No one needs awards coverage this deep
'Albert Nobbs,' 'Harry Potter' and 'The Iron Lady' 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.)
Predicting the makeup nominees is annually a total crapshoot; predicting the winner, on the hand, is almost always disproportionately simple. That speaks to the vast difference between the branch vote and that of the general Academy: while fellow makeup artists often surprise by leaving out seemingly grabby transformations, less informed voters inevitably gravitate toward the nominee with the most makeup.
This year’s nominee list was predictably unpredictable: any combination of three titles from the seven-film bakeoff in the category, far heavier this year on period than fantasy work, seemed plausible. Only one was unanimously picked by pundits – Meryl Streep’s elaborate, decades-spanning Maggie Thatcher makeover. Though the British biopic would appear to be the frontrunner for the win as well, one other nominee from the UK ensures this race feels moderately less cut-and-dried than usual.
The nominees are:
The challenging Belgian thriller goes into limited release on Friday
As a wrote in my Oscar Guide piece on the Best Foreign Language Film race a while back, the Academy has compiled a more commendably tough-minded selection of films in the category than usual, and no nominee is tougher than Belgium's entry, "Bullhead." A complex, muscular fusion of thriller and character study set in the corruption-riddled European cattle racket, but delving into far darker and more inscrutable psychological territory than the trade of steroid-pumped cows, it's probably my second-favorite of the nominees.
Michael R. Roskam's debut feature was an adventurous selection on the Belgians' part, particularly with the gentler charms and familiar auteur brand of Cannes critics' favorite "The Kid with a Bike" also in the running, and it was similarly gutsy of the Academy to take it this far in the race. There's speculation that the executive committee stumped for this challenging contender, though it's performed well enough at the AFI and Palm Springs festivals -- winning prizes for Roskam and his remarkable leading man, Matthias Schoenaerts -- to suggest art house audiences are willing to take it on.
Also: Hollywood's most successful female director and Joyce talks 'Flying Books'
We couldn't rightly lead off a round-up without noting the biggest entertainment news of the weekend: the sad death of singer Whitney Houston just prior to yesterday's Grammy Awards. Houston crossed paths with the movie industry for the first time in 1992's "The Bodyguard" opposite Kevin Costner (which was announced by Warner Bros. to be rebooted almost a exactly a year ago). She circled back a couple more times in the 1990s, in Forest Whitaker's "Waiting to Exhale" and Penny Marshall's "The Preacher's Wife." She will once again be seen on the big screen when Salim Akil's "Sparkle" releases in August, while her big screen debut will hit Blu-ray on April 10. It seems there's going to be a lot of Whitney this year, but she will nevertheless be missed. [HitFix]
Lenser beats out fellow Oscar nominees 'The Artist,' 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'Hugo'
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) held its annual awards ceremony this evening, honoring achievement in feature film photography. After dominating the precursor circuit with win after win for his beautiful work on Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," Emmanuel Lubezki walked away with the top prize from his peers.
Will he put a cherry on top of the season in two weeks with an Oscar win, though? I'm still not entirely convinced. And Lubezki is no stranger to having the carpet pulled out from underneath him when he looked like a no-brainer (losing in 2006 to "Pan's Labyrinth" when his work on "Children of Men" seemed like the one to beat).
Tuesday brings the first part of our fifth annual "Top 10 Shots of the Year" column, and in preparation for that, I've been talking to a lot of lensers lately. The vibe I got was that, surprisingly enough, Jeff Cronenweth's work on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," not Robert Richardson's 3D photography on "Hugo" or Guillaume Schiffman's black-and-white lensing of Best Picture frontrunner "The Artist," was the one giving Lubezki a run for his money. Fascinating, that.
The 'Artist' star ups his profile a little more
Fresh off "The Artist"'s BAFTA dominance earlier today, we might as well post last night's "Saturday Night Live" riff on Michel Hazanavicius's film. Hey, when you hit SNL, you've really made it.
Jean Dujardin stopped by 30 Rock for a bit of shenanigans with gust host Zooey Deschanel and cast member Taran Killam for that French bit, "Le Jeunes de Paris." It's not particularly interesting and I'm sure any number of people across the country were thinking, "Who's that guy?" But they'll all remember back on this sketch when "The Artist" wins Best Picture in a couple of weeks.
