(Honoring the films of 2011)

Rant by Paul Preston

“I think I can safely say that despite the quality of some of the year’s best movies, it was not a great year”.

This is the sentence I used to start last year’s Oscar Rant, referencing the films of 2010. So…it suitably starts this year’s rant as well. Things haven’t gotten better. I remember specifically, in the middle of the summer, I was awaiting all the great summer movies that were going to come out. Sad thing is, they already had, and I was moving into a latter-half of the summer with the only bright spot being “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

Same thing happened at Christmas. Usually, by year’s end I get excited to see all the award-worthy films as they expand to more theaters in January. This year, I had already seen everything by December 31st, and I was not impressed. I had not felt like I was in the throws of holiday movie-time. I suppose we can only take solace in the fact that the third installment of the “Alvin & The Chipmunks” franchise only made half of what the other films did…

Did I mention bright spots? Let’s talk about ‘em. My list of the Top 10 Films of 2011:

X-Men First Class Teaser Poster10. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – This is the kind of year it’s been. The “prestige projects” on the whole were so underwhelming, they’ve left room in the Top 10 for a summer action movie. But “X-Men: First Class” is a very deftly-handled period actioner beefed up with great actors. This film could easily have been Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens-ed, but, wisely, the producers used the talents of Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult (“A Single Man”) as young mutants coming under the wing of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. This is another film in a phenomenal year for Michael Fassbender, who really shines as Erik, the young Magneto. Kevin Bacon also steps up for one of his best performances in years, showing what can happen when you throw him a substantial role. Politics, teen angst, and ambitious action sequences all get thrown into a mix held together well by director Matthew Vaughn.

Puss in Boots movie poster9. PUSS IN BOOTS – Why shouldn’t the film I’d pick for Best Animated Film also be one of the best overall films of the year? Pixar, up till 2011, was batting .1000. All the while, DreamWorks Animation had been improving their game slowly and steadily. They’ve delivered a real winner the year Pixar stumbled with “Cars 2”. “Puss in Boots” is anchored by the best script yet of the “Shrek” universe films, and it certainly ranks among the funniest films of the year, if not the funniest, as we follow a pre-“Shrek” Puss as he attempts to clear his name over crimes he didn’t commit. Antonio Banderas’ hilarious gravitas-laden voice-over carries a light and nimble plot, happily devoid of a slew of modern references. The action scenes are well-imagined and the animation is very impressive, even (gulp) the 3D.
Click here for a full-length review.

My Week With Marilyn Movie Poster8. MY WEEK WITH MARILYN – There’s an interesting story here about an A.D. working on the production of “The Prince and the Showgirl” who had a flirtatious affair with Marilyn Monroe. But once things get going on the set, that’s where my interest was really peaked. Pill-popping head case Monroe annoys the SHIT out of Laurence Olivier, and it is entertaining as HELL! Kenneth Branagh’s slow burn as Sir Larry is priceless, and Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Monroe is in every way deserving of its Oscar nomination.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Poster7. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Saw this one twice. Here’s a summer movie that proves that if you bring the brains, the audience will follow. I’m tired of origin films (we really need to see how Spider-Man was created AGAIN?), plus I get tired of overuse of CGI characters, so for this film to work on me was quite a surprise. WETA Digital proves they are some of the best in the business, creating ALL the apes in this movie, who grow weary of their mistreatment by humans and, thanks to drug experiments, gain the wherewithal to fight back. If you’re having Andy Serkis fatigue because he is used nearly EVERY time motion capture is required, keep watching him. They keep using him ‘cause he’s the best in the business. His portrayal of Caesar is so expressive, he’s the film’s best actor. And the end credits are a stroke of genius.
Click here for a full-length review.

Midnight in Paris movie poster6. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – There’s something on display here for every kind of Woody Allen fan. Do you love wacky Woody? It’s in there. Heady, literate Woody? It’s in there, along with his recent passion for Europe and the usual top-notch production team you’re used to seeing in a Woody Allen film. Owen Wilson is at his charming best as a Hollywood writer visiting Paris who magically is transported to the 1920s, where he meets his literary and artistic heroes. There are loads of laughs as Wilson is tempted with an affair and he can’t explain what’s happening to him when he’s dumped back in present day. No surprise this is Woody’s highest grossing movie in twenty-five years, it’s easily his most widely appealing in that amount of time, too.

