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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!

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Oscar nominations will be announced on February 2.  We’re counting down to the big day by offering some hard-hitting analysis and incisive opinions on the toughest questions surrounding the nominees. This time around, we are looking at each category as a whole. Which categories appear to be the strongest and weakest?

John: Everyone With A Solid Year Take A Step Forward…Not So Fast Supporting Actresses

I think the likely slates of nominees will be pretty solid this year, mostly bereft of bad choices. On the other hand, there are few categories I’d call particularly strong. If I had a ballot I’d still have trouble filling it out with performances/films that I found worth advocating for. If there were only three slots for animated films, Best Animated Feature would certainly be the strongest category. But enough films qualified this year that there ought to be five nominees, which dilutes its still considerable strength.

The strongest category overall is Best Actor. If I chose irrespective of those choice’s chance at nomination, there are many strong candidates. If we’re looking at likely candidates, both screenplay categories look very strong. Even films whose scripts I wouldn’t find strong enough to nominate (Inglourious Basterds, (500) Days of Summer) are at least somewhat different. Compare that to the screenplay nominees I found disappointing from last year, like Frost/Nixon or Doubt, that were neither particularly great nor interesting.

The weakest category is Supporting Actress, where I find little to interest me either in the whole pool of 2009 supporting actresses nor in the list of those who have a shot at a nomination. Beyond Mo’Nique and Vera Farmiga there’s very little for me to get excited about.

I also don’t think there’s any doubt that the ten nominees has weakened the Best Picture slate. But at least the films that are going to get in because of the category expansion tend to be different, fresh choices, even if I didn’t always love the films.

Jared: Love/Hate Relationship With The Ladies

I actually think Best Actress is a very strong category this year.  Small caveat, The Last Station is (probably) the last Oscar movie I need to see.  But Helen Mirren is always awesome, so should she beat out a strong Emily Blunt performance, I’m not super concerned.  Otherwise, I think Gabourey Sidibe walks away with the statue in many other years, but she’s nearly out of the picture this year.  Similarly, Carey Mulligan was just breathtaking.  I’m a little lower on Sandra Bullock than most, but would still be tickled pink if she won.  And Meryl Streep certainly doesn’t need me to praise her.

Depending on what happens, Original Screenplay is a close second.  It has the potential to be filled with riveting, unique works.  And even if my dream scenario doesn’t happen, it is still going to be very very strong.

And yeah, Supporting Actress is far and away the weakest category this year.  I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a push to get more names into the race.  Maybe it is because Mo’Nique has this thing in the bag.  Otherwise it is her, and then meh.  I already said my piece on the lovely ladies from Up in the Air, and then you are looking at, what?  Someone from the horribly overrated Inglourious Basterds?  (Although, I’d love a Diane Kruger nod, just to bump up the Oscar nominees who appeared in National Treasure 2.  The actresses from Nine were decent, but their roles weren’t anything special.  That Julianne Moore has a shot to sneak in here shows how much of a joke this category is this year.

Brian: If Only The Actors Could Sing A Song

If the Academy had expanded the Best Actor slot to ten nominees as they had with Best Picture, I’m not sure I would have found a choice about which to complain. Sure, Morgan Freeman is a gimme nomination, but if I’m going with the Academy trends, I can understand it. The next five in probably includes Mortensen, Damon, Day-Lewis, Stuhlbarg, and maybe even one of my faves, Sharto Copley for District 9. I have seen neither Nine or Serious Man, but from what I have heard I can’t image there would be anything too objectionable about any of their performances. Once I see them, they might even find a lobbyist in me for their likely snubbing tomorrow. Of the five nominated, I liked all of their performances. Freeman was serviceable as Mandela and he rose above what was a script replete with platitudes and Yoda-like pieces of wisdom. Colin Firth was the best part of Single Man and like with Freeman, transcended the limits of the story, not to mention the over-the-top direction. I disagree with Jared on Clooney and thought that even though was just doing his Clooney thing, it still worked great and I can’t see anyone else in the role. I’ll get to Bridges v. Renner when we do our Oscar posts later in the month, but both were fantastic.

