Oscar Moment: Final 2011 Predictions!

23 01 2012

Well, folks … guesswork is almost over.  In a little over 12 hours, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will announce their nominations for the best of the best of 2011.  We’ve had plenty of nominations and winners to give us an idea of what’s to come tomorrow morning.  I’ve done plenty of analyzing the categories, but I think now I just have to go with a mix of gut and knowledge.

Best Picture

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. The Help
  4. Hugo
  5. Midnight in Paris
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  7. War Horse
  8. The Tree of Life
  9. Moneyball
  10. Bridesmaids

I’m feeling only six Best Picture nominees this year.  (For those who don’t know about the new rules and regulations of the category, the Best Picture field is now an elastic number of nominees between five and ten.  In order to be nominated for Best Picture, a movie needs to receive at least five percent of the number one votes.)  The top five are very obvious.

I would say “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” takes the sixth spot because it’s the only other plausible nominee with enough guild support (sorry “Bridesmaids”).  If we learned anything from 2010, it was that the guilds still win out in the end.  “War Horse” has been far too silent on the guild front and hasn’t made nearly enough money to be a smashing success.  Plus, there’s an opportunity – and a likelihood – that they can give him another Oscar win in the Best Animated Feature category for “The Adventures of Tintin.” “The Tree of Life” has the critical support, but I don’t think that’s enough to break it into this race.  Oscar voters aren’t critics.

Best Director

  1. Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  2. Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
  3. Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
  4. Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
  5. David Fincher, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

The top three are rock solid locks.  Woody Allen seems very inevitable given the widespread love for his movie and that the directors have nominated him six times before.  The last slot could go any number of ways – Fincher like the DGA picked, Malick like every critic proclaimed from the rooftop, Spielberg if “War Horse” actually makes a strong showing, or maybe even Tate Taylor if they really love “The Help.”

Looking at history, the lone director slot comes when there’s a particularly unknown director for a well-liked movie: Joe Wright missing for “Atonement,” Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris missing for “Little Miss Sunshine,” Marc Forster missing for “Finding Neverland,” and Gary Ross for “Seabiscuit.”  So I think it’s safe to say that the vulnerable director of a leading movie is Tate Taylor.  But who gets the slot?

I would say look to the DGA, but looking over their nominees, they do a better job of picking the Best Picture five than they do picking Best Director.  So thus I glean from their slate that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has the strength to crack the Best Picture field, but Fincher might not necessarily show up here again.  My brain says go with Malick since lone director nominees usually represent far-out, well-directed artsy films.  But my gut says Fincher gets it, if for no other reason that Hollywood seems to have found its new anointed golden director and just wants to shower him with awards for everything.

Best Actor

  1. George Clooney, “The Descendants”
  2. Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
  3. Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
  4. Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
  5. Leonardo DiCaprio, “J. Edgar”

Best Actor is, on the whole, a very conservative category.  Save the occasional Tommy Lee Jones for “In the Valley of Elah” or Javier Bardem for “Biutiful,” it almost always unfolds according to plan – no matter how boring that plan may be.  So yes, I still pick Michael Fassbender for “Shame” even though there has been some skepticism raised recently.  And yes, I will even defend Leonardo DiCaprio who stars in what will surely be one of the most maligned movies of 2011 to receive an Oscar nomination.  This year, he accumulated the three most important precursor nominations.  And he managed to get nominated in 2006 even when he had two performances in play.  They like him, and I think that (unfortunately) they’ll probably reward him with another nomination.

Best Actress

  1. Viola Davis, “The Help”
  2. Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
  3. Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
  4. Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
  5. Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Yes, even though she missed with the BFCA and SAG, I have confidence that the late surge of support for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” can net a nomination for Rooney Mara over Glenn Close.  I don’t think “Albert Nobbs” has much buzz about it anymore, and even though they like Glenn Close, there are a lot of quotients that Mara would fill.  She’s under 30 and hasn’t been nominated before; you have to go back to 1994 to find a year where the Best Actress category was all prior nominees.  Thus, I rest my case and cross my fingers.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
  2. Albert Brooks, “Drive”
  3. Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”
  4. Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
  5. Armie Hammer, “J. Edgar”

