cwfilmbuff: (movies)
[personal profile] cwfilmbuff
I've seen all the nominees I'm going to be able to before tonight (50 out of 60, which isn't too shabby), so here are my predictions and opinions

Live Action Short
Will win: My money's on The Shore, a very good piece about a man reconnecting with his past after decades away.
Should win: I would give it to Time Freak, a hilarious and well-scripted comedy about the dangers of neurotic time-travel.
The rest: Tuba Atlantic is a very funny and touching look at a dying man and his hatred of seagulls. Raju tells a good story about unexpected complications of international adoption, but the editing is a little sloppy and hurts the film as a whole. Pentecost takes the great premise of treating a church service like a football match and fails to go anywhere with it.

Animated Short
Will win: As much as this year seems to be about how great movie are, I think this one will go to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and its celebration of books. It's well-made and tells a good story with emotional impact, while being consistently fun to watch.
Should win: Flying Books gets my vote.
The rest: Dimanche has funny moments as it follows a bored kid through his Sunday routine, but doesn't have enough going on. Wild Life's look at an Englishman moving to 1800s Canada is fairly dull. A Morning Stroll does an impressive job switching between a variety of animation styles while it follows a chicken in New York from the 1950s to the post-apocalyptic future, but the last scene goes a little too overboard. La Luna is a nice, if standard, Pixar film about a family cleaning the surface of the moon (it will probably get a larger audience when it's attached to Brave this summer).

Documentary Shorts
Will win: I haven't seen it, but based on the subject matter I think God is the Bigger Elvis has a good shot. Catching up with Dolores Hart half a century after she left Hollywood to become a nun is the kind of story that I can see appealing to voters.
Should win: Of the four I did see, Saving Face was the best. What could have been a thoroughly depressing look at the practice of burning women with acid in Pakistan instead builds to an optimistic ending, while never shying away from how horrible the situation is. As an added bonus, director Daniel Junge is based out of Colorado, and it never hurts to root for the home team.
The rest: Incident in New Baghdad tells the story of an American attack that resulted in multiple civilian deaths in the Iraq war from the perspective of one of the troops on the ground - unfortunately the filmmakers rely so heavily on shock value that any point beyond "war is bad" gets lost. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom has the opposite problem, where so much focus is placed on the resilience of the Japanese people following last year's Tsunami that the scale of the tragedy is diminished. The Barber of Birmingham does an excellent job of using one individual to highlight the roll of the nameless masses in the Civil Rights movement, helped in large part by the subject's entertaining personality.

Documentary Features
Will win: I'm betting Paradise Lost 3. It's not the best of the bunch, but it highlights the effect its predecessors have had on its subjects, and a movie that says "look at the impact movies can have" is likely to get votes from the Academy.
Should win: Pina doesn't tell the audience much about who choreographer Pina Brauch was as a person, but by showing scene after scene of her work beautifully and expertly performed it speaks volumes about her work while being an absolute joy to watch.
The rest: Hell and Back Again is an interesting, if incomplete, look at PTSD, and would have been better if the filmmakers had put less of their opinions into the editing. If a Tree Falls tells a very interesting story about the Earth Liberation Front, but the approach is so one-sided that it's difficult to enjoy. Undefeated hasn't opened in Denver yet, so I haven't seen it.

Visual Effects
Will win: I think Hugo has a good shot at this one, even if not all of the effects worked for me (the opening shot especially was a little too uncanny valley for my tastes).
Should win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, because the translation of Andy Serkis's should-have-been-nominated performance is absolutely seamless, and the effects, while impressive, always serve the story instead of overpowering it.
The rest: Harry Potter and Real Steel both do a great job bringing their fantastic elements to life in thoroughly entertaining movies, but there's nothing groundbreaking about either one. I didn't see Transformers 3, so I could be wrong, but the cgi was an eyesore in the first movie and I haven't seen anything to indicate it's improved since then.

Sound Editing
Will win: On the basis that war movies win a lot in this category I'll say War Horse
Should win: I would give this one to Drive. All the editing - audio and visual - was great in that movie, but this is what's nominated so it gets my support.
The rest: Hugo did some great things with how it handled audio while showing silent movies, but while effective it wasn't as technically impressive as some of the others in the category. Nothing really stood out to me about the sound editing in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Sound Mixing
Will win: The sound awards often get paired up, so I'll go with War Horse here too.
Should win: Moneyball does amazing things with its audio, especially (but not only) during the baseball sequences.
The rest: While Hugo had great sound editing, nothing about the mixing stands out in my memory; Dragon Tattoo was solid but nothing special in this area as well.

