Academy Awards nominees, 2012

It’s that time of the year again! Here are my comments on this year’s Oscar nominees (the 2011 post is here).

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

The Artist has been the clear contender for this category for a long time now and will probably win the coveted prize. Well done for them! And the Weinstein Company shall rejoice for having grabbed this gem before anyone else. Regardless, it is a deserving winner, so no more Weinstein-related grumpery from my part!
There’s always that tiny little doubt that Hugo may pull an upset, much like the Departed did a few years ago. Although it grabbed more nominations than the Artist, it still won’t win the prize: the numerical advantage is nothing if the film isn’t nominated in the main categories, and Hugo isn’t. Hugo strikes me as the kind of film that is revered and beloved by the Academy but simply hasn’t got the momentum to actually win. Same goes for the Descendants, which I look forward to seeing. As for the other nominees, the sheer inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a Scott Rudin-produced, Stephen Daldry-directed Oscar vehicle, says it all really. I’m sure it is a good film, but I am also sure it was included because Rudin and Daldry have all the right friends at the Academy. The nod for the Tree of Life is welcomed though, if only for getting the recognition it finally deserves. Midnight in Paris and Moneyball are also two worthy nominees. As for War Horse, I haven’t seen it, but its early Oscar buzz might have killed its chances, oddly enough. The kind of anticipation generated by a filmmaker like Steve Spielberg is both a blessing and a curse. ALSO, the Help looks desperately tiny in this category of heavyweights.
And somehow people were still hoping that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was going to make it to that category, as it is the last of the HP saga, but it really isn’t Oscar material and shouldn’t be.

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

I wonder if Terrence Malick will even show up. He didn’t for his Palme d’Or and I don’t see how this is different. Woody Allen publicly hates the Academy (good for him!) but he will probably at least be there. Now, the question here is of course that Martin Scorsese’s shadow looms very large over the other nominees but it is pretty clear that Michel Hazanavicius will win the Best Director Oscar. Last year I was hoping so badly for a ‘split’ to happen –Best Picture going to a film, Best Director going to another; but now I know it just never happens. And to be fair, everyone still remembers Marty’s win from a few years ago. I’m quite fond of Alexander Payne as a director to be honest and I’m sure he will eventually win that prize, just not this year with the Artist having such a broad consensus. The DGA (directors’ guild) will in any case confirm that in a few days we’re all thinking –whoever wins it is bound to win the Oscar. Interestingly enough, the Academy went for Terry Malick rather than David Fincher, who is a DGA nominee this year: I haven’t seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I much prefer things this way since I wouldn’t want David Fincher to get a pity party from the Academy to make up for last year’s huge mistake. To make a long story short, well done Michel Hazanavicius for having been courageous enough to make the Artist.

Best Actor
Demián Bichir – A Better Life
George Clooney – The Descendants
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Two obvious snubs here (not it in a derogatory way): Demián Bichir and Gary Oldman crashing the race at the expense of Michael Fassebender and Leonardo DiCaprio. I won’t comment on that as I haven’t seen any of the films involving these four, but well done to Bichir and Oldman at any rate, they’ve pulled off quite a feat.
The expected winner here is of course Jean Dujardin, who would fully deserved it as well for having carried the film entirely on his shoulders (one could argue that Ryan Gosling did the same for Drive but obviously, that went completely unnoticed during this year’s awards season, this ship has sailed, etc.). I can only rejoice for him. It seemed for a while that Clooney was going to get this, but now it seems unlikely and he’s got plenty of awards and nominations as an actor/director/screenwriter already so it’s good to see a fresh face. As for Brad Pitt, I will reiterate my earlier statement that I do believe people woefully underestimate him as an actor because of the whole fame/glamourous aspect of his persona. That’s a shame and he was perfectly well-cast, in a tremendous performance, in Moneyball.

Best Actress
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

It’s entirely possible that Meryl Streep will win her third Oscar this year, the momentum has been so strong for her. Viola Davis is a close second though, and Glenn Close earned rave, rave reviews for Albert Nobbs, so you never know. Michelle Williams is going to be nominated each year until she wins –a constantly good and solid actress, she really isn’t that far from winning really, just not with My Week with Marilyn, which opened to poor reviews (although Michelle’s performance was hailed by many critics). The fifth spot unexpectedly went to Rooney Mara –it’s the Academy’s usual knack for younger actresses they want to crown queen of Hollywood; I’m sure she deserved it though, even if it came at the expense of Charlize Theron and Tilda Swinton.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A somewhat uncertain category, I’d still say Christopher Plummer is the likely winner here for a heart-breaking performance in Beginners. Well done sir! Nick Nolte seems to me as the kind of revered actor that could pull off an upset, and the Academy probably adores Max von Sydow, living legend that he is. His nomination unfortunately comes at the expense of Albert Brooks, in a bone-chilling performance, in Drive. I sort of had the tiny little hope that the Academy would be brave enough to nominate Andy Serkis in this category, but I shouldn’t have as they obviously loathe any sort of digital-related performance. It’s a shame because I can hardly recall a best performance this year, and I would even have seen him in the lead actor category without any problems.

