Zero Dark Thirty is far and away the most tradecrafty, most eyes-wide-open, most culturally attuned film of 2012, a flick that slowly marinates in the obsessive vein of Zodiac but pays off like a popcorn thriller in a scrupulous, real-world way. It may not be the most clear-cut or heart-warming, but it’s the best. And of all the Best Picture nominees that will be ceremoniously nominated tomorrow morning Silver Linings Playbook is the most romantically endearing, finely honed, psychologically alert family-and-friends screwball dramedy to come along in ages.
These two judgments are certain and eternal, and your great-grandchildren will respect you if you vote for them between now and the ballot deadline.
A question for those who come from an industry family and whose grandfather or great-grandfather was one of those Academy members who decided that The Life of Emile Zola would win the Best Picture Oscar of 1937: how do you honestly feel about that? Comme ci comme ca? A little bit puzzled?
The likelihood that 19 hours from now Lincoln will be officially become the most Oscar-nominated film of 2012 means only that the Academy’s traditionalists felt obliged to submit to the slumbering default mentality that said “who are we as a nation if a major year-end effort about the US of A’s greatest President, directed by our richest and most successful director-producer with a highly focused, fully-inhabited performance by the great Daniel Day Lewis, isn’t passionately embraced?”
This was all but assured the minute that the project was officially green-lighted in 2011. Everyone knew DDL would hit at least a triple, and that the film would probably benefit from Spielberg’s white-knuckled fear of making another Amistad. As it turned out (and with the help of DDL and Tony Kushner‘s screenplay) he avoided that fate. Lincoln is a good film as far as it goes.
But don’t get carried away here. Don’t submit to the chorus. All “important” biopics about major spiritual-historical figures must be celebrated in their native culture. There are always one or two films that win a lot of nominations, and that needn’t mean a lot in itself (although it can). The Academy’s slumbering class feels lazily obliged to submit to this instinct by showering nomination-praise, and they…well, they’re sitting in front of their computers or at their kitchen tables, filling out the form and asking their kids and friends and domestic employees what to choose, and they don’t where else to turn except to Lincoln and Les Miserables, but some of the husbands have a little problem with the Hooper.
It’s a slog and a frayed pageant, and I am going to labor mightily not to feel too depressed when the inevitable happens.
There’s one thing that has to be corrected tomorrow morning, and that’s yesterday’s DGA nominations. With Les Miz helmer Tom Hooper having been shafted this morning for a BAFTA Best Director nom (and Spielberg, also, not being nominated by the British!), the failure of the DGA to nominate Silver Linings Playbook‘s David O. Russell has to be counter-balanced by the Academy. And no Best Director nomination for Quentin Tarantino either! I’m serious here. That can’t happen.