Oscar 2012: Will Win/Should Win (Ward)

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With pleasure...

With 1,001 good and not so good distractions keeping me away from my movie-watching life this month, I recognize I am late to the game on offering my take on this particular Oscar season. I commend my colleagues for their incredible work this year and while I may not have contributed as much as them, either in volume or in content, I have loved being a part of the Awards Circuit team for nearly one full year. I therefore recognize that once Billy Crystal tells us goodnight Sunday evening, everyone will exhale, purge all their memories of the good and bad of the 2011 Oscar year, and recharge their batteries in anticipation of which next great film will emerge out of the ether and leap off the page.

A year ago when I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join the Awards Circuit, no one knew that a clever and loving ode to the silent film era would become the frontrunner to win Best Picture. For the few of us who are still passionate about The Artist, it takes great comfort that the film has withstood a backlash that would have derailed other films. You can call it “slight”, “understated”, “nothing all that memorable” if you choose to. However, I guarantee that Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, and the team behind The Artist never, in their wildest dreams, envisioned that they would be in this position with their humble little film. If The Artist does indeed walk away with Best Picture, it will be a thrill because not only does that film work indelibly well with me, almost inexplicably so, but it marks something different and unique. For everyone who railed against the older Academy reverting back to their recliners and heating pads in selecting The King’s Speech last year, The Artist does feel like the safer, older-skewing choice but I would argue that the selection of The Artist falls more in line with an Academy who tested the unpopular waters in selecting the low budget, ambitious, and festival worn The Hurt Locker in 2009.

Excited as I anticipate being with the final call of the night, I am reminded of many films that are not here and this year provided many more disappointments than successes for me as an Oscarwatcher; or more accurately, an Awards Circuiter (I am registering the trademark…). To those who mention that this was not a good year in film, it absolutely was. However, to borrow a tired narrative for American politics, the youth vote stayed home while the older vote came out in droves. Take out the nominations for Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara this year, and the Academy plugged in older names and older-themed dramatic work to recognize this year, discarding bold and innovative cinematic offerings that would have ushered in a new crop of talented actors and filmmakers, receiving profound and global attention for the first time this weekend.


But alas.

Michael Fassbender, one last time, in "Shame"

They had no interest in watching a risky and career-making performance from Michael Fassbender and a staggering Carey Mulligan in Shame. Likewise, Drive stayed at the bottom of the DVD pile. Elizabeth Olsen went from momentary frontrunner in Martha Marcy May Marlene to bubble contender to out of the race in a couple of short months due to the welcoming of Glenn Close for the problematic and panned Albert Nobbs. Apparently that wasn’t Shailene Woodley standing toe-to-toe and matching scene-for-scene with George Clooney in The Descendants.  Few, if any, would not begrudge the overdue recognition for Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but this year Oldman scores a nod at the expense of Fassbender, two considerable and worthy lead performances from Ryan Gosling, Michael Shannon’s work in Take Shelter, and others as well. And shame on Focus Features and Sony Pictures Classics for mishandling the release dates and campaigns for Pariah and A Separation, two films that, had they been better marketed and promoted, would have likely been in the conversation. If you have doubts about Pariah, listen to the ovation lead actress Adepero Oduye got from the Golden Globes audience when Meryl Streep called out her name after winning her Globe for The Iron Lady.

And I could go on and on. But the work from my fellow Awards Circuit team precedes all of what I may offer and frankly, they all have said it better than I ever could. At the end of the day, I love the Oscars passionately and always will. It was a bonding experience I shared with my family one Monday night, once a year, while growing up and it became synonymous with my love of film, which I acquired at a young age. I have accepted that anymore, the Oscars are an annual sports season, with pundits and prognosticators writing every week about “Who’s Hot and Who’s Not”, who had good weeks and bad, who may tailspin into a slump and who may launch into a winning streak. The courts, fields, and stadiums are replaced by talk shows, red carpets, and film festivals, and playing the game determines who wins the Super Bowl, World Series, or Championship at the end of the season. Our offseason is coming and the anticipated “silence” Sunday night may indeed be deafening for awhile.

Thank you to all the readers for helping make Awards Circuit bigger and better than ever. To Anna, Clayton, Joey, John, Joseph, and Robert, I cannot wait to put 2011 to bed and dive in to 2012.  Your work and dedication is impressive and I have learned a great deal from all of you. And to our esteemed readers, I have likewise learned that I missed a comma here and there, misidentified a year on occasion, and most importantly, have had my eyes opened to new thoughts and ideas and films I never would have considered or been aware of, had you not taken the time to share your thoughts. I hope to have a seat at the Awards Circuit table as long as you will afford me that privilege.

Now, let’s do this.
My “Should Win” selections are based on the category’s nominees and do not include snubs I would give an Oscar to personally.

Best Picture:
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Artist

Thoughts: How can I possibly root against my #1 film of 2011?

Best Directing:
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Should Win: Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life

Thoughts: Without question, Terrence Malick made the greatest case I have seen yet for a Director being worthy of a win in this category, even if his film is not arguably the best of the year. The scope. The vision. The grandness of the attempt. The Tree Of Life is so many things, so personal and confusing, powerfully moving and frustrating, mesmerizing and beautiful and unexplainable and at times indefensible. Like the human experience, The Tree Of Life is a microcosm of everything we experience in our lives and the fact that Malick tells such an epic tale with a child-like wonderment and sensibility is remarkably bold and unshakable. Watch it again, please. This is a film that people will be talking about for years to come and writing about in the decades that follow.