Moneyball Movie Poster5. MONEYBALL – As an L.A. Angels fan, I can get behind any movie about an MLB team owner who has to do everything he can to combat the N.Y. Yankee’s inflated budget. You can’t deny The Evil Empire their desire to win, the real problem is Major League Baseball’s desperate need of a salary cap. “Moneyball”’s brilliant writers Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (two of the BEST out there) have expertly adapted Billy Beane’s book about putting a competitive team together in an unusual way. They, with director Bennett Miller, have made “Moneyball” very satisfying for the baseball enthusiast as well as understandable and exciting for someone who doesn’t follow the sport regularly. Anchored by a making-it-look-so-easy-he-can’t-possibly-be-acting lead performance by Brad Pitt, the film is adept at comedy and drama, but also gets very engrossing as a dramatic, suspenseful sports movie when Oakland starts playing well. And as an Angels fan, I loved the ending.

50/50 Movie Poster4. 50/50 – Yes, the cancer comedy is THAT GOOD. I think Seth Rogen’s been nothing but hilarious for six or seven years now, but he’s acquired this bad rap, probably due to overexposure. As a producer, he wisely never creates projects beyond his capabilities. Remember “The Green Hornet”? (Think hard) Rogen was a hero, but wasn’t a bad-ass bad-guy-whalloping machine. He left the heavy lifting to Kato and smartly did what he’s good at. Strange comparison to “50/50”, which is leagues better and nothing like “The Green Hornet”, but here’s another case where Rogen never tries to fool you into thinking that this film about a twenty-something journalist in Seattle faced with a harsh cancer is the drama to end all dramas. The script is still a stoner comedy, but there’s a convincing humanity at the heart here, delivered with style by director Jonathan Levine.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Movie Poster3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Gotta admit I never read the book or saw the Swedish film adaptations before this, and I was blown away. Story carries the day here, and the timing couldn’t be better for Fincher to direct, because his keen eye and dazzling production value really build a tone, but he also seems to have moved past any show-off moves that littered a film like “Panic Room”, and he lets the story rise to the top. And what a story! A self-proclaimed insane goth-lesbian computer hacker teams with a journalist to investigate forty-year-old murder mystery in a story of rape, torture, fear and Nazis. Sign me up! The film wisely doesn’t update the Swedish story to All-American, and the cast is full of good actors. Rooney Mara’s daring portrait of Lisbeth Salander is one for the ages and I can’t wait to see what trouble she gets into in the next film. Christopher Plummer caps off a great year by delivering a captivating performance as the patriarch of the family that hires the journalist, and he ends up providing the film’s heart. Yes, this mad thriller can tear-jerk! There’s gripping suspense on display here coupled with things you’ve never seen before – a killer one-two punch for what I hope is a very successful franchise.

The Descendants Movie Poster2. THE DESCENDANTS – In a year filled with bloated spectacle (‘Hugo”, “War Horse”), Alexander Payne’s strikingly truthful drama proves once again that less is more. George Clooney plays a land baron in Hawaii, and as if you can’t feel bad for that guy, his wife goes into a coma after a jet ski accident. This event leads to discoveries that complicate relationships, leaving things muddy, even at the end. The actors (and Payne) are obviously more interested in playing the TRUTH with this story, as opposed to doing anything “film-y”. As we’ve said before at The Movie Guys, anything George Clooney does is worth watching, and he’s FANTASTIC here. It may be time to put him on the list of the best actors in town, a list usually reserved for posh-er performers like Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey. But Clooney’s certainly more consistent. After Pixar and Jason Reitman slipped up this year, Payne remains the only filmmaker whose every film I have enjoyed.
Click here for a full-length review.

The Artist Movie Poster1. THE ARTIST – This is a movie in love with movies. Here at The Movie Guys, WE LOVE MOVIES! So, liking “The Artist” was easy. Actually, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a heart cold enough to dislike this film. If you don’t like it, you’re dead inside. At least dead to me. In a year wrought with pretentious offerings (“Melancholia”, “The Tree of Life”, anyone?), “The Artist” wins by being straight-up enjoyable. And wildly so. As the silent film star who has a tough transition into “talkies”, Jean Dujardin is mesmerizing with his seamless ability to channel Clark Gable swashbuckling to great heights one moment, and Gene Kelly whisking a girl across the dance floor the next. Paired with the radiant Berenice Bejo, they’re one of the best screen pairs in years. As technology advances, it’s amazing to see a film TAKE AWAY tech aspects and triumph.
Click here for a full-length review.

Truth is there are only about six movies I’d really put on a year-end BEST list, so even expanding to ten was a chore. However, these films are good, too:
THE IDES OF MARCH – Is this better than “X-Men: First Class”? Probably. It’s pretty damn good, but it was fun to go super-hero movie for my top ten.
THE HELP – Solid drama with good actors top to bottom.
J. EDGAR – This movie got shit for being “Oscar-bait”, but the script is one of the best Eastwood’s worked with in years, and DiCaprio is as solid as ever.
THE MUPPETS – Back and hilarious.
BUCK – A documentary about a horse whisperer that truly uplifts and inspires.

PRIEST – Paul Bettany crapping away promise, determined to switch genres from dramas and comedy to action. Stay where you’re needed. Ask Eddie Murphy.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES – This franchise has totally lost its way, and its sense of fun. Another interminably LONG movie that’s one of the worst 3D offenders yet.
THE HANGOVER, PART II – It might be OK to repeat the exact same plot if the characters were likeable, but they’re NOT. At all.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN 3D – This film is hugely OVERDONE. More is not better (see “The Descendants”)
BAD TEACHER – Number of jokes that work in this film – zero.
ALBERT NOBBS – The biggest disappointment. Why was this story told? The lead character is creepy, the lead female unworthy of any affection, and the ending left the whole story feeling irrelevant.


The Artist Movie PosterActor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”
George Clooney in “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”
Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

Glaring Omission: This was a year brimming with great lead performances, so any number of actors could have been included – Leonardo DiCaprio for his bombast in “J. Edgar” or Ryan Gosling for his understatement in “The Ides of March” (like Christian Bale, his Oscar’s coming). I’m a little surprised to see the raw emotion Michael Fassbender brought to “Shame” didn’t net him a nomination. Perhaps the film itself was a little off-putting.
Runners-up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “50/50”, but the BALLS would have come out if The Academy took a risk on nominating Andy Serkis for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. Sadly, it doesn’t look like he’ll win an Oscar if the film wins for Visual Effects, either. They’ll thank him like they did for “King Kong”. Maybe a special Oscar is due somewhere down the line?
Great Inclusion: Brad Pitt. I called his performance making-it-look-so-easy-he-can’t-possibly-be-acting. That beats the showy roles he was nominated for previously (“Benjamin Button”, “Twelve Monkeys”). Good to see him here.
Will Win: Dujardin. It used to be a bigger race with Clooney, but Dujardin has pulled ahead with wins at the BAFTA and SAG awards.
Should Win: Both deserve it, but Clooney broke my heart. I’d go with him.

Beginners Movie PosterActor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Glaring Omission: Albert Brooks in “Drive”. Now, I’m the world’s biggest Brooks fan, but I don’t think he’s totally right for this role. I dug the expansion beyond the type he normally plays, and he did a solid job, but not quite award-worthy, if you’re gonna compare (and that’s what we’re doing here, right?). However, with the pre-Oscar film critics awards he picked up, I thought he’d be nominated.
Runners-up: I’d slide von Sydow to the side and make room for Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Moneyball”, who underplays to perfection. Also, John C. Reilly out-acted all the Oscar winners in “Carnage”, don’t know if that makes him better than these nominees, but it accounts for something. I’d also throw some love to Corey Stoll in “Midnight in Paris”, whose indelible Ernest Hemingway was SO much fun. And wasn’t Paul Giamatti in a movie? Yes, he was (“The Ides of March”). So he should be nominated. Bam.
Great Inclusion: Kenneth Branagh. Many dismissed Branagh’s witty performance as Laurence Olivier as another shallow piece of a trite movie. They’re wrong! He doesn’t get lost in an impersonation, and finds so much room to PLAY in this part as a legendary actor who must come face to face with an industry that values movie STARS instead.
Will win: Christopher Plummer. Hard to believe this is only his second Oscar nomination, but he’s been a lock in quality projects for years (“The Insider”). And his role in “Beginners” is one of two great roles he had this year (the other being “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). It’s his year, and thank god it’s for a good performance in “Beginners”, not the standard career award.
Should win: That being said, I’d go with Branagh

