Oscar 2012 Will Win/Should Win Selections (Hamer)

The brightest light of Oscar's Best Pictures...

Four days left.  From time to time during my first year as The Awards Circuit’s staff writer, I have been regarded as the snobby, deliberate contrarian who panned popular movies just to get a reaction.  Those kinds of accusations are to be expected in this profession these days, but it also belied the number films I genuinely enjoyed this year, including surprisingly quite a few that improved in my eyes when giving them a second chance. Even flawed films like Shame, A Dangerous Method and Sleeping Beauty lingered far longer in my mind than most films one would label as a “disappointment.”  In fact, not since 2007 have I been so fond of so many movies, and while I am not a fan of the majority of Oscar’s Best Picture nominees, the unlikely inclusion of my #1 of the year is enough for me to cheer their judgment this time.  Indeed, I could not have hoped for a more exciting year to be drafted here, as it is the unpredictability of this year’s Oscar race that has yielded a surfeit of pleasant surprises and shifting bets.  There were thankfully few early frontrunners that will “coast” their way to a win, with the current leaders only taking shape in the past few days.  I of course have published my own ideas as to what qualified as the most award-worthy film achievements of 2011, because why should the Academy have all the fun?  Here are my Oscar 2012 Will Win/Should Win/Should Have Been Nominated selections:


Best Motion Picture of 2011

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Motion Picture of 2011

Will Win: Maybe the backlash will reach critical mass at the last minute, maybe the Globes curse will rear its head, but the reality is that there is nothing stopping The Artist at this point.  The epitome of 2011’s collective nostalgia is historically matched only by Slumdog Millionaire in its precursor run.
Should Win: I am simply over-the-moon that The Tree of Life has been given a chance to compete for Best Picture, though I know it has no actual shot at winning.  No matter, just like The Thin Red Line, this masterpiece doesn’t need a trophy to secure its place as a future classic.  Long after the pleasantries of The Artist (which I liked, promise!) fade away, I guarantee that people will still be pondering, debating, discussing Malick’s film for years to come.
Should Have Been Nominated: The astonishing A Separation would’ve been a sure nominee if it were an American production, and will be remembered more fondly than most of the actual nominees.  In the wake of all the naval-gazing films last year pining away for The Way Things Were, here was a movie of startling immediacy, one that highlighted the very complex (and mostly self-created) moral, social, religious and political issues we face here and now.  The Interrupters’ journey through a seemingly endless web of violence to find hope, however small, was a far more relevant and bold piece of social commentary than a film like The Help ever attempted.  Speaking of superior social commentaries, post-gay cinema continued to run circles around heteronormative romances with the sensual, intelligent Weekend.  All of these films would have been more than worthy Best Picture nominees and should have been nominated.

Best Director

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Direction of 2011

Will Win: Like last year, it appears that many are predicting a Picture/Director split; this time between Scorsese and The Artist.  I won’t make the same mistake I did before, as those kinds of splits are far rarer than people like to believe.  The only instances in the past twenty years where such a thing happened were shocking upsets or rare situations for the nominated directors.  Scorsese is not a dual nominee like Soderbergh was and he already won an Oscar five years ago for a better film.
Should Win: There isn’t a whole lot I can say about Malick’s monumental work on his most personal project that I haven’t already elaborated on.  What more can one ask of an uncompromising filmmaker’s 30-year project than a film that combines everything they are as an auteur, especially one as singular as him?
Should Have Been Nominated: Steve James’ achievement with The Interrupters was every bit the equal of Hoop Dreams, perhaps even more so since he dropped voiceover in favor of allowing his heroes to narrate their own stories.  With all due respect to everyone’s favorite nebbish NYC comedian-turned-filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami’s best film since Taste of Cherry was the true director comeback story of the year; a seemingly pretentious, concepty gimmick executed with uncommon warmth, wisdom and honesty.  Pina, the exhilarating dance documentary that I unfortunately missed before publishing my year-end top ten list, defied traditional biography approach to Pina Bausch in favor of letting her work speak for itself.  The genius of the film lied not in the dance numbers – which of course were thrilling – but in the artistry of Wim Wenders’ capturing of the human body in its athletic versatility.  His rich cinematic approach gave every movement simultaneous feelings of joy and mourning that revealed more about the famed choreographer than exposition ever could.  Last but certainly not least, Asghar Farhadi’s precision with A Separation was the heart and soul of great storytelling, as every decision he made was perfectly assembled into a prism of refracting ideologies.

Best Lead Actor

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Lead Actor of 2011

Will Win: To my relief, the impossibly charming Jean Dujardin has danced, beamed and delighted his way through the precursors to being the frontrunner of the Best Actor race.  I’m sure his acceptance speech will be as adorable as the others.
Should Win: Well, certainly not Clooney, who even in his best moments as Matt King only teased at actually moving past his tiresome Clooneyisms before diving right back into them for the majority of the film.  It’s no wonder the tides are favoring the more effervescent work of Dujardin, but even he comes in second to my vote for Brad Pitt, who fully worked all of his strengths to full effect in making his thorny and charismatic Billy Beane a prime example of what a “Star Performance” is capable of.
Should Have Been Nominated: Short of Pitt and the tender, appropriately stoic Bichir, none of my favorite male lead performances made headway in the Oscar race.  Peyman Mooadi’s Nader may have been the most important performance in A Separation, as it was his shift from moral absolutism into repressed uncertainty that formed the thematic backbone of the film’s many ideas.  Michael Shannon’s tendency to showboat sometimes make me forget how magnetic an actor he can be.  Luckily, the otherwise plodding, belabored thriller Take Shelter had the good sense to calibrate a slow burn performance from him; his big eyes and quivering voice as terrified of his own descent into madness as we are, so when he does get his Big Acting Scene, it feels earned.  Tom Cullen’s shy, hesitant layers slowly peeling away in the face of his budding romance in Weekend was one of the sweetest and most authentic character arcs I saw all year.  That his co-star Chris New, Shame’s committed Michael Fassbender, the ferocious Woody Harrelson, the reptilian Gary Oldman and Ewan McGregor’s best performance since Moulin Rouge! missed my personal shortlist is not a slight of their abilities but a testament to how great 2011 was for lead actors.

