camcarlson

miscellaneous commentary

84th Academy Awards… YAWN…

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I am so uninterested in the Academy Awards this year that I’m not going to bother predicting the winners. There are so many precursor awards nowadays that making predictions is not only incredibly easy but downright pointless. In fact, I’m not even going to watch the ceremony tomorrow night. I don’t care enough about most of the nominees and I don’t find Billy Crystal to be that funny. I’ll probably watch a movie instead… would be a good opportunity to re-watch “The Tree of Life”, my personal favorite of 2011.

But I might as well say it — “The Artist” will probably win for Best Picture, Director, Leading Actor, Score, and maybe for its editing and costume design as well. I saw “The Artist” last week and liked it, but I didn’t love it, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel compelled to watch it again. It was a one-time gimmicky movie, the type Miramax… er, The Weinstein Company… is so good at concocting and promoting for Oscars. It was as forgettable as last year’s Best Picture winner, “The King’s Speech”, which was also put out by the Weinsteins. Go figure.

Random factoids about this year’s nominees:

Meryl Streep extended her record of most nominations for an actor or actress to seventeen, for her leading role in “The Iron Lady”. Fourteen of her nominations have been for leading roles and three for supporting roles. She won Supporting Actress for “Kramer vs. Kramer” in 1979 and Leading Actress for “Sophie’s Choice” in 1983. But she’s expected to lose this year to Viola Davis for “The Help”.

Woody Allen extended his record of screenplay nominations to fifteen. All have those nominations have been in the original screenplay category. If he wins (which he is expected to), he will become the first person to have won in this category three times. His last won 25 years ago for “Hannah and Her Sisters”. He also scored a seventh Best Director nomination, his first in 17 years, and has surpassed Billy Wilder for the record number of dual directing/screenwriting nominations (with seven). Allen’s latest film, “Midnight in Paris”, is the most financially successful film in his 45 years of filmmaking and is still playing in theaters, nearly nine months after it was released!

Speaking of records, composer John Williams earned his 41st and 42nd nominations for Original Score (for “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin”). He trails the record in this category by a single nomination. Williams has 47 overall nominations (the other five are for Original Song), which makes him the most-nominated living person and the second-most-nominated individual in history, behind Walt Disney.

For the fourth year in a row, the Supporting Actress category features two nominees from the same film; Amy Adams and Viola Davis for “Doubt” in 2008, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air” in 2009, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” last year, and Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer for “The Help” this year. The conventional wisdom is that multiple nominees in the same category split the vote, but Leo managed to win last year, and Spencer is considered a favorite this year.

Pixar failed to earn a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category for only the third time since the category’s creation in 2001. All eight of its feature films made between 2001 and 2010 had been nominated and only two lost. This year marks the first time one of their films (“Cars 2”) wasn’t even nominated. See, this is what happens when you let Disney buy you out…

Sound mixer Greg Russell earned his fifteenth nomination and is still seeking his first win. He trails his former sound mixing partner Kevin O’Connell, who has been nominated twenty times without a win. Ouch.

This year’s Documentary Feature category is the only real wide-open race, as three of last year’s best-reviewed docs — “The Interrupters”, “Project Nim” and “Into the Abyss” — were not nominated.

Scott Feinberg surprised me by predicting “Hugo” will beat “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” for Best Visual Effects, but he notes that, since 1977, no Best Picture nominee in this category has ever lost to a non-Best Picture nominee. He’s usually pretty good with his predictions, so we’ll see.

On a closing note, I absolutely agree with Jason Bailey’s sentiments regarding illogical choices in Oscar history and how they make us take them less seriously:

Every true film lover can pinpoint the moment when they “broke up” with the Oscars, when the Academy made a choice so illogical, so upsetting, and so numb-skulled as to blow their credibility forevermore. When you’re young, the Oscars are a big deal, the movie geek equivalent of the Super Bowl; then they blow it, and while you may watch in the years that follow, it’s never with the same enthusiasm or gusto. For some, that moment came in 1971, when The French Connection beat out A Clockwork Orange and The Last Picture Show; for some, it was Gandhi’s 1982 win over E.T., Tootsie, and The Verdict; for others, it was Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line in 1998. But this writer made it all the way to age 30 before giving up on Oscar, when the biggest award of the night went to Paul Haggis’ pedantic, contrived, and utterly artless Crash.

In going with this simple-minded “racism is bad” tale, Oscar voters passed over Ang Lee’s revisionist cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain, Bennett Miller’s masterful biopic Capote, George Clooney’s enthralling Murrow vs. McCarthy tale Good Night and Good Luck, and Steven Spielberg’s difficult but rewarding Munich. It’s not just that the less-deserving nominee won; at the 78th Academy Awards, the worst nominee (by leaps and bounds) won. Me and Oscar still hang out every once and while, but we haven’t been the same since.

(I also agree that Robert Benigni winning Best Actor for that despicable Holocaust denial movie from 1998 was ridiculous.)

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Written by camcarlson

February 25, 2012 at 8:22 PM

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