Month: January 2012

SAGging Along…

It’s been a season of epic one-upsmanship, if you will. What with each new guild, critics circle, and every other organization under the cinematic sun (I still holla at the Central Ohio Film Critics for showing “Melancholia” some love!) throwing a set of curveball winners from the mound of consistent-across-the-board nominees, the most surprising of which was the crowning of the cast of The Help as best ensemble.

Last night’s SAG Awards (Screen Actors Guild, not some sick reference to my Meryl’s bosom) threw another wrench in the pre-Oscar machine, effectively widening the Lead race (both male and female) to two candidates in each category by awarding Jean Dujardin for his work in The Artist and, to everyone’s surprise, recognizing Viola Davis for her contribution to The Help.

What does this mean for the Academy, exactly? To be honest, not a whole lot. The SAG has never had much momentum going into the Oscars, primarily because many of the same members populate both entities. What we usually see with the SAG Awards is a reflection of Oscar voters’ taste for the preceding year, the ceremony a more accurate weathervane that often mirrors Oscar fancy than acts as a cold hard influence. It’s our incessant need to “predict” and “speculate” that drives expectations elsewhere. The SAG could be perfeclty in tune to what the Academy has been feeling all along.

I can’t remember the last time a one-man, one-woman pre-Oscar race suddenly turned into a double face-off this close to the actual ceremony, but consider me excited nonetheless. Clooney’s got a lot going for him, although The Descendants seems to have lost a lot of the steam that propelled it through the Globes earlier this month. The Artist picks up some momentum as Dujardin picked up his SAG statuette last night, and I still see it as the frontrunner for Best Picture. The most disheartening aspect of last night’s telecast came in the form of Streep’s loss to Davis, as it seems once again a crowning performance by the leading legend is going to be passed over for a younger, Oscar-less talent yet again.

Alas, I’ve got more important things to worry about; I’m still silently weeping over the nail in the Jessica Chastain’s Oscar coffin.

Shitting in a sink, dinosaurs with morals, and Meryl Streep; The Very Best Films of 2011

It’s become a standard for me to disagree with close to 99% (I’ve done the math) of what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has to say this time of year. They’re the ones who, by some force of divine intervention, managed to convince thousands that Kate Winslet’s supporting role in “The Reader” was that of a Lead actress (and that it was worthy of praise in the first place); they were the ones who shoved “The Blind Side” into the Best Picture category, tacked on to soften the blow of Sandra Bullock’s wholeheartedly political win for Lead Actress (at least they got the category right). This is also the same organization I’ve slathered with praise in a gut-reaction post earlier today for nominating “The Tree of Life” for Best Picture (though I’ve had time to reflect; my sense of dread in realizing I praised an institution who left out Michael Fassbender and Shailene Woodley grew as today sloshed on).

While my relationship with the Academy has been Whitney/Bobby at best (I’m addicted and can’t walk away to their, um, “substances,” but they’re bound to be the death of me at some point), I always find it necessary for those of us who have no need to be political come awards season share our opinions on the best of the best of 2011. Granted, I’ve yet to see Shame, Pariah, A Better Life, A Separation, W.E., or Pina (Holla C-Market Pittsburgh status!).

Without further ado, here’s my personal Top 10 films for 2011 (#1 being the best, qualifier is being released in the United States theatrically sometime between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011) along with my personal nominations in every category the Oscars deems worthy to acknowledge in their own right (plus an ensemble acting category. Suck it, AMPAS).

Honorable mentions: Carnage – Roman Polanski, Hanna – Joe Wright, Like Crazy – Drake Doremus, Contagion – Steven Soderbergh, The Iron Lady – Phyllida Lloyd, Moneyball – Bennett Miller, The Descendants – Alexander Payne, The Debt – John Madden, The Help – Tate Taylor, Life, Above All – Oliver Schmitz, Viva Riva! – Djo Tunga Wa Munga, Crazy Stupid Love – Glenn Ficara + John Requa, Untouchable Girls – Leanne Pooley

10 – Beginners – Mike Mills

Imagine your father is dying. Imagine he was married to your mother for decades. Imagine the foundation of your life shattering to pieces once he tells you he’s gay. Your reaction might be very similar to that of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) in Mike Mills’ Beginners, a film which chronicles the post-rock bottom resurgence of a man who did each of the aforementioned. Christopher Plummer gives a beautifully intimate performance as the “born-again gay” in question, enveloped within a gorgeously crafted screenplay that ponders not only the mysticism of life itself, but the importance of finding a new one if yours isn’t, you know, working out. Melanie Laurent rounds out the superb cast in this wise, contemplative, progressive drama.