Best Lead Actress

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Lead Actress of 2011

Will Win: The narrative that pundits and Oscarphiles are pushing is Davis vs. Streep, and while some of the latter’s more, erm, ardent fans are jumping on her BAFTA victory as a sign that the tides are turning, I’m still betting that the industry-wide love for Davis in a far more popular film (honestly, does anyone even like The Iron Lady?) will make her the winner this year…
Should Win: …and why shouldn’t she?  Viola Davis never outright fought Tate Taylor’s anodyne narrative but still valiantly rejected one-dimensional sanctification of The Help’s true hero, and communicated through understated resentment and saucy candor the bold work that her movie should have been.  It was through her that The Help rose above the drivel of previous White Guilt films, and her refusal to let Aibileen be defined by who she served that make her the most deserving nominee by a mile and a half.  It’s strange, just last year we had a Best Actress lineup so strong that even the weakest nominee (and eventual winner) held up fairly well among past victors, and now we have only one nominee that’s worth a damn.
Should Have Been Nominated: It’s pretty much a no-brainer at this point that I would have selected Juliette Binoche’s career-best work in Certified Copy as not only a nominee but the winner of the whole thing, but the real question is why almost none of the precursors also felt that way?  Her simultaneous embodiment of a distinct woman and the idea of her was Kiarostami’s greatest asset in giving his think piece the lived-in quality it needed.  Mia Wasikowska gave what may have been my favorite portrayal of the titular heroine in Jane Eyre, using the slightest variations of her eyes and face to convey a multitude of inner reflection that the film wisely showcased for its biggest emotional dramatics.  I am confident that she will one day be given her due by the Academy.  Despite her heart-wrenching journey to express herself artistically just as her mind began to shut down in Poetry, Jeong-hie Yun’s cardinal sin in the Oscar race was being Asian, apparently, and if someone with the clout of Julie Christie or Emma Thompson gave the kind of deeply wounded performance that Olivia Colman did in Tyrannosaur, this race would have been a done deal long ago.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Supporting Actor of 2011

Will Win: While the critics’ guilds were split between Brooks and Plummer, the former’s surprise (but not exactly “outrageous”) snub by the Academy has all but sealed the deal for the veteran player in Mike Mills’ beautiful film.
Should Win: Of all the frontrunners of this year’s Oscar race, this is by far my favorite of the lot.  If Plummer wins for his generous and delicately-played inhabitation of a renewed soul, epitomizing both the romantic core of Beginners while remaining distinctly as a foundation to his lead’s own realization, it’ll be the first time that my favorite supporting actor perfectly aligns with the Academy’s since…damn, Martin Landau?  Maybe Del Toro in 2001?
Should Have Been Nominated: Contrary to Academy Award history and hyperbolic critics, the best supporting performances of the year are not often ones that “steal the show,” either through attentiongrabby acting or simply being a fraudulent lead, but ones who actually support their film and co-stars.  They arrive subtly, infuse their characters with more life and presence than their screen time allows, and leave with indelible but not always obvious contributions.  As an advocate for these kinds of unselfish performers, I took extra care to comb over and single out the most essential supporting character work this year, including a second and slightly more rewarding look at A Dangerous Method (kudos to Joseph’s review for persuading me to do so) to appreciate Viggo Mortensen’s sly, robust portrayal of Sigmund Freud.  On the surface his smug demeanor and cigar chomping seemed like mere comic relief until I noticed the deeper finesses of his characterization.  His ego proved only one facet of his focused observational eyes and pithy but meticulous voicing of his famed theories.  I complained previously at how he “simply isn’t challenged enough” by A Dangerous Method, but I now see he was the one challenging Cronenberg’s uneven film the whole time.  Or how about Shea Whigham, the least recognized but perhaps most vital player of Take Shelter, whose disintegrating trust in his friend provided us with the most relatable view of our wholly untrustworthy protagonist?  Shahab Hosseini’s hot-headedness was more volatile acting than my other preferred nominees, but his naked, unpredictable emotion was perfectly matched in the context of A Separation’s flawed characters and moral compromise.  Not that I am entirely averse to a secondary character stealing the show, as was the case of Corey Stoll’s shamelessly obvious impersonation of the Ernest Hemingway persona.  His ace monologue supplied nearly all of the humor and wit that I desperately looked for in the rest of Midnight in Paris.

Best Supporting Actress

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Supporting Actress of 2011

Will Win: Precursor support would suggest that Octavia Spencer will take this one to the bank, and while she still doesn’t “feel” like a Best Supporting Actress winner, I can’t honestly see anyone else overtaking her at this point.  Bejo and Chastain’s nominations seem to be viewed as breakthrough “nomination is the reward” deals, McTeer’s film is a dead shark, and I don’t have faith that the Academy will Go There with a performance as raucous as McCarthy’s.
Should Win: Yep, I’m still rooting for the woman who shit in the sink.  Sure, Melissa McCarthy got the funniest lines handed to her on a silver platter, but she earned each and every one of them with her bold, fiercely dedicated portrayal of what could have easily been a vulgar stereotype.  Because of McCarthy, we laughed at Megan’s chutzpah, but not at her, and that’s an important and praiseworthy distinction.
Should Have Been Nominated: The infidelity drama Tuesday, After Christmas boasted not one but two remarkable supporting performances from Mirela Oprişor and Maria Popistaşu as the wronged wife and the cheating mistress, respectively.  Popistaşu avoided the easy naïveté or cynicism that most would lazily portray the Other Woman with, instead discovering a character of unexpected poise even as she slid into doubt.  Oprişor’s contained breakdown at discovering her husband’s betrayal was unbearably heartbreaking to witness.  One of the most clichéd stock characters to emerge in recent cinema is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is why it was so refreshing to see Mélanie Laurent – an actress I normally don’t care for – convey the moony, charming and slightly odd Anna as much more than a tired screenwriter’s conceit.  Towering above them all, however, was the tremendous Sareh Bayat.  Visibly weighed down by her lack of education and the unforgiving doctrines of her religion, Razieh’s conflicting motivations of fear, faith and an unexpectedly strong sense of pride ended up the standout of the best ensemble of 2011.  While I applaud Jessica Chastain’s phenomenal year, there just wasn’t enough room for her on my own shortlist, though her fleshing out of the Concerned Wife stock character in Take Shelter came the closest.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Adapted Screenplay of 2011

