Monday, January 30, 2012

THE COLLAPSE OF THE ORIGINAL SONG OSCAR: A STUDY OF LAZINESS

In recent years, there's been notable snubs and curious nominations in the Academy Awards category for Best Original Song. Usually, any odd or in some cases, unworthy nominations were eventually muddled out and they'd select a suitable winner, (or in some cases, the most suitable winner among the nominees) however this year I'm not taking it anymore, 'cause this is the biggest abomination to the Award to date. Not only were songs by Elton John, Chris Cornell, Mary J. Blige, and Madonna (The Madonna song "Masterpiece," from her movie "W.E.," which won the Golden Globe, wasn't even on the Academy's shortlist) left off, but more intriguing, was how many songs did get nominated, a record low of only TWO! In case you're wondering, underneath is the link to the Academy press release with the shortlist of 39 songs that they choose the two from:

http://www.oscars.org/press/pressreleases/2011/20111219.html

Looking through the list, I'm just as surprised at how few of the films I've even heard of, (What the hell is "DAM999"?, which was apparently a film with three songs on the Academy shortlist?) but either way I find it hard to believe that they could only come up with two songs worthy of nominations. I find it hard to believe that 2 is the minimum! Many categories, even technical categories, require a minimum of three. You know, at one time, the Academy had a total of 14 Songs, yes you read that right, 14 songs, in one year, that were nominated! It was 1945, and the song "It Might as Well Be Spring," from the movie "State Fair," written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, beat out 13 other songs to win the Oscar. Now, the next year, they changed the rules, correctly so to a maximum of five songs, but this shows just how far this category has gone, or shall I say fallen. It's actually kinda interesting to look up the past winners and history of the Award. It's actually amazing how many famous songs were originally songs from movies. You'll probably recognize the song more than the movies they're from. "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Lullaby of Broadway," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da", "Thanks for the Memory," "Boogie Woogle Bugle Boy of Company B", "That Old Black Magic,"... and half of those songs, weren't even winners. (The list even gets more interesting when you look up the now defunct Original Song Score category, which includes winners like Prince and The Beatles.CORRECTION: The category was renamed "Best Musical" however the award has never been given out due to a lack of eligible films for the category.) Whether it's a song-and-dance Broadway caliber musical, or a song played during a montage or even if it's just over the end credits, music and movies are far more linked than people realize. Even silent movies, had scores that came with the films from town to town, to be played by either an orchestra or if it was a small town/theatre by a pianist, accompanied with the film. However, the original song category was at one point, one of the most special of Oscars. I used to love the category as a kid, because all of the kids movies seemed to either win or at least get nominated, and usually deservedly so, but what I really remember about the category isn't the songs that were nominated actually, but the performances of the songs at the Oscars. Sometimes, they'd push them all together, but usually, we got to hear at least part of the song, and many times, they went all out and gave us memorable performances to accompany the songs that were nominated. These were great performances usually, and in many cases, they were songs I had heard of, either from the movies, or many times, they were on the radio, and they were performed by the artists themselves. The 2001 Oscars are a good recent example. In fact, all five of these nominees are quite good songs, and in fact spread across the music spectrum rather nicely. The winner was Randy Newman, for "If I Didn't Have You," from "Monsters Inc." but he beat out Enya, for her song "May It Be," from "Lord of the Rings," "There You'll Be," from "Pearl Harbor," written by Diane Warren and was performed by Faith Hill, Sting, who had a beautiful song called "Until..." which was from "Kate & Leopold," and Sir Paul McCartney, who wrote the title track to "Vanilla Sky". I actually remember all those songs rather well, and I even remember the performances of the songs at the Oscars, particularly Randy Newman and John Goodman's performance. That's really what I always thought the Best Original Song Oscar was about, it was honoring those who are from a totally different art form, most of them successful outside of the movie industry, and taking a little time out from the normal boredom of the Oscars, to see a little show, listen to good music, and honor and thank them wonderful musicians for, even ever-so-briefly, helping in this more unusual art form of film. Yeah, occasionally there were musical songs that weren't exactly on the radio, but even then they were good songs, worthy of honoring, and often-the-case, they were still more famous for their work in other fields, like theatre. Carly Simon, Phil Collins, Steven Sondheim, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Eminem, Three 6 Mafia, Melissa Etheridge, and those are just some of the ones that have won in my lifetime. It's an impressive list. So what-the-hell happened that, that suddenly none of these people, and many others are unable to get nominations?

Well, let's first start with the obvious questions, how are the nominees chosen, who does nominate them, and also, how? The first is the who, who nominates. While they're are about 6,000 members of the A.M.P.A.S., they're each separated into different groups according to their skillset, There's an actors branch, there's a director's branch, a writer's branch, and so on, and there's a music branch, which is songwriters and composers, and they vote on both the Best Original Song, and Best Original Score Oscars. I can't be positive how many members of the branch their are exactly, but last year it was reported that there were 236, and they added three new members this year, so let's say there's 239, give-or-take. (If anybody happens to know the actual number, let me know.) Now, what exactly is an Original Song? When the Award first originated, the requirement it only had to be a song that was in a movie, but now it's a little more specific. Now, the song actually has to be written specifically for the motion picture. Now this is a little subjective. For instance, songs that might appear on the personal albums of some artists can be eligible, as long as it was originally written and is used in the movie. For instance, "Mrs. Robinson," from "The Graduate," actually wasn't written specifically for the film. It was written for Simon & Garfunkel's album, "Bookends". However, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's song "Falling Slowly," from the movie "Once," was deemed eligible, even though the song appeared on two other albums afterwards, it was originally written specifically for the film. Also, Original song, means both words, and music, have to be written for the movie. This is one of the reasons so few rap songs have ever been nominated, only two, Eminem's "Lose Yourself," from "8 Mile," and Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow", (both of which won the Oscar actually) despite the fact that some of the biggest rap songs of all-time came from movies, like Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" from the movie "Dangerous Minds," or Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," from "Do the Right Thing", both of which weren't eligible. So, they are in fact, very specific about what qualifies as an Original Song. Then, the members of the music branch vote. However the voting rules, and the manner in which they votes are one of the strangest of any Award. Now, most technical Awards, make-up, visual effects for instance, involve a ten-minute screening of the films deemed eligible in the category, and then usually vote on a predetermined number of nominees, of the shortlist, usually three or five, depending on the category, sometimes they're asked to be ranked, but no matter how it's counted, the ones with the most votes, gets the nominations. The Original Song category is different. Instead of a preference vote, the Academy members screen each song as apart of the film it's nominated for (Many think that alone gives preference to songs used as key parts of a movie, as oppose to songs that are the opening cues to the end credits) but they then rank each song, based on a scoring system. The scoring system involves giving songs a score between 10, the highest, 9.5, 9, 8.5, 8, 7.5, 7, 6.5, and 6, the lowest number. The scores are then averaged out. The key average, is 8.25. If a song can get an average score of 8.25, up to five nominations, the maximum amount allowed, it gets a nomination. If there's only one song, that gets that magic number of 8.25, then that, and the next highest get the nomination. If no song gets that number, than there won't be any nominations in the category. That's an interesting point that's never brought up, there's a possibility that the Award won't be given out at all! There's a two-nomination, minimum, with a possibility of five, or a possibility of not giving out the Award at all, but instead of a system, where the most votes get the nomination, it's based on a system of averages? Now this explains why there's only two nominations this year. It's a stupid system that should be change completely.

However, on the same token, it's been this way for years, and only recently has the Award run into these kinds of problems? Yeah, the system is screwed up, but it doesn't explain how the branch has been voting so strangely in recent years. How come in recent years, there's almost always been five nominees, usually of the highest quality and now suddenly, were down to two, with the same scoring system? I don't have an answer for this. Unless, the Academy actually releases the ballots of all the Music Branch's members over the last recent years, I can only speculate. From all the evidence I can gather, and look through, the only speculation that I've come up with is that somehow, the Branch has just become lazy. If anybody else can find a better explanation, I'll be glad to hear it, but the only thing I can come up with is that, in recent years, the Music Branch on both the Executive and the Member level, when coming up with the nominees for the Award, have become lazy. This is evident in what actually has been, the only recent rule change in the category. In 2008, the Academy deemed that only two songs from a movie can be nominated in the category in the same year. This rule didn't exist before, and previously was never a particular problem until recently. The only other two times that a movie got more than three nomination was in '91 when "Beauty and the Beast," got three nominations, for the songs "Belle," "Be Our Guest," and the title track, which earned Oscars for Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and in '94, when "The Lion King," earned nominations for "The Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," which won Oscars for Elton John and Tim Rice. Nobody ever argues the legitimacy of those nominations. Not only are they from two of the most beloved of films in the Disney canon, but almost everybody agrees they were deserving nominees. It can happen sometimes, especially with musicals, they can have more than just one really good song. However, when one movie earned three Best Original Songs nominations in both 2007, with "Enchanted," and especially in 2006, when "Dreamgirls," matched the feat, it seemed clear that something else was going on. The "Dreamgirls," nominations, for the songs "Listen," "Love You I Do," and "Patience," each had music written by Henry Kreiger (Each song had different lyricists) were unusual first of all, because most of the memorable songs from in the film were from the original Broadway Musical, which debuted a couple decades earlier. It's not unusually that one or two songs be written for a movie adaptation of a known musical, the most famous example is probably "Hopelessly Devoted to You," which earned an Oscar nomination after being written for the film adaptation of "Grease", but three songs is particularly unusual, especially went they weren't particularly good. They all subsequently lost to Melissa Etheridge's song "I Need to Wake Up," for the film "An Inconvenient Truth". The next year, it happened again, this time with the film "Enchanted," getting three nominations for Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz for the songs "Happy Working Song," "So Close," and "That's How You Know". Somewhat better and more memorable songs granted, but again, all three lost however, this time to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for "Falling Slowly," from the film "Once". This was when the Academy changed the rule, with the intentions, I believe to encourage the Branch to spread the nominations around to more films, and preferably for more interesting nominees and performers for the show. However, it didn't happen. The next year, there was only three nomination, and two of them, "O Saya," and the eventual winner "Jai Ho," were from the same movie, "Slumdog Millionaire". Both songs' music was written by A.R. Rahman, and he beat Peter Gabriel for his song "Down to Earth," from "Wall-E". The next year, again, two songs were nominated from the same movie, Randy Newman's "Almost There," and "Down in New Orleans," from the film "The Princess and the Frog", a third nomination, a third nomination "Take It All," from the film "Nine", was also a song from a movie that was an adaptation of a musical, where the best songs were originally on written for the Broadway show. To the entire Academy's credit, when they get to vote after the nominations are out (Not just the Branch, the entire Academy votes on the category once the nominees are out), they've usually Awarded, if not the best song of the nominees, they've at least given to a more-than-worthy winner, with the song "The Weary Kind", the Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett scribed song from the film "Crazy Heart," winning over those suspicious nominations, but yet, the lack of other nominees that seemed to be more Oscar-worthy, at least credential-wise at minimum. Just looking up some of the other Award show nominations and winners in the recent past, here's a list short list of songs that weren't nominated for an Oscar.

