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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Fallout

In the pantheon of spy movies, there have been some impressive set pieces that take place in public bathrooms. Mission: Impossible – Fallout adds to this legacy with an inventive and visceral sequence that incorporates needles, laptops and various methods of unarmed combat with basins, mirrors, pipes and cubicles. The scene is typical of the film as a whole: gripping, visceral and intense, as writer-director Christopher McQuarrie delivers a ruthlessly efficient script and muscular direction. The plot, unusually for this franchise, follows on from the events of the previous instalment. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is haunted by his past missions, especially memories of his wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) and malevolent adversary Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). When the remnants of the Rogue Nation pursue weapons grade plutonium, Ethan and his team of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) are given the mission (should they choose to accept it) to intervene, and lumbered with CIA observer/assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill). From this set-up, intrigue, disguises and quadruple crosses abound, amid an array of quite astounding set pieces. The M:I franchise has prided itself on ever-escalating action sequences, and in the contemporary era of superhero exploits, it is impressive that this sixth instalment pulls off scenes with heft and physicality without the benefit of superpowers. Curiously, several of these scenes appear to re-stage sequences from previous films. The aforementioned bathroom scene echoes True Lies and Casino Royale, while a mountain climbing sequence recalls M:I II as does a motorbike chase, which is also reminiscent of similar chases in Rogue Nation and Skyfall. Speaking of sky fall, in the movie’s bravura set piece, McQuarrie flexes his stylistic flair, as two characters perform a sky dive in a continuous take, the viewer spiralling and tumbling along with the figures on screen. It is a breathtaking sequence with a genuine sense of peril, and one of the finest action set pieces this year. There is also emotional turmoil to match the physical, as themes of regret, guilt and responsibility pulse throughout the narrative, while the convolutions of the plot ensure that one’s brain is engaged as well as guts, leading to a film that is exhausting on an emotional as much as a physical level. As a result, despite these missions running for over twenty years, I would certainly choose to accept further ones.

MIF bike

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Oscar Reflections

KimmelThe Oscars are said and done for another year, and overall I am very pleased with the results. I can agree with the winners, I applaud many of the speeches and the show was a delight to watch.

Most importantly, how did I do? I made predictions in 19 of the 24 categories, and as the show started I did very well, racking up correct prediction after correct prediction. This was pleasing if a little predictable, but as things continued surprises started to appear, such as Get Out winning Original Screenplay and Dunkirk picking up Editing. Overall, I correctly predicted the winners in 15 out of my 19 picks, which at 78% is pretty good going. I’m no gambler, but every year I am tempted.

Picture Correctly Predicted? Directing Correctly Predicted?
The Shape of Water No Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water Yes
Call Me by Your Name Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Darkest Hour Jordan Peele, Get Out
Dunkirk Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Get Out Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread  Makeup and Hairstyling
The Post  Darkest Hour Yes
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Victoria & Abdul
Wonder 
Actor Actress
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour Yes Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Yes
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Daniel Day,Lewis, Phantom Thread Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. Meryl Streep, The Post
Supporting Actor Supporting Actress
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Yes Allison Janney, I, Tonya Yes
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project  Mary J. Blige, Mudbound 
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water  Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird 
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Adapted Screenplay Original Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name  Yes Get Out No
The Disaster Artist The Big Sick 
Logan  Lady Bird
Molly’s Game  The Shape of Water 
Mudbound  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Original Score Original Song
The Shape of Water Yes ‘Remember Me’ from Coco No
Dunkirk “Mighty River” from Mudbound
Phantom Thread “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name 
Star Wars: The Last Jedi  “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman 
Sound Editing   Sound Mixing
Dunkirk Yes Dunkirk  Yes
Baby Driver  Baby Driver 
Blade Runner 2049  Blade Runner 2049 
The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Production Design Visual Effects
The Shape of Water Yes Blade Runner 2049 Yes
Beauty and the Beast Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 
Blade Runner 2049  Kong: Skull Island
Darkest Hour  Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Dunkirk  War for the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design Cinematography
Phantom Thread  Yes Blade Runner 2049 Yes
Beauty and the Beast Darkest Hour 
Darkest Hour Dunkirk
The Shape of Water  Mudbound
Victoria & Abdul The Shape of Water
Film Editing Animated Feature
Dunkirk  No Coco Yes
Baby Driver The Boss Baby
I, Tonya  The Breadwinner
The Shape of Water Ferdinand
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Loving Vincent

The biggest delights for me personally were one predicted winner and one unexpected though desired victory. When Roger Deakins was announced as the winner of Best Cinematography, I applauded from my sofa. After 14 nominations and such fantastic work in The Shawshank Redemption, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country For Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Skyfall, Sicario and many more, it was an absolute delight to see Deakins finally honoured for the extraordinary visuals of Blade Runner 2049. Well shot sir, well shot.

90th Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018

I wanted The Shape of Water to win Best Picture but expected that award to go to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Over the course of the show, deviations from my expectations made that less likely, beginning with Get Out winning Original Screenplay. In recent years, Best Picture has also won Screenplay, Editing or Directing (making The Departed a quintessential winner for 2006). Since Martin McDonagh was not nominated for Directing, a likely win for him and the film was Original Screenplay. Without that, and with Editing going to Dunkirk, Picture became more open. And once Guillermo Del Toro won Directing, The Shape of Water seemed ever more likely. But in my scepticism, I did not see the members of AMPAS voting for a fantasy film. When Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced the winner, I applauded again. For a fantasy/monster/sci fi movie to win Best Picture shows that the Academy members are not as conservative as they used to be, embracing more radical and surprising choices.

