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Tonight’s Oscar Winners: A Cheat Sheet [DB]

ROTI’s top gun when it comes to awards season, DB, is back to predict the winners of tonight’s ceremony. You always can find his work at his own site, I-am-DB.com, where this article premiered on Friday. After you get done trouncing everyone at your Oscars party picks contest by relying upon DB’s prognostications, I highly recommend you add his intelligent stylings to your bookmarks bar or RSS feed, like, pronto. 

Alright, we’re two days from the big night and it’s time to lay the cards on the table. As usual, the outcome of some categories seems set in stone, while others still have some suspense going for them. Other Oscar pundits are saying that all but two or three categories are completely sewn up, yet it’s never as cut and dry as they’d like to claim it is. There are always more races that could fall in different ways than anybody ever seems willing to admit. Which are which this year? Let us see…

BEST PICTURE

When the Academy announced last summer that they were reconfiguring the Best Picture competition such that the number of nominees would fall somewhere between a minimum of five films and a maximum of ten, they pointed out that they applied the calculation model to the previous ten years worth of ballots and found that some years would still have yielded only five nominees, while others would have seen six, seven, eight or nine make the list. Considering that this was a somewhat underwhelming year for movies, most pundits were expecting seven, maybe eight. But we got nine. And now that the ceremony is upon us, there’s only one being talked about. With the full muscle of Oscar maestro Harvey Weinstein behind it, The Artist is the film to beat on Oscar night. It collected plenty of critics awards during the season, and its standing was affirmed by wins from the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) and its win for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) at the Golden Globes. Some might argue that The Help has a chance as well, based on its three wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the fact that it’s the most commercially successful film of the bunch. It clearly has the love of actors – the largest voting block within the Academy – but that won’t be enough to carry it all the way, especially when it missed out on key nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing. The only nominees that might surprise are The Descendants and Hugo, but The Artist is the movie that seems to be making everyone and their mother feel that special feeling. As a paean to the early days of Hollywood and the magic of moviemaking, I think Hugo is a more successful film, and certainly one with more depth than The Artist. But by this point the silent charmer’s victory seems assured. And I suppose it’s nice that the movie was made without any aspirations for awards whatsoever. It’s a small film made from a place of love and affection, whose entire creative team has been genuinely overwhelmed by the outpouring of acclaim. That’s kinda nice.

Prediction: The Artist
 

Personal Choice: None of the nine movies truly captured my heart, but Moneyball is the one that most closely meets my barometer for what a Best Picture winner should be.

BEST DIRECTOR

This award, of course, usually goes hand in hand with Best Picture. I don’t imagine this year will see a split, despite some saying that Scorsese may win his second. The legendary lion did take the Golden Globe, but the better indicator is the DGA award, and that went to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. I expect the Academy will follow suit.

Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius 

Personal Choice: The Tree of Life is too imperfect to deserve Best Picture, but in this category I’m less inclined to fault a movie’s flaws than I am to reward a director with vision and ambition. In that respect, none of this year’s nominees can match Terrence Malick.

BEST ACTOR

A category that was looking reasonably predictable in mid-January is much more in flux now. George Clooney had been out ahead, but Jean Dujardin has closed in tight. Not only did he snag trophies from SAG and BAFTA (both of which share some members with the Academy), but he’s kept visible these last couple of weeks with an amusing Funny or Die video in which he auditions for the villain role in a number of high-profile franchises, as well as a cameo in an Artist-inspired, French-themed Saturday Night Live sketch. Clooney and Dujardin are both charmers who would be enjoyable at the microphone, so no help determining who has the edge on that score. And even with the two of them seemingly neck and neck, this is the category that feels to me most poised for an upset. Brad Pitt stars in two Best Picture nominees, did great – many have said career-best – work in both of them, and has continually pushed himself as an actor. The personal investment he had in getting Moneyball made and the struggles he endured in doing so were well documented, and they add a nice, emotional narrative to his nomination. Toss in his charity work and general good humor and graciousness, and I think he could pull off a surprise victory. Gary Oldman is a longer shot, but some voters may want to reward him for an incredible career thus far. As for Demián Bichir, his nomination and the attention it brings to a film that puts the complex immigration issue in a personal light will be the extent of his reward. (An essay by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas about the importance of Bichir’s film and his nomination was published recently in Entertainment Weekly.) So…Dujardin’s victory in the more recent contests may tip the scales in his favor, making him the smart bet. But whether it’s because my gut tells me Clooney has broader support, or because I personally don’t see Dujardin’s performance as Oscar-caliber (not that personal feelings should ever govern these picks) or because I’m an idiot…I’m sticking with Clooney for the win.

Prediction: George Clooney

Personal Choice: Again, there’s nothing here that I can passionately go to bat for, but I was probably most affected by Bichir’s performance. And if Pitt somehow takes it, I’ll be all smiles.

BEST ACTRESS

This year, it’s the Best Actress category that best exemplifies the change of winds that can occur between the first half of the awards season – dominated by the regional critics awards – and the second half of the season, where the guilds, Golden Globes and national critics awards (mainly the Broadcast Film Critics Association prizes) are handed out. The first half of the season indicated that Michelle Williams was the force to be reckoned with for her impressive take on Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. But it only takes a few key events to change the course the race; it’s down to Meryl Streep and Viola Davis now. Davis took the awards from SAG and the BFCA, while Streep won the BAFTA award and the Golden Globe (for a drama; Williams won the musical/comedy Globe). So this thing is pretty evenly split.

Streep gives another great performance (no surprise), especially in her many scenes as the elderly Margaret Thatcher. This is her record 17th nomination, and she hasn’t won since 1982; she’s lost the last 12 times. The Hollywood community has undying adoration and reverence for her, and whenever she wins an award at another event (and she’s won many in the last decade alone), she’s always funny and down to earth. The crowd loves seeing her up there. But they always know that Meryl Streep will be back within a couple of years and they’ll have another chance. The same can’t be said for Viola Davis, who will have a much harder time finding another lead role that could put her back in the Oscar race anytime soon. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the industry works. Davis is a wonderful actress who has earned the love and respect of many filmmakers over the years, but the opportunities for her to play rich leading roles are few and far between. She might not have even gotten the part in The Help if it hadn’t been for 2008′s Doubt, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination for just two scenes (both opposite Streep). Davis has given heartfelt and moving speeches at her other wins this season, and her peers seem thrilled that she’s finally getting her moment to shine. And lest we forget, she’s excellent in The Help as a maid weary from years of service and dehumanization. She carries it in every step she takes, suggesting so much more internally than she ever has the chance to say out loud. Meryl Streep’s time could be upon us again, but it feels more like Davis’ moment…and I’d wager that even Streep is voting for her.

Prediction: Viola Davis

Personal Choice: Streep is overdue for Oscar #3, and she rocks it in The Iron Lady, but I’m rooting for Davis. I’d be fine with Williams too. She’s terrific in a part that seems so unlikely for her. It’s easy to imagine Meryl Streep will hit a bullseye playing Margaret Thatcher. It’s harder to imagine Michelle Williams hitting a bullseye as Marilyn Monroe, but she absolutely does.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I like Kenneth Branagh, but I still can’t figure out what he’s doing here. He gives a nice performance in My Week with Marilyn, but hardly one for the books. Likewise, Jonah Hill does good, understated work in Moneyball, but an Oscar nomination seems a bit much. So let’s go ahead and remove them from the equation.

Given his track record all season long, it would be foolish to bet against Christopher Plummer. Aside from the facts that he delivers a wonderful performance with little screen time and has been charming and funny in previous acceptance speeches, this category often doubles as a lifetime achievement award of sorts, and Plummer’s time has come. (Surely there are those who still feel he was robbed of a nomination for The Insider.) But he isn’t the only veteran in the category who’s never won. At 82, he’s the same age as Max von Sydow, who has a similarly long and rich career full of great films and performances. Plummer represents the only nomination for Beginners, while von Sydow’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had enough support in the Academy to crack the Best Picture race. So a win for von Sydow is not unfathomable.