I only feel sure of the top pick Plummer; the next three are fairly vulnerable; the fifth spot could go any number of ways.  I still can’t predict Nolte for “Warrior,” and maybe it’s because I can’t separate my dislike of the movie from the nomination process.  I just don’t think the performance was good, and I’m hopeful that the Academy will validate my opinion.  It could be Brad Pitt as a double nominee for “The Tree of Life;” it could be Ben Kingsley sneaking in for “Hugo;” it could be SAG nominee Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar.”  When in doubt, go with SAG, I guess.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
  2. Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
  3. Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
  4. Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
  5. Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Someone else suggested the Woodley comparison to Andrew Garfield’s snub for “The Social Network,” and I’m dreading that it might be the case.  But I really have a hard time picking Melissa McCarthy for a nomination, even if she was a SAG nominee.  I just don’t see it happening.  I don’t think the performance is enough of a stand-out to break the funny woman barrier at the Oscars.  The nomination could be a symbolic vote, but I think traditional performances win the day.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Midnight in Paris
  2. The Artist
  3. Bridesmaids
  4. Win Win
  5. Beginners

This category always has some surprises up its sleeve for nomination morning, so I don’t know how confident I feel picking so close to the WGA nominations.  I think “Bridesmaids” will see the prize for its remarkable awards run here, and I think “Win Win” has built up enough steam to get in too.  “50/50” has the WGA nom but not much else going for it.  Some say “A Separation” takes its enormous buzz and makes a showing here, but I think the drama of choice will be “Beginners.”  Just another gut feeling.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Descendants
  2. Moneyball
  3. The Help
  4. Hugo
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Four Best Picture nominees will be adapted, so I feel like those will make it in over some arguably “better written” or “more loved” work.  And “Moneyball” has too much acclaim and steam to ignore; it could win even if it doesn’t get a Best Picture nomination.

So that’s what I think!  What about you?  Anything you are hoping for?  Rooting against?

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Weekend Update – Golden Globes 2011 Live Blog!

15 01 2012

4:00 P.M.  E! has already started their Golden Globe coverage, so I guess it’s time for me to begin as well!  Time for the best of Hollywood (and television) to come out and get rewarded (or robbed).  Predictions will slowly trickle in as the stars grace the red carpet, but I’ll be writing from the arrivals to the awards to Ricky Gervais’ harsh quips.  With recaps, opinions, and insights, make “Marshall and the Movies” your companion for the Golden Globes!

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Oscar Moment – First Predictions for 2011

29 11 2011

Best Picture

  1. The Artist
  2. War Horse
  3. Midnight in Paris
  4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  5. The Descendants
  6. The Help
  7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  8. Moneyball
  9. Hugo
  10. The Tree of Life

If we thought 2010 was a year that people most needed cinema to make them feel good, 2011 looks to be even more so.  That’s why it just seems right for a movie like ‘The Artist” to sweep in and take Best Picture.  It’s got the happy factor, the B&W factor, the silent film factor, and the nostalgia factor all going for it.  I have yet to see it, but even if I were somehow not to like it, I could still be content with this winning Best Picture because it would affirm the power of the prize.  When they reward risky, out-of-the-box movies, Hollywood responds by thinking even more creatively.  When they reward movies like “The King’s Speech,” studios start focus grouping the hell out of their contenders to perfectly calculate Oscar success.

There are other narratives to reckon with too, however.  Perennial Oscar favorite Steven Spielberg charges back onto the scene with “War Horse,” which coupled with box office success could wallop a hard knockout punch.  If audiences and critics decide it’s “Saving Private Ryan” good, I’ll have to seriously reevaluate.  Then there’s also Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” the biggest hit ever from the workhorse director.  It’s fun and funny while still making you think – the best of both Oscar worlds, if you will.  Right now, I can’t see Best Picture going to any other movie than these three.

However, don’t count out “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”  It has yet to screen for anyone, but that’s one heck of a book.  The delay makes pundits uneasy, but with AMPAS golden boy Stephen Daldry at the helm, Eric Roth with the pen, and a Tom Hanks-Sandra Bullock combo on screen, this would have to be a total bomb not to score with them.

I also expect “The Help” and “The Descendants” to find enough of a base of support to garner a nomination.  And I can’t help but feel that people are severely underestimating “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  It’s David Fincher.

On the fringe, though, are three movies that could easily break into the field – Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball,” and Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.”  Each have their weaknesses, so we’ll just have to see how they hold up through precursor season.  That’s the fun of it!

Best Director

  1. Steven Spielberg, “War Horse”
  2. Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
  3. Michael Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  4. Stephen Daldry, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
  5. Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”

Here’s where ballot manipulation will start to muddle the waters.  Michael Hazanavicius, director of “The Artist,” is largely unknown, but Harvey Weinstein will have him making rounds on the circuit to cure lack of name recognition.  He got Tom Hooper a win last year at the expense of widely renowned David Fincher.  If “The Artist” appears headed for a sweep, it will have to take this category too.

But if “The Artist” and “War Horse” have the same group of fans, I see it likely that they honor the latter by voting for the iconic director to take home his third Academy Award for Best Director.  Woody Allen could also benefit from his legendary status, although I would bet they tip their hat to “Midnight in Paris” in the writing categories.  (As for the other two nominees, it’s never smart to bet against Payne or Daldry.)

Best Actor

  1. George Clooney, “The Descendants”
  2. Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
  3. Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
  4. Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
  5. Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

Can the “he’s a leading man, not a supporting actor” logic prevail to give George Clooney another Oscar?  I think that’s going to be the message from Fox Searchlight, and the starpower may be their only weapon to fend off the irresistible Jean Dujardin in “The Artist.”  I suspect it may already be down to these two, and wouldn’t it be exciting if we had another showdown like Penn-Rourke in 2008?

Meanwhile, I’m starting to think Brad Pitt is a lock for “Moneyball,” and Michael Fassbender’s daring performance in “Shame” will likely pick up some steam with release and exposure (no pun intended).  As for that final slot, I’m going daring and choosing Michael Shannon, who apparently turns in a very flashy performance in “Take Shelter” that I think might overpower Gary Oldman’s purportedly understated work in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”  But we’ll just have to see.

Best Actress

  1. Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
  2. Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
  3. Viola Davis, “The Help”
  4. Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
  5. Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”

My gut tells me that Streep will take the day here and win her first Oscar in 30 years.  The role is baity enough, the time is right, we may have never appreciated Meryl more.  But the fact that the film won’t open to audiences until next year makes it hard to gain audience support.

That’s why her biggest competitors may be two women headlining huge commercial vehicles, Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Viola Davis in “The Help.”  While Davis has Oprah and a sentimental vote behind her, Mara may be a huge threat because Lisbeth Salander is an intense, grueling role that demands a tremendous amount of physical commitment.  And let’s not forget that Oscar likes his leading women young.

Michelle Williams could make a big surge if “My Week with Marilyn” becomes an audience favorite with expansion.  Ditto for Charlize Theron in “Young Adult,” who has been left off the charts in favor of Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs.”  If it weren’t for her name and her passion for the project, I would have chosen Theron or Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” for that final slot.  But Roadside Attractions is going to need to work overtime to revive the Streep vs. Close dialectic this month because it died rather quickly.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
  2. Patton Oswalt, “Young Adult”
  3. Max von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
  4. Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
  5. Ben Kingsley, “Hugo”

I have absolutely no idea what to make of this field as everyone, except Plummer, could be totally out by next week.  Could the sentimental lifetime achievement faction of the Oscar voters shamelessly bare their teeth to honor the 81-year-old star?  At this point, that’s my best guess.  However, there could be another emerging storyline that will take over the Oscar narrative.

Could the lifetime achievement award be, in fact, for Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close?”  I see it as extremely likely given that the movie definitely needs one acting nomination with the talent involved, and Bullock could end up falling off the radar.  Patton Oswalt in “Young Adult” could make a case for funnymen who don’t typically do very well in the category.

My last two picks are just educated guesses, more just flinging mud at the wall than anything.  If “Moneyball” is a homerun with Academy voters, Jonah Hill could find himself on base in the category.  Same with Ben Kingsley in “Hugo,” who seems to be emerging late as a serious contender, particularly if the critical masses adoring Scorsese’s latest sound off loudly for him and the movie.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Bérénice Bejo, “The Artist”
  2. Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
  3. Sandra Bullock, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
  4. Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”
  5. Carey Mulligan, “Shame”

I’m counting on big love for “The Artist” to make the unknown Bérénice Bejo an Academy Award winner.  Again, she has to battle unknown status, but her biggest challenger will likely be another unknown, Octavia Spencer in “The Help.”  Since “The Artist” is much more likely to take home the big prize, I think Bejo is more likely to ride on her film’s coattails to victory.  I’d hate to demean her with the term tack-on, but think Jennifer Connelly winning for “A Beautiful Mind” and Catherine Zeta-Jones winning for “Chicago.”  To justify Best Picture, maybe voters will decide it needs an acting win as well.

