Why am I doing this? There was once a time I would dazzle all those around me as I applied an almost precognitive talent for award prediction to numerous hastily organized Oscar ballots. Oh how I was feted, carried high on the shoulders of friends and enemies alike, given ambrosial liquor to sup on from jewel-encrusted golden goblets. They were glorious times, my friends, and those efforts were the stuff of legend. But since making my predictions via this blog, my hit rate has dropped into the low fuckalls. Once Shades of Caruso was described as “usually fairly reliable“. Well, not in terms of Oscar predictions. So why put myself through this ordeal again? Why humiliate myself when my former predictive talents as a modern-day Cassandra have suddenly and inexplicably morphed into those of just some random lass called Sandra?
To be honest it’s only to justify having sat through the combined clusterfuck-a-thon of War Horse, The Iron Lady and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; three movies so wretched they should be investigated as hate crimes against my very soul. And yet here they are, given baffling nominational attention from the various elders who constitute the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The anguish caused by this triumvirate of terribleness, and their baffling inclusion on the Oscar shortlist, is the fuel that powered this epic post, so if you get bored to extinction by the time you get halfway down the page, blame Stephen Daldry, Eric Roth, Abi Morgan, Phyllida Lloyd, Lee Hall and Richard Curtis (Spielberg gets a free pass for Tintin, which was aceballs).
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: George Clooney – The Descendants
Jean Dujardin may have been winning awards by smiling a smile that honestly looks like it could melt through steel like Superman’s heat vision, but I think the Academy members are ready to give Gorgeous George the big prize at last, mostly just to get it out of the way. There are worse things that could happen; though I’d be more than happy to see the thoroughly handsome Dujardin win and do a little tap-dance or something, Clooney was the best thing about The Descendants (other than Shailene Woodley, who was also very good). It’s odd to look at the mostly quiet work he does here, the way he balances light comedy and heavy tragedy, and think back to the way his performances were merely an amalgamation of irksome tics when he was on E.R. and not-massively-popular action extravaganza The Peacemaker. Now look at him. He’s really very good. And still handsome. An Oscar win here is no bad thing.
Who Should Win: Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
But of these five candidates, surely it’s Oldman’s prize. He’s survived the fallow years caused — I’m sure — by appearances in two Luc Besson movies with only Airforce One and Lost in Space to separate them, and has proved cynics (such as myself) wrong time and again. By now even his shaky appearances in crap like Red Riding Hood are usually worth watching. It’s enough to make me think he will take over from Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Endlessly-Entertaining-Actor-Shaped extra chamber in my heart once the great Welshman has sadly entered the Odinsleep. Tinker Tailor was an impeccably performed movie; picking out individual acting highlights is hard, but pretty much every moment Oldman is onscreen, like a shade sucking all of the light from the room, it’s as if everyone else has faded into the awful period-appropriate wallpaper. His voicework in Kung Fu Panda 2 was good too. We take Oldman for granted; time we stopped doing that.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Michael Fassbender – Shame
Maybe it’s a good thing Fassbender didn’t get nominated. The outrage generated by that stupid-but-expected decision will power his career for a while longer as he comes to work on projects to be filed under the heading True Quality, as opposed to the gilded, establishment-approved version of art represented by the Academy’s often-mystifying choices. It also means that the inevitable dirty tricks campaign could dig up some pretty unpleasant stuff about Fassbender, and at this point in his career (or at any point, really) that’s not a good thing. Best he sits this one out until a year when a very driven producer doesn’t have a dog in this fight.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Beginners was a good enough movie, one that made it okay to like Ewan McGregor again, but without the storming performance from Plummer I think it would be forgotten fairly quickly. His energy levels here are remarkable, and make an average movie unmissable. Hopefully people won’t go on about how he’s bound to win because he plays a terminally ill gay man who finds a new lease of life in his final years, thus completing some kind of Oscar-Worthiness Bingo card. He deserves to win because he deserves to win. It’s that simple.
