McDaniel's Oscar debate: Cinema professors, students offer takes on who should shine at Academy Awards

Brett(Carroll County Times)

In late February, conversations amongst McDaniel College cinema professors and students usually focus on one subject:

Who will win Oscars and why?

This year is no different. With the 85th Academy Awards just three days away, the departmental debate about the likely winners and most deserving performances is ongoing. The Academy Awards air at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

While McDaniel cinema professors and students agree on a lot, they do differ on which film will win Best Picture.

Jonathan Slade, an associate professor of cinema studies and communications, thought "Argo" would win from when he first saw it in movie theaters. "Argo," directed by Ben Affleck, is a thriller about how a CIA operative led a rescue of six diplomats from Iran.

"You know those guys were going to get out, but I was still sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time," Slade said. "It's a really amazing film, and it's a shame Affleck got snubbed for [an Oscar nomination for] Best Director."

While associate professor of cinema Richard Brett agrees "Argo" is deserving, he believes the Academy will reward "Lincoln," a Steven Spielberg-directed movie chronicling the tumultuous presidency of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

The Academy could be swayed by the major motion picture, particularly the performance by Best Actor nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, who starred as Lincoln.

Even so, Spielberg has directed more complex masterpieces in the past, Brett said. It was an excellent historical film, he said, but it didn't break new ground like past Spielberg classics like "Jaws" and "Schindler's List."

McDaniel College junior Brittany Fleming is pulling for "Django Unchained," a Quentin Tarantino western about a freed slave who attempts to rescue his wife from a plantation owner.

She felt Tarantino was snubbed in the Best Director category, where he did not receive a nomination.

While the McDaniel cinema department representatives feel Best Picture is up in the air, they do agree on some of the likely winners in other categories.

They feel Day-Lewis is a near lock to win his record third Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lincoln. Day-Lewis won Best Actor Drama at the Golden Globes, often a predictor of who will win at the Academy Awards.

"I think Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor," Slade said. "I think he should win Best Actor, but I still think the Best Picture is 'Argo.' "

Despite limited screen time in "Les Miserables," Anne Hathaway likely will win Best Supporting Actress for her emotional role.

"She's going to win it, and she had like three scenes, you know?" Slade said. "She's going to win it for one song and a hair cut."

It's not how long she was on screen, freshman cinema student Ryan Wyman said. It's how effective she was during that time.

"Her character's presence is felt the entire time throughout the movie," he said. "It's the story that drives 'Les Miserables' forward. So many terrible, depressing things happen to her character in the first 10-15 minutes that you really care for her, and she gains the audience's empathy."

Regardless of who wins, the McDaniel cinema representatives all agreed that 2012 was a much better year for the movie industry.

"Overall, there was a much stronger crop of movies and intelligent, creative works than we've seen in quite some time," Brett said. "It was almost like a return to the 1970s."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun