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SAGs start in an hour, so here are some predictions (John’s/mine).  We’ll have thoughts afterward. UPDATE: Brian’s too!

Actor – George Clooney / George Clooney/ Clooney
Actress – Viola Davis / Meryl Streep/ Streep
Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer / Christopher Plummer/ Plummer
Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer/ Octavia Spencer/ Melissa McCarthy
Cast – The Help / The Help/ The Artist

TV
Movie Actor – Guy Pearce / Paul Giamatti/ Giamatti
Movie Actress – Kate Winslet / Kate Winslet/ Winslet
Drama Actor – Bryan Cranston / Steve Buscemi/ Buscemi
Drama Actress – Kyra Sedgwick / Julianna Margulies/ Margulies
Comedy Actor – Eric Stonestreet / Alec Baldwin/ Jon Cryer
Comedy Actress – Betty White / Betty White / Tina Fey
Drama Cast – Breaking Bad / Boardwalk Empire / Boardwalk Empire
Comedy Cast – Modern Family / Modern Family / Modern Family

It is fun to see which search engine queries send people to the site.  Obviously most of the time the searches are directly related to posts we did.  But sometimes not.  Here’s an interesting one from today.  You hear that, Internet?  Send your questions indirectly my way and I’ll be glad to answer!

Why wasn’t Bryce Dallas Howard nominated for The Help?

It is a good question, as I personally couldn’t distinguish her from Jessica Chastain.  I’m not sure there is any one reason you can single out, but I’ve come up with a few contributing factors.  Early on in the race, it became clear that Octavia Spencer was the presumptive favorite for supporting actress.  At that point, everyone was declaring this year the year of Chastain, since she was great in about a bajillion movies that all were released in 2011.  And soon after, her support consolidated around The Help, which effectively ended whatever chance Dallas Howard might have.  With two supporting actress nods for the film, it is extremely difficult to get a third one, in terms of creating a clear publicity campaign and convincing people.  Also, you’ll notice that the nominees in the supporting categories generally play upbeat or at least engaging characters that are easy to root for.  Dallas Howard is playing the character that everyone (in the film and in real life) hates.  It is something of a stock character that isn’t over the top or evil so much as obnoxious.  Which is a hard sell and perhaps a big reason she never managed a piece of that elusive buzz.

It seems like the immediate reaction to Oscar nominations is always to talk about who got snubbed or how it is ridiculous that X movie got in even though you hated it or it didn’t win any precursors or how it is inconceivable that Y movie you loved was completely ignored by the Academy.  But let’s stay positive and look at some of the good things from the announcement.

John:

With Nick Nolte’s Supporting Actor nod maybe more people will seek out Warrior, which is AWESOME. I can’t even claim to be head over heels for Nolte as Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy wowed me more. But I don’t mind at all as long as it got some recognition. Even though it doesn’t stray far from the usual sports film formula it is still thrilling and it’s pretty much the film I recommend to almost everyone. That it bombed at the box office was a tragedy and I love it has a second chance.

On a much less magnanimous note, I do find the love for War Horse, The Tree of Life, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close exciting because I know how much the other Grouches will hate all these movies. Suffer, bitches!

Brian:

Ok, John has asked us all to be positive about these Oscar nominations, which goes against everything this blog believes in. I mean, look at the damn URL above. It’s the golden GROUCHES. Not the Golden Elmos or Golden Bert and Ernies (though I am totally Ernie). Grouches. But now that I’ve grouched about being positive — some high notes:

  • Jared has to go see Tree of Life now. Hahahaha, sucker. (not positive enough?)
  • I don’t have to see J. Edgar (still? FINE!)
  • Pleasantly surprised that Rooney Mara got recognized for her turn as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I’m surprised that the Fincher film didn’t get more traction — perhaps it was just too gritty or redundant for the academy, but writing as someone who never read the books, I was entranced by Mara’s character.
  • I AM A VERY MANLY MUPPET! Even though just two songs were nominated — which I have to think was just the Academy’s contribution to keeping the telecast shorter — I think the voters chose wisely in picking their song from The Muppet Movie
  • Hugo, my favorite movie of the year, garnered the most nominations. You’d think I’d be over the moon about this, but…
  • 2011 was a crappy year at the movies. (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

Jared:

