Here we are again! Oscar 2013 is right around the corner, which means it’s time for me to release my predictions. I generally do a fairly good job (but of course, the award shows are generally fairly easy to predict), but this year, there are some categories that are definitely up in the air. If you missed my first post, detailing what I consider to be the best films of the year, check it out here. As always, any film marked in red is one I did not see, so take that into consideration. Away we go!
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Live-Action Short Film
Best Animated Short Film
Best Original Song
Best Original Score
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Film Editing
(Note: I saw none of the documentaries this year, so I have no opinion on them)
Best Costume Design
Best Animated Film
Wreck-It Ralph has a shot here, but not a big one. You just can’t beat Pixar, and Brave was a lovely film.
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Yay! It’s Oscar season again! AREN’T YOU EXCITED? Well, probably not — most people enjoy lambasting our OBSESSION WITH CELEBRITIES, so honest interest in the Academy Awards is often seen as antediluvian these days. That’s all right. There are certainly more important things, but then, I enjoy celebrating art, and the awards are an opportunity for me (and many others) to see films that we otherwise might not check out … films not about robots or superhumans punching each other.
With that out of the way, let’s start with the rundown of my favorite movies of the year. In no particular order!
1 – Cloud Atlas
2 – Les Misérables
3 – Argo
4 – Django Unchained
I love Quentin Tarantino. There, I said it. There’s sort of a nouveaux-hipster mentality among some film fans and critics that Tarantino’s films are overrated, silly, overly violent or just plain bad. I’ve heard it said that he’s been unable to match the brilliance of Pulp Fiction, and is now just sort of flailing around, splattering blood everywhere.
Which is pretty much crap, in my opinion. While I can understand the divisiveness of Kill Bill (I love it, but it’s a very stylized movie created as an ode to a relatively obscure genre), his next film, Inglorious Basterds, is a straightforward tale (other than the alternate history) and has the honor of being one of my favorite movies ever (as well as my favorite Tarantino flick).
While Django didn’t quite knock Basterds out of the top spot, it still blew me away. As I said on Facebook some time ago, the movie automatically gets points for being one of the few movies about slavery that isn’t about either a) the quiet bravery that rests in the soul every black slave, or b) how awesome a certain group of white people were for ending it.
No, Django is about a freed slave’s vengeance, pure and simple. While it’s a bit more personal in scope, the issue of slavery plays a massive role, and any movie that can address old ideas in a new matter is worthwhile. Thankfully, Django is also brilliant. Jaime Foxx reminds us that, yes, he can act pretty damn well, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a wonderfully sadistic villain, and Christoph Waltz is astounding in his role as the somewhat-more-educated Yankee bounty hunter. To be sure, this movie’s views of slavery and race relations are not, shall-we-say, layered. There’s no, “well, slavery was a complex issue, the south wasn’t racist, per se…” Nope. The South’s a pretty ass-backwards place, and Southern slaveowners are straight up pieces of shit. I liked it. Some might not.
Oh, and there’s Kanye on the soundtrack. So there’s that.
5 – Cabin in the Woods
Every year, I like to include a dark horse of sorts. A film that was never expected to get nominated for much of anything, nor was it ever seriously in contention, but one I still think represents a filmmaking or storytelling achievement.
This year, that film is Cabin in the Woods. It’s hard to say too much about it without spoiling it — and if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely should. I promise you it’s not a run-of-the-mill slasher film. At all. In fact, the movie is all about critiquing your run-of-the-mill slasher films. It’s one of the most pointed criticisms of that genre I think I’ve seen, and the film is able to make those judgments while still providing an absurdly entertaining story that takes place, more or less, within the horror genre itself. And even further than simply criticizing the people who make the horror films, it’s criticizing the people who watch the films — which include a fair portion of Cabin’s audience, as well as its filmmakers. Brilliant.
Oh, and there’s REO Speedwagon on the soundtrack. So there’s that.
The artiest film on this list, The Master is not quite what I expected going in. I’d been hoping for a takedown of Scientology and its benefactor, L. Ron Hubbard. I was actually worried when I’d heard they’d changed the title character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman into a pastiche who was only inspired by Hubbard.
