It’s that time of year yet again… when we gather around the warmth of our television to watch a turgid display of crass self-congratulation. Who woulda thought we’d be yearning for the days of Franco and Hathaway, of a stuttering king who taught us the meaning of courage?
As we may have mentioned in our 2011 movie wrap-up, this year’s crop was abysmal. The only thing that could be worse is watching the ghost of Billy Crystal photoshop himself into all of them. God help us all.
Oh my God. Like you, I’ve been on a blitz of seeing the films nominated in major categories for the past couple weeks, and I’m fucking exhausted. We knew this was a weak year for movies, and a weak crop of nominees, but I still had no idea what I was in for. You called it the Bataan Death March of Cinema on Twitter, but I’d compare it more to living through 9/11 while suffering the racism of the mid-century South while dressed as my opposite gender while worrying obsessively about my horse who had been sent to war. Between suffering through all these films AND the Grammys, I don’t know if I’ll even have enough spark of life left to make fun of the Oscars ceremony itself. I’m broken.
But we must push onward, for our PCHA readers. Who else is going to call us out for our relentless negativity and call us misspelled insults seemingly taken from of a third-grader’s slam book? As the Oscars themselves do, let’s start with the supporting acting categories.
Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees: Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Uh….jeez….you mean I have to pick someone from this field? Everyone here did a fine enough job in their roles, but each of their films was subpar, and none of the five really shone or did anything award-worthy. McCarthy was fine in a bad movie…but of all the comedic performances from the past several years to honor with an Oscar nomination, this ain’t the one. McTeer was serviceable at best — and I fucking steadfastly refuse to say anything nice about that abortion of a movie, or honor anyone associated with it. Chastain was better in Tree of Life (and I spent at least half of The Help mistaking her for Bryce Dallas Howard). So that leaves Bejo and Spencer. Bejo was perfectly charming in The Artist, while Spencer did what she could with a role (and a film) that bordered on minstrelsy. I’m not passionate about this choice at all, but I guess I go with Bejo.
Should Win: Bejo
Will Win: Spencer
David Simon Cowell
My god… if ever an Oscar telecast needed something interesting like Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comeback, this is it. Although, I am kind of looking forward to Billy Crystal superimposing himself into The Help and Extremely Loud.
As for Supporting Actress, it’s a decent group without any real standouts. On one hand, it’s nice to see any comedy role recognized… on the other, nominating McCarthy is the equivalent of nominating Chris Farley. Speaking of comedies, I assume that’s what Albert Nobbs was, because there’s no way anybody actually thought McTeer was a man. I thought Bejo was quite charming, although that’s all there was to the role. It obviously comes down to The Help… both performances were fine in a slight and slightly racist movie. It’s hard to argue against Spencer continuing the overdue recent run of African-Americans getting their due, but I think Chastain deserves it more for the year she had. She nailed three very different roles (The Debt was the third)… I had just seen the other two, and still didn’t realize it was her in The Help. However, I don’t think that’s enough to pull the upset.
Should Win: Chastain
Will Win: Spencer
Best Supporting Actor:
The Nominees: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn); Jonah Hill (Moneyball); Nick Nolte (Warrior); Christopher Plummer (Beginners); Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
First, I must note that I didn’t see My Week With Marilyn, although I’m glad to hear that Kenneth Branaugh is still apparently alive. Max von Sydow was fine, I guess, even if I wanted to put a bullet through his character’s head. As a Jonah Hill fan, I still believe that him being nominated for an Oscar for his nothing part in Moneyball was fucking ridiculous, unless you’re an 80-year-old Oscar voter who truly believed he wasn’t physically capable of keeping a straight face. I’m guessing that 21 Jump Street will be his Norbit. As I noted in my year-end list, I loved Warrior to an unreasonable degree, and was happy to see the film get some recognition through Nolte’s nod.
One of the pleasures in working through Oscar nominees is finding the gems that I probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise. And, while any sign of life was few and far between this year, I’m glad that I saw Beginners, a charming and entertaining piece of personal filmmaking. There’s nobody young here to steal it from Plummer, so I think he gets it.
Should & Will Win: Christopher Plummer
(and if he wins, he’s only a Grammy away from an EGOT… for god’s sake, get him his guitar!)
If you don’t think there’s a scene coming our way of Billy Crystal seated at a table, napkin tucked into his shirt, preparing to eat a shit pie, you don’t know our host very well.