 

9 – Submarine – Richard Ayoade

Coming-of-age tales are a standard in any year-end film arsenal. Richard Ayoade’s Submarine introduces us to Oliver, a meek English teen whose demeanor perfectly matches the dreary, rain-soaked landscape which contains him. The film is characterized largely through its gorgeous aesthetic quality, with ingenious cinematography and intelligent editing elevating a somewhat standard tale to greatness. Submarine is, at its core, just another coming-of-age tale, albeit in beautifully alternative fashion that values the retention of the teenage experience as one ages.

 

8 – Martha Marcy May Marlene – Sean Durkin

State of mind was a large theme running throughout the films of 2011, and Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene takes no prisoners as it immerses you into the mind of a runaway schizophrenic. Big on atmospherics and narratively disorienting editing (intentional effect and affect, of course), Durkin’s film showcases the power of the medium when a talented mind takes advantage of its power to force an audience into submission and feel it instead of simply seeing it. Elizabeth Olsen takes out the entire 20-plus year acting career of her sisters in one fell swoop to round out this disturbingly underappreciated masterpiece from a first-time director.

 

7 – Bridesmaids – Paul Feig

“If this is only a chick flick, then call me a chick!”. Such is the most prominent text on the back of the DVD case for 2011′s smash hit Bridesmaids, written by The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern in his review of the film in May. There are two glaring issues here. The first being the fact that such a statement (no doubt wank to his own clever pairing of words) was made in the first place. The second being the decision of the marketing team behind Bridesmaids chose to feature it in their promo. It’s this kind of gendered pandering (that the marketing for Bridesmaids is fully guilty of as well) that unfairly pigeonholes a film like Bridesmaids into a categorical hole the critic in question clearly felt the need to dig it out of before he even saw it. It’s got an all-female focal cast. It’s written by two women. Thematically it tackles issues of feminine companionship and coupling–hell, it even concludes with a Wilson Phillips (cue the bro at the back of the bar, hands cupped to mouth; “GAAAY!”) musical number–most of which are explored while its leading ladies parade in four inch heels. But its elements like that which force a simple “comedy” one way or another into the realm of being “unacceptable” for a male audience to consume and, as Morgenstern would suggest, enjoy. In recent popular culture, critics and audiences alike will have you believe that ”Bridesmaids” is only “correct” when it’s trailblazing in the romantic comedy genre; when it’s “women telling really dirty jokes and succeeding” and not just “a really fucking fantastic script written by one of the most endearing comedic writers and character performers of today,” which a more appropriate form of praise would be. Bridesmaids is a film which relies more on the charismatic persona of Wiig to shine both on script and screen. It’s a seamless fusion of her screenwriting talents and her ability to work that script into a physical comedic spectacle. The screenplay for Bridesmaids doesn’t succeed on a “Film Studies” level, if you will, but rather simply on being an unpretentious, consistently hilarious vessel for an artist’s infectious talent. Is it so wrong to champion Wiig and Mumolo’s screenplay for simply being “funny?” Or have we in the realm of entertainment consumption strayed so far into self-important territory that we’re afraid to praise something simply for succeeding on the most basic of levels? (the millions who tune in to “Saturday Night Live” every weekend to watch Wiig’s character creations would probably argue otherwise).  Must we really pad a movie that includes a scene of a woman shitting herself in the street as a defining piece of “feminist” comedy in order to legitimize its presence on the awards circuit this year? Some will say yes, it’s not a high enough form of praise to analyze something on the basis of simplicity. I’d rather sit back and laugh.

 

6 – Young Adult – Jason Reitman

If there ever was a time where I enjoyed being whipped around in the “wrong” direction, it was when I saw Young Adult, Juno-writer Diablo Cody’s brilliant concoction, for the first time. The film is a challenge not only to the waning morals and standards of America’s women, but also to our classically-conditioned notions of what a film should and should not “do” for its audience. Closure and satisfaction are two things Cody’s screenplay denies its audience here; we’re presented with a character, Mavis (Charlize Theron), who we dislike at the beginning of the film and despise by its end. The screenplay flashes bits of hope in front of our face and snatches them away and punishes us for ever thinking we were right in the act of expectation. Young Adult is a powerful social comment thematically and structurally that succeeds largely on its refusal to let its audience win.

