Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Predictions: I Don't Like You. I Really, Really Don't Like You

Yet again, the Oscars are upon us, ignoring most of the innovative and original films of the year (Meek’s Cutoff, Drive, Weekend) and mostly honoring kind-of-OK to terrible films. But enough with my critic’s cynicism, let’s get to the all-important business of predicting what’s going to bring home the gold and who’s going to get robbed (OK, cynicism just might stay).
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
THE LOWDOWN: Barring the other four nominees burning down the houses of the Academy voters, there’s absolutely no shot in hell Demian Bichir wins. It’s nice to see him here (I haven’t seen A Better Life, but I remember him as Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che), but that’s all he’s got. Gary Oldman is one of the finest actors alive and he gives one of the best performances of his career Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He’s the best of the nominees in a walk, but Tinker Tailor doesn’t have the same mass appeal of Moneyball or The Descendants or critical consensus as The Artist. It’s great to see him finally get nominated, but barring a serious vote split, he’s out. Months ago I figured Brad Pitt would finally win for his terrific work in Moneyball (even if he’s better in The Tree of Life), but he hasn’t won very many precursors. George Clooney was the odds on favorite for a while, even though he’s won before (Supporting Actor for Syriana) and The Descendants isn’t one of his most notable performances. It’s down to Jean Dujardin, then, and good for him. It’s a good performance, and I’ll be glad to see him in more things.
SHOULD WIN: Gary Oldman
WILL WIN: Jean Dujardin
SHOULD BE HERE: Ryan Gosling for Drive, Michael Fassbender for Shame
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)

THE LOWDOWN: Rooney Mara is easily the strongest of the bunch, so of course she has absolutely no chance of winning. Glenn Close was singled out early in the year as a favorite before Albert Nobbs was released to poor reviews for the film and her performance. She’s here because she dressed up as a man, an Oscar favorite no matter what. Michelle Williams is a dark horse for My Week with Marilyn; it’s certainly foreseeable if Streep and Davis split the vote, but she’s far behind and much younger than either of the two front-runners. It comes down to who we want to win more: Meryl Streep for the lame The Iron Lady or Viola Davis for the lame The Help. On one hand, Davis’ win will give her more choices (and hopefully better scripts). On the other hand, Streep’s win might get the Academy to stop nominating her every time she farts. Davis won the SAG, usually a good sign, and she hasn’t won before, so she’s more likely.

SHOULD WIN: Rooney Mara
WILL WIN: Viola Davis
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Charlize Theron for Young Adult, Kirsten Dunst for
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

THE LOWDOWN: Jonah Hill got nominated for being generally engaging in Moneyball, for some reason (read: comedic actor doing something other than comedy), but he’s far too young to win. Kenneth Branagh got nominated for doing a Laurence Olivier impression, which…isn’t that what he’s been doing his whole career? Nick Nolte is terrific in Warrior, and he was a favorite to win in ’91 for The Prince of Tides, but he’s younger than the other two nominees, so he’s unlikely. Max von Sydow could pick it up for a career win, but please god no. Plummer has won damn near every award under the sun (well, split them with Albert Brooks for Drive, but he’s not here for whatever reason), and even someone like me who found Beginners annoying can admit that Plummer is great in it. He’s the one.

SHOULD WIN: Nick Nolte
WILL WIN: Christopher Plummer
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Brooks, Brad Pitt for The Tree of Life, Patton Oswalt for Young Adult (far more impressive a “comedic actor goes serious” than Hill, but I digress)
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
THE LOWDOWN: No one saw Albert Nobbs, so no luck for McTeer. Melissa McCarthy should win, and there’s a sliver’s chance she’ll pull off an upset, but Bridesmaids is probably too lowbrow for the “good taste” of the Academy. Chastain had a breakout year where she appeared in everything from The Tree of Life to Take Shelter to my parents’ high school reunion video. This could be a “good job this year” acknowledgement, but she’s young, her performance in The Help is her weakest (I compared it to a “psychotic Glinda the Good”), and her co-star is ahead. Bejo could be an upset if The Artist sweeps, but Spencer has won damn near everything in recent memory, so it’s likely we’ll have the first case of two black actresses winning in the same night. Pity it’s for such a lame movie.
SHOULD WIN: Melissa McCarthy
WILL WIN: Octavia Spencer
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Chastain for The Tree of Life, Carey Mulligan for Shame or
Drive, Elle Fanning for Super 8
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids)

