Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar Nominations 2011

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Christmas Eve has finally arrived, and Santa and his gorgeous elf (aka Tom Sherak and Jennifer Lawrence, respectively) have given us a batch of Oscar nominations that included an exciting number of surprises. And thank goodness, too, after last year's no-tension race that was pretty much decided in December. Among those surprises: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close got a lot of love, while Drive, Shame, and J. Edgar (good riddance!) where virtually or completely shut out. The full list of nominations, with commentary, is below.

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

(8/9) I predicted eight nominees, and instead we got nine (the parentheses indicate the accuracy of my predictions). Luckily for me, the eight I predicted all made the cut, and I should have known better than to sleep on Extremely Loud. There was a surprising outpouring of love from that film, so I guess there's a pretty big fanbase for it in the Academy. But here's something to think about: what film do you think just missed the cut for being a 10th nominee? My guess is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, given its rather impressive showing.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

(5/5) I figured Malick still had a lot of supporters in the directing branch. The most interesting thing here is that Scorsese and Allen now move ahead of Steven Spielberg as the most honored directors by the Academy, as they both picked up their seventh nomination in this category. 

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

(3/5) This may be the most shocking category. Clooney, Pitt, and Dujardin were pretty much always safe, but they passed over a fantastic Michael Fassbender (Shame) and an awful Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) in favor of two very different but excellent performances. Bichir is the heart and soul of A Better Life, so its great to see him recognized. Oldman is actually more surprising to me because 1) the Academy's always seemed to be allergic to him and 2) this is a very subtle, very quiet, very observant performance, and those rarely ever get nominated. All of these gentlemen are extremely worthy.

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

(4/5) I love the inclusion of Mara - she carried Dragon Tattoo on her very capable shoulders and managed to differentiate her performance from that of Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish version. This is also Streep's 17th nomination, more than any other actor in history.

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

(4/5) I totally called the Nolte nomination, but von Sydow over Drive's Albert Brooks? Now that's something that nobody was expecting. This category is also filled with veterans, with Hill being the only nominee under 50.

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

(4/5) As I stated in my final predictions, I knew I was taking a risk choosing Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) over McCarthy. Its a good thing I'm not a betting man. I'm also glad to see that Chastain's 50 billion performances this year didn't cancel each other out (even though the image they used of her for the announcements this morning was from The Tree of Life, not The Help).

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

First, let's take a moment to commemorate the exclusion of Cars 2, thus proving that the Academy will not throw nominations at every single thing that Pixar does. This is actually a pretty surprising set, choosing not one but two foreign films over domestic fare such as Arthur Christmas and, most notably, The Adventures of Tintin. I'm sure the motion-capture of Tintin had something to do with its snub, but what a great set we got anyway.

The Artist; production design - Laurence Bennett, set decoration - Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2; production design - Stuart Craig, set decoration - Stephanie McMillan
Hugo; production design - Dante Ferretti, set decoration - Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris; production design - Anne Seibel, set decoration - Helene Dubreuil
War Horse; production design - Rick Carter, set decoration - Lee Sandales

This category is basically going to be a showdown between two previous winners: Craig, who will probably be honored for his work on the entire Harry Potter series, and Ferretti, who's previously won for Sweeney Todd and The Aviator and frequently collaborates with Martin Scorsese. I'm kind of shocked to see Midnight in Paris included, but in a good way: the set design was just as charming as the film itself.

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

I'll be really surprised if Lubezki doesn't win this won, but this is one of the best cinematography categories in years. I'm glad to see Cronenweth nominated again - a frequent David Fincher collaborator, he's been nominated for both The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network - but it's a shame they didn't have room for Drive's Newton Thomas Sigel or Moneyball's Wally Pfister (who won last year for Inception).

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

Big cheers for recognizing O'Connor, who created some truly magnificent costumes for Jane Eyre that perfectly matched the characters and the gloomy moors in which they lived. I'm also impressed that Anonymous scored a nomination, but then again, they do love period pieces, so I shouldn't be all that shocked.

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Paradise Lost 3 took on a whole new relevance when its subjects, the West Memphis 3, were freed during filming, so nothing surprising there. In fact, given the shortlist of finalists from a few weeks ago, I don't think there's really anything all that surprising about these nominees. Hell and Back Again, a scathing look at the Afghanistan War, and Undefeated, the story of an underfunded high school football team reversing its fortunes (a true-life East Dillon Lions, huh?), could be spoilers.

A Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

The shorts categories are the most difficult for me to comment on, since I don't really know anything about them until they're announced (God is the Bigger Elvis isn't even listed on IMDb). There's a lot of interesting subjects this year: a Foot Soldier who campaigns for Obama in 2008 (A Barber of Birmingham), the aftermath of last year's tsunami in Japan (Cherry Blossom), the slaying of two Reuters journalist in Iraq in 2007 (Incident in New Baghdad), and acid attacks on Pakistani women (Saving Face).

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

I'm not really surprised by any of these nominees. Granted, I can think of other films that were certainly worthy of inclusion (Beginners, Drive, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and it feels like they were just trying to include as many Best Picture nominees as possible, but its still a fine list. That especially goes for Tellefsen, who included a lot of game footage and other elements seemlessly into the film.

Bullhead, Belgium
Footnote, Israel
In Darkness, Poland
Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
A Separation, Iran

(3/5) It seemed like a safe bet that Germany's Pina would end up with nominations here and in Documentary, but instead Belgium and Canada managed to sneak in. More than anything I'm really surprised by the Belgium nomination; that really just kind of came out of nowhere. On the other hand, Canada, nominated last year too, is really on a roll lately. And, if you know anything about international relations, how awkward is it to see Israel up against Iran?

Albert Nobbs; Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2; Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
The Iron Lady; Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

I don't have any complaints about any of these makeup jobs. The most important thing we should be happy about here is that they didn't go for the mummification of Armie Hammer in J. Edgar.

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

John Williams, the legendary composer of pretty much every movie score you love, picks up his 46th AND 47th nominations, making him the most nominated individual in the history of the Oscars. Bource isn't a surprising inclusion, but I wasn't so sure he'd be included since his score incorporates elements of Bernard Herrman's Vertigo score. I do, though, want to take time here to campaign for Iglesias to win this Oscar: the Tinker Tailor score was perfectly moody and suspenseful, contributing to the atmosphere of the film in all the right ways.

"Man or Muppet," The Muppets; music and lyric by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio," Rio; music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, lyric by Siedah Garrett

Look, congrats to McKenzie, whom I thought was fantastic with Flight of the Concords. But I've been advocating the end of this category for a long time, and when you narrow down a list of 20+ finalists to only two nominees, its time to close it out. This isn't really a filmmaking craft, and with so fewer movies incorporating original songs nowadays, there's just no reason to keep this around. So I say let's either replace it with an ensemble prize (like the SAGs do) or start making more original movie musicals. I'll take either one.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Several of these sound interesting to me, particularly Lessmore, which apparently incorporates a number of animation techniques. I'll have to see if I can find these somewhere.

The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

The Shore is directed by Terry George, who previously helmed Oscar bait films such as Hotel Rwanda and worked with Jim Sheridan during the '90s.

Drive; Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Ren Klyce
Hugo; Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahi
War Horse; Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

And here we have the only nomination for Drive, an unfortunate fact. However, it was nominated, along with Dragon Tattoo, both of which used their sound effects to their advantage.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
Hugo; Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball; Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
War Horse; Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Another big round of applause for including Moneyball, which perfectly integrated the various sources of sound into the film to make for a realistic and engaging soundscape.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2; Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
Hugo; Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
Real Steel; Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

They really had a thing for automatons this year, didn't they? Boxing with Hugh Jackman in Real Steel, helping a young boy find a message from his father in Hugo, or destroying Chicago in Robots Go SMASH!!! 3, it was their year to shine. Even though this prize is definitely going to Planet of the Apes; how could you possibly argue against Caesar and his ape army?

The Descendants; screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo; screenplay by John Logan
The Ides of March; screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball; screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan

Only one nomination for The Ides of March, but hey, its a nomination! And a deserving one too: the film was a marvelous adaptation of Willimon's play Farragut North, making the translation from stage to screen without losing any of its power. I'm also glad to see Tinker Tailor's dense, opaque script get a nomination too.

The Artist; written by Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids; written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call; written by JC Chandor
Midnight in Paris; written by Woody Allen
A Separation; written by Asghar Farhadi

I told you all Margin Call would be in this, and what do you know, there it is! The biggest - and most pleasant - surprise here is that the writers' branch chose to nominate Farhadi's A Separation script over other contenders such as Win Win, Young Adult, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life, and 50/50. There was a time when foreign-language scripts flourished here, and I'm glad to see that its still more than possible.

1 comment:

3guys1movie said...

Drive and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and 50/50 all got the shaft IMO. Those were three of the better films this year. Whereas, Hugo, War Horse and Incredibly blah blah blah were not that impressive and filled with over sentimental goo.
enjoyed checking out your blog