The Master is not about Scientology, and while there are criticisms, they aren’t as important to the film as I’d hoped. And yet, the film is still powerful. Like Django, it takes a broad issue and makes it extremely personal. Joaquin Phoenix portrays a broken man whose unidentified illness makes him somewhat immune to Hoffman’s brand of ‘healing,’ but whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, the film leaves as an open question. Amy Adams is similarly fantastic, and were it not for Anne Hathway, I’d say she was the favorite for Best Supporting Actress.
I will also say that the lack of nomination for Best Cinematography is absolutely the biggest snub on this year’s list — especially given the fact that it was beaten by Anna Karenina and Skyfall.
A sweet little film about a disabled man and a sex therapist. There’s not really much more to say about it than that. The films progresses exactly as you’d expect, and other than a wholly unecessary epilogue, there aren’t really any twists and turns.
The film’s success rests squarely on the shoulders of its two lead actors — John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. The fact that Hawkes failed to get a nomination, but Bradley Freaking Cooper in the dreadful Silver Linings Playbook was picked, is the second biggest snub of the night.
And the rest
What do you think?
Yes, I’m woefully late. In fact, if everything goes as plan, this will be posted mere hours before the Academy Awards. Oh well! That just means you won’t have to wait long to see how utterly crap my predictions are. Last year I did this as a two-parter, but since I’m already running late, we’re going to shove it into a single post. First up, the list of my favorite movies of 2011. Following that, my Oscar predictions. Without further ado, and in no particular order….
The Artist – Smart money’s on The Artist to win ALL OF THE THINGS! so let’s go ahead and start there. It’s great. It’s unique — a mostly-silent film about a silent film actor, the effortlessly charming George Valentin, who’s suddenly not as effortless when those new-fangled talkies start making waves in the film industry.
Jean Dujardin, a French actor who I’ve never seen in anything else, is friggin’ fantastic as Valentin. I don’t want to spoil anything for the prediction section … so I won’t. But Dujardin makes the film. The cinematography is similarly excellent — some really beautiful shots. The editing, directing — all top notch.
If I have one qualm, it’s that the story is somewhat simple. Not that there’s anything wrong with a simple story, but the film hints that it could have been somewhat more layered. Near the beginning of the film, Valentin has a dream that’s suddenly audible to us, the audience — and, to his terror, to him as well. I feel like director Michel Hazanavicius missed a chance to carry that metaphor through the rest of the film. But even so, The Artist is thoroughly enjoyable.
Midnight in Paris – I think I liked this movie more than I should — more than nonwriters would. Seeing Ernest Hemingway chatting with Gertrude Stein is almost as fantastically satisfying as seeing Thor smash a Frost Giant in the face with Mjollnir.
On the surface level, there’s not a huge amount of story here. Guy’s writing a book. Gets inspiration by imagining (or perhaps not?) writers of old giving him advice. Guy finishes book and learns a bit about life. But the sheer brilliance Woody Allen employs in the relationships between the various artists, and the intriguing (if not-too-subtle) grass-is-always-greener theme, make this a joy to watch, and Allen’s best film in years.
The Help – The Help got a lot of criticism for whitewashing (pun-intended) history, and that’s a fair point. But on some level, a good story is more important than getting every detail right. And The Help is a great story.
Yes, we get a little bit too close to “White angel” syndrome here, but I think the key difference between this and, say, The Blind Side, is that Emma Stone’s character in The Help is simply a mouthpiece — she just helps to make these women’s voices heard. And that’s generally the main thing privileged allies for underpriviliged people are expected to do.
The acting is the most important part, here. Viola Davis is fantastic, of course, but Octavia Spencer makes the movie for me. I think I laughed harder at her performance than at most of the comedies this year.
Super 8 – WHAT? Yes, like Tangled last year, Super 8 is my “dark horse.” While the wife wasn’t impressed, I found J.J. Abrams’s love song to Steven Spielberg entertaining as hell (and, ironically, infinitely more entertaining than Spielberg’s own War Horse, but then, what isn’t).
Super 8 has everything you could want — aliens, explosions, adorable children (who can actually act!). It’s E.T. on steroids — in fact, I have a suspicion that Elle Fanning is actually Drew Barrymore’s bastard child.
