Sunday, January 1, 2012

MEMO TO THE A.M.P.A.S.: "WHEN CHOOSING THE NOMINATIONS FOR THIS YEAR'S ACADEMY AWARDS, PLEASE DON'T FORGET....

It's the 1st of the year; the Oscars ballots have been sent out to all Academy members. No, I haven't seen enough/many of the films that are favorites to get Oscar nominations this year. That's obvious even to me. The main reason being that the majority of those films are still in movie theatres right now, and I don't have the time, opportunity, and/or funds to watch all those films before the nominations, and many times, I can't even get to some of these films until long after the Ceremonies are over. That said, I've seen a good portion of films from this past year, and many of them are and/or have certainly qualities to them that are Oscar-worthy, but since many/most of these films have long left theatres, it's possible, and oftentimes likely that their great work will be ignored and/or forgotten by the Academy members. So, to remind Oscar voters of these works, I am sending out what will be, this yearly memo to Academy members, recommending and informing them of those aforementioned films and qualities within that they should strongly consider when filling out those ballots in the next couple weeks.

For starters, they're two films that seem to have absolute locks on the category of Best Picture, they're "The Artist" and "The Descendants''. One of those films that might get nominated, but isn't exactly a lock "The Tree of Life". This ambitious film is the single-most divisive among critics, cinephiles and filmgoers this year, but I want to strongly recommend that it get nominated in this category, but for many others especially Best Director for Terence Malick, and it's acting by both Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, these are both Oscar-worthy performances, and should be recognized, in the Supporting categories.

"The Tree of Life," is a film that attempts (and I believe succeeds) at encompassing the entire experience of all-life as we know it, in the universe. It is bold and ambitious, and has many things to say. It was not however the only film from this past year that was as ambitious and as cryptic and beautiful as "The Tree of Life." For the Best Director category, I want to recommend Apichatong Weerasethakul, the Thai director of the film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives". This film which dives headlong into the past lives of a man, who's on the brink of death is not only beautiful, but is also mysterious. There's no particular plot or story, or even a complete understanding of its events by its viewers, but it grandiose and encompassing on a larger that life scale. If there was any director that even closely replicated what Malick does with "The Tree of Life," it's Apichatong Weerasethakul, and just because his name is impossible to spell and pronounce, doesn't mean his amazing film should be forgotten.

Another movie that's likely to get multiple nominations is Woody Allen's film "Midnight in Paris". It's one of his very best films, and will more-than-likely give him a well-deserved writing nomination, and possibly nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. However, the acting in the movie has been severely overlooked for most of the Awards season, and that shouldn't happen. Many of the performances in this film are Award worthy, but I want to focus the Academy's attention in particular to Corey Stoll for Best Supporting Actor. He plays a very stylized and idealized Ernest Hemmingway, and it's one of the best subtle and underacted comic performances in a movie in a long time. This is a Hemmingway that is purposeful, talk in short, blunt sentences, like in his writings, and is very much the fantasized version of how we imagine him to be, and in part, that makes his performance incredibly funny.

Now, I wrote in this blog a few weeks ago that I predicted that Melissa McCarthy, might just win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Bridesmaids," but I also noted, that she isn't a shoe-in to be nominated, so I'm focusing the Academy's attention again on her performance. Not only is rarely a comic performance nominated by the Academy, but it's especially rare for a female comic performance to be nominated. The last one to get a Best Supporting Actress nomination was in '97 when Joan Cusack was nominated for "In & Out". That was 15 years ago, and Melissa McCarthy's performance is multiple times better that Cusack's in that film. Keep in mind, she's not just simply the funniest performer in "Bridesmaids," but she the funniest actress in a movie that filled with the funniest comediennes working today, one of them even wrote the movie, and McCarthy is still funnier. This is like getting onstage with greatest stand-ups of all-time, and getting more laughs than any of them. Also, frankly, while drama might make more Oscar bait and oftentimes better movies, comedy is harder to do for an actor. If the Actor's branch doesn't give her a nomination, they are performing a disservice to the craft of acting.

Another film that should be considered in multiple categories is the independent film "Terri". This movie got great performances from all of its cast, especially its writing, Best Actor for newcomed Jacob Wysocki,  John C. Reilly for Best Supporting Actor, I imagine that he's getting some support for this part and his role in the great comedy "Cedar Rapids," both deserving, but I aslo want to make note Olivia Crocicchia, for her work for Best Supporting Actress. Now, she doesn't have the largest role in this film, but she takes what she's got in this movie, and makes it a way more depthful character than her part has any real right to be. In just a few scenes, she adds an incredible amount of layers to what would seem on the page to be almost a blip of a character. This is one of the reasons I want to also note the writing for "Terri," by Patrick Dewitt from a story by him and the film's director, Azazel Jacobs, 'cause the strength of Crocicchia's performance, lets us know that the people behind the camera, really know these characters well. I bet they could've written this entire movie through her character's eyes, and come up with just as good a film.

