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Oscar Predictions

The 84th Annual Academy Awards are almost upon us.  These are my predictions for what will win, and also what I would like to win.  In some cases,  I also offer a consideration as to why film X will win.  This is, to my mind, rather more interesting than just lambasting the Academy for not nominating what I happen to think is best.  After all, what makes my opinion, or anyone’s, more valid than someone else’s?

Best Picture

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

The Artist has captivated everyone it seems, and in some quarters there is probably a backlash saying “It isn’t really that good”, which will doubtless increase after it sweeps the board.  But I thought Hugo was an even more interesting, as well as poignant and touching, love letter to early cinema.  Two highly cine-literate films, and the wit, verve and sheer artistry of Hugo wins my vote.  But it seems the charm and novelty of The Artist cannot be stopped, and come Oscar night, it is to be rewarded again.

Best Director

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

Both The Artist and Hugo are intensely directed, but it seems that nostalgia will triumph over innovation.  Scorsese has always been a highly innovative director, but the Academy will reward Hazanavicius’ use of silent cinema techniques, and the members’ nostalgia for old cinema will win the night.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

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

This might have been a close race between Dujardin and Clooney, but the “silent” star has pulled ahead, and the sheer novelty of his physical performance will triumph over Clooney’s impressive performance which, like the rest, is a standard type of performance.  Just by being different, Dujardin is great.  But in a performance that is very quiet, though not silent, Gary Oldman gives a masterclass in minimalism, yet delivers volumes.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

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

It’s been a long time since Meryl Streep won, although she gets nominated every year.  Playing an actual person who is suffering from a mental illness, as well as having to play her at different ages, will net her an Oscar this year.  I have no objection, as she is the best thing in The Iron Lady by a long way.

 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

 Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
 Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Tough call, and I’ve only seen Branagh, but this looks to be time to reward stalwarts, and Plummer has had a few nominations before but never won.  It’s his time.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role

 Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
 Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
 Octavia Spencer in The Help

The Help has been nominated in several categories, but in all other cases there are much stronger nominees, so I think this will be the one it walks away with, as it seems The Help somehow should have an award.  Plus it gives the Academy members a chance to indicate that they are not racist.  But I would love to see comedy rewarded more.

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a great film that has clearly impressed many, including the Academy members.  Only being nominated in a couple of categories means that if it is going to win anything, it will be this one (and it isn’t competing against The Artist).  One of the writers has also died, which historically tends to lead to awards.  It’s cynical, but I expect the Academy to award the film both for its brilliant script, and as a means of honouring the deceased.

Best Original Screenplay

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

Again The Artist will leave the others in its wake, not least for being unusual in having to convey almost everything through cinematic language, including plot and character, rather than having to reply on dialogue.  Being different will win this one as well.  But again, I’d like to see comedy rewarded.

 Best Foreign Language Film

 Bullhead, Belgium
Footnote, Israel
In Darkness, Poland
Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
 A Separation, Iran

I’ve not seen any of these, but all reports are that A Separation is outstanding, so I’ll go for that.

Best Documentary Feature Film

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

Again, not seen any, so this is a pure guess.

Best Animated Feature Film

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

I suggest Chico & Rita because it’s unusual, like The Artist.  Animated Feature is a funny category, but having only seen Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, they don’t seem like Oscar material.

Best Original Song 

 “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; Lyric by Siedah Garrett

I don’t remember “Real in Rio” at all, and “Man or Muppet” displays musical inventiveness, characterisation and nostalgia, which is doing well this year.

Best 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

The Artist has picked up many awards for its score, and there is little reason not to expect it to continue.  Again, due to the lack of dialogue, more needs to be expressed through music than an average film, and for this reason its score is more noticeable, and will therefore be honoured.  But I certainly noticed the music in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Best in  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

Best Picture and Editing usually go together, but I think Hugo will get some Academy love in technical categories.  I’d like that.

Best in Makeup

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

A remarkable progression of ages will win The Iron Lady its other award.

Best Costume Design

 Anonymous, Lisy Christl
 The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor
W.E., Arianne Phillips

Much like the music and the performances, costume helps convey the moods and meanings of The Artist.  It will win for its expression.

Best in Art Direction

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

Another area where Hugo will get some love, because it so much of the film’s meaning is through its mise-en-scene.  A clockwork cinematic landscape like the inside of cameras themselves will earn Hugo an award here.

Best in Cinematography

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

This could go either way, especially due to the use of 3D in Hugo, but I think the Academy will lean towards nostalgia here.

Best in Sound Editing

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

Another technical win for the film that won’t win major awards.  As this is the only award Drive is up for, I’d like it to win.

Best in Sound Mixing

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

See above.

