Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscars 2010: Best of the Rest

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are now around 24 hours away from the Oscars, Hollywood's biggest night and my Christmas. If you haven't been keeping up, you can see my pieces on Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Adapted and Original Screenplays, Best Director, and Best Picture by clicking on the links. These are the rest of the nominees, which I've grouped here together because I haven't seen a lot of these nominations, whether because of availability or lack of time. Therefore, there won't be any of my ballots for these, just thoughts and predictions. I hope to see all of them someday.

Also, since I'm a shameless self-promoter, be sure to log on tomorrow night for my 2nd Annual Oscar Live-Blog, which will hopefully be starting exactly at 8 pm EST. I hope you'll all check it out.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
 Toy Story 3
 How to Train Your Dragon
 The Illusionist


At first glance, there shouldn't really seem like there's much competition here, since Toy Story 3 has a Best Picture nomination and was the biggest moneymaker and best-reviewed film of the year. However, there's a lot of love for How to Train Your Dragon, and if it did win I wouldn't be very disappointed since its an excellent film, perhaps the best that Dreamworks has made thus far. Unfortunately for Sylvain Chomet, who competed here in 2003 against Pixar's Finding Nemo, he'll most likely have to settle for "its an honor just to be nominated." In the end, though, I think Toy Story 3 will give Pixar its sixth win in this category.

BEST ART DIRECTION
 Alice in Wonderland
 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
 Inception
 The King's Speech
 True Grit


Yes, yes, The King's Speech was shot on a set that was used in a gay porn, but production designer Eve Stewart has said before that she was using a previously-existing set that had been spruced up for the film, and with ballots having been sent in before this was discovered, it doesn't make a difference now anyway. The least impressive work here comes from Harry Potter, with most of the film occurring outdoors, thus, I assume, little set design (feel free to tell me otherwise - I'm no expert on this stuff, and would love to know better). True Grit is a similar case, but the designs of the Old West town are great, especially that dusty courtroom that Rooster is interrogated in. The best, in my opinion, is Inception, with it's elaborate sets that were creative and eye-catching. And before we say that The King's Speech will take this one, consider this: no Tim Burton film nominated in this category has ever lost. Hopefully, the hideous excuse for a film that is Alice in Wonderland will be the first.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
 Black Swan
 Inception
 The King's Speech
 The Social Network True Grit


If there's anyone in this category who's most overdue for an Oscar, its True Grit's Roger Deakins, who to date has nine nominations but no wins, and he's certainly put forward an incredible piece of work in this film, bringing out the stark, empty beauty of the landscapes. The King's Speech's Danny Cohen, in his first nomination, does some interesting work in his film, but none of its flashy enough to grab attention; he'll need his film to sweep to get a win here. The same goes for The Social Network's Jeff Cronenweth, another first time who does fine work but not vital work. Wally Pfister has collaborated with Christopher Nolan on all of the latter's films since Memento, and one of these days he'll win the Oscar that he so richly deserves for his innovative work (just think of the zero-gravity hallway or the falling van in Inception). If it was my choice, I'd go with Matthew Libatique's claustrophobic handheld camera work in Black Swan, which fittingly added to the paranoia and psychologically-disturbing qualities of the film. But I suspect that they'll give Deakins his first win, partly out of "its his time" sentimentality and because its likely the only place they'll reward True Grit this year.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
 Alice in Wonderland
 I Am Love
 The King's Speech
 The Tempest
 True Grit


Of course, all of the costumes in True Grit have that rugged Wild West feel, but I was particularly impressed by the doctor in the bear suit; first-time nominee and frequent Coen collaborator Mary Zophres really outdid herself on that one. Jenny Beavan's work on The King's Speech was positively regal, and is probably the most likely winner here this year. Sandy Powell and Colleen Atwood square off again, this time with two fantasy pieces: the former created some inventive duds for Julie Taymor's Shakespeare adaptation The Tempest (Taymor, directoral abilities aside, must be a dream to work for as a costume designer) while the latter's costumes were probably the best part of Alice in Wonderland, which is damning praise if there ever was any. I haven't seen I Am Love yet, but Antonella Cannarozzi's designs look positively sumptuous. Like I said, though, Beavan will probably take home her second Oscar tomorrow night.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
 Exit Through the Gift Shop
 Gasland
 Inside Job
 Restrepo
 Waste Land


