No one needs awards coverage this deep
The French silent wins four while 'The Descendants' nabs two
I was really irritated sitting there in the tent on the beach in Santa Monica this year watching the Independent Spirit Awards unfold.
Things started out great, though. Seth Rogen's opening monologue killed, even though a number of the people in there apparently weren't equipped to grasp the humor. I was happy to see Christopher Plummer, however expected, take yet another supporting actor trophy for his performance in "Beginners."
Even though I called it, I was nevertheless stoked for Will Reiser surprising with a win in the Best First Screenplay category for "50/50." And even though I'd have much preferred seeing Jessica Chastain get the good will, it was hard not to be happy for Shailene Woodley, who won Best Supporting Female after she was snubbed by the Academy. Then things took a different turn. "The Artist" just started winning everything. Everyone just bowed down. Couldn't we have this one moment of solace away from that steamroller? Apparently not.
Ignore the backlash: this season has got it right
Okay, I'll level with you. One fairly major reason I want "The Artist" to win Best Picture at tomorrow's Academy Awards ceremony has nothing whatsoever to do with its lithe charms as a Hollywood fable, its glistening appropriation of a long-dormant screen style, the quicksilver star turn of its leading man or even its eminently adoptable Jack Russell.
It has nothing to do with the film being a silent-cinema gateway for less informed audiences, an all-too-rare foreign crossover, or a witty marker of the distance the medium has traveled in 80-odd years.
It has nothing to do with my relative feelings about its rival nominees, or with the disproportionate critical backlash its success has inspired. Not that these aren't all factors worthy of consideration, but this reason has nothing to do with the movie at all.
It's because I have money on it.
A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs
It seemed an easy task when I told Guy and Gerard to follow Roth's lead and help me turn the idea of "Oscar's big miss" into a quick mini-series at the end of the season. Roth's pick was undeniable. Gerard's was inspired. Guy's was well-spotted. What would I spring for?
Look, the truth is there are a lot of movies the Academy hasn't properly recognized over the last 84 years, and they go all the way to near the beginning. "Metropolis," "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "City Lights," "King Kong," "Modern Times," "Sullivan's Travels," "Paths of Glory," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Fountain," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Another Year" and if not genre filmmaking in general, the entirety of the western genre surely all made for compelling picks. But what equates to a "big miss" anyway? What does it mean?
A big slate of nine films square off
(The Oscar Guide has been your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with today's Best Picture finale being the cherry on top.)
And here we are. The 2011 Oscar Guide has finally reached its destination: the nine-film Best Picture category, which saw its biggest surprise in the very fact that it stretched to that many nominees. It became somewhat obvious down the stretch that five films were assured a spot, with another highly likely. The extraneous possibilities seemed to number no more than three or four, but two of them got in.
The question, though, is did the alteration in the Best Picture voting process really do all that much? Did it really breed the suspense it so clearly aimed for? Would it have mattered all that much if a full slate of 10 had remained in place? Well, to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," perhaps. At the end of the day, though, the constant tinkering with the process has done little more than keep people considering it and talking about it. Maybe that was the goal and the joke's on us.
The nominees are…
They really don't
Well, enough belly-aching over this nonsense. Pick something and move on. So I have.
This morning's Oscar Talk let you into the bizarre, weird, obsessive head space of figuring out how 6,000 people are gonna vote. Sometimes it's easier when you don't have a dog in the hunt (and I certainly don't this year -- at least out of what's plausible), but not this time around. The major categories seem relatively decided but it's throughout the craft categories where you start to see potential scenarios popping up all over the place.
There were four categories still giving me pause when we wrapped up the podcast, areas that I felt I might just revisit and flip-flop to something else and yada, yada, yada. They were Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. But, well, I didn't. I'm sticking with what I called there and calling it a year. Let's see what happens.
