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Tweet your thoughts on the Oscars tonight: #CLoscars

oscar2Our Weekend story published Thursday took a look at the 85th Academy Awards, and we asked a mix of theater and film professors, as well as working writers, actors and producers, about their Oscar predictions.

Most agreed that Daniel Day-Lewis will be hard to beat this year, and Ben Affleck was robbed of a Best Director nomination for “Argo.” Here are more of their thoughts:

Chris Offutt
Chris Offutt is an assistant professor of English and screenwriting at the University of Mississippi, who earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa in 1990. He has written for HBO’s “True Blood” and Showtime’s “Weeds.”

Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year?
A. I’ve seen all of the nominees for best picture. Unfortunately, it was not a year for great movies. Individual performances surpassed the films themselves. This was most evident in “The Master.” Two movies were loosely based on real events — “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln” — and, as such, lose some of the (ending) surprise. I kept waiting for Daniel Day-Lewis to say “There will be Booth!”

“The Zero Dark Thirty” publicity machine made a mistake by claiming the movie was closely based on real life. That doubled back and bit them, which hurt the movie’s chances to win. The old saying that “All publicity is good publicity” doesn’t hold up when a movie is interpreted as tacitly supporting torture. Next time, they’ll stress fiction. “Les Miserables” — a great novel, a grand Broadway production. The movie exemplifies Hollywood’s penchant for taking the easy way out by producing a twice-known story.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?
A. The two movies that I most liked were not nominated: “Moonrise Kingdom,” directed by Wes Anderson, and “Seven Psycopaths,” written and directed by Martin McDonaugh. Best performance — the scenes between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook.” (They had) such great energy, chemistry, pace and repartee. (It was) vulnerable and moving and very honest.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?
A. I predict “Argo” because Hollywood likes movies about itself. Emmanuelle Riva deserves the award for “Amour.” However, I predict Jennifer Lawrence, my fellow Kentuckian, for “Silver Linings Playbook.” Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress in “Les Miserable.”

Q. Best Actor?
A. Daniel Day-Lewis is hard to beat. He’s just such a terrific actor. He’s already won two Oscars, which can cut both ways. Everyone knows he is deserving or (it’s time to) get out of the way for someone else. If not him, Hugh Jackman gave his best performance ever in “Les Miserables.” Not bad for Wolverine.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts?
A. The Academy is undergoing some growing pains. They’ve expanded the number of nominees in some categories. In the past, any movie nominated for Best Picture also received a nominee for Best Director. This is not the case this year. Kathryn Bigelow was overlooked for Best Director for “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Tom Hooper was ignored for “Les Miserables.” The Academy claims a technicality for not nominating Ben Affleck as Best Director for “Argo.” He was robbed. Steven Spielberg will win Best Director because his movies give America a version of itself that people like to believe, and they make money.

Alan Arrivée
Alan Arrivée is a filmmaker and writer who joined the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Mississippi as an assistant professor of cinema in 2010. He is also a professional actor who earned both his bachelor’s of science degree in communication/theatre and his MFA in writing for the screen and stage from Northwestern University.

Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year?
A. Due to being on the Screen Actors Guild Nominating Committee this year, I’ve seen quite a few in full and viewed large sections of others.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?
A. I was impressed by Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” despite being less impressed with the overall film. (He is) an actor who insisted on a year’s preparation for the role, and it shows.

I was also impressed by Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty,” though this is a case of good storytelling, overall, in conjunction with performance, I think. “Zero Dark Thirty” being nominated for Best Picture, but Kathryn Bigelow not being nominated for Best Director, doesn’t really make sense to me as someone who makes films and teaches filmmaking. I was also impressed overall with the performances in “The Master.”

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?
A. I predict that “Lincoln” will take Best Picture. It’s a well-crafted film with some great performances, but it has also been extremely well-promoted. I personally received three DVDs of this film, two during the SAG nominating period, and one shortly before the SAG voting deadline. I never received “Life of Pi” at all. Promotion, “buzz,” momentum — I think these factors have more to do with why a picture wins than a film being “best” overall. … “Amour” for instance, … is a consistently better film, in my opinion. But American filmgoers and the Academy are much more interested in events important to American history than the disturbing aspects of aging within a French context. They’re also more interested in films with a positive message.

