Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Predictions: The Major Awards

Welcome back. Having completely, thoroughly and no doubt inaccurately predicted the Technical Awards yesterday, today I'll round off the awards season by trying to decide which films will take home the Oscars that everyone actually cares about.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Bullhead (2011): Michael R. Roskam(Belgium)
Footnote (2011): Joseph Cedar(Israel)
In Darkness (2011): Agnieszka Holland(Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (2011): Philippe Falardeau(Canada)
A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi(Iran)

Most of these films have yet to receive a wide release in the U.K. yet, so I haven't had a chance to see most of them, which is a shame because this category can throw up some very interesting films, as was the case last year when Dogtooth somehow managed to land a nomination despite being batshit insane. This year, it seems that the award is A Separation's to lose, an idea that seems to be supported by its surprising - but very welcome - nomination in Best Original Screenplay. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will win this award - I was sure that Biutiful would win last year since Javier Bardem was nominated for Best Actor as well and that did not come to pass - but there has also been far more talk about A Separation than any of the other contenders over the last month. Then again, this category more than any other seems to routinely through out some really surprising winners, so who knows?

Prediction: A Separation (or any of them)

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

A Cat in Paris (2010): Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli
Chico & Rita (2010): Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011): Jennifer Yuh
Puss in Boots (2011): Chris Miller
Rango (2011): Gore Verbinski

It's very nice to see Chico & Rita, a traditionally animated feature, sneak in against all the CG animation, particularly since its a film with a far more adult sensibility and level of sophistication than the Academy tend to reward. That doesn't mean that it's going to win, but it is pleasant nonetheless. In the absence of a strong Pixar or Studio Ghibli (Pixar's Non-Union Japanese Equivalent) release to take the Oscar home, the field is a little more open than usual this year, but I think that Rango will take it, primarily because it's the sort of cine-literate animation that could really appeal to voters. It's also very funny and beautifully animated, which helps a lot.

Prediction: Rango

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

The Descendants (2011): Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Hugo (2011): John Logan
The Ides of March (2011): George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball (2011): Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

I will admit to a certain bias here since I really, really want The Descendants to win since I am a big fan of Jim Rash's work on Community, and I would just be thrilled for him if he got to win an Oscar. It also helps that the script for The Descendants is really great, with plenty of sharp lines and character moments that are ideal for these sort of films. The biggest competition is probably Moneyball, whose screenplay tackles a non-fiction work based on an incredibly difficult series of mathematical equations, so for an enjoyable, intelligent film to emerge is nothing short of miraculous. Of the two, though, I think that The Descendants has the edge for its more overtly emotional story, whilst the slightly clinical nature of Moneyball may ultimately count against it.

Prediction: The Descendants

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids (2011): Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
Margin Call (2011): J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris (2011): Woody Allen
A Separation (2011): Asghar Farhadi

The winner of this award depends a little on how the night as a whole goes. If we're going to see a proper sweep in which The Artist is going to take home everything, something we haven't seen since Return of the King in 2004, then this will go to Michel Hazanivicius, along with every other award going. If a sweep doesn't occur, then this will probably go to Woody Allen, who hasn't been nominated since Match Point in 2006, and is very much back in vogue following the success of Midnight In Paris. Personally, I think that The Artist is going to take home a lot of awards tonight, but this probably isn't one of them, since not only is Allen enjoying a resurgence of popularity, but he's one of the singular artists of modern cinema who holds a great deal of esteem within the Hollywood community and they'll want to reward him for making a decent film again, even though he seems to have nothing but disdain for the whole thing.

Prediction: Midnight In Paris

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo for The Artist (2011)
Jessica Chastain for The Help (2011)
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids (2011)
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs (2011)
Octavia Spencer for The Help (2011)

My gut reaction initially was to say that it will go to one of the women from The Help, probably Octavia Spencer for her performance in the film or Jessica Chastain for her performances in almost every other film released this year, but I'm not so sure that either performance could win enough support to avoid splitting the vote and allowing another candidate to win. That possibility, one which I think is pretty solid and real, combined with the huge success of Bridesmaidspurdy sitting next to her Emmy.

Prediction: Melissa McCarthy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Jonah Hill for Moneyball (2011)
Nick Nolte for Warrior (2011)
Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010)
Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

There seems to be a sense with pretty much all of these nominees, except for Jonah Hill, that they have been nominated primarily because of their previous work and the fact they have never won an Oscar than because of the actual performances that they gave. It's certainly the only way that Max von Sydow's name appearing there makes any kind of sense. Of the nominees, Christopher Plummer gave the best performance, and his chances are bolstered by the fact his character in Beginners was both gay and dying, both key criteria for any prospective Oscar winner (though the film is much less Oscar-bait like than that description would suggest).

Prediction: Christopher Plummer

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs (2011)
Viola Davis for The Help (2011)
Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Yikes. This category just is not very good, at all. With the exception of Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a performance I love in a film I am wildly ambivalent towards, there's nothing particularly good or interesting about any of these performances. It seems to suggest that either there really aren't any good parts for women being written these days, or that maybe the Academy just isn't looking hard enough to find them. (People have really kicked up a fuss about Patton Oswalt and Albert Brooks not getting Best Supporting Actor nods, but Kirsten Dunst not getting recognition for her work in Melancholia is fucking shameful, especially considering the nominations that we wound up with.) Meryl Streep seems the odds-on favourite for her turn as Margaret Thatcher, who legacy is probably less divisive amongst the Hollywood elite than it is here in Britain so won't hurt her too badly, but I feel that colossal success of The Help will probably swing it for Viola Davis.

Prediction: Viola Davis

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir for A Better Life (2011)
George Clooney for The Descendants (2011)
Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011)
Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Brad Pitt for Moneyball (2011)

I'm pretty much 50/50 over whether this will go to Jean Dujardin or George Clooney. Dujardin obviously has the advantage of being carried along by the wave of goodwill for The Artist, and his performance is a key part of the success of the film, but Clooney is Hollywood royalty who has never won an Oscar for Best Actor. In the end, I think that Clooney will probably win it solely for the single tear that he sheds when saying goodbye to his comatose wife in The Descendants, which would make him very much the Sinead O'Connor of Oscar winners.

Prediction: George Clooney

Best Achievement in Directing

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (2011)
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist (2011)
Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life (2011)
Alexander Payne for The Descendants (2011)
Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011)

In case you can't tell by the rest of this exercise, I think that The Artist is going to win pretty big this year, so in keeping with that I can't really see anyone other than Michel Hazanivicius taking home Best Director. The other nominees all have strong claims, but none seem to have the same groundswell of support behind them at this point.

Prediction: The Artist

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Artist (2011): Thomas Langmann
The Descendants (2011): Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011): Scott Rudin
The Help (2011): Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan
Hugo (2011/II): Graham King, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris (2011): Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
Moneyball (2011): Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt
The Tree of Life (2011): Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner, Grant Hill
War Horse (2011): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Let's get this over with: The Artist, The Artist, The Artist, The Artist

Prediction: The Artist

Phew, that was exhausting. Anyway, we made it through another year! Now get ready for the telecast this evening so you can see how spectacular wrong I am about all of this. Then we'll do the whole ridiculous thing again in 12 months.