While Abrams still doesn’t seem to know how to handle giant monsters (Cloverfield wasn’t shown/explained enough, while Super 8’s creature is explained too much), it doesn’t hurt the movie enough for me to dislike it.
I’d like to again mention that War Horse was terrible.
Moneyball – Rounding up my favorites is something rare for me — a sports movie. But it’s a sports movie where the sport is somewhat tangential. This isn’t about the kid with a heart of gold fighting adversity, though it is sort of an underdog story. Instead, it’s about statistics, and any story that can entertain while simultaneously showing that, guess what, math is real and has real power — well, that’s a good movie in my book.
Brad Pitt is fantastic as always, imbuing Billy Beane with a subtle humanity that’s interesting, but not overdone. Jonah Hill (excuse me, Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill) is great as the nerdy number cruncher, and I think he’s proved to everyone that he can do more than make dick jokes. Philip Seymour Hoffman did a great job as well, and I’m surprised he didn’t get more attention for this (in fact, he probably deserved the Supporting Actor role over Hill).
I think Midnight in Paris clearly takes this, as it should. The writing, especially the dialogue, is exceptional. And while The Artist has several strengths, the screenplay isn’t really one of them, in my opinion.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Given the buzz, I can’t see the Academy giving this to anything other than The Descendants. I disagree — personally, I thought Moneyball was far stronger.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
“Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets
The Adventures of Tintin
It’s possible they’ll throw a bone to Harry Potter to recognize the series, but I think Albert Nobbs did a better job, and I think it’ll win.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Another interesting one … both The Artist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had great editing. But since they didn’t nominated Dragon Tattoo for Best Director (and since editing and directing are very closely connected), I’m going with The Artist.
The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Berenice Bejo, The Help
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Viola Davis, The Help
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
It’s that time! I’ve officially watched all the Best Movie nominations, so I feel totally qualified to give my worthless opinion on this nigh-meaningless award show! Seriously, though, there were some pretty good movies this year. If you didn’t read my first entry, check it here. For the record, I saw The Social Network, The Fighter and Winter’s Bone since I wrote that. The Fighter and Winter’s Bone were both very enjoyable movies, though I think TSN edged them out overall (and it probably edged out The Town from my list).
This followup will just be a rundown of my picks for each category (other than a few in which I didn’t see all the entries, like Documentary, etc.). It will be a lot more sparse and less melodramatic than previous post.
Note that my picks are what I think should win, not what I think will win — though I may address that in certain categories. I’ll highlight the things I didn’t actually see in red. Maybe there’s some amazing indie movie out there that blows everything away, so I’m hedging my bets. On with the show!
Best Original Screenplay
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
All right, so The Fighter and The King’s Speech are going to be duking it out for a lot of these on who I think will win, but I think King’s Speech is the better movie in most regards. You can certainly see it in the writing. Though it’s hard to fully separate writing from directing from editing, The King’s Speech has a better pacing and overall arc. The Fighter has some really great bits — I particularly enjoyed the subplot about the documentary — but we also see a few events happen over and over again (i.e., a fight between family and his life), and these aren’t always presented in fresh ways. It gets to be a little redundant at times, and I think that’s more of the fault of the script than anything else. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, hits its mark well. The pacing is great, the characters are well written, and it never gets bogged down.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Okay, so this is a writing blog. Technically, I shouldn’t even be mentioning films. Es ist verboten. VERBOTEN!
However, since I don’t really have a dedicated cadre of readers expecting any certain subject, I am allowed the freedom to do whatever the fuck I want (like speak in German). With that said, let me introduce part eins of a two part series concerning films. Specifically, films released in 2010 (a year that seems universally reviled, but which I didn’t really mind).
In the first part, I’m going to lay out my picks for the best movies of the year. Unlike the Academy, I’m going to keep it to five. Ten starts to border on ridiculous, and to be honest, I’m not sure there were 10 films that truly deserve the honor. Look at the Golden Globes. When you have to nominate god damned Burlesque and The motherfucking Tourist, you have too many slots. Note that I’m not a movie buff, per se — there’s still a few big name films from 2010 I haven’t seen yet (127 Hours, The Fighter, and probably most egregious, The Social Network, which I’ll discuss at the bottom). With that said, let’s begin, in no special order.