Weakest category has to be Best Song. Not one of the Princess and the Frog has broken out and reached the public discourse. Granted its a wholly different era in entertainment from the years when Aladdin and Lion King permeated the popular music culture and had songs played ad nauseum on the radio, but still — I expect at least one of them to be recognizable. The song from Crazy Heart is the best of the bunch but even then — I am sorely disappointed in the list of possible songs and cannot see any of them being memorable even a couple of months from now. I leave it now to John to disagree with me.

Oscar nominations will be announced on February 2.  We’re counting down to the big day by offering some hard-hitting analysis and incisive opinions on the toughest questions surrounding the nominees.  We tend to focus on the “major” categories (acting, directing, writing, picture), but let’s take a look at the artistic and technical categories.  What would you like to see happen in these lesser profile categories?

John: I Am the Grand Poobah of Smaller Categories

I’m having a hard time choosing just one hope for the smaller categories. The three I really care about, The Informant! and Avatar for Score and “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart for Song, are already probably nominees. So I’ll highlight a few that were noteworthy to me, all of which I thoroughly like but whose exclusion will not cause me extraordinary pain.

Depression Era” from stalled Hal Holbrook vehicle That Evening Sun for Song. It’s a simple, soulful folk tune from Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood. The Song selection is sort of weak this year but this one stands out.

I’d also like to plump for one of Karen O’s tunes from Where the Wild Things Are for Song; “Hideaway”  and “All Is Love” are eligible. Beyond those mentioned above, some scores that made me sit up and take notice include those from The RoadPonyo, and The Secret of Kells, though I think the final one is ineligible for Score.

I love me some An Education so some recognition in Art Direction and/or Costume would be wonderful.

Finally, how about some love for The Brothers Bloom for the costumes? I didn’t enjoy all of the self-conscious quirky elements of the film, but I did enjoy the clothing, which did serve to develop the film’s offbeat characters.

And, oh yes, I can’t finish without whining again about the obnoxious sound in Star Trek.

Adam: What do tigers dream of? Oscar gold.

Since my Dracula’s Lament piece last year failed to sway the Academy (and yes, most Academy members read our blog), I’ve decided to tempt failure again and make my plug for “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover. Another Hangover piece you say? Yes. While I did thoroughly enjoy the movie, the reason I am picking it again is it is a no brainer for these types of posts – i.e. great movie that will get no love. I would pick Zombieland, but John is a Blog-Nazi and won’t let us pick something that has no shot at any kind of nomination…*cough* LAME *cough* *cough*.

Oh, right, “Stu’s Song”. Apparently humor and originality don’t factor into the nomination process for the Oscars. Like “Dracula’s Lament” last year, this was a hilarious song, well written, and original. What about it makes it unviable? I mean, it’s short, but why does that matter? The video just has clips from the movie, but that actually adds to the song. It’s in a comedy – and I think we have a winner. Once again the Academy shows it’s small-mindedness by completely overlooking a legitimate contender because it does not fall within their comfort zone. Well done.

[As John points out, don’t miss Helms’s tailoring of the song for Conan: http://incontention.com/?p=21285]

Jared: Destroy Visual Effects

I’m really happy John proposed we tackle this question, because I otherwise spend very little time thinking about these categories.  Part of it, I suppose, is that I tend to believe I’m appreciating a movie for its story, so I pay less attention to its visual or auditory approach.  I’m clearly not qualified to talk at all about some of these categories (for the sound categories, if you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to check out the really cool stuff at SoundWorks Collection).  I’m the last person in the world to notice costume design, for example, but it strikes me as a little odd that so often the nominees are predominantly period pieces.

