Posts Tagged ‘The Help

23
Feb
12

OW 2012: Best Picture

Brad Pitt wonders whether or not he'll pick up a Best Picture Oscar for being a producer on Moneyball.

This year the Academy implemented new rules that basically stated that depending on how nomination voting goes, there would be no set number of nominees for the Best Picture category as in year’s past. Through there would always be a minimum of five nominations, up to ten total could make the ballot depending on how voting went. Which is how we ended up this year with an odd number of nine Best Picture nominees.

I personally like this rule change even better than implementing the mandatory ten nominations that we’ve had the past two years. It still gives us the potential for more than five films to score a Best Picture nomination, but doesn’t force films in there that might not be worthy. Also, it definitely adds a sense of mystery leading up to the nominations as no one really knows which additional films will make it in (it’s almost like March Madness bracketology in some respects).

Something to remember about this category, it’s the only Oscar category that the entire Academy can vote on. Depending on what branch of the Academy a person is in, they can only vote on awards in those categories (ie: someone in the actor’s branch can’t vote on the Sound Mixing category, etc). In any case, here we are this year with nine nominees for Best Picture.

Who I Think SHOULD Win: The Descendants

I’ve been singing it’s praises for a while now and out of all the other films in the field, I like The Descendants the most. On a subconscious level it may be a homer pick, but aside from that it has a lot of other things going for it . . . first and foremost being great acting. Yes you’ve got Clooney in the starring role, but you’ve also got a great ensemble supporting him as well. Shailene Woodley first and foremost I think should have gotten a supporting nomination for her role as Matt King’s daughter. Then you’ve got really solid secondary performances by Robert Forster as Matt’s father-in-law and Judy Greer as the opposite spouse that’s been cheated on. Like I said, the cast is great top to bottom. The other thing that the film has going for it is great storytelling. I don’t know if it’s Kaui Hart Hemmings book or the way that Alexander Payne put the film together (probably both), but I thought they way everything unfolded, was explained, and felt; was great.

On everyone else . . .

The Artist: I like The Artist (as apparently so do a whole lot of other people). As a whole it’s wonderfully shot and wonderfully conceived, but like I mentioned in my previous posts about the actors’ race, I think the silent film “hook” of the film is what’s giving it a lot of play. Don’t get me wrong, the film has a lot going for it with great performances by both of the leads, but take away novelty and what have you got?

The Help: The film definitely has the best ensemble cast out of all the nominees with not just one, not just two, but count em, three actresses nominated for Oscars coming out of this film. The story is fun and the book is beloved by all. So why won’t it win? Partly because I don’t think there’s one singular thing for the audience to focus on in the film. When everyone in the cast is great–no one is great. Secondly, the Academy has a history of voting for smaller (not mainstream) films. I won’t be surprised if they go for another film over The Help. A lack of technical nominations isn’t going to help either.

Hugo: The film is a visual masterpiece and a wonderfully heartwarming story about the early days of cinema. And it’s also the one film that makes me wish I had a 3D TV (for when it comes out on blu-ray next week Tuesday). However, with no stand out acting performances in the film, it won’t take home Best Picture. Nostalgia is always best when you just look back fondly on things. Sadly, the same things goes for Hugo.

Midnight In Paris: Ok, Midnight is actually a curious case because it would seem like the perfect Oscar bait for The Academy to bite on. It’s got a great director in Woody Allen returning to form, it’s got art nostalgia with it’s main character visiting artists in the past, and it’s sent in Paris. But, Midnight is also afflicted with the same things that I just mentioned about Hugo . . . it doesn’t have great acting to support it and the nostalgia factor can only take it so far.

Moneyball: Like the Best Actor race, I really like Moneyball but it’s in my three spot after films I like more in The Descendants and The Artist. You’ve got wonderful performances anchoring with it and an unconventional sports story to boot. However, I think the story is too new for the Academy to recognize. Also, only a small percentage of sports films have been nominated for Oscars let alone have won the top prize (only three: Rocky-1976, Chariots of Fire-1981, & Million Dollar Baby-2004). With more to choose from with this year’s nominees, it’s going to be hard for Moneyball to snag the top prize.

