Sunday, February 27, 2011

My / Oscar picks (...and the rest...)

This is a continuation of my category-by-category commentary and guesswork that I began after my 2011 list of my-picks-vs-Oscar's.

My picks at
My picks at

My overall personal preference for the big best categories is pretty consistent...


However, I've got a feeling that NETWORK and SPEECH are the top contenders in the Academy's hive mind, and that because of historic anglophilia and its more recent release date, SPEECH will edge out NETWORK.

When I realized this weekend that NETWORK's been available via Red Box at the supermarket for at least a couple of weeks already (man, I really dislike the big-screen-to-little-screen turnaround getting shorter and shorter... frickin frackin future : P), I started to rethink the "freshness" factor, but decided to stick with my original guessclusion.

Sadly, I think WINTER'S BONE is gonna be marginalized by its difficulty to be fairly and familiarly categorized, "elevator pitched," y'know? I've pitched it at people all year, since I was lucky enough to catch it at the IFFB, and people nod when I testify to its awesomeness, but then get a little lost when I try to describe its plot or sum it up as "Appalachia Noir."

I sincerely hope the nominations have boosted its numbers, for the film and its talented filmmakers.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT does not deserve a best pic nomination. SCOTT PILGRIM, anyone? Come on, people! Lifetime would have done a better job with the subject/s and cast of KIDS than this film does. Bleah.

TRUE GRIT. What's not for me to love in this, right? A classic John Wayne western, directed by the Coen Brothers, starring Jeff "Flynn" "The Dude" Bridges, and launching the career of a precocious actress who gets to play the most wonderful stubborn upstart, more than holding her own against Bridges, Damon, and Pepper. Unforunately, I feel like the Coens repeated visits to the Oscars, along with the film's western-ness itself, will keep it trailing in any head-to-head against NETWORK or SPEECH.

Directing: Tom Hooper (THE KING'S SPEECH). I'm sticking w the KING'S SPEECH sweep logic for this one and going w Tom Hooper. I'd be fine with Fincher taking it as well, cuz yes, SOCIAL NETWORK is some solid crafting of story. Still, I'd be happiest if Debra Granik could take it as a write-in (not nominated : P), and then the Coen Brothers for the punch-in-the-gut fun of TRUE GRIT, but *sigh* whatev.

Adapted Screenplay: SOCIAL NETWORK | Original Screenplay: THE KING'S SPEECH. Gotta go w SOCIAL NETWORK and KING'S SPEECH for these. I *want* TRUE GRIT or WINTER'S BONE for adapted, and ANOTHER YEAR or INCEPTION for original, but gotta go w the big frontrunners.

Animated Feature Film: TOY STORY 3. How does anyone not choose TOY STORY 3? Were there really only three films worth nominating in this category? Is it always three?

Art Direction: ALICE IN WONDERLAND. When we get to the technical and technical-ish categories, I kind of guess at their responsibilities and how I detect their expression in films. I take Art Direction to be a film's look-and-feel, its visual style and stylization. I distinctly remember being impresssed by the sets, environments, and ambience while watching THE KING'S SPEECH. Subtle, painterly, strokes and impressions. Of course, INCEPTION very much IS its visual design, and I am a sucker for its crisp-if-sterile take its dreamworlds. The world of TRUE GRIT is exactly as I would imagine it, and I love it for that. In this category, tho, I'm gonna say that the Academics will be most taken with the boldest moves, and those are definitely found in Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

Cinematography: TRUE GRIT. This I take to be about camera work and point-of-view. I hafta admit that a perfectly shot film is doing its perfect job by not calling any attention to how its shots are framed, so no complaints should translate to high marks. However, shots that impress are things that stay with me, and more often than not, in connection to action scenes, and then in connection to delivering or reinforcing emotion, tone, or even message, which is a tricky thing for me to describe. TRUE GRIT did both for me, and I think if most people are just a little bit aware of such things, they would have to agree. Standout scene 1: Rooster C. vs. Ned's men on horseback. Standout scene 2: Rooster C. delivering Mattie Ross to safety.

Costume Design: ALICE IN WONDERLAND. See my rambling on Art Direction above.

Documentary Feature: INSIDE JOB. I originally picked the Academy picking EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, because I thought that the film's layered and subversive storytelling would appeal, but on second thought, I'm thinking that the blasting of Wall Street's part in the current economic crisis would be more attractive a right-minded topic. So, switching my call to INSIDE JOB. Note that of the nominees in this category, I've only seen EXIT, which is hugely entertaining, if mind-bending once you leave and start thinking about it. Based on trailers and subject, I feel like I would *want* RESTREPO to win. It's a documentary that follows a platoon of U.S. solderies in Afghanistan.

