After the vast number of silly nominations (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, anyone?) and appalling snubs (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science has made over the years, it’s worth asking: Do the Oscars even matter anymore?
Not really, but even with their diminishing cultural relevance, they’re still fun to talk about.
If you get past the fact that films that win Oscars are rarely the best films of the year but merely the films the movie industry can pat itself on the back about, and that actors win Oscars for their entire careers as opposed to their individual performances, then you may get some enjoyment out of the whole enterprise by flexing your prognostication savvy.
As usual, this year’s Academy Award nominations consist of safe, middlebrow entertainment that is seemingly progressive and unapologetically sentimental — see: The Descendants and The Help. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great films nominated this year (The Tree of Life, Hugo), but just like in years past, the Academy’s picks are not the entirety of the year’s highlights.
Two films celebrating the early days of cinema led the 2011 Oscar nominations. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo about the early silent film pioneer George Meliès garnered the most nominations with 11, but most of its wins will be relegated to the technical categories. French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, a black-and-white silent film about a movie star in the late 1920s, followed with 10 nominations, and is this year’s frontrunner.
Making your Oscar picks is half guesswork and half reading the trends from other awards ceremonies. It’s impossible to get into the mindset of the Hollywood insider, so for those of us who look in on Hollywood glamour from the outside, we have to look at things like the Golden Globes, the critics groups and the various guilds to see who has a chance of winning on Oscar night.
Like in many years past, 2012’s winner for Best Picture seems fairly locked. The Artist came out of the Cannes Film Festival with a Best Actor win for Jean Dujardin and has wooed viewers ever since. The film has peaked in recent weeks with its wins from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes and a whole gamut of critics’ groups. Its wins for Best Picture and Best Director — the winner of the Directors Guild almost always wins Best Director at the Oscars — are sure bets.
Although Meryl Streep is up for her 17th Oscar nomination for her turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, the film has been coolly received and Streep hardly needs another Oscar to bolster her career. On the other hand, Viola Davis from The Help has won the Screen Actors Guild and is due for an Oscar. Octavia Spencer for The Help and Christopher Plummer for Beginners might as well accept their Best Supporting Actress and Actor awards now and save us some time in the broadcast.
While George Clooney seemed a sure bet to win Best Actor a few months ago for his role as a cuckolded husband and father in The Descendants, Jean Dujardin from The Artist has been charming the awards circuit and picking up trophies from the Globes, the SAG and the BAFTAs. Expect to see him, not Clooney, stroll up to the podium on Feb. 26.
The water is a little murkier for the screenplay categories than with the acting races. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is his highest grossing film ever and, although it is deeply loved, it has little chance to win in the Picture and Director races. Expect the Academy to reward the film with Best Original Screenplay. For Best Adapted Screenplay, you’d think The Artist would continue its roll with a win, but its lack of dialogue may have some people turning to The Descendants, the likely winner.
The reason the Oscars made the switch to more than five Best Picture nominees back in 2009 sure was to ensure films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 got nominated — the kind of impeccably made, immensely popular blockbusters that everyone could appreciate but didn’t have the same prestige as the typical year-end awards contenders. Alas, the Academy missed out on awarding a nomination to 2011’s best film and the end to the most impressively consistent franchise in Hollywood history. After eight films that got better with each installment, the Academy had no legitimate reason not to award this final one with at least a token nomination.
Dark Horse: In Darkness — Best Foreign Language Film
All the critics’ groups are unanimous in considering Iranian film A Separation one of the best films of 2011 and the surefire Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, but never discount the heft of a Holocaust film in wooing Oscar voters. Thus, if there’s going to be a big upset on Oscar night, expect Polish film In Darkness to swoop in and steal A Separation’s thunder.
The Oscars are rapidly approaching! And this year’s ceremony will be one where surprises will happen at every turn. Why am I so confident, you ask, clearly humouring me? Because the awards season so far has been so ungodly boring, with The Artist winning everything under the sun (and probably the sun itself), I refuse to believe the universe will allow the one thing I get really excited about every year — the Oscars — to also make me weep with boredom over predictable victories.
Prepare for upsets, snubs and shockeroos at every turn. This year will keep us guessing right until the end and make us all feel better for the rather bland cinematic year of 2011.The Artist has been sweeping everything so far: the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the industry guilds. The odd thing is, The Artist has always been sort of a weak frontrunner. People have been voting for it, but not very enthusiastically. Last year The King’s Speech hit a note with viewers and was rewarded with a wide release and a haul of over $400 million at the international box office. The Artistby comparison has done OK.
The opportunity is ripe for it to stumble at the finish line, but which movie will overtake it? After seeing Hugo I leaned over to my girlfriend and whispered, “This will win Best Picture and I shot JFK.” I know that I’m probably wrong but Hugo is well-loved by everyone who sees it, and has the most nominations with 11. And it is Scorcese, after all. So call me nuts, but I’m going with my gut.
Look for Martin Scorsese to take home Best Director for the second time. He faces stiff competition from Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, but that despite Hazanavicius’s big win at the Directors Guild of America, he’ll likely stumble when faced with the snooty Academy. Yes, Tom Hooper won last year despite being new to film, but he was already well-known in television, and as mentioned before, The King’s Speech was huge! Personally, I’d rather see Terrence Malick take it this year for The Tree of Life, but his chances of winning are very slim.
Best Actor is an interesting category. For a while it was a three-way battle between Brad Pitt, Jean Dujardin and George Clooney, and Clooney seemed to be way out in front. But a late surge by Dujardin at the Screen Actors Guild has put him slightly ahead of the superstars.
What caused this shift? Many figure the vote splitting between Pitt and Clooney led to Dujardin breaking through. I predict a similar shock for the Oscars, but with different results. The vote split between Clooney and Dujardin will cause a late Pitt surge! Besides, Pitt remains Oscar-less while Clooney already has one. It’s Pitt’s time.
For Best Actress, it’s a clash between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. And really, it’s anyone’s guess who will triumph. Streep took the Globe while Davis took the SAG. It has been quite some time since 1982 when Meryl won her second Oscar, but Viola Davis is a fine actress who gave a marvelous performance in The Help and deserves her moment in the sun. However, before I incur the wrath of Meryl Streep fans, let me say I’m predicting Streep to win, even if The Iron Lady will be forgotten seconds after she wins for it.
Jonah Hill will win for Best Supporting Actor for Moneyball. No, wait, that’s ridiculous. Christopher Plummer is guaranteed to win for Beginners.
This year, The Help’s Octavia Spencer seems to be racking up the wins big time for Best Supporting Actress — thus, the perfect opportunity for a dark horse to pull through. Melissa McCarthy was the best part of Bridesmaids, and practically already won an Emmy for the performance (in a roundabout way). I suspect the Oscars want to spread a little anarchy this year so I’m going with a way-out-there prediction and saying McCarthy will pull it off.
Every year there are snubs and this year did not disappoint. For me I found my anger reserved for the lack of Tintin in the Best Animated Feature category. Too European for the Oscars? For shame! It’s one of the most fun, exciting and entertaining movies in years but the Academy seems to disagree. It seems like they have a serious problem with motion capture.
Dark Horse: The Help — Best Picture
If there’s one area where a huge shocker could appear, it’s in the Best Picture category. While The Help really underperformed in the nominations (no director, editing, costume or screenplay nominations), it still maintains an enormous fanbase and was a giant hit at the box office. If it wins Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, it could benefit from a draw between The Artist and Hugo and take the win. This isn’t likely, but don’t be flabbergasted if it happens.
Spicing things up
In order to add some excitement to these Oscar predictions, Aren and Colin have formulated a contest in which the writer with the fewer correct picks come Oscar night has to write an embarrassing article in the Sheaf the following week. And not just mildly embarrassing, like Aren going to all the Twilight movies opening night, but full-on embarrassing. Think Aren or Colin writing a film log of watching a bunch of recent Adam Sandler movies like Jack and Jill and Grown Ups back-to-back. These ideas may not end up happening, but they give you an idea of just how embarrassing the article will be — practically the equivalent of walking around with a “Kick Me” sign pinned to one of their backs.
Graphics: The Sheaf