Archive for January, 2012

Immediate Oscar Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 by Will Link

Well…the nominations are out and as far as I’m concerned they continue what has been a very schizophrenic awards season. There were more than a few surprises, which always makes for a fun awards show. Here is my early thoughts and analysis:

Best Actor
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

The surprise here has to be Bichir. Yes, he got the SAG nomination but I really didn’t think enough people actually saw the film. I had expected Michael Fassbender who gave a brave, exposed performance in Shame. He had been in so many films this year I expected the Academy to acknowledge him in some way. DiCaprio was also an odd man out. All week you had heard Oldman could squeeze in here. Going into this morning Oldman was probably the best actor working today never before nominated so it’s impossible to not be happy for him. But Tinker Tailor is a slog of a film. Smart money is on Clooney. He carries The Descendants. He gives one of his most emotional unglamorous performances, I’m sure he will be rewarded for it.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

This is a two woman race between Streep and Davis. I am actually giving Davis the slight edge. As much beloved as Streep is, Iron Lady is a stinker. The Help however is charming and beloved. I think that will help Davis to victory. Mara was the slight surprise. She was amazing in Dragon Tattoo, a very physical and emotionally demanding part. I’m happy to see her here. I thought her nomination meant there’d be more Dragon love…which was not the case. But her nomination comes at Tilda Swinton’s expense. Tilda gave the year’s very best performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin, so naturally she wasn’t nominated.

Best Supporting Actor 
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners 
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Very disappointed not to see Albert Brooks nominated for Drive, my favorite film of the year. Such a cold vicious performance, in a cold stylistic film must not have appealed to the voters. Nolte is a semi surprise but deserved. I honestly don’t get the praise Jonah Hill has been receiving for Moneyball. I feel like he’s just been able to climb aboard a wave of love for that film. None of this matters – Plummer in a cake walk.

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help 

Clearly this is Spencer’s to lose. I feel her only real competition is McCarthy, whose role in the end was probably too broad. But both The Help and Bridesmaids were huge hits and the Academy may choose to honor them in this category. Personally I will be hopelessly pulling for Bejo who lit up the screen in The Artist.

Best Original Screenplay

“The Artist” Written by Michel Hazanavicius
“Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
“Margin Call” Written by J.C. Chandor
“Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen
“A Separation” Written by Asghar Farhad

This category always has some surprises and Margin Call is the big one here. It beat out both former winner Diablo Cody for Young Adult, a film that must have been too bitter a pill for voters, and the heartfelt and funny 50/50. I had hoped to see Will Reiser’s name called since making a comedy about cancer that isn’t too schmaltzy is a hard feat to pull off. Very excited for A Separation’s nomination here. The way its story unfolds is amazing. I think it should be the favorite for best foreign film – however as we all know the favorite in that category doesn’t always win. This is Woody’s to lose. Midnight in Paris is up there with some of his finest work and it’s been a long time since this master was honored.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash & Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo 
George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian, Moneyball 
Peter Straughan & Bridget O’Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Clooney nominated for screenplay as well was a bit of a surprise. I expected The Help again to be nominated here. Beloved book, hit film. Sorkin won last year and Moneyball is no The Social Network. I think Payne will win his second Oscar in this category.

 Animated Feature Film

“A Cat in Paris” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
“Chico & Rita” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
“Kung Fu Panda 2″ Jennifer Yuh Nelson
“Puss in Boots” Chris Miller
“Rango” Gore Verbinski

No Tin Tin has to be a big blow to Spielberg. I’m not going to lie…I have no idea what A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita are. I would guess in this field Rango is the one to beat. A fun film that aped a lot of great movie tropes and moments. Plus it looked fantastic.

Directing  

“The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants” Alexander Payne
“Hugo” Martin Scorsese
“Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen
“The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick

I don’t drink the Malick kool-aide like a lot of my fellow cinephiles. I think his films aren’t as deep as people think.  People prescribe meaning to something that isn’t there. But God damn they look fantastic. After hearing Mara’s name called for actress I expected the Academy to follow the DGA and nominate Fincher. I also thought Spielberg might hear his name called because, well, he’s Steven Spielberg. But despite the best picture nomination War Horse was dead on arrival this awards season. The Artist and The Descendants are the favored best picture winners so you would expect Payne and Hazanavicius to duke it out. But with two legends nominated I wouldn’t be so sure. Woody’s award will be screenplay. But Scorsese made a wonderful film about his love of film. I think he’s got a real shot  at his second Oscar. Things will be clearer after the DGA winners are announced.

Best Picture

“The Artist” Thomas Langmann, Producer
“The Descendants” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Scott Rudin, Producer
“The Help” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
“Hugo” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
“Midnight in Paris” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
“Moneyball” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
“The Tree of Life” Nominees to be determined
“War Horse” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producer

With its Globes and PGA win the favorite should be The Artist. In my opinion it’s the best of this bunch. It’s a cliché to say, it’s “why we love movies”…but it is. The romanticization of the era is a character in this film. It oozes charm. To me the idea of it being a silent movie is not a gimmick. It’s a brilliant form of storytelling that truly helps us connect with the characters. What they are going through and the times they live in. In a year of films about nostalgia The Artist was my favorite.  It is the favorite to win…but will the Academy voters be turned off by a silent film? A silent film hasn’t won since the very first ceremony when Wings took home best picture. Not that there have been that many opportunities for one to win.  But let’s not count out The Descendants. Ultimately I think it’s too small a film to win best picture. Acting and screenplay will be its awards. But for weeks I’ve been saying the dark horse is The Help. Not getting a screenplay, directing and the always necessary editing nomination means it shouldn’t have a shot. However it’s about race, a subject voters love. If The Descendants is too small and The Artist to silent then The Help could still benefit from the split vote.

As magical as Hugo and Midnight in Paris are (two more nostalgia driven films) I don’t see either of them pulling off an upset. Hugo did receive the most nominations with eleven but The Artist was close behind with ten. I was kind of surprised that nine pictures got nominated. I only assume it’s because this year is so schizophrenic people didn’t know which way to vote. Moneyball’s reward is its nomination. War Horse was lucky enough to sneak in there. You have to thank its technical nominations for that. After all it’s beautifully shot by nominee Janusz Kaminski and the score by double nominee John Williams (for Tin Tin too) are the best things about the film. The Tree of Life is too divisive and artsy to win. However even as much as I’m a Tree of Life hater Emmanuel Lubezki must win cinematography.

And finally there’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I should have known this poorly reviewed Scott Rudin produced, Stephen Daldry directed film would find a way to sneak in here. I really thought it arrived too late to the Awards season. When you saw that there would be nine nominees I assumed Dragon Tattoo had made the cut. Or possibly the well deserving Bridesmaids. I naively felt that with nine nominations comedy would get honored. I knew my beloved Drive didn’t stand a chance; in fact it got only one nomination for sound editing. But I didn’t see Extremely Close coming.

So that’s it for this year’s nominations. I’ll make some more solid picks as we get closer to the date. This is just my “why the hell am I awake right now” analysis. Some quick notes. Only two songs nominated? I’ll be pulling for The Muppets. Plus it will be fun to see a member of Flight of the Concords get an Oscar. And only two high profile documentaries were nominated Paradise Lost 3, which I assume is an early favorite, and Pina. With two great documentaries this year I guess we have to assume Werner Herzog is never going to win this category.