An Awarding Occupation

I belong to something called the Denver Film Critics Society, and we\’ll be doling out our awards early this week in a posh, black-tie event at … um …. oh, looks like someone forgot to book the Motel 6 ballroom again. So we\’ll probably just send out a press release.

Just as well. I don\’t own a tux.

But I do have to vote–today–on what I think were the most impressive achievements in film this year (based on the nominations we all made a week ago). It\’s a fun exercise, especially for a faith-based critic for me: A chance to really evaluate something without counting swear words.

With that in mind, let me unveil a partial list of nominees and give you my personal thoughts on each. And, when the rest of the votes are tallied, we\’ll see what films, actors and other worthy recipients rule the roost in the Centennial State (that\’d be Colorado).

Denver Film Critics Society Nominations

Best Picture: Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained
Django is certainly nothing we\’d ever give a thumbs up to in my other gig, and I wish that Lincoln and Life of Pi might\’ve made the cut. (An aside: I\’m hoping Skyfall squeaks into the Academy Awards Best Picture category, too. The best James Bond movie ever deserves a little Oscar love, if you ask me.) But all these films are undeniably well crafted, and my own top choice made the short list: Argo almost feels like a throwback to Alfred Hitchcock: a gripping, thrilling film that\’s also an impressive bit of cinematic art.
Paul\’s vote: Argo

Best Achievement in Directing: Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

I could make a pretty strong case any of these directors winning Denver\’s prestigious hypothetical statuette (I imagine it as a golden bag of Skittles). Ben Affleck may not be the best actor around, but he\’s one of the 21st century\’s best directors. Paul Thomas Anderson\’s work is easier to appreciate than to love: The Master is not something I\’d care to watch repeatedly, but you can\’t deny that Anderson knew what he was doing when he put the thing together. But my vote goes to Bigelow, who has the remarkable ability to take really controversial stories and let her characters tell them in their own, unforgettable ways. That\’s brave filmmaking at its best.
Paul\’s vote: Bigelow

Best Lead Performance by an Actor, Male: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln); John Hawkes (The Sessions); Denzel Washington (Flight)

I was bummed that Joaquin Phoenix was left off this list. His work in The Master was unforgettably, almost ferally disturbing. Still, this race almost feels like a foregone conclusion, no matter who\’s voting. Congratulations, Mr. President.
Paul\’s vote: Day-Lewis

Best Lead Performance by an Actor, Female: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook); Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty); Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

What? No Naomi Watts for The Impossible? Ah, well. I thought Wallis, who was all of 6 years old in Beasts, was enchanting … but how much does a 6-year-old really \”act\”? Lawrence, I have a feeling, will be in possession of a golden Skittles bag in short order. But she won\’t get my vote this year. Jessica Chastain is one of the most versatile young actresses of the 21st century, and she was riveting as the obsessive CIA spook in Zero Dark Thirty.
Paul\’s vote: Chastain

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor, Male: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master); Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln); Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Three strong performances here. Hoffman, in my opinion, turned in the best … but he has almost as much time on screen in The Master as Joaquin Phoenix. That\’s not fair, is it? As such, I think I\’d campaign for the character with the worst toupee.
Paul\’s vote: Jones

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor, Female: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables); Amy Adams (The Master); Sally Field (Lincoln)

In a year of outstanding movies filled with memorable female characters, this may be the strongest category. Amy Adams is memorable in every role she inhabits, and her performance in The Master showcased her at her hardest and most cynical. When I saw Lincoln, and I thought Sally Field was going to run away with this category. And then I saw Les Mis and saw Hathaway steal a nearly three-hour movie with a spare 15 minutes of screen time. Her rendition of \”I Dreamed a Dream\” might be one of the most memorable cinematic moments of this young decade.
Paul\’s Vote: Hathaway

So there you have it: I\’ll be voting in other categories, too, but if you want to know who I think deserves to win Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Non-English Language Feature, you\’ll just have to wait for a few days.

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