Thursday, January 31, 2013

Movie with Abe: Blancanieves

Blancanieves
Directed by Pablo Berger
Released January 25, 2013

In 2011, “The Artist” reinvigorated the silent film genre by being a major hit and winning the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s exciting to see that the format can be used to make other terrific films, including this interpretation of Snow White, set in 1920s Spain, with the classic character cast as the daughter of a famous bullfighter whose wife’s death during childbirth led to a greedy nurse stealing him away from his daughter. Spain’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is a fully engaging, marvelously stylized riff on a familiar story, using the majesty of bullfighting to add an effective twist and the power of black and white film and no sound to add melodrama.

The film spends its first half recounting Carmencita’s horrific childhood, in which, among other things, her evil stepmother Encarna cooked and fed her the chicken she so loved after catching her sneaking around, and then launches into Carmencita’s energetic return to the sport her father so adored. In a time filled with Snow Whites, this version is driven most by the contradiction of the love she earned from her father and the abuse she received from her stepmother to succeed, and she is an endearing character whose journey towards triumphant glory is endearing.

Actress Sofia Oria, who plays Carmencita, is a new face both to Spanish and American audiences, and she draws out the spirit of her character’s struggle ably and compellingly. Maribel Verdu, who had the opportunity to play the heroic rebel Mercedes in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is superb as Encarna, emoting strongly with her eyes and with her face and delivering a fiercely villainous turn. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, who bears a passing resemblance to Jean Dujardin, hands in a strong performance as the film’s initial hero and later its tragic figure, confined to a chair and to the precious moments he gets to spend with his daughter.

It would be easy to think that, after so many adaptations over the years, including two films and one television show just this past year, there would be nothing new to find within the Snow White mythology. Yet this film does just that, fleshing out a new vision of the story in an entirely creative setting. The film is gorgeous, its costumes are excellent, and its music perfectly suited for its events. Most of all, it demonstrates that it is possible to make a 100-minute silent film that, in 2013, can remain interesting throughout its entire run.

B+

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Fill the Void

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage has gone up on other sites.


What may be my final Sundance post this year is an entry from Awards Material, my blog hosted by the Jewish Journal. I very highly recommend the wonderful film about Tel Aviv's Hasidic community, "Fill the Void." Follow this link to read my piece about it.

Sundance with Abe: The Top Five Jewish Moments

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage has gone up on other sites.


I had the chance to rank the Top Five Jewish Moments at the Sundance Film Festival for Jewcy.com. Follow this link to check out the piece!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sundancewith Abe: Prince Avalanche

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch star in director David Gordon Green's so-so 80s dramedy "Prince Avalanche." Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: A.C.O.D.

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


The ensemble cast is astonishing in the very funny "A.C.O.D," one of this year's funniest entries from Sundance. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The Square

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


"The Square," which director Jehane Noujaim finished and brought with her directly to Sundance, captures the spirit of the Egyptian revolution and some of its loudest participants. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: Lovelace

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


"Lovelace," the story of "Deep Throat" star Linda Lovelace, wasn't nearly as good as the similarly-themed Sundance entry "The Look of Love." Follow this link to read my reivew.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Afternoon Delight

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


I didn't love "Afternoon Delight," another film dealing with prostitution which wasn't nearly as effective as "Concussion." Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The Spectacular Now

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are both terrific in the occasionally entertaining, occasionally dramatic "The Spectacular Now." Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The Way, Way Back

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


I thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble comedy "The Way, Way Back" from directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon. Enjoy the photo of the cast at the screening below and follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The Lifeguard

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


I found "The Lifeguard" to be entertaining but not nearly as good as I might have hoped given the actors involved. Follow this link to read my review.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble Cast


The competition: Argo, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

For your information: “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” have three performers nominated individually, “Les Miserables” has two, and both “Argo” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” have one. Musicals have been nominated in the past, but only “Chicago” has won.

Who should win: I think “Argo” was the strongest ensemble, but “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” would be a good choice too.

Who will win: While “Lincoln” or “Silver Linings Playbook” could take it, I think that Les Miserables is the likely winner.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The competition: Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln (Lincoln), Anne Hathaway’s suffering mother (Les Miserables), Helen Hunt’s sex therapist (The Sessions), Nicole Kidman’s sexual presence (The Paperboy), and Maggie Smith’s crotchety retiree.

