Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Well, there were quite a few surprises as the nominees were announced this morning. Let’s get to it.

Best Picture
Oscar’s Final Nine
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Descendants”
“The Artist”
“The Help”
“Moneyball”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: The fact that there are nine nominees (many were predicting only seven or eight), and that none of them were “Bridesmaids,” which was, inexplicably, a critical darling many thought might get in the race. The weighted voting system now being used for Best Picture didn’t limit variety.

Dislikes: I wasn’t as high on “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life,” and “War Horse” as others were (and I haven’t seen “Extremely Loud” yet, which broke through even though it lost a lot of momentum in earlier awards); I would have traded any of them for “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Rango” any day of the week.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Hugo”; “The Beaver”; “The Symphony”; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; “Hanna”; “Midnight in Paris”; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; “Warrior”; “Missing Pieces”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Artist.” It’s win at the Producers Guild this past weekend should help separate it from other Best Picture contenders “Hugo” and “The Descendants,” although a lot can change in the next month.

Best Director
Oscar’s Final Five
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

Likes: All five are more than worthy, even if Malick’s film didn’t impress me as much as it clearly did the Academy.

Dislikes: That said, I’m sort of surprised Steven Spielberg didn’t get a nod for “War Horse,” even though he’s been shut out of earlier contests, not to mention that his superior directorial achievement this year was the animated “Tintin,” which failed to break into not just Best Picture, but also Best Animated Feature.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”; David Yates, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; Michael LaPointe, “The Symphony”; Steven Spielberg, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” & “War Horse”; Joe Wright, “Hanna”

Oscar’s Pick: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo.” Unless a groundswell comes up for either Allen or Malick, this is a race between Scorsese and “The Artist’s” Hazanavicius, both of whom paid wonderful homage to Hollywood history in their films. That said, I think Marty will win his second Oscar in five years, and the Academy will spread the love around as much as possible.

Best Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Though his film has largely been unheard from in the normal Oscar precursors, Gary Oldman clearly had enough goodwill and popularity on his side to finally earn his first(?!) nomination for the well-performing “Tinker Taylor.” (Now I just have to see it myself.) I’m also glad SAG nominee Bichir made the cut for his heartbreaking performance in Chris Weitz’s powerful immigration drama.

Dislikes: While all of the nominees are deserving, it would have been nice to see Michael Fassbender (“Shame”) or Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“50/50”) make the cut. Oh well– I have no doubt that their times will come.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Mel Gibson, “The Beaver”; George Clooney, “The Descendants”; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “50/50”; Robin Zamora, “The Symphony”; Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”

Oscar’s Pick: George Clooney, “The Descendants.” Clooney has been sharing a lot of the early honors with best friend Pitt and “Artist” star Dujardin, but barring a SAG upset by either one of them, I think Academy favorite Clooney (who has been nominated several times as not only actor but also screenwriter and director over the years) will win for his career-best performance.

Best Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Glen Close, “Albert Nobbs” (Haven’t Seen)
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: The three performances I’ve seen are all well-deserving (and place in my own top five). I’m quite relieved that Mara made the cut for her brave and brilliant performance in the thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”– I was worried she wouldn’t make the cut.

Dislikes: Well, now I have to find time to see both Close and Streep’s films. Why couldn’t you have nominated Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) or Saoirse Ronan (“Hanna”) instead?

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Viola Davis, “The Help”; Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”; Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”; Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Saoirse Ronan, “Hanna”

Oscar’s Pick: Viola Davis, “The Help.” This is going to be a three actress race to the finish line between Streep, Williams, and Davis, but I think Davis will come out ahead for her work in the box-office hit, “The Help.”

Best Supporting Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marylin”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Well, I had a feeling there would be a surprise in store in this category, and I was right. And the other four all were solid choices.

Dislikes: Of course, I was HOPING for that surprise to be Andy Serkis for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” rather than veteran Von Sydow. And what happened to Albert Brooks (“Drive”) as an inevitable nominee, or a surprise nod for Ben Kingsley (“Hugo”)?

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Andy Serkis, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” & “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”; Ben Kingsley, “Hugo”; Christopher Plummer, “Beginners” & “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Nick Nolte, “Warrior”; Hunter McCracken, “The Tree of Life”

Oscar’s Pick: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners.” What started as one of the least predictable categories of the year has turned into a bit of a snoozer, with Plummer winning time and time again for his career-crowning performance as a father who embraces life (and himself) after his wife dies. I can’t complain, though– he deserves the adoration.

