Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Full List of Oscar Nominations

Some welcome and unwelcome surprises here, but it's all good fun.
My prediction score was 70/104. How'd you do?
Best Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"The Help"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"
Best Actress
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Best Actor
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"
Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
Best Director
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Michel Hazanivicus, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanivicius, "The Artist"
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, "Bridesmaids"
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
J.C. Chandor, "Margin Call"
Asghar Farhadi, "A Separation"
Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
John Logan, "Hugo"
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, "The Ides of March"
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, "Moneyball"
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Best Foreign Feature
"Bullhead" (Bulgaria)
"Footnote" (Israel)
"In Darkness" (Poland)
"Monsieur Lazhar" (Canada)
"A Separation" (Iran)
Best Animated Feature
"A Cat in Paris"
"Chico & Rita"
"Kung Fu Panda 2"
"Puss in Boots"
Art Direction
"The Artist"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"Midnight in Paris"
"War Horse"
"The Artist"
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"
Costume Design
"The Artist"
"Jane Eyre"
Documentary Feature
"Hell and Back Again"
"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"
Documentary Short Subject
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement"
"God Is the Bigger Elvis"
"Incident in New Baghdad"
"Saving Face"
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom"
Film Editing
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
"Albert Nobbs"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"The Iron Lady"
Music (Original Score)
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"The Artist"
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
"War Horse"
Music (Original Song)
'Man or Muppet' from "The Muppets"
'Real in Rio' from "Rio"
Sound Editing
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
"War Horse"
Sound Mixing
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
"War Horse"
Visual Effects
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
"Real Steel"
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Short Film (Animated)
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
"La Luna"
"A Morning Stroll"
"Wild Life"
Short Film (Live Action)
"The Shore"
"Time Freak"
"Tuba Atlantic"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Predicting the Oscar Nominees

The Oscar race may technically last until the end of February, but nomination day pretty much signals the end to 90% of the suspense surrounding the eventual Oscar winners. Tomorrow is the biggie, and here are my (occasionally foolhardy) guesses as to who/what will make the cut:

Best Picture

"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Help"
"Midnight in Paris"
"War Horse"

Alternates (if there are ten): “The Tree of Life”; “The Ides of March”; “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

The untested new balloting system for Best Picture makes predicting a little more uncertain, but one would think that the passionate ‘best’ cries would see at least these seven films make it. I’m not buying that popular titles “Bridesmaids,” “Drive,” and “A Separation” are anything more than fringe-dwellers in this race, and I’m not ready to replace the dwindling “War Horse” with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The guild-surging David Fincher film, as well as being a remake, is far too pulpy a genre pic for Academy tastes. They rarely deviate from the norm when selecting Best Picture candidates, and I doubt that the number of nominees will be high enough to see it included ahead of safer,more traditional options.

Best Director

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

Alternates: Tate Taylor, "The Help"; David Fincher, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; Steven Spielberg, “War Horse”

I’m chickening out of predicting Taylor for a nomination since it seems so absurd he’d be included ahead of major, major directors like Allen, Fincher, and Spielberg. Having said that, I think his film will prove more popular with the Academy than the films helmed by those other three men. Somehow, after all of these Oscar seasons, I haven’t yet given up on the unique quality of accomplishments being recognised on sheer merit alone, and therefore I think that Terrence Malick will score a lone director nod for the artistry of his divisive “The Tree of Life.”

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

Alternates: Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”

Mara is probably closer to ousting Glenn Close than anyone seems to be admitting, given her consistency throughout the precursors, but AMPAS will likely turn out to reward an Oscar comeback for Glenn, after nearly 25 years.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Leonardo Di Caprio, “J. Edgar”
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Alternates: Michael Fassbender, “Shame”; Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”; Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

I don’t think that “Shame” is going to float Oscar’s boat, and that might allow for Gary Oldman, who has been gaining career honours, and whose film appears as if it might be buoyed by guild and BAFTA love, to sneak in above the critically-championed Michael Fassbender. But then Leo isn’t safe either. Exciting?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Vanessa Redgrave, "Coriolanus"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"

Alternates: Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”; Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”; Carey Mulligan, “Shame”

Again, I’m hoping that the performance will win out. The three women listed here as alternates all have detractors to do with their films. “Coriolanus” may be heavy going, but it at least has the prestige that the others don’t.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh, "My Week with Marilyn"
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Ben Kingsley, "Hugo"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Alternates: Nick Nolte, “Warrior”; Brad Pitt, “The Tree of Life”; Armie Hammer, “J.Edgar”

As soon as I watched “Hugo” it seemed a cinch to me that Kingsley would be nominated for this sympathetic, key role as cinema’s original auteur. There hasn’t been quite the wave of reaction some anticipated, but this category is still fractured and open after Globe and SAG went their separate ways.