Who Should Win: Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Though a spanner was thrown into the works when Max Von Sydow got nominated as “The Renter” in Stephen Daldry and Eric Roth’s monumentally awful Extremely Insensitive and Incredibly Corny. The great man has been acting for nearly 700 years now and has never won an Oscar, so surely he’s due one. Hell, make it a retroactive award for The Virgin Spring. Despite this, and despite the fact that he’s the only good thing to come of Daldry and Roth’s wretched miasma of relentless sentiment, it has to be Plummer who wins this. He’s been cranking out great performances for the past few years (he should’ve won for The Insider, to be honest), and if he gets this, he’ll have a BEGOT (not just your Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony quadfecta, but also a Bafta as well). If you don’t want to root for such an achievement, please fill out the order form below to request a new, fully-functional soul.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Sir Ben Kingsley – Hugo
Lots of folks complained about the numerous snubs in this nomination list, with much of the justifiable frustration directed at the miserable lack of Albert Brooks, but I’ve only seen a couple of people point out that leaving Sir Ben off the list for his superb work in Hugo was an egregious omission. Maybe Best Supporting Actor is the wrong category, as Uncle Georges is arguably the protagonist of this movie, but there’s more room for him here than in the crowded Best Actor slot (ahem Jonah Hill ahem). Sir Ben is in the same category as Sir Anthony Hopkins; he’s usually the most interesting thing in whatever movie he appears in, and Hugo is no exception. If it works at all, it’s because of his skill in bringing to life the sweet-and-sour mystery at the heart of the film.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
A horrible inevitability has descended upon this category. Many are talking up the relative lack of Oscars Meryl has received despite being in the list of top twenty most awesome people in the history of the world, and I’m sure many people are aggrieved that she didn’t win anything for her impersonation of Dan Aykroyd in Julie and Julia, but even so, the thought of her playing a real live actual person is just too much. The Academy must have written this winner on their scorecards without even seeing the movie. She truly embodied the pluck and lovability of Margaret Thatcher completely (i.e. it was correctly completely absent from the movie). Plus there was a lot of make-up on her face. The assorted critics of the Daily Telegraph plumped for Viola Davis en masse, but I still think this is Meryl’s to win.
Who Should Win: Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
And it would be the worst crime of the night. Don’t get me wrong; I genuinely adore Meryl Streep. She might even be my favourite actor, if not vying for joint fave with Jeff Bridges. Nevertheless, the obnoxious fractured editing by Phyllida Lloyd — which is obviously meant to mirror Mrs. Thatcher’s current unfortunate medical situation — means the movie never settles down long enough for us to have any idea what Meryl’s performance is like. As I tweeted after the godawful mess finally came to a close, it feels like a 100 minute trailer for a 17-hour-long movie, mostly made up of stock footage. It makes W.E. look like a coherent film, which I thought would be impossible. The glimpses we get of Meryl in excelsis suggest she did good work but I honestly can’t attest to that. So I say it should have gone to Michelle Williams. Cheeky of me, as I haven’t seen My Week With Marilyn; I’m burned out on such things thanks to The King’s Speech. But MW was unfortunate to have given a performance of such brilliance in Blue Valentine in the same year that Natalie Portman brought her A-game in Black Swan. Williams deserves to unlock the Reversal of Fortune Achievement for that. (1000 Gamerpoints)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Tilda Swinton – We Need To Talk About Kevin
What else do I need to say? Excise the horrible cartoonish display by the otherwise excellent Jessica Chastain in The Help, and put Tilda in where she belongs. She’s said she’s happy to avoid going to the ceremony, but what about her fans, who look forward too seeing her appear in white dresses before being described as “androgynous” by every fashion expert? An essential part of the award season is now sadly missing. Plus she was phenomenal in WNTTAK. That too.
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer – The Help
This was a movie that made me very uncomfortable, much as The Blind Side did a couple of years ago, but at least The Help had great performances (and not-so-great, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard) on its side. Octavia Spencer managed to out-act Viola Davis without having to do that snotty nose thing Davis does in so many movies; Davis even managed it again in Extremely Long and Incredibly Offensive, probably because she knew that disappointing us by not featuring it would have ruined hundreds of Extremely Twee and Incredibly Pretentious drinking games. This is another of the most predictable wins of the ceremony, and one I back almost 100%.
