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Expression in Editing

The-Raid-2-Mosaic-Poster

In the space of two days, I recently saw two films that could not be more different. The first was The Raid 2, Gareth Evans’ sequel to his explosive 2012 martial arts adventure. The second was A Story of Children and Film, a documentary by Mark Cousins that merges the conceits of his last previous works, The Story of Film: An Odyssey and The First Movie. The Raid 2 is a fictional drama, a martial arts/crime thriller that delivers a blistering ballet of brutality. Cousins’ documentary is lyrical, free associative and meandering. Both excel at what they do and each film offers particular delights and pleasures, and serve to highlight one of the most important tools in filmmaking – editing.

Alfred Hitchcock once said that the three most important components of any film were script, script and script. While this is a convenient soundbite for the critic who decries overreliance on special effects or glamorous actors, it is overly simplistic to describe cinema as being based primarily on the written word (and besides, Hitch could have been referring to screenplay, shooting script and another form of script). For sure, the written screenplay is important, but many a filmmaker subscribes to the belief that films are made in the editing room, in the assembly of otherwise disparate images. Small wonder that directors form lasting and productive collaborations with their editors, such as Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Michael Mann and Dov Hoenig, and some, including James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Soderbergh and Gareth Evans, edit their films themselves.

Sergei Eisenstein argued that the power of cinema lay in the juxtaposition of images rather than the sustained shot, hence his development of montage in such classics as The Battleship Potemkin (1925). Similarly, Evans uses fast cutting to express both the swift blows and dizzying impact of martial arts combat. Films like The Raid 2 are a testament to the merging of combat performance and editing, as the skills of performers like Iko Uwais and Julie Estelle are displayed to dazzling effect, while the cuts between different shots express the physical impact of the blows, leading to a visceral experience. Long takes of athletic prowess are impressive, and frequent in The Raid 2 as well, such as sustained pan shots of a prison yard during a riot as well as a warehouse towards the end of the film. Such shots, however, are generally at a distance, wide angle and encompass much of the cinematic space. Fast editing of close quarters combat helps to create a sense of being in the thick of combat, a vicarious experience for the viewer that gives us the experience of being in the ferocious fights of the film (without the inconvenience of pain).

By contrast, Mark Cousins uses editing to link together seemingly disparate scenes. Early in A Story of Children and Film, Cousins explains that he will not progress through films chronologically, but will be guided by how the behaviour of his niece and nephew reminds him of children in other films. The range of films referenced by Cousins is extraordinary, including An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990) and The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi, 1995). I consider myself reasonably familiar with cinema, but the only films referenced in Cousins’ documentary that I had seen were E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), making the film something of an education. I was a little disappointed at the omission of films about children and film, such as Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011) and Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings, 2007), but Cousins is interested in how film presents children, identifies and extrapolates their shyness, their defiance, their performativity. Editing enables Cousins to draw together his seemingly disparate examples, taking us from Japanese boys chasing dogs to an Iranian girl having a “strop” about goldfish. Cousins’ finale brings together films from various countries about kids with balloons, linking these unrelated movies in a moving and thought-provoking way.

Cousins’ cinematography favours a static camera, both of his niece and nephew in his living room as well as wide angle exterior shots of the Isle of Skye. Evans’ camera is more mobile, taking the viewer into the cinematic space of his drama and, as mentioned above, thrusting us into the thick of battle. Cousins’ camera also creates intimacy through dwelling on the events before it, both in his own footage and the scenes from other films that he refers to. The techniques of these filmmakers serve to draw the viewer in, and invite us to interpret meaning from the assembly of images, the editing both presenting meaning and allowing us to infer from the spaces between the shots.

A_Story_of_Children_and_Film_Poster

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And the nominees are…

Oscars

On 16 January 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. I’m sure there will be criticisms and complaints in the coming weeks that nominee X should not have been honoured in favour of snub Y, but as always, the nominees provide an insight into what the Academy like to reward, what are dubbed worthy and who has been able to garner the attention. There were some surprises, both among the inclusions and the omissions, but overall the usual suspects are well represented.AMERICAN-HUSTLE-poster-1024x768There are several remarkable aspects among the nominees, most startlingly the multiple nominations for a David O. Russell film, as for the second consecutive year, his film is nominated in every major category. Just like Silver Linings Playbook last year, American Hustle is nominated for Picture, Achievement in Directing, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Screenplay (Original rather than Adapted, as Playbook was). Silver Linings Playbook’s success can be credited at least partially to Harvey Weinstein, but American Hustle was not distributed by The Weinstein Company, whereas one of Weinstein’s major awards hopeful, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, only managed a nod for Best Original Song. Perhaps more effort was put into August: Osage County.