Watching the nominations was so much fun.  Granted, I’m an Oscar nerd.  But nearly every category had at least one surprise.  I think my gchat conversation with Brian during the broadcast was basically just “wow” repeated over and over.  And the same goes for all the other categories not announced.  I can’t fathom how anyone could call the nominations predictable.  I mean, yes, in the sense that it wasn’t like Fast Five got any surprise nominations.  But check out the predictions of any and all Oscar experts.  Fewer than 1% called nine films for Best Picture.  I can’t imagine anyone called Bichir and Oldman except if they were trying to be ornery.  The Animated category features two films no one has ever heard of, much less considered.  I’m confident no one in the world called Original Song correctly.  The point is, after months of speculation and precursors, it was fantastic to have all sorts of surprises breathe new life into this thing.

I’m not going to suggest the Academy recognized the full gamut of movies and performances.  But it is neat to see a nearly unknown Demian Bichir get in playing an illegal immigrant in a movie released earlier in the year that was the first screener delivered to voters, while the soon to be 83 year old Max von Sydow surprises with a silent role in a film that just went wide last week.  It is hard to say Oscar doesn’t like comedy when Bridesmaids gets a writing and acting nomination, and there’s so much love for Midnight in Paris.  Reel Steel can say it is Oscar-nominated, getting a nod in the spot where many thought Tree of Life would be honored.  A movie about MMA (Warrior) received an acting nomination, while a foreign film received a screenplay nomination.  Again, not suggesting Oscar is completely representative of cinema, but there’s a lot more here than you might expect at first.

Finally, I’m really excited to talk Oscar over the next month and during the liveblog.  The four of us disagree over quite a few movies this year and it is going to be great fun having arguments over any number of films, scripts, and performances.  Case in point: “Man or Muppet” is at most the third-best original song in the movie, so I’ll get to rag on Brian’s taste in music.  And I’m going into, say, Tree of Life with an open mind (Even if Netflix’s rating prediction for me was: “Seriously, do not get this movie.”).  Even if I loathe it, that just means I’ll get to have a good time making fun of Oscar voters.  So the nominations has really made me look forward to these next few weeks.

John and I once again put together predictions, we have a friendly competition.  John, by the way, submitted his picks while on vacation in Belgium, so bravo.  I’ve highlighted in yellow where John and I disagree.  Seems like there are a bunch of categories where we are one way from each other.

In any case, you can find our picks here or below.

We’ve had a lot of fun counting down to Oscar nominations.  But the nominations Tuesday morning are just the start.  Look for lots more stuff from us in the coming month.

Oscar nominations will be revealed Tuesday January 24th. As we get closer, the Grouches will be sharing some thoughts, hopes, and predictions.  Here are some of our biggest wishes.  Except for Brian and Adam, who both suck. [edit: Brian’s thoughts are now below.  He no longer sucks.]

John: 

Oddly enough, I feel like I’m most invested in the Original Song category this year. As the season progresses and it appears some of my favorites won’t be getting the attention I think they deserve (I’m not masochistic enough to live or die with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Best Picture chances), I come back to this category that no one ever seems to really know and therefore everything is in play. There are several contenders I think are terrific and I really hope one of them lands a nomination.

My number one choice is “Shelter” from Take Shelter. It turns out director Jeff Nichols’s brother is Ben Nichols, lead singer for alt-country band Lucero. I’ve been a fan of the band and Nichols’s gravelly voice for some time so his contribution to Take Shelter is a real treat. It plays over the end credits, but it captures the atmosphere of the film’s chilling conclusion very well. I know songs that play over the credits tend to be at a disadvantage, but some are just perfect for a fade to black; to roll over you while you let the film sink in. This soulful tune is exactly that.

The Muppets submitted three original songs this year. They’ve been the talk of the category and if at least one doesn’t land a nomination there will be no justice. Plus it increases the odds of some killer Muppet action in the Oscar telecast.

My favorite of the three is “Pictures in My Head,” a downbeat tune Kermit sings remembering his estranged friends. As a long-time Muppet fan it had quite the impact on me and the theater suddenly got a little dusty during the song. It also has some terrific lyrics. I love the sentiment of “If we could do it all again/ Just another chance to entertain/ Would anybody watch or even care?/ Or did something break we can’t repair?” That’s how you humanize your puppets!

Everyone seems to love “Man or a Muppet,” which is a fantastic scene but the other option, “Life’s a Happy Song” is a better song. Just very catchy and fun.