Who Should Win: Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Except that it would be so nice for a comedic performance to get an Oscar nod, and Melissa McCarthy’s much-loved work is the most likely possibility for many a year. Admittedly if she won over the other candidates there’s a possibility that in time she would be given the same treatment Marisa Tomei got when she won for My Cousin Vinny, but as someone who likes Marisa Tomei and My Cousin Vinny, and who has done a complete 180° on McCarthy now that I know she has more about her than was shown in Gilmore Girls (shudder), I’d back this win also. Not gonna happen, though.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Melancholia
Fair to say that Uncle Lars’ Bedtime For Hitler storytelling at the Cannes Film Festival sank any chance that either Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg would get a nomination. I suspect the screeners for this sat unwatched on many an Academy member’s coffee table. A pity, as it was one of the highlights of the year. Gainsbourg was just as good in Antichrist, but maybe this kind of soul-baring work isn’t ever going to find favour with the assorted old white men who vote for these things. “Why, she’s just got the vapours,” they would say into their mug of restorative potions made from the tears of discarded Hollywood dreamers. “Just buy her an ironing board and be done with it.” And that, my friends, is why the Oscars mean jack shit.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
What Will Win: Rango
Ha ha ha ha ha ha Cars 2 didn’t get nominated ha ha ha ha ha. Reap the merchandising whirlwind, Pixar, and thanks for pissing on your legacy (until your next incredible film comes along and makes me forgive you for temporarily misplacing your soul). Anyway, Rango was the frontrunner over a year ago and nothing has changed since.
What Should Win: Rango
Seriously, why are we even talking about this? Rango‘s a masterpiece. End of.
What Should Have Been Nominated: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Of course, there was the amusing upset during the Golden Globes when Spielberg’s much-maligned performance-capture movie won the animation award, but then it didn’t get in here. There are lots of theories why, from “is it animation?” to “it’s not animation“, to “it wasn’t good enough”. Whatever the reason, its omission here is pretty bizarre, made all the worse by the nominations dropped into War Horse‘s trough. This vibrant, manic blast of imagination gets nothing while that risible failure gets a bunch of nods? Shocking. But it still wouldn’t deserve to win. Why? Because Rango. Like I just said a paragraph ago.
Achievement in Cinematography
Who Will Win: Robert Richardson – Hugo
I have a theory, for which I have absolutely no proof, that if the movie with the most nominations doesn’t win Best Picture, it will be given Best Cinematography as a consolation prize. The Artist might or might not not win many awards this year but I believe it’ll win Best Picture at the very least, which would leave Hugo wanting. As a result, I think Robert Richardson’s 3D cinematography will win out. Or Ludovic Bource will win for The Artist because he isn’t using that new-fangled technology? No, it’ll definitely be Richardson. Unless that lovely, clear, monochrome photography persuades the oldsters. ::is utterly undecided::
Who Should Win: Emmanuel Lubezki – The Tree of Life
If there is one word I could use to describe Malick’s meditation on cosmic gubbins and personal strife — other than pretentious, or powerful, or intricate, or unsubtle, or preposterous, or profound, or overlong, or ambitious, or breathtaking, etc. etc. — it would be luminous. Thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s work, this film glowed. It throbbed with the very life its titular tree is full of. Maybe it was just that we saw this on a good screen, brightly lit and digitally projected (a rarity nowadays), but it was so gloriously shot that I felt I was looking straight through a window into another world, or at least into the mind of Malick, and it was as beautiful a place as I had hoped.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Sean Bobbitt – Shame
In the past Bobbitt filmed a lot of Ye Olde Worlde settings for some of the seemingly infinite number of period adaptations made by the BBC, so it must have been a nice change for him to capture the most memorable images of New York in recent memory. Not that that mattered to the Academy, who don’t care about his ability to paint the city with terrifying reds, soft golds, and rainy greys. All they think is, “But he pointed the camera at a dong”, and that’s your lot. Sorry Sean. Maybe some day you’ll make a movie set during the first quarter of the 20th Century and the Academy members will be falling out of their bath chairs to give you a nod. Fingers crossed, eh?
Achievement in Art Direction
Who Will Win: Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould - The Artist
It’s in these technical categories that the two love letters to silent cinema will fight their most fraught battles, where the majority winner will be decided. As a result it’s hard to deduct who will win using my usual scientific rigour. Instead I have to rely on guesswork, and the thought that last year the Weinsteins managed to strongarm the Academy into giving Tom Hooper — TOM HOOPER — the award for Best Director. I’m sure Harvey has been going door-to-door this year, telling more anecdotes about how clever he was to acquire the rights to this, buying bunches of grapes for the voters and promising to give them back-rubs and what-not. Even though half of my brain is convinced the voters will be more charmed by the charming charming super super charming charm of Hugo (an excellent read, that), I think Harvey’s carpet-bombing techniques will win again. Plus the art direction on The Artist was very nice.
