Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Movies: Handicapping the Oscars & Your Guide to the Best Movies of 2012

It’s February 15th and that means The 2013 Oscars are looming. It’s that time of year when all you people who didn’t see a single movie in the last 12 months—because you were too busy holding down a job, raising your kids, spending your time and money on something more fulfilling than “sitting in a theater while consuming 4,700 calories of grease, butter and sugar”—start scrambling to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible.

If you’re someone who thinks “Life of Pi” is a movie about the mathematician who came up with that confusing 3.14 number, or you think “Amour” is a romantic comedy about a man and a woman falling in love at a yard sale where they both tried to buy an antique piece of furniture, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

With so many different films and actors nominated it’s impractical to try to see it all. So which movies do you prioritize? Lucky for you this article includes a worst-to-best ranking of the 19 movies I saw in 2012. I have great taste in movies so just follow my list blindly and you won’t be disappointed.

But Oscar season isn’t just about seeing as many good movies as possible. It’s about predicting who will win each major award even though none of us know the first thing about acting, directing, adapting or costume designing. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to argue with a friend that “Tommy Lee Jones should never win any award because he’s such an asshole in real life.”

For the readers who are gamblers at heart, you’ll be happy to know that many betting websites allow you to bet on who will win each of the major Oscar awards. So of course in this article I’ll provide you the odds of the favorite in each category as well as a long shot that I like.

So let’s rip through the important Oscar categories real quick so you know what films to see in the next nine days, either by going to the movie theater or re-organizing your Netflix queue. I’ll make some very subjective comments next to the movies I’ve seen, and perhaps next to some of the movies I haven’t seen. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen all the movies that are relevant to the Oscars. I’ve only seen the ones I thought I might actually enjoy.)

BEST PICTURE

  • Amour: I haven’t seen it. When “elderly” and “love story” are used in a movie’s synopsis, you can just about guarantee that I’ll never watch it.
  • Argo: A great movie where the story is a lot more memorable than the acting. Awesome job mixing in some light, humorous moments in an otherwise very serious plot. If there was a “fan favorite” Oscar award, this would probably win (or be a close runner-up to “Silver Linings Playbook”).
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: This movie arrived via Netflix over a week ago and it’s been sitting on my coffee table gathering dust ever since. I just don’t think I’m going to like it very much. I hear the little girl who’s nominated for Best Actress is incredible, but I don’t typically watch movies for just one individual acting performance.
  • Django Unchained: During the first 30 minutes of this movie, I was worried it was going to be one of Quentin Tarantino’s worst films. It turned out to be one of his best. There’s no other way to describe it other than to say “it was just a fun movie to watch.” Such an enjoyable movie with some awesome acting performances (which we’ll talk about it in a minute). I’m rooting for this one to win even though I know it won’t.
  • Les Miserables: I can’t even correctly pronounce this movie’s name, and I heard a crazy rumor that it’s a musical. I doubt I’ll ever see it.
  • Life of Pi: Another movie I haven’t seen, mostly because in the previews the tiger on the raft didn’t look real enough to me.
  • Lincoln: I heard that the Academy would only allow one Lincoln film into the Best Picture category this year, and Spielberg’s “Lincoln” only narrowly beat out “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” All jokes aside, this movie was surprisingly great. I say surprisingly because it’s essentially 150 minutes of 19th century politicians blathering on about amendments and slavery. The fact that this film held my attention should automatically put it in the lead for Best Picture.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Loved it. It might be the movie I re-watch the most out of all the Best Picture nominations. But it’s pretty much a romantic comedy (even if it is a well-disguised romantic comedy). I don’t want “Silver Linings” to win and set the precedent that if all of Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson’s future movies just include a few more plot twists, they’ll suddenly be Oscar worthy.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Better than “The Hurt Locker,” which was Kathryn Bigelow’s previous movie that won Best Picture. But up against much tougher competition than “Locker” faced in 2010. Best edge-of-your-seat, hold-your-breath story of all the nominees. And c’mon, it ends with the killing of bin Laden.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Argo (1/5 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Amour (100/1 odds)…Because the Oscars love picking the boring, stuffy, old people-bait movies. Just like “The Artist” did last year, an “Amour” win will set movies back 100 years.

