academy awards predictions, recalibrated
January 29, 2012
So, in the wake of the SAG Awards, which, at least in acting categories, are a slightly better predictor than the Golden Globes and the raft of critics awards -- given that they're voted on by substantially, if not entirely, the same people who vote for the Academy Awards -- have my thoughts of who will win changed at all?
Well ... somewhat. After all, given the limited number of categories, one film did, after all, steamroll the others, and it was ... The Help? Really? You're not just pulling my leg here? ... Well, all-righty, then. So, recalibrating:
Best PIcture: Oriignally thought to be a dogfight between "The Artist" and "The Descendants", it's now looking like it may be a dogfight between "The Artist" and "The Help", since "The Descendants" got clean shut out -- though, granted, it only had two nominations in the SAG Awards, Best Actor and Best Film Ensemble. For the moment, I'm sticking with "The Artist" -- because it is, after all, ART with a capital ART, and the Academy loves ART -- but a win by "The Help" wouldn't surprise me now.
Best Director: No change. The director of "The Help" wasn't nominated, or else I might be changing my mind a bit.
Best Actor: No change; still picking Dujardin narrowly over Clooney.
Best Actress: Apparently, this is a three-woman race, given that Viola Davis took the SAG Award. I suspect what may be swaying voters, if they are being swayed, is purely the fact that more of them have actually seen Davis' performance; "Albert Nobbs" and "Iron Lady" never opened all that wide, and who knows how many members have made their way through the pile of screeners to see Close and Streep. So ... let's say Davis narrowly over Close, for the moment.
Supporting Actor: No change. Plummer narrowly over Von Sydow.
Supporting Actress: Apparently, this really is Octavia Spencer's year. Therefore, changed to predicting Spencer romping past Bejo and McTeer. (Also, purely a sidenote: Alec Baldwin is a dick. But then, we knew that, didn't we?)
So, we'll see how things work out in the acting categories next month, won't we?Posted by iain at 09:22 PM
oscar, oscar, oscar! nominations and predictions, 2012
January 24, 2012
The thing I like about this year's nomination is that every single major category contains at least one "WTF?" moment. For all the predictability of the Academy Awards, you don't get that quite this consistently in the nominations process.
Overall, the entire nominations slate has a certain WTF? feel. Seldom has comedy been so well or frequently represented in all the major categories. The Academy generally prefers its ART to be VERY SERIOUS, dont'cha know.
So, as a complete outsider who frankly doesn't care about film that much, but loves awards shows and award show politicking, let's take a whack at this predictions stuff for the major categories, just for the hell of it, shall we? Let's shall.
"The Artist," Thomas Langmann, producer
"The Descendants," Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, producers
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," Scott Rudin, producer
"The Help," Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, producers
"Hugo," Graham King and Martin Scorsese, producers
"Midnight in Paris," Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, producers
"Moneyball," Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, producers
"The Tree of Life," Nominees to be determined
"War Horse," Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, producers
Looks like a probable dogfight between "The Artist" and "The Descendants". To a certain extent, this sticks the Ars Gratia Artis vs Commercial Art question squarely in front of the Academy again. The past few years, art for art's sake has beaten art that also makes decent money, fairly handily. That would point to "The Artist" beating out "The Descendants". "The Help", despite support from nominations in the acting categories, is just controversial enough that I think the Academy would shy away from it. Also, it does not say ART with a capital ART in the same way as the other nominees. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", also a somewhat controversial film. (I've heard it called things along the lines of "Extremely shrill and incredibly manipulative".) "Midnight in Paris", while reportedly one of Allen's best films in years, doesn't seem to have a lot of support. "Hugo", while supported by a best director nomination for Scorsese, has no support in other major categories, which might make it a harder sell; also, the academy, for some odd reason, does not seem to consider general audience films to be True ART. "War Horse" also lacks much support from other major categories. The fact that "The Tree of Life" is having a dispute over who exactly the producers are at this stage of the game also doesn't bode well for its chances, along with the whole, "Wait, what the hell was THAT film?" quality. "Moneyball" ... I don't know. Seems highly unlikely that a baseball/math-nerd themed comedy would make it through.
