24 January 2012

Oscar Zone Vol. III; Part 1: Nominations and Predictions

Well folks, here we are again, an exciting time of the year to break away from the drull January Season, the Oscar Nominations were officially released today and here are our first thoughts. Now, in the next month we'll give these first thoughts some careful analysis as the races ebb and flow. Some of our early guesses last year were wayyy off but we could have seen some winners yet from a week out or so. That said, it's a skill to guess it all from the beginning, so here we are.

Now, we have a very particular system for this thing around here. Politics and lobbying in Hollywood is a complex game and the most worthy nominees seldom actually bring home some gold. For that reason we highlight in RED the nominees we think deserve to win, in BLUE those that will win and naturally, when these choices actually do align, it's in a lovely shade of PURPLE. Let's get at it:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Artist (2011): Thomas Langmann
The Descendants (2011): Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): Scott Rudin
The Help (2011): Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan
Hugo (2011): Graham King, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris (2011): Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
Moneyball (2011): Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt
The Tree of Life (2011): Nominees to be determined
War Horse (2011): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

I thought both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) were better than anything on this list. That said, The Artist is charming its way through Southern California right now and seems hellbent on grabbing Oscar, if only for pulling off what it does for the sheer novelty of it. The Descendants would be a quirkier win and its kind don't usually get the big prize. If both of these films get enough votes to cancel each other out though (and the gimmicks of The Artist proves too great), something like Hugo could step in and snatch it.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir for A Better Life (2011)
George Clooney for The Descendants (2011)
Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011)
Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Brad Pitt for Moneyball (2011)

After a surprise snub of Michael Fassbender in Shame (2011), the Best Actor race isn't nearly as clear-cut as it has been recently. This is unbelievably Gary Oldman's lifetime first Oscar Nomination and I'm half-tempted to say that the Academy uses this opportunity to honour his work, similar to Jeff Bridges, John Wayne, Al Pacino and so on, who won awards for far less than their best work. This was not the case with Mickey Rourke a few years ago, however when the Academy turned instead to familiarity, honouring Sean Penn instead. I'm thinking something similar happens here, and this IS one of George's lifetime best roles, so I'm thinking he snatches it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (2011)
Viola Davis for The Help (2011)
Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)

This is an extremely competitive category this year. Truly, the women outshined the men in 2011. That said, no one committed more to a role than Rooney Mara did, although Meryl Streep shines more by being outstanding in an otherwise all-around terrible film. It is a big snub to Tilda Swinton, though, who carries a much better film as well or better than Meryl did.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Jonah Hill for Moneyball (2011)
Nick Nolte for Warrior (2011)
Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010)
Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

It's cool to see some Old Farts in this category (and...Jonah Hill), as well as nominations for people who didn't play intense villains. That said, there is also no clear-cut runaway winner here right now. Christopher Plummer has had an excellent late career as of late, and if people can distinguish between him and Max von Sydow he should get the win. People are whining that Albert Brooks didn't get nominated for Drive, and I would say that's more a novelty move anyway, at least until I saw Melissa McCarthy nominated for Bridesmaids.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist (2011)
Jessica Chastain for The Help (2011)
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids (2011)
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs (2011)
Octavia Spencer for The Help (2011)

The Academy has loved giving this award to Black Chicks recently, so I'm almost cautious to think that this will be that easy to predict. The forces behind The Artist lobbied hard to get Bérénice Bejo in this category and away from the heavy competition in the Leading Actress category, and I think that may pay off. That said, Octavia is cresting hard right now as the likely winner. Can we also mention Melissa McCarthy? Great to see one of the best characters of the year recognized like that. And no love for that chick from The Secret Life of the American Teenager who was in The Descendants? Ouch.

Best Achievement in Directing

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (2011)
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist (2011)
Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (2011)
Alexander Payne for The Descendants (2011)
Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011)

Scorsese is recognized again here. Hugo is such a competently and wonderfully directed film in a genre that Marty has never really attempted before. He pulls off the 3-D Children's action / nostalgia flick so well that I don't think there's any way around his winning.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids (2011): Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Margin Call (2011): J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris (2011): Woody Allen
A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi

I don't see Bridesmaids being a real contender anywhere, although it's sweet that Kristen Wiig can add "Oscar-Nominated" to her resume the same way Matt Damon and Ben Affleck can write "Oscar-Winner" somehow. I don't think any other movie has the momentum behind it besides The Artist, which pulls off an emotional, entertaining story with very few actual words - quite the achievement (although, really isn't that what we started with in film?). Then again, many believe that this is Woody's category to lose. I think he loses.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

The Descendants (2011): Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Hugo (2011): John Logan
The Ides of March (2011): George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball (2011): Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011): Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

Dean Pelton, Oscar-Winning Screenwriter? The Descendants does have enough good momentum to nab this. I don't see Moneyball seriously contending anywhere, although the dialogue is crisp enough and works well to turn a very difficult subject into entertainment. Good Will Hunting (1997), arguably Juno (2007), and The Social Network (2010) won for doing the same thing. Now I'm wondering how I made my second Matt Damon reference of this post and also if I should change my vote...

