The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominated nine films in the best picture category for the 2013 Oscars. Six of them are little more than window dressing.
Legitimately just two films have a shot at winning the coveted golden statuette for best picture. But in the interest of fairness, a third is included.
Argo has won a boatload of best picture nods including from BAFTA (England’s Oscar equivalent), the Golden Globes and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, making it a prohibitive favorite despite the fact that Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for director.
Most of Lincoln’s awards come from an astounding performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, but by virtue of being a labor of love for director Steven Spielberg and nearly universal acclaim it could sneak in there.
However, many will remember 1998 when Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful swept in to claim the prize for best picture and actor. Amour, a small emotionally resonant French film, may have the power to be this year’s dark horse. Movie fans won’t actually know, however, until around midnight Sunday night when the envelope is opened.
An elderly couple deal with impending mortality in this emotionally gut-wrenching Amour from Michael Haneke. Its inclusion on this list surprised many when the Oscar nominations were announced last month.
Ben Affleck didn’t get an Oscar nod for his direction, but his film did for best picture, an Oscar anomaly that happens every so often. But Argo has plenty of Oscar cred and is the favorite to take home the statue based upon how well it’s performed with other organizations that give out hardware.
‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’
Benh Zeitlin’s view of a future where polar ice caps have melted and people fight for survival in an isolated bayou in Louisiana represents another of those surprises delivered on nomination morning.
Django Unchained is a surprise for altogether different reasons. Quentin Tarantino’s latest generated controversy because of its subject matter, the story of a freed slave getting revenge while seeking out his wife. Its liberal use of the n-word polarized critics.
After years of limbo, fans of the popular Broadway play could finally cheer when Les Miserables showed up on screens. It has the performances, the direction and the charismatic actors that make it an audience favorite. It’ll be curious to see how that translates to awards Sunday.
‘Life of Pi’
Ang Lee is an Academy favorite, no ifs, ands, buts or maybe. Life of Pi is an unlikely nominee given the book was considered difficult to adapt. In Lee’s hands it became a beautiful piece of filmmaking.
It’s no surprise that Lincoln shows up on this list. Director Steven Spielberg made this film a labor of love along the lines of Schindler’s List. Whether the results – an Oscar – are the same remain to be seen. But there’s little doubt that he’s given his fans another classic.
‘Silver Linings Playbook’
Add a popular book, popular performers in Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and a director in David O. Russell at the top of his game and it equals the Oscar-nominated film Silvers Linings Playbook, an Oscar dark horse that may surprise a couple of times Sunday.
‘Zero Dark Thirty’
Jessica Chastain stars as a CIA operative whose obsession becomes the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks across the United States in Zero Dark Thirty.