(A quick side note: How interesting that this year featured three movies where the audience knew the ending of the story with 100% certainty before walking into the theater (Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty). And yet, they were three of the best movies, and one of them is probably winning Best Picture. Somehow these movies were able to keep me in suspense the entire time even though there was zero chance for a surprise ending. Incredible work by everyone who made these three films.)

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Michael Haneke (Amour): I don’t have a goddamn clue if he did a good job directing.
  • Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild): I’m going to assume he did a good job because he coaxed a Best Actress performance out of a nine-year-old.
  • Ang Lee (Life of Pi): Apparently there’s an unspoken rule in Hollywood that says you should stay away from using children, animals and large bodies of water in your movie. Something about any of those three variables making things much more difficult. And yet all three were major players in “Life of Pi.” I haven’t seen it yet, but if people voted in this category based on “biggest headaches overcome,” I bet Lee has a great chance to win.
  • Steven Spielberg (Lincoln): Spielberg isn’t quite the lock for directing as his lead actor is for that category, but he’s probably going to win his 3rd Best Director Award on February 24th. Regardless of “Argo” being the frontrunner for Best Picture, Spielberg has the inside track here because Ben Affleck somehow didn’t get nominated for the directing category.
  • David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook): Adding to my “this movie is just a dressed-up rom com” comments from before…anybody who can mask a romantic comedy as well as Russell did with “Silver Linings” deserves a ton of credit. Trickery or not, the movie was still an A+.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Steven Spielberg (1/4 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: David O. Russell (14/1 odds)…If this really is a “fan favorite” year and “Argo” wins the Best Picture, then it makes sense for David O. to win for directing. I promise you it’ll be the movie you stop the channel surfing on most often when you see it pop up on HBO or Cinemax over the next few years.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook): In 12 years this guy has gone from playing the gay dude in “Wet Hot American Summer” and the asshole villain boyfriend in “Wedding Crashers” to a bona fide A-list actor who can carry a movie. He’s legit and deserves to be recognized for that. Unfortunately this year he’s up against a guy who seriously made me question whether Abraham Lincoln had actually risen from the dead to play himself in a movie. Thinking Cooper will get his Oscar due eventually. I don’t think this will be his last nomination.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln): Just the man I was talking about. The Lead Actor category is not a competition this year. If ever there was a situation where someone shouldn’t bother preparing an acceptance speech, it’s the other four men in this category. I’m pretty sure Day-Lewis could murder the head of the Academy tomorrow and they’d still feel obligated to give him this award. I wasn’t alive when Abraham Lincoln was doing his thing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a recording of the big man Presidenting it up, but I honestly believe he looked and sounded exactly like what Day-Lewis brought to this movie. This is one of those movies that’s worth watching purely for one man’s performance.
  • Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables): Didn’t see it so I have no idea about his performance.
  • Joaquin Phoenix (The Master): Ditto.
  • Denzel Washington (Flight): I actually watched this today. It was my first ever rental from a Red Box machine because I really wanted to see if there was any chance Denzel could unseat Mr. Lincoln. It was a solid, dramatic performance, but I thought the movie was a little boring. Washington had some very memorable scenes, but I knew I’d never take this movie seriously when I saw the trailer for it months ago and a plane was flying upside down.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Daniel Day-Lewis (1/50 odds)…That means you have to bet $50 just to make $1 of profit. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this, but if you’ve got $50,000 to spare, I guarantee you’ll make the $1,000 profit off of it.

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Bradley Cooper (40/1 odds)…It’s a waste of money, but maybe the Academy has a lot more white supremacists who are still irked by Lincoln’s freeing the slaves than we imagined.

 ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty): Not to take anything away from her performance, but I think the intense storyline and the emotional appeal of hunting Osama bin Laden carried this movie much more than any single actor did. She was damn good, don’t get me wrong. But if you threw Heather Graham into Chastain’s role as the CIA Agent in this movie, I don’t know if the film would take that big of a hit…and Heather Graham is an awful, awful actress.
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook): She would certainly win if we were voting for which actress we most want to see up on stage on Oscar night. But I don’t know how she wins Best Actress without Bradley Cooper winning Best Actor. He was a bigger piece of the movie and probably carried a lot more scenes than her.
  • Emmanuelle Riva (Amour): Didn’t see it.
  • Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild): Didn’t see it, but hopefully I will by Oscar night.
  • Naomi Watts (The Impossible): Didn’t see it.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Jennifer Lawrence (4/7 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Quvenzhane Wallis (50/1 odds)…Because I’m lukewarm about the two performances I saw, and it would be awesome for someone this young to win while watching whoever presents the award try to pronounce her name.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Alan Arkin (Argo): Basically him and John Goodman should have been co-nominated for “Argo” because they were in the movie almost equally and both were hysterical. Good performances from both guys, but not Oscar worthy in my opinion.
  • Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook): The problem here is that De Niro’s character is supposed to be a bookie in the movie, and I know far too much about sports to buy into his performance as that bookie.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master): Didn’t see it so let’s just assume he won’t win.
  • Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln): I came out of the theater after seeing “Lincoln” and all I could remember was Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance. Everything else in this movie seemed like background noise. TLJ was actually really good in his role as Thaddeus Stevens (especially with the twist at the end of him wearing a wig!), but I’d only be rooting for him if he’d never won an Oscar before. Oh, and I hear he’s a real asshole.
  • Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained): Just like Waltz steals the show in Quentin Tarantino’s last film, “Inglourious Basterds,” so too does he steal the show in “Django.” In “Basterds” he was opposite Brad Pitt. This time he shared the screen with Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. Quite a feat to overshadow all of those guys. He might have given my favorite performance of the year in the non-Daniel Day-Lewis category.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Tommy Lee Jones (+110)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Christoph Waltz (+140)…OK so it’s not really a “long shot” in the traditional sense, but I don’t care. He’s not the favorite and he should be.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Amy Adams (The Master): Didn’t see it, but I like her moxie.
  • Sally Field (Lincoln): If you can win an award like this based on one scene, then Sally Field should win for the scene in “Lincoln” when she talks circles around Tommy Lee Jones’ Thaddeus Stevens as she’s welcoming him to a dinner party. Great scene, but that’s all I really remember from her performance.
  • Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables): You already know I didn’t see it. I assume she’s going to win, but I hate her new short haircut.
  • Helen Hunt (The Sessions): Is this a real movie? Haven’t heard of it.
  • Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook): I saw this movie so long ago now that I barely remember her role as the Mom. I know she tried to break up the fights between Bradley Cooper’s character and Robert De Niro’s character, but I’m struggling to recall any other pertinent details.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Anne Hathaway (1/50 odds)…Apparently she’s as much of a shoo-in as Daniel Day-Lewis is.

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Jacki Weaver (50/1 odds)…Because it’s one of only two supporting actress performances I’ve seen and I’m a sucker for the big long shot.

And now, here’s my arbitrary, subjective and illogical ranking of the 19 movies I saw that came out in 2012:

19). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

18). Snow White & The Huntsman

17). Wanderlust

16). The Campaign

15). Men In Black III

14). Prometheus

13). The Amazing Spiderman

12). The Hunger Games

11). Flight

10). This is 40

9). Ted

8). The Avengers

7). Dark Knight Rises

6). Lincoln

5). Moonrise Kingdom

4). Zero Dark Thirty

3). Argo

2). Silver Linings Playbook

1). Django Unchained

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2 thoughts on “Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Movies: Handicapping the Oscars & Your Guide to the Best Movies of 2012

    • I think they ran a good marketing campaign that had me convinced it would be a “cool, dark take” on the Snow White story. They did not market it as “a rambling, nonsensical insult to the original Snow White story starring Hollywood’s least likeable actress.”

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