Thursday, February 23, 2012

OSCAR 2012 - Pre-Show Thoughts & Predictions & Rants


It's silly to bag on all of the Oscar-nominated movies just because they're Oscar-nominated. Yes, there are plenty of great films that got snubbed this year, but that doesn't take away from the fact that plenty of the movies and performances in the spotlight this year are, legitimately, amazing. From The Artist, to Demian Bichir in A Better Life, to Christopher Plummer in Beginners, to Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, to Martin Scorsese's direction of Hugo.

That said ...

This year's Oscar nominees exclude so many of last year's best films and performances, it's mind-boggling. So let me get this out of the way, before talking about the actual nominees:


1.) Drive for Best Picture
2.) Charlize Theron for Best Actress (Young Adult)
3.) The Adventures of Tintin for Best Animated Film
4.) Nicholas Winding Refn for Best Director (Drive)
5.) Martha Marcy May Marlene for Best Picture
6.) Young Adult for Best Picture
7.) Young Adult for Best Original Screenplay
8.) Warrior for Best Picture
9.) Elizabeth Olsen for Best Actress (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
10.) Rise of the Planet of the Apes for Best Picture
11.) anything for The Debt (was Jessica Chastain really better in The Help than The Debt?!)
12.) A Better Life for Best Picture
13.) Ben Kingsley for Best Supporting Actor (Hugo)
14.) Sean Durkin for Best Director (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
15.) Chris Weitz for Best Director (A Better Life)

So yes, a lot of my annoyance stems from the fact that Drive, Young Adult, The Adventures of Tintin, and Martha Marcy May Marlene were completely snubbed, and that A Better Life, The Ides of March, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were given only token nominations. As we all know by now, The Academy is comprised mostly of middle-aged / elderly white men, and the picks tend to reflect that. And yet ... in recent years, we've seen exciting pieces of innovative cinema honored - movies like The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, and No Country For Old Men. With one or two exceptions, I don't know that this years pack of featured nominees are anywhere close to that level.

Now, the one exception I will point to in particular is THE ARTIST. The Artist was a phenomenal film, and its the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I gave a flat-out "A" grade to when I reviewed it a few months back. And this is exactly the movie I'm talking about when I ask people not to dismiss all the nominees just on principle. So please, don't get caught up in backlash hype and hate on The Artist. Of the other Best Picture picks, I'm also a huge fan of HUGO. I wouldn't mind seeing it win. My only qualm with Hugo is that it had moments of absolute brilliance, but it also dragged and meandered in parts. I graded it an A-, and to me, Best Picture should be an "A." I feel similarly about The Descendents - a fantastic film, but it had enough issues to keep it from being truly transcendent. Of the nominees, to me, only The Artist reached that level.

But here's where the Academy just makes itself look foolish. How in the blue hell are War Horse, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close all Best Picture nominees? I haven't seen Extremely Loud, but the rest of those films are B+ level at best. To think that those films made the cut when Drive, Young Adult, A Better Life, etc. were excluded? Ugh. Tree of Life, I sort of get. I didn't personally love it, but you can't deny its ambition. The Help - okay, it's a shoe-in. But all in all, this is not a Best Picture lineup for the ages.

In any case, here's my list of who *should* win, and prediction for who *will* win. What do you think?



Should Win: The Artist
Will Win: The Artist

- Like I said ... The Artist was by far the best of the nominated pictures this year. It's my personal pick to win, but I also think that Oscar voters will be won over by its homage to classic Hollywood. This is a great movie *about* the movies. So is Hugo, but where Hugo uses 3D and CGI to evoke a storybook fantasy world, The Artist has the sort of back-to-basics classicism that Oscar voters can't resist.


Should Win: Demian Bichir
Will Win: Jean Dujardin

- Demian Bichir is badass and awesome and absolutely riveting in A Better Life. He deserves a win (and the movie deserved a Best Picture nod), and more people need to see A Better Life. Now, Bichir is an underdog, but I do think he has a slight chance of being a spoiler, as more and more Oscar voters caught the film late in the game. I also think George Clooney's got a shot for The Descendants. But I also think he is very good in that film, but not great per se. Now, Jean Dujardin is phenomenal in The Artist, and it's the kind of leading man performance that Oscar voters love - he emotes, he dances - it's a role with humor, heart, and romance. Personally I think Bichir was better, but I think Dujardin may have the edge with voters.


