Friday, February 24, 2012

My 2012 Oscars Predictions

Tomorrow's Oscar night, so let's cut to the chase. Here are my predictions for the 84th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture:

(The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse)

During the past weeks, the hype around The Artist has shown significant increase. But my personal favorite among these was The Descendants.

Should win: The Descendants

Will win: The Artist

Best Director:

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

Same reasoning as above for The Artist, and add to that the fact that Best Picture and Best Director usually go hand in hand. But how could one ignore Scorsese's brilliance in Hugo?

Should win: Martin Scorsese

Will win: Michel Hazanavicius

Best Actor:

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

Even though Clooney already has a screenwriting Oscar win for Good Night and Good Luck (2005), his comedic/tragic turnout in The Descendants is still preferred to Pitt's somewhat repetitious act in Moneyball. But for crying out loud, Dujardin got nominated for playing in a silent movie!

Should win: Jean Dujardin

Will win: George Clooney

Best Actress:

(Viola Davis in The Help, Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn)

Stiff competition here. Mara has the least chance of all, the other four showing equal possibilities. Davis has recently been gathering Oscar buzz, and my personal favorite is Streep as Margaret Thatcher, but I'm willing to bet on Williams' performance as Marilyn Monroe to win. When it comes to Best Actress, the Academy always loves a fresh young face.

Should win: Meryl Streep

Will win: Michelle Williams

Best Supporting Actor:

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

No doubt Plummer will win. But although he showed a strong presence in Beginners, I believe his win will be a sympathetic vote for an old-timer who's never won an Oscar. Instead, the Academy should go for Jonah Hill and his subtle but pivotal performance in Moneyball.

Seems like I'm going against the flow on every category this year.

Should win: Jonah Hill

Will win: Christopher Plummer

Best Supporting Actress:

(Berenice Bejo in The Artist, Jessica Chastain in The Help, Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Octavio Spencer in The Help)

Spencer in The Help fits the formula for Oscar-winning supporting roles: her presence is as strong as the leading role (in this case, played by Viola Davis). Bejo was quite enchanting in The Artist, and remembering McCarthy in Bridesmaids still makes me laugh, but still ...

Should win: Octavio Spencer

Will win: Octavio Spencer

Best Original Screenplay:

(The Artist, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Midnight in Paris, A Separation)

Obviously I would love A Separation to win, but let's be realistic.

Should win: A Separation

Will win: Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay:

(The Descendants, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy )

Despite all its strengths, I believe Moneyball will be tomorrow night's biggest loser.

Should win: The Descendants

Will win: The Descendants

Best Foreign Language Film:

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

A Separation has won almost every award under the sun. But there is still a conceivable risk involved here: In Darkness, from the famous Polish director Agnieszka Holland, is a Holocaust story, an ever-favorite Academy subject.

Should win: A Separation

Will win: A Separation

And predictions in other categories:

- Best Animated Feature Film: Rango

- Best Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

- Best Documentary Feature Film: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

- Best Documentary Short Film: Saving Face

- Best Live Action Short Film: The Shore

- Best Editing: The Artist

- Best Art Direction: Hugo

- Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life

- Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

- Best Original Score: The Artist (the soundtrack was the dialogue of the silent film)

- Best Original Song: The Muppets ("Man or Muppet")

- Best Costume: The Artist

- Best Sound Editing: Hugo

- Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

- Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (who's gonna beat the effects on those monkeys?)

Take Shelter (2011)

Director: Jeff Nichols. Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham. Cast: 120 min. Rated R. Drama.

Among 2011's end-of-the-world movies (Melancholia, Tree of Life), this was probably the strangest. A Midwestern rural construction worker has bizarre nightmares of an imminent storm, and decides to expand and equip the tornado shelter the family already has. So the film's climactic question would be: will the storm really happen, or has the man inherited his mother's paranoid schizophrenia? Similar to Melancholia, the answer to that question pales in comparison to how beautifully the screenplay portrays social interactions revolving around such a premonition. That said, the ending is a kicker.

