85th Annual Academy Awards – Prechat

Special thanks, as always, to David Barr for joining me in our annual act of self-indulgence, recorded 9th February 2013. 

DC: So, we’re here again for the fourth year.

DB: Again.

DC: But with better films nominated.

DB: Same feelings. Different titles.

DC: Same mangled opinions.

DB: Best Picture?

DC: Nine nominees this year. Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Lining’s Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.

DB: You’ve caught all nine?

DC: Yeah.

DB: It’s good for the discussion. There’s always the bottleneck when you realise the season’s coming up and our staggered release dates lead to all the big contenders coming out in about a two-week period. Two weeks and like seven films to see, pretty annoying.

DC: I think I watched six or seven in the second half of January. Overall thoughts – the quality is exceptionally high. We’ve gone over this in previous years, there’re always obvious omissions, though nothing so outrageous I’m completely broken up about it. I think it’s unusual they’ve gone for nine rather than a full ten, but I know their voting system is such that these things happen. Strange that The Master isn’t in there. I’m glad that there isn’t an out-and-out awful film in the list. Last year we had Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was just excruciating, but this year…it’s all good.

DB: There’s no turkey.

DC: Even my least favourite of the films, Les Miserables, is still overburdened with enough quality that I can forgive its Best Picture nomination. I think it’s too flawed in many respects to exist beyond a couple of acting and technical nods, but it’s certainly no Extremely Loud. As for the others, I think there’re at least two, and maybe three stone cold, instant classics.

DB: For the first time since we started having these annual chats my two favourite films eligible for nomination are sitting there in the Best Picture category.

DC: There’s often a main horse we’re supporting throughout the process. Certainly the memory that springs to mind is The Social Network in spring 2011. I don’t quite have the same feelings this time as there’re multiple films I’d be happy to see winning awards. There’s no single movie I’d love to see steamroll the competition and sweep up everything. At the moment, despite the lack of a Best Director nomination, my understanding is that Argo has the shortest odds. I don’t think it’s the Best Picture of the year, polished and enjoyable though it is, it’s just a solid entertainment rather than anything really challenging, provocative and memorable. So far as the Picture category goes, I think Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty are my favourites of the nine. Shall we go through in order?

DB: Yeah. Might be silent for the first couple, as I’ve yet to see Amour or Argo.

DC: Amour. Written and directed by Michael Haneke.

DB: What do you think of Haneke in general? I’m not a massive fan.

DC: I’ve only seen four of his films. I’ve seen this, both versions of Funny Games and The White Ribbon, which was up for the Foreign Language award a couple of years ago.

DB: Have you seen Hidden?

DC: I haven’t. He’s obviously a critics darling so far as the European festivals are concerned. I’m sure if I binged the catalogue it might click with me. I found Funny Games an impressive exercise, but it didn’t make much of a mark. Amour on the other hand, definitely made a greater impression than the other work I’ve seen. It’s a small film, one could question its placement in certain categories due to the individuals displaced and its quite niche appeal, but it deals with an incredibly difficult topic in such a humane, truthful and sensitive way. The performances are unbelievable, completely stripped back and genuine.

DB: It’s just the two performances I’m guessing.

DC: For the most part, yeah. Just the two actors on screen for most of the film. I’m surprised that this guy Jean-Louis Trintignant who plays the male lead hasn’t really played a part in this awards season. It’s such a two-parter. Those two roles are so complimentary it seems unfair that one actor is ignored as the praise drops on another. It’s Blue Valentine syndrome all over again. One individual is pushed for awards contention whilst one is ignored. Both worthy. I saw it in a busy lunchtime screening at Curzon Soho. Pindrop silence at the end. Impactful. I’m pleased the film has found its way into awards season, most importantly because without this recognition it’s unlikely I would have gotten round to seeing it. I needed the shove. I don’t realistically think it has any chance of winning anything beyond the Best Foreign Language feature, but when you’re talking about filler, certainly so far as the odds are concerned, I’m pleased to have those empty slots packed with gems like Amour.

DB: Next up Argo. Gotta love Ben Affleck. I should have seen the fucking film.

DC: Have you seen Gone Baby Gone and The Town?

DB: I’ve seen both of them. A fine actor, an even finer director. He comes across well. A very intelligent man and no doubt an intelligent film. I look forward to it.

DC: The thing about Argo is…well…it’s just an issue of quality comparable to other nominees. I can understand why it’s in awards contention, I can understand why it’s working as a fairly safe choice for people unwilling to select between some of the other options on offer, but of itself it’s merely a good film rather than a great one. Its straight-up no thrills quality, good solid story with strong direction and a fist-pumping, upbeat ending – albeit one I understand to have tenuous ties at best to the actual historical event. It’s an entertainment, not a prestige picture. Hollywood loves these movies that focus on the industry, as Argo does, and make Hollywood out to be an important and significant thing. Add a period, political dimension to that and it ticks all the boxes. It seems unusual to me though that it can be winning awards over films as impressive as something like Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow’s movie is edgier, less sanitized, and less safe than Argo. Some of the issues it explores are deeply uncomfortable and quite troubling. Argo’s just nowhere near as rich or deep. It’s so damn safe! The industry pundits seem up in arms that Affleck has been omitted from the Best Director nominees. Why would he be there? It’s good work, but there’re multiple individuals more deserving of a spot on that list.  Another problem, which can’t be ignored, is an issue shared to some extent with Silver Lining’s Playbook, which is that, the central character and performance isn’t quite up to standard. That’s not so much to criticize Affleck as an actor, he’s fine, but it’s never better than adequate. They needed to sculpt it down, take out the ‘wife issues’ subplot that feels totally tagged on. There’s a good story, but I just can’t compare it to a film as complete and perfect as, say, Lincoln. It’s just a good movie, not a Best Picture winner.

DB: I think Hollywood loves the self-directing actor. Not too many out there. Clint?

DC: Yeah. Clooney. Redford.

DB: Affleck is pretty much the highest profile guy doing it now.

DC: All those guys are stronger actors than Affleck. I don’t wanna bag on him too much but Casey Affleck is by far the more talented screen presence. The better brother. Ben could never do what that guy does in The Assassination of Jesse James or The Killer Inside Me. He’s not the right guy for this particular film, but someone like Clooney would’ve been a decent choice. I’m being unfair?

DB: You think?

DC: I probably am. It’s not that his performance is poor, it really isn’t, but it’s never memorable. It’s not complimentary to the storytelling in the way Jessica Chastain’s work in Zero Dark Thirty is. His acting is never the thing that draws you in. It’s just…a thing going on. The supporting cast is better, though it’s interesting to note its relative lack of success in any acting categories, certainly compared to the multiple acting nominations The Master, Lincoln and Silver Lining’s have grabbed. Argo’s there in a token supporting nod it shouldn’t even have. Alan Arkin isn’t even the best supporting performance in the film!

DB: Beasts of the Southern Wild?

DC: I love it when you go into a film with entirely fresh eyes, with no pre-existing idea of what to expect from the cast or director. New faces. It’s a blank slate. All I knew was that it was set in the Deep South.

DB: It was kind of a slow-burner wasn’t it? You heard about it here and there and it built this momentum over the internet and through critics. Bit of a poster campaign.

DC: I was aware there were supposedly fantastical elements, but I didn’t know exactly what, anything about the story or anything at all really. The film is just, it sounds such a terrible word to use, but it’s magical. The young guy who directed it has such a light, natural touch. It looks at this strange little world through the eyes of this amazing child actress. Her experiences in this weird, cut-off environment. I’ve since heard the comparison to Pan’s Labyrinth in some respects, and I can see why that link has been made. Not in terms of…

DB: Tone?

DC: Not so much that, more through the melding of fantasy and reality. I don’t think it has any chance of realistically winning anything, but its there as a calling card for this guy Benh Zeitlin who made the film. If he goes on to have a successful career, people are going to look back on this as the killer debut. His Badlands. His Bottle Rocket. It’s got such polish for a first movie.

DB: It’s brilliant for something so small to be nominated.

DC: No stars. Low budget. Exploding out of nowhere. I guess The Artist last year is a good comparison, except the guys behind that were already fairly well established in France. Just a quirk of luck that it found its way into the Hollywood machine and started winning unmerited Academy Awards. Nobody involved, Michel Hazanavicius the director, will ever make another internationally successful film. Zeitlin’s work on Beasts is on a different level. Those Terence Malick comparisons aren’t undeserved.

DB: Ben Zeitlin. Remember that name.

DC: The big Z. Looking forward to his next.

DB: Django Unchained. Straight off the bat I’d say it’s the film I enjoyed the most from last year. My favourite of 2012. Glad it’s in there. If you can forgive me for dropping the cliché bombs, it’s just one of the reasons cinema excels so much as a medium. It’s that kind of crowd reaction you get with a film like this. It’s brutal, it’s funny, it’s got a good heart. It’s Tarantino. It’s violent as hell. It’s dark. It’s…

*DC pours more coffee*

DB: It’s coffee. Sorry. I’m pondering inelegantly. Big list of descriptive words as though I’m reading off a poster. It’s just the perfect cinema experience for me when I get to watch a film as joyful as Django with an audience. It’s an audience film. No other medium, short of a music gig maybe, provides that shared experience.

DC: I love Tarantino. He sits down with a blank sheet, creates characters, gives them the most beautiful, flowing dialogue then runs out and films an early draft with the best cast money can buy. I liked Django a lot. Provocative, sure, but as you say it’s got a good heart. It’s one of the more moralistic and honest films he’s made. It’s not just empty exploitation. Christoph Waltz in this is such a beacon of integrity. Such a lovely man!