For supporting actor, I thought all five gave good performances. I immediately disqualify von Sydow for his reprehensible movie, as tempted as I am to retroactively honor him for his role as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. The Hill nomination is fucking insane, as likable as he was in Moneyball. Nolte was very solid — I loved Warrior too, it would have certainly made my top five films of the year if I’d seen it in time — but he was outacted by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. So that leaves Plummer and Branagh. I enjoyed Beginners almost as much as Warrior (though I wasn’t standing on my feet cheering by the end of it), but I don’t think Plummer was required to do anything special. He’s awesome, and I’m fine with giving him the lifetime achievement award, bur Branagh was better. My Week With Marilyn was another present surprise, and I’m sure Branagh has been practicing for decades on the off-chance he would one day get the chance to play Sir Laurence Olivier. I’m usually biased against actors playing real-life famous people from our recent past, but Branagh is too good to ignore.
Should win: Branagh
Will win: Plummer
Level of outrage I’ll feel at that disparity:1 out of 10
The Nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Meryl Streep (Iron Lady), Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)
I am going to assume for the sake of my sanity that Close’s nomination is actually meant to be a Razzie nomination, and the ballots got mixed up somehow — because that was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen on screen. Just embarrassing for everyone involved. Mara was fine, but did nothing to differentiate herself from Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish version. The remaining three were all good to varying degrees. I question whether Davis’s was a leading role…it seemed like Emma Stone got way more screentime. Streep…yawn. Whatever. Another fucking accent. Williams, again despite my bias toward impressions, brought more to the role than mere imitation.
Of course, Elizabeth Olsen should win Best Actress, and I refuse anyone else as an acceptable answer
Should win: Olsen
Will win: Davis
Level of outrage I’ll feel at that disparity: 3 out of 10
Again, didn’t see Marilyn so can’t really comment on Williams. I can’t believe that nobody in Albert Nobbs said, “Oy, why does that guy who looks like a girl smirk broadly whenever we talk about women?” Mara was fine, but paled in comparison to Rapace, just as the film did to the original. Davis was fine, but she didn’t really stand out… I thought Spencer and Chastain were far more dominant performances. Streep, I thought, was awesome in a movie that was better than I expected. I know, praising Streep is like praising Spielberg or the Beatles… it’s the conventional wisdom, so it’s pretty meaningless. But she killed it, drawing a perfect portrait of someone dealing with the loss of power and personality. Given that she hasn’t won an Oscar in 30 years, I think it’s enough to pull the upset.
Should & Will Win: Streep
Nominees: Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendents), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
One of the few categories in this year’s Oscars where none of the nominated films are completely awful. Oldman was fine, but the movie was so rushed and compact that I didn’t really care about his character. You’ve always got to love a guy like Bichir coming from nowhere, and he was really good in A Better Life. But the movie was about what you’d expect of a movie about a Mexican landscaper by the director of American Pie. I’m positive that he got a nomination because all the d-bag voters wanted to leave their marked ballot around so the help could see it, and they could feel better about skimping on Christmas bonuses last year. Dujardin was fine, but, much like Bejo and the movie, didn’t bring much to the table except cleverness and charm. Clooney was good as a toned-down, sad version of the character he always plays. The best performance, I thought, belonged to Pitt. I totally believed him as a cocky ex-jock with a decent amount of brains. When combined with The Tree of Life, it was pretty good year for an actor that most people write off.
Prediction-wise, this is where the rubber meets the road. Either there’s going to be An Artist sweep, or it peaked too soon and the backlash will open up the field for others. Like with Mitt Romney, I’m starting to believe the latter.
Should Win: Pitt
Will Win: Clooney
Best Actor: Most of the nominees here don’t do much for me. Bichir was fine, and I’d like to see him win just because it would be such an upset, but it would be fairly undeserved. I disagree about both Oldman and Tinker Tailor…I liked the movie a lot but thought Oldman was just serviceable. He’s a great actor, but this is more of a lifetime achievement nomination than anything regarding this film in particular. And unlike you, I’m generally not OK with lifetime achievement awards or giving someone credit because they were in a bunch of good films in a given year. Pitt didn’t have to do a whole lot….be cocky, make wisecracks, be handsome. Be himself, basically. Despite his electric chemistry with his on-screen daughter, there’s no way he deserves a Best Actor nomination for playing Billy Beane. Just like Jonah Hill, he does fine and serves the film well, but no stretching was required of him whatsoever. You already know that I think The Artist is a vile assault on good taste, and that stench rubs off on Dujardin. Plus the Benigni potential is so high if he wins that I can’t stomach it. So I’d vote for Clooney, almost by default. This wasn’t his best performance, but he’s the leader of a shallow pool.
