January 2012

The Ides of March

Movie: The Ides of March
What it’s up for: Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ides of March is a fantastic example of how an excellent screenplay makes all the difference. In my last post, I complained that I was frustrated about the way The Help ended. TIM’s ending had even less resolution but the ending completely MADE the movie.

The basic premise of the movie is that Steven (Ryan Gosling) is a consultant for a Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Morris (Clooney). The entire movie takes place right before the Ohio primary (which, in real life, generally does happen in March). I don’t want to spoil the movie but the fact that the title is The Ides of March (when the title of the play it’s based on is called “Farragut North”) suggests to the main focus of the film.

Like I said, the movie is based on a play and it feels like a play – but in the best possible way. Great attention was given to the framing of the shots and scenes. The use of color and light was fantastic. The cinematography and art direction played into the tone of the film very well.

The writing. The writing was SO well done. It also worked SO well with the people in the cast. It flowed very naturally from each of them and every character had their own identity – which was partially due to the lines they had to read. One of the most important parts of a screenplay is not only the writing but how the writing works within a scene. Screenplays aren’t just the words the actors are supposed to say. It also sets the scene and how the camera should focus on the characters and scene as the script is read. It may just be because I was watching for it, but I felt like that aspect of TIM was really strong. There were scenes with very little speaking that were set up in such a way that when the characters did (or didn’t) speak, it was SIGNIFICANT. For example, the very last shot (no spoilers, don’t worry): all it was, was a slow zoom in on Ryan Gosling in a chair with some chatter in the background from other parts of the movie and in that moment, the whole purpose of the film was made.

All in all, I liked the movie. Clooney directed it and I think he did a great job. The crew he chose to make the film seemed to work well together, as evidenced by the product. The casting was fantastic. He worked with the play’s writer to create the screenplay, which leads me to believe that the movie is probably accurate to the play.

Also, Paul Giamatti is in it and I love Paul Giamatti in everything he’s ever done ever.

I’ve only seen one other film in this category (Hugo). I’d pick TIM over Hugo any day. I think the Academy would too. I need to see The Descendants still to make an accurate prediction.


The Help

Movie: The Help
What it’s up for
: Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Viola Davis), Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer)

What a great movie. It’s the only Best Picture nominee that got any real box office attention. (We’ll ignore the fact that it was still only the 13th highest grossing picture behind 12 different sequels/Avenger movies.) It was funny, sad, relevant, adapted from a book, and a period piece – the perfect combination for a good chick flick. That, I think, is what it became even though that’s not what it should be.

Although the movie was continually entertaining from start to finish, I’m not surprised that  it wasn’t nominated for its writing. I haven’t read the book, but I heard that it follows the book pretty closely. However, the whole time I was watching the movie, I kept waiting for the big conflict of the story to happen…and it never did. Yes, there WAS conflict – the whole movie was conflict – but it didn’t have a typical “set the scene, conflict, resolution” structure. I guess the movie was supposed to just be about the process of Skeeter writing the book, but after the book was written, the movie just seemed to…end, without any substantial resolution.

The acting, however, was phenomenal. The casting was excellent. Viola Davis (the lady on the far left) especially was excellent. She really harnessed the pain of her character, Aibileen. Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer (middle and right, respectively) were both hilarious and moving as Celia and Minny.

The movie as a whole was really beautifully done. I’m glad that it has been getting a lot of awards.

Best movie: Unlikely.
Leading actress: Possibly. But Meryl Streep or Rooney Mara seem more likely.
Supporting actress: I think it’s highly probable that Octavia Spencer will win. I don’t think Jessica Chastain has a chance against Octavia.




Movie Hugo
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Director (Martin Scorsese), Film Editing, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay


Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Hugo tells the story of an orphaned boy living in Paris in the 1930s. His father died, leaving him an automaton (the robot in the picture) which Hugo has been trying to rebuild, believing that once its fixed, it will reveal a secret message from his father.

Something I didn’t know going in is that the book is historical fiction, and one of the important characters in the movie was real. That brings a depth to the movie that wasn’t there while I was watching. I thought it was ominous that this movie was nominated for EVERY category except the acting categories (and makeup). The acting wasn’t great. It was good enough, but not great. The kid who plays Hugo is kind of awkward the whole time…but that might’ve just been his character…I’m not sure.

The visual effects are phenomenal. They looked so real and were well-integrated into the live action. This movie actually worked pretty well in 3D (which was surprising for a live action movie). There were also a bunch of “one shot” shots (at least they seemed like they were one shot…the film editing and cinematography were awesome as a whole). The set design was beyond belief. They actually shot part of it in Paris and didn’t spare any effort when taking care of all the details of each shot. The art direction as a whole was awesome! It made it feel like the movie was set in a strange, somewhat dystopian version of the 1930s. The costume design was also eye-catching.

