On Oscar night most of us in Israel will be watching the Best Documentary category with the most anticipation, since two Israeli movies are nominated. But whether or not either The Gatekeepers or 5 Broken Cameras wins, the 85th Academy Awards promises to be one of the most suspenseful in years because there are no shoo-ins in many categories. It’s been an exciting year for movies, and with any luck, it will be an exciting awards show.



It will be broadcast live at 3:30 a.m. local time Monday on the both the YES and HOT networks. If you are interested in streaming the ceremony live online, the official Academy Awards website at http://oscar.go.com/ has all the details, as well as an App you can download to watch live backstage videos. For those interested in the ups and downs of the competition, go to awardsdaily.com, the oldest Oscar website, and read up on Oscar minutiae.

For the past few years, there have been up to 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees. This was intended to intensify interest in the awards, but whether it has is debatable. This year, there are nine Best Picture nominees. But there are still only five Best Director nominees, and usually the five most serious contenders in the Best Picture race are those films that have nominated directors. But the biggest controversy so far this year is that Ben Affleck, the director of one of the films that has emerged as a front runner for in the Best Picture category – Argo – did not receive a Best Director nomination. No movie has won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. Could this be the year history repeats itself? Read on.



BEST PICTURE:

Beasts of the Southern Wild, a beloved indie (with an Israeli-born producer, Dan Janvey), and Michael Haneke’s Austrian drama Amour are nominated but are just along for the ride. Les Misérables is the kind of elaborate musical that might have swept the Oscars a half-century ago. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a controversial movie that has offended some African-Americans. Life of Pi is a gorgeous snorefest, unlikely to snare the big prize. Zero Dark Thirty, about a female CIA agent tracking down Osama Bin Laden, was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who took home the Oscar three years ago for The Hurt Locker and won’t get an award again yet. David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is an enjoyable rom-com with serious, emotional underpinnings, but comedies and romances don’t win Best Picture. That leaves Affleck’s Argo and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The latter is a worthy and well-crafted look at Lincoln’s final years, but it’s hard to get excited about. It’s the cinematic equivalent of oat bran. On the other hand, Argo, the fact-based drama about the escape of six American hostages from Tehran in 1980, is a suspenseful movie that mixes humor and drama. And, best of all, as far as the Oscars are concerned, its plot turns on the fact that a schlock movie producer and a special-effects makeup artist were involved in creating fictitious identities for the hostages, who pretended to be the crew of a science-fiction epic. Hollywood insiders won’t be able to resist this portrayal of two of their own as genuine heroes.

Winner: Argo

BEST DIRECTOR:

Just as in 1999, when Spielberg’s worthy Saving Private Ryan lost to John Madden’s more enjoyable Shakespeare in Love for Best Picture, Spielberg still walked away with the Best Director honor. That’s likely to happen again this year.

Winner: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln



BEST ACTOR:

Daniel Day-Lewis has two Oscars on his mantle, for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood, and he will add a third for Lincoln. He can’t miss – he’s a Brit playing an American, his character was a real person, and one of the most beloved figures in world history to boot.

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

BEST ACTRESS:

This is probably the most interesting category this year. It features the youngest and oldest Best Actress nominees ever, Quvenzhane (pronounced Qui-ven-ZHEN-ay) Wallis, the cute-as a button nine-year old from Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Emmanuelle Riva of Amour, the hauntingly gorgeous-for-her-age actress who will turn 86 on Oscar night. But the real contest in this category is between two young beautiful relative newcomers: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Both have already been nominated before, Lawrence for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone in 2010 and Chastain for Best Supporting Actress in The Help last year. But this is Lawrence’s year. Silver Linings Playbook was an audience and critical favorite, and she gives an extremely appealing performance. She also starred in The Hunger Games and is probably the biggest female star in the world for the under-20 set, that crucial youth demographic that the Academy hopes its films and awards telecast will appeal to. Chastain is less of a star and more of an actress, and Zero Dark Thirty is a much less emotional film.

Winner:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

All the actors in this category have already won Oscars at least once, and it’s shaping up as a face-off between Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln, and Robert De Niro as a crusty, working-class father suffering from OCD in Silver Linings Playbook. Although De Niro has no shortage of good performances on his resume, he has spent the bulk of the last decade in dreck such as Meet the Fockers. On the other hand, Silver Linings represents, if not a comeback (he never went away), then a return to form for him. This one is close, though.

Winner:
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Never mind the rest: Anne Hathaway broke hearts with her acting and singing in Les Miz.

Winner: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables



BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:


This one will be a contest between Argo and Lincoln, too. Tony Kushner, the well-known playwright, wrote the Lincoln screenplay, but Argo, written by Chris Terrio, won the Writer’s Guild Award, a good predictor of the Oscars in this category.

Winner: Chris Terrio, Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Quentin Tarantino has a previous win in this category, and he’ll do it again.

Winner: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained



BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM:

This year, it’s simple. Michael Haneke’s dour drama, Amour, about an elderly couple, received nominations in four other categories – Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Actress. Translation: They really liked it.

Winner: Amour



BEST DOCUMENTARY:

The Israeli film industry is a big winner in this category, since two of its films, The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras, received nominations. But it’s quite likely that they will split the vote of those who are interested in the Middle East. Kirby Dick is a very well-respected filmmaker, and his The Invisible War details sexual abuse in the US military. But there are an awful lot of films critical of the US military out there. Newcomer David France’s How to Survive a Plague, about the AIDS epidemic, has won great acclaim. But people are raving about the least overtly political film of the bunch, Searching for Sugar Man, the story of a mysterious musician who was a huge star in South Africa.

Winner: Searching for Sugar Man






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