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. The Oscar telecast is on February 24, with Seth McFarland (“Ted”) hosting.

Best Picture
Oscar’s Final Nine
“Argo”
“Lincoln”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Les Miserables”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Amour” (Haven’t Seen)
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Once again, the weighted Best Picture voting resulted in a nearly-full field (nine nominees), with nary a ringer in the bunch (my issues with “Life of Pi” aside).

Dislikes: No “Moonrise Kingdom.” No “The Hunger Games.” No “Marvel’s The Avengers.” No “Cloud Atlas.” No “The Impossible.” No “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” No “Skyfall.” It’s a strong, diverse list, but because of the weighted voting (where nominees have to get at least 5% of first-place votes), blockbusters are being pushed aside once again, which was the reason the category was bumped up to 10 to begin with.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Argo”; “Moonrise Kingdom”; “The Hunger Games”; “Noctambulous”; “Lincoln”; “The Cabin in the Woods”; “Marvel’s The Avengers”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Safety Not Guaranteed”; “The Impossible”

Oscar’s Pick: “Lincoln.” This prediction will become more obvious as we go, starting with the category below. “Silver Linings Playbook” could sneak by it in another Weinsteins vs. Spielberg upset (see “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”), but the momentum is all about Spielberg’s political drama at this point.

Best Director
Oscar’s Final Five
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
Michael Haneke, “Amour” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: There was a very pleasant surprise with first-time director Zeitlin breaking into the final five for his memorable work on “Beasts,” and despite my “Pi” issues, Ang Lee’s vision of the film is quite stunning.

Dislikes: No Ben Affleck for “Argo?” Or Katheryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty?” Or Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables?” Yes, Bigelow won for “Hurt Locker,” and Hooper won for “King’s Speech,” but you aren’t really leaving a lot of room for suspense by nixing any of these three off the list. It almost makes pointing out the lack of Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”), the “Cloud Atlas” trio, Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), and Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”) futile.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Ben Affleck, “Argo”; Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”; Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, “Cloud Atlas”; Juan Antonio Bayona, “The Impossible”; Tom Hooper, “Les Miserables”

Oscar’s Pick: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln.” This is an interesting category, because it really DOES open up some possibilities in terms of splitting Picture and Director; I can see any of these five winning depending on how the Oscar season breaks. But with 12 nominations, as well as the surprising omissions mentioned above, “Lincoln” is now the clear front-runner, so I’m guessing Spielberg will win his third directing Oscar in the last 20 years for his subtle, powerful work on “Lincoln.”

Best Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Likes: Phoenix survived “The Master’s” gradual disappearance from the awards season, and was nominated for his riveting, raw performance. And even though Cooper looks out-of-place with these four heavyweights, if you see “Silver Linings Playbook,” you’ll understand why he made the cut.

Dislikes: Not really any surprises, and certainly no unpleasant ones, although Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Jack Black (“Bernie”), and Jared Gilman (“Moonrise Kingdom”) would have shaken things up a bit.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”; Denzel Washington, “Flight”; Jared Gilman, “Moonrise Kingdom”; Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”; Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”

Oscar’s Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln.” It’s a shame that Washington didn’t get more awards traction for his best performance since “Malcolm X,” because otherwise, we would have had a race. Look for Day-Lewis to win his second Oscar in five years, and third overall, for his remarkable performance, which, truth told, really IS the best of the year.

Best Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour” (Haven’t Seen)
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: The young Wallis survived being shut out of the SAG awards (“Beasts” was deemed ineligible) to get a much-deserved nomination for her unforgettable performance. After seeing it on Monday, I would have hoped “Impossible” had more upset potential, but I’m glad at least Watts was nominated for her terrific performance.