Should win: Clooney
Will win: Dujardin
Level of outrage I’ll feel at that disparity: 6
Nominees: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (Tree of Life)
I have trouble with the idea that anyone other than Malick should win this award. Unless you subscribe to the idea that Best Picture and Best Director are synonymous, which I don’t at all (and which, even if you did, it should still probably be Malick), there’s no reasonable case to be made for any of the other four. The Artist is an affront. Midnight in Paris isn’t much better, and direction plays almost no important role in the film at all. Hugo is probably Martin Scorsese’s worst effort — seriously, any time you read a review calling a movie the director’s “love letter” to anything, it’s going to be a bad movie. Especially a love letter to his childhood or early cinema or both. The Descendants is quite good, but it’s not Payne’s best film, and compared to Tree of Life, the direction is unambitious. I’m not saying you need flashy camera tricks and abstract storytelling to win this award. Going big doesn’t always mean being better. But Malick executed his vision so well that he deserves to be honored for his aspiration.
Should win: Malick
Will win: I’ll guess an upset here and Scorsese over the unknown French dude.
Level of outrage I’ll feel at that disparity: 7
Wow, we really disagree about Hugo. I certainly wouldn’t make any claim that it’s in the group with his best work, but I thought Scorsese went out of his comfort zone and pulled it off pretty well. When I heard he was doing a 3D children’s film, I was more than dubious. But I really enjoyed the movie, and thought it was a much more effective love letter to cinema (yeah, I said it) then The Artist (which I thought was fine but nothing special… which is also the way I would describe Midnight in Paris). The Descendants was Payne’s best movie since Election, but he’s going to get his payoff in another category. I’m with you on Malick and Tree of Life.
We agree on this one… I think Hazanavicius is hurt by the backlash the Academy got for going with an unknown foreign guy last year in a far more ridiculous call.
Should Win: Malick
Will Win: Scorsese
Original Nominees: Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), J.C. Chandor (Margin Call), Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris), Asghar Faradi (A Separation)
Adapted Nominees: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash (The Descendants), John Logan (Hugo), George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon (The Ides Of March), Steven Zallian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin (Moneyball), Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)
I didn’t see A Separation, but it’s great that a foreign film got some love here. Of the other four originals, there’s no good choice. The Artist and Midnight in Paris were more clever concepts than well-written scripts. Margin Call was half-assed at best. And Bridesmaids is ridiculous. Arguing against it is like arguing against Halle Berry’s Oscar… you’re an asshole because of all the prejudice that shut out women writers over the years. But it’s still ridiculous.
For the adapteds, I thought Tinker was a failed attempt to cover too much ground. The Ides of March was ridiculously shallow. Hugo, Moneyball and The Descendants were all well-executed adaptations, and I wouldn’t really be upset if any of them won. Sorkin got his last year, and Zallian has one as well, so I think Moneyball’s out. So, it’s between Logan (also nominated for Gladiator and The Aviator) and Payne (nominated for Election, won for Sideways). I think it’s the latter, which would also mean that the Dean from Community would have an Oscar, which would be fucking awesome. But I wouldn’t rule out The Artist backlash moving a wave of support over to Hugo.
Original: Should & Will Win: Woody Allen
Adapted: Should & Will Win: Payne, Rash and Faxon.
I took the opposite tack with Hugo…I went in expecting to like it based on reviews and Scorsese’s rep, but I knew within ten minutes that I was going to hate it and all the annoying characters it was throwing at me (Hugo, Chloe Moretz, Borat, Papa George, etc.). They’re all insufferable, even for a children’s movie. I shouldn’t be surprised that you liked it, given you that you are one of our foremost Scorsese apologists. (See also: your pure love for The Aviator and Kundun, both of which are admittedly much better than Hugo.)
Holy shit, the original screenplay category is a pile of trash. I made it through about half of A Separation last night…nothing against the film itself, it was just the victim of my campaign to watch all these awful movies within a week. I’m brain-dead. From what I saw, the screenplay seemed pretty good…probably not Oscar-worthy but maybe better than anything else here. Midnight in Paris is awful. I’m not a Woody Allen guy to begin with, but this movie is such a fucking celebration of nostalgia — at the same time it purports to decry it. Midnight in Paris is a second cousin to The Artist…they’re arthouse films for the masses. Yes, that’s an insult. I’m with you on Bridesmaids. So that leaves Margin Call, which boasts a good-not-great screenplay. I wish it had aimed less to SPEAK TO OUR TIMES and more to just tell a story, but it at least entertained me….more than I can say for anything else in this category.