For your information: This is Field’s eighth SAG nomination but only her second film mention (she was nominated in this race for “Forrest Gump” in 1994). She won on her last TV bid. Hunt also has a formidable TV record, as well as a film win for “As Good As It Gets” in 1997. Hathaway was nominated once before, for “Rachel Getting Married.” Kidman has been nominated twice before and also has a TV nomination for “Hemingway and Gellhorn” this year. Smith is also nominated for “Downton Abbey” this year. Field, Hathaway, and Smith are also nominated as part of their ensemble casts. In SAG history in this category, a performer without a Globe nod – that’s Smith this year – has only ever rallied to pull off a SAG win once, and that was Ruby Dee for “American Gangster.”

Who should win: Hunt, though I haven’t seen Kidman yet

Who will win: It’s going to be Hathaway.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Alan Arkin’s fiery producer (Argo), Javier Bardem’s Bond villain, Robert De Niro’s sports-loving father (Silver Linings Playbook), Philip Seymour Hoffman’s cult leader (The Master), and Tommy Lee Jones’ idealistic politician (Lincoln).

For your information: The SAG histories of these actors aren’t as intense as their Oscar records. Bardem and Hoffman have both won before, once each. This is the third nomination for Hoffman and Jones, the second for Bardem and Arkin, and the first for De Niro. Arkin, De Niro, and Jones are all nominated along with their ensemble casts as well. The Golden Globe winner in the corresponding category, Christoph Waltz, isn’t nominated here.

Who should win: All fun choices – I’d go with Hoffman or Jones.

Who will win: In SAG history in this category, a performer without a Globe nod has only ever rallied to pull off a SAG win once, and that was Ian McKellen for “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Still, Golden Globe winner Waltz not being here suggests that maybe De Niro can win it, especially since this guild has never had the opportunity to acknowledge him.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role


The competition: Jessica Chastain’s determined CIA agent (Zero Dark Thirty), Marion Cotillard’s depressed amputee (Rust and Bone), Jennifer Lawrence’s eccentric dancer (Silver Linings Playbook), Helen Mirren’s long-suffering wife (Hitchcock), and Naomi Watts’ traumatized natural disaster survivor (The Impossible).

For your information: Mirren has won three individual SAG Awards, two for film and one for TV. The other four women have all been nominated exactly once before. Only Lawrence is also nominated this year as part of her film’s ensemble cast. Three times in the last five years, the winner of this race did not go on to win the Oscar for Best Actress.

Who should win: Chastain, Lawrence, or Cotillard

Who will win: This is an extremely tight race between Chastain and Lawrence, who both won Golden Globes and now face off against each other here. I’ll give the edge to Lawrence since her film fared better with this guild, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Chastain.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Bradley Cooper’s temperamental former substitute teacher (Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln), John Hawkes’ curious man in an iron lung (The Sessions), Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean (Les Miserables), and Denzel Washington’s alcoholic pilot (Flight).

For your information: Day-Lewis is the defending champ in this category, winning both times he was previously nominated in this race. He also holds the record he might break as the only actor to win two awards in this category. Despite being the recipient of two Oscars, Washington lost both of his previous individual acting SAG bids. Hawkes was nominated two years ago for “Winter’s Bone,” and this is the first mention for Cooper and Jackman, both of whom are nominated along with their ensembles (Day-Lewis is too).

Who should win: Hawkes, especially since he got snubbed for an Oscar nomination

Who will win: Day-Lewis

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Touchy Feely

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


"Touchy Feely," this collaboration between director Lynn Shelton and actress Rosemarie DeWitt isn't nearly as compelling or effective as their last film, last year's "Your Sister's Sister." Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: Fruitvale

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Easily the most powerful film at Sundance this year, "Fruitvale" tells the story of the final twenty-four hours in the life of Oscar Grant, brilliantly portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: In a World...

