The 2011 Academy Awards were announced today and as it is with every year, the results are a giant “meh”. It was a given that Scorsese’s whimsical and colorful Hugo would become the front runner with 11 nominations. Another film that follows it right behind is The Artist, with its silent film gimmick and somewhat annoying desperation to be loved by all. Both films are open love letters to the cinema’s baby steps so of course they both tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of Academy voters who are all film lovers at heart.
The inclusion of the groundbreaking Tree of Life in the best picture category wasn’t that big of a surprise, nor were its two other nominations. This is a film that is dazzling with its grand ambition, so it does attract the Academy’s attention. Yet at the same time it doesn’t follow a classic narrative structure and might be considered a little “too artsy”. Therefore, it gets the equivalent of an honorary mention without actually taking home the best picture, just like 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t in 1969.
My predictions are:
It looks like it’ll be a race between Hugo and The Artist. The Descendants was an early front runner but as great as it was, might be seen as a little too depressing for the academy. My money’s on The Artist. Even though it was a shameless rip-off of Singin’ in the Rain, it is this year’s Little Indie That Could. If we were in the 90s, I’d go with Hugo all the way, but the recent best picture wins of indie darlings are undeniable: The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire etc…
Of course I think Terrence Malick deserves it with his sheer audacity to create something truly extraordinary but I think just like The Tree of Life’s best picture nomination, Malick’s inclusion on the Best Director list is merely the academy’s attempt to retain the illusion of artistic credibility. In that case, I hope that Alexander Payne’s tightly controlled handling of a very sensitive subject will not go unnoticed.
I would personally go for Brad Pitt’s atypical depiction of A’s manager Billy Beane in Moneyball but I think Jean Dujardin will win because he’s just so darn adorable. The academy probably also expects him to deliver his acceptance speech with that damn dog, and they’ll never say no to that kind of cheese.
I think Viola Davis deserved to win in 2009 for her short but powerful role in Doubt. Even though I don’t think she is just as strong in The Help, her win would be a nice consolation for last time. Meryl Streep, with her ridiculous 17th nomination, might finally grab her first statuette since 1983.
Best Supporting Actor:
Nick Nolte might pull a fast one and win for his heartbreaking portrayal of an alcoholic father in The Warrior, easily the best element of that film. Christopher Plummer is also said to be a front runner, even though his film The Beginners is unseen by me.
Best Supporting Actress:
I think Octavia Spencer will win for The Help, deservedly so. On paper, the character is a giant stereotype of the sassy plump black woman, but she infuses her role with natural energy and manages to turn it into a three dimensional person.
Best Original Screenplay:
Not a very promising list. The Artist is the one that least deserves it, with giant sections copy-pasted from better movies and a hammy, melodramatic story. Bridesmaids was cute, but had a terrible story structure and was all over the place, plot-wise. Midnight in Paris was benign, and the academy loves Woody, but it suffers from a lack of conflict and meandering dialogue. We are left with A Seperation, which has one of the best screenplays I’ve seen on screen in a while.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
I’m personally rooting for Moneyball’s 3 adapters, who managed to turn something as boring as baseball statistics into a Darwinian struggle for survival. Alas, The Descendants will win instead, not that that’s reason to complain much.
Best Animated Feature:
It’s rather a sizable shock that the shoo-in for each year, Pixar, is not even nominated for Cars 2. I guess that’s what happens when a renowned studio decides to just chase merchandising money. I really hope Rango wins this one. An endlessly creative animated western, it was one of the best films of 2011.
Best Foreign Language Film:
A Separation has this in the bag. Its astoundingly positive critical and audience reaction calls for it. More than highly deserved in my opinion.
In this case, I think Tree of Life will snatch its sole Oscar. Emmanuel Lubezki’s natural cinematography that floated around its characters like water contains some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen on film. It’ll be real shame if he doesn’t win.
I’m surprised The Tree of Life didn’t get much love in this category, considering its unorthodox yet endlessly effective editing. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will probably win.
Best Art Direction:
I think this is one of the only categories Hugo truly deserves to win.
Best Costume Design:
The Artist, with its true-to-period yet whimsical costumes.
Unfortunately with filmmakers pushing CGI over practical effects, creative make-up is a dying art. The Iron Lady, perhaps?
Best Original Score:
Even though it’s an obvious choice, I love John Williams’ score for War Horse. It was classic and powerful, exactly what it should have been considering the film’s old-fashioned epic ambitions. However, The Artist will probably win with it’s playful score.
Even though I though Flight of The Conchords’ Bret Mckenzie’s songs for The Muppets were somewhat of a fail and didn’t quite manage to capture The Muppets’ unique whimsy, “Muppet or a Man” is one of the only songs of truly inspired silliness. It should win.
Best Sound Mixing:
The Girl With The… Whatever, you know what it’s called.
Best Sound Editing:
The Girl movie again.
Best Visual Effects:
Andy Serkis didn’t get much love in the acting department (When will the academy take motion capture seriously?) but I think it’ll make up for it by giving the visual effects to Rise of The Planet of The Apes.
Hell and Back Again, The Academy loves war docs.
Best Documentary Short:
Best Animated Short Film:
Best Live Action Short Film: