And the winner is…
I considered writing a bit on each category like I had for Best Picture, but that would be folly. The amount of times I would have to claim ignorance would be ridiculous. So, instead, it will be repetitive. I require four sites to complete this article: Oscar.com, IMDB.com, RottenTomatoes.com, and Wikipedia.org. Buckle your seat belts, because safety is important. Actually, the correct end of that quote is “it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Not “ride.” That makes it a better line because it’s a pun rather than a mere metaphor. Right, anyway.
Theory: The Academy is not a monolith. The Academy makes no claims. Politicians that claim mandates or promise to fulfill the “will of the people” are committing some sort of vicious fallacy–maybe its aggregation, maybe it’s post hoc ergo prompter hoc, I’m not sure I left my logic book at home, but it’s wrong soon and for the rest of its life. I think I’m going to do this now, with the quotes. Anyway, one of my assumptions is going to be that the voters for these awards will have as many disparate opinions as there are. The kind of coordination to create a message-laden pattern is near impossible while a general sweep is relatively easy (“This movie was a phenomenon of our time!”).
I’ve already written on this topic, but haven’t answered the question as squarely.
Will: The Artist will win because it was released at the correct time (November) and allows everyone in the Academy to flatter themselves that their business is something higher than what it is. “Remember, we used to make movies?” Now that’s something that Focus does. Wait, they made The Eagle (2011)? Revoked. But seriously, even though it wasn’t perfect where I believe it absolutely had to be, it was good enough to get past its gimmick (just). It has funny, it has sad, and it has something special–like a mute is special.
Should: I don’t like movies that are either saying something or keep us asking ourselves what they’re saying. The Artist is a triple offender in that it is saying something, I don’t know what it is, and it literally says nothing (or very, very little). The movie that should win is either The Descendants, which I’ve seen, or Moneyball, which I haven’t. Moneyball I mention because it looks like it’s neither cheap nor easy. But The Descendants is funny and brutally sad without too much corn to ruin the effect. Really, the winner should be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Drive, but hey.
Will: This is a category I really don’t like because in no other can the work of another unfairly transfer to a person. An actor benefiting from great writing is a close second, but at least one person is communicating the work of another. A director selects the script or accepts/denies on the base of it. The director doesn’t necessarily act, edit, or do the camera work. The director picks the angle and directs the actors. I do not appear to be alone–62 of 85 Best Picture winners had Best Directing winners and incredibly few films (five) have had only one nomination in only one category. The distinction I will make is that one just has the best story (Picture) while one just has the best execution (Directing). That means Martin Scorsese.
Should: Scorsese probably directs the best scene of all the nominees. Woody Allen probably directed the best film–that is, a consistent tone and no unnecessary scenes. But Midnight in Paris does not require much range in the way of directing. “Hm, do we do a medium shot or a long shot this time? Did you see Annie Hall? Yeah, I want you to talk like those people.” Did I love it? Darn right I did, it was a fantastic movie. So was Annie Hall (1977). Does simple mean it can’t be the best? Yes, yes it does. Scorsese.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Will: Again, I haven’t seen Moneyball. It’s even money between Cloney, Dujardin, and Oldman. Bichir I say no because if everyone is honestly voting, they’re not going to give it to a performance they haven’t seen. A Better Life was released in July and made less than two million. If everyone in the Academy went to see it, the movie would have made more. I know not really, it was a joke, stop being so literal. I predict Jean Dujardin wins the award because I can imagine most voters felt that his job was the most difficult. Oldman gets points for having never won before while Clooney has been nominated twice for Best Actor and won Best Supporting (no obligation there). But Oldman’s role required so little from him that it would be pretty absurd for so good an actor to win on so limited a performance. Sure, Paul Newman won for The Color of Money (1986), but Newman was 63 while Oldman is 54. Newman had also been nominated four times before and probably should have been nominated twice as much. Oldman can’t claim that.
Should: Dujardin should win. He did very well and kept the silliness we attribute to silent movies to a minimum. Clooney, while doing a very fine job, was given a simple, everyman role. Still, he did it so well that he comes a very close second place.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Will: The odd one out is Michelle Williams. Two can lay claim to being the best American actresses alive, one was [spoiler] and played a sociopath, one played a servant in a civil rights almost-epic, and one played a starlet who was BritneySpears-style screwed up. This is Streeps 14th nomination for Best Actress. As my sister might say, “O.o” But she’s “only” won once (but by my reckoning, that’s about right). Glenn Close has three nominations with no wins. Every year she’s been nominated, so has Streep, but as we’ve established that’s less of a coincidence than it could be. Ebert said that Close was excellent in an emotionally drab role (my words) and everyone seems to say Streep is the only thing of value in The Iron Lady. If The Iron Lady wasn’t good, how can Streep have been good? There’s that great Simpson’s line, “I like Woody Allen movies, but I hate that nervous fella that’s in them.” I’m getting that On Golden Pond (1981) feeling. I’m going to say Close will not win because the role has too much quirk. Davis put in a strong performance, there’s no question. Rooney Mara put in a strong performance, there’s no question there, either. I’m guessing it comes down to the two of them. My gut says Viola Davis wins, but Mara might if voters think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is getting the shaft–which they don’t apparently.
Has anyone ever commented that Best Actress nominations/wins appear to have been chosen by the same manatees that create family guy plot lines.