 

5 – Pariah – Dee Rees

 

4 – Take Shelter – Jeff Nichols

Another film which forces us into a daze of its beautiful atmospherics, Take Shelter showcases not only some of the finest performances of 2011 (Jessica Chastain shines as usual, Michael Shannon gives the best male performance of the entire year) but also some of the most inventive storytelling we’ve seen in years. The film is, at times, a muddled comment on our society’s clouded values, stifled prophets, and familial complacency.

 

3 – The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius

It could have easily become a gimmick; a contemporary picture paying the most intense of homages to the silent era which laid foundation for what we see on screens at megaplexes and art theaters alike, becoming a “silent” film itself. It was through the silence of the early 1900s that cinema was able to become heard throughout the rest of the world, and Michel Hazanavicius’ gorgeous tribute to the “father” era doesn’t rely on its best selling point as a crutch to tell a ho-hum story. The Artist doesn’t just use silence (and the eventual interplay of sound towards the middle and ending bits) as a gimmick, but rather utilizes aural emptiness to mean something within the context of its thematic structure, updating the style of 1920s silent cinema for a contemporary audience and intermixing it with modern cinematography and editing. Gorgeous aesthetics (costumes, makeup, and performance are all spot-on here) round out one of 2011’s most ingenious entries.

 

2 – Melancholia – Lars von Trier

Von Trier’s films aren’t the easiest to digest,  and Melancholia is no different. It’s a deeply depressing voyage into the mind of one of the most pessimistic (misogynistic) artists working in cinema. But judging a filmmakers’ personality versus their input is ludicrous, and Melancholia channels that personality into a cinematic representation of the apocalypse. Von Trier sets the tone for his film on a grim note and lets its implications simmer for the next 120 minutes, building upon the already infectious sense of dread in a gloriously terrifying crescendo. Gorgeous cinematography, haunting performances by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, and the darkest tone this side of Dogville make Melancholia one of the most deeply disturbing films I’ve ever seen.

1 – The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick

The Tree of Life does everything the medium of cinema is supposed to do. It transports, it mystifies, it astounds, it affects, it makes dynamic the world we take for granted all around us. It’s a powerful testament to the medium, reflecting its crafter’s soul in a highly personal, lyrical encapsulation of life through the eyes of one of its subjects. It’s a film that largely defies words, that deserves to be experienced versus watched, absorbed versus interpreted. At its core it’s a tale of familial dischordance, but Malick’s inventive methods of filmmaking convey much more to us than could ever be reduced to a mere plot description. It’s a masterpiece of cinema, one which speaks to us through power which can only be conjured through visual language and affect. A true testament to why “film” gets under our skin, and why dreams like The Tree of Life blur the line between experiential fantasy and the reality  binding you to the couch you sit on, basking in everything Malick wants to show you.

My personal nominations for films from 2011 (Winners announced the same night as the Oscars):

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR: My Top 10 Films of 2011

1 – The Tree of Life

2 – Melancholia

3 – The Artist

4 – Take Shelter

5 – Pariah

6 – Young Adult

7 – Bridesmaids

8 – Martha Marcy May Marlene

9 – Submarine

10 – Beginners

BEST FOREIGN FILM:

Viva Riva!

The Artist

Life, Above All

Submarine

Trollhunter

BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE:

Bridesmaids

The Help

Melancholia

The Tree of Life

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Contagion

Beginners

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:

Charlize Theron – Young Adult

Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life

Kirsten Dunst – Melancholia

Kristen Wiig – Bridesmaids

Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar

Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

Ewan McGregor – Beginners

Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

David Hyde Pierce – The Perfect Host

Brad Pitt – Moneyball

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Jessica Chastain – The Help

Harriet Lenabe – Life, Above All

Octavia Spencer – The Help

Manie Malone – Viva Riva!

