The best part of the morning after Oscars is the evaluation and second-guessing of the winners. In that hazy Monday hangover, we scan the winners list, bleary-eyed. "Did they really give Best Editing to "Argo"??? So let's just take things to their logical conclusion and rank every single award winner, in order of most deserving. Bear in mind that these opinions are my own, but I promise that I saw every nominated film and thus know what I'm talking about.
1.) BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "Amour" (Austria)
Michael Haneke couldn't pull out wins in Best Director or Best Original Screenplay, but as one of the best films of the year in any language, "Amour" wholly deserved this one.
2.) BEST DIRECTOR: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"
Two directing Oscars, zero Best Picture wins. It's an odd footnote for Lee, but no matter what happened in other categories, his achievement on "Pi" was justly rewarded.
3.) BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Expected? Yes. Painfully "method"? Yes. But it's not like anyone can argue with the quality of the performance.
4.) BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: "Life of Pi"
Groundbreaking work, plain and simple.
5.) BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Skyfall" (from "Skyfall")
One of the best Bond themes ever, and among the best winners in this category (give or take a "Once" or a "Crazy Heart") in the past 20 years.
6.) BEST SOUND EDITING: "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall"
The ultra-rare Oscar tie managed to go to TWO incredibly deserving sonic achievements.
7.) BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Jacqueline Durran, "Anna Karenina"
Durran's had this coming to her since "Atonement," maybe since "Pride & Prejudice."
8.) BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Brave"
Not the most thrilling field this year, but whether or not this one lived up to the Pixar "standard," "Brave" was the class of its category.
9.)BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
What's that saying? "Haters gonna hate"? Well, they are, especially when it comes to young actresses triumphing at the Oscars. And while neither of these women would have been my first choice in their respective categories, they were far from the worst options. Keep making Twitter fume, ladies!
10.) BEST SOUND MIXING: "Les Miserables"
While the caliber of the voices used were of variant quality, the live-singing conceit must've been a BITCH to mix, and the "Les Mis" team made even the weakest voices sound vital and immediate.
11.) BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Mychael Danna, "Life of Pi"
Beautiful work, and with the best scores of the year -- "Cloud Atlas"; "Beasts"; "The Master," if that does it for you -- left unnominated, it's a fully supportable win. Pouring one out for Thomas Newman, though.
12.) BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Claudio Miranda, "Life of Pi"
Only because there were even better options who could have won, like Roger Deakins (poor Roger Deakins, man) or Seamus McGarvey.
13.) BEST PICTURE: "Argo"
Yes, it was a middle-of-the-pack film, and the fact that those end up triumphing so often at the Oscars is something you either make your peace with or you don't, but "Argo" is a solid piece of red-meat filmmaking that you can recommend to your parents. Good enough for the middle of this list.
14.) BEST ANIMATED SHORT: "Paperman"
It was handsome to look at. As a story, it lagged far behind the superior "Head Over Heels."
15.) BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: "Inocente"
It's a good movie, and it's not surprising that the Oscar voters would want to reward the girl by honoring the film, but I thought there were better options. "Mondays at Racine" does some deft structuring with the narrative that packs a punch.
16.) BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: "Lincoln"
A surprise win, probably the most unexpected of the night, but the category would have been better served by a win for "Anna Karenina" or "Life of Pi."
17.) BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: "Curfew"
I'm clearly in the minority on this movie, as most people really loved it, but it seemed slick to me, and not in a good way.
18.) BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Speaking of being in the minority on this one: I'm sorry. I don't get it. I fully admit this may be my problem. Years from now, I may drop dead unexpectedly and they'll find a brain parasite that had been inhibiting my ability to appreciate the unfocused and immature "Django Unchained" or Waltz goofily enjoyable but not at all deep performance, or the Waltz As Beloved Film Personality thing. He seems like a lovely person, and his genuine gratitude for the award was quite nice, but: ehhhhh.
19.) BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Chris Terrio, "Argo"
Look, Chris Terrio is clearly adorable and gave a great speech and everything, but the script for "Argo" took a whole lot of narrative shortcuts to achieve false suspense and leaned HEAVILY on "Argo Fuck Yourself" which isn't even that good a joke once (I get that it was a real-life thing, but still). Over Tony Kushner and the Zeitlin/Alibar team? I can't do it.
20.) BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: "Les Miserables"
I mean. It was fine. Among the nominated films, I'd probably have given it the award too. But this was the weakest category BY FAR this year. Nothing for "Lincoln" or "The Impossible" or "Anna Karenina" or "Looper"?
21.) BEST FILM EDITING: William Goldenberg, "Argo"
That cross-cut airplane chase at the end was the worst part of the movie.
22.) BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: "Searching for Sugar Man"
My least favorite of the five nominees. It's not a bad film, but I honestly don't understand why it was such a sweeper. I guess people really got into that Rodriguez guy, but if you weren't enthralled by the music (there was a LOT of it), then you're not left with a ton to hold on to.
23.) BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"
Tarantino's least accomplished script. Deal with it.