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Tuesday, January 24, 2012


-- film -- oscar, oscar, oscar! nominations and predictions, 2012

2012 Oscar nominees - 84th Annual Academy Awards

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".

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.

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.)

"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 in category film