Anyway, I’m here to plump for 2012‘s visual effects.  Granted, I may enjoy Roland Emmerich’s movies a little more than the next guy.  But the point, I think, is that when you think Emmerich, you think of sh*t done gettin’ destroyed.  Unlike some other films likely to get nominated here, 2012 doesn’t have any sort of coherent storyline or fascinating turn of events.  No, in this disaster movie, you get exactly what you’d expect.  Nonstop, relentless, continuous destruction of every landmark (natural or manmade) imaginable.  But, to me, at least, it doesn’t get boring.  And kudos for that, in my mind, should be placed squarely at the feet of the visual effects crew.  Tasked with creating tons of scenes of destruction, they came through brilliantly, and it seems odd to me that their work could be diminished just because their movie was little more than the results of their efforts.

Brian: Single Man Deserves Recognition — Say What?

I can’t believe I am actually writing a mini-post in favor of A Single Man, considering I found it absolutely boring and pretentious (I rated it less than a 4 out of 10), but I’m pretty surprised to see that it is not expected to be nominated for either Art Direction or Costume Design. If fashion-designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford knows anything, it’s style, and his movie has lots of it. Colin Firth is quite particular about his shirts and suits — and while I didn’t enjoy Julianne Moore’s big OSCAR(!!!) scene, her apartment and outfit seemed apropos of both the character and the film overall. Maybe this is just Mad Men withdrawal, as both of them cover the same time period, and both have problems with pacing and that all important thing called “plot,” but I’d be pretty disappointed if Single Man got an Oscar nom for best picture, but was left out for what it did best: highlighting both the cool and the isolation of early 1960s America.

Even a cursory review of this blog reveals that where John hews closer to arthouse (typical John post: “I would have liked this movie more if it moved a little more slowly, had less plot, and really just focused on the main character’s thoughts as he walked the fourteen steps from the hallway to his art studio.”), I’m maybe something closer to adolescent heartland (typical Jared post: “I would have liked this Fellini film better if it had explosions.  With fireballs.  And robots.”)

So I’m calling you out, John.  What on earth did you see in Avatar?  Obviously, like everyone else in the world, I’ll preface my thoughts by acknowledging the sheer beauty of the visuals.  The 3-D worked stunningly well.  There is a scene early on (in an aircraft, I believe), showing some instrumental panels that would be at the top of my list to convince people 3-D doesn’t have to be a fad or kitschy, just because of how the 3-D added to the vividness of the quiet scene.

But here’s the thing.  James Cameron aspires to not only have incredible images, but to tell a story well.  Which is a (maybe the) big difference between Cameron and, say, Michael Bay.  Cameron takes breaks from the action for attempts at theme and story.  Bay takes breaks from the action for…well, I suppose the concept of Michael Bay taking breaks from action is more of a hypothetical.

My evidence for Cameron’s intentions in Avatar would be all the (relatively) non-effects-laden scenes in the film, where ostensibly some sort of narrative is taking place.  Except nothing gets developed at all.  All of the characters are stock characters at best (Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana), ciphers at worst (hulking Vince McMahon lookalike (apologies, Stephen Lang), guy from Dodgeball, Michelle Rodriguez).  Which isn’t a knock on the actors (I wouldn’t necessarily cry at a Saldana nom) as much as what happens when Cameron tries to cram story into his visuals, because I think that learning Rodiguez’s backstory, or seeing some of pressures Ribisi’s character is facing could both be really interesting, for example.  Instead, their stories are glossed over or assumed.

We’ve all seen and heard the jokes comparing Avatar to the Pocahontas story.  Frankly, I don’t see the relevance.  A compelling story is a compelling story.  I’m reminded of the old saw about how Shakespeare appropriated plots for many of plays.  The problem here, then, isn’t that the film uses an unoriginal framework, but rather that it never takes the next step by filling in that framework with anything meaningful.

