Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar Nominations Predictions

This originally opened with "I'm gonna try to keep this one short." Yeah, that didn't quite work out. Anyway, Oscar nominations are just a few hours away, so I figured I'd put in my two copper Lincolns. So here goes (roughly in order of likelihood):

* = early winner prediction
^ = haven't seen (aka never saw it)

BEST PICTURE
The Artist*
The Descendants
Hugo
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo^
Moneyball
---
Just missing the cut:
War Horse^
Tree of Life
Drive

Comments: I'd love it if Hugo could somehow sneak its way in and snag the statue (it's currently my #4 movie of 2011 -- list forthcoming), but I don't see it happening. I think the top 5 are locks, while it wouldn't surprise me if any of the "just missed" movies slide in ahead of Girl or Moneyball. Those two would seem to have support from more branches though. If there were 10 nominees guaranteed this year, I really think Drive would be there. As it is, that's the movie I'm pulling for most. As far as The Artist perhaps winning, ugh, but whatever. Still better than The King's Speech over The Social Network.

BEST DIRECTOR
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist*
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life
---
Just missing the cut:
David Fincher - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo^
Steven Spielberg - War Horse^

Comments:  This is a really tough one to handicap. Each of these 7 has a great shot. I could go into all the precursor awards and whatnot, but ZZZZZZZZZZs. I think Payne is actually more vulnerable than Malick, but The Descendants figures to have a ton of nominations across the board and I can't see Payne being ignored. Malick has cultivated quite a legendary presence, maybe even more so than Scorsese or Spielberg, and should get in as a lone director (meaning his film isn't nominated for Picture -- nor should it be, as it was a narrative disaster, albeit a beautiful one). Both Fincher and Spielberg obviously have a great shot, but their films seem to minor in the grand scheme of their careers. That said, I'm perfectly prepared to see one or both of their names when the noms come out. AMPAS rarely splits Picture/Director anymore, hence Hazanavicius's asterisk.

BEST ACTOR
George Clooney - The Descendants*
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
---
Just missing the cut:
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
Demian Bichir - A Better Life^
Leonardo DiCaprio - J. Edgar^

Comments:  This will sound familiar -- the top 3 are locks, after that, who knows. Fassbender should get in for the most daring performance of the year -- you know, a real ballsy bit of acting. I may just be putting Oldman in there as a sentimental favorite, but I think there's more than a decent chance I'm right -- the whole "never been nominated for an Oscar" thing is a real shame and I think a lot of voters will take this chance to rectify that error at the expense of two former nominees (who should be back). I've barely heard of Bichir and his movie, but, you know, all that precursor stuff (and remember Bardem's nomination here last year?). Leo's Globes nomination screamed of the HFPA's "Look! A famous person! Let's nominate them!" antics. Clooney's the frontrunner for now, but if Payne isn't nominated for director, I'll take that as a Descendants backlash and give Pitt the coveted asterisk.

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis - The Help*
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady^
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs^
Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo^
---
Just missed the cut:
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin^
 
Comments:  Toughest one yet. I'm about 72% sure I'm wrong about Swinton not making the cut. Precursors, yadda yadda yadda. But she's got a couple things going against her: 1) She's already got a statue (for Michael Clayton), and 2) I haven't seen it, but the movie just looks weird. I'm not sure how many voters will actually have watched it (especially non-actors). I think Mara sneaks in by virtue of the transformative nature of the role -- a lot of voters will have heard/read about the piercings and the tattoos and, of course, the nudity. All that said, I think these are the only 6 contenders (although a WTf? Kristen Wiig nomination would be awesome), and I think Davis is the only real lock -- I could see any of the others missing out for various reasons. Hence her asterisk.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christopher Plummer - Beginners*
Albert Brooks - Drive
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Nick Nolte - Warrior^
Jonah Hill - Moneyball 
---
Just missed the cut: 
none -- this 5 seems pretty set
---
Gun to my head WTF? nom:
Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Comments:  Barring any surprises (Oswalt? Big Vig? Corey Stoll??), this is your Supporting Actor field. I think Plummer is also the surest bet in any major category at this point -- the perfect role for a respected vet. I would like to see Drive get some love, but I also think Plummer was better than Brooks. Branagh was solid in a very weak movie, I haven't seen Warrior yet (although I'm not sure how I missed it with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton... oh wait, now I remember, the trailer sucked -- misleading?), and I really don't get the Jonah Hill thing. He was just kind of... there. Maybe I missed something. I'll have to rewatch it.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Octavia Spencer - The Help*
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - something (most likely, The Help)
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
---
Just missed the cut:
Jessica Chastain - various things (The Tree of Life, Take Shelter), Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs^, Carey Mulligan - Shame or Drive

