Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Academy Awards Nominations

 And we're off! Some of you might protest that "awards season" begins with The Golden Globes, but I don't watch the show and don't consider any stamp of approval that The Hollywood Foreign Press Association to be worth much of anything. The SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, the DGA, and something I'm sure I'm forgetting are worth looking into in passing, but the Cap'n actually only bothers watching one awards show - the Super Bowl of awards shows, The Academy Awards.

 Like the Super Bowl, it sometimes takes patience to slog through - it's an "insider"'s event, often testing the interest of casual viewers despite its continued effort to be "hip" or "edgy." The abject failure of last years Oscars telecast, one that temporarily set audiences against James Franco and politely look away from Anne Hathaway, is honestly just a continued step in the direction towards more streamlined, less bloated, but less entertaining programming. That the Academy turned back to 1990s standby Billy Crystal is an indication that they really don't understand why people hated last year's show (personally, I kinda liked it) - let's get that guy everybody liked from twenty years ago!

 That's not a slight against Billy Crystal, by the way - the best hosts are consummate showmen (and women) like Crystal, Bob Hope, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Ellen Degeneres, and Hugh Jackman. All were involved in very entertaining Oscar shows. Jon Stewart was less successful, as were David Letterman and Chris Rock. But it's not all on the host - the elimination of nearly all of the "Best Songs" from the show was a bad idea, as was the skipping as quickly as possible through technical awards and last year's inexplicable decision to cut down the "major" awards (acting, directing, screenplay, editing, picture) to a bare minimum. In its place, shorter and less relevant montages, more inane scripted "banter" by presenters, and longer commercial breaks.

 Yikes. I didn't mean for this to get into Academy Awards bashing because, like the Super Bowl, I've been tuning in regularly for years now. I'm always hoping for something lively (the Hugh Jackman one, in particular, was a lot of fun to watch) but one can never tell. Sometimes the nominees can give us a clue of where it might be headed, so let's take a look at some of the categories, shall we?

 Disclaimer: Speculating on who will win or why is not my specialty any more. When I was younger, I pontificated endlessly about the logistics and politics of award shows, but at this point, I concede that I can't predict with any more accuracy than the average March Madness bracket pool in your office. That's where Neil comes in handy, so I might ask him to throw in his thoughts this weekend.

 Best Picture

 The Artist
 The Descendants
 The Help
  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  Midnight in Paris
  War Horse
  The Tree of Life

 Okay, so I haven't seen more than half of the nine nominees. I want to see Hugo, The Descendants, and Moneyball. I plan on seeing The Artist this weekend. I honestly have no interest in The Help and War Horse, and haven't heard a kind word about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close until this announcement. And I read the book, so it was a shame to see it savaged by critics.

 Neil might be able to confirm this, but The Artist has the "hot hand" after the Golden Globes, so if it starts picking up wins, I guess that's the favored bet this year.

 Best Director

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

 Damn. That's a lineup, with only one name I don't recognize immediately. That name is also attached to The Artist, which is red hot.

 Best Original Screenplay

 Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
 Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo - Bridesmaids
 J.C. Chandor - Margin Call
 Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
 Asghar Farhadi - A Separation

 It would be great to see Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo win for Bridesmaids, but there's that movie The Artist again... I'm sensing a trend here.

 Best Adapted Screenplay

 Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash - The Descendants
 John Logan - Hugo
 George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon - The Ides of March
 Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (story by Stan Chervin) - Moneyball
 Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  Ummmm... well, I've only seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It had a great script and great acting...

 Best Animated Picture

 A Cat in Paris
 Chico and Rita
 Kung Fu Panda 2 
 Puss in Boots

I brought this up because Pixar's Cars 2, a pretty much dismissed sequel, is shut out. In its place? Puss in Boots? Nothing against Kung Fu Panda 2, which I haven't seen, but I heard that it didn't quite live up to the first film's breath of fresh air. Even Rango, while critically well received, was frequently returned to a store I used to work at because its mostly adult themes were lost on kids. Adults didn't seem all that thrilled with its "Chinatown for kids" story, but I'm still interested. I can't speak for the first two films, but if one of them doesn't win, I guess Rango gets it.

 Best Cinematography

 Guillame Schiffman - The Artist
 Jeff Cronenweth - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
 Robert Richardson - Hugo
 Janusz Kaminski - War Horse
 Emmanuel Lubezki - The Tree of Life

 I think you know what I'd pick. You read the review. That said, there's The Artist again...

 Best Editing

 Anne Sophie-Bion and Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
 Kevin Tent - The Descendants
 Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
 Thelma Schoonmaker - Hugo
 Christopher Tellefsen - Moneyball

 Hrm. The Artist, anyone?

 I'm not going to say I'm surprised not to see Drive (too many confused people), Melancholia (too many people who hate Lars von Trier), The Guard (too Irish), or any of the other films on my best or near best of list. It seems that not being a blockbuster (or being a remake) derailed most of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's attention. I'm a little boggled by some of the acting nominations, which I chose to leave out but are easy to find. This year, aside from the omnipresence of The Artist, I have no clue. None at all. I turn it over to Neil, sometime in the near future.

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