Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jonathan Goes To the Movies: Oscar Pick-Em

It's Oscar night, folks! Tonight is the night where Hollywood's biggest stars come out to celebrate the best (and most mediocre) films that came out last year. Here's my guide on who's nominated, the state of the race going into Sunday, who will win, who should win on Hollywood's biggest stage.

Best Picture:
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud, & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight In Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

The Lowdown: You may notice that there are only 9 films on here - this is thanks to the new rule the Academy laid out earlier last year, where they changed the list on nominees yet again from anywhere between 5 to 10. This year, all the signs point to The Artist, the black-and-white silent film about a silent movie star fading into obscurity with the rise of the Talkies, dominating on Oscar night. It won Best Picture for a Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Producer's Guild of America Award for Best Picture. Oh, and the critics are madly in love the movie. How can it not lose? 

The Winner Is... The Artist. There's simply no stopping this juggernaut.

The Winner Should Be...Save Extremely Loud and its shameless exploitation of a national tragedy for ethos, The Tree of Life and its pretentious 139 minute run time,  War Horse and Spielberg's heavy-handed attempt to pull the audience's heartstrings, and The Help sticking to the shallows instead of going head-first into a unapologetic look at racism in the South, I don't have a problem with the other movies winning the top prize.

Best Director:
Woody Allen; Midnight In Paris
Michael Hazanavicius; The Artist
Terrence Malick; The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne; The Descendants
Martin Scorsese; Hugo

The Lowdown: Not really much of a race this time. Cancel out Malick's pretentious work, Allen's charming and beautiful sweeping romantic comedy, and Payne's strongest outing to date and we're left with Scorsese, who won the Directing prize for The Departed in 2006, and he won the Globe for Hugo back in January, and Hazanavicius, who won the Director's Guild, and the BAFTA for Achievement in Direction a few weeks back.

The Winner Is...Hazanavicius. He's got the hardware so far, and we haven't had a foreign filmmaker win the Directing prize since Ang Lee with Brokeback Mountain in 2005. 

The Winner Should Be...Scorsese. The world's finest filmmaker embraces cinema's newest form of visual storytelling and crafts a compelling love letter to the beginning of moving pictures as only a master storyteller can craft.

Best Actor:
Demián Bichir; A Better Life
George Clooney; The Descendants
Jean Dujardin; The Artist
Gary Oldman; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt; Moneyball

The Lowdown: One upon a time, George Clooney was the odds-on favorite for his performance as a detached father bringing his family together despite personal tragedy, infidelity, and a decision about land and money in The Descendants. Then The Artist was released, and the Awards circuit fell for Jean Dujardin's performance as George Valentin, the silent film star and his decent into obscurity after the rise of the Talkies, winning awards at SAG, the Globes, and BAFTA. It's hardware and momentum vs...George freakin' Clooney. 

The Winner Is...Dujardin. Again, this is building into a total sweep. 

The Winner Should Be...Brad Pitt. This is his most mature performance to date, and his best as manager Billy Beane, defying the old ways of building a baseball team.

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

The Lowdown: In this corner: 17-time nominated and 2-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep. Her performance as Britain's first female PM Margaret Thatcher reminded all why she's one of the great actors of our generation. And in the other corner: 2-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis. her captivating role as a maid in Jackson, Mississippi in The Help, has to be the strongest performance to dare from her. Meryl's got the Globes and BAFTA, Davis has the SAG for best Actress and critical support behind her. In this battle of  acting heavyweights, it's anyone's game.

The Winner Is...Meryl Streep. Sorry Viola, but Meryl's got the upper hand here in being an Oscar favorite, and it's been too long since we seen her onstage.

The Winner Should Be...Rooney Mara. She delivered the best performance this year as troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander, lacing sorrow and menace and brief moments of happiness to a dark, tormented character. 

Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh; My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill; Moneyball
Nick Nolte; Warrior
Christopher Plummer; Beginners
Max Von Sydow; Extremely Loud, & Incredibly Close

The Lowdown: I can easily sum up, in a few sentences, the state of this race: You could get most of your picks wrong, you'll still have at least one right: Plummer winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as a man coming out after his wife died in Beginners. He's won all the big awards this year, and there's no one who's even a threat of challenging him.

The Winner Is...see above.

The Winner Should Be...Albert Brooks or Alan Rickman...wait, they're not nominated, and it's a damn shame as well. Brooks ditches the deadpan humor and goes into tough, frighting mode as a L.A.'s mob boss in Drive, and Rickman steals the show as Snape, as he reveals his true nature, and his tortured, grieving heart in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. Two excellent performances that got shortchanged by the Academy.

Best Supporting Actress:
Bérénice Bejo; The Artist
Jessica Chastain; The Help
Melissa McCarthy; Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer; Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer; The Help 

The Lowdown: Again, not really a lowdown since Spencer has won all the major Awards during the lead up to tonight. The only reason this isn't over, IMO, is that The Artist is in this category, and if i've learned anything, it's to never underestimate Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

The Winner Is...Bejo as my wildcard pick of the night, because of the weight behind her.

The Winner Should Be...Octavia Spencer. Easily the best job of the five nominated this year as the sassy Minny Jackson.

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