Best Original Screenplay

"The Artist"
"Midnight in Paris"
“Win Win”

Alternates: “Margin Call”; “Young Adult”; “A Separation”; “Beginners”

Best Adapted Screenplay

"The Descendants"
"The Help"
"The Ides of March"

Alternates: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”; “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Original Score

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“The Artist”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“War Horse”

Best Original Song

“Albert Nobbs”
“The Help”
“Machine Gun Preacher"
“The Muppets”
“The Muppets”

Best Documentary Feature

“If a Tree Falls”
“Project Nim”
“Semper Fi: Always Faithful”
“We Were Here”

Best Foreign Language Film

“Footnote” (Israel)
“In Darkness” (Poland)
“Monsieur Lazhar” (Canada)
“Omar Killed Me" (Morocco)
“A Separation” (Iran)

Best Animated Feature

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Cars 2”
“Chico & Rita”
“Puss In Boots”

Best Art Direction

"The Artist"
"Captain America: The First Avenger"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II"
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Best Costume Design

“The Artist”
“The Help”
“Jane Eyre”
“My Week With Marilyn”

Best Make Up

“The Artist”
“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”
"The Iron Lady"

Best Cinematography

"The Artist"
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"

Best Film Editing

"The Artist"
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
"War Horse"

Best Visual Effects

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
“The Tree of Life”

Best Sound Mixing

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“The Artist”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

Best Sound Editing

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bitesize Best Actress Oscar Profiles: Jill Clayburgh

Jill Clayburgh in “An Unmarried Woman”
Lost the 1978 Best Actress Oscar to Jane Fonda in “Coming Home”

Grade: ***

If the sixties were all about the burning of bras and the breaking of boundaries, the seventies were more about re-evaluating relationships, gender roles, and the institution of marriage. Paul Mazursky, the helmer of wannabe-swinger comedy “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” clearly had a lot to say about monogamy, returning nine years after that Oscar-nominated ensemble piece to write and direct “An Unmarried Woman,” about a housewife dealing with her husband’s decision to leave with another woman. Contrary to this period’s popular representation of women in relationships as mopey and often hysterical, Mazursky’s principal character Erica is a looser and more independent specimen when given the heave-ho. More associated with TV than film, Mazursky hired Jill Clayburgh as his plucky leading lady, a move which proved to pay dividends for both of them.

Jill Clayburgh's reaction to her husband's confession.
It’s little surprise that Clayburgh’s performance gathered so much love the year after Diane Keaton’s win for “Annie Hall”: there are many similarities to the free-spirited approach of the two characters once Erica breaks away from her jilted lover depression. With Annie it’s an ideology; with Erica it’s a defence mechanism, but both exhibit that façade of fleetiness which attracted so many cineastes of the moment. Although the humour can get very dry, Mazurky’s script has an uncanny knack of making Clayburgh’s many exchanges with questionable, erudite men feel adult and involving, and even when the actress is required to resort to insolent standoffishness she brings a wry, half-resigned tone which can gel with her director’s comic intentions.

“An Unmarried Woman” always regards Erica’s arc as its driving force, and in portraying such a scrutinised personality Clayburgh feels the burden of carrying this journeywoman heft through to a climax. Nor does she deal very well with the crucial reaction scene, responding to her husband’s confession of love for another woman with simmering hurt but no concrete, impacting sense of introspective turmoil, and the payoff line that Mazursky gives her (however misjudged) goes down like a lead balloon. At key moments Clayburgh treats the character analysis with lighter fervour than needed to plumb the depths of bitterness in Erica, more gamely and sprightly than mournful or contemptuous. One wishes that Clayburgh would distillate more of that steely verve into tangible heartache, rather than throwaway flickers of combat.

