is making me exhausted. You have to respect the craft, even if Lincoln is the cinematic equivalent of Ambien.
Gruttadaro: Hey, Miles! Argo fuck yourself!
Surrey: We don’t have to resort to name-calling—
Surrey: —Lincoln was—
Surrey: —I was just really impressed with—
Gruttadaro: —fuck yourself.
Gruttadaro: No, but for real, remember that? Remember people finding that humorous? What were we going through as a culture in 2013? I don’t truly love any of these nominees, but I agree that the best choice is Kushner’s script for Lincoln, which smartly distilled the life of one of the most known historical figures ever down to one inciting moment.
The Critic’s Corner: Yes. Tony Kushner is one of our finest living writers, and Lincoln is one of his most fraught, strange, and captivating achievements—which is saying a lot. Yes, it is wordy. But it is supremely intelligent. Argo’s Chris Terrio besting him is genuinely embarrassing.
I should also say that Kushner’s script is the only one here that deserves to be nominated. Silver Linings Playbook got by on David O. Russell’s name; without that, it would have gotten a Jennifer Lawrence nomination at most (and not deservingly), but would otherwise have been written off as fluff. Life of Pi: no. Beasts of the Southern Wild: no, the actors and direction carried that simplistic and condescending-ass script.
Gosh, I thought the screenwriting branch was supposed to be the brains of the Academy. I wonder who the Coens voted for? Frankenweenie, hopefully.
Best Original Screenplay
Who won: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
The other nominees:
Michael Haneke, Amour
John Gatins, Flight
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Gruttadaro: Let’s just say that giving awards to Quentin Tarantino (especially for a slave revenge story) hasn’t, um, aged well. With the power of relitigation that we’ve bestowed on ourselves, allow me to give this award instead to Michael Haneke. Haneke is a sick man, and I mean that as a compliment—the way his twisted stories force you to face the deepest, darkest complexities of human life is unparalleled. Amour was somewhat of a crowning achievement for Haneke, only he never got his crown. Let’s fix that with this award, which would have, in a way, also acknowledged all of Haneke’s work prior to 2012.
Surrey: Agreed, Tarantino’s time in the Oscar spotlight is over. And while I have no problem with a Haneke win, my pick would be Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. First of all, the fact that this was an original screenplay is incredibly impressive; I always assumed it was an adaptation. Secondly, the way Zero Dark Thirty flows through nearly a decade of CIA reconnaissance on Osama bin Laden without skipping a beat, while, in the final 30 minutes, turning into a taut, claustrophobic action movie, was breathtaking.
Most movies that clock in at two-and-a-half-plus hours feel quite bloated, but Boal’s script is sharp, moves quickly, and is thoroughly engaging throughout. If only he did the same for Detroit.
The Critic’s Corner: I suppose if we’re doling out Oscars for proficiency in riding better artists’ coattails, we should absolutely give this trophy to Mark Boal, who is astonishingly lucky to be teamed up with one of the most captivating, technically sophisticated directors currently working.
Still, even Kathryn “The Great” Bigelow—who wasn’t nominated, what the fuck?—could not make sense of Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty, and that’s the essence of the movie’s misfortune as a movie, political objections notwithstanding. Half the time, Chastain’s character, Maya, plays like Tracy Flick in an Election sequel, yelling and flailing as if Osama bin Laden had just decided to run against her for class president. Imagine being such a terrible protagonist that even with stakes this high it’s still fair to think, “Dude, relax.” When Maya’s not bouncing off the walls, she’s coming out of nowhere with these Sorkinesque info dumps that advance the hunt for bin Laden with suspicious ease, meanwhile revealing little about who she is, how she feels, if she feels, or where she got all this. Is she a replicant? I don’t need character psychology to be obvious and I certainly don’t need novelistic backstory. I do need, in a movie that ultimately makes the hunt for bin Laden feel like a feat of personal vengeance, for the movie to give me some insight into the “personal” part.
Boal is a former journalist, so his ability to do a lot of great reporting impresses me … as journalism. Not as art. Zero Dark Thirty’s sense of procedure is astonishing. Sixty to 70 percent of the movie is a tour de force. But the rest is held back by bad writing. Can Boal write a real human? Has he ever met one? Jury’s out.
Tarantino remains the right choice—only Anderson-Coppola’s delightfully light-on-its-feet Moonrise Kingdom comes close for me. On its own merits, Django is a smart reinvigoration of a lot of dead genres—Westerns, slavery movies, and various strands of exploitation cinema. It’s a movie about American movie myths, written with QT’s usual verve and intelligence, and rife with as many cinematic ideas as political and personal ones. Even as I fight with this script—even as I think Tarantino has no right to brutalize the Uncle Tom figure as self-righteously and viciously as he does, for example—I mostly adore it.