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
I really think this is a two-horse race again, "The Artist" vs "Hugo" (Ha. Thought I was going to say "The Descendants", didn't you?). I think Allen will get his award elsewhere this night, and I'm not sure that "The Descendants" is "directorly" enough, compared to Hugo and The Artist. By that I mean you can very clearly see the director's hand and vision in shaping the film, whereas with Payne, it's much less in-your-face. And the Academy loves in-your-face directorliness.
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy "
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"
Pick an actor, any actor. Seriously, I have no clue here, other than Bichir has no chance whatsoever, and the mere fact that he got nominated is truly astonishing. Oscar normally prefers his leading men to have been around a while and to have had previous nominations; both of those factors would seem to make Clooney and Pitt the front runners. My gut says they're going to go with Dujardin, purely because making a silent film in 2011 and making the role work is unspeakably difficult. On the other hand, if Clooney doesn't get this -- and I kind of don't think he will -- I suspect he may get the screenplay Oscar instead, because Oscar loves excuses to split the difference, so to speak. Of the other two, I would think Oldman has the best chance, and it may be that the Academy goes for him, because he did a great job in a conventionally dramatic film. (Three of the five nominations in this category are for comedy. When was the last time that happened?) Still, in order of prediction, I would say: (1) Dujardin; (2) Clooney, very very very close behind; (3) Oldman; (4) Pitt; (5) Bichir.
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
The WTF? moment in this category is: Rooney Mara? Really? Well, that's a surprise. Still, in her case, the nomination is almost certainly the award, for a performance in which she disappeared into the role, but a film with no real support in any other category. Other than that, expect a knockdown drag-out fight between Streep and Close for the award. They also both disappeared into their characters -- in Close's case, that was kind of the entire point, actually. The advantage for Close would be that "Albert Nobbs" is a well regarded film as a whole; Streep's disadvantage is that she's considered the only good thing in "The Iron Lady".
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
The WTF? moments in this one, apparently, are Jonah Hill, which I'll certainly buy, and Max von Sydow which ... confuses me. You have an Old Hollywood actor in a big film, reportedly acting his socks off. He's only been nominated twice, including this year, in a career that spans over 65 freakin' years, for heaven's sake. Why was anyone surprised by this nomination?
Unfortunately for Sydow, he's up against another Old Hollywood actor, Plummer, who also reportedly acts his socks off in a notable film. He's has had a career nearly as long as Von Sydow's, and has also only been nominated for the Oscar twice, including this year. (Actually wasn't nominated for"The Sound of Music". Surprises me a bit, that.)
This is the sort of situation that Old and New Hollywood normally both love: the semi-official "Oh my, we need to give this guy an Oscar before he up and dies on us" award. (Remember Jack Palance, anyone?) It's just their crappy luck that Plummer and Von Sydow are up against each other. Of the two, I'd give a slight edge to Plummer, just because his role, as someone coming out of the closet very late in life indeed, and "Beginners" itself have been better received overall than "Extremely Loud". The interesting thing will be if the two of them split the Old Hollywood vote and allow someone else to sneak in. Probably not Nolte, what with a fairly recent arrest history. And probably not Hill, who had better hope that nobody in the Academy saw or even knew about the vile excrescence that was the "Allan Gregory" television show. And Branagh was playing Olivier in his film, to boot. So I'd say that it's probably betwen Plummer and Von Sydow, with Branagh as a dark horse if they split the vote just right.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Berenice Bejo in "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer in "The Help"
Man, Melissa McCarthy is having herself a year, isn't she? Again, no clue. The Supporting Actress award winners tend to fall into one of a few categories: (1) They strapped this film to your back and you should have been nominated for Best Actress, but since you're in this category, you get this award [Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls]; (2) Good land, you've been around forever, so here, have an award [surprisingly infrequent in this category in recent years, oddly enough, for all that it happens a fair amount in supporting actor; the last one I can find is Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India]; (3) We should have given the Best Actress award to you for a different performance in a different year altogether, so here, have another award for a good performance as compensation [Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost for The Color Purple; Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love for Mrs Brown]; (4) You deserve This Award This Year for This Performance [a really surprising number of winners, in fact]. This is not to say that category 4 doesn't also apply at least a little for any given winner; just that the other three categories seem to provide the dominant story for some winners.
In general, none of the first three categories seem to apply this year. Bejo has a very slight eau de "why weren't you in best actress again?" about her performance, but not strong enough to be dispositive. Thus, it's likely to be a current performance award, rather than a career/past-performance award. I wouldn't count McCarthy as the front runner, despite the awesome past twelve months she's had -- "Bridesmaids" being a particularly raunchy comedy, I suspect the nomination itself is the award. The only person who's been nominated before is McTeer, and apart from that, the only reason that I might say McTeer has any advantage -- apart from the role she plays in "Albert Nobbs", which is certainly notable enough -- is that she's got the only conventionally dramatic nomination in the category; the others are for films that were billed primarily as comedies. On the other hand, again, Bejo is also doing exactly the same work that Dujardin was doing, making a silent black-and-white comedy actually work. Still, given past history, I'll take McTeer in a very tight race over Bejo. (Four of five nominees from comedies. Strange year, this.)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
"A Cat in Paris" Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
"Chico & Rita" Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
"Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
"Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
"Rango" Gore Verbinski
Frankly? Don't give a rat's ass about that category. The only reason I mention it at all is because the WTF? factor comes not because of what is there, but because of what isn't: the startling omission of "The Adventures of Tintin", the week after it won the Producers Guild award for Best Animated Feature. For it not to win the award would be one thing -- the Producers Guild and the Academy do disagree, from time to time -- but not even get nominated? That's very peculiar. Other than that ... eh. Give it to "Rango", why not sure fine OK.
"The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
"Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
"The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
"Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; Story by Stan Chervin
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the only screenplays with a chance in this category are "The Descendants" and "The Ides of March". Entirely because of the Clooney factor. If he wins this one, he's not getting Best Actor. If he wins Best Actor, then The Descendants takes adapted screenplay, and it's probably going to be the sort of night where you just watch one film roll to the sea, so to speak. It's an Indicator, is what I'm saying.
"The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
"Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
"Margin Call" Written by J.C. Chandor
"Midnight in Paris" Written by Woody Allen
"A Separation" Written by Asghar Farhadi
If the Academy can get past the cognitive dissonance produced by the concept of giving a screenplay award to a silent film, I think it's going to "The Artist". Otherwise, it'll be the Woody Allen Consolation Award. (The interesting bit, in a geopolitical sense, will be whether or not the people involved with "A Separation" can get a visa to attend the show. I'm sure the State Department is not well pleased that the Academy dared to nominate a film from Iran for not one but TWO awards, including also Foreign Language film.)
So, check back again on March 1, and we'll see how well this went. Probably terribly badly indeed, given past track record, but what the heck.Posted by iain at 05:16 PM
and the first shoe finally drops
January 12, 2012
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
By Josh Kushins
In May of 2012, DC Comics will release a “Second Wave” of titles as part of its historic DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 initiative. Six new, ongoing series will build on the shared universe and bold concepts introduced in September 2011 with the renumbering of DC Comics’ entire line of comic books. [...] The six new series will replace BLACKHAWKS, HAWK AND DOVE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER TERRIFIC, O.M.A.C. and STATIC SHOCK, all of which will conclude with their eighth issues in April....
Given sales, I can't say that any of the cancellations surprises me. All but one of them would have been a hard sell, conceptuallly. I haven't heard much about Blackhawks, OMAC or Men of War -- I don't know anyone who read them, and I didn't care enough to look up the reviews. Everyone I know who tried it, and the few reviews I've read, say that "Hawk and Dove" was outright awful.
"Mister Terrific" was on my pull list, and I can say that ... it wasn't very good, frankly. I never had the sense that the creators (or DC, for that matter) had a good grip on who he was. There was this limp corporate conspiracy that not only didn't seem to be going anywhere, but which would have seemed impossible to carry out, and which Michael would have been an utter idiot not to have taken at least some steps to prevent ahead of time. And on a pure character note, there's the utterly baffling question of why a person whose life seems, in both directions, to be the epitome of unfairness would have the words "Play Fair" tattooed into his skin.