Will Win: Only a field as weak as this one could turn the most offensive Oscar contender of the year, and really of the past several years, into an Academy Award winner.  Opening with an in-your-face elitist monologue about how misunderstood the obscenely wealthy are, this supposed glimpse into a “complicated” relationship and “flawed man” proceeded to bend over backwards to protect Matt King from us feeling anything even approaching conflicted thoughts toward him, surrounding us with an array of coarse, ugly exaggerations of implausible characters to distract us from his own passive-aggressive behavior.  Then it had the gall to expect us to cry with him during his constipated farewell to his wife (whom we get zero insight into) that had not one iota of believability.  This reprehensible attempt to have its tearjerking cake and eat it too is going to win an Oscar for its writing.  Despicable.  Payne and co. can happily join Simon Beaufoy and Eric Roth among the worst Adapted Screenplay winners of the past twenty years.
Should Win: While the narrative was dense to a fault, O’Connor and Straughan’s simultaneous condensation and restructuring of John le Carré’s byzantine spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was the most ambitious feat of adaptation this year, peppered with sharp touches in plotting and dialogue that made its shadowy intrigue all the more compelling…if occasionally hard to follow.
Should Have Been Nominated: Speaking of making interesting changes to source material, Moira Buffini’s take on the seemingly over-adapted Jane Eyre was a deft blend of faithfulness and creative changes that placed it among the best of the Brontë adaptations.  Despite a tad too much exposition in its first hour, 13 Assassins nevertheless breathed new life into the jidaigeki genre by blending equal doses of reverence and satiric bite toward the Edo value system.  Kudos also to Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe for conveying through Higher Ground what must have been a lifelong struggle with faith in just under two hours without setting up strawmen or narrative contrivances.  No film adapted from an existing source material last year was an unqualified success, but these five all had noteworthy merits.

Best Original Screenplay

Robert Hamer's Personal Ballot: Best Original Screenplay of 2011

Will Win: I don’t think I’ll ever “get” the widespread adulation for Woody Allen’s thin, airless Midnight in Paris, but at this point I am fully on board with the theory that they’ll honor his most financially successful film here.  It is exactly the kind of “writer’s film” that can overthrow a Best Picture juggernaut in this category, as Eternal Sunshine did in 2005, The Pianist pulled off in 2003 and Almost Famous managed in 2001.
Should Win: The more I think about A Separation – which is a lot, by the way – the more I fear that its widely-agreed upon brilliance may be taken for granted over time.  While I have no illusions of an upset win for the best-written film of 2011, I feel a stronger desire for it live on past the Oscars; to have its potent insights continue to haunt us for years to come.
Should Have Been Nominated: Abbas Kiarostami and Andrew Haigh infused their romantic dramas with probing ideas on relationship ambivalence and identity, ending up with far more to say than Allen managed in the entirety of Midnight in Paris.  While not nearly as heady, Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical script for Beginners was beautifully tender and generous in creating its achingly sympathetic characters.  Even with its occasional long-winded and overfamiliar moments, Chang-dong Lee still accomplished an impressively literary and, yes, poetic screenplay for Poetry, with one of the year’s most bracing endings.


Best Art Direction
Will Win: One of the few done deals of this race, Ferretti and Lo Schiavo have all but won the Oscar for their colossal (if overwrought) undertakings on Hugo.
Should Win: As I argued in my Oscar Circuit piece on the subject, War Horse’s showcase of international film styles was made all the more impressive by its handsome, era-specific production design.
Should Have Been Nominated: The Academy’s snub of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s bleak, oppressive post-Modern offices and seedy meeting rooms ranks among the most infuriating this year.  It was a blessing in this age of unimaginative visual sense to see a director utilize detailed, evocative mise-en-scène (among other tools unique to cinema) to pull his audience into his story, especially one as convoluted as that one.  Only slightly behind it was Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, with striking, thematically relevant spaces recalling the best of Buñuel and Breillat.  No love either for the thick, eerie locations of Jane Eyre, Antxón Gómez’s textured use of color, props and locations to fit the deviousness of The Skin I Live In, or the deceptively peaceful deathtrap constructed for 13 Assassins.  Oh well…

Best Film Editing
Will Win: In the past ten years, this award has been doled out to the Best Picture winner six times and the ACE Eddie winner every time.  With no visibly edited films competing for this prize, it looks like The Artist has yet another Oscar in the bag.  Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall perhaps might spoil due to their nominee being the “most” edited, but with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo missing out in Best Picture I can’t imagine this category’s first ever back-to-back winners.
Should Win: Moneyball’s back-and-forths were as zippily cut as the best of classic screwball comedies, with enough measured pacing to make its dips into backstory and introspection feel organic rather than jarring.
Should Have Been Nominated: Any editor that works on a Malick film deserves credit for cutting the piles of footage that he assembles into a manageable feature.  For the team behind The Tree of Life, their work was a triumph, deliberately pacing their intangible memory-poem like a symphony flowing through all of its expansions and collapses of time and space.  Beginners also managed similar feats of organically moving through past, present and future with the free-flow momentum of memory.  Less smooth but no less vital to its effect was Melancholia.  Arguably the best edited Lars von Trier film yet, its disorienting cuts threw me off in the first half before implying an odd continuity between it and the second chapter, which was the most convincing factor in me theorizing that “Claire” was Justine’s dream.  When it came to fast pacing, no movie could match the relentless roller-coaster ride that Paul Tothill constructed out of Joe Wright’s admittedly empty thriller Hanna.  But even that did not amaze me as much as how uncannily precise the editing of A Separation was, not only because of the exactitude of its story progression, but in how Hayedeh Safiyari’s invisible hand so easily manipulated my own perspective through the layers of conflicting accounts and muddled truths of its feuding characters.

