1. The Master
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Django Unchained
7. Holy Motors
8. Moonrise Kingdom
9. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Why? I’ve already gone over the why in my top 10 list (sadly, the Academy only nominated 9, so Skyfall missed the cut). What I will says is I think this one of the most ecceletic Best Picture lists I have ever had – from well establiashed masters to newcomers, to three films from Europe, and the rest looking at many facets of life in America from past to present. A fascinating list, to me (of course).
Director1. Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
2. Michael Haneke, Amour
3. Katheryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
4. Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
5. Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Why? A nearly impossibly strong lineup this year with five masters doing completely different work – from Anderson going further down the Kubrick rabbit hole to Haneke’s icy distance, to Tarantino’s exuberance, to Bigelow’s ambiguity to Spielberg’s intimacy, this is a strong, strong lineup – and had a lot of competitors to boot.
Best Actor1. Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
3. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour
4. Denis Lavant, Holy Motors
5. Denzel Washington, Flight
Why? This is the strongest this category has been in years. You could make a case for any of the top 4 deserving to win, and there are four other performances that I would have been satisfied with taking the fifth spot. Still, Phoenix towers over the rest of them for me.
Best Actress1. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
2. Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
3. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
4. Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz
5. Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Why? Jessica Chastain’s work in Zero Dark Thirty is tough as nails, humane, relatable and at times even funny – but above all is a wonderful portrait of obsession. Emmanuelle Riva is heartbreaking as the stroke victim in Amour. Jennifer Lawrence really elevates the entirety of Silver Linings Playbook with her hilarious performance. Michelle Williams once again shows why she is the most sympathetic actress of her generation. And young Quvenzhane Wallis delivered one of the strongest child performances I have ever seen.
Best Supporting Actor1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
2. Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
3. Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
4. Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
5. Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty
Why? Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliant, controlled performance makes Lancaster Dodd into one of the year’s most fascinating characters – and a necessary flip side to Freddie. The Django pair (not to menion DiCaprio) were brilliant in different ways – Waltz as the mentor with a way with words, and Jackson with his cold icy stare, and his over-the-top laugh. Tommy Lee Jones added some much needed humor to Lincoln – and also a heart. And Jason Clarke is the most terrifyingly real portrait of an American agent torturing that you will likely see.
Supporting Actor1. Ann Dowd, Compliance
2. Amy Adams, The Master
3. Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
4. Judi Dench, Skyfall
5. Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
Why? Not a strong category this year, but I still love all five of these performances. Ann Dowd was the best – she did so much with little movement, and created one of the most fascinating characters of the year.Anne Hathawat is here for her showstopping I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables – one of the great moments of the year. Amy Adams elevated her quiet role, Judi Dench adde depth to a character that never had much before, and Kidman makes a ridiculous, over-the-top Southern Gothic, exploitation flick into something to behold with her brilliant, off-kilter performance.
Best Original Screenplay1. The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson
2. Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
3. Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal
4. Amour – Michael Haneke
5. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Why? The Master was the year’s most fascinating enigma, and it started here. Django was the most quotable film of the year. Zero Dark Thirty the most intricately constructed. Amour the most heartbreakingly simple. And Moonrise Kingdom the most absurd. An insanely good year for this category that easily could have several other nominees.
Best Adapted Screenplay1. Lincoln – Tony Kushner
2. Bernie – Richard Linklater & Skip Hollingsworth
3. Killer Joe – Tracy Letts
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
5. Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell
Why? Not a strong category year for adaptations this year, but these five deserve love. Tony Kushner’s screenplay towers over the rest of them – such a large, complex script with so many moving parts. Bernie took a small article and made it one of the most fascinating crime movies of the year. Letts adapted his own play for Killer Joe – and the transition is seamless. Chbosky adapted his own book, and did so wonderfully. And finally David O. Russell’s screenplay is much better, wittier, funnier and faster paced than the novel.
