Oscars 2013: What I Liked

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning. I was prepared to go on yet another tangent about the awards and cover all that I thought were snubbed. Then I realized that noting that absence of Jack Black in “Bernie,” Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone,” and Leonardo Dicaprio in “Django Unchained” would just feel like preaching to the choir.

Instead, I’ve decided to keep things a little more positive. As much as there was to hate in the nominations this year (and there certainly was a lot *cough* “Les Mis” *cough*) there was also a lot to like in a particularly strong year for film. So, why not give the Academy credit for once, even if they don’t need it? Here are my favorite nominees for this year’s Oscars:

Django Unchained (Best Picture)

No one was surprised this morning when it was announced that “Django Unchained” was nominated for Best Picture. While a film as vulgar and brutally violent as “Django Unchained” won’t win Best Picture, it is pretty incredible that it is nominated for those same reasons. Acknowledging a film that broke this many rules alongside traditional Hollywood fare is a small victory worth celebrating.

Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor)

After dissing the Oscars a few months back, it seemed as if Joaquin Phoenix had burned a tremendous bridge. For giving him the nomination anyway, voters went against the usual politics of Hollywood for good reason. Phoenix’s performance in “The Master” was his best yet. With a constantly bent posture, Phoenix disappeared into this role as a mentally troubled alcoholic. He gave a performance that was mysterious and also deeply funny. Most importantly, in such an ambiguous film, Phoenix provided a beating heart.

Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress)

This isn’t just because I am somewhat in love with her. Jennifer Lawrence had the best year of her still nascent career. She headlined “The Hunger Games” and then chewed up the scenery of “Silver Linings Playbook.” In the film’s first half, she is quiet yet you always know where she stands. By the second half, she has taken over control from everyone else. Bradley Cooper might have been the main character, but Jennifer Lawrence took every bit of screen time she had and made it her movie.

Anne Hathaway (Best Supporting Actress)

As much as I wasn’t a fan of “Les Mis,” it is impossible to not have been blown away by Anne Hathaway. In a few brief minutes, she brought tears to my eyes. She created a bond with her character and combined acting and singing for incredible emotional results. Once she departs, the film is never quite the same. After she finished her big solo, the first thought that came to my head was, “Anne Hathaway just won the Oscar.”

Moonrise Kingdom (Best Original Screenplay)

I would have really liked if “Moonrise” also got a Best Picture nomination, but I’ll take what I can get. “Moonrise” was one of the most exciting and original films of the year. The script showed how Wes Anderson’s confidence as a storyteller has completely evolved. The dialogue is like listening to music. And like any great film, repeat viewings only reveal more and more layers.