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84th Annual Academy Awards Poster

84th Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

I must profess from the gate, that I've really enjoyed the movies in this year's race. They're not all great but they are better as a whole than they have been over the last few years. As such, the race is uncommonly tight across the board. While there's still a frontrunner or two, "Hugo" and "The Artist", with almost double the nominations of the next film in line, they're certainly not meant to sweep. And the fact that both of these films are Love Letters to Hollywood makes picking between them somewhat difficult. So, this may not be a stellar year for me with the Pick List but who doesn't love a little challenge...?

-m-




Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 13 out of 19 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – The Artist The Artist
Best Director – The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Best Actor – The Artist - Jean Dujardin The Artist - Jean Dujardin
Best Actress – The Help - Viola Davis Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor – Beginners - Christopher Plummer Beginners - Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress – The Help - Octavia Spencer The Help - Octavia Spencer
Best Animated Picture - Rango Rango
Best Screenplany (Original) – Midnight In Paris - Woody Allen Midnight In Paris - Woody Allen
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – The Descendants - Alexander Payne (and co...) The Descendants - Alexander Payne (and co...)
Best Cinematography – Hugo Hugo
Best Art Direction – Hugo Hugo
Best Costume Design – Anonymous The Artist- Mark Bridges
Best Makeup – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 The Iron Lady - Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland
Best Film Editing – The Artist The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Best Original Score – The Artist - Ludovic Bource The Artist - Ludovic Bource
Best Original Song – The Muppets - Man or Muppet The Muppets - Man or Muppet
Best Sound Mixing– Moneyball Hugo - Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Best Sound Effects Editing – Hugo Hugo - Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Best Visual Effects – Rise of the Planet of the Apes Hugo - Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning
Best Foreign Language Film - No pick  
Best Documentary (Feature) - No pick  
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Animation) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Live Action) – No pick  

PICTURE – Lets really try to break these down a bit. “The Descendants” is the "Little Movie That Can't", it's this year's "Juno" or "Up In the Air" but not nearly as cute or moving, bummer too because it's worth a watch. "Moneyball" is baseball without the emotional attachment. "War Horse" is the emotional attachment with the "...but I’m not in love with you" part. "The Tree of Life" is entirely too poetic and painful (slow, arduous, and filled with questions like "Why am I watching this?"). “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is ordinarily fine but not as fine or enjoyable as "Midnight In Paris" which is a wonderful postcard from a dear friend lost in time. That kind of describes "The Help" too except it's more about lost people in another time. Both films are Open Letters from other eras and as such have the typical sense of Timeliness that suits Oscar. But "Hugo" and "The Artist" are Love Letters to film itself, and as such have a sense of Timelessness that Oscar awards with gold. Look for both movies to be big winners this year. So, for Best Picture we have "Hugo", with the superb and unnominated Ben Kingsly planting a gentle Scorsese kiss or two on the ass of the Academy. I'm not knocking the film, it's seriously one of the best of the year and knowing Scorsese's love of film restoration, “Hugo" speaks loudly of the history and preservation of the Industry whereas "The Artist” simply shuts it's mouth and let's the images do the talking. I'm conflicted; mildly, and often lose this category because I go with My Pick over the Academy's, but not this year. My Academy Pick for the 2012 Oscar crown goes to the quiet triumph of "The Artist".

DIRECTOR – Terrance Mallick has made a very pretty looking film, filled it w/ poetry, and even a point, but it can be as big a chore to watch, as it must have been to make; this does not translate to Oscar honors. Alexander Payne delivers a perfectly good film with "The Descendants" and that solidity ensures his loss as a director this year. Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris" is as much a love letter to words and writers as it is to Paris and it's culture in the last century and it's wonderfully done; but it will lose out to the more Academy directed love letters of both "The Artist" and "Hugo". Scorsese has done wonders w/ "Hugo", it's Great it truly is, but it feels like Promotion rather than Michel Hazanavicius' magnetic Attraction of "The Artist". The Academy will honor both the film and man who put a silent movie back on the Silver Screen with such life.