Anyway, here are my impressions of the nominees, and my initial predictions. These may change, depending on how other awards go.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
12 Years A Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf Of Wall Street

I wish the Academy members would pick ten nominees as they’ve been able to do since 2009. Surely there was something else that warranted attention (for my money, Saving Mr. Banks is the major omission). Dallas Buyers Club would have been a surprise before the Golden Globes, but now its star has risen. American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave and The Wolf Of Wall Street were all expected, and Nebraska isn’t that surprising, coming from Oscar darling Alexander Payne, but I’m impressed that Her and Philomena got in. Her is science fiction, which hardly ever gets a look in, and Philomena has stirred up controversy with its depiction of the Catholic Church. None are likely to win, however, as the obvious nominees are also the likely winners. With few nominations, Captain Phillips seems unlikely, and the provocative subject matter of The Wolf Of Wall Street is likely to put voters off. It looks like a three horse race at the moment, between American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. I’d love Gravity to pick up Best Picture because it is such an exquisitely cinematic film, but the historical subject matter of the other two contenders is likely to carry more weight (geddit?) than the space thriller. American Hustle, however, is rather flimsy, which works against it, so by process of elimination, and by virtue of it having won the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award, 12 Years A Slave emerges as the most likely winner.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

Best Achievement in Directing
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf Of Wall Street

No surprises here, although I’m disappointed that Paul Greengrass was overlooked. I would like Alfonso Cuarón to pick up an award, as Gravity is a cinematic experience like none other, probably the closest the average cinema-goer is ever likely to get to being in space. With his second consecutive nomination (and third overall, as he was also nominated for The Fighter), David O. Russell might be in with a chance, but I don’t think he is any more likely than Steve McQueen (first nomination) or Martin Scorsese, who previously won for The Departed. Alexander Payne is the outside runner, and I think it will come down to between McQueen and Cuaron. I dare to predict the Academy will agree with me, as Directing can reward superb technical accomplishments even when the film as a whole is not honoured with Best Picture (see Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, The Pianist, Saving Private Ryan, Traffic), plus Cuarón has already received the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award.

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf Of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years A Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

There is a host of grand performers here, all of whom have elements working in their favour. Bruce Dern might be a favourite due to his age – at 77 there may not be many nominations ahead for him and he has only once been nominated previously, for Coming Home in 1978. Christian Bale is the only previous winner here, having picked up Supporting Actor win for The Fighter in 2010 (also directed by David O. Russell). While this might work in his favour, his performance is rather unflashy, and the Academy tends to honour more showy performances, especially if the character has to overcome something. Chiwetel Ejiofor is playing a historical figure in an “important” historical film, and white guilt could work in his favour. That said, it is his first nomination which can sometimes work against you. The same is true of Matthew McConaughey, but having won a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award and a SAG award he is a front runner, plus he is playing someone suffering from an illness – AIDS no less, which twenty years ago won Tom Hanks his first Oscar for Philadelphia (it’s surprising that Hanks isn’t up for either Captain Phillips or Saving Mr. Banks, but there we go). Leonardo DiCaprio also won a Golden Globe this year, but he is in a comedy, a genre that is rarely honoured with major awards (this is also a mark against Bale). But of all the nominees, he has had the most nominations, this being his third for Best Actor (previously for The Aviator and Blood Diamond) and fourth overall (Supporting Actor for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape). Oscars can sometimes be cumulative, and maybe it is DiCaprio’s time. But his role and film are not the type beloved by the Academy, so expect the McConaissance to culminate (but not end) with a golden baldie.

Prediction: Matthew McConaughey

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

This is another very strong group, and a good set of roles for older women. All too often, Hollywood (and beyond) only pays attention to women under forty, but Amy Adams is the only performer of that age (and at 38, she’s getting close). This is Adams’ fifth nomination, but her first for Actress in a Leading Role, having previously been nominated for Supporting Actress in Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter and The Master. She is the only performer here to have not previously won an Oscar, so maybe it is her time. She did get the Golden Globe, but like DiCaprio and Bale, may be hampered by her film being a comedy. A very strong contender is Cate Blanchett, who also got the Golden Globe and was getting Oscar-tipped as soon as Blue Jasmine was released, plus she won the Critics Choice and SAG awards. Blanchett previously won Supporting Actress for The Aviator, a category in which she was also nominated for Notes on a Scandal and I’m Not There, while this is her third nomination for Leading Actress after Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. This could well be her year. The other three have all won, Bullock and Streep very recently, for The Blind Side and The Iron Lady, respectively. Streep has more nominations, seemingly, than anyone, but conversely a very poor success rate. Her role as a crotchety matriarch in August: Osage County may be a little low key for the voters, while Gravity’s technical accomplishments are likely to overshadow Bullock’s performance. Dench has been nominated a few times, including Leading Actress for Mrs Brown, Notes on a Scandal, Iris and Mrs. Henderson Presents, as well as Supporting Actress for Chocolat and a win for her EIGHT MINUTES in Shakespeare In Love. It would be lovely to see her win, but the strong contender at this stage is Blanchett, whose has had the momentum for months.