Documentary Short: "Killing In The Name." A pick from the gut. I haven't seen any of the nominees in this category.

Film Editing: THE SOCIAL NETWORK. A detour from my KING'S sweep, I know. I feel like the multiple story and story-teller threads of NETWORK are kept masterfully untangled to deliver a simultaneously scandalous and nerdtastic, and satisfying, tale (*and* featuring Aaron Sorkin dialogue). And such a feat (again, more about the absence of bumps than the presence of something outstanding) has got to be a credit to crafty editing. So, I pick it as the Academy's solid choice. I'd be happier, tho, if 127 HOURS took it. I feel like editing (together with directing - great storytelling) made this film so much more than just a dramatization of a bleeds-it-leads news story.

Foreign Language Film: DOGTOOTH. I originally had BIUTIFUL as my Academy pick, but after seeing DOGTOOTH, well, I probably should still have BIUTIFUL as the Academy pick, but I'm gonna succumb to wishful thinking this one time. DOGTOOTH is remarkable, twisted and creepy, but really, remarkable. Even fun, to my mind. FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, if it was set in THE VILLAGE, and shot by... I dunno... Antonioni, perhaps. I'd love for more people to see this, even if they don't love it, or get it, there are bound to be people who have no clue that they'd enjoy and appreciate this until they see it.

Makeup: BARNEY'S VERSION. I haven't seen any of the nominees, but WOLFMAN certainly must have had the *coolest* makeup. I think the Academics will end up being just a bit more impressed and into the transformations in BARNEY'S VERSION, tho.

Original Score: Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross (THE SOCIAL NETWORK). In the theater, I hafta say that Zimmer's score for INCEPTION is like another character in the film, an integral supporting one. If it was up to me, INCEPTION would win this, with Daft Punk (et al?) for TRON: LEGACY coming in a close second (frankly, I don't understand how they're not nominated, bleah). However, I'm gonna assume the Academy wants to be seen as the cool kids here and go with Reznor for NETWORK. I honestly cannot remember the music from the film, but given that it sprang from NIN, I cannot doubt that it was pretty frickin cool.

Original Song: "We Belong Together" (TOY STORY 3). I know it's Randy Newman's pretty much formula fare, but c'mon... It made you cry, didn't it?

Animated Short: "Day And Night." Pixar magic. I would LOVE to see "The Lost Thing" win it for its wonderful style and BRAZIL-ian story. I would also be very happy to see "Madagascar" win for its pot luck of animation styles applied to the sketches and paintings of a travel sketchbook. The one thing missing from "Madagascar" was untouched images from the original journal. I *really* wanted to see the source artwork compared with or transformed into the animated scenes we see in the short. But, man, Pixar works magic. The highest concepts reduced to the simplest stories, events, and struggles. Not just great animation, but consistently great storytelling. I would love to see what a team of Pixar filmmakers would produce if they were to go live action.

Live Action Short: "The Confession." I found "God Of Love" to be the most entertaining and satisfying of the noms. "The Crush" and "Wish 143" are my next faves, "The Crush" with a wonderful blend/collision of worlds, and "Wish" with a surprising moment of tenderness in the midst of wacky hijinks. "The Confession" and "Na Wewe" come in last. However, I think the craft of "The Confession" with its simple, basic, tragic story, and a couple of great kid leads (all but "God Of Love" featured young ones in their stories), will impress Academics most. I just didn't love it. I thought that it had some great images (the opening with the kids and their burden in the woods) and some annoying ones (scarecrow and its empty stand). It seemed to break its own style with odd "dream" sequences. And "Na Wewe...?" If only it didn't rely on a pun/chline to drive the end of the story. I actually doubt that most people in the theater understood that that was the case, tho, so many Academy viewers may not even know that that strike exists. Also, to leave the escaped child as a question mark... I didn't love that.

Sound Editing: INCEPTION. I really want to give TRON: LEGACY something, but I can't give it this category, the only one for which it was nominated (NOT VISUAL EFFECTS?!). Instead, I like INCEPTION for it, for jumping from world to accompanied by music, apocolyptic thunder, and the stillness and storm of limbo, and believe the Academy will have to agree.

Sound Mixing: THE SOCIAL NETWORK. This for me is about preserving the dialogue of a story against the cacophony of the story's world(s =). I like both INCEPTION and NETWORK for this, but personally give it to INCEPTION and Academically predict NETWORK.

Visual Effects: INCEPTION. Without TRON: LEGACY and SCOTT PILGRIM to give it a proper challenge (I'd have either in there over IRON MAN 2, can't speak to the ones I haven't seen), I give it to INCEPTION.

That's all, folks!

Keep on keepin on~

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