ACTOR – I didn't see "A Better Life" and I've never heard of Demain Bichir and this category is full of heavyweights this year. Not that that will matter though... Gary Oldman can't win for so drab a role. Gary's meant to impress and I expect his eventual win will come from a more Pacino-esque role. Brad Pitt is a perfectly believable baseball GM. I wouldn't have expected it (because of the role not the actor), and I hope Brad gets his eventual due; he'll have well earned it by then. George Clooney never fails to impress me; this time around with his eloquent use of the F-word. However, this year Oscar is giving his gold to the "silent treatment". More to the point, the Academy gets it right and honors the outspoken expressiveness of Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"; With Pleasure.

ACTRESS – Man, this is the one category that I didn't get complete. In fact I've only seen 2 of the films and that's horrible, not just for my picks but because I really wanted to see Glenn Close and Michelle Williams do what they do so well. While being touted as Glenn Close's career defining performance in "Albert Nobbs", (and the Academy goes for the "Victor/Victoria", "Boys Don't Cry" type of androgyny) there simply aren't enough "other award" wins to guarantee her Academy recognition and to me that's how this category pans out this year. Those lack of wins carry over to both Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams, the differing factor between the two is Oscar's desire to award a classic American icon in Marilyn Monroe and the clearly talented enough for Us (the Academy) Michelle Williams rather than the long overdue Streep and the British icon of Margaret Thatcher, I think the Academy will pass on both, in that order. Now let's take the dark horse Rooney Mara and let her lie. She was phenomenal in the opening 10min of "The Social Network" last year and hasn't received enough recognition for her work as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"; I see no reason for that to change here. So what we have in the end is the perfectly suited Viola Davis whose work and recognition in and outside of "The Help" have justifiably earned her Oscar's hand.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – What an uncomfortable category this year. The deserving winner, Albert Brooks ("Drive") was snubbed and so we're left with a collection of mediocrity from some world-class talent. This is most notably witnessed from this year's winner Christopher Plummer. His performance in "Beginners" is not, in my opinion, an award worthy transformation but I see no reason for the Academy to deny him. He'll get the World Class, Elderly, Gay, and Overdue votes (this is not sexist or ageist so shut your mouth). To cover the rest of the nominees, there's Jonah Hill for "Moneyball", I see no point in this whatsoever. Nick Nolte's character is an outsider in "Warrior" and plays pretty much the same role in this category. Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn" has been making a slow and silent resurgence as a director and actor in Hollywood, serious kudos to him. If his pace continues the Academy may well come to love him again. It's Max von Sydow however who gets my personal vote this year. He was the best part of "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", letting the tattooed Yes and No's do the majority of his talking, leaving his figure to carry the weight of his acting. I enjoyed his performance much more than Christopher's but whatever...

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Let's follow the Jonah Hill School of 'moving on' when discussing “Bridesmaids” at all, shall we (this is not really a question). And I totally failed on the “Albert Nobbs” card but I’m not really worried when it comes to supporting actresses. So let's talk about "The Help"s double whammy of Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer. Jessica is fast becoming an actress of warrant but I'm going to bet against her here for two reasons: 1) she's better in The Tree of Life and 2) Octavia Spencer has the better role and equally better performance in "The Help". However, I have to acknowledge the split vote for two actors in the same film and that applies here as Octavia's well above Jessica in “The Help” but Jessica is a star on the rise and she looks to be a powerful one. The Academy could easily be out to acknowledge their Hope in her. This devastates me because I'm all about Berenice Bejo in "The Artist". There's little argument from me when it comes to matching Jean's Oscar winning performance smile for smile, look for look, and step for step, which "The Knight's Tale" actress (I know right...? She was slyly beautiful there too) does masterfully. In the end a win for Octavia gives the Actress categories a well deserving and touted pair of Oscar winners to parade. I kinda like the math of that when picking a winner here.