Prediction: Cate Blanchett

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf Of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Once again, having won the Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG awards, Jared Leto is a front runner, despite this being his first nomination. Leto as well as Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill are slightly surprising actors to see in Oscar territory as they are not always known for awards films. That said, Hill was previously nominated for Moneyball, while Cooper was up for Best Actor in a Leading Role last year for Silver Linings Playbook. These second nominations make these two actors more nominated than other, more obvious performers, such as Gary Oldman and, indeed, Michael Fassbender. This is actually Fassbender’s first nomination, despite his dominating performances in such films as Shame, Prometheus and Inglourious Basterds. He’s playing the sort of vile villain that sometimes attracts Oscar attention, while newcomer Barkhad Abdi is a very welcome presence. A year ago, no one had heard of this guy, and now he’s going to the Oscars, what a thrill! Captain Phillips has relatively few nominations, so this is probably its best chance for a win, but on the night, I think the Academy is more likely to go the same way as the Globes and the Critics.

Prediction: Jared Leto

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

This is an interesting bunch, with previous winners of the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts, up against newcomers Lupita Nyong’o and June Squibb. Sally Hawkins is an established presence, but this is also her first nomination. Sometimes, first timers can do well, such as Octavia Spencer in The Help, but big stars in supporting roles often do well, so this is likely to come down to Roberts and Lawrence. Lawrence got the Globe, but Nyong’o got the Critics Choice Award as well as the SAG award, and the members of SAG will also be members of AMPAS, so the newcomer may surpass the established.

Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

American Hustle – Eric Singer, David O. Russell

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen

Her – Spike Jonze

Nebraska – Bob Nelson

Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

Writing awards as often go to films that don’t win anything else to those that do, so it’s fairly open. I think David O. Russell is more likely to pick up this award than Directing, and never count Woody Allen out. Alexander Payne has picked up screenplay awards for Sideways and The Descendants, respectively, so could be in with a good chance here. Hard to say.

Prediction: American Hustle

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Before Midnight – Richard Linklater

Captain Phillips – Billy Ray

12 Years a Slave – John Ridley

The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter

Philomena – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

Adapted Screenplay and Picture often go together (see Argo, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country For Old Men, The Departed), so Before Midnight is unlikely here. The other four are all true stories, making them strong contenders in this category as well as Best Picture. While Steve McQueen is not a sure thing for Directing, the historical significance of a true story of survival and courage gives him a very good chance of winning here, whereas the controversy around Philomena may make voters anxious. The hedonism and debauchery of The Wolf of Wall Street might offend conservative sensibilities, but Captain Phillips is a tale of true life heroism, which makes it a strong contender. Come the night, expect this to go to one of the tales of courage.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Frozen has been almost universally praised and already picked up the Golden Globe as well as the Critics Choice Award. I see no reason for it not to continue its winning ways.

Prediction: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

The only one of these I have heard of is The Hunt, so go Denmark!

Prediction: The Hunt

Best Documentary, Feature
The Act Of Killing
Cutie And The Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

People sometimes deride the Academy for being very conservative and not rewarding films that are willing to take risks. While there is justification for this criticism, to see The Act of Killing included in this list of nominees is very positive. By all accounts, the film is harrowing beyond belief, and while that might negate its chances of winning, the genre of documentary arguably exists to challenge and, when necessary, provoke. I hope it does well.

Prediction: The Act of Killing

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity – Steven Price
Her – William Butler and Owen Pallet
Philomena – Alexadre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman

Scores are a difficult business because at their best, they neither overpower the drama nor are unnoticeable, synchronising perfectly with the mood of the images. John Williams has more awards than you can shake a conductor’s baton at, and Alexandre Desplat has done nicely as well. There’s a nice spread among these nominees which makes it hard to pick one, but since this is the only nomination for Saving Mr. Banks, I’d like to see some love that way.