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Lake Bell makes her feature film debut with this entertaining tale of movie trailer voiceover artists. Follow this link to read my review.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Concussion

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


I very much enjoyed "Concussion," the story of a woman who decides to change her life in a big way after suffering a head injury. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The World According to Dick Cheney

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


The title speaks for itself - "The World According to Dick Cheney" is an involving, educational documentary about the man described as the most powerful vice-president in American history. Follow this link to read my review.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Manhunt

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


It's not nearly as good as its fictionalized counterpart, "Zero Dark Thirty," but "Manhunt," a documentary about the two-decade hunt for Osama Bin Laden is certainly informative. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: The Look of Love

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


I thoroughly enjoyed "The Look of Love," the story of the life of Paul Raymond, the editor of the British magazine "Men Only" and a controversial figure in British history. Follow this link to read my review.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Valentine Road

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


One of the most powerful and strongly composed films at Sundance this year is "Valentine Road," a documentary which examines what came before and after the deadly shooting of a junior high school student in 2008. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: Kill Your Darlings

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


One of the best films I've seen thus far at Sundance is "Kill Your Darlings," starring Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, and Jack Huston. It's a superb film that delivers on all levels. Follow this link to read my review.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sundance with Abe: No

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


One of Sundance's Spotlight features is "No," which also happens to be one of the Best Foreign Film Oscar nominees this year, from Chile. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: Lasting

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Unfortunately, not all films at Sundance are terrific. Follow this link to read my review of the most disappointing entry I've seen thus far, the Polish drama "Lasting."

Sundance with Abe: Mud

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Want to see a good Matthew McConaughey performance in a great film? Look no further than "Mud," one of the best films I've seen at Sundance so far. Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: This is Martin Bonner

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


One of the easiest films to like at Sundance is "This is Martin Bonner." I had a particularly nice chat with star Paul Eenhoorn, who I ran into while waiting for a bus on Saturday evening. Follow this link to read my review.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sundance with Abe: May in the Summer

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


The first film I saw at Sundance was the Jordan-set drama "May in the Summer." Follow this link to read my review.

Sundance with Abe: Day One Press Conference

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.

Enjoy the best moments of the Sundance Day One Press Conference featuring Robert Redford - follow this link to read about it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sundance with Abe: Crystal Fairy

I'm delighted to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Most of my reviews and other coverage will be going up on Shockya.com, so I'll be posting links to them here.


Up first is a review of "Crystal Fairy," a truly weird movie set in Chile starring Michael Cera. Follow this link to read my review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Movies With Abe is going to Sundance!

Tomorrow, I leave for Park City, Utah for nine days to attend the Sundance Film Festival as a member of the press. I'm extremely excited, but I'm also quite busy, and as a result, updates within the next week or so will be considerably more sporadic and irregular than usual. Stay tuned for coverage of the festival here and at Shockya.com, as well as SAG winner predictions and, in February, the AFT Awards!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Movie with Abe: Compliance

Compliance
Directed by Craig Zobel
Released August 17, 2012 / DVD January 8, 2013

Recently arrived on DVD is the film that almost – and should have – earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination last week. “Compliance” is the subtle, quietly unsettling real-life story of a fast food restaurant manager manipulated by a man claiming to be a police officer into treating one of her employees as a suspect with no rights. Its title is perfectly descriptive, and this disturbing, well-constructed film does a terrific job of making its events feel horrifyingly real, inescapable and irreversible.

At the center of “Compliance” is Dreama Walker, whose performance as Becky, the lazy employee who finds herself the victim of the mystery caller’s prank, is a complete departure from her popular role as the bubbly June on ABC’s “Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.” When Becky first appears on screen, she immediately gives off an air of indifference, and her lackadaisical attitude makes her later predicament all the more miserable. Becky’s temperament is contrasted sharply by that of Sandra, the manager who takes her job seriously and seems honored, and even bound by the expectations of her job, to have been chosen by the police officer on the phone to carry out justice.

“Compliance” proceeds along at a deliberately meticulous pace, trapping Becky in her unfortunate situation for scenes on end, as Sandra speaks to the alleged Officer Daniels and follows his every order, which include a strip search and bringing in various males to watch and further examine Becky while Sandra goes back to work. Each performance is carefully attuned to the film’s reality, and it’s hard to top Ann Dowd’s mesmerizing turn as the entirely compliant Sandra, taking Officer Daniels’ orders without question and deputizing herself to be their executioner. It’s a firm, focused, career-best performance from an actress who has been working hard in the industry for more than twenty-five years.