Best Cinematography
Will Win: I’m REALLY trying not to get my hopes up here, but with all the critics’ awards, ASC victory and nomination for a Best Picture contender, it looks like Emmanuel Lubezki will finally score his long-overdue Academy Award for The Tree of Life.  If by some travesty he doesn’t, I think it’s safe to assume that he has at some point killed and eaten the first-borns of every Academy member.
Should Win: That this is only the third-best lensing in the career of my favorite living cinematographer should tell you just how accomplished this man is.  But honoring his prolific career is certainly not the only reason why his expert use of soft light is far and away the most deserving nominee.
Should Have Been Nominated: Manuel Alberto Claro has been praised – and rightly so – for his visually stunning apocalypses that bookend Melancholia, but even smarter was his use of dim yellow lighting and stark digital photography to match Justine’s inner gloom.  I’ve advocated for the neon haze of Drive and the haunting greyness of Jane Eyre before, but I should also extend kudos to Chris Blauvelt’s captivating use of 1.33:1 aspect ratio to capture the harshness of Meek’s Cutoff in a way that felt both old-fashioned and appropriately anachronistic.

Best Costume Design
Will Win: This category, as we noted in this week’s podcast, is a fucking crapshoot this year.  There are persuasive arguments for each and every one of the nominees.  While I originally advocated for Jane Eyre’s complex threads, I am now switching my vote for the glamorous costumes of The Artist, winner of the BAFTA, BFCA, CDG award for its outfits.
Should Win: Having not seen the affront to literary integrity that is Anonymous, or Madonna’s W./E. (yes, that’s how it’s officially spelled), I will admit upfront that my initial stumping for Jane Eyre’s textured work was based partially on it being my personal favorite of the nominees.
Should Have Been Nominated: 2009’s winner, the legendary Sandy Powell, hilariously and refreshingly scolded the Academy for rarely recognizing the achievements of contemporary costume design.  If they had listened to her, David Robinson’s work in Jason Reitman’s otherwise rubbish Young Adult would have almost certainly been a nominee here for his ingeniously character-specific costumes revealing tantalizing details about its mostly far-fetched characters.  Also a contemporary achievement were the simple, memorable outfits of Drive, with the scorpion jacket being the most iconic single piece of clothing I saw last year.  The most vital costume work of the year arguably goes to Meek’s Cutoff, not only for its historically accurate and realistically worn-out designs, but their vital contributions to the psychological intensity and themes of its characters holding on in the the desolate frontier that had become their prison.

Best Makeup
Will Win: Looking at the history of fantasies scoring in this category, as well as the decade-long buildup of goodwill leading its jaw-dropping box office success, I am inclined to believe that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will score the franchise’s only Oscar here.
Should Win: I would normally be very happy with the boy wizard’s final film winning for its impressive prosthetic work and transformation of Ralph Fiennes into a noseless monstrosity…but then I remember the ending.  Oh sweet Jesus, that ending.  I just can’t support any makeup award going to such laughably poor old age effects, especially with The Iron Lady doing a much better job of making Meryl Streep into an elderly, broken shell of Margaret Thatcher.
Should Have Been Nominated: The work that went into Sigmund Freud alone should have guaranteed a spot for A Dangerous Method in this category, but even without him you had impressive accentuation of Knightley’s ruddy, bony features and Fassbender’s chiseled handsomeness.  The surprising severity of Jane Eyre’s hair and makeup, especially for the women, contributed greatly to its gothic iconography.  Choosing a winner, I would go with Contagion taking full advantage of its audience’s biological paranoia with makeup work that nailed the look of both disease and fatigue on a terrified populace.

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, on top of being a surprise sleeper hit last summer, has by far the most widely-praised and technically ambitious motion capture work of the nominees and has been touted as the frontrunner.  However, since Best Visual Effects was officially established as its own category in 1977, no Best Picture nominee has ever lost this award, so I am betting that Hugo takes it instead.
Should Win: I just never fell in love with Rise of the Planet of the Apes the way my colleagues did, and not just because of its bland story and character arcs being spelled out in the first act, or the almost comically wooden performances from its “human” actors.  What disappointed me most was how its much-ballyhooed visual effects left me cold.  The final effect just didn’t persuade me at any point that I was looking at anything other than CG apes, and that sense that they were just a little bit “off” took me out of the experience, but I cannot deny the extraordinary technical undertaking it must have been…
Should Have Been Nominated: I try to avoid calling these categories the “technicals.”  It comes off as a backhanded put-down to some very hardworking folks whose contributions are no less artistically vital than the actors and writers of a film.  But when I see the Academy ignore the beautifully abstract cosmos, planets and single-celled organisms rendered for The Tree of Life in favor of more expensive but far less interesting visuals for films like Real Steel, I wonder if maybe they too see themselves as nothing more than simple technicians.  The joyous Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol boasted some of the most organic visual effects of the year, giving its often ridiculous sequences a modicum of plausibility.  Of course it wasn’t nominated.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing
Will Win: No use having separate entries for what will most likely go to the same film.  Despite its flat sound, Hugo has won the CAS, MPSE and BAFTA awards, and since the winner of one sound award usually wins the other, I’m inclined to believe that it will take both Mixing and Editing.
Should Win: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is easily my pick among the Sound Mixing nominees, with its foreboding, constant howls of its setting’s perpetual snowstorm giving the film the refreshing feel of an ominous horror flick.  As for Sound Editing, I’d love to see a bone thrown to the roaring engines of Drive’s only nod (cheer up, fans; Fight Club’s only Oscar nomination was also for Sound Editing!).
Should Have Been Nominated: Other than Rampart, which I’ve argued for previously, Meek’s Cutoff and The Tree of Life had essential soundscapes that contributed greatly to their respective experiences.  I’m a bit more of a sucker for loud and obvious sounds when it comes to Sound Editing, though, so sue me for believing that the crashes, engine purrs and revs of Fast Five and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol were almost as delicious to hear as Drive’s.  Rango also was a smorgasbord of wonderfully inventive sounds to compliment its cartoon logic, from Rattlesnake Jake’s gattling gun to the chaos unleashed by the falcon in Dirt.  Hell, I’d even give a nod to We Need to Talk About Kevin.  As much as I disliked its puerile themes and lurid imagery, the individual sound effects of Lynne Ramsay’s freak show were exquisite.

