Still though, there seems to be a certain formula to the Academy in their nominations, to the point that it's gotten easy to predict what they'd pick and what they'd whole-heartedly avoid. Sure there'd be some surprises here and there, like last year's inclusion of Dogtooth in the Foreign Language Film list. But for the most part, it seems like there is always some sort of definite pick for biggest piece of "Oscar-bait" of the year.
So what should you expect from this year's Oscars? Well, there are some obvious things to cover, as well as some personal predictions from myself. Rather than going category by category (which we'll save for round 2, when the nominations are finally released), I'm just going to pick whatever random ones I think are worth mentioning, including snubs. Okay? Alright, so where to begin...
Prediction #1: The Artist DESTROYS The Competition
It should come as no surprise that the big front-runner for Best Picture is easily Michel Hazanavicius's silent romantic comedy The Artist. For good reason, I must add. It's a definite crowd-pleaser, it makes you feel good and sunny when you walk out the theater, it's a homage to a classic style of film-making that we haven't seen recreated in such a long time, and it uses that in the most non-gimmicky way it possibly can.
I thought The Artist was a damn great movie. It was pure joy from start to finish, it is expertly crafted and directed, the performances are grade-A, and the way it transcends its gimmick of being a silent film made in the 21st century is handled with grace and elegance. Now, do I think it deserves to win the Best Picture award? Eh...kind of I guess. There were many other films that I thought deserved it more, but if it did win, I wouldn't complain. However, it must be said that plenty of vocal movie-geeks from the dark recesses of the Backlash Zone are all giving out one major knock against the film: That it's very light.
Well...of course it's light. Most silent films didn't have much depth since they had to convey emotions and ideas through broad storytelling devices, and incredibly expressive facial expressions. The only one I can think of that had the complexity of something like, say, Inception was Metropolis, and even that one was done with broad strokes. I think that when it comes to Oscar front-runners, people need to manage their expectations accordingly, regardless of whether it's most likely to win an award or not. The Artist is light in an incredibly well-crafted sort of way, which is more than enough to win the Academy.
One last thing: Anyone who tells you that The Artist is yet another example of "Oscar-bait" is probably a liar. If anything, using a silent film format wasn't really so much of a way to pander to the Academy, but rather it was a really big risk since one false move could've made the entire film a gimmick. I mean, it's not like The King's Speech where it just gathers every element from the Oscar-nominee handbook and rips off from it with reckless abandon (And I actually liked The King's Speech a lot).
Prediction #2: The Tree of Life Will Be Nominated For Best Cinematography...And Nothing Else
I believe I've expressed my love for this film enough already, but for those of you new to my opinions, The Tree of Life was by far my favorite film of the entire year, and the film that I think will have the most impact in 20 years, much in the same way that 2001: A Space Odyssey did.
That being said, it's way too unconventional and unsafe for the Academy to give it a Best Picture nod. It's a sad fact, but one that is hard to deny. Sure, 2001 was able to nab a Best Picture nod when it was released despite its lofty ambition and unconventionality, but that was 1968. In 2011, the Academy has gotten too use to a particular breed of film that anything that is too new and different to them will scare them away. There are exceptions, such as last year's Black Swan, a film that features psychological torment, a lesbian sex-scene, and disgusting self-mutilation, and was able to be nominated for Best Picture and win Best Actress for Natalie Portman, but for the most part, there are too many other safe choices for the Academy to make room for Terrence Malick's opus.
I could be wrong though, and boy do I like being proven wrong on these things, but at this point, the chances are very slim.
Otherwise, there's no doubt that The Tree of Life, being one of the best-shot films pretty much of all time, in my book, will get a Best Cinematography nomination for the brilliantly talented Emmanuel Lubezki (Who also shot the ridiculously amazing long-takes in Children of Men). Hell, there's even a good chance that the Academy will recognize its feats in Visual Effects, in how it portrays the birth of the universe and the dawn of the dinosaurs. But again, those chances are slim.
Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain might also get nominations for their performances in the film, but both of them are in other, safer performance for the Academy to decide on (Moneyball for Pitt, The Help for Jessica Chastain). And Hunter McCracken, the amazingly talented child actor at the center, will walk away completely ignored.
Prediction #3: Drive Will Be Nominated For Best Supporting Actor...And Nothing Else
The same case I made for The Tree of Life can also be applied to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, another film that was one of my favorites of 2011 that is too unconventional for the Academy's tastes. But for different reasons. For one thing, Drive is an action thriller (Say what you will about the film's steady pace, but it is a thriller) and the Academy doesn't usually acknowledge the things that aren't incredibly high-brow or classically crafted.