A surprise loss for Dujardin, while Polanski triumphs again
Jean Dujardin may be the frontrunner to take the Best Actor Oscar in Hollywood on Sunday, but he had to endure a defeat on his home turf tonight, as the French superstar lost the César Award to the comparatively unheralded Omar Sy, who plays a young man from the projects hired to look after a wealthy quadriplegic in the domestic smash "Untouchable." (The film, incidentally, was crucified by Variety's Jay Weissberg, who describes it as racist claptrap; the Weinsteins have the remake rights.)
I doubt Dujardin is too bothered: clearly, voters for the France's answer to the Academy Awards loved "The Artist" enough that they felt free to throw someone else a bone in one major category. The Oscar frontrunner took six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actress for Bérénice Bejo, questionably nominated in the supporting race across the pond. If I'm keeping score correctly, this is Bejo's first actual trophy of the season -- it's nice for her that it came in the correct category.
The esteemed actors take note of one that just slipped through the cracks
Over the course of a 30-year career that includes work on over 70 films, Willem Dafoe has demonstrated an eclectic range in role selection. A quick glance at his IMDB page illustrates the variance in his cinematic range. The top four “known for” films that the site has pulled out for him are “Spider-Man,” “Finding-Nemo,” “The Boondock Saints” and “The English Patient.”
The upcoming “John Carter” reunited Dafoe with “Finding-Nemo” helmer Andrew Stanton and provided the actor with a fresh opportunity to be “turned on” as an artist: performing in a motion-capture suit on stilts. His character in the film, Tars Tarkas, is a 9-foot-tall alien from Barsoom (Mars). While speaking about his career at the recent Tempe, Arizona press event for the film, Dafoe mused about the somewhat capricious nature of cinema.
A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs
He may actually have a gold statuette on his mantelpiece, and therefore less to complain about than wholly unawarded contemporaries like Todd Haynes and Mike Leigh, but Ang Lee's Oscar history is a curiously spotty and compromised one -- repeatedly following a pattern of apparent goodwill on the industry's part, followed by the Academy unceremoniously pulling the rug from under his feet.
Following two consecutive losses in the Best Foreign Language Film race in the mid-1990s -- one of which, for the popular family-and-food drama "Eat Drink Man Woman," qualified as a semi-surprise -- the Taiwanese native returned the very next year with his English-language debut, "Sense and Sensibility." It was a sufficient critical hit to emerge as a considerable Oscar favorite, landing Lee Best Director wins from the New York Critics' Circle and the National Board of Review, plus his first DGA nod, only for its hopes to be swiftly and surprisingly dashed when the Academy nominated the Jane Austen adaptation for seven Oscars -- none of them for Lee.
The top races may be a done deal, but plenty of question marks remain
Not to get all Donald Rumsfeld about it, but considering how many pundits are approaching Sunday's ceremony with an air of blasé resignation, there are still an awful lot of known unknowns in this year's Academy Awards race -- more, I'd venture, than there usually are at this eleventh-hour stage in the game. A presumed weight of predictability has held down the nomination list for several weeks now, dulling speculation and analysis... yet when you actually sit down to cast final predictions in all 24 categories for whatever pool you're playing in, you find yourself pausing, or even stalling, for thought far more often than you thought you might.
Of course, the blind spots in this year's race aren't where most observers would like them to be. Yes, Best Picture for "The Artist" is a done deal, and honestly, has been so for the better part of the season -- to such a degree that even picking an alternative for my final predictions list proved as difficult as it is surely futile. When the runners-up in a marathon aren't even visible from the winners' position, it can be hard to distinguish between them.
'The Rum Diary,' 'Super 8' and 'Drive' also honored
The International Film Music Critics Association has offered up the final precursor awards announcement of the season as we head into the weekend, which will bring the Independent Spirit Awards and, finally, the Oscars.
John Williams had a great day, it turns out. The famed composer netted seven nominations two weeks ago and won in five of those categories, proving, in case you didn't know, that film music critics really like John WIlliams.
His work on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" earned awards for Film Score of the Year, Best Original Score for a Drama Film and Film Music Composition of the Year for the track "The Homecoming," while "The Adventures of Tintin" won in the animated field. And just for good measure, Williams grabbed the Film Composer of the Year honor, too.