Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

06 February 2012

2012's Nominees: Part 1 of 10

As I do every year in the weeks leading up the Academy Awards ceremony, I will be sharing my thoughts on all of the feature-length fiction films. For me that means 41 films this year (I exempt myself from the documentaries and the shorts). I am generally pleased with these year's nominees, but the truth is, I don't take any of this too personally. My favorite film of the year is The Tree of Life and if it doesn't win Best Picture (and it isn't gonna), I will still love it all the same.

If the nominee has been nominated for Oscars previously, they will be listed next to his/her name in parentheses). This year's nominees:

Hugo
11 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Martin Scorsese (The Departed, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, GoodFellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Raging Bull)
  • Adapted Screenplay: John Logan (The Aviator, Gladiator)
  • Cinematography: Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds, The Aviator, Snow Falling on Cedars, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon)
  • Original Score: Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring)
  • Costume Design: Sandy Powell (The Tempest, The Young Victoria, Mrs Henderson Presents, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love, Velvet Goldmine, The Wings of the Dove, Orlando)
  • Art Direction: Dante Ferretti (Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Kundun, Interview with the Vampire: the Vampire Chronicles, The Age of Innocence, Hamlet, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen), Francesca Lo Schiavo (Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Kundun, Interview with the Vampire: the Vampire Chronicles, Hamlet, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen)
  • Editing 
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Visual Effects
Director: Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Jude Law.

This picture obviously inspired a lot of love, and I have to concede that, though I did not love this movie, it probably deserves almost all of the nominations up there. This is a movie that clearly loves movies, and it is supposed to be a kind of love-letter to cinema, but for me it totally falls short of being the love letter it wishes to be because it is a truly boring movie. I loved Helen McCrory in it, but the movie cannot keep its tone straight and has trouble building up any tension whatsoever.
Will Win: Art Direction, Costume Design, Editing
Could Win: Director, Screenplay, Score, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects
My Rating: #36 out of 63

The Artist
10 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Michel Hazanavicius
  • Actor: Jean Dujardin
  • Original Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius
  • Supporting Actress: Bérénice Bejo
  • Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman
  • Original Score: Ludovic Bource
  • Costume Design: Mark Bridges
  • Art Direction: Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould (Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World)
  • Editing 
Director: Hazanivicius
Cast: Dujardin, Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller.

I loved this movie, and while I understand that it is derivative in a lot of ways, I also think it is inventive and delightful, reminding us of how great silent movies were to begin with. This film, like Hugo, is a "love letter to the movies" and while I am sort of bored by that idea, Hazanivicius's love letter to the movies creates movie magic. This is the favorite. I expect it to win big on Oscar night. As the night comes closer I may switch to predicting Dujardin for the win, as well. And one more thing: looking up at my stats for Hugo, you will notice that the art directors, the composer, the costume designer, the cinematographer, the director, and even the screenwriter all have previous nominations, some of them quite a few. The Artist's artists are newcomers and, for me, are the underdog here, even if their movie is the favorite.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Score
Could Win: Actor, Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing
My Rating: #6 out of 63

Moneyball
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actor: Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Twelve Monkeys)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York, Schindler's List, Awakenings)
  • Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill
  • Editing 
  • Sound Mixing
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Pitt, Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop, Nick Porrazzo.

I loved this movie, too, and I was happy that it stayed near the top of everyone's lists for so long. I think the script is stellar, the performances are excellent - even the supporting players'. I also think that this film is superbly directed. How a movie can spend its entire length telling me not to romanticize it and then still trick me into romanticizing it is absolutely beyond me. I also really want Brad Pitt to win Best Actor, and I am sure that is clouding my judgment here, but I am predicting him for the win. His performance is so great, so spot on, it seems to me, that his big emotive moment, when he is alone on the field weeping, is left off camera. Miller doesn't need to show us how deeply this man is affected by the decision he has to make, because we already know. And we know because Brad Pitt told us in every nuance of his performance. I think it is the best work of his career, and he has given some incredible performances, so that is saying a great deal.
Will Win: Actor
Could Win: Screenplay
My Rating: #5 out of 63

War Horse
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Schindler's List)
  • Original Score: John Williams (The Adventures of Tintin, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Catch Me If You Can, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Patriot, Angela's Ashes, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Sleepers, Nixon, Sabrina, Schindler's List, JFK, Home Alone, Born on the Fourth of July, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Accidental Tourist, Empire of the Sun, The Witches of Eastwick, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The River, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, The Towering Inferno, Tom Sawyer, Cinderella Liberty, Images, The Poseidon Adventure, Fiddler on the Roof, The Reivers, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Valley of the Dolls)
  • Art Direction: Rick Carter (Avatar, Forrest Gump), Lee Sandales
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup, David Kross,  Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Toby Kebbell, Matt Milne, Eddie Marsan, Robert Emms.

Heartwarming. I've complained about this at length here, so I will be quiet, except to say that I fail to understand why this received nominations for cinematography or art direction. Neither of the two is consistent throughout the film. Each of the film's numerous locations looks like as if it were both designed and photographed by different people. And yes John Williams does have that many nominations for scoring. His War Horse score strikes me as unremarkable, but I am unsurprised that he was nominated again.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #43 out of 63