I don't want to spoil my annual "Markademy Awards" post (truly the highlight of everyone's awards season), but I had a tough time filling out a ballot this year. There were maybe four movies that I considered to be really great, then maybe 10 more that hit 'very good' status, 10 more that were 'good' and then a wholllllllle bunch of flawed-to-mediocre-to-outright bad pictures. As it happened, some of the latter group ended up nominated for major Oscars, so this should be fun.
* Just to eliminate any major suspense, 'The Artist' is almost surely going to win Best Picture and probably a nice chunk of the other awards to boot. The only possible upset contenders are 'The Descendants' and 'Hugo.' I think the buzz for 'Descendants' is already dying off, a la how Clooney's last two big Oscar movies (Michael Clayton and Up In The Air) got a lot of noms but both basically petered out by Oscar night. 'Hugo,' on the other hand, has so much affection going for it, had Scorsese and is about film preservation, a topic near-and-dear to the Academy's heart. I think Scorsese will end up taking Best Director and it wouldn't completely shock me if 'Hugo' takes the top prize as well.
* In the first year of the Academy's new "anywhere between five and 10 Best Picture nominees" rule, we ended up with nine BP candidates. Artist, Midnight In Paris, Descendants, The Help and Hugo were all thought to be sure things. Moneyball was also a likely pick due to general affection across the board. Tree Of Life got in due to its number of passionate supporters; under a balloting system where you allegedly needed just five percent of the first place votes to make the field, there were certainly enough Academy voters who considered this film to be an utter masterpiece that it no doubt easily cleared the necessary 5% total.
If you looked up "Oscar bait" in the dictionary, you'd probably see listings for War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, but their being nominated was still a bit surprising given that neither film (especially ELIC) seemed to take off. Don't underestimate the Academy's love of cheesy bullcrap, I guess.
* And with that, let's get into the ones I didn't like! ELIC was undone by an overwrought premise and an absolutely godawful performance by the kid in the lead role. When you're acting alongside the likes of Hanks, Bullock, Von Sydow, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, etc. and not even they can carry your performance, you know you're a brutal actor. War Horse was I suppose okay, if sugary enough that it murdered many a diabetic. I was let down the horse didn't take out a few Germans in hand-to-hoof combat. And finally, we have Tree Of Life, which was all the most frustrating since there seemed to be kernels of a good movie in there, buried underneath about an hour of pretentious horsecrap. Any of these winning would be an abomination on par with 'A Beautiful Mind' winning Best Picture, but don't worry, Artist (or maybe Hugo) has got this thing.
* I am cheering hard, HARD for 'Man Or A Muppet' for Best Original Song. I want so badly to see Bret "Brit" McKenzie from Flight Of The Conchords with some Oscar gold. It's only up against one other nominee (some obscure song from 'Rio'), so it's literally a coin flip. Let's hope everyone's affection for the Puppets pulls it through.
* Aside from McKenzie, perhaps the most amusing nominee is Jim Rash, one of the co-screenwriters of 'The Descendants.' Who's Jim Rash, you might ask? He's the freaking Dean from Community! Even while on hiatus, I'm still seeing that show everywhere. Gillian Jacobs' face appeared in my soup the other day.
* It's still kind of crazy that Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig (screenplay) can now put "Oscar nominee" on their resumes.
* Now that Gary Oldman has finally been nominated for an Oscar, who takes over the mythical title of 'best actor without even a stinking nomination'? Alan Rickman?
* The unstoppable Greg P. Russell is back again. He's picked up yet another nomination for sound (for, ugh, Transformers 3), and we'll see if Russell can finally break his 0-for-15 streak at the Oscars.
* No Albert Brooks for supporting actor, a big surprise since he'd been nominated for/won virtually every other critics' award. Everyone had conceded the trophy to Christopher Plummer but Brooks was seen as a lock for a nomination, if nothing else. Seems like Brooks got the shaft in favour of Max Von Sydow, as the ELIC love was much greater than anticipated. 'Drive' itself only got one token nomination for sound editing, since Bad-Ass Jackets is still not an Oscar category.
* Biggest snub to my mind, however, was no 'Adventures Of Tintin' in the best animated film category. WTF? How was that possible? Does motion-capture not count as 'animated' for whatever reason? Hell, I thought there were enough European voters in the Academy with affection for the old comics that Tintin was a dark horse BP nominee.
* Other semi-snubs included no Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) for best actress, no Ben Kingsley for supporting actor (surprising since Hugo was nominated for everything else), no Leo DiCaprio for best actor (for J. Edgar, and probably my vote had I had a ballot), no Shailene Woodley (Descendants), no Michael F. Assbender for any of the 15 movies he appeared in last year (Shame topping that list).
* Now that we have our nominees, it's prediction time. Artist is still the major BP favourite, with either Scorsese or Michael Hazanavicius winning Best Director. Plummer has supporting actor in the bag. Octavia Spencer and George Clooney have to be seen as the big favourites for supporting actress and actor, respectively. Best Actress is almost wide-open in my mind, as you can make a case for Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams or even Glenn Close winning. Hugo and Midnight In Paris will win the screenplay Oscars, Tree Of Life will win cinematography and what the hell, let's presume Greg P. Russell will lose again.