Should win: Chandor
Will win: Allen
Level of outrage I’ll feel: 4
For the adapted screenplay, I liked Tinker Tailor a lot more than you, but it’s not good enough to earn a screenplay nod. Moneyball’s writers did quite a nice job translating material that seemed untranslatable, but they committed a venal sin or two, including deviating from the real story a little too much for the sake of a happy ending. Hugo? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. And Ides of March is eminently watchable, but the script is nothing special. I’m with you on The Descendants. Dean! Dean! Dean!
Should and will win: Payne, Rash and Faxon.
So here we are…Best Picture.
I posited earlier this month that this could be the worst field of Best Picture nominees of all time, and after seeing all of them in their detestable glory, I can conform the validity of that hunch. Just terrible. It’s also a disgrace that The Fighter got a nomination last year (in a much tougher field), while the similar-but-vastly-superior Warrior only got one supporting acting nod this year. I hate this whole dirty business.
Nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Autistic and Incredibly 9/11, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Even in that ridiculous batch of nominees, I giggle at seeing War Horse included. The only two films of this batch I’d grade above a C are The Descendents and Tree of Life. So it’s obviously down to those two, and I’m having a tough time deciding which I think should win. Ambition or execution? Linear or abstract? I liked them both: The Descendants is certainly more rewatchable, but I think Tree of Life is more of an achievement.
Should win: Tree of Life
Will win: The Fucking Artist
Level of outrage: 8
Of all the bad movies that were nominated, War Horse… holy god. After a late career run of previously unreached heights (Schindler’s List to Munich), we’ve obviously moved into a late career run of previously unreached depths (Indiana Jones 4 to TinTin). But I’d rather watch Shia LeBouf run around pretending to be Indy’s kid for days on end then watch a half-hour of War Horse. It seemed like a really long, unfunny parody of a mid-’80s Spielberg flick. At least I got drunk by playing the War Horse drinking game… take a swig when anybody says a variation on “That’s one heck of a horse.” I passed out by the midpoint.
Although I think the field is an abomination as far as anything titled Best Picture is concerned, I’m a bit kinder to it than you. I’d split it into three tiers: complete abortions (War Horse, Extremely Loud), somewhat entertaining fluff (The Artist, Midnight In Paris, The Help, Moneyball) and good films (The Tree Of LIfe, The Descendants, Hugo).
However, while The Tree Of LIfe is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, I’m not sure it’s a great choice for Best Picture. Unlike the Palme d’Or, which I see as being about incredible films, there’s a Miss America/flagbearer aspect to the Oscars that doesn’t include much overt artistry (which is why there’s only been overlap twice – 1945’s Lost Weekend and 1955’s Marty).
That leaves The Descendants and Hugo as the good movies that are also grounded in the Hollywood tradition (which is obviously the definition of a double-edged sword). I like both of them, although both have some pretty glaring flaws. But, I think I’d rather see The Descendants on that list ten years from now.
However, since I’ve staked my stellar, worldwide reputation on an Artist backlash, I think 3D ends up shutting it up (hahahaha… get it? “Shutting it up”? ‘Cause it’s a silent movie!)
Should Win: The Descendants
Will WIn: Hugo
Finally, and perhaps most importantly:
Most Annoying Performance by a Child Actor:
Nominees: Billy Beane’s Fake Daughter, Tom Hanks’s Fake Son, Hugo, Chloe Moretz in Hugo, The Little Sister in The Descendants. (The teenager in WAR HORSE is too old to qualify. :()
This is the toughest field of all. There’s some real competition here. I hate them all so much. It would seem like Tom Hanks’s Fake Son is a lock, but don’t sleep on Chloe Moretz and her fucking precocious vocabulary. (It also doesn’t help that in real life, she calls Martin Scorsese “Marty” when regaling the media with stories about pranks on set.) And Billy Beane’s Fake Daughter is certainly in the running too. Still…
Should and Will Win: Tom Hanks’s Fake Son
Are you forgetting War Horse himself? He couldn’t have been more than 7 years old by the end of WWI.
WAR HORSE has suffered enough. He wore a fucking crown of thorns for God’s sake. Leave the creature alone.