Cameron’s ambition may be his undoing.  He’s created an extraordinary vision of the future, but tries to show too much in too short a time frame.  Maybe the story would have best been told as a miniseries, each episode focusing on a different character.  I dunno, perhaps this is a reason I don’t generally like fantasy.  For example, I’d rather not use my imagination to think about the other Na’vi tribes that happen to show up at the end, but would be happier with a subplot  (or at least a scene) concerning tribal relations.  Or something more than a montage (sorry, Brian) showing Worthington’s assimilation into the Na’vi culture.  Even the concept of avatars itself, a worthy addition to the sci fi philosophical discourse on the connection between mind and body (just off the top of my head, other examples being: Dollhouse, The Matrix, Total Recall, the Star Trek holodeck, Ender’s Game, Frankenstein) isn’t really explored.

I understand liking Avatar.  I understand how a little of the most awesome visual effects put on film could go a long way.  But I fail to see how they can completely cover for the times where the film is, well, pedestrian.

Random thoughts here.

George Clooney plays a character named Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air.

The singer/songwriter who composed “The Weary Kind,” a likely Best Original Song nominee for Crazy Heart is named Ryan Bingham.

Zoe Kazan plays a character named Gabby Adler in It’s Complicated (second from right).

Zoe Kazan plays a character named Gretta Adler in Me and Orson Welles (left).

The land the Wild Things inhabit is a land where all your expectations about a children’s movie are turned on their heads. The elements that are usually trite and shallow in most children’s films are fresh and fully-developed but the parts that usually work in children’s movies don’t work here.

Where the Wild Things Are expands upon the classic book (necessary because the book is something like nine sentences long) in some interesting ways. We meet Max in the real world, where he lashes out angrily at his sister and bites his mom. He runs away from home and comes across a boat that takes him to the land of the Wild Things, who now have names and personalities. Max becomes their king and leads them in a variety of pursuits like fort-building and dirt clod fighting.

While the film never explicitly says so, this is all an adventure in Max’s imagination. And it really does play out as if a child made up the story. Staying truthful to a child’s vision is quite interesting intellectually and conceptually, but in a lot of ways it doesn’t really work as a movie. It’s just aimless (kids don’t think in story arcs). Max become king because he says so. The dirt clod war ends with hurt feelings. A fort sounds cool so they build it. The actual plot doesn’t really do anything. It stays remarkably true to the conceit of an adventure a child in a certain mood might imagine but there’s a reason kids don’t write many movies.

The film succeeds in other ways, however. It creates some very well-developed and complex characters in Max and the Wild Things. All the Things are distinct, with their own personalities, flaws, and problems. The way we get to understand these characters is truly remarkable for any movie, let alone a kids’ movie where characterizations are often paper thin.

Director Spike Jonze also succeeds in imbuing the film with intense and earned emotion. This is not a happy kids’ flick that glosses over the negative parts of being a kid. It understands that kids feel the same emotions the rest of us do: anger, sadness, aggression. Like Dorothy in Oz, Max’s real life problems and emotional issues find homes in various Wild Things. (“And you were there,upset-for-being-ignored! And you were there, sister-abandonment-issues!”) And while this is fairly obvious, Jonze does a good job of not beating you over the head with it. Once again, the film’s emotional depth is a wonderful achievement.

But it doesn’t really make for a good movie. It’s technically quite proficient at imparting the emotions it wants but those emotions are all intensely mopey so that the film has an oppressively melancholy quality to it. The breaks for levity are just too few and far between. I’m not necessarily against a melancholy film or an aimless plot for that matter, but together they are a deadly combination, especially since the melancholy itself is aimless. There’s no apparent reason for the Things to be so despondent and there’s no real resolution. With motionless plot and characters the film feels slow.

And so I appreciate the concept of the film intellectually, respect its ambition, and have found some very fascinating and thoughtful discussions about it online, but it makes for a fairly dour and slow viewing experience. Ultimately it didn’t work for me but I appreciate how it’s given me much to think about. I’m curious if a second viewing would be more stimulating now that I’ve had a chance to ponder it a while and maybe I’ll give it another shot on DVD.

