Academy Awards 2012 Picks

Although I readily acknowledge that the Academy Awards serve more as a barometer for cinematic pop culture and politics on a year by year basis rather than an actual evaluation of a year’s BEST film (if such a thing exists), it’s nevertheless fun to take a look at the year’s competitor’s and pick out what I’ll be rooting for in all of the categories. Granted, I have not seen all of the contenders in each category, and in some cases, I am left with only one option. Nevertheless, these are the films and categories which I will be cheering on. Full disclosure: The following categories are omitted since I saw none of the nominees: Best Foreign Film, Best Documentary, Best Documentary (Short), Best Short Film (Animated), and Best Short Film (Live Action).

 

Picture: The Tree of Life

No other film in this category aspires to greater heights, or succeeds on so many levels as being a pure work of cinema. Despite being one of the most polarizing films of 2011, The Tree of Life is perhaps one of the gutsiest nominations for Best Picture in many years, and deserves to be there. To read my complete review of The Tree of Life, click here.

Should Have Been Nominated: Drive

 

Director: Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

The director always supplies the broad vision behind the helm of any film, and no other director this year (except perhaps Martin Scorsese) deserves this award for visionary achievement than Terrence Malick. In The Tree of Life, Malick brings the extraordinary out of the ordinary, contextualizing one man’s existence (and even one summer in 1950’s Texas) with that of the entirety of the universe.

Should Have Been Nominated: Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive

 

Actor: George Clooney – The Descendants

Ever since his graduation from ER, Clooney has been steadily proving himself as a man of many talents, as a screenwriter, director, and most importantly, developing his acting prowess with both comedies and dramas, even winning an Oscar in 2005 for SyrianaThe Descendants gives us his most human portrayal to date, deftly balancing heartbreak with lighthearted wit, while never pandering for straight on comedy or obvious melodrama. Click here to read my full review of The Descendants.

Should Have Been Nominated: Tom Hardy – Warrior

 

Actress: Viola Davis – The Help

To create a character from the ground up is among the most challenging aspects for any actor to take on, especially in the age where at least one Oscar has been given out every year for the last ten years to a performance based on a real person. It is to Viola Davis’ credit then, that her heartfelt yet never overly sentimental performance in The Help stands as that film’s finest virtue.

Should Have Been Nominated: Kirsten Dunst – Melancholia

 

Supporting Actor – Nick Nolte – Warrior

One of the toughest old guys in Hollywood got nominated for his portrayal of a father who can’t seem to reconcile his differences between his two estranged sons, and Nick Nolte is an absolute keeper with his controlled and steady hands, whose gravelly voice hides a deep resentment of himself.

Should Have Been Nominated: Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life

 

Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain – The Help

Coming off of a banner breakout year in 2011, Jessica Chastain finds the layers hiding behind a ditzy exterior, creating a character whose perceived flaws become her assets, and is forced to come to terms with herself.

Should Have Been Nominated: Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

 

Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

“My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawai’i, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation — we’re all just out here drinking mai- tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they nuts? How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up, our heart attacks and cancers less fatal, our grief less devastating? Hell, I haven’t been on a surfboard in fifteen years. For the last 23 days, I’ve been living in a “paradise” of IVs and urine bags and endotracheal tubes and six-month- old US magazines. Paradise. Paradise can go fuck itself.”

Should Have Been Nominated: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

 

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.”

Should Have Been Nominated: Rango

 

Animated Feature Film: Rango

Liberating himself after two lackluster Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Gore Verbinski proved his mettle once more with the terrifically idiosyncratic Rango, a film that plays by the traditional narrative rules, but is wrapped in the prickliest, most bizarre wrapping paper in recent animated film history. As much a tribute to cinema (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Chinatown, Once Upon a Time in the West) as anything that came out in 2011, it also sports one of Johnny Depp’s most memorable performances since Pirates.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Adventures of Tintin

 

Art Direction: Hugo

Dante Ferreti’s work on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is downright staggering and, more than any other element of the film, immerses the audience into Hugo Cabret’s world. From the massive train station to the recreations of George Melies’ film sets, each piece of production design is a feat unto itself and helps to underly the film’s theme about the importance of film history and film preservation. For a full review of Hugo, click here.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Tree of Life

 

Cinematography: The Tree of Life

The single best work of filmmaking this year came in the form of Emmanuel Lubezki, the genius cinematographer whose resume already includes some of the most beautifully shot films in the last twenty years. With The Tree of Life, Lubezki outdoes himself and creates images for the ages. From haunting shadows of sidewalks, gorgeous shots of nature and the universe, and the solemn despair hiding behind faces, Lubezki’s work deserves to be called among the best shot films ever and I mean that. If the Academy does not hand him the Oscar, they deserve to be disbanded.