Best Original Score
Will Win: The debate over whether or not the Best Picture frontrunner will pull off a “sweep” or not rages on, but if there is only one below-the-line Oscar that The Artist is poised to take it’s this.  Crammed with music from start to finish, not even the mini-controversy over its aping of a Bernard Herrmann piece really slowed down Ludovic Bource’s momentum.
Should Win: Alberto Iglesias’ idioms were well-matched with the shadows of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The insinuating blend of delicate melodies and sinister rhythms gave a quirky personality to Alfredson’s Cold War maze.
Should Have Been Nominated: This year – even more than the last – was a standout for experimental/electro-rock scores for films.  My favorite among them was Cliff Martinez’s slick synth score for Drive.  While I have cooled on that film in the months since, its dazzling flow of music and sound cannot be overpraised.  The Chemical Brothers achieved a similar synergy with Hanna, with their distinct style kiln-blasting Joe Wright’s thrill ride with forceful and sometimes disorienting electronica.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did not create a score as iconic as The Social Network but in many ways more fitting and effective to David Fincher’s tight, rough textures applied to a project far beneath their collective abilities.

As for the rest, it goes without saying that I’m thrilled to see Gore Verbinski’s fabulously bonkers Rango be the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature, I’m still wary of thinking A Separation will beat out a Holocaust drama for Best Foreign Language Film, and that I just don’t give a shit about Best Original Song anymore to even care that The Muppets’ third-best song will probably win the award.

So…what do you all think?  Am I on to something with my predictions, or do you think I shamefully overlooked someone or something when giving you my own personal picks?  Let loose in the comments.  Don’t hold back!

  • sc62788

    I agree with the should wins for ToL. It’s about time something a little more challenging than the rest win something…but that is unlikely. Won’t be too upset that The Artist walks with both. I just don’t think that Corey Stoll was as big a deal as others. He was good, but there wasn’t really anything that stood out all that much in Midnight In Paris to me. I enjoyed it, but it’s not blowing the doors off of anything. Allen will probably win though. Perhaps this is their chance to make up for not nominating things like Curse of the Jade Scorpion…or Hollywood Ending…only kidding.

    • What really sold Stoll’s performance to me is how he didn’t even TRY to “dig into” or portray “the real” Ernest Hemingway, but fulfills every fantasy we have about him in a film that’s all about wish fulfillment (Wasn’t Paris of the 1920’s just so delightful? But don’t worry, the present is just fine, too.). That full-on comic bravado should have been the candor of Midnight in Paris.

      • sc62788

        If it were the full-on comedy it could have been, I would probably be behind an Allen win. My fantasy of Hemingway would be that he wasn’t so long winded…Old Man and the Sea is a killer to get through.

        • billdale

          You are being ironic, right? A very short novel and an acknowledged masterpiece of efficient, accessible prose? My god, what are you putting it up against for this critique?!?

          • sc62788

            Yes. It is an acknowledged masterpiece. And I agree and understand why. That doesn’t mean I can’t find it boring. It’s a story that could have been a short story. You would still get the point if he caught the fish and it was eaten in 20 less pages. This and Ethan Frome are the longest short novels. But that’s just me. I’m not saying you can’t love it…

  • I am huge fans of Alexander Payne, Simon Beaufoy, Woody Allen and Eric Roth so I’m glad they’ve all won Oscars and hopefully two of them could win again. 🙂

    • I don’t even dislike Alexander Payne or Woody Allen, I just find the former’s script reprehensible and the latter’s mediocre last year. Eric Roth, on the other hand, is just one Insider away from me declaring him a full-on hack.

      • What a “Shame”. Eric Roth is my favorite among all of them knowing he wrote some of my favorite movies ever like Forrest Gump (the BEST movie of all time), The Insider, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Extremely loud and incredibly Close (a well deserving nominee), and Munich. I sometimes hate that we have different opinions knowing I hated certain movies you enjoy like Beginners, Tinker Tailor Soldier Snorefest, The Artist, and Rango. Anyways, better luck next year.

  • That’s three of us so far that think Brad Pitt should win Best Actor.

    • Which delights me to no end. Usually an actor has to give a strained performance and “show their work” to get such a consensus on their achievement, so I’m glad to see a lot of people rallying behind Pitt precisely because he made it look so effortless.

  • Eric McCainley

    How is Simon Beaufoy’s Oscar win a few years back considered a horrible one?

    • To be fair, I probably could have included John Irving’s blah Cider House Rules or the maddeningly schmaltzy A Beautiful Mind with less opposition, but Slumdog Millionaire’s script is SUCH a narratively slipshod, repetitive (take a shot every time the hero says something to the extent of “It is destiny” or “I will find her” and you’ll be out before the end of the night) and exploitative mess that it severely undercuts whatever high energy Danny Boyle injects into it. That so many think of it as deserving of that award is stunning to me.

      • Eric McCainley

        I’m not sure exactly what is your preference on what a well-written, innovative adaptation can be recognized as a strong Oscar winner, but I would have to disagree that Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay stands as a breathtaking and exciting story, of 2008 respectively.

  • billdale

    In a year of unexpected noms and snubs, with few clear-cut front-runners for much of the race, and given that Oscar usually throws up a surprise or two, I can’t help feeling it would be odd if there WEREN’T a couple of major shocks come the night. Often it happens with Best Picture, given the wider multi-discipline votership, but it doesn’t sound like anything will get the support to topple the Artist?