DB: He’s found his muse with that guy. The two bits of work they’ve done together…just incredible characters.

DC: I like how broadly drawn the characters are, on the surface anyway. It’s classic Western stuff. A clearly defined villain and a couple of heroes.

DB: It’s set up like a fable in some ways.

DC: Tarantino doing a linear narrative. There’s no writing tricks or jumbled chronology. You just follow these amazing characters on their adventure. Now time to make a point of one of my issues…

DB: Go ahead…

DC: Maybe it’s because Sally Menke, his recently deceased editor isn’t around anymore, maybe it’s more of a scripting issue, but that third act has some problems. I don’t mind individual scenes as such, but there’s an obvious place in the third act of the film, after DiCaprio’s been killed and the momentum of a gunfight kicks into gear for the final battle, we just stop abruptly and shuffle through twenty minutes or so for no reason whatsoever. A naked torture scene, a load of stuff with a gang of Australians. QT having an awful cameo. That whole section of the film should never have made it in. The final gunfight should’ve been blended with the post-deaths earlier plantation fight. Tarantino is usually so on-the-ball with his structure, it seems odd that he’d avoid spotting such an obvious flaw with the ending of his film.  It kills the pacing. It’s really annoying! The film has a clear flow that’s disrupted for absolutely no reason. We stop the building action and cut to a series of totally superfluous monologues from Samuel L.Jackson and Walton Goggins.

DB: I’ve only seen it the once, but I certainly didn’t leave feeling that I’d been bogged down in third-act blues. His cameo was distracting, but I’m used to QT showing up at some point. It’s his universe; he always makes a distracting cameo!

DC: But never so annoying! Usually he slots in there without too many problems, but tied in with such an unwelcome halt to the third-act energy. Casting himself in such a shitty role. Totally superfluous. So much great stuff in the film, and he really hurts it by showing up at the wrong time.

DB: I’ll reserve judgment until I see it again.

DC: Look, it’s an issue, a major issue but just an issue in a film otherwise overflowing with positives. It’s mostly fantastic. So many great lines, great character beats.

DB: It’s full of great moments. The characters are so good.

DC: The angry face Sam Jackson pulls!

DB: When Django shows up on the horse? So good.

DC: I love how Tarantino gets how much audiences long for the visceral, splatty pleasure of gunfire and bullet hits.

DB: Great bullet hits. Exploding blood. I’m really pleased how well it’s been received by those audiences and also the critical community. It had become fashionable for a while to slag off Tarantino.

DC: The bandwagon. The idea that his films have been on a downward slope of quality!

DB: Yeah, where did that come from? Look at the stuff he’s been making! It’s absolutely phenomenal. Inglourious Basterds.

DC: The Kill Bill movies? I thought it was generally accepted they were excellent at the time. I’m surprised there’s this strange backlash.

DB: They’re excellent. The dream double-bill. So good.

DC: At what point was Basterds lumped in as some sort of ‘dry period’ before Django? It was a massive hit! Buckets of awards, big box-office, good reviews. People keep banging on about how self-indulgent he’s become. Has anyone seen fucking Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction lately? They’re insanely self-indulgent, caught up in their creator’s joy for cinema. That’s how he approaches filmmaking! He bathes in the dialogue.

DB: He’s one of the most famous filmmakers in the entire world for exactly those reasons. I can’t believe anyone is citing them as a negative. People return to his body of work again and again and again. Django continues that trend.

DC: It has all the qualities that make his best films work. He’s in that elite band where you would never miss one of his films. It’s ‘must-watch’ stuff.

DB: For the rest of his career as a filmmaker, we’ll be there opening weekend. It’s an event. You get your Spielberg’s, your Fincher’s, your PT Anderson’s. It’s absolutely unmissable stuff.

DC: I read some criticism of the lack of female characters in Django, as though this was a recurring issue in his work.

DB: Absolute bullshit. Jackie Brown, both Kill Bill parts.

DC: Death Proof. Entirely female cast after Kurt Russell.

DB: Mia Wallace.

DC: A Western with primarily male protagonists when he’s already demonstrated how well he’s able to write lead parts for women. I think it’s unfair on him. Les Miserables?

DB: Les Miserables. *laughs*

DC: I’ve been thinking about Les Miserables a lot lately. Jim Emerson on Roger Ebert’s site, David Denby, the FilmCritHulk guy….massive essays from well-respected journalists and critics who have really taken against the film. It’s been a commercial success and received a lot of positive feedback from the public, but you know, I think they’re on to something. I don’t hate Les Mis, I respect the musical, I respect the broad themes, storytelling, the songs, a lot of the acting .

DB: Great cast.

DC: The decision to film the songs live gives a stripped down, intense quality that’s really refreshing. The actors really go for it, subtlety be damned! Big performances, no holding back, swinging for the back of the crowd! It’s let down though by a fundamental flaw, a flaw that’s so problematic that it causes untold damage to the overall product. In spite of all these distracting positives, positives that shouldn’t be ignored by those of us critiquing the film, none of it changes the fact that fundamentally, the actual filmmaking simply isn’t good enough. From simple rudimentary errors, basic stuff that a production of this size has no excuse to make, the camerawork is just so fucking poor. Wide angle lenses on close-ups, the poor editing between coverage and multiple cameras.

DB: Those fucking lenses! Horrible.

DC: Characters breaking the fourth wall.

DB: Even background extras looking into camera. So fucking annoying.

DC: It’s as though they think they’re on stage recording the anniversary edition. You shouldn’t need to stare into the cinema to make an impression. It should, where appropriate, be used sparingly. Moulin Rouge does a bit of it and just about pulls it off, but then Baz Luhrman is a much more accomplished stylist than Tom Hooper. He’s worked on enough music videos and ads to understand how to shoot this sort of stuff. There’s no consistency to it here. You jump from this maddening decision of having everyone singing down the camera to these cut-off singular numbers like Hathaway’s song where the close-up is shot with the wrong lens jammed on a tripod.

DB: It’s a strange one. The analogy that springs to mind is like a beautifully laid out toy set of well dressed, nicely decorated toys with neat little wigs and a killer tape playing, then this arrogant little child comes along and thinks he knows best. I have no great affinity with the material, but you’ve got to have some respect for the fanbase, for the importance of that musical to so many people. Tom Hooper’s on an ego-trip, thinking he’s this Oscar winning director who has a style that is the ‘only way’ this could possibly be streamlined into a grand entertainment for the masses.

DC: Pride. Hubris. Hooper.

DB: It’s always ‘look what I’m doing with the camera’, ‘look what I’m doing with this’.

DC: Compared to some of his peers, many of whom are really good at this stuff, he thinks he’s some sort of visual stylist and he simply doesn’t have that set of skills. Nobody has ever doubted that the performances are always impressive in his films, he’s got to be given some credit for that, but praising the set decoration and casting is one thing, the actual shoot really lets it down. Hooper drops in with a camera and…

DB: He mucks it up. Don’t muck it up! You’ve got Russell Crowe in your film! You’ve got Hugh Jackman! You’ve got these beloved songs, these giant sets. It’s like a student filmmaker took over his brain when they were actually filming.

DC: Watching some of the student films we made earlier, we were sixteen, eighteen years old…it’s the same sort of schoolboy errors being made by us ten years ago that a director – an Oscar winning director – is making in a massive feature film. That’s just depressing.

DB: I agree.

DC: Jumping from extreme, static close-ups on the face to these medium tracks with no finesse. The problem is, it doesn’t work, it’s jarring to the eye. It’s such an unusual blend of techniques to combine, and it just gives the impression that Hooper doesn’t really know what he’s doing. There’s no consistency to the approach.

DB: The effect of Les Miserables shouldn’t be to disorientate the viewer. It’s not a Lynch dream sequence. Why is he trying to make the viewer aware that there’s a directors hand involved in every frame of it? It’s a musical.

DC: It should be immersive. Effortlessly immersive. I’m sure Working Title would say otherwise, but Les Miserables is not a hard adaptation to spin a decent film out of. The material is all there. You just need a competent helmer. Just film it without fuss and the strength of the material will do half the work.

DB: If someone like Joe Wright had done it, we might be looking at a Best Picture winner. Admittedly it’d have Keira Knightley in it but…hey…

DC: Hooper is able to sour this great stuff with basic incompetence behind the camera.

DB: The next day I had songs stuck in my head, but all I remembered of individual sequences was how distractingly poor the camerawork was.

DC: When we first spoke about it, I called you having just watched the movie and was like ‘you’ve gotta see this film’, not blowing the trumpet for it, but just to check out how staggeringly weird Hooper’s direction is. I’m still so cracked up that the producers and lobbyists were disappointed Hooper wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Why would they assume he would be? His direction is a real weak link. It’s totally out of touch with the qualities of other areas of the production less dependent on his bitter touch. Life of Pi?

DB: Go ahead.

DC: I have problems with the Yann Martel book. Didn’t really connect with me. Very clever, but it’s just not satisfying storytelling. Ang Lee’s adaptation is an enormous improvement and makes the best of a flawed novel. Lee’s a great director, so much natural ability, soul and understanding of the work.

DB: I like Ang Lee. I haven’t seen Life of Pi. Nothing particularly compelled me to see it on cinema release. I don’t care for 3D. It’s a beautiful trailer, impressive visually.