Prediction: Saving Mr. Banks

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
“Alone Yet Not Alone” – Alone Yet Not Alone
“Happy” – Despicable Me 2 (Pharrell Williams)
“Let It Go” – Frozen (Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez)
“The Moon Song” – Her (Karen O. and Spike Jonze)
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (U2)

Tough call, as the criteria for song are less obvious than other categories. I fondly remember U2 performing “Hands That Built America” back in 2003, and it’d be great for them to pick up an award (they did not previously). Then again, there was a time when Disney was unbeatable in the music stakes, and Frozen by many accounts is a return to form. Why not let it continue?

Prediction: “Let It Go”

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Lone Survivor

It’s disappointing not to see Rush in here, as that had some of the most exhilarating sound I’ve heard in ages. But the sound of the sea, storms, boats and man was a great feature of All Is Lost, so that is good to see here. Similarly, a great cacophony is heard in Captain Phillips, while Gravity makes great use of sound and also silence. I think Gravity is going to be the big winner in technical categories rather than “artistic”, so expect this award to gravitate towards the space tale.

Prediction: Gravity

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Apparently, the voice of Smaug was created through multiple layers of Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice. If that’s not impressive sound mixing, I don’t know what is. Any film involving music is a good bet in the sound categories (see Les Miserables from last year), so that speaks well of Inside Llewyn Davis. As in Sound Editing, Captain Phillips and Gravity are strong contenders, so it really is hard to pick one. But since it isn’t likely to win much else, and it’s a fascinating fusion of human talent and technological wizardy, let’s go for the hobbity-tosh.

Prediction: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Production Design
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years A Slave

Historical dramas are often a good bet in this category, so that bodes well for American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave and The Great Gatsby, the last of which has the added bonus of being hugely concerned with design, sets and production. But it was a while ago – when I saw it nominated my first thought was “Wasn’t that up last year?” Her is an interesting choice, but not a likely winner. The production design of Gravity treads that fine line between sets and special effects, as it is often not clear whether the surroundings are physical are not. However, the very fact that it is in the category means that the production design has impressed the Academy members, so that impression may well lead to winning votes.

Prediction: Gravity

Best Achievement in Cinematography
The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd

Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki

Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel

Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael

Prisoners – Roger Deakins

Please, let this be the year that Roger Deakins wins an Oscar! The man is an absolute genius with a camera and cinematography is the one thing that cannot be faulted in the otherwise deeply flawed Prisoners. This is Deakins’ 11th nomination and he has never won, and he really should just for staying power. But I highly doubt it, because cinematography has become the province of 3D. From Avatar to Hugo to Life of Pi, 3D is what impresses the cinematographers of AMPAS, and I see no reason for this trend to not continue.

Prediction: Gravity

Best Achievement in Makeup And Hair
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

It is quite baffling that American Hustle has been left out of this category, since the hair is one of the most overt features in the film. In its absence, and with the rather weird appearances of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger, this seems a winner by default. Healthy men are turned into AIDS victims in Dallas Buyers Club; that has to be worth something.

Prediction: Dallas Buyers Club

Best Achievement in Costume Design
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years A Slave

Better to see American Hustle here, as the costumes are almost as important as the hair. Costume dramas, unsurprisingly, tend to dominate this category, but once again I think the time since The Great Gatsby was released will work against it. 12 Years A Slave is a decent contender here, but bear in mind that most of its costumes look (which does not mean they are) simple: shifts and dresses, shirts and breeches. The Invisible Woman is the epitome of costume drama, not only Dickensian but actually features Dickens himself, so I think it has a very good chance of winning.

Prediction: The Invisible Woman

Best Achievement in Film Editing
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker

American Hustle – Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers

Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger

Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse

Dallas Buyers Club – Martin Pensa, John Mac McMurphy

Editing is the silver bullet that often leads to Best Picture, but not always. This is because the dominant filmmaking practice in Hollywood is that films are made in the editing room, so no matter how much work is done on location or on soundstages, the editing room is where the film is truly assembled, and then reassembled and trimmed and reconsidered and tweaked and adjusted before finally being released. Therefore, it is no surprise that all the nominees for Editing are also Best Picture nominees. One of the complaints about The Wolf of Wall Street is that it is too long, and to see Thelma Schoonmaker omitted from this category perhaps indicates a similar feeling among the Academy members. Therefore, I think the tussle for Editing will come down to those jockeying for Picture and Directing, leaving Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club out. While American Hustle and Gravity both demonstrate accomplished editing, on the night the combined force of Editing and Adapted Screenplay will be key to 12 Years A Slave’s victory.