    So what price a double Pitt / Streep grab? Pitt for an Adrien Brody-style vote splitter – even many of those backing Clooney and Dujardin seem half-hearted, unable to contest the suspicion that either would be a weak, by default winner. And while Viola Davis will likely carry the (admittedly sizable) acting branch votes, what about the (still large) balance of those overwhelmingly white, male, older, non-actor voters? The BAFTA could be a more-than-usually prescient pointer here.

    And you can get very good odds on this double!

  • Josh P.

    I’m thrilled there’s someone out there that liked Weekend as much as I did (if the screenplay had been nominated, I’d pick it as the winner). Though I’m not personally as big on “The Tree of Life” as many others are, I’m always happy that those who love the film are represented in the Oscar race, and even I can say that the snub for Best Visual Effects is preposterous. You are also the only other person I’ve seen predicting “Harry Potter” to win Makeup, which is interesting because I thought I was the only one who thinks that. Also, while I am slightly more partial to the “Moneyball” script, I’d be overjoyed if “Tinker Tailor” won as well.

    And, of course, a prayer should be said for a McCarthy upset.

    • Wow, a lot of fans out there for Weekend! I *really* regret not having the time to officially review it now…

  • I wholeheartedly agree with Robert. The best actress race was a joke this year. Not enough strong female performances throughout the year, and while there were many to applaud, Oscar seemed to go for the showy and predictable (see: The entire best actress lineup besides Viola Davis). The supporting actress turns, on the other hand, were truly wonderful.

    • Matt

      I thought Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, and Rooney Mara all gave fantastic performances and deserved their nominations. As for Streep and Close I feel like I wasn’t too impressed with either of their performances. They should have been replaced by two of these three ladies: Jodie Foster (Carnage), Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method), or Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)

      • Michael Ward

        Allow me to offer that the strong female performances this year were flat out ignored by Oscar because of the overall tone of the nominations in general. Yes, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara made it to Oscar night, but these nominations skew older and safer than many of us expected. If you need a list of excellent female performances, YouTube Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech where she names several women and performances that she thought were fantastic. Adepero Oduye, Elizabeth Olsen, Tilda Swinton, Olivia Colman, Mia Wasikowska, Leila Hatami all jump to mind as being worthy. And while I may be parroting much of Robert’s sentiment from up above, I would argue that this was a strong year for female performances. The Academy just looked elsewhere…

      • I admit to not seeing Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs, or My Week With Marilyn, but I probably wouldn’t feel any different than the rest of my colleagues. Rooney Maras performance was cartoony and overly affected, it became a superficial, robotic mess. Noomi Rapace sank into the character with realism whereas Finchers directing made Liabeth seem like unreal fantasy pulp. She was even less kick ass and less sympathetic. Wasikowska was the best from a leading actress. I can’t say many other leading female performances moved me as much as hers.

  • Matt

    I love the hearing everybody’s “Should have been nominated” so here is my ideal Oscars this year. Hopefully other people will share theirs.

    **Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
    The Help
    Ides of March
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    George Clooney (Ides of March)
    David Fincher (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
    Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
    Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
    **Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

    Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
    George Clooney (The Descendants)
    Joseph Gordon Levitt (50/50)
    Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
    **Ryan Gosling (Drive)

    Jodie Foster (Carnage)
    Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method)
    Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)
    Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
    **Viola Davis (The Help)

    Supporting Actor
    **Alan Rickman (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. II)
    Albert Brooks (Drive)
    Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
    Christoph Waltz (Carnage)
    George Clooney (Ides of March)

    Supporting Actress
    **Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
    Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
    Kate Winslet (Carnage)
    Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
    Octavia Spencer (The Help)

    Original Screenplay
    Midnight in Paris
    Young Adult

    Adapted Screenplay
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
    Ides of March
    **Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  • Oh a Hamer Awards, brilliant. Insightful stuff, lots to see there. I hadn’t heard enough about Certified Copy despite it being on the cover of the cinema brochure, so thought I could skip it. Bad move evidently, since it’s loved by two writers here!

    I feel really bad that I never connected at all to A Separation now, talk about an awards sweeper, hopefully it was just tiredness. Loving your citations for Weekend and its razor sharp script. Olivia Colman’s snub was indeed a travesty, I can’t believe even the BAFTAs didn’t recognize her.

    • Argh, that BAFTA snub drove me crazy as well! It always aggravates me when the BRITISH Academy Awards ignore superlative work from their own in favor of just parroting the Oscar nods.

      Thanks for the high praise. I’m so happy to find another fan of Weekend.

      • billdale

        Spot on again with BAFTA! They could have given Oldman the statue in an obviously light-weight year and no-one would have raised an eyebrow. But they seem achingly over-protective of their still-new precursor role. And I got the feeling that they were garlanding Octavia Spencer because they felt it was expected of them – many better-reviewed performances over here in her category.

  • Mark

    I don’t know how I never heard about your website. I heard about it from teacher/chef John Contratti.


    I know he’s a big fan of you guys. Have you checked out his Oscar themed week? I love his website. I will
    now follow your site. I’m hoping for The Artist, Dujardin and Streep. I will tune in on Oscar night to your blog.


    • Kyle

      His website is very cool. And he knows so much about film. Would to hear talk with the other guys on their chat show.

  • Roger

    My favorite piece on Awards Circuit ever! From the pictures, to the formatting, to the writing, this piece is just flawless! I loved how you recognized Poetry, Weekend, A Separation, and Certified Copy. All four are not just among the best films of the year, but they produced in my book the best performances of the year. The Koreans have produced such stellar films in recent years like Mother, Poetry, and Oldboy. It’s shocking Korea hasn’t been nominated for Best Foreign Language film yet, let alone win. Korea has a lot of talent and hope one day the make their way to Oscar recognition. Kim Hye Ja gave the best performance for an actress last year in Mother. In a perfect world Poetry, Weekend, and Certified Copy would be nominated… Great Article Robert!

