Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Best of the Rest

I had originally wanted to do several posts for the remaining technical categories, but circumstances have left me pushed for time (only 4 more hours!!!) and I'm going to combine them all into one big post. I have not, unfortunately, seen all of the nominees, so some of my ballots will be incomplete, but I'll give you the best I can, and update those ballots in the future as I see the nominees. I kinda cheated on Art Direction and Costume Design and Makeup, looking at pictures from the films rather than seeing some of them in theaters, but I can judge from that and will see the films eventually. So, without further ado, the remaining Oscar categories.
I only saw two of the five nominees this year (Up and Coraline), but from what I can tell this year was a fantastic one for animation. And the variety here is excellent: you have CGI animation (Up), stop-motion (Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox), and traditional cell animation (The Secret of Kells and The Princess and the Frog). Up should fly away with the win, but don't be surprised if Coraline or Fantastic Mr. Fox pulls the upset.
  1. Up
  2. Coraline
Honestly, this is Avatar's to lose. The Young Victoria has gorgeous Victorian designs, Sherlock Holmes' London was fantastically grim, Nine featured phenomenal Italian sets combined with the fantasy world inside Citicinema, while The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus presented a world that only Terry Gilliam could dream up. But one look at the Hallelujah Mountains is enough to make me believe that Avatar is the winner here.
  1. Avatar
  2. Nine
  3. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  4. The Young Victoria
  5. Sherlock Holmes
I really wanted to finish this one, but unfortunately I never got a chance to see The White Ribbon, so I'm left with four of five. Those four that I have seen are great, from Avatar's sweeping 3D world to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's dark color palate to The Hurt Locker's intuitively tight focus to Inglourious Basterd's glorious shots. Based on what I've seen, Inglourious Basterds is the favorite here, but I have a have soft spot for HBP's Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement).
  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  2. Avatar
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. The Hurt Locker
Ah, the costumes. I'm no expert in this, but I do love the innovation that goes into this category. Bright Star featured some truly gorgeous gowns and petticoats, as did the royal The Young Victoria. Coco Before Chanel showcased brilliant outfits that were true to Chanel's boyish style. Nine featured the kind of Chicago-esque costumes that one expects from a Rob Marshall musical. And The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus featured a potent mix of bizarre carnival suits with bizarre fantasy. This is really The Young Victoria vs. Nine, and since royalty excels in this category, expect the former to take home the Oscar.
  1. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  2. Coco Before Chanel
  3. Nine
  4. Bright Star
  5. The Young Victoria
This one is embarrassing for me, since I've only seen one of the five nominees. But Food, Inc. was a fascinating doc, and I can understand why it was nominated. However, The Cove is heavily favored over the rest, which includes Burma VJ, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and Which Way Home.
  1. Food, Inc.
Again, I've only seen one of these. China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Shichuan Province was yellow journalism at its best, providing a very biased, anti-Communist American look at the results of the 2007 earthquake that struck the region. Hopefully the remaining nominees (The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Music by Prudence, Rabbit a la Berlin) are better than this one. Expect The Last Truck to win tonight.
  1. China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Shichuan Province
This is always a great category, since it often recognizes the films that many felt should have been Best Picture nominees. This year, however, features nothing but Best Picture nominees, and it has some interesting choices. Tarantino's films have always been feats of editing, and Inglourious Basterds is no different. The Hurt Locker's tight edits were a major source of the film's tension. District 9 deftly integrated the CGI aliens into the real world, and Avatar did the opposite by integrating real actors into a CGI world. The Precious' cuts between Precious' reality and her fantasy was excellently done. Expect Avatar to take this one home, with The Hurt Locker as the most likely upset candidate.
  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. District 9
  4. Avatar
  5. Precious
This one was disappointing too in regards to my personal viewing: I only saw The Milk of Sorrow, Peru's nominee. I really wanted to see The White Ribbon (Germany) and Un Prophete (France) before the broadcast, since they are the top contenders. However, Israel's Ajami has the we're-all-connected story that the Oscars love (plus Israel is currently 0-of-9 at the Oscars, making them the most nominated country without a win), and I've heard talk of Argentina's El Secreto de Sus Ojos being the potential spoiler this year. Still, I expect The White Ribbon will walk away with the trophy, and France's Oscar drought will continue (France's last win: 1992, for Indochine).