Original Song
Will win: "Man or Muppet".
Should win: "Man or Muppet". Really there were multiple songs from The Muppets that I would have put in this category, but this was the one that everyone remembers after the movie, and with good reason.
The rest: "Real in Rio" is fun to listen to, but nothing that's going to stick with you after hearing it.

Original Score
Will win: I think if people can overlook the borrowing from Vertigo , The Artist has the advantage here. Not only because it relies so heavily on the music in place of dialogue, but because the music is uses is excellent throughout.
Should win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's score went a long way toward setting the mood, making an already great movie that much more effective.
The rest: The Adventures of Tintin had good music that perfectly complimented the action, but nothing that stood out to me. The music in Hugo and War Horse was at times good, and at times over the top and clunky.

Makeup
Will win: The Iron Lady's makeup is one of the two good things about the movie - and showing the progression of the character as she ages is an impressive technical feat.
Should win: That said, I was more impressed at how natural the makeup in Albert Nobbs looked, and how much it informed and enhanced the performances.
The rest: Harry Potter does impressive things with makeup, but if the series hasn't been recognized for it by now I don't think it's going to be this time either.

Costume Design
Will win: The Artist's effective recreation of late 20s/early 30s Hollywood costuming will probably take home the prize.
Should win: Personally I would give it to Jane Eyre, where the costuming looked so much like it belonged in the the period that it rarely called attention to itself.
The rest: I'm at a disadvantage in this category, not having seen W.E. or Anonymous. I liked the costuming in Hugo, but not enough to put it at the top of this list.

Art Direction
Will win: Hugo has a lot going for it, but what it does best is make the train station a real, believable location even while the characters and events there are slightly exaggerated.
Should win: Hugo
The rest: The Artist did great work is this department, but not quite on the level of Hugo. Harry Potter probably won't win because so much of it takes place on sets that were originally built for previous movies. The past sequences in Midnight in Paris are well done, but not don't make up enough of the movie to win. War Horse did a wonderful job representing WWI Europe, but didn't really bring anything new.

Editing
Will win: I think this will go the The Artist - without synch sound a lot more of the storytelling relied on how it was cut together.
Should win: That said, I liked the editing in Moneyball a little better.
The rest: Hugo isn't Thelma Shoonmaker's best work (although below average for her is still better than a lot of what's out there). Dragon Tattoo is a little too stylized without always having the substance to back it up. The Descendants is cut together well, but there's nothing outstanding about it.

Cinematography
Will win: I think The Artist will get this, for how well it recreates the style it's going for.
Should win: Emmanuel Lubezki's work is always excellent, but he's at the top of his game with The Tree of Life. He should have won in 2005 and 2006, so I would love to see him finally get the award this year.
The rest: If voters take into account how well the 3D was used in Hugo that might be enough to put it over the top. It's hard to ignore how many shots in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are lifted directly from the Swedish film. There are great shots in War Horse but it's not as consistant as some of the other nominees.

Foreign Language
Will win: There are often surprises in this category, but I think A Separation is a safe bet, in part because it's the only film also up for Screenplay.
Should win: Of the two I've seen, A Seperation was far and away the better one.
The rest: Bullhead tells an interesting story and has a great lead performance, but the pacing was a little too slow for my tastes. In Darkness, Footnote, and Monsieur Lazhar all look good, but none of them have played in Denver yet.

Animated Feature
Will win: I think Rango has the best shot of the three I've seen - impressive animation and several references to classic movies in a year that is honoring a lot of classic cinema.
Should win: On top of that it's a darn good movie and fun to watch, so Rango gets my vote too.
The rest: Kung Fu Panda 2 was fun, but not as good as its predecessor. Puss in Boots had its moments but was uneven and a little longer than it needed to be. The two unknowns here are A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita, neither of which have opened in Denver yet, but both of which I'm looking forward to seeing.