Best in Visual Effects

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

Rise of the Planet of the Apes has astounding effects, but I think the Academy are likely to give a franchise achievement to Harry Potter.

Best Animated Short Film
“Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
“La Luna” Enrico Casarosa
“A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
 “Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Just a guess here.

Best Live Action Short Film  [1 point]
“Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
“Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
 “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George
“Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
“Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

And here.

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

And here.

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BAFTA 2012

Very quickly, these are my predictions for the British Academy Awards scheduled for 12th February.  For a bit of variety, as well as including who and what I think will win, in some cases I’ve also noted who and what I would like to win (in some cases, they’re the same).  This is not the same as saying who should win – after all, who am I to say what’s best?  If I become a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, then I’ll be qualified (it could happen), but for now, I’m not so arrogant as to assume I know best.  Anyway, enjoy the BAFTAs, and see if I’m right!

Best Film

The Artist

The Descendants

Drive

The Help

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist is set to continue its winning ways, which if nothing else is quite a novelty (the film, not its winning ways).  But Drive gave me a particular thrill, and I’m glad to see it recognised at least with a nomination

Film Not in the English Language

Incendies

Pina

Potiche

A Separation

The Skin I Live In

Haven’t seen any of these, but A Separation is gathering the kudos so why doubt its continuance?

Outstanding British Film

My Week with Marilyn

Senna

Shame

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin has been widely praised and I see the Academy rewarding it.  I have only seen two of these, and wasn’t that impressed by My Week with MarilynTTSS, however, was excellent.

Director

The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius

Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn

Hugo – Martin Scorsese

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay

It seems nothing can stop Michel Hazanavicius, but thanks for reminding us of the sheer range of cinematic wonder, Marty.

Leading Actor

Brad Pitt (Billy Beane) – Moneyball

Gary Oldman (George Smiley) – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

George Clooney (Matt King) – The Descendants

Jean Dujardin (George Valentin) – The Artist

Michael Fassbender (Brandon) – Shame

It is Clooney’s time, methinks, and with The Artist attracting awards like a magnet, I think BAFTA may honour The Descendants here.  But I love our Gary.

Leading Actress

Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller) – The Artist

Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher) – The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe) – My Week with Marilyn

Tilda Swinton (Eva) – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Viola Davis (Aibileen Clark) – The Help

Streep is easily the best thing in The Iron Lady, and it’s about time she won again.

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer (Hal) – Beginners

Jim Broadbent (Denis Thatcher) – The Iron Lady

Jonah Hill (Peter Brand) – Moneyball

Kenneth Branagh (Sir Laurence Olivier) – My Week with Marilyn

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Paul Zara) – The Ides of March

Tough one here, but Broadbent is the sort of chap/performance that BAFTA tend to reward, so I think it’ll be him.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is always great, and especially acerbic and powerful in The Ides of March,  so that would be nice.

Supporting Actress

Carey Mulligan (Irene) – Drive

Jessica Chastain (Celia Foote) – The Help

Judi Dench (Dame Sybil Thorndike) – My Week with Marilyn

Melissa McCarthy (Megan) – Bridesmaids

Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson) – The Help

The Help is a terribly respectable film but only the acting is outstanding, so I see it getting rewarded here but nowhere else.  But give an award to comedy for laughing out loud!

Animated Film

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Arthur Christmas

Rango

Original Music

The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist tells so much with its music, plus it aids the nostaliga.

Original Screenplay

The Artist

Bridesmaids

The Guard

The Iron Lady

Midnight in Paris

Again, nothing stops the silent star.  But come on, Bridesmaids is SO funny!

Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants

The Help

The Ides of March

Moneyball

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

TTSS gets thrown a bone – a fairly meaty one for a thoroughly meaty script.

Cinematography

The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

There’s almost no limit to what you can do with a camera…

Editing

The Artist

Drive

Hugo

Senna

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

Production Design

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Make Up & Hair

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Hugo

The Iron Lady

My Week with Marilyn

Costume Design

The Artist

Hugo

Jane Eyre

My Week with Marilyn

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Special Visual Effects

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Hugo

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

War Horse

Documentary

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Project Nim

Senna

Sound

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Oscars – who are we to say they’re wrong?

Every year the Oscar nominations are announced, and every year everybody and their dog proclaims that the Academy got it wrong and that everybody else (and their dog) knows far better. Whether it be critics or audiences, the Internet is never short of comments offering alternative versions of what “should” be nominated. This year has been no exception – as an example, while there is little protest over the nominations of The Artist and Hugo, many lament that Drive has been left out of, not only the Best Picture category, but every category except for a “paltry” nod for Sound Editing. On a related note, after his three major performances in three very different films last year, it seems rather mean that Ryan Gosling has been ignored in the Best Actor category. I’ve never heard of Demian Bichir, nor the film for which he is nominated, A Better Life, so it’s a good thing he is nominated as it will help publicise the film.

Critics are quick to insist that they know better – and it is after all their job to be critical. This year, the Academy has been soundly berated for not nominating Senna for Best Documentary. Critics have their own set of awards – National Board of Review, Critics Societies and Associations of various cities, National Society of Film Critics – and the BBC critic Mark Kermode presents his own awards each year, named the Kermodes. The only rule for winning a Kermode is that the nominee must not also have been nominated for an Oscar. While this practice is entertaining, the fact that alternative awards exist demonstrates that critics have their own position, maybe their own standards, and run their own awards, so why not be different from the Academy? If all awards went to the same films, that would mean everyone thought the same way, and we all appreciate variety and range of opinion, don’t we?

Similarly, we the public have a great range of different opinions, and all can be respected. I mentioned to a friend that The Tree of Life was up for Best Picture and Best Director because I knew he liked it. He asked about Melancholia with an expectant air, and on being told it had not been nominated commented that he hates the Oscars. Is this because they have a different position, and they should agree with him? Is “greatness” not a concept that is hard to identify and even harder to make universally accepted?

Complaining about what “should” be nominated is, to me, pointless and rather arrogant. Who are we to tell the Academy members how to do their job? Does the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consists of people who make films count for nothing? As the public, we vote in our ticket buying habits, and with people’s choice awards. When the public disagree with the Oscar winners, the question that always strikes me is “Why do you know better? What standards are you following, which are clearly different and seemingly superior to those of the Academy members?” We don’t know what goes through the heads of the Academy members any more than we know what goes through the heads of the other people at the supermarket or on the bus, and yet we are not shy to declare that we know better. Yet how we know better is a question few seem willing or even able to answer.

Why, indeed, would we, the viewing public, know what constitutes the “best” films? Or, for that matter, the best directing, writing, acting, editing, cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing, visual effects, art direction, costume design, music, make-up? I have a PhD in Film Studies, and am often asked “What’s a really good film?” or “What’s the best film ever?” I have absolutely no idea, and neither does anyone else. The Academy members are, in that respect, like the rest of us, choosing and voting for what they happen to admire. Some of us like to post our own favourites each year, my previous post being just that. I don’t think my top ten are necessarily the best, they are simply what I enjoyed. Yes, the Academy Awards are more significant than some random blogger’s top ten, but it seems unlikely that they are actually judged by any standard that is higher than that. Therefore, can we not view the Oscars as an expression of admiration among film industry workers for their peers?

This is not to say that I necessarily agree with the Academy’s decisions. For my money, Avatar is a more impressive piece of cinema than The Hurt Locker, because it genuinely stretches the boundaries of what cinema can do. The 2008 nominees (Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon) were a rather bland collection, I thought, and both The Dark Knight and The Wrestler were far more powerful and compelling pieces of work. Last year, I found The Social Network to be an edgier and more critical and relevant piece than The King’s Speech, which was perfectly put together but rather too pat, too respectable, too safe. I found something else to be more impressive than what won or was nominated, but that doesn’t mean that my opinion is superior to those of the Academy members.

What is a more interesting question is why certain films get nominated and awarded over others. As a cultural institution, the Academy Awards are a fascinating expression of certain standards of taste. The very fact that The King’s Speech is about good behaviour, doing your duty and triumphing over adversity suggests that it made a more “respectable” choice than the ultimately inconsequential tale of highly intelligent but thoroughly unpleasant people squabbling over copyright laws in The Social Network. The Hurt Locker‘s depiction yet lack of commentary on the Iraq War made it a more “important” and “worthy” although non-controversial film than the science fiction spectacle of Avatar, even though Avatar is far more explicitly political. In the case of Melancholia, its being ignored probably has as much to do with Lars Von Trier’s controversial statements at the Cannes Film Festival as the high or low quality of the film. Political and personal taste will always have a bearing; rather than getting on our judgemental high horses it seems far more interesting to consider the reasoning behind decisions rather than just condemning them as incorrect.

As an initial consideration of reasoning, a glance over this year’s nominees suggests a strong element of nostalgia, with The Artist and Hugo, both acutely concerned with the history of cinema, leading the pack. The Academy members are clearly appreciative of this nostalgia, and seek to reward it. Why shouldn’t they? Both films are likely to win big, with The Artist gathering momentum having picked up Golden Globes, PGA and DGA. Acting awards are likely to be among The Artist, The Descendants and The Help, with technical awards scattered among the Best Picture nominees. I will post a more in-depth set of predictions nearer the time, but what I won’t do is say what should win. The Academy members are allowed their opinions just like everyone else, and are no more right or wrong than anyone else.