Best Supporting Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Bérénice Bejo, “The Artist”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Even though I didn’t have much love for the movie as a whole, I’m glad McCarthy got the nod for her scene-stealing hilarity in the summer blockbuster. It’s also nice to see that Chastain’s busy year (which included “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter”) didn’t split too many votes.

Dislikes: Bejo’s performance is really a leading one, but that’s how it goes sometimes. And it’s too bad Carey Mulligan didn’t get in for “Shame,” or that past winner Marion Cottilard didn’t make quite the impression on voters she did on me with her performance in “Midnight in Paris.”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Carey Mulligan, “Shame”; Anjelica Huston, “50/50”; Octavia Spencer, “The Help”; Marion Cottilard, “Midnight in Paris”; Jessica Chastain, “The Help” & “The Tree of Life”

Oscar’s Pick: Octavia Spencer, “The Help.” I don’t expect McCarthy to surprise here, although it COULD happen. Instead, look for Spencer to beat out her equally-worthy co-star Chastain to get a win for “The Help.”

Best Original Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“Midnight in Paris” (Woody Allen)
“The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius)
“Bridesmaids” (Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig)
“Margin Call” (J.C. Chandor) (Haven’t Seen)
“A Separation” (Asghar Farhadi) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Well, this is certainly a diverse selection…

Dislikes: …although I would have gladly traded “Bridesmaids” for either “The Beaver,” “50/50,” or “Beginners” any day of the week.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Kyle Killen, “The Beaver”; Will Reiser, “50/50”; Mike Mills, “Beginners”; Michael LaPointe, “The Symphony”; Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman, “Warrior”

Oscar’s Pick: “Midnight in Paris.” “The Artist” could win, but its storytelling success is more dependent on the “big picture” than just its screenplay. Look for Woody Allen to win his first Oscar in quite a while for his best film in at least 15 years.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Descendants” (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash)
“Hugo” (John Logan)
“Moneyball” (Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin)
“The Ides of March” (George Clooney, Grant Heslov,
Beau Willimon)
“Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” (Bridget o’Connor & Peter Straughan) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: The nod for “Ides of March” means that there’s a little bit of variety…

Dislikes: …still, Steve Kloves deserved more credit than he received for his contributions to the “Potter” franchise (you do know he scripted seven of the eight films, right?). And no love for the British trio who wrote “The Adventures of Tintin?” No, I’m not THAT surprised. Just…disappointed.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Steve Kloves, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, “The Descendants”; Amanda Silver & Rick Jaffa, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; John Logan, “Hugo”; Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Descendants.” Look for Payne to win his second Oscar in this category (after “Sideways”) for his funny and weighty script for this Best Picture contender.

Best Original Score
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Adventures of Tintin” (John Williams)
“Hugo” (Howard Shore)
“The Artist” (Ludovic Bource)
“War Horse” (John Williams)
“Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” (Alberto Iglesias) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: John Williams didn’t cancel himself out for either of his wonderful scores. The four I’ve heard are more than deserving.

Dislikes: While I’ve heard great things about the score for “Soldier Spy,” is it really better than the scores for “Hanna,” “Drive” (which was stupidly deemed ineligible), “Super 8,” or “Captain America: The First Avenger?” I doubt it.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: The Chemical Brothers, “Hanna”; Rob Simon, “The Symphony”; John Williams, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” & “War Horse”; Cliff Martinez, “Drive”; Michael Giacchino, “Super 8”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Artist.” For much of its running time, Bource’s music is all you hear, and the way it impacted the film was tremendous. It’ll win.

Best Original Song
Oscar’s Final Two
“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (Bret McKenzie)
“Real in Rio” from “Rio” (Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, Siedah Garrett)

Likes: Well, at least “The Muppets” didn’t get shut out like it inexplicably did at the Golden Globes.

Dislikes: Only two nominees? Really?! Did you guys not LISTEN to all the songs this year?

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “So Long” from “Winnie the Pooh” (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward); “Pictures in My Head” from “The Muppets” (Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, Chen Neeman); “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (Bret McKenzie); “The Star Spangled Man” from “Captain America: The First Avenger” (Alan Menken & David Zippel); “The Backson Song” from “Winnie the Pooh” (Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez)

Oscar’s Pick: If you think “Man or Muppet” isn’t going to win this, there’s no helping you.

