Oscar Talk: A Conversation In Advance of the 2012 Nominations

E: I haven’t given you a lot to think about on the Oscar race lately, have I, other than reporting on the Golden Globes?  Well, all that’s about to change.  You’ll of course get my predictions before the nominations come out next Tuesday (January 24th) but here’s a conversation for you with the always fantastic MMGF (My Movie Going Friend). Who’s going to be nominated for an Oscar?  Who’s going to win? Look below for a free wheeling conversation that includes the BAFTA nominations, famous Oscar watchers and their predictions, precursor awards, small movies and big stars, music and television.

MMGF: Hey there! I always look forward to my guest role!

E:  Have you seen?  Dave Karger has his final predictions up.  Why do you think he’s so solid on Max Von Sydow for Best Supporting Actor, when he hasn’t been nominated for anything so far?

MMGF: Isn’t that weird?  Von Sydow just makes no sense.  I’ve heard nothing about him, and that movie seems to be falling completely flat, in awards’ terms. I simply don’t get how the buzz machine works.  Like, I saw Albert Nobbs last night.  Now, Octavia Spencer is great in The Help, and very funny, but in comparison to Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs… well… there just IS no comparison!

E: Oi, I’m dying to see Albert Nobbs.  Probably this weekend.  I’m so behind you.  It’s so funny that you say that, though, because I was looking at the picks and thinking that McTeer was vulnerable.  So perhaps it depends on how many people actually saw that movie….

MMGF: See, if had the chance, I’d probably vote in supporting for Janet McTeer.  I’m hoping there’ll be some kind of weird upset there (since that’s been the quietest damn category this year ever!)  Of course, I’m also hoping Shailene Woodley gets in.  She was the opposite of what my problem was with the characters in The Help – layered and complicated and real.  She was just wonderful.  (Speaking of which, I’d nominate Jessica Chastain for Tree of Life, not The Help.)

E: People seem so ambivalent about Tree of Life, though; in the awards game it seems to be its own worst enemy.  Now, you hear such great things about Woodley, but I wonder – can she really make it in over McTeer or Melissa McCarthy?  Woodley was passed over by SAG.  Then again, she got a Golden Globe nod and a Broadcast film critics one. McTeer has a Globe nod and SAG, but not a Broadcast Film (which is a particularly tough omission because they have 6 nominees).  And McCarthy has SAG and BFC and also a BAFTA nod, but not the Golden Globe.

MMGF: Speaking of the BAFTAs: at first, I was a little surprised by the strong showing of Drive.  But, after thinking about it, it’s so slow and quiet and paced for the first half, and then goes all insane and brutal.  I guess I can see that appealing to the British.  It’s very, sort of Lock, Stock done artsy, I guess.  I’m more surprised by The Descendents, which seems very American, and The Help, which is VERY American.  (I still can’t get over the acclaim The Help is getting.  I mean, I liked it just fine, but the characters were all such cliched archetypes to me, none with any kind of depth or subtlety.)

E: It’s true the The Help is very American, and that African American movies haven’t historically done well in other parts of the world (or at least that’s the stereotype).   I’m a little surprised, but happily so.  I do certainly get your point about the characters belonging to types; much as I liked the movie and the characters, it’s neither innovative or original.  That said, I’ll have to see Nobbs and The Descendants to really know how to feel about it.  Spencer has a warm, magnetic role, and she’s going to be really hard to beat.

MMGF: It’ll be interesting.  Will The Help be like The Blind Side (beloved, entertaining, but not a Best Picture)?  Or more like Terms of Endearment (beloved, entertaining, and a certain Best Picture winner)?  Agreed, though – Spencer herself seems like such a delightful person, so genuinely loving her reception.  And the character, I do tend to forget and downplay how great she was, particularly once she shared the screen with Chastain.  Speaking of supporting roles, interesting to see Berenice Bejo in the lead category with the BAFTAs.