This year, I only managed to catch two of the nominees, though I could have seen four had it not been for bad timing. Exit Through the Gift Shop has caused quite a stir over how Banksy would claim his Oscar should he win, but since the film may not necessarily be a real documentary a la F for Fake, I doubt that's a very likely scenario. I do think that it was one of the best films of the year, though, as it claimed the #7 spot on my top 10 list. I just missed being able to see Inside Job, and I suspect its something of a frontrunner for its expose of the financial crisis of 2008 that plunged us into what is now being dubbed the Great Recession. Gasland, about the growth of natural gas production in the United States, was another film I missed, but it hasn't been buzzy enough to be considered a frontrunner. The same goes for Waste Land, a film about an artist whose works are composed of recycled products from Rio de Janeiro's largest landfill. I did happen to catch Restrepo on National Geographic one day, and the first-hand footage of the war in Afghanistan is powerful stuff. This film, to me, seems to be exactly what the Academy would like to honor, and I think it'll walk away the winner.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
 Killing in the Name
 Poster Girl
 Strangers No More
 Sun Come Up
 The Warriors of Qiugang


I haven't seen any of these films, but based on subject matter, Killing in the Name (a first-hand account of suicide bombings) and The Warriors of Qiugang (Chinese locals protesting a harmful chemical plant) seem like the best bets, but Poster Girl (women in the Iraq War), Strangers No More (a multinational elementary school in Tel Aviv) and Sun Come Up (environmental refugees in Papua New Guinea) certainly sound like possibilities too. Really, I just don't know.

BEST FILM EDITING
 Black Swan
 The Fighter
 The King's Speech
 127 Hours
 The Social Network


There are very few instances of a film winning Best Picture without having an editing nomination, and with all five of these nominees being BP nominees as well, winning here can only help their case (sorry, True Grit and the egregiously-snubbed Inception). 127 Hours features the usual quick-paced edits that have come to define director Danny Boyle's films, and these cuts help keep the film in constant motion when its protagonist obviously isn't. The edits in The Social Network are essential to the film's time-jumping narrative, and establishes the setting for each scene well. I can't think of anything outstanding about The King's Speech in this regard, but The Fighter has some great work, particularly in the fight scenes. However, if any film deserves this, its Black Swan for the way that the editing does the exact opposite of what it does in The Social Network, blurring the line between delusion and reality until the two are completely inseparable.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
 Biutiful, Mexico
 Dogtooth, Greece
 In a Better World, Denmark
 Incendies, Canada
 Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi), Algeria

There's a diverse field of films here this year, and I managed to see two of them before the Oscar ceremony (this is a first for me - before this year, I'd never seen a foreign language nominee before the ceremony). Biutiful, which would seem to be a frontrunner since its from a well-known director who's been Oscar nominated before (Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, who was nominated for Best Director for Babel in 2006 and had his first film Amores Perros nominated in this category in 2000) and was nominated in Best Actor this year as well (Javier Bardem). However, the film's received mixed reviews, so I doubt Mexico will end its winless streak this year (the nation currently has no wins for eight nominations). Dogtooth, the other film I've seen, is a fantastically and disturbingly original film, but its probably too weird for the Academy's tastes. Incendies tackles the Middle East, and played well on the festival circuit, but I don't think its buzzy enough to win. Denmark's In a Better World is currently the favorite to win, and I think it definitely has the best chance at taking home the prize. However, if they want to get political and show their support for the democratic revolutions in North Africa, they could easily give the prize to Algeria's Outside the Law, which is about the struggle for Algeria's independence from France. Its probably a long shot, but I think an upset is definitely in the cards.

BEST MAKEUP
 Barney's Version
 The Way Back
 The Wolfman


I think its telling that all three of these films received their only nominations here. Barney's Version features lots of aging makeup, as the entire cast is aged backwards and forwards to cover their entire lives. The Way Back, which was projected to be a much, much bigger awards presence before it was dumped for release on the last day of the year and being ultimately forgotten, mostly requires the dirtying-up of its protagonists, as well as slimming them down to make them look like they broke out of Siberian gulag. However, I think the obvious winner here is going to be the least-acclaimed film of the group: The Wolfman features dynamic transformation effects courtesy of makeup artist extraordinare Rick Baker, who used similar werewolf-transformation techniques to win the first Makeup Oscar in 1981 for An American Werewolf in London.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
 How to Train Your Dragon
 Inception
 The King's Speech
 127 Hours
 The Social Network


I'm really impressed by all of this year's nominees, who've brought a variety of styles to their films. I don't think anyone would have thought A.R. Rahman would be nominated again after his win in 2008 for scoring Slumdog Millionaire, but he managed to return with his three-themed score for 127 Hours; its not complicated work, but it suits the film well. John Powell, earning his first nomination, deserves recognition for his brilliant, soaring work on How to Train Your Dragon, a beautiful score that is uplifting and majestic. Alexandre Desplat, an Academy favorite, created a lush, regal score for The King's Speech, and I would say that its the most likely to win. Han Zimmer's Inception score is brash and unsubtle, but when integrated into the film its used excellently; stand-alone, though, its not likely to impress voters. If any score deserves it the most, though, I'd have to go with the unconventional industrial score by Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. For proof of the phenomenal work they've done, just listen to the foreboding, haunting track from the opening credits, "Hand Covers Bruise." That should be enough to win.