Who Should Win: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo - Hugo
That said, the art direction on Hugo was even better. Dante Ferretti’s collaborations with Scorsese are always a feast for the eyes and his interpretation of what a semi-fantastical Parisian railway station would look like — with toy shops, overstocked bookshops and clockwork labyrinths included — is some of the best work he’s done. Plus he’s on a roll, having won his last two nominations for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and The Aviator. So I could well be wrong here.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Maria Djurkovic, Tom Brown and Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Friend-of-the-blog Beggar So’s Hat wisely noted that the shockingly grim production design of this was horribly snubbed. I hadn’t even noticed that. I think I tried to blot the miserable look of the film from my brain rather than be reminded once more of the horrors within. It made me think of my childhood, which now feels like it happened in the 50s and not the 70s like it actually was. It’s as if England was frozen in time for fifty years, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was just a snapshot of that. Which is to say, Mr. Hat was right. The production design on TTSS was worthy of many awards, especially this one, but also Grimmest Evocation of the Cigarette-Smoke-Stained Dilapidation of 20th Century Britain.
Achievement in Costume Design
Who Will Win: Mark Bridges – The Artist
Again, it’s all down to who will be the overall winner. If it’s going to be The Artist I have to go all in and give it to Mr. Bridges…
Who Should Win: Sandy Powell – Hugo
…while thinking that Sandy Powell’s work is more deserving. By now I must seem like a guy who hated The Artist, but I didn’t. I adored it. Hugo was the movie that left me cold, even though it’s obviously a thing of great precision, as intricate and lovely as the clockwork contraptions that litter it. But all that effort from Scorsese was futilely expended trying to shift the enormous rock that is my heart, and it wasn’t going to work. ::hands in film buff card::
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Eiko Ishioka – Immortals
Nevertheless, that’s not as big a crime as neglecting Eiko Ishioka’s brain-maddening work which so dominated Tarsem’s latest empty trinket. It’s especially frustrating as the world is now bereft of her singular genius. Creating works of art for ill-received genre movies directed by someone with… shall we say, a questionable grasp of narrative… means her work wasn’t really seen enough. When we see Mirror, Mirror later this year, it’ll be a bittersweet experience. And not just because it’ll almost certainly be desperately boring crap. #Uncharitable
Best Documentary Feature
What Will Win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
As usual I haven’t seen any documentaries this year, not even depressing ones about how the economy is about to explode with the force of a million megaprolapses, so I can’t really talk with any authority here, but I’d wager Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky will get the nod for campaigning successfully for the West Memphis Three. Unless the Academy is still mad at Berlinger for Blair Witch 2, which is understandable.
What Should Win: IDK SMDH
As I can’t say anything authoritative here, I’ll keep my fat mouth shut.
What Should Have Been Nominated: Tabloid
Yep, I didn’t even see Senna, the most critically acclaimed documentary of the year, but everyone I know who has seen it adores it. Nevertheless, I would’ve loved to have seen Errol Morris’ crazily entertaining Tabloid get some recognition. Perhaps because it’s so much fun it never stood a chance of getting any Oscar love; that old “comedy is too frivolous to be worthy of recognition” thing again. Which is a shame, because I’d say Tabloid has some pretty hefty points to make about news cycles, journalistic arrogance and human venality. It just also happens to be very amusing while it makes those points.
Best Documentary Short Subject
What Will Win: God Is The Bigger Elvis
Best Animated Short Film
What Will Win: La Luna
Best Live Action Short Film
What Will Win: The Shore
Okay, I’ll come clean. I haven’t got a clue about any of the nominees in any of the three categories clustered here, as was the case last year, so I’m just going to pick for the stupidest reasons. I just read about God Is The Bigger Elvis a few hours ago, La Luna because I like the name of the director (Enrico Casarosa), and The Shore because it’s made by Terry and Oorlagh George, and I always get annoyed that I confuse Terry George and Terry Southern even though their surnames and careers are completely different so I guess that’s an omen or something. Sorry to all of the nominees in these categories; I should give you respect, and instead I give you this excrement-soaked corsage. You deserve so much better.
Achievement in Film Editing
Who Will Win: Thelma Schoonmaker – Hugo
It’s arguable that Hugo was a bit slack, to be honest, and could have done with a bit of tidying up, but you’re a fool if you bet against Schoonmaker, who has won three of the six Academy Awards she has previously been nominated for (can you believe she didn’t win for Goodfellas? WT actual F?).
