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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees are:

  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

JOHN

This is a tough category this year. I think, by a hair, the best performance of the year came from Meryl Streep. Not only did she have to tackle playing a real person but at a variety of ages in different stages of mental decline. This film calls for her to dodder around in her senility and jabber with the ghost of her dead husband but she handles it well. I shudder to think how bad The Iron Lady would have been without such a good central performance.

But if I’m being honest I’m rooting for Viola Davis. She’s always awesome and maybe a win would land her some more sizable, and meatier, roles. Streep already has two Oscars and I don’t think she’d begrudge her pal Viola a win. If I have any complaint about Davis in The Help it’s that she painfully out-acts Emma Stone in too many of their shared scenes!

I didn’t like My Week With Marilyn and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it, but hell if Michelle Williams isn’t very good in it. She does a good job channeling Marilyn Monroe, including her insecurities and playfulness. I suspect I enjoyed Glenn Close’s performance more than my colleagues. I’m not sure she would have made my list but she really sells the restraint and social ineptitude of her character. And while I’m fine with Rooney Mara, I wonder how much of it is that she gets to sport an accent and wear a bunch of leather. I can’t recall ever being particularly taken by her performance.

And if I had my druthers I’d stick Elizabeth Olsen in.

JARED

Oscar did well here.  It would have been hard for them to do poorly, but they’ve shown a certain capability for that.  I’ve now seen Rooney Mara in four movies (this one, Youth in RevoltThe Social Network, and The Winning Season) and I’m very much impressed with her mutability.  I’d love to see her in an action spy show like Alias, or, at least, what I’m assuming Alias was.  She’s good here, but given what the character did for Noomi Rapace, I wonder if the love here is actually for the role.

Albert Nobbs is a challenging portrayal to reward.  The character has devoted his or her life to staying in the background, inconspicuous.  So Close is all small, controlled mannerisms here.  I think it is a performance that needs to sit a little bit to really appreciate, to get how she played at being a man, not really sure of her place in society when not at work.

I may have Davis third, but she’s absolutely deserving of the statue.  I’m not really one for race debates, especially when it comes to Oscar, because then you end up with Crash.  All I want to say is that should Davis take home the trophy, regardless of what caused people to vote for or against her, she’s a fantastic actress who earned the award on merit.

Not like I have anything new to say about Meryl Streep.  Other than that I hope she’s in the sequel to RED.

It isn’t news that I’m in the tank for Michelle Williams.  I’m assuming something was planted in brain when I saw Dick in theaters, but my love more directly stems from The Station Agent and The Baxter.  Anyway, Michelle’s Marilyn is a heck of a performance.  To take such an iconic figure and breathe such life and nuance into it?  Man.  She did Marilyn when she was on, when she was drugged, when she was nervously trying to act.  She dominates the film and is such a joy to watch.

BRIAN

Rooney Mara

ADAM

Rooney Mara

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Makeup

The nominees are:

  • Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston, and Matthew W. Mungle
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
  • The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

BRIAN

The Iron Lady

JOHN

I like the mix here for Best Makeup. You’ve got some classic fantasy work, some classic period-spanning and aging work, and some classic identity-altering work. I have no qualms with any. I know Glenn Close doesn’t really look like a man in Albert Nobbs but she does look potentially masculine, which I think is a better effect than being caked under layers of makeup. Janet McTeer was a bit more convincing, particularly with that haircut.

The Iron Lady is my winner. It’s a good physical transformation, turning Meryl Streep into a recognizable figure without making the effect too eerie, which is what I think sank J Edgar in this category. She’s Margaret Thatcher-ish and Streep-ish, but you don’t find yourself thinking “That’s Meryl Streep dressed up as Thatcher and in weird old age makeup.” Speaking of which, the aging makeup is quite good. Referring back to J Edgar again, I liked the aging work on Leonardo DiCaprio but Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts ended up with weird, stiff faces, particularly around their mouths. This doesn’t happen in The Iron Lady. Finally, hairstyling is within the purview of this category and the film does a nice job of marking the passage of time by tweaking Thatcher’s hairstyle. I understand they had quite a wig collection on this film!

ADAM

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

JARED

I don’t really have any criticisms here.  I think the people behind Albert Nobbs did a good job making Close and McTeer believable as men while not obscuring the fact that they were Glenn Close and Janet McTeer.  A whole lot of The Iron Lady focuses (inexplicably) on an old Margaret Thatcher.  The makeup team did a great job keep the audience in the moment by making Meryl Streep actually look like an elderly Margaret Thatcher.

But I’ll give the hardware to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2.  The team obviously did so much more, but I think making Ralph Fiennes virtually unrecognizable was really cool and extremely impressive.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

ADAM

Berenice Bejo.  (He is a man of a few words.)

BRIAN

This is the first of a series of posts where I am generally apathetic about the winner. The distance between my pick and my least favorite nominees in supporting actress is pretty narrow, so I won’t dwell on this bunch much. Missing in this group is Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (I don’t want to hear it, Jared), Helen McCrory in Hugo, and Allison Pill in Midnight in Paris. All would have been strong contenders for my pick but since all were ignored, here we go:

I didn’t like Albert Nobbs very much at all, and contrary to John’s crackpot theories about her being a ringer for the Babysitter Bandit from “The Simpsons”, Janet McTeer wasn’t anything revelatory in it. I actually was surprised that she wasn’t in it for longer, considering the buzz she had been getting. Melissa McCarthy was funny and stole the show in Bridesmaids, but this also didn’t really stick with me. Much like the movie is getting notice and recognition for writing a gross-out movie for females, McCarthy was nominated for playing the gross-out role usually portrayed by men. But just because its novel doesn’t mean its anything special.

