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"The Artist"

The Year of Eras, ERAs, and the Rest is Silence: Oscar Predictions 2012

Two posts in a year. Ain’t all that bad.

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Actor

Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist” — should win, will win
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

The morning of the Oscar nominations I heard an NPR interview with a Hollywood Reporter writer who claimed that best actor was clearly and unquestionably a race between Clooney and Pitt. I don’t know what awards season she’s been watching. Dujardin, in a walk.

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Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners” — should win, will win
Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Plummer wins, if only to satisfy a broadcast curiosity: will the mike will pick up an off-color if not downright skeevy remark  in the direction of the Oscar girl?

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Actress

The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”

Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady” — will win
Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn” — should win

I have not seen “The Iron Lady,” but I have seen the trailer. If those two minutes are not enough to convince you Streep is honing in on her first Oscar since 1983, you are just not watching closely.

Granted, “The Iron Lady” is a disturbing film. Its potential to build up sympathy for one of the more immovable conservative politicians of the past four decades is hardly the stuff of Oscar voters’ dreaming. With this role, Streep is playing to the trends, though let’s give the Oscar mainstay credit in assuming that is the last reason why she took it. Simply, the actor categories are dominated in recent years by portrayals of real-world figures, with lots of makeup and big hair. Add the “playing ugly” criteria familiar from “Monster,” “La vie en rose” and “The Fighter” and Streep tops Williams in a close race.

Why not Viola Davis, the heavy-favorite during the interminable countdown to the red carpet? She is a stellar actress with a mesmerizing ability to bring the well-guarded and well-worn emotions of a black woman struggling with every fiber against generations of bigotry, hatred, racism and malcontent to vivid life on-screen. With the mark of a remarkable actor, she often evokes this inner world of profound conflict with just a subtle, tortured look in her eyes or smile. She is terrific, as was her performance in “The Help,” as was her work in a smaller role that led to her previous Oscar nomination: Mrs. Miller in “Doubt,” opposite Meryl Streep.

Two points prevent her from earning the award this year. First, Octavia Spencer is an absolute lock to win supporting actress, for playing, essentially, the sassy id to Davis’s contemplative ego in what comes off in the film version of “The Help” as a stripped-down character study of the Southern Black Maid, pre-Civil Rights Mississippi. The film rather delights in bringing color and energy to its white supporting characters, by which I mean caricatures, in Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain’s roles in particular. It also picks up a troubling narrative line from “The Blind Side,” “Glory Road” and others: that black people need affluent and/or alternatively thinking white people to guide them to self-awareness and success. In the current case, it took a pair of absolutely towering performances to give what should be vital black figures an on-screen presence alongside white counterparts, and even then, the personas of these characters post-adaptation are just too similar to honor with two awards. Between them, Spencer’s role is the popular crowd pleaser to a contemporary audience.

Perhaps more relevant is the politics of the situation. The last year the Oscars did not give at least one award to an actor playing a real historical figure was 1997 or 1998, depending on whether Judi Dench’s work in “Shakespeare in Love” counts as historical or just a send-up of everything we’ve been told about Elizabeth I. Last year, three of the four Oscars went to real-life characters. Given the sentimentality displayed in this year’s nominees across the board, this is hardly a moment for bucking trends. Allowing Brad Pitt his blushes, and noting that Jonah Hill is a long shot to the point that he is an ant-sized speck  on the horizon, this is the only place to honor a gripping historical portrayal. Hence, Streep against Williams, with Williams just too beautiful to take it.

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Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help” — should win, will win

As much as it would please to give “Bridesmaids” any sort of nod in these predictions, this year’s supporting actress category seems virtually assured. So why fight it? A deserving tribute to a fine performance by Octavia Spencer (see the best actress analysis for more).

Still, an oddity this year is the credit given to Dujardin for his work in “The Artist,” while Bejo seems comparatively unloved. No reason other than a perceived inability to compete with Streep and Co. could relegate her pivotal role in “The Artist” to a supporting category. More, how about that old Ginger Rogers quip: backwards and in heels.