E: Now, I actually think Berenice Bejo belongs in the lead category – that’s one of those weird roles that could go either way, I guess.  Like, why was Frances McDormand considered a lead actress in Fargo, but Jennifer Connelly wasn’t in A Beautiful Mind? If the point is to put someone where they can at least get nominated (or even win), then I can see staying away from Best Actress this year. I actually think Best Actress is a more packed field than Best Actor for once.  What are the most buzzed about performances of the year?  Streep and Davis, of course, but there was also huge press for Elizabeth Olsen, just huge, for Kirsten Dunst and Kiera Knightley and Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara. Huge.  In comparison, the men just haven’t generated the same excitement.

MMGF: Wonder if Albert Nobbs hasn’t been released over there yet, since there seem to be no Albert Nobbs nominations anywhere.  (Oh, just read the EW article above their listing of the awards – not eligible yet.  Will be interesting to see if they get nominations next year.  Doesn’t seem to be any of those this year, like we usually see – acclaimed performances from the prior year in the US.)

E: That’s always an odd thing, isn’t it?  Especially when it’s someone who’s in serious contention to win the Oscar.  By the way,  I LOVE that BAFTA put James Broadbent on their list.  (Now there’s another one who won a supporting actor Oscar for what was really a lead role.)  I mean, okay, he’s English which gives him an edge there, but still, I have no idea why he’s not on everyone’s lists.  He was wonderful in The Iron Lady, just wonderful.  He’s well suited to playing the husband of extraordinary women – why is that, I wonder?

MMGF: And yes!  Good for them for acknowledging Jim Broadbent!  Well deserved!  But in a way, that brings me back to general conversation-slash-EW final picks. Karger’s rankings have moved so little this whole time.

E: And Supporting Actor should have a lot of movement in it, really.

MMGF:  Yeah, other than SAG, who’s talking about Nolte or Warrior?

E: I agree.  I know that movie has it’s proponents, but that nomination is confusing.

MMGF: Or Hammer, in J. Edgar, of all forgotten movies?  (It’s kind of stunning that Leo D. is going to hang on and get a nomination for that.)

E: Indeed – I almost feel like he’s coasting on the huge impact people thought that movie would make, rather than the rather limp one it did.

MMGF: I still can’t believe that Jonah Hill is going to be an Oscar nominee, but that’s such an out-there category this year.  Karger seems shaky on Brooks, but I’d be SHOCKED if he didn’t get a nomination.  And the other slot, well, that’s a crap shoot – who knows.  I don’t see Von Sydow at all.  But, gun to my head, I’d probably say Kingsley, maybe Hoffman.

E: Oh, wasn’t Kingsley lovely?  I’m sorry he’s not getting attention.

MMGF: Man, though, would I love to see that fifth slot go to Patton Oswalt.

E: You know, he got a lot of acclaim.  It’s not super likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out. The Supporting Actor race seems so much more amorphous, especially for that last slot or two.  Sure, you’ve got Branagh, Plummer, and Hill (which even seeing the movie I still find hard to believe; he’s really good and much more subtle than usual, but it makes it clear it’s a weak year for the men) on every shortlist, and Albert Brooks at the top of many critics lists, but really, there are lots of choices, not that much excitement, and a lot of shuffling around.  While I think you’re most likely right about Brooks, I wouldn’t be knocked over flat if he was snubbed.  I wouldn’t be too shocked if the Academy decided they couldn’t stomach Hill, choking on him as they did with Mila Kunis last year. And I can see having an outlier here, whereas with the supporting women it feels more like figuring out which of the top 6 contenders will take the 5 slots.

MMGF:  The supporting women are still tricky, though.  Like, what keeps Melissa McCarthy at Karger’s #2?  Or, even, Vanessa Redgrave at #7?  Who’s talking at all about Coriolanus?  (Oh, and again, duh – Karger kind of explains his McCarthy reasoning below his list.  I still ain’t buyin’ it – I do not see her winning – even in an upset, it’s someone else, not her, I don’t think, as much fun as she was in that movie.)

E: Very true – it’s still a tough call for the Academy.  And no, nobody’s talking about Coriolanus (but damn, it looks fantastic, doesn’t it?).  I can’t wait for it to hit theaters here.   I’m having fits over McCarthy.  In many ways, hers was the most beloved and buzzed performance of the year.  But then she was ignored by the Globes, where I thought she’d be a lock.  She did get a SAG nom, but SAG is way more open to broad comedies than the Academy is.  She did get those two other big nominations, which is an excellent sign in her favor, but I’m just not sure.  Like I said above, between her and Woodley and McTeer?  I don’t know.