I feel like Martin Scorsese was trying to break out of his typical projects with this movie. What’s funny though is that his style is still so distinctive that I kept expecting a HUGE twist to happen during the whole movie – even though I’d forgotten that it was Scorsese who’d directed the movie. Ha! Scorsese combined with Johnny Depp as a producer led to a REALLY interesting, but not quite complete, atmosphere for the movie. It was definitely artsy and creative, but something was…off. Maybe it was just the acting, but the movie felt unnecessarily drawn-out and jumpy.

The writing was….ok. It wasn’t stand-out terrible but I think it also contributed to the jumpiness of the film. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if it was a better adaptation than the adaptation of Harry Potter. If this is the best adapted script, then I’m not looking forward to the writing in the other nominated films.

The score was great, but not particularly memorable. Howard Shore is such a master (he did LOTR) but this wasn’t his greatest, I think. Even his score for Mrs. Doubtfire is more distinctive. Considering he’s up against John Williams TWICE, I’d say his chances are slim.

Best Picture: unlikely. I haven’t seen all the other films yet, but there has got to be a better directed/written/acted film than this out of that set. I mean, The Help alone stands above this movie just for the directing and acting.

Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effect: Highly possible

Costume design: Possible. But I need to see Anonymous before I could give it to Hugo.

Director: I certainly hope not and doubt it. Shouldn’t a director be held accountable for the quality of his actors?

Sound editing: Doubtful since it’s up against Transformers.

Sound mixing: Very doubtful because I heard at least one distracting, low quality moment where the background noise and actors weren’t meshed well together.

Score: Possible but doubtful.

Adapted screenplay: Maybe…but I need to see the other movies first to be sure.



Rio and The Muppets

Movie: The Muppets
What it’s up for: Best Original Song – “Man or Muppet”

I love the Muppets. I loved this movie. It was clever and Muppety and had a great set of cameo appearances. If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is that the Muppets aren’t famous anymore but the Muppet/human brothers Walter (the Muppet) and Gary (Jason Segel) set out to save the Muppet theater and make them famous again. It is so cute, especially with Jason Segel and Amy Adams as a couple. My FAVORITE cameo was the one that happens during this song. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it is HILARIOUS (if you’re a Big Bang Theory fan, like I am). This one is going to be really entertaining to watch during the Oscars, assuming that they will be performing the nominated songs per usual.

The song isn’t that complex but it’s funny. It’s written as satire more than as a real song. I’m not sure how that concept plays into whether or not it’s better than a “real” song.

Movie: Rio
What it’s up for: Best Original Song – “Real in Rio”

It is a DIRTY ROTTEN SHAME that this movie wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. DIRTY ROTTEN SHAME!!! Especially in a year with no real Disney films. Rio was cute, well-written, clever, and had superb animation. The casting choices really made the film. Jesse Eisenberg as the main character Blu – a neurotic, domesticated macaw that was raised in frigid Minnesota and winds up on a grand adventure through Rio; Anne Hatheway as Jewel – the female macaw native to Rio that teaches Blu how to be a real bird; Tracy Morgan as Luis – the slobbery bull-dog companion; AND Jamie Foxx and Will.I.Am as Nico and Pedro – the hilarious avian sidekicks. I came out of the movie amused and surprised at how well it was done.

Anyway, the song – “Real in Rio”. It’s much more musically complex than “Man or Muppet”. Will.I.Am even has his moment near the end. It’s pretty great. I don’t want to root against a Disney nominee, but it probably should win.

Technically, it should probably be “Real in Rio”. It’s a more original and complex composition.


Movie: Bridesmaids
What it’s up for: Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Writing (original screenplay)

Bridesmaids, OH, Bridesmaids. After being a bridesmaid twice in 5 months last year, I was so stoked to see this. It was great. It was funny, heart-warming, clever, and relevant. However, it was also pretty awkward. It was kind of odd to have that kind of raunchiness in a chick flick, let’s be honest. Everyone praises it for being so, but is that really what we as women want to prove? That we can be as raunchy as men? But I digress…

I enjoyed it, I did. I’d probably see it again. I totally understand why it was nominated for its screenplay. It was very clever and took you all across the emotional spectrum without forcing emotion on you. The cast was chosen well and Kristen Wiig is a comedic genius. Melissa McCarthy was good too, although I don’t really understand why everyone thinks she deserves this nomination so much. Maybe I can’t remember accurately, but I feel like if a man did the exact same thing she did, he wouldn’t be nominated. She is a good actress and she did go from silly to serious well.

Supporting actress: unlikely (mostly just because she’s up against TWO of the great women from The Help)
Original screenplay: also unlikely…a raunchy comedy winning best original screenplay? Yeah, unlikely.

