Oscar

Predicting the Oscars against the odds

Originally posted as part of Road to the Gold, an Oscar blog on LALoyolan.com. For original, please refer to: Road to the gold: Predicting the Oscars against the odds – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Oscar

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The months of anticipation and blind predictions come to a head this Sunday at the Academy Awards. Amateur and professional prognosticators alike await the Oscars like it’s Hollywood’s holy night. No more second-guessing – the predictions are locked in and all one can do is wait.

While the show itself is likely to be fun and full of good speeches by winners in pretty dresses and sharp tuxedos, the real thrill comes from seeing how well you could read the cards and anticipate who the victors will be. So often, prognosticators will be proven wrong. Occasionally, they’ll be very right. But it’s always an anxiety-filled experience waiting for each of the envelopes to be opened.

Most who attempt to predict what and who will win stick to the eight primary categories: Best Director, Writing (original screenplay and adapted screenplay), all four acting categories and Best Picture. In that spirit, I present to you my predictions for the big races at this Sunday’s Academy Awards.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I’d love to see Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s sharp “Bridesmaids” script take the win. It’s so rare to see comedy recognized at the Oscars, but the screenplay about seven different women and one ridiculous wedding party deserves recognition. That said, I don’t think anything can beat Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” screenplay.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Three of the nominees here are also nominated for Best Picture. While the “Hugo” screenplay is larger than life and Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian crafted a really smart script for “Moneyball,” look no further than the rich complexities in the simple subject of “The Descendants” to take the gold.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

“Drive” star Albert Brooks was the major snub here when nominations were announced – the race without him is far more boring. Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) is the only one with any traction here. The Oscar is his.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

A Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) win would be utterly fantastic, but I think another comedienne, Octavia Spencer, is a lock for “The Help.” If the Academy is overcome in their love for “The Artist,” however, a surprise win for Bérénice Bejo is possible.

BEST ACTOR

This race is between the movie star playing an unknown (George Clooney, “The Descendants”) and the unknown playing a movie star (Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”). As with Best Supporting Actress, an “Artist” sweep could prove beneficial for Dujardin, but Clooney has been racking up most of the early awards. Still, I’d give the edge to my personal favorite in the category: Dujardin.

BEST ACTRESS

Just four years ago, Meryl Streep and Viola Davis acted together in “Doubt,” and now the two actresses and friends are the frontrunners for Best Actress. They’ve each won a sizable amount of precursor awards so neither has the distinct advantage. I’d give the edge to Davis, but never count Streep out – she hasn’t won this specific honor in 29 years and some circles consider her overdue.

BEST DIRECTOR

Very rarely does Best Director award anyone other than the helmer of the Best Picture, but if there is a split, expect Martin Scorcese to win here for “Hugo.” The smart money’s on French director Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” however.

BEST PICTURE

This is a race between four films: “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “The Help” and “Hugo.” “The Artist” is the frontrunner, but not everyone is as enamored of the silent film as I am. “The Descendants” is not a favorite of mine, but a lot of people appreciate the complexity of the script and Alexander Payne’s direction. “The Help” is celebrated by actors but might lack the support in the technical fields. “Hugo” is a marvel in 3-D, but voters get 2-D screeners and the film doesn’t lend itself to the simpler format. Ultimately, look for “The Artist” to capitalize on the love for cinema permeating this year’s nominee and its impressive precursor award streak. It should win and it will.

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Oscar

Diversity of Direction

Originally posted as part of Road to the Gold, an Oscar blog on LALoyolan.com. For original, please refer to: Diversity of Direction – Los Angeles Loyolan : Road To The Gold.

Oscar

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Forget the golden days of merely two years ago: there is no diversity allowed in the Best Director Oscar race.

Save a few extraordinary directors such as Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”) and Jane Campion (“The Piano”), recognition of anyone who doesn’t fit into the slim “older-white-male” demographic seemed nigh impossible for the Best Director voting body in the Academy.