DC: The novel struck me as a bit thin. I know many people found it rich with allegory and loved the places it went, but I think this film adaptation doesn’t so much simplify the main ideas to make them more palatable to a broad audience, but does the exact opposite. It’s exploration of faith and the nature of storytelling, all that stuff, worked way better for me than in Martel’s novel.

DB: Does it flashback to when he’s not on the boat?

DC: Yeah. The whole opening, and some ‘modern-day’ scenes with Rafe Spall.

DB: Okay.

DC: Ang Lee makes so much from so little. There’s obviously the heavy visual effects element, but it’s ultimately a floating boat with a single actor for most of the runtime. The CG tiger is always complimentary and never gratuitous. The relationship between that digital character and the boy, their strange bond, it’s so much more involving than it has any right to be. When the central theme ties up at the end, it’s so satisfying, so warm, so open to differing interpretations depending on the religious/cultural baggage and different opinions viewers bring with them. It plays to all audiences, and I’m not surprised it’s been as big a hit with the more secular crowd as it has the devout. It’s a bit like Malick’s Tree of Life in that respect, though I think Malick brings a more directly Christian ethos than Ang Lee. Life of Pi is more about the worth and purpose of faith. It’s an interesting movie. I should note that the effects work on Richard Parker, the tiger, is as photo-real as I’ve seen up until this point. Considering he’s not anthropomorphized like King Kong or Gollum, its incredible stuff.

DB: Andy Serkis should’ve played the tiger.

DC: I’m pleased Ang Lee’s nominated for Best Director and that the film has nods in a few other categories, certainly Cinematography and Visual Effects. It deserves to win those two, I think. Lee is like the exact fucking counterpoint to Tom Hooper. There’s nothing aggressive about his filmmaking, he isn’t trying to graft a style onto anything that doesn’t suit the project. The most distinctive element of his filmmaking, movie to movie, is just that honesty, that attempt to find the truth in the screenplay and convey it on screen. I remember when he did Brokeback Mountain, a sensitive story that could’ve fallen flat in other hands.

DB: An excellent film. Excellently directed.

DC: I still haven’t forgiven the Academy for giving Paul Haggis’ Crash Oscars for its script and Best Picture. Ludicrous. Laughable. Before moving onto Lincoln, and the Spielberg factor I’d also like to add that Ang Lee, like Spielberg seems pretty much the nicest man in the entire world. If I was a working actor or shitty crew member, those are the sorts of guys you’d want bossing you about every day. No ego. Lee seems so serene. No stress.

DB: No Hulk.

DC: He’s zen.

DB: He talks about how he had a lot of inner anger in his life around the time he made Hulk. It was a therapy for him.

DC: Looks like he’s mastered his personal issues, whatever they were.

DB: What a great way to get your issues out. Make a comic film.

DC: Hulk’s quite interesting actually. Caught it again late last year.

DB: The editing is so distracting.  For an experiment, it doesn’t really work.

DC: It’s a failure, but a worthy one. I like those sorts of movies. I admire the attempt to do something different. He didn’t just make a bog-standard comic film, he tried something fresh. The psychoanalysis stuff and the almost arthouse approach, with the avant-garde editing. So different, even if it fails as entertainment.

DB: The ending with the giant ‘dad issues’ jellyfish. Not good. It’s not Ang Lee’s fault, he tried something. It didn’t work. Move on.

DC: That said, Louis Leterrier, who made the more conventional 2008 Incredible Hulk, proved that empty calories don’t make for a better film.

DB: Lincoln?

DC: Lincoln?

DB: Solid. Engrossing. Flawlessly acted. Flawlessly directed. Those are my thoughts.

DC: Lincoln, like Spielberg’s War Horse last year seems like such an obvious Oscar choice. Respected veteran director, big project, period production values. On this occasion you can throw a big, prestige cast and the biopic elements. It’s fucking designed to win awards! Then here’s the upside, it eschews all the worst parts of that sort of picture. It’s so understated, so focused, but with a crew that reads like a great rock band. It’s The Who! You put together the perfect pieces and they amplify each others qualities. The most naturally gifted filmmaker, a perfectly structured, endlessly insightful screenplay. It’s touching, witty….

DB: Informative. Literate. Educational.

DC: Riveting. It throws you right into the world of nineteenth-century politics. The title of the non-fiction book Team of Rivals would be a more appropriate title than Lincoln. It’s not really a biopic, as such. It’s about passing this piece of legislation. Through the process of trying to pass that law, you learn everything you need to know about the guy, what he was like and what he achieved. Thinking of the rock band thing again, you chuck in the greatest living film actor as lead vocalist and you’ve got the goods! 100+ speaking parts, stack loads of great character actors, the Spielberg stalwarts like Michael Kahn, John Williams, Janusz Kaminski. The old crew! It gels. It clicks. I know War Horse had its detractors, some people found it old-fashioned and hokey, but compared to how sludgy some of Spielberg’s adult dramas have been – most notably Amistad, which covered some vaguely similar stuff, this is his most complete, full success as a drama since Schindler’s List.

DB: It’s the antithesis of Tom Hooper’s approach to directing. The ‘look at me look at me’ thing is absolute anathema to what Spielberg wants to do here. He knows the exact approach to take with this story and the direction is just so damn accomplished.

DC: The level of control is incredible.

DB: He always services the material. That script is absolutely at the heart of his approach.

DC: It’s absolutely suited to the period and the story. And what a great story! The compromises in politics, the opportunities it affords these characters to achieve something they know might have significant implications. The tiny window of opportunity to get this thing onto the statute book.

DB: It’s brave writing. The script doesn’t spend time dropping detail about Lincoln himself. There’s no scene of exposition. It all comes through Day-Lewis’ portrayal. His mannerisms, his voice. You hear this heavy political dialogue coming out and you get an idea of who he is and what he’s like solely through his actions.

DC: They never sensationalize the character. His own humanity, prejudices and concerns are all there. He’s this pragmatist, who looks at the political game and takes advantage of this opportunity to abolish slavery. It’s just so refreshing to watch a performance like that, writing like that…and that’s just one component of the film Tommy Lee Jones is so fired up and energetic. He seems so engaged with his character. The lobbyist characters that James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson and John Hawkes play. Everyone’s so interested! The smallest roles, Jackie Earle Haley, they’re fully engaged with their own characters journey. At any point is feels like you could spend a whole film with any of the cast, from the smallest little part upwards. It’s a complete joy! Every single character, regardless of their central significance feels real. It’s the best film Spielberg’s made in a long, long time. I don’t want to start digging back through time, but even something as effective as Saving Private Ryan fifteen years ago is no way perfect, with dodgy bookends and some inadequate writing. As an overall success in all areas, Lincoln has the goods. I was praising Tony Kushner and Spielberg’s work on Munich back in 2005, but cold, hard and brutally effective though that film is – it’s not on par with the strengths on show in Lincoln. This is an extraordinary, uplifting, endlessly satisfying film. I’m already guilty of dropping too many superlatives, but it’s up there with dramas like Amadeus and The Shawshank Redemption.

DB: Tommy Lee Jones and his housekeeper. So touching.

DC: Insanely uplifting.

DB: A lovely moment.

DC: Silver Lining’s Playbook?

DB: David O.Russell. Silver Lining’s Playbook. I’d say it’s another one of those films, I think it’s decent, but it’s been dragged into this Oscar race thanks to the talent involved. O.Russell obviously got dragged into this fanfare with The Fighter a couple of years ago, and here we are again. Big cast. Big names. Deals with bipolar disorder. Interesting stuff, that’s all well and good, but like The Descendants last year, films like that, I’m happy they’re made and they’re pleasurable, a cut above a lot of the junk out there,  but the thought of it winning Best Picture…it’s just absurd.

DC: I think it’s incredibly formulaic in so many regards. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the experience of watching films like that is they remind you why the formula exists – it can be very satisfying when utilized correctly.

DB: It has its place. Yeah.

DC: The journey. The outcome. Exactly as expected. There’s pleasure in that predictability. The character work is good. I like O.Russell’s north-eastern US stuff. It’s a bit grungy, suburban…if he just wants to spend the rest of his career making family dramas set in these working class towns I’m happy with that, especially if it lets some big actors do something a bit stripped back and grounded. It’s a nice change from the histrionics and OTT elements of a lot of their work. It’s small, it’s contained, it’s quite satisfying but, yeah, it’s neither as contemporary, relevant or ambitious as something like Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained. I just can’t compare O.Russell to Kathryn Bigelow or Quentin Tarantino. His direction of this film isn’t even close to what they’re doing, yet he’s the guy who grabs the Best Director nomination. Maybe I’m being unfair? O.Russell has shown he’s got a lot of energy and mad tricks bottled up, but he holds it down in service of the material. With this and The Fighter, by working in formula, he’s able to step back, control himself, and do what’s best for the script. He’s another anti-Tom Hooper.

DB: I like him as a director. I generally like his work, but there’re bits in this where I can’t help but think a different director might’ve done a better job. There’s a farcical element to it, when they’re all in the room and everyone’s chatting over each other. Trying to do that farcical thing, the snappy Robert Altman thing…it doesn’t quite work some of the time. There’s something disjointed about it on occasions, with DeNiro giving one type of performance and Bradley Cooper doing something completely different. I admire it, I don’t want to get too down on it, but it’s got some problems.

