Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscar predix 12: The Best Pictures

And now on to the best film awards...

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

I was going to do a breakdown of a for and against for each picture, but what would be the point? The Artist is the heaviest favorite to win in some time. If it doesn't win, I'll be shocked. And even a little mad, since it's my favorite of the lot.

Will/should win: The Artist 

Best Animated Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Barring an upset by the two small-studio films, I think this is pretty clearly Rango's. And I have a question for the Academy. Cars 2 is certainly not up to Pixar's high standards.  But are the DreamWorks sequels Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots REALLY better?

Will/should win: Rango.

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

This one is a bit of a toss-up, as I can see any number of the contenders winning. I'm going to place my best with the case that received the most publicity - the freeing of the West Memphis Three, as chronicled in the Paradise Lost films.

Best Foreign Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)

Praise for A Separation has been SO sky high, I think it's the likely victor.

I'll be posting on Facebook and maybe tweeting too live as the show goes on.  Feel free to join me for random attempts at hilarity and insight!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oscar predix: The actors

And now for the nominees with a Y chromosome...


Kenneth Branah, My Week with Marilyn

Why he might win: He's delightful in the film, and he was allowed to show a light, comedic side we too seldom see.

Why he might not: The role may seem slight. He isn't Christopher Plummer.

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Why he might win: He pitched a terriffic change-up, playing a crucial role in the film and proving he has range beyond "lovable raunchy guy."

Why he might not: Some people may still struggle with the image change. And he isn't Christopher Plummer.

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Why he might win: He gave a typically solid performance in a film with a lot of emotional heft. Strangely, he hasn't won yet.

Why he might not: This is really the kind of role he could do in his sleep. And he isn't Christopher Plummer.

 Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Why he might win: He IS Christopher Plummer. He's won just about every kudo under the sun so far, and the nice thing is, he truly deserves it. This isn't just a career valedictory; he's wonderful in the film.

Why he might not: Because the cosmos has split in half. You can pretty well bet the ranch on this one.

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Why he might win: He gave a showy performance, and for some reason, he's never nanaged to win this award. If anyone has even the slimmist chance of taking it from Plummer, it's him.

But ...

Why he might not: He isn't Christopher Plummer. While his movie managed to pull a surprise Best Picture nom, it has also sparked a lot of grumbling.

Will/should win: Plummer


Demián Bichir, A Better Life

Why he might win: His supporters pushed for a nomination for a movie that flew under a lot of people's radar. Sometimes those types of performances win (see Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose.)

Why he might not: Not enough people saw the film.

George Clooney, The Descendants

Why he might win: He's had another good year, he's extremely well liked, and he got to display an edge we very rarely see from him (i.e. he cries).

Why he night not: He won only a few years ago, for Syriana.

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Why he might win: He's charmed all of Hollywood, and other viewers of The Artist, with his delightful guilelessness. Has won most of the precursors.

Why he might not: Voters might perfer Clooney's broader range of emotions.

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Why he might win: About time! After years of putting in strong performances, he's never managed a nod till now. He really should have been nominated for playing Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK.

Why he might not: It's an emotionally pinched performance, where he finds one note and holds it very well.

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Why he might win: He turned in one of his best performances in years as Billy Beane, and with The Tree of Life also under his belt, he has appeared in two Best Picture nominees. Only his Tree costar, Jessica Chastain, can also claim that.

Why he might not: The role's not quite as flashy as some of the competition.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oscar Predix 12 : Actresses

Now for the analysis to get a little more in-depth.

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Why she might win: It's Oscar bait (playing in drag), voters will admire this was a passion project for Close (she produced, co-wrote the screenplay and even wrote song lyrics) and rather remarkably, Close doesn't have an Oscar yet.

Why she might not: The film is a whole is generally regarded as underwhelming and not as well seen as the other films in the category. 

Viola Davis, The Help

Why she might win: She's due. Overdue, one could argue. She's consistently great in everything she does, and she shone in a big box office hit. She has won most of the precursors.

Why she might not: There's a slim chance of there being an upswing of support for Streep, who has not won since the early 80s. But don't bank on it. This is Davis' to lose.

Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Why she might win: She underwent a remarkable transformation. Just think: that's the same girl who dumped Zuckerberg in The Social Network? Even more impressively, she made the role her own, even in the long shadow of Noomi Rapace.

Why she might not: Too soon. If this role is any indication, she'll be back. And the competition is just too strong.

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Why she might win: She's only the greatest living American actress. And her transformation into the controversial and legendary prime minister is remarkable. Though she seems to be nominated every year, she hasn't actually won since Sophie's Choice some 30 years ago. 
Why she might not: The film itself underwhelmed a lot of people and might not be cause enough for Streep to be back in the winner's circle just yet.

Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Why she might win: She doesn't look or sound much like Marilyn in real life, but she absolutely nailed her portrayal of the legend. She's on her third nomination, so the Academy loves her.

Why she might not: The film is (wrongly) considered slight by some. As much as a roll she's on now, it's plainly evident she'll be back. Her time will come.

Should win: Mara
Will win: Davis

Best Supporting Actress

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Why she might win: She could win on a sweep for The Artist. Voters might find it fun to pair her with Jean Dujardin, the likely Best Actor winner.

Why she might not: There really hasn't been much buzz about her in the ramp-up to the Oscars. She's a dark horse at best.

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Why she might win: She has had an absolutely fantastic and breakout year, having been excellent in all her other films of 2011, including Take Shelter, The Debt and the film she really should have been nominated for, The Tree of Life.

Why she might not: Her nominated co-stars in The Help have the most memorable moments in the movie. At the rate Chastain is going, we'll certainly see her nominated again soon.

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Why she might win: She was the scene-stealer of the year, and a hilarious one to boot.

Why she might not: Comedies aren't taken seriously enough.

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Why she might win: She had a nice little comeback after being nominated years ago for Tumbleweeds, but not gaining much attention since.

Why she might not: Neither her movie, nor her campaign, has much momentum.

Octavia Spencer, The Help 

Why she might win: She has owned this role, even before the movie came out, playing Minny in the audio book. She's won most if not all percursors. And I think voters like the idea of making history by having Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress going to African-Americans.

Why she might not: Well, there was always the Juliette Binoche scenario ...

Will win: Spencer
Should win: Bejo, who's nearly as delightful as her co-star.

Oscar Predix 12: Director/Screnplay predix

Continuing with the Oscar predictions, we move on to more prominent craft categories: namely writing and directing.

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Will/Should Win: Midnight in Paris.

This is a race between the favorite The Artist and Woody Allen's biggest hit in years. I could see it going to The Artist if the Academy wants to reward the ingenuity of the idea - but then again, the idea of the movie is that its beauty lies in the visuals and not so much in the words. Words, however, are a large part of the beauty of Midnight in Paris, and if it doesn't win this, it gets nothing.The film's hefty fanbase will see that doesn't happen.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Will/Should win: The Descendants

This race is between my pick for the best film of the year, The Descendants, and Moneyball, in which two of Hollywood's top writers took a very technical book and turned it into a very human story. However, The Descendants will win for one very simple reason: it's the emotional knockout of the bunch. Voters vote with their hearts, and that's all over The Descendants

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris 
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Will win: Hazanavicus
Should win: Scoresese

This race is between the greatest living American director (Marty) and the very clever newcomer (Michel), both of whom wrote impassioned love letters to the movies themselves. It is entirely possible that they might reward Hazanavicus for his writing and give this one to Scorsese, not only for producing one of his most uplifting movies, but for being one of the few directors to show that 3D can be a vital and beautiful storytelling tool.

That said, Scorsese won fairly recently for The Departed. And Havanavicius just won the DGA award, which is a pretty strong indicator. Some people may see this as a repeat of 2003, when an auteur (Roman Polanksi) beat out a promising newcomer (Rob Marshall, who has not lived up to that promise since). The major difference? Polanski didn't have an Oscar already.

I liked the way the site In Contention put it: 'As much as people like to make parallels with the 2002 Rob Marshall/Roman Polanski situation that vaguely make sense on paper, this isn't looking like much of a race. Michel Hazanavicius has the DGA, the BAFTA, the BFCA Award and even some major critics' prizes. Martin Scorsese has a Golden Globe. Do the math. "The Artist" is too well-loved -- and too much a product of directorial ingenuity -- not to win here."

