Each year, predicting the Oscar winners is a balancing act of who should and who could win. This week, the Reel Dad shares his choices for the Academy Awards on Feb. 24. How do his favorites compare to yours?
Should Win: Argo
Could Win: Lincoln
When Ben Affleck was overlooked for a Best Director nomination, movie pundits predicted that Argo could not win the top Oscar. But the buzz over the snub shines a spotlight on this thriller’s strengths. With a strong sense of period and location, Affleck recreates the tension in Tehran in 1979 when citizens stormed the American Embassy to take 52 workers hostage. The specificity of the director’s vision is extraordinary; he leaves nothing to chance as he recreates the look and feel of the moment. Just as effectively, he pivots the film to broad comedy when a CIA operative suggests an inventive way to rescue six Americans. While Lincoln may be a safe choice, and Zero Dark Thirty will be remembered as the year’s most daring film, Argo should triumph on Oscar night.
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Could Win: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
No matter how Lincoln performs in other categories, Day-Lewis should win a third Best Actor award for his masterful performance as the 16th president. This incredible chameleon dares to reveal the weaknesses of the leader while helping us discover his surprising strengths. What’s magical about the portrayal is how the actor never resorts to the theatrical. He uses small gestures and expressions to make the character so likable that we want to spend as much time with him as we can. Only Bradley Cooper could upset for his brave work in Silver Linings Playbook.
Should Win: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
That she would be the oldest Best Actress winner in Academy history illustrates the power of her inventive portrayal of aging. Emmanuelle Riva dares to explore every dimension of how a woman tries to cope with the inevitable decline that time and illness can bring. With minimal dialogue and maximum expression, Riva makes us believe every step this woman takes in what may be her final days. While Jennifer Lawrence enchants in a supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook and Jessica Chastain thrills in Zero Dark Thirty, Riva should be the surprise winner.
Best Supporting Actor
Should Win: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Could Win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
For the first time in Oscar history, each actor in this category already has an Oscar. While Tommy Lee Jones has been considered the likely winner, look for De Niro to make a surprise leap to the lead. As the emotionally complex father in Silver Linings Playbook, this actor reminds us how great he can be when he isn’t meeting the Fockers. Of the five nominated performances, his is the most surprising.
Best Supporting Actress
Should Win: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Could Win: Sally Field, Lincoln
Hathaway’s road to an Oscar has been the buzz since advertisements for the film started to appear. Her role may be small, and she may play more of a symbol than a character, but her live-on-set performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” haunts. She so beautifully articulates the humiliation life can deliver that we do not feel we are watching a singer deliver a number as much as we are savoring a journey into a character’s soul.
Should Win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Could Win: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Because Ben Affleck is not a nominee, the Oscar will go home with Steven Spielberg for his vision and restraint with Lincoln. Spielberg brilliantly creates a small film to tell a big story about a larger-than-life hero. The director, who can deliver big movies that fill the wide screen, chooses to make this film as small as possible. By showing such restraint in the film’s scope he strengthens the ultimate power of the movie’s moral.
This Week’s Movie Menu
What’s on your family’s movie menu this week?
Choosing what films to offer is a lot like planning what meals to serve. And all the choices on television make it easy to savor something at the same time you nourish the mind and heart. This week, broadcast, cable and instant on-line video offer a range of nutritious movies. Here are a few choices.
Get ready for Oscar with the many choices available this weekend on television.
Topping the list of award-winning entries is Lawrence of Arabia showing Sunday on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at 12:30 p.m. In this Best Picture of 1962, director David Lean, who proved himself a master creator of the film epic with The Bridge on the River Kwai, challenges himself to make film sense of T.E. Lawrence, a most controversial man at the center of some of the most meaningful moments in the history of what we now call the Middle East. In perhaps the most complex epic created for the screen, Lean puts us in the middle of a fascinating part of the world at its most defining time, as the British were losing their hold on the future of the land and the destiny of its people. And he teaches us, more than he could have imagined, the fundamentals that continue to define conflicts in this part of the world.
Lean’s earlier Oscar-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Best Picture of 1957, shows Sunday on TCM at 9:30 a.m. When we talk about movies we often describe the narrative “arc” of change that a character may experience. Among all the films your family may share, you may never see an “arc” as dramatic as what we observe in Colonel Nicholson in this film. The film takes you to the middle of a jungle in Asia where, during World War II, American and British soldiers are held captive in a Japanese prison camp. At the start, Nicholson is an outspoken man who dares to defy the order of the Japanese prison camp where he finds himself. He rebels and rejects — in his stoic manner — suggestions of how he could make his life at the camp easier. And he openly objects to the prison leadership and willingly suffers the consequences.
A change of a different nature comes to life in The Shawshank Redemption, broadcast Saturday on American Movie Classics (AMC) at 6 p.m. This nominee for Best Picture of 1994 is unique among prison films because it avoids portraying the prison as a world removed from the world. Instead we believe in this community as a living place where people reside. They just happen to be there for specific reasons, and determined lengths of time, during which they do particular tasks they are assigned. This movie is less about the environment that could define them as it is about the world they create within those walls and the hope they bring to each day to find a way to get out and live free.
Schindler’s List, the Best Picture of 1993, takes us into the extravagant life of a self-absorbed German businessman who dines at lovely restaurants, drinks fine champagne and enjoys the company of beautiful people. He would be, actually, the last person anyone might consider likely to save others. At first, he tries to capitalize on the business opportunities the Germans create when they begin to oust Jewish people from their homes in the late 1930s. But when he learns about the horrific atrocities being committed by the Germans against the Jews during World War II, he realizes he can’t stand idly by. He begins to use his position as a businessman to try to help hundreds of Jews who, otherwise, might face death. Look for this Oscar-winner from Steven Spielberg on USA at 8 p.m., Saturday.
Acting legend Katherine Hepburn won her second of four Oscars in 1967 for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, showing Saturday on TCM at 6 p.m. What may feel, at first, like a comfortable look at the predictable life of a mother, father and daughter in San Francisco surprisingly becomes a daring and insightful exploration of racial prejudice. Telling its story about one day in this family’s life, the Oscar-winning screenplay by William Rose encourages each of us look in the mirror to examine how we might react to choices outside the expected. Without over-articulating its point of view, the film helps us realize how even the best-intentioned opinions may require adjustment and patience.
Serving nutritious movies can be as easy as turning on the television. And be sure, as you watch together, to share what you observe, question and consider. Watching movies together can prompt valuable family discussions.