DC: As with The Fighter, I think the thing that he really understands, more than the story, the tone, whatever…it’s the chemistry. He understands the relationships between the characters even better than the actors do. He knows exactly how to play them off each other. The relationship between the two brothers in The Fighter, the relationship between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence here…he doesn’t just hire talented actors, he gets how to work with them to highlight that connection. The pleasure for the audience comes from those interactions. As an ability, understanding that your best trick is giving the audience as much of that chemistry as possible, that’s smart…and it works.

DB: It’s Jennifer Lawrence, basically. She makes this work.

DC: Bradley Cooper, like Affleck in Argo, is merely adequate, but O.Russell knows how to mine the most out of that chemistry and Lawrence is just…

DB: She’s the film. Much like she is in everything she does. She’s incredible.

DC: I like how sweet it is, which I guess is an extension of the way O.Russell plays this relationship out. He doesn’t mind being quite on-the-nose. I like how the darkness of the early days of O.Russell has paved the way for this older, more mature guy that’s happy to let the darkness bubble along behind the eyes. He’s got way more control than he had on something like Spanking the Monkey, which is just so angry.

DB: I kind of think he’s taken his knocks on getting stuff financed. He’s conformed. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he’s working with good people.

DC: The Fighter is the best reviewed film he’s made.

DB: He’s stuck with it. His next film will be in the same vain. He’s probably never going to make another Three Kings. I don’t know how I feel about it. That’s a film that oozed with style. He’s really changed as a filmmaker. Three Kings was bonkers. Exploding cows, mad soundtrack, cameras zooming into bullet wounds.

DC: It’s like Aronofsky from Requiem to The Wrestler. He knows when to indulge and when to hold back depending on what he’s shooting. I’d like to think O.Russell is just acting in a way appropriate to this new material, rather than caught up in the sort of full-on, inescapable maturing process that prohibits him from ever making anything as nutty as his 90s stuff again. I hope it’s just about mastery of his emotions and not an irreversible change.

DB: I hope all this commercial success doesn’t discourage him from making those sorts of films again. You can imagine him doing another safe picture next time. I expect he’s in pretty high demand with actors at the moment. Four acting nominations is impressive.

DC: One last Best Picture nominee remains and that’s Zero Dark Thirty. Your opinions?

DB: So good. I’ve been thinking about it constantly since I saw it yesterday. It’s an excellent film. Flawlessly made, impressive without ever being showy, or in-your-face, pacing is phenomenal, performances are great, it knows exactly what the audience wants. We’ll get into the strange politics that’ve slightly shrouded its campaign. It’s something that I think deserves greater recognition.

DC: Kathryn Bigelow. Zero Dark Thirty. Prior to release I didn’t give a shit about the hunt for Bin Laden, but the prospect of Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal working together again intrigued me. We both loved The Hurt Locker, I liked the marketing campaign for ZDT and how secretive the whole thing was.

DB: Good early teaser.

DC: They did a decent job of keeping quiet until the film first screened. Lincoln, my favourite of the nine alongside this film, was an incredibly satisfying experience, but this is the one that floored me as the credits rolled. With Spielberg and Day-Lewis you have a certain level of expectation, with a wildcard like this it’s never a sure thing. I was completely speechless at the end of the film. The whole last hour kicks into the highest gear imaginable. Heart beating with excitement. Every procedural element leading, finally, into the big sequence at the compound. It’s brilliant action cinema.

DB: Looking at it as an action film, it’s got such a great structure to it. You get this hour and a half of amazing, building story that just explodes into this enthralling final assault.

DC: Jessica Chastain as this driven, determined CIA analyst…

DB: She becomes almost genderless, doesn’t she? Referred to as ‘the girl’…

DC: And completely bereft of any extraneous character information or back-story. You don’t know anything at all about her as a person outside of the journey we take together. Nothing about her family. Her past. Total obsession and focus on this single goal. As a piece of drama, as a piece of entertainment…it’s just so good.

DB: And treating the audience to that last forty-five minutes.

DC: The production design. The photography. Alexandre Desplat’s score which is ambient, exciting, grinds and builds and builds and builds to this momentum. It’s like a wheel turning and getting faster and faster and faster. The final hour you’re so involved in the film that I think if the projector broke everyone might have a simultaneous heart attack! The thrill of watching it on a tiny tv screen or laptop would probably top the kick from most IMAX features. When you finally get the end-of-level boss…it’s just amazing.

DB: The big one. The boss. He croaks it, and she gets an empty plane.

DC: The assault on the compound is a brilliant, brilliant setpiece. Once they reach the top floor and get the bullets into Osama…incredible. I buy the accusations of jingoism, but it’s never sensationalized on screen. They play it with brutal fucking accuracy and precision.

DB: It’s never glorified. It’s not a Michael Bay death of Bin Laden. Falling back at a hundred frames a second getting riddled with bullets.

DC: It’s not the end of Inglourious Basterds with Eli Roth pumping bullets into Hitler’s face and the audience cheering.

DB: It’s all done, for lack of a better word, tastefully. It’s handled so well. It’s true to the level of craft and understatement shown during the previous two and a half hours. They don’t blow it by overplaying the assassination.

DC: I’m annoyed that the ‘this film condones torture’ line of thinking has become such a big part of the critical discourse surrounding the movie. It strikes me more as dirty tactics from the opposing studios than anything. So much misguided thinking.

DB: Lots of people who haven’t seen the film, basically.

DC: Yeah. I fear that’s the case, and as a result there’s this accepted wisdom amongst areas of the press that it’s a pro-torture, neo-con propaganda flick. Hollywood makes plenty of those sorts of films, there’ve been quite a few covering aspects of the war on terror and middle east conflict. Zero Dark Thirty is often a dirty, nasty, dark movie – depicting the most horrendous events committed by the American intelligence services. It’s never glamorized on screen.

DB: It’s disgusting.

DC: It has impact on the characters. The guy who can’t do it anymore and heads back to Washington, Chastain visibly damaged by being a part of this stuff. All the CIA characters are morally compromised by the things they see and do. Worst of all, it’s never shown to have any sort of success. They gather literally no workable information from torture that aids in the hunt for Bin Laden. They only get any actual intel when they use alternative tactics. I just don’t understand where the line of thinking that says the film endorses torture comes from. I haven’t heard one coherent argument for that. The film depicts this stuff in quite a graphic way, but it’s most certainly not a good thing, and it never renders any useful information. Where has this idea come from? They get their nugget of useful information after feeding the guy up with falafel and olives around the dinner table. It’s really annoying that a film so tight, efficient and deserving of support ends up with this ridiculous line of thinking taking over any discussion. Why is this the defining talking point? Why does all talk about it, this chat included, descend into discussing whether it endorses torture? It’s bullshit. It’s a distraction from the qualities of the film wielded by those who seek to do it damage during a fierce awards season battle.

DB: It’s ridiculous, yeah. It’s a film doing its best to be realistic. I just don’t buy the accusations of Bigelow and Boal having a political agenda. The Hurt Locker was one of the most apolitical war films I’ve seen. The attention to detail in the action sequences, it’s insane. I have no doubt its as faithful to the events as they were able to be. That level of detail is replicated throughout the whole film. To shy away, to not show torture, surely that would be the pro-American standpoint?

DC: I agree. The pro-America angle would be to either totally ignore their use of torture or to directly show useful information coming from the enhanced interrogation techniques. This never happens.

DB: I agree.

DC: Any notable omissions from Best Picture this year that’ve wound you up? I’ve got a few. Andrew Dominik for his film Killing Them Softly. Focused. Direct. To the point. Short. Ignored. Totally ignored by the race. Another great production from Annapurna Pictures. It’s really unfair that it’s not a part of this season. It’s a shame. Similar feelings about Liam Neeson in The Grey. Bleak survival thriller, good film, great performance. Unfortunate release window made it, not ineligible, but basically ignored. They should’ve held it back until Autumn and Neeson might well be in the Best Actor category now. It’s been forgotten. Last but not least, The Master. Back in August after those first screenings it was considered the favourite, but it’s been pushed aside by the competition and only the performances have received nominations. It seems a real shame to me, as I think people will look back in a few years and won’t believe it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture – especially when something like Les Miserables was able to sneak in.

DB: Yeah, it seems strange when there’s one place left. I don’t think it was the best film of last year, not at all, but it definitely deserves to be in the Best Picture category.

DC: I just think there’s so much great stuff in there. The ideas, the intensity of it, and the amazing characters you can’t peg down. It’s endlessly fascinating to me.

DB: There’s nothing majorly that I’m upset about. I really enjoyed End of Watch and Magic Mike.

DC: Yeah I liked Magic Mike too. Funny. Ballsy. Good dance choreography. Matthew McConaughey should be in there for Best Supporting Actor. Brave and totally hysterical role.

DB: Best Director? We’ve got Michael Haneke for Amour, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, David O.Russell for Silver Lining’s Playbook, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

DC: A category primarily notable for its omissions, at least where the press and pundits are concerned. Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Paul Thomas Anderson and…if you speak to the press team at Working Title, our favourite guy Tom Hooper. This is a tough category because there’s so much great competition. I don’t think they went for the best five, certainly not when some of those names are out, but it’s a good mix. I can’t begrudge any of the nominees.

DB: I have a lot more passion for Tarantino than David O.Russell. That’s an odd one. Bigelow…Jesus.