"You Have Seen the Last of Me"- Diane Warren,  "Burlesque"
"Bound to You"- Christina Aguilera, Sia Furler and Samuel Dixon- "Burlesque"
"Shine"-John Legend, "Waiting for Superman"
"All is Love"- Karen O and Nick Zinner, "Where the Wild Things Are"
"(I Want to) Come Home"-Paul McCartney, "Everybody's Fine"
"There's a Place For Us"- Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsay, et. al - "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader"
"Cinema Italiano"-Maury Yeston- "Nine"
"Another Way to Die"-Alicia Keys and Jack White, "Quantom of Solace"
"I Thought I Lost You"-Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele- "Bolt"
"Once in a Lifetime"- Beyonce Knowles, et al.- "Cadillac Records"
"Guaranteed"-Eddie Vedder- "Into the Wild"
"Gran Torino"- Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullem, et al.- "Gran Torino"
"Grace is Gone"- Clint Eastwood, Carol Baker Sager- "Grace is Gone"
"Despidida"- Shakira, Antonio Pinto- "Love in the Time of Cholera"
"Walk Hard"- Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly- "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"
"Ordinary Miracle"-Sarah Maclaughlin- "Charlotte's Web"
"The Neighbor"- The Dixie Chicks- "Shut Up and Sing'
"My Little Girl- Tim McGraw- "Flicka"
"Never Gonna Break My Faith- Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige- "Bobby"
"The Song of the Heart"-Prince- "Happy Feet"
"A Love That Will Never Grow Old"- Bernie Taupin, Gustavo Santaolalla-Brokeback Mountain"
"Wunderking"- Alanis Morissette- "The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe"
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway"- Mel Brooks- "The Producers"
"Old Habits Die Hard"- Mick Jagger, David A. Stewart, - "Alfie"
"Million Voices"- Wyclef Jean, Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessias, et. al. - "Hotel Rwanda"

And I just went back to 2005, and I actually did skip a few. In fact those are just the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, I didn't even look at any of the other Award shows. I find it hard to imagine that most the songs nominated in the Oscars Best Picture category were better and then most of these songs that they passed over, and even if they aren't, most of them would be fun to see performed at the Oscars. At it's Oscars isn't just the giving out of Awards for film, it's a show! That's why we love it when people like Billy Crystal host this thing, he makes it entertaining. The Performances of the Best Song nominees, should not be one of the most entertaining parts of the evening, but one of the most fun, and the most joyful. Once upon a time, the Academy went to great lengths for entertaining music performances of the nominated songs, that were as true to the songs as possible. Bob Dylan once performed on satellite to perform his Oscar-winning song, "Things Have Changed," because he was touring in Australia at the time. Now to mention some of the stage spectacle they had performed. (I posting a youtube clip of one of my favorite Oscar Best Song performances below!) I have every belief they'll go to the wall for these two songs, but while were at it, nominate some songs! All those songs I just listed, could've been played at the Oscars, none of them were. That's a helluva a concert the Academy has cheated the audience out of! Maybe I have no ear for music, and I'm spouting out of my ass, and the Academy has been getting the nominations right for the last few years, but I'm not seeing it, I'm not hearing it. This Award has gone from the most fun to the most boring in the last decade, and now, it's down to two nominations, and it's possible under the current rules, to not have the category at all.

A.M.P.A.S., I've waited long enough to say something about this, you gotta change this now! Not just the rules, not just the voting method, you gotta change the mindset of the Music Branch's members, all 239, of however many there are, cause this is a deeper problem than a screwed up voting system. Something inside that branch is leading to these constant snubs or good songs and major artists, and some of the ones nominated instead border on bizarre. I think the branch has become lazy; I hope I'm wrong about that, but whatever the problem is and whatever you have to do, and with all respects to this year's nominees, but don't let this happen again, or the category is going to completely lose any shred of credibility it has left.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "BREATHLESS"

BREATHLESS (1960)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard based on the story by Francois Truffaut



I have run into a problem here. In order to first explain to you “Breathless” (aka A Bout de Souffle), and it’s importance and essentiality, you first must have a film trivia book, then a film history book, and then you must be an expert in film production and film production techniques, as well as probably a storytelling through screenplays guide, and than once you have mastered all of this, you’ll have to forget every bit of it, than you’ll be ready for the work of Jean-Luc Godard. In case you’re wondering, I’m almost there. Not there yet, but I’m close. Godard, a former film critic, along with Francois Truffaut, for the French Periodical “Cahier du Cinema,” tried to raise the level of film as an art form for by reviewing films under the Auteur Theory. (To all non-cinephiles out there, basically what that means is that they were the first people to declare that the director is the author of a film, so they studied directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston as though they were studying the novels of Charles Dickens) Afterwards they became filmmakers themselves, and are now considered two of the leaders of the “French New Wave.” (That takes too long to explain, just look that up on your own time) Beginning first with Truffaut’s autobiographical “The 400 Blows,” and Godard’s tongue-and-cheek anti-crime thriller, “Breathless,” along with other such filmmakers as Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and even earlier works from Jean-Pierre Melville (who has a cameo in “Breathless,” playing himself), would revolutionize filmmaking all across the world.

To tell you the story of the film would be to tell you what one would think are the important points of the film, but Godard isn’t that interested in what would normally be underlined in a movie like this, even though he makes it very clear to us that we are watching a movie. The movie begins with our-… well,  I about to say protagonist, or antagonist, or hero, but neither one of those fit. Michel (French movie star, Jean-Paul Belmondo), dresses in oversized sunglasses and cigarettes, along with his Bogart hat, who he obsesses over steals a car, looks directly into the camera and tells us what he loves about France, and then tells us to “get stuffed.” At least that’s how it’s translated in the subtitles, but that’s not exactly what he tells us to do to ourselves. Then he pulls over, and shoots a chasing cop with a gun he finds in a glove department. This could be a half-hour of film. Instead, it’s about two minutes, and then he allows for twenty minute segments of a conversation between him and one of his girlfriends, an American Sorbonne student, Patricia (Jean Seberg), who sells copies of the New York Herald-Tribune along the Champs-Elysse. The conversation isn’t much important, even when she says she thinks she’s pregnant, it barely a plot point, if you can call it that at all. She says something he tries to get her to sleep with him, and that’s the gist of the conversation.   
           
The influential jump-cutting of scenes to speed up the film and give it a jagged, detached feeling has inspired dozens of filmmakers. (You can directly link Godard to Guy Ritchie.) Yet, the editing was a last second decision, just done to shorten the film’s length. The movie can be considered a comedy if one chooses, there’s certainly enough jokes, including many movie posters and references to other films. Even Michel’s alias Laszlo Kovacs, is a reference to an earlier film character of his. Godard loves movies, and here he celebrates all the conventions of the typical gangster movie, but breaks every one of those rules. Michel isn’t the Bogart-like gangster who always gets away. He’s an average thug, with little moral value, who is only casually aware that cops would be after him for killing a cop. Notice Godard play a small part in the film as an informer. He see Michel’s picture in the paper, and then he sees him in the car, and then tells the police. He’s literally leading his character to his demise in his own film. It’s known that Godard improvised many shots on the day of shooting, even shooting in the middle of a busy street, but don’t think Godard doesn’t realize what he’s doing. With Godard, it’s not so much what happens in his films, but it’s how he decides to tell the story.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS: EDITION #21: "MONEYBALL", "FILM SOCIALISME", "WINNIE-THE-POOH", "PUTTY HILL", "SUBMARINE," "L'AMOUR FOU," and MORE!

Sorry for the delay in this week's movie reviews. It's been a long week, and we're still all (aka me), are still coming down a bit from the Academy Awards Nominations being announced. However, without movies, we'd have no Oscars, so it's back to movies this week. Also, I wanted to thank all of you who've read and supported our blog. We've just passed our 2,000 hit, and we got this second thousand a lot quicker than we did our first. We're constantly growing, and we hope to continue doing so in the future. So, follow us on twitter for blog updates, subscribe to me on my facebook page, and/or follow the blog through googlefriend, and tell all your friends to do the same. Thank you.

Now, onto this week's reviews!