Comments:  Another fustercluck of a category. Again, repeat with me now: top 3 locks, after that, who knows. I think McCarthy will get in as the Academy's occasional bone to mainstream comedies (i.e. RDJ for Tropic Thunder). Woodley should be in unless the aforementioned Descendants backlash is a thing. Chastain will be nominated, and deservingly so, but if I had a vote (one day), I'd give it to her work in The Tree of Life -- she was the second best thing in that movie after Lubezki's photography. I haven't seen Albert Nobbs yet, but McTeer has been getting rave reviews -- but can that movie really pull off two major noms? Carey Mulligan is the real dark horse to me -- I'd love to see her name called for either role. Spencer is the presumptive favorite after the Globes win -- but, again, can her movie pull off two major awards?

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris*
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Kristin Wiig, Annie Mumalo - Bridesmaids
Will Reiser - 50/50
Asghar Farhadi - A Separation^
---
Just missed the cut:
Mike Mills - Beginners
Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter
Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni - Win Win^
Diablo Cody - Young Adult
Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Many others

Comments:  Ah, Original Screenplay is easily my favorite category. I am an occasional practitioner of the screenwriting arts (thus far only on the amateur level, but still), and this is the category where the Academy takes the most chances, often nominating some brilliant, under-appreciated work (think In Bruges). All that said, repeat the chant: top 3 locks, after that, who knows. Reiser's true-to-life 50/50 is the exact kind of story voters usually like, while Farhadi's script is my WTF? special (there's always one in this category -- last year, it was Another Year). Obviously, any of the others listed and plenty more (Tree of Life? Shame?) could very well hear their name called. I think Allen edges out The Artist when voters realize, "Wait, did I just vote for a silent movie for a screenplay award? Let me change that..." Also: It has no shot, but I'd like to give a shout out to Bellflower. See it if you haven't.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Steve Cherwin - Moneyball*
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - The Descendants
John Logan - Hugo
Tate Taylor - The Help
Bridget O'Conner, Peter Straughan - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
---
Just missed the cut:
Steven Zaillian - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo^
Hossein Amini - Drive
Lee Hall, Richard Curtis - War Horse^

Comments:  A curveball (get it??) on the formula -- this time, the top 4 are locks (especially given their likely Best Picture noms -- although Moneyball could get left off). For the fifth spot, I'm doubling down on my Gary Oldman prediction -- plus, the screenwriting duo were husband and wife, and the wife died before the film came out. Sad, and probably the kind of thing that voters will think of when struggling for a final nominee. There could obviously be a left field pick (9/11: The Movie, A Dangerous Method) by a former winner, but this field is a lot more settled than Original. I gave Moneyball the asterisk not only because of the prestigious names, but the whole "baseball movie that isn't really about baseball" is more of an achievement in screenwriting than dead mothers and cloying voiceovers. (Although, again, it must be said that, "Dean Pelton, Oscar winner" has a certain ring to it.)

Short this was not, but I get excited about my awards season. Maybe I'll even get up to watch the announcements (Disclaimer: I say that every year but never do.) I'll sign off with this: Go Drive! It should get a Best Costume Design nomination alone for the scorpion jacket. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globes Crapshoot

The most important thing when it comes to prognosticating the Golden Globes is this: No one knows what they're doing. Not me, not any other blogger, not movie critics, and certainly not the Hollywood Foreign Press Association themselves. They always do the unexpected -- like giving The Hangover the trophy for Best Comedy two years ago. Or last year, when they eschewed the seemingly tailor-made for the HFPA The King's Speech in favor of the decidedly American (and decidedly superior) The Social Network. So what'll it be the surprise this year? Bridesmaids getting a trophy? George Clooney getting Director? I have no idea. Not even the slightest clue. But here's my best guesses for the main categories anyway. The ball's in your court, HFPA.

*indicates a film/performance I have not yet seen
bold indicates my pick

Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Bérénice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs*
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants

Logic: Going wild card right off the bat. The Descendants has a lot of support (5 nominations), and Wooldley is the breakout star of the film. The ladies from The Help could split (Spencer was great, but I don't see the film winning more than one award), McTeer doesn't have a realistic chance, and Bejo, a presumptive frontrunner (in the most-nominated film), lacks the pizzazz that the HFPA typically goes for. A sweep for The Artist wouldn't shock me though.

My Hypothetical Vote: Spencer. I thought she gave the best performance (with Woodley second).

Snubs: Chastain in Take Shelter or The Tree of Life, Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids, Kirsten Dunst - Melancholia, Kiera Knightley - A Dangerous Method

Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks - Drive
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen - A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer - Beginners

Logic: Plummer is the clear frontrunner and likely Oscar winner, but a case could be made for any nominee besides Mortensen (great, but not up to his usual transformative standards). Brooks is a close second and a legitimate Oscar threat, but Drive clearly didn't resonate with the HFPA. Branagh is just the type of actor and performance that usually does well here. Hill is, I think, a real dark horse (especially if Moneyball picks up any other awards). Plummer seems overdue for some awards recognition though, and this should be his year.

My Hypothetical Vote: Brooks. Just so Drive could win something (and I think the performances are about equal).

Snubs: Corey Stoll - Midnight in Paris, Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Jodie Foster - Carnage
Charlize Theron - Young Adult
Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Kate Winslet - Carnage

Logic: God bless the HFPA for actually recognizing comedic performances. And, yes, Williams was great as Monroe, but the movie wasn't a comedy (or a musical) -- more of a lightweight diversion. Not the stuff awards are made of. And since The Artist seems poised to win Best Comedy, this will be the voters' chance to reward the surprise hit of the summer, Bridesmaids. As for the others, Theron was very good (the movie, not so much), and Carnage was excellent but ultimately too small of a film to be a threat.

My Hypothetical Vote: Wiig. The Carnage ladies were second, but they split my hypothetical vote of one.

Snubs: none

Best Performance by An Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Brendan Gleeson - The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 50/50
Ryan Gosling - Crazy, Stupid, Love*
Owen Wilson - Midnight in Paris

Logic: HFPA + French dude. 'Nuff said. But I'll expound (as I'm wont to do). The Artist was the most nominated film and could very well walk away with the most awards. I don't think it was actually as good as that, but it does seem to be right up the HFPA's alley. And Dujardin is certainly deserving -- it's the showiest performance of the year (in a good way). Gleeson and JGL were both excellent, but they picked the wrong year. Gosling and Wilson are just here because they're famous.

My Hypothetical Vote: Gleeson. The most unique performance/character of all the nominees. Dude crushed it as well.

Snubs: Both John C. Reilly and, especially, Chrisoph Waltz for Carnage, Charlie Day - Horrible Bosses

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs*
Viola Davis - The Help
Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady*
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin*

Logic: So yeah. I've only seen one of these performances. So this is purely based on what I've read. Mara and Swinton don't figure to be serious threats (I'm looking forward to both films though). Close and Streep are respected veterans and can't be dismissed (and I'm not necessarily looking forward to either film). I think Close especially has a good shot at an Oscar. But I'm going with Davis because a) the movie/subject matter is total awards bait, b) the movie had a lot of other nominations but might not win anywhere else, and c) she's actually quite good (although not as good as Spencer). So there.

My Hypothetical Vote: Davis. Only one I've seen.