Prediction: 12 Years A Slave

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Ah yes, the blockbuster award. Every film in this category is a blockbuster, with only one also being a prestige film. That’s Gravity, in case you’ve dozed off by now. Iron Man 3 does a lot of good work in combining purely digital creations with integrating the human and the digital, while The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug creates fantastic creatures including but not limited to the titular dragon. Star Trek Into Darkness often looks completely digital, but does a decent amount of practical effects as well, which still have bearing and merit, it must be said. But I see this one going to the technical triumph of this year, which is going to win plenty, though not everything. OK, you can go back to sleep now.

Prediction: Gravity

Best Documentary – Short Subject

Cavedigger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days Of Private Jack Hall

Best Live Action Short Film
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Helium
Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Take Care Of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

Best Animated Short Film
Feral
Get A Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room On The Broom

I know nothing about any of these, so have no opinion.

3D or Not 3D, That is the Question – Part III

life_of_pi_5

 

My last posts discussed 3D in general and the lack of need for it in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  My falling out of love with 3D has become more firmly established with another auteur’s experiment with the format.  Since James Cameron started using the new technology, other auteurs have been getting in on the act.  Martin Scorsese used 3D to dramatise early cinema in Hugo; Steven Spielberg brought Tintin to the big screen with performance capture in 3D; Werner Herzog used 3D in his documentary about proto-cinema, Cave of Forgotten Dreams; Ridley Scott went back into deep space with Prometheus while Jackson returned to Middle Earth.  2013 will see Baz Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and Ang Lee used 3D for his adaptation of Yann Martel’s “unfilmable” novel, Life of Pi.

Life of Pi is a surreal fable about faith, survival, one’s place in the universe and the nature of storytelling.  I was impressed with its dramatic story and compelling central character, superbly played by first-time actor Suraj Sharma.  Pi’s relationships with his family, his girlfriend Anandi (Shravanthi Sainath) and, most importantly, Richard Parker the Bengal tiger are engaging and moving, and the film delivers an interesting discussion of faith.  The young Pi’s (Ayush Tandon and Gautam Belur) embrace of the Hindu, Christian and Muslim religions, set against his father’s (Adil Hussain) insistence on science and rationality, is presented sympathetically but not didactically.  As a theoretical agnostic and practical atheist, I had no problem with Pi’s faith nor his belief that his story would make the listener believe in God.  It didn’t, but I could sympathise with his beliefs.  Perhaps that is itself a form of faith.

Visual effects are frequently accused of being empty spectacle, but they can also be an integral part of the filmic experience.  Life of Pi uses its effects as part of its narrative and thematic meanings.  An early scene of Pi (Sharma) and Richard Parker the tiger on the lifeboat recalls the fantastical landscapes of the afterlife in The Lovely Bones, the boat adrift in a flat sea that reflects the sun and sky perfectly.  Other images include a raging typhoon, ship corridors filling with water, a sea exploding with flying fish, the ocean by night coming alive with bioluminescent lifeforms, an island rippling with meerkats.  The images are simultaneously beautiful and threatening, such as a humpback whale bursting out of the sea, mouth agape, in a dazzling cascade of glittering water; yet as the whale crashed back into the sea, the raft of our hero Pi is capsized.  Simultaneously, we are awed by what we see and never allowed to forget how dangerous this situation is.

Paramount among these effects is the character of Richard Parker.  Just as Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey demonstrated the advances in performance capture, so does Richard Parker demonstrate an incredible combination of CGI, animatronics and green-screened animal footage.  Digital animals still look digital, and the menagerie in Life of Pi is a combination of real creatures and CGI creations.  At times, they do look fake, including Richard Parker, but at other times it is genuinely difficult to tell whether you are seeing a flesh and blood animal or a beautifully animated set of pixels.  Not that it matters, as Richard Parker is extremely engaging whether physical or not.  At no point did I not believe Pi was in danger from the huge cat, and the film maintains this conceit.  It is always tempting to sentimentalise animals in fiction, make them more human and sympathetic, but Life of Pi keeps Richard Parker ferocious and Pi’s relationship with him cautious at best.  The one moment in which they share physical contact is contextualised so as to avoid unnecessary sentimentality (although a little is alright), and therefore succeeds as a touching engagement between human and animal.  Equally, Richard Parker’s exit from the film maintains the animal’s indifference, which adds to Pi’s distress even at the moment of his rescue.

The visual effects of Life of Pi serve as part of the film’s themes and narrative, rather than distracting from them, because they are part of Lee’s visual style.  Life of Pi combines a straightforward shot pattern during the wraparound story with a more fluid approach for Pi’s story.  This approach begins with the opening credits, words and names appearing like the animals in the zoo, with the final credit, “Directed by Ang Lee”, forming as if floating on a pool of water.  This level of visual invention permeates Pi’s narrated story.  Dissolves that ripple like reflections, superimpositions and multiple planes of action, as well as digital enhancements and backgrounds, create an almost ethereal visual palette.  This obviously makes Pi’s story more fantastic, but it also demonstrates the construction of storytelling.  Storytelling is not just a process of simple relation, but of imagination and construction, the film suggests, and beautiful shots of the lifeboat floating on a mirror-like ocean at night, as if it were floating in the void of space itself, indicate the way Pi’s narration is working.  When Pi and Richard Parker gaze over the side of the boat into the watery abyss, we see the imagined wreck of the freighter, the other animals that died in the sinking, and the myriad of creatures that inhabit the deep.  By presenting these as part of Pi’s imagination, the viewer is drawn further into his/the film’s imaginative/creative process.  The mind, and the stories told by it, work in free form, surreal processes, and the abstraction allowed by digital effects is utilised to great effect in Life of Pi.

Intriguingly, despite Pi being in constant danger, my overall impression of Life of Pi was one of serenity, which I argue to be a prevalent theme throughout Lee’s work.  Sense and Sensibility shows women trying to achieve balance between their emotional and practical well-being when their options are very limited.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon uses its balletic fight sequences to express the warrior’s serene discipline, but this discipline is in tension with their personal relationships.  Brokeback Mountain portrays two characters that want nothing more than the peace they bring each other, but are thwarted by societal mores.  Taking Woodstock portrays serenity and beauty amidst what should be chaos (and a lot of mud).  I have long been an advocate of Hulk, which I consider a very interesting meditation on superheroics: despite its central character being fuelled by rage, Hulk includes moments of serenity, which is what Bruce Banner needs but only finds, ironically, in the form of Hulk (when left alone).  Pi, for all the ghastly danger he encounters, also possesses an inner serenity, facilitated by his faith.  That is why the religious element of the film is effective, because it demonstrates that Pi is grounded by faith, but guided by hope.

From a strictly narrative perspective, I initially thought the film would have benefitted from more ambiguity as to what happened to Pi.  The framing narrative, in which the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrates his story to the writer (Rafe Spall), is presented as the truth, and the alternative version the young Pi presents to Japanese insurance investigators is simply something official.  By including this alternative at the very end, the narrative of Life of Pi does not explore the pliability of truth, just the need for non-fantastical stories.  At first, I found the exploration of storytelling in Life of Pi to be underwhelming, because of the alternative story’s inclusion at the very end (which I assume is how it appears in the novel), but on reflection, I realise that the film as a whole is exploring this point, but through visual, cinematic storytelling rather than straightforward narration.  This interest in the construction of visual narrative gives Life of Pi significant depth, even in two dimensions.

It is perhaps notable that the auteurs who have made 3D films have subsequently returned to 2D: Spielberg followed The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn with War Horse; Scorsese’s next film, The Wolf of Wall Street is in 2D as is Scott’s The Counselor.  Robert Zemeckis has made several 3D motion capture animations including The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol and Beowulf, but up next from him is the more typical Flight.  Other directors such as Christopher Nolan are opposed to the format, and others are committed to 3D, most obviously James Cameron, who spoke very highly of Life of PiLife of Pi has much in common with Avatar: while one is an action epic and the other a tale of (almost) lone survival, both use visual effects to create their environments, jungle in one case, ocean in the other (which is slightly ironic, as Cameron has a fascination with water as demonstrated in The Abyss and Titanic, while reports of Avatar 2 indicate it will feature Pandora’s oceans).  Through their use of visual effects as key to cinematic expression, both films explore issues of cinema and visual understanding.  3D does enhance this experience, but it is not integral to it.  The digital landscapes and characters, rendered through crisp, digital cinematography, are rich, vibrant and alive in two dimensions, without a 30% light loss.  Maybe in 3D I would have been swept up in Life of Pi more than I was, and realised the meta-storytelling immediately rather than afterwards, but I don’t mind the wait.  Rich aesthetic experiences need not come in a rush, time taken to reflect is time taken to savour.  And besides, Lee’s choice to place the camera at sea level and have it rocking with the swell might have induced greater nausea in 3D.

Review of 2012 Part Seven: 3D or Not 3D, That is the Question – Part I

Dredd

 

3D provokes a lot of debate, more so than other changes in cinema format.  Digital takes over from film and few notice.  IMAX films and cinemas become more common and there is little complaint.  48 frames per second arrives and we ask “What does that mean?”  3D however is a cause of constant debate, as some praise the format, others criticise it, and others shrug and say “So what?”  Critics and filmmakers have objected to the format, saying it adds nothing and no one really likes it.