  1. The Milk of Sorrow, Peru
The makeup category is always interesting as well, since innovation here usually comes in the form of aging or monsters. And what do you know, that's exactly how this year's category turned out. There's the aging makeup used in Il Divo, about an Italian politician. There's regal makeup in The Young Victoria. And then there's the fantastic look of the characters in Star Trek: Zachary Quinto's spot-on recreation of Spock's look, the green woman Kirk is caught with, Eric Bana's Romulan tattoos. The Young Victoria will probably win this one, but Star Trek could upset. And in case you're wondering, legendary makeup artist Rick Baker took the year off, which is why this is the rare year in which he's not nominated.
  1. Star Trek
  2. The Young Victoria
  3. Il Divo
This is another of my favorite categories, being a former band kid and music aficionado and whatnot. The composers honored here are among the best in the business, and the scores are equally great. Michael Giacchino's score in Up was emotionally resonant, particularly in the "Married Life" montage (which you can see in my Best Scenes of 2009 blog), a theme which is repeated throughout the film. James Horner's score for Avatar is the kind of chest-thumping, expansive music that befits such an epic saga. Marco Beltrami's and Bucky Sanders' subdued score for The Hurt Locker underlies the dramatic tension of the film. Hans Zimmer's Sherlock Holmes score is a playful and contemplative as the film's protagonist. And Alexandre Desplat's Fantastic Mr. Fox score is as playful as the film seems to be. Expect Giacchino to be named the big winner.
  1. Michael Giacchino, Up
  2. Alexandre Desplat, Fantastic Mr. Fox
  3. James Horner, Avatar
  4. Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes
  5. Marco Beltrami & Bucky Sanders, The Hurt Locker
This is such a troubled category. Sometimes there are five nominees, sometimes there are three. Some argue that the category needs a major overhaul, while some argue that its past its prime and should be scrapped altogether. It's hard to argue: most of the time only one or two of the nominees are actually decent. This year is slightly better than most, though a step down from last year (I liked all three nominees last year). "Almost There" is a hopeful number from The Princess and the Frog, which is suitable for this new Obama age. That film's other nominated number, "Down in New Orleans," is the kind of song that Disney Renaissance musicals excelled at, but this one is oddly flat. "Loin de Paname" from Paris 36 is a lovely French ballad that continues the non-English nominee trend (not a bad one, if you ask me). Nine's new tune "Take It All," memorably performed by Marion Cotillard, is a showstopper with heart, and is perhaps one of the film's finest moments. And Crazy Heart's mellow ballad "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" is a fantastic reflection on the movie, as well as the clear frontrunner for this category.
  1. "Take It All," Nine
  2. "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)," Crazy Heart
  3. "Almost There," The Princess and the Frog
  4. "Loin de Paname," Paris 36
  5. "Down in New Orleans," The Princess and the Frog
By some divine miracle, I actually saw all of these nominees (thanks Youtube). French Roast is a cute film about a man who can't pay for his coffee. Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty puts the ranting senior spin on the classic fairy tale. The Lady and the Reaper is a wonderfully funny rumination on accepting death. Logorama uses famous logos to construct a gonzo and profane world thats a send-up of both crime films and disaster flicks. And A Matter of Loaf and Death is the newest outing from Wallace & Gromit, who star as bakers with a murderous problem. It's the clear favorite here.
  1. A Matter of Loaf and Death
  2. Logorama
  3. The Lady and the Reaper
  4. Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
  5. French Roast
I did not, however, see all of these. Of what I did see, Kavi tells the story of an Indian man trying to escape his place in life, and Miracle Fish is a dark film in which atmosphere triumphs over story. I understand that The New Tenants is the favorite here, though I know next to nothing about The Door and Instead of Abracadabra.
  1. Miracle Fish
  2. Kavi
I recently learned last year the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. Sound editing is the use of sound effects within a film. In that regard, this years films are excellent choices: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, and Up. Expect Avatar to take this one.
  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Avatar
  3. Up
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. Star Trek
Sound mixing, on the other hand, is the overall soundtrack of the film, with the integration of the effects, music, and other sounds. I'm not entirely sure I'm behind the nomination for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but the other four- Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, and Star Trek- are excellent. Avatar should win this one too.
  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Avatar
  3. The Hurt Locker
  4. Star Trek
  5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Let's face it: this one belongs to Avatar. However, its noticeable that these are all CGI effects mostly, rather than traditional ones. But such is the way of the world today. District 9's Prawns fit seemlessly with the rest of the world, and Star Trek's big effects were phenomenal. But Avatar's glorious sights are impossible to ignore.
  1. Avatar
  2. District 9
  3. Star Trek
What do you think? Comment. And tune in tonight for the winners!

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