Q. Best Actress?
A. Jessica Chastain. Why? Because she deserves it as much as anyone else nominated in this category, she’s somewhat new to many filmgoers, and she’s got buzz.

Q. Best Actor?
A. Daniel Day-Lewis. An impressive performance and one made very visible through sophisticated promotion. And people revere this actor at this point — both those in the general public and those in the Academy, I think. People like to believe that there are geniuses among us, that they’re consistently geniuses. Think about Meryl Streep.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts?
A. The Oscars started as a way of recognizing the best aspects of filmmaking within the American studio system, and they’re still very much about that. I would caution people not to believe that the winners are the best of the best films worldwide. There are many agendas behind why one person or critic believes one film to be better than another.

Many film journals and critics outside the U.S., for instance, have cited Hungarian director Béla Tarr’s “The Turin Horse” as the standout film of the year. But, as you can see, if you go to the Oscars website, that film didn’t even make the Foreign Language Film list. The Academy Awards is a celebration of the American film industry for the most part, the business of filmmaking here in our country. Of course, some of my very favorite films have won Oscars.

Orian Williams
Mississippi native Orian Williams is a Hollywood film producer whose film “Big Sur,” about the life of Jack Kerouac, was just shown at the Sundance Film Festival. He graduated from Baylor University in Texas with a degree in telecommunications. Williams helped produce “Shadow of the Vampire.”

Released in 2000 starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, and produced by Nicolas Cage, the film is a fictionalized account of the making of the classic vampire film “Nosferatu,” in which the film crew began to suspect that their lead actor was, indeed, a real vampire.

The film received two Academy Award nominations — Best Supporting Actor and Best Makeup.

Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year?
A. I’ve seen all except two, one of which is “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” However, I’ve avoided “Silver Linings Playbook” for some reason. Maybe my expectations are too high, and I want to let the hype go away before seeing it, for I’m sure it’s good.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?
A. I always go for the underdog film, mostly because I make independent films and love seeing them nominated. I loved the performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s always good. “Argo” stood out for me. It was unexpected, a great story, and (interesting) to see what people will do when facing death.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?
A. I would say “Argo” will win Best Picture, mostly because it’s a great story with international appeal with a good ensemble of actors. “Argo” has won most major awards leading up to the Oscars, however it’s quite possible “Lincoln” could slip through the cracks and surprise everyone, which I doubt.

Q. Best Actress?
A. I would say Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain will win. They both stand out above the rest, mostly because of the recent attention both have received from other award shows and press mentions. I would like to see Jessica win, even though “Zero Dark Thirty” wasn’t my favorite of the bunch

Q. Best Actor?
A. I would have to say Best Actor will go to Daniel Day-Lewis. He took an iconic figure, someone almost unreal, and gave him life, with voice, a smile and compassion in a way that made us love and respect this former president who changed the world.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts you can share?
A. The Oscars represent a dream come true for most people in this entertainment industry. I’ve watched every broadcast since a kid, and always watch with anticipation and respect, as it’s the one art form that combines so many of my passions — photography, music, fashion, literature, dialogue and the imagination. These aren’t always the best films, but I’m excited to see the nominations are extended to independent films from all over the world. It’s fuel for the tank.

Van Roberts
Van Roberts, an associate professor of communication at Mississippi University for Women, has been teaching at MUW since 1988. His movie reviews are published regionally, and he recently helped edit “Movies in American History” — a three volume Encyclopedia.

Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year?
A. The ones that I have seen are “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” “Beasts” should win. It has everything that the Academy loves to reward. The actors are all amateurs, but you’d never know it. “Beasts” is so different. It’s like Italian Neo-Realism from the 1950s.

