Can a film critic ever get a mulligan?
I sure need one. About a month ago, I took part with amiable Jamey DuVall and his merry men on moviegeeksunited in a lively discussion about the Oscars.
I don't think any of us thought Argo would win Best Picture. If I remember correctly, one of us leaned toward Silver Linings Playbook, and the rest of us leaned toward Lincoln.
I didn't just lean. I fell. I adamantly declared Lincoln would win. Amour as Best Foreign Film was a strong choice for me, but I also assumed Lincoln was a "lock."
I had once thought Argo had a chance because it was directed by an actor, and Ben Affleck was an actor and would appeal to his fellow actors who voted.
Previously the actors' votes had swept Robert Redford's Ordinary People (1980), Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves (1990), Mel Gibson's Braveheart (1995), and Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind (2001) to victories as Best Picture.
All were by actors turned directors. All four had won the award for Best Director for their films that had won Best Picture. Ben Affleck fit the mold.
But when Affleck didn't receive even a nomination for an Academy Award as director for Argo, I thought his ship had sunk.
Meanwhile Daniel Day-Lewis was a lock for Best Actor as Lincoln, and Steven Spielberg was the strong favorite as Best Director for Lincoln. Other Oscar favorites for Lincoln were writer Tony Kushner and actor Tommy Lee Jones. It looked as though Lincoln was going to win at least five or more Oscars.
Beside all this, Lincoln had been popular with an older audience; it brought people who hadn't been to a movie in years back to the theaters.
The Academy voters for the Oscars average 62 years in age; fewer than 15% of voters are under 50 years of age. Lincoln was in like Flynn (Errol Flynn that is).
Offshore gambling sites had Lincoln favored by as much as -400 ($400 to win only $100). Argo was a big underdog at +650 ($100 to win $650). It seemed in the bag.
But then monumental things started to happen. Argo kept winning awards. And when it won the Directors Guild award, even though it hadn't received an Oscar nomination, there was a sea change.
Offshore gambling met the swell. Argo is now -800 ($800 to win $100), and Lincoln is a sadsack underdog at +500 ($100 to win $500). Follow the money, and you realize how phenomenal a shift has occurred.
Ten Less than Cocky Recalibrated Picks by a Once Stalwart Now Forlorn Critic (Me):
1. Best Picture: Argo, Argo, Argo.
The only other faux pas that has any relation to my premature cinema ejaculation blunder was a long time ago. I was in my hotel room in Los Angeles, and I had to call back to the Dayton Journal and make my selection. I had written my article, but I was between The Exorcist and The Sting for Best Picture.
I felt the groundswell in LA for The Sting, but at the last moment on the phone, I went with The Exorcist. I got Stung.
Roger Ebert is now leaning toward Silver Linings Playbook, but I think that's his decision about which ads will quote him most.
In the NY Post, there recently was an article about 85-year old actress Rita Gam being asked about her votes for best picture. Amour -- hadn't heard of it. Life of Pi -- blank stare. Zero Dark Thirty -- hadn't seen it yet.
Argo -- voted for it. Argo even has the octogenarian vote.
I still hope for Lincoln, but I feel like Walt Whitman.
2. Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Can you say, "lock"?
3. Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Probably has a Zero chance: Jessica Chastain
4. Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained).
It's now a toss-up between Waltz and Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), but Waltz presently has been making the rounds of the talk shows, and he's closing fast.
5. Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Why do I keep thinking "lock"?
6. Best Director: Spielberg (Lincoln)
Another toss-up between Saint Steven and the closing Ang Lee (Life of Pi).
7. Amour as Best Foreign Film
8. Searching for Sugar Man as Best Documentary (but watch out for The Gatekeepers)
9. Tony Kushner for Adapted Screenplay for Lincoln. (Another tight battle between Argo and Lincoln).
10. Anna Karenina for Best Costumes (of course).
Upset Special: Wreck-It-Ralph to beat Brave for Animated Feature.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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