Finally, I’d love to see something for The National’s “Think You Can Wait” from Win Win. I really like the band and this is a nice song from them and another one of those good final credits films. The National has had a nice year in film with two older songs used to wonderful effect in Warrior.

Jared:

I suppose it is a little late to wish for better movies?  One reason I’ve always enjoyed the Oscars is rooting for movies and performances I love.  But this year, the only Oscar movie I’ve really loved is The Artist, which doesn’t exactly need my help.  DiCaprio already has three nominations to his name, so sure, it’d be great for Oldman to get one.  But I don’t particularly enjoy advocating Oscar noms for career work, a malady plaguing the Academy enough as it is.  Similarly, it’d be neat for Patton Oswalt to get a nomination.

So I’m rooting for chaos.  I want my predictions to be wildly inaccurate.  The Academy bumping Bejo up to lead, where she belongs.  Or, if Bejo gets to be supporting, so does Rooney Mara.  Meryl Streep missing a nomination, likely because everyone assumed everyone else voted for her.  Jessica Chastain getting two nominations.  Judy Greer sneaking in and getting one.  People realizing The Muppets should get a screenplay nomination.  Mission Impossible getting a a best picture nomination would probably better reflect people’s true thoughts and would bring the system to its knees.  Only five films receiving best picture nominations, causing the Academy to change the system again.  Since I don’t seem to have much of a vested interest here, I want to laugh when I hear the names called Tuesday morning.

And finally, having just seen 50/50, pretty sure I’m rooting for it to receive a screenplay nomination.

Brian:

Well it only took me to two days before the nominations announcement to find something I could truly fill this space with. I absolutely loved50/50 and I don’t think I’ve cried that much in a movie in years. And it didn’t even have a father/son plotline! Granted — like most movies this year it wasn’t perfect and in most other years would have a problem cracking my top 5, but well, as Jared said, 2011 was a terrible year for movies. I’m going to be pulling for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to get a best actor nomination (not even close to happening) and for it to get a screenplay nomination (though Will Reiser’s development of Bryce Dallas Howard’s harpy girlfriend was woefully unfair and borderline sexist).

On top of that? My other final wish is to see Bill Cunningham: New York get recognized with a Best Documentary nomination. Some writers scratched their heads over BC:NY making the shortlist over Page One, the New York Times documentary, but they mistook high production value for a smooth narrative. Director Richard Press masterfully crafted his profile of the Times’ enigmatic fashion and society photographer while leaving the unnamed tension of — Why isn’t he married? Does he have a personal life? Is he gay? — left unresolved into the very end. It’s really well done and that is really the only thing I have left to fist pump over for tomorrow morning.

Jared did a fine job of organizing our pre-nomination wish/prediction posts in my absence. In my haste to rush off to an African country without a single cinema (those poor – literally – people) I forgot a couple things!

Each of these could fit in multiple categories: long shot dreams, technical category wishes, or just things I have my fingers crossed about.

The first is Hanna for Sound Mixing. My memory was jogged when I saw it managed to land a guild nod, inproving its chances at the Oscars. The whole film is a delighful stylish exercise, but the sound mix really stands out, particularly as it blends in The Chemical Brothers’ pulsating score.

Second is Kung Fu Panda 2 for Animated Feature. In a lackluster animated year with a full five nominees, I don’t know how this seems to never be in the discussion. It’s almost as good as its nominated predecessor and contains some really impressive animation, including a sequence with a neat Asian style. Won’t someone think of this film, which is also the highest-grossing film with a female director of all time?

I think Oscar news outlets feel forced at this point to complain about the Foreign Language shortlist each year. And it’s getting kind of stupid.

The Hollywood Reporter has a basic “the picks are controversial” story that proceeds to list five of the nine shortlisted films as good and expected. But then it goes on to complain about a bunch of films that always had problems. Miss Bala and Le Havre just aren’t very good. No one had anything good to say about Flowers of War. Where Do We Go Now? and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia never really had the festival impact to justify complaining about their omission and The Turin Horse apparently spends much of its runtime literally watching potatoes boil.

Furthermore, Belgium’s choice of Bullhead over The Kid with a Bike not only resulted in a shortlist spot but was also a good pick.

This slate strikes me as a good one, despite seeing just one of the films. It’s a good mix of the expected juggernauts and the unknown that a competition like this is meant to uncover.

