Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscars 2012 Review

Well, now we have the official nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards. 

Is it the 84th already?  It seems only yesterday that Snow White was dancing with Rob Lowe.

We find that Hugo has 11 nominations, the most of any film, followed closely by The Artist's 10.  The Artist was going to get nominated.  That's no surprise.  It does mean that it now becomes the first silent film to earn a Best Picture nomination since 1929's The Patriot (sadly a lost film). 

Now, for some reactions.  Let's start with the so-called 'minor categories'.  My choices are in red.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Drive
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

If it's a reward for the LOUDEST film, it would be Transformers.  This category tends to go to the loudest. However, Hugo I think of the nominated films is the best one to integrate sound into the story. It had some good moments of sound (in particular two train collisions).  I am surprised that The Artist DIDN'T get a sound nomination, especially considering that when sound was used, it was used remarkably well and effectively. 

BEST SOUND MIXING
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Why do I think Moneyball is the oddball (no pun intended) in this category?  On this one, I gravitate towards the war movie.  Again, another puzzle as to why The Artist isn't listed here.  Granted, it is a silent picture, but again, what sound there is in the film is mixed in well. 

BEST MAKE-UP

Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II
The Iron Lady

If you look at Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, the make-up doesn't just get Baroness Thatcher's actual appearance so well.  It also looks natural.  In short, when we get the old Thatcher, the make-up work looks authentic, and that's the hallmark of good make-up work. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

It's almost a given that a Documentary Short Subject will have a film about the civil rights movement.  This is a case of 'we haven't seen any of them', but the film about the Japanese tsunami of 2011 appears to be the odds-on favorite.  If the nominees don't involve the civil rights movement, the winner is either an anti-Iraq Intervention film or one involving natural disasters. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Hell and Back Again
If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Movement
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated
Unlike previous years, I have actually seen at least two of the nominees (which I consider a step up).  It's a personal disappointment that such brilliant films like Page One: Inside the New York Times, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and especially my Number 2 film of 2011 (Senna) did not make the short list.  The Documentary Feature branch in my opinion is turning into a joke: they have failed to nominate among other films Hoop Dreams or Grizzly Man.  One wonders what exactly they look for when watching the films.  Still, the overall choices aren't bad.  I've heard great things about Pina, and Undefeated is a thrilling film about a down-but-not-out high school football team.  However, for my tastes the engrossing story of Daniel McGowan from my Number 7 film of 2011 is simply too good. 

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
Pentecost
Raju
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Sad but that I haven't seen any of them.  Back when the Academy was established and for many, many years past that, theaters would routinely show short films before the feature.  Now, we get commercials for breast enlargements and community colleges (along with regular commercials.  Maybe we should create a Best Commercial category).  In any case, I would rather see any of the above films rather than some woman holding a pair of cantaloupes up to her chest to the surprise of her dim-witted husband.  I'm hoping YouTube will be more helpful. 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

This is a case where I might have seen one of the animated films (which again, would be a better use of my time than boobs selling boobs).  Yes, people used to see cartoons before the feature (before our dulled society decided cartoons were for children...obviously those who think that aren't too familiar with Japanese anime.  Sit through Grave of the Fireflies and tell me that's for children).  Yes, perhaps YouTube will be a place to find some of these...worth a look.  However, in this case I WILL make a pick, only because the title appears so intriguing. 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss In Boots
Rango

I can imagine the head-scratching with the first two.  This is a "WHAT?!" situation: I don't think many people have heard of either A Cat in Paris or Chico & Rita.  They didn't have the selling point of something like Happy Feet 2 or Cars 2.  It reminds me of when The Book of Kells received a surprise nomination in this category last year.  I fault people for not being more adventurous in their film-viewing.  I also fault the studios for not trusting said audiences and dumbing things down tremendously.  Now, while I haven't seen any of them I would pick Puss In Boots only because I get a stronger sense that it would know what it is: both a prequel and a spoof of Zorro

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)

So what if the Iranian government crushed the Green Revolution and wants to destroy fellow nominee Israel?  From what I've heard, everyone appears crazy over A Separation, and I expect it will transcend politics to win.  Whether or not it should...I cannot say for sure.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of Planet of the Apes
Transfomers: Dark of the Moon

I have to give it to Hugo ONLY because it is the only movie that managed to make 3-D work.  However, both Real Steel and Rise of Planet of the Apes would be worthy choices: the former integrated the rock 'em sock 'em robots so well, and the latter is a showcase for motion-capture technology. 

BEST ART DIRECTION

The Artist
Harry Potter & The Deadly Hallows: Part II
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

It's a tough one between Hugo and Harry.  The sets of Hugo are beautiful but the ones for Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows were brilliant in bringing the end of Hogwarts to life.  However, in the end I opted for beauty, in particular the recreations of the Melies films. 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
Jane Eyre
W.E.