THE LOWDOWN: Margin Call was a pleasant surprise (although Chandor too often explains things to the audience over and over and…), but there’s no way. The Bridesmaids crew is great, but there’s no way. Without having seen A Separation, it’d be easily the most interesting win…but there’s no way. It’s between Hazanavicius, who could get it in a sweep, and Allen, who has the advantage of being Woody Allen. I’m going with Allen: it’s not his best film, nor his best film in recent memory, but it’s his biggest hit ever, and that counts for something.
SHOULD WIN: Asghar Farhadi
WILL WIN: Woody Allen
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Andrew Haigh for Weekend, Terrence Malick for
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Williamson (The Ides of March)
John Logan (Hugo)
Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants)
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian (Moneyball)

THE LOWDOWN: First off, what the hell is The Ides of March doing here? That’s the least memorable movie in history, ever (I nearly forgot to write my review). O’Connor died recently, and Tinker Tailor is the most deserving winner. It’s less well known, though, so it’s unlikely. Logan probably won’t get it for Hugo either, as it’s less writerly than the others (although if Hugo gets an unlikely sweep…). Sorkin won last year for The Social Network while Zaillian won for Schindler’s List, but they’d be deserving winners. It’s pointing towards Payne (previous winner for Sideways), Faxon and Jim “Dean Pelton from Community” Rash to win for The Descendants, the worst written film in Payne’s filmography. Still, Dean Pelton getting an Oscar a few days after Community’s return date was announced (March 15 so I can associate the Ides of March with something other than tragedy/a mediocre movie) would be nice.

SHOULD WIN: O’Connor and Straughan
WILL WIN: Payne, Faxon, Rash, and all Community fans (please watch this show)
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: The script for Spielberg’s War Horse was a wonderfully old-fashioned, intricate work
A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung-Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

THE LOWDOWN: How in the hell did Puss in Boots and Kung-Fu Panda 2 get in here while Spielberg’s wonderfully entertaining The Adventures of Tintin got screwed? This is way above Robert Zemeckis’ lousy, creepy-looking mo-cap movies, guys. Anyway, Chico and Rita is the better received of the mostly unknown nominees, but Rango is likely to get it. It looks great, I’ll give it that much.

SHOULD WIN: The two unknown ones
RangoSHOULD HAV BEEN NOMINATED: Tintin, Winnie the Pooh
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Separation
THE LOWDOWN: Never count out the ones you’ve never heard of (Footnote, Monsieur Lazhar), but I’m not betting on them. I’ve at least heard of Bullhead, but can’t tell you the first thing about it. In Darkness is directed by Agnieszka Holland of Europa Europa fame, but I can’t tell you much else about it. A Separation has a screenplay nod and is one of the very best reviewed films of the year. Add that to its several wins in precursors and the groundswell of critical respect for Iranian films, and it looks like a lock.

A SeparationSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Uncle Boonmee didn’t have a shot in hell, so I can’t say.
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
THE LOWDOWN: Those first two haven’t had much buzz, so they’re probably out. Undefeated is about a football team, if I’m right, so that could certainly be a favorite. Pina is by German filmmaking legend Wim Wenders, so that’s a possibility. Paradise Lost 3 is my guess, however, considering the love for the previous installments. It’d serve as acknowledgement for the whole series.