The Shape of Water

The show as a whole was very well done. Jimmy Kimmell hosted with great humour, wryness and affection. I especially like Kimmell’s gag of bringing in audiences, a move he and his team pioneered last year by arranging a tour group to come into the Kodak Theater, and built on this year by taking several movie stars into a nearby screening of A Wrinkle in Time. Had I been in that cinema, my mind would have been blown by epic proportions with the sudden arrival of Guillermo Del Toro, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Margot Robbie, Ansel Elgort, Mark Hamill and the rest. Plus a hotdog cannon!208643A3Perhaps the strongest legacy of this year’s Oscars, however, will be the politics. After a few years of controversy over all white acting nominees, the recent scandals over harassment and the subsequent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns prompted debate and resistance. Kimmel named and shamed Harvey Weinstein as only the second person to be expelled from AMPAS; actresses received greater prominence as various winners of the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role presented major awards. Last year’s Best Actress Emma Stone presented Directing to Guillermo Del Toro, and two pairs of Oscar winners presented this year’s Best Actor and Best Actress awards: Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren to Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour and Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, respectively. McDormand made perhaps the most impassioned speech of the night when she encouraged all the female nominees to stand up, be counted and be counted.

TimesUpSome might complain about this political element, either arguing that the Oscars are about art which is not political, or that the Oscars are entertainment and too frivolous or commercial to engage in politics. I reject both these positions because art is and always has been political, and with its extraordinary reach it would be a terrible waste if cinema were not political. The Academy recognised this through a retrospective on war cinema, dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces and introduced touchingly by actor and Vietnam veteran Wes Studi. Secondly, entertainment expresses social and political concerns purely by its production within particular contexts – the dominance of men in the film industry and cinematic output is a political reality and one that is long overdue a challenge. As recent films have demonstrated, you can have hugely successful films with female directors and leads, and the studios apparently taking such risks demonstrates that the only risk is to conservative ideology. For certain, time is up, and my heartiest applause to every presenter and winner at the 90th Annual Academy Awards who used that grandest stage and widest audience to highlight the state of their industry and to call for change.

McDormand

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – SPOILER WARNING

Poster

I don’t like the term political correctness, nor do I appreciate commentary that is solely or even primarily motivated by it. So here it is: How To Train Your Dragon 2 is sexist. I’ve commented on problematic gender politics before in reference to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Skyfall, but in those cases there was plenty of high quality material to engage with so the sexism was less prominent. The fact that the sexism in HTTYD2 was such a problem highlights the weaknesses in the film overall. The film has a number of great set pieces, including dragon aerobatics, battles between new villain Drago Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou) and our heroes, and the death of a major character that delivers genuine emotional impact. Furthermore, the central relationship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless is warm, engaging and affecting. But the introduction of an important female character, Valka (Cate Blanchett), is an expansion of the promising female element provided by Astrid (America Ferrera) and suggests the importance of the feminine in Hiccup’s development as well as the film’s world as a whole. Valka is as accomplished a dragon-rider, not to mention as compassionate, as Hiccup, and as fierce a warrior as Stoick (Gerard Butler), so to have her side-lined and ultimately subordinated is a rather depressing conservatism on the part of the filmmakers. Children’s animated films have long propagated the ideal female character as a passive princess who waits to be rescued from some form of imprisonment, and while there have been some progressive alternatives (Fiona in the Shrek franchise, Elsa and Anna in Frozen), HTTYD2 seems to take one step forward and then two steps back. This is disappointing as the film’s promotion of patriarchy is neither necessary nor consistent – Hiccup’s dramatic arc could have easily continued on its initial trajectory with a more prominent role for Valka. Instead, we are left with a few impressive set pieces that add up to less than the sum of their parts, undercut by a discouraging assertion of patriarchy.

Movies on Mentality

Poster 1   Poster 2

SPOILER WARNING

A couple of films in 2013 have been concerned with mental health, in different but interesting ways. The first was Side Effects, directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z. Burns, who previously collaborated on Contagion. Like that earlier effort, Side Effects takes a clinical approach to its subject, presenting its themes and narrative through a cool, detached aesthetic rather than drawing the viewer in through an arresting style. This proves to be appropriate, as the film becomes not an in-depth, probing expression of mental illness, but a conspiracy thriller that fails to engage and carries some troubling subtext about mental illness as well as gender and homosexuality. Conversely, Danny Boyle’s Trance begins as a glossy crime film but becomes steadily more convoluted and psychological. While not explicitly a film about mental illness, Trance is certainly about the mysteries of the mind.

Side Effects boasts a palette that is both clear and at times sickly, suggesting the oppressive atmosphere of contemporary urban life, which can be depressing. This is a topic ripe for cinematic exploration, which I will discuss in a future post relating to Drive and Shame. In Side Effects, it is not entirely easy to see why Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) would suffer from depression. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) returns to her after serving a prison sentence for insider trading, she has a decent job with a very supportive boss and an equally supportive mother-in-law. Why then, does she attempt to hurt or even kill herself and end up seeing Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) and being treated with anti-depressants?

Side Effects

Initially, this appears to be the point: depression is not something to be easily explained by external stimulus. Emily suffers from something debilitating and real, but very hard to be understood by someone else. Jonathan describes depression as “the inability to construct a future”, which would have been very interesting to see on screen. Jonathan is sympathetic and, as the plot develops, insightful as he investigates further, but the film not only fails but actively avoids a cinematic representation of clinical depression.

