So only two films on my best of list received nominations this year (Drive and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). My worst of list tends to be a pretty good indicator of what gets recognized by the Academy, though.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
- War Horse
Regarding The Tree of Life winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Jury Head Robert De Niro said, "It had the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize.” That's pretty much the exact opposite of what'll win the Best Picture Oscar. Comprehensibility and competence are the valued attributes here. If there's an ideological point, then it had better go down easy. Charm helps, too. So what's more charming than the competent and comprehensible The Artist? Hugo doesn't quite fit the bill, but it tries. And, just like its major competitor, The Artist has the added advantage of celebrating American cinema. The Descendants is solidly mediocre, too, and with a cheap social message, but I think people probably perceive it as more of an example of solid writing and acting, not as a "magical" experience (less charm, in other words). Additionally, Harvey Weinstein knows how to win Oscars.
- Lisy Christl - Anonymous
- Mark Bridges - The Artist
- Sandy Powell - Hugo
- Michael O'Connor - Jane Eyre
- Arianne Phillips - W.E.
Only a sword-wielding fantasy has beaten films about royalty for the past five years in this category. That was last year when King's Speech fell to Alice in Wonderland. One setback for the former was that it was set in the 20th century, and costume design is obviously better the farther back in time the film takes you. Thus, we can eliminate Madonna's romance about the Nazi-sympathizing King Edward, W.E., Jane Eyre, and Hugo both take place in more recent periods than Anonymous, which puts it in the lead. The Artist is a real crowd favorite and a musical of sorts, which has worked in the past with Chicago and Moulin Rouge. But I don't think tuxes will beat Elizabethan puffy shirts. Plus, Anonymous is a fantasy with swords.
- “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets - Bret McKenzie (music & lyrics)
- “Real in Rio” from Rio - Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown (music) & Siedah Garrett (lyrics)
“Man or Muppet”
- Demián Bichir - A Better Life
- George Clooney - The Descendants
- Jean Dujardin - The Artist
- Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- Brad Pitt - Moneyball
I've heard a lot of people predicting Dujardin and Clooney can't dance. Yet, everyone really loves Clooney. It's practically the defining characteristic of our shared humanity at this point.
- Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
- Alexander Payne - The Descendants
- Martin Scorsese - Hugo
- Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
- Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life
Evidently, twenty of the last twenty-five Oscars have paired Best Director with Best Picture. If Scorsese hadn't won fairly recently, that might've had an effect here (as shitty as Hugo is, it's much better than The Departed). Allen and Payne are going to get screenwriting consolation prizes. Malick doesn't have a chance (though he deserves this) for simply attempting to produce something other than competent middle-of-the-road entertainment. I'm pretty confident it'll be # 1.
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
- Dimanche/Sunday - Patrick Doyon
- The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg
- La Luna - Enrico Casrosa
- A Morning Stroll - Grant Orchard & Sue Goffe
- Wild Life - Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby
No idea here. There's no discernible pattern to what wins, other than Pixar-related things haven't fared so well in the shorts category. The best looking one to me is # 4.
A Morning Stroll
- Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
- Jonah Hill - Moneyball
- Nick Nolte - Warrior
- Christopher Plummer - Beginners
- Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
No one cares about Warrior and Jonah Hill is to be celebrated for not being obnoxious? That leaves 1, 4, and 5. Branagh is doing an imitation of a famous person and he's been nominated plenty of times without ever winning. But he hasn't been screwed near as much as the great von Sydow. Unfortunately for him, he's neither playing a celebrity nor a gay man. The award'll go to the other aged, venerable actor who is playing a gay man:
Entertainment Weekly attempts to debunk this as myth, but if one looks at only the cases where the point of the film is the struggle of gayness against bigotry, or the right to be recognized, I suspect the generalization holds. The possible exception here is Brokeback Mountain, but there you had the two leads nominated. And just because they were in separate categories doesn't mean that people didn't split their votes, only voting for one or the other. Regardless, going gay does give the performer an extra edge, just like playing mentally challenged or ugly does. I mean, Tom Hanks won Best Actor two years in a row, so what else could explain that?
- Hell and Back Again - Danfung Dennis & Mike Lerner
- If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front - Marshall Curry & Sam Cullman
- Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
- Pina - Wim Wenders & Gian-Piero Ringel
- Undefeated - TJ Marin, Dan Lindsay & Rich Middlemas
5 is about poor black kids on an urban football team, but 3, despite being about white trash, has major star power behind it, and it helped get its three subjects released from prison. Movies can really change the world, man.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
- Pentecost - Peter McDonald & Eimar O'Kane
- Raju - Max Zähle & Stefan Gieren
- The Shore - Terry George & Oorlagh George
- Time Freak - Andrew Bowler & Gigi Causey
- Tuba Atlantic - Hallvar Witzø
I was leaning toward Raju, about adopting poor third world children (a Hollywood passion), but it's not in English. And I hear it's sort of sad. Thus, I'm going with the feel good film about Northern Ireland, The Shore.
- 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
As James Baldwin once argued, Hollywood uses black actresses as cyphers of social issues. Nothing has much changed since then, except we now see films set in the past because those issues are the most easily dealt with in an entertainment context.