And though ten years their junior, Nick Nolte is no spring chicken either. He’s another respected veteran who probably came very close to winning for his two previous nominations (Best Actor for The Prince of Tides and Affliction). In predicting the nominations, I suggested that Nolte’s presence in commercials for HBO’s series Luck was helping to keep him visible. Now the show is in the middle of its run, so he’s still got a spotlight on him. Further complicating things is that all three of these performances are right in Oscar’s sweet spot: they’re touching examinations of vulnerable characters dealing with life at its most promising and punishing. Were they not competing against each other, any one of them could be a winner. In the end though, Nolte’s Warrior is unlikely to have reached enough voters, and since the same sentiments that could benefit von Sydow apply to Plummer as well, it would be odd if the momentum Plummer has built up over the course of the season suddenly shifted. So while a von Sydow surprise isn’t out of the question, I hold to my initial statement: it would be foolish to bet against Plummer.

Prediction: Christopher Plummer

Personal Choice: I’d be really happy to see any of these three guys win, though I didn’t think Plummer or von Sydow had enough screentime to explore their characters deeply enough to merit an Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Janet McTeer and Bérénice Bejo are the also-rans this year. While the first half of the season suggested this would be a wide-open race – 11 actresses were named amongst 34 critics groups – momentum at this point has solidified around Octavia Spencer. I do think Melissa McCarthy has spoiler potential, and Jessica Chastain a little less so, but all signs point to Spencer.

Prediction: Octavia Spencer

Personal Choice: The sheer range demonstrated this year by Chastain is extraordinary. The Academy could just as easily have cited her for The Tree of Life or Take Shelter, but going with The Help was the right call. It’s a showier performance, but a wonderfully multifaceted one. I’d also be smiling wide if McCarthy got it for fleshing out the category’s most unpredictable and original character.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

A tough category filled with good work. While The Artist is poised to do quite well on Oscar night, I don’t think its reach will extend here. Margin Call and A Separation have probably gone unseen by too many voters, which leaves Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris. The former will surely have a flood of supporters, but given the Academy’s conservative tendencies, the more refined comedy of Woody Allen is likely to triumph, bringing him his fourth Oscar and his first in over 25 years (not that he’ll show up to accept it). Do watch out for The Artist, though; it definitely has a shot.

Prediction: Midnight in Paris

Personal Choice: I’d be happy with really anything except The Artist, which I like but find to be the least impressive of the bunch from a screenwriting point of view (and no, not because there’s no typical dialogue). I’m torn between A Separation and Bridesmaids. A Separation is so exquisitely constructed, yet comedy is so hard to pull off as brilliantly as Bridesmaids does, especially while still offering character depth and dramatic undercurrents.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Descendants or Moneyball would be the frontrunner if they weren’t competing against each other. I really can’t decide which way it might go. The Descendants took the Writer’s Guild of America prize this week, as well as an editing award from the American Cinema Editors, which shows that the movie has support across disciplines. Still, the WGA award – while a strong indicator – doesn’t mean the chips won’t fall elsewhere. Both movies racked up 11 wins from the various critics groups I’ve tracked, both are Best Picture nominees, both are admired and respected…I just don’t know. To buy me some time, let’s rule out The Ides of March, which is just padding. I don’t see Hugo breaking out here either. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, however, has a small shot. It was ineligible for the WGA awards, removing it as a factor. Plus, this category has offered surprises in the past, including Precious beating Up in the Air, The Pianist scoring against The Hours and Adaptation, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King trumping Mystic River. Tinker Tailor has admirers, and no doubt the novel by John le Carré poses daunting challenges. There’s also the emotional hook that Bridget O’Connor wrote the script with her husband Peter Straughan, then died of cancer before the movie was made. Still, I think the dense and complex narrative will prove too impenetrable for too many voters. Which brings us back to The Descendants and Moneyball. I should give the edge to The Descendants because of the WGA win; most pundits are predicting it here. But my first instinct was to go with Moneyball…so for better or worse, that’s where I’m landing.

Prediction: Moneyball

Personal Choice: Moneyball. You have to admire the way Stan Chervin, Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin took Michael Lewis’ stats-oriented book and turned it into the most human of stories.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

I wasn’t able to catch A Cat in Paris or Chico & Rita, but I suspect the same can be said for most Academy members. Neither film will be able to compete with the commercial juggernauts of Rango, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots. And the latter two, solid as they are, can’t compete with the originality of Rango. Poor Dreamworks Animation. They get two movies in the race this year, they don’t have to contend with the Pixar behemoth…and they’re still going to lose. C’est la vie. The lizard takes it.