Harry Potter 7.2

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
What it’s up for: Art Direction, Makeup, Visual Effects

Let’s get this over with. I’m not going to waste my time with any sort of summary of this movie. I’m not going to write about how the ending fight scene had my theater laughing out loud as Harry hugged Voldemort to death. I’m not going to mention how incredibly awkward Voldemort was throughout the entire film. I won’t bother you with my rants about how it was a poor and disappointing adaptation that was especially disappointing since it followed a highly successful adaptation (HP 7.1).

I’ll just talk about what it’s nominated for.

The visual effects in this movie were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see any of the other VE nominees, so I can’t make an accurate prediction at this time. From the trailers I’ve seen of the others, though, it’ll probably be a toss-up.

Art direction is an interesting category. HP’s 1, 4, and 7.1 have all been nominated but none of them won (losing to Moulin Rouge, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Alice in Wonderland, respectively). Again, unfortunately, I haven’t seen the other nominees yet. I think it’s doubtful that it’ll win though.

Makeup. ….what? None of the other HPs have been nominated for best makeup and as far as I can recall, I don’t remember anything particularly special about 7.2’s makeup. The 6th grader I nanny (who loves the movies) mentioned that maybe they waited till the last movie to give the franchise an award for makeup. That could very well be true. But, it should also be noted that this year there weren’t any other “mythical” makeup requirements in films. The other two nominated were Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady. It’s likely that HP will win.

Art direction: Unlikely
Makeup: Probable
Visual effects: Could be a toss-up with the other films nominated, most likely will go to Hugo (my completely blind guess…just because it’s been nominated for so many things)

2012 Nominations

Best 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

Actor 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”

Actor 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”

Actress 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”

Actress 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”

Animated 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

Art Direction
“The Artist” Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
“Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“Midnight in Paris” Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
“War Horse” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

“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

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

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

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

“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” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Sound 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

Sound Mixing
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
“Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
“Moneyball” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
“War Horse” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
“Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
“Real Steel” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

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

Writing (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

The Categories I’ll Get to If I Have Time/Access:

Short Film (Animated)
“Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
“La Luna” Enrico Casarosa
“A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
“Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)
“Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
“Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
“The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George
“Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
“Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

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

Documentary (Feature)
“Hell and Back Again” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Pina” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
“Undefeated” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
“God Is the Bigger Elvis” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
“Incident in New Baghdad”James Spione
“Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

2012 is coming…

12 days to Nom announcements. 45 days till the Oscars.

As we all know, Billy Crystal is hosting due to Eddie Murphy quitting. This might be the best thing EVER. Billy Crystal is the reason I love the Oscars. Anyone remember the 1997 Oscars??? Yeah, that was right after I went to see Titanic in theaters 4 times (at the age of 8, no less). That may have been the most defining year of my life in terms of my appreciation of cinema. And history. And large boats.

2012 category news:

According to Wikipedia, here are some changes being made for this year:

  • Best Picture: The final nominees can now range from anywhere between 5 and 10. The nomination voting process will be the same as before, through preferential balloting, but now only films that receive a minimum of 5% of total number one votes are eligible for Best Picture nominations. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number,” Academy executive director Bruce Davis explained.
  • Best Animated Feature: This is now a permanent competitive category, and no longer requires the Board to annually “activate” it. Additionally, rules were amended to give the category more flexibility in terms of the number of nominees it can allow. (!!!)
  • Best Documentary Feature: The category’s eligibility period has been modified. Prior to 2011, documentaries that screened theatrically between September 1 and August 31 of the following year were eligible. This has now been changed to match the calendar year from January 1 to December 31. As a transition period, the 84th Academy Awards will accept documentaries that were released between September 1, 2010 to December 31, 2011.
  • Best Visual Effects: Previously, seven shortlisted visual effects contenders were announced several weeks before the official nominations announcement. This number has now been changed to 10 to coincide with last year’s expansion of the category from 3 to 5 nominees.

Obviously, I’m excited about the new permanency of the Animated Feature category. (The animated feature is sooooo under-appreciated.) The news about the new flexibility in the Best Picture category is awesome. I felt like some of the nominees over the past couple years have seemed kind of forced. Now only the pictures that “deserve” it will be nominated. (Yes, “deserve” is in quotations. We all know that there’s a certain bias inherent in the system. But we deal.)

Wrap-up note from last year:

My semi-educated guesses of who would win last year went 16/19 (excluding documentary and short film categories). I was only wrong about “Music (Original Song)” which went to the song from Toy Story 3 (but we all knew it was a toss-up between the two Disney songs), “Actress in a Supporting Role” which went to Melissa Leo (I don’t agree with that pick), and “Cinematography” which went to “Inception” and not “Black Swan” (again, a toss-up). My goal for this year: bat 1000.

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