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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: Original Screenplay.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Michael Hazanavicus, The Artist

Woody has fourteen Oscar noms or wins for writing, and Midnight in Paris is a favorite for a Best Picture nom, so a nomination here is in the bag.  It is incredible to me that the writer of a silent film is such a sure thing for a nomination here.  Don’t get me wrong, The Artist‘s screenplay is in my top five, but I would have thought it would be a bigger hurdle to get people to realize a screenplay is so much more than dialogue.

GOOD BET

  • (none)

LIKELY IN

  • Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids

It is fascinating to me that the first Oscar nomination for the Apatow comedy machine could possibly go to Mumolo and Wiig.  Most pundits have them in, but a few don’t and I can see the reservations.  A female-centric comedy written by film neophytes is a tough sell, to be sure.  The voting writers, however, have much fewer hangups than the rest of the Academy.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Will Reiser, 50/50
  • Tom McCarthy and Joe Tibani, Win Win
  • JC Chandor, Margin Call
  • Mike Mills, Beginners
  • Diablo Cody, Young Adult
  • Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
  • Terrence Malick, Tree of Life

I’m looking forward to watching 50/50 on Sunday.  Apologies for being crass, but cancer does tend to play with Oscar.  I’m a big fan of The Station Agent, but Tom McCarthy and I haven’t quite gotten along since then.  Still, a nomination here might encourage people to release Oscar fare earlier in the year (and Oscar to look more at the first half of the year).  Margin Call has benefited from a stellar cast and great timing, economy-wise.  I personally thought the script was too slight.  Mike Mills has a huge leg up because with Christopher Plummer a surefire nominee, lots of voters will have seen his film.  Diablo Cody does already have one Oscar to her credit.  I liked her script more than the past three films I mentioned, but it sorta feels like this year all potential Young Adult nominees will finish something like 7th in their categories.  Farhadi’s screenplay is supposed to be simply superb and the film was just named to the longlist for foreign film, though obviously its foreigness is something of a hurdle.  As I keep mentioning, I have no clue what to do with Tree of Life and I don’t believe anyone else does either.

DARK HORSES

  • Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
  • John Logan, story by James Ward Byrkit, John Logan and Gore Verbinksi, Rango
  • Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan, Shame
  • Kenneth Longeran, Margaret

Three of these films feature strong acting performances that in the Oscar conversation, which is a great way to also get in the screenplay conversation, even if I found them all lacking.  A strong Pixar film would be a gimme this year, instead we have Rango around the periphery of the conversation.  Margaret has a fascinating backstory, one that I think writers would be sympathetic to (they’d love to give a big ol’ middle finger to people who mess with their vision and studios who try everything to kill their films), it may just be a question of how many actually saw the film.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, Paul
  • John Michael McDonagh, The Guard
  • Michel LeClerc and Baya Kasmi, The Names of Love
  • Dan Fogelman, Crazy, Stupid, Love.
  • Cliff Dorman, Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tamblakis, Warrior
  • Gregg Araki, Kaboom
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Oscar nominations will be revealed Tuesday January 24th. As we get closer, the Grouches will be sharing some thoughts, hopes, and predictions. You can read thoughts on the so-called “major” categories all over the place, but this time around, we share what we think we’ll be most upset about nomination morning.

John: Best Actor will be uninspired

I’m worried that Best Actor is going to turn into a boring slate despite the number of interesting options there are this year. There are three actors in smaller films that I’d love to see nominated, but I fear only one will find a spot: Michael Shannon in Take Shelter, Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Michael Fassbender in Shame. And to make matters worse, the one Oscar bait-type performance I really enjoyed is the one that seems to be sinking: Leonardo DiCaprio in J Edgar. Still, at least a portion of these guys should be in.

Otherwise, it’s a good year for avoiding disappointment. There isn’t much in the way of locks that annoy me. I think The Artist is going to receive outsized love in technical categories since people seem to just love the movie. But I don’t see many picks that look egregious or likely snubs that would hurt me. We’ll reassess if Midnight in Paris misses a Best Picture nod, but I think it’s in. I predict I will be sad at Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy not receiving enough love, but I haven’t been holding out too much hope anyway.

Jared: Original sin

Often the only category with any real oddball picks is Original Screenplay, sometimes even landing on one of my favorite movies.  This year the category seems pretty open.  There are two locks, but you can easily build convincing arguments for why at least eight other films will (not should) be nominated for the last three spots.  I haven’t yet seen all the contenders, so I can’t say for sure what I want to happen, but I’m increasingly worried that Oscar voters are going to end up with the wrong films here.  It shouldn’t be Beginners, Win Win or Take Shelter, in my opinion, even if I can appreciate the spirit of voting an indie in.

I’ll also add one more name to John’s list: Demian Bichir.  There were a lot of strong performances this year that are going be swallowed up by the golden boys of Hollywood.

Finally, I think the system of an undetermined number of Best Picture films will be a bust.  Granted, it will be a little harder to make that call this year given that there’s no The Dark Knight, and it is hard to imagine public outcry over any of the bubble films getting in (or not).

Brian: Andy Serkis Motion-Captured My Heart

There’s somehow the idea that an actor winning an acting Oscar for a motion-capture performance is an inevitability. That somehow, the technology is the future of movies and Andy Serkis will be seen as the pioneer who paved the way for many other performers. I highly doubt that — and if it ever happens, it will be the result of the creation of a new category, throwing motion-capture actors into a ghettoized group much like the animated film is now.

That’s a long winded way of saying that Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ Andy Serkis getting snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nomination is my pick for biggest disappointment. He was phenomenal as Caesar, and anyone who’s seen the behind-the-scenes clips can’t deny that what he did was acting. But I know the Academy is just too narrow-minded to understand it.

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