Who Should Win: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
As I said last year, David Fincher’s editing team on The Social Network did a fantastic job of wrestling a ton of footage and talking to the ground and making it work as a narrative. they’re here again with a movie that’s less talky but just as complex (if not more so) than that. Dragon Tattoo may not have blown my socks off the way Fincher’s best work does, but it’s a great thriller, perfectly paced and seemingly effortlessly compelling. Baxter and Wall deserve this win twice over now.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Paul Hirsch – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol / Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa – The Tree of Life / Joe Bini – We Need To Talk About Kevin
Quick run through of my reasons here. 1) The best action movie of the year deserves a nod, especially when the action scenes are so clearly drawn and beautifully constructed. It was a joy to watch, and much of that was down to veteran Hirsch’s command of the AVID. 2) A team of five head editors wrestling with what was probably 65,000,000 miles of footage featuring kids running down alleys or Brad Pitt standing on a lawn, and in the end we get an impressionistic collage of mood and image as powerful as this? I may complain that Hugo was slack but any flabbiness here was probably intentional. The longueurs are as important as the moments of emotion, and the superb judgement of this team — and Malick — will probably become more apparent with each rewatch. 3) It’s as if Nicolas Roeg is making major motion pictures again, and Bini is as important as Lynne Ramsay in creating a fractured but exhaustingly scary like Kevin. Again, a major omission for this exceptional artistic accomplishment.
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
What Will Win: A Separation
Of course the Academy has a talent for arsing this category up, which could be good news for Agnieszka Holland — I’d think of it as an award given in honour of her stunning Treme pilot; one of the best episodes of TV ever made – but honestly, how on earth could anything beat Asghar Farhadi’s magnificent family drama? I would’ve like to have seen it do a Crouching Tiger and get a Best Picture nomination as well, it’s that good (yes, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture, a fact that seems to elude many professional Oscar prognosticators each year).
What Should Win: A Separation
Time spent thinking about this masterpiece since seeing it right at the end of last year has made it seem even more profound, even more exciting. I may not have seen any of the other films nominated here but still it seems only right that this wins.
What Should Have Been Nominated: The Skin I Live In
To be honest, though I enjoyed Pedro Almodovar’s macabre thriller, it still left me a little cold. I’m sure there’s some arcane reason why this wasn’t included (that’s usually the case; did Spain even offer it as a nominee?), but if that’s not the case then I guess its omission here is pretty surprising. Other than that, the majority of the foreign language movies I saw last year just weren’t good enough to warrant inclusion here. Even Peter Chan’s Wu Xia — a film which made it onto my best-of-2011 list — would seem out of place. The closest thing I can think of for inclusion would be Andrea Molaioli’s Il Gioiellino, the fictionalised dramatisation of the Parmalat fraud scandal, but even that’s too dry to really pass muster. ::shrug::
Achievement in Makeup
Who Will Win: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland – The Iron Lady
I almost feel like I’m saying this because it had the most make-up, mostly on Meryl’s chin for Thatcher’s later years…
Who Should Win: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland – The Iron Lady
…but as Daisyhellcakes said when we tried to stay awake during this possibly endless collision of stock footage and poorly shot comedic shenanigans, “That’s a really convincing wattle”. And she’s right. It’s a really convincing wattle.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Contagion
The most startling physical transformation of the year was a digital effect; the enfeeblenising of Chris Evans in the first third of Captain America: The First Avenger is a baffling, seamless effect that convinces so completely that post-super-serum Evans looks somehow more wrong than the wimp. I’m tempted to say this should have been nominated just for the wicked Red Skull make-up on Hugo Weaving, but I think Contagion may be a more worthy nominee, for the nasty sweaty death pallor on the victims of MEV-1, Jude Law’s pasty face and rotten tooth, and one very fun autopsy scene.
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Who Will Win: Howard Shore – Hugo
I can’t actually remember a single note of it, even though I’m a big fan of Mr. Shore (his score for A Dangerous Method was particularly lovely; he does his best work for Maestro Cronenberg), but I doubt either of Williams’ scores will win (vote splitting), and there’s the possibility that Kim Novak really does have some insider information about how the soundtrack to The Artist did something unspeakable and illegal to Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo score. That leaves Shore’s score.