Best Documentary1. Stories We Tell
2. This is Not a Film
3. Searching for Sugar Man
4. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
5. Side by Side
Why? The two top films were extremely personal docs – made by the filmmakers about their own lives did an amazing job of it. Searching For Sugar Man was the most inspiring documentary of the year. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry was a great movie about an artist. And Siide by Side was the most fascinating look at the film to digital transformation you could ask for.
Best Animated Film1. Frankenweenie
3. Wreck it Ralph
5. It’s Such a Beautiful Day
Why? While none of these films came close to my top 10 list this year, all five are excellent – in fact, you could easily make a case for any of them being the best. Perhaps it was the use of black and white that put Frankenweenie over the top for me. Brave may not be Pixar’s best film, but it is a superb technical achievement. Wreck-It Ralph was the most fun I had at an animated film this year. ParaNorman took archetypes and made them something more – and had a wonderful look. And It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a hand made film with passion.
Best Foreign Language Film1. Amour - Austria
2. Holy Motors - France
3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia - Turkey
4. The Kid with the Bike - Belgium
5. Barbara - Germany
Why? A very strong year for films outside of North America. Amour towers over them all, but Holy Motors and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia were masterpieces as well. The Dardenne brothers The Kid with a Bike may not reach the heights of The Son or L’Enfant, but is still deserving of this award. And Barbara took elements of the thriller and the melodrama and made it seem real.
Best Cinematography1. The Master - Mihai Malaimare Jr.
2. Skyfall – Roger Deakins
3. Django Unchained – Robert Richardson
4. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia - Gökhan Tiryaki
5. Cloud Atlas – Frank Griebe & John Toll
Why? This was a nearly impossible category for me to get down to five this year. Still, Mihail Malamare’s brilliant work in 70 MM for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was my clear favorite. On the complete opposite end, Roger Deakins makes as good as case as possible for why the switch to digital doesn’t mean cinematography will necessarily suffer. Robert Richardson always does great work, as does so again for Tarantino with Django. Gokhan Tiryaki’s work on Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is quietly stunning. And finally the duo behind Cloud Atlas does remarkable work. But there were lots of other choices here – Janusz Kaminski using natural light brilliantly in Lincoln, Claudio Miranda’s beautiful work on Life of Pi (the only reason he’s not in the top five is so much of his work is aided by visual effects, it becomes impossible to tell what he’s responsible for), Greg Frazier’s gritty work on Zero Dark Thirty, Wally Pfister working in the light this time on The Dark Knight Rises, Robert Yeoman’s precise work on Moonrise Kingdom and Masanobu Takayanagi’s wonderful work on The Grey are just some of the others I considered for my top five. This was not only a great years for movies – but a great year for great looking movies.
Editing1. Zero Dark Thirty – William Goldenberg & Dylan Tichenor
2. Cloud Atlas – Alexander Berner & Claus Wehlish
3. The Master – Leslie Jones & Peter McNutty
4. Skyfall – Stuart Baird
5. Holy Motors – Nelly Quettier
Why? The editing in Zero Dark Thirty is impeccable, and builds suspense brilliantly throughout a two and half hour movie. The work by the Cloud Atlas pair is pretty much miraculous. The pair who did The Master helped with the dreamlike feel of the movie. Skyfall had expert action movie cutting. The work on Holy Motors, combining the different “appointments” into a coherent narrative was excellent.
Score1. The Master – Jonny Greenwood
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild – Dan Rohmer & Benh Zeitlin
3. Moonrise Kingdom – Alexandre Desplat
4. Cloud Atlas – Reinhold Heil & Tom Tykwer & Johnny Klimek
5. Skyfall – Thomas Newman
Why? Jonny Greenwood’s score for The Master is a brilliant assault on the ears – the best score of the year by far, and further proof as to why he should work in this medium more often. The most memorable score of the year was Dan Rohmer & Benh Zeitlin’s work on Beasts of the Southern Wild, which helped the strange tone of the film. Alexandre Desplat’s brilliant work in Moonrise Kingdom is not eligible for the Oscars because it used exisiting music, but what Desplat does with that music, and his own, was brilliant. The trio who composed the score for Cloud Atlas elevated the movie, underlined the emotions without becoming overbearing. And finally, Thomas Newman brilliantly twists the classic Bond score for Skyfall.