Besides, if my prediction is correct, that makes me look wise. If my prediction is wrong, my favorite director gets the prize. Either way, I win! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oscar predix 12: Below the line

And so we begin 2012's Oscar predictions with the "bathroom break" awards: In other words, for the technical category and short films awards that the average viewer doesn't care about. Most of my blog's readers aren't average viewers, but even if you are a more casual fan, you DO need these categories to help win your Oscar office pool. After all, the major categories are pretty well set; the techs are much more in flux.

Short Film (Animated)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Will/should win: I've seen all the nominees this year. Maybe Pixar had an off year with Cars 2, but they're still firing on all cylinders with La Luna, which is typically ingenious work by them. However, A Morning Stroll is very clever, with its multiple styles of animation, and it's the funniest of the lot. So it's a possible spoiler. The overall field here is underwhelming.

Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Will/should win: This is a particularly strong group this year; with the possible exception of the slight but enjoyable, Pentecost, I could see any of these taking the Oscar. I'm going with the emotionalism of The Shore, a very affecting drama  starring Ciaran Hinds and directed by Terry George, who made Hotel Rwanda. I would not rule out Time Freak, which, like last year's winner God of Love. is a very clever little comedy.

Documentary Short
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Will win: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Should win: Saving Face

My personal favorite, Saving Face, an amazing story of Pakistani women prevailing over acid attacks, could very well win, but my gut tells me the better-known story of the tsunami that ravaged Japan will score more points.

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

Will win: The Artist
Should win: The Tree of Life

Logic would dictate that Tree of Life would win here; it won the ASC award, and it fulfills the "pretty!" prerequisite typical of many winners. I think it deserves to win, not only for its beauty, but for its well-executed hand-held camerawork.

HOWEVER - a lot of people HATE The Tree of Life, and as knowledgeable Oscar prognosticators have pointed out, you have to go back 62 years to find the last movie that won cinematography without any other techs. And sure, Emmanuel Lubezki is due, but tell that to Roger Deakins.  Therefore, I'm thinking the overall love for The Aritst will carry the day.

Art Direction 
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

Will/Should win: The opening five minutes of Hugo should seal the deal for that film.

Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre

Will/should win: Hugo is the most opulent and it's a Best Picture nominee.

Film Editing
The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker 
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Will win: The Artist
 Should win: Moneyball

I wouldn't rule out another win for Thelma Schoonmaker, but I'm guessing The Artist's overall ingenuity prevails here. Moneyball might seem like a surprising personal pick for me, but I really admire the way it jumped back and forth in time to tell the backstory of Billy Beane.

Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston, and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk, and Yolanda Toussieng 
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Will/should win: Here's where Harry Potter finally wins something.

Music (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

Will/Should win: The Artist's score is too delightful to ignore. And I actually think Kim Novak's ridiculous complaint about the use of the Vertigo music will help the film, not hurt it.

Music (Original Song)
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, and Siedah Garrett

Will/should win: The Muppets had BETTER win this one, or whatever screen I'm watching this on will have a big hole in it.

Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Will/should win: Hugo for both.

This category can be hard to be predict, and I'm inclined to think most voters who aren't in the sound branch don't know the difference. However, since the silent movie wasn't nominated here, I think voters will go for the Best Picture nominee that sounds great.

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

Will/should win: This will mark the third time that an Andy Serkis performance carries its film to Oscar, after The Two Towers and King Kong/

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Reviewing the Super Bowl movie trailers

Most people who know me know I don't give a pigskin about the Super Bowl, although this year I did have kind of a tangential interest. You see, the Mara family owns the New York Giants, and I have crushes on both Kate (127 Hours) and Rooney (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). It's almost enough to make me wish I were into football.

Since I'm not, however, I shall resort merely to talking about the movie trailers that were on last night. CinemaBlend has them all on this page.

21 Jump Street


Color me unimpressed. I just don't find it that funny. Also, I have a question for the studio. Emma Stone is in your movie. Why haven't you made this evident in the trailers?

