Jeffrey Lyons is a movie and theater critic with a forty-year career in television, radio, and print, and he’s the author of Stories My Father Told Me: Notes from “The Lyons Den”, published by Abbeville Press. In anticipation of the upcoming 85th Academy Awards this Sunday (only four days left!), Lyons took the time to answer a few questions for the Abbeville Blog.
Q. Were there any big surprises for you in this year’s Academy Award nominations?
A. Except for the nomination of Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, no. Quality really stood out. Beasts of the Southern Wild is just a wonderful film—and the director, Benh Zeitlin, who I’d never heard of before, did a marvelous job. And Ang Lee was great. All the directors were. Even Silver Linings Playbook was an interesting, quirky film. I think it was a bit overrated but I liked it a lot, particularly the second half. But I think it’s not a hard year to predict some of the winners in the categories.
Q. There’s been a lot of press about Leonardo DiCaprio being snubbed for a Best Actor nomination. Do you have any thoughts on that?
A. Well, yeah, he did a fine job. I think the scenes went on too long. With Tarantino, the same thing happened in Inglourious Basterds, that scene around the table in the bar that erupts—that went on forever. It was much too long. But I’m not worried about actors getting snubbed, this year. It happens every year. I mean, Kirk Douglas has never won an Oscar. Peter O’Toole was nominated for Best Actor seven times, maybe eight times. Richard Burton never won an Oscar. Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin never won Oscars.
Q. Who would you put your money on for Best Picture?
A. Well, I hope Zero Dark Thirty wins, but I don’t think it’s going to because Argo has won all the ones leading up to this. It won the BAFTA the other day and it won the Screen Actors Guild and so I think it’s going to beat out Lincoln. You know, Lincoln has a mistake in it: apparently at one point in the movie they said that two out of the four congressmen in Connecticut voted against Lincoln’s proposed bill abolishing slavery, and it’s not true—all four of them voted for it. So they’re going to try to change that in the DVD release. You cannot make that mistake. The other night, Jay Leno showed there were other mistakes in Lincoln, and he showed a clip from the movie—it’s the scene where Lincoln is in an open carriage and he’s talking to General Grant, and a Fedex truck is seen in the background. Then Mary Lincoln is talking to her husband and she’s holding a little electric fan, you know one of those little battery-operated fans. I mean, that was hilarious—it looked real, too.
Q. What about for other categories?
A. I’m hoping Jessica Chastain wins for Best Actress, though I suspect it’ll be Jennifer Lawrence. But again, I’m rooting for Jessica Chastain, who was not the first choice for the role—it was reportedly offered to Rooney Mara, who couldn’t do it. It’s a great film. It’s an astonishing film. Oh man, you are right there with the SEALs. The attack on Abbottabad was done in real time and even the bullets look real.
For Best Actor I think it’s going to be Daniel Day-Lewis, but if I’m going to pick an upset (and I like to pick one upset a year—I’m the one who picked Marisa Tomei to win in her year, which she never forgot), I think it could be Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables. If it’s not, it’ll surely be Day-Lewis.
Supporting Actor is an open category. I’m hoping for Alan Arkin. The buzz seems to be for De Niro. I also think Christoph Waltz was a lead—I don’t think he was supporting. John Goodman was overlooked for Argo, and for Flight—he was very good in that, too. But I think it’s between Arkin and De Niro. I suspect it might be De Niro, who’s won two Best Acting Oscars, but Arkin of course is an Oscar winner. All the nominees in this category are Oscar winners. I think it’s going to be De Niro, but if not it’ll be Alan Arkin. I’m rooting for Alan Arkin.
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