The mood of “Compliance” is marvelously established by the eerie, haunting score by Heather McIntosh, which emphasizes the simple disturbing nature of the film’s events. The sounds of fast food meat cooking on grills also provide a fitting soundtrack for the film’s setting and ground its events in their surroundings, which are populated by unknowing diners. “Compliance” succeeds as a character study and a thought-provoking thriller, and its final scene is gloriously understated, highlighting the shocking frequency with which this type of scenario occurs. This is an excellent cinematic interpretation of a real-life horror story.

B+

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Final Golden Globe Winner Predictions


I’m not sure why it happened, but MoviesWithAbe.com was down for the past couple of days. It’s back up now, just in time for the Golden Globes tonight! If you missed reactions to nominees in every Oscar category, please peruse them now.

For tonight’s awards, it’s crucial to remember that ballots were due one day before Oscar nominations were announced. That means that voters had no idea that Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow would be snubbed, and that they may very well have had plenty of support within the HFPA. I was predicting Affleck to win before Oscar nominees were revealed, and I’m not changing my predictions. I’d love to see John Hawkes defeat Daniel Day-Lewis as a consolation prize for his unfortunate Oscar snub, but I’m sure that won’t happen. It would also be nice to see either Marion Cotillard or Leonardo DiCaprio rewarded since they’re in the same boat. Most of these categories are sewn up, and the real question is just which movies take the top prizes. Clearly people love “Silver Linings Playbook,” so watch out for that to upset “Les Miserables.” Otherwise, I’m pulling for “Anna Karenina” in the Best Original Score race since it’s such a superb soundtrack. Head over to TVwithAbe.com for predictions in all of the TV races, and enjoy the show!

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Argo

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Les Miserables

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Best Animated Feature Film
Brave

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour

Best Director - Motion Picture
Ben Affleck (Argo)

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Lincoln

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Lincoln

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
“Not Running Anymore” (Stand Up Guys)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Movie with Abe: Let My People Go!


Let My People Go!
Directed by Mikael Buch
Released January 11, 2013

It’s not every day you see a comedy about a French gay Jew living in Finland. The feature film debut from French filmmaker Mikael Buch is a screwball comedy with an energetic and talented ensemble cast, which often, somewhat appropriately, gets carried away with its own ridiculousness but ultimately serves as a nutty, fresh look at one man trapped in a bubble in which he didn’t doesn’t belong. Set during the Jewish holiday of Passover, it’s the perfect parable of one man looking to break free from his own chains and be able to enjoy life as the person he truly is.

Nicolas Maury stars as Ruben, who works as a postman and lives with his Finnish boyfriend Teemu. A deadly encounter on a delivery results in a tumultuous blow-up between the couple, sending Ruben back to France to stay with his family. What ensues is a wild series of events that puts Ruben in uncomfortable positions and reframes his sense of self. Pressure from his mother, confessions of an affair from his father, marriage problems from his sister, and a few too many run-ins with an overzealous childhood teacher who is also gay complicate Ruben’s life to the point of incomprehensibility.

Maury has the perfect demeanor in playing Ruben, painting him as eager for attention but afraid of the spotlight, never quite comfortable in his own skin. Spanish actress Carmen Maura, a frequent muse of Pedro Almodovar’s, is the standout member of the ensemble, playing his Jewish mother with just the right amount of obsessive and protective attention. The rest of the cast works well together to create an over-the-top, outrageous, generally endearing extended family unit whose interactions make for marvelous entertainment.

“Let My People Go!” is many things at once, and its humor is not limited strictly to Jewish or gay jokes. In their original script, screenwriters Buch and Christopher HonorĂ© devote time to Teemu’s Finnish mother as well as Ruben’s Jewish mother, able to torment her son in her own unique way, ensuring equal opportunity for all peoples with a specific focus on Judaism and Passover. The film’s connection with Judaism is, like Ruben’s, situational and occasional, but its allusions and references are certainly entertaining. The film also manages to find a romantic direction towards its end, finishing on an utterly bizarre but hopeful and positive note. There isn’t another film quite like “Let My People Go!” Its antics are strange but its pleasant, creative nature is ultimately winning.

