Saturday, 25 February 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Picture

Before I get to the race, let me look back a bit. The main reason I decided to do this category by category word-vomit post on the Oscar race was because I wanted to a) see how much I could talk about the “race” without getting bored and b) I always feel bad when people (myself included, I am people) refer to nominees as “also-rans” as if they too have no merit. Granted, I don’t think I managed to talk-up the entire slate of nominees as well as I’d have liked to (save for the Supporting Actress ballot which I went to town on) but I’d like to collectively say here’s to all the nominees.

I didn’t really look at each category, I’m too lazy/disinterested/unversed in them to do so. The categories I looked at were the ones I’d see a majority of the nominees in. So, take a look at some friends for their perspectives on races I ignored.

Amir (Amiresque) takes a look at the Foreign Slate, Animated Short, Live Action Short
Jose (Movies Kick Ass) takes a look at the animated race, sort of
Tim (Antagony and Ecstasy) all the shorts all of them
Paolo (Okinawa Assault) the live action shorts
Umm, did anyone take a look at all the documentaries?
The Nominees: The Artist; The Descendants; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; The Help; Hugo; Midnight in Paris; Moneyball; The Tree of Life; War Horse

I’ve kept my personal opinion separate from my predictions, but I’ve included by grading and links to my review in this the final category analysis, with rankings of the nominees in my head. I like seven of them, so I say that’s not bad.

The Artist
What much is there to say about The Artist at this point? It’s the clear frontrunner for the prize with nine other nominations, according to Metacritic (if you take that sort of thing seriously) it’s the best film of the nine nominees, it’s racked up singing wins from the Golden Globes and PGA and “everyone” seems to love it and many who seem to not love it seem cowered by the fear of hating, so…here we are. Ultimately I have to wonder if the preferential voting system for best picture really impacts the race in any meaningful way, this shall probably get the most #1 votes and that essentially closes things, no? I doubt that it will show up in the bottom tier of too many ballots, too. It’s a celebration of the past, charmingly rendered if you love it; its place in history seems assured. (My Review: B/B-; #6)

The Descendants
So, does The Descendants have the chance to upset? I will go on the record and say that this was what I predicted would take the prize all the way back in May, and sure it’s won the ACE, Scripters’ and WGA prize – but The Artist wasn’t up against it in any of the categories, so it seems like a specious argument to claim those prizes as anything decisive in deciding the race. Sure, the film has four other nominations. Even without a gargantuan film to go up against, The Descendants in the scale of Oscar Best Picture nominees is decidedly small-scale in the story it tells, and the last film with such a narrow perspective to win the prize was Terms of Endearment. Best Picture winners usually have larger, overreaching arcs. (My Review: C-; #9)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
This one doesn’t have an overreaching arc, either, which might account for a significant amount of the criticism being lodged against it. It’s a small-scale account of an issue which is looming over larger than it. Like Hugo specifically, but Moneyball, Midnight in Paris and The Descendants, too, it’s an examination of searching for meaning in life. Pundits eager for surprises consider this as a spoiler in the race, but I think this one can be overlooked as a threat here. (My Review: B; #5)

The Help
It’s the only specifically women-based film of the lot, earning each of its three nominations for the acting of its female cast members. The film is most likely sending two of its cast to wins, but the same probably can’t be said for the film – and that’s all right. It’ll still go down in history as an Oscar nominee, an auspicious thing (depending on who you’re talking to). Its interest in issues of race and class is one a number of nominees have dealt with, so The Help is in good company. (My Review: B-; #7)

Still, I don’t think of this as a child’s film or even specifically a film about film – it’s typical Scorsese form looking at a man as he becomes disillusioning, only this time lucky enough to make his way back to the good place. It’s an atypical Scorsese, though, in the way that he works with a generally messy palette making for a film that for all its beauteous sheen not the least bit affected. It already has the luck of being the most nominated film of the year (and eleven Oscar nominations is something to commend) and perhaps, a win at this point is unlikely but – there’s a reason the picture award doesn’t come until the end, so that all the films can be celebrated before the winner is announced. (My Review: A-; #1)