Kristen Wiig made a quick appearance as Bérénice Bejo's Peppy Miller, so I guess it was kind of neat to see her and fellow Oscar nominee Dujardin cut a rug. It's not as good as Dujardin's Funny or Die thing a few days ago, but it'll do. Check out an embed of the sketch below. Meanwhile, here is HitFix's Ryan McGee with a recap of the entire show.
Seven wins for the French silent, including Best Film, Director and Actor
Well, quelle surprise. While its hometown advantage and impressive haul of 11 nominations gave “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” the appearance of a fighting chance in the BAFTA race, I think we all knew that the Brits, like pretty much everyone else, would fall in love with “The Artist.”
And boy, did they fall hard: with seven wins, including Best Film, Director, Actor and Original Screenplay, the French silent phenomenon completed the most comprehensive BAFTA sweep of the top categories in many a year. (Octavia Spencer, who added yet another Best Supporting Actress trophy to her mantel tonight, must be thanking her lucky stars that BAFTA voters correctly placed Berenice Bejo in the lead race.) “Tinker, Tailor,” meanwhile had to be content with the consolation prize of Best British Film, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay – a distant runner-up if ever there was one.
Prognostication collective foresees a 5/4 split for 'Hugo' and 'The Artist'
The Gurus o' Gold collective of Oscar dorks (yours truly included) at Movie City News have offered up final-ish predictions. I imagine David Poland will give us all an opportunity to change this or that, and certainly, my own picks aren't final until the Friday or Saturday before the show, but for the most part, these are where the chips lie.
No one is betting against "The Artist" winning Best Picture and Best Director at the moment. The only George Clooney holdouts in Best Actor are Grantland's Mark Harris, Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger and The Wrap's Steve Pond, three smart guys in this game so that raises my eyebrow. Karger's colleague Anthony Breznican, though, is way out on a limb for Demián Bichir. The rest of us are picking Jean Dujardin.
The Toronto Star's Peter Howell and the LA Times' Greg Olsen seem to think Meryl Streep will pull off the Best Actress win over Viola Davis, while everyone agrees Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer will triumph in the supporting categories.
'A Cat in Paris' and 'Chico & Rita' play with the big boys
Somewhat lost or at the very least under-considered this year when it comes to the Best Animated Feature Film category is the success of indie distributor GKIDS in the field.
As usual, the Oscar is expected to go to the most popular film of the bunch, the film that reached the most eyeballs from a powerhouse studio: Gore Verbinski's "Rango." And a very deserved win it will be. But after getting "The Secret of Kells" in back in 2009 and sitting pretty with not just one but two nominations this year, I'd say GKIDS has become a premier destination for alternative contenders in the medium.
"A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita" are gorgeously rendered stories, the latter particularly engaging with its combination of animation and Cuban music. It's a passionate, adult-oriented ode to a time and place.
Hip-hop icon Saul Williams an unlikely lead of Competition highlight
BERLIN - “Are these real films?” a colleague asked, his tone pitched halfway between irony and incredulity, as he contemplated a potential Berlinale marathon of such appetizingly titled sidebar entries as “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears” and “The Woman in the Septic Tank.” “Or are audiences simply being punked by festival programmers, and no one can stay awake long enough past the opening credits to realize?”
We were killing time in the languidly paced press ticket queue, waiting to be told, rather curtly, that seats for Sundance critical hit “Keep the Lights On” were no longer available – with the wisdom that comes of experience and persistent disappointment, the aforementioned colleague already had his mind on plan B. More subtly coded but even more bewildering than the press-badge caste system at Cannes, the press screening schedule at Berlin is so riddled with conditions and restrictions (access levels to journalists vary from strand to strand, hour to hour, cinema to cinema) that planning a day’s viewing is scarcely less work than filing a day’s tax returns.
Will 'The Artist' continue its sweep, or will the Brits stick up for 'Tinker?'
Simply by virtue of being the last televised precursor stop en route to the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards attract far more eyeballs, and provoke far more speculation, than they would at any other point in the calendar -- as an Oscar bellwether, they're somehow as encouraging to win as they are irrelevant to lose.
On the occasions that they anticipate sharp left-turns in the Oscar race -- Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton's wins in 2007, Roman Polanski's out-of-nowhere triumph in 2002 -- people look back and credit the Brits for their influence. On the occasions they go off on their own, often parochial, tangent -- Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan's wins in 2009, for example -- people shrug their shoulders and say, "What did you expect? It's the BAFTAs."