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Nominations are less than a day away! Time to put our forecasting mettle to the test and see if we can’t pick the nominees. Jared and I did all non-short categories and Brian joined us for the big six. I’ve highlighted in yellow where we differ.

Check back tomorrow to see how we did!

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We’ve been releasing our takes on the big eight categories throughout the week with a few more to come. Before the big show tonight, I wanted to take one last look at some of the smaller categories that we didn’t bother to do the full treatment on, mostly because we have successful careers and vibrant social lives. Mmmhmm

Art Direction

Nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit


How many of these movies have rotating hallways and a flooded Japanese pagoda-style mansion? Oh, just Inception? Then I pick that.

Makeup

I’ve only seen The Way Back, but what a makeup job it is. This is a film about escaped prisoners traveling across Siberia and the Gobi desert. That is a hard trek and the makeup really sells it: sunburn, bug bites, extreme thirst, swollen limbs. The makeup is integral, noticeable, and realistic. Also, Colin Firth has some badass tattoos.

Documentary Feature

Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop are both terrific and number among my favorite films of the year. I do like Restrepo slightly more, though I’m rooting for Exit because it’s so different from the usual Oscar documentary and because I love the idea of Banksy as an Oscar winner.

There’s been some talk of Waste Land coming up on the outside and sneaking in for the win. That would be unfortunate. It follows an artist as he recruits trash pickers in Rio de Janeiro’s largest dump to help him create large-scale works of art out of garbage. It’s a decent film, but it piqued my interest in ways I don’t think it intended. The first half deals a lot with the pickers’ daily lives. Where the film sees degradation I see fascinating economic forces at work – mainly positive ones. The film also has an intense Savior Through Art theme, which is probably the common movie theme that I hate the most. It drives my left-sided economist brain crazy. Savior Through Economic Growth, Technological Advancement, Improving Institutions, and Access to Credit, anyone?

I haven’t seen the other two nominated documentaries.

Animated Feature

Toy Story 3 is still my pick, but I have seen The Illusionist since my look at this category a month or so back. (You can go there to see my thoughts on Toy Story and the third nominee, How to Train Your Dragon.)

The Illusionist is amazingly gorgeous. The hand-drawn, watercolor style is breathtaking and creates a wonderfully colorful and vivid version of Scotland. It also has one of my favorite shots of the year, one that starts on a grassy hilltop and swoops through the streets of Edinburgh. I literally gasped, which I believe no 3D animated film has made me do. Director Sylvain Chomet also composed his own music, and it’s very good.

I wish Chomet would break away from the wordless style that he uses here and in Triplets of Belleville. Both films feel slight on plot without dialogue to advance them, which makes them drag. The whimsy and the animation go a long way, but a little more needs to happen to really push me over the top.

Live Action Short

Shorts International and Magnolia have been releasing the Oscar nominated shorts theatrically for the past few years. I would encourage those who can to see out this year’s Live Action program (I believe you can also find them on iTunes).

My choice is Wish 143, about a teen with terminal cancer who gets to participate in a Make A Wish-type program. His wish? To lose his virginity. This film killed me. It does a great job of portraying one’s reaction to illness. The teen, played by Samuel Holland, is so richly realized. For most of it I wondered if it would be appropriate to put a short on my Top 10 list. Unfortunately the ending stumbles a bit.

Na Wewe is my second choice and will be your winner tonight. A van is stopped by rebels in Burundi during the Rwanda/Burundi genocide in the 90s. The rebels separate the passengers into Hutus and Tutsis, planning to execute the latter. The passengers try to convince the rebels to spare them. It has basic emotional elements (suspense/ tragedy/ injustice), an important issue (genocide), and a well-developed and feel good – albeit somewhat obvious – theme (self-definition and how we’re all connected). A natural winner.

The other nominees are God of Love, a cute film about a modern-day hipster Cupid who uses darts instead of arrows; The Crush, a trite story of a young boy who has a crush on his teacher and will fight for his love; and The Confession, a good-looking but sort of pointlessly bleak tale of two boys who can’t figure out what to confess for their first Confession so they set out to cause some trouble.

Animated Short

I try to catch these every year because it usually features some really creative animation. I was underwhelmed with this slate. Check out the live action shorts if you can only see one.

Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) is the only one that wowed me. And even then, it’s much more style than substance. It’s about a trip into the Malagasy countryside, visualized as a scrapbook come to life. The story is sort of bland, but the animation pops with some cool use of perspective. The Malagasy music used as accompaniment is also a treat.