War Horse: Everybody loves Steven Spielberg. Anytime he puts out a film you know it’s definitely worth going to see. Sadly though, I think our expectations for him our too high these days as I wasn’t all that amazed by War Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I was invested in Joey’s story and when he gets tripped up (literally) in No Man’s Land I winced along with everyone else in the crowd. The film is also wonderfully shot and put together as well. But, if anything, the film felt so stereotypically “Spielbergian.” If I had to convey to someone what a typical Spielberg film looked like, I would describe War Horse to them as everything seemed like it was a process or paint (or film if you will) by numbers. Typcial Spielberg isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close & The Tree of Life: Did not view.

Who WILL Win: The Artist

The reality of the situation is that The Artist has always been the frontrunner and seems poised to win. As I’ve mentioned before it’s got great acting and the ‘old Hollywood story’ that I’m sure the Academy will eat up. However, it’s also got 10 nominations going for it, which means that it’s also well liked in the more technical areas of the film as well (it’s nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music-Original Score). Remember in the beginning of this post when I mentioned that all branches of the Academy can vote on Best Picture? That’s where having a lot of nominations comes in to play. The Artist will most likely be picking up votes from all branches of the Academy which will probably propel it to victory.

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So some things came up and I had to change the order of my Oscar Watch posts. Yesterday I mentioned I would be covering the Oscar shorts today. Well that post will be coming tomorrow now instead (hopefully) and possibly one or two more Oscar categories to conclude our Oscar Watch coverage before the awards on Sunday. You have any opinions on the Best Picture winner or nominees for this year? Am I being too much of a homer by picking/wanting The Descendants to win? Let us know in the comments.

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More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Seems like Borat/Bruno star Sacha Baron Cohen (who is attending because he was in Hugo) wants to crash the Oscar ceremony dressed as his new character from his upcoming film The Dictator. Well of course the Academy doesn’t like that one bit. [link]

Speaking of voting for Best Picture nominees, over at Cinema Blend they look at ‘Why It’s Ridiculous to Have 9 Best Picture Nominees.’ Their solution is to go smaller, like down to three nominations for Best Picture. I think that’s a worse idea. [link]

21
Feb
12

OW 2012: Actresses in Leading & Supporting Roles

It’s pencils down time for Academy members as ballots for this year’s awards are due today and over the next several days the votes will be tallied for the big ceremony on Sunday. In today’s Oscar Watch we’re going to look at both of the actress categories for this year.

Actress in a Leading Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Viola DavisThe Help
I thought Davis’s turn as Aibileen Clark was pretty wonderful. In a film that focused those that were supposed to fade into the background, Davis’s performance definitely stood out–not easy considering two of her costars are nominated as well (more on that later). However, the things Aibileen struggles with, the way she handles herself, and the look on her face as she goes through it all; Davis definitely brought out the emotion of the character and you could feel that sitting in your seat. To top it all off, the sequence at the end really tugs at the heartstrings and while it’s really emotional, it’s something even the audience knows has to be done.

On everyone else . . .

  • Rooney Mara: While I thought Mara turned in a solid performance in Dragon Tattoo, I just don’t think she had enough to do in that film. Did I believe that she was as smart, rageful, and introverted that the book makes her out to be? Yes, I did. However, I just don’t think there were enough personal moments from her in the film to build a big enough resume for an Oscar.
  • Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, & Michelle Williams: What else can I say except that there are some huge blind spots for me in the Actress categories this year as I didn’t get a chance to see Albert Nobbs, The Iron Lady, or My Week With Marilyn.