MMGF: Now, I’m not sure about Karger thinking Oldman might bump DiCaprio off the list.

E: No, that movie’s just slipped back into the ocean, hasn’t it?  The reviews are good enough, the cast is stupendous, but somehow, it has died with a whimper.

MMGF: DiCaprio just seems like he’s entrenched in there, and his movie being a non-player doesn’t seem to hurt at all.  (Below #6, by the way, I feel like his list and order goes mental.  I don’t even know what A Better Life is, or who Demian Bichir is.  Michael Shannon in Take Shelter?  Woody Harrelson in Rampart??)

E:  Well, like I said, that’s the interesting thing about this year; where are the acclaimed male lead performances?  Normally the men helm the big Oscar movies/blockbusters and there are tons of them.  Not so much this time. (Bechir – who edged out Michael Fassbender for a SAG nod – is a Mexican actor who made a really small but well reviewed movie about immigrants in LA; he’s got a teenage son, and he’s trying to keep him out of a gang.  Embarrassingly enough, I only remember this because there was a picture of the two actors in an EW preview issue, and they’re both insanely good looking.)

MMGF: Oh, gosh, now that you say it, I saw an arthouse trailer for that before something I saw this winter.  I didn’t even realize it was already out.  I’ve been hoping, and thinking, that Dujardin or Pitt could beat Clooney, if not just because Clooney’s a fairly recent winner.  But, I can see them wanting to give him a lead Oscar.  To be fair, I haven’t actually SEEN Moneyball or The Artist yet.  And to be more fair, Clooney was good in The Descendants.  I’m not sure it was an overwhelmingly special performance, though.  (Maybe that actually makes a good performance, though?  When it’s so realistic that it doesn’t stand out?  Does that even make sense?)  And, again, his supporting actresses in that movie were fantastic.

E: Well, as we know, I really need to get to the damn theater and see The Descendants, but I did see Moneyball and The Artist, and can testify that both men were terrific. Moneyball feels really – if you’ll forgive the pun – like a game changer for Pitt. It’s so naturalistic; it’s not at all about his looks or his cool, when those qualities generally play a big role in his roles.  I enjoyed The Artist, so much, but I have trouble imagining they’ll actually hand out acting awards for it.

MMGF: This year’s really seen Brad Pitt truly break out as an *actor* and not just a movie star, hasn’t it?  I mean, not that he’s ever tried to lean on his looks or gravitate towards the junk that, say, a Nicolas Cage often does.  But Moneyball and Tree of Life really may put him on a higher level.  As for Lead Actress, well, while I know the Golden Globes and Oscars have no voter overlap, I still find it hard to see keeping Davis as #1 over Streep.  I mean, really?  If nothing else, seeing the excitement her peers in the audience showed for her win, and the great speech (as always) that she gave, it just seems like you bump her up.  Even if you don’t believe it, actually.  (Because, make no mistake – I think Davis wins, because Meryl always comes in second.  Like you always say, if it’s Meryl vs. X, you always put your money on X.  It’ll pay off every time.)

E: I know I say that – it’s one of my Oscar mantras – but oh, I want to believe!  I’m such a Red Sox fan that way, I think.  This is going to be the year! It’s got to be the year eventually, right? SAG will help clear this up.  If Streep wins SAG, the world’s greatest actress (who is actually an Oscar underdog) might just have her day.

MMGF: Speaking of underdogs, I also think there’s not enough faith in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I would not at all be surprised if Mara gets Swinton’s spot, not even a little.  Even with the movie not doing the huge week 1 box office everyone expected, she’s still something of an it girl, I think.

E: Now, that’s just the sort of thing I’m talking about; why does Daniel Craig have no buzz for that role?  Karger has him down at 12.  But at any rate, Fincher’s surprise Director’s Guild nomination certainly backs you up.

MMGF: I also feel like Karger’s phoning some of it in this year.  I know he says he doesn’t expect Bejo to get a lead nomination, even though she did for the BAFTA’s, and nor do I.  But just by getting a BAFTA nomination, and just by The Artist being so award-magnetic, don’t you put her in the running for a lead actress nomination, maybe at #9 anyway?  Clearly she’s got a better shot than Olsen or Knightley or Dunst or Jones!  (And how is Dunst, a week from WINNING the NSFC best actress award, considered a longer shot than Olsen and Knightley?)

E: I can’t really answer the question about Dunst, but I have to tell you, I’m really surprised that Olsen hasn’t gotten more traction.  People went out of their minds when Martha Marcy May Marlene hit the festival circuit.  I genuinely can’t believe that it hasn’t resulted in more actual nominations for her.

MMGF:  It’s true – she was all the rage for a little while.  Of course, awards seasons are littered with the dried up corpses of film festival darlings.

E: Bwahaha!  What a great line, and what a sad little truth that is.

MMGF: Something that struck me a little while ago, while dreaming of a Streep – Davis Best Actress tie.

E: Wait.  Stop.  Let me bask in that image.

MMGF: Absolutely. My pleasure!  Seriously, how high would you jump in cheering if they announced a Streep – Davis Best Actress tie during the show!

E: I would fall over.  That would be the most awesome thing.  Although, truly, it blows my mind that it’s ever happened, it’s so incredibly unlikely.

MMGF: I know.  I’m always a little bitter that we weren’t around to see the tie.  Booooo.

E: I know.

MMGF:  Now, where was I?  Imagine if, after all these years of being nominated, losing, and then being forgotten by Oscar, then coming back to be heralded by the Emmys, only to make it back to get nominated and lose Best Actress again – imagine if Glenn Close were to win Best Original Song this year, for the song she wrote the lyrics to for Albert Nobbs?

E: Damn, what a cool thought!   I bet that happens.  “Lay Your Head Down” is a sweet, if somewhat slight, bit of music.

MMGF: How crazy but fun would that be?  Of course, it’s an “over the credits” song, which I’m against rewarding, but it’s a good and well-fitting song, at least.  I might make an exception this time and root for it.  Considering I can’t so much think of other movie songs this year.

E: It’s funny.  I love soundtracks, but I feel like this is a really bad year for them.  They’re practically going to have to look at the Twilight movie for songs this time (and, why do they not do that, look to youth/teen oriented movies for music?  If they can go Disney, why can’t they go vamp?) because it is a thin, thin year.

MMGF: Isn’t it weird how sidelined soundtrack music has become?  Remember back in the ’80, when every 5th pop hit was from a movie?  So strange how that’s evolved!  I haven’t seen the Twilight movie this year, but I actually hear that the music was the best part.

E: I’ve always thought the soundtrack was the best part of the Twilight movies (although to be fair I’ve only seen the first one).  There are some good scores out there (I love The Artist, for example) but I’m struggling to think of what else is out there besides, say, something like this.   Which is, of course, from Breaking Dawn.

MMGF: So, sure, I could see that happening, if people aren’t just too prejudiced against those Twilight movies.

E: Which is a big if.  I doubt it will happen, though I bet the stuff they’ll pick will probably be worse.

MMGF: As for Close, she IS a big name, and Oscar does love to give that award to the big name.  Granted, usually it’s a recording star – Springsteen, Wonder, Collins.  But, it could be a nice way to award Close, if they realize she did the music. For the record, I do NOT see Oscar doing that same kind of rock-star-fawning for Madonna and her song.

E: I am so with you!

MMGF: It’s one thing for the Globes, since they’re notoriously googly-eyed for the big celebs.  But the academy, well, so many of them ARE the celebs, or are jealous of the celebs, that I don’t see them wanting to do the same for Madonna.  Then again, I never thought I’d have to say the words, “Oscar winner Eminem,” either, so what do I know?

E: Snort.  You’re not alone there, my friend. Granted, these days I get all my new music from TV. And speaking of which, don’t cry to hard for Glenn Close with all her awards from Damages.  She’s helped pioneer TV for serious actresses.  15 years ago someone of her stature would just have had to stop working; now Oscar nominees and winners take the good work where they can find it.

