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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oscars 2012

OSCARS 2012 - The Race Is On!
Unlike in 2010, when the country's critics practically forced one movie, "The Hurt Locker", to the top of the Oscar heap, and unlike in 2011, when only two movies, "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network", battled for supremacy, the Oscar race for 2012 is wide open.

Of the 35 most recognized film organizations which bestow annual film awards, as of today, January 8, only three are remaining to name winners, and so far, the winners for 2012 are all over the place.

In the Best Picture race, three films are leading with the most critics' wins, "The Artist" with 11, "The Tree of Life" with 9, and "The Descendants" with 6. But don't count out Martin Scorcese's "Hugo", which has 2 wins, and is a crowd favorite. Look for the Best Picture race to be a four-way battle, with any of those films being capable of winning. We'll know more, of course, after the industry awards (Screen Actors Guild, Director's Guild, Producer's Guild, Writer's Guild, etc.), are handed out, the voters for which are also Oscar voters.

upper left: george clooney in "the descendants"; upper right: gary oldman in "tinker tailor soldier spy";
lower left: michael fassbender in "shame"; michael shannon in "take shelter"

In the Best Actor race, it looks to be a three man contest between crowd favorite, George Clooney for "The Descendants", and critics' faves, Michael Shannon for "Take Shelter ", and Michael Fassbender for "Shame". Clooney has 7 wins, so far, to Shannon's 6 and Fassbender's 5. Taking the fourth Oscar nomination slot will probably be Brad Pitt, who not only has 3 wins for "Moneyball", but is also riding a wave of critical acclaim for "The Tree of Life". The fifth Oscar slot will go to, either Jean Dujardin, with 2 wins for "The Artist" or Gary Oldman, with 1 win for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy". If we had to guess today, we'd think Gary Oldman will take the fifth spot over Dujardin because with Oldman's impressive performance, all of Hollywood is having one of those "uh oh" moments where they realize that after a lifetime of incredible performances, Oldman has never even been Oscar nominated, much less won one of the golden men. It'll be "Let's make up for lost time" with Oldman and Hollywood.

upper left: octavia spencer and viola davis in "the help"; upper right: michelle wiliams in "my week with marilyn";
lower left: meryl streep in "the iron lady"; tilda swinton in "we need to talk about kevin"

The Best Actress race is even more unsettled. Michelle Williams has a commanding lead with 10 wins for "My Week With Marilyn", but three other women are not be counted out. Tilda Swinton, always a critic favorite, has 5 wins for "We Need to Talk About Kevin", crowd favorite Viola Davis has 4 wins for her searing emotional turn in "The Help", and everyone's favorite, Meryl Streep, is once more in the running, with 3 wins for "The Iron Lady".

Swinton will be a contender, but in the end will be hurt by the fact that her film wasn't more popular and therefore wasn't seen by as many Oscar voters. Viola Davis starred in the most popular movie of the year, but we don't know if box office success will be enough to help her overcome Williams' overwhelming lead, and the need by Hollywood to finally, once again, recognize Streep as the "greatest actress of her generation". Streep, although nominated sixteen times for an Oscar, (this year will make #17) , she has only won twice, and the last one was in 1983, almost thirty years ago. The real guessing game will be who will take the fifth Oscar nomination slot. Contenders include Elizabeth Olsen, Rooney Mara, Anna Paquin and Kirsten Dunst. If we had to guess, we're thinking that while Olsen and Dunst will have their supporters, the fifth nomination will ultimately go to newcomer Rooney Mara, whose performance in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is, all at once, shocking, breathtaking, unsettling and scary as hell. She'll be hard to ignore, and there'll be real fear in Hollywood by Oscar voters that if they do ignore her, she might just show up on their doorsteps with a nine-iron in her hands.

upper left: patton oswalt in "young adult"; upper right: albert brooks in "drive";
lower left: andrew serkis in "rise of the planet of the apes"; christopher plummer in "beginners"

The Supporting Actor race is the most settled. At this point, it's only a two man race, between Albert Brooks, who has a stunning 19 wins for "Drive", and sentimental favorite, Christopher Plummer, with 8 wins for "Beginners". In fact, of the 28 critics awards given out so far, Brooks and Plummer have won all but one of them. Nick Nolte has the only other win for "Warrior". As for who will win Oscar glory, it looks like the only thing that might keep Brooks from nabbing the prize would be Hollywood's desire to reward Plummer for a lifetime of great film roles, but sentimentality doesn't always win the day. We'll see. The hardest thing for Oscar voters will be trying to find two other actors to fill the nomination slots. Without the critics telling them who they should like, the oft-confused Oscar voters will be left to their own devices, and that means we can expect some wild, and off-the-wall choices. It will really come down to who campaigns the hardest.

One stand-out is Patton Oswalt, whose much-talked about performance in "Young Adult" who will probably earn him one of the nominations, and Kenneth Branagh might get some recognition for "My Week With Marilyn". But perhaps the riskiest choice being bandied is Andrew Serkis, who played Caesar the Ape in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", without ever having actually being seen on camera. Serkis played Caesar in "performance capture" or CGI-assisted acting, the technology which allowed us to see Caesar onscreen, but with Serkis manning his body and facial movements. Serkis would be a risky choice for the normally staid Oscar voters, but considering that there are so few other supporting actors in the running this year, the Oscar crowd might just go for Serkis.

upper left: berenice bejo in "the artist"; upper right: george clooney and shailene woodley in "the descendants"
lower left: melissa mccarthy in "bridesmaids"; lower right: jessica chastain in "the tree of life"

For Supporting Actress, again we have an overall leader in Jessica Chastain, Hollywood's newest "it" girl, with 8 wins for "The Tree of Life", but you definitely cannot count out the other contenders. Newcomer Shailene Woodley has 5 wins for "The Descendants", Octavia Spencer has 4 wins for "The Help", and Melissa McCarthy has 3 wins for "Bridesmaids". The fifth nomination slot will probably go to Berenice Bejo, who starred in the break-out hit, "The Artist". Bejo has 2 wins from the critics. But while this race is probably the most settled in terms of who will take the Oscar nominations, as to who will actually walk off the stage that night holding the statue is up for grabs. As we said, Chastain has already won over the critics, but the Oscar race is never completely decided by critics, far from it. Many will be voting for crowd-pleasers Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy, who turned in one of the funniest performances of the year. Trust us, this one won't be decided until the envelope is opened.

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