Some prognosticators thought it might sneak into the expanded Best Picture list this year but that seems unlikely now. The Things are technological wonders with furry bodies and computer animated heads. I could see a Visual Effects or Costume nod. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a band I really like, provides the music for the film, often accompanied by a chorus of children. I’ve listened to the soundtrack and I think the songs mostly work better as little snippets within the film like in the rousing music that marks the beginning to the wild rumpus. Still maybe a Song nomination is possible.

To recap:
Most children’s movies: Happy, fun, and full (often too full) of plot but with thin characterizations and little emotional complexity
Where the Wild Things Are: Aimless, dull plot full of moping but populated with complex characters and emotional sincerity

Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22. We’re counting down to the big day by tackling some tough questions and spouting some mad opinions. The final topic: What is your biggest hope for the nominations?

John: Give Jenkins the Recognition He Deserves

I loved me some Richard Jenkins in The Visitor. He did so much with a fairly restrained character without ever seeming one-note or bland. The film loses a bit when it meanders to other topics and characters, but when Jenkins is on the screen it shines. His journey from detached and solitary to a man reengaging with society is entirely engrossing. He’s never showy and he nails his character’s awkwardness and slow gain in confidence. I said last year that I loved Casey Affleck in Assassination of Jesse James for making his character absolutely perfect. It’s a sentiment I extend to Richard Jenkins. Of course that’s partly a writing triumph, but a great performance is what makes it transcend into something very special. I hope voters dig far into their screener pile to find this film released months ago. At this point Jenkins is very much on the bubble and it could go either way. If his name is announced tomorrow I will be very happy.

Brian: Don’t Forget Sarah Marshall

Any love for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. A screenplay is all I really ask for, but a best song nomination wouldn’t be out of the question. Goofy, charming, and sentimental — I’m consistently surprised by the staying power of that film on my Top 5 list.

Adam: Living and Dying With Dark Knight and In Bruges

If anyone is reading this blog at all they would have recognized my love for The Dark Knight and In Bruges (in fact, I saw In Bruges for the second time the other day and it definitely held up). I would love to see TDK sweep the nomination categories as well as the awards. And, it would be nice to see In Bruges get credit for its screenplay, art direction, cinematography, and supporting acting. The art direction & cinematography nods were added to my wish list after the second viewing. The choice of locations, camera angles, and shots are actually very well done. They enhance the story and feel of the movie so subtly that you might not even notice it the first time around, but their effects can not be overstated. I also (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) agree with Brian. A nod to Forgetting Sarah Marshall would be a nice addition to screenplay and song – but I won’t hold out hope.

Jared: Just a Genuine Surprise Would be Nice

Sure, I’m rooting for some long shots to receive nominations (some of which are probably obvious, none of which I’ll be so foolish as to jinx). Most years I’d be hoping not to see certain people get nominated, but I think the only film even sniffing the Oscars that I actively disliked this go round was Synecdoche, NY (with the caveat I’ve maybe three or four movies left to see). But my biggest wish for the Oscar nominations is for my picks to be pretty wrong and to see a good amount of surprises. Part of that desire, to be sure, is the selfish wish for some added excitement to this relatively mundane Oscar season. But I also think there are many nominees who seem to be in the mix just because everyone is resigned to the fact that they should be nominees. I’d love to see some wild cards in there, some picks which really excited people. Sure, preferably they’d be nominees I’d be excited about as well, but if Synecdoche sneaks into the screenplay category and I can bash it for a few weeks, that’d be OK.

That’s it from us. Here’s hoping for some happy Grouches tomorrow morning!

Last year I took a look (and listen) at the eligible original songs. It was a pretty satisfying endeavor with some gems and otherwise interesting tunes in the list of 59. I’ll even occasionally revisit my 2007 Oscar songs Rhapsody playlist.