Kim Wayans – Pariah

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Christoph Waltz – Carnage

Armie Hammer – J. Edgar

Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life

Charles Parnell – Pariah

BEST DIRECTION:

Lars Von Trier – Melancholia

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Jeff Nichols – Take Shelter

Steven Soderbergh – Contagion

Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Mike Mills – Beginners

Joe Wright – Hanna

BEST SCREENPLAY (ADAPTED + ORIGINAL):

Take Shelter

Beginners

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Young Adult

Bridesmaids

Carnage

Pariah

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Pariah

The Tree of Life

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Hanna

Submarine

BEST FILM EDITING:

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Moneyball

Take Shelter

War Horse

Hanna

BEST SOUND:

Hanna

War Horse

Take Shelter

The Tree of Life

Trollhunter

BEST SCORE:

War Horse

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Hanna

Contagion

The Artist

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Artist

The Help

My Week With Marilyn

War Horse

Things Just Got Really Interesting: Academy Throws a Wrench Into Oscar Season Machine

Forget December 25th; the morning of the Oscar nominations is my Christmas Day. I’ve come to accept that the Academy has a specific sect of voters whose aim is to provide me with a cinematic lump of coal on my would-be day of jubilation (“The Blind Side” for Best Picture, I’m looking at you). But this year (with the help of Jennifer Lawrenceclaus, of course) the Academy decided to bestow upon me “The Tree of Life” (hands-down the best film of 2011) wrapped in a Best Picture nomination, a bright red “Best Director” nomination for Terrence Malick tied soundly atop the package (which also includes a nomination for Cinematography).

I, like so many others, was quick to discount 2011’s crowning cinematic gem out of the Oscar race entirely. Its release date (mid-summer) generally doesn’t bode well with Oscar voters (they tend to gravitate towards things currently in theaters or new to DVD), its concept a bit too abstract (I’m still basking in its lyrical mysticism, trying to figure out just why it speaks to me so heavily in some instances) for the masses. But I give it to the Academy for showing us again why they are the most respected authority in film.

It’s refreshing to see them shy away from the crowd-pleasers and include such an experimental piece, although I’m a little bummed that “Bridesmaids,” which picked up some superb late-in-the-game buzz with the Guilds and HFPA last year, didn’t fill its prophesized role as this year’s dark horse.

If the unpredictibilty of this year’s nominees tells us anything, it’s that the winners should be (hopefully) equally as hard to predict in some of the categories that were “locks” this time yesterday. I have faith that for Supporting Actress (HOLLA! JESSICA CHASTAIN IS AN OFFICIAL OSCAR NOMINEE <3) the Academy will be able to differentiate between a solidly sustained body of excellence from a gifted performer (I usually hate “comprehensive” awards, but it’s deserved here) and a fluke performance from a bit actor (sorry, Octavia, I’m looking at you, boo) . This race just opened up again.

Now, let’s get to the bitchery; “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” for Best Picture? Who said all these surprises were a good thing? Critical response has been lukewarm, at best, and I’m baffled as to how this crept its way onto Oscar ballots in general let alone all the way to a Best Picture and Supporting Actor nomination. This could potentially count as a small smidge of coal, but I’m too busy prancing through my day for “Tree.”

Something else I’ve been waiting for months to say, and now I officially can: OSCAR NOMINEE JESSICA CHASTAIN! After last week’s battle between Chastain and Spencer for the “coveted” (I use that term lightly) Golden Globe (with Spencer pulling out on top) my hopes for my ginger goddess’ rise to the Oscar occasion died a vicious, slow, agonizing death. This set of nominees has me wondering about the Academy’s ability to recognize a sustained and extraordinary body of work from 2011 (I usually hate “compliation” Oscars, but this one is more than deserved) versus a fluke performance from a bit actor (I love me some Octavia Spencer, but come on).

The other nominees were to be expected, save for a few surprises in the technicals (holla for “W.E.” sneaking in for costume design!) amidst some other major shake-ups (“A Separation” and “A Better Life” making a dent in Best Actor and Screenplay? I could holla at that as well…), but all in all I can safely say that this set of nominees has done something the Academy hasn’t been able to do for me in a long time:

For once, so close after the nominee ceremony, I’m actually excited about the Oscars again. Peace and blessings (for this year, at least) Academy.

Full list of nominees:

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo 
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse 

Oscars 2012: Get the latest news, photos, and more

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris 
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life 

Best Actor
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor 
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help 

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash & Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Peter Straughan & Bridget O’Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Animated Film
A Cat in Paris

Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango 

Best Foreign Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)

Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
War Horse

Costume Design
Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
Jane Eyre
W.E.