MONEYBALL (2011) Director: Bennett Miller

3 STARS

When I read "Moneyball," by Michael Lewis a few years ago, I found it fascinating. I read it as a longtime baseball fan, (Go Phillies!) who found the achievements of the Oakland A's franchise in recent years unusual and curious, and it became more interesting when the system they were using to finance the team and players came to light. Essentially, they were completely rewriting every rule about how to measure a players value and worth. Even though the book was heavily statistical, it also focused on the A's GM, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), and how exactly this former can't-miss prospect turned into the most inventive and hated GM in sports. Saying that, I also thought that I would never see "Moneyball," turned into a movie. The book, which details  Billy Beane's story, however it focuses on his more internal emotions than his actions, and is, well, it literally is inside baseball, is filled with statistical anomalies and concepts, that even a baseball fan like me is still trying to fully comprehend. This led me into a strange quandry while watching the movie. One, I am firm believer that you should almost never read the book until after you see the movie. Yes, this one goes against movie people's typical ideas, but personally and as a film critic, I should be giving you a film review, and I've already begun this one, with a book report instead. They're two different art forms; certain things that can be well-explained in books, inner thoughts for instance, are difficult to pull off on film, which is a visual medium, and second, and now a bigger problem, since I have read the book, now I can insert pieces of the book from my memory into the movie, when in reality they aren't there, and aren't there for a reason. I think the best way to watch "Moneyball," is to watch it with somebody, who comes at this movie completely blind. Someone who's not a baseball fan, has no knowledge of what happened during the 2002 season, and hasn't read the book. Normally I don't want to gauge others' reactions, but in this case, I fear that I might in fact be too biased coming into a film. So, what I did before writing this review, was watch the movie twice, first alone, and then with somebody who didn't know the entire story going in. (It was a little hard on short notice to find somebody who didn't know at least part of the story) On the first viewing, I admired how they were able to adapt what is really not an easily adaptable text into a feature, which also meant that I found myself in constant comparison to the book. On the second viewing, with others, I was able to more carefully study the filmmaking itself. What I found on this viewing intrigue me. I actually liked the film a little less, and found some far more questionable choices that I originally overlooked. For one thing, the pacing is strangely awkward. At times Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), the quiet Yale whiz kid who Billy picks from Cleveland after realizing he's analyzing players differently from everybody else, seems to switch almost at the plot's will from this computer geek know-it-all to a sudden devil's advocate when Billy is in crises mood. It seemed out-of-character more inner conflict to suddenly arise from a man of figures like him. I think they struggled to find a pace. The movie feels a lot like certain scenes that might have been at different parts of the movie structurally at one point, were suddenly moved to completely different parts of the film, for emotional effect. I'm not even talking the flashback here, just scenes of characters arriving to work and walking down the hallway seem to be placed in the movie, to adjust for a lull in the actual scene that's going on, and that we soon arrive back to. Also, while Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin are two of the best writers in Hollywood, I'm pretty sure they should never work together again. They're styles of writing and strengths are so different, they seem to be in conflict with each other. It seems like they each wrote their own scripts, and then they started picking and choosing the parts from they liked best. The movie is the second feature film directed by Bennett Miller; his first was the great movie "Capote," which earned Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar. Hoffman has a supporting role here playing A's manager Art Howe, and I think it's arguably the best performances in the film. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill have both earned Oscar nominations for their performances, they're both really good here at what they're given. I think there's a lot of talent onscreen, they're all just in a project that's just a little over all their heads, and they're doing anything they can think of to scrape through a movie. That in of itself is interesting to watch at times, as they sharply switch focus from one subplot to another, trying to eek out a full story. I'm a little surprised "Moneyball," sneaked into the Best Picture Oscar category. It might look like an Oscar film, with stars, director, screenplay, but I don't think they're looking at the parts they should be looking at.

FILM SOCIALISME (2011) Director: Jean-Luc Godard

2 STARS

I've re-read the summary of "Film Socialisme," of imdb.com about a dozen times thinking, "Was that what the hell that was about?". It might be as good an explanation as any, but I'll be damned if I could've come up with that, or any particular explanation of "Film Socialisme". This is supposedly Jean-Luc Godard's final film. He was one of the leaders of the French New Wave with movies like "Breathless," "A Woman is a Woman," "Pierrot Le Fou," and numerous others. Sometimes I think he might be the greatest filmmaker alive. Other days, I think his experiments just go awry. He is not for the casual filmgoer. You practically have to be an expert in film just to follow and understand most of the films he makes. While many of his contemporaries like Truffaut, Rohmer, Melville, would go to a more classical route, Godard has remained film's insistent experimentalist, searching for what is true cinema. The core essence of it. "Film Socialisme," begins on a boat. The fact that it happens to be the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that they're currently trying to fish out of the Mediterranean right now, makes the timing of my review coincidental, but other than that, I have no particular understanding of the film other than that. There's a family with a llama that occasionally has to go to the gast station to refill just like their car. At one point, the DVD menu pops up. These constant ticks winks and nods to film can be fun and insucient at times. Godard's character are always aware they're in a movie, or at least they should be. The movie's subtitle aren't even giving us clues. Unless you speak about five languages or so, you'll never get every part of the film. The subtitles are never more than three words at once. Sometimes I appreciate the technique and the style, other times I didn't and I just tuned out and didn't miss much. If Godard has finished making movies, than this might as well be the one that he goes out on, trying to encompass nearly every basic little aspect of film in a movie, to show what a movie is. His last words on the screen, is "No Comment," instead of "the end." His last remarks is made on the film. As for my thoughts on "Film Socialisme"? Nope, I don't have any comment either.

WINNIE-THE-POOH (2011) Directors: Steven J. Anderson and Don Hall

0 STARS

What the hell happened here?! How did they not get "Winnie-the-Pooh," right? This is one of those cases where they apparently knew the words, but had no music. Correction, this movie had way too much music. Pretty much everything that could've gone wrong with "Winnie-the-Pooh," and a few things that I didn't think were even possible to get wrong about "Winnie-the-Pooh," they got wrong here. It's disturbing. I've seen probably every version of "Winnie-the-Pooh," you can imagine. TV series, most of the movies, many of A.A. Milne books... I've even seen wonderfully told tales of the Hundred Acres woods where actors were dressed in large costumes of the characters. I think it can work it any form, if it's done well. I have nothing against Disney going back to the more classical hand-drawn animation for this, and show the real Christopher Robin's bedroom filled with the pluff animals of the characters, but I don't need to know that imagination's involved to understand the emotional peril of Eeyore missing his tail. Did they think kids might get the wrong idea and start trying to hide their own pet's tales if they didn't know that they're imagined stuffed animals? If I thought about the logistics of it, I guess I would've figured out subconsciously that conceit, but all I ever thought about was that if I was a donkey and lost my tail, I'd probably feel lousy about myself. A lot like Eeyore. The whole appeal of "Winnie-the-Pooh" is not simply the characters, but the entire whimsical, but quiet and slow-paced neighborhood feel we get by visiting the Hundred Acre Woods. Sure, Pooh likes hunny, (purposefully misspelled there) but in no world would Pooh have a psychodelic song-and-dance about it that could almost be described as orgasmic. That number looked like it belonged in "Dumbo". (Those numbers barely worked in that movie really) We meet the characters, and they help each out with their problems, and worries. It's possible that they can mistake a note and think Christopher Robin was kidnapped by the Backson, but there's no way that Winnie-the-Pooh would accidentally run into a paragraph while searching for that elusive hunnypot. This whole movie felt wrong. Whether it was a slight accent on a character, the need to explain such things as what the 100-acre woods is, the fact that after the ten-minutes of credits (Which make the movie only 53 minutes, instead of 63), that we finally do meet the Backson, none of it felt right. Maybe this is material that should finally move to motion-capture. If they can do that and be true to the wonderful Van Allsburg illustrations in "The Polar Express," then they can do it, and keep true to A.A. Milne's visions. (Or for a more recent example, keeping true to Herge's Tintin in "The Adventures of Tintin") It's amazing how by just being a little bit off on everything can make something so magical become so awful. Zooey Deschanel sings a pretty song at the end. That's about the only nice comment I have on the film. I knew at one point, I'd see a movie so bad that I'd have to give it zero stars, but I never would've guessed it'd be this one. Maybe I'm putting too many of my own expectations of "Winnie-the-Pooh," into the film, but I don't see Pooh Bear at all in this film.

PUTTY HILL (2010) Director: Matthew Porterfield

4 1/2 STARS



"Putty Hill," is certainly a unique film. It seems to be a documentary. At times, an unseen filmmaker asks questions to the characters, and they answer. We learn some things about Cory, a young man who lived in this lower-class Baltimore neighborhood whose death by a heroin overdose has effected the neighborhood. In that last sentence, I was looking for the correct adverb to end it, but I'm not sure what that word would be. It's just effected the neighborhood in those ways that a neighborhood would be effected by it, if someone like Cory, and that is the point the movie makes. Most everybody seems to have known him, many people show up for his funeral. Some have things to say, nothing particularly poetic or overly articulate, but much of it is powerful. There's no known actors in the movies, and most of them have never had any film experience until now. That's the correct choice. It might have been a budget, but it's correct anyway. Sometimes we drop the documentary world, and just simply follows the lives of these characters for a bit. The whole film takes place over a few days. It's got a naturalistic feel about it. Nothing that particularly feels like anything I've seen in a scripted film before. Well, this film wasn't scripted either. Basically it was improvised, but it was acted. It's hard to explain "Putty Hill". It's powerful, emotional. It invites us into the world of Cory, the places he went, the people he knew and hung out with, his family, and at the beginning and the end, we see his mostly empty apartment where he ODed, and what do we find out? Not that much really. He's a junkie who overdosed. A lot of people knew him, but nobody really did. Director Matthew Porterfield has created a mosiac of a neighborhood stays in that complicated area between mourning and live going on as usual, neither one of those statuses are particularly desireable. A young man from the neighborhood overdoses, and nobody knows how to react.

SUBMARINE (2011) Director: Richard Ayoade

2 STARS

The critical acclaim and popularity of Richard Ayoade's film "Submarine," which most recently includes a BAFTA nomination for Best Debut, is baffling to me. The movie takes place in the annoying mind of the annoying Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), whose delusional voiceover scratches over this movie like nails on Holden Caulfield's chalkboard. His parents Lloyd and Jill (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) are in a rough patch in their marriage, and mostly leave Oliver to his own devices. Lloyd is a college professor on, studying, something about fish that's complicated to explain, apparently (Summarize Oliver's words, which I really shouldn't be doing) while his mother is slowly becoming attracted to an ex-boyfriend of hers who's come back into their lives, a hack motiviational speaker, Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine, hopefully having fun with his part). In the meantime, he's a jerk of a high school kid who pushes people he used to make out with into large puddles of water in the woods until the student transfers to another school. He seems to map out his strategy to survive high school as though they're essential requirements that he performs as chores as much as hormonal rages. I can't describe the voiceover in this film, except to say that I'd be so much happier without it. It's like if Holden Caulfield was delusional meets Sheldon Cooper's analytical mind. (I know, I already used a Holden Caulfield reference, but the movie is begging to be compared to Sallinger.) He sets his sights on a classmate, Jordana (Yasmin Paige, a rare bright spot) who's a wannabe badass that gets passed around from bully-to-bully, that would probably have knocked Oliver on his ass if she wasn't going through a roughpatch at the time. Oliver's determined to lose his virginity to her. Why exactly, I'm not sure. Maybe to be popular, but it doesn't seem like that's gonna happen. Maybe this material works better in the Joe Dunthorne novel it's based on. It comes off as pressing and forceful. It made me want to bang against the wall until the movie was over. Despite some good performances, this movie relies on whether or not you're gonna like to hang around Oliver Tate for an hour and a half. I didn't like the kid, so I didn't like the movie.

