Jack Garner: Oscar should have gone to 'Lincoln'

12:57 PM, Feb 25, 2013

Daniel Day-Lewis accepts the award for best actor in a leading role for "Lincoln" during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)/


Written By Jack Garner

The movie awards season is finally behind us. Now we can continue to discover or re-enjoy the winners (and a few of the losers) on DVD and beyond.

The climactic hurrah, of course, was Sunday night’s Academy Awards on ABC (which I understand will now be known officially — not just informally — as the Oscars). Here are a few of my last-call observations of Oscar night:

• The victory of Argo as best picture will forever be known as “Ben Affleck’s Revenge.” Argo is a very good movie, but not quite on par with Lincoln, Life of Pi or Zero Dark Thirty. Here’s why I think it won: The Academy directors’ branch failed to nominate the clearly deserving Ben Affleck in the directing category. However, for the awards themselves, everybody in the Academy votes on each and every award. I think they were ticked that the directors were so stupid, so they voted for Argo, at least partly, out of spite.

• It was one of those Oscar nights that voters tried to make everyone happy. Sometimes, a movie wins in a giant wave of acceptance speeches, but other nights feature a little something for everyone. That’s what this was. Of the nine films nominated as best picture, each one won at least one statuette, except for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Argo, Life of Pi and Les Miserables won three each, Lincoln and Django Unchained won two each, and Amour, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty each won one. Other winners included Skyfall with two Oscars, and Anna Karenina, with one. All told, a lot of films get to put a lucrative little image of the Oscar statuette on the DVD boxes they’re trying to sell.

You may be wondering why I kept rooting for Lincoln from the time I saw it until Oscar night. I simply think it’s a masterpiece. I admit certain prejudices, including my love of history and my unabashed admiration for Steven Spielberg (and a corresponding frustration with the relatively new, increasing and illogical disrespect he gets from some filmgoers and critics). Personally, I think he’s evolved into the John Ford of his generation, which is an impressive evolution.

But, most specifically, here’s my logic on Lincoln: Which of the nominated films will more people still be looking at (however they will look at them) 40 or 50 years from now? Lincoln. If you live that long, remember what I said and let me know if I was right.

I am glad that, at the very least, Daniel Day-Lewis won for his portrayal in Lincoln. It’s a majestic, unforgettable performance, one of my all-time top 10 (along with the likes of Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan, Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, Meryl Street as Sophie and as Karen Silkwood, Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane and Denzel Washington as Malcolm X).

As always, the Oscar show moved me with its in memoriam segment, and I was reminded how much I’ll miss Ernest Borgnine, Charles Durning, the great Swedish actor Erland Josephson, and a major film critic inspiration and nice man, Andrew Sarris (who brought the auteur theory from France to America. Simply put, the auteur theory holds that, despite the recognition of collaboration, the director is the true “author” of a film.)

Host Seth MacFarlane was too juvenile and inappropriate with some of his humor, and unexceptional otherwise. He probably did get it right, though, when he joked that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting next year. We can only hope.

That said, the show’s musical numbers were fabulous, especially those by Diva Divinity — Shirley Bassey, Adele and Barbra Streisand. They were worth the price of admission (or of the night’s cable bill).

The 2012-13 awards season made it clear that it was a great time for movies, and it was also the first time in some years that most award show viewers had seen several of the films and had a vested interest. We can only hope the multiplex walls separating popcorn thrills and intelligent art will continue to be surmounted in the future.

As for this awards’ crop, Argo, Skyfall, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Anna Karenina, Brave and Searching for Sugar Man are already on DVD; Life of Pi, Lincoln, Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty arrive on disc in March; Django Unchained is scheduled for April 16; and Silver Linings Playbook is scheduled for April 30.

DRYDEN REDUX. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll be able to join Oscar nominee (and Rochester native) Robert Forster and me as we help welcome filmmaker Alexander Payne for a showing of Sideways, the wine-country comedy for which he won one of his two Oscars. We’re celebrating the reopening of the newly refurbished Dryden Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2. Check for tickets at (585) 271-3361, ext. 218, or at eastmanhouse.org.