When “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow won the statuette in 2010, her victory was seen as a sign of changing tides in the white men’s club that the Best Director race has always been. After all, in the same year, Lee Daniels (“Precious”) was only the second African-American man ever to be nominated for the same award (after John Singleton). Unfortunately, in the years since, the Academy has reverted to what is familiar once again.

Last year, the overflow of white, male directors was acceptable simply because they were almost all young and ambitious. The winner, Tom Hooper, directed “The King’s Speech,” and while his film appealed primarily to older audiences, he is a young man. David Fincher, director of “The Social Network,” and Darren Aronofsky, director of “Black Swan,” are both incredibly ambitious and respected in film criticism circles. Even the veterans of the category, David O’Russell (“The Fighter”) and Joel and Ethan Coen (“True Grit”), are a much different brand than the usual directing nominees.

This year is not an exception to the rule. Certainly, Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris”), Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) and Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”) are masters of their craft, and Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) and Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) are certainly ambitious, but they are very much the stereotype of a Best Director nominee. The youngest of the five is Hazanavicius at 44 – not coincidentally, he is the only first-time nominee. All the others have been here before; Scorsese and Allen have both won previously as well.

Why not nominate the young Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn for “Drive”? Or how about the female African-American director of the ambitious “Pariah,” Dee Rees? There’s nothing wrong with stacking a category with lots of experience – in fact, the Best Director race should theoretically reward experience more than any other. It is a little disappointing, however, that ambition and diversity can’t be rewarded in equal measure. As far as the winner, look no further than Hazanavicius. The youngest will be rewarded thanks to his film’s almost certain dominance of the show next Sunday.

Melissa McCarthy

Always a Bridesmaid, never a Best Supporting Actress

Originally posted as part of Road to the Gold, an Oscar blog on LALoyolan.com. For original, please refer to: Always a ‘Bridesmaid,’ never a Best Supporting Actress – Los Angeles Loyolan: Road To The Gold.

Melissa McCarthy

Photo Credit: YouTube | UniversalPictures

The Best Supporting Actress race, which is often filled with some of the best performances in the Oscar race (Mo’Nique in “Precious,” anyone?), is more than a little disappointing this year. The actresses are doing fine work, but that’s all it is: fine. There’s very little revolutionary work being done by these women, which is a shame because many of the actresses have done revolutionary work in the past.

“The Help” actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain are both solid, if unspectacular; Chastain in particular did better work in several other films this year, particularly “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter.” Bérénice Bejo is delightful in “The Artist,” but she’s also a lead actress committing category fraud. Janet McTeer is the best part of a bad movie in “Albert Nobbs.” In my mind, only Melissa McCarthy is deserving of her slot in the big race (so, of course, she’s not going to win – always a “Bridesmaid,” never a bride, after all).

If the category were to really feature the best performances of the year, Academy voters would reward ambitious work by Vanessa Redgrave in “Coriolanus.” They would reward the emotionally vibrant performance by Shailene Woodley in “The Descendants.” They would reward one of the most beautifully nuanced female performances of the year: Rose Byrne in “Bridesmaids.” Most of all, they would reward the ballsy, breathtaking work by Carey Mulligan in “Shame.”

This year’s Best Supporting Actress race is far too much like the usual Best Supporting Actor race – it rewards the comfortable over the ambitious. Unfortunately, it also ignores four incredible performances that deserved more recognition.

If I were an Oscar voter, McCarthy, Redgrave, Woodley and Byrne would all have tickets to the big show, and Mulligan would take home the honors for her powerful and unexpected work. But for now, it looks like we’ll have to settle for a Spencer win. What a disappointment.

Oscar

The lamest Best Supporting Actor category ever

Originally posted as part of Road to the Gold, an Oscar blog on LALoyolan.com. For original, please refer to: The lamest Best Supporting Actor category ever – Los Angeles Loyolan: Road To The Gold.