Who WILL Win: Viola Davis
Though I haven’t seen three of this year’s performances, all the Oscar buzz points to Viola Davis taking home gold. Though Meryl Streep is probably one of the best actresses in film today The Iron Lady suffers from the same thing that is hindering Michelle Williams great performance in My Week With Marilyn; they’re both not so great films. It’s true what they say, not even a good performance can save a film. The same could be said of winning an Oscar. With Davis taking home a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for her performance in The Help and just days after The Los Angeles Times piece about lack of diversity in The Academy, a Davis win is all but assured.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Octavia SpencerThe Help
I always think the Supporting categories are easier to pick than the Leading categories. There always seems to be a clear front runner that stands head and shoulders above the rest. This year that performance comes from Spencer who gave a great performance as the very outspoken maid Minny Jackson. Minny always says what’s on her mind and I think that trait alone is something we can all identify with. I also always prefer comedy over drama and Spencer’s portrayal of Minny definitely provided a lot of laughs in The Help. However, she did have a few dramatic moments in the film that I think help give her a well rounded performance for her character.

On everyone else . . .

  • Jessica Chastain: If there ever were a person that I think should get an award this year, it’s Chastain. It’s not just that she was in a number of movies that were released last year (count em 6!), but it’s because she was great in most of them as well. Sometimes awarding an Oscar can be an achievement award for a body of work, in this case I don’t think that will happen. Her nomination is for her performance in The Help, and while it is really great performance, she does get out shown by her costar Octavia Spencer.
  • Bérénice Bejo: There’s a scene early on in The Artist that I think could have gotten Bejo this nomination, it involves Bejo’s character Peppy Miller faux performing with jacket hung on a coat rack. While it’s just Bejo in the scene it looks very much like there are two performers on screen. I give her a lot of credit for making that scene feel so real, as well as the many others where she conveys so much through her acting and facial expressions. However, the thing that makes The Artist so interesting–its silence; also makes it it’s biggest hinderance. As great as her performance is, to win an Oscar for acting, I need to hear you speak as well.
  • Melissa McCarthy & Janet McTeer: Did not view Bridesmaids or Albert Nobbs.

Who WILL Win: Octavia SpencerThe Help
This category is as much of a sure bet compared to any of the other categories. Spencer has already won a Golden Globe, SAG award, and a British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) award for her performance in The Help. With all these awards she’s pretty much a shoo-in.

I know, I know, why put who ‘should’ win and who ‘will’ win if they’re going to be the same? Well, for today’s post I really do think my picks line up with the Oscar talk that’ve I’ve read. That probably won’t be true tomorrow when I go over the Actors categories. Stay tuned for more Oscar Watch tomorrow!

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More Oscar reading from the Los Angeles Times coverage of Academy demographics:

Oscar voters: 99-year-old in academy ‘never wanted to be a star’ [link]

Oscars’ oldest voter, 101, offers link to Hollywood’s Golden Age [link]

Oscar voters: From Britain to Brazil, academy members span globe [link]

24
Jan
12

OW 2012: And the Nominees Are . . .

Academy member Jennifer Lawrence and AMPAS president Tom Sherak announced this morning the Academy Award nominees for last year's films.

The 2011 Academy Award nominations were announced early this morning (3:30am Hawaii Time) and I wanted to give my first impressions on them. Since I’m writing this right after I read the nominations these are literally my first thoughts on this year’s nominees . . .

NINE BEST PICTURE NOMINATIONS

For the past two years The Academy has nominated ten films for the Best Picture category. After last year’s ceremony it was announced that going forward (starting with the 2012 ceremony) there would be between five to ten nominations for the category, provided that a film earned 5% of first-place votes during the nomination process. Going in to this year’s nomination announcement, Oscar pundits weren’t exactly sure which films would be nominated since there was no set nomination number. Granted, at minimum there would be a minimum of five, but would five other films gather enough first place votes to give the category the full ten nominations?

If I had to say, I don’t think anyone was thinking we would have nine nominees, especially since most people considered 2011 to be a down year in cinema. While there are some titles on the nominee list that were to be expected (The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo), I definitely know of two that I think will be considered “surprises” by Oscar prognosticators.

The 9 nominees for Best Picture.