- The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement - Robin Fryday & Gail Dolgin
- God Is the Bigger Elvis - Rebecca Cammisa & Julie Anderson
- Incident in New Baghdad - James Spione
- Saving Face - Daniel Junge & Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
- The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom - Lucy Walker & Kira Carstensen
Tough choice: 1 is a celebration of a significant Civil Rights figure from a woman who died of breast cancer three months before its premiere. 4 is about the phenomenon of husbands throwing acid in their wives' faces over in Pakistan. Maybe not enough voters have heard about the breast cancer, but with the prominence of A Separation, the plight of Muslim women is in the air. I'm going with 4.
- Lon Bender & Victor Ray Ennis - Drive
- Ren Klyce - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Philip Stockton & Eugene Gearty - Hugo
- Ethan Van deer Ryn & Erik Aadahl - Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Richard Hymns & Gary Rydstrom - War Horse
Even though 1 is known for its sound, this category tends to go to bigger spectacles and it is often linked to the Sound Mixing award (see below). This category also leans toward low rumbling films these days, so I'm picking 2.
- Bérénice Bejo - The Artist
- Jessica Chastain - The Help
- Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
- Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
- Octavia Spencer - The Help
5, see commentary for Leading Actress.
- Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
- Kevin Tent - The Descendants
- Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Thelma Schoonmaker - Hugo
- Christopher Tellefsen - Moneyball
For the last five years, the American Cinema Editors' award for Dramatic Editing has accurately predicted the winner of Film Editing at the Oscars. I don't see anything that'll change that track record: 2.
- David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce & Bo Persson - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Tom Fleischman & John Midgley - Hugo
- Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco & Ed Novick - Moneyball
- Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush & Peter J. Devlin - Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson & Stuart Wilson - War Horse
There's a lot of warm bass in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's hard to separate the score from the diegetic sound effects. Very euphonic. It's not likely to win anything other than sound awards, so why not?
David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce & Bo Persson
- A Cat in Paris - Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli
- Chico & Rita - Fernando Trueba & Javier Mariscal
- Kung Fu Panda 2 - Jennifer Yuh Nelson
- Puss in Boots - Chris Miller
- Rango - Gore Verbinski
None of these has been much talked about other than #5, Rango, so that's what I'm going with. It was the only one I cared to see on blu-ray.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- Bullhead - Michael R. Roskam
- Footnote - Joseph Cedar
- In Darkness - Agnieszka Holland
- Monsieur Lazhar - Philippe Falardeau
- A Separation - Asghar Farhadi
Americans love to be told how much it sucks to live in Iran. No competition, 5. Just look at all that symbolism:
- Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler & John Richardson - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
- Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann & Alex Henning - Hugo
- Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor & Swen Gillberg - Real Steel
- Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White & Daniel Barrett - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler & John Frazier - Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Which film is a nostalgic look at the origin of special effects and which updates those effects to contemporary standards? The same film that won't win any of the major prizes. It has to be Hugo.
Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann & Alex Henning
- Laurence Bennett (production design) & Robert Gould (set decoration) - The Artist
- Stuart Craig (production design) & Stephenie McMillan (set decoration) - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
- Dante Ferretti (production design) & Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration) - Hugo
- Anne Seibel (production design) & Hélène Dubreuil (set decoration) - Midnight in Paris
- Rick Carter (production design) & Lee Sandales (set decoration) - War Horse
Lots of clutter = lots of art direction. Hugo is really cluttered.
Dante Ferretti & Francesca Lo Schiavo
- Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston & Matthew W. Mungle - Albert Nobbs
- Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight & Lisa Tomblin - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
- Mark Coulier & J. Roy Helland - The Iron Lady
I'm guessing no one much cares about Harry Potter now, so it's between making a woman look like a woman who's dressing up as a man versus a woman look like the most masculine of all women. 1 has the pro-woman identity politics angle, but 3 has the "looks so much like the real article" aspect. Based on previous wins, if it's not fantasy, mimesis wins for realism: 3.
Mark Coulier & J. Roy Helland
- Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash - The Descendants
- John Logan - Hugo
- George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon - The Ides of March
- Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin - Moneyball
- Bridget & Peter Straughan - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2 is mess. 5 is confusing. 3 is merely an expression of love for Clooney. Sorkin and Payne have both recently won. Payne won the Writer's Guild Award. Thus, I'm going with the wind, 1.
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
- Guillaume Schiffman - The Artist
- Jeff Cronenweth - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Robert Richardson - Hugo
- Emmanuel Lubezki - The Tree of Life
- Janusz Kaminski - War Horse
I'm wary to predict any selection that actually agrees with my own taste, but Lubezki won the American Society of Cinematographer's top award (just as last year's winner of Best Cinematography, Wally Pfister, did). Surely, the voters will want to give something to The Tree of Life.
- John Williams - The Adventures of Tintin
- Ludovic Bource - The Artist
- Howard Shore - Hugo
- Alberto Iglesias - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- John Williams - War Horse
Good grief. All those great scores and we get two nominations for JW phoning home. Should be 4, but it'll be the crowd pleasing 2.
- Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
- Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids
- J.C. Chandor - Margin Call
- Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
- Asghar Farhadi - A Separation