Prediction: Rango

Personal Choice: Rango

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Any one of these five nominees could conceivably win, but by rights it should be a no-brainer victory for Emmanuel Lubezki’s ravishing work in The Tree of Life, which virtually swept the critics awards and took home the American Society of Cinematographers prize. But particularly in these below-the-line categories, the general membership of the Academy can never be depended on to do what’s right. Indeed, Lubezki has entered the Oscar race before – in 2006, for Children of Men – armed with a stack of critics awards and the guild’s top honor, only to lose the Oscar. The Tree of Life being a less popular movie in the wider ranks of the Academy than some of its competitors here could well result in Lubezki missing out once again. In Contention‘s Kris Tapley – one of the smarter Oscar pundits out there – pointed out that it’s been over 60 years since a movie has won this award without being nominated in at least one other below-the-line category. That would spell trouble for The Tree of Life, but here’s the thing: so what? People who spend time predicting the Oscars – myself included – are always trying to reason through our choices with facts and figures like this. Some of this logic is legitimate. For example, it’s true that the DGA’s Best Director nominees and the Academy’s Best Director nominees rarely line up 5-for-5. It’s also true that most DGA winners will go on to win the Best Director Oscar. But when we start getting around to “no movie has ever won Best Sound Mixing without being nominated by the sound mixers guild, therefore…” or “only one movie since 1971 has won X and Y but not Z, so that means…” or “it’s been 60 years since a movie has won Best Cinematography without being nominated in at least one other below-the-line category,” that’s when it’s time to slap ourselves in the face and reset. No Oscar voter is sitting with their ballot and thinking about their vote in these insignificant terms. So while a winner might indeed uphold a particular statistic, that statistic is probably not dictating the winner. If The Tree of Life loses this award, it’s not going to be because it wasn’t nominated in any other below-the-line categories.

If voters do pass it over, a case could be made for why any of the other four – The Artist, War Horse, Hugo and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – might speak more to them. But my gut tells me that even people who found The Tree of Life to be pretentious, boring, confusing or all of the above will nevertheless concede that from a photographic standpoint, it’s a work of art. It should be a safe bet, but strangely it doesn’t feel that way. Let’s hope it gets its due.

Prediction: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life

Personal Choice: The Tree of Life

BEST FILM EDITING

I don’t get the sense that any of the nominees are standouts or coming into the race with a great deal of momentum. The only one I feel confident in ruling out is The Descendants, even though it won the American Cinema Editors award in the Drama category. It beat fellow Oscar contenders Hugo, Moneyball and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all of which nevertheless seem more plausible on Oscar night. But the absence of an obvious frontrunner leads me to suspect that voters will pencil in The Artist (which took the guild’s prize in the Musical/Comedy category) for lack of knowing any better.

Prediction: The Artist

Personal Choice: For its deft weaving of Billy Beane’s personal backstory into his present day circumstances, as well as the smooth incorporation of archival footage, I’d give it to Moneyball.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Hugo is the movie to beat here, being a period piece that also has flourishes of fantasy. It’s certainly a deserving choice, with its elaborate train station setting and massive clock gears hidden in the walls. Yet if voters stop to get sentimental – or to even consider what has and hasn’t been honored in the past – they may take this last opportunity to award Stuart Craig for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Craig has been one of the Potter series’ consistent creative voices, serving as art director on all eight movies. He’s been nominated for three of the earlier films, but has yet to win for any of them. He’s done tremendous work, and a win for the last movie would be a well-deserved tribute. But unfortunately, most voters probably don’t think about these things. Taking the five nominees (The Artist, Midnight in Paris and War Horse round out the category) on their individual merits, I expect the Academy will go with Hugo.