Best Animated Feature
Oscar’s Final Five
“Rango”
“Puss in Boots”
“A Cat in Paris” (Haven’t Seen)
“Chico & Rita” (Haven’t Seen)
“Kung Fu Panda 2” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Rango”; “Winnie the Pooh”; “The Adventures of Tintin”; “Arthur Christmas”; “Puss in Boots”

Oscar’s Pick: No “Rio” or “Cars 2?” Fine by me. No “Arthur Christmas” or “Winnie the Pooh?” Less fine. No “Adventures of Tintin?” A bit surprising given the pedigree, but not unexpected. That leaves two Dreamworks films to cancel themselves out, and “Rango” to ride off into the sunset, deservingly.

Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Bullhead” (Belgium)
“Footnote” (Israel)
“In Darkness” (Poland)
“Monsieur Lazhar” (Canada)
“A Separation” (Iran)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “I Saw the Devil”; “13 Assassins”

Oscar’s Pick: “A Separation,” although this category has really been a turkey shoot the past few years.

Best Documentary Feature
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life”; “Viva! Saint Agrippina”; “Buck”; “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

Oscar’s Pick: I’d be really surprised if the final chapter of the groundbreaking “Paradise Lost” series didn’t win, given all the recent publicity and revelations in the case of the West Memphis Three. Now I just need to see it for myself.

Best Visual Effects
Oscar’s Final Five
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; “X-Men: First Class”; “Thor”; “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Oscar’s Pick: Wow, really? This is the ONLY nomination for one of the summer’s most acclaimed blockbusters? Look for WETA Digital’s perfection of mo-cap technology to win this one for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Best Sound Mixing
Oscar’s Final Five
“War Horse”
“Hugo”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“Moneyball”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; “Insidious”; “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; “War Horse”

Oscar’s Pick: I can see “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” sneaking away with this one, but I think it’s going to come down to “War Horse” and “Hugo,” with “Hugo” winning the prize.

Best Sound Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Drive”
“War Horse”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; “Insidious”; “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”; “The Artist”; “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Oscar’s Pick: In another race between two Best Picture winners, look for “Hugo” to beat our “War Horse,” although I would LOVE to see “Drive” get the nod for its moody sound design.

Best Cinematography
Oscar’s Final Five
“Hugo”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“The Tree of Life”
“The Artist”
“War Horse”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Hugo”; “Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol”; “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; “Super 8”; “Insidious”

Oscar’s Pick: While Robert Richardson’s extraordinary 3D camera in “Hugo” SHOULD get the vote, look for the artful lensing of Emmanuel Lubezki to give “The Tree of Life” probably it’s only win of the evening (not undeservingly, either).

Best Film Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“The Descendants”
“Moneyball”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Hanna”; “The Artist”; “Hugo”; “Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol”; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”

Oscar’s Pick: I really want to say “Hugo” and Scorsese’s longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, but I think probable Best Picture winner “The Artist” will take the honors for its brisk and lively storytelling.

Best Art Direction
Oscar’s Final Five
“Hugo”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
“The Artist”
“War Horse”
“Midnight in Paris”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Hugo”; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; “The Artist”; “Jane Eyre”; “War Horse”

Oscar’s Pick: Look for the complex visuals of that train station to win this one for Team “Hugo.”

Best Makeup
Oscar’s Final Three
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
“Albert Nobbs” (Haven’t Seen)
“The Iron Lady” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “X-Men: First Class”; “Hugo”; “Insidious”

Oscar’s Pick: Hey, if it takes this category for “Harry Potter” to FINALLY win an Oscar (and no, the franchise has not won a single Oscar), you won’t hear any complaints out of me.

Best Costume Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“The Artist”
“Anonymous”
“W.E.” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Hugo”; “Jane Eyre”; “Captain America: The First Avenger”; “X-Men: First Class”; “Thor”

Oscar’s Pick: “Jane Eyre.” I don’t really know why I’m not going with one of the Best Picture nominees here, but I think the critically-acclaimed “Eyre” will win out.

Now, onto the awards less likely to be cared about, and randomly-selected predictions.

Best Short Film- Live Action
Oscar’s Final Five
“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Oscar’s Pick: “Raju”

Best Short Film- Animated
Oscar’s Final Five
“Dimanche/Sunday”
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life”

Oscar’s Pick: “La Luna”

Best Documentary Short Subject
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement”
“God is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Oscar’s Pick: “Incident in New Baghdad”

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle
http://www.sonic-cinema.com

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