1 – Black Swan
|Girl on girl action lolz! Nina is not amused.|
Now, I’m a sucker for weird movies, so Black Swan already has a leg up on the competition. My imagination tends to run wild with interpretation, and the director, Darren Aronofsky (who looks kind of like a chubby David Arquette), certainly invites that. If you’re the kind of person who likes a straightforward story (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you’ll hate this. There’s no two ways about it.
But beyond the surreal plot, there is much in the film to objectively enjoy. Black Swan is truly a movie where each aspect hits the mark and contributes to the overall effect. The score is spot-on. It blends Tchaikovsky’s compositions with modern discernment to create a sound setting that is simultaneously chilling and heartbreaking. Portman’s performance as coddled and confused Nina Sayers is magnificent. Not being nominated for Best Actress would be a travesty. I don’t want to say that she can’t top it, because I’m hoping she has a long and illustrious career in front of her, but I truly think she could retire tomorrow and still be counted among history’s great performers solely for her job in this film. It’s that brilliant. The symbolism is layered and complex. I find myself discovering new little motifs just replaying it in my mind, and I’ve only seen it once. For instance, did anyone notice the implication of Nina injuring herself with a mirror, of all things? Very interesting.
There are missteps — Aronofsky relies too heavily on cheesy thriller tropes and unnecessary cheap scares. The characters and plot provide enough tension on their own. And I think it’s fair to say that this is a love-it-or-hate-it film. I can absolutely understand some people not connecting. But in pure impact, Black Swan was without equal this year.
|Long hair is looooooooooong|
2 – Tangled
Okay, if I’m a sucker for weird movies, I’m a god damned fool for musicals. Disney musicals? Forget about it. Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King. Love ’em. The Princess and the Frog wasn’t up to the level of those golden-age classics, but it was a step in the right direction. So I was cautiously optimistic walking in to Tangled. I expected to like it. I didn’t expect to love it.
You know the basics. Rapunzel has really long hair. She’s kept in a high tower by a wicked witch. She’s rescued my a handsome prince. Roll credits. Of course, with John Lasseter in charge, we’re spared that formula. Tangled’s Rapunzel is a bright young girl whose kept in her tower not by any otherworldly power or feminine weakness. She’s kept there by a jealous mother. Mommy dearest preys on her daughter’s self-confidence to bolster her own. It’s probably the best and most relatable theme in any movie I’ve seen this year, and it comes from a fairy tale. Imagine that.
Tangled is simply the best non-Pixar Disney animated film I’ve seen in ages, probably since Mulan (that’s twelve years, if you’re counting). And it’s got probably the best female lead in their entire history. She’s smart (and not just in a inconsequential way like Belle), she’s capable, she’s cute and she shirks the Princess Complex from the beginning. It’s weird to say that, because in the end, Rapunzel is a princess. But unlike Ariel, unlike Jasmine, unlike Snow White, that fact doesn’t really inform her character. She doesn’t find out until the end of the movie, and truthfully, it doesn’t matter. It’s more important that she has a family that loves her and a partner who bolsters her confidence instead of stomping on it. Her royal lineage is beside the point.
Of course, Alan Menken’s songs don’t hurt. The man who composed The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horros, among others, is used to great effect here. The recurring healing incantation (“Flower gleam and glow/Let your power shine”) is as memorable and head-sticking as any Disney tune, and I See The Light joins Can You Feel the Love Tonight and A Whole New World in the list of great musical love themes. I won’t say this is Menken’s best work (that probably belongs to Aladdin), and there are fewer songs than I’d like, but it’s enjoyable nontheless.
The actors work great. I’m not a huge Chuck fan, but Zachary Levi is charming as fuck, if you’ll excuse my French. And of course, Mandy Moore is as cute as cute can be. She’s one of those actresses who doesn’t draw a lot of attention, but generally gives a great performance in whatever she chooses to do. At the end of the movie, I asked myself “Who voiced Rapunzel? She was really good. Oh … oh wow! I didn’t even realize!” That’s just the kind of actress she is. But yeah, the two have chemistry. It just works.