Prediction: Hugo

Personal Choice: I can’t argue with Hugo, but I’d really love to see Harry Potter honored for the culmination of a decade’s wondrous work translating J.K. Rowling’s imagined world so successfully into reality.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The striking outfits in W.E. won in the Period category at the Costume Designers Guild Awards, but it’s doubtful the movie has been seen by enough of the larger, more diverse voting bloc in the Academy. Ditto for Anonymous, although that movie is set much further in the past, making for even more elaborate clothes. And Academy members love to vote for elaborate clothes. Jane Eyre is a more admired film than Anonymous, and probably a more widely seen one. The combination of its period and the design of the clothes gives it a strong chance, but the muted color palette might hurt its chances. The outfits have all the right frills, but they’re predominantly drab. I think voters favor costumes that are not just elaborate, but also colorful, meaning the black and white of The Artist will also face an uphill battle…though the movie’s general front-runner status and evocation of old Hollywood glamour could help it here; a number of pundits are expecting as much. Then there’s Hugo, and the possibility that the standout uniform worn by Sacha Baron Cohen’s station inspector could seal the deal. This is one of the year’s tougher categories to call. Jane Eyre and The Artist are good guesses, but I’m going out on a bit of a limb for Hugo.

Prediction: Hugo

Personal Choice: Hugo

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The absence of dialogue in The Artist not only necessitates a huge amount of music score, but means the music has to do much more of the work than in any of the competition. While the themes may not be memorable enough to get voters humming as they fill out their ballots, none of the other nominees – War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Hugo or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – can claim any better (at least not by this film score enthusiast’s standards). Given how prevalent the score is, and how versatile and charming as well, I think The Artist will take it.

Prediction: The Artist

Personal Choice: The Artist

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Well, we’ve got a 50/50 shot here, as the music branch saw fit to nominate only two songs. It’ll either be the humorous “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, or the bouncy “Real in Rio,” which appears during the opening and closing sequences of the animated film Rio. General affection and popularity for Kermit and company would appear to give “Man or Muppet” the edge (not that Kermit or any of the best-known Muppets actually sing this song), but don’t underestimate the name recognition of Sergio Mendes, a music legend who is one of the nominees for Rio. Then again, the nominees’ names don’t appear on the ballot, which means Mendes’ involvement may be unknown to many voters. Either way, I’m sticking with my beloved Muppets for the win.

Neither song will be performed on the telecast this year, so if you want to give a listen to the competition, here are clips for “Real in Rio” and “Man or Muppet.” These are taken right from the movies, so beware of spoilers.

For what it’s worth, the music branch has stated that it will once again review its procedures and see what might be done to improve them. (Is it me or does Diane Warren sound like a presumptuous, arrogant brat in that article? Even if the process gets fixed, maybe her songs just won’t get nominated anyway. It’s one thing to hope for a nomination; it’s another thing to expect or feel entitled to it.) Anyway, there’s got to be a simpler way to choose the nominees, because the bizarre scoring system described in The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Prediction: “Man or Muppet”

Personal Choice: “Man or Muppet”

BEST MAKEUP

Albert Nobbs is probably sitting this one out, making it a contest between The Iron Lady and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Realistic and aging makeup on one hand, fantasy and creature makeup on the other. Both represent the kind of standout work the Academy likes to honor. There was more variety in Harry Potter, from creating multiple goblins to applying the pale, slit-nosed visage for Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort. But The Iron Lady‘s work may be harder to ignore, as the viewer is so squarely focused on Meryl Streep and the impressive transition not only between her normal look and the younger Margaret Thatcher, but between young and elderly Thatcher. So while Harry Potter could certainly conjure the win, I’m calling it for The Iron Lady.

Prediction: The Iron Lady

Personal Choice: Harry Potter and The Iron Lady are both impressive.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Team Real Steel will have to be content with their nomination, which leaves four viable contenders. Hugo is the lone Best Picture nominee in the category, so it could definitely win just by association. Transformers: Dark of the Moon once again features dazzling work, but if the first two movies in the franchise couldn’t win, I’m not sure this one will. Actually, the second film wasn’t even nominated. The first was…and totally deserved the prize, but these movies are viewed as so silly and bombastic that voters probably don’t want to endorse them. Too bad; the work in question should be all that matters, and the work in these movies is outstanding.