I’ve gone through all three of these reactions.  When Avatar came out in 2009, I was hugely excited and thought the 3D element of that film was a wonderful, integral part of its meaning.  Since then I was pleased with other 3D films, especially Hugo and, to a lesser extent, Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn, Prometheus and some of the retro-fitted offerings like Thor and John Carter.  Then 3D became just another feature and while it was OK to see it, it did not seem that important.  When The Avengers came out, I opted for 2D simply because the timing was more convenient.  The Amazing Spider-Man was, sadly, far from amazing in three dimensions, and I recalled Sam Raimi’s 2D Spider-Man films being far more dynamic than Marc Webb’s.

This year though, 3D started to hurt in that most important of places, the wallet.  Cinema tickets are expensive enough, but 3D can add more than £2 on top of the original price.  Furthermore, cinema prices in general increased towards the end of the year, and the increase in 2D prices may be to aid the expansion of 3D, so even those of us who don’t see 3D are paying for it.  To be annoyed by this is understandable, and as a result, I haven’t seen a 3D film since The Amazing Spider-Man, as I don’t think it’s worth the money.  This meant I missed out on some releases, the most notable among them Dredd, or Dredd 3D as it was advertised.  With the majority of screenings being in 3D, I could not find a 2D screening at a suitable time, and not being prepared to pay extra for 3D, missed the film altogether.  I would not be surprised if this was a common experience, and other cinema-goers may have avoided or neglected Dredd 3D specifically because of the third dimension, either due to price or just a preference for 2D.  It is notable that Dredd was a box office flop, kyboshing fans’ hopes for a sequel.

What makes a predominantly 3D cinema release especially contradictory is that any distributor needs one eye on the home release.  While 3D Blu-Rays and televisions do exist, the majority of home purchase will still be in 2D, so the 3D is largely wasted.  Cynically, this may have been the plan of distributors Lionsgate: Dredd’s predominantly 3D theatrical release was intended to maximise ticket sales, and served as a promotion for the DVD release.  Distributors make far more from DVD sales than box office take, so the poor theatrical takings of Dredd may not be a concern as DVD sales will cover the loss.  Like earlier releases The Shawshank Redemption, Donnie Darko and Hard Rain, Dredd may enjoy a second life on home release, but crucially this is (primarily) without the third dimension.  Is the primarily 3D release to blame for Dredd’s box office failure?  Perhaps.  It could equally be credited to the restrictive certificate, 18 in the UK and R in the US, so family audiences who flocked to The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises did not see it.  Or perhaps those who saw The Raid thought it unlikely the similarly premised Dredd would measure up, and indeed comparisons between the two generally put Gareth Evans’ surprise hit ahead of Pete Travis’ comic book adaptation.  It is perhaps worth noting that two of the year’s highest box earners, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall, were only screened in 2D, although the year’s highest earner, The Avengers, had 3D and 2D screenings, so who knows?

“Titanic” – 3D or IMAX/Positive or Negative?

 

I recently had the pleasure of seeing one of my favourite films again – Titanic.  I have seen it many times and own the Deluxe Collector’s Edition DVD, but took the opportunity to see it again on the big screen, in 3D and in IMAX.  So, what did I think of the film this time around?  Firstly, it did not need 3D.  In Avatar and Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, 3D is impressive, because those were shot in 3D.  Therefore, I look forward to Prometheus and The Amazing Spider-Man, a trailer for which I saw before Titanic, and in 3D that looks very impressive.

 

Furthermore, despite the size and scale of Titanic, much of the film’s action takes place inside, within the maze of cabins and corridors, creating a claustrophobic effect that becomes even more so when the (already limited) space is rapidly filling with water.  3D aids a sense of scale, great for landscapes like Pandora or cavernous environments like Hugo‘s train station, but less so in Titanic.  The moments when the 3D did add something were few and far between.  Also, there were points at which the 3D looked rather fake, which is a problem when the overall diegesis is aiming for mimesis.  Mimesis isn’t the only way to go but it is Titanic‘s course, aiming to give the viewer a sense of what it would like to be there.  If the viewer can see the different planes of the three dimensions, it has an alienating effect that is unhelpful.

 

The IMAX however did make a difference, because the image was larger, yet crisper, and added to the immersive effect.  Oddly, the enlarged scope did help the claustrophobic confines of the ship, because it served to make the ship more imposing, more threatening, and the engulfing water all the more so.  More importantly the sound is phenomenal.  When the iceberg hits, when the water rushes in, when the ship splits in two – I felt the shock of these running through me.  Bigger in the case of IMAX is better for expressing overwhelming environments, regardless of the third dimension.