    • Thank you so much! I worked really hard on this piece and I’m glad you got so much out of it!

  • Massimo

    Points this piece makes that i agree with:
    – Tree of Life should win picture, director and cinematography
    – Olivia Colman was incredible and if she were a big name and well respected in the industry she’d have got in and would won
    – Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Peyman Mooadi’s Nader all should have been nominated for their work in a separation
    – brad pitt should win best actor
    – the decendants isn’t good from its screenplay to Clooney’s “tiresome Clooneyisms”
    – a separation should win original screenplay

    Points in this piece that i disagree with:
    – McCarthy should win supporting actress
    – Plummer should win supporting actor

    • I’ll take that. Agreeing with three points for every one disagreement ain’t bad at all, but I’m curious, who would you prefer to see win over Plummer and McCarthy (Plummer especially, since his official competition is so…uninspiring)?

      • Massimo

        Of the non nominated i’d go with Brad Pitt in tree of life or John Hawkes in martha marcy may marlene.

        As for the nominated, Nolte or von Sydow would be just fine with me. And yes i know your thoughts on Nolte’ performance so i’ll just speak about von Sydow. Its a nuance performance. I thought he conveyed so much through his yes/no hand responses, body language and what he wrote on the notepad. Did his reactions to the answering machine messages not do anything for you? An since you were left “uninspired” maybe you should give the film a second viewing.

  • Alex LoSchiavo

    I have a question for you, you said in the supporting actor that this will be the first time your personal favorite wins since Del Toro. Which leads me to ask: Who did you prefer over Heath Ledger? Javier Bardem? Christolph Waltz? Christian Bale?

    • Okay, so I should caveat my answer by saying that I think that the winning performances from 2010-2007, while amazing, were actually (borderline) leading roles. They weren’t Steinfeld-level egregious cases and I didn’t mind any of them getting the award, but I still think they competed in the wrong category. In their place, I would have picked Steve Zahn for 2007, Robery Downey, Jr. for 2008, James Gandolfini (in Where the Wild Things Are) for 2009, and John Hawkes for 2010.

      • koook160

        Steve Zahn? Really?

        • Henry Z.

          Steve Zahn and James Gandolfini? Really…..?

        • Absolutely. You didn’t find him outstanding in Rescue Dawn?

          • koook160

            He was alright. But Sam Rockwell, Tom Wilkinson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ben Foster impressed me more.

      • Alex LoSchiavo

        Interesting point. Very, very interesting point. Never thought of that before. I’m still very pleased with those wins, though. I think Zahn’s work (as well as Bale’s, and hell, Herzog’s direction work too) was spectacular. Btw, I assume you were talking about Rescue Dawn. Based on your love for McCarthy, I should’ve known you wanted Downey, Jr. in 2008. Not sure about James Gandolfini, but I loved Hawkes in Winter’s Bone and loved him even more in Martha Marcy May Marlene. His time will surely come.

        BTW, fantastic piece! The Tree of Life, though very polarizing, was probably the grandest vision I’ve seen from a director in a long time. If anyone thinks he doesn’t deserve it based solely on their reaction to it, they should give it to him just based off of eloquence and the magnitude of the piece. I don’t even want to define it as a film, it was more of a piece of art. Expert filmmaking.

        • Alex LoSchiavo

          Though I must admit, Drive was my favorite film of the year.

        • I have to admit, as much as I enjoyed its tightly-wound, slick 80’s pop bent, I’ve felt increasingly uneasy about my own reaction to Drive. I definitely have to return to it at some point.

    • By the way, I should also just say that it’s been so long since I’ve seen Traffic I’m not even 100% on *that* Oscar win anymore. Though I can’t imagine cooling on the genius of Del Toro’s performance in that film, give me a chance to finally revisit The Contender or Shaft or Thirteen Days and my “Hamer Award” might change…but that’s a conversation for when we launch ACCA 2000.

      • Alex LoSchiavo

        I watched Traffic again a few weeks ago, don’t worry, Del Toro is still fantastic. And I’m with you on Zahn. It’s upsetting how overlooked Rescue Dawn was.

  • WillQ

    Thank god SOMEONE on here put Tree of Life as the best picture of the year and as their pick for best director. Malick’s film is gorgeous and will be talked about for years to come (but as a Malick superfan I hope I am not overstating things). If only Pitt could have been nominated for this, I would have been even happier.

    Also, it is such a shame that Bionche could not have been nominated for Certified Copy. She really carried the movie even when I didn’t fall in love with it like I wanted to. Completely captivating. But did you find WIlliam Shimell good in it as well? I thought he was very restrained, in a good way, and also pretty interesting to watch. Especially for a first time film actor, I thought he was quite impressive.

    • I am a fan of Terrence Malick as well, but I don’t think its hyperbolic at all to suggest that his latest was THE most talked-about artistic touchstone of the year. Yet another similarity to 2001: A Space Odyssey is that whether one loved or hated it, any self-respecting cinephile “has to” have an opinion on that film.

      I liked Shimell very much in Certified Copy (and Pitt in The Tree of Life), but not quite enough to make my honor roll.

  • George

    Totally agree with your opinion of The Tree of Life. Malick should win as well and your description of the film is exactly how I feel.

    • I’m glad to see I’m not alone in how that film touched me.

  • BR

    WOW! I was surprised to see that your Best Actress ballot matches exactly mine. We even chose the same winner. Go Juliette Binoche!! Anyway, great insights and analysis for every category, and your taste in movies in impeccable. Great job, Robert.

  • UBourgeois

    I have a hard time hearing demands for Certified Copy or Poetry recognition for these specific Academy Awards since they were both released in 2010 and not 2011. Both quite good movies (or so I hear, at least for Poetry) but I have a hard time recognizing them as having the best anything of 2011 just because that’s the year they made their way to the US. Pretty pedantic, I’ll admit, but it’s how I see the issue.