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Animated Feature

“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita” — should win, will win
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

No Pixar makes it a wide open race, and a good chance for the Academy to give some love to foreign animation as it did with the almost unsurpassed genius of “Spirited Away.” That pits the stylistically intriguing French-cat-with-a-double-life story against a Spanish/Cuban tale of passion and heartbreak, told in the form of a Latin ballad. On that completely insufficient description, the choice is obvious.

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Art Direction

“The Artist” — will win
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo” — should win
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

I quote myself from a year ago: “The tie goes to the Best Picture favorite in a fascinating year for Art Direction.” “The Artist” also happens to be the movie that out nostalgia-ed the modern-day champion of movie nostalgia, Martin Scorcese. While his children’s story-based ode to the birth of fictional-narrative cinema is a lovely, precisely crafted film–making its case for a technical award or two a little farther down the alphabetical line–no film this year and perhaps in recent memory pumps more unrestrained, unvarnished, old-movie sentimentality onto every inch of the screen than “The Artist.” Sure, both “Harry Potter” and “Midnight in Paris” trip into the fantastic at various times, but finding a film with a real-world setting that has this much fanciful, even whimsical flair is about as good as you can get in Art Direction. Add that black and white is not the easiest film medium for which to plan and “The Artist”s lead widens.

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Cinematography

An Emmanuel Lubezki long shot in “The Tree of Life,” by Terrence Malick.

Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”
Jeff Cronenweth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Robert Richardson, “Hugo”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life” — should win, will win
Janusz Kaminski, “War Horse”

A very small flyer here, first because newcomer and easy favorite Schiffman is a deserving candidate whose work is capable of overcoming the Academy’s unwillingness to give this award to black and white films; see “Good Night, and Good Luck.,” “The White Ribbon” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” Two old powerhouses are also difficult to see beyond: Richardson and Kaminski.

Yet this is Lubezki’s fifth nomination, his second for a film directed by Malick, who is nothing if not a visually motivated director. Malick’s prior works were critical darlings more or less ignored by Oscar’s selectors, meaning that he is building up the kind of reputation to make his career–and “The Tree of Life” a movie–that the Academy wants to recognize with an award, just not best picture. This is a more than fitting place, and a more-than-deserving craftsman on which to bestow it.

Plus, the movie was just damn good in its use of lighting and distance, reminiscent of “Lawrence of Arabia,” among many others. Maybe it’s not all political after all.

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Costume Design

Lisy Christl, “Anonymous” — will win
Mark Bridges, “The Artist”
Sandy Powell, “Hugo” — should win
Michael O’Connor, “Jane Eyre”
Arianne Phillips, “W.E.”

Go big or go home. That’s the overriding message every year in costume design. While first-time nominee Bridges is the odds-on favorite to win, the strong likelihood of “The Artist” winning best picture holds less weight in costume design than in other categories. This is the field that earned “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” an Oscar, and rightly so.

In costume design, more than any other category, the skill and creativity of the craft in question most easily overcomes the general quality of the movie. For this reason, you cannot ignore “Anonymous.” First, British period drama is the ideal foundation on which to build Oscar-night success, as recent winners “The Young Victoria,” “The Duchess” (costume design by Michael O’Connor, incidentally), “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and even “Alice in Wonderland” can attest. That would be a nod in “Jane Eyre”s direction, if not for the presence of an even more flamboyantly festooned and older-period piece in Emmerich’s supposition on the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. You cannot vote for “Jane Eyre”s appropriately restrained wardrobes when “Anonymous” is filled to bursting with Elizabethan collars, finely detailed tunics and slightly scandalous Elizabethan undergarments. Add that Christl is a genuine Oscar rookie, with few Oscar-type films on her resume–a liability in most categories but not, I am guessing, in the out-there world of costuming–and you can take these long-odds to the bank.

A close second is three-time Oscar winner and ten-time nominee Sandy Powell, who knows a thing or two about Elizabethan dress success: She won the award in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love.” Again, “Hugo” is on the cusp of breaking through, but doesn’t it just seem like the movie destined to play runner-up all night?