Who Should Win: Alberto Iglesias - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Of course, this wonderful score by Alberto Iglesias should be the frontrunner here for anyone who has ears. It’s an absolute corker, sinister and peppered with smokey-jazz moments; perfect for the film and powerful in its own right. And yes, I know this won’t be a consideration for the Academy, but the inclusion of this great, nerd-funky version of La Mer just shows how much care was put into the music. It’s such a great choice for the scene it accompanies that I did a joy-pirouette without leaving my super-comfy Odeon-Swiss-Cottage seat.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Michael Giacchino – Super 8
My favourite soundtrack of last year was Cecile Corbel’s delicate score for Arrietty, but as the movie wasn’t released in the US until this year, it wasn’t eligible. I’d like to say Hans Zimmer’s score for Rango should’ve got in, but considering the fuss over Ludovic Bource’s The Artist soundtrack, Zimmer’s re-appropriation of The Blue Danube and Ride of the Valkyries — not to mention similarities with Carter Burwell’s Raising Arizona score — mean it’s better off out of it. Giacchino’s Super 8 score managed to conjure up memories of some of John Williams’ work with Spielberg while remaining recognisably his own work. It might not be the best thing he’s done, but it played an important part in conjuring up the air of nostalgia that made J.J. Abrams’ homage work.
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
What Will Win: Man or Muppet (Bret McKenzie) – The Muppets
I’ve not heard the Rio song, but is there any doubt?
What Should Win: Man or Muppet (Bret McKenzie) – The Muppets
It’s just what a musical number should be. It’s thematically relevant, perfectly judged on a tonal level, it signals a big plot moment, it’s full of clever lyrical tricks, and it’s a proper showstopping earworm. It brought the house down at the BFI a month ago and I reckon this happens everywhere this movie plays. Is this the most assured winner of the night?
What Should Have Been Nominated: Star Spangled Man (Alan Menken / David Zippel) – Captain America: The First Avenger
Still, the feeble number of nominees here means there’s no real reason why Menken and Zippel’s entertaining pastiche of WWII propaganda songs didn’t get a nod. It’s not as good as Bret McKenzie’s song, but it’s still a witty and catchy tune. I guess the Academy members didn’t want to be reminded of the war that took place during their middle age. Yeah, I went there!
Achievement in Sound Editing
Who Will Win: Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom – War Horse
It might be a load of old chuff but I think War Horse will get at least one Oscar just because Spielberg and the rest strained so damn hard to make something timeless and noble that I bet someone will feel sorry for him. That’s not to say the work of Hymns and Rydstrom isn’t worthy of an award. The movie has a wide array of excellent whinnies, clip-clops, and gunfire.
Who Should Win: Ren Klyce – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Normally I’d pick Transformers: Dark of the Moon for two reasons: 1) to annoy everyone by continuing to not crap all over Bay’s carnage-laden doomfuck, and 2) because there were about one zillion sound effects in this movie, and I’m sure there was a small army of sound recorders trying to find the material for this movie’s sonic tapestry of boom. Nevertheless, I’ll pick Ren Klyce’s work on Fincher’s bleak midwinter tale for two different reasons: 1) I always tend to pick Ren Klyce because Ren Klyce is ace, and 2) the sound of Lisbeth Salander’s steel-toed boot clanging noisily against a very large metallic anus-seeking dildo has haunted me for two months. That counts for something.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Oliver Tarney and Mark Taylor – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
My two picks here (Nicholas Becker for Andrea Arnold’s glorious Wuthering Heights and Koji Kasamatsu for Arrietty) are again not eligible because of US release dates. Instead I’ll pick the team behind the sound effects in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. There’s some lovely work done during the action scenes, but also the thrum of Victorian London is captured as well as in the first movie, which was also deserving of a nomination.
Achievement in Sound Mixing
Who Will Win: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley – Hugo
Big noisy setpieces in a train station where every individual, important noise is clearly picked out? It’s a lock.
Who Should Win: Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The soundscapes of Michael Bay’s noisiest movies are widely loathed as merely a wash of explosions and screaming, but when blasted at with a good THX sound-system, it’s likely that the volume will deafen you to the amount of intricate work done here. It’s not just queueing up a bunch of banging and sticking it all in a blender; there’s more layering of sound than you’d think. Then again, I’ve always been a fan of percussion, so I’m more likely to enjoy an extended drum solo than the finely-picked notes of a symphony. Make of that what you will.
What Should Have Been Nominated: Peter Miller, Adam Kopald, J.R. Grubbs and Addison Teague - Rango
Among the many joys of this astounding triumph of animation is the lovely audio track, evoking the eerie silences of Sergio Leone’s classics while changing gears for some huge, complicated action scenes. Truly a feast for the ears as well as the eyes.