But at least the Hollywood Reporter and I can agree on something: Spain’s choice of the lackluster Black Bread over the terrific The Skin I Live In is ridiculous and it may have cost them a nod.

Oscar nominations will be revealed on the 24th.  As arbitrary as the nominations can sometimes seem, there’s definitely method to their madness.  Over the next week, we’ll dive into the potential nominees in each of the big eight categories.  This time around: Picture.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants

The Artist has hit nearly every significant precursor and is the presumed front-runner for the big trophy.  The biggest stumbling block may be its slightly disappointing box office.  Pretty much ditto for The Descendants, except it hasn’t won quite as many precursors.

GOOD BET

  • The Help
  • Hugo

Ah, remember simpler times?  Like five months ago, when The Help first came out and we questioned if it could hold up through the Oscar season gauntlet?  Contenders dropped left and right, but it seems like The Help has stuck around for good.  Hugo is an interesting case, because it hasn’t been buoyed by Oscar campaigns for its cast like the films above it have, though I suppose Scorsese is basically filling that role.  A crowd-pleasing (but not overly comedic) movie about movies directed by an acknowledged master is a good bet for a nomination.

LIKELY IN

  • Midnight in Paris

With nominations from all the big three guilds and a marketable story about Woody Allen’s return to form, Midnight in Paris seems like it should get through.  The only question may be if voters don’t consider it dramatic enough, or if people who most like this film rank it below The Artist on their ballots.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Tree of Life
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Moneyball
  • War Horse
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Keep in mind there will be somewhere between five and ten (inclusive) best picture nominees this year depending on how the ballots shake out, based on the new rules.  For the last time, I have no clue what to do with Tree of Life.  It seems the kind of film that has a group of very passionate devotees who will put it at the top of their ballots.  But will the group be large enough?  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been making a late Oscar surge.  It is a genre film, though, which tend not to fare well in Oscar’s top category.  Moneyball may well be the most-liked movie of the year.  But will that translate to firsts and seconds on Oscar ballots, or fourths and fifths?  Everyone just sorta assumed War Horse would get a nomination, and it still may, even though it hasn’t lived up to expectations.  My understanding is that in many ways it feels like an Oscar movie in a way the old guard may appreciate.  The British bloc in the Academy is a sizable contingent.  It is possible they’ll find enough supporters elsewhere to push Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy through.

DARK HORSES

  • Bridesmaids
  • Drive
  • The Ides of March
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

With ten nominees, you’d think Bridesmaids would be in.  This year, with the variable number and so many other comedy-type movies up for contention, the film has a tough road.  The arguments I made for Tree of Life hold true for Drive, I think, except it also has to overcome the bias against action films.  The Ides of March feels to me a little like Frost/Nixon in that it just sorta seems like an Oscar movie, whatever that means.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a presumptive favorite six or seven months ago that featured a super late release, so you can’t count out the possibility it sneaks through.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • The Muppets
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love.
  • Warrior
  • Paul
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • The Names of Love
  • 50/50

Oscar nominations will be revealed on the 24th.  As arbitrary as the nominations can sometimes seem, there’s definitely method to their madness.  Over the next week, we’ll dive into the potential nominees in each of the big eight categories.  This time around: Director.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo
  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Martin Scorsese is an Oscar fav directing a much-loved film with a significant plot point centering around the birth of film and utilizing 3D in a way that many have proclaimed the best use ever.  I dare you to give me a logical reason why he won’t receive a nomination.  The Academy is generally wary of directors who haven’t been around the Oscar discussion before, but Hazanavicius managed to take a friggin’ black and white silent film to the brink of Oscar glory, so one would imagine he’d get a pass.

GOOD BET

  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants

I keep hearing how the Academy doesn’t appreciate Payne as much as one might think, given his auteur status, possibly because his films tend to look like they didn’t require as much effort as technically trickier ones.  I can’t really speak to that, but given that he is a name and his film seems assured of a nomination, he should be in.

LIKELY IN

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Allen has a stronger reputation as a writer than a director, but he does have an Oscar win for directing (Annie Hall) and five additional nominations.  Unless the love for Midnight in Paris is more perceived than real, he should probably get in.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Terrence Malick, Tree of Life
  • David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Tate Taylor, The Help

For the next to last time, I have absolutely no idea what to do with Tree of Life.  Seems like people either love it or hate it, so it may come down to whether enough people are on the love it side, though people do seem to respect Malick.  Fincher was thrown back into this conversation with a DGA nomination, plus he does have two prior Oscar nominations.  But the film does very much feel like a genre flick, which is almost never a good thing for Oscar.  I remained convinced that the only reason Taylor isn’t a shoo-in here is because he is mostly an unknown.  Well, also, to be frank, if he were female, he’d be in.