BEST ORIGINAL SONG

 "Coming Home," Country Strong

 "I See the Light," Tangled

 "If I Rise," 127 Hours

 "We Belong Together," Toy Story 3


Eventually, with the lack of original songs for films nowadays, I think the Academy is going to do away with this category. It used to be that at least some of the nominees were recognizable outside of their films; can you name any of the recent winners or nominees? Anyway, out of these four, "If I Rise" probably has the slightest chance of winning, since its a pretty same-y song. "Coming Home" is standard modern country, and if the voters like the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow has suddenly reinvented herself as a singer, they could go for this saccharine piece. However, I think its going to come down to the two Disney numbers: they love to nominated Randy Newman (this is his 20th nod), but he only has one win (for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc. in 2001). He seems like a strong choice, especially since he has the most upbeat number, but the best song and most likely winner is "I See the Light," a touching song that played over the strongest scene in Tangled. Its from Alan Menken, who did the music for Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hercules and Enchanted. I'd say he's the best bet.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
 Day & Night
 The Gruffalo
 Let's Pollute
 The Lost Thing
 Madagascar, Carnet de voyage


I've only seen one of these films, and Day & Night is a pure delight, probably the best short film that Pixar has made yet. It seems like a lock for this category, except that The Gruffalo features a cast of British all-stars (among them Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter), which may be able to pull the upset. Otherwise, I don't know much about the other films, except that they all have a striking visual style. I'm looking forward to finding them all someday.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
 The Confession
 The Crush
 God of Love
 Na Wewe
 Wish 143


Again, I'm not really familiar with any of these, but from what I understand, Na Wewe is the most topical, since it deals with the Rwandan genocide, so I'm going with that one as the winner. The others I'll have to check out sometime.

BEST SOUND EDITING
 Inception
 Toy Story 3
 TRON: Legacy
 True Grit
 Unstoppable


Did anyone guess that Tony Scott's runaway-train flick would end up with an Oscar nomination? I certainly didn't, but this is a category that tends to like three kinds of films: action flicks, animated films, and musicals. All five of these films exemplify one of those categories, and all seem fitting. Since this award is based on how sound effects are integrated into the film, I'm guessing Inception has a leg-up on the competition, but honestly I'm not sure who they'll go for.

BEST SOUND MIXING
 Inception
 The King's Speech
 Salt
 The Social Network
 True Grit


Oh yeah, Salt's an Oscar-nominated movie now as well. Sound mixing has more to do with the overall sound of the movie, and in this regard I can see how The King's Speech would seem like a safe choice, seeing as how radio plays such an integral part in the film. The Social Network, too, mixed its dialogue with various scenes where the music drowned out other sounds, which would make it an interesting choice. And True Grit had gunshots and Jeff Bridges' near-unintelligible dialogue, so there's that. But Inception had the most clever and essential use of sound, as the music for the kicks played a vital role for the plot, and I suspect it will walk away with the win in this category.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
 Alice in Wonderland
 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
 Hereafter
 Inception
 Iron Man 2


I've already written an extensive column about these at The Large Association of Movie Blogs for LAMB Devours the Oscars, which you are free to check out here. In summation, Alice in Wonderland's effects are dreadful, Iron Man 2's are boring, Harry Potter's are less than magical, Hereafter's are interesting, and Inception's are the most deserving. I have a feeling that Inception's got this category locked down, but if there's a spoiler here, I'd say its Alice in Wonderland, just because people really like that movie for some reason.

So there you have it: all of the Oscar nominees. Who are you picking to win? Excited about tomorrow? Again, be sure to follow the live-blog!

2 comments:

Dan O. said...

As much as I would kill for Nolan to win for screenplay, the fact remains the Academy has an unreasonable hard on for The King’s Speech so original screenplay will probably go to that movie rather Inception, despite it should win. Check out my list and opinions when you can!

RC said...

"8:37 Back to the Future is a bit unexpected. But the producers did say that this year's ceremony would be a "virtual trip through Oscar history," so I guess it fits."

So true - it was kind of weird the way they put a couple random old films in here and there - I didn't really seem "successful"

I am a little sad we missed out on the Banksy exception speech that could have been.