Snubs: Saoirse Ronan - Hanna, Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Macy May Marlene

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
George Clooney - The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio - J. Edgar*
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Ryan Gosling - The Ides of March
Brad Pitt - Moneyball 

Logic: He's George fucking Clooney, that's why. Pitt is a real challenger, but it's a baseball movie and it's the HFPA. His performance also didn't require as much range as Clooney's. Fassbender was actually probably better than both of them, and I thought his schlong could have snagged a Supporting nom. Gosling was nominated for the wrong movie (Drive, duh) and Leo is this year's "Makeup Is Not The Same As Acting" nomination (presumably, as I haven't seen it, nor was I particularly interested).

My Hypothetical Vote: Fassbender. It's a flawed movie, certainly, but nobody portrayed a flawed character better than Fassbender this year.

Snubs: Ryan Gosling - Drive, Michael Shannon - Take Shelter, Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - The Descendants
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon - The Ides of March
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Cherwin - Moneyball

Logic: Talk about a loaded category. The only one that would surprise me with a win is The Ides of March, which wouldn't be here without Clooney's name attached (and probably shouldn't be anyway). I think Moneyball goes away without a trophy, although Zaillian and Sorkin's names certainly gives one pause. Believe me, I know a lot more goes into a screenplay than dialogue, but I can't see The Artist winning (especially as the story was largely derivative). I really think The Descendants has a great shot, but this has the makings of a "spread the wealth" night, so Woody Allen takes this in a mild upset (great script though).

My Hypothetical Vote: Allen. Although it would be great to see Dean Pelton from Community give an acceptance speech.

Snubs: Hossein Amini - Drive, Mike Mills - Beginners, Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza - Carnage, Annie Mumulo and Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids, Will Reiser - 50/50

Best Director - Motion Picture
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
George Clooney - The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Martin Scorsese - Hugo

Logic: Man, this is one tough three-horse race to handicap. Allen and Clooney don't figure to be in it, but I could see the trophy going to any of the other three. Despite a lack of support in any other category, I think Hugo has a real shot at the two major awards. I'm not sure if I've ever seen such a charming love letter to cinema -- and I'm not sure if I've ever described a Scorsese movie as "charming" before either. I would probably put Payne in 3rd place at this point, but he's definitely not out of the running. In the end though, I think the voters go with Hazanavicius for the boldness of making a more-or-less silent film in this century.

My Hypothetical Vote: Hazanavicius. The movie was clearly very meticulously made, and both Payne and Scorsese have better directing jobs on their résumés.

Snubs: Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive, Steven Soderbergh - Contagion, Pedro Almodóvar - The Skin I Live In

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
The Artist
Bridesmaids
50/50
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn

Logic: I previsioned it. But seriously, I don't see it going down any other way. Bridesmaids is the only serious challenger (maaaybe Midnight in Paris), but the HFPA usually goes with movies that will also likely be nominated for Oscars in this category (and The Artist is probably the current Best Picture favorite). Both 50/50 and Midnight in Paris are deserving nominees but aren't heavyweights here, and I can't for the life of my figure out why My Week with Marilyn is nominated here. It's gotta be The Artist here.

My Hypothetical Vote: Midnight in Paris. Probably top-5 of the year for me. A whimsical meditation on nostalgia that overcomes its excess of Wilson.

Snubs: Beginners, Carnage

Best Motion Picture - Drama
The Descendants
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
War Horse*

Logic: While I would love to see Hugo pull off the upset (and I think it can), The Descendants has too many nominations in other categories to not win. Although it is the HFPA and they don't play by the normal rules, I can't see a movie with no acting (Hugo, War Horse), writing (same two, plus The Help), or directing (The Help and Moneyball again, plus War Horse -- how did that one sneak in, by the way?) nominations winning. Interesting that The Ides of March is the only other film with nominations in all three categories. But I think it's too indelibly American to win. On the other hand, The Descendants' story is pretty universal. That, combined with Clooney's star power and the previously mentioned other nominations, puts it over the top.

My Hypothetical Vote: Hugo. I was surprised by how taken I was with the movie. It hit all the right notes -- pitch-perfect.