*6 of 9 nominees viewed*

Those two surprises being The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The reason I say that The Help may be considered a “surprise” is because I hadn’t heard it being mentioned at all as potentially snagging a nomination in the Best Picture category. However, going back to having nine nominations, obviously the more nominations there are the more chance there is for surprises like The Help to be nominated. While we’re on the subject of The Help, it definitely is the most mainstream nomination in the group as it is the only nominee in the group to have brought in over $100 million in box office grosses ($169 million to be exact). That distinction definitely makes it a mainstream pick since it’s the nominee that has been seen by the most people.

The other surprise I think is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I’ve been saying that this film has Oscar bait written all over it, however, there has been almost zero Oscar buzz on this film since its limited release last month. The film also failed to snag any Golden Globe, Directors Guild, Writers Guild, or Producers Guild nominations (usually good indicators of what films will be nominated for Academy Awards) and so I’m sure many will consider Extremely Loud’s Best Picture nomination to be a surprise.

The rest of the field though I feel is pretty standard Oscar nominee fare and a pretty good mix with films by great directors (Spielberg’s War Horse and Scorsese’s Hugo), art house faves (The Artist, The Tree of Life), big studio pictures (Moneyball), and art house crossovers (Midnight in Paris, The Descendants) all in the mix for the top prize.

BEST DIRECTOR *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants*
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo*
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris*
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

The Artist is definitely the one big blind spot in my Oscar viewing that I need to rectify sometime soon. Though my heart is with Alexander Payne (this is going to be a recurring theme here in my support for The Descendants) I can definitely see Woody snagging this award as I thought he wonderfully brought to life a number of different characters.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE *2 of 5 viewed*

  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help*
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Ugh, a category that I’m grossly unqualified to talk about since I’ve only seen two of the nominees in action: Viola Davis in The Help and Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo. However, you have the always great Meryl Streep also nominated and even though I haven’t seen her performance, I’m sure it’s worthy to be listed in this category.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Demián Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants*
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball*

Despite the media circus surrounding Clooney & Pitt and their “at odds” storyline that the media is hyping between the two, I do think they are the front runners having not seen anyone else in the category. I won’t be surprised if I see either of these two win.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *2 of 5 viewed*

  • Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa Mccarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

Ok, what even sadder about my viewing of performances for this category is that I actually only seen one film, The Help, which has two supporting noms. Octavia Spencer is probably the front runner since she did already pick up a Golden Globe just last week for this same category. Hopefully I’ll have more to report back after seeing The Artist and maybe Netflixing Bridesmaids.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball*
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior*
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners*
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

What I love about this category is the variety of films that these nominees come from. While Jonah Hill and Christopher Plummer were somewhat expected, seeing Nick Nolte nominated for Warrior is great to see as his performance was pretty good in that film. Max von Sydow’s nomination is also contributing to the Extremely Loud “surprise” that I mentioned earlier. Again, a nomination for that film seemingly coming out of the blue.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS . . .

To view a complete list of this year’s nominees, head over to ceremony website (PDF, printable)

Hugo led the way in receiving 11 nominations with The Artist close behind at 10. Close to my heart, The Descendants picked up five.

The one nomination that I was hoping for that seemed like an outside chance of happening was for Shailene Woodley to pick up a nod for best supporting actress. I thought she was really great in The Descendants and there was some early buzz for her performance.

Another favorite for me from this year that didn’t fair well with the Academy was Drive, picking only a lone nomination for Sound Editing.

One big thing to remember is that not everyone in Hollywood gets to vote for The Academy Awards. Only members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) get to nominate and vote in the Academy Awards process. Who’s in the Academy? An official listing has never been disclosed, but just being nominated for an Academy Award gets you in (for a better idea, here’s a link to the AMPAS entry on Wikipedia) Having said that, Academy members are not your average moviegoers so predicting the nominations and then the awards does have quasi-science to it since you’re trying to get inside the head of Academy voters. This is also a reason why Oscar winners and nominations never fully match up with the expectations of critics and your average moviegoers.

Look for Oscar coverage to continue here at the Red Band Project during the next month as we gear up for the awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26. Until then I leave you with one of only two of the nominees for Original Song for this year’s awards . . . Man or Muppet from The Muppets.




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