The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 22, 2013

Oscar preview: Searching for 'Silver Linings'

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

— My favorite conversations surrounding “Silver Linings Playbook” have dealt with its “classification.” Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Is it a ... (gulp) rom-com?

Those kinds of movies -- the ones that evade labels and avoid clichŽs with every unexpected plot turn -- are so wonderful and rare. Which is why I have been the unofficial head cheerleader for “Playbook” all Awards Season and have my fingers and toes crossed going into the Oscars this weekend.

The movie is by far David O’Russell’s finest work, a hilarious and heartwarming story of a band of misfits who find comfort through relying on one another’s strengths and forgiving each other’s flaws.

The “romantic comedy or not” question comes in because technically this is the story of how two people meet and possibly end up together (I won’t spoil it for you), and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. So ... romantic ... and a comedy ... doesn’t that make it a rom-com?

As a gal who has very apologetically indulged in Nicholas Sparks’ fare to get my girlie-love-fix over the years, it was a welcome surprise for somebody to bring back some street cred to the genre. (John Hughes would be so proud.)

But regardless of what you’d call it, “Playbook” isn’t just for the ladies. And if I had it my way, the movie would sweep in all categories. Rarely, however, do I get my way when it comes to the Academy.

So, here’s what I predict will happen with the big awards on Sunday night ...

Actress in a Leading Role

Will win and should win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”

For a while there Jessica Chastain of “Zero Dark Thirty” had the momentum. Usually, when the choice is between an actress in a comedy or a drama, the super-serious Academy will go drama every time.

But while Chastain was the “it girl” last year -- and she showed her chops again in this film about the team responsible for killing Osama bin Laden -- Hollywood couldn’t help but take notice of Lawrence’s incredible performance.

Lawrence plays a young widow with a personality disorder, and her subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shifts in mood are absolutely mesmerizing on screen.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

Should win: Day-Lewis (but I want Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook,” to win)

OK, I get it. Day-Lewis is the male version of Meryl Streep; he disappears into every role. True genius. Undoubtedly, he embodied Abraham Lincoln, to the ridiculous degree that he and Sally Field were texting back and forth as Lincoln and Mary Todd (eye roll).

But can’t we just give Day-Lewis and Streep lifetime Oscars or something? A big, giant statue that would be good for every single movie they do for the rest of their lives?

That would keep Awards Season a lot more interesting, and it would give a breakout actor like Cooper the chance for some much-deserved recognition.

Besides the melodramatic “The Words” last year, Cooper’s never really had a role of any substance. Playing a man with bipolar disorder trying to rebuild his life gave him the chance to show he’s got major talent.

Writing -- Adapted Screenplay

Will win and should win: O’Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

O’Russell said he did this movie as a gift to his son who has bipolar disorder. And if you’ve ever met anyone who has it, you’d recognize that person immediately in Pat, played by Cooper.

O’Russell perfectly captured and humanized the disorder in his script, not to mention the myriad eccentricities and disorders of the other characters in the movie. And the originality of the plot mirrors that of the characters.

Will win and should win, indeed.

Writing -- Original Screenplay

Will win: “Amour”

Should win: “Flight”

“Flight” has been overlooked this season, as has the fabulous performance by Denzel Washington playing an alcoholic pilot. Great script and great performances, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a shot.

“Amour,” a French film about an elderly couple after one suffers a stroke, is beloved by critics and it’s a great big bummer, which the Academy tends to adore.

Directing

Will win and should win: O’Russell

Ben Affleck has been the big winner in this category at almost all previous awards shows this season, and nobody has been more surprised than him.

But the Academy, for an unbeknownst and highly criticized reason, didn’t even nominate Affleck in the category. The Academy also left Kathryn Bigelow off the roster, even though “Zero Dark Thirty” was an acclaimed and buzzed-about movie this winter.

So, I think that field-clearing is going to ensure O’Russell takes home the gold.

Best Picture

Will win: “Argo”

Should win: “Silver Linings Playbook”

I’ve actually been smiling along with Affleck all Awards Season as he’s been completely blown away every time he hears his name for best director and “Argo” for best picture (or the equivalent, such as best cast, at certain shows).

He’s really enjoying himself, and it’s been a nice little “in yo’ face” to the Academy for not even nominating him in the Directing category.

I liked “Argo,” which is the story behind the Iran hostage crisis. I thought it was a good movie, and it was also really commercial, so it had a wide-ranging audience.

Do I think it’s a “Best Picture”? Not really. Not a whole lot of originality in filmmaking here, which is important to me when choosing a deserved recipient of the biggest prize of the evening.

For all the reasons I laid out above, it would be a wonderful and welcomed surprise if “Silver Linings Playbook” pulled out a win.

It would certainly be my Awards Season’s silver lining if it did.