Criticisms? A few. The movie felt short, was is probably a necessity for it to work as a family film, but it leads to the pace being a little too rushed. Specifically, the love story between the male and female lead kind of pops up out of nowhere, as if the writers realized “Crap, we need them to be in love now. Aaaaand BE IN LOVE!” And, as I said, I wished we got a bit more music (thought that’s a criticism I can levy at other Disney films as well — they seem to be afraid to go full musical). But all in all, this is one of those movies that makes me want to have a kid, just so I can show them that there are strong positive messages in this world.
3 – Toy Story 3
The darkest movie about small plastic
objects you’ll see this year
Seriously? Another animated movie?
|It has this man.|
Okay, enough fanboy gushing. Why does another animated film deserve to be counted among the best of the year? Because it’s a masterful end (likely the end — it should be) to a wonderful series. Because it tears at your heart without using cheap shots like Toy Story 2 or even, it could be argued, Up. The melancholy in Toy Story 3 is directly relevant to the journey of the characters. Not just the journey in this movie, though it certainly stands on its own, but the journey from the beginning of the series.
Criticisms? Not really. The central conflict (toys shipped off to a kindergarten and have to escape) isn’t the most memorable or original, I guess. But who cares?
4 – The Town
“And why do you think you deserve to
join The League of Handsome Men?”
Huh? No. Stop. Just stop. The Fucking Town? You’re nominating A Ben Affleck Joint? No Inception, no Blue Valentine, no King’s Speech, but you put a Bostonian heist film on here? That’s retahdid, you fuckin’ queeah.
Yeah, yeah, so it’s Ben Affleck. Yeah, he’s can be kind of silly. He was in Daredevil. He was in Gigli. GIGLI.
You know who else has been in some terrible movies and is kind of silly? Marky Mark Wahlberg. Oh, excuse me. ACADEMY AWARD WINNER Marky Mark Wahlberg.
So I try not to discount an actor solely because of some missteps, or some personal weirdness. If Robert Pattinson made a movie as entertaining as The Town, I’d get on my knees and receive his greasy glittering man-juice.
5 – True Grit
|Aw, do we have to bring Matt Damon with us?|
You’ll notice in the Black Swan entry that I didn’t quite say that Natalie Portman should win Best Actress. Why? 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. She’s so talented that she shared this year with Annette Benning, Marion Cotillard, and the best performance Natalie Portman has ever given, and I’m not really sure who should win the oscar. My biggest achievement at 14 was deciphering Metal Gear Solid 2.
|Yeah, let’s see Little Miss Thing fit THIS into canon!|
Ms. Steinfeld’s acting, and the handling of her character, the headstrong ahead-of-her-time Mattie Ross, is the sole reason True Grit is on the list. It might be the reason it’s on everybody’s list. Seriously. I struggled. It barely made the cut. True Grit is a pretty good movie. It’s not out of this world amazing. Jeff Bridges is funny. Matt Damon is good. The pace is perfect. It’s a Coen movie. Like Pixar, that name brings with it a certain quality of expectation. But, it must be said, it sometimes carries a nagging “So What?” True Grit brought the “So What?” It brought it, it unwrapped it, and it took a picture with it wearing a fake smile for grandma. It simply wasn’t that memorable. A cool adolescent girl tags along with a loose cannon US Marshal and a by-the-book Texas Ranger. She’s looking for the man who killed her father. She finds him. Thirty or so years later, she’s still smart, she doesn’t need a man and she never really saw either of the two men again. Roll credits.
|Seriously, aren’t there any other
actresses in that country?
The King’s Speech breaks the mold of a traditional period piece. Colin Firth is fantastic, and is probably a shoe-in for best actor. The chemistry between Firth and Geoffry Rush is among the best I’ve seen in a long while. I particularly enjoyed the subtle focus on how technology changed both the world at large, and the lives of a royal family straddling two distinct periods. The story, untraditional as it may be, is pure charm. It’s not quite lifechanging enough to make the top five but I’m certain it’ll make the Academy’s top ten, and rightff …. rightffffuuu …. deservedly so.
|Is she the third Wasikowska Brother?|
All right. Moving on.
But wait, what about …
I’ll be writing up Part II in the next few days, after the nods are announced. It’ll be the traditional rundown, selecting my favorites (note that word — it won’t be who I think will win, rather who I think should win). See you soon!