Should Win: Michelle Williams
Will Win: Viola Davis

- Okay, this is a tough one. It may honestly come down to the fact that, perhaps, Michelle Williams peaked too early in terms of Oscar hype. I also wonder if perhaps voters might reject her Marilyn as great, but still not as good as the real thing. To me, Williams delivered an amazing performance, but I think Viola Davis may have the most overall goodwill and least amount of controversy around her turn in The Help. I will add though - Rooney Mara is so good in Dragon Tattoo ... I don't know if she's got a shot, but I wouldn't mind seeing her play spoiler. There is certainly a lot of room for a surprise here, and I guess you can never count out Meryl Streep ... but come on, The Iron Lady received lukewarm reviews - it doesn't seem like *this* was a movie that would win it for Streep. And finally ... how is Charlize Theron not nominated here? And Elizabeth Olsen?! Two HUGE omissions.


Should Win: Christopher Plummer
Will Win: Christopher Plummer

- Part of me wants to root for Nick Nolte in Warrior, just to show some love to that underrated film. But at the end of the day, Plummer was fantastic in Beginners, and this is likely one of the few no-brainers of the night. I mean come on - the part of a 75 year old man who comes out of the closet in old age, only to find out that he's dying just as he begins to truly live? That's Oscar material if ever there was Oscar material. But if / when he wins, it won't be undeserved.


Should Win: Berenice Bejo
Will Win: Octavia Spencer

- Berenice Bejo was magnetic and electric in The Artist. But I think a lot of the attention will be on Jean Dujardin, and that The Help will clean up in the Actress category - as there's just so much goodwill and momentum around both Octavia and Viola. I'd like to see The Artist duo win in both categories, but again, I think The Help has the momentum.


Should Win: Kung Fu Panda 2
Will Win: Chico & Rita

- I haven't seen Chico & Rita, but would like to. But I think it may win just due to lack of a unanimously loved family feature in the category. Me, I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 was amazing - one of the best Dreamworks animated films yet. But will a movie called Kung Fu Panda 2 really win an Oscar? Unlikely. Rango was very good but pretty out-there and received some mixed reviews. Therefore, I go with the underdog adult animated film as the winner.


Should Win: Michael Hazanavicius
Will Win: Michael Hazanavicius

- This is another somewhat tough category to predict, and another one where some of the nominees boggle my mind. I think it comes down, personally and prediction-wise, to Scorsese and Hazanavicius. But I look at it this way: it took Scorsese decades to win one Oscar. He didn't win for Goodfellas, or Raging Bull, or Taxi Driver. He deservedly won for The Departed. And Hugo, while great, just feels weird to me as a Scorsese win. The direction of the movie is phenomenal - in fact, the highlight of the film is the incredible direction. But with The Artist ... Hazanavicius did the seemingly impossible: he crafted a *silent movie* that was engaging and captivating and that completely held your emotions in the palm of its hand. That's an amazing directorial achievement. So personally, I give him the edge. And I think Oscar voters will feel similarly.


Should Win: don't love any of these choices - where is Young Adult?
Will Win: Midnight In Paris

- This will be the bone thrown to Woody Allen. And this category is so weak to begin with, I guess why not give it to him? Midnight is, at least, a dialogue-driven movie, so there's that. And it's a good script - one of Woody's better ones in years. I wouldn't call it mind-blowing, but I wouldn't begrudge it a win. If only Woody could write characters that seem like they live in 2012 instead of 1975.


Should Win: The Ides of March
Will Win: The Descendants

- I really liked the Ides of March script - tightly-constructed, pointed, edgy, and relevant. The Descendants is also a very good script, and I think it is probably the favorite to win - if only because Alexander Payne movies tend to be thought of as very "writerly." And yes, I'd get a kick out of seeing Community's Dean Pelton, aka Jim Rash, accepting an Oscar.


Should Win: no opinion
Will Win: A Separation

- I've been meaning to check out A Separation, and of all the nominated films, it definitely feels like this is the one with the most buzz around it. Plus, it's a great story - an Iranian film winning, given what's happening in that country? Very compelling.


Should Win: Hugo
Will Win: Hugo

- Hugo looks awesome. I could just sit and stare at the movie. I think (and hope) that the Academy recognizes its incredible visual richness with a nod here.


Should Win: The Artist
Will Win: The Artist

- This one is kind of tough, but I think The Artist has got to win for just how amazingly it evokes the Silent Film era, from the hair to the mannerisms and yes, to the costumes.


Should Win: "Man or Muppet"
Will Win: "Man or Muppet"

- First off, this category is pathetic for picking only two nominees. That said, Man or Muppet is fantastic, and a win for it would mean a win for the great Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame - and it would be awesome to see him get an Oscar.


Should Win: War Horse
Will Win: War Horse

- I liked War Horse, but felt it was super-schmaltzy to the point where it was a little eye-rolling at times. That said, the John Williams score is fantastic. Yes, some might call it overly bombastic, but good god, is it epic and memorable. Certainly, it's the more memorable score as compared to Williams' Tintin score.


