Friday, February 24, 2012

Cinema Freaks Presents: The Observer's 2011 Oscar Picks and Predictions

The Academy Awards are here and all the critics are making their predictions and personal preferences as to who will and/or should win at the big event. I have decided to make my own list. The usual applies: I have not seen every nominated film and a bunch of my predictions might end up being dead wrong, etc. Last year I talked about expanding the list from just "the big six." But...I do not have a lot of time and I do not think I can do a proper analyst of a lot of them even if I did. So I am going to keep it simple again. Anyway, let's get started:

Best Supporting Actress:
Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Who Should Win: Octavia Spencer
Why: Spencer was struck a good balance between comedic and dramatic as the outspoken maid Minny Jackson in "The Help." She had a really presence on screen so I think she deserves it. I kind of feel bad for Jessica Chastain, however, because I really liked her in this movie as well, and she also did a great job in "The Debt" and "The Tree of Life," playing very different roles in each of them (I somehow did not make this connection until doing some research on her for this piece). I have heard that she should have been nominated multiple times, but I would go further than that. She should get a type of MVA (Most Valuable Actress) award just for everything she has done this year and which is not just connected to one film. I think its also a little more dignified than the Academy's somewhat meaningful but guilt-ridden/self-congratulatory Honorary Oscar, or as I call it, the Sorry We-Did-Not-Recognize-You-For-Your-Work-While-You-Were-In-Your-Prime-But-At-Least-We-Are-Doing-It-Now-Before-We-Think-You-Are-About-To-Die award. But that will have to wait for another time. Now, what was I talking about again...? Oh, yeah. Spencer should win.

Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Who Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Who Should Win: Jonah Hill or Nick Nolte (toss-up)
Why: Once again, I seem to have difficulty with this category. I would be fine with either Hill or Nolte won, the former for playing against type as the reserved baseball statistician Peter Brand in "Moneyball," the other for playing Paddy Conlon, a recovering alcoholic father seeking redemption in "Warrior"(okay, that is not too much of a stretch for him, but he still did well). To be honest, though, I do not think that either role is that extraordinary since we have seen these types of characters before and they were not done that differently in either film. Maybe Plummer or the other guys did things better but I have not seen the other films so I cannot judge. Yeah, I am not putting a lot of stock in this category this year. Still, it is what it is, and Hill and Nolte did do well, so I they should get some credit for it.

Best Actress:
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Street (The Iron Lady)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Who Will Win: Viola Davis
Who Should Win: Viola Davis
Why: Davis gives a strong performance as Aibileen Clark, a long suffering maid in "The Help." It was also the only performance by someone from this category that I actually saw. So...yeah, that is kind of it.

Best Actor:
Demian Bechir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Who Will Win: Jean Dujardin
Who Should Win: Jean Dujardin
Why: I would like to see Dujardin, who plays the downtrodden George Valentin, win just because, as I said in my review of "The Artist," he really did have the look and feeling of a silent film star. A lot of people really want to see him win since it is supposed to be "THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS CAREER!" and because they want him to see win the Best Actor award. Umm...I get it, though I am a little more reserved about it. While I did enjoy him as the disgruntled father Matt King in "The Descendants" and he was required to give a little more emotion than he has in the past, I do not think his character was that much different from other roles he has played. Therefore, I do feel that this really proves whether he is an awesome actor or not. I am not even really sure if it is his best (I am still partial to his act in "Up in the Air"). As for the Best Actor thing...come on, guys! He won for Best Supporting Actor a few years ago, that still counts for something! If you feel so bad about it, just give him the Honorary Oscar in 30 years like you usually do! Besides, Dujardin is apparently kind of rusty when it comes to speaking English, so he probably will not be up there that long if he wins. If Clooney wins, he might give another pretentious political speech, form another smug cloud, and wipe out the West Coast. Your choice!

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

Who Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Who Should Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Why: Hazanavicius, in his ode to cinema, brought the silent era of film to life and did a great job at doing so. While other films have done it since that time period, it is only done on occasion, and so he deserves a lot of credit for doing it well. The End.

Best Picture:
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Who Will Win: The Artist
Who Should Win: The Artist
Why: Okay, I admit, I do feel kind of guilty about jumping on the "Artist" bandwagon. There are some valid reasons why it should not win Best Picture, mostly because it is a very "simplistic" film and is not really as deep as some of the other films that are up for the award. It also appears to be a bit self-congratulatory on the Academy's part since it is a period piece about Hollywood. But as I mentioned in my review, that is why I liked it: it is a simple story about a guy who is falling behind the times and does not know how he will go on. On a side note, this is something that happened to a lot of real-life silent actors back when sound first came to the screen (I thought about putting that fact in my review, but forgot about it until Doug "Nostalgia Critic" Walker mentioned it in his. Kudos to him). Is it self-congratulatory? Maybe. But hey, Hollywood is full of movies lovers and...I love movies, too (I know, big shock, right?). I cannot rightfully complain about that. And while I have not seen many silent movies, I like them because watching them is like opening up a time castle and get transported to another age where everything on film is kind of the same and yet so alien. And I think "The Artist," by being a silent, black and white picture and with the help of Hazanavicius and everyone else involved, really helped bring that feeling to life while also inserting a modern day take on it. Yes, "Midnight in Paris" and, from what I have heard, "Hugo" also did that, but "The Artist" stands out the most. And that is the big reason I am choosing it. I like most of the films on this list, but event though they are different, they tend to have very little difference between them in terms of their overall appeal. This film has a stark difference which makes it more memorable. Yes, last year, I chose the complexed "Inception" over the simplistic "The King's Speech." Well...I guess "The Artist" gets my vote by doing the opposite. Circumstances change, I guess. But what do I know? My favorite film of 2011 was "The Ides of March" which did not even get nominated. Oh well, I do my best...

Wow, this was a really long-winded and mangled segment. Sorry about that. Anyway, Happy Oscar Night!