Best Picture: Argo
Let’s let the dust settle on Ben Affleck’s underdog victory before we go changing this one. Argo offered the thrills of Zero Dark Thirty without the controversy; the historical intrigue of Lincoln without the anti-climatic length; and the humor of Django without the violent and profane excess. Twenty years from now, we may watch another film storm its embassy gates and hold its Oscar statue hostage. For now, we’ll honor the film that celebrates how Hollywood imagination can truly change the world.
Best Director: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Ang Lee did what James Cameron (Avatar) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo) couldn’t: legitimize 3D with a Best Director win. Lee took a Yann Martel fable that was widely thought impossible to adapt and transformed it into a serious commentary on why we choose to tell (and believe) certain stories. More than just Mowgli and Shere Khan on a lifeboat, Life of Pi is a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Parable.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Every great actor has his magnum opus, and for Daniel Day-Lewis, it was his performance as Abraham Lincoln, becoming the first ever to win Best Actor three times. While Argo was the safer pick for Best Picture, Spielberg’s biopic may fulfill its own prophecy: “If you could look into the seeds of time, which will grow the largest?” Lincoln will sprout forever, despite its melodramatic opening and overwrought ending, with plenty of Euclid lessons left to teach from the greatest actor of this generation.
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook / The Hunger Games)
Emmanuelle Riva broke hearts in Amour, but I’ve already corrected her Oscar snub for Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), and Quvenzhane Wallis was a dynamo in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but her day will come. Instead, 2012 was the year of Jennifer Lawrence, bagging popcorn fans as Katniss in The Hunger Games, then charming critics with Silver Linings Playbook. That’s how you master The Film Spectrum.
Best Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Christoph Waltz repeated his Inglourious Basterds win with another Tarantino race revenge flick. But the Django performance I can’t shake is Leo DiCaprio as the skull-crushing master of the Candieland Plantation. This should have been the year Leo finally got his statue after steadily rising from Titanic and being tapped by Martin Scorsese to replace Robert DeNiro (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas) for the latter half of his career (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed).
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables / The Dark Knight Rises)
Best Original Screenplay:
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino) Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Argo (Chris Terrio from Tony Mendez’s book and Joshuah Bearman’s article) Beasts of the Southern Wild (Lucy Alibar & Ben Zeitlin from Alibar’s play)