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Directing

Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” — will win
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Marin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life” — should win

No question 2011 was a strong year for directors, and the 2012 nominees prove it with four commanding, substantial innovators and an impressive, non-American newcomer. Any other year, the smart money is on an American: an old hand like Scorsese, a sentimental favorite in Allen for a sentimental favorite in “Midnight in Paris” or a visionary whose time has finally come. Don’t overthink it. Bet the newcomer. It ain’t easy to turn a silent film into a big earner, nor gain so many accolades and Oscar nominations for a French film. It would be easy to discount “The Artist,” reminding ourselves that these are America’s film awards, but Hazanavicus’s vision and ingenuity are too great, and his film too unabashedly positive, to be denied.

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Documentary Feature

“Hell and Back Again” — will win
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina” — should win
“Undefeated”

The popular prediction among this year’s documentary offerings is “Undefeated,” a strong contender that taps into an increasingly dominant sports culture with its story of underdog success on the football field. Documentary, however, is the category that does not mind a little controversy, and in a year in which a common chord among fiction’s heavy favorites is nostalgic longing, expect this year’s documentary pickers to strike a different tone. That’s “Undefeated” out, as well as Wim Wenders’s elegiac, artful and slightly off-beat tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch.

The remaining films offer solid Oscar fodder, at least where documentaries are concerned. Three controversial topics: radical environmentalism, the retrial of convicted murders and the wartime experience and homeland treatment of Marines. Call it a knee jerk reaction, but I go with the one most frequently in the news. Photojournalist Danfung Dennis’s Afghanistan exploration takes the award that “Restrepo,” covering similar thematic arenas, did not win a year ago and takes one of this year’s tightest fields in the process.

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Documentary Short

“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face” — should win, will win
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

An always difficult category to predict has proven harder in recent years, when the award has gone to relatively unlikely picks over films covering obvious zeitgeist topics. Three of last year’s nominees–“Poster Girl,” “Killing in the Name” and “The Warriors of Qiugang”–seemed more likely winners than the film that ultimately took the award, “Strangers No More.”

Under that umbrella, three films are right out: “Incident in New Baghdad,” about the Iraq war deaths of two Reuters journalists; “Tsunami,” by rising documentary great Lucy Walker (“Waste Land”), capturing survivors of Japan’s 2011 earthquake as they prepare for the new cherry blossom season; and “The Barber of Birmingham,” a follow-along documentary of a Civil Rights-era activists’ reflections on the Obama presidency. “God Is the Bigger Elvis,” about a bit-part actress who gives up an emerging acting career to be a Benedictine nun, is perhaps too outlandish to be considered a contender in the first place.

That leaves “Saving Face.” The story of a London-based plastic surgeon’s return to Pakistan to repair the faces of women who have been assaulted in horrifically pervasive acid attacks by jilted suitors and family members, it strikes the right balance to woo Oscar voters: a provocative topic just under the radar of widespread knowledge, set in an area of profound importance on the international stage.

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Editing

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

I know, I know: Wall and Baxter won last year for truly masterful work in “The Social Network.” Twelve months later and they have clearly established themselves as the fresh young force in editing. But a repeat? Not when they are facing a boulder rolling downhill. In a category not short on Oscar heft, what with Scorsese’s career editor Schoonmaker also adding gravitas, “The Artist” picks up a technical award, laying the groundwork for end-of-the-evening success.

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Foreign Language

“Bullhead,” Belgium
“Footnote,” Israel
“In Darkness,” Poland
“Monsieur Lazhar,” Canada
“A Separation,” Iran — should win, will win

I have been terribly poor in predicting foreign language winners in recent years, but then again, who hasn’t? Popular favorites like “Biutiful,” “A Prophet,” “The White Ribbon,” “Revanche,” “Waltz with Bashir,” “Katyn,” “Mongol” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” have all lost out on the award, while relative unknowns like “Departures” and “The Secret in Their Eyes” rose to the top.