    • BR

      Actually, Certified Copy’s US release was March 11, 2011. It screened at the New Rok Film Festival in 2010, but that doesn’t count for the Oscars. You might already know, but in case you don’t, Oscars require a movie to be screened at least one week in an LA theater for it to be eligible for the awards. Same goes for Poetry. It screened in 2010 at the NY festival but it did not open in LA or other cities until February 2011. So according to the Academy, they are 2011 releases. However, you might be counting the NY Festival opening.

      • BR

        Sorry I meant to write New YORK not New Rok

      • UBourgeois

        I understand that’s how it works in regards to the Academy, it’s mostly just a pedantic preference on my part, as the films were released in 2010 and not 2011, US screenings or no. I would prefer that international films are made available in the US in the year of their release so they could be considered for the correct year, but I accept that to be pretty unrealistic.

  • Divya

    I loved Robert Hamer’s analysis much more than anybody else’s so far. This is actually based on complete objectivity, rather than personal preferences. I’m so glad that the Brad Pitt bandwagon is growing stronger. And I’m glad that SOMEONE actually backs HP to win something. And you have correctly given the reason why ‘Hugo’ might just end up winning Visual Effects (indeed, it is said that most members of the Academy don’t have a clue about Visual Effects, and usually vote for a film that they liked the best).

    Then again, I don’t understand all the brouhaha over Melissa McCarthy. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve to be there, but when you look at the reaction to her performance, everybody’s like,”She pooped in the sink”, as if she did NOTHING ELSE in the film. Even Anna Belickis said,’Bridesmaids proved that women are just as crude as anybody’. Come on. If comic performances involve ONLY crude behavior and utter profanities, any street urchin would’ve easily taken Melissa McCarthy’s place. What’s so special about her OWN performance? What did Melissa McCarthy bring to the role that no one else could’ve done? In real life, get a girl drunk/drugged, and even she can poop in the sink, ‘cos she won’t be in her senses. And as for the ‘high self-esteem’, you can clearly see that it is only an act for the film. Even our own parents don’t have such a high self-esteem.

    • Joseph Braverman

      I’m one of the very few who share your sentiments regarding McCarthy. However, these recent weeks I’ve warmed a bit up to her. Maybe it’s the fact I’m so happy that Shailene Woodley wasn’t nominated for ‘The Descendants,’ but you’re right…the performance could have easily been mirrored by another just as funny comedic actress. She was certainly loveable in the film, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say “Oscar worthy” especially when Carey Mulligan is breaking my heart in ‘Shame.’ Again, I’m not saying drama should be seen in higher regards than comedy, but this was a comedic performance that really benefited from the buzz of the film and the shock value within Wiigs and Mumolo’s screenplay.

    • Well, to be fair, I’m only *predicting* HP will win Best Makeup. I don’t actually think it should win. But I am once again humbled by such effusive compliments on my writing and analysis.

      But if you’ll humor me a further defense of McCarthy, I would actually argue that her performance transcends simple vulgarity by crafting a character that comes off as bold rather than crude (and the “pooped in the sink” quip from me was more prosaic styling than any kind of statement on her work). She just *attacked* every scene of hers with a kind of emotional conviction reserved for more serious roles, yet neither she nor the film sets out to humiliate what could have easily been “the stupid fat girl.” In a way, she’s a little bit similar to Hal from Beginners: the kind of vivacious character that has seen and been through too much to let petty things like inhibition get in the way of experiencing all that life has to offer, whether that be adopting nine puppies on the fly, ingratiating herself with the undercover Fire Marshal, or starting a fight club. Such substantial, specific characterization of the film’s most outrageous bridesmaid culminates in her being the perfect choice to confront Annie’s self-pitying bullshit, and her final monologue takes an unexpected poignancy as a result.

      • billdale

        I think your analysis overall is fascinating and full of perceptive insight we don’t get elsewhere. But I disagree on McCarthy – there’s an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ feel with this, I can’t help thinking people will start looking back and conclude, fun – yes, watchable – yes, scene-stealing – for sure, but great acting? – not for me. It was barely acting – terribly uneven, striving purely for over-the-top without grounding in any convincing characterisation. You CAN be deliciously over-the-top and still convincing (eg. Kline in ‘Fish Called Wanda’).
        I’m all for recognising all-out comedy performances – I think this is many people’s end game with McCarthy – I just don’t think hers is a particularly good example of the type. But maybe I am jaundiced in that I found most of the characters and set-ups in the film obvious and cliched, albeit generally well done?

  • Devon

    While I have only seen The Tree of Life once, and did appreciate its daring level of creativity and direction, I do not understand all the people saying it should be nominated for best picture. Someone mentioned in an earlier post something about it being more of an art creation than an actual film. I found myself waiting for an actual movie to begin, I felt I was watching the discovery channel for the first 20 minutes or whatever it was. And don’t get me wrong, im a huge supporter of the arts, but this “film” didn’t quite capture me the way it did for others. Anyway, moving on. I am glad to see some people wanting Drive for more than just the sound category. I very much enjoyed that movie and the way Ryan Gosling portrayed that character. Which leads me to him; he gave exceptional performances in 2011 and in my opinion was completely snubbed. I would much rather see Gosling in the race for best actor for either Drive or Ides of March than Clooney. Also, I do admire Scorsese a great deal, but I think the reason Huge has gotten 11 noms is only because it’s a Scorsese movie. I would very much like to see Deathly Hallows taking the gold for all three of their categories.. It’s the least try deserve after being snubbed year after year. Maybe if a bigger name director would have been behind it, it would have gotten more of the recognition it deserved. Who knows… I often disagree with the Academy’s decisions, giving nominations to the same people every year even if they might not deserve it (with some exceptions: Gary Oldman which I couldn’t be more pleased about, Octavia Spencer, etc). One more thing I’d like to add. I understand the Academy doesn’t usually nominate movies with an NC-17 rating but Michael Fassbender and Carey’s performances in Shame should have received recognition for how bold and original it was. Okay, I’m done ranting. Can’t wait for the Academy Awards!! Only 3 days!!