Dislikes: There wasn’t any room for genuine surprise, which would have come from someone like Aubrey Plaza (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), Kara Hayward (“Moonrise Kingdom”), Leslie Mann (“This is 40”), or Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect”). I haven’t seen Chastain or Riva’s acclaimed performances, but trust me, I will.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games” & “Silver Linings Playbook”; Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; Kara Hayward, “Moonrise Kingdom”; Aubrey Plaza, “Safety Not Guaranteed”; Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

Oscar’s Pick: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook.” It’s really difficult to not go with Chastain for “Zero Dark Thirty” since she’s become the front-runner after a strong critics award run, but the film’s fall from possible winner status makes me think Lawrence, who also hit it big at the box-office with “The Hunger Games,” will get the nod with the power of the Weinsteins award machine with her.

Best Supporting Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Alan Arkin, “Argo”

Likes: All five are deserving nominees. That said…

Dislikes: …I could easily come up with five others who are more deserving. Waltz was a pleasant surprise, but his role was definitely a co-lead in “Django,” not to mention his evil co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, was extraordinary in one of his best roles. Some love for former winner Jim Broadbent (so good in multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas”), Javier Bardem (a surprise SAG nominee for “Skyfall”), and Tom Holland (the emotional center of “The Impossible”) wouldn’t have sucked, either.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”; Tom Holland, “The Impossible”; Russ Camarda, “The Night Never Sleeps”; Dwight Henry, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”; Jim Broadbent, “Cloud Atlas”

Oscar’s Pick: Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook.” This is the toughest acting category to predict, with five past winners, all doing stellar work, in great roles. My gut, though, is leading me to DeNiro, whose return to form is, arguably, the most welcome sight of the awards season. Plus, with the Weinsteins behind “Silver Linings Playbook” with their Oscar muscle, you know they’re going to push him hard, even if they do have two other actors in this race (Waltz and Hoffman).

Best Supporting Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions” (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: All four nominees I’ve seen did strong work, and it was good to see “The Master” remembered for all three of its lead performances.

Dislikes: Apart from my personal #1 pick of Doona Bae from “Cloud Atlas,” they could have replaced any of these actresses except Hathaway with either Kelly Reilly (“Flight”), Shirley MacLaine (“Bernie”), Judi Dench (“Skyfall”), or Samantha Banks (“Les Misérables”), and I would have been satisfied.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Doona Bae, “Cloud Atlas”; Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables” & “The Dark Knight Rises”; Kelly Reilly, “Flight”; Shirley MacLaine, “Bernie”; Judi Dench, “Skyfall”

Oscar’s Pick: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables.” Next to Day-Lewis, this is the closest thing we have to a “mortal lock” in any of the major categories at this point. Ms. Hathaway wins it, and she definitely deserves it.

Best Original Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola)
“Flight” (John Gatins)
“Django Unchained” (Quentin Tarantino)
“Amour” (Michael Haneke) (Haven’t Seen)
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Mark Boal) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: That two of the most original, distinctive writers-directors of the past 20 years each received their third nominations in this category for their bold, hilarious new films. It’s a very pleasant surprise to see that Gatins wasn’t left off the final five; his script was just as deserving a nominee as Denzel, and just as important to the film’s success.

Dislikes: In a category where chances are typically taken, how great would it have been to see nods for faves like “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Looper,” let alone the ingenious genre twists of “The Cabin in the Woods?”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola); “Safety Not Guaranteed” (Derek Connolly); “Noctambulous” (Kelvin C. Bias); “Flight” (John Gatins); “Seeking a Friend at the End of the World” (Lorene Scafaria)

Oscar’s Pick: “Moonrise Kingdom.” Conventional wisdom would have me say “Zero Dark Thirty,” and that might change after I see the film, but the film’s controversial take on the hunt for bin Laden (which is likely why Bigelow failed to make the cut in Best Director) could make it difficult for Boal to win a second Oscar in a row (following “The Hurt Locker”). Instead, I think the Academy will finally reward Anderson (now with his fourth overall nomination) for his most mature, warm script to date.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
“Argo” (Chris Terrio)
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin)
“Lincoln” (Tony Kushner)
“Silver Linings Playbook” (David O. Russell)
“Life of Pi” (David Magee)

Likes: All solid nominees, including the three best scripts in this category of the year.

