Sunday, February 05, 2012

the oscars post, 2011

i've been a little surprised at the number of people who have pestered me for a post here about my thoughts on the oscars. and that's kind of nice, because i was going to write it whether there was any interest or not.

my initial response when i saw the nominations was that there weren't any real surprises for me. yet as i read commentaries by critics and discussion boards by people who are really into movies, it seemed that the acting nominations in particular perplexed and upset a lot of people. the combined facts of me being busy with school, living 100 miles from any decent art theater, and generally not watching R-rated movies has left with indirect opinions on a lot of nominations, but here's what i think:
(if you want to follow along with a list, here you go.)

editor's note: we didn't intend to cover every category in the awards show, but it ended up that way. as such, this took much longer that we expected. by the time our writer reached the "best director" and "best director" sections it was very late, and he has to be up in the morning to hang a shower curtain with marker writings on it and defend it as "art." so, that part will be coming at a future time, hopefully soon, since that's what most people seem to care about, anyway.

the shorts categories are the most underrated section of the oscars. very few people have a chance to see them, but most of these films are absolutely wonderful. and unlike having to spend two or more hours to be entertained or enlightened by a feature, these hit you with a great story in a handful of minutes. a few years ago, byu's i.c. showed most of that year's nominated animated shorts--as well as a few live-action--and it was one of the best experiences i've had there.
as with most years, i haven't seen any this year. they sometimes show up on itunes. i strongly encourage you to look for them.

similarly, i have no thoughts on the docs, feature or short. i have great respect for the field and nearly always enjoy the movies that i see, but i don't have enough interest to actively seek them out.

visual effects
i'm never impressed by a movie solely for its visual effects, which is why my vote goes to harry potter 7.2. it was an excellent movie and the visual effects heightened and augmented that world without constantly reminding you that everything was c.g. i did not care at all for hugo (more on that later) and i'm not impressed by robots beating each other up (which could refer to two different movies in the category.)

i once learned the difference between sound mixing and sound editing. one has to do with the sounds that are created/used for the movie, the other has to do with the levels and how they're balanced. i think. but i still can't remember which one's which. and i'm not an audiophile, anyway. as usual, they're pretty much the same movies in both categories, although i'm interested to know what got moneyball in there, since this is usually the other category that lets michael bay say he's directed an oscar-winning movie.

song and music
john williams, up yet again for another spielberg movie. twice, actually. once my friend reminded me, i did like the score from hugo, but i kind of have a thing for the french accordion stuff. since my local movie buddy has been busy having a life, i still haven't seen tinker tailor soldier spy yet, so i can't comment on that, but my vote goes strongly for the artist on this one. why? because it's a silent picture, meaning that the score needs to fill in the aural gap a little more than usual. and, like everything else about the movie, it does so impeccably. it's a perfect silent score, strengthening every emotional hill and valley of the movie. that's my vote.
(note: i hope dean duncan isn't reading this, since he knows so much more about silent movies and film scores than i do, and i'm sure it's heresy to refer to that as a "perfect silent" score, but this is my blog and i can say what i want.)

as for "original song," there are only two nominations this year? and one of them is the "man or muppet" song? (and the other one's from rio?) it was a fun song and all, but is it oscar material? whatever.

margaret thatcher, glenn close pretending to be a man, and ralph fiennes without a nose (which is actually c.g., so that's an incorrect example in this already gross generalization.) the harry potter world could have been overdone but wasn't, and even though the goblins still look a little funny to me, i'm going with them.

costume design
a few years ago, the head of the wardrobe union (or something) was speaking at byu. i didn't make it to her presentation, but a friend shared something that i really liked. this lady said that in 2006 she felt that little miss sunshine had the best costume design (it wasn't even nominated, by the way), because the clothing was simple yet still told so much about each character.
that sort of sublime simplicity is the sort of art theory i really can get behind (and it's also very difficult.) when i shared this thought with my friend (and favorite wardrobe girl) shantel, she immediately dismissed me, saying that recreating a victorian era is much more demanding and therefore impressive. and that seems to be the way academy usually votes. and so while that gives anonymous and jayne eyre the lead in the category, my vote would go with the artist, because they still recreated an era and i'm in love with the silent era. besides, i've never been more in love with a tuxedo jacket than when peppy miller had her right arm through it. <3

art direction
again, did not like hugo, although i have to admit, it did look really pretty good. spielberg just isn't interesting me (same ol', same ol') and i haven't seen midnight in paris, although i'd really like to. again, the harry potter movies got better and better and 7.2 was nearly flawless all around, so i could go with that. but the artist recreated hollywoodland, and i believed every minute of it. that gets my vote.

editing is one of the most esoteric arts in the oscar race. i'm continually fascinated by how much control it has over the movie (nearly total control...), yet, like directing, i have a very, very hard time identifying "good editing." or, rather, i have a hard time separating the editing from the directing. i have no interest i seeing the girl with the dragon tattoo, but i'm impressed with the work that finches does.

oi. robert richardson (hugo) and janusz kaminski (war horse) are both excellent d.p.s re-teaming with great directors. and, like their movies as a whole, they look great and what not, but its the same greatness we've been seeing from them for a long time. i've really liked jeff cronenweth's work ever since fight club and i'm glad he and david fincher have continued to develop their relationship together (i really thought the social network was very nicely shot.) and, once again, the artist perfectly recreated every technical aspect of the silent era, including the cinematography. and black and white is definite art, separate from color.
but, the tree of life IS cinematography. the movie is essentially a silent film, telling so much of the story through visual images. the majority of it is deceptively simple, a family in waco, texas, but every shot contains enough emotion that you always know exactly what is being said.
it is one of the most purely cinematic movies i have ever seen. no contest.