This is not necessarily a problem, as the film also suggests criticism of the pharmaceutical industry and the conflict doctors encounter between care and commerce. Frustratingly, these issues are touched upon and skirted over, as a change of direction takes the viewer into a different sort of film, conspiracy thriller rather than mental health drama. Yet this thriller element is unengaging once it is revealed, largely because of a lack of thrills. Jonathan’s life is steadily disassembled, but he never seems panicked or more than fairly frustrated. This is not down to Law’s performance, but the script’s disinclination to get under the skin of who is, it turns out, the film’s protagonist, as well as the director’s unwillingness to express his mental state. Soderbergh is more than capable of taking us inside his characters’ heads, such as Terrence Stamp’s grief-fuelled anger in The Limey and George Clooney’s confusion and wonder in Solaris, or even the disillusionment of Michael Douglas and the doggedness of Benicio Del Toro in Traffic. Indeed, Side Effects is especially disappointing as it is lower than Soderbergh’s usual standards, the director following the writer’s swerve into mundanity and a deeply problematic final plot twist.

In my review of Skyfall last year, I commented on the problematic gender relations that film presents, effectively culminating in a reassertion of patriarchal power. Women do not belong in espionage, except as secretaries, is a persuasive reading of Skyfall. It was minor enough in that film not to spoil it for me, but in Side Effects the sexism and homophobia is rather more distasteful. The eventual revelation that Emily has been involved in a cunning plot/salacious relationship with her former therapist Dr Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is narratively dull for being both reductionist and lazy. Furthermore, to have a pair of scheming lesbian lovers behind everything is somewhat offensive: Men, beware of women getting together, they might tear things down for you, could be construed as the message of the film. Jonathan’s eventual triumph over Emily is more than him getting his life back: it is a reassertion of patriarchy far more disturbing than that in Skyfall. Skyfall may discredit women, but Side Effects condemns them.

Perhaps cinema is not capable of truly expressing a mental state that is acutely individual, and Side Effects expresses the ineffability of mental illness. I have heard accounts from people who suffer from depression but never really understood how it feels. As a film ostensibly “about” mental illness but ultimately far from it, Side Effects has the unfortunate effect of cheapening this serious social issue by replacing depression with deception. As a narrative device, this feels like a cop-out, the film abandoning what was initially moving and disturbing in equal measure, to fall back on cliché. The film feels like a missed opportunity, but maybe it never had much chance in the first place.

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

That said, cinema has proved itself adept at simulating the mind, especially dreams. This is demonstrated in such works as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, eXistenZ, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mulholland Dr. and Inception. These simulations may not be entirely recognisable – I doubt anyone ever had a dream as cogent and organised as those in Inception – but filmmakers utilise techniques like the cut, fade and dissolve, as well as the ability to construct fantastical landscapes, to present something on screen which is akin to dreaming. Even films that do not take place within mindscapes, such as Avatar, reference dreaming in their aesthetic. Of particular note is Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, which features sequences within a character’s hypnotic trance, much like Trance.

I’ve written previously on Danny Boyle and the excessive style he often applies to his films, with varying levels of success. Trance suits his style perfectly, as Simon (James McAvoy) has a fractured mind, and the handheld cinematography and discontinuous editing that were distracting in Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire serve to express the character’s mental state. Furthermore, Trance offers no aspirations, or pretensions, of social conscience or engagement with serious issues. It is a slick, dynamic genre film, a neo-noir directed by someone at the top of their game. Boyle’s skills as a director have been demonstrated across a variety of genres and media, and Trance serves as the ideal project for him to run wild. Doubtless hypnotherapists and psychoanalysts will decry the film’s inaccuracies and many a viewer may doubt its plausibility, but none of that stops Trance from being an engaging ride which displays Boyle’s characteristic visceral thrills.

Boyle is an intensely dynamic director who truly utilises the moving element of moving pictures. Trance is doubly dynamic as it is both a crime thriller with some brutal action sequences and a psychological thriller which expresses confusion and disorientation. When Simon visits hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) and is placed into hypnotic trances, we are taken into the trances as well. Sometimes the trances are clearly delineated from the rest of the action and other times less so, but stylistically the film becomes increasingly erratic and unreliable, as Simon becomes increasingly confused. Trances mix with memories, fantasies and events bleed into each: a key shot (also used in the trailer) is repeated, of Simon tapping glass while light shines upon it, a beautiful encapsulation of our protagonist’s status, seeing something he is unable to reach. But is this a memory, or a hypnotic suggestion? And is the difference between what happens to us and what we believe happens quite so clear?

As the film progresses, the viewer is presented with alternatives to the original set-up. Simon is our point of identification, the film’s protagonist who addresses the camera directly in the opening sequence, explaining (with a clear sense of irony and barely disguised contempt) an auction hall’s “policy” for dealing with attempted robbery. He is quickly injured in such an attempt by Franck (Vincent Cassel), inviting our sympathy further. But quickly we learn that Simon is not all he seems, as he was Franck’s inside man, but he remains a victim as Franck’s gang tortures him for information that he cannot remember. The introduction of Elizabeth at first seems like assistance for Simon, but she becomes an active partner in the plot, and something else as romantic (not to mention dangerous) liaisons develop between her and Simon as well as Franck. Similarly, Simon transforms from oppressed victim to borderline psychopath with explosive moments of violence, eventually subduing Franck who becomes a victim. By the final scene, Simon has become monstrous and very different from how he originally appeared, while Elizabeth’s duplicity (along with her motivation) has been exposed. If we have an identification point, it is with Franck, a helpless victim whose (almost miraculous) escape is cause for celebration. Our loyalties and expectations are confounded and rearranged, as fractured as Simon’s mental state and the film’s method of presentation.