As for The Help performances, I liked Chastain and Octavia Spencer in their respective roles. I was more disappointed to not see Bryce Dallas Howard nominated for playing against type and really chewing the scenery in the fun “Worst Racist Ever” role. Chastain had a tremendous year — I clearly would have preferred to see her nom’d for Take Shelter — so I think this is mostly a cumulative nod. Spencer wasn’t playing a very nuanced role, so she never got to show the depth her fellow cast member Viola Davis did.

My pick would go to Berenice Bejo — She was an adorable ingenue with heart, class, smarts and that came through with having much less screen time than Jean Dujardin. I’d be really pleased if she took home the Oscar, even though that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

JOHN

This slate of nominees sure shows of the year’s range of quirky characters. We’ve got the silent actress hamming it up, the over-the-top bubbly blonde, the sassy black maid, the woman dressed as a man, and the overweight weirdo from a buddy movie. With a group like that I get worried about distinguishing the acting from the written character. Of course the performer goes a long way in building a character… but it helps when the script gives them good lines. Still, it’s a fine group.

I guess I think of this most in regards to Melissa McCarthy. She steals a lot of scenes, but that’s the job the script gives her. I know McCarthy has some range. Check out the differences between her work in Bridesmaids compared to more softer roles in “Mike & Molly” or “Gilmore Girls.” I especially dug the confident bravado she brings to the character, but, like with many performers in the Apatow oeuvre, I feel like I can see the wheels turning in her head during more improvised scenes and she’s just spit-balling lines. So, I’m conflicted and sway back and forth.

Spencer will probably walk away with the Oscar, but I think I somewhat prefer Jessica Chastain. I can’t really explain what drew me to her and it may also have to do with her all around extraordinary year. If she got a nod for Take Shelter instead it would have been a slightly easier decision. Both are quite memorable in The Help and I think Chastain ends up displaying a little more range. Honestly, it’s possible I would even abstain in this category if I were a real voter since I don’t really care much who wins among this solid if not mind-blowing crop.

JARED

Sorry for pulling a Brian here, but I’m a little miffed Elle Fanning didn’t make the cut, especially in a year with a theme of Hollywood on Hollywood.  On a plane ride with access to Super 8 after I’d already seen it in theaters, I fat-fingeredly found my way to the scene around the train crash, where she first “acts” and where she pretends to be a zombie, just because she’s so good in them.

Without a doubt, the best performance of this lot is Berenice Bejo.  Her role required a wide range of emotions and the ability to express them both broadly and in a subtle manner.  Additionally, the character and movie required a good deal of physicality.  And get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about her dancing and just motion in general.  Unfortunately, I have a little bugaboo about category fraud and to me, Bejo is a clear lead of The Artist.  As such, I can’t give her my vote, sadly.

Jessica Chastain, like an increasingly impressive number of twenty-somethings, appeared on Veronica Mars, and thus will always have my respect.  I realize she pretty much “had” to be nominated, given her year, but I don’t buy that reasoning.  You want to celebrate someone for being solid in a bunch of movies that happened to be released in the same year?  Fine.  Create an award to honor it.  We did, sorta, doing a Laura Linney of the year a few years back.  But Oscar should be for a single performance.  And I just don’t see it here.  Chastain, to be sure, was fine in the role, but there’s nothing to distinguish her from, say, Bryce Dallas Howard.

If Janet McTeer had a few more scenes, I could see her atop my rankings.  I was particular impressed with how she seemed to move and have the presence of a man, particularly of her (presumably lower middle) class.  It was an interesting juxtaposition with Close’s more timid, androgynous Nobbs.

I love that Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination.  Just such an un-Oscar role.  Obviously having a good script helps a ton.  But comedy is an underappreciated talent, I think.  There’s so much that goes into timing and the ability to be funny on screen even after multiple takes.  And especially with physical comedy it is so tough not to go over the line and just look stupid.

But I’m going to go with the consensus (among awards-giver-outers, at least) and pip Octavia Spencer here.  It is a character type that doesn’t often receive Oscar love, so I’m glad to see it rewarded.  Spencer is, in large part, comic relief, but she does get a depth and some meaning to her character, aided in large part by the nuance she brings to it.  In a group of solid performances, she’s just a little bit stronger.

I saw Albert Nobbs the other night and rather enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting much but found the story and characters entertaining. I liked both Glenn Close and Janet McTeer in their nominated performances and it’s safe to say I haven’t seen another film like it. It’s also quite an uncomfortable film, not due to the gender politics but because Albert’s secret life has made him excruciatingly socially inept. It’s not an instant classic or anything and I’m not sure I came out of it with anything deeper to ponder, but it was still a good time and I’d recommend it.

But one thing kept sticking in my mind. Like the Ryan Phillippe forehead bump issue of 2007, I warn you that once I point this out the film may be ruined for you.

Janet McTeer looks just like Ms. Botz, aka the Babysitter Bandit, from The Simpsons!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the hair that really makes it but they kind of stomp around similarly too.

Here’s hoping I’m not nuts and this post attracts like minded people Googling “albert nobbs babysitter bandit” for years to come!

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