And the Winner Is…

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Olivia Petitt | Lindenlink Contributor

Let me clarify. The following films are those I believe will win. They should not be confused with the films I want to win. Those delightful gems will be mentioned in my next article.

Presidential Hopeful

Smashing the competition with twelve nominations and my vote for “Most Likely to Win Best Picture and Possibly More” is Lincoln. Americans adore war films, especially ones centered on beloved historical figures like Honest Abe. Take that engaging subject matter, pair it with a stellar ensemble of veteran Oscar-winners (Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones) and you’ve got a box-office explosion. Lincoln has grossed $220 million worldwide and is still playing in theatres over thirteen weeks after its initial release.

Clearly, America’s favorite president (sorry George) has claimed the popular vote.  Spielberg and his production team masterfully recreated the bleak crushing chaos of Civil War Era America. Sensational acting by Field as the maddened Molly Lincoln and Day-Lewis as the endearing yet commanding President Lincoln (complete with unassuming awkward gait) bring a human depth to the history on display. However, I’m not completely on board with the electorate.

The dialogue was overstuffed with nineteenth century political jargon and pontificating that confused me and disconnected me from the characters and plot flow. Thankfully, Tommy Lee’s portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens peppered the script with some truly old school insults that rekindled my interest when the story started dragging.

Lincoln is an epic historical drama that captured my mind (for the most part) but didn’t truly seize my heart. Nevertheless, The Academy doesn’t give two rips about my opinion. That’s why I believe Lincoln will snag the vote for Best Picture.

 

Dark Horse

As I said, American moviegoers love war films. It’s only right that my choice for “Most Likely to Win Best Picture if Lincoln Looses” is Zero Dark Thirty. This is director Kathryn Bigelow’s first feature film after striking Oscar gold with Hurt Locker (2008). Like Hurt Locker, Bigelow hones in on the emotional and mental casualties of war. More specifically, the grueling man hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Jessica Chastain is the focal point of the film. She plays Maya, a ballsy CIA agent hell-bent on proving she knows where the al-Qaeda kingpin is hiding. There’s been considerable controversy swirling around Chastain’s role. Was it an accurate portrayal of events? Was Chastain true to the real person she was depicting? I’m not terribly concerned about the answers. It’s a movie, not an educational documentary on History Channel. I expected some embellished melodrama. Chastain delivers.

Honestly, I usually get annoyed when a heroine is only considered strong when she’s being a work-obsessed-pseudo-bitch. I started to cringe when I saw this typical foil unfold in the opening scenes of the film. However, as the story progresses, the viewer connects with Maya’s frustrations, isolation and ultimately her pain. In the final moments of the film, Chastain uncovers the fragility of a seemingly unbreakable woman.

Unfortunately, like Lincoln, a screenplay overloaded with “intelligence agent talk” rattled off at the speed of light makes following the story a chore. Also, the schematic intricacy of all the steps leading up to the final capture of Osama bin Laden kept me puzzled and struggling to attach to any character besides Maya. Luckily, a few explosions and heated arguments piqued my interest when it began to wane.

The sometimes laborious but deliberately paced plot culminates with a phenomenal recreation of the Navy SEAL’s infiltration of Bin Laden’s compound. I haven’t a clue how the production crew recreated this event but it’s visually astonishing. Sleek stealth jets against the severe backdrop of a jagged Afghan mountainside bathed in darkness stuns and silences the viewer. However, I wish the film engrossed me like this whole time, instead of the last half hour.

Again, my humble opinion won’t sway The Academy. I think Zero Dark Thirty will swoop in for the kill if Lincoln isn’t chosen. It’s been over sixty years since a director garnered two consecutive Best Picture Oscars. So, Bigelow has the chance to make history again. She was the first woman to win Best Director for Hurt Locker (2008) and she could be the first woman to win Best Picture two years in a row. Hey, there’s a first time for everything.