Despite myself, then, I lean toward the film that almost every commentator says will win foreign language: “A Separation.” Asghar Farhadi’s deep and insightful tale of a couple’s achingly difficult decision to leave Iran for the sake their child or stay to care for a deteriorating patriarch has all the momentum here, from critical buzz to a captivating story to the most enticing country of origin. The only failing is Oscar history, but for once, bank on the selectors not being swayed to vote against popularity.

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Makeup

“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady” — should win, will win

Here we have one of just three opportunities to give the most financially successful film franchise of all-time an outgoing Academy Award, a wave and a nod to a cherished story that has brought us–and by us, I mean human civilization–to a pleasant denouement together. If only “Harry Potter” was more makeup than CGI. If it has any chance for an Oscar, it will be in visual effects.

That turns this year’s makeup award away from the stalwarts of the category, alien and monster effects, and toward a sight slightly unusual for the Kodak Theatre, though not so unusual for L.A.: a drag king against a showboating queen. Easy call for those who’ve been to a gay bar.

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Original Score

John Williams, “The Adventures of Tintin”
Ludovic Bource, “The Artist” — will win
Howard Shore, “Hugo”
Alberto Iglesias, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” — should win
John Williams, “War Horse”

Another “Why fight it?” Bource faced a truly unlikely challenge: scoring a silent film about silent filmmaking, that was itself a pastiche of silent films. Like the movie itself, he found a way to both honor early silent-era innovators and add a level of humor and modernity that kept a 21st-century audience from being bored, as much as I hate to use that word about people whom I must presume knew it was a silent film when they bought the ticket. I wouldn’t put that past most of the people I see in movie theaters these days.

Now let’s pull out the stops and see the film with live orchestral accompaniment.

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Original Song

“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” — should win, will win
“Real in Rio” from “Rio”

Here’s the real no-brainer of the year. First, more people played the Angry Birds version of “Rio” than saw the movie. More to the point, who doesn’t want to see Bret McKenzie give an acceptance speech? Novelty animal sweatshirts anyone?

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Picture

Hugo

Newcomer Asa Butterfield in Martin Scorsese’s latest ode to early cinema, “Hugo.”

“The Artist” — will win
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“The Help”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris” — should win
“Moneyball”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

The tone of this post toward “The Artist” surely gives away my critical appraisal of the movie: a pleasant enough cinematic experience, filled with sentimentality. It watches like a fun exercise in filmmaking. Then you leave the movie theater and barely remember what you just saw.

Sure, “The Artist” is visually impeccable, with a certain meta-styled cleverness: a silent film about silent films made in a way that no silent-era director could have possibly conceived, evoking Douglas Fairbanks, Busby Berkeley, Fantômas and a dozen other references along the way. It features the nifty collaboration of an international roster of artists and moviemakers and legitimizes silent films for new generation. No doubt it will be a favorite of Film Studies 101 professors for years to come.

Yet the seemingly unstoppable tide that is pushing “The Artist” toward best picture is perhaps more a sign of the times in America: a frustration with bickering, controversy and dark overtones, a preference for artistic endeavors that do not do much to challenge viewers not prepping a thesis on modern-day interpretations of the classic studio system. The nominees bear this out, with “The Help” and “The Descendants” popular options based on strong acting performances and not much else. “Moneyball” is an unassuming, sport-driven diversion. In another year, “The Tree of Life” could rival “The Artist,” as no one can accuse Malick of being too domineering in his handling of the audience’s emotions; his time, as has been written, has not yet arrived. Meanwhile, the film among the nine best picture candidates that dealt most directly with a disturbing topic, “Extremely Loud,” is critically panned and almost universally assumed to be dead on arrival.

That leaves three rivals to “The Artist” in “War Horse,” “Hugo” and “Midnight in Paris,” though, judging by the talk, only the first two are actual contenders. The World War I of “War Horse” is hardly small subject matter, but the film comes at the war from Spielberg’s typically diluted approach. And really, if one film based on a children’s book is going to win, “Hugo” has “War Horse” outpaced in both emotional force and construction. “The Artist” then outpaces “Hugo” to claim the top prize.