Moving on, this category offers yet another chance for the Harry Potter series to receive a final salute. This is the third of the eight films to be nominated, and none have won. The effects are uniformly excellent throughout, but since there’s nothing that pushes the envelope, the movie may need to reach the Academy on a sentimental level, and I’m not sure it can. That leaves the favorite: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which once again sees Weta Digital elevating performance capture technology to create an army of photorealistic simians, chief among them the film’s main character Caesar, played by Andy Serkis. Caesar was such a compelling character that many were calling for Serkis – who has pioneered this technology on the acting side with his work in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong (he’s also in The Adventures of Tintin) – to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor (though he’s really the lead). Obviously that didn’t pan out, but the incredible achievement can be recognized in the VFX race. The movie was well received by both audiences and critics, the latter point giving it an edge over Transformers. Still, that may not be enough. Apes being lower on the Academy’s radar, there will almost certainly be lots of voters who blindly check off Hugo because it’s a Best Picture nominee and a movie they’re more familiar with. (Remember when Gladiator beat The Perfect Storm? Well…it did. And it shouldn’t have.) I’m still betting on Apes to take the gold, but affection for the Harry Potter movies or, more likely, the cross-section appeal of Hugo could win the race.

Prediction: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Personal Choice: Rise of the Planet of the Apes is probably most deserving, but I’d be happy to see Harry Potter or Transformers recognized.

BEST SOUND EDITING and BEST SOUND MIXING

And here we are again: the two categories that nobody except the sound artists themselves really understand. As I did in the earlier post where I predicted the nominees, let me link to this Hollywood Reporter article that discusses the sound categories and helpfully sums them up like this: Sound Editors collect, create and prep the sound effects, while the sound mixers take all that – plus music and dialogue – and blend it together for the final soundtrack. Armed with that exceptionally rudimentary understanding of what each category recognizes…we still really have no basis whatsoever for determining what might win.

War Horse, Hugo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Transformers: Dark of the Moon are nominated in both categories. Drive takes the fifth slot for Editing, and Moneyball rounds out the Mixing race. Most Academy members won’t think of Moneyball as a “sound” movie, and Drive‘s lack of a single other nomination likely kills its chances here. Transformers will probably be considered too loud and too stupid by voters who don’t understand the complexities of sound work, so that’s out too. Most pundits are predicting that both awards will go to the same film: most are guessing Hugo, some are guessing War Horse. I’m not so sure. The movies that have won both sound awards in the past tend to be true sonic showcases, and neither of these seem to fit the bill. So I’m in the school of thought that the awards will split: one for War Horse and one for Hugo. I think anyone who gets the movies right should earn full points in their Oscar pool without having to name which film will win in which category, but in order to keep it all official, my uninformed thought is that the array of sounds gathered for War Horse will help it triumph in the Editing race, while the blend of sounds required for Hugo – trains, clockworks, vocal cacophony, score, dialogue – will give it the edge for the Mixing race. But I have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’m sure I’ve just given these categories more thought than 90 percent of Academy members will, so Godspeed to you.

Prediction: War Horse (Editing), Hugo (Mixing)

Personal Choice: Hell, I don’t know!

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

In any given year, there are usually only a few foreign language films that break out slightly beyond the parameters of the art house and enter a more mainstream arena. Sometimes, those movies don’t make it to the Best Foreign Language Film category, but even when they do, there’s no guarantee that the higher profile they’ve attained will pay off with a win. This category is one of just a handful for which only Academy members who have attended screenings of all five films can vote. That means the winner is likely being selected by a relatively small pool of members, and that they are almost certainly older and probably somewhat conservative. I believe that’s why more imaginative movies like Amélie, Pan’s Labyrinth and Waltz with Bashir have lost despite having wider acclaim and more momentum than the films that beat them.

This year’s breakout is A Separation, a powerful drama from Iran about how a seemingly small and ordinary marital dispute balloons into a complicated ordeal that ensnares numerous other people. (For the record, it’s the only nominee of the five that I’ve seen.) The film was also honored with a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which suggests broader support, but that won’t necessarily matter given how the voting works. That said, I do think the movie is a legitimate favorite this year, since it strikes me as the kind of realistic human drama to which voters gravitate. There’s no obvious turnoff. It’s not violent, it’s not irreverent, it’s not trivial, and though I do wonder if some voters will refuse it because its Iranian, it’s not political at all. But if they don’t go for it, there’s a well-reviewed Holocaust drama called In Darkness among the nominees, and the Academy has certainly been moved by Holocaust films in the past. From what I’ve heard of them, Belgium’s Bullhead and Israel’s Footnote don’t sound like the kind of movies that go the distance here. I’m sticking with A Separation, but noting that Poland’s In Darkness and Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar might also have the right stuff.