There are glimpses of the spirit of Carrie Snodgress’ nominated performance (in “Diary of a Mad Housewife”) referenced here, albeit with scepticism more vocalised than internalised, and with a considerably better sparring partner in Alan Bates to work with than Snodgress had with Richard Benjamin. If Erica feels predisposed to sympathy, neither Mazursky nor Clayburgh use this as a disclaimer for her actions, and despite this she often colours Erica’s progressive approach to relationships with hues of vital self-motivation. Crucially, for a film entwined in critiquing its era’s societal norms, Clayburgh’s showing hasn’t aged so badly, and she relays the assertion of “An Unmarried Woman” that to be “unmarried” is not to be “unhappy,” with admirable care.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globe (Motion Picture) Winners

Best Picture (Drama): "The Descendants"
Best Picture (Comedy/Musical): "The Artist"
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
Best Actor (Drama): George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Best Actress (Drama): Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Best Screenplay: "Midnight in Paris"
Best Original Score: "The Artist"
Best Original Song: "W.E."
Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"
Best Animated Feature: "The Adventures of Tintin"

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Who'd Be in a Comedy or a Musical?

If “Bridesmaids” miraculously manages to get itself into Oscar’s Best Picture lineup this year, it would be the anomaly of all anomalies – a broad, crass, raunchy, female-dominated film breaking the mould. Regardless of whether this happens or not, there’ll always be the nagging issue of Oscar’s general attitude towards comedy, which tends to get forgotten about when it comes to year-end awards. The implication that comedy/”light” performances are lesser fare than dramatic ones is both inaccurate and offensive, but it’s often the preconception adopted by middlebrow filmgoers.

Whatever you think about the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press have always used their ceremony to help celebrate comedy, despite that often leading to even more guffaw at their nominations than in their drama categories. Predictably, those singled out in this section are far less likely to have success with SAG and AMPAS, and the fairly grim reality is that lively, funny, and layered performances like Kristen Wiig’s this year won’t make it past this particular precursor hurdle.

In the past ten years, the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical category has seen fourteen nominations translate to Academy Award notices.


• Juliette Binoche, “Chocolat”
• Nicole Kidman, “Moulin Rouge”
• Renee Zellweger, “Chicago”
• Diane Keaton, “Something’s Gotta Give”
• Annette Bening, “Being Julia”
• Kate Winslet, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
• Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”
• Judi Dench, “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
• Keira Knightley, “Pride and Prejudice”
• Meryl Streep, ”The Devil Wears Prada”
• Marion Cotillard, “La Vie En Rose”
• Ellen Page, “Juno”
• Meryl Streep, “Julie and Julia”
• Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”

*Catherine Zeta Jones received a Golden Globe nomination for “Chicago”, but a Supporting nomination with Oscar.

This is a 28% transfer to Oscar, which is relatively decent, but not considering that Witherspoon’s, Knightley’s, and Cotillard’s are arguably dramatic performances masquerading as musical or comedic ones.

The situation looks comparatively positive for women when you look at the men. In the past ten seasons only five men nominated in the Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical category have been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.

• Nicholas Cage, “Adaptation”
• Bill Murray, “Lost In Translation”
• Jamie Foxx, “Ray”
• Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”
• Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Just a meager 10% transfer from Globes to Oscar, folks. And even that’s with Foxx and Phoenix producing essentially dramatic performances in films about musicians.

There are literally too many Globe-nominated comedic performances by Actresses to list here, but I’ve trawled through the history and found some great Best Actor in a comedy nominees from days-gone-by to single out as major Oscar snubs.

