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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.  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.

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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
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