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer – The Help

This one really is a close call. I’m going to predict Octavia Spencer as the winner but my heart isn’t into it: the Help really only works as an ensemble cast and it seems ridiculous to recognise Octavia’s performance and not Viola Davis’. And I can’t understand for the life of me why Jessica Chastain, the most luminous and talented and graceful actresses of all, gets a nomination for the Help in which she was moderately good rather than for the Tree of Life in which she was stupendous. I guess that remains a mystery. The presence of Bridesmaids here annoys me although it seems to delight everyone else (I really don’t get it then.). Congrats to the lovely Bérénice, whom character I absolutely adored in the Artist, but I guess the competition is a bit too tough for her this year.

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

JESUS. Why would Bridesmaids even be considered here? Really it wasn’t that good of a screenplay or even good storytelling. Jesus.
Margin Call is the kind of film I’m dying to see –that no one talks about but that I’m sure I will absolutely love (and the financial crisis is just an endlessly fascinating subject; yes I am aware people lose their lives and jobs and minds in this, but from a political and economic point of view, it is).
Will Michel Hazanavicius pull off Best Screenplay and Director? He just might. Or this may go to Woody Allen’s outstanding writing for Midnight in Paris. I’m guessing it will be the later. Also, I hate people who don’t get why the Artist gets a Best Screenplay nomination because it’s a mute film. Stupid people.

Best Adapted Screenplay
George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon – The Ides of March
John Logan – Hugo
Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – The Descendants
Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin – Moneyball

It’s actually very nice that the Ides of March got this nomination because it is very much deserved. More Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy love there and I really, really wish I could see it because I can just tell it’s the kind of films I love. I think this is a bit of an uncertain category as well because awards were split three-way between the Descendants, Moneyball and Hugo. We’ll have to wait until the WGA awards in any case, but I can see this going to Alexander Payne as Aaron Sorkin won last year already. But you never know. Moneyball was one hell of a script.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

So obviously this one will go to A Separation as its Best Original Screenplay nomination shows just how much the Academy loved it. Both the Polish and Canadian entries have certainly piqued my interest, the Belgian and Israeli ones perhaps less.

Best Animated Film of the Year
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

Five nominees this year and a Pixar-free category. It’s a treat for all the other animators out there! Everyone’s focused on the Artist but here’s another successful French foray, the adorably-titled A Cat in Paris. Not overly enthusiastic over these nominees as I’ve seen very little of them but I would root for one of the non-studios films to win that prize. Also, no Tintin there, although it did win the PGA for best animated feature, but was it even eligible under Academy rules, I’m not sure. Confusing.

Best Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth
Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated

So apparently there’s a bit of an outrage going on in this category as the Academy seems to have overlooked very popular documentaries around, such as Project Nim and the much-acclaimed Senna. Both grabbed Bafta noms though. But oh well, I hope I will get to see some of these, maybe Wim Wenders’ Pina.

Best Art Direction
The Artist
Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Hugo
Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris
Anne Seibel, Hélène Dubreuil
War Horse
Rick Carter, Lee Sandales

In case of doubt, always go for Dante Ferretti: he’s won two Oscars already and Hugo was a magnificent showcase of how talented his art and set design team is. Although I daresay the Harry Potter crew also deserved it especially for this, as it would be a nice way of rewarding ten years of work for Stuart Craig (he’s designed every film since the Philosopher’s Stone, and impeccably so). Once again, we’ll have to see which film the guild picks really. But all these films would be deserving winners, there isn’t one that stands out particularly for me, except maybe Hugo, which is a bit superior in this category.

Best Cinematography
Jeff Cronenweth – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Janusz Kaminski – War Horse
Emmanuel Lubezki – The Tree of Life
Robert Richardson – Hugo
Guillaume Schiffman – The Artist

Oh how I want Emmanuel Lubezki to win that one. Not to dismiss all the other directors of photography, and God knows how much I admire Janusz Kaminski’s work, but please let Lubezki have the Oscar he so deserves. I’ve been following his work for almost ten years and he’s never failed me yet. PLEAAAASE. No matter how much you hated or loved the Tree of Life, it is a TRUE achievement in terms of cinematography.
Besides Chivo, we have three pretty legendary DPs and newcomer Guillaume Schiffman who really did a brilliant job in the Artist. I still want Lubezki to win this one though, so badly. If Chivo wins the ASC award then it will be in ze pocket!

Best Costume Design
Lisy Christl – Anonymous
Mark Bridges – The Artist
Sandy Powell – Hugo
Michael O’Connor – Jane Eyre
Arianne Phillips – W.E.

It’s almost like Sandy Powell doesn’t need to be invited to the Academy anymore, her name’s just automatically on the nominees’ list. Well done for this umpteenth nomination!
Odd inclusion of three films whose costume design nomination is their films’ sole nod: Anonymous (really? A Roland Emmerich film at the Academy? Even in ‘technical’ categories, this is hard to understand), Jane Eyre (historical movie equals Oscar nod for costume design, basically) and W.E. (yes, Madonna will therefore attend the ceremony).
Hugo could potentially win this although I believe the Artist’s been collecting prizes for that particular category, so it’s possibly one more Oscar for them. Once again, we’ll know when the guild hands out its prize, a week before the Oscars I think.