Donald Sutherland in “M*A*S*H”
Lost out to: Melvyn Douglas, “I Never Sang For My Father,” James Earl Jones, “The Great White Hope,” Jack Nicholson, “Five Easy Pieces,” Ryan O’Neal, “Love Story,” George C. Scott, “Patton”

Billy Crystal in “When Harry Met Sally”
Lost out to: Kenneth Branagh, “Henry V”; Daniel Day-Lewis, “My Left Foot”; Tom Cruise, “Born on the Fourth of July”; Morgan Freeman, “Driving Miss Daisy”; Robin Williams, “Dead Poets Society”

Tim Robbins in “The Player”
Lost out to: Robert Downey Jr, “Chaplin”; Clint Eastwood, “Unforgiven”; Al Pacino, “Scent of a Woman”; Stephen Rea, “The Crying Game”; Denzel Washington, “Malcolm X”

Terence Stamp in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
Lost out to: Tom Hanks, “Forrest Gump”; Morgan Freeman, “The Shawshank Redemption”; Nigel Hawthorne, “The Madness of King George”; Paul Newman, “Nobody’s Fool”; John Travolta, “Pulp Fiction”

Paul Giamatti in “Sideways"
Lost out to: Don Cheadle, “Hotel Rwanda”; Johnny Depp, “Finding Neverland”; Leonardo Di Caprio, “The Aviator”; Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby”; Jamie Foxx, “Ray”

All of this is especially worrying given that this year has seen one of the greatest lineups in this category in recent memory; Jean Dujardin, Brendan Gleeson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, and Owen Wilson all giving smart comedic(ish) performances. The only one in with a legitimate chance (and a great one at that) of an Oscar nomination is Dujardin, which will be the first crossover nomination of the decade, and a mightily well-deserved one.

It’s a bit much to ask for Oscar to dramatically change its dirty habits, but could they at least appreciate our funnymen a little more?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Bitesize Best Actress Oscar Profiles: Marsha Mason

Marsha Mason in “Chapter Two”
Lost the 1979 Best Actress Oscar to Sally Field in “Norma Rae”

Grade: **

When considering on/off-screen creative cinematic pairings, one’s instinct doesn’t necessarily gravitate towards Neil Simon and Marsha Mason. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter are the most obvious dissenters of the unwritten “don’t mix business with pleasure” rule in this era, while Woody Allen’s doomed relationship with Mia Farrow led to an intense period of collaboration in the late 1980s. Neither of those partnerships directly resulted in an Oscar nomination for the performer, which makes Simon and Mason’s success with the Academy all the more remarkable. He penned three of her four nominated roles (in “The Goodbye Girl,” “Chapter Two,” and “Only When I Laugh”) in the space of five years, before their divorce in 1983.

Regarded as an actress who had a short shelf-life with audiences and Oscar alike, Mason was at the height of her popularity in 1979 when “Chapter Two” rolled around. Particularly dated, this romance has the early charm of a Simon script, as the courtship of Mason’s divorcee Jennie and James Caan’s widower George unfolds over the space of five snappy telephone calls. In these scenes Mason approaches flirtation with lively hints of wanting promise, but possesses that dose of cynicism associated with a weary singleton, and treats the character as she should do: a woman not inherently expecting anything, but who becomes dependent upon a man for the second time in her life. Mason shies away from telegraphing resistance as hostile or bitter, her wit less acerbic than stately, pronounced, and warmfully combative.

Both actors’ game punch and inherent likeability distract from the essential contrivance of their early exchanges, but the dialogue-heavy staginess eventually prevents them from delving beneath the surface-hangups of their characters. The injection of mawkish angst as a dramatic plot device only serves to emphasise the uneveness of the writing, more representative in George but nevertheless alienating us from both people who we thought we knew. The flaws in their relationship emerge abruptly, feel shallow, and are drawn out for far too long, that it’s no wonder Mason’s performance feels ultimately tiresome. Her tethered reactions to Caan’s muted self-pity, including one particularly epic monologue where she attempts to convince him why they should stay together, are fundamentally well-executed, but she can’t escape the compartmentalisation of her character into a reluctant confrontationalist which considerably hampers her ability to succeed in this production.

Mason is an actress with embedded self-supremacy, but it's far less suited to this role than it is in "The Goodbye Girl" and, particularly, "Only When I Laugh." She needs much more to chew on than is afforded her here, and in a looser narrative, where the occasional dismantling of her somewhat uptight persona translates as more natural than forced. Simon was a screenwriter with wild extremes of success, and as such this falls near the bottom of his hierarchy, and sadly Mason is unable to forge a path from this disadvantaged position much further than second base.