L'AMOUR FOU (2011) Director: Pierre Thoretton

2 1/2 STARS

One of the things that happens when someone dies is that somebody has to go through all their stuff. It's essentially all that left of somebody, all that one has acquired before their death. Their were moments during "L'Amour Fou," where a documentary about the iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, mostly told through the eyes of his lifelong lover Pierre Berge, where I thought about the end of the "Citizen Kane," and his massive collection of statues and other items, all in the mansion he built to segregate himself from the rest of the world. Yves Saint Laurent was a very private man himself. So private that even his lover seems to have trouble really describing him outside of generalities for much of the movie. He actually seem more at home describing some of the great paintings and sculptures that he and several others are carefully removing from their home. They're going to be sold at an auction. Most of the items garner values hundreds of thousands of dollar each. Saint Laurent revolutionized the fashion industry. He was trained under Christian Dior, took over the House of Dior when he passed, and soon started his own company. Pretty much any woman wearing so much as a trenchcoat owes a great deal to Yves Saint Laurent, and that's one of many revolutionary accomplishments in the world of fashion he's responsible for. In old videos and some interviews, we see the dozens of fashions lines and shows he created, all the while, he privately struggled with everything from drinking to addiction. I think we learn a few things about Yves Saint Laurent by the end of the movie. Not enough for me to recommend it; the movie didn't really get interesting to me near the end. I guess this was as much as a long song as it is a biodoc, maybe I would've preferred a biodoc. I don't know, maybe its good that such a private public figure had a more personal movie made about him, by those who knew him best.

TOPAZ (1969) Director: Alfred Hitchcock

4 1/2 STARS

"Topaz," was one of Alfred Hitchcock late-career experimental films. It's not so much suspenseful, as it is, tension-filled. It takes place during the Cold War, right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. A high-ranking Russian official defects to the United States, where he is then questioned about all he knows. It's a question of how much he knows, and there's the possibility that he might be a double-agent, so he and his family are kept hidden. "Topaz," is a complicated spy thriller that travels all across the globe, including to Cuba to uncover a secret French spy ring called Topaz, that works for the Russians. It's complicated, and it's hard to sometimes follow all the action, but the action continually moves forward anyway. In many ways, it feels more like a movie that would've been made now. The movie Hitchcockian suspense sequence involves two spies who are trying to escape after being spotted, and some of the Cuban guards are after them. Some of the more intriguing ones involve the beginning conversations with the defector, as he's reluctant to give up information, and they have to continually pry out what he knows. I think it's unclear whether he even knows the impact of what he knows. Strange how modern it feels. Even the scenes in Cuba don't seem like movie sets. I wonder if Hitchcock might have been influenced by someone like Melville who made great crime/spy thrillers around this time. It was the first film made after the famous Truffaut interview was published. It would become one of his last films. It strange how intrisically hard-to-follow the story is. Most of Hitchcock's great suspense comes from feelings of empathy of his characters, who we've been following from the beginning. "Topaz," doesn't have that benefit, and yet, we can't take our eyes off it. There's a lot of actors, some stars even, but they blend into this film mostly. There's no Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant protagonist that we can easily follow. Frederick Stafford plays Andre Devereux, the French agent who's basically been pawned off by America to follow up on the claims, he's probably the closest to a protagonist we have. Makes sense though, Cary Grant showing up in a spy movie would be noticeable. Based on actual events, "Topaz," is one of the best movies that gives us a full sense of the Cold War, and how it was fought. It's probably more of an interesting anomoly in the Hitchcock canon than one of his very best films, but I think it shows that Hitchcock could really have done any kind of film he wanted. It makes me wonder if he was around today, I wonder if he'd have made more movies like "Topaz".

CELL 211 (2009) Director: Daniel Monzon

4 STARS

Not released theatrically in the U.S., "Cell 211," won 8 Goya Awards (Spain's equivalent to the Oscar), and I can see why. It's a powerful twist on a couple different genres. It's a prison film; it's a hostage movie; it a spy movie even, and it's even a commentary on the media, and a few other things as well. The day before his first day of work as a prison guard, Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) comes in to work to get a lay of the land, and make a good impression with his fellow co-workers. When a piece of the wall suddenly falls on him, and knocks him unconscious, they place him in cell 211, which was recently vacated in order to get help, and deal with a situation in the prison. When he awakens, he prison is in a riot. Most of the guards have either been killed or are capture under threat of death. A leader named Malamadre (Luis Tosar), is smart and respected in the prison, and this is not his first prison riot. Juan's only chance at survival, is to go in disguise as a fellow convict, who's just arrived and place in the vacant cell. So much happens from this simple premise. There's the typical cutting between numerous locations and groups of characters, police, press, the riot going on outside, Juan Oliver's pregnant wife (Marta Etura), who's greatly concerned by the news reports and footage plus continual dissent and indecision by some of the inmates, some curious as to Juan Oliver's presence. A lot happens in this film, and all in the moment, seems plausible. There's many different point of dramatic intrigue, too many to count. It's hard to fully keep up with some of the characters, but that's okay. There's some great tension as this chess game between the police and the inmates devolves into a world where the line between good guy and bad guy, gets all-but-erased. It's strange the decisions we make. All Juan did was show up to work, a day early.

JANE EYRE (1944) Director: Robert Stevenson

3 1/2 STARS

After watching the latest film adaptation of "Jane Eyre," a few months back, directed by Cary Fukanaga and starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, (My review of that film I posted earlier) I thought I should go back and watch the most revered film version of the Brontes classic. This one start Joan Fontaine as the title character, and Orson Welles as a perfectly casted Edward Rochester of Thornhill Hall. Since both films seem to basically tell the same story, I have to presume that both are pretty accurate adaptions of the novel, which I somehow I never had to read in high school, so I kinda missed it. For the most part, I also had the same basic criticisms of the new version as I do for this version of "Jane Eyre". It's somewhat easier for me to believe in this version that Jane Eyre will fall for Mr. Rochester so easily. There's a submissive nature about Jane Eyre that only seems to appear when Mr. Rochester is around. Outside of this friendship/relationship, it almost comes close to being completely against her character in other scenes. I never fully did buy into their romance; it seems like just as Jane Eyre's becoming a cold and frigid woman whose instincts are survival, she suddenly bows to this man, whose presence is large but who somehow always seems to have the world on his shoulders. I think subconsciously, Jane must recognize this, but when the big "secret of the house" gets revealed, she's shocked and doesn't know how to react, but her survival instincts kick in and she leaves. It never made a lot of sense, and for that reason, like the first film, the middle seems to completely lag for me. It's a still a good story, and this is a good film. This one was directed by Robert Stevenson. His early career and his later career couldn't be more different, starting in more classic films, "Jane Eyre," easily being the best, he switched to directing television at the beginning of the medium, and then became Disney's 1st call director. "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Love Bug," and the other Herbie movies, "Old Yeller," "The Absent-Minder Professor,"... he even earned an Oscar nomination one year for probably his most famous film "Mary Poppins". His body of work look more like three different directors than one. Other than that, the movie didn't do much for me, although it did keep me interested the whole way through. It's starts-out good, slows in the middle, and then has a really good ending, just like the book, and other movie. If you like the book, you'll probably like the film, and if you don't, well, you can at least admire it as an adaptation.

BUG (2007) Director: William Friedkin

2 STARS

"Bug," was advertised as a horror movie from the man who directed "The Exorcist," many years ago. While Friedkin did get an Oscar nomination directing that film, he's actually rarely gone back to the horror genre, and "Bug," is not so much a horror film, as it is a filmed play. The play, by Tracy Letts, who also adapted the screenplay, almost starts out like something Sam Shepherd would've written as a comanion piece to "Fool For Love," but devolves into something else completely. It begins with Agnes (Ashley Judd), getting strange phone calls to her motel. Nobody's ever on the other line, but she suspects her recently-released-from-prison ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick Jr.) is behind them. He killed a man, and now he expects her to come willingly back into their arms, although their past is deeper than it first seems. She has an occasional fuck buddy in R.C. (Lynn Collins), who work together tending a lesbian bar, and during the beginners of one of her lost weekends, she brings along a patron named Peter (Michael Shannon, always up for being creepy) to hang out with them, and eventually he sleeps on Agnes's floor for the night. He, has the Army looking for them, claiming that they've inserting mind-controls bugs, yes, actual bugs into his skin, as research. People seem to legitimately be after them. Helicopters fly overhead at unusual times, and at one point, a Dr. Sweet (Brian F. O'Byrne), comes in, warning Agnes that he needs to go. At this point though, Alice has bought into his claims. They're motel room is soon completely pesticided  and covered in aluminum foil from head-to-toe. Most of the movie takes place in the motel room so it has that feel of a play that I normally like in most movies. Friedkin's directed play adaptations before, most famously "The Boys in the Band," and he likes this rather intimate way of filming. Normally I do too, but I have a feeling this works belongs better on the stage. In a theatre, we can get involved with the characters more personally; they're right in our face, and have more of an invested interest in them. We can wonder more whether or not Peter is delusional or mentally-disturbed, or if he's dead-serious about the bugs, who's become an unwilling expert. Watching it as a movie, it starts out interesting, but by the end, we've watch one crazy person turn another relatively sane person, even crazier. I might go see the play next time it's performed somewhere around here, but I'm not sure the material works in this medium.

