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Who deserves to be nominated in the crafts fields on Tuesday?
Longtime readers will know that this is something of an Oscar Nomination Eve tradition for me: with the Academy finally set to announce their nominees on Tuesday morning, I offer my own pie-in-the-sky wishlist of films and individuals I'd like to see nominated in all feature film categories. The past three years, my list and the Academy's have borne very little resemblance to each other; suffice to say I don't expect that to change this year.
For starters, while my First-Half FYC columns stuck to the pool of eligible Academy contenders, my dream ballot -- freed from even the hypothetical possibility of persuading voters -- has no such restrictions. This means that several outstanding 2011 releases that, for whatever reason, aren't on the official list of 256 titles being considered by Academy voters (a list that isn't kind to terribly kind to lesser-spotted foreign and independent titles) can come into play. After all, where's the justice in being able to consider "Dream House" but not personal top 10 inclusion "Cold Weather?" A line must be
drawn erased somewhere.
Two films tackle internal torment from drastically different angles
PARK CITY - I really wanted Amy Berg's "West of Memphis" to happen at 8:30 this morning, but nothing doing. I hear it's a nice distillation of the Robin Hood Hills story for those who haven't seen the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" series, but nothing about it seems to be blowing too many skirts up so I guess it wasn't such a fatal miss.
Instead I got a late start with a 3pm press screening of Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" at the Holiday Village, my first Sundance flick. And it was a good one.
Look, Emily Brontë's novel is a bad love story full of deplorable characters. It's a brutal vision of love (which, this combined with "Fish Tank" makes Arnold a fascinating person to analyze on that subject) and it's wrought even more brutally here.
The strong contender hit a snag in last night's visual effects presentation
For a while now, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" has looked like a very solid bet for a Best Visual Effects nomination. Though the only nomination for the franchise in the field prior to last year's for part one of the finale came for 2004's "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the effects have steadily become more refined and the expansion to five nominees last year made the door a little wider.
But an unfortunate snafu at last night's visual effects bake-off -- a lengthy branch-specific event that features reel screenings of effects work on the seven visual effects finalists and presentations from the supervisors involved -- could keep the wizard and his denouement out of the equation.
If you don't follow Variety's David Cohen on Twitter, you should, because he's dug in when it comes to the world of visual effects and reports comprehensively from the bake-off every year. His coverage last night was fascinating to read for the various insights into the process of this and that effects job, but it became particularly interesting when the effects reel for "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" turned out to not be the effects reel at all: it was the makeup reel.
Five actresses from 'The Help' nominated, but where's Jessica Chastain?
With all due respect, I've never really known what to make of the NAACP Image Awards. On the one hand, the concept of an awards ceremony ostensibly devoted to black (or black-themed) cinema seems dated and self-demeaning. On the other, they succeed in drawing attention to the industry's neglect of non-white stories and artists -- just not in ways they necessarily realize.
Let us imagine, then, that Brett Ratner's synthetically enjoyable but arguably racist "Tower Heist" -- a film that makes a plot point of the notion that black people are more expert in criminal activity than white people -- is actually nominated for Best Picture as a kind of ironic protest, an indication of just what limited choices Hollywood has to offer the black community. Admittedly, it'd be more effective as a this-is-all-we-have gesture if it weren't nominated at the expense of, say, Steve James's "The Interrupters" (mysteriously absent from even the documentary category), a film that revolves around positive, richly rounded black individuals, even if they aren't played by actors.
Other favorites include 'Drive,' 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' and 'War Horse'
The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) used to announce its list of nominees after the Oscars did, meaning the Best Sound Editing category was the one field without much in the way of precursor clues for predicting. That changed recently and now we can get an idea of where the sound branch might lean in the field.
The nominees, announced today, feature four of the five films I'm currently predicting in the category: "The Adventures of Tintin," "Hugo," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "Super 8." "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was not mentioned anywhere after picking up a Cinema Audio Society nomination yesterday, so maybe I'll need to rethink that one.
"Super 8" is clearly a favorite, nailing down the only three nods it could have received. "Drive," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "War Horse," meanwhile, each got two.
Also: Debating 'The Descendants' and the laurels upon which it rests
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.
Today I'm in snowy Park City, Utah for the 28th annual Sundance Film Festival and Anne is back home in Los Angeles (though on her way to the fest herself). But while next year's crop of potential awards contenders takes a bow here, the week saw plenty of news relating to the current awards season. So let's see what's on the docket today…
Also: Defending Channing Tatum, and remembering failed Oscar grabs
I've said it several times before, but it's been something of a banner year for dogs in the movies: Uggie, the dancing Jack Russell from "The Artist," may be hogging the red carpet, but the various pooches from "Beginners," "50/50," "Young Adult," "Le Havre" and "The Adventures of Tintin" all have their fans -- "Beginners" star Cosmo even landed a spot on Manohla Dargis's Best Supporting Actor wishlist. Anyway, all except the animated Snowy from "Tintin" have been recognized with nominations for the inaugural Golden Collar Awards -- with Uggie receiving twin mentions for his work in both "The Artist" and "Water for Elephants." It'll be interesting to see if he splits his vote and -- sorry, there's only so far I can go with this. But it's all good fun, and in aid of animal shelters, so cheers all round. [The Odds]
Black-tie bash brought three prizes apiece for 'The Artist' and 'A Separation'
Writing up an awards ceremony I actually voted in is new territory for me, and slightly awkward to boot. Praising the choices of the London Critics' Circle amounts to patting myself on the back, criticizing them to shooting myself in the foot -- choose your poison, really. Happily, for me at least, I can err on the back-patting side: after assembling a superb set of nominees last month, my Circle colleagues did a pretty bang-up job of choosing the winners, too.
Across 15 categories, eight of the winners were ones I'd voted for myself; of the remaining seven, the majority were for films and individuals I'm more than happy to cheer on anyway. Only one, I'll admit, really left me scratching my head -- though if nothing else, Kenneth Branagh's Best Supporting Actor prize for "My Week With Marilyn" was an unexpected deviation from the Christopher Plummer/Albert Brooks pattern the season has doggedly followed thus far, and his acceptance speech was composed of equal parts genuine gratitude and surprise.
She muses on her small but powerful role in one of the season's hottest films
Wins for both Best Picture and Best Actor at the Golden Globes Sunday, coupled with George Clooney’s victory at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards last week have solidified Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” as an Oscar frontrunner (if consistent critical approval hadn't already). Clooney stars in the film as Matt King, a man who must confront his wife’s infidelity as well as (to the best of his somewhat limited ability) his own inadequacies as a husband and father as she lay dying in a coma.
In addition to the precursor attention the film, director and lead actor have received, 19-year-old Shailene Woodley (who plays Clooney’s hybrid wild-child/precocious teen daughter) has been an intermittent presence in the supporting actress field (as well as a consistent one in the young or up-and-coming star arena). But for many cinema-goers, there is a third performance in the film that resonates long after the lights have come up. Judy Greer’s short-lived but palpable turn as Julie Speer, a woman who has the misfortune to discover that her husband Brian was having an affair with Clooney’s wife Elizabeth, is both grounded and evocative.
Top acting honors go to Brad Pitt and Viola Davis
The Iowa Film Critics have joined and drowned in the on-going chorus of year-end kudos-dishers. Drowned because it's all just a blur now. "The Descendants" came out on top, winning both Best Picture and Best Director. And there's Melissa McCarthy, yet again. Check out the full list of winners below.