Best Actor:
Will Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Should Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Thoughts: I vacillate between Dujardin and George Clooney winning this award and am reminded of the Sean Penn/Mickey Rourke battle a couple of years back. If you want to consider Brad Pitt, then I recall the Sean Penn/Bill Murray/Johnny Depp triple-threat match which headlined this category a few Oscars ago. In the end, Dujardin rides the wave of SAG, BAFTA, and an awesome “I want this Oscar” guest shot on Saturday Night Live a few weeks back. And even Clooney has remarked about how great Dujardin is in the role, so…there you go…

Best Actress:
Will Win: Viola Davis, The Help
Should Win: Viola Davis, The Help

Thoughts: From the opening moments of The Help, I called Viola Davis winning this award and while I may look elsewhere on my personal ballot, that does not mean that I still do not find her work to be extraordinary here. She is the centerpiece and the heart of a film that so many actors (look at SAG once again) have fallen in love with. And she’s due and Meryl Streep has all but endorsed her for the win. I frankly would be shocked if Davis does not win this Sunday.

Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Should Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Thoughts: I actually have grown to like this category a lot, minus Max Von Sydow’s performance which says nothing about his performance and everything to do about the reaction I had to the film. I love Nick Nolte’s performance in Warrior and have no real qualms with the rest of these nominees. Von Sydow creates an intriguing narrative being his film’s only other nominee in a Best Picture contender, but for those wondering if an octogenarian steel cage match has been occurring behind the scenes with voters, Von Sydow tapped out long ago I think.

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Thoughts: I have still not worked past my disappointment in Shailene Woodley being snubbed for her performance in The Descendants, but with that said, and with acknowledgments to several other women not in this category, I would rank Octavia Spencer fourth on my list of these nominees, just ahead of a strong performance from Janet McTeer. I cannot decide if I would check the box of Melissa McCarthy over Jessica Chastain and Bejo (category fraud much?), but let me say this. The very people who are railing against the McCarthy nomination happening are many of the same people who decry the Academy’s ignoring of comedies each year. Bridesmaids did break through a glass ceiling of sorts with Oscar this year. What remains to be seen is whether it merely chipped or cracked the glass or did some real damage. A win for Melissa McCarthy would signify a shattering of that ceiling for the time being and in all honesty, her performance is unabashedly genuine and unforgettable, quotable and original. All of these women are great to fantastic, but McCarthy is a reward that pays off every time you view her film.

Best Animated Feature Film
Will Win: Rango
Should Win: Chico & Rita

Thoughts: I am no fan of Rango, as I found the film deceitful in its approach and conveniently championed post-haste as a tribute to cinema and not for kids. Love revisionist history. With that said, this is an interesting mix of films with ties to just two main studios – Paramount (and an affiliate release with DreamWorks) and GKIDS (all caps necessary…). GKIDS moved away from being the studio to throw a title or two in each year to pad the numbers to try and hit the 5-film nomination threshold with the Academy and this year scored TWO slots in this category!?!?!  Few, if any, have seen A Cat In Paris, but I had the chance to take a look at quite a bit of Chico & Rita and while the animation is less polished and crisp than people expect from animation nowadays, the adult story of romance, sex, love, in and amongst the backdrop of the world of jazz is a stunner and well deserved of its nomination. If you dig a little bit, momentum has been swirling around Chico & Rita as a possible shocker and while I have no belief that it will win, wait till you see it. The best of this bunch for sure (apologies to an unseen Cat…).

REMAINING CATEGORIES:

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Moneyball

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Midnight In Paris
Should Win: A Separation

Best Art Direction
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo

Best Cinematography
Will Win: The Tree Of Life
Should Win: The Tree Of Life

Best Costume Design
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Jane Eyre

Best Documentary Feature
Note – I have indeed flip-flopped from my article on this category…and so help me if Undefeated wins this…

Will Win: Paradise Lost 3- Purgatory
Should Win: Paradise Lost 3- Purgatory

Best Documentary Short
Will Win: Saving Face
Should Win: Saving Face

Best Film Editing
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: A Separation
Should Win: A Separation

Best Makeup
Will Win: The Iron Lady
Should Win: The Iron Lady

Best Original Score
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Artist

Best Original Song
Will Win: “Man Or Muppet”, from The Muppets
Should Win: “Man Or Muppet”, from The Muppets

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: War Horse

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: War Horse

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2
Should Win: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

I have to think it wins somewhere and this seems the easiest pick…

Best Animated Short Film
Will Win: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Should Win: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore

One of the finest animated short films in recent memory. See this.

Best Live Action Short Film
Will Win: The Shore
Should Win: Tuba Atlantic.

Based on their YouTube video, I am rooting for the nominated team behind Time Freak, but The Shore is cinematic, made by the Oscar-nominated Terry George, and has an impressive cast and balance of drama and comedy.

Alright, pencils down.  See you back in school on Monday.  Enjoy the Oscars everyone!

FIN

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My love of film began at the age of 7 when my parents not only gave me a television, but HBO to boot. My first theatrical experience was "E.T." My first movie cry came with "Old Yeller". "The Usual Suspects" made me decide to make movies and film writing a priority in life, even knowing the twist beforehand. My passion for film, music, and pop culture in general can be isolated to my youth. My love for film took root in high school. Above all else, movies and art, in any form, exist to entertain and I remain much more interested in how art affects others, more than with myself. But I love the conversation and to have a chance to share my thoughts and be a part of the community here is a unique and enriching experience.