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

Way to go Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, David Fincher’s editing team, for making the cut for another year! Although I doubt they will win this time, having just won last year.
I can see this one go to the Artist just to round it off nicely, although I’m not sure. It would sure be a lot of personal Oscars for Michel Hazanavicius (if you count Director and Screenplay) but why not. Thelma Schoonmaker’s already won this one twice, but that’s not an indication in technical categories where people often win three, four times while other linger in the nomination limbo (like Thomas Newman. Not even nominated this year. More on that LATER!).
Also I feel here a bit of a snub for Michael Kahn. Although I haven’t seen War Horse, every usual Spielberg collaborator has been nominated, which isn’t bad when you think it hasn’t got a Director or Screenplay nomination so… However Christopher Tellefsen and Kevin Tent seem to be sort of younger, lesser-known editors so good for them!

Best Makeup
Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle -Albert Nobbs
Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland – The Iron Lady

OK so definitely a huge J. Edgar snub this year, next time around Clint… Actually this category isn’t as odd as it used to be. And it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that make-up plays a big part in the performances of Glenn Close and Meryl Streep in Albert Noobs and the Iron Lady respectively. But the Harry Potter team will want to win that and the Academy tends to go for fantasy in that category so who knows.

Best Music (Score)
Ludovic Bource – The Artist
Alberto Iglesias – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Howard Shore – Hugo
John Williams – The Adventures of Tintin
John Williams – War Horse

Um, okay. So basically a waste of a good spot that could have gone to Thomas Newman (with FOUR eligible scores, may I remind you), Michael Giacchino or Alexandre Desplat (although that would have been yet another nomination for him as well). Not that I wouldn’t want to honour John Williams, because I do, and really think of him as a genius and a pioneer but COME ON, double nominations have never been of any use to anybody. I’m severely disappointed here.
Otherwise I’m glad to see all strong and solid composers recognised here. I have an inkling this might also go to the Artist BUT the double John Williams nomination indicates that nothing’s decided yet.

Best Music (Song)
“Man or Muppet” – The Muppets
Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” – Tangled
Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett

EEEEH HEE HEE, Academy award nominated Bret McKenzie, ladies and gentlemen! Well done Breeeeet! This is quite incredible, I’m sort of just ignoring that it is for the Muppets but only because I’m so incredibly fond of him! (For those who don’t know, he’s part of the Kiwi, hilarious and fantatic acting duo/band Flight of the Conchords). And also, well, Rio. No animated feature nomination but this (it deserved a nod in my opinion). Will we get to see Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway sing it on stage? I secretly hope so! ALSO, is it weird to just have two nominees or…? Wonder what happened there. I’ve also just realised Thomas Newman could have easily grabbed a nomination here for the Help (the song was performed by Mary J Blige) but NEVERMIND.

Best Sound Mixing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
Hugo
Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball
Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
War Horse
Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

THESE GUYS, the Transformers ones I mean, they’re the same sound mixing team that got nominated for Salt last year. SHAAAME.
Also kind of recognizing Gary Rydstrom’s name, I think he’s a Skywalker Sound sort of leader? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Ren Klyce is kind of David Fincher’s key sound guy so I’m always rooting for him too.
But if I had to pick a winner here it’d be Hugo just for the sheer force of it, I mean how the film sounded was particularly memorable.

Best Sound Editing
Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis – Drive
Ren Klyce – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty – Hugo
Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom – War Horse

What a random nomination for Drive here –Sound editing? Really? It certainly was striking but in so many more aspects! I’d like to see it win tough, but I’m guessing either Hugo or War Horse will sweep the sound categories. We’ll see which film the MPSE chooses as a winner mid-February.
AND I won’t make fun of Transformers here because Ethan Van der Ryn is an amazing, amazing sound editor and he’s really fun in the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings (yes, I’m that geeky. Now the cat’s out of the bag).

Best Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
Hugo
Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
Real Steel
Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Oh please let Joe Letteri’s team win this!! First, he’s a legend. Second, Rise of the Planet of the Apes were the best goddamn VFX this year. Third, it’s a rare occurrence that such successful visual effects should play so into directly the storytelling, so I really hope hope hope Rise of the Planet of the Apes will win this one.
I’d be lying if I was to say it’s this category’s contender as the statuette could very well also go to Hugo or Harry Potter. We’ll have to see who the VSE picks as winners in a few weeks’ time to be sure.

And finally…

Best Documentary Short
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Animated Short Film
Dimanche/Sunday – Patrick Doyon
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna – Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll – Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
Wild Life – Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Best Live Action Short Film
Pentecost – Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
Raju – Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
The Shore – Terry George and Oorlagh George
Time Freak – Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic – Hallvar Witzø

Winners are announced on the 26th of February, stay tuned!

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