Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominations


Remember when expanding the number of Best Picture nominees was supposed to allow "wild card" films that maybe had more public appeal? It's a stupid reason to expand the field, honestly. Yeah, I thought The Dark Knight was the best movie of 2008, and I would have liked to see it nominated. That said, I also wasn't offended that it wasn't, and No Country for Old Men was an equally amazing film.

Still, I sit here looking at this year's nominees, and...how predictable. Anyway, some comments on the major categories. I'm not going to get into "Best Sound Design" and all that, because discussing that sort of technical category is really not that much fun.

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

Ok, first off....How the hell is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on this list? The film is currently "Rotten" at rottentomatoes.com, and I've seen it on quite a few "worst" lists this year. Of course, we all know why. It's Oscar-bait, big stars in an "important" movie with a precious little boy dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. It's a "powerful story" Oscar checklist, and the Academy bought in, no matter the poor reception. I felt much the same way about The King's Speech (which was the "historical drama" Oscar checklist), except that film was actually good (if not really the "best picture"), and this one, well...it isn't winning shit.

Outside of that, I really have no huge problem with this list. The Tree of Life is probably more divisive, but less cloying. I really wish the Academy had stepped up, ejected EL&IC, and brought it up to a full 10 with Drive and Warrior.

Who I want to win: Hugo, all the way.
Who will win: I have a sinking feeling The Artist. (I liked it a lot, but there are better films on this list)
Possible Surprise: The Help (How guilty are you feeling, Hollywood?) 

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

Hmmm. Dullsville. They're all traditionalists (yes, even Malick), and Hazanavicius, in particular, the whole point was to do nothing new, at all. In the last few years, we've had great, audacious, visual directors, who can still make their films about character and story. Aronofsky, Fincher and Nolan are all overdue for an Oscar (I'm still pissed off that Nolan didn't even get a nomination for Inception). Granted, Nolan and Aronofsky didn't have films this year, and Fincher's was a remake. So, this is what we have. Points to Marty for grabbing a hold of the 3-D technology, learning how to do it right, and using it in ways that make sense artistically and thematically.

Who I want to win: Scorsese
Who will win: again, sinking feeling about Hazanavicius
Possible Surprise: Malick (he's a true artist, and he's due)

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

Let's be crystal clear; Oldman better win this fucker. I liked all the other performances here, that I've seen, which is all but one, but Oldman was amazing as George Smiley. Not only that, but the guy more than deserves the recognition for his entire career. It's hard to fathom he's never been nominated, let alone won.

Who I want to win: Oldman
Who will win: I'm sinking again, about Dujardin
Possible Surprise: Bichir (he got nominated out of left field, who knows?)

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

How much does the acting branch love Meryl Streep? Lots. Really, the lady deserves it, outside of Mama Mia (which was in no way her fault), I can't think of a single embarrassing project or performance (Shut up about She-Devil). I think we also have to acknowledge that Rooney Mara's inclusion is more indicative of the weak slate of female roles this year, rather than the role itself. I'd also say that Viola Davis and (reportedly) Glenn Close gave terrific performances that overcame weak scripts.

Who I want to win: Davis
Who will win: Streep
Possible Surprise: Williams (Not much of a surprise)

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

First off, how about that Jonah Hill? It's a well-earned nomination, and it'll make people forget The Sitter. He'll never win, but still. My favorite thing here is the inclusion of Nick Nolte from the overlooked Warrior. It's a great film, and you should make time to see it. Even with the, again, inexplicable Von Sydow nomination (maybe he's great, I don't know, still...48% ROTTEN), this is a really competitive category.

Who I want to win: Nolte
Who will win: Plummer
Possible Surprise: Branagh

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

This one is kind of a done deal, for me. As much as I'd like to see Melissa McCarthy win for a big comedy role, and as much as I enjoyed Bérénice Bejo and Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer is taking the golden man home. She wants it, and the performance was good enough (again, better than the material) that the acting branch will want to give it to her.

Who I want to win: Spencer
Who will win: Spencer
Possible Surprise: McCarthy (People do love her. Who knows?)

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Descendants
The Ides of March
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

There is a lot of worthy work in this category, with one exception. The Ides of March just simply added too much to Beau Wilmington's play Farragut North. What was a fairly tight little drama about politics really not being about policies, at all, became side tracked into talking about how worthy the candidate is, and ultimately told a story we've seen several times before. Otherwise, nothing but good stuff here. From taking the dry facts and figures of Moneyball, and turning them into a moving story, to distilling a novel that defines "sprawling" into a taut couple of hours with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Who I want to win: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Who will win: The Descendants
Possible Surprise: Moneyball

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Artist
Margin Call
Midnight in Paris
A Separation

Nice to see Margin Call get a nod. Sometimes, I really get the idea that these writing categories become the "throw a bone" categories.  There's a damn good chance The Artist will take this, but I also wonder about the Bridesmaids nomination. It makes this one a very, very tough call.

Who I want to win: Bridesmaids
Who will win: The Artist
Possible Surprise: Bridesmaids 

Best Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
"Real in Rio" from Rio

Man, I bet there was cheers in the office when the Rio song got nominated, and then tears when they saw who they were up against. The sheer lack of nominees also shows that the new song nomination process just doesn't work.

Who I want to win: "Man or Muppet"
Who will win: "Man or Muppet"

Best Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The is the one technical category I'll delve into. Mainly because the rapid evolution of the industry has taken this category to the point where it is very, very close to being a performance one. The simple fact that there were calls in many groups (and not just VFX artists) for Andy Serkis to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his motion-capture performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Never mind that Caesar was the main character, clearly the lead role, in the film. With the exception of Hugo, all of these nominees featured major characters who were, at least partially, CGI creations.

Now, I don't know if I'm completely on board with the idea of a motion capture performance being nominated, at this point. The reason is simply that, at this point, even the best motion capture work is being interpreted and manipulated by animators for the final result. It's likely that, at some point (maybe soon), the actor's performance on the set will drive, completely, the resulting animation. Much like how an actor learns to use and manipulate a make-up appliance for his performance. The make-up is created by someone else, but the actor is using it to drive his performance.

Right now that is not the case. The methods of recording the actor's work, as a guide to the animation are improving, but the animators, ultimately, are taking, or leaving, what they want. There is no doubt, of any kind that Serkis was a HUGE part of Caesar, as he also was of Gollum and King Kong, but, at this point, the process is, and the characters are, just too much the result of many hands for me to stand behind rewarding one of them.

All that is preface to saying that the Rise of the Planet of the Apes team did the most exceptional work this year, by far. Ceasar was a living, breathing personality that we followed through the story. We identified with him, we felt for and with him, and he carried the film. Both Serkis and the effect team deserve the win for that.

Who I want to win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Who will win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Possible Surprise: Hugo

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say here, except that I think Woody Allen will win for Best Original Screenplay. The Academy loves him and he hasn't won in 35 years. It's pretty much in the bag for him. My friend Rob and I have a theory that, and this held more weight when it was only five nominees, that the Academy feels compelled to give at least one award to all five of the nominees.
    Something tells me Pitt is gonna win Best Actor. It could go the other way around and they'll give it to Clooney and give Moneyball screenplay, but something just tells me they're gonna go with Pitt.
    Other than that, we tend to agree on most everything else here. The Artist will win 5 awards, PIcture, Score, Cinematography, Art Direction & Costumes. Scorsese will win Best Director and I think Glenn Close is the upset in Best Actress.