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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Oscars 2012

Another year, another Academy Awards, with everything that means: an overall show that I enjoy far, far more than I probably should, wins that I agree with, wins that I don't, boring acceptance speeches, great acceptance speeches and a boatload of extra bits and bobs that are technically filler but are usually rather enjoyable. And, for the 9th time, Billy Crystal proving once again that no one is a better fit for the show than him. 

Onto some thoughts about a few of the actual winners and losers - to say nothing of the not-even-nominated.

Best Supporting Actress

Possibly the most clear cut of all categories. Octavia Spencer fully deserved her win - though oddly enough, the second best of those nominated is her co-star in The Help, Jessica Chastain. Nice, heartfelt speech too.

Best Supporting Actor

Personally, I would have given Kenneth Branagh the nod, but I can't complain  about giving it to the great Christopher Plummer (again, great speech as well). It was a strong category but, though he was certainly good in Moneyball, Jonah Hill seems like the odd man out. The best supporting actor of the year though was Albert Brooks in Drive but, of course, he wasn't even nominated - nor was Ben Kingsley for Hugo, which easily ranks among his best performances ever.

Best Adapted/ Original Screenplay

A great list of nominations for both categories and very deserved wins (The Descendants and Midnight In Paris). I would love to have seen a nomination for 50/50 in there but, to be honest, I'm not sure who I would have left off for it.

Best Animated Film

Like I've said before, it was not a great year for animated films but, though I haven't seen A Cat In Paris, Chico and Rita seems like the obvious win to me. Rango might be the best of the rest but that's not saying a whole lot.

Best Visual Effects

I LOVE Hugo (more on that later) but the winner here was clearly Rise of The Planet of The Apes. Anything else is wrong. The motion capture in that film was out of this world.

Best Actress

Unquestionably, the most contentious field for me. I do think that Meryl Streep may well be the greatest actress on the planet right now but I don't really think she deserved to win for The Iron Lady. She was good, yes, but clearly very mannered and her impression of Margaret Thatcher simply isn't a patch on her best work. Viola Davis and Michelle Williams would have been better choices but some of the very best female performances this/ last year weren't even nominated. Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg for Melancholia, Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tilda Swinton for We Need To Talk About Kevin and Maria Bello in Beautiful Boy are every bit as good - if not better - than those nominated. And all, I hate to say it, were better than Mreyl Streep in this case - though, yeah, she probably gave the best speech of the night.

Best Actor

A tough one this. Jean Dujardin was indeed great in The Artist but the acting required for a silent film is so radically different from a talkie that it's all but impossible to actually compare him to anyone else this year. Having just seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy today (more on that soonish) my vote would actually be for Gary Oldman for his wonderfully subtle, controlled performance - with George Clooney coming in second for his career-best work on The Descendants. As for those left out, where is Ryan Gosling for Drive, Joseph Gordon-Levitt for 50/50 or even Asa Butterfield for Hugo? To be fair though, the nominees in this category were really good so it's hard to complain too much. And crazy French acceptance speeches are always fun.

Best Director

I actually find it hard to argue with these nominations. Even if I hated Tree of Life, I fully respect Terence Malick's nomination. Honestly though, I would have substituted him for Lars Von Trier for the similar but much more effective Melancholia - even if he is clearly a Nazi-sympathizer/ douchebag/ idiot with a truly awful sense of humour (I honestly don't know which). Regardless those are five exceptional filmmakers and, though I would give the nod to Scorsese for Huge over Hazanavicius for The Artist, the latter more than earned his win.

Best Film

Yeesh, this one's a mess. Considering that there were plenty of great films eligible for this category, it's weird that they only went with 9 films - especially since a few of them have no business being there. The Help is certainly a good film but is a bit too overlong and hackneyed to truly rank as one of the year's 10 best films. Tree Of Life is a film that is beloved by many but I still don't get the fuss. His earlier work like Badlands is far better and far, far less pretentious (A narrative? In a film? Surely not?!) and, for all of its strengths, I thought Tree of Life was far too full of itself for its own good. I could also see an argument against War Horse for being manipulative schmaltz - but man, was that some good manipulative schmaltz - but the big oddity here is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which is occasionally very effecting when its not pouring on a hideous amount of quirkiness. At best it's inconsistent, at worse it's unbelievably annoying (the book, incidentally, is even more quirky but much less annoying) but it doesn't belong here either way.

The other nominees, on the other hand, are all very much deserving of their place here but with the above left out, there could have been place for more deserving nominees like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, We Need To Talk About Kevin, 50/50, Drive - even big old blockbusters like Rise of The Planet of the Apes and Super 8 were more deserving than something like Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close.

As for the winner, I can't argue with The Artist - it's an amazing piece of filmmaking - but, to be honest, Hugo was even more incredible. Both were excellent explorations of the early days of cinema but Hugo was simply - again, as far as I'm concerned - a far more rewarding overall piece of cinema in its own right.

And that about does it for this year's Oscars. Keep an eye on this blog for full - or at least fuller - reviews of some of the films that I have mentioned in this Oscars wrap up that haven't been released locally yet. 

Oh and just before we finish up... 

This year's Razzie's - the infamous worst film awards - will only be given out on April's Fools Day but the nominations were announced last night. All I have to say is that I really don't understand why they nominated anything or anyone else, Adam Sandler and Jack and Jill will surely walk away with all the "awards"? Right?

Oh wait Bucky Larson is also up for some (dis)honours... this might be tougher than I first thought.

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