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated

Documentary Short
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

Film 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

Makeup
Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng 
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (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

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

Short Film (Animated)
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Short Film (Live Action)
Pentecost
Raju
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Sound Editing
Drive
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Monyeball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Short and Sweet: Predicting The Oscar Nominees

I’m just going to come out and say it. I’ve been doing a lot of clinging this Oscar season; clining to hopes the likes of countless guilds, critics circles, and the Academy’s younger, uglier sister (I’m looking at you, HFPA) shunned away this Awards season (I.E. Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene). Am I the only nutjob still banking on “Martha” to pick up some oddball nominations? “Happy-Go-Lucky” for screenplay 3 years ago, anyone? I can dream, can’t I? But, I’ll save the pretentious babble for tomorrow when I’ll undoubtedly be crying myself through the day (the reality that “The Tree of Life” was shunned this awards season will sink in) or skipping (literally) through it (the Academy pulled their heads out of their asses and commended Malick on a job well done! A boy can only hope…). All’s well that ends well in a year where Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock are out of the running for any major awards as far as I’m concerned.

Without further ado, here’s how I see the Oscar nominations playing out in just a few short hours:

BEST PICTURE:

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

Moneyball

The Help

Midnight in Paris

Bridesmaids

Alternates: War Horse, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

BEST ACTOR:

George Clooney – The Descendants

Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Michael Fassbender – Shame

Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar

BEST ACTRESS:

Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Viola Davis – The Help

Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn

Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Alternates: Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs, Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Albert Brooks – Drive

Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn

Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Alternates: Armie Hammer, J. Edgar, Nick Nolte, Warrior

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Octavia Spencer – The Help

Jessica Chastain – The Help

Berenice Bejo – The Artist

Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

Alternates : Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs,

BEST DIRECTION:

David Fincher – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Martin Scorcese – Hugo

Alexander Payne – The Descendants

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Woody Allen – Midnight In Paris

Alternate: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Bridesmaids

Young Adult

Midnight In Paris

The Artist

Win Win

Alternates: 50/50, Beginners
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

The Descendants

Moneyball

Hugo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Help

BEST FILM EDITING:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

The Artist

War Horse

Drive

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

The Tree of Life

The Artist

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

War Horse

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Hugo

The Artist

War Horse

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Anonymous

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

Rango

Cars 2

The Adventures of TinTin

Puss in Boots

Always a Bridesmaid, Never the Bride; Predicting Hollywood’s 2nd Most Important Awards Show

My Golden Globes predictions may be slightly clouded since I’m still a little drunk, but the HFPA is assumedly plastered whilst filling out their ballots half the time as well.

If 2011’s Awards Season has taught me anything, it’s that I watch entirely too much “cancelled but amazing” television series. Every time I pour over another article or set of supporting actress nominations recognizing Octavia Spencer, all I’m reminded of is her three episode arc on “Ugly Betty” (rest its soul), crooning Mariah tunes in a hairdressing salon at ear-splitting levels. She was deadpan and (for lack of more “refined” words) “funny”, her role a gimmicky pleasure for an actress who’d seen more bit roles than leading lady parts (pardon the entendre there, completely unintentional and hilarious nonetheless).

Thanks to her extensive recognition by the likes of the SAG, numerous Critics Circles, and the impending attention from the Academy, she’s now a force to be reckoned with, what with a fabulous turn as Minny “Cooks with an Iron Ass” Jackson. She’s up against the likes of Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”) and Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”). Her competition lies within the performances of  her “Help” costar (and 2011’s stunning breakout thesp) Jessica Chastain, whose performance as Celia Foote moved me (and the many middle aged women in the theater with me) to tears. Breathing down their necks is Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”‘s little-known (Stateside) beauty who gave a brilliantly emotive performance as Peppy Miller in Michel Hazanvicius’ gorgeous future Best Picture winner (both at tonight’s ceremony and on February 26). 

It’s funny that a supporting category has me this excited this year, and I usually dislike “comprehensive” awards which latch on to one aspect of any given film and award a single component based on an entire year’s worth (or career’s worth, as is the case of Kate Winslet’s 2008 win for “The Reader” at the Oscars, which I’m still livid over) of work, but Chastain is the most “deserving” out of the three vying for tonight’s coveted Globe. Most are counting Bejo out at this point, but I’m getting a really uninformed (but legitimate, nonetheless) hunch that the HFPA will be trying to go all Academy on us this year and shower “The Artist” with as many of the second most important golden statues in Hollywood as they can. I know the HFPA isn’t some single-brianed entity making executive decisions in every category, but it’s very easy to see that the Globes are dead set on cementing themselves at the forefront of Awards season (whoring Angelina Jolie and Madonna’s presence again for the former’s “foreign” film and the latter’s, well, “film”) and acting as a mirror to this year’s Oscars is just what I think they’re going to do this year.