The one title where the cancellation saddens but doesn't entirely surprise me is "Static Shock." Sad, because it would have been nice if the title had been given a little more time to find its audience. Unsurprised because, if you didn't read the previous Static Shock title or watch the animated series, this title would have been utterly baffling. There were just enough connections to the old series to aggravate readers of the older series at the changes -- many of which, like the move to New York, seemed utterly pointless -- and to irritate new readers, because these connections were never fleshed out enough to make sense to them. It never explained, for example, who Hardware was or why Static would be involved with him. (For that matter, even if you did read the previous series, that relationship would be utterly baffling.) It never explained what had happened with Sharon or why there were now two of her and they couldn't tell which -- if either -- was the original, although it seemed to be meandering around to that issue. And we got Static's origin story in this past issue and ... he was going to take a gun to get some gangbangers off his back when he got caught up in the Big Bang. I may be misremembering, but that doesn't sound at all like the Virgil Hawkins from either the old comic or the TV show. Even so, the title seemed to finally be finding its feet, after floundering through a confusing setup. Unfortunately, the floundering seems to have driven away readers.
The sad thing is that all of this squandered the potential for that title. I mean, the audience was there. Granted, a bit older than DC would have preferred. The people who would have fond memories of the series would now be in their 20s; the people with fond memories of the original comics in their 30s. Nonetheless, there was some sort of audience there for the title. But they managed to give a version of the character and his world sharply at variance with what the people who remembered the original title and TV series would have been expecting, without a good explanation or reason. And the storytelling was both dense and disorganized enough that a new audience coming to the title just couldn't get enough from it to stick with it.
I'm especially sad because Marc Bernardin was coming on as the new writer, and I'd have loved to see more of his take on Static. As it is, we're going to get two issues, and then he's done.
There are those who will say that this is more proof that minority-led titles just can't' sustain themselves and ... I don't know. I don't know if these titles are the best to judge that by. Mister Terrific was simply not a very good title. Static Shock couldn't give its old audience what they expected and didn't grab a new audience. On the other hand, at least for the moment, "Blue Beetle" and "Voodoo" are hanging on -- albeit probably by the thinnest of threads, and because DC doesn't want to cancel five of its six titles with minority leads in one fell swoop, with the horrendous bad publicity that would follow. (EDIT: And it turns out to be six titles, because OMAC's lead was Kevin Kho, a Korean-American man, which I hadn't realized previously.) "Batwing" is actually not doing terribly ... until you consider that it's a Batman-related title, and DC seems to have very little tolerance for lower sales in that group, because expectations are higher. It is, by a fairly healthy margin, the lowest selling of the Bat-related titles, trailing "Birds of Prey" by 10,000 copies per month.
That said, Blue Beetle, according to the numbers reported by Comics Chronicle, is selling only 5,000 per month more than Static Shock, and Voodoo slightly less than Blue Beetle. Blue Beetle, frankly, is a pretty interesting title -- once you get past the fact that they made one of Jaime's friends, who had been a perfectly average teenager, a sort of gangbanger, for no apparent reason. I haven't read Voodoo -- it didn't interest me in the slightest in concept. (Frankly, of all the carryovers from the Wildstorm universe, the only one that's interested me at all is Stormwatch, which seems to be doing well enough for now to keep Midnighter and Apollo on our pages for another year or so. But I digress.) Assuming standard attrition, and that DC's tolerance for low sales seems to run around 15,000 issues per month for the DCnU titles, I wouldn't expect either Blue Beetle or Voodoo to last more than another year, if that. Batwing is a little harder to predict, because there is the big Night of Owls crossover coming up that may buoy its sales for a bit. And, I assume, a big Leviathan related crossover coming a few months after that, if it can hold on long enough. (Please. It's Morrison, it's Batman, it's the DCnU. The idea that there is NOT a big Leviathan-related crossover coming down the pike is utterly laughable. That it may not come around for another year, however, is not unrealistic, and I don't think Batwing will last another year if it takes that long.)