Trance’s great strength is to play games with its narrative expectations, generated both by its genre and its early narrative. Simon is less heroic protagonist as psychotic villain, demonstrated by his re-emerging violence. There is a hint of this at the start of the movie, as Simon’s voiceover mentions several times: “Do not be a hero” – indeed, he is far from that. Furthermore, Franck is less villainous master thief as the patsy duped by Elizabeth. And Elizabeth is far more than romantic interest, as she fills the role of the femme fatale, but ultimately proves to be a former victim who turns a dangerous situation to her advantage. Franck becomes our point of identification by the end of the film, as Elizabeth is left all-knowing but unknowable. Simon knows that he was duped and used, as does Franck, but Franck is left with the option of remembering or forgetting what he knows. As are we, since the film ends on an ambiguous note, reminiscent of The Prestige and Inception, Boyle (like Nolan) leaving us hanging because, in the end, we “want to be fooled”. Screens and panels are prominent throughout the film, including panes of glass like those mentioned earlier, paintings, and tablets (product placement ahoy!), which add to Trance’s meta-cinematic conceit, drawing parallels between Simon and Franck’s investigations and the viewer’s consumption of the film. We don’t want to forget what we’ve seen, so we don’t see Franck take that option. But then again, he might

Side Effects and Trance provide an interesting demonstration of genre versus “quality”. Side Effects makes gestures towards engagement with a serious social problem but fails to deliver on its promise. Trance presents itself as a straightforward genre piece, but imbues that genre with engaging twists, a highly expressive style and meta-cinematic moments. This is the great opportunity genre has provided filmmakers with for decades. John Ford famously “made westerns”, westerns that have been read in many different ways. Danny Boyle and Steven Soderbergh have both worked in a variety of genres and demonstrated their respective styles in a multitude of contexts. Soderbergh tends to present his action from a distance, whereas Boyle does not so much draw the viewer in as grab them by the eyeballs and yank them into the diegesis. Both methods are effective, but with Side Effects, the script turns away from its “quality” elements into “lowlier” generic elements, and the style is too uninvolved to compensate with any great tension. Not that there is anything wrong with being generic, as demonstrated by Trance, but if you’re doing a genre piece, be up-front about it. Side Effects’ transition could have been more effective if the thriller element were better handled, but without that, it feels lazy. Trance, however, is imbued with a mischievous energy that dazzles and delights in equal measure. This makes Boyle’s film far more satisfying, and also a more interesting and persuasive expression of the mind on screen.

Trance

Best of BAFTA

BAFTA-Winners-2013

For your amusement, I present my reactions to the BAFTA Awards 2013.  The show itself was very well done – Stephen Fry is an engaging and very amusing host, and many of the presenters were great.  But what about the awards?

Best Film

WINNER

Argo

Other Nominees:

Les Misérables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty

There are reasons for Argo standing above the other nominees.  I have seen all but one of these, and the one I am yet to see, Lincoln, has been described by some as dull.  While it is clearly about a weighty subject, making it an “important” film and therefore worthy of attention, perhaps the BAFTA members felt it was insufficiently dynamic or cinematic.  Or maybe they thought Spielberg has done it all, and this is nothing new.  Les Misérables has problems with pacing and direction – Tom Hooper has rightly been left out of many directorial awards because the film is not that well directed.  Multiple narrative and thematic strands in a story like Les Misérables need to be tied together and, when they were, it was through the music rather than cinematic style.  Great musical, not great cinema.  Zero Dark Thirty has likely been hurt by the controversy, and while this has not harmed its box office, it seems awards are not forthcoming for the film by “torture’s handmaiden”.  Life of Pi is visually stunning and an intriguing investigation into storytelling, but perhaps like previous 3D extravaganzas Avatar and Hugo, it is deemed not sufficiently serious.  But Argo is an intensely cinematic thriller, a true story (always worth honouring) about triumph and the US actually doing something good internationally, and strikes a remarkable balance between drama and comedy.  While there may be problems with Argo (I don’t personally know of any), none are as significant as those of the other films.  This makes the film’s continued success understandable, and there is little reason not to expect this success to continue.

Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year

WINNER

Skyfall

Other Nominees:

Anna Karenina

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Les Misérables

Seven Psychopaths

This award pleased me immensely, as I fully expected the adaptation of the classic musical of the classic novel to be honoured almost by rote, but instead my top film of 2012 gets the recognition it has otherwise been denied.  Bravo to all involved!

Best Actor

WINNER

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Other Nominees:

Ben Affleck for Argo

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

I assume the other nominees just turned up for the show (and they were all there), because no one has a chance this year against Daniel Day-Lewis.  If Lincoln were made in another year, then I would have predicted Hugh Jackman to pick up the award.  But nothing stops the Lincoln express.

Best Actress

WINNER

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

Other Nominees:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

This was a tough one to predict, as both Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence had picked up Golden Globes, Marion Cotillard as well as Emmanuelle Riva wowed the art house crowd, and Helen Mirren is a national treasure.  I predicted Chastain but have no problem with Riva – having not seen Amour I’ll trust the assessments of those more informed than me.

Best Supporting Actor

WINNER

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Other Nominees:

Alan Arkin for Argo

Javier Bardem for Skyfall

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

This one has been a two-horse race, what with Christoph Waltz winning the Golden Globe but Tommy Lee Jones getting the SAG award.  With the BAFTA to his credit, Waltz is clearly the Supporting Actor of the moment, thanks to Quentin Tarantino.  Funny, we were here three years ago as well.  Django Unchained has its problems, but Waltz is not among them.

Best Supporting Actress

WINNER

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Other Nominees:

Amy Adams for The Master

Judi Dench for Skyfall

Sally Field for Lincoln

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Anne Hathaway needs a bigger mantelpiece, with all these awards.  It is nice to see Sally Field back in the limelight, not least because it gave Stephen Fry a chance for some extra fawning.  Poor Amy Adams though – she’s always nominated in this category against really strong competition.  Hang in there, Ames.