Should: Viola Davis. It’s not rocket science to play a sociopath, but it takes something to play pain. It takes a lot more to play angry, hurt, and hopeful. So, while Mara got a better part, it’s not because of the range it requires.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Will: I’ve seen all but one of the performances (Janet McTeer), but I can make even less sense out of historical Supporting Role choices as I can out of Best Actress winners. If there’s fodder for the consolation prize, this is where you’ll find it. I’m surprised they didn’t replace Jessica Chastain with Emma Watson or Mrs. Weasley just so they could get the numbers up. McCarthy was hilarious. Bejo did very will as did Chastain. Spencer played the Black analogue of Sandra Bullock‘s role in The Blind Side (2009), by which Bullock despicably, inexplicably won an Oscar. If Lainie Kazan can’t win for playing a caricature, then I say no one can. But I predict Janet McTeer, sight unseen, will win. Quirk must be rewarded.
Should: Bejo should win because she’s the only one (that I saw) didn’t have her acting written out for her in the central casting card. Awkwardly honest/butch, ditsy with hidden, though minimal, depth, moody and aggressive alpha female, and free spirit. No, Bejo plays a woman with ambition, need, and love–that’s at least three dimensions.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Will: Here it is, the first category in which I’ve seen none of the movies. Even so, it’s pretty obvious that it’s between Plummer (a late blooming homosexual) and Sydow (a mute). They’re both actuarially the same, so that’s no help. Gay or speechless, who wins? Well I’ve already predicted some The Artist wins, so I’ll predict: Plummer.
Should: I really couldn’t say. I like Branagh the most out of the bunch as an actor. But I’m guessing Plummer plays the deepest role.
Nominees: The Artist, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Will: Cinematography “is the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography.” So, what looks best insofar as the camera is concerned? Or, for this section, which will the voters think looks best. The Tree of Life is a pretty good bet considering it’s getting nothing else and is supposed to have looked fantastic. Yeah, that’s my prediction: The Tree of Life.
Should: Drive almost without hesitation was the most visually stimulating film. But that’s not an option. The Artist I think fails for its lack of color (mostly) and its adoption of the visual style of old movies, which naturally had less camera movement and less complex optics. War Horse is off my list for most awards exactly because it jumped the shark at the end with a solid two minutes of near-sepia brownness found nowhere in nature. I haven’t seen The Tree of Life to comment on its look, but I suspect most of it was computer generated and, thus, outside the category (i.e. not the work of a camera). That goes for Hugo at any rate. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, however, had style and cool without going too far.
Best Art Direction
Nominees: The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse
Will: Art direction doesn’t get much in the way of a clean definition, but it appears to signify the overall visual appearance of the move. So, which is the best or did the best in the doing or…something? This smells a bit too intuitive to me. Just look at it. Hugo.
Best Music (Original Score)
Will: John Williams has had 42 Oscar nominations. John Williams has had 42 Oscar nominations. His style is what we think of when we think of “movie soundtrack.” Still, these two examples were pretty pedestrian showings for him. Tinker Tailor and The Artist are the only ones to depart from the sweeping sound we’re used to. Tinker Tailor has been pretty ignored up until now, but it’s got to be The Artist.
Should: The Artist
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominees: The Descendents, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Will: I suspect Moneyball since Aaron Sorkin is the best, but the co-writting, I suspect, saps most of his power. But, for sheer difficulty, it’s got to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The Ides of March had so much potential, but there’s a movie, if ever there was one, that deserved a Best Directing nod but not Best Picture. If dialogue were the end of it, then The Ides of March would have won, but communicating the story is of either equal or greater importance to an adaptation.
Should: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Nominees: The Artist, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Midnight in Paris, A Separation
Will: It isn’t close, it’s Midnight in Paris. Talk about an original story written to perfection. Bridesmaids, though an excellent example of female comedy transcending a niche (if that’s not too offensive), is a bit like giving a Robin Williams or Bill Murray comedy a Best Writing nomination–you know the bulk of it wasn’t written down. Watch the credits roll and Bridesmaids shows you exactly that. That’s broad comedy for you: unlike real life, once you can it, it starts to go bad. Maybe that’s what makes Midnight in Paris so great.
Should: The Artist being nominated here is a joke. The story is Singing in the Rain (1952) but inverted–it’s silent, more dramatic, and the man fails to translate (for artistic purposes)–and the story is the only thing that could have gotten it nominated. How many other films are out there that didn’t get a nomination that should have? Crazy, Stupid, Love or 50/50 if we’re going with comedy (and we should) and if we aren’t, Hanna or (I’m sure) Beginners would suit. It’s moot because Midnight in Paris is the obvious choice. Second joke: A Separation is in Farsi. I’m not saying you can’t be a good Farsical writer, but I don’t think the Academy can really claim to be the judge of it.
Best Animated Feature Film
I haven’t seen them and I can’t be bothered to link to them or any of the remaining categories for that matter. I’ll leave it at this. Animated feature is probably (almost certainly) Rango because it’s the only one that made a real movie. The Adventures of Tintin? I guess that’s something we’re going to have to get settled sooner rather than later. Drive for best sound editing? I thought supporting characters were the fodder. How is sound editing different from mixing again? Apparently enough to take out Drive and put in Moneyball. Real Steel over Tintin on visual effects? That’s absurd. As for these winners (should or will), I couldn’t say. I expect it will be a function of a popularity/pity contest. I have no interest in shorts, original songs (barf!), or makeup. Though I will say giving a nomination to Albert Nobbs when the people in the film are supposed to have applied the makeup themselves does make me question the logic. Foreign Film? Do they make movies outside the US/UK? Me neither. At least this year, I didn’t really notice. The last non-anglophone movie I thought I’d like to see was 13 Assassins.