EL CANTANTE (2007) Director: Leon Ichaso

3 STARS

I really knew nothing about Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthonny) going into this movie. I don't particularly listen to salsa music, or most music for that matter that's in another language, although I probably should. After watching "El Cantante," which translates to "The Singer," the title of one of his more famous songs, I know a little more, was certainly impressed with his talent, or at least the talent of Marc Anthony, himself a major Latin music artist, who's had far more acting experience than most people realize. He was on Broadway years before he was famous. The movie, based on a documentary interview given by Hector's wife Puchi (Jennifer Lopez), begin with Hector leaving his family in Puerto Rico, and moving to New York, joing Willie Colon (John Ortiz) and becoming famous as the singer for the Fania All-Stars. After that, the material basically becomes the stuff of most music biopics, or "Behind the Music," episodes, but it's still pretty intriguing. Jennifer Lopez reminds me again, off just how great an actress she really is. The movie cuts between her as the older Puchi giving the interview, and her perception of Hector, which at times might stretch the truth, but then again, maybe the movie is also taking some license. Lavoe had some rough times though. He was a junkie, who was never around for his kid. He had to be dragged out of bed after a bender by girfriend, and taken to their wedding. At one point, he falls off a six-story building, and that's not what killed him. He died a few years later from AIDS, which he contracted through his heroin addiction. There's one thing the film did that was interesting. When he sang, there was floating English translations of many of his songs. They gave me context, and a better appreciation of the music (Many of the songs, when translated I found to be quite good), but I don't know if I need it to appreciate the music and life of Hector Lavoe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

OSCAR NOMINATION REACTIONS! GOT BECHIR, MARA, "THE TREE OF LIFE," RIGHT, DUMBFOUNDED BY "EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE," AND OTHER REACTIONS



I should've known that something was going on when they started the Best Picture category with a film that begins with a W. I've gotten some predictions right that I bet many of you didn't, but a lot of others that completely through me, but nothing more shocking than the 9th film to be announced as a Best Picture nominee. Well, it's all in the books now. We're going Award by Award, probably skipping the shorts until I get a chance to see them (sidebar:, that might not happen. Sorry shorts)

(Note: There'll be a star next to all the predictions I got right, 'cause while a lot has pissed me off so far, I want to gloat about a few other)
BEST PICTURE
*The Artist
*The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
*The Help
*Hugo
*Midnight in Paris
*Moneyball
*The Tree of Life
1/2* War Horse

I predicted eight would get nominated, I was off by one. (I did mention that if there was 9 or 10, that "War Horse," would be in. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," was the only one I thought would be nominated that wasn't. I won big money for "The Tree of Life," but I don't think anybody predicted "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." Even the BAFTAs ignored that one. Hasn't been doing well at any Award shows up to this point, and the critical reception has been terrible. (And twitter reception hasn't been good either.) I posted 13 other films that I thought hypothetically could get a Best Picture nomination, and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," wasn't on that list! They did this two years ago to me, when I had written down over 35 films I thought would be nominated, and still they managed to find one I didn't think was even possible. (That film was "The Blind Side," and most intelligent people who actually saw it, couldn't believe it was nominated either.)

BEST ACTOR
*Demian Bichir-"A Better Life"
*George Clooney-"The Descendants"
*Jean Dujardin-"The Artist"
Gary Oldman-"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
*Brad Pitt-"Moneyball"

Two big shocks here, although one I predicted! I had one last look at the nominees yesterday, and somehow found myself writing down Demian Bichir's name. That one was a big gamble, but I got it right. The other one, Gary Oldam for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," he was probably on a few more prediction ballots, but a lot of people are surprised Michael Fassbender, who actually had a spectacular year over multiple films, that his work in "Shame," doesn't get honored here. I thought the BAFTA nomination was putting him in, but nope. Leonardo Dicaprio, not getting in for "J. Edgar," probably also a minor surprise here.

BEST ACTRESS
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"

I thought Glenn Close, and not Tilda Swinton for "We Need to Talk About Kevin," was going to be the odd one out. I was taking a chance on that one, I knew, but, I still predicted the shocker in this category. I had Rooney Mara in for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," although I'm shocked at how little else it got, especially no Best Picture, despite Fincher gettting a surprise DGA nomination, but I knew that was gonna propel somebody chances, and it looks like it was mostly hers.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
*Kenneth Branagh-"My Week with Marilyn"
*Jonah Hill-"Moneyball"
*Nick Nolte-"Warrior"
*Christopher Plummer-"Beginners"
Max von Sydow-"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Maybe even bigger than "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," getting Best Picture, was Max von Sydow getting a supporting actor nomination for the film. Not so much for his performance, even most who didn't like the movie seemed to admire his work, but for who it knocked out. I knew that there was something off when Albert Brooks didn't get a SAG nomination, but I thought, like almost everybody else, that it was gonna be corrected at the Oscars. Pretty much him and Plummer were only two actors that had been winning this honor at all the other Awards shows, and his not being nominated caught everyone off guard. Nothing against Max von Sydow, I love him. He's been making movies, since working with Ingmar Bergman in his native Sweden, and unless I'm mistaken, this is his first nomination. Oh, I am mistaken, he nominated for "Pelle the Conqueror," in 1987. Only one other time, he should've been nominated for about six or seven. Saying that though, this is still the definition of a career nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
*Berenice Bejo-"The Artist"
Jessica Chastain-"The Help"
*Melissa McCarthy-"Bridesmaids"
*Janet McTeer-"Albert Nobbs"
*Octavia Spencer-"The Help"

No real surprise here, although I didn't think Jessica Chastain was going to get nominated but most did. (She's nominated for the wrong film, but whatever.) I think we were all still holding our breaths a bit, hoping Melissa McCarthy's name would get called, and thankfully it did. Not totally surprised but, Shailene Woodley had won a few Supporting Actress Awards for "The Descendants," and I thought she would sneak in, but there seems to be a biasness against nominating young females actresses in big supporting roles in recent years. Last year, I was shocked that Mila Kunis wasn't nominated for "Black Swan", despite the fact her part is incredibly critical to that film, maybe moreso than Portman's. I thought she should've won, so her not getting nominated was somewhat bizarre, and Woodley's lack of a nomination is somewhat similar. Although, my favorite supporting role from the film was Judy Greer; I knew she wasn't getting nominated, but I would've liked to have seen her there.

BEST DIRECTOR
*Michel Hazanavicius-"The Artist"
*Alexander Payne-"The Descendants"
*Martin Scorsese-"Hugo"
*Woody Allen-"Midnight in Paris"
*Terence Malick-"The Tree of Life

YES!!!!!! Got it all right, as Terence Malick snuck in and I went 5/5 in the category. There was some discussion on who was going to get that fifth nomination, and Malick looked like the last one to get it for awhile. Spielberg, Fincher, Clooney, and Winding Refn, looked like possibles. Oh well.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
*The Artist-Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids-Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
Margin Call-JC Chandor
*Midnight in Paris-Woody Allen
*A Separation-Asghar Farhadi

"50/50", which had been nominated for practically every award  in this category suddenly was a complete no-show here. I got "A Separation," right. the Iranian film likely to win the Foreign Language Oscar; I had a feeling it's appreciation would earn it a nomination here. I came really close to predicting "Margin Call," but went with Diablo Cody's of "Young Adult," instead. "Bridesmaids," was a trendy pick, but I'm surprised it showed up here. Not unhappy, but surprised.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
*The Descendants-Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
*Hugo-John Logan
*The Ides of March-George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
*Moneyball-Steve Zaillion and Aaron Sorking; Story by Stu Chervin
*Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

I predicted that there was going to be an unusual lack of a correlation between Best Picture nomination and the screenplay noms, and boy is there ever! Of the 9 Best Picture nominations, only 5 got nominated in the screenplay categories. Even in the last two years of 10 Best Picture nomination, only three films "Avatar," "The Blind Side," and last year's, "Black Swan," managed to achieve this feat. (It unusually rare when you go back to when they only had 5 Best Picture nominations.) Well, I went 5/5 in this category, and I'm happy for that."The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and "War Horse," are probably the biggest snubs in the category. This is a strange year indeed.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
A Cat in Paris
*Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
*Puss in Boots
*Rango

Well just as I said, "Damn, I knew I should've picked 'A Cat in Paris'," did I realize one the biggest snubs this year, as Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," didn't get nominated. This caught me completely offguard, based on some of the Awards, it was starting to look like "...Tintin," might just steal the Award away from "Rango". It had just won the Golden Globe, and more importantly a Producer's Guild Award, and basically "Tintin," and "Rango," had been the movies winning in the category everywhere. Well, I got "Chico & Rita," right; I knew something unusually foreign was gonna sneak in (And two did, with "A Cat in Paris") and I picked "Cars 2" over "Kung Fu Panda 2". I guessed, I thought more people liked Cars than pandas doing kung fu. Easy mistake I guess.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Hell and Back Again
*If a Tree Falls: A Story of Earth Liberation Front
*Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
*Pina
Undefeated

I'm fairly happy getting three right in this category, especially since it's so clearly tainted by the films that weren't eligible and next year's impending rule changes. I thought later that I should've put "Hell and Back Again," in their, but despite my reservations with the film, I thought they were gonna go with "Bill Cunningham New York". I forgot that rarely does the Academy nominated Biopic documentaries, especially good ones. ("Crumb," "The Kid Stays in the Picture," "Tyson," all not nominated!) Although I didn't care much for "Bill Cunningham New York," myself, it was a contender at most Award shows up 'til now. "Project Nim," not getting nominated is a minor surprise though here. That film, about people who studied and trained monkeys to live with/as humans, was both popular, and critically praised.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
*Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
*A Separation (Iran)
*Footnote (Israel)
*In Darkness (Poland)

While "Pina," made the final short list in the Foreign Language category, and despite a Best Documentary nomination, it's a little shocking that it didn't show up here. It's the only one I got wrong. They went with Monsieur Lazhar instead. Don't know the film myself, I thought they might go with Taiwan's entry "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale" if there some other film was sneaking, if for no other reason, but they tend to spread the nominations around the world if they can, and Eastern Asia unusually doesn't have an entry. (South Korea keeps getting screwed over.)