ANIMATED FEATURE  – How do I even pick this one this year? I have a difficult time picking categories where a number of the films are unavailable for viewing, "A Cat In Paris" and "Chico & Rita" are this year's case in point. Not only are they unviewable, but also I have no point of reference for them. Both are foreign and "Chico & Rita" is adult themed. My point is how do I mix these with the more kid friendly "Kung Fu Panda 2" or "Puss In Boots"? Grrr... I think I'll play it safe and choose the mostly fair to mid-land "Rango"; everyone else has. And it just might give Johnny Depp his first Oscar (he's a producer on this one, you know).

SCREENPLAY ORIGINAL – “A Separation” gets a commendable nod, while this “Bridesmaids” nomination is a joke. “Margin Call” I’m watching today but like “The Ides of March” in the Adapted category, is all alone without hope. Now we get to the Meat because this is one of the 2 categories I’ve had to rethink and it’ll be the 2nd Oscar that I’ve taken away from “The Artist”. Originally I thought, how could the Academy deny a script for a film without a spoken word, one they honor with a Best Picture Oscar? This seemed like a lock for me, but the more I thought about it the more I realized what a perfect opportunity I was missing by denying Woody Allen and "Midnight In Paris". It’s the best thing he’s written in years, I think, and it keeps with this year’s whole Love Letter theme, in Woody’s case a love letter to Paris, Words, Writers, Time, and Himself. Good job with this one Woody.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – As I’ve said, the Screenplay awards are by far the most liberal categories for giving Oscars more so that the Supporting categories. As such, a film can be awarded this prize and therefore be completely ignored in the upper-crusted (Picture, Director, Acting) categories; "Pulp Fiction", "Lost In Translation", "Juno" (Original Screenplays) are great examples of this, and yes it carries over to the Adapted category as well, see "Sling Blade". I bring this up because I’m not sure how liberal the Academy will be this year. I see no reason for the Academy to honor the one note “Ides of March” it’s not even that good of a movie, “Moneyball” on the other hand is a good movie about America's Favorite Pastime but it's not classically endearing like say 'The Natural" or even "Field of Dreams", hell it's not as endearing as "The Sandlot". "Hugo" is a difficult drop for me. I think this is a really good choice for a win; worthy by all accounts, but today I'm just not feeling it. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" should be the obvious choice but I'm totally unimpressed. The accolades for this film feel contrived and given simply on its pedigree and collection of Oscar caliber talent, it's not a bad movie or overall execution, its just "Eh..." and I can't commit to Oscar gold on that. So I'm back to 'The Little Movie That's Can't' this year in the "Descendants", oh hell why not, Let's Get Liberal!

PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION – This category is about the world created for the film. The shops, the cars, the dressers, and trinkets, the little (and not-so little) things that go to make up the life of the film. Considering that, I'd like to direct your attention to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2". The same set designers have been nominated 4 times now for their work on the franchise and have yet to win. The Potter team could find itself winning for the simple fact that there will be no more films in the franchise, but I'm not so sure. I'm really fond of the family cottage in "War Horse", and the 'No Man's Land' between the trenches has some nice barbed wire, wood, and merit, but overall I'm not feeling the film as an Art Direction winner. "Midnight In Paris" has some wonderful sets and they're filled w/ a cast whose dialogue and cafe music infuse everything with life but I think the Academy is buying something far more classic here. "The Artist's" sets are not anything incredible to speak of but they're shot and colored in a black & white feeling that gives them a better chance than the other films. But the bottom line is that "Hugo" is literally a clockwork marvel, both in and out of its time. Here's where "Hugo" begins to reap its Oscar rewards.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has nary an impressive look while "War Horse" feels like it's trying too hard to be an epic, instead of just being one. "The Tree of Life" loses itself for a time in its cinematography, to the detriment of its story, thereby turning Academy voters off from it. "The Artist" on the other hand makes a real treat out of it's Pan & Scan look, enough to take the Oscar gold but I'm going to look to Robert Richardson and his work on "Hugo". Robert's been nominated a stockpile of times, winning Oscars w/ both Oliver Stone (JFK) and Martin Scorsese (The Aviator) "Hugo" is shot w/ the same love of film that the film is trying to express, and its far less pretentious than those dinosaurs...