The Help Movie PosterActress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis in “The Help”
Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”

Glaring Omission: Tilda Swinton. With Golden Globe and SAG awards, I thought she was on track. But The Globes have two categories, and the drama category is nearly identical to these nominees, but when someone had to make room at the Oscars for Michelle Williams, it was Swinton who got the boot. But I’m sure she’s crying all over her other Oscar. I thought Charlize Theron had a shot because she and Reitman are Oscar darlings.
Runners-up: Kristen Wiig? As ever, comedy is subjugated. Glenn Close is just creepy in “Albert Nobbs”. Maybe you slide her out of the way for Wiig.
Great Inclusion: Rooney Mara! This is the best nomination in any category this year. There’s a lot of subtlety going around, focusing on restraint and simplicity (see Oldman, for example). But Mara’s brash, risky performance in “Dragon Tattoo” is an all-out-there tour de force, and if you’re giving awards to the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood”, then Mara’s got just as much of a shot.
Will Win: Davis. This race has become the most interesting as time’s gone on. It used to be between Williams and Streep, right on through their split of awards at The Golden Globes. But with SAG and BAFTA wins, Viola Davis is making a run, and you can’t discount the actor’s vote, ‘cause it’s actors who vote in The Academy, too. Streep and Williams’ performances are at the core impersonations (excellent ones), and they’ll probably award the more original performance on Oscar Night.
Should Win: Mara, beating out Wiliams, who’s a close second.

The Help Movie PosterActress in a Leading RoleActress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Glaring Omission: Shailene Woodley. The acting across the board is so good in “The Descendants”, I’m surprised Clooney is the only acting nominee in the mix. The next best shot, I thought was Woodley’s complex performance as a complicated (perhaps spoiled?) teenager.
Runners-up: Shout out to Bryce Dallas Howard, who is great in “The Help” AND “50/50”. What I like about her roles this year is that they were very unlikeable. I guy like me gets bitter and wants to reject nepotism, but she’s really good and Howard could float through romantic comedies easily, but she played more challenging roles. Good on her.
Great Inclusion: Berenice Bejo, but there’s certainly an argument to make that she could be in the Best Actress category.
Will Win: Octavia Spencer, who is on a roll. Her character in “The Help” says everything you want to say in stick-up-your-ass 1960s America.
Should Win: Bejo, the heart of “The Artist”. But I love that fact that I didn’t know Bejo, Spencer or Chastain before the year started.

Rango Movie PosterAnimated Feature Film
“A Cat in Paris” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
“Chico & Rita” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
“Kung Fu Panda 2” Jennifer Yuh Nelson
“Puss in Boots” Chris Miller
“Rango” Gore Verbinski

Glaring Omission: “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”. It won The Golden Globe and had huge names attached. Oscar-winning names. But let’s be honest, it’s not a story that hooked America. And it’s a creepy animation style that I have no desire to see awarded. Three words sunk this nomination: Mars Needs Moms.
Runners-up: “Arthur Christmas”. I also had no desire to see Aardman Animation work with computers, having loved their stop-action animation for years. But “Arthur Christmas” is a delightful and very entertaining animated film with loads of heart and impressive animation.
Great Inclusion: Those two movies nobody’s heard of. And don’t try and fool me, you haven’t heard of ‘em either. Just be glad they’re here instead of the underwhelming “Cars 2”
Will Win: “Rango”. It’s got the momentum, plus a ton of Annie Awards. The dark horse could be “Kung Fu Panda 2”, which also won a handful of Annies.
Should Win: “Puss in Boots”, the only animated film in my Top 10.

Hugo movie posterArt Direction
“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Glaring Omission: Nothing “glaring” here, although there is sometimes more love given to action movies in this category, with their big set pieces. Outside of “Potter”, maybe “Transformers 3” or “Thor” might’ve snuck in here, but these are good nominees.
Runners-up: It’s not unlike Roland Emmerich to bring quality production design to a film, but in “Anonymous”, they went to good use, as opposed to destroying the world AGAIN. Seamless use of effects and sets brought Elizabethan England splendidly to life. “J. Edgar” proved again the Clint Eastwood films are always solid re-creation of place and time.
Great Inclusion: “Midnight in Paris”. With an opening that rivals “Manhattan”, Paris looks lovely, and when it’s re-created for the 1920s, it looks equally lush and inviting.
Will Win: “Hugo”. But I thought the locations reeked more of effects than locations.
Should Win: “The Artist”, which did just as much as “Hugo” to show time period without it looking so cheesy.

