Why Silver Linings Is No Surprise opinion

There were plenty of surprises amongst the Academy Awards nominations. Michael Heneke’s French language Amour got a lot of love outside of the Foreign Language category, Beasts of the Southern Wild popped up in several major categories and notable snubs included a paltry showing for The Master and not one but two previous favourites for Best Director – Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) – failed to receive a nomination.

The path is clear for Lincoln to dominate. Not only did it receive the most nominations, it has been picking up steam for some time and is favourite to walk away with Best Picture and Best Director and, no doubt, many more, including a likely first-ever third Best Actor statuette for Daniel Day-Lewis.

While many news outlets have focussed on this, some have expressed the surprise success of Silver Linings Playbook? Surprise? What surprise? Across all media, the BBC, for example, lead with this line. “Oscars: Silver Linings surprise contender” was the headline on the BBC News web site. But there are a multitude of reasons why its recognition is far from surprising.

A lot of this is to do with politics, with attention drawn to people the Academy feel deserve recognition, regardless of their performance for a particular film, not to take anything away from Silver Linings, which is a memorable, well made, thoroughly enjoyable film. Director David O. Russell has firmly been on the Academy’s radar for some time, especially since The Fighter (for which the director also received a nomination). The cast is likewise excitement-inducing amongst the voters. This is the first film since Reds over 30 years ago a film has received nominations in all four acting categories. And that’s because Jennifer Lawrence, who will likely win Best Actress (although, Naomi Watts’ odd inclusion aside, she’s in the most exciting group of them all, a group including another darling, Jessica Chastain), is Hollywood’s current golden child (deservedly so), Bradley Cooper, who is sickeningly good at acting as well as being absurdly good looking, is another fast-rising hotshot, Jacki Weaver is someone else with lots of attention on her since a should-have-won Actress in a Supporting Role for Animal Kingdom a few years ago, and Robert DeNiro just happens to be Robert DeNiro. I would argue that Weaver and DeNiro are less deserving in this case but the most deserving films, filmmakers, cast, and crew are only sometimes the winners of the big awards, especially the Academy Awards, the mightiest industry marketing machine of them all.

Oh, and there’s another person behind Silver Linings Playbook: Harvey Weinstein. The most famous and notorious producer of them all, Weinstein has quite a record at the Oscars. Although two of his other films - Django Unchained and The Master didn’t do as well, if the man is behind your film, your film will get noticed. He loves awards and has steered a multitude of films to success, most recently with The Artist, last year. The Academy Awards aren’t The Academy Awards unless Harvey Weinstein features prominently somewhere.

Because the hype quickly faded, and because it still doesn’t stand a chance of winning, perhaps it is easy to forget that the film was considered a contender on its release. Although it tackles some heavier issues (lightly, it must be said), at its heart, Silver Linings Playbook is a typical romantic drama – misfit boy meets misfit girl, misfits struggle, misfits get together. That, coupled with the people involved, make it Oscars fodder - far from an Oscars surprise.

11th Jan 2013

TA Wittering


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