SHOULD WIN: I’ve not seen any of these
Paradise Lost 3SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Oh boy, everyone knows this was botched. How about Senna? The Interrupters? The Arbor? Project Nim?
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

THE LOWDOWN: Please don’t bet on Harry Potter. It’s really unlikely, and a vote because you’re a Potter fan would be a waste. Midnight in Paris and War Horse seem unlikely as well. It’s likely between the two Best Picture frontrunners. The Artist could get it in a sweep, and it certainly does look great, but Hugo has a more intricate set (well, digital set), and that’s likely to get a lot of respect.

The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

THE LOWDOWN: Janusz Kaminski has won for previous Spielberg films, so he won’t win for his gorgeous work for War Horse. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems unlikely as well. The Artist could always get it in a sweep, but I’m not betting on it. Hugo has the Avatar edge for having innovative photography of digital backgrounds, while Emanuel Lubeszki’s work on The Tree of Life was the best work of the year. I’m going with my heart (maybe foolish) and hoping The Tree of Life gets one win.
SHOULD/WILL WIN: The Tree of LifeSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Meek’s Cutoff, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
THE LOWDOWN: I’m a bit surprised that The Descendants even got in here. Moneyball is well put together, but it isn’t a Best Picture front-runner, so it’s unlikely. Ditto for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s likely between the two front-runners. Editing and Picture often go hand-in-hand, so I’ll go with The Artist.
SHOULD WIN: The Girl with the Dragon TattooWILL WIN: The ArtistSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: The Tree of Life, Drive, War Horse
Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
Alberto Iglesias (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Howard Shore (Hugo)
John Williams (The Adventures of Tintin)
John Williams (War Horse)

THE LOWDOWN: All great work. Williams has won five times and will likely split any votes he might get, even though he should win for War Horse. Iglesias’ work is too subtle. It’s between Shore and Bource, with Bource as the favorite. I’d rather see Shore get it, but like I said, great work by everyone here.

SHOULD WIN: Williams for War Horse or Shore
WILL WIN: Bource for
The ArtistSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Cliff Martinez for Drive, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Grace for Meek’s CutoffBEST ORIGINAL SONG:
“Man or Muppet” (The Muppets)
“Real in Rio” (Rio)
THE LOWDOWN: So many options.
SHOULD/WILL WIN: “Man or Muppet”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: “Life’s a Happy Song” (The Muppets)

The Artist
Jane Eyre
THE LOWDOWN: When in doubt, go with frilly shit. The Academy loves frilly shit.

SHOULD WIN: The Artist or
HugoWILL WIN: Jane Eyre….maybe The Artist if it sweeps
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: I find contemporary work that’s believable and isn’t ostentatious (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) or less showy period work (War Horse, Meek’s Cutoff) more impressive than frilly shit, but I’m alone in that regard. Really, don’t they have like a warehouse to store that shit by now? Do they even still need to design it?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
THE LOWDOWN: Drive has its sole nomination here, and there’s virtually no shot. Transformers got nominated for being LOUD AS FUCKING HELL, showing that Most Sound Editing gets in automatically. War Horse…man, it would be deserving, but it’s just not its night. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be great as well, but betting against Hugo at this point seems foolish. It’s deserving, at least.
SHOULD WIN: Drive or The Girl with the Dragon TattooWILL WIN: HugoSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: The Tree of Life, Meek’s CutoffSOUND MIXING:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
THE LOWDOWN: The same for the last category, only now with Moneyball in Drive’s place as “deserving nominee that will not win”. Again, Hugo does a good job.

The Girl with the Dragon TattooWILL WIN: HugoSHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Drive, The Tree of Life, Meek’s Cutoff

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
THE LOWDOWN: Again, for all the Potter fans out there: do not bet on this. You will lose precious dollars. Real Steel I’m surprised even got in. Transfomers: whirring metal and incomprehensible action does not equal good visuals. Hugo could have the Avatar edge, but the motion-capture work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes is more likely.
SHOULD/WILL WIN: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with Hugo as a shot
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady

THE LOWDOWN: I was glad to see that the awful make-up in J. Edgar wasn’t nominated only to see the absolutely, gob-smacking, horrendous make-up in Harry Potter 2 was nominated. It might be in for the Voldemort stuff, but anything containing make-up as terrible as the stuff in the film’s epilogue shouldn’t be anywhere near here. As for the other two…eh. Iron Lady makes Meryl Streep old, so…that one.
The Barber of Birmingham
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
THE LOWDOWN: These categories are notoriously difficult to predict, so guesswork is in order. I like the sound of The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.
The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life
THE LOWDOWN: How can I not go with that second one? I’d vote for it for the title alone.

The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic
THE LOWDOWN: Raju? Yeah, sure.
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
THE LOWDOWN: Terrence Malick! Terrence Malick! Best film of the year! Best film of his career! Towering Masterpiece! Yeah, it won’t win. Woody Allen has won before for a film that wasn’t vastly overrated. Alexander Payne’s directing is the best thing about The Descendants, and he should have won for Sideways, but he doesn’t have the inside track and he’ll probably just get another Screenplay win anyway. Martin Scorsese has won before, but there’s a lot of love for Hugo despite the film’s box-office disappointment. The DGA went to Hazanavicius, a director with a great style who seems satisfied with doing really superficial things with it. He’ll probably win. When I’m pulling for Hugo, a Scorsese picture I’m iffy on, because it’s a more interesting win, it’s saying something.
SHOULD WIN: Terrence Malick, who will win when Hazanavicius, Allen, Payne, and Scorsese split the vote. Yeah, no.
WILL WIN: (sigh) Hazanavicius
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, David Fincher for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Steven Spielberg, who I’m stunned didn’t get more love for War Horse.
THE LOWDOWN: Well color me surprised on the morning of the nomination announcements that The Help wasn’t the worst nominee of the year. Truly stunning. This would be the first time where the best film of the year (The Tree of Life) and the worst film of the year (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) were both Best Picture nominees, to the best of my knowledge. Barring a vote-split and an abandonment of all reason, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will not win Best Picture tonight. Please.
As for the other ones that won’t happen: War Horse and Moneyball, my second and third favorites of the nominees. It’s honestly mystifying to me that War Horse didn’t get more love, as it’s absolutely Spielberg’s best film in years. Moneyball, meanwhile, is the satisfying sports movie that everyone likes but no one thinks is the best movie of the year. Next up on the “nope” list, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s uneven tribute to Paris, love, and nostalgia. Allen won Best Director years ago and Annie Hall won Best Picture years ago, so it’d be a hell of a surprise to see the film win the top prize. Also unlikely: The Help, at one point seen as a real contender, which has zero non-acting nominations outside of Best Picture, generally a sign that you’re going nowhere. Last on the “absolutely no way” list is the best of the nominees (and the best film of the year), Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Without a doubt the most singular vision and ambitious picture of the year, it’s nonetheless too weird and too cerebral/philosophical for something as glitzy as the Oscars to pick it for top prize.
Alexander Payne’s The Descendants won several prizes on the way to the Oscars, but like Clooney’s previous front-runner Up in the Air (and Alexander Payne’s previous contender Sideways), it’s lost a lot of its front-runner luster. Payne is unlikely to pick up Director, Clooney faces tough competition for Actor. The Descendants is most likely out, and that’s just fine: it’s Payne’s weakest film anyway.
I had more problems with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo than most, but months later I can’t stop considering how much I respected and admired the film. I dismissed The Descendants as unsatisfying and poorly-written for a Payne film, and it stayed dismissed. I dismissed The Artist and Midnight in Paris as slight and insubstantial (although I liked Midnight in Paris a bit more the second time around), and they stayed dismissed. Months later, however, Hugo has stayed with me as a singular work of art and as an ambitious film worth revisiting. Why mention this? Because for all the film’s flaws (and it has far more than most would admit), there’s more to it than the other classic movie tribute, The Artist. Perhaps, if the Academy sees that (and decides Scorsese deserves more than one Oscar), Hugo might pull off a surprise win. At this point, though, it’s unlikely. The charming little movie with little on its mind other than pastiche is the front-runner, and it’s likely to stay as such. To which I say, “eh, fine.”

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