The Tree of Life Movie PosterCinematography
“The Artist” Guillaume Schiffman
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Jeff Cronenweth
“Hugo” Robert Richardson
“The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki
“War Horse” Janusz Kaminski

Glaring Omission: “Midnight in Paris”. It had been nominated for pre-Oscar awards and damn, how gorgeous did Paris look as shot by Darius Khondji? A wonderful compliment to the art direction, which did receive a nomination.
Runners-up: “The Adventures of Tintin” didn’t make much of an overall impression on me, but there was shot composition in it that was on par with the best that Spielberg has done. Unfortunately, I was busy mostly focusing on how creepy the characters looked. Has animation ever been nominated in this category? Oh, yes, I see “Hugo” has been nominated. Never mind. There’s also something to be said for the great IMAX photography of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, especially the cameras-and-actors-hanging-on-the-side-of-the-building, vertigo-inducing brilliance of the action scenes at Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Great Inclusion: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. I loved this movie, and it was mostly snubbed in major categories, so I’ll take nominations where I can get ‘em.
Will Win: “The Tree of Life”
Should Win: This is a really tough category, because when you look at the photography of “The Tree of Life”, it’s unreal. Even just the collection alone of shots is impressive, let alone the execution of capturing them so vividly. Now, what exactly do all these images bring to the story? That’s the problem. There ISN’T A STORY. So then we have a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. But man, the sound and fury looked fantastic. You probably gotta give it to Lubezki, even though I’m partial to “The Artist”, who even went out of the way to shoot in an 1920s aspect ratio!

The Artist Movie PosterCostume Design
“Anonymous” Lisy Christl
“The Artist” Mark Bridges
“Hugo” Sandy Powell
“Jane Eyre” Michael O’Connor
“W.E.” Arianne Phillips

Glaring Omission: What a surprise. All period pieces. I rant on this every year, but I suppose opulence will always win out in this category. Well, if you’re gonna go all period, where was “J. Edgar” and the awesome parade of G-Men outfits? Little back story here, too: All of DiCaprio’s outfits were built from scratch for him. Can’t get that watching the film, but to know there were no rentals for his eighty or so costumes is impressive. I’m sure something like “Water for Elephants” was great, costume-wise, but who wants to see that to find out.
Runners-up: There’s also no fantasy here. No “Harry Potter”? Perhaps they were wearing clothes designed for the previous movies. If I had my way, I’d nominate “Thor” for the outlandish costumes that didn’t give in to the pressure to tone down the “comic book-i-ness” of the characters. They still wear bright colors and capes where other comic book adaptations like to make everything black.
Great Inclusion: “Anonymous”, only because Roland Emmerich THOUGHT for two seconds and actually made a substantial movie, and he pulled it off, partially because of an authentic-looking 1590s London.
Will Win: “The Artist”
Should Win: “The Artist”. This movie looked like “Citizen Kane” at times.

The Artist Movie PosterDirecting
“The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants” Alexander Payne
“Hugo” Martin Scorsese
“Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen
“The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick

Glaring Omission: With the new stupid desire to increase excitement over The Oscars by having more than five nominees, that just means more directors who have apparently made a film worthy of year’s best, who can’t get an Oscar themselves. This leaves Stephen Daldry, Tate Taylor, Bennett Miller and Steven Spielberg in the lurch. Sorry guys, you’ve made a best-of-the-year-worthy film but you’re not one of the best-of-the-year directors. That’s just dumb, and The Academy’s decision to keep doing that is as lame as Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game meaning something.
Runners-up: David Fincher! From the tone to the direction of the actors to the look, feel, location and vibe, he nailed it. Terrence Malick did something great with “The Tree of Life”, but without him sitting next to me as I watch the film, explaining what exactly that is, I’m lost. So step aside, please and make room for a Fincher nomination here. Also, if Bennett miller keeps up the good work, he could be another no-miss director. He’s made two films (“Capote” and “Moneyball”) and they’re both good. I would’ve nominated him here. Also, I thought Martin Scorsese’s pacing was all over the place in “Hugo”, plus the whole piece was just way overdone. This might be mostly the script’s fault, but a movie like “50/50” connected more with me. Nominate Jonathan Levine here instead.
Great Inclusion: Alexander Payne, Mr. Doesn’t Make a Bad Film.
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius. He won the DGA award. He’s the evening’s lock.
Should Win: Michel Hazanavicius. If you’re thinking, “Who?”, you’re not alone. What a breakthrough movie! To skillfully pull together an international cast, black & white, period piece, animal actors and SILENT FILM to such perfection was quite a task. Give him the Oscar.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory movie posterDocumentary (Feature)
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Glaring Omission: “Buck”. This movie had a lot of press leading up to the nominations and I thought it had a chance.
Runners-up: “The Tree of Life”. Wait, that wasn’t a NOVA PBS special?
Great Inclusion: “Pina” and “Undefeated”. “Paradise Lost” is about a murder trial, “Hell and Back Again” is about the Afghan War and “If a Tree Falls” is about environmental terrorists. So, I’m happy to see some uplifting stories in the mix. The only thing that scared the shit out of me was that I thought “Undefeated” was that Sarah Palin documentary (which is hilariously called “THE Undefeated”). If that got nominated, I was going to kill somebody.
Will Win: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”. The Academy loves to reward bodies of work (see “The Lord of the Rings”) and this film could win essentially for all three “Paradise Lost” docs.
Should Win: You’ll notice there were not documentaries in my Top 10. This is different than past years where I’ve had movies like “Sicko”, “Inside Job” and “Waiting for Superman” in the mix. This year, I didn’t see any of the nominees. I am a dick.

Documentary (Short Subject)
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

But you know what? I didn’t see any of these, either. Neither did you. Let’s move on.

The Artist Movie PosterFilm Editing
“The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants” Kevin Tent
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Moneyball” Christopher Tellefsen

Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring, but The Academy does love Spielberg’s production team. Always has. So I thought Michael Kahn might’ve had a shot here for “War Horse”, even a long shot for “The Adventures of Tintin”.
Runners-up: Hey, there are no show-off nominees here! So let’s throw “Limitless” in there just for fun.
Great Inclusion: All the dramas. This category, practically re-birthed by “The French Connection”, loves action, but there’s none here this year. I appreciate the shout-outs from The Academy to modest piecing together of “The Descendants” and “Moneyball”.
Will Win: “The Artist”, part of a big night for the film. The pre-Oscar awards went to this and “The Descendants”, but I think The Academy will go for the showier piece.
Should Win: I’m gonna stick with “The Artist” here, too. But it brings up the question. Is it tougher to edit an original piece or a book adaptation? I imagine most of the editing of the adaptation was done in the script. But the challenge for an adapted movie is keeping the core intact, and not cutting too much? Don’t have an answer here, just riffin’.

Foreign Language Film
“Bullhead” Belgium
“Footnote” Israel
“In Darkness” Poland
“Monsieur Lazhar” Canada
“A Separation” Iran

….sigh. I’m horribly underversed in this category. When I’m done writing this rant, I’ll just go back and delete these categories so you don’t know I didn’t see enough of these films to make an informed decision.

The Iron Lady Movie PosterMakeup
“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

Glaring Omission: “J. Edgar”. Tough call here ‘cause Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts’ makeup was OK, but DiCaprio’s was GREAT! So, I guess for overall work, it’s tough to nominate the film, but for the one individual character, the work was outstanding.
Runners-up: I would say “Contagion”, but I think instead of putting makeup on the Hollywood actors to make them look diseased, they were simply filmed with no makeup at all. Ba-doom!
Great Inclusion: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
Will Win: “The Iron Lady”
Should Win: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”. So the question is, will the movie benefit from a Body-of-Work Award or suffer from they-did-this-in-an-earlier-film-already-itis? If it’s the latter, that opens the door for the better of the two old age makeup jobs to beat the fantasy film.