David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction

WINNER

Ben Affleck for Argo

Other Nominees:

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Michael Haneke for Amour

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

In his acceptance speech, Ben Affleck described his current position as the second act.  I’m not certain where the divisions are, but perhaps the first act ended with the nadir of his career that was Gigli and the implosion of “Bennifer”.  Since then, Affleck re-invented himself with his turn in Hollywoodland and, more importantly, as a director.  Gone Baby Gone was great, The Town was better, and with Argo he has earned a Golden Globe, a DGA award and now a BAFTA.  There may not be an Oscar this year, but keep at it, Ben, and the third act may be even better.

Best Screenplay (Original)

WINNER

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Other Nominees:

Amour: Michael Haneke

The Master: Paul Thomas Anderson

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

It seems that, along with Best Supporting Actor, Tarantino films can’t stop receiving Screenplay awards.  While Django Unchained has its problems, they are more down to QT the director rather than QT the writer.  His scripts are ornate, elaborate, and eloquent, so it is small wonder that actors love working with him and often turn in career best performances.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

WINNER

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Other Nominees:

Argo: Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi: David Magee

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

I thought Argo would pick this up, but it seems that out of the multitude of awards Silver Linings Playbook is up for, this is the one it can actually get.  David O’Russell is a bit of an awards darling, and this might be the start of more accolades for him.  And the script for Silver Linings Playbook is warm and witty without shying away from the suffering of its characters.

Best Cinematography

WINNER

Life of Pi: Claudio Miranda

Other Nominees:

Anna Karenina: Seamus McGarvey

Les Misérables: Danny Cohen

Lincoln: Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall: Roger Deakins

Roger Deakins deserves an award big time, but never picks one up.  Clearly the way to do so is to work on a 3D film.  Like Avatar and Hugo before it, Life of Pi’s 3D cinematography is clearly worthy of adulation.  Even though I saw it in 2D, I could still appreciate the different planes of action and the extra depth that 3D would have applied.  Skyfall was still more beautiful though.

Best Editing

WINNER

Argo: Billy Goldenberg

Other Nominees:

Django Unchained: Fred Raskin

Life of Pi: Tim Squyres

Skyfall: Stuart Baird

Zero Dark Thirty: Dylan Tichenor, Billy Goldenberg

Much of Argo’s tension and humour comes from its editing, cutting between different locations at an ever-increasing rate.  While it misses out on writing and acting awards, editing is carrying this beauty to greater glory.

Best Production Design

WINNER

Les Misérables: Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

Other Nominees:

Anna Karenina: Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Life of Pi: David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

Lincoln: Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

Skyfall: Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

The set design for Les Misérables combined the theatrical and the cinematic, working both aesthetically and narratively.  Well deserved, I think.

Best Costume Design

WINNER

Anna Karenina: Jacqueline Durran

Other Nominees:

Great Expectations: Beatrix Aruna Pasztor

Les Misérables: Paco Delgado

Lincoln: Joanna Johnston

Snow White and the Huntsman: Colleen Atwood

What a shocker, all these nominees had period settings!  I’m calling the swords and sorcery setting of Snow White and the Huntsman period, just accept it.  No surprise that Anna Karenina picked that up.

Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music

WINNER

Skyfall: Thomas Newman

Other Nominees:

Anna Karenina: Dario Marianelli

Argo: Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi: Mychael Danna

Lincoln: John Williams

Skyfall is a film that warrants major attention, but aside from special awards, music seems to be its outstanding feature.  I have no problem with it receiving this honour.  Pity Adele didn’t sing though.

Best Make Up/Hair

WINNER

Les Misérables

Other Nominees:

Anna Karenina

Hitchcock

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Lincoln

Les Misérables pulled off the remarkable feat of making the impossibly gorgeous Anne Hathaway look ugly, so bravo.  Nice that the ears, feet, beards etc of all those weird-looking people got some notification, as well as the efforts displayed in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Best Sound

WINNER

Les Misérables

Other Nominees:

Django Unchained

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Life of Pi

Skyfall

I saw all of these, but must confess I did not really notice the sound that much.  However, to capture and then combine the multitude of singing voices, captured live during filming of Les Misérables, is a remarkable technical achievement, so it is an honour richly deserved.  Now if only something had been done with Russell Crowe’s singing…

Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects

WINNER

Life of Pi

Other Nominees:

Avengers Assemble

The Dark Knight Rises

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Prometheus

All of these I have seen, and indeed all were in my top twelve of 2012, which perhaps says something about my kind of films, except that these are a varied bunch.  The four that did not win are blockbusters, with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey coming from good pedigree when it comes to winning awards.  But Life of Pi is a special effects extravaganza that has also attracted “major” as well as “technical” nominations, so like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as Avatar, visual effects is another bone thrown its way.

Best Film not in the English Language

WINNER

Amour

Other Nominees:

Headhunters

The Hunt

Rust and Bone

Untouchable

Not seen any of these, but after all the attention lavished on Amour, this win was hardly surprising.

Best Animated Feature Film

WINNER

Brave

Other Nominees:

Frankenweenie

ParaNorman

Brave is the only one I have seen of these three, and while it is less outstanding than other Pixar efforts such as Wall-E, Up and all three Toy Story films, it is a fine adventure and great fun.

Best Documentary

WINNER

Searching for Sugar Man

Other Nominees:

The Imposter

Marley

McCullin

West of Memphis

Documentaries often highlight individuals or events that are otherwise overlooked.  Searching for Sugar Man clearly did this, and while I have not seen any of these, I applaud all of them for their efforts and accomplishments.

EE Rising Star Award

WINNER

Juno Temple

Other Nominees:

Elizabeth Olsen

Andrea Riseborough

Suraj Sharma

Alicia Vikander

I predicted Suraj Sharma, on the basis of him having made an extraordinary debut in Life of Pi.  However, everyone else has a more established body of work, and Juno Temple made quite an impression in Killer Joe as well as cropping up in The Dark Knight Rises.  I look forward to great things from all of these performers.

