No one needs awards coverage this deep
On final approach, we look back at some of Oscar’s finer moments
Roth’s column three days ago, recognizing the Academy’s genius in awarding Kevin Kline’s performance in “A Fish Called Wanda” made me reflect on many of the great Oscar surprises since then.
Unfortunately, this process also made me realize that I’m usually not pleased when the Academy throws us a curveball. Indeed, since Kline’s extraordinary victory in 1988, there have been surprisingly few Oscar upsets I’ve found satisfying.
This is not to say there are not exceptions to this. Tilda Swinton becoming an Oscar winner for her utter intensity in “Michael Clayton,” for instance, will always remain a highlight of the 2007 show for me. The Academy’s recognizing the future classic status of “The Usual Suspects” by rewarding Kevin Spacey and Christopher McQuarrie is another finer moment. Three 6 Mafia’s joyous reaction to deservedly winning for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” will be something I’ll never forget.
Demián Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt square off
(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)
On Sunday, five of our leading men will don their tuxes and walk down the red carpet at the top of their profession. Earlier this awards season, it seemed as though this would be a battle between two A-list movie stars. Since then, however, a silent Frenchman has proven himself very adept at charming everyone in sight, and will be difficult to beat.
After predictable nominations for leading turns in three Best Picture nominees, the Academy threw us some curveballs in this category. It ignored another movie star with an Oscary-role in a maligned film directed by a legend, and an up-and-coming British actor who topped off an incredible year with a tremendously acclaimed, if controversial, performance. Instead, we find in the final five a Mexican actor, who has rarely acted in English, in a small message film, and a British stalwart whose nomination-less status had become infamous.
The nominees are…
Which four fields cause dissent?
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
It's all come down to this. Pencils down, the music has stopped, find a chair, etc. The Academy Awards are a mere two days away and we're entering Oscar weekend. Before you know it, it'll all be a memory. So let's see what's on the docket today…
Also: Ways to fix the Oscars, and the art of the tux
For whatever reason, I didn't know that Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams were teaming up to write and arrange the musical accompaniment to Sunday's Oscar ceremony. (Is that partly why Zimmer withdrew himself from consideration for "Rango?") If this had happened in last year's "we're young and hip -- honest!" ceremony, you know we'd have been reminded of the N.E.R.D. beatsmith's involvement ad nauseum. As it stands, it comes as a pleasant surprise: while I somehow doubt these musical interludes will be as memorable as the pair suggest in this interview ("We're going crazy!" Zimmer boasts, showing off the synths and drum machines that will sit amid the traditional Oscar orchestra), it's a pleasingly inventive step for telecast -- and with the nixing of the Best Original Song performances, the only aural fix we'll get all evening. [LA Times]
On final approach, we look back at some of Oscar's finer moments
When Kris asked me to contribute a piece to our mini-series on all-time favorite Oscar wins, I wasn't quite sure where to begin. However often they get it wrong, over 83 years, the Academy has made more than enough good decisions, and honored more than enough good movies -- even handing Best Picture to my favorite film of all time -- to make selecting just one a tortuous process.
How to judge the value of Robert De Niro's Best Actor win for "Raging Bull" against, say, Sven Nykvist's Best Cinematography win for "Cries and Whispers?" I'm glad both came to pass, but we're not comparing apples and oranges so much as apples and hotdogs.
I decided to limit my search to winners from 1990, the year I actually started watching the Oscars, onwards: as satisfying as it is the learn of deserved wins in the history books, nothing compares to the in-the-moment thrill of watching your favorite nominee triumph before your own eyes.
Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams square off
(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)
After last year's banner field of nominees, which included five peak-form performances from actresses in a range of risky, stimulating projects, this year's Best Actress category wasn't ever likely to live up to those standards. True enough, it hasn't, though the problem lies less with the ladies nominated than the vehicles surrounding them: "Good performance, shame about the movie," has been the recurring critical chorus around this race.
That's not to say it was a year short of challenging, substantial vehicles for women. But with many of them falling in the less illuminated corners of the arthouse, the Academy inevitably favored the softer, more middlebrow prestige vehicles, few of which had any worthwhile cinematic ambitions beyond showcasing their established stars for maximum vote-grabbiness. (It may or may not mean something to you that this is the category's first all-American lineup in 20 years.) The exception, a relatively untested ingenue in a hard-edged genre piece, is both the only first-time nominee in the field and the only one unapproved by the Screen Actors' Guild.
The nominees are...
And other things rich white men like
Earlier this week the LA Times unveiled the fruit of 20 researchers’ labor: old, rich, white men dominate the AMPAS. I was as shocked as you are.
I kid. I do. There’s nothing wrong with the article as such, and the structural dynamics of the Academy do bear looking at.
One of the strange, self-devouring aspects of the internet is that it is now common practice for critics to reflect on, riff off, add to or otherwise deconstruct one another’s work. A positive element of the trend is that a conversation develops in our virtual realm. Of course, levels of discourse are, as ever, varied. We’ve not yet weighed in on the matter and I do so now with a grain of salt, and a bit more sass than I had originally intended. Is it earth shattering news? Clearly not. Does it seem to be indicative of an overindulgence of the paper’s resources? Ish.
A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs
Who doesn’t love watching a great fairy tale on screen? But how often do new ones arise that make us think “Wow, that’s something new,” while also being deep, funny, engaging and gorgeous to watch?
1990’s “Edward Scissorhands” manages to do all these things. While it landed only one Oscar nomination (for Best Makeup), it manages to show the very best of filmmaking in innumerable ways and ranks among my favorite films of all-time.
First, we have the story, already alluded to. Capturing the themes of loneliness, innocence, growing up, family, self-doubt, doomed romance and the ironies of life, Tim Burton’s story hits on multiple human themes to which we all relate. It also managed to do this within heavy genre. Fairy tales have never been Oscar’s cup of tea, but they make for a great narrative. Of course, they have also been done to death, so coming up with a story that is old-fashioned yet completely modern and remarkably original while true to the genre is a feat that deserves special recognition.
Will Martin Scorsese's film dominate the craft categories?
I’m scared. Why, you may ask? First, I’m wondering where on earth this year went. It seems like yesterday when Tech Support was beginning the 2011-2012 season. Next week’s wrap-up column will be the last of the season as the Oscars are given out Sunday night!
Second, however, I am scared because I am truly not confident in my predictions in the crafts categories this year. Only four – Art Direction, Makeup and the music categories – have me certain. Beyond that, things are quite open. I fear I may embarrass myself. That said, this does make things more exciting than is the case in the “major” categories!
So now, on to a final analysis!
Also: 'Drive''s lone Oscar nominee, and predicting by mathematics
Later today, I'll be serving up our Oscar Guide in the Best Actress category -- but if you want an appetizer for that subject, Andrew O'Hehir has written a good piece on the sincere, season-long show of mutual appreciation between the category's frontrunners, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. ("This is your year," Streep apparently said to Davis at the New York critics' awards.) He gets a few things wrong (like saying that Davis wasn't a surefire nominee last month, when she's plainly been the frontrunner since August), and I'm not sure the title "how Viola Davis took Meryl Streep's Oscar" hits the right note, but O'Hehir's insights into Davis's canny but not cynical self-campaigning, as well as the value of her relationship with Streep, are pointed and sensible amid a chorus of more hysterical commentary about the race. [Salon]