The Artist Movie PosterMusic (Original Score)
“The Adventures of Tintin” John Williams
“The Artist” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse” John Williams

Glaring Omission: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, two names that are SO much fun to say. More fantastic scoring of a David Fincher film (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). Perhaps their win last year kept them out of the running this year, but their work, two films in, seems to be setting up what will be a gloriously edgy, non-traditional film scoring career.
Runners-up: “Hanna” – The Chemical Brothers deliver a fantastic score to this action movie that is on par with the brilliant Daft Punk score for last year’s “Tron: Legacy”. I hope these techno-based scores get love from The Academy soon. Also, Cliff Martinez delivered a first-rate, Tangerine Dream-esque soundtrack for “Drive” that propelled the opening scene and many subsequent segments of the movie. I wish the songs were as good as the score. Martinez is a frequent collaborator with Steven Soderbergh, and had a good year, also providing a quality score for “Contagion”. I also loved the dream-like, guitar-notes-and-chords-dropped-lovingly-in-a-puddle music from “Moneyball”, great also for the choice to use unconventional movie like that for a sports film. Perhaps that sets you up for the fact that this is not a traditional sports film at all.
Great inclusion: “The Adventures of Tintin”. Williams proving he’s still the master.
Will Win: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”
Should Win: Ludovic Bource. The score of this film is basically a character in it, equal parts playful storyteller and observer along for the ride as the plot unfolds. Bource had to nail it or the whole film could fail. He nailed it.

The Muppets Movie PosterMusic (Original Song)
“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Glaring Omission: Three other nominees. We are not exactly in The Golden Age of Movie Music. The Disney animated movie musicals don’t dominate as they used to, most stage musical adaptations either don’t include original songs, or force one into the credits that is inferior to the other songs in the film. Only every once in a while do we get a “My Heart Will Go On” or “Lose Yourself”. So, I’m not too surprised that this category isn’t packed with winners, but I’m a little surprised it isn’t packed at all! No love for that Madonna song that won the Golden Globe? “Gnomeo & Juliet”? No?
Runners-Up: “Life’s a Happy Song” from “The Muppets”, clearly the only movie that was excited to cram it’s movie with original songs this year.
Will Win: “Man or Muppet”
Should Win: “Man or Muppet”. “Real in Rio” is a rousing song that introduces the film’s characters to the lively city in the film’s title, but it’s just not as clever as Bret McKenzie’s ode to self-reflective movie montages.

The Artist Movie PosterBest Picture
“The Artist” Thomas Langmann, Producer
“The Descendants” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Scott Rudin, Producer
“The Help” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
“Hugo” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
“Midnight in Paris” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
“Moneyball” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
“The Tree of Life” Nominees to be determined
“War Horse” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Glaring Omission: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. Well, glaring to me, at least. Glaring to the rest of the world is probably “Bridesmaids”, which people thought might be the upset card. I gotta admit, “Bridesmaids” is at least better than “Extremley Loud & Incredibly Close”
Runners-up: Referring to my Top 10, you know I would’ve found room for “50/50”, and I would stopped it at FIVE nominees. Even this year, just nominate “The Artist”, “The Descendants”, “The Help”, “Moneyball” and “Midnight in Paris” and be done. This whole ten nominees thing was done in the wake of “The Dark Knight”’s Best Picture snub to make sure that movies like “District 9”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Up”, which were popular movies, could get in on the Best Picture nods and bring hype and eyeballs to the Oscar telecast. Do you really think “War Horse” did that this year? “The Tree of Life”? There are way too many nominees here. Just ‘cause they’ve made the list available for ten nominees doesn’t mean there NEEDS to be more than five.
Great Inclusion: “Moneyball”, which probably benefited from the thing I’m railing against above. If there were only five nominees, The Academy would’ve showered “Hugo” as they did ‘cause they saw Martin Scorsese’s name on it, and “Moneyball” would’ve stayed home.
Will Win: “The Artist”. It’s pulled away from “The Descendants” since The Golden Globes.
Should Win: “The Artist”. It’s strange to compare “The Artist” to “Inception”, my pick for Best Picture of 2010, but they’re both the year’s most ambitious films, and to make something so ambitious so successful deserves the award.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreShort Film (Animated)
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life”

Glaring Omission & Runner-up: Maybe Pixar’s “Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation”? Another laugh and heart-heavy short from the masters. But their entry “La Luna” here is more of what wins this category.
Great Inclusion: “A Morning Stroll”, a short with a demented sense of humor, and it’s good to see them rewarded for that.
Will Win: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”, which looks great and has a whimsical feel throughout.
Should Win: However, I thought “Lessmore” was a bit disjointed. I think a simpler story could’ve been told. So I’d go with “La Luna”, just beating out “A Morning Stroll”