What can I say?  My Number One film of 2011 received exactly ONE nomination, so you think I'd vote for anything else? 
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius)
Bridesmaids (Anne Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)

First, I cannot for the life of me understand why people, my fellow critics in particular, are enthralled with Bridesmaids, thinking it the Citizen Kane of comedies.  Frankly, I think the film is wildly overrated: with the exception of Wiig's meltdown on the plane I don't remember laughing in this 'comedy'.  Moreover, I simply cannot believe the Academy will give an Oscar to a movie where a woman defecated in a sink and in a wedding dress in the middle of the street.  Ain't gonna happen.  For myself, I found Woody Allen's script inventive, playful, and a return to form. 
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash)
Hugo (John Logan)
The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon)
Moneyball (Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O'Connor and Peter Staughan)

I'm at a loss to say whether The Descendants is a good film since it's one of two Best Picture nominees I haven't seen (it's waiting for me patiently).  Now, of the others, I found Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the best of them: it engaged my mind, and unlike other people (perhaps some of my colleagues) I didn't find the plot confusing. 

BEST EDITING

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball

How is it that I am unimpressed with this list?  Moneyball?  Again, a movie I though was good but a bit overpraised.  Hugo was a bit too long (and the fact I thought they could have cut almost all of 'comedic genius' Sasha Baron Cohen doesn't help).  For that, I would pick The Artist in how well the story flowed (especially sans sound). 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenweth)
Hugo (Robert Richardson)
The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
War Horse  (Janusz Kaminski)

As much as I detest The Tree of Life (and believe me, I HATED this film) about the only good thing I found in it was the cinematography.  Its imagery of Creation is beautiful...almost like a nature documentary.  I'm not one to dismiss the good I find in a bad film (even one that causes my fellow critics to masturbate though I simply don't know why).  Hence, my own selection.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
Hugo (Howard Shore)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
War Horse (John Williams)

I liked the music of Tintin (though I though there was too much of it).  I see that the controversy over the use of the music from Vertigo didn't interfere with The Artist getting a nomination.  In a silent film, the music is more important than almost anything because it all but carries the film.  How could I not pick the score (even if Hugo is a fierce second)?

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Man or Muppet (music & lyrics by Bret McKenzie)  The Muppets
Real in Rio (music by Sergio Mendes & Carlinhos Brown, lyrics by Siedha Garrett) Rio*

THIS IS A JOKE!  THIS IS A DAMN JOKE!  The Academy clearly has no idea what it's doing, or they somehow left out all the nominees.  First, only TWO nominees?!  I managed to easily find FIVE, so how they arrived with just two is insane!  Second, of all the songs from The Muppets, they had to pick one of the DUMBEST?!  I remember Man or Muppet, and I though it was deliberately stupid (and one of the worst of the songs).  Life's A Happy Song (while deliberately cutesy) is far more memorable. 

The idea that Star-Spangled Man from Captain America: The First Avenger or The Living Proof from The Help weren't deemed worthy of a nomination will be one of those moments when people will look back and say, really, Man or Muppet?  I haven't heard Real in Rio, but I'm picking it just as a protest vote. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

I can't wait for the ads for 21 Jump Street or the DVD of The Sitter that taut "Oscar nominee Jonah Hill".  If I picked the Oscar, I'd be tempted to give it to the surprise nominee (and a pleasant surprise it is).  It was a moving performance of a man seeking redemption, but a slight edge is gained for Branagh doing a great turn as Laurence Olivier, getting both his on-screen performance in The Prince & The Showgirl and his off-screen rage so well.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Chastain got this nomination in lieu of not being able to be nominated for everything she was in (I'm surprised she didn't appear in those breast enlargement commercials before the films.).  I really think of those listed, as much as McCarthy was a highlight of the wildly overrated Bridesmaids, it's Spencer's both comic and sad turn as the outwardly strong Minny that should be rewarded.  Besides, if I don't vote for her, she might send me some pie...

BEST ACTOR
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

For my money, I'm THRILLED that Bichir's turn as the immigrant attempting to provide for his son was rewarded.  I also figure that if Pitt didn't get something for The Tree of Life, Moneyball would do. A tough one with Bichir in the mix, but I narrow it down to Dujardin and Oldman.  However, if I were to pick, I have to go for Oldman: he was so understated yet fully commanded the screen whenever he was on.  Besides, doesn't he just deserve one because he's basically been good in almost everything and has yet to be rewarded? 

 
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)

Tough, tough, tough.  Really between Davis and Streep.  I though Streep was perfect as Margaret Thatcher, but I was so moved by Davis (again, like Oldman, another performance where so much was said with just their face). 

BEST DIRECTOR

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

Of all the directors, there isn't a bad choice save Malick.  I'm glad he could tell his deeply personal story, but it's unfortunate that it's a story only HE fully got.  However, any director who used 3-D to the full and best effect, he (or she) gets my vote.

BEST PICTURE

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

The big surprise is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  It's been critically derided, and my brother Gabe (who saw it with his girlfriend, which makes me wonder WHY they would consider a September 11th film would be a good date film) said it wasn't that good.  In fact, it appears Extremely Loud...is a flop (the second for Tom Hanks).  No Bridesmaids, no Harry Potter, so perhaps we should be thankful for small miracles.  Of the ones nominated, I would pick Hugo: a film that is both a loving homage to the history of film and a subtle cry to save our film legacy.

This, again, is just a recap of the nominees and my immediate reactions along with my own picks if it were up to me.  I haven't seen two of the Best Picture nominees: one is waiting for me, one was just released nationally.  I feel that this is not the time to predict which ones will win.  Besides, I have MY own selections to consider.

Ultimately, I know myself, and I will eventually make my predictions.  I also may change my mind on the ones I have selected now.  Let's see how things turn out February 26. 

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