By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On Sunday evening, February 24th, the eighty-fifth edition of the Academy Awards will climax with the presentation of the Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
Which of the nine nominated films is likeliest to take home the statuette for best motion picture and instantly become a memorable part of movie history?
And who will be named 2012’s best director?
With the new rules governing the unique “best picture” category, calling for a minimum of five nominated titles and a maximum of ten, there are nine movies vying this year for the evening’s top prize.
Several of the titles will benefit commercially from the higher profile and attendant publicity that accompanies a nomination, even though they are not really serious contenders for the Oscar.
That goes for the French drama Amour, which appears to be in line for the considerable consolation that comes with taking home the Oscar for best foreign-language film, and Django Unchained, which has invited controversy with its liberal use of the N-word.
Several others are considered long shots and would be surprise winners, but cannot be completely counted out. That includes the independent expressionistic drama Beasts of the Southern Wild; the Osama bin Laden docudrama, Zero Dark Thirty, which has attracted its own brand of controversy over its inclusion and depiction of terrorist torture scenes; and the musical drama Les Misérables, which, despite considerable critical praise, seems to be perceived as a specialty item.
The storytelling special-effects drama Life of Pi was technically dazzling enough to garner an impressive 11 Oscar nominations, which would seem to put it in good stead, but it might not have generated much enthusiasm within the largest of the Academy’s 15 branches, the actors.
That leaves three titles, each with a contender’s shot to win the best-picture Oscar.
The romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook received eight nominations and seems to have picked up momentum through the awards season. And, as the only film with four acting nominations -– one in each acting category -– it surely got some attention and affection from voters in the actors’ branch.
The historical drama Lincoln received the most nominations –- 12 -– and for a stretch looked like it might emerge as the clear favorite.
Neither a win by Silver Linings Playbook nor a victory by Lincoln would qualify as a shocker, but it’s the suspenseful real-life comedy-drama, Argo -– perhaps aided by Hollywood’s perception that director Ben Affleck was unfairly snubbed by not getting a nomination for best director — that should end up the last movie standing and take home the evening’s most cherished prize.
My vote, if I had one, would certainly go to Argo.
With nine titles nominated as best motion picture and only five slots in the “Achievement in Directing” category — which are nominated by members of the directors’ branch of the Academy — it was inevitable that there would be four directors slighted.
Sure enough, Argo director Ben Affleck, Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow, Les Misérables director Tom Hooper, and Django Unchained director Quentin Tarantino were left off the ballot as the creators of Oscar-nominated films that would appear to have directed themselves.
The acknowledgment of the directorial achievement of Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild should change his industry status in a hurry, and Michael Haneke for Amour still has the best foreign-language award to look forward to.
Three-time nominee and Oscar winner Ang Lee for Life of Pi is greatly admired, as is his film, but this looks to be a two-horse race.
With his second nomination and four Oscar-nominated performances emerging from his Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell just might walk away with the best-director prize. And he would get my theoretical vote, given that I couldn’t give it to Ben Affleck.
But it seems more likely that the Academy will acknowledge the monumental achievement of Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (top photo) by bestowing on him — on the occasion of his seventh nomination for directing — his third best-director Oscar.
If he does indeed win, it will tie him with three-time winners Frank Capra and William Wyler, and put him one behind the all-time leader in best-director Oscars (with four), John Ford.
Not too shabby.
Either way, we’ll know in a couple of days.