DC: It must mean a lot to this young guy Benh Zeitlin to be in that ballot. In there with Spielberg and Ang Lee. That’s nice, but I can’t get away from my irritation that Kathryn Bigelow isn’t in there. Zero Dark Thirty is so well directed that it really feels like a mistake not to have her in the race. I know she won just a couple of years ago, I don’t know if that factors into peoples voting habits, but then…you know…Spielberg is nominated all the time! Five men nominated, surely that can’t be allowed! I don’t know if gender politics plays into the thinking of the Academy, but it doesn’t look good that they exclude the high profile female director worthy of a nomination when someone like David O.Russell is nominated. I admire O.Russell and like his film, but Bigelow, Tarantino and PT Anderson are operating on a whole different level.

DB: A film like Django Unchained couldn’t be made by anyone else. QT as writer/director, it’s overflowing with style in the best possible way. He’s in every frame of it. It’s total auteur work in the purest sense of the word. It’s a directors film.

DC: If I was picking the perfect five it’d be Spielberg, Ang Lee, Bigelow, Tarantino and PT Anderson. Out of those, it’s impossible to pick. It’s as though they’re scared of nominating the true best five as it’d highlight how silly – albeit addictive – awards season is. How is it possible to say that Bigelow’s direction of Zero Dark Thirty is superior to Spielberg’s incredible work on Lincoln? It’s such a weird, silly thing to try and argue! I’d be happy if either Spielberg or Ang Lee won. So much amazing work on show. It’s a great year. I could see someone like Haneke winning. Dark horse. It’s the Polanski/Pianist element. The Academy loves a surprise. I think Spielberg will probably take it.

DB: Yeah, I don’t mind that.

DC: Best Actor? Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington and Daniel Day-Lewis. All good performances there. Denzel is impressive in Flight, as you’d expect from an actor of his caliber. Bradley Cooper is pretty good, but probably shouldn’t be nominated. Both solid, movie-star roles. Neither hit me as hard as the un-nominated Liam Neeson in The Grey. The best performance that actor has given, drawing on his personal grief to offer something I’ve never seen from him before. It might be even better than his Oskar Schindler. It’s certainly more personal.

DB: Christoph Waltz from Django should be in the actor race. Probably a political thing, sizing up a better chance of a win in the supporting category.

DC: I agree, it’s a lead role, but at least he’s been recognized! The Neeson thing really winds me up. I know the film didn’t mount much of a campaign, and the release window was shitty, but he really goes for it in that movie. So exposed, unflinchingly honest. He’s slummed it in so much shit in the last few years, it’s refreshing for him to remind us what he’s capable of. I like Hugh Jackman in Les Mis. He’s fantastic, another excellent performance from him finally given some recognition. In a different world where the film worked on its own terms, maybe he’d have a better chance at victory, but I’m not denying the strength of his acting.

DB: Yeah, I have no problem with him being nominated. Good performance.

DC: My favourite two are Joaquin Phoenix in The Master and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. When I first saw The Master I was confident I wouldn’t see a better acting performance in 2012. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t be, when a few months went by and I fell in love with Daniel Day-Lewis and started pitching for him to win the big awards instead. Now I’m pretty much tied on my feelings. I love both those performances so much! Phoenix is colder, harder to sympathise with…but it’s trailblazing, crazily accomplished stuff that is impossible not to admire. Day-Lewis, I just love how charismatic and likeable he is. You just want to spend all day listening to him tell stories in character, they should take him on stage or something! So drawn to the guy.

DB: I’m with Day-Lewis. It’s so un-showy. So flawless, understated. A man at the top of his craft.

DC: There’s nothing hammy or predictable about it. He just inhabits this character. How many times can you say how good Daniel Day-Lewis is as an actor? The physicality, the voice, the makeup.

DB: It’s just incredible.

DC: It’s absolutely incredible. You’re gawping. It’s not like Meryl Streep doing Thatcher, as impressive as that was. There’s no audio recording of Abraham Lincoln. He dives in and creates this complete character. You never think you’re watching an acting performance.

DB: You compare it to Daniel Plainview. Could there be two more different parts?

DC: When I saw Day-Lewis in There will be Blood five years ago, I thought it was as good a screen performance as I’d ever seen. It completely captivated me, he’s completely awesome in it, in the truest sense of the word. Never have I been more in tune with awards season as that spring where he mopped up every trophy going. Completely and totally deserved, with no competition. Most actors, even character actors, bring a shade of themselves to a role but Day-Lewis…you could stand his Daniel Plainview and his Abraham Lincoln in a room and there’s no indication that they’re being played by the same actor. I can’t complain that his victory is looking so likely. I would be delighted to see Joaquin Phoenix win for The Master, he’s excellent, so damaged, broken, curled up and vicious, but I think this is Day-Lewis’ year.

DB: Phoenix in The Master is a hard watch. Physically unpleasant at times.

DC: He doesn’t work enough. This feels like him finally reaching his potential. There’s been the high profile stuff like Gladiator and Walk The Line, but this is the kid from To Die For finally fulfilling all that early promise. He’s such a wildcard in this movie, so unpredictable and deranged.

DB: The scene with the guy in the shop when he’s taking the photograph. So good.

DC: Stealing Hoffman’s motorbike and disappearing. Hilarious. I really like the stuff at the end too when he goes to England and meets the Lancaster Dodd character for the last time, when you finally get the depth of the connection between these two guys. Hoffman is all surface, all superficiality, false bluster and human fraud. In those moments between him and Phoenix there’s this connection that’s anything but. He’s able to make Phoenix’s character almost a functional human, however batshit crazy his ideas are – they seem to almost work.  Best actress?

DB: Yep.

DC: Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhane Wallis and Naomi Watts.

DB: Kind of the odd that The Impossible is in there?

DC: It’s been criticized in some quarters.

DB: Bad taste, yeah.

DC: Hey, it’s the white family…again! Better make sure we survive! Better make sure those marquee names don’t get killed. Fuck the hundreds of thousands of dead brown people because Ewan McGregor is okay! I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m sure the performances from the lead actors make it work – even if it’s a bit bad taste. Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty is excellent. Lots of good work from her since she broke out a couple of years ago. This feels like the big lead role she’s been building up to, the role that finally gives her that big chunk of screentime where she can show what an impressive presence she is. A win would definitely be deserved, amongst the complexity of the screenplay, she keeps the thing anchored to a human face. It’s a dark, focused procedural, but she’s the face behind the manhunt.

DB: She wears it well. You never doubt the ten-year journey, the impact it’s had on this woman who’s been part of the mission. When she cries at the end it’s believable.

DC: Stripped of a broader life for the character beyond what’s relevant to the story, that decision just puts twice as much pressure on Chastain’s performance. She rises to the challenge. David Fincher’s Zodiac does a slightly similar thing with the deterioration of Robert Graysmith, the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Having that human face helps lubricate the dryness of the procedural. It gets you through the detailed, wordy, technically complicated information. You’ve got this obsessive character running parallel. We’ve already talked quite a bit about Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Lining’s Playbook?

DB: Excellent as ever.

DC: She makes the absolute best of that character. It’s not just a construct to aid the development of Bradley Cooper and give him a ‘love interest’. It’s not Nicholas Sparks style coupledom to help ‘improve’ him. I never doubted the reality of the character.

DB: I’m glad they didn’t go down the Zach Braff arty wank fantasy direction. Lawrence brings so much. I think Winter’s Bone is one of my favourite films of the last few years.

DC: The quality of her performances in franchise fare like X-Men and Hunger Games is much higher than it’d usually be. She’s much more capable than the leads in stuff like Harry Potter or Twilight.

DB: It’s a big, popular franchise.

DC: Her work is exceptionally good though. We’re used to being fobbed off with substandard leads in family friendly blockbusters, even back to someone like Mark Hamill in Star Wars. He’s totally serviceable and perfect for Luke Skywalker, but it’s no great performance or anything. She’s just a much, much better actor than that. The main thing that’d hold me back from saying she should win, aside from the competition, is that I think this is just the beginning. There’re better films and even better roles ahead. She’s back doing sequels for those big franchises at the moment, but there’s a whole forty, fifty years ahead of great work from her. 

DB: Emmanuelle Riva in Amour? I’ll let you discuss.

DC: Excellent performance.

DB: How old is she?

DC: Something like 85 or 86. My problem, as I said earlier, is that it’s a two-parter. I can’t view her work without thinking of her co-lead.

DB: I guess he’s been crammed out. There’s so much competition for Best Actor. Where would you fit him unless you canned Denzel or Bradley Cooper? It’s hard to envision an organization like the Academy ever ditching the big names completely in favour of unknown actors in European art films. Riva is the exception, not a regular occurrence. I guess they weren’t able to fit the film into every category. It’s testament to how much people liked it that it made its way into Best Picture, Director and so on. They should be happy with that.

DC: Yeah, that’s a triumph. When the relationship is so key to the film though, it’s hard to consider the prospect of someone like Riva being in awards contention without her co-star. He’s been pretty much omitted from everything in favour of her, which makes it look as though one performance was somehow more worthy than the other. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no weak link. He’s so, so good. The way the events of the film impact on the lives of these two people, it feels like it requires joint dedication if she goes on to win it. This is a two-person nomination.

DB: Looking forward to seeing it.

DC: Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

DB: How old is she?

DC: Something like five, six maybe when they cast her. Benh Zeitlin tells the story through the innocent eyes of this child, who wholly and totally accepts the reality of the world she’s been born into. This strange little community, the fantastical elements that weave into the way a child perceives things. She’s really good.

DB: You think she’ll be the next Precious?

DC: And go on to do nothing? Maybe. Hard to tell. She won’t win either.

DB: Strike that last comment, slightly racist *laughs*.