It will be interesting to see how much more time DC is willing to give those titles, and if they can manage to find an audience before the other shoe drops.Posted by iain at 02:14 PM
nighttime and memory
January 2, 2012
Memory is a really weird thing sometimes, especially for stuff that's of no lasting importance. I mean, I have buckets -- just tons and tons and tons -- of neurons dedicated to various pop culture things, like the above song. I hope I'm not unique in that. Oddly, turns out that memory about things of no lasting importance can sometimes be really off.
"Own the Night" is one of my favorite Chaka Khan songs. I couldn't tell you why ... no, actually, I could. It's because it's part of one of the few episodes of Miami Vice that I actually remember. In fact, I bought the Miami Vice soundtrack, back in the mists of prehistory, purely because of that song. (I was buying pretty much everything Chaka Khan recorded, back then. Still do, in fact. But I digress.) The cassette was lost to the normal stresses of play and the shift to CDs and then digital, and losing that one song was the only thing I really regretted about that. (But then, thanks to the digital era MP3, the song came back! Everything old IS new again!) However, assuming the interwebs are to be believed -- and they're always right, aren't they? -- I didn't remember that episode. Not correctly, anyway.
One of the things Miami Vice was known for was doing full length songs as plot-related music videos during an episode -- the song would be commentary on whatever was going on behind and through it. Sometimes with dialogue, sometimes without. I remembered "Own the Night" as taking part during the episode "Rites of Passage", during the scene where Diane, Valerie's younger sister, is seduced into the world of high(ish) end prostitution. Traynor is buying her all sorts of dresses and jewelry and getting her hooked on cocaine, the 80s high style drug. (Because coked out prostitutes were The In Thing in the 80s, and in 80s television.) And as the sparkly dresses and drugs fly willy-nilly about the screen, and Diane is reluctantly convinced to let Traynor pimp her out -- literally -- "Own the Night" plays over the scene.
Except that it didn't. Assuming that the miamivice.wikia.com wiki is accurate, "Own the Night" appears in a similarly themed scene in an entirely different episode, Buddies, and it's in the background, not a full music video treatment.
It's weirdly disquieting to discover that your memory has played you false about something that minor, you know? Makes you wonder what important bits and pieces might have gone missing, or have been misremembered.
I did, however, remember the more significant -- plotwise -- music video from "Rites of Passage" correctly. After a great deal of trouble (and the odd spot of what was, as a purely legal matter, felony kidnapping committed by the police), Diane is convinced to go back to New York with her sister. She flatly refuses to testify against Traynor, saying that she did what she did of her own free will. That's somewhat debatable -- the whole drugs thing, remember -- but because she feels that way, despite having been specifically warned not to contact him, she calls Traynor, tells him where she is, and that she's leaving for New York, never to be in Miami again. Which comes true, if not the way she planned. The scene starts bouncing back and forth between Diane in her rehab, Tubbs and Valerie in bed -- relieved that Diane is taken care of and away from Traynor, if nothing else -- and Traynor taking out a hit on Diane, because he doesn't believe that she won't testify against him and wants to be sure that she can't. To the dulcet strains of Foreigner's "I want to know what love is", Diane dies. And Crockett and Valerie get that awful call. (And that scene is actually available, so I have documented proof that I remembered that one correctly.)
And, just for the hell of it, have some more night-time themed Chaka Khan:
Also, even more for the hell of it but in keeping with the theme, one of my favorite Whitney Houston songs. (Yes, I know, dance dance dance.) Oddly enough, this song isn't heard in its entirety in "The Bodyguard"; it's interrupted by her character getting overwhelmed by some out of control fans after having had death threats made. ("The Bodyguard", musically speaking, is known not only for "I will always love you" -- I prefer Dolly's version myself; that song is meant to be a lament for a love that can't/didn't work, not a big sweeping declamation about a love that didn't/couldn't work -- but for having wangled an Oscar nomination for "I have Nothing", a song that gets all of five seconds of screen time in the background during the film. But I digress. I think.)Posted by iain at 01:26 PM