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

A Cat in Paris (2010): Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli
Chico & Rita (2010): Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011): Jennifer Yuh
Puss in Boots (2011): Chris Miller
Rango (2011): Gore Verbinski

Luckiest nomination of the year certainly goes to Rango. I thought this was one of the best films of the year and somehow it landed in a category with Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots instead of Cars 2 (2011) and The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Both of those pics are prestigious enough to grab a ton of votes and in their absence I have to believe Rango ends up pooling it all.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Bullhead (2011): Michael R. Roskam (Belgium)
Footnote (2011): Joseph Cedar (Israel)
In Darkness (2011): Agnieszka Holland (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (2011): Philippe Falardeau (Canada)
A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi (Iran)

Believe it or not this is one of the easier categories to pick. A Separation has been making plenty of waves over here and is probably the one surefire lock I'll give. This thing should be nominated for Best Picture and will walk all over this category.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Artist (2011): Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo (2011): Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life (2011): Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse (2011): Janusz Kaminski

This is a tough category. It would be easy for The Artist to run away with this if it starts sweeping, but the Cinematography itself isn't that innovative. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's cinematography really stood out as an element that made that a better film, but I'm not thinking it gets a lot of love here. That leaves the breathtaking, 3-D work of Hugo, an Academy-Friendly Recognition, but this is really a toss-up.

Best Achievement in Editing

The Artist (2011): Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants (2011): Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter
Hugo (2011): Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball (2011): Christopher Tellefsen

I'm treating this the same way as Cinematography. The editing in particular stands out with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I'm not convinced it will win. The Artist is the safe bet right now but this could go a few ways.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

The Artist (2011): Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Hugo (2011): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris (2011): Anne Seibel, Hélène Dubreuil
War Horse (2011): Rick Carter, Lee Sandales

I fail to see the Art Direction needed in The Artist. I can see this going either Hugo or Midnight in Paris' way, but as you can tell, I'm leaning more towards this being Marty's night rather than Woody's.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Anonymous (2011): Lisy Christl
The Artist (2011): Mark Bridges
Hugo (2011): Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre (2011): Michael O'Connor
W.E. (2011): Arianne Phillips

Costume Design tends to go to weird films that don't have much else going for them, and as such I rarely predict the right winners here. Why can't Madonna's film be an Academy-Award winner? There are plenty of reasons. Let's go Jane Eyre with a snub of Anonymous.

Best Achievement in Makeup

Albert Nobbs (2011): Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnson, Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
The Iron Lady (2011): Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland

This is certainly Mark and Roy's category to lose. They did a fantastic job recreating some of the historical people in The Iron Lady, and by historical I mean like only thirty years ago. It's flawless. Leading heavy in the race right now.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin (2011): John Williams
The Artist (2011): Ludovic Bource
Hugo (2011): Howard Shore
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011): Alberto Iglesias
War Horse (2011): John Williams

There isn't a runaway outstanding track like Trent Reznor's The Social Network last year (although his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves it). The Artist carries a lot of its back on its Score, SOUNDS good here hyuck hyuck.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

The Muppets (2011): Bret McKenzie ("Man or Muppet")
Rio (2011): Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett ("Real in Rio")

Is this a serious category? The Muppets only needs to beat Rio? This just turned into my lock of the night. For the record, this is why this happened.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Bo Persson
Hugo (2011): Tom Fleischman, John Midgley
Moneyball (2011): Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco, Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Peter J. Devlin
War Horse (2011): Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson

I never really know where this is going, but I have always thought that the sound of all the Transformers films is underrated. Sound is so essential to those fast flicks, it provides a cue for the action far superior to visual stimuli. I honestly think that Dark of the Moon deserves it here. I mean, those foley artists had to come up with all kinds of weird Alien Technology sounds. That's tough, man.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Drive (2011): Lon Bender, Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Ren Klyce
Hugo (2011): Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
War Horse (2011): Richard Hymns, Gary Rydstrom

This has Drive's name all over it. Without any other nominations and plenty of support I imagine this locks it up. It also does excel in careful editing and sound plays a huge effect on mood here.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson
Hugo (2011): Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning
Real Steel (2011): Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, John Frazier

This seems like a no-brainer. The Academy finally has a chance to give a good movie this award instead of a mindless blockbuster, although that means that the Transformers Trilogy will have no Visual Effects award to show for their three films, which is unfortunate. The robots in Transformers look incredible and the integration of them into reality has been seamless throughout each installment, peaking with Dark of the Moon. It won't happen though.

Best Documentary, Features

Hell and Back Again (2011): Danfung Dennis, Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011): Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011): Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
Pina (2011): Wim Wenders, Gian-Piero Ringel
Undefeated (2011): Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, Rich Middlemas

Apparently the big doc this year was Project Nim (2011), and that was a big snub. It's tough to say with these nominees, none really stand out as exceptional (read: I've heard of them). Based on titles...Pina?

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (2011): Robin Fryday, Gail Dolgin
God Is the Bigger Elvis (2011): Rebecca Cammisa, Julie Anderson
Incident in New Baghdad (2011): James Spione
Saving Face (2011): Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011): Lucy Walker, Kira Carstensen

The most brutal category. Let's move on.

Best Short Film, Animated

Dimanche (2011): Patrick Doyon
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011): William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna (2011): Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll (2011): Grant Orchard, Sue Goffe
Wild Life (2011): Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby

It's fairly safe to go with Pixar here, even though it hasn't yet been attached to a theatrical film (we'll see it next year before Brave [2012]). Considering this is their only category this year I want to lock it up.

Best Short Film, Live Action

Pentecost (2011): Peter McDonald
Raju (2011): Max Zähle, Stefan Gieren
The Shore (2011): Terry George, Oorlagh George
Time Freak (2011): Andrew Bowler, Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic (2010): Hallvar Witzø

We're down to just going by titles at this point, folks.

Well that's it. We'll see how terrible I do this year, and it's very possible my predictions shift as some films gain speed, others lose speed, although there isn't a race as heated as The Social Network / The King's Speech (2010) was last year. There are quite a handful of interesting acting races however, and I expect to be wrong about Viola Davis. We'll find out February 26!

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