Okay, so these are just the ones I predicted yesterday. So, I went 45.5/69, so, just under 2/3s. (I should put "War Horse," in there at Best Picture) Not terrible. I got at least 3 right in every category, but somethings you just don't see coming, and for some reason, it always involves Stephen Daldry. (Last three films of his, have been Best Picture nominated, each time I thought they wouldn't be. Damn him.) Were not done here. We're gonna look through the entire Oscars here, not just the majors ones. Let everyone else know why some of them matter, why some don't, and how some of those smaller categories can be really interesting.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist-Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo-Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life-Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse-Janusz Kaminski

No real shocking nomination here. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" surprised me a bit. I thought either "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," or "Drive," might have snuck in the category, but this is a competitive category. In fact the Critics Choice Awards actually tied this year, giving their honor to Lubezki and Kaminski. Don't count out Robert Richardson either for "Hugo". These are some of very Top names in the business battling in this category. Kaminski, maybe the biggest name of all-time in fact. He has won twice, but it's always hard to beat a Terence Malick film in this category. He insists only on the best lighting, and Lubezki hasn't won yet, despite four previous nominations, and since it's unlikely "The Tree of Life," is going to get Best Picture or Director, this could be the most likely win for that film. Very intriguing category, as always. Without these lighting guys, movies would like so s***ty.

ART DIRECTION
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

What a strange nomination here for "Midnight in Paris". I get it, but about half that film takes place in modern time, and it didn't even get a ADG Art Directors Guild) nomination in the Contemporary category (They separate their category by eras and genres). That said, "War Horse," also didn't make their ballot either, so both of those are probably longshots. "Hugo," with Production Designer Dante Ferretti and Set Designer Francisco Lo Schiavo look like heavy favorites though. They've won the Award twice in the last five years, for "The Aviator," and "Sweeney Todd...", however the Art Direction in the "Harry Potter" movies has never won in the category despite Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan being nominated three times for the film. They've won for other projects in the past though. "The Artist," could play spoiler, but it looks like "Harry Potter," is taking on "Hugo," here.

COSTUME DESIGN
Anonymous-Lisy Christi
The Artist-Mark Bridges
Hugo-Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre-Michael O'Connor
W.E.-Arianne Phillips

Usually, the nitpicking on the Costume Design Oscar is that the film with the most Costume Design wins, often over the Best. That, and there's a typical lack of nominees from films that take place in contempory times. In fact, all these films take place, at least, sixty or seventy years ago. Well, that doesn't make some of the nominees less impressive however. Sandy Powell is one of the biggest Costume designers around. She's been nominated ten times, including this year, which is her third consecutive year she's been nominatied, and she's won 3 Oscars, the last two years ago for "The Young Victoria." Only Lisy Christi for "Anonymous," didn't get a CDG (Costume Designers Guild) Award nomination, she's probably out. Michael O'Connor's work for "Jane Eyre," has arguably been a heavy favorite for months now, and it seems to be the category everybody been remembering the film for. Costume Design really has a habit of completely ignoring more popular and critically acclaimed films, so there's more than a chance for Arienne Phillips for "W.E.", but it looks to be between "The Artist," "Hugo," and "Jane Eyre" right now.

EDITING
The Artist-Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants-Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo-Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball-Christopher Tellefsen

Even more than the Directing category, no Award better predicts the Best Picture winner than the Best Editing Award. Only "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," doesn't have a Best Picture nomination, but Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall won Oscars last year in the category for "The Social Network", and on the occasions when their is an anomoly winner, it's usually for an action movie like "Bullit," or recently "The Bourne Ultimatum". "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," has a very complicated story and plot, a mystery, with action and violence, and it's a tough plot to explain every detail of what's happening, so the editing is critical for that film. It's got the pedigree to pull off an upset here. This is also the third nominee for Michel Hazanavicius as a co-editor on "The Artist," but it's rather unlikely for a Director to win in the Editing category as well. Thelma Schoonmaker has won this Award three times, she's always a favorite, especially since most of the other nominees are first/second time nominees, she's clearly the veteran favorite. Looks like a year where the category could determine the Best Picture winner as well.

MAKE-UP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady

Normally, the makeup category is usually pretty easy, you just vote for Rick Baker, but he's not nominated this year, so it's a little more interesting. Usually, just like the Costume Design category, the winner is the one with the most make-up, and not-so-much best, which would indicate "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," as the favorite. Mostly newcomers in the category, even the Harry Potter crew has never been nominated until now. If they're going experience, the team of "Albert Nobbs," was 1 Oscar and five nominations between them, they're the scentimental choice. Three good nominees though, all three films different, but all also depend heavily on the make-up, so good category, with smartly chosen nominees here.

ORIGINAL SCORE
The Adventures of Tintin-John Williams
The Artist-Ludovic Bource
Hugo-Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Alberto Iglesias
War Horse-John Williams

A few big surprises in the Score category, and a very surprising snub for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". They won last year for "The Social Network," a lot of people thought they were a surefire nominee again this year, but instead the great John Williams ended up a double-nominee as he got awarded for both "War Horse," which was expected, but also for "The Adventures of Tintin." (BTW, John Williams has now been nominated for an unbelievable 47 OSCAR NOMINATIONS in his career, winning only 5, but still...)  I'm as baffled to see "...Tintin," in this category and not Best Animated Film as anybody else, but alright. Ludovic Bource for "The Artist," does appear to be the favorite in the category; for obvious reasons, a movie's score become doubly important when the movie is silent otherwise, but there is some criticism of his score out there. Part of the score actually uses the Bernard Hermann score from the film "Vertigo," and some have criticized this for not using an entirely original score, and for using one from a film that wasn't silent. Both of those arguments are incredibly stupid. First off, the rules state that at least 80% of the score has to be original, which it more than is, and secondly many people use other works at starting points for their own music, especially in movie scores. Last year, for instance, the score for the movie "Inception," was based off the Edith Piaf song that was also heavily used in the movie, used as a callback in thay case. He's still the frontrunner, can never count out Williams, or Howard Shore either. Shore's had three wins in just three nominations in his career. Hard to beat.

ORIGINAL SONG
"Man of Muppet"-The Muppets-Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio"-Rio-Music: Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Two frigging nominations in this category, that's it! Alright, I'm gonna be writing an entirely separate entry on this category in the near future, and let's just say, there will be some heavy criticism. Anyway, "Man or Muppet," was the presumed favorite going in, it's a fair bet that it'll win, and I guess "Real in Rio," from another animated movie (Wow, that's 7 animated features that got nominations this Oscars, that might be a record) was added to, fill the ballot, ironically. Either way, this has become the only Award where I've become more interested in the Golden Globe than the Oscar, and it didn't used to be that either.

SOUND EDITING
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

It looked just a few weeks that "Drive," could be a major player at these Award, but instead, this is the only nomination that the film got. Sound editing, as usual is lead by action and war movies, although I'm a little surprised "The Artist," didn't show up in either here or Sound Mixing. The Sound Editors Guild are all over the map on this one. Guessing though, I doubt "Drive," can win it with just one nomination, and while this is a
strength category for "Transformers...", did enough people like it to give it an Oscar? It looks like it's between "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Hugo," and "War Horse," with an outside shot for "Transformers..."

SOUND MIXING
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Okay, there is a different between sound editing and sound mixing, although it isn't uncommon to jam them together. The Editing category, is recording sound mostly, boom microphones for instance, but it's also post-production Foley work, where sound is recorded in a studio and timed with the finished edited film product. Mixing, is a lot of that, but it also requires combining different sounds together, which are then edited. Often in musicals, sound mixing becomes rather key. (Although, again, the lack of "The Artist", huh?) Both are also unbelievably important in animated films, but none of them either. It's not uncommon for a film not nominated in one of the categories to win in the other, and "Moneyball," has a lot of sound mixing. Listen again to some of the scenes at the baseball games, lots of sounds combining there. It could win this category, might be a good place to honor "Moneyball," actually. Still, the other four nominees are strong. Greg P. Russell, a nominee in the category for "Transformers...", is on a Susan Lucci-esque losing streak; this is his 15th nomination, but he's never won, so if there's a reason to honor "Transformers..." that might be it. "War Horse," nominee Andy Nelson however, has won one Oscar, in 16 nominations, so there's some unlucky streaks competing here, and possibly getting unlucky again.

VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Okay, well first of all, the surprise nomination by "Real Steel," means I gotta put it on my Netflix now, and I'm running out of room as is. Damn. Second, how did "The Tree of Life," not get nominated here? Bad miss by the Academy here. Also, a little surprised "Super 8," didn't sneak into the category either, but there are some strong nominations here. "Hugo," is an obvious favorite here, the film with the most nominees to begin with, plus apparently 3-D that blew most of the other out of the water, makes it a likely winner here, despite "Harry Potter..." (Which I don't think ever won the Visual Effects Oscar before, any of the film. Could be wrong about that but...), and "Transformers..." (Always hard to bet against Michael Bay film in visual effects.) However, I wouldn't be shocked by "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," winning here. There's a strong argument that it might be the best use of motion capture ever done so far. Joe Letteri, has already won five Oscars in the category already, and he's won many of them recently (Including one for "Avatar"). Don't knock "Rise...Apes," out of it, quite yet. "Hugo"'s the favorite, but the Apes aren't just filling out the category.

Whew! I'm exhausted. The Oscars are overblown, overrated, and completely useless and trivial, but that's what makes it fun to analyze them so intently. At least for me. I'll be educating myself on as many of the nominated films as I can, including the short films if possible, where I'll make predictions before the Awards come up. Hope you had fun during this Oscar Nomination Announcement Day! If you predicted more of the nominations than I did, feel free to gloat, for now. Back to the normal everyday routine here 'til Oscar time. Good luck, Mr. Crystal, the stage is waiting for you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 OSCAR NOMINEES PREDICTIONS: MY FINAL PREDICTIONS BEFORE THE NOMINEES ARE ANNOUNCES (WHICH IS ALSO WHEN WE FIND OUT JUST HOW WRONG MY PREDICTIONS WERE!)