So I happily decided to try it again in 2008. Yikes. This year’s crop of 49 is a pretty shabby group. And fully 22% come from High School Musical 3: Senior Year alone.

This year we have youtube embedding capability. To keep the post from being dozens of bandwidth-draining clips, I will just embed the ones I think should be experienced while the rest will merely be linked.

The Best

Bruce Springsteen contributes the title song to The Wrestler. It plays as the film fades to black from its highly emotional climax and into the credits. It’s perfect for the moment and a terrific song on its own. A sure nominee and the front-runner for the win.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22. We’re counting down to the big day by tackling some tough questions and spouting some mad opinions. Today we’re making predictions. Going out on a limb a little, what will and will not happen in the nominations?

Brian: Torino for the Upset

Gran Torino will squeeze in as a Best Picture nominee, kicking out Frost/Nixon. I think Oscar voters will be blinded by the strong box office performances of Eastwood’s take on the Incredible Hulk, and the old fogeys will be regretful if they don’t throw some dap to what could possibly be Eastwood’s last film. Considering the movie’s pure audacity, I can’t even protest the pick that much, even though it was not very good. I like its chances, and like the Arizona Cardinals making a playoff run, I think that a surprise nomination could give it upset special potential over Slumdog in the end game.

John: TDK Loses, HSM3 Wins

I’ll believe Dark Knight getting a Best Picture nod when I see it. It deserves it but the Academy is so good at disappointing me. Despite love from nearly every guild (producers, directors, writers, art directors, editors, sound mixers, cinematographers, costume designers) SAG skipped it for its Ensemble award and the acting branch is by far the largest in the Academy. I know the correlation between SAG Ensemble and Best Picture isn’t perfect, but I’m pessimistic. The Reader seems so much more up the Academy’s alley that I can definitely see it ignoring the comic book film. This is a prediction I’d love to be wrong, but I expect lots of fanboy bitching tomorrow.

After last year’s debacle in the category I expect High School Musical 3: Senior Year to score at least one Original Song nomination. Fortunately rule changes prevent it from nabbing more than two so it can’t match Enchanted‘s three. None of the groups that names Best Song has given the bland musical tunes any love, but if anyone can it’s the Academy.

Jared: Good News Coming for Happy, Winslet, Leo (DiCaprio); Bad for Jolie, Blanchett, Leo (Melissa)

It is hard to make exciting predictions this year, with so many categories seeing so much uniformity across guild awards and the other precursors.  I won’t make up something crazy just for the sake of being bold, but I can see a few slightly unexpected things to happen.  Happy-Go-Lucky will garner three nominations (Actress, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay). I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I think the film’s unbridled optimism will resonate with voters in this political and economic climate, and since Eddie Marsan is the one counter to that in the whole movie, he stands out too much not to be noticed.  Kate Winslet grabs two noms, and Leonardo DiCaprio comes along for the ride. The former is more likely than the latter, but I think Winslet peaked at the right time, is a name people know and want to vote for, and I think people want to get her an Oscar win.  There are scenarios where Revolutionary Road or The Reader pull down more nominations, but I see them having difficulty cracking the big categories, so support could funnel to DiCaprio.  Leo, Jolie, Blanchett out for Best Actress. This category is an eight woman (well, no, nine, Michelle Williams has a non-zero shot) free-for-all, and really, nothing is absolutely guaranteed.  I think Jolie misses because Changeling didn’t resonate in general any more than A Mighty Heart.  I’m even now second-guessing myself about Blanchett, since the Academy loves her so, but I think she has more of a chance if Benjamin Button broke out a little more at the box office.  And Leo will suffer from being in a movie released too early and being too little of a name.

