Having abdicated the film editor role late in the cinematic year in 2012, I was looking forward to once again reading about the nominees in fan mode this time. After all, I liked so much of what I saw this year: Rian Johnson going 3-for-3 with Looper; Joss Whedon’s crowdpleasing one-two punch of The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods; Jiro’s fish, Wes Anderson’s scout camp, Bully’s brave ones, Soundsystems and Queens of Orlando. And just as I remember leaving it, the list of honored films made this fan slump a little lower in his blow-up couch. I mean, they’re fine. But, c’mon. You’re telling me the rickety platforms offering up Russell Crowe’s Javert and a CGI tiger can hold a candle to the almost entirely snubbed launching pad for Jennifer Lawrence’s breathtaking Katniss Everdeen or anything in Holy Motors? So what am I left to root for? In this, the Academy, for all its potentially corrupted vote-gathering, still landed on the side of my personal 1st place tie, two films undeniably different and undeniably related: Lincoln and Django Unchained. By a mile. Tony Kushner’s script for the presidential biopic flawlessly set up its director, Steven Spielberg, for success with its eye for kinetic motion, layers of dense context and outright humor. Combined with Daniel Day-Lewis’ superhuman portrayal and a portrait of race relations so similar to our present that it provides hope for our future, it embodies the magisterial history of the moment. Django, which largely takes places only a handful of years before the stately events of Lincoln – though, crucially, set in the heart of slavery-era Mississippi not Washington, D.C. – highlights the progress of those few years by illuminating in spectacularly visceral terms the horror, the mass delusion Lincoln could only hold over his cabinet through words. The two films, unbeknownst at the time of their making, strengthen each other. I don’t know if either directorial titan has acknowledged as much in public, but it’s a wonderful coincidence worthy of JGL’s wonderful coincidence-prone Robert Lincoln. If I had to pick one, however, the Oscar would go to Django Unchained. I’ve rewatched all of QT’s features in between Django viewings, and believe me, I never thought I’d say this, but it’s his best film.And that's that. The 85th Oscars coverage airs Sunday night at 7pm on ABC.
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