DC: Precious could literally eat this girl.

DB: *laughs*

DC: I read she might be doing the Annie remake now Will Smith’s daughter has been dropped. That’s a big project.

DB: Anyone omitted from this category you can think of?

DC: Michelle Williams has played no part in this awards season. Take this Waltz, written and directed by Sarah Polley. Her work in the film isn’t just the best performance of her career, but as good as any of these performances nominated. Polley, creating a character that must draw on her own personal experiences, uses Williams as a vessel through which to explore these ideas that’re interesting to her, and it’s just dominates the film. It is the film.

DB: I agree. It’s a hard role to nail. At its core, the character does a dickish, awful thing.

DC: She fantasies about an affair and then goes about having one.

DB: Yet you still empathise with her.

DC: So well drawn, so completely enables the audience to understand why she does the things she does. You’re not judgmental about the character because you understand, if not condone, why she does the things she does and hurts so many people. It’s a relatable character with great depth and brings out the best of Williams’ abilities. It’s a real shame that it’s a film that’s already been forgotten. Seth Rogen as the husband, so straight and understated.

DB: A small film like that, understated and with a tiny, limited release. It’s just gone. It’ll only get any attention if someone like Polley makes a massive, attention-grabbing movie at some point and people start digging back through her earlier films.

DC: They all must be proud of it, and rightly so. If asked, Williams must surely cite it as some of the best stuff she’s done. You can just tell. She’s a somewhat unusual and anonymous actress a lot of the time, but you can’t imagine anyone else playing that character as well. If the ultimate job of an actor is to create a complete human being than she’s certainly done her job.

DB: She did a film with her dog…a dog that went missing or something…what was it called?

DC: I don’t know. The biggest profile stuff is probably the Marilyn Monroe thing, Blue Valentine, Brokeback

DB: What’s the name…Wendy and her dog or something.

DC: Was it good?

DB: I didn’t see it.

DC: She had a wig in it?

DB: Yeah.

DC: She’s always good.

DB: Dawson’s Creek!

DC: Impressive career. Resistant to taking lazy parts.

DB: Synecdoche, New York. Great.

DC: Fantastic. Endlessly fascinating to me. Charlie Kaufman is my kind of genius. Ebert’s favourite film of the last decade. Wrote a fair bit about the screenplay in my university dissertation. Still can’t figure out the film, but it sure winds its way into your head. Underrated.

DB: Shutter Island. She smashes it every time.

DC: Best Supporting Actor? Alan Arkin for Argo, DeNiro for Silver Lining’s, Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained and Hoffman for The Master. All five have won Oscars before, which is why it’s impossible not to stand up and shout the names James Spader for Lincoln, Dwight Henry for Beasts of the Southern Wild, DiCaprio and Sam Jackson for Django, Matthew McConaughey for Magic Mike, Scoot McNairy for Killing Them Softly. Why are they nominating someone like Alan Arkin, when he just won quite recently, and omitting these fresh names? Arkin isn’t even the best support in Argo! I would’ve gone for John Goodman over him. He’s good, you know, it’s a decent part…but it’s strange that Arkin’s been nominated – especially when it ends up being that films only acting nomination. I bet Bryan Cranston is pissed! It’s an oddity, like they just randomly felt the urge to cram it into at least one acting category and that’s the only one that sprang to mind. I can’t begrudge Christoph Waltz for Django, he’s brilliant, but it’s completely a lead role.

DB: I’d love to see him win.

DC: DeNiro is good in Silver Lining’s. Nice to see him not slumming it for once.

DB: He’s been shit for so long. Fucking about, looking bored.

DC: Phil Hoffman and Tommy Lee Jones are both excellent, both worthy. I love Hoffman’s dancing.

DB: The most arrogant character of all time. So many job titles. Keeps getting Phoenix to make him weird drinks. Goes bright red. *laughs* He’s hilarious. I love Philip Seymour Hoffman.

DC: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln is probably my favourite of the five. He’s always fantastic, always picks the grumpy, cynical, middle-aged part. It’s the whole Men in Black thing, extended over twenty years of career. He’s like that in Lincoln too, but they take all that shit and give it a purpose, a reason. As this fired up, abolitionist character…there’s an idealism tied in with all that usual weariness, the guy has a complete arc over the course of the film as you eventually figure out what it is that makes him tick, what drives his politics. It’s a total counterpoint to the Day-Lewis character, the fury and dynamism set against the pragmatic, softly spoken President. The interplay between those two is so, so good. As with Sally Field, they just amplify the qualities of Day-Lewis in the lead part. It’s perfect support. It’s just so damn interesting watching him as he risks compromising some of his own values in order to help Lincoln push the legislation through.

DB: It’s such a strength of the film that it has all these elements. If it was just Lincoln’s demeanor and stuff, it might feel flat, but you’ve got Tommy Lee Jones, you’ve got the three lobbyist guys…it’s just a great mix. You fully dive into this world.

DC: The only tiny, tiny element of the film that didn’t entirely work for me, and I know it’s a pet love of Spielberg, was the father/son stuff between Day-Lewis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It was a bit superfluous at that level of exploration.

DB: I thought maybe it’d been really cut down.

DC: Yeah, that’s possible. A couple of extra scenes could’ve helped, or total removal, but yeah…it’s such a minor issue. In a long film, it has no damaging impact, and it’s ultimately extraneous…but not enough to annoy.  I guess they wanted to show that additional dimension of Lincoln’s life. Getting back to TLJ though, his role ultimately works because it’s a compete thing, a complete journey running parallel to the lead. In terms of the strength of the performance, I just can’t compare something like this, or Christoph Waltz, to a non-scene stealer like Arkin in Argo. You could cut Arkin out without impacting that film in the slightest, but if you tried to remove these guys…

DB: I was going to say, yeah, I can’t think of a single other person who could’ve played Christoph Waltz’s role in Django. I know it was written for him, but to deliver that kind of rhetoric, the way he does it, as with Inglourious Basterds, it’s just unique. It’s like theatre, there’s so much pleasure watching this amazing dialogue spill out of his mouth. It’s such a base-level enjoyment of an actor speaking, none of these others guys quite have that quality.

DC: Yeah, I love how much he seems to enjoy playing these characters. With both this and Inglourious, he’s having a ball. That enthusiasm, you can feel it, every line…he’s having the time of his life. It’s the same sort of pleasure Anthony Hopkins seemed to take from his part in Silence of the Lambs.

DB: Silver tongued devil. Amazing.

DC: I love it when he kills DiCaprio. So satisfying.

DB: It’s brilliant.

DC: I’d be happy if he won, but going back to the start, the omission that kills is probably Leo DiCaprio.

DB: He’s very good.

DC: In terms of scene-stealers, I’d rather have someone like DiCaprio than Alan Arkin. As soon as he’s on screen, he’s so captivating, fearless in terms of what he’s willing to say and do as this atrocious, awful human being. He pushes aside any movie star ego and is willing to do absolutely everything necessary to give the performance that character requires.

DB: I love DeNiro, but I struggle to see his part in Silver Lining’s Playbook as an Oscar winning performance. Just because he’s not appearing in total dogshit doesn’t automatically warrant a nomination. He’s good, serviceable, maybe it’s just the scenes he’s in…

DC: It’s the same with Jacqui Weaver in that film.

DB: They’re fine, serviceable to the leads, but there’s nothing sensational there. It doesn’t stick in the head like DiCaprio or Sam Jackson in Django. I can’t see much of a difference between DeNiro in this and DeNiro in the first Meet the Parents. It’s a marginal improvement on the junk he’s been involved with, but it’s nothing notable.

DC: I think you’re a bit unfair.

DB: The quirks of that film, the superstitious stuff, it’s a bit of an eye-roller. It can be quite obvious, even if they keep it fairly grounded. I’m probably, yeah, being overly detrimental to his performance, but it’s…

DC: …not as good as he was in Stardust.

DB: Exactly.

DC: I also loved the guy from Zero Dark Thirty. The torture guy. Chastain’s supervisor with the beard.

DB: Wow, yeah, he’s very good.

DC: I forget his name. He’s in Lawless too. He’s excellent. Supporting actress?

DB: Go ahead.

DC: Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Helen Hunt, Sally Field, Jacqui Weaver.

DB: Not an exciting category. Hathaway is so certain to win.

DC: I don’t want to be too unkind towards Hathaway in Les Miserables. She does what’s required for it, but it’s hard to believe some of the exaggeration when people get overly enthused about her performance.

DB: It’s a showy part. An easy part. An Oscar part. She’s able to shave her head. That shit’s designed to win awards.

DC: It’s the sort of role her management will have known will be a cert for an Oscar push. You take this part, we’ll get you in the competition. Do the crying and singing thing for five minutes. I like Anne Hathaway, she’s a likeable enough actress, but I just can’t compare that role to the complexity and nuance required from Amy Adams or Sally Field. I don’t go in for these big, brash ‘act to the back of the cinema’ parts when there’s nothing more to them. The relationship Sally Field’s character has with her husband, her own issues and frailties. And as for Amy Adams in The Master

DB: Adams, going up against Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman on screen, and to hold her own…that’s no easy thing.

DC: Considering how charismatic Hoffman is, and how a lesser actor could just play her role as ‘the wife’, she’s boiling over with so much fucking power. She dominates him. The character dynamics between those two, the power balance the film touches on, the way it shows how this beloved ‘leader’ of this cult is just part of a bigger power hierarchy with his quiet, outwardly submissive wife at the top. When she’s there at the end, the ‘advisor’ in the corner, making the decisions. She does so much with a glimpse or a glare. It’s a totally different sort of acting to that which Hathaway is asked to do in Les Mis.

