By Vinnie Lione-Napoli
Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor
“Argo” may have won Best Picture, but few deserving nominees left the Dolby Theatre completely empty-handed at this past Oscars ceremony.
The 85th Academy Awards, which aired last February, brought satisfying closure to a surprisingly high-quality year. Hosted by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, this year’s ceremony managed to maintain a light energy throughout, likely keeping youthful demographics interested in the film industry’s most significant night of the year.
The starting lineup once again features nine films, all of which were selected due to having the highest number of votes after the nomination process.
While certainly not an unprecedented feat due to a recent grand prize victory at this year’s Golden Globes, a Best Picture win for “Argo” was hardly set in stone. The last film to win the accolade without being nominated for Best Director was 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy.” While director Ben Affleck’s snub was undoubtedly a surprise, such an accomplishment is difficult to find unimpressive.
The exhilarating pace and tension of Affleck’s film also contributed to a win in the Best Film Editing category as well.
Other nominees for Best Picture include foreign favorite “Amour,” art house fantasy “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Quentin Tarantino’s wildly entertaining “Django Unchained,” grandiose musical “Les Miserables,” visually striking “Life of Pi,” Steven Spielberg’s ambitious biopic “Lincoln,” superb comedy-drama “Silver Linings Playbook” and political thriller “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Ang Lee took home the Best Director award for his work on “Life of Pi,” arguably upsetting the favored Spielberg. Lee also won the award for his 2005 drama “Brokeback Mountain.”
David O. Russell, director of 2010’s “The Fighter,” also snagged a nomination for his superbly intricate effort on “Silver Linings Playbook.”
In addition to Affleck, directors Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper were also denied nominations, despite both having won the award for “The Hurt Locker” and “The King’s Speech” respectively during the 82nd and 83rd ceremonies.
Both Bigelow’s and Hooper’s impressive directorial efforts were set aside in favor of lesser known directors Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin for “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” respectively.
The recipients of all four acting awards were spread across four different Best Picture nominees. “Silver Linings Playbook” managed to nab all four nominations, making this the first film to do so since 1981’s “Reds.” The film was also the first since 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby” to be nominated for the five major awards—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and one of the screenplay awards.
One of the surest victories of the night was confirmed when Daniel Day-Lewis won his record-breaking, third Best Actor award for portraying the eponymous character in “Lincoln.”
Bradley Cooper scored his first Oscar nomination for playing the mentally battered protagonist of “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Additionally, Hugh Jackman earned his first nod for portraying the iconic Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables.”
Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix also turned Academy members’ heads for his role as a troubled veteran in “The Master” and Oscar winner Denzel Washington managed to impress as well as an equally troubled pilot in “Flight.”
Jennifer Lawrence left with the Best Actress award for her stellar performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” making this her first Oscar win.
Jessica Chastain was also nominated for her thoroughly impressive portrayal of a CIA agent in “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Both the oldest and youngest Best Actress nominees ever—Emmanuelle Riva of “Amour” and Quvenzhane Wallis of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” respectively—also graced the ballot.
Additionally, Naomi Watts received due credit for her role in “The Impossible” as a driven mother in search of her family following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The Best Supporting Actor award went to Christoph Waltz for his tremendously charismatic role as a bounty hunter in “Django Unchained.” Waltz has now earned two Oscars in the category, both of which were for unforgettable performances in Tarantino films.
Anne Hathaway, another virtual lock-in for an Oscar for her role as the ailing Fantine in “Les Miserables,” scored the Best Supporting Actress award with little to no effort.
Writing accolades went to both “Django Unchained” for Best Original Screenplay and “Argo” for Best Adapted Screenplay. The former film—the entirety of which features unsurprisingly masterful dialogue—was deserving of such an award in light of Tarantino failing to garner the Academy’s attention as a director this past year.
Despite being merely an above average film, Pixar’s “Brave” managed to walk away with the Best Animated Feature Oscar, giving the animation titan a seventh win in the category.
“Amour,” having earned a nomination for the marquee Best Picture award, probably didn’t dumbfound anyone by snagging Best Foreign Language Film.
Musical honors went to both “Life of Pi” and the newest Bond flick “Skyfall.” The simplistic yet awe-inspiring musical compositions throughout the former film resulted in a Best Original Score win for the composer. Adele’s polished single “Skyfall” won Best Original Song, making this the first 007 theme song to win the award.
Entertainingly enough, the Best Sound Editing award was given to both “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” making this only the sixth tie in Academy Award history.
Best Sound Mixing on the other hand, which recognizes the arrangement of a film’s various sounds as opposed to the creation of sound effects, was awarded to “Les Miserables” for the remarkable balance between the sung dialogue and other miscellaneous sounds.
“Life of Pi” managed to scoop up two major technical awards, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects, due to the inherent artistically majestic and sweeping nature of the film.
MacFarlane made a decent effort to entertain the crowd despite not being a major player in the industry. His opening sequence, which featured none other than William Shatner as Captain Kirk, was by no means awful.
In light of some recent attempts at the helm—namely the disastrous dual effort by James Franco and Anne Hathaway two years ago—such a level of success is all hosts need to shoot for in order to leave audiences satisfied.
While letting such a strong year in cinema slide into the background is never a joyous occasion, the bar for quality in 2013, now sturdily set, is hopefully within reach for a majority of talented filmmakers.