Academy Awards: Our movie expert gives his picks
Posted February 24, 2012
Updated February 26, 2012
This weekend the 84th Academy Awards will be held at the Hollywood & Highland Center (formerly the Kodak Theatre). Hollywood will take a night off to pat itself on the back for entertaining the masses for the past year. The question is do they deserve it?
The short answer is yes.
The past year gave us quite a few good films and a couple great ones. But which films, performers, and filmmakers deserve to take home the coveted golden statue? Fear not, for I give you a cheat sheet with all the front runners in the more major categories with a couple of my own choices thrown in. Some of these films are still playing at local theatres such as the Galaxy in Cary, the Chelsea in Chapel Hill, and the Carolina Theatre in Durham.
First we will start with Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay.
All great films start by having a strong script. For Original Screenplay the frontrunner appears to be Woody Allen and his script for “Midnight in Paris." While the Oscars seem to love Woody Allen, he has been nominated for awards 22 times, he has only attended the ceremony once. He may want to make a second appearance this year. The only real competition for Allen would be Michel Hazanavicius the writer/director of “The Artist." Hazanavicius and his film will come up a couple more times a little later.
Adapted Screenplay is between two films I sadly have not seen. Both films were written by a trifecta of writers instead of a single writer, “The Descendants” and “Moneyball." The latter, “Moneyball” has one of last years winners Aaron Sorkin on the writing team. Early buzz though points more toward “The Descendants."
After getting a good script, you need good performers to bring your story to life. The Best Supporting Actress Oscar seems like a lock for Octavia Spencer for her role in “The Help." She has won at almost every other award show she has been nominated at, taking home a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award. Bérénice Bejo has gotten a lot of attention for her role in “The Artist” but it would be a huge upset if she wins.
Best Supporting actor is a race between two veteran actors. Christopher Plummer for his role as a father who comes out to his son at the age of 75 in “Beginners” and Max Von Sydow for his role as a mute helping a young boy solve a mystery in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” While it looks like Plummer has the advantage I am rooting for young up and comer Jonah Hill for his performance in “Moneyball."
The Best Actor and Best Actress awards are interesting this year. While most are looking for Jean Dujardin to win Best Actor for his performance in “The Artist," he has some stiff competition in former winner George Clooney in “The Descendants” and Brad Pitt in “Moneyball." My money is on Dujardin but a win for Clooney wouldn’t surprise me.
Best Actress also pits a former winner against a new comer. Viola Davis is nominated for “The Help” and Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.” Davis is getting strong praise for her role in “The Help” having won the Screen Actors Guild award and the Peoples Choice award. But two time Oscar winner Streep won the Golden Globe and is consider tough competition for Davis. I am little more confident about Davis winning Best Actress then I am about Dujardin winning Best Actor. Both should be interesting.
The next category is my personal favorite, Best Director. The director takes the script and the performers and gives them coherence and focus. The current front runner is Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist." Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese are considered to be the biggest competition for Hazanavicius, but there is a kicker. The Best Director winner at the Directors Guild of America awards almost always wins the Oscar. Hazanavicius won. Now the key word there is “almost." It isn’t a sure thing but it is the norm. Also, Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” really isn’t anything all that different from previous nominations for him and Scorsese has just never really hit it off with Oscar voters. With his collection of incredible films Scorsese has won only one best director Oscar for his 7 previous nominations.
After all of the parts of the film have been taken into consideration you look at the film as a whole. The three main categories are Best Foreign Film, Best Animated Film, and Best Picture. I will be honest and say that I haven’t seen any of the Best Foreign Film nominees. I am going to try and at least see “A separation” (from Iran), a family drama about a couple getting a divorce.
One the other hand, I have seen all of the films up for Best Animated Film. “Rango” is considered to be a lock to win. I am rooting more for "Kung Fu Panda 2." It was more colorful and had a little more emotional connection for me.
Last but not least is Best Picture. As you may have noticed, one film seems to have been nominated in most categories. “The Artist” is the “it” movie this year. It is the critics’ darling and for good reason. A well composed film with great performances and strong emotion. The best chances for an upset would be “The Descendants” for its strong script and acting, or “The Help” for its cultural popularity and strong emotional hook.
There you have it, your Oscar cheat sheet. I have two final notes.
It was recently announced that North Carolinas own Zach Galifianakis will be handing out an award with Will Ferrell at the ceremony. I am not sure what award they are handing out but I’m sure it will be interesting.
Lastly, while the Oscars are usually a fair barometer for good films of the past year I think they neglected to give the film “Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn the proper respect it deserves. It was only nominated for Sound Editing and snubbed for everything else. While it is not a film for everyone, it is rated R for a good reason, try and catch the film if you can. And if R rated films are not your cup of tea check out “The Muppets." Enjoy the show.