Adam: Those Expecting Surprises Will be Disappointed

Not sure how much of a long shot it is, but I think Leonardo DiCaprio edges out Pitt and Jenkins for a Best Actor nod.  I also second Jared’s prediction of Happy-Go-Lucky getting more nods than it deserves (which I have no problem ridiculing in the days to come).  I think Dev Patel rides the seemingly-universal love for Slumdog Millionaire into a supporting actor spot.  Honestly though, I really don’t see that many “long shots” in even remote contention.

Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22. We’re counting down to the big day by tackling some tough questions and spouting some mad opinions. Today’s topic: We tend to look at what we call the big eight categories in picture, director, acting, and writing. But what about all those other categories, the ones on the second tier on the left sidebar? What are our wishes for nominees in the technical and smaller profile categories?

Jared: Give The Fall Some Visual Love

The Fall may be the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen.  But don’t take my word for it, here’s someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, and how to express it, Roger Ebert: “Tarsem made one of the most astonishing films I have ever seen. It is all the more special in this age of computer-generated special effects, because we see things that cannot exist, but our eyes do not lie, and they do exist, yes, they really do.”  The only thing more incredible than the visuals in the film may be the fact that none of them were computer-generated.  The style in the lengthy story sequences is nothing short of breathtaking, and the “normal” half of the film shows Tarsem, Ged Clarke, and crew have extraordinary range.  Superlatives cannot do justice to the movie’s visual impact.  Sure, the film went bold where others have done an excellent job with a much more subdued style.  Still, it would be a travesty for The Fall to miss the Oscars.

Adam: “Dracula’s Lament” a Killer Tune

It seems the Academy mainly used a dart board for the selection of contenders for Best Original Song.  The only two in the top 5 contenders rank (in my mind) as songs worth of consideration – “The Wrestler” and “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire.  I would LOVE to see “Dracula’s Lament” (from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) in serious talks of nominees, but I feel as it is not to be.  Who says a rock/comedy musical number can’t be a serious Oscar nominee?  Can anyone honestly say that when the words “And when I see Van Helsing I swear I will SLAY HIM…AHH HA HA” without thinking “OSCAR”?  Jason Segel’s hilarious/moving song about how difficult it is being Dracula is matched only by its accompanying performance in the film.  How can you NOT nominate a song that comes with its own puppets?  How did Enchanted get 3 songs nominated last year and this doesn’t even warrant consideration?  They should nominate it for the sole reason of the awesome performance it would bring to the Oscars.

John: Kung Fu Panda a Rare Non-Pixar Home Run

Well the other two jerks are talking about my two favorite niche categories in Best Song and Best Art Direction. I’ll have a Song post up in a few days to expound on that as much as I want (expect some Jenny Lewis love) but let me turn to Animated Feature. WALL-E will win and one has to think Waltz With Bashir will grab the second slot (and with the buzz for Bashir maybe it could pull an upset?). But what will go into slot number three? Barring a foreign outsider it’ll be Bolt, Horton Hears a Who!, or Kung Fu Panda. I haven’t seen Waltz With Bashir but Kung Fu Panda was actually my favorite animated film of the year, even beating that cute Pixar robot. (See the list of eligible films here.)

Recent Dreamworks animated films have been too full of pop culture references without being clever or funny enough; Shrek the Third was absolutely putrid. But Panda bucks that trend. It’s genuinely funny – very funny – with an interesting story, great characters, and beautiful animation. I had an absolute blast watching it- it’s the epitome of solid entertainment.

Since I’m pulling together this post I give myself authority to make another pick. Slumdog Millionaire also deserves some love in smaller categories, but some seem so likely that it’s not worth going into them really in depth. Cinematography, certainly, for the way Mumbai comes alive in the film. AR Rahman’s score is lovely and delightfully different for an Oscar film. And let’s get at least one of the eligible songs, “Jai Ho” or “O… Saya” (featuring M.I.A.!) nominated for a fun Bollywood performance on stage at the Kodak Theatre. Maybe not as cool as Jason Segel’s puppets, but close.

That’s what we say. So all you lovers costume, sound, editing, and visual effects, what say you?

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