I'll be posting my movie reviews later this week, but for the time being they're delayed as the Oscar announcement will be Tuesday morning, and it's time for me to make my final projections on who will get nominated. For those who follow my twitter, it will come to no surprise to them that I have been following all the other Awards and nominations that have been anounced and handed out, hoping to see who will get nominated. I would prefer to have watched all the movies by now, instead, but it'll have to do. For most of the Awards, I've written out long lists of all those who seem like possible nominees, people who've been nominated for other awards this year for instance, but there is always a possibility that the Academy might go somewhere completely different in one or many of these categories. It's not unprecedent, the Academy members do have minds of their own, unfortunately. That's a long way for me to tell everyone that, I could just as easily be dead wrong on all these picks, and probably am. But its fun to see if I can get one or two categories right. So, my two cents, and here's the tea leaves I'm about to read. Lets start with the big one and go down this time.

BEST PICTURE
Last year, I actually did predict all ten! It was also fairly easy to predict it, everybody had pretty much narrowed the possibilities to 11. Anyway, this year it's incredibly tricky. The rules been changed so that nobody knows exactly how many films will get nominated, it'll be between 5 and 10 films, and how to determine this is through the voting process in a manner that long, boring and hard to explain. So, this'll be by far, the toughest category to project the nominees, but there's a few ones that are definitely in. "The Artist",
"The Descendants", "Hugo," and "Midnight in Paris" have been nominated by practically every award show so far, they're sure-fire Best Picture nominees. After that it's a little tricky.

NOMINEES PREDICTION
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
"The Help"
"Hugo"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Moneyball"
"The Tree of Life"

IF THERE'S MORE, THAN THEY'LL BE...
"War Horse"
"Drive"

I think the top eight are gonna get in. I'm not 100% positive on any of the other four, but I'm sure enough. The least likely of those is "The Tree of Life", probably the film that has divided people the most, but I think it's getting in. "The Help," also seems to be constantly sneaking into most Best Picture Awards and considerations, but I wouldn't be shocked if it's left off either. "Moneyball," is stronger in other in other categories, but in the end, it'll get in. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," has made the biggest jump in recent weeks. It wasn't considered a major candidate for this category, but David Fincher got a very surprising DGA nomination, which caught a lot of people off-guard, plus it's been getting nomination from other groups as well.  So, I'm predicting 8 nominations for Best Picture. Although "War Horse," getting in wouldn't shock me, but it went from being almost guarantee nomination, to barely making my long ballot. If there's 9, then it gets in, and 10 I think "Drive," could get the tenth nomination.

OTHER POSSIBLES
The Ides of March
Bridesmaids
Melancholia
A Separation
Beginners
J. Edgar
Albert Nobbs
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Take Shelter
Margin Call
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Shame
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I wouldn't be shocked by any of these films showing up either. "The Ides of March," "Bridesmaids," Melancholia," and "A Separation," being the most likely to spoil here. "The Ides of March," and "Bridesmaids" are gaining momentum, getting more than a few surprise Best Picture nominations at other prominent Awards. ("Bridesmaids," getting a PGA [Producer's Guild Awards] nomination, surprised a lot of people) "Melancholia," is an interesting film. Hypothetically, it could sneak into quite a few categories. It's done well at Award shows, everywhere, but America pretty much. So that one is an outside possibility. So is the Iranian film "A Separation," which is pretty much a surefire Best Foreign Language Film nominee, but it's been awhile since an entire foreign-language film has been nominated, so it's a longshot at best. ("Slumdog Millionaire," was just barely an predominately English Language film).

BEST DIRECTOR
The same four that are all-but-assured Best Picture noms, are basically guaranteed Best Director. The fifth nominee is up for grabs. It has clearly been the most erratic and ever-changing nomination spot from Award show to Award show.

NOMINEES PREDICTION
Woody Allen-"Midnight in Paris"
Michel Hazanavicius-"The Artist"
Terence Malick-"The Tree of Life"
Alexander Payne-"The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese-"Hugo"

I am gonna go down, tilting at this damn windmill forever, but maybe it's personal blinders, but I can't fathom a way in which Terence Malick doesn't sneak into this category, despite every sign pointing to somebody else getting it. The other four are safely nominated; I would be blown away if one of them wasn't nominated. Personally, I fear Malick not getting in, but I can't force myself to see another name getting it over Malick, so there you go.

OTHER POSSIBLES
David Fincher-“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Steven Spielberg-“War Horse”
Nicolas Winding Refn-“Drive”
George Clooney-“The Ides of March”
Bennett Miller-“Moneyball”
Tomas Anderson-“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Lynne Ramsey-“We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Steven Daldry-“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
Lars von Trier-“Melancholia”
Clint Eastwood-“J. Edgar”
Tate Taylor-“The Help”
Steve McQueen-“Shame”
Asghar Farhadi-“A Separation”

If I have to guess, based on the DGA nominee, and recent Oscar past, Fincher might get in. After that, Spielberg's a possibility, Nicolas Winding Refn's a possibility, but "Drive," has fallen off more than "War Horse," even. Everytime I've counted out Steven Daldry (Which has basically been every time), he's gotten nominated, although I think that's still a longshot. Tate Taylor, for "The Help," is a big maybe, although his name hasn't been showing up anywhere near any Best Director awards. I can't completely count any of these names out, so don't be surprised by any of them.

BEST ACTOR
I don't know what it is with this category, but I see only three guaranteed nominations, and I'm completely baffled on who's getting the fourth and fifth. Clooney, Dujardin, and Pitt, are all guaranteed nominees to me. After that, it could really be almost anybody. I'm still thinking that one of the nominees might be completely off my own board. I think I got every probable option here, but it sure feels like someone is missing here.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Demian Bichir-"A Better Life"
George Clooney-"The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin-"The Artist"
Michael Fassbender-"Shame"
Brad Pitt-"Moneyball"

I don't quite know how that just happened, but I typed in Demian Bichir's name. "A Better Life," is a very small Indy feature, that earned him both a Spirit Award nomination, and a very surprising SAG nomination so far. I was trying to type in Leonardo DiCaprio for "J. Edgar," but something was stopping me. "J. Edgar," hasn't been particularly popular, but he's been getting nominated for it, yet something has never felt permanent about his name showing up. I wasn't sure about Fassbender either, but after his BAFTA nomination, I think that puts him in. I haven't seen the movie yet, can't really judge or explain or project, but something just tells me that he might be the strange name I'm missing here.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Leonardo Dicaprio-“J. Edgar”
Gary Oldman-“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
Michael Shannon-“Take Shelter”
Ryan Gosling-“Drive”
Ryan Gosling-“The Ides of March”
Brendan Glesson-“The Guard”
Owen Wilson-“Midnight in Paris”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt-“50/50”
Woody Harrelson-“Rampart”

For a while, I still though Michael Shannon might be the name that snuck in, but practically every Award show for the last two months has avoided him. Ryan Gosling suffers from a split vote, (An actor can only be nominated for one film in one category) and I don't see enough people singling out one over the other, and over the other candidates to nominate him this year. Gary Oldman might get it too. He's never been nominated, and the BAFTAs loved "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," although most American Awards have been ignoring it in most categories. The rest are long, longshots, but I can't eliminate them completely.

BEST ACTRESS
This is another category where the fifth nomination can come from anywhere. Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, and Michelle Williams, are all walking into nominations here, and Tilda Swinton has become a frontrunner as well. The BAFTAs also through a curveball into the category by nominating Berenice Bejo as Lead Actress, when every other Award show 'til now, has had her in Supporting Actress. She's a shoe-in to get nominated, but now the question is which category. (The rule states that if a performer gets vote for the same performance in both Lead and Supporting categories, than the category that got the most votes gets the nomination) The BAFTAs have done this before. A couple years ago, Kate Winslet was winning Supporting Actress for "The Reader," at most awards shows (Partly because there was a push to nominate her for lead actress for "Revolutionary Road") and the BAFTAs put her in the lead category, and the Oscars surprised everybody by following suit. (Winslet won that Oscar for "The Reader")

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Viola Davis-"The Help"
Rooney Mara-"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep-"The Iron Lady"
Tilda Swinton-"We Need to Talk About Kevin"
Michelle Williams-"My Week with Marilyn"

I can see about seven or eight different names actually sneaking in and getting a nomination, but based on how well "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," has suddenly been doing, I think it's a fair guess that Rooney Mara is the one that's gonna steal that fifth nomination, especially if it gets a Best Picture, which I think it will. I didn't think it about a month, but I mentioned that that film had one of the biggest opportunities for a push, and man, I think it's gotten the biggest one so far.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Glenn Close-“Albert Nobbs”
Mia Wasikowska-“Jane Eyre”
Elizabeth Olsen-“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Charlize Theron-“Young Adult”
Kirsten Dunst-“Melancholia”
Berenice Bejo-“The Artist”
Vera Farmiga-“Higher Ground”
Anna Paquin-“Margaret”

Adepero Oduye-“Pariah”
Jodie Foster-“Carnage”
Kate Winslet-“Carnage”
Kristen Wiig-“Bridesmaids”

If it isn't Rooney Mara getting in, it'll probably be Glenn Close, but I'm skeptical, despite many important nominations she's been getting. Kirsten Dunst, is an interesting one here, Foreign Awards have been remembering her in "Melancholia," I think it's more likely than some think. I think ultimately Bejo will land in Supporting, but she might steal it too. I think Mia Wasikowska for "Jane Eyre," is still in some of the Academy's minds as well. This'll be a close fifth nomination vote.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
I think there's some possibilities for one or two people outside of the top five to get in, but this category looks locked up to me. At pretty much every Award show, at least four of these names have been nominated when they were eligible.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Kenneth Branagh-"My Week with Marilyn"
Albert Brooks-"Drive"
Jonah Hill-"Moneyball"
Nick Nolte-"Warrior"
Christopher Plummer-"Beginners"

They oddly enough haven't all shown up at once until now, but most of them have always been there. Branagh, Brooks and Plummer have split the Awards, although Plummer is taking most of them. I think Jonah Hill might be the one that could be left off, but it's not looking like it.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Brad Pitt-“The Tree of Life”
Patton Oswalt-“Young Adult”
Andy Serkis-“Rise of the Planet of the Apes
John Hawkes-“Martha Marcy May Marlene
Armie Hammer-“J. Edgar”
Viggo Mortensen-“A Dangerous Method”
Corey Stoll-“Midnight in Paris”
Tom Hardy-“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Benedict Cumberbatch-“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Jim Broadbent-“The Iron Lady”
Philip Seymour Hoffman-“The Ides of March”

If somebody isn't on there, I wouldn't be shocked if Brad Pitt gets in for "The Tree of Life," making him a double nominee. It's not really likely, but I think that's more likely than people think. I think a certain amount of his "Moneyball," vote, is also for "Tree of Life," there might be a double nominee there. There's some worthy possibilities here, but it just doesn't seem like somebody else can get in. The Top five look set to me; I'll be shocked if I got any of these names wrong.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I'm having the hardest time trying to figure out which film Jessica Chastain is gonna get in this category. I think "The Help," is the likeliest, but it's split with "The Tree of Life," and "Take Shelter," and her co-star Octavia Spencer, not only looks like a lock, along with Berenice Bejo and Melissa McCarthy, but she might be the favorite to win, and I'm just not sold everybody likes "The Help," that much.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Berenice Bejo-"The Artist"
Melissa McCarthy-"Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer-"Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer-"The Help"
Shailene Woodley-"The Descendants"

I've been looking around thinking Shailene Woodley was going to be the name that gets many nominations before falling off the ballot, but now I think it's going to be Jessica Chastain, be unfortunately punished for being good in too many movies. This will sneak Janet McTeer in. I don't think "The Help," is getting a two spots in the category.