Another thing: It's waaay too violent for the Academy's tastes. Sure, last year had violent surprises in the Best Picture list such as Black Swan and 127 Hours, but they are leagues behind the brutality that takes place inDrive. People are dispatched in ridiculously gruesome ways in that film, sometimes even cruelly so, such as a scene in which a man is stabbed in the eye with a dining fork. Academy voters only go for that kind of thing if there's an inspiring pay off at the end, like the aforementioned 127 Hours, but Drive's ending is, depending on how you interpret it, ambiguous at best, bleak at worst.
Ryan Gosling has a shot at getting Best Actor for his marvelous portrayal as the Driver, but the chances for that are rather slim. One chance that isn't slim, on the other hand, is Albert Brooks's turn as the lead villain inDrive. Not only because the Academy usually likes actors going out of their comfort zone (Brooks is a comedic actor who shows his dark side, in the film), but because he really is that good in it. Terrifyingly good, even.
Aside from that, the only other things I can see Drive getting away with this year are possibly nominations for Cliff Martinez's score and the sound design. But again, chances are slim.
Prediction #4: Martha Marcy May Marlene Will Be Ignored ENTIRELY
Another film in my top 5 list, Martha Marcy May Marlene is also probably going to get the boot. Not just on certain categories...on ALL categories. So far, there has been no awards buzz for this film at all. Which is a real shame, because Elizabeth Olsen gives what is probably the best performance of the entire year, female or otherwise, and the film in general is one of the most arresting and haunting experiences I've ever had in a theater.
Another thing that was overlooked by awards circuits, but thankfully other critics have been able to notice, is that Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the few films that really shows the power of editing in a film. The editing is key to what makes the film's blurring of reality and imagination so eerily real and disturbing, that it would be an extra shame if the Academy didn't recognize the talent that was put into its transitions and edits.
The only thing I have hope for nominations wise is John Hawkes nabbing his second Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for this film. He was so delightfully spooky and terrifying in this film, and since there seem to be only two main frontrunners in the Male Supporting category (Christopher Plummer in Beginners and the aforementioned Albert Brooks from Drive), there's a good chance he can nab a spot. Otherwise, I hope this film gains more traction in time for it to earn some well-deserved nominations.
Prediction #5: The Help Will Be Nominated For A Shit-Load of Awards
Despite being one of the biggest surprise hits of the year, there's been a fair share of scorn for this "White Guilt" film. I can't join in on the consensus since I personally haven't seen it yet, but I can already tell that this will sweep the nominations the same way that another "White Guilt" movie, 2009's The Blind Side swept it.
If I had to guess what it will get nods for, it will most definitely be Viola Davis (Though I don't know whether she counts as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress yet), Octavia Spencer, Best Picture, and quite possibly Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone. Again, I haven't seen the film, so I can't add a say on whether it's overrated or not yet, but I'm pretty positive that there are other, previously mentioned films that are more deserving of the nomination.
Though if I did have to pick which of the Best Picture frontrunners deserved the big "Oscar-bait" stamp, it's this one. Just from what I've heard of the film, it sounds like The Blind Side all over again, which I'm not too fond of. But again, I'm not the best judge of this particular film, so we'll see...
Prediction #6: The Best Picture & Best Director Awards Will Be Divided
Sometimes, what the Academy will do is that when they're really divided on which film should win Best Picture and can't really decide, they'll give their own version of a fair trade. One film will earn Best Picture, the other will get Best Director. This was something that people were expecting for 2009's Avatar/The Hurt Lockershowdown, but both ended up going to The Hurt Locker anyway. But now, I have a feeling that it will really happen this year.
The two films that I think will share the honors will be The Artist getting Best Picture and Martin Scorsese getting Best Director for Hugo. Why Hugo, you say? I know, it doesn't seem like as big of a main front-runner as other dramas like, say, The Descendants, but there are a few qualifying reasons for it. For one thing, Scorsese really did direct the shit out of Hugo, prominently featuring what is quite literally the best use of 3D the cinema world has ever seen to this day. That alone could get the Academy to see the talent Scorsese put into the film, plus they just like awarding classic directors who are still making movies, even if Hugo was a radical departure for Scorsese.
Another reason why I think Hugo and The Artist will get the "stalemate" is because they are very similar thematically. Both of them are love-letters to silent cinema, and they both really embody the "magic of movies" in a gorgeously done way. One film expresses its love by looking back and walking forward at once by portraying the silent film era with new technology, a la 3D. The other is an exact recreation of the silent era in every minute, exquisite detail that ultimately transcends its gimmick and becomes the very thing it's trying to imitate in an Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead sort of way.
OR maybe the Academy will surprise us and give the top honors to Hugo while honoring Michel Hazanavicius's direction instead......naaaahhhhh....
Prediction #7: Cars 2 Will Be Nominated For Best Animated Feature Despite Countless Negative Reviews
I'm just going to personally say that Cars 2 isn't nearly as bad as what all the disappointed review scores have led you to believe. I do think, however, that it's very sub-par, mediocre, and mostly forgettable, which is an offense in its own way considering this is from Pixar, who's supposed to be the freaking tits every year. But I still think it will get a nomination for Best Animated Feature because...well, it's Pixar, and everyone loves Pixar regardless of the fact that they've made one disappointing movie. Do I think it will win? Not a chance. The two front-runners in this category are probably Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and Gore Verbinski's Rango. I found both films to be overrated, Tintin less so than Rango, but I can totally see the appeal behind both of them. Still, it doesn't matter, because I honestly thought Kung Fu Panda 2 was the best animated film of the year. No, seriously, I really liked Kung Fu Panda 2...Shut up.
Prediction #8: Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender May Walk Away With Zero Nominations
Now I used the word "may" that time because this is probably the one where I can most likely be proven wrong, but I still have a feeling that both Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender, two amazing actors who both had a killer year in 2011, won't be nominated for any of their amazing roles. Ryan Gosling most certainly won't be nominated for Crazy Stupid Love (Yes, he was fantastic in that movie too), and has slim chances for getting honors for his roles in The Ides of March and Drive. Then there's Michael Fassbender, who I'd say is probably my personal favorite actor working today at the moment. The man elevates everything he's in. Even X-Men: First Class, a film which I found to be extremely overrated, featured a performance from Fassbender that I wouldn't mind deeming Oscar-worthy. I haven't seen either of his other two films, A Dangerous Method or the one that everyone's been praising him for, Shame, though I really wanted to, but it seems like either of those could be shoo-ins.
But, I think that a lot of the roles I listed are a bit "out there" on the Academy's taste range. For one thing, Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love is more of a light comedic role than anything else, and the Academy usually only appreciates the really heavy, dramatic work. The Ides of March has already been forgotten a little bit, and I already explained how inaccessible to the Academy Drive was overall.
As for Fassbender, he has more of a chance for his work in Shame than anything else I mentioned. Even though it's a really difficult role that features a lot of nudity and sexual acts, what with him portraying a sex-addict and all, it's still difficult enough to the point that the Academy can appreciate its ballsy-ness (no pun intended). Otherwise, X-Men: First Class has him playing a comic book super-villain, and the Academy seems to only dig that kind of stuff when Heath Ledger is in clown-makeup, and his role as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method has already been overlooked, for the most part (Along with the movie in general).
Again, this is the one that I can be proven wrong on the most, but it's still something to consider...
Prediction #9: Andy Serkis Will Be The First Motion Capture Performer To Get An Oscar Nomination
The Academy has stated time and time again that motion capture performances are not eligible for Awards under any circumstances. But Andy Serkis's turn as the chimp Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so good, and such a big surprise, that everyone has been championing Serkis to the point that there's actually a very good chance that the Academy will finally give in this time. 20th Century Fox has already been pushing a "For Your Consideration" Campaign for his performance big time. And I actually think that this will be the first time a motion capture performer will get the recognition he truly deserves. And if he actually goes a step further and ends up winning, I wouldn't have a problem with that either. He was that good.
Prediction #10: The Chemical Brothers' Score For Hanna Goes Completely Ignored
Seriously, am I the only one who that this was the best score of the year? Because it totally was. Listen to it.
Well, there are plenty of other obvious things I can mention, such as Christopher Plummer being a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor, or Take Shelter and Melancholia being almost entirely ignored alongside Martha Marcy May Marlene, and other such things, but we're out of time, and the nominations are getting closer.
Stay tuned for round 2, in which I actually analyze each of the big nominations lists and break down what I think will win, what I think deserves to win, and all the delicious snubs. See ya next time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get into the motion capture business by playing a CG monkey...I just have to throw my feces around, right?