Two years after winning Best Actress for “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock looks to factor back into the Oscar scheme for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”  If Von Sydow isn’t showy enough, look for her to make a big rise simply due to the power associated with her name.  On the other hand, you have someone like Shailene Woodley who will likely ride in on the strength of her performance and the strength of her movie.  I don’t quite think her CV, consisting almost entirely of ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” is going to impress many voters.

For that last slot, I’ve picked Carey Mulligan in “Shame” over the much heralded performance of Vanessa Redgrave in “Coriolanus.”  I will most likely look back and call myself an idiot, but I just get the sinking sensation that people are not taking her seriously enough.  She reportedly bares it all, literally and figuratively, in a role that showcases the talents that wooed voters two years ago in “An Education.”  But just like last year, the picture is very, very unclear.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Midnight in Paris
  2. The Artist
  3. Young Adult
  4. Win Win
  5. Martha Marcy May Marlene

It’s really a shame that even with the number of really impressive original screenplays this year, the Academy will likely settle for standard fare. I’m still counting on golden boy Woody Allen to pull through here, but if “The Artist” is poised for a sweep, I don’t see how it can not take an award for its writing.  Only three films in the past decade have taken Best Picture without a win in the Screenplay category.

As for the rest of the field, it could fall any number of ways.  I’d say the safest third slot would be for “Young Adult,” which is written by 2007 winner Diablo Cody.  But as for those last two movies, I just picked two of my favorites from this year in the prayer that they have a chance.  I can dream, can’t I?

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Descendants
  2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  3. War Horse
  4. Moneyball
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Scribe Alexander Payne is an Academy darling, winner in 2004 for his adaptation of “Sideways” as well as nominee in 1999 for his work on the script for “Election.”  I think until otherwise informed, it’s not smart to bet against him.

But there are plenty of other Oscar winners vying for glory here.  Eric Roth, winner for “Forrest Gump” and nominee for three other films, is in the race with “Extremely Loud and Incredible Close.”  Jonathan Safran Foer’s book is quite eccentric and would be a quite a challenge to adapt; even if the movie doesn’t quite hit home with the Academy, I see a nomination here as practically inevitable.  “War Horse” is written by two previous nominees, and while the writing seems to be a lesser component of the movie, a nomination seems assured.

“Moneyball” is written by last year’s winner, Aaron Sorkin, as well as Steven Zaillian, winner in 1993 for his work on “Schindler’s List.”  Zaillian could even pull double duty as a nominee as I’m predicting, on a whim, that his adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” will also factor into the race.





REVIEW: Beginners

18 07 2011

A beautiful sampling of life and love, “Beginners” is a free-form comedic and dramatic tale from director Mike Mills that feels as personal to us as it is to him.  Bringing many autobiographical elements into the mix, the film radiates a powerful authenticity, which then translates into charm.  This neurotic charisma is a vital necessity for the movie because it makes us smile through it all – and Mills brings it all to the table.

His “Beginners” is the dark underside of the Hollywood romantic comedy, full of all the indecision, uncertainty, and challenges of real life love.  It successfully takes us through the ups and downs of a relationship, complete with laughter, warmth, pain, and upset.  Not since 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer” has a movie unflinchingly spat in the face of the genre, but rather than invert the banalities for comic effect, Mills simply sticks to the truth and tells the tale as if there had never been a formula planted in our heads for what a romance should look like.  It’s a romantic vision, perhaps, but at least it is a vision, which is more than can be said for most movies nowadays.

Mills also juxtaposes the blooming romance between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and Anna (Mélanie Laurent, best known as Shoshana from “Inglourious Basterds“) with a different kind of relationship, the withering one between Oliver and his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) in the years before dating Anna.  Their rapport was never strong to begin with as Hal was a distant workaholic father while his son grew up, and upon being widowed, he reveals to Oliver that he is actually homosexual.  As he suffers from terminal liver cancer, Hal is determined to live his life the way he couldn’t while he was living a lie and connects with the gay community, embracing a new lifestyle complete with a young boyfriend (Goran Visnjic).

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