Thanks to a last-minute emergency, the Oscars are broken and only we can save them
This is embarrassing.
Not for me, of course. I'm not the one who hit delete on whatever folder led to the desperate phone call I got at 4:30 in the afternoon on Saturday. I'm actually pretty flattered, considering all the time and energy I've spent writing about how much I don't like awards season. See, there's been a catastrophe at Price Waterhouse (1) and the Academy has been scrambling for the last few days to figure out how to handle it (2). Someone must have decided that it is my healthy disdain for the process that made me perfect to help them fix things, and as a result, I have been asked to step in this year and pick every single Academy Award on my own (3).
The weirder part is that they not only lost the winners, but the nominees and the categories, and so I've got to put it all back together. I'm pretty sure I got most of this right, and perhaps in a few cases, I've made slightly different choices than the Academy would have. Perhaps.
You tell me… as today wraps up this year's edition of what increasingly feels like a Bataan Death March… what movies would you like to celebrate today, whether they were nominated or not? Because if that's what today is genuinely supposed to be about, and if the Oscars are just a conversation starter, then what movies from 2012 would you like to celebrate one last time before we all move on to 2013?
BEST DOCUMENTARY, FEATURE
By far the best documentary I saw last year was "The Act Of Killing," but that's going to have to wait to win the Oscar next year because Drafthouse Films is set to release that to theaters in July of this year. I'm sure that the Oscars once again nominated documentaries based entirely on merit and they included absolutely everything that should be included because they never ever get it wrong or overlook anything.
There were two documentaries I saw last year that felt genuinely important, impeccably crafted and urgent in terms of how they approached their subject matter. Kirby Dick has a long history of great work, and "The Invisible War" is yet another impressive and important piece of work. "How To Survive A Plague" is a truly great piece on activism in the face of apathy, and while we aren't yet at enough of a remove to speak of AIDS in any sort of past tense, this felt like a milestone on the way to that, and it is bracing to realize just how far we've come. Ron Fricke's "Samsara" may not be a traditional documentary, but it is another ravishing exercise from a guy who's been turning footage of our world into otherworldly imagery for almost 40 years now. I like documentaries about regular people, too, and "The American Scream" is a doc that does a remarkable job at capturing the way passion defines the lives of three main characters, just as "Indie Game: The Movie" was excellent at showing how much of oneself you must put into any piece of art if you want it to work.
For me, though, I have to vote with my heart, and there was one documentary last year that pulled it all together, that worked as pure film craft, a beautiful, simple, hypnotic piece that made my body hungry just as much as it fed my soul. It is my distinct honor to award this particular Oscar to…
"Jiro Dreams Of Sushi"
BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECT
BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED
BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION
I don't know. I really don't. I don't see enough of any of these three forms to even begin to give this one. "Paperman" sure was pretty, though.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SCORE
I'm always intrigued by a new Bond score. I like to take my time with it, listen to it repeatedly, see how each new composer plays with the traditional theme while also finding their own way to sign the series. I think Thomas Newman's "Skyfall" score is a pretty grand one for the series and for the year. Mychael Danna's "Life Of Pi" score is pretty much exactly what it had to be if that film was going to work. So much of what audiences feel in that film is because Danna knows exactly what button to press.
But this isn't even fair. It's pretty obvious what the best piece of original music written for a film was this year, and what the best score was, and in part, it's because the film is about the creation of that piece of music. When that's the case, you've got to deliver something genuinely great or the film doesn't work, and the first time I heard the theme from "Cloud Atlas," I got chills. I admired Tom Tykwer before this, but this year, his abilities as a composer are what made me re-evaluate him. He is one of three names on the film, and they all deserve to be saluted for producing something that stands on its own as one of the best recordings of the year, regardless of origin…
Original Score composed by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SONG
I mean, come on. Duh.
Adele, Paul Epworth
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is one of those places where my pick is exactly what the Academy had here the first time around, and that's because when you're talking about sound mixing, especially the on-set variety, there are several schools of thought. Take a look at that trailer for "The Great Gatsby" right now. I'm betting there are maybe four words in that whole trailer that were actually recorded on the set. That's fine. Baz Luhrmann loves that sort of control over the wholly artificial worlds he creates on film. But when making "Les Miserables," Tom Hooper's goal was to be able to use live tracks for the whole film, and when you're talking about recording something live that you will use in the final mix, they hired the best in the business. It does not remotely surprise me that they were nominated, and if you can ever truly be said to "deserve" an award, this is one of those times.
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
At this point, the best achievement in visual effects is going to start going to "the character I believed in the most," because that seems to be where the real cutting edge exists at the moment. This year, I can think of three performances that exist only in the digital realm that really blew me away, and any of the three films would be worthy of recognition in this category.
I may not have loved "Life Of Pi," but my issues are textual, not visual. I think it is impeccably crafted, and there are things about the film that I find amazing, and Richard Parker is one of those things. Getting an animal right is not easy because of all those little behaviors that make an organic living breathing thing so… well, alive. But the Rhythm & Hues team did it, and they did it so well that their work is literally the co-start of the movie. It's one thing to make a movie that has the Hulk in it, but it's quite a different thing to make a Hulk that people love, that is so interesting that when he's not onscreen, people are rooting for him to change. "The Avengers" is a game changer for The Hulk on film, and audiences around the world believed in him so much in the film that it should't be a surprise that he's going to be a major player in the "Avengers" franchise moving forward. Then, of course, there is the performance that I think best proves again just how remarkable the rewards are when you have the right FX team, the right technical tools, and the right performer. The only reason people aren't throwing more awards at this team is because they have made the miraculous seem everyday simply by being so good at what they do. Regardless of what you think of the film overall, there is no doubt in my mind that this team won their award fair and square, because Gollum is still the most amazing digital character I've ever seen…
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White