As soon as Argo won the Oscar for Film Editing, it seemed inevitable that the 1970s CIA thriller would also win Best Picture. Forget about the fact that Ben Affleck wasn't nominated for Best Director. He had already won the DGA award that heralds a Best Picture award, and if there's any other Oscar night award that predicts Best Picture, it's the one for editing.
In a year with so many good films, it was nice to see that most of the nominees went home with Oscars. The biggest winner of the night was Life of Pi with four wins, but Argo and Les Miserables followed with three, and Lincoln and Django Unchained each grabbed two awards. Silver Linings
Playbook scored with one major award, Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. Zero Dark Thirty was the only real loser of the bunch, with just one (a tie, even!) for Sound Editing. That movie deserved more--it was better than The Hurt Locker, which scooped up six Oscars, compared to ZDT's solo win. But in such a strong field of players, the awards were divided evenly, instead of the "sweeps" by one film that have dominated the Oscars in recent years.
There were a few surprises in the wins. Although I loved Christoph Waltz's performance in Django Unchained, the role was quite similar to the one that previously won him an Oscar, in Inglourious Basterds. I also think that his role was central enough that it barely skated into the "supporting" category.
In the Animated Feature category, it was Disney Pixar vs. Disney, and a bit surprising that Pixar's Brave won over Wreck-It Ralph, which had been favored to win. This was a weak year for the animated category. In years past, the top two animated films were better than all the nominees this year.
Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain both won "Best Actress" awards at the Golden Globes, but only one could win at the Oscars. Although I favored Chastain, both for the quality of the role she played, and the fact that she has a bit of seniority over Lawrence, Lawrence could not have been a
more---well, not graceful, but grateful winner. Her speeches, both in front of the mike and backstage, felt so natural and effusive and funny that it was hard not to root for the star. In contrast, Anne Hathaway's "It came true" speech fell flat among many Twitter couch pundits. She was in the difficult position of being heavily favored for the win and her speech came off sounding rehearsed and fake--all the more inexcusable because she was accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress. I think her team was looking for an "Oscar moment" that just didn't quite register.
Argo was a strong, crowd-pleasing choice for Best Picture, but I wonder if some of the other eight nominees may age better than that film. Argo's victorious look at U.S. history was certainly more palatable than Zero Dark Thirty's version, but it has its own flaws. How Argo got away with its inaccuracies and dramatizations while ZDT was slammed for them remains a mystery. If anything, it shows that Argo benefited from historical distance while ZDT hurt from covering a topic that still pushes many political and moral buttons.
Now that the onslaught of awards season has come to a close, movie lovers will face the long drought before the next crop of awards contenders is ready. But in the meantime, there's plenty of spring and summer tentpoles (and some hopeful indies) that go very well with a side of popcorn.