In the Best Actor category, I wanna showcase a memorable great performance, again by a comic actor, but in a movie that is a comedy, but a far more dark one. I want to recommend a nomination for Will Ferrell for his work in "Everything Must Go," in this film, he plays an alcoholic, who comes home from being fired, to find that his wife has left, changed the locks on the house, and thrown all his possessions on the front lawn. It's a comedy, but this is not a comedic character per se, and it's one of Will Ferrell's very best performances comedy or drama.

I have a few recommendations for the Best Actress category, and most of them are from foreign films. Foreign movies often have better leading roles for females than American movies, and they should be given a second or third look. The first is from the South Korean film "Poetry," and it's one of the best performances of any actor/actress this year, from Jeong-hie Yun. She plays a pensioneer who watches her grandson is taking a poetry class, while also having to deal with early-onset Alzheimer's, along with coming to grips that her grandson was involved in a very despicable crime.

Another performance that effected me that year was from a Belgian film called "Illegal", and it's lead performance by Anne Coessens, is determined and brave. Her and her son are illegals from Russia, and she is caught and sent to a detention center, while other her son stays with a friend, and he begins working with a local mafia hood, and she has to fight off the inmates, the guards, and the system itself in order to get her freedom.

Those are both excellant performances, but there's an American film from early that deserves to get Oscar consideration from the beginning of the year. I gave David Schwimmer's film "Trust," only three stars in my review, and while it's got problems, and it's not the easiest film to watch, in hindsight, I think I should've given it at least another half-star. What I certainly give five stars to is the lead performance, and this should be a lead performance, by Liana Liberato. She plays the young girl in the movie, who befriends someone online who she thinks is a fellow high school student, only to be a 40-year old sexual predator. This performance is very strong, especially in the scenes later in the film where she's in therapy with Viola Davis, show her slowly coming to understand that she's a victim of sexual assault. This is not a cliche-filled Lifetime movie-of-the-week performance, and it's realism is both disturbing and heartfelt.

Now if there's a category where the Academy has been routinely screwing up in recent years, it's the Best Original Song category. Not so much in picker a winner, but they've been lazy with the nominations in recent years, so I also want to take some time and stress a nomination for Elton John and Bernie Taupin for the song "Hello, Hello," which Elton performs with Lady Gaga, from the movie "Gnomeo & Juliet". This isn't a particularly good film, but one of the things I used to love about the Oscars was how they got each of the nominated songs to be performed during the telecast, so they tended to nominated both great songs, and great performers to perform. Recent years, they've strangely kept many great artists out of the nominations. (Reportedly, the part of last year's awards where James Franco came out in a dress, was a joke originally intended to be done in line with a song written by Diane Warren and performed by Cher from the movie "Burlesque," and it got rewritten after to everyone's surprise, the song wasn't nominated.) They've been surprising a lot of people with this lately, and whether or not it's the Best Song, it would be nice if they at least thought about these great artists to get to perform.

To recap, here's the list of recommendations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, category-by-category

BEST PICTURE
"The Tree of Life,"
"Terri"

BEST DIRECTOR
Terence Malick-"The Tree of Life"
Apichatong Weerasethakul-"Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"
Woody Allen-"Midnight in Paris"

BEST ACTOR
Jacob Wysoci-"Terri"
Will Ferrell-"Everything Must Go"

BEST ACTRESS
Jeong-hi Yun-"Poetry"
Anne Coessens-"Illegal"
Liana Liberato-"Trust"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Brad Pitt-"The Tree of Life"
Corey Stoll-"Midnight in Paris"
John C. Reilly-"Terri"
John C. Reilly-"Cedar Rapids"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain-"The Tree of Life"
Melissa McCarthy-"Bridesmaids"
Olivia Crocicchia-"Terri"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
"Terri"-Patrick DeWitt and Azazel Jacobs
"Midnight in Paris"-Woody Allen

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Gnomeo & Juliet"-Elton John and Bernie Taupin for the song-"Hello, Hello"

Consider these selections when filling out your Oscar ballots in the coming weeks. Thank you.

Sincerely,
David Baruffi's Entertainment Views & Reviews

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