And the Oscar goes to…
This article first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 19th February 2012
It’s that time again. On February 26th, a narrow selection of the hundreds of films released in 2011 will be up for judgement. Here are my predictions of which will earn an Oscar, and which actually deserve it.
There are some great films in the mix, along with some awful dross. While worthy, The Tree of Life is probably considered too “artistic” – nominally a Brad Pitt movie (but really not), it covers life, death, the universe and everything. Critics and audiences were polarised. Alternatively, the charming French silent movie The Artist, about a movie star whose career wanes with the advent of talking pictures, only has one-off novelty value (although the Academy did go for Slumdog Millionaire). My money’s on family drama-com The Descendants – not as innovative in concept as these two, but it works quite simply as a terrific, all-round quality film. And it won the Golden Globe.
The Academy may reward the well-regarded Terrence Mallick (The Tree of Life is only his fifth feature film in four decades) or the innovations of Michel Hazavanicius (The Artist). In terms of a quality “body of work”, my vote goes to Mallick.
Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney won the Globe and is likely to take the Oscar (The Descendants). He’s great, but not a stretch from other Clooney characters. By comparison, Gary Oldman deserves accolades for his brilliant Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – taking the seminal Alec Guinness role of a British spy hunting out a mole in the secret service of the 1970s.
Actress in a Leading Role
The Academy likes actresses who play real people (the Queen, June Carter-Cash, Aileen Wuornos, Edith Piaf) which means Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep (both of whom won Globes this year) look equally promising. Williams lost out last year for Blue Valentine so deserves a second shot for her rendition of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn – but Streep’s formidable portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady will no doubt take this election.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Will win: Christopher Plummer (Beginners) – playing the 75 year old widow who comes out as gay, teaching his son (Ewan McGregor) a thing or two about taking life by the horns.
Should win: Christopher Plummer
Actress in a Supporting Role
Octavia Spencer (The Help) is the critical and audience favourite for this gong, and took home the Globe for her part in the story of Negro servants in the 1950s finding a voice with which to express unhappiness at how they are treated by their white mistresses. Spencer is indeed terrific, but I’d love to see Jessica Chastain win (also from The Help) – partly in recognition of her other excellent work this year (The Tree of Life and The Debt) – although of course the Oscars don’t work that way.
Foreign Language Film
Iran’s A Separation will and should win. A seemingly simple family drama revolving around a couple’s differing priorities – care of a sick parents versus moving abroad – it turns into a morally complex, intense and exhilarating “whodunnit”, topping critics’ polls worldwide and gluing audiences in their seats.
Will win: Midnight in Paris (makes up for Woody Allen not winning Best Director)
And yes, it should. Screenwriter Gil holidays in Paris with his fiancée, where he indulges his fantasies of a Golden Age, thanks to a magical invitation back in time to hobnob with Hemingway, Stein and Picasso.
The Descendants will probably win, to make up for Alexander Payne not winning Best Director.
This would be a worthy win, but when you consider how magnificently Tinker Tailor’s screenplay condensed a detailed, complex plot into just over two hours, the latter ought to beat it hands down.
What a lousy shortlist. Perhaps Rango (Johnny Depp’s smart-talking, cowboy chameleon) to win? Deserving would have been the inexplicably overlooked The Adventures of Tintin, which didn’t even get a nomination.
The Artist’s charming soundtrack was critical given the absence of dialogue or sound design. However, Tinker Tailor’s score is simply superb.
Admittedly only two shortlisted, but it’s no contest – Bret McKenzie’s “Man or Muppet” from the newly revamped The Muppets Movie is bound to have us all proud.