MMGF: Oh, and yes, you’re totally right.  Glenn Close absolutely paved the way for screen superstars to do TV in this day and age, I think.  And now they all do it.  And it was brilliant.  She was at a lower point in her career, I think, so the exposure was spectacular for her.  And the Emmys have historically always loved to award the movie stars, so it was a good bet that she could win an Emmy or two.

E: That’s true.  The stars used to win for movies or miniseries, and they don’t make those anymore on network TV.  But she opened up a whole new way to work and to win.

MMGF: And win she did.  And who knows – maybe she was a catalyst for that industry to raise its game.  Maybe TV saw how Damages was a great show and was able to score Glenn Close and said, “Hmm, maybe we need to do a little better than LA Law – maybe there’s more room for quality TV than just Lost.”  And now you have Laura Linneys and Toni Collettes and Steve Buscemis all over TV.

E: See, that’s it, I think it really has changed the game.  A cable channel can afford to go all in and grab a Holly Hunter or Glenn Close or Laura Linney, because they only have to have 1 or 2 or 3 shows; the shows just have to be really exciting enough to draw in viewers and having not just a big name star but an impressive actress with great skills helps with that.  It classes up the joint.  It’s gotten to the point where you have a rising star like Gaboure Sidibe who doesn’t fit the normal mold. People (like me) bemoan the state of Hollywood; will she ever work again?  Sure she will.  Because someone wrote her a role on cable. She could have tried to make movies, and maybe she still will since the shorter cable season is more amenable to doing film work while on TV.  It’s just a win/win all around, and it was Close who got us there, and it’s been especially great for women.  The movies don’t have roles for women of a certain age?  Unless you’re Streep, Dench or Mirren, that is?  Do TV.
Of course, in Hollywood a certain age is probably around 45.  But now those women are all over the bloody television, and doing amazing things.

MMGF: Here here!

E: But, oops, we were supposed to be talking about film.  Ahem.

MMGF: Right. What have we skipped?  The big one!  But it’s hard to do anything with Best Picture, not knowing how many we get this year.  (Which – I hate that new thing.  I think it’s silly, and way too arbitrary and forgiving.  I get the argument – some years there are 50 great movies, some years there are 6, why try to fill slots with unworthy films.

E: Gosh, it’s going to be so hard to figure out.  Will there be 8 movies?  6?  No one thinks ten will get the requisite number of #1 ballots, but just how many will?  It certainly makes predicting the nominees more perilous than usual.

MMGF: But I think that’s a cop-out.  Why not instead expect the industry to make better films?  Plus it feels like it takes some of the competition out of it, to get one of those precious 5 spots.)  Were it to still only be 5, I wouldn’t at all be sold on Midnight in Paris getting that 5th slot.

E: You’re right, it’s probably the weakest; Moneyball could beat it, or War Horse, for instance.  Still, with an undetermined number of slots, I’d be surprised if there are only five nominees, and I’d be surprised if Allen’s movie didn’t get in. Of course I did like it a lot more than you, so maybe that’s affecting both of our judgements.

MMGF: Again, I still think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is underestimated.  But we’ll see.

E: It could definitely happen.

MMGF: The much-expected top 4 of The Artist, The Descendants, The Help and Hugo seem right.  Although maybe not in that order.  I feel like The Descendants might have an edge over The Artist.  Not sure why, just a feeling.  I even think The Help could eek out the win, but that could become more or less of a feeling as the next few weeks progress.

E: Well, SAG will help us figure that out, too.  Is The Artist the inevitable winner, or will another film make have a chance? All three of those movies are very much actor’s showcases (unlike, say, Hugo or War Horse) so the SAG best ensemble award will be a really meaningful one.

MMGF: Not that ANYTHING has been changing the race this year, it seems.  Plummer, Clooney, Davis and especially Spencer have all been front-runners *forever*, haven’t they?  It’ll certainly be interesting to find out if that steady prognosticating proves to have been correct.

E: Well, don’t forget Streep’s win at the Globes!  Who knows!  Maybe this will be the year!  Before the nominations come out, anything’s possible.

MMGF: Man, do I love this time of year!

E: Amen, my friend.

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One comment on “Oscar Talk: A Conversation In Advance of the 2012 Nominations

  1. […] I know MMGF and I complained that there weren’t a lot of good songs this year, but seriously, only two nominees?  […]

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