Dislikes: However, “Life of Pi’s” script was problematic in its use of the film’s framing device of an older Pi recounting his remarkable story. I would have much preferred “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Hunger Games,” or even Joss Whedon’s dynamic “Avengers” script, instead.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Argo” (Chris Terrio); “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin); “Lincoln” (Tony Kushner); “The Hunger Games” (Gary Ross, Billy Ray, Suzanne Collins); “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Stephen Chbosky)

Oscar’s Pick: “Lincoln.” The third piece of “Lincoln’s” puzzle towards greatness. After giving Spielberg his finest material since “Schindler’s List,” “Munich” collaborator Kushner will be going home with Oscar gold for his dense, fascinating screenplay.

Best Original Score
Oscar’s Final Five
“Skyfall” (Thomas Newman)
“Argo” (Alexandre Desplat)
“Lincoln” (John Williams)
“Life of Pi” (Mychael Danna)
“Anna Karenina” (Dario Marianelli) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Even though I haven’t seen “Anna Karenina” yet, I have heard the score by Oscar-winner Marianelli (“Atonement”), and it’s a fine piece of composition, as are all of the choices. And what a wonderful surprise Newman’s nomination for “Skyfall” is. But…

Dislikes: …Desplat did better work for “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” and the two best scores of the year (for “Cloud Atlas” and “The Master”) got screwed. Hell, I would have traded Williams’s nomination for either of them to get in.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer, “Cloud Atlas”; Jonny Greenwood, “The Master”; Thomas Newman, “Skyfall”; Alexandre Desplat, “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Zero Dark Thirty” & “Argo”; Hans Zimmer, “The Dark Knight Rises”

Oscar’s Pick: “Skyfall.” This is a tough call. The two most-nominated films (“Lincoln” and “Life of Pi”) could get through with broad support. Marianelli’s score would be worthy of a second statue for him…in another year. And the Academy has been teasing Desplat like it’s nobody’s business the past few years, but “Argo” isn’t his best work of the year. “Skyfall,” however, would be an interesting choice, not only because it would be a long-overdue win for Newman, but also because, it really is one of the best Bond scores in recent years. I’m going with 007 on this one.

Best Original Song
Oscar’s Final Five
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth)
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables” (Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer)
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted” (Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane)
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi” (Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayashri)
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice” (J. Ralph) (Haven’t Seen)

Likes: Welcome back, Best Original Song, to relevance after a few years off.

Dislikes: That being said, some of these choices are inexplicable considering we had two, terrific songs from “Django Unchained,” one from “The Hunger Games,” one from “The Hobbit,” and a couple from “Brave” to choose from. Still, I guess I can’t complain too much.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (Adele, Paul Epworth); “Ancora Qui” from “Django Unchained” (Elisa Toffoli, Ennio Morricone); “Into the Open Air” from “Brave” (Alex Mandel); “Abraham’s Daughter” from “The Hunger Games” (Win Butler, Regine Chassagne & T Bone Burnett); “Who Did That To You?” from “Django Unchained” (John Stephens, Paul Epworth)

Oscar’s Pick: “Skyfall.” The “Les Miserables” song is pure Oscar bait for the original composers of the show, but Adele’s fantastic song, which pays great tribute to the traditions of Bond songs, will be too good to pass up.

Best Animated Feature
Oscar’s Final Five
“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“Paranorman”
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Wreck-It-Ralph” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Brave”; “Frankenweenie”; “The Secret World of Arrietty”; “Paranorman”

Oscar’s Pick: “Wreck-It-Ralph.” This is a genuinely difficult choice, as all five certainly have critical and/or artistic merits (although I’ll admit Aardman’s “Pirates” was a surprise). It’ll likely come down to “Paranorman” and “Wreck-It-Ralph,” with Rich Moore’s holiday hit coming out on top.

Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Amour” (Austria)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“No” (Chile)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Um, I actually haven’t seen any this year. Long story.

