Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If I Owned the Oscars

Here are my own nomination picks. :) I went ahead and put those that are actual Oscar nominees in blue.

Best Movie

50/50 - Why? Because it's an achievement in balance. All the things you could want from a comedy about cancer. Many of us use humor to help us process the darkest moments in our lives and this movie expertly captures that. Anyone who has had a friend or family member struggle with cancer (which is just about everyone these days) can testify to how true it all feels.

The Artist - Here's the thing about The Artist. Everyone's right. It's great. It's storytelling done excellently. It's all about timing, joy, desperation, pride, and hope. It allows us to rejoice in the details. Sound? Who needs sound? Not me.

Drive - Violent, divisive, and occasionally illogical. This film's strength is in its contrasts, its direction that floats between dreamy to startling and back again. There's a palpable sense of how high the stakes really are and brilliant performances by all involved. Plus, it's just cool.

The Future - Initially I wasn't certain how I felt about this movie. I wondered if it might be too quirky for its own good and if the childish adults populating it were real enough to make their plights seem convincing. But, the more I thought about it, the more it stayed with me. The cat, oh the cat. The pain of change, the desire to grasp for something more without knowing what or who it is you really want. The necessity of growing up, even when growing up means losing something basic and essential. All captured memorably by this devastating little film.

Hugo - I thought Hugo was going to be annoyingly childish, pandering to the audience in the worst way, but it wasn't. No, it was too busy telling a story.... a creative and imaginative story that spoke to the director's deep love of his subject matter. This film is beautiful to look at and a pleasure to experience.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - This movie is deeply unsettling and a brilliant portrayal of how one can be seduced into a bizarre and dangerous world. Rather than following a linear story-line, the plot takes us along on the lead character's emotional journey, with tense, enlightening and occasionally confusing results. Extremely memorable.

Pina - I promise I'm not biased. Yes, I'm a dancer and this is a dance movie. However, keep in mind that I have seen hundreds of dance movies and there aren't many I would consider worthy of an Oscar nomination. Why this one? Well, never have I seen a documentary where direction was so perfectly married with subject matter. The filming felt like an extension of the choreography, something Pina Bausch herself might have had a hand in. Sensitive, creative, crazy, and beautiful.

A Separation - This Iranian film has been getting a lot of buzz, and for good reason. The script is brilliant and sophisticated, every character well-defined. It's a film about everything: religion, marriage, gender, law, parenthood, truth, tradition, progress, society, class, and more, yet it never loses focus or feels cluttered. I felt as if I was watching life unfold before me instead of characters reciting scripted lines. Highly recommended.

The Tree of Life - Unlike most of the world, I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. I did, however, think it was a transcendent, unconventional glimpse into the possibilities of nonlinear storytelling. Terrence Malick is a genius at evoking emotion by combining images and sound. Here he is at the top of his game. It breathes hope with every frame.

Young Adult - It's sad that this one got passed over, because I think it's an interesting evolution of the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody dynamic. It was also much, much better than I expected. The performances were strong, the writing restrained and even charmingly self-referential, and the whole movie pretty gutsy in a super-interesting way. Intelligent, funny and bleak, I thought it was deserving of a nod.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Possible contenders I haven't seen:
Certified Copy

Don't even talk to me about it:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
War Horse

Best Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Ryan Gosling - Drive
Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 50/50
Peyman Moaadi - A Separation
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
Owen Wilson - Midnight in Paris

Possible contender I haven't seen:
Demian Bichir - A Better Life

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain - The Tree of Life
Charlize Theron - Young Adult
Rooney Mara - Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn

Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter
Viola Davis - The Help
Jody Foster - Carnage

Possible contenders I haven't seen:
Kirsten Dunst - Melancholia
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin

Don't even talk to me about it:
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady (Okay, fine, we can talk about it. This isn't against Meryl. I think she's brilliant and that she did the best she could with a script that didn't support her. We didn't get to see her do much more than make speeches and wander around acting senile. Her skills were wasted.)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks - Drive
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Viggo Mortenson - A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer - Beginners

Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Colin Firth - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John C. Reilly - Cedar Rapids or Terri

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Keira Knightly - A Dangerous Method
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Carey Mulligan - Shame
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants

Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids

That's about all I can handle right now, but if I've got the time I'll share opinions on other categories later this week. (No shortage of opinions here!)

You probably noticed that I didn't pick any winners. I'm not so hot at that. I can usually narrow my favorite films from any year down to about three, but picking a top movie? A top performance? Not so comfortable committing to that. So, I leave it to you. Which would you like to win? Who is your favorite? Did I leave anything important out?

Reader's log:
20. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
21. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes - Denise Grover Swank
22. All about Emily - Connie Willis
23. Lady of Devices - Shelley Adina
24. Her Own Devices - Shelley Adina


  1. 50/50, Drive and Hugo are the movies that left the biggest impressions on me.

    50/50 - My wife is a cancer doctor and saw it before me. She said it was the most realistic portrayal of the psychological impact/process of the disease she'd ever seen. JGL was stellar, as was the rest of the cast.

    Drive - Simply put, I've never really seen another movie like it. Altogether understated, over the top and unbelievably emotive in an audio/visual sense. A total experience.

    Hugo - It was even brighter and bolder than my imagination. The score was perfect. Just a gorgeous movie all the way around.

    1. With you on all counts. It's a shame that, out of the three of them, only Hugo actually ended up with an Oscar nod.

  2. Ugggg, I totally need to see more movies!

    I saw War Horse last week. I've been *facepalm*ing the memory all week.

    I agree with Drive and 50/50. I though it was a travesty they were overlooked. I see Hugo on Saturday.

    I also really liked Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy. I thought it was insanely well put together and so thoughtful.

    I'm going to try to grab Martha Marcy May Marlene today (release date!) at Target and maybe see A Seperation on Friday. Whew! Big week. I'll have to fill you in on my thoughts when I feel more worthy of giving them.

    1. I think Drive and 50/50 suffered from the conventional belief that Best Picture Nominees must be mostly drama. Granted, an odd comedy, horror, fantasy, action, etc. flick will sneak in there from time to time, but they're so outnumbered by dramas that it isn't even funny. That's the kind of thinking that has kept some of Pixar's brilliant films, which deserve to stand beside the Best Movies of the Year, relegated to the animation category.

      Hope you enjoy Martha Marcy May Marlene and A Separation. :)

    2. The Oscars are very serious business...

  3. Um, ditto?

    I think we differ on only a few details (I liked a few movies better than you; you liked a few movies better than I), but that's mostly dead-on.

    How did you forget Charlize Theron for Young Adult as a Best Actress snub? I'm pretty sure you didn't intentionally leave her off. I can't remember... did you see The Guard with me? If so, Brendan Gleeson needs to be in your Best Actors list. And: Leila Hatami for A Separation was pretty great.

    Also - and this isn't exactly worthy of these lists, per se - but call-outs for players who excel in goofier / more mainstream films should be documented somewhere, say for Colin Farrell in Fright Night or Tom Hiddleston in Thor, or even Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

    You should see Melancholia and Win Win. And probably a few others I can't think of right now.

    1. Totally forgot Charlize Theron! Arg, that's why these posts are so difficult... so many people to remember. Looks like Jodie Foster is going to get the bump down. I did see The Guard, and while I liked Brendan Gleeson's performance, I didn't like it enough for a nod. Leila Hatami was also good, but not quite up to that level.

      Yes, there were some very fun movies this year, was thinking about doing an alternates shout-out kind of post for films like Fright Night.

  4. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I haven't seen even half of these. Looks like I'll be doing some serious movie watching this weekend. Thanks for the recommendations!

    1. No shame in that! I happen to see a lot of movies, many of which are smaller releases. I do recommend all the (my) Best Picture nominees. :) Which have you seen? Did you enjoy?

  5. I don't think I've seen ANY of these! I have to get out more. LOL Well, I have seen Harry Potter and the Dragon Tattoo movie. Some of the rest are too new, and I haven't been able to afford to go to the movies. Thanks for the recommendations though; I'll wait til they come out on DVD or on Netflix!

  6. We haven't seen many movies over the past 4 months, but my wife and I really enjoyed Hugo. And if you ever pick up the book, you'll see many of the same images (it's mostly a picture book) as you saw in the movie. One of the most impressive movies based on a picture book I've seen in a long time. The acting and story are superb too. I think it deserves to win every category it was nominated for, but I have a feeling The Artist is going to win out, simply for the novelty of it being a silent movie (not that it's not a good movie, but I think that's the factor that will decide in its favor).