Adapted Screenplay
Will win: I think Hugo has the edge here, and will probably get the votes from people who loved it but didn't pick it for Picture or Director.
Should win: For me it's between Moneyball, which took dry subject matter and made it not only interesting but entertaining, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which told complex story while assuming the audience was smart enough to keep up. I'm going with Tinker Tailor, because it stands on its own as an incredible script, but I'd be happy to see either win.
The rest: The Descendants does a wonderful job of taking what could be sappy or melodramatic and keeping it entertaining and grounded in reality - it's a great screenplay, just not quite as great as some of the others in the category. The Ides of March, on the other hand, has some good ideas behind it but struggles with how to present them, resulting in an uneven and often messy script.

Original Screenplay
Will win: I think Midnight in Paris may take this one - it's a clever, funny script that rewards an intelligent audience while never seeming to talk down.
Should win: Margin Call is the best script I saw come out of 2011.
The rest: There really aren't any bad options here. The Artist does a wonderful job telling its story in an unconventional way. Bridesmaids was the funniest movie I saw last year, due in large part to a script that created interesting characters and let the comedy come organically from them. A Separation does a brilliant job of using a family's divorce as a microcosm for Iranian society, without ever making the characters less than fully-developed.

Directing
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius
Should win: Terrence Malick
The rest: Alexander Payne and Woody Allen both did great work, but didn't really leave their comfort zones so it's the kind of great work we've seen before from them. Martin Scorsese made a movie that's not in his usual style using a new to him technology, but as good as the result was everyone knows how much better he's done in the past.

Supporting Actress
Will win: Octavia Spencer, for taking what could have been simple comic relief and turning it into a fully-developed character.
Should win: Comedies usually don't fare well at the Oscars, but it would be wonderful to see Melissa McCarthy win this for a performance that stood out as great even when surrounded by a great ensemble.
The rest: Janet McTeer completely disappeared in her role, creating a great counterpoint for the protagonist. Bérénice Bejo didn't always seem to fit into the time period, but was still completely entertaining throughout. Jessica Chastain was a lot of fun to watch, but I personally would have nominated her for Tree of Life.

Supporting Actor
Will win: Christopher Plummer has been winning every other supporting actor award, and I don't foresee him losing this one.
Should win: Jonah Hill plays his role with a perfect balance of intelligence and uncertainty, making his statistician a character a bit of an underdog while never playing the audience for sympathy.
The rest: Max von Sydow's great performance is one of the few redeeming things in a terrible movie, but that's not enough to give him the win. Most of Nick Nolte's performance is great, but there's one major scene that undoes a lot of the good work he'd done up to that point in the movie. Kenneth Branagh turns in a solid performance, but since he's spent most of his career trying to be Laurence Olivier he really comes off as playing a version of himself.

Lead Actress
Will win: Viola Davis is just about a lock for this award...
Should win: ...and with good reason. The role as written could have easily been mediocre, but she elevates the material and creates a protagonist we're on board with for the entire movie.
The rest: There's a lot of talk about Meryl Streep because she's been consistently great and hasn't won since the early 80s, but as good as she is in an otherwise weak movie it's not quite enough to win. Michelle Williams is absolutely brilliant an Marilyn Monroe, but the role has too many biopic cliches to stand out. Glenn Close is good, but overshadowed by her costar. And I can't see Rooney Mara winning for a part that Noomi Rapace played so much better just a year ago.

Lead Actor
Will win: Jean Dujardin sells every moment he has onscreen with the exaggeration needed for a silent film while never going overboard.
Should win: Gary Oldman, on the other hand, is perfectly understated in a role that calls for exactly that.
The rest: Brad Pitt is great, although like Chastain I liked him better in Tree of Life George Clooney gives one of his best performances, but I think because he already has one he won't get the Oscar this year. Damián Bichir plays his part wonderfully, but doesn't have quite enough to work with.

Picture
Will win: The Artist, aside from being a very well-made movie, it's a joy to watch.
Should win: The best movie in this category is The Tree of Life, but it's too divisive to win.
The rest: While I recognize that it's not the best movie of the bunch, Midnight in Paris is by far my favorite, and one I could easily watch again and again. Moneyball, The Descendants, and Hugo are all great films, but not quite on the same level as some of their competitors. The Help's screenplay is actually fairly week, and the movie is largely saved by an amazing cast. War Horse is too uneven, swinging between exaggerated theatricality and gritty realism so that both seem out of place. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close may be the worst movie I've seen all year - manipulative to the point of being offensive, it uses people's reactions to 9/11 to get unearned emotion or, worse, cheap laughs.
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Chris

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