If the Academy gives “Zero Dark Thirty” the Oscar, they will be making a comment more about recent terrorist history than aesthetic beauty. “Zero” is a good movie, and I will put it second. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” deserves it more than the others. It’s a freshman effort, and it is just about the most original thing since King Vidor’s “Our Daily Bread” (1934), a Depression era yarn about life in a commune.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?
A. Every performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” stands out. Quvenzhané Wallis is my choice for Best Actress in a category that contains several strong performances. There is no artifice in her performance. This is the edge that she has on everybody. I loved Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master.” He radiates spontaneity. You never know what he was going to do. He is like a live wire twitching. He delivers a suspenseful performance because you are uncertain as to his next move. Mind you, he is a professional, and he loves to redefine himself.

If anybody deserved to clinch a second Oscar, Daniel Day-Lewis should. He makes “Lincoln” worth watching. Everybody has their own idea about what the real Lincoln was like, but Lewis has the courage, the fortitude and the chops to create anew, despite what we know and don’t know about Lincoln. This could arguably be his best performance ever. It is great to see the Academy recognize Hugh Jackson, and it would be genuine surprise if they gave it to the Wolverine.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts you can share?
A. The competition for Best Visual Effects will be interesting. I don’t want “The Hobbit” to win because we’ve been there and done that, and all Peter Jackson is doing now is telling us that he’s done it before. I didn’t see “Brave,” but I think it should win for Best Animated. As a seasoned James Bond fan, I’d like to see “Skyfall” nab the Best Cinematography Oscar because Roger Deakins is a cinematic genius. He usually shoots all the Cohen Brothers’ movies.

All of the movies, with the exception of “Django Unchained,” are unquestionably fine works of art. The polished professionalism of a Spielberg, a Daniel Day-Lewis, and a Joaquin Phoenix is that they have performed before but manage to recreate themselves anew. The brilliance of an amateur like Quvenzhané Wallis is that she has never done it before, but does it so vividly. Literally, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is our own “Les Miserables,” and I think the Academy should recognize the originality in this underdog film that is lacking even in “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi.”

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan Howard is a member of the University of Mississippi’s Theater Department. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater and has spent the last eight years in the entertainment industry in New York City.

Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen?
A. I am blessed to say I have been a very active movie viewer this year, seeing all but one of the films nominated for best picture. Sadly, I never got around to seeing “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I must say I was very impressed the crop of films made this year. Usually, there are one or two films that dominate the awards seasons and are clear front-runners come Oscar time, but this year, I can see reason for any number of films to walk away with Best Picture.

Q. Which film or performance impressed you the most?
A. Of all the films I have seen this year, I was most impressed with “Argo.” The detail was fantastic. The way director Ben Affleck used archived photos from the Iran Hostage Crisis and created scenes around them was a stroke of genius. It gave the movie an authenticity that even overtook the beautifully shot “Lincoln.” The cast was fantastic, Alan Arkin being my personal favorite. It’s very hard to argue with Ben Affleck as a director these days. He is on the top of his game and will only continue to grow.

Q. What are your predictions for Best Picture?
A. It has to be “Argo” for all the things I said already.

Q. Best Actress?
A. I am going to go with Jessica Chastain for her work in “Zero Dark Thirty,” though Jennifer Lawrence was also great in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Chastain was such a cold-blooded, unrelenting force, and honestly, she had the luxury of having the strongest character to pull from out of all the women we have nominated this year.

Q. Best Actor?
A. Daniel Day-Lewis. He just embodies characters. From the way he stands, gestures, walks. It’s a type of transformation few actors can make these days. I especially appreciated the way he handled our former president’s speech. He took great care in dialect and speech pattern. I even went back and listened to some old footage of President Lincoln and was floored with how precise it was. I just really enjoy his work, and to take nothing away from anyone else, he is just a cut above the rest.

Q. Any other Oscar thoughts you can share?
A. Ben Affleck not getting a nomination for his direction of “Argo” is a crime. Christoph Waltz should be in more films and should be a shoe-in for is work in “Django.” Sally Field deserves the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Lincoln,” but will lose to Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables,” I am sure. The award I am honestly most curious about is who will win Best Adapted Screenplay. My money is on “Argo,” but both “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” were very well written.

Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.



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