January 10, 2013
And here's a file photo of Seth McFarlane from the AP, by popular demand! And here’s a file photo of Seth McFarlane from the AP, by popular demand!

Well, the nominations are in! And it’s time to sit back and reflect on what on earth the Oscar Nominees for 2013 say about the state of the Union, from the perspective of The Casual Moviegoer. At the Oscars, it’s been a great year for Movies I Really Intended To Get Around To Seeing! I do read all the reviews, though, so when confronted I can say things like, “The Hobbit had too many frames per minute, and also too many minutes per minute” and “Jennifer Lawrence was, as always, revelatory.” 

Mark Twain called a classic “a book men praise and don’t read.” I always think of this when the Best Picture nominees come in. Best Picture nominees fall broadly into two categories: movies that everyone praised and nobody saw, in a horrible Emperor’s New Best Picture of the Year Feedback Loop where you couldn’t go see Beasts of the Southern Wild a first time because you’d already told everyone you’d seen it nine times, and movies people actually saw and consequently had opinions about that were not unadulterated praise. If you drag enough people to a thing, someone is bound not to like it. This is why The Artist won so many Oscars. The six people who saw it loved it, and everyone else was too ashamed to speak up.

BEST PICTURE:

Amour: Even though you heard it was a film about love between elderly people, a genre with which you have had bad experiences, frankly ruining citrus fruit for you, you really tried to go and see it. But it was only playing for three days at one of those judgey art-house cinemas where the patrons shout angrily at the screen every time there is an ill-composed shot. When the people in the back row began to brawl over the relative merits of Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut, you worried it would come to blows. You scuttled away. You hear it was “evocative” and “wistful.”

Argo: Actually a good movie, by all accounts.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: People either loved it (President Obama) or hated it (Cole Smithey, who thought it showed bad parenting) or didn’t see it. And as an added bonus, lead actress Quvenzhane Wallis (which I really, really did not mean to misspell just now but probably did) who was just five when the film was made, got a nomination, meaning that across America, millions of people will have to frantically Google how to pronounce Quvenzhane Wallis.

Django Unchained: The D is silent. If you thought, “I’d like to see a movie about slavery this holiday season, but I do not want to have to watch it with my sedate parents,” this was your only option.

Les Miserables: I have heard the people sing repeatedly, in theaters, so I’m biased. Although I am not sure that many people would get behind awarding a prize to anyone who forced moviegoers to listen to Russell Crowe’s singing voice for over two hours.

Life of Pi: A movie you haven’t seen about a book club book you haven’t read. Even Ang Lee, who definitely saw the movie, because he directed it, was surprised that it had gotten 11 nominations. “Eleven really surprised me,” he said. “But it’s a good surprise.”

Lincoln: The only thing a certain group of people like more than Lincoln is telling other people how much they enjoyed Lincoln. Daniel Day-Lewis still has not seen it, on the grounds that no one has told him to break character yet and he is still living in a barn reading the Bible by candlelight.

Silver Linings Playbook: This must actually be a good movie, because its name is Silver Linings Playbook, it stars Bradley Cooper, and it has managed to make every list known to man. Heck, Bradley Cooper’s nominated, speaking of Surprising Sentences To Visitors From The Past.

Zero Dark Thirty: If there were a separate category for Movies People Inside The Beltway Have Very Strong Feelings About And Like To Write Essays About In The Newspaper, Zero Dark Thirty would sweep.

OTHER:

Tommy Lee Jones’ wig was nominated in its own special category for its supporting work in Lincoln. Anne Hathaway’s haircut was not nominated but she’ll have to thank it if she wins.

Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper, the directors of Zero Dark Thirty and Oh God Russell Crowe Sings! respectively, were snubbed in the Best Director category. I feel a twinge of indignation on behalf of Kathryn Bigelow, because if you have to hear that many senators opine about your movie, the least you are owed is some sort of bald golden man.

Ben Affleck was also alarmingly snubbed in the Best Director category; this is primarily so that time travelers from the age of Gigli can have the strange sensation of hearing someone say, “I can’t believe Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director.”

Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for his role as a Lead Actor in Abraham Lincoln, or as Daniel Day-Lewis sees it, Abraham Lincoln was nominated for his performance as a lead actor in Abraham Lincoln.

Anna Karenina got a nomination for cinematography, which is the sort of thing that people who remembered to see Anna Karenina would care about.

Sally Field was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lincoln’s long-suffering and probably slightly unhinged wife Mary Todd, which, to be fair, was only acting until Daniel Day-Lewis started sending her texts in character. (This really happened.) When Mary runs around shouting “I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY MORE” or something along those lines, this was not acting. In fact, no one in this movie was acting, when you come right down to it, except Tommy Lee Jones.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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