Monday, January 30, 2012

Guild Winners: We have ourselves a race

Three major guilds decided their winners in the past week, shaping the way for the final outcome of the Oscar race. The good news is that, at least in the lead acting categories, we do have an actual race!

Producers Guild of America 

Thomas Langmann wins for producing The Artist
basically confirming the trajectory it has been on since Cannes. It is taking the prize, people! 

For animated features, Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy & Steven Spielberg win for producing The Adventures of Tin Tin, not that that will help any on Oscar night, as their film was not nominated.

On TV, Martin Scorsese & co take the Episodic Television Drama prize for Boardwalk Empire, the extensive list of Modern Family producers which I don't care to re-type win for Episodic Television Comedy and Julian Fellowes et al take the Long-form Television prize for Downton Abbey.

Directors Guild of America

Martin Scorsese had an outside chance with Hugo, but Michel Hazanavicius's way to the Oscar podium has been solidly paved with his expected win for The Artist. 

For an American Guild award, this is the second consecutive year that the DGA awarded a foreign director over a viable American option. Which is frankly admirable.

TV-wise, Patty Jenkins wins the Dramatic Series prize for directing The Killing pilot, Robert B Weide takes the Comedic Series prize for Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, Palistinian Chicken & Jon Cassar wins the TV Movie / Mini-series prize for directing The Kennedys.   

Screen Actors Guild of America
The Screen Actors Guild takes things in a slightly different direction than what we saw at the Golden Globes, meaning that we have a race on our hands!

Female Actor in a Leading Role
Viola Davis - The Help

The Golden Globes gave their prize to Meryl Streep (Drama) & Michelle Williams (Musical / Comedy), but with Viola Davis' SAG (& previous Critics' Choice) win, we have a three-legged race on the go. Meryl Streep won the SAG in 2009 for Doubt (the Oscar went to Kate Winslet for The Reader) & has often given strong support to Viola Davis' campaign. The Help has huge Box Office earnings behind it & a big cast of respected actresses, so a Help sweep at SAG was to be expected (it took three in total). At the Oscars, however, it's not just the actors calling the shots and Meryl Streep's third Oscar (her second as Best Actress & her first out of 13 nominations since 1982) is long overdue. The Streep / Davis race is on, and I'm sure it's a bittersweet one for both Actresses. Second runner-up Michelle Williams should start preparing her speech in case a Davis/Streep vote split puts her on the podium as it did Adrien Brody in 2002 - when frontrunners Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt) & Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York) cancelled each other out.  

Male Actor in a Leading Role
Jean Dujardin - The Artist

SAG leans comedy & awards Jean Dujardin's charming old-school physical comedy performance, propping him up as a very real contender to George Clooney for The Descendants. My money is on Dujardin getting swept up in the The Artist wave.

Performance by a cast in a Motion Picture
The Help

I don't see this as a sign that The Help could in any way upset The Artist's Oscar chances. Nevertheless an impressive win.

Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Octavia Spencer - The Help

As expected, and all the way to the Oscar podium.

Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christopher Plummer - Beginners


Male Actor in a TV Movie / Mini-series
Paul Giamatti - Too Big to Fail

Female Actor in a TV Movie / Mini-series
Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce

Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire

Female Actor in a Drama Series
Jessica Lange - American Horror Story

Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock

Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White - Hot in Cleaveland

Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire

Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Modern Family

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Salvador Dali Interview

"At the base of his ideas is cauliflowers & rhinoceros horn" Salvador Dali, everyone! This is great for so many reasons: Dali, the authentic period eccentricities, the very high importance placed on the cigarette... By way of current zeitgeist reference, it's like Mad Men meets Midnight in Paris. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar de-brief, or: why the middle of the road is not such a bad place

For those of us who follow the Oscar season pathologically, it can be a strange time really caring which films get nominated & which don't. For me it started with watching the Oscars & the Golden Globes to see which films I should be watching (I was naive back then), and because there is something undeniably 'historic' about each year's Oscar choices. Although they can be random & middling, they have an impact, people notice & a certain prestige attaches itself to these films. It makes it an interesting race to watch & when I feel weird about it I just remember that other people watch football & really, really care. The more I watched the Oscars, the more I wanted to know what each category meant (