Oscar

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Somehow, this year’s Best Supporting Actor race has managed to be the dullest one in history. This is a category that has featured four straight years of winners who dominated every single precursor with little to no resistance: Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men,” Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight,” Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds” and Christian Bale for “The Fighter.” And yet this year beats all the rest.

It was supposed to be different – this was a year that saw multiple stellar performances recognized early by multiple critics. Oscar front-runner Christopher Plummer received acclaim for his performance as a gay, cancer-stricken father in “Beginners,” while industry veteran Albert Brooks was lauded for his work as a gangster in “Drive.” Additionally, different voting bodies recognized Patton Oswalt for “Young Adult” and Armie Hammer in “J. Edgar.” It looked like a year when both veterans and younger performers alike would be rewarded.

When the nominations were announced, only Jonah Hill for “Moneyball” remained among the youngsters. Joining him were Plummer, “My Week with Marilyn” star Kenneth Branagh, Max Von Sydow from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and Nick Nolte from “Warrior.” Plummer, Von Sydow and Nolte are all over 70 years old. Branagh is 50. The average age of all nominees is 62.

Certainly the nominees don’t have to be young to be interesting, but it does make the category less diverse. All of the nominees are white as well. Of course, diversity isn’t required – but then again, it’s always appreciated, especially when the performances aren’t great. And the performances this year simply aren’t great.

To wit: While Brooks was playing against type and wonderfully menacing in “Drive,” Nolte is merely rekindling an old spark of talent in “Warrior.” It’s the difference between an ambitious performance and a reliable one, and that’s the constant struggle with Best Supporting Actor in particular. It tends to reward the comfortable over the tenacious.

Best Supporting Actor isn’t likely to change in structure for some time – it is, like all others, a category that rewards what’s available. Hopefully, more films will soon give supporting actors a chance to do the same powerful work as the front-runners each year. That way, the race can become more than just a footnote at the big show.

Oscar

Mary J. Blige is NOT happy: The Best Original Song blunder

Originally posted as part of Road to the Gold, an Oscar blog on LALoyolan.com. For original, please refer to: Mary J. Blige is NOT happy: The Best Original Song blunder – Los Angeles Loyolan: Road To The Gold.

Oscar

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

There is no category at the Academy Awards more simultaneously wonderful and embarrassing than Best Original Song. The category that has given us classics like Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and The Swell Season’s “Falling Slowly” has also ignored powerful stuff from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Cher in favor of more standard Randy Newman songs and the “we liked that?” musical hangover that followed “Jai Ho.”

This year’s Best Original Song competition is no change from the sordid past. While one of the songs nominated, “Man or Muppet,” is a lot of fun, the other is a minor track from “Rio,” the movie best remembered as finding a way to make Anne Hathaway even more animated than in real life. Ignored by this year’s voting body are some of the best tracks from “The Muppets” and Mary J. Blige’s soul anthem “The Living Proof” from Best Picture nominee “The Help.”

It’s likely “Man or Muppet” will emerge triumphant come ceremony time, but it will join a line of unremarkable songs that failed to make an impact on pop culture at large after winning the Oscar. The award hasn’t had much prestige ever since Three 6 Mafia took gold for their “Hustle & Flow” contribution “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” and recent history doesn’t indicate a change coming any time soon.

The problem lies with the voting system. It is the only branch of the Academy that allows members to vote against other songs, and a special provision made last year permits anywhere from two to five nominees. In other words, it is the least consistent category at the Oscars. Hence, it’s somewhat of an embarrassment for the Academy to keep the category in existence.

If Best Original Song is going to remain a competitive category, something needs to happen to the rules system sooner rather than later to make it friendlier for future classic songs and dynamic live performances at the Oscars. Perhaps a better selection committee or revised voting procedures could save the category. As it stands right now, it’s nothing more than an awkward footnote.