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As Hollywood prepares to congratulate itself next weekend on another year
filled with admirable cinematic efforts I wish to present you with my thoughts on
a few of the fine actors and actresses who have delivered performances
recognized byAMPAS.

Daniel Day-Lewis appears to be the favorite to win the Oscar for Best
Actor. No one would doubt Day-Lewis is an exceedingly talented thespian, and there
is nothing the Academy appreciates more than a respected veteran of the screen
engaging the public with a theatrical interpretation of a colossal historical
figure. The worthy Day-Lewis is certainly not known for understatement, and
never fails to impress.

Joaquin Phoenix’s reasonably more subtle performance as a World War II veteran
disillusioned by the broken promises of the dubious cult of Scientology in Paul
Thomas Anderson’s The Master is also worthy of note.

Other nominees include Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman
for Les Miserables, and Denzel Washington for Flight.
While my enthusiasm for the Academy Awards has perhaps waned over the
years, I inevitably remain intrigued and curious to know which films receive
attention from year to year in anticipation of the grand pageant known as the
Oscars.

This year has seen some historical developments within the category of Best
Actress.The eighty-five-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, who will be turning eighty-six
on February 24, became the oldest actress nominated in history when
her heart-wrenching performance in Michael Haneke’s Amour all but
exceeded expectations. She plays an octogenarian suffering from successive
strokes as her helpless husband looks on in despair. Riva, an icon of French
cinema, is known to many for her role as ‘Elle’ in Alain Resnais’s seminal
modernist classic from 1959, Hiroshima, Mon Amour. The other star of Haneke’s
Amour, Jean-LouisTrintignant (The Conformist, My Night at Maud’s), was
unfortunately overlooked for his subdued performance as the husband. The
nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis captured the national spotlight when she became
the youngest ever female nominee upon delivering an endearing performance in the
gritty realist drama Beasts of the Southern Wild from novice filmmaker and
Wesleyan graduate Benh Zeitlin. Set in the Louisiana bayous following a
devastating meteorological disaster, the film was an unexpected but sensational
success over the summer. Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, and Naomi Watts are
also nominated, for Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Impossible
respectively.

The Best Picture race appears to be wide open at this point. Due to its
victories at both the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild Awards, Ben Affleck’s
Argo has been reliably predicted to win despite its lack of a Best Director
nomination. As many probably know, Driving Miss Daisy (1989) was the last film to
pull off the feat of winning Best Picture without its director receiving
requisite recognition. As always, however, a competently executed historical epic
helmed by Steven Spielberg can never be counted out, regardless of the
circumstances.Leading with twelve nominations certainly does not hurt Lincoln’s
chances either. Other films up for the top prize include Amour, Silver
Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild,
Les Miserables, and Django Unchained.

Nevertheless, the grand spectacle set to take place next weekend should
not detract attention from some of the other films released this past year that
may not have been on the radar of most Academy voters. One such film is Abbas
Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, which is currently running at the Film Society
of Lincoln Center. This satirical study of a father-daughter relationship that
develops between a young Tokyo prostitute and one of her aged clients as she
struggles to escape the abuse of her overly possessive boyfriend is not to be
missed.

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