B

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture


My predictions: 8/9, picking “Moonrise Kingdom” over “Amour”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

This category contains only one surprise omission and one surprise inclusion, and I just wish that the latter could have occurred without the former. It’s impressive to see “Amour” so well-received, and such a shame that “Moonrise Kingdom” couldn’t land a spot since I think it’s easily better than all but one of these films. That would be “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” whose superb performance has me delighted. I’m most curious about whether “Argo” or “Zero Dark Thirty,” two films horrifically snubbed for Best Director, can still win Best Picture now since I had them going head-to-head with “Lincoln” for the prize. For now, it’s worthwhile to digest a generally impressive list and hold off until the dust settles a bit.

My current bet to win: I guess I’ll change my prediction to Lincoln, though I’m still hopeful that it will be another film.

Oscar Nominees: Best Director


My predictions: 2/5, picking only Lee and Spielberg
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Michael Haneke (Amour), Behn Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

My current bet to win: How did we possibly get here? Basically, three things happened all at once. First, Russell secured the spot held at the Golden Globes by Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained” and at the DGA by Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables.” Then, both Haneke and Zeitlin were able to muster enough support to crack the list. Inexplicably, that resulted in Ben Affleck, set to earn his first nomination for “Argo,” and Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win this category three years ago for “The Hurt Locker” and would now return for “Zero Dark Thirty,” both being omitted. I won’t argue with the inclusion of Haneke and especially Zeitlin, but I do think that both “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” were much more tightly and strongly directed than any of the other three nominees, and that history will remember them as better films. I would have thought that Spielberg could be snubbed here, but I guess not. Russell just doesn’t need to be here, and it’s unfortunate that he needed to claim a spot. I’m still just too shocked to know what to make of this race, especially since I thought Bigelow was going to win. Interestingly, all five of these films are also nominated for Best Picture, but it’s worth noting that, in years past, the Best Picture lineup would surely not have included the two surprise contenders here, making it an especially exciting year.

My current bet to win: Now, I think Spielberg might have an easy time.

Oscar Nominees: Best Documentary


My predictions: 3/5, missing “5 Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: 5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, Searching for Sugar Man

I missed the two films set in Israel in this category, and I’ve seen just two of them thus far. I’m interviewing the director of “The Gatekeepers” next week and attending a concert for the release of the “Searching for Sugar Man” DVD this weekend, so I’m looking forward to getting to know this category well. I can say right now that “The Invisible War” was very good and I’m glad to see it here.

Good news for those who want to be more well-informed about this category: four out of five of these films can be watched at home within the coming weeks, and the fifth will be in theaters on February 1st. “How to Survive a Plague” should be available via Netflix Instant Streaming, while the other three will all be on DVD by January 22nd.

My current bet to win: Without having seen them, I don’t know, but I’ll guess Searching for Sugar Man.

Oscar Nominees: Best Foreign Film


My predictions: 3/5, missing “Kon-Tiki” and “War Witch”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Amour, Kon-Tiki, No, A Royal Affair, War Witch

I’ve seen only “Amour” in this category, which rocked the boat with nominations for Best Director and Best Picture today, solidifying its status as the frontrunner. Both “No” and “A Royal Affair” have familiar actors who have appeared in American films, and I hope to have seen more of these nominees and have a better handle on their chances well before Oscar night.

My current bet to win: It seems crazy to think it would be anything but Amour.

Oscar Nominees: Best Animated Feature


My predictions: 3/5, missing “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “ParaNorman”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph

I can’t say because I haven’t seen it, but it seems to make that, instead of picking an intriguing foreign submission in this category (of which there were several), voters opted for a decently-received American summer film. I’d like to watch “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” before judging, and I’m not entirely upset about the omission of “The Rabbi’s Cat” since I thought that it was far from a perfect film. I am surprised that both “Frankenweenie” and “ParaNorman” made the cut, and I’m glad that “Brave” didn’t get snubbed. I’m eager to see “Wreck-It Ralph,” about which I’ve heard only good things.