Song1. Skyfall - Skyfall
2. Holy Motors – Who We Were
3. Django Unchained – Who Did That To You
4. Django Unchained - Ancora Qui
5. This is 40 – Dull Tool
Why? I cannot think of a stronger year this for this category – I didn’t even have room for Suddenly, a song that fits in wonderfully in Les Miserables - or the work of Mumford and Sons from Brave or Karen O from Frankenweenie - normally have a trouble coming up with five, this year I had trouble limiting it to five.. Adele’s Skyfall theme may just be the best Bond song ever. Holy Motors Who We Were provided one of the best scenes of the year. John Legend’s Who Did That to You was an utterly perfect song for Django Unchained and the wonderful Ennio Morricone composed a brilliant song for Tarantino’s spaghetti Western as well (and for the record, I could have easily chosen Freedom or 100 Black Coffins from Django as well). Fiona Apple’s Dull Tool is a terrific song, but could have been used better in the movie.
Art Direction1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Master
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. Cloud Atlas
Why? No one obsesses over Art Direction like Wes Anderson – and that is why his films are often the best and most memorable of the year in this category, and Moonrise Kingdom is no exception. The art direction in The Master is precise and perfect. The strange, low budget work on Beasts of the Southern Wild elevates the entire movie. The work on Cloud Atlas had to cover a lot of time periods – and does it all brilliantly. The enviroments created for Prometehus may just be the best thing about the film.
Costume Design1. Cloud Atlas
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. The Master
4. Django Unchained
5. Holy Motors
Why? The crew behind the costumes doe Cloud Altas had to hit a lot of different notes and time period, and is clearly the best of the year. Moonrise Kingdom had such precise, memorable work – from bird costumes, to scout uniforms to whatever the hell Tilda Swinton was wearing, and makes it all seem real. The Master perfectly captures the costumes of the period. Django Unchained uses costume design as a kind of character development. And finally Holy Motors costumes were pivotal to the overall success of the film.
Make-Up1. Cloud Atlas
2. Holy Motors
Why? Was there a harder working makeup team than that of Cloud Atlas, who had to makeup actors to look completely different from period to period – I think not. Holy Motors does brilliant work transforming Denis Levant a dozen times. The work on Lincoln helped to capture the time period brilliantly.
Sound Mixing1. The Master
2. Les Miserables
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Django Unchained
Why? The Master had one of the most complex, intricate sound designs of the year for those who didn’t notice (seemingly everyone). Whether you loved or hated Hooper’s choice to capture the singing live, it took immense skill from the sound people to get it to work at all. Zero Dark Thirty uses sound in surprising ways. Django Unchained mixed music and bullets to great effect. And finally Skyfall had tons of great work – like we expect from an action film.
Sound Effects Editing1. Django Unchained
3. Zero Dark Thirty
5. The Dark Knight Rises
Why? Tarantino’s films always sound great, and he always adds in those odd touches that make a film like Django the easy choice here. Say what you want about it, but Prometheus’s sound work was impeccable. Zero Dark Thirty uses sound – especially in that final sequence – brilliantly. Skyfall was the best pure action movie of the year – and the sound effects helped. And finally, The Dark Knight Rises has a lot of great work here.
Visual Effects1. Life of Pi
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Cloud Atlas
5. The Avengers
Why? The work on Life of Pi is seamless and brilliant – and helps to overcome the films narrative problems by always giving you something to marvel at. The work on Prometehus was typically excellent work from Ridley Scott’s team. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey didn’t simply rest on their Lord of the Rings laurels, but pushed forward. The work on Cloud Atlas – particularly in future Korea – was the type of brilliant work we expect from the Wachowskis. And finally, The Avengers did excellent work throughout.