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

WINNER

The Imposter: Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

Other Nominees:

I Am Nasrine: Tina Gharavi

McCullin: David Manos Morris, Jacqui Morris

The Muppets: James Bobin

Wild Bill: Dexter Fletcher, Danny King

Although I have only seen The Muppets out of this group, I would have been surprised at James Bobin picking up the award as there were a lot of other talents that made The Muppets work.  Everything about The Imposter sounds remarkable, so hats off to Layton and Doganis.

Best Short Animation

WINNER

The Making of Longbird: Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

Other Nominees:

Here to Fall: Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’m Fine Thanks: Eamonn O’Neill

Best Short Film

WINNER

Swimmer: Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

Other Nominees:

The Curse: Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

Good Night: Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

Tumult: Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews

The Voorman Problem: Mark Gill, Baldwin LI

I confess I have seen none of these so have no opinion.

Awards Predictions Part Three: Oscar Nominations Reactions

Oscars

On 10th January 2013, Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone announced the nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards.  There were quite a few surprising entries and omissions among the nominees, and already responses are cropping up, both praising and criticising the decisions of the Academy members.  I wonder what prompts the vitriol of negative responses – what anyone these commentators to be wiser than the Academy members?  If everyone is allowed their own opinion, what makes one opinion better than another?  The answer is nothing, and similarly there is nothing to be gained by slamming the Academy for nominating X over Y.  For me, it is interesting to examine the nominees, consider why these are the case, and predict who will win.  Now that the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes have been awarded, some possible winners emerge.  This may change, as the Directors’, Producers’, Screenwriters’ and Actors’ guilds of America present their awards, as well as BAFTAs.  It shall be very interesting to look for an emerging pattern.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Amour, nominees to be determined

Argo, Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald

Django Unchained, Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone

Les Misérables, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi, Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Silver Linings Playbook, Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

There are some surprising entries here.  The last time a foreign language film was nominated for Best Picture was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, so it is perhaps surprising that such a film has not been nominated since the number of nominees was expanded beyond five.  Amour is a hot contender, nominated in several major categories, and perhaps demonstrates a more open approach than the Academy has shown historically.  Beasts of the Southern Wild is another surprising but very welcome entry.  A low budget film with a limited release, it clearly captured the attention of enough voters to earn this accolade.

Silver Linings Playbook is in the extraordinary position of being nominated for every major award, including all four acting categories.  No film has been nominated in every acting category, not to mention also being up for Writing (Adapted), Directing and Picture since Reds in 1981.  It seems statistically likely that Silver Linings Playbook will pick up something come Oscar night, but films with multiple nominations have walked away empty-handed before.

The other nominees are not surprising, as the various critical organisations as well as the Golden Globes have nominated Argo, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.  They are fairly typical Oscar fare, with two literary adaptations, two concerned with American history (both with slavery) and two true stories (both concerned with American involvement in the Middle East).  Now Argo has picked up the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama), and Ben Affleck was awarded the Golden Globe as well as the Critics Choice Award for Best Director.  However, Affleck is not nominated for the Directing Oscar, and it is very rare for a Best Picture winner to not at least be nominated in that category – the last time was Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.  As a biopic (sort of) concerned with American history, Lincoln is the most traditional nominee and does have the most nominations.  But that is no guarantee of success, and awards could be spread among various films come February 24th.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

Not many surprises here.  Daniel Day-Lewis has been a dead cert for some time, and after the Golden Globes, Hugh Jackman and Joaquin Phoenix are also not surprising.  Now that Day-Lewis has won the Golden Globe, the likelihood of him picking up the Oscar is even greater.  Denzel Washington is nominated with surprising regularity, and he is here playing the right sort of role (guilty conscience, struggling with alcoholism).  Bradley Cooper up for an Oscar is surprising, mainly because he is Bradley Cooper, best known for comedic roles.  Like Robin Williams (though not Jim Carrey), Cooper’s move into respectability is facilitated by portraying mental illness.  This seems to be part of the appeal of Silver Linings Playbook: it deals with mental illness in a way that is amusing, serious and moving.  And it has made the star of The Hangover and The A-Team an Oscar nominee, remarkable!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

This category is surprising for including both the oldest ever nominee for this award, Emmanuelle Riva, and the youngest, Quvenzhané Wallis.  Jessica Chastain has been a rising star over the last two years, with turns in The Tree of Life, The Debt, Lawless and The Help (for which she was nominated in 2012); Zero Dark Thirty continues her rise.  With a Golden Globe win, she is now a strong contender to pick up the award, especially as this could be the only win for Zero Dark Thirty.  Naomi Watts and Jennifer Lawrence have been here before and attracted great acclaim for their roles, so to see them nominated is not unexpected.  Although Lawrence picked up a Golden Globe as well, her film is a comedy, and these tend to be overlooked.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin for Argo

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

It’s the old guard!  Between them, these five titans have six Oscars, four of them in the category of Best Supporting Actor.  Furthermore, three of them won within the last decade – Alan Arkin picked up Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine in 2006; Christoph Waltz received Best Supporting Actor for Inglorious Basterds in 2009, which, like Django Unchained, was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and now that Waltz has won the Golden Globe, he may be on track to pick up another award.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was awarded Best Actor for Capote in 2005.  Tommy Lee Jones has long been a reliable supporting player, receiving this same award for The Fugitive in 1993.  And it’s the return of Robert De Niro, slumming it for over a decade, except for his fine comedic turns in the Fockers franchise.  De Niro won Best Supporting Actor in 1974 for The Godfather Part II, and then Best Actor in a Leading Role for Raging Bull in 1980, but his last nomination was for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Cape Fear in 1991.  Good to see you back, Bob.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

And here is Silver Linings Playbook again, with Jacki Weaver’s 2nd nomination (her first was for Animal Kingdom in 2010).  Another familiar face is Amy Adams, up for Best Supporting Actress for the 4th time (previous nominations include Junebug [2005], Doubt [2008] and The Fighter [2010]).  Sally Field and Helen Hunt are previous winners, but neither have been seen for some time, as Field’s last nomination was for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Places in the Heart in 1984, while Hunt picked up Best Actress in a Leading Role for As Good As It Gets.  Like them, Anne Hathaway is a major actress in a supporting role.  Her nomination is not a surprise, and Fantine in Les Misérables is a classic role that warrants a powerful performer (not to mention singer).  With a Golden Globe to her credit, Hathaway can likely look forward to more success.

