Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar Prediction: The Technical Awards

It's become something of an annual tradition on this blog for me to try to predict the outcomes of the Academy Awards, a task which I find enjoyable despite the fact that it is incredibly futile. The Oscars are always frustrating because they so often reward the least interesting films by giving them the highest accolade. On the few occasions when they do recognise films that are genuinely interesting and provocative, it only seems to underline how conservative their tastes are the rest of the time, and any gains tend to be undone the following year by a return to normalcy. (From a prognosticatory vantage, those years are also incredibly annoying because you tend to assume the Oscars will always go for the safe bet, so a curveball like The Hurt Locker winning Best Picture throws everything completely out of whack.)

This year is very much a case in point, since despite 2011 being a quietly great year for cinema, with plenty of astonishing films released in the last twelve months, many of the films that have actually been nominated are distressingly standard Oscar-bait. Some of those films are better than others, but the outcry over the exclusion of Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive from the major categories speaks volumes about the way in which the Academy seems to have missed the point more than usual this year.

As in previous years, the predictions will be spread over two posts, with this serving as an introduction and then rattling through the technical awards, and a second - which will go up tomorrow - tackling the major awards. Anyway, enough preamble, lets get predicting.

Best Short Film, Live Action

Pentecost (2011): Peter McDonald
Raju (2011): Max Zähle, Stefan Gieren
The Shore (2011): Terry George, Oorlagh George
Time Freak (2011): Andrew Bowler, Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic (2010)

As is often with the short film categories, I haven't had an opportunity to see any of these, so can only make a prediction based on how awesome the names are. To that end, Time Freak is the obvious winner, since I can only assume that it is a twisty-turny sci-fi film about someone who can stop time, possibly in the '60s.

Prediction: Time Freak

Best Short Film, Animated

Sunday (2011): Patrick Doyon
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011): William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna (2011): Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll (2011): Grant Orchard, Sue Goffe
Wild Life (2011): Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby

I'm kind of disappointed to see that Pixar didn't get a nomination in this category for either of the Toy Story shorts that they put out this year. I can't speak to the quality of the actual nominees, but the short that preceded Cars 2, in which Barbie and Ken go on vacation, was great, far surpassing the film to which it was attached. Anyway, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore leaps out at my instantly as having the best title, in a The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel way, but I'm intrigued by A Morning Stroll, which I can only assume is either really sweet and low-key, or outrageously wacky based on the title alone.

Prediction: A Morning Stroll

Best Documentary, Short Subject:

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (2011): Robin Fryday, Gail Dolgin
God Is the Bigger Elvis (2012): Rebecca Cammisa, Julie Anderson
Incident in New Baghdad (2011): James Spione
Saving Face (2012): Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011): Lucy Walker, Kira Carstensen

Wow, these all sound incredibly worthy and important. I'd probably go for the Barber of Birmingham, since it might get a bump from The Help making anything Civil Rights-y stand out from the pack a bit more.

Prediction: The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

Best Documentary, Features

Hell and Back Again (2011): Danfung Dennis, Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011): Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011): Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
Pina (2011): Wim Wenders, Gian-Piero Ringel
Undefeated (2011): Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, Rich Middlemas

It seems to me that this a battle between Pina and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Pina has the obvious advantage of being directed by Wim Wenders, the seminal German filmmaker whose career has been surprisingly Oscar-free to this point, though he did receive a nomination in the same category twelve years ago for directing The Buena Vista Social Club, but has a subject matter - interpretative dance - that might not hold sway with many voters. Paradise Lost, meanwhile, has an incredibly powerful story - the final chapter in the saga of the West Memphis 3, who spent nearly 20 years in prison for a crime that they didn't commit, not to mention the fact that they were released from prison in large part due to the attention that the series of documentaries brought to them. There is some possibility that the film's origins on HBO may count against it compared to the more cinematic competition, but it would be strange for the Academy to ignore a film that so perfectly illustrates how documentaries can make a difference in the world.

Prediction: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson
Hugo (2011): Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning
Real Steel (2011): Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Danny Gordon Taylor, Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, John Frazier

Part of me thinks that the Academy might end up using the technical categories as a series of legacy awards for the Harry Potter franchise, which went out with a bang this year and was pretty much at the forefront of effects and make-up throughout that time. It would seem a but strange for them to completely ignore the most successful film of the year. Its greatest competition is probably from Transformers, but those films traditionally tends to win for their bludgeoning sound design over their bludgeoning visuals.

Prediction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Drive (2011): Lon Bender, Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Ren Klyce
Hugo (2011): Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
War Horse (2011): Richard Hymns, Gary Rydstrom

Hey, the category in which Drive got a nomination! Well done, Drive! As I already said, this and Sound Mixing, which tend to go hand in hand, have often gone to the Transformers films, and I think that the same will happen this year. None of the other films have the all-out assaultive quality to them that allows for Dark of the Moon to win on "most" rather than best, and unless Hugo has a sweep over the course of the night, which I don't think will happen, then I don't see why it will pick up these ones.