Time Freak Movie PosterShort Film (Live Action)
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Great Inclusion: “Time Freak”. Year in and year out I watch the shorts and there’s routinely “important” films being celebrated. “Time Freak” is a comedy, and a goofy one at that. Coupled with good production, it’s a great nominee.
Will Win: “Raju”. But sadly, The Academy may still reward the “important” tale of child adoption in India. I swear there’s an India-based short nominated every year.
Should Win: “Time Freak”. Last year a comedy beat the important films, I hope that continues.

Hugo movie posterSound Editing
“Drive” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce
“Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
“War Horse” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Glaring Omission: Animation. Usually there is some animated movie represented here because the creation of original sounds to be attributed to completely fabricated characters that do not exist in any plane of reality is TOUGH TO DO! I thought I might see “Rango” here or “The Adventures of Tintin”.
Runners-up: More animation like “Arthur Christmas” and “Puss in Boots”
Great Inclusion: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”. I know, there really isn’t much good about this film (except for the 3D), but sound effect creation has to be 80% of this damn movie with all the twisting gears, explosions, falling metal and that “Buuuaaaooooonnng” noise that’s all over the trailers. Seems like a lot of work.
Great Inclusion: “Drive”. The sound in that film was hypnotic.
Will Win: “Hugo”
Should Win: Probably…sigh…”Transformers”…I feel gross SUGGESTING that this should be an Oscar-winning film…

Hugo movie posterSound Mixing
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Glaring Omission: Here’s another place where I expected more action and fantasy movies, because the challenge is so great to mix the real and unreal effects with the dialogue and music. Perhaps “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” or “Captain America: The First Avenger”
Runners-up: “X-Men: First Class”
Great Inclusion: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, for reasons mentioned above.
Will Win: “Hugo”, ‘cause it’s an effects movie The Academy can get behind.
Should Win: “Transformers”…I’m gonna be sick…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie PosterVisual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Glaring Omission: Here’s a word you won’t otherwise hear at The Oscars: “Sucker Punch”
Runners-up: “X-Men: First Class”, and I liked the fast-paced, effects-filled chase scenes of “The Adjustment Bureau”
Great inclusion: “Real Steel”. It’s still hard to make organic objects like people and animals look real. But we can ACE making anything metallic look realistic, and the best thing about “Real Steel” is that you take for granted after a while just how seamless they are blended into the real world.
Will Win: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Should Win: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, for the best organic character creation yet. As opposed to fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-Star-Wars-character-you-like, these CGI characters ACT.

The Descendants Movie PosterWriting (Adapted Screenplay)
“The Descendants” – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
“Hugo” – John Logan
“The Ides of March” – George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
“Moneyball” – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin Story by Stan Chervin
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Glaring Omission: “The Help”. This seemed like a no-brainer in August, but somehow this nomination got snubbed. There are two films here not nominated for Best Picture that weaseled their way in.
Runners-up: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. As you can tell by now, I love this movie, and the script is the movie’s greatest asset.
Great Inclusion: “The Ides of March”. Wonderful liberal claptrap that’s right up my alley!
Will Win: “The Descendants”, winning the “Goodfellas”/”Pulp Fiction”/”Fargo” Award for great movie that won’t win Best Picture
Should Win: “The Descendants”

Midnight in Paris movie posterWriting (Original Screenplay)
“The Artist” Written by Michel Hazanavicius
“Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
“Margin Call” Written by J.C. Chandor
“Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen
“A Separation” Written by Asghar Farhadi

Glaring Omission: “50/50”. If I haven’t made my case for how much I love this movie yet, just watch The Independent Spirit Awards Saturday on IFC. They got the nominations for this movie right.
Runners-up: I got nothing, except maybe “The Adjustment Bureau”.
Great Inclusion: “The Artist”. Yes, silent films need a screenplay, too!
Will Win: “Midnight in Paris”
Should Win: “Midnight in Paris”, a very creative and enjoyable effort from Woody Allen.

That’s it! Tune in Sunday, Feb. 26th for the awards. And hopefully the Coen Brothers make another movie next year.


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