Oscar’s Pick: “Amour.” It was nominated for Best Picture. Don’t expect anything to trump that.

Best Documentary Feature
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers’
“How to Survive A Plague”
“The Invisible War”
“Searching For Sugar Man”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Marley”; “Bully”; “Chimpanzee”

Oscar’s Pick: A tough choice without seeing any of them, but I’m going to bet on “How to Survive a Plague,” about how the gay community came together when the AIDS epidemic started in the 1980s.

Best Visual Effects
Oscar’s Final Five
“Life of Pi”
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
“Prometheus”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Life of Pi”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Marvel’s The Avengers”; “The Impossible”; “Prometheus”

Oscar’s Pick: Okay, I’m totally down with four of these, but really? “Snow White and the Huntsman” over “Cloud Atlas,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and others? I’ve been biting my tongue mostly on the complete snub of “Cloud Atlas,” but I’m sorry, this is ridiculous. Not that it matters, since Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” is a shoe-in to win anyway.

Best Sound Mixing
Oscar’s Final Five
“Les Misérables”
“Life of Pi”
“Skyfall”
“Argo”
“Lincoln”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Les Miserables”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Life of Pi”; “Django Unchained”; “The Hunger Games”

Oscar’s Pick: “Les Miserables.” Yes, the decision to record the singing “live” was a bold idea, but it ultimately paid off in one of the best movie musicals of the past decade.

Best Sound Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“Life of Pi”
“Skyfall”
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Les Miserables”; “The Hunger Games”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Life of Pi”; “Django Unchained”

Oscar’s Pick: “Life of Pi,” although it is possible that “Zero Dark Thirty” could win here.

Best Cinematography
Oscar’s Final Five
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Skyfall”
“Lincoln”
“Anna Karenina” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Cloud Atlas”; “Django Unchained”; “Life of Pi”; “Skyfall”; “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Oscar’s Pick: Again with the “Cloud Atlas” snub. Sheesh, Academy. No matter, Ang Lee’s beautiful and inventive use of 3D and multiple framing options, all but guarantees “Life of Pi” to beat the venerable Roger Deakins’s artful work on “Skyfall,” and Robert Richardson’s brilliant colors on “Django.”

Best Film Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Cloud Atlas”; “Argo”; “The Impossible”; “Les Miserables”; “The Grey”

Oscar’s Pick: Okay, seriously? “Cloud Atlas” is a masterpiece of film editing, folks! Anyway, I’m betting “Life of Pi,” in another technical win, will beat out “Argo’s” crisp, suspenseful storytelling.

Best Production Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“Les Misérables”
“Lincoln”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
“Anna Karenina” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Hunger Games”; “Les Miserables”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Lincoln”; “Moonrise Kingdom”

Oscar’s Pick: “Les Miserables” will win out over fellow Best Picture nominees “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi.”

Best Makeup and Hair Styling
Oscar’s Final Three
“Les Misérables”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Hitchcock”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Impossible”; “Les Miserables”; “Cloud Atlas”

Oscar’s Pick: “Les Miserables,” although don’t be surprised if “The Hobbit” sneaks past it.

Best Costume Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“Les Misérables”
“Lincoln”
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”
“Anna Karenina” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “The Hunger Games”; “Cloud Atlas”; “Les Miserables”; “Lincoln”; “Mirror Mirror”

Oscar’s Pick: “Mirror Mirror.” The first, and most elegant, Snow White film of 2012 will beat two Best Picture nominees for its remarkable, fantastical look.

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

Best Short Film- Live Action
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Asad”
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Curfew”
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)”
“Henry”

Oscar’s Pick: “Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)”

Best Short Film- Animated
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”
“Paperman”

Oscar’s Pick: “Paperman”

Best Documentary Short Subject
Oscar’s Final Five (Haven’t Seen Any)
“Inocente”
“Kings Point”
“Mondays at Racine”
“Open Heart”
“Redemption”

Oscar’s Pick: “Redemption”

Viva La Resistance!

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

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