Predictiion: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Bo Persson
Hugo (2011): Tom Fleischman, John Midgley
Moneyball (2011): Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco, Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Peter J. Devlin
War Horse (2011): Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson

Prediction: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

The Muppets (2011): Bret McKenzie("Man or Muppet")
Rio (2011): Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett("Real in Rio")

Both men and Muppets agree that Bret McKenzie's song will win. The only thing bad about this scenario is that there won't be an opportunity for Jason Segel to get on stage and belt his heart out in a wild choreographed musical number. Way to remove all light and joy from proceedings, Academy, you bunch of wrinkly dicks.

Prediction: Bret McKenzie for Man or Motherfucking Muppet.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011): John Williams
The Artist (2011): Ludovic Bource
Hugo (2011): Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011): Alberto Iglesias
War Horse (2011): John Williams

My suspicion is that The Artist is going to have a hell of a night, and will probably sweep the major categories and a lot of the technical ones, including this one. The hyperbole from Kim Novak about how the use of pieces from the score to Vertigo are comparable to rape might have caused a stir early on, but hopefully they will have been ignored as weird and misplaced anger from a legend, as opposed to a serious reason not to reward Ludovic Bource's fine work.

Prediction: The Artist

Best Achievement in Makeup

Albert Nobbs (2011): Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnson, Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
The Iron Lady (2011): Mark Coulier, J. Roy Helland

I think this is going to be another legacy-style award for the Potter franchise, especially since it adheres to the "best=most" formula that the Academy tends to favour.

Prediction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Anonymous (2011/I): Lisy Christl
The Artist (2011): Mark Bridges
Hugo (2011): Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre (2011): Michael O'Connor
W.E. (2011): Arianne Phillips

Some strong choices (and W.E.) here, but my gut makes me think that it will go to Hugo. I'm kind of anticipating that Scorsese's film will get shut out of the majority of the awards that it is nominated for - this is not just because I don't particularly like the film, but because this whole situation feels reminiscent of the years that Gangs of New York (10 nominations, no wins) and The Aviator (11 nominations, 5 wins) were nominated for heaps of awards but wound up being non-entities where the major categories were concerned - but if it is going win anything, this seems like one of its strongest categories. It also helps that Sandy Powell is an Academy darling, having won 3 Oscars from 10 nominations. This is also the third year in a row that she has been nominated, so they're going to have to give her something if they plan to keep inviting her every year.

Prediction: Hugo

Best Achievement in Art Direction

The Artist (2011): Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Hugo (2011): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris (2011): Anne Seibel, Hélène Dubreuil
War Horse (2011): Rick Carter, Lee Sandales

This strikes me as another Potter win since Deathly Hallows: Part 2 made a fairly big deal out of destroying parts of Hogwarts that audiences had spent ten years getting to know, as well as re-visiting areas that had not been seen in a long time. The art direction in the Potter films has always been pretty stunning, but the destruction of the series' iconic locations was particularly well realised, and I think that will win it some favour.

Prediction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Achievement in Editing

The Artist (2011): Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants (2011): Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter
Hugo (2011): Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball (2011): Christopher Tellefsen

Thelma Schoonmaker could very well win this one for much the same reason that Sandy Powell could win for Costume Design. Hugo isn't going to be taking home many major awards, so the Academy might choose to recognise people like Powell and Schoonmaker who did great work on the film and are pretty much unparallelled in their field. However, a rule of thumb for the Oscars in general is that Best Editing and Best Director are pretty closely linked, and considering that I think that Michel Hazanavicius is going to win for Director and he is even nominated for Editing as well, something that is not that common, I think that The Artist will probably take this one, too.

Prediction: The Artist

Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Artist (2011): Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo (2011): Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life (2011): Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse (2011): Janusz Kaminski

The nominations for The Tree of Life for Best Picture and Director are delightful, since it's nice to see such a bold and visionary work being celebrated in a situation where more people will actually get to hear about it, but at the same time they seem a bit hollow since there isn't a chance in Hell that it is going to win any of them. The film's too idiosyncratic and obtuse for it to get the sort of majority consensus that would allow it to triumph, and even if it were nominated in a year where there wasn't a clear, popular front runner it would struggle terrible. However, it does have a very strong chance of taking home the award for cinematography, series the eerie, dreamlike feeling of the film is tied very heavily into its visual style, and Emmanuel Lubezki's work on the film is distinct and lyrical in a way that sets it apart from the other nominees. Lubezki was also nominated four times previous to this one without a win, so it really seems like he is due.

Prediction: The Tree of Life

So, that's the technical awards done, check back tomorrow for a run down of the major awards, which I promise will be shorter since there are eight awards left to cover.