Achievement in Visual Effects
Who Will Win: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I’m tempted to say Hugo will win this too, but the furore over Andy Serkis’ performance and the technology used to capture it means this might have a shot, as a sop to the campaigners.
Who Should Win: Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier - Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Once more I’m picking complexity and logistical madness over subtlety or beauty, but the scale of the FX work in this movie is simply breathtaking. It’s also seamlessly integrated with reality; you’ll really believe Chicago had its arse kicked by robotic dickwads. The only caveat here is that they’re not really breaking new ground; we’ve seen this kind of thing before, just not on this scale. Nevertheless, my eyes boggled at the monumental mechanical madness, and I really appreciate that.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Douglas Trumbull, Dan Glass, Peter and Chris Parks – The Tree of Life
What a lovely welcome back for the legendary Doug Trumbull; a snub by his peers that probably would have stung if he had even noticed them, bearing in mind he is a colossus who bestrides the discipline of visual effects and probably thinks Digital Domain is little more than an interesting ant-farm. Bear in mind, this is a man who, while everyone else in the FX business was learning how to use a mouse, was either working on IMAX and Showscan technologies or trying to fix the BP oil-spill. Does he need an Oscar? If the FX industry members of the Academy can’t find it in their hearts to give this visionary the award he deserves, he can get over the insignificant pain by inventing another world-changing doohickey. Trumbull does not need your baubles.
Who Will Win: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – The Descendants
Hugo should win this considering the overwhelming critical praise for it in the US, but I have a feeling the sentimental Academy members will be more drawn to The Descendants, which is a very writerly movie with big dramatic beats, terminally ill people, confrontations that play out in unexpected ways, and speeches that run on for perhaps a bit too long. It also has a terrible voiceover in the first half of the movie that should make invalidate it, but I doubt that that’s a dealbreaker. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking because I want to see Dean Pelton win an Oscar? If so, can Magnitude come on stage for a celebratory “Pop pop!“?
Who Should Win: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Much as I enjoyed Moneyball, mostly because Sorkin’s worst excesses were curtailed by the low-key performances and direction, I don’t think it’s the best script here. I also don’t think that honour belongs to The Ides of March; yet another Clooney / Heslov disappointment that feels four drafts away from completion. Surely Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the only logical choice here. It’s a labyrinth of words and actions and information but there’s emotion here, real aching pain. It’s a magnificent achievement.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Christopher Hampton – A Dangerous Method
As is Christopher Hampton’s expansion of his play The Talking Cure. Its absorption and translation of the ideas and theories of Freud, Jung and Spielrein into dramatic forms is breathtaking, made all the more memorable for its puckish wit and satisfying emotional charge. Though I’d resigned myself to seeing this underrated movie get little Oscar love I held out hope for this screenplay as the sole nominee, but no. What a pity.
Who Will Win: Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
Remember all those days ago when The Artist won the Bafta for best screenplay and amateur comedians and film critics said, “How can it win best screenplay when there’s no words in it duhhhhh duuuuuuh a-duuuuuhhhhhhh?” Well I guess that won’t happen here, but only because the truly sentimental choice is to give Woody another Oscar for his latest self-indulgent wallow in nostalgia. Usually that yearning for simpler times is a subtext to his usual light middle-class semi-intellectual drama, but here it’s right at the fore-front. Who was the Twitter wag who said that this movie was like Woody’s “Things I like” list made celluloid flesh? Because well done, that person, you got it in one.
Who Should Win: Asghar Farhadi – A Separation
That victory for a second-rate script would be a crime when Asghar Farhadi’s brilliantly constructed, humane, intelligent, complex, multi-faceted screenplay has also been given a nod. In a perfect world this would’ve been the only nominee. If ever anyone asks me what screenplay I would pick as an example of brilliant screenwriting, I’ll pick George Gallo’s script for Midnight Run. If they couldn’t find that, I’ll pick this.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Kenneth Lonergan – Margaret / Scott Z. Burns – Contagion
That said, I would’ve liked it if Kenneth Lonergan had received any kind of recognition for his notorious movie, but I guess there was no chance of that happening with the lawsuits flying back and forth like flaming buzzards of doom. Also, we’ve not even seen the full movie; I long for the director’s cut of this challenging and audacious movie. I also would’ve liked it if Scott Z. Burns got nominated for Contagion, but that’s because I’m a big Scott Z. Burns fan and I think he’s great so there.