Snubs: Drive (obviously), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Melancholia

TV Awards: I don't pay nearly as much attention to the TV awards, so I'll abstain from guessing. I'll just say that I hope Game of Thrones wins everything and that Glee loses everything. Get on that, HFPA.

That's my fiftieth of a dollar, and I'm sticking to it. Caveat: All picks subject to change. Eagerly awaiting the show -- can't wait to see Gervais in action again. Oscar nominations are just around the corner, and I'll post my best movies list after I see the last few awards contenders. Until then...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Top Songs: 2011

I'm a bit old fashioned -- whenever I make a playlist, I try to make sure it would fit onto a CDR (about 80 minutes, or around 20 songs). How weird is it that that could be considered "old fashioned"? Anyway, like I said last time, I listened to a *LOT* of music last year. So much so, in fact, that I couldn't fit all my favorite songs onto a single playlist -- not even two playlists, actually. No, I had to break it up into three different playlists -- the Greatest Hits, B-Sides, and Demos of 2011. I'll hyperlink to music videos* when I can (song sans video otherwise). All songs are listed alphabetically. Enjoy!

2011 GREATEST HITS (best, obviously)
"Anthem for the Unwanted" - New Found Glory
"Bandits" - Meg & Dia
"Barton Hollow" - The Civil Wars*
"Every Thug Needs a Lady" - Alkaline Trio
"Factory of Faith" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Fire Fly" - Childish Gambino
"Gold on the Ceiling" - The Black Keys
"Heart's All Gone" - Blink-182*
"If I Wanted Someone" - Dawes
"Jack Sparrow" - The Lonely Island (feat. Michael Bolton)*
"Midnight City" - M83*
"No Church in the Wild" - The Throne (feat. Frank Ocean)
"Party Rock Anthem" - LMFAO*

Not kidding, my favorite video of the year. I mean, it's a 28 Days Later parody! Love it.

"A Real Hero" - College feat. Electric Youth (from the Drive soundtrack)
"Romance" - Wild Flag*
"Second Song" - TV on the Radio*
"This Is Why We Fight" - The Decemberists*
"Two" - Lenka*
"Walk" - Foo Fighters*
"Where I'm Supposed to Be" - Daybreaker

2011 B-SIDES (2nd best)
"All My Rage" - Laura Marling*
"Be Your Bro" - Those Darlins*
"Believe" - Cobra Skulls
"Boom Boom Boom" - MEN*
"As Long As We're Cool" - Big D & The Kids Table
"Brick by Brick" - Arctic Monkeys*
"Cataracts" - Thrice
"Celebrity" - The Subways
"Changing" - The Airborne Toxic Event*
"Dance With the Devil" - The Sounds*
"Defiance" - Incubus
"Eskimo Kiss" - The Kooks
"Get Some" - Lykke Li*
"Harvey Wallbanger" - Less Than Jake
"Holdin on to Black Metal" - My Morning Jacket*
"Invisible Riverside" - Ryan Adams*
"Machine Gun Blues" - Social Distortion*
"Melanin" - Dave Hause
"Natural Disaster" - City And Colour
"Party in the CIA" - "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Underneath the Sycamore" - Death Cab for Cutie
"Warrant" - Foster the People

2011 DEMOS (3rd best)
"Amor Fati" - Washed Out*
"Battery Kinzie" - Fleet Foxes
"Behold the Hurricane" - The Horrible Crowes
"Beth/Rest" - Bon Iver*
"California" - EMA*
"Carousel" - Vanessa Carlton*
"Clever Clever Jazz" - Art Brut*
"(Don't Let Them) Cool Off" - Peter Bjorn & John*
"Dressed Sharply" - An Horse*
"Fake ID" - Dwarves
"Getting Ready for Christmas Day" - Paul Simon*
"How Deep Is Your Love?" - The Rapture
"Novacane" - Frank Ocean*
"On Monday" - Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room
"Running on Nothing" - Fucked Up
"Tallulah" - Company Of Thieves
"Techno Fan" - The Wombats*
"You're So Right" - The Strokes
"Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me" - Iron & Wine


That's a lot of songs -- I hope you find something you like! Feel free to let me know what your favorites were as well. Keep listening to good music.