Still, if sentimentality is the guiding principle of the year, I prefer “Midnight in Paris,” certainly a more sophisticated and wide-ranging dreamscape than the purely cinematic one presented by Hazanavicius. Sure, “Midnight” might fall into the Woody Allen trap of appealing only to the small segment of viewers who can identify with his quirky, off-beat characters or their inside jokes. Moreover, I admit to heavy bias; I myself have been known to imagine a fanciful jaunt into ’20s Paris to dine with the luminaries of the luminous years. Still, the praise is not without some merit, as Owen Wilson is better in “Midnight” than he’s ever been in a pseudo-serious role, and Allen wrote a more vibrant and appealing script than any of his in recent memory. I delight in offering some credit to my favorite film among those nominated for best picture, no matter how far behind it is in the race.

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Short, Animated

“Dimanche/Sunday”
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life” — should win, will win

Funny story, since seeing these films in their proper setting is difficult in the best of circumstances, and those circumstances do not often come to North Carolina. Watching the Oscars telecast two years ago, when “Logorama” beat Nick Park’s “A Matter of Load and Death,” the winner was obvious just from watching the short excerpts shown during the reading of the nominees. The same was true last year with the “The Lost Thing.” In both cases, the winner was a computer graphic-heavy animation of notable visual variety, beating out a well-established animation house whose cute and pithy story seemed to outweigh the skill and creativity of the animation in viewers’ minds. That makes a strong case for avoiding the popular choice and going for the film that puts the most wonder and artistry on the screen.

Well, let’s ignore one in favor of the other. I take a flyer here and put my chips on a real long-shot in “Wild Life,” a somewhat traditionally animated, slightly minimalistic entry from Canada about an Englishman’s struggle to outwit the frontier circa 1909. The more likely winners are the whimsical Pixar film “La Luna,” a father-son CGI story about cleaning the cosmos, and the appealingly titled “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” a Pixar-like computer animation with no small touch of the nostalgic typical of the rest of this year’s Oscar categories.

Hey, not every award can go to the obvious choice, right?

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Short, Live Action

“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic” — should win, will win

Appealing as it would be to hear some Oscar presenter who drew the short straw intone “Time Freak,” the decidedly one-note story of an inventor taking a few shots at rewinning the girl of his dreams is about as fulfilling as the recent time-machine beer commercial it unavoidably evokes. Add the rose-colored humor of “Pentecost”s Irish Catholic altar boy getting a shot a redemption and that’s two candidates too shallow in their intentions to win.

The rest of the nominees for live action short offer up more enticing chances for Oscar gold, even with the limited life given to this vital and overlooked medium by the Academy. “The Shore” has comparative starpower in Ciarán Hinds, yet the ultimate race seems to be between Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren’s “Raju,” about a first-world couple adopting an Indian boy only for him to run away, and Hallvar Witzø’s “Tuba Atlantic,” a humorous-enough and very Scandanavian imagining of a doomed old man’s final acts on earth. If only in the shorts, lean toward the one that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Sound Editing

“Drive”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” — should win, will win
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Sound Mixing

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” — should win, will win
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Visual Effects

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” — should win
“Hugo” — will win
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

This year’s action-movie categories feature the largest gap from 2011 to 2012, as far as making a prediction is concerned. A year ago, if you were a smarter person than I, you took “Inception” for the trifecta and slept well on Friday and Saturday nights. This year, any movie can win, from the ever eye-melting effects of “Transformers” to CGI apes with a guy who likes having jobs to a movie inspired by a ’60s-era boxing toy. “Real Steel” was based on Rock’em Sock’em Robots, yes?

“Hugo” is the pure-buzz favorite here, and with good reason. Scorcese’s team of craftsmen is about as good as can be imagined, let alone brought together to work on one film. Seeing a Scorcese picture is also seeing Richardson, Schoonmaker and Powell at work, and their level of skill is easily equaled by those bespectacled men and women tucked behind computers and mixing boards in dimly lit post-production editing bays. Remember, Scorsese made quite a lot of hay in 2004 for using supposedly old filmmaking techniques in shooting “The Aviator.” The film won five Academy Awards but was not even nominated in visual effects. This newest ode to early filmmaking, which was promoted without even an off-hand suggestion that it was created with anything other than the latest technological advancements, can here validate how particularly dull was that P.R. gimmick.