foreign language
sadly, i don't know about any of these. the i.c. was good about getting them when they could, so i'll have to live vicariously through mark and rocio.

animated film
with cars 2 failing with the critics, dreamworks got two films up there. i missed the night our department bought out the theater to see kung fu panda 2, and although puss in boots was better than we were all expecting, neither feels like the "best animated film of the year." i heard good things about rango, too, although i suspect that those two foreign films that no one has heard of are really pretty good.

screenplay- adapted
i guess i'll start my hugo rant here, since this is where a lot of my issues with it originate. from the first few minutes of the movie and on through the next ninety minutes, the majority of the "conflict" in the movie come because when one character demands an explanation of another, the response is repeatedly, "i can't tell you!" again and again this is shouted and with no apparent reason other than, if they actually took a moment to share a bit of their feelings, the problems would be resolved and the movie would be over in 12 minutes.
i haven't seen any of the other nominated movies (brandon, you have one week before i'm going to tinker tailor by myself) but they all look very interesting to me.

screenplay- original
again, the only one i've seen here is the artist. and, in my initial rant, i stated that it would be a noteworthy movie if it were simply a technical success in making a silent film. but, on top of that, the story is wonderful and i fall in love with it. i'll get to that more in the "best picture" section. the screenplay isn't perfect enough to lock my vote (see 1994 and 2001: anderson), but i'd vote for it.

as for the acting nominations, i don't have much to say, and a good amount of my opinions come from agreeing with roger ebert's essay on the matter. if you've made it this far and still want more to read, i suggest checking out what he had to say.

supporting actress
i loved the artist, but i can't say that peppy miller won me over enough to think she deserved an oscar for it. still, the supporting categories are so vague, ranging from the girl in true grit who was essentially the star, to judi dench winning for being on screen a total of eight minutes in shakespeare in love. as for jessica chastain, see my thought on "best actress."
no other thoughts here at this time.

supporting actor
some people were a little surprised at jonah hill getting nominated for moneyball, but, again, that's part of the magic of the "best supporting actor" category: it's the minor leagues, where just about anyone has a shot.
even though i've seen unanimously lukewarm reviews for the movie, i like that max von sydow is nominated, just because he's one of the greatest actors on the world cinematic stage. (he was the knight in the seventh seal for those of you who need a little help, there)
again, no strong preferences.

first, i've liked viola davis ever since i saw her in solaris nearly ten year ago. and she was brief but memorable in doubt a few years ago. so i'm glad to see her getting recognition here, even though i have not see the help. oscar veteran meryl streep is up for playing margaret thatcher in a movie where, reportedly the only notable aspect is her performance. nice, but let someone else have a turn. i've read that glenn close spends pretty much all of albert nobbs looking stone faced and doing nothing.
who's rooney mara? remember that nice-looking girl from the social network who played zuckerberg's lost girlfriend? yeah, that's her. again, no real interest in the movie, but i'm pretty impressed by that sort of transformation.
still, this is all just unfounded opinion.
who do i think should be up here? jessica chastain, although not for the help but for the tree of life. like the cinematography, her performance is genuine cinema. the power comes not through an impassioned speech that looks great in a clip at the oscars, but in truly acting, creating the character of a mother who captures the deep strength of grace through performance, not words.

you know what? george clooney and brad pitt are such hollywood celebrity icons that it's easy to forget that they're both bloody good actors. and they like to do it, evidenced by their choosing smart films about real characters (see also, "babel"). pitt seems good in moneyball but clooney looks stronger in the descendants. jean dujardin nailed the persona of a silent movie star the artist, but it such a different style of acting that it's hard to judge it here. while i haven't seen it (brandon!), i'd really like gary oldman to win for tinker tailor soldier spy, because he's one of the great supporting actors around who rarely gets the recognition he deserves.
back to brad pitt: like jessica chastain, he should have been nominated for the tree of life. his character was such a finely nuanced performance, a father who loved his children and felt he was doing his best to raise them, misguidedly trying to give his kids the advantages he felt he never had. he was brutal and austere but also caring, stuntedly showing it as best he knew. again, that is acting.

my thoughts on best director and best picture will be coming soon.
hopefully tomorrow.

1 comment:

The Former 786 said...


I'm not going to go into great detail here, since I plan on doing my own Oscar rant post. But here are some thoughts I had while reading this:

-They really should have a place where you can watch the shorts online. I miss Final Cut at BYU.

-I've always wondered about the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. So thanks for that.

-John Williams is amazing. The man is 80 years old, yet he can still manage not one, but TWO Academy Award nominated scores.

-Why is Geoffrey Holder performing "Kiss the Girl" at the Oscars? He didn't sing it originally, Samuel E. Wright did.

-Two songs? That seems like such a slap in the face to all those who wrote original songs and weren't even nominated.

-I felt Puss in Boots was flat and Cars 2 was boring. Why so many sequels in this category?

-You hit on a pet peeve of mine in film and TV. When characters say they don't have time to explain, they probably do, but they just don't want to get things done quicker and safer.

-Gosford Park was a good screenplay. Amelie is better.

-I have very little respect for Mr. Ebert. And yet I called him "Mr."

-Jessica Chastain was fantastic in The Help. I look forward to seeing more performances from her.

-Jonah Hill?

-Whoa! I had NO idea that Rooney Mara was in the Social Network. Mind = blown!!

-Brad Pitt played Brad Pitt in Moneyball. Don't get me wrong, Brad Pitt is very likeable (see Ocean's 11), but I like it when he plays something different than himself (see 12 Monkeys).

Can't wait to see more thoughts!