My current bet to win: I think Frankenweenie prevails.

Oscar Nominees: Best Visual Effects


My predictions: 4/5, picking “The Dark Knight Rises” over “Snow White and the Huntsman”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Avengers, The Hobbit, Life of Pi, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman

I haven’t seen “Snow White and the Huntsman” yet, but it seems awfully deliberate that “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t here. This is one place where that completely ignored film should certainly have placed. I am quite relieved, however, that, despite their absence in all other categories, both “The Avengers” and “Prometheus” are deservedly here. Though it didn’t awe me entirely, it’s hard to deny the accomplishments of “The Hobbit,” and the same is true of “Life of Pi,” which is a visual wonder mostly due to CGI. The question now becomes whether the winner will be a genre project or the film with eleven overall nominations.

My current bet to win: I’ll put my money on The Avengers, though that’s probably unwise.

Oscar Nominees: Best Makeup and Hairstyling


My predictions: 2/3, picking “Lincoln” over “Hitchcock”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Hitchcock, The Hobbit, Les Miserables

And here we have it – the only race where “Lincoln” was a sure thing and then didn’t make the cut. Instead, we get the only nomination for the otherwise ignored “Hitchcock,” which had Anthony Hopkins looking plump and buttoned-up as Alfred Hitchock, the impressive creature work in “The Hobbit,” and the many ensemble characters of “Les Miserables.” I think it’s a pretty solid list.

My current bet to win: I’ll go with Les Miserables over “The Hobbit.”

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound Editing


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Life of Pi” and “Zero Dark Thirty”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty

I’m never too good at predicting this particular category, and I have a limited understanding of its distinction from Best Sound, which matches up 3/5 this year. It’s good to see “Zero Dark Thirty” mentioned, and I’d posit that this category is where it just might win. More commentary closer to Oscar night!

My current bet to win: I’ll guess Zero Dark Thirty.

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound


My predictions: 3/5, missing “Lincoln” and “Skyfall”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall

My guessing abilities for these audio categories are never spot-on. “Skyfall” earned James Bond his first mention in this race in over forty years, and it’s the only film in this race not nominated for Best Picture. The other four are relatively expected. Musicals do tend to win this race, though not always. More commentary closer to Oscar night!

My current bet to win: I’d guess Les Miserables.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Song


My predictions: 3/5, missing the tunes from “Chasing Ice” and “Ted”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: “Before My Time” (Chasing Ice), “Suddenly” (Les Miserables), “Pi’s Lullaby” (Life of Pi), “Skyfall” (Skyfall), “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (Ted)

Rightfully so, there’s always a disconnect between the films nominated in this category and in others. Namely, the inclusion of a documentary finalist that didn’t end up placing in that race, “Chasing Ice,” and a comedy from this year’s Oscar host, “Ted.” The other three nominees were expected. I’ve been listening to them on loop all morning, and I actually think that only “Skyfall,” which took a while to grow on me, is appealing. “Suddenly” just doesn’t compare to the original songs in the film, “Pi’s Lullaby” is more score than song, and the other two just don’t appeal as much to me yet. Maybe with time they well. I’m not too upset about any snubs here since I didn’t get too attached to any of the contenders in this race.

My current bet to win: It’s hard to know, but I think Skyfall.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Score


My predictions: 3/5, missing “Argo” and “Skyfall”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Anna Karenina, Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall

There are definitely some positives about this category, namely the inclusion of the marvelously film-making score from “Anna Karenina.” The music similarly defined the spirit of “Life of Pi.” It’s fun to see an action piece like “Skyfall” here, its first-ever mention in this category, and “Argo” and “Lincoln” are decent inclusions as well. I was really hoping that “Beasts of the Southern Wild” could muster some momentum here along with the great gains it made in other races, but I guess you can’t have everything.

My current bet to win: Who knows? Maybe Lincoln?