Prediction: A Separation (Iran)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Despite always hoping to do better, I once again failed to take in any of these movies. Ditto for the live action and animated short films. (I don’t think I’ll ever get around to Documentary shorts.) But I can at least relay what I’ve read around the Oscar blogosphere from people who kind of cover this stuff for a living. In this category, many think that Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory will win, as it’s the culmination of years-long work by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky to expose the injustice behind the incarceration of the West Memphis Three. The prisoners were finally released last fall, and the two earlier films in this series no doubt played a part in that.

Prediction: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

The subject matters and opinions of what will win run the gamut, but I’ll probably go with Saving Face, about the efforts in Pakistan to address the issue of women being scarred with acid.

Prediction: Saving Face

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

I hear great things about Pixar’s La Luna, but most predictions I’ve come across are calling it for The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.

Prediction: The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

There’s no consenus here that I can see, but I’ve seen predictions for Raju, Pentecost, and The Shore – which, for what it’s worth, has the most recognizable pedigree. It’s directed by Hotel Rwanda‘s Terry George and stars Ciarán Hinds (Munich, Road to Perdition, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Kerry Condon (from HBO’s Rome and Luck) and Conleth Hill (Lord Varys on Game of Thrones).

Prediction: The Shore

Now we wait and see how it all unfolds…and hope that the show is a good one.

Last year’s was such a mess that it can’t go anywhere but up. I hope. Some may recall that back in November, film director Brett Ratner – who was scheduled to co-produce this year’s ceremony with veteran TV producer Don Mischer – made some obnoxious and homophobic remarks that led him to step down. After he took himself out of the picture, his hand-picked host Eddie Murphy decided to bow out as well.

Hollywood power player Brian Grazer stepped in to co-produce, and he quickly locked in Billy Crystal to host, marking the comedian’s first time at the emcee’s microphone in nearly a decade (though he appeared on the show last year, to a rousing standing ovation). It was a smart move. Crystal is one of Oscar’s classic hosts, and while he may not lure in the younger viewers the Academy has been so desperate to court these last few years, he’s the right man for the job, especially this year: a known quantity who will probably deliver a safe and entertaining show.

Of course, Mischer will still be in the director’s booth, and after the terrible job he did in that post last year, we can only hope he’ll be on his game this time. On the morning the nominations were announced, Grazer told a reporter for E! News that the number of movie star nominees would give Mischer plenty of attractive, famous faces to cut to during the show…which made me snicker, since Mischer had plenty of attractive famous faces to cut to last year as well and yet seemed to be deliberately avoiding all of them.

On the bright side, one thing Grazer and Mischer seem to understand is that the trick to keeping the Oscarcast entertaining is comedy. Mischer acknowledged this week in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that the show’s lack of comedy last year was a mistake. So in addition to Crystal as host, presenters will include reliable funny people like Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, the cast of Bridesmaids and Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Security will be on the lookout for James Franco.

Final words: set your DVR to record beyond the three-hour running time in case the show goes long; remember to stick around for Jimmy Kimmel’s post-show special, which is always good for some great comedy bits; and do a shot every time you hear the word “Hugo.” You’ll be sloshed by the ninety minute mark.

I leave you with a couple of videos. First, an instructional short from the Academy about how to properly care for your Oscar…really just because I’ll take any excuse to remind the world that Kevin Kline won for A Fish Called Wanda. Best. Oscar Win. Ever.

After that, something posted just this morning from Admiral General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya (aka Sacha Baron Cohen in character as the lead in his upcoming movie The Dictator), responding to the Academy’s threats to revoke his tickets to the ceremony if he shows up in character, as he intended to do.

 

As with any other Oscars genius you may read on ROTI, this article was crossposted from I-am-DB.com.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

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