DB: I think we’re both quite cynical about those sorts of big, showy parts.

DC: Someone playing Abraham Lincoln could’ve easily toppled into that OTT bullshit in the hands of a different actor, writer and director. It’s a tough balance.

DB: It’s eye-rolling. The Oscar cry. The disfigurement. I’ve seen this shit win awards so many times, and it doesn’t impress me at all.

DC: I don’t even think Hathaway was the best female performance in the film.

DB: Who was the other girl?

DC: Samantha Barks as Eponine?

DB: Yes. She’s better.

DC: She was in the stageshow. There’s more going on with that character for me. They’re all fighting against Tom Hooper’s incompetent camerawork. It’s just so pre-ordained that Hathaway would win. From the first trailer. A boring, boring, obvious category. It makes the category a farce. I haven’t seen The Sessions.

DB: Helen Hunt is always good.

DC: Jacqui Weaver in Silver Lining’s. Fine, but not an award-winning performance.

DB: She was nominated for Animal Kingdom a few years ago, right? Good actress, but she shouldn’t be in there. She does exactly what’s required, but it’s a ‘supporting actress’ in the simplest sense.

DC: It doesn’t require a name at the bottom of the poster. It’s secondary. My big omission in this category is probably Kelly Reilly in Flight. She has a role that runs parallel to Denzel Washington, they crossover and have a fair bit of screentime together in the second half of the film. As written, its quite cookie-cutter. The character serves a purpose, but she doesn’t really have much of an arc…or at least the focus is so on Washington that you lose something, but her work, in an underwritten role, is absolutely fantastic. The accent, the physicality, it’s much better than the part deserves. A lesser actress would coast through and be completely unmemorable, but it really sticks.

DB: I’m intrigued to see this performance.

DC: It’s testament to how good she is that she can make so much from so little. The whole focus of the script is on the male lead. She’s given nothing, no help from the film, but creates something. That takes us pretty much straight into the next category, which is Best Original Screenplay. Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Django Unchained and Flight. Don’t get why John Gatins is nominated for his script for Flight. That script has problems. The supporting roles are all underwritten. Everything that works, as best illustrated by Kelly Reilly, is due to the good cast. The trajectory of the film is predictable, thin and obvious. It’s just a one-man journey with Zemeckis’ direction and Denzel papering over the cracks. The second act is not so much saggy as non-existent, bleeding through after the opening plane crash into a structurally shaky bulk. It’s really odd that the script is here. This isn’t a bad film, far from it, but that script needed a lot more work. Gatins shouldn’t be nominated, especially not when The Master or Cabin in the Woods are out.

DB: How was the script for Amour?

DC: Very human, very personal, very grounded.

DB: Good.

DC: Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson back again.

DB: I don’t like Moonrise Kingdom. I’ll get that out of the way.

DC: I don’t think it’s his best work. When he eventually wins, I’d rather it be for something else, but, you know, I liked the film. I like the emphasis on the child characters. I love the ensemble. It’s hard to work up much motivation for it, especially not compared to the stuff I’ve really loved of his, but it’s pretty good. It’s a bit of a two-horse race really, in all likelihood. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty and Tarantino for Django.

DB: Both phenomenal.

DC: Even putting aside some of the issues I had with the final half hour of Django, I can’t begrudge it being a serious competitor in this race. Tarantino writes such great dialogue, great characters.

DB: Now there’s an original screenplay.

DC: A true original, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s my complete favourite. Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty, so intricate, so studied, informed…journalistic. It ‘boals’ you over.

DB: Boals you over…

DC: Hahaha. Seriously though, how much research did he have to do to cobble this thing together? Tarantino must have a great time writing, the words flying out of him and onto the page. Getting caught up in the world and caught up in the characters, no doubt a joyous experience for a guy like that. He takes the adventure with the characters, but Mark Boal – that shit’s the complete opposite kind of writing. Delving into interview transcripts, historical details, and access to secret records. So much hard work, running sections by experts. It makes his winning script for The Hurt Locker, detailed though it was, look practically easy.

DB: They re-wrote a lot of it after Bin Laden was found, right?

DC: Yeah, it was reworked from the ground up. The thing I love about that script though, is that even with the impressive level of research, the detail, it works primarily as an engaging, exciting drama. The dialogue isn’t just functional and contextually accurate to the sorts of meetings they’re having or whatever, it flows out beautifully. I especially like the scene where Mark Strong shows up and monologues for five minutes, slating them all for being shit at their jobs.

DB: Slamming the table! “We are failing!” *laughs* I’m happy with either of those two winning.

DC: Both thoroughly deserved. Tarantino and Boal. So damn talented. Adapted Screenplay? Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Silver Lining’s Playbook and Argo. They’re all in the Best Picture race. Argo might win this category just to bolster out its likely Best Picture win. It’d look weird if it only took one or two awards, editing and film. The script for Argo is a bit Mark Boal-lite, like the film in some respects. It’s obviously researched, but half that detail is junked to ramp up the fictionalized drama. It’s an ‘events inspired by’ rather than ‘based on’. I’ve got to give some credit to Life of Pi for streamlining and improving on that novel, though ultimately I think credit for the projects successes sits with Ang Lee. Beasts of the Southern Wild, I have no familiarity with the source material so I don’t know what sort of relationship it has with that, but I really like the thing. David O.Russell’s work on Silver Lining’s Playbook we’ve already spoken about a fair bit, so I’ll just cut to the point and say that it’s Lincoln…it’s gotta be Lincoln. It’s leagues ahead of anything else in this category.

DB: I’d go with Lincoln too.

DC: Tony Kushner. Tremendous.

DB: Its two and a half hours of dialogue.

DC: It never slows. It moves. It has pace, forward momentum, and that isn’t just Spielberg, that’s Spielberg servicing this script and bringing Kushner’s writing to audiences with energy and vigour.

DB: I got exactly what I wanted from that film. I feel informed about that period, even if I don’t read anything further. Trusting the general accuracy of the piece, I feel I know now what went on. Kushner’s script brought it to me, and kept me constantly engaged, always interested.

DC: Best Foreign Film? It’s typical that I only catch one of these prior to the ceremony, and it invariably fails to win. This time it’s Amour though, and I don’t think the competition has a chance when it’s been so celebrated in so many other categories. I’ve heard really good things about A Royal Affair and No.

DB: Best Documentary? Searching for Sugar Man is supposed to be very good.

DC: I’m surprised The House I Live in isn’t nominated, it won like the jury prize at Sundance. I really liked it.

DB: Best Cinematography. I can’t believe Zero Dark Thirty isn’t in there. The low-light shooting, it should be almost pitch black.

DC: I’ll be interested to see how it plays on home release. Hopefully it’ll transfer nicely to BluRay. It’s a bitch it isn’t nominated, but I’m firmly in the Life of Pi camp. It’s just beautiful. You’d think it’d be limiting when you spend the central hour just with sea, boat, tiger and boy…but it’s brilliantly lit and photographed, doubly impressive when the locations are so limiting and much of it is green-screen. I’m not a fan of 3D, but it’s as good an example of how that sort of thing should be done as I can think of. It’s picture frame stuff.

DB: Roger Deakins for Skyfall has been overlooked many times. Shooting digital, it’s sharp stuff.

DC: Janusz Kaminski for Lincoln. I’m pleased he’s reigned in his bad habits. From AI through to the fourth Indiana Jones I’ve disliked the way he’s overlit.

DB: Very bright, very soft. Annoying.

DC: Suddenly he got his shit together on War Horse, shooting this strange pastiche of films from sixty or seventy years ago, and that return to a more traditional style seems to have followed through into Lincoln. It looks much better than Minority Report, War of the Worlds and so on, where I just wanted Dean Cundey to return from the early nineties and give them some fucking colour.

DB: Django Unchained looks brilliant.

DC: Tarantino and Robert Richardson getting out in the wild, shooting big landscapes and exterior stuff. So nice to see! Big open deserts and mountains.

DB: It’s exactly what you want to see from a Western. Some actual scope.

DC: And on celluloid! Big canvas, big horses. Best Editing? I don’t doubt that if Argo wins this award it’ll go on to win the big one. If Lincoln takes this, and adapted screenplay, it’s looking positive, if Argo wins either of them, it’ll take the big prize. Fuck knows why Silver Lining’s Playbook is nominated? I’d have slotted in Skyfall, simply for giving us the cleanly cut action we’ve been craving from the series since Quantum’s bullshit.

DB: Not to demean the work of the two guys credited, but it’s not a difficult job to edit Silver Lining’s Playbook. That’s the sort of nomination that makes me question whether voters know what they’re talking about.

DC: Simple camera setups, minimal coverage. It’s nowhere near as complex as the attack in Zero Dark Thirty, where a thousand different editors could cut a thousand different sequences. Anyone cutting Silver Lining’s is likely to come up with the same end product. Why were they nominated?

DB: Michael Kahn for Lincoln. He’s always great.

DC: I notice that Argo shares both the same composer and editor with Zero Dark Thirty. I bet they’re more proud of the latter. Regardless of how it turns out, and which film this guy wins for editing…there’s no chance he doesn’t recognise that the level of craft in one is greater than the other. I don’t want to bag on Argo too much, I like it, but as a comparison to Zero Dark Thirty’s final hour…there’s no comparison. The intensity of that compound assault…

DB: I’m surprised Tarantino’s new editor isn’t nominated.