Let’s Pollute is an amusing take on a 1950s public service film, sarcastically promoting the benefits of pollution. The Lost Thing follows a boy who finds some sort of alien-robot on the beach and tries to find a home for it. Honestly, I just didn’t get it. Day & Night is the cute Pixar short preceding Toy Story 3 about two characters representing the two times of day. I hear it’s great in 3D, but I’ve only seen it in two dimensions, where it’s rather flat, pardon the pun.

The Gruffalo is by far the longest and features the voices of several famous actors like Helena Bonham Carter. The animation is nothing special and the plot is aimed at the toddler level. At 30 minutes, this adult was very restless by the end as I knew where it was heading about 5 minutes in. And yet, except for one brief mention of Madagascar, it was literally the only film people were talking about walking out of the theater. It makes me wonder if it has a shot for the win.

Nominations are up and we have a lot to chew on for the next few weeks.

The John vs Jared prediction contest came right down to the wire with me eking it out, 83-82. For perfect categories, Jared nailed Animated Feature while I got Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, and Makeup. But both of us did quite well in other categories, usually only missing one. A common pattern was us picking the same slate except for one in a given category with both of our dissenting picks correct and one common pick incorrect.

We got two of three of our biggest wishes, just one of our outlandish picks hit, and no luck on our technical category hopes, but one of our anticipated disappointing locks failed to materialize.

Beyond that, how are the Grouches feeling today?

Jared:

I suppose after all that buildup, feeling a little let down by the nominations is inevitable.  On first glance, I see a few themes to this year’s crop.  There weren’t really any major surprises.  Yeah, Waiting for Superman felt like a frontrunnner, but the documentary branch is a notoriously hard one to pin down.  I’m not sure anyone guessed Nolan would miss a director’s nod, but he’s clearly yet to be completely accepted by the Academy.  Perhaps the biggest questions is whether The Social Network is still the favorite to win Best Picture, since The King’s Speech tallied more nominations.  I’m a little hesitant to go there yet, because the only category in which the Facebook movie really missed was supporting actor, but Garfield was never a shoo-in and we already knew that The King’s Speech had the more widely respected actors.  Otherwise, I’m happy, of course, that Hawkes and Ruffalo both received nominations.  And looking forward to slicing and dicing these things up with you guys over the next month.

Brian:

I too am looking forward to debating these categories with you all as well. I’m pretty disappointed about Inception missing director and editing, yet somehow still getting a screenplay nomination. If any of those three deserved to be left out, it was Nolan’s writing that often verged on psychobabble. I probably would have gone to the mat pushing a Nolan win for directing, but now I won’t have the chance.

The Social Network vs. King’s Speech fight will be a lot of fun to analyze and look at, as prognosticators will call the race closer than it likely is in order to spruce up interest in the evening. Consider me pleased that The Town got overlooked it most every category but supporting actor, and I’m even willing to let that slide with John Hawkes popping up as one of the few surprises of the morning.

Looks like we have a few more movies to add to our list, fellas.

John:

I’m a bit bummed about a shut out for Get Low but there aren’t many egregious choices and I’m pleasantly happy with a way a few of the races broke. I’m surprised at how few films got nominations in major categories: just 16. The last three years saw 19, 18, and 21, respectively. Maybe the ten Best Picture nominees aren’t inviting anyone new to the party.

And, despite Brian’s claim above, there’s not much left to see!

So it all comes down to this. Nominations come out tomorrow and the Grouches are staking their pristine reputations on their predictive powers! Brian, Jared, and John took a stab at the top eight categories while John and Jared went on to predict the rest of the non-short categories. There’s a lot of overlap, so any picks where we differ has been shaded.

The Big Eight:

And the rest (note we also predicted how many Best Song nominees there will be, since there can be 0, 2, 3, 4, or 5)

Who will reign supreme? We’ll declare a winner tomorrow!

I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass. I really like Philip Glass.

Okay, now that the perfunctory Philip Glass joke is out of the way out of the way out of the way out of the way out of the way, I’ll venture into a bit why I really enjoyed Australian director Scott Hicksdocumentary in twelve parts about the life and work of the extraordinary composer.

To be brief, Glass was a musical talent starting early on in his career, including his time at University of Chicago and Julliard. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Ravi Shankar, Chuck Close, and other artistic luminaries in and around New York City with experimental music. His monotonous style is best described by filmmaker (and frequent Glass collaborator) Errol Morris as “existential dread,” but intrinsic in so many of Glass’ pieces is the hope of a break in the clouds, a happy end on the horizon.

The twelve parts cover all aspects of Glass’ life, including his family, his youth, his summer home, his Taoist/Buddhist mash-up faith, his opera, his symphony, his film work.

Read the rest of this entry »

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