Best Achievement in Directing

Michael Haneke for Amour

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

This category features the biggest surprises and possibly injustices (depending on who you talk to/which comments you read, including mine at a later date).  I confidently predicted that Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow and either Quentin Tarantino or Tom Hooper would be nominated, along with Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee, but instead we get Michael Haneke, David O. Russell and Benh Zeitlin.  This could indicate an upcoming sweep for Life of Pi or Lincoln, or indeed Silver Linings Playbook, or suggest a spread of awards among several films.  It also restricts the likely Best Picture winner, as it would be very surprising for a film to win Best Picture that has not been nominated for Achievement in Directing.  Many are likely disappointed by this, especially fans of Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.  To make matters more confusing, though, Ben Affleck has won the Golden Globe for Best Director and the Critics Choice Award.  If he wins the DGA, then it will be very hard to pick a winner.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Amour, Michael Haneke

Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino

Flight, John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

For a while, it looked like Moonrise Kingdom might attract some major Oscar attention, but it has been largely overlooked other than this nomination, which feels somewhat like a bone thrown its way.  Similarly, while Flight has certain prestigious qualities in its subject matter and pedigree, this and Best Actor are its only nominations.  For the other three, it will be interesting to see if Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen becomes the only award for Amour, Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty, or part of a sweep.  Django Unchained has won the Golden Globe, so that makes Tarantino a little more likely.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Argo, Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi, David Magee

Lincoln, Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

As in the Directing category, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a surprise over the others.  David O. Russell seemed a more likely contender here than in Directing, and the other three were always likely.  At this stage there is no clear frontrunner, although I can see Argo picking this up if nothing else.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall, Roger Deakins

This category pleases me greatly, as I had/have high hopes for Roger Deakins.  Nice to see Janusz Kaminski again, and Claudio Miranda is not a surprise due to the remarkable 3D cinematography in Life of Pi.  I have little comment on Anna Karenina and Django Unchained as I am yet to see them, but historically cinematographers are a very professional, technical assembly of voters, so we can expect the actual work on display to rewarded (after all, the display is the work).

Best Achievement in Editing

Argo, William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln, Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty, William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor

Editing is something of a silver bullet, as that which wins Editing often also wins Picture – examples include Crash, Chicago, Unforgiven, The Hurt Locker, as well as huge sweeping winners like Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Slumdog Millionaire.  Therefore, to see five of the Best Picture nominees, as well as three Directing nominees, in this category is unsurprising.  Furthermore, the editors who have won this award for the last two consecutive years, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, are not up this year, so no surprise win like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year.  I can see Argo picking this up, if only for its remarkable crosscutting.

Best Achievement in Production Design

Anna Karenina, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright

Les Misérables, Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi, David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

Lincoln, Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

The somewhat archaic term “Art Direction” has now been replaced with Production Design, which is a better description for this category.  All of these nominees require extensive production design so they all appear sensible nominations.  Three are period pieces, and both Les Misérables and Anna Karenina are highly staged, the latter taking place largely on a theatrical set, so considerable effort will have made on the design.  The design of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is exquisite, so no surprise to see this here.  Life of Pi is perhaps the surprise here, as a great deal of the design is digital rather than physical.  Is that not more a visual effect that a production design?  Hard to say, and the nomination in this category may be indicative of the increasingly blurred line between the two.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables, Paco Delgado

Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

No surprise to see the period films Anna Karenina, Les Misérables and Lincoln here, the costume designers having been nominated before.  It is rather amusing that 2012’s two Snow White films are in competition here.  Different release dates meant the two films barely competed with each other for audiences, but here they clash for costume.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell

More love for period films in this category, and the costumes of Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves are just as detailed as those of 18th century France, as well as 1960s America.  Quite a spread really.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli

Argo, Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi, Mychael Danna

Lincoln, John Williams

Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Some previous winners such as John Williams and Dario Marianelli, and it is very pleasing to see Thomas Newman as well, nominated in this category for the 9th time (he’s never won), as well as Alexandre Desplat in his fifth nomination.  Life of Pi I recall having a very evocative score, so not much of a surprise either.  It is interesting to see Anna Karenina cropping up a lot in these categories – while its acting, directing and overall quality have been ignored, it seems to have been admirably put together.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Chasing Ice, J. Ralph (“Before My Time”)

Les Misérables, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer (“Suddenly”)

Life of Pi, Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree (“Pi’s Lullaby”)

Skyfall, Adele, Paul Epworth (“Skyfall”)

Ted, Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend”)

It was very amusing to see the host of the Oscars, at the announcement of the nominations, himself nominated in this category; Emma Stone capitalised on the comedic opportunity.  Hopefully Seth McFarlane will be more entertaining than the last host to be nominated (James Franco).  It’s nice that an Original Song was written for the film version of Les Misérables, amongst all those pre-existing songs, and it is a common occurrence for a famous stage musical, that is adapted for the screen, to have an original number written for it, which is then nominated for an Oscar.  Previous nominees include Evita (“You Must Love Me”) and Chicago (“I Just Move On”).  I am very pleased to see “Skyfall” in here – the film was never likely to receive much Oscar love, and hopefully Adele will perform it live at the ceremony.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Argo, John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, José Antonio García

Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ron Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson

Les Misérables is not a surprise at all, considering the unusual live recording of the performers’ singing which then had to be mixed with other sounds.  Argo’s soundscape is a remarkable cacophony of voices and bustle, so it is fitting to see it here.  It is somewhat surprising that Skyfall is the only major action movie, as this is traditionally a category for such offerings as The Dark Knight Rises – indeed The Dark Knight collected this award as well as Sound Editing, but Christopher Nolan’s trilogy closer has been completely ignored.  Clearly there is a lot of impressive Sound Mixing in Lincoln and Life of Pi.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Argo, Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg, Karen M. Baker

Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Much the same as the previous category, although Les Misérables is apparently less impressively edited than it is mixed.  Not that I know what that means.  This might be a pair of bones thrown to Skyfall.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Marvel’s The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White

Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

The surprise here is five nominees, as in previous years there have been fewer.  Those represented here are not surprising, however, as this award is often another bone thrown to blockbusters like The Avengers, Prometheus and Snow White and the HunstmanLife of Pi demonstrates its spread across the range of awards, but there seems to be far less love for The Hobbit than there was for The Lord of the Rings.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Brave, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

Frankenweenie, Tim Burton

ParaNorman, Sam Fell, Chris Butler

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, Peter Lord

Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore

Some leftfield choices here, such as Wreck-It Ralph and The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists!, but I did predict that Paranorman could crop up here.  Now that Brave has picked up the Golden Globe, it is a much stronger contender, but I can still see Frankenweenie pulling an upset.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Amour (Austria)

War Witch (Canada)

No (Chile)

A Royal Affair (Denmark)

Kon-Tiki (Norway)

With Amour appearing so prominently in other categories, it is no surprise to see it here, and A Royal Affair is unsurprising as well.  The nominees in this category are often quite random, but with a Golden Globe under its belt I anticipate more awards are coming the way of Amour.

Best Documentary, Features

5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers, To Be Determined

How to Survive a Plague, To Be Determined

The Invisible War, To Be Determined

Searching for Sugar Man, To Be Determined

I know very little of these, so have no comment.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Inocente, Sean Fine, Andrea Nix

Kings Point, Sari Gilman, Jedd Wider

Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade, Robin Honan

Open Heart, Kief Davidson, Cori Shepherd Stern

Redemption, Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill

I know nothing of these, so no comment.

Best Short Film, Animated

Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee

Fresh Guacamole, PES

Head Over Heels, Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

Paperman, John Kahrs

The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare, David Silverman

Nice to see The Simpsons nominated.

Best Short Film, Live Action

Asad, Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura

Buzkashi Boys, Sam French, Ariel Nasr

Curfew, Shawn Christensen

Dood van een Schaduw, Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele

Henry, Yan England

These sound very nice.

With different nominees between the different organisations, this year will be difficult to predict.  I think it likely there will be a spread of awards, rather than one dominating sweep.  But I’ve been wrong before.  As further awards trickle through, including the BAFTAs, the DGA, PGA, SGA, I’ll post my predictions as we approach February 24th.

Awards Predictions Part Two: Oscar Predictions

Oscar Nom

Historically, the Golden Globes serve as a prediction for the Oscars.  Based upon the Golden Globe nominations, I have particular predictions for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s nominees, especially in the category of Achievement in Directing.  I predict that the AMPAS will nominate five out of the following for this particular honour.

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Tom Hooper for Les Misérables

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

Tarantino and Hooper are the maybes, the remaining four I think are solid bets; I doubt anyone else will appear (except possibly Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master).  I also anticipate that Daniel Day-Lewis and Hugh Jackman will be up for Best Actor, for Lincoln and Les Misérables respectively, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master will juggle Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor between them at the BAFTAs and Oscars.  The latter category will probably also feature Alan Arkin for Argo, Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained and Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln.  I expect Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) will remain prominent among Best Actress nominees, as well as Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible), and is any Best Actress contenders list complete without Meryl Streep (Hope Springs)?  Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Amy Adams (The Master) and Sally Field (Lincoln) will most likely be up for Best Supporting Actress.

I expect Brave and Frankenweenie to be up for Animated Feature, and perhaps the other three Golden Globe nominees (Hotel TransylvaniaRise of the GuardiansWreck-It Ralph) but perhaps not, as Paranorman stands a chance as well.  Amour and A Royal Affair, as well as Rust and Bone, are likely to be nominated for Foreign Language Film.

My personal favourite of 2012, Skyfall, is not likely to get much awards attention, but I can see Roger Deakins being nominated for Cinematography.  Deakins did tremendous work with the digital photography of Skyfall, and I would very much like to see him nominated (for the 10th time).  Similarly, I can also imagine Wally Pfister, who won Best Cinematography for Inception in 2010, being nominated for The Dark Knight Rises.  As Pfister is now directing a film in his own right, Transcendence, this could be his last nomination in this category, and I can see it happening.

The Best Picture category is the most open of all, as the number of nominees can be anything between five and ten.  I think it unlikely that the ten films nominated at the Golden Globes will be up for Best Picture at the Oscars, because the AMPAS does not have the separate categories and is notoriously sniffy about comedies.  Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook have a chance of being nominated, as do The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild, but the very strong contenders are ArgoDjango UnchainedLife of PiLincolnZero Dark Thirty and Les Misérables.  I anticipate these will all be up for Best Picture.  Amour could well be in there as well, although I think an animated film among the Best Picture nominees is unlikely.  As a (very) wildcard, the AFI did name The Dark Knight Rises as one of its films of the year…

Please check back once the Oscar nominees are announced on 10th January for consideration of likely winners!