 

BBC film critic Mark Kermode has said that the future is not 3D, the future is IMAX.  I find 3D OK in some cases, but I think it needs to be filmed in 3D to really work.  IMAX however adds something special, creates a more engulfing aesthetic, so expect to be overwhelmed when The Dark Knight Rises

 

More broadly, Titanic is a film that inspires a great deal of passionate debate, with lovers and haters equally committed to their positions.  The criticisms take different forms.  For some, the central problem is the script, in particular the dialogue and lack of characterisation.  This would be an aesthetic criticism.  For others, it’s the spirit/meaning/theme of the film.  A political or even moral objection, that there is something deeply wrong and offensive with a love story about an actual historical tragedy.

 

Oliver Gleiberman gives an insightful analysis of the reaction to Titanic, in particular presenting an alternative understanding of Titanic’s script, in his article Titanic is a great film. It’s also the movie that gave rise to hater culture” (Entertainment Weekly, 9 April 2012).  Gleiberman points out that the dialogue is “courtly yet very alive”, and the script has an “ingeniously organic structure”.  I don’t tend to notice written elements that much, but upon having them pointed out, I concur that Jack’s description of diving into icy water creates a chilling foreshadowing of what is to come, and that Rose has parallels with Jane Austen heroines (this is surely a slap-in-the-face for Austen enthusiasts who will lambast the temerity of comparing James Cameron to Jane Austen).

 

Any discussion of Titanic (or Avatar) inevitably involves its director.  A consistent message across his work is fear of global annihilation and technological hubris, something the man himself seems able to steer clear of.  I interpret much of the vitriol poured upon Cameron as indicative of resentment and jealousy.  Here is someone who actually manages to make his dreams become reality, keeps developing technological wonders and (surely) will one day come a cropper, victim of his own technological hubris.  This is yet to happen, and I think Cameron’s professional and commercial success angers some.  Many would like to be in his position, and doesn’t it make you mad that you aren’t?  Gleiberman goes on to link the vitriol directed at Cameron with the rise of the Internet and the clash between Internet hipness and “romantic innocence”.  I fully recognize my own adoration of Titanic as romantic wish-fulfillment, that the film is an unashamedly heartfelt love letter to epic romance.  Do I want to believe in that kind of love?  Absolutely.  Do I think it is realistic or practical.  Not really.  Where better for it then, than at the movies?

 

Furthermore, there is a patriarchal element to the criticisms that broadside the film.  Mathilda Gregory explains in her piece “Why I can’t wait to take another trip on James Cameron’s Titanic” (guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 April 2012), that much of the derision can be related to the assumption that anything teen girls go mad over cannot be worth serious attention, because teen girls don’t have any serious thoughts.  Does that not say more about the attitude of those condemning the positive reaction to Titanic than it does about the film itself?  This is quite beside the point that Titanic can work for audiences of multiple demographics: teenage girls do indeed get lovely and romantic wish-fulfillment, and lads can enjoy Kate in the nude.  Serious film buffs and academics can admire the technical skill on display – aside from the painstaking recreation of the ship and the advances in special effects, there is also fine action filmmaking in the actual sinking, which also provides something for the more (assumedly) masculine crowd.  Older audiences can also enjoy a film that echoes Hollywood’s Golden Age, recalling the scope and majesty of Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai.  In short, there is something for everyone here.

 

To answer the moral condemnation, that there is something morally reprehensible about turning a historical disaster into a romance, your position on this depends on how you react to the romance motif.  One can be dismissive and simply treat the presence of romance as inappropriate, which ties back to the 90s and post-90s “hipness” that regards itself as too cool for romance.  But what if you feel for the protagonists and, in weeping for them (as many have and continue to, including this writer), weep for those who actually perished?  Having seen Titanic many times, I can attest that there are multiple instances of the event’s victims, their deaths needless and tragic, creating a cumulative affect upon those open to the experience.

 

If one objects to the artistic licence taken over a historical event, placing fictional characters at the centre rather than giving a more balanced overview, remember that history is constantly written and re-written, and there are always conflicting accounts.  It is often a function of fiction to highlight the emotional content of historical events, which is not the province of “accurate” documentation.  The emotional function of Titanic is to honour those who died as a reminder of the event, and recent surveys on Twitter have indicated that some viewers did not even know Titanic was an actual vessel.  Therefore, could the film not serve a useful social purpose in highlighting that such a tragic event took place, and that the need for proper safety and remembering our fragility before nature is ever-present?  Next instructive film: Schindler’s List

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.

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