Oscar Nominees: Best Film Editing


My predictions: 3/5, missing “Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty

There’s something about a film’s pacing that, to me, earns it a place in this category. That doesn’t suggest that “Life of Pi,” which was good but overlong sometimes, and “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was engaging but occasionally uneven, should make the cut. “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” definitely qualify, and it’s a relief that their directorial snubs didn’t extend to this category. “Lincoln” was always going to be here, so I guess that rounds it out. A complete shut-out for “The Dark Knight Rises” is lamentable, and it would have been fun to see “Skyfall” here, especially based on all its other nominations. I’m surprised, given the other mentions this year, that “Django Unchained” isn’t here, and also that “Les Miserables” couldn’t place here as well as a few other key races.

My current bet to win: Let’s hope it goes to Zero Dark Thirty.

Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design


My predictions: 3/5, missing both Snow White films
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman

It looks like there was room after all for both Snow White films from 2012. I haven’t yet seen “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which also popped up in the Best Visual Effects race, but I don’t remember being enamored with the costumes in “Mirror, Mirror.” I can say with confidence, however, that “Anna Karenina,” “Lincoln,” and “Les Miserables” all belong here, and that this should be a highly competitive category.

My current bet to win: I’m still pulling for Anna Karenina despite some supernatural competition.

Oscar Nominees: Best Art Diretcion


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Argo” over “The Hobbit”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Anna Karenina, The Hobbit, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln

It’s fair to say that all of these films looked superb. I’m excited about “Anna Karenina,” which was creatively decorated, and I don’t mind “The Hobbit” showing up here even though I really minded the film. “Les Miserables” and “Life of Pi” were obviously gorgeous, and “Lincoln” was quite a production as well. It might have been nice to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Argo” here, but I knew that was a stretch. I’m very pleased with this category.

My current bet to win: It seems an appropriate place to reward Les Miserables, though it could just as easily be any of the others.

Oscar Nominees: Best Cinematography


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Life of Pi” and “Lincoln”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Anna Karenina, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall

The inclusion of two ASC nominees, “Anna Karenina” and “Skyfall,” is worthwhile, considering the former was gorgeous and also creative in its construction, and the latter marks the franchise’s first-ever placement in this category. “Life of Pi” definitely deserves to be here, and though I don’t think it does as much, I understand “Lincoln” being here. I can’t, however, understand “Django Unchained.” I think the movie was overrated and five nominations is probably a fair total, but there’s no reason it should be here over “Zero Dark Thirty,” which certainly should have earned more than five nominations, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which could have made it based on its strong showing elsewhere, or “Argo,” which I thought was a decent contender. That doesn’t even account for the omission of “Les Miserables,” which still managed nine nominations and whose cinematography I didn’t love but did get nominated by the ASC.

My current bet to win: It would seem silly to bet against Life of Pi, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was “Skyfall”?

Oscar Nominees: Best Adapted Screenplay


My predictions: 4/5, picking “The Sessions” over “Life of Pi”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook

So it seems that the script of “Life of Pi” was popular enough, adding to the film’s monstrous eleven-nomination total, something that I think isn’t quite deserved. All of these films are nominated for Best Picture, and four are nominated for Best Director, but it’s not necessarily the four you think. Snubbing “Argo” here would have been harsh, and, while a couple of these films take a while to get to their points, it’s hard o deny that these contain compelling dialogue and characters. Too bad about the omission of “The Sessions,” one of my favorite films of the year that probably never had a good shot at this race anyway.

My current bet to win: It’s either “Lincoln” or “Silver Linings Playbook.” Based on the expectedly large showing of the former and the surprisingly large showing of the latter, I’ll go with the latter.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Screenplay


My predictions: 4/5, picking “The Master” over “Flight”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty

This category is solid, though it sleeps like a slap in the face to omit Paul Thomas Anderson, whose “The Master” scored a respectable three acting nominations and nothing else. It’s also melancholy to think that this is the only place that “Moonrise Kingdom” got mentioned, since it could easily have snatched the unclaimed tenth Best Picture slot. This is the only acknowledgement of “Flight” aside from its star Denzel Washington. The other three films are nominated for Best Picture, and one is up for Best Director, but it’s not the one you think. Check back later today for Best Director analysis – it’s just nuts. Otherwise, this is definitely a good list, though I’d swap out “Django Unchained” for “The Master” in an instant.

My current bet to win: Who knows now because of snubs in other categories? I’ll go with Zero Dark Thirty anyway.