Should Have Been Nominated: Drive

 

Costume Design: Hugo

I am guilty of only having seen one film from this category, but the colors and textures of Sandy Powell’s work in Hugo are among the film’s many memorable aspects, especially the outlandish blues of Sacha Baron Cohen’s inspector uniform.

Should Have Been Nominated: Thor

 

Film Editing: Hugo

Ever since joining forces with Martin Scorsese out of NYU, Thelma Schoonmaker has had nearly as much a voice in the structure and tone of the master’s films as Marty himself. With Hugo, Schoonmaker’s editorial choices are much more keenly attuned to the relationship between the eye and the image. Because of its stereoscopic photography, the added dimension becomes integral to each shot, and so Schoonmaker’s redefines these relationships through editorial. It may seem like a smoother edit than some of her more (purposefully) disorienting work with Scorsese in the past, but there is true and genuine thought going on behind each and every cut.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Tree of Life

 

Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Another category of which I am guilty of having only seen one of three nominees, the makeup work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is nevertheless a capstone for a series that has consistently excelled in that department. From the goblins of Gringotts to the emaciated, slithering face of Voldemort, the work is of the highest quality and feels natural within the story without drawing too much attention to itself.

Should Have Been Nominated: Hugo

 

Original Score: Hugo

Though Howard Shore has been best known for his monumental work on The Lord of the Rings, the prolific composer has actually developed a working relationship with Martin Scorsese, scoring several of his films. Where those film’s scores served to support aural environments that were equally dominated by existing music, Shore really gets to breathe life into Hugo with musical cues referencing the film’s Parisian setting and its romantic views on the origins of cinema.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Tree of Life

 

Original Song: “Man or Muppet” – The Muppets

Here is yet another category of which I only saw one nominee, but in my defense, there were (laughably) only two nominees, but in any case, “Man or Muppet” is unquestionably the highlight of The Muppets, a film which was unquestionably strong but had more overall potential. “Man or Muppet” is a look into the potential and highlighting that which the Muppets have done best: creating witty and catchy tunes while grounding them in genuine emotion and making them completely relevant to the story. My full review of The Muppets can be found here.

Should Have Been Nominated: “Coeur Volant” – Hugo

 

Sound Editing: Drive

Woefully the only nomination that Drive received from the Academy was in the sound editing department, but that does not mean it is not deserving, for the aural textures of this film are just as complex and precise as the visuals on screen. The entire gambit is covered here from the screeching of tires on pavement to the tightening of leather gloves on a steering wheel all serving one purpose: to allow the audience to enter the mind of a man beyond the law. To read my complete review of Drive, click here.

Should Have Been Nominated: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

 

Sound Mixing – Hugo

Yes, yet another commendable win for Hugo in my book, but frankly this is easily one of the most technically accomplished films of Martin Scorsese’s career and the sound mixing is no exception. For clarification, the difference between sound mixing and sound editing is that latter is the actual sound design, gathering all of the sound elements of a film, dialogue, sound effects, music etc and placing them within the chronology of the film. Mixing, on the other hand, is the balance of those elements when they are layered within the film. Multiple tracks of audio are present on any film, and it is the task of the mix to balance those layers and find when certain tracks must be more audible than others. In the case of Hugo, there literally are hundreds of sound elements at play, from the whirring clocks to the trains passing through the station, and the moments found for their proper implementation are a credit to the mixers of the film.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Adventures of Tintin

 

Visual Effects: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Another capstone for a legendary saga, the visual effects on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 surpass all those that preceded it, if only for this film’s magnitude. So much of this world is due to CGI, and this is the first time a CGI model was created for Hogwarts castle itself and the results are truly breathtaking, yet never feel overdone and forced.

Should Have Been Nominated: The Tree of Life

 

Well those are all of my picks for the Oscars. To recap on a film by film basis:

5 Wins: Hugo – Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Mixing

3 Wins: The Tree of Life – Picture, Director, Cinematography

2 Wins: The Descendants – Actor, Adapted Screenplay; The Help – Actress, Supporting Actress; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 – Makeup, Visual Effects

1 Win: Warrior – Supporting Actor; Rango – Animated Feature Film; Midnight in Paris – Original Screenplay; Original Song – The Muppets; Drive – Sound Editing

What are your picks?

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~ by romancinema on February 19, 2012.

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