Midnight in Paris
I wish I could remember who it was that said this was like literary porn, what with all the literary references popping up right and left. It’s Woody’s comfort zone, the serious comedy that makes us laugh than leaves us feeling slightly discomfited and it’s nice seeing how he keeps on moving form palette to palette but telling the same – lovely – story. Enough of the “comeback” talk I say (Match Point is a near perfect film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is excellent and Whatever Works and Scoop are not too shabby – he hasn’t gone anywhere) but maybe this Picture nomination might see a resurgence of love for the Woodsman. I’d be all for that. (My Review: B; #2)

This is both a sports’ movie and one about issues of failure and success which navigate the way we live our lives. How many times have we heard those analogous sayings about life and sports…so….MoneyLife? Its canvas only seems narrowed, and it didn’t fool the voters who placed it here making this director Bennett Miller’s second consecutive feature to earn a director’s nomination. So, good for him. I’d wager that this, of all the nominees, captures the zeitgeist best, not just for Americans but the world, and that’s not a bad thing. A little bit of zeitgeist can go a long way. (My Review: B; #3)

The Tree of Life
Malick and his vision is what everyone keeps talking about when it comes to The Tree of Life, for some its themes are esoteric but at its root with the all-encompassing dilemma of trying to make sense of a good but not perfect childhood and correlating it all with personal issues, religious and otherwise, is something which audiences willing to submit would be able to understand and appreciate. Malick is up for director, too, and the film made the shortlist for its Cinematography and how nice is it that the film many felt might be too outré for the voters (although, it’s not really that eccentric) made a solid showing? (My Review: B; #4)

War Horse
Like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close this was the film which seemed, one year ago, like the one that’d go all the way – and it did, even if it wasn’t in the way it’d seem to be (it’s not an eventual winner, but it’s a nominee). It pulls on many themes which critically acclaimed films have traditionally held on to – war and its effects, a boy and his pets, attempting to find peace in the times of turmoil and it’s all helmed by Spielberg and his directing style which evokes days gone by. (My Review: C, upgraded to C+)

MY COMPLETE PREDICTIONS: (detailed analysis over the past few weeks here)
Simply for completion shall notice I made some changes...hunches, if you will

PICTURE: The Artist (Alt. The Descendants)
DIRECTOR:The Artist Michel Hazanavicius (Alt. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
ACTOR: Jean Dujardin for The Artist (Alt. Brad Pitt in Moneyball
ACTRESS: Viola Davis for The Help (Alt. Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Plummer in Beginners (Alt. Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Octavia Spencer in The Help (Alt. Bérénice Bejo in The Artist)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Midnight in Paris (The Artist)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Descendants (Moneyball)
ANIMATED FEATURE: Rango (Alt. Puss in Boots
ANIMATED SHORT: Dimanche/Sunday (Alt. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore)
ART DIRECTION: Hugo (Alt. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
COSTUME: Jane Eyre (Alt. Hugo)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Hugo (Alt. The Tree of Life)
DOCUMENTARY: If a Tree Falls (Alt. Pina)
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (Alt. God is the Bigger Elvis)
EDITING: Hugo (Alt. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE: A Separation (Alt. Bullhead)
LIVE ACTION SHORT: Timefreak (Alt. Raju)
MAKEUP: Albert Nobbs (Alt. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)
SCORE: The Artist (Alt. War Horse
SONG: Rio (Alt. The Muppets)
SOUND EDITING: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Alt. Hugo)
SOUND MIXING: Hugo (Alt. War Horse)
VISUAL EFFECTS: Hugo (Alt. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Happy Oscars' Eve.


Ryan T. said...

Looking forward to seeing your complete list, but let me be the first to say well done to your "incoherent" predictions the past few weeks. :-)

Paolo said...

Yay! Thanks for the link and for trusting my instincts, although my friends likes Pentecost or Tuba Atlantic better. Speaking of which I hate my friends. :P

Alex in Movieland said...

my order would be:

Tree of Life
War Horse
Extremely Loud
The Artist
The Help
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris.

:) as usual, we don't agree. Or better said: we only agree that The Artist is not IT and that Extremely Loud is underrated.