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Oscars 2013: Best Picture/Foreign Language Film/Animated Film | reviews, news & interviews

Oscars 2013: Best Picture/Foreign Language Film/Animated Film

Oscars 2013: Best Picture/Foreign Language Film/Animated Film

Much to everyone's amazement, many of this year's Oscar hopefuls are actually good

Michael Haneke's Amour is up for the top prize in two categories

Time is drawing nigh to mark those Oscar ballots, but what movie should one vote for as the year's best? While odds-makers have been busily touting one title over another, the less-vaunted fact about this year's shortlist is that relatively few stinkers have made the cut.

Last year, for instance, saw the head-scratching inclusion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close among the Best Picture candidates, while admirers of Martin Scorsese are still wondering how it is that a minor effort of his like The Departed went the distance in 2007 when such benchmark Scorsese offerings from a previous era as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull did not.

This year, there are some finalists that inevitably I like more than others, but there's nothing chasing the top spot on the order of Forrest Gump or Braveheart - two Best Picture winners from years past that made you wonder whether Hollywood had lost all common sense. 

BEST PICTURE

Ben Affleck in ArgoFor some while, the smart money was on Lincoln, and one still wonders whether Barack Obama might not be waiting in the wings to present the final accolade of the night. (After all, Bill Clinton knocked 'em dead at the Golden Globes.) Silver Linings Playbook was too frothy, Life of Pi insufficiently actor-centric and Les Misérables as variable as Hugh Jackman's startlingly wobbly falsetto. As for Argo, well, if Hollywood had any real love for its director and leading man, Ben Affleck (pictured above), it would have at least nominated him in one of those two categories, or so the reasoning went. After all, Kevin Costner in 1991 won the director prize and an acting nod for Dances with Wolves, which also won Best Picture, a trifecta of affection that didn't seem to be happening here.

But that was then and this was now. In what looks set to be a happy ending of the sort so beloved by the industry celebrated in Argo, Affleck's veritable eclipse from contention in the other categories may well help land the Best Picture trophy for his film. It doesn't hurt, of course, that the real-life (well, more or less) scenario on which Argo is based comes steeped in the language of Hollywood, as embodied by the wonderful double-act of Alan Arkin and John Goodman, who get to do priceless film world shtick while halfway round the world the lives of six American hostages hang in the balance.

Affleck's third film as director manages the not inconsiderable feat of allowing Hollywood to celebrate itself while also connecting up to the world at large: that doubling act isn't available, alas, to Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's best film since Schindler's List, and Amour won't win both here and in the Foreign Language Film category. Besides, does the ageing Academy membership really want to give its highest prize to a film that faces off against death, rendering happy endings a moot point?

Who will win: Argo, and expect an ebullient ovation for nominee also-ran Affleck.

Who should win: Amour, though there's nothing wrong with sharing the love.

Who should have been nominated: Shadow Dancer, the IRA thriller that was the celluloid stealth bomber of 2012.  

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The IntouchablesI doubt I'm alone in not having seen more of the five nominees here, which is why Oscar regulations stipulate that voters in this category actually attend screenings of the quintet selected (a demand not made on the membership at large, which is famous for voting based on hearsay, favoritism, or whatever). This category has been Amour's to lose ever since Michael Haneke's film scooped the Golden Palm at Cannes last spring, though with a highest-ever 71 submissions for the prize this year, the quality of the entrants is correspondingly strong.

Who will win: Amour. 

Who should win: Amour, I guess, though I hear amazing things about the Canadian entry, War Witch.

Who should have been nominated: What happened to French entry, The Intouchables (pictured above), or are they waiting for the inevitable Hollywood remake?

BEST ANIMATED FILM

FrankenweenieNot a vintage year, perhaps, in that none of the nominees has become part of the cultural zeitgeist along the lines of Beauty and the Beast or Toy Story but Wreck-It Ralph offers merchandising opportunities aplenty, and that alone may bring it home, to paraphrase Jean Valjean. 

Who will win: Wreck-It Ralph. Let's face it, the title is fun to say.

Who should win: Frankenweenie (pictured above). Give Tim Burton an Oscar already!

Who should have been nominated: None that I'm aware of. 

Affleck's veritable eclipse from contention in the other categories may well help land the Best Picture trophy for his film

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