Act of Valor


Novel idea to cast active duty Navy SEALS in a movie. We all know the Seals are badasses. That does NOT necessarily mean the movie will be badass. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be, because I fear the filmmakers will assume the SEALS alone are good enough. A good story and director will help too.

The Avengers


OK, NOW I'm getting a little more excited for this thing!


On the other hand, I still think this looks like Transformers: Wet of the Water. Yawn.

The Dictator


I thought Borat was overrated, and I thought Bruno was a mess, but I have to admit, this looks pretty funny. The bit where he shoots the other track runners made me laugh out loud.

GI Joe: Retaliation


No, I guess people don't have to like your first movie for there to be a sequel.

The Hunger Games

Now this I'm all over, even though I haven't read the books. But I'm a fan of Jennifer Lawrence!

John Carter


While I believe The Hunger Games will be the big hit of the spring, I sense this movie may be the big-budget disappointment. Something just seems off here. It looks -- ordinary. Kinda like the vibe I got from Prince of Persia. Oh, you don't remember that one either?

The Lorax


IMAX Tree-D? That's cute. Since it's by the folks who made Despicable Me. I'm hopeful.

On the whole, though, thought it was a rather unremarkable year for movie ads. Save for Avengers, none of the spots changed my opinion on a movie, for good or ill.

Friday, February 03, 2012

New movies Feb. 3 2012

Big Miracle: Drew Barrymore saves the whales. Can't muster up a lot of interest for this, even though the reviews aren't half bad.

Chronicle: Initially, I rolled my eyes at yet another "found footage" movie, especially since the two most recent ones, Apollo 18 and The Devil Inside, are allegedly awful. But this one is pulling down some surprisingly strong reviews - strong enough that I may check it out.

The Woman in Black: Even though I was never a huge Potterphile, I am very curious to see how Daniel Radcliffe fares in his first big post-Potter movie role. The good news is, it's being released under the legendary Hammer films banner. The bad news is, CBS Films is selling it with cheesy Paranormal Activity-type ads showing people cowering in theaters. Audience participation ads tend to be a sign of iffy quality. We'll see. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

REVIEW: The Artist

Near the beginning of That's Entertainment, this fabulous number plays, and Frank Sinatra said "You know, you can wait around and hope, but I'll tell you, you'll never see the likes of this again."

The Artist has proven Frank wrong. We have seen the likes of that again, thanks to this enchanting film.

That's not to say The Artist ranks alongside the greatest films of Hollywood's golden age, or the silent era. Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius would be the first to admit that. But what his movie does do is illuminate the past brilliantly,  while at the same time carving out a unique identity for itself.

Some people dismiss The Artist, claiming that it only works because it dares to be silent. Mel Brooks proved that untrue 36 years ago. His Silent Movie had some funny moments, but it was nowhere near what it aspired to be. It ended up as a mildly diverting lark. That was the film where the silence came off as a gimmick.

What elevates The Artist is that it doesn't merely shut up and pay homage to Douglas Fairbanks et al. It pays homage to the power of movies in general. Its plot borrows heavily from Singin' in the Rain (a talkie about the switch from silent to sound) and A Star is Born (grand old star's career fades while the fresh new face the old star found brightens). Now that's pedigree.

But the clearest evidence of how The Artist stands on its own is, interestingly, when it co-opts an existing piece of music. The movie has a delightful score of its own by Ludovic Bource, but one crucial scene plays to Bernard Herrmann's love theme from Vertigo. It shouldn't work - the scene in the Hitchcock movie is one of the most memorable in all of cinema, and that's my favorite score to boot. Yet somehow, Havanvicius takes Herrmann's music and makes it work in The Artist's context.

Deserving of just as much credit is the terrific cast. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are both wonderful, not merely resorting to pantomime, but creating full-bodied characters. John Goodman is perfectly cast as a cigar-puffing studio boss.

Such is my affection for The Artist, that reading some Facebook comments about the Oscar nominations made my blood boil, especially when once person said "Who cares about some silent movie that only 10 people saw?"

I was about to fire back with a sharp-tongued response, but I remained silent. Sadly, I know The Artist isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's never going to have the mass success of another throwback like Chicago. But like Sinatra, I'll tell you  - if more people were into movies like The Aritst, movies as a whole would be a great deal better.