Should Win: no opinion
Will Win: Pina

Haven't seen any of the nominees, unfortunately ... but I think Pina is the kind of inspirational story that could win over voters. The West Memphis 3 doc, though a critical favorite, might be a little too rock n' roll for the Academy.


Should win: Hugo
Will Win: Hugo

- Again, I thought Hugo just looked awesome. The camera spiraled and glided through the storybook version of Paris, with some absolutely phenomenal shots of the cityscape. This one should and - I think - will win.


Should Win: The Artist
Will Win: The Artist

- I give this one to The Artist simply because as you watch it, you realize what a remarkable achievement it is to craft a movie like this, splicing together wordless scenes with title cards to create a story that's engaging and emotional. Sure, the editing here isn't amazing in a conventional manner, but it's such a unique endeavor that you've got to give it up.


Should Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Will Win: The Iron Lady

- Personally, I always get annoyed when the Oscars ignore the big fantasy or sci-fi movies in favor of subtler makeup and f/x jobs. Once in a while it's warranted, but mostly, you look at something like Harry Potter - and the way in which fantastical characters like Voldermort were brought to life through makeup, and it's pretty remarkable. Still, Oscar voters love f/x and makeup that transforms actors (unless it's motion capture, which they hate). So I wouldn't be surprised if The Iron Lady gets a nod.


Should Win: Drive
Will Win: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

- So, could DRIVE win ... something?! I'll be rooting for it, and in all honesty, the film is a sonic masterpiece, from the music to the sound f/x to way it all comes together in this masterpiece of pure cinema. Still, I could see this one going to Dragon Tattoo, just because it's a Fincher film and he always creates fantastic audio/visual experiences.


Should Win: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Will Win: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

- Again, I feel like this could and probably should go to Tattoo just for the combined greatness of its sonics. From the great Reznor soundtrack to the smart and creative use of other music (Enya, anyone?) - this feels like the right pick to me.


Should Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Will Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

- Okay, RISE should have been nominated for a lot more than this, and it's even arguable that Andy Serkis was deserving of a Best Actor nom. I do think the Academy will eventually have to create some sort of mo-cap/augmented performance category to acknowledge this sort of thing. But man, if F/X are judged by the extent to which they aid in character and storytelling, then APES has got to take the prize. The movie made Ceaser into one of 2011's most memorable characters - human, simian, real, fake, or otherwise. It delivered fully-formed animal characters, and also delivered 100% awesome ape-on-human carnage. Hail Ceaser!


Should Win: ???
Will Win: La Luna


Should Win: ???
Will Win: The Shore


Should Win: ???
Will Win: Incident in New Baghdad

- And there you have it. Any thoughts on my predictions? Any picks of your own? Just annoyed, like me, that Drive wasn't nominated for Best Picture? Well, that's why The Oscars - while fun to speculate and complain about - are not and will likely never be a definitive measure of quality or merit for any true film fan.


  1. In your top snubs I definitely agree with 3, 8, 11, 12, 13.

    I also have to say I agree with several of your "should wins," though I have to ask what your issue with Midnight in Paris was. I thought it was one of the best films of the year and completely deserving of the nominations it received and the 1 or two Oscars it will hopefully pick up.

    Also you HAVE to see Chico & Rita (and A Cat in Paris if you haven't yet), I hope you're right and it does win. Isn't it odd how much more difficult this category is to pick when Pixar doesn't make the cut?

  2. Also, if you'd like to form opinions on the short films, the Animated Short Films and Live Action Shorts films and the panel discussions with all the directors of those films (the animated panel is moderated by Brad Bird!) are up on the Academy's streaming site:

  3. I really liked Midnight in Paris, though I liked it a bit less than Vicky Cristina, and thought it had some issues with character and dialogue. I felt like it displayed a couple of annoying Woody-isms that detracted from my enjoyment (an unlikable male lead who still for some reason proves irresistible to a slew of gorgeous women, characters meant to be sympathetic who come off as whiny, and characters meant to feel modern who feel as if they are living in the 60's or 70's and not the present day). Again, I really liked the overall theme of the film and all of the historical / cultural allusions. It was a lot of fun. But not Oscar-worthy to me. Especially not at the expense of a movie like Young Adult that felt so funny, vibrant, and relevant to modern times.

  4. Did you see Kung Fu Panda 2 though? The animation was absolutely incredible - one of the most breathtaking movies I've seen from a visual perspective.

  5. I did. Kung-Fu Panda was really good, and I appreciate it even more now after watching the director speakat the Animated Feature Film Symposium. I enjoyed all the animated films, but the two foreign ones are quite unique from anything we've really seen before in this category.