I love the Academy Awards. Always have. Always will.
I rarely agree with every winner. Hell, I hardly ever agree with the nominees. More often than not, I haven’t seen ALL the nominees despite my best intentions thus making my opinions on who SHOULD win uninformed or at the very least not fully informed.
See my thoughts on Oscars snubs here.
This year I have seen seven of the nine films ‘honored’ with a Best Picture nomination. The two hold outs, if you will, that I will never willingly sit down to watch? The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. My reasons are my own but suffice it to say that, even having not seen them, I find them both offensive and pandering in the worst Hollywood way possible. I’ll leave it at that.!
I can’t leave it at that. One takes advantage of the 9/11 tragedy in a manipulative, insulting manner and uses the likable Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock to serve up its pabulum with a spoonful of sugar. The other features white people once more coming to the rescue to lift up black people and help them realize their potential. The year that Do The Right Thing came out, it was not even nominated for Best Picture. It has since become regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. I can’t disagree with this. I saw it theatrically and when it was over I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. It was a transformative film experience. And those kinds of films are rare. You know what actually won Best Picture that year? Driving Miss Daisy. Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about.
Radio Raheem ‘Love-Hate’ Hoke ‘Yassum Miss Daisy!’
That bit of editorial out-of-the-way let us return to the reason we are here: Winners!
I’m not going to discuss every category but where I do I will list the likely winner and those I wish would win.
I have high hopes that Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory will win. I’m a huge admirer of the entire series. I think it has everything to do with innocent men finally being released. That said, I have a hunch that Wim Wenders’ 3-D dance pic, Pina will take home the trophy.
Best Foreign Film
I’ve got no dog in this hunt having seen none of them. While I guess it would be cool if Austin’s own Drafthouse Pictures film Bullhead won, I would go for Iran’s A Separation. It was Roger Ebert’s favorite film of the year and seems to be heavily favored here.
Best Animated Film
I’m just happy Cars 2 didn’t get nominated. Pixar has owned this category and hopefully the exclusion of the sequel no one wanted will convince them that they should focus on quality films as opposed to cash grab follow ups. Speaking of cash grab follow ups, I don’t see Kung Fu Panda 2 or Puss in Boots winning here. I’d like to see A Cat in Paris win. I really want to see it and it seems a statue would ensure a domestic release. Most like winner here is Gore Verbinski’s Rango. I have no problem with that. It’s a fun, surreal flick and definitely not just for kids. Hell, maybe not for kids at all.
Best Adapted/Original Screenplay
For Original Screenplay, the Academy seems primed to once more award Woody Allen for his very clever work on Midnight in Paris. The movie is not at all complex. In fact, the story is shockingly simplistic and the message is hammered home in an obvious manner. But the banter is engaging. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo win for their work on Bridesmaids but that is unlikely to happen. The only thing that might keep Allen from winning is that it is well-known that he does not attend the Oscars. Ever. Hollywood likes their winner’s to be present but that didn’t keep them from giving best director to Roman Polanski a few year back so who knows?
For Adapted Screenplay, it seems unlikely Aaron Sorkin wins two years in a row (he took the trophy for The Social Network last year,) so Moneyball is out. The most likely winner is Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and I’m OK with that. The movie is great and Payne is a bit of an Academy darling having won in the same category for 2005’s Sideways. I wouldn’t mind at all if Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won here, though. The writers took an incredibly dense novel and parsed it into an incredibly dense film that is still easy to follow. Not an easy job.
Best Supporting Actress/Best Actress
Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis from The Help are primed and heavily favored to win for Supporting Actress and Actress, respectively.
The only real competition Ms. Spencer might face is from Bernice Bejo from The Artist with a possible ‘My Cousin Vinnie Marisa Tomei’-type left field upset for Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. Remember, weird stuff happens in the Supporting categories.
Ms. Davis’ primary competition is the always nominated Meryl Streep for what I hear (though will never see) is a fine caricature in the otherwise terrible The Iron Lady. Streep has been nominated a record 17 times. However, she has only won twice and the last time was in 1982 for Sophie’s Choice. The Academy may decide it’s been too long since she won.
Personally, I really liked Rooney Mara in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Hers was a very elemental performance and she may actually be the best of the Lisbeth Salanders. She ain’t gonna win. Don’t look for any upsets here.
Best Supporting Actor/Actor
If there’s one lock on anyone’s Oscar ballot, it should be Christopher Plummer in Beginners for his portrayal of a widowed senior citizen who realizes that he has been living a lie and embraces his homosexuality. I’m a huge Nick Nolte fan and I loved Warrior and think it’s a grossly underrated film. Nolte has never won an Oscar which is a crime but this ain’t his year. Plummer has not won either and the Supporting trophy will often go to older actors as a nod to not just their nominated performance but also to their entire career (see Jack Palance, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Don Ameche, Martin Landau, James Coburn, etc.)
George Clooney is the presumptive favorite here. His work in The Descendants is wonderful as he plays against type as a bit of schlub cuckold. His competition here is Jean Dujardin for his charming work in The Artist. This one’s a coin flip in my opinion. Clooney won for Supporting Actor a few years back for Syriana. Dujardin is a French outsider new to the Hollywood scene. Ultimately, I just don’t think the Hollywood elite will pass on the opportunity to once more anoint Mr. Clooney. I honestly believe he may be the most liked and perhaps respected actor in Hollywood. He’s gonna win. I will secretly be rooting for Gary Oldman but he will have other opportunities. And when he doesn’t win and Clooney does, I can’t even pretend I’ll be disappointed. Because I like George Clooney.
For my thoughts on the TRUE best picture of the year you need only look at my year-end list of favorite films here.
Best Director/Best Picture
Considering the best picture of the year wasn’t even nominated, I’m a bit torn here. But I have seen 7 of the 9 nominated films (my reasons for not seeing the other 2 stated above) and I’m prepared to award both trophies to the same film.
Michel Hazanvicius’ The Artist is a likable movie. I was easily absorbed into the silent film when I saw it in the theater. The performances are engaging. There’s nothing to not like about the movie. It just feels slight. 20 years from now, no one will think of this movie. Hell, next year, people will be struggling to remember it won. But it will win. Why? Because it’s a celebration of Hollywood. A celebration of that nostalgic old studio system that the blue hairs and older members of the Academy remember so well. The film pats Hollywood’s back and scratches behind its ear. And Hollywood, the old desperate lap dog that it is, will return that attention and reward it with trophies for Best Director and Best Picture.
What do I want to win? Of the remaining nominees I saw, I did rather enjoy Moneyball (too sporty), Hugo (too soon since The Departed), Midnight in Paris (too obvious), The Tree of Life (too dense), & War Horse (tried too hard).
But, I’d be over the moon if The Descendants somehow pulled off the biggest Oscar upset of the last 20 years. Of all the nominated films, it seems the most relevant, the most personal, the most relatable. It’s also seems to be too small. And H’wood, doesn’t generally like small.
Well, that’s it.
If you do watch the telecast, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it. I hope at least one of your favorites wins or that you at least get to see a pretty dress. Oh and if your tie-breaker is the celebrity who will be shown last in the death montage, I would go with this beautiful woman, shown here in her pre-Michael Jackson days.