Who won: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
The other nominees:
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Surrey: Make no mistake: Ang Lee is one of our finest working directors. Life of Pi works because Lee makes such great use of a very simplistic setting—mostly, a kid and a CGI tiger in a boat—with a variety of shots and brings it to life. Life of Pi doesn’t even crack my top five Lee films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is no. 1, duh), but that speaks more to how great the director’s non-Hulk work is. This was the right call.
Gruttadaro: The first person Ang Lee thanked when he won in 2013 was “movie god.” He also stopped short of thanking certain cast members because “I cannot waste this time talking about them.” It was a good speech. I’m glad he won.
The Critic’s Corner: I’m cool with Ang Lee. But this is a case of treating Best Director like it’s an award for Best Management. I agree that Life of Pi has vision, that it’s a feat of technical accomplishment, that it’s a good airplane movie. I agree that Lee clearly kept everybody on point when making it, as one does when juggling such an expensive property. But be honest: Doesn’t Life of Pi sort of make you wish you knew about MoviePass five years ago?
The fact that Benh Zeitlin and David O. Russell are here and Kathryn Bigelow isn’t is embarrassing. The same goes for Tarantino! AND Paul Thomas Anderson! What a fucking farce. Barring them, give it to Spielberg. Better yet, give it to me for sitting through so many dumbass Oscar movies.
Who won: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
The other nominees:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
That is all.
Surrey: This needs to go to Jessica Chastain. You know how people have responded to Timothée Chalamet’s final scene by the fireplace in Call Me by Your Name? That’s how I felt watching Chastain’s Maya at the end of Zero Dark Thirty; alone in the cargo plane letting out tears of joy after eight exhaustive years tracking down bin Laden.
Chastain hasn’t found a movie to complement her incredible talents in the same way as Zero Dark Thirty in the five years since.
Gruttadaro: We’re in agreement. But before we move on, it is worth considering the butterfly effect of Chastain winning over Jennifer Lawrence. If Lawrence doesn’t win, Lawrence doesn’t fall on the way up the stairs to accept the award. If Lawrence doesn’t fall on the way up the stairs to accept the award, Lawrence doesn’t fully morph into “Hollywood’s normal-cool girl” (she was talking about pizza a lot before this moment, but the clumsy fall is what truly clinched her persona). If Lawrence doesn’t fully morph into “Hollywood’s normal-cool girl,” who knows what her career looks like five years down the road. Would she be friends and making a movie with Amy Schumer? Probably not. Would she be hijacking plane intercoms to do the Philadelphia Eagles fight song while old white ladies sneer at her? Probably not. Would she have subjected herself to a romantic relationship with Darren Aronofsky? Probably not. Would Donald Trump have become president? Probably not. (I have no scientific proof for this assertion, but just go with it.) The world is an entirely different place if J-Law never falls, stay woke.
The Critic’s Corner: Not to sound like a broken record, but giving it to Chastain this year won’t make up for denying her the trophy for her best performance: in The Help. (Please, no arguments.)
I obviously cannot stand by the Academy giving Jennifer Lawrence an Oscar for being miscast, which is pretty much how I feel about all of her work with David O. Russell, which somehow always gets nominated. I wish I could unhear the way she says “Klonopin” in this movie; I wish I could unsee her try-hard dance scene in American Hustle. (I wish I could unsee American Hustle.) But I can’t.
What I can do is imagine an alternative past in which Emmanuelle Riva won this trophy, for the only performance of the five that overwhelmed me, though all five are admirable. Second place to Chastain, who valiantly makes a fraught, complex movie heroine out of a nonsensically written character. (And for the way she says “low-level mullah crackadolla,” which she makes sound like the Italian American playground slang I grew up with—doesn’t it sound a little jabroni-adjacent?)
Who won: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
The other nominees:
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Surrey: Since we’re redoing the Oscars, I’m going to give this Oscar to someone who wasn’t even nominated: Jamie Foxx. I’m not a huge Django Unchained fan, but that’s to no fault of Foxx, the best part of the movie. Tarantino’s style usually allows actors to be a bit capital-E Extra (see: Samuel L. Jackson in any Tarantino movie), but Foxx pulls double duty in Django Unchained. He goes on a badass, stone-faced killing spree, but also grounds the film’s buried emotional center—lest we forget between the gore and profanity, Foxx’s Django is trying to reunite with his wife, Broomhilda (pre–Peak Scandal Kerry Washington).
It’s a balancing act that Foxx pulls off flawlessly, the sort of performance that makes you wonder why he doesn’t land better roles in Hollywood every year.
Gruttadaro: It’s because he’s too busy hosting a Shazam-based game show. Apologies to the hungry boy, but the correct answer here is Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Phoenix practically disqualified himself from winning when he called the Oscars “total, utter bullshit” in 2012, but in this exercise, we have the benefit of ignoring personal squabbles and rewarding the most deserving nominees. So, congrats, Joaquin. Enjoy this apparently meaningless award.
The Critic’s Corner: The Oscars are “total, utter bullshit.” If the ever-in-denial Academy really wanted to get back at Joaquin for saying so, they should’ve given him the damn trophy. Not only would it have frustrated the fuck out of him, but it’d have been the right choice. God, what a beautiful, angry, anguished, and confused performance.
Daniel Day-Lewis is also the right choice. He saw the poetry in Tony Kushner’s script and gave that body and life. It’s remarkable, full of elegant gestures and line readings suffused with wisdom and a weighty sense of history.
Denzel Washington—another right choice, specifically for the most astonishing semblance of drunkenness I’ve ever seen. Denzel didn’t have to be this great in a Robert Zemeckis movie; the script, in particular, didn’t deserve a performance this harrowing. I love that he got his hands dirty.
The Academy had three chances to get this right, and thankfully, they did.
Who won: Argo
The other nominees:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Gruttadaro: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of the U.S. government’s torture tactics was … problematic. So much so that going into the 2013 Oscars, it was really the only topic of conversation revolving around the film. People were pissed. Michael Wolff, who would go on to write a book that is not at all pulpy or propagandistic, called Zero Dark Thirty a “nasty piece of pulp and propaganda”; Naomi Wolf straight up called director Kathryn Bigelow a modern-day Leni Riefenstahl. With this massive, politically heated cloud hanging over Zero Dark Thirty, it had no chance of winning.
But it should have. Questionable politics and murky representations of events aside, Bigelow’s film is the best, tightest, most compelling movie on this list. I understand that knocking Argo off the podium erases the Ben Affleck speech in which he looked his wife, Jennifer Garner, in the eyes and said marriage is “work,” but that is a sacrifice that must be made.
Surrey: Zero Dark Thirty was awesome, but it’s not my choice for Best Picture. My choice is Silver Linings Playbook.
Scoff at that if you like (I do prepare to be eviscerated by K. Austin Collins, the Cyril to my Reynolds Woodcock), but it’s a warm triumph that actually reminds me a bit of this year’s Lady Bird. Both are telling stories on a much smaller scale than your historical dramas or multimillion-dollar blockbusters—but if you meet these movies at their level, they’re so enjoyable. And like Lady Bird, within this modest story, weightier topics surfaced—just as Lady Bird proves to be a sly commentary on socioeconomic status and how that affects personhood, Silver Linings Playbook has a lot to say about mental illness with its plucky protagonists (stuff that psychiatrists agree with, for what it’s worth).
And maybe, just maybe, when the team behind Silver Linings Playbook goes up to collect their Oscar, we can also have that J-Law moment.
Gruttadaro: That’s not a bad point! You know what, Miles? This was pretty fun.
Surrey: It actually was!
Gruttadaro: And can I just say one other thing?
Surrey: Of cour—
Surrey: God dammit.
The Critic’s Corner: I don’t begrudge people loving Silver Linings Playbook, which is whatever—wackadoo cosplay with a charming dance scene and a supporting role for Chris Tucker, fine—but at least it’s not Argo?
Argo is the unseasoned food of movies. Argo has a “Don’t you work for my dad?” haircut and wears “I tip poorly” loafers but will still quote Marx at you in a debate about the economy. Argo got waitlisted at Yale but settled for Penn after some calls. Argo doesn’t understand why The New York Times putting peas in guacamole was such a big deal. Argo loves to tell this one joke about how it thought “Janelle Monáe” was a country in Africa for the longest time—that’s the whole joke, please laugh. Argo thinks Get Out was a little hard on its white characters—or at least wonders if they were too one-dimensional—but keeps that to itself, and laughs politely when its one half-black friend says “Give me the keys, Rose!” at parties because at least Argo gets this joke. Argo doesn’t feel one way or another about Frank Ocean, or anything that’d broadly qualify as R&B, but knows putting it on as mood music increases its chances of sleeping with Silver Linings Playbook by, like, 25 percent. Argo outwardly supports you but inwardly wishes you’d stick to sports. Argo asks “Where is your family from?” and feels awkward when you don’t intuit that it’s asking you to name somewhere in Asia, not one of the 50 states. Argo plans to vote for Obama a fourth time if he’s ever on Dancing With the Stars. Argo’s favorite movie is Argo.
Argo: Fuck yourself.
I would say this award should have gone to The Master, but it wasn’t nominated. So, what’s a boy to do? Settle, that’s what. Amour, Django, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty: all significantly flawed, but interesting, wonderfully made, and worth thinking about. They were all (more) deserving.