DC: It’s a bit flabby at the end, we’ve covered that. I know it’s primarily a script issue, but compare the final section of Django to the final section of Zero Dark Thirty.

DB: If you compare the finale of Zero Dark Thirty to almost any film you can name, it’s just a mean thing to do.

DC: Michael Kahn for Lincoln I like. Deftly jumping between multiple locations, cutting around Congress and so on.

DB: Backtracking, I should make it clear that I thought Django was exceptionally well edited. From a professional perspective, I look at it and I’m telling you, it’s a hard thing to cut.

DC: What about Lincoln?

DB: Speaks for itself. Michael Kahn knows what he’s doing.

DC: Shall we go back to the start and make our favourites clear?

DB: Quick-fire favourites. Who we think will win and who we want to win.

DC: I think Argo will win.

DB: I think Argo too.

DC: I want Lincoln…or Zero Dark Thirty.

DB: I want Django or Zero Dark Thirty. There’s no way either will win.

DC: It’s, you know, realistically it’s probably a fight between Argo and Lincoln. That’s a battle between a good film and a great one. My loyalties, as ever, lie with Spielberg. Best Director?

DB: I think Spielberg will get it.

DC: I think you’re probably right. Who do you want to win?

DB: Out of those five? Spielberg.

DC: If there’s one director that deserves to have 3 Best Director Oscars on his bookshelf, just to make a point, it’s that guy.

DB: Yeah. He’s the master.

DC: Best Actor?

DB: I both think Daniel Day-Lewis, and want Daniel Day-Lewis.

DC: I’d say the same, although Joaquin Phoenix is incredible. Best Actress, I think Jennifer Lawrence is a good bet, and I’m happy with that.

DB: I think she’ll get it. I’m fine with that.

DC: Look, if there’s one element of Silver Lining’s Playbook that deserves some sort of recognition, it’s her. She makes everyone better.

DB: Supporting actor? I think Tommy Lee Jones.

DC: Me too. I also want him to win.

DB: I want Christoph Waltz.

DC: You really love Christoph Waltz, don’t you? I like the idea of him winning for both this and Inglourious Basterds. Two opposite sides of the coin.  Supporting actress, we’ve already discussed, Hathaway will win.

DB: Yeah, Hathaway will win. I’d want Amy Adams.

DC: Original Screenplay. I think Zero Dark Thirty will win, and I want it to win.

DB: Yeah, for some reason, I just can’t see Quentin getting up there and getting it. I want him to get it.

DC: They both have one already. I’m sure they’ll be laid back about it, though it’s kind of a difficult situation in some respects. Neither will win Best Picture, so this might be the most significant; maybe even the only award that either film wins. It’ll make me sad if either walks away without a single award.

DB: I think Mark Boal will win, but there’s that big part of me that wants to see Tarantino up on stage. He gets given a rough ride for someone who brings so much. It’d be a worse industry if Quentin Tarantino wasn’t out there making films.

DC: I’d rather he’d won something for Inglourious Basterds, either for his direction or for the script. It’s a better overall film than Django and that script, maybe Pulp Fiction aside, is my favourite of his career. It’s funny in some ways; this same battle was fought at the 2009 awards. That was Boal vs Tarantino too, and the former triumphed. Maybe QT will take revenge by winning the thing!

DB: Adapted Screenplay?

DC: I want Lincoln, I think Lincoln….I fear Argo or Silver Lining’s sneaking up, especially if Argo is gonna pad out that Best Picture win. The WGA awards don’t go out until a week or so before the Oscars, so it’s hard to tell today where the good money will be by the 24th.

DB: I don’t have the same passion for this category as I do the Original Screenplay fight.

DC: There’s been no educational connection to the historical period covered by Lincoln in my life. I’m not an American. I had some idea of the outline, but it’s essentially a new story to me. Kushner’s script worked on so many levels and fully engaged me with that story.

DB: Cinematography? I want Django to win, but I won’t be too cut up.

DC: Life of Pi for me. Editing, I’m firmly in the Zero Dark Thirty camp, though I think Argo will take it.

DB: Same. William Goldenberg fighting against himself, winning for his weaker work. Jesus, how long must it’ve taken to edit Zero Dark Thirty? That’s an all-nighter!

DC: Must’ve been locked in a room twenty-four hours a day trying to figure out how to put the thing together. How much footage must they have shot?

DB: Three units moving through the compound, multiple levels of action elsewhere with Chastain and so on. The villagers coming towards them. It’s masterful.

DC: It’s just a step up from his work on Argo. Different ballpark. I’m all over Zero Dark Thirty for the sound awards too, sound editing etc. My admiration for how sharp and precise the production of that film is. Remarkable filmmaking. Wouldn’t be surprised if Les Miserables grabbed some of those awards. Capturing and mixing the on-set sound.

DB: Can you remember Everybody needs a friend, the song from Ted?

DC: Best Makeup? Les Miserables. The makeup in Hitchcock looks atrocious and it isn’t fantastic in The Hobbit either, very rubbery. Can’t see how Les Mis wouldn’t win for this. Best Original Score? Life of Pi’s is really good. Why is Alexandre Desplat nominated for his score for Argo, but not his far superior score for Zero Dark Thirty? Again, a big crossover in crew and one work clearly better than the other. So annoying! Desplat’s score for that film is the best thing I’ve heard this year. Also omitted, the awesome, rousing score for Beasts of the Southern Wild and, sadly, Jonny Greenwood for The Master. Of this five, it’s gotta be John Williams for Lincoln.

DB: I found nothing particularly memorable from the Lincoln score.

DC: It’s not his best. I liked War Horse last year, but as a grounding, holding score Lincoln is definitely good stuff. It did its job. War Horse can be accused of milking the big themes on those emotional beats; his score here is used more sparingly.

DB: Best Song. Skyfall by Adele. Adele will have an Oscar, quite a funny thought.

DC: Other than that, I can’t remember any of these damn songs. Best production design should go to Lincoln, though you can never be surprised if something like Les Miserables puts up a fight. It’ll annoy me if it does to some extent, as it’s as though they just grabbed a big bag of costumes and set dressings from the Queens Theatre on Shaftesbury and used those. Zero Dark Thirty should be nominated here.

DB: You’re right; it’s such a hard thing to do.

DC: Creating an immaculate reconstruction of the Bin Laden compound.

DB: I’m sure Anna Karenina has fantastic production design. I’ve seen the trailer.

DC: Yeah, all Joe Wright’s films are excellent in that area. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I have mixed feelings about three of his first four films, but they were always strong on this sort of stuff.

DB: Interesting to see that The Avengers has an Oscar nomination.

DC: Albeit for visual effects, doesn’t really count! Life of Pi is surely a cert. Prometheus had spectacular effects, but Life of Pi is the winner. The tiger, Richard Parker, it’s like the first time you saw Gollum. It looks so fucking real! It’s the Benjamin Button moment!

DB: Yeah, revolutionary.

DC: It’s the best fully digital creature effect I’ve seen. Best costume design seems to be pitting two shitty Snow White films against each other. I’d like Lincoln to win, but as I said, don’t count out Les Mis.

DB: You never got to see the costumes in Les Mis, Hooper was too busy zooming into the collars of their shirts.

DC: Too much time locked in on headshots, twenty feet of empty frame to the left.

DB: Just laughable. Demented. Hooper’s surely playing a joke on us all!

DC: Snubbed! Snubbed for Best Director!

DB: *laughs* Hooper winning over Fincher in 2011 was absolutely obscene.

DC: So, rounding off, I think Argo is grabbing Picture, Editing, maybe some techies for padding, and hopefully not Adapted Screenplay. I hope Lincoln mounts a good challenge and takes Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score. Life of Pi will grab a few minor awards, as will Les Mis for Supporting Actress, its makeup and all that sort of nonsense. It’s going to be a mixed year, with no big winners mopping up loads of stuff, and a decent, equitable mix of winners from multiple films. Many categories are in no way locked down, and likely extremely close in the voting, certainly Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and the Screenplay categories are completely to play for. Very few people will be fortunate enough to win a clean sweepstake. At least one of Django and Zero Dark Thirty could end up coming away empty handed.  It’s just a shame that, as ever, the campaign ties up in a way that means the likely big winner isn’t the best film nominated. I hate being unkind to Argo, it’s a solid, four star adult drama, but it’s not a Lincoln, it’s not a Django, it’s not an Amour and it most certainly isn’t a Zero Dark Thirty.

DB: It could be worse; it could be a fight-off between Les Miserables and Silver Lining’s Playbook.

DC: I’m still really pleased with the nominations for stuff like Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Life of Pi. All are excellent, all warrant this recognition and it’s great if the first two, especially, are able to boost their profile through these nominations. The Best Director category is mangled, it’s a bit of a strange one, and I’d like greater recognition across the board for Kathryn Bigelow and The Master.

DB: Yeah, well summed up. I’d say the best thing compared to the previous four years we’ve done this is that there’s no absolute turkey in there. We’ve both got issues with Les Miserables but it’s not like an out-and-out shit film has snuck into the Best Picture category. I haven’t seen Argo yet but it doesn’t sound as though its victory disgraces the contest, even if it’s quite a bland, safe option.

DC: The Artist winning pissed me off last spring, but the competition was all a bit flat.

DB: You’ve probably talked about The Artist in the last ten seconds more than anyone else has in over a year. Nobody cares.

DC: See you next year!