DARK HORSES

  • Steven Spielberg, War Horse
  • Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive
  • Bennett Miller, Moneyball
  • Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • George Clooney, The Ides of March

Sure, War Horse‘s Oscar hopes have been dwindling seemingly daily, but count Spielberg out at your own peril.  I’m looking forward to seeing what Drive is all about.  The film is apparently director-driven, and from prior films, I know Refn has a distinct voice.  If his next film is mainstream enough, look for him to push through there.  Bennett Miller already has an Oscar nomination (Capote) and people seem to like Moneyball, the question may be if enough people love it.  Daldry received director nominations for his prior three films, I would have lost a decent chunk of money earlier in the year if I could have bet on him receiving his fourth in a row this year.  Clooney seems like a long shot, but he did receive a Globe nomination.  And he’s just so darn easy to love.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • James Bobin, The Muppets
  • Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love.
  • Gavin O’Connor, Warrior
  • Joe Johnston, Captain America: First Avenger
  • Gregg Araki, Kaboom
  • Olivier Megaton, Colombiana
  • James Gunn, Super

Oscar nominations will be revealed on the 24th.  As arbitrary as the nominations can sometimes seem, there’s definitely method to their madness.  Over the next week, we’ll dive into the potential nominees in each of the big eight categories.  This time around: Actress.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Davis and Streep, who both received Oscar nominations for their work in The Help (edit: I meant Doubt, of course.  Thanks, Sarah!), are the perceived frontrunners here.  Much of the coverage of the category, to this point, has centered around the two of them jockeying back and forth to get in the lead.  I don’t believe Michelle Williams has missed a meaningful precursor nomination and she already has two Oscar nominations.  And not only is she right in the Academy’s age and beauty wheelhouse, but she’s recently decided to aggressively go sexy.

GOOD BET

  • (none)

LIKELY IN

  • (none)

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It has been a strange year for the last couple of spots in this category.  There’s a clear opportunity for someone to step up a seize a spot, but no one’s publicists have been able to position an actress to secure a nomination.  Swinton’s Oscar win for Michael Clayton suggests she has sizable support in the Academy.  Here she’s dealing with an apparently challenging movie that people had to really actively want to see.  Coming into Oscar season, Glenn Close seemed a sure bet for a nomination as a respected Oscar actress (she has five nominations to her name) who, after years of hard work, finally got her passion project made.  Plus, she’s playing a dude.  I haven’t seen it yet, but word is that she’s facing the same battle as most of the actors on the bubble in that race: her character is very restrained where Oscar tends to have a better appreciation for showy.  Rooney Mara fits the requirements of Oscar ingenue, well, except for how punk her character is.  After initial box office returns had The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo DOA for Oscar, it has consistently fought back with guild nominations.

DARK HORSES

  • Charlize Theron, Young Adult
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
  • Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist

I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a bigger push for Theron, who already has an Oscar win and another nomination.  But Oscar, it would seem, has a bias against super attractive women playing insufferable characters, plus Young Adult hasn’t found anywhere near the appeal Juno did.  I still refuse to believe that a third Olsen sister just magically appeared this year.  She posted strong stuff, but I think the film was a little too indie for her to make the cut.  Melancholia has really put the maxim about there being no such thing as bad publicity to the test.  Director Lars von Trier started things off by saying he understood and sympathized with Hitler (then retracted his apology for the comments) and Dunst later suggested she wouldn’t had been a good fit for von Trier’s prior film because her boobs were too big.  So, yeah.  This category, to me, doesn’t seem like the right place to honor Wiig, but if it leads to a greater acceptance of comedies, I can live with it.  I talked about Bejo in the supporting actress category, for which she has been campaigned, but Oscar voters have upgraded categories in the past.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Sara Forestier, The Names of Love
  • Zoe Saldana, Colombiana
  • Emma Stone, The Help
  • Saoirse Ronan, Hanna
  • Natalie Portman, The Other Woman
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, Something Borrowed
  • Mandy Moore, Love, Wedding, Marriage
January 2012
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