My Predictions:

Best Motion Picture: Drama – The Descendants

Best Motion Picture: Comedy – The Artist (Here, again, is one of my many issues with the HFPA: “The Artist” pigeonholed into a category it doesn’t belong in, just to squeeze more Oscar bait into the other category)

Best Actor: Drama – Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actor: Comedy – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Atress: Drama – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Actress: Comedy – Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer, The Beginners

Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain, The Help

Best Director – Michel HazanviciusThe Artist

Best Screenplay – The Descendants

Best Original Score – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Best Original Song – “Masterpiece” by Madonna, W. E.

“Chick” Flicks + “Bridesmaids”; Sexist Praise is NOT More Beautiful than Cinderella

“If this is only a chick flick, then call me a chick!”. Such is the most prominent text on the back of the DVD case for 2011’s smash hit “Bridesmaids,” written by The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern in his review of the film in May. There are two glaring issues here. The first being the fact that such a statement (no doubt wank to his own clever pairing of words) was made in the first place. The second being the decision of the marketing team behind “Bridesmaids'” chose to feature it in their promo. It’s this kind of gendered pandering (that the marketing for “Bridesmaids” is fully guilty of as well) that unfairly pigeonholes a film like “Bridesmaids” into a categorical hole the critic in question clearly felt the need to dig it out of before he even saw it. It’s got an all-female focal cast. It’s written by two women. Thematically it tackles issues of feminine companionship and coupling–hell, it even concludes with a Wilson Phillips  musical number–most of which are explored while its leading ladies parade in four inch heels.

But it’s elements like that which force a simple “comedy” one way or another into the realm of being “unacceptable” for a male audience to consume and, as Morgenstern would suggest, enjoy. In recent popular culture, critics and audiences alike will have you believe that “Bridesmaids” is only “correct” when it’s trailblazing in the romantic comedy genre; when it’s “women telling really dirty jokes and succeeding” and not just “a really fucking fantastic script written by one of the most endearing comedic writers and character performers of today,” which a more appropriate form of praise would be.

I enjoyed the film so much that it currently sits at #5 on my year-end list, with personal nominations for Actress (Wiig), Supporting Actress (McCarthy), Screenplay, and Ensemble Performance. It’s currently looking at two Academy Awards nominations come next weekend (Screenplay and Supporting Actress), where McCarthy will undoubtedly be one of the first of the nominees in the acting categories to lose (Chastain’s got this in the bag). But I even have a problem with that. The industry is all about “paving the way” and “breaking barriers” when it comes to “female” films they’ve classified “Bridesmaids” as one of, but the female acting categories are still given out prior to the men’s. Would it really hurt to shuffle it up every other year? That’s basically telling the pretty girl at the bar she can sit with you and your boys so you look good, but really you just want her to shut up until the bedroom two hours later. Call me pretentious, but I rather enjoy acknowledging a film for being a great film versus heralding it for “breaking” with my subjective perception of a certain genre or mold as many critics praising the film (the Academy is no different) tend to do. “Bridesmaids” is a film which relies more on the charismatic persona of Wiig to shine both on script and screen. It’s a seamless fusion of her screenwriting talents and her ability to work that script into a physical comedic spectacle. The screenplay for “Bridesmaids” doesn’t succeed on a “Film Studies” level, if you will, but rather simply on being an unpretentious, consistently hilarious vessel for an artist’s infectious talent.

Is it so wrong to champion Wiig and Mumolo’s screenplay for simply being “funny?” Or have we in the realm of entertainment consumption strayed so far into self-important territory that we’re afraid to praise something simply for succeeding on the most basic of levels? (the millions who tune in to “Saturday Night Live” every weekend to watch Wiig’s character creations would probably argue otherwise).  Must we really pad a movie that includes a scene of a woman shitting herself in the street as a defining piece of “feminist” comedy in order to legitimize its presence on the awards circuit this year? Some will say yes, it’s not a high enough form of praise to analyze something on the basis of simplicity.

I’d rather sit back and laugh.