Sure, it would seem odd to give visual effects to a movie based on a children’s book when so many raw and ready action movies–unburdened by the desire to tell an original or even remotely inventive story–are present among the nominees. “Hugo,” with its sense of magic and lighthearted wonder, is well-positioned to break both the mold and, in this one instance, its runner-up status for a solid and deserving visual effects prize.

However, for all that “Hugo” has in terms of visual splendor, it lacks an outright, unrestrained action sequence or two to whet the creative appetites of sound designers. For argument’s sake, let’s call “Transformers” too bad to win an Academy Award, making the sound categories a toss-up between the best filmic options after “Hugo”: “War Horse” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” A war movie is a safe choice (see “The Hurt Locker” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”), as is a Spielberg film (“Jurassic Park”). A film that features both advantages? “Saving Private Ryan,” which ran the sound categories in 1998.

Against my own logic, I favor “Dragon Tattoo,” a reach, surely, but a film whose soundscape is less dependent on clichés established by a filmmaker fifteen years ago, to which he is returning without apparent reconsideration. No, give me clichés old as action movies themselves, in a film transplanted from European screens to American in about a year. Who says Hollywood can’t be original?

Meanwhile, I give the slightest of shrugs in the direction of “Harry Potter,” again simply on the “Lord of the Rings” motive. The concluding film in a long, beloved and financially lucrative series might just squeak by with an award–or twelve, in Peter Jackson’s case.

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Adapted Screenplay

“The Descendants” — will win
“Hugo” — should win
“The Ides of March”
“Moneyball”
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

The Academy loves Payne, the writer, giving him three Oscar nods now and one statuette, for “Sideways” in 2005. Winners of the writing categories often need a certain amount of intellectual rigor and/or invention, and so, for all of “Hugo”s charm, the scale tips toward one of the truly great contemporary screenwriters. Still, watch out for a quiet but surprising pickup by “Moneyball,” given that a non-fiction account of successful statistical analysis in Major League Baseball should have been an ungainly reach for good movie material.

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Original Screenplay

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”

“The Artist”
“Bridesmaids”
“Margin Call”
“Midnight in Paris” — should win, will win
“A Separation”

What, you thought “The Artist” was going to win? Daring as a 21st-century silent film may be, a screenplay without dialogue seems unlikely to sway the hearts of the hard-bitten, hard-drinking cynics voting on this particular award: the writers. This I say while noting that “The Artist” won a BAFTA in this category, more than enough recognition to cause a pause. If the Brits, the caretakers of The Queen’s English, can find it in there apparently not entirely callous hearts to honor “The Artist” for a script full of stage directions, surely the Academy can.

Nevertheless, Allen’s poetic love note to a time and place of particularly explosive artistic chemistry is, undeniably, the sentimental choice where writing is concerned. The romantic ideal of dining with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Dali seems just a tad too beautiful for a panel of writers to pass up.

Note that “Bridesmaids” and “A Separation” could both easily sneak in and take it as well, for opposite reasons, making both screenplay awards devilishly close races, top to bottom. I often say that the two writing categories are the real best picture. Perhaps the lack of an obvious winner among either writing group proves an overriding feeling from this year’s Oscars: 2011 saw no great films in the American studio marketplace.

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My Oscar Batting Average since 2004: .700 (133/190)

Past Oscar predictions:
The Year of Speeches, Reaches, and Men of True Grit
The Year of Bombs, Bridges, and Big Blue Men
The Curious Case of 2009
The Year of Assassinations by Demon Barbers

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The 84nd annual Academy Awards
Sunday, February 26, 2012
7 pm ET
ABC

The Year of Speeches, Reaches, and Men of True Grit

This entry was published on 23 February 2012 at 1:14 pm. It’s filed under OLD OSCAR PICKS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “The Year of Eras, ERAs, and the Rest is Silence: Oscar Predictions 2012

  1. Pingback: The Year of the CIA and Making Men Free: Oscar Predictions 2013 « Art On Edge

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