Note: Richardson has shot almost all of Oliver’s films, a bunch for Marty, and at least 4 Quentin Tarantino films; says something about the man’s work doesn’t it?

FILM EDITING – "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is not clunky but it's really not quite right. I mean there's a lot of story to tell here and it doesn't feel clean in this instance. "The Descendants" simply doesn't have enough story to feel transitions at all. And I'm going to step off of "Moneyball" here in hopes for a Sound Mixing award, which it’s better suited for. So I'm back again to "Hugo" and "The Artist" and while 'Hugo" may be the more technically edited film, "The Artist" simply wouldn't exist without an editor to tell its silent story so well.

COSTUME –In a hopeful landslide it’s “Anonymous”, (which is a great film, by the way). We’ll take Elizabethan Shakespeare over the drab attire of “Jane Eyre", "W.E.", and "Hugo". Even "The Artist's" 20's era garb is not as exceptional, if exceptional at all, as the grand designs of "Anonymous".

MAKEUP – I don't really see a reason for "The Iron Lady", or most modern era films in this category. "Benjamin Button" was an exception and by all accounts I should be ready for that, but I don’t think Glenn’s transformation in “Albert Nobbs” is up to “Harry Potter’s” final bow.

ORIGINAL SCORE – Mr. Williams, Mr. Williams, a double dose again this year. For my vote it’s “Tin Tin” over “War Horse”, both beating the banal “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy”, while “Hugo” pales in comparison to “The Artist”, who’s sole (or soul) voice comes from it’s score. Academy Duh…!

ORIGINAL SONG – OMGYG! These songs Suuuck! Both of em. Man or Muppet from “The Muppets” has a nice Barry Manilow throwback feel but; wait…What? Yea, that’s what I said…! I was going to go with “Rio”s Real In Rio instead. The song’s not great or memorable but it’s got more going on in it; it’s busier. And then I played Man or Muppet for a friend and I couldn't get the stoopid thing out of my head. I'm deathly afraid this will happen to the Academy members, thus acquiring Oscar gold. Good for the Muppet franchise, but ugh, this is terrible.

SOUND MIXING – "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" just doesn't work for me in any category, other than an Opening Title Sequence category, which doesn't exist, so neither does Oscar for the film. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" has so much going on that I'm just over it. "War Horse" I just can't get behind, perhaps to my own loss in this category but the sounds of 'War' have been done and there are other genres to honor. "Hugo" would be a good choice and is probably the front-runner but I can't get past this moment in "Moneyball" when there is the perfect storm of Sound Effects Editing, Score, Cinematography, and Film Editing (it's right at the apex of #20 if you're looking for the spot. If you're not holding your breath you're in the wrong moment); it’s the kind of moment that Sounds like Oscar gold to me.

SOUND EDITING – Effects Editing, the creation of sound (few better than Ben Burtt's work in “Wall-E”, personal opinion). I don’t see a reason for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” here. “War Horse” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” are really rather overplayed, technically speaking. Leaving the sole nomination for “Drive” to ride itself out of Dodge in favor for the more inspired sounds of “Hugo”.

VISUAL EFFECTS – The only hope I have here is a process of elimination, and I’m not so confident of that this year. This may be the best collection (equally across the board in Merit) of nominees I’ve come across, so “Xtra F’ing Yahoos!” to the winner right out of the gate. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” have had their time in Oscar’s sites without recognition. So wins here are for years of overall achievement, which I’m really not feeling from the Academy this year. “Real Steel” was to be my Number 2 pick. The simple fact of seeing these robots do what they do in the real world accompanied by the pseudo-emotion of the film works strong in its favor. They work stronger however, and fulfillingly, in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, my pick to win this year. Even over “Hugo’s” special effects laden story about special effects. Hail Caesar…!

-m-


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

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