Tech Support: Wrapping up guesses throughout the Academy's craft categories
In part one of this feature, we spotlighted the fields of Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Makeup. Now to round out my final predictions in the crafts fields with the remainder.
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Ludovic Bource’s music for Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” was integral to the film and present in virtually every scene. The BAFTA-nominated and BFCA- and Golden Globe-winning score is firmly in the running, alongside John Williams’s booming BFCA-, Globe- and BAFTA-nominated work in “War Horse.” Any nomination for Williams will move him into first place in the all-time list for music nominees (breaking his current tie with Alfred Newman), behind only Walt Disney on the all-time overall list.
But, will “The Adventures of Tintin” make a double nominee out of him? Very possible and, in my view, probable – it has the characteristics of a typical nominee. But I would not be sure of it, especially given the lack of precursor attention and the many other contenders.
I would say Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are looking primed to return to the race for their popular “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” score, especially after the film’s good showing with the guilds and their Globe, BAFTA and BFCA nominations. I would place them third, between the two Williams scores, in order of likelihood.
In the fifth spot (with “Tintin” being in fourth), I am banking on Howard Shore’s compositions for “Hugo,” though I remain skeptical. While the film is clearly loved and it is Shore’s most Oscar-friendly work since his three wins for “The Lord of the Rings,” I cannot help but shake the feeling that that will remain the extent of his Oscar success. He had been around a long time before Jackson’s masterpiece but AMPAS never bit, nor have they since. Even so, love of the film, and BFCA, Globe and BAFTA nods, mean it would be foolish to bet against him.
Alexandre Desplat has been ubiquitous in recent years. His biggest problem, in my view, is the lack of certainty regarding the film that is his best vehicle to a nomination. George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” has been experiencing a mini-resurgence as of late but the score for Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is more traditional Oscar bait.
This lack of certainty surrounding Desplat leads me to consider “The Help”’s Thomas Newman and “Jane Eyre”’s Dario Marianelli. The latter score was particularly lovely and Marianelli was a surprising and deserving nominee for “Pride & Prejudice,” capturing a similar period in English history. (He deservedly won this category two years later for “Atonement.”) Newman, on the other hand, is a favorite. That said, I found Newman’s score forgettable and am not sure how well “Jane Eyre” will be remembered.
Rather, as my primary alternate, I would look to Alberto Iglesias for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Iglesias was a surprise nominee in 2005 for “The Constant Gardener” (and also returned to the race two years later with “The Kite Runner”). I personally loved the score, which was suspenseful, appropriately period-based, and managed to bring in several different atmospheres. The BAFTA nomination may be the result of the British clearly loving it. Then again, maybe there's more to it.
“The Adventures of Tintin”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
(alt. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”)
BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
I should note at the outset that this category is difficult to predict. The manner in which songs are scored in the branch viewing/listening session means that a few poor votes could torpedo a tune’s chances, especially if the musicians are not impressed by the manner in which the songs are featured in the film. This is not to mention the possibility that the category will cite less than five films or could even be cancelled.
With those caveats noted, I think “The Muppets,” which featured its songs prominently in the narrative, is headed towards two nominations. The question is which two (as a few years ago a rule was adopted preventing more than two per film)? BFCA winner “Life’s a Happy Song,” which is quite the show-stopper, seems a safe bet. I think the sweet “Pictures in My Head” is a more typical Oscar song than the amusing “Man or Muppet,” but a nomination for either would not surprise me.
Alan Menken has experienced multiple nominations in this category for the same film four times over, having accomplished the feat for the “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” for which he earned six of his eight Oscars, in addition to “Enchanted.” His “Star Spangled Man” was an appropriately show-stopping song-and-dance break within “Captain America: The First Avenger,” smartly used int he narrative. I think he is headed to his 20th nomination.
Sinead O’Connor’s soothing ballad “Lay Your Head Down” from "Albert Nobbs" earned a Golden Globe nomination. Glenn Close wrote the lyrics for the tune and could end up double-nominated if she is cited here and for acting. I think it is probably a good bet here, though its place on the end credits does not help matters.
The end credit ditty I have more faith in is actually Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof” from “The Help.” A booming ballad, the sort that has often found a home in this category, the song will also be helped out by a likely high nomination tally for the film.
“Hello Hello” from “Gnomeo & Juliet” managed to garner both BFCA and Globe nominations. Even so, Elton John’s sole nominations to date come for his rather extraordinary contributions to “The Lion King” and the other contenders seem more plausible to me.
"Lay Your Head Down" from “Albert Nobbs”
"Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America: The First Avenger”
"The Living Proof" from "The Help"
"Life's a Happy Song" from "The Muppets"
"Pictures in my Head" from "The Muppets"
(alt. "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets")
BEST SOUND EDITING
Best Sound Editing is probably the category in which I have the least faith in my predictions. I had fully expected Steven Spileberg’s “War Horse” to get nominated here, until it collapsed in support at the guilds. Even so, I find it difficult to imagine that all those war sounds and horse sounds will not result in it being among the final five, especially with sound editing giant Richard Hymns having a big hand in things.
The other Spielberg effort, “The Adventures of Tintin,” also has all the makings of a nominee, being animated and filled with artificially created sounds. It has had a mixed ride in the precursors but I think it will make it in.
The other title I have some level of confidence in is “Super 8,” if only because it is a sound showcase, sound editing courtesy of Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood.
“Tintin” is not the only animated film I view to have a great shot here, as “Rango” also featured superb artificially created sounds courtesy of last year’s nominee Addison Teague (and I say this as no fan of the film). It strikes me as the sort of film they would go for if they watch it. And the film’s recent success in many animated film races increases that likelihood, in my opinion.
I am predicting both “Hugo” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” in Best Sound Mixing, and they could well make the final cut here as well. But “Hugo” remains more of a mixer’s film in my view (and interestingly, no Martin Scorsese film has ever been nominated here). “Transformers,” on the other hand, has to contend with the fact that its predecessor in the series was not nominated here. While this film could be seen as an improvement, I am already predicting it for mixing and Best Visual Effects. Three nods may seem a tad much.
Speaking of sequels, once again, this is the last year to recognize the “Harry Potter” series, which, as I have always noted, features clever sound effects. The novelty may not be great, but sentiment may be enough to see it off in style.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” comes from a series where the first two films made the cut here. The recent CAS nomination suggests the sound branch has not forgotten about the series. But I question how many voters will actually sit through this film, and “At World’s End” wasn't nominated here, despite having more in the way of sound editing in my view.
Instead, I will go out on a limb and predict another fourth entry in a series to get its franchise’s first nomination: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” While the sound effects did not necessarily add a great deal to what had been done before in this series, the critical acclaim was by far the greatest. It also remains fresh in voters’ minds having been released in December. The potential of Hymns to become a double nominee could be a double-edged sword, though. Still, I will stick with my gut and predict it.
At the end of the day, however, this is really a category where I could see a major shocker. I certainly did not see “Unstoppable” coming last year and that could leave the door open to something such as “Real Steel.”
“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”
BEST SOUND MIXING
This has got to be one of the most confusing categories of the year. After predictable BAFTA and BFCA nominations, the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) threw a monkey wrench into things with their shocking nominations. Of those nominees, I am only somewhat confident in two translating to Oscar: Best Picture favorite “Hugo” (supervised by longtime Scorsese collaborator Tom Fleischman and the only recipient of BAFTA, CAS and BFCA nods in this category) and sound showcase “Super 8” (the BFCA- and CAS-nominated work of AMPAS favorites Tom Johnson and Andy Nelson). I will come back to the other three CAS nominees shortly.
In third, I would place former favorite “War Horse.” After BFCA and BAFTA nominations, we can see that its sound is noticed. It is after all a Spielberg film with his trusted Oscar-nominated crew, and it is both a war film and a horse film! CAS snub aside, I think it will show up here.
In fourth, I would rank Greg P. Russell and Jeffrey J. Haboush for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Russell has been nominated for the two previous “Transformers” movies and this film is overwhelmingly considered an improvement on its predecessor. If he can get nominated for “Salt,” I believe he can be nominated for anything so I am going to continue to predict him, despite the surprising CAS snub.
I actually think BAFTA nominee “The Artist” may well find a spot in the final five. The dream sequence alone will tickle the branch’s fancy and I expect the film to get at least ten other nominations. It remains, however, a silent film, and I think that could ultimately do it in.
I have to eat my hat, to a certain extent, with respect to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” I had a debate with a commenter in my column on this category about the film’s chances, which I rather cavalierly dismissed. After a BFCA win and a BAFTA nod, I can no longer do so. Even so, I fail to see what this film had that its predecessors didn't. Plus, the absence of a CAS nod troubles me – the guild almost never misses more than two of the nominees.
Another non-Society nominated contender is “The Adventures of Tintin.” This was in many ways a sound showcase and it is not unusual for an animated film to show up here despite a guild snub. But regardless of that, the precursor attention remains minimal and I feel “War Horse” is the better-positioned Spielberg effort. The BAFTA nod for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and BFCA citation for “The Tree of Life” strike me as those awards bodies loving a film a great deal more than I expect out of AMPAS.
Rather, I would look to the guild nominees to complete the quintet, especially as it is very rare for the CAS not to nominate at least three of the eventual Oscar nominees. “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has an Oscar-nominated crew and the first two films in the series were cited here. Even so, the third one was not and I feel this effort is kind of underwhelming all around. “Moneyball” could get caught up in a sweep for the film, but at the end of the day, I feel that is just an odd, random Society nomination.
Instead, I am going to go out on a limb and predict “Hanna” for a nomination. The CAS nomination was shocking, to be sure, but I continue to have major doubts about all the other contenders. And a Saoirse Ronan-Cate Blanchett action film may just tickle this branch’s fancy.
Who knows in this category, though – I could see some very surprising nominations among the final five.
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
(alt. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” brought visual effects to new heights. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the last chance to nominate a successful franchise that has been recognized here before. “Hugo”’s nomination tally seems poised to be huge. I am quite confident in those three titles finding a place among the final five for Best Visual Effects.
I was originally skeptical about the chances of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” given the lack of love for its predecessor in this series. However, its massive success at the Visual Effects Society, combined with its better reception when compared to its predecessor, makes me confident in its landing a place come Tuesday morning.
I actually think “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” could well show up here. The work was well done and the film was immensely respected. Even if none of its predecessors in the series scored here, Brad Bird’s name and the year-end top 10 notices could make a difference.
Ultimately, however, I cannot help but think that “The Tree of Life” will be among the final five. While its effects were not as showy or expensive as many other films', they nonetheless were prominently featured in the film. And while I am unsure how many nominations the film will ultimately get, I strongly suspect it will show up somewhere outside cinematography, and this seems the second-most likely place.
As for the other shortlisted films, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has series history on its side, but I feel this film underwhelmed most. I also see no reason why “X-Men: First Class” would buck the trend of that series being shut out at Oscar. “Real Steel” seems a tad underwhelming to get into this blockbuster-loving category, and while I would rank “Captain America: The First Avenger” seventh, the other titles simply seem to have more going for them in my view.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“The Tree of Life”
(alt. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”)
So that’s it for another year! I will be back next week with reactions to the nominees.
Meanwhile, feel free to offer up your guesses for the fields of Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects in the comments section below.