Mo says:

In Time (2011)

Director: Andrew Niccol. Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde. 109 min. Sci-fi/Thriller.

The great sci-fi filmmaker Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne) tells a Logan's Run-like tale of a world where people only age up to 25 years, and instead of money, trade and work for extra time to lengthen their lives. The story possibilities here are endless, and Niccol takes great advantage of the "ticking time-bomb" device in numerous sequences to make this a worthy thriller; on the side using his Robin Hood character to create ingenious allegories of greed and power in a future world (some would call this a Commie film). Amazingly, when it comes to acting, Justin Timberlake always delivers.

Mo says:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Director: Rob Marshall. Cast: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Keith Richards. 136 min. Rated PG-13. Adventure/Fantasy.

I saw this just three weeks ago (albeit on a trans-Atlantic flight), and all I can hardly remember is a youth potion, lots of evil mermaids, and Johnny Depp being funny. No question that the shelf life of the Pirates franchise has long expired.

Mo says:

Senna (2010)

Director: Asif Kapadia. 106 min. Rated PG-13. UK. Documentary/Biography.

The life story of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One race-car driver, who competing against French world champion Alain Probst, became a 3-time world champion and national hero at a young age, but whose "live-fast, die-young" ambitious lifestyle ended in tragedy. It's not only about race cars. It's about when you're at the top of your game, any game, ... you just can't stop. Interestingly, footage of interviews done at the time show Brazilians saying he is Brazil's only source of joy. Brazilians are either too poor, or too rich.

Mo says:

Real Steal (2011)

Director: Shawn Levy. Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Hope Davis. 127 min. Rated PG-13. Sci-fi/Drama.

In a future non-violent world where huge robots fight out boxing matches for humans, a boy and his ex-boxer Dad find a dinky underdog robot, and rise him up into the championships. It's Rocky all over again, and I was amazed how the "boxer who fights with a heart" formula always works - even when emotionless metallic entities are involved. Don't ignore this just because it's mainstream Hollywood fanfare. You will be touched.

Mo says:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Director: David Fincher. Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård,Robin Wright. 158 min. Rated R. USA/Sweden/UK/Germany. Mystery/Thriller.

The entire success of the American remake of the Swedish blockbuster revolves around one question: Is Rooney Mara as good as the Swede Noomi Rapace, in portraying Lisbeth Salander? The answer is simply, no. Rapace's Lisbeth was much colder, much more ferocious, and had a much more subtle way of displaying those hidden emotions. Comparably, Mara is slightly timid, almost ... Americanized, to serve the tastes of the remake's audience. And Mara tries hard, oh does she try hard, to escape from Rapace's shadow.

PS: Like David Fincher's Se7en, the opening credits sequence here are as good as the entire movie combined.

Mo says:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Margin Call (2011)

Director: J.C. Chandor. Cast: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, remy Irons, Demi Moore, Mary McDonnell. 107 min. Rated R. Drama.

A very good picture of how the 2008 financial collapse started, and what it looked like: how big firms created animals out of people, how great talent from across the country went to waste to serve the "too-big-to-fail" companies, how mobsters left no stone unturned in ransacking the public and preserving their own status. Obviously, the movie's Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay was what motivated me to watch it, but the greater strength here is the great actors, with Spacey returning to his Glengarry Glen Ross-like role. I mean, how can a movie with Jeremy Irons' voice be bad?

Mo says:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Drive (2011)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn. Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman. 100 min. Rated R. Drama/Thriller.

Ryan Gosling trying to look cool and masculine is no Steve McQueen, and showing violence in slow-motion does not make this a Sam Peckinpah movie. Gosling's boyish charm (as a driver-for-hire) does not fit in with the extreme violence he demonstrates, and his motives for such ruthless vengeance were obscure to me till the very end. Maybe the stylish cinematography (appropriate to the car-chase scenes) is the only noteworthy element here. And Albert Brooks is not as interesting a villain as they said he is.

Mo says: