Oscar Picks, First Pass

Christopher Plummer, who is an old guy pivotal to the movie, as opposed to Von Sydow, who is an old guy, who has less dialogue than Jean Dujardin

I tend to think of movie years from Academy Awards night to Academy Awards night, not so much because I’m an Oscars fan – though I am – but because some of the movies that get nominated don’t even make it to small markets such as Albany, NY until January or even February. Yeah, I know the Oscar nominations were very conservative this year, for the most part.

*means I have actually seen it

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

Saw 6 out of 9, so far, 3 in the last couple weeks. War Horse is still playing, so maybe I’ll still see it. I’d love to watch Moneyball, which is available on DVD.
WILL WIN: The Artist, which I liked. It’s a film about film. I mean, so is Hugo, but not as directly.
WANT TO WIN: Midnight in Paris, or The Descendants
PLEASE! NOT: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

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

WANT TO WIN: George Clooney. Used to be that when an actor had a good year, a couple of strong performances, that’d help him. I heard good things about Ides of March.
WILL WIN: Clooney or Jean Dujardin; can’t decide yet.
DON’T KNOW: the movie A Better Life, or its star

Best Actress

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

WANT TO WIN: Meryl Streep, who’s been nominated about 117 times, but has won only twice and not since the early 1980s
WILL WIN: I keep predicting Streep, so why stop now? Naturally, then, it’ll be Davis.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
*Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Christopher Plummer, who is an old guy pivotal to his movie, as opposed to Von Sydow, who is an old guy, who has less dialogue than Jean Dujardin

Best Supporting Actress

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

WANT TO WIN: actually any of the ones I’ve seen for different reasons. McCarthy because comedy is undervalued.
WILL WIN: Spencer.

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

WILL WIN: Hazanavicius

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
JC Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
*Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Woody Allen. The screenplay categories have traditionally consolation prizes, and I think, since Woody’s not going to get film or director, this is where he’ll get some love.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Payne, et al, who will lose out on picture and director, but likewise takes this prize.

What Oscar-nominated movies did you see this year, and what are YOUR picks?


It occurred to me that the last three films I’ve seen were all about the cinema.


Shortly after I saw the black-and-white, mostly silent film The Artist at the Spectrum in Albany the weekend before last, someone asked me what I thought of it. “It’s very clever,” I said. “But is it good?” “It’s the best silent film I’ve seen this century.”

None of this is to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the film; more to the point, I would see it again. It’s fun, it’s well-acted, and particularly so, precisely because it IS a silent film, though with music, and the actors have to convey so much sans dialogue. It’s just that there are not that many contemporary films to which I can compare them. Which, in and of itself, makes the fact that it even got made a brave and remarkable feat.

The Artist is the story of silent movie star George Valentin (French actor Jean Dujardin) in Hollywood circa 1927. Will the advent of the talkies mean the end of his career, in favor of younger talent, such as the pretty extra Peppy Miller (Argentinian-French actress Bérénice Bejo)? As their fortunes change, their fates, and the fate of Valentin’s dog (Uggie), remain intertwined.

Dujardin, in particular, has to convey a whole range of emotions. Bejo was also wonderful; some suggested that she was too “modern” for the specific period, which may be true, but I think the French writer-director, Michel Hazanavicius (Bejo’s husband) was trying to convey the difference between the old and the new. He even picked the song ‘Pennies from Heaven’, which appears in the film in 1929 but, as the credits clearly show, dates from 1936; this matters not a bit. The Golden Globes nominations for Bejo and two for Hazanavicius and the win for Dujardin were totally warranted. Kudos also to actors John Goodman, who played the movie mogul Al Zimmer; and James Cromwell, who was Valentin’s loyal assistant, Clifton.

It occurred to me that the last three films I’ve seen were all about the cinema: Hugo, My Week with Marilyn and now The Artist. And the book I read was about film critic Roger Ebert. Next time, a NON-movie movie.

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