Achievement in Directing
Who Will Win: Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Okay, hear me out. Yes, I think The Artist will win Best Picture. Yes, I know that Michel Hazanavicius won the Director’s Guild Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award, and that’s usually a pretty reliable marker of who will win the Academy Award, but I think Scorsese has played a blinder here; making a homage to the birth of cinema, eoo-goog-alising one of the earliest pioneers of the medium, and passionately campaigning for the virtues of film preservation within the film itself. A pretty ballsy move, to turn a children’s movie into a two-hour lecture about archiving and storage technology. The Artist might be a love letter to silent cinema, but Hugo is a billet-doux attached to a heart-shaped box of chocolate cherries with a bit of sexy lingerie hidden under the crepe-paper tray. There’s no way the assorted dodecagenarians of the Academy will be able to resist giving Scorsese his second director’s gong for this.
Who Should Win: Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Even though I really loved The Artist (I did! Honest!), and thought Scorsese did a good job of methodically stripped the magic from his children’s film by the time the final reel arrived just so he could prove a point, this category belongs to Malick. Alexander Payne served up a curiously listless dramedy, and Woody Allen woke up for a little while; not really work worth lauding. But Malick’s bold vision was even more daring than his usual work, happily comparing the travails of a family to the beginning and end of life. What brass balls. It’s the best thing he’s done since Days of Heaven, and more than deserving of some Oscar love. If they don’t do it now, they’ll only regret it in future when he suddenly starts making action movies starring Channing Tatum (mark my words, this will happen).
Who Should Have Been Nominated: David Cronenberg – A Dangerous Method
The great man can’t win. When he makes a genre movie — albeit a genre movie with an intellectual ambition that dwarfs almost everything else around — clueless critics proclaim that he’s little more than a provocateur debasing his better instincts. When he makes a movie that’s sober and thought-provoking, everyone whines that there’s not enough parasites or inappropriate vaginal images in it. So when he makes something as crystalline as this, so perfectly hewn and formally precise, critics say it’s too dry. “It’s too dry,” they say, drawing attention to what they think is an excessive dryness. Seriously, that’s all anyone could say. Well bollocks to that. It’s exactly what it needs to be, and Cronenberg is the only filmmaker in the world smart enough to get that right. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; one day critical opinion will swing back Cronenberg’s way. Sadly, not before voting ended.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
What Will Win: The Artist
Critical mass has been reached for The Artist. I don’t think anyone on the planet expects another movie to win, except Stephen Daldry, probably; a conclusion I’ve reached after enduring Extremely Bad And Just Generally Incredibly Incredibly Dire And Awful Jesus What A Stinker, which seems to have been directed by someone who has absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever. I was tempted to predict a Hugo surprise here, but I think we all know that’s not happening. Harvey Weinstein has been prowling the streets of Hollywood like a cross between Batman, Wilson Fisk and P.T. Barnum, pimping out that movie for all he’s worth. It’s a foregone conclusion.
What Should Win: The Artist
And I’m absolutely fine with that. Not just because it’s the best movie of the nine nominees, but because I still think so fondly of it a victory in this category would make my night. I’m sure in time the numerous haters will multiply like mogwai under a waterfall, but for now a big win would almost feel like an extension of the movie’s deliriously happy vibe. Like a 4D experience for its fans. Plus it’s a last chance to see Jean Dujardin charm us with another impromptu dance. Vous dansez comme un nuage enthousiaste, vous bel homme!
What Should Have Been Nominated: Take Shelter / A Dangerous Method
If that vile… vile… thing with the obnoxiously precious title can get nominated, then surely anything can. Two of my favourites of last year are more than good enough to get in here, usurping Daldry’s slimy ode to sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-McSweeney’s-style precocity and Spielberg’s admittedly hilarious and Dadaesque World War One comedy The Adventures of War Horse: The Siren-Centaur Hybrid of Death, not to mention The (Wonderful Way White People) Help(ed Those Relatively Unimportant Black Folks). Put these two brilliant movies in there, dammit, and why not add Fast Five while you’re at it. That movie was better than at least seven, arguably eight of the movies in that list, even if only for the moment when The Rock and Vin Diesel crash through a wall during a fight. Better than Malick’s dinosaurs, I reckon.
That”s enough making a fool of myself in front of the entire internet. See you on the other side of the award ceremony, and what will likely be a really cozy opening monologue from Billy Crystal featuring at least one — maybe five — jokes about the lacklustre box office takings of Mr. Saturday Night. Mazel tov!