Jessica Chastain-“The Help”
Carey Mulligan-“Shame”
Judy Greer-“The Descendants”
Jessica Chastain-“The Tree of Life”
Jessica Chastain-“Take Shelter”
Anjelica Huston-“50/50”
Elle Fanning-“Super 8”
Rachel McAdams-“Midnight in Paris”
Marion Cotillard-“Midnight in Paris”
Vanessa Redgrave-“Coriolanus”
Judi Dench-“My Week with Marilyn”
Carey Mulligan-“Drive”

Carey Mulligan is also suffering from two performances. It looked she was getting in for "Shame," for a while, but she didn't get a BAFTA which I thought would propel her for that film. She did, surprisingly get the BAFTA for "Drive," however. That just made it less likely she'd get nominated here. I'm still personally holding out hope that Judy Greer will get in for "The Descendants", but I think ultimately, it's going to suffer for being too small a role.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
I didn't talk about this category yet, but I'm going through all of them this time. It looks like this category is going to Woody Allen, that's a given, and Michel Hazanvicius is getting nominated, but after that, it's a little tricky. The WGA awards don't always coincide here, and there's usually one or two surprises here.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
50/50-Will Reiser
The Artist-Michel Hazanavicius
Midnight in Paris-Woody Allen
A Separation-Asghar Farhadi
Young Adult-Diablo Cody

I've been thinking up 'til now that "50/50" won't sneak in here, but it seems to be the most consistently nominated other than "Midnight in Paris". "The Artist," didn't get a WGA nomination, which is the most peculiar of misses for the film that seems to be winning everything up 'til now. I have a hard time imagining it not sneaking in to this category.  I also think "Young Adult," will get the nomination here, while it'll just fall short in the acting categories. I'm throwing in "A Separation," here too, as a hunch. Well-respected foreign films have a way of sneaking into the writing categories. If it's got a shot of something outside of Foreign Language Film, it's here.

OTHER POSSIBLES
The Tree of Life-Terence Malick
Margin Call-J.C. Chandor
Bridesmaids-Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
The Guard-John Michael McDonagh
Win Win-Tom McCarthy, Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Martha Marcy May Marlene-Sean Durkin
Beginners-Mike Mills
Melancholia-Lars von Trier
Shame-Steve McQueen & Abi Morgan
Margaret-Kenneth Lonergan
The Iron Lady-Abi Morgan
Another Earth-Brit Marling, Mike Cahill
Terri-Patrick and Azazel Jacobs
Cedar Rapids-Phil Johnston

It's hard for me to say that "The Tree of Life," isn't going to make it here, but I think it's got better chances in other categories, and they're gonna find room for something else. "Win Win," has been getting a lot of nominations in this category, deservedly so, that can sneak in, and I was very close to putting "Margin Call," into the category. "Bridesmaids," is the trendy pick to get in here, I think it's ultimately gonna fall short, although popular comedies do have a way of getting in here, usually it only happens when it's the only nomination it's getting, and with Melissa McCarthy now a very likely nominee, I don't see that here. Don't be shocked by "The Guard," or "Margaret," either. I'm not at all sure of this category.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
There's seems less likely possible nominees to choose from in this category compared to original, but there's a few guaranteed ones. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash seem the likely winners for "The Descendants", although Payne won for "Sideways," years ago. Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian's work on "Moneyball," is also practically a nomination lock.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
The Descendants-Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Hugo-John Logan
The Ides of March-George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball-Steve Zaillion and Aaron Sorkin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

Wow! I don't think I've seen a year where there's so little correlation between what I project to be Best Picture nominees and the Best Screenlay nominees, especially since they started changing the number of Best Picture nominees. Because Zaillion's getting a likely nomination for "Moneyball," I don't think "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," is sneaking in here. "The Ides of March," and George Clooney need to be honored somewhere, I think it'll be here, and the same for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", which is probably going to get the annual Mike Leigh vote in the writing category.

OTHER POSSIBLES

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Steve Zaillian

We Need to Talk About Kevin-Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close-Eric Roth
Drive-Hossein Amini
Albert Nobbs-Glenn Close and John Banville
War Horse-Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
The Adventures of Tintin-Steven Moffat, Joe Cornish & Edgar Wright
Submarine-Richard Ayoade

"The Help," and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," got WGA nominations, so they're probably the most likely to make me wrong with this category. I wouldn't be shocked here if "We Need to Talk About Kevin," snuck in here too, but I think that's a longshot. The Academy has also never been particularly kind to Richard Curtis, and recently Eric Roth, even when nominated seems to be controversially so.

ANIMATED FEATURE
There are 18 films up for Animated Feature this year, which means that five will be nominated this year, (9 in a year=3 nominees, 15=five) this will be only the third time that's happened. Last time, they through in a couple few surprises that hardly anybody heard of, (aka "The Secret of Kells"?) so don't just expect the Disney and Pixar ones to show up. There's two that are guaranteed, that "Tintin," and "Rango," after that, we're guessing a bit.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
The Adventures of Tintin
Cars 2
Chico & Rita
Puss in Boots
Rango

I was debating between "Puss in Boots" and "Kung Fu Panda 2", for the fifth nominee, it could be either one of those. I've heard about "Chico & Rita," which is popular in Europe, that probably can sneak in. Really am guessing with the rest here though. It's either gonna be "The Adventures of Tintin," or "Rango," winning, and after that, the nomination is the prize.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2
Alois Nebel
Wrinkles
Winnie-the-Pooh
A Cat in Paris
Rio
Gnomeo & Juliet
Happy Feet Two
Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil
The Smurfs
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
Mars Need Moms

These are all the other ones eligible, so the nominees will definitely come out of this group, and I tried to list them from most likely to least likely to get nominated, by my guess anyway. If the Chipmunks get nominated, don't be surprised if its the last time they have the category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
They narrow this category to a final 15 nominees every year, and already it's the become the most controversial category this year, by a mile. Multiple films by major documentary films and filmmakers, including two by Werner Herzog ("Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Into the Abyss" ), and Steve James's film "The Interrupters," which has a 99 mark on rottentomatoes.com, didn't make the short list. (Steve James's lack of a nomination is particularly noteworthy. When his 1994 film "Hoop Dreams," didn't get a nomination, the resulting scandal which involved evidence that the Documentary Branch of the Academy was walking out of the screening lead the Academy to entirely rewrite the parameters for the category) They've already announced changes for next year, which are already under scrutiny for other reasons, but nonetheless, it's become clear this category will be remember this year for what's not nominated as oppose to what is.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Bill Cunningham New York
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Project Nim

I hope they at least pick the best of the rest here. Wim Wenders's "Pina," is eligible (It's also on the short list for Foreign Language film) and he's one of the greatest filmmakers alive, and it'd be nice to see him win it, if nothing else. I'm fairly certain "Pina," "Project Nim," and "Bill Cunningham New York," are lock nominees, but in this category, who knows.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Buck
Jane's Journey
Hell and Back Again
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat
The Loving Story
We Were Here
Battle for Brooklyn
Undefeated
Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Sing Your Song

I tried putting these in the same order as the Animated feature, from most likely to least likely, but this category been beyond unpredictable already.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Foriegn Language Film shortlist is down to nine right now. (Making it fantastically easier to predict, hopefully, I know I'll get at least one right!) It's a strange Award actually. Only one film eligible per country, which makes for some intriguing decisions by the country which puts up it's nominee. This year, Belgium decided to not choose the Dardenne Brothers "The Kid and the Bike," which is not only from their most famous filmmakers, but also a film that won many Awards already, and went with a film called "Bullhead," instead. "The Kid and the Bike" is eligible in other categories if it got a U.S. theatrical release in the year, so that's led to some occasions where some foreign film that weren't nominated get honored in other categories. "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Talk to Her," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "I Am Love," and "La Vie En Rose," have had that happen to them in recent years.

NOMINEE PREDICTIONS
Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Pina (Germany)
A Separation (Iran)

"A Separation," looks like the sure-fire winner here, although some sure-fire winners have lost in this category in recent years, including "Pan's Labyrinth," "Waltz with Bashir," and last year, "Biutiful". However, it looks pretty safe. Maybe "Pina," can be the first film to win both Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film, but that seems unlikely, "A Separation," looks like the film to beat, and nobody looks close to beating it right now.

OTHER POSSIBLES
Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Taiwan)
Omar Killed Me (Morocco)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
Superclasico (Denmark)

Well, there's a lot more categories I could take a closer look at, but I think I've covered most of the main ones. I'll make predictions on winners for every category before Oscar night. After Tuesday afternoon, we'll know who will be nominated, and we'll also find out just how badly I predicted this year. Check back at the blog Tuesday night, I'll have my own analysis of how well I predicted (Probably not good), and some thoughts and rundowns on those who actually do get nominated.

The Help-Tate Taylor