Sunday, February 26, 2012

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

The red carpet has slowly been getting more crowded by the minute and very soon the first few stars should be making their way telling us who they are wearing and such. They will then enter the Kodak Hollywood & Highland Theater where the Academy Awards will be given out. Let's take a look back at the awards season that was...

This year the film to beat was a surprising one. Who ever thought a black & white French silent film would dominate the awards season these past few months? And yet that is exactly what The Artist has done picking up numerous awards from critic groups, the BFCA, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Spirit Awards, and even the all-important love from the guilds namely the producers and the directors. Of course it's important to point out two things about the film and its run. First, all of this attention hasn't really translated to box office with the film netting just over $30 million. Should it win Best Picture, it'd be the second lowest-grossing Best Picture winner (The Hurt Locker is the lowest). Second, Harvey Weinstein. Need I say more?

Weinstein is actually having a pretty good year on top of his great comeback year last year when he managed to put The King's Speech and Colin Firth into the winner's circle. This year, not only does he have The Artist, but he also has campaigned for Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams. It turns out that the Best Actress race this year is probably the most exciting with Viola Davis' The Help looking good to win her first Oscar considering she won the SAG Awards and her film is the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee. It also doesn't hurt that her greatest rival is one of her best friends with Streep campaigning for Davis almost as hard as she has been campaigning for herself. Streep of course is gunning for her first Oscar since she won in 1986! For her efforts, she won a few important critic awards, the Globes, and BAFTA. Williams looked to have the advantage early on being the right age, having the right industry respectability, and especially playing such an iconic Hollywood legend. She won most of the critic awards, but then gave the stage away to Streep and Davis. She did win the Globes and more recently the Spirit Awards. Glenn Close was in the conversation early as well especially as she is even more due than Streep, but the reviews weren't good and the nomination became its own award.

Compared to Best Actress, the other acting categories look to be a bit more straightforward especially the supporting categories where Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer have dominated all season long. His biggest threat early on, Albert Brooks, was never nominated and her biggest threat, co-star Jessica Chastain, hasn't coalesced the fans she has garnered from the dozen of films she worked on this year. Lead actor looks to be a battle between Hollywood A-lister George Cloooney and French A-lister Jean Dujardin. Early on, Brad Pitt was the odds on favorite until Clooney stole his thunder. More recently it's the Frenchman doing the stealing beating Clooney at the SAGs and at the BAFTAs.

Speaking of Clooney, his film The Descendants is one of two films that can play spoiler to the grande soirée, but it'll probably just walk away with a screenplay award since it has won the WGA. The other film is of course Martin Scorsese's Hugo which is the closer rivalry to The Artist. One is a Hollywood film set in France while the other is a French film set in Hollywood and both films tackling the world of filmmaking. Hugo actually leads with 11 Oscar nominations and started off the awards season with a bang, winning Picture and Director at the National Board of Review. Since then, however, it has play second to the little silent film that could.

While all of this was being played out, there were the obvious shocks and twists of awards season. Buzzed about films such as The Ides of March, Drive, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Take Shelter, Melancholia and many more faltered to get Oscar nominations. While praised performers such as Ryan Gosling, Elisabeth Olsen, Tilda Swinton, Albert Brooks, Michael Fassbender, and Kirsten Dunst didn't make the shortlist. Certainly actors like Demian Bichir, Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hill, and Rooney Mara were astounded when they heard their names Oscar nomination morning as well as the producers of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Loud when they heard their critically-panned film get that ninth and final spot for Best Picture. Wait, nine spots? Ah yes, in all of their wisdom AMPAS has decided to change the voting process yet again putting more emphasis on #1 votes and opening the possibility of having a total tally of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10.

While that created the requisite number crunching and head scratching from the blogosphere, it was the least of AMPAS' problems as it had to deal with the whole Brett Ratner fiasco that led to Ratner resigning as producer and Eddie Murphy quitting as host. They were both soon replaced by Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal (hosting for the 9th time) although many people had more than a few suggestions on who should host. My top choice was the Muppets, but even when they didn't get the job, at least they'd perform at the Oscars. Except, nope that's not happening either.

In any case, that's neither here nor there. Even though most of the films this year evoked the recurring theme of nostalgia and the past, let's all try to look forward and get excited for the Academy Awards. The Artist is my fourth favorite film of the year so it having a big night would be just fine by me. My favorite film of the year, Midnight in Paris, has a chance to walk away with the screenplay award, but even if it doesn't win it's still Woody Allen's biggest hit in years. But I'll end this post by giving some love to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It's not only one of the best reviewed films of the year, but also the highest grossing film both domestically and internationally. After eight films, it has yet to win an Academy Award and this year it's nominated for three (Art Direction, Make-Up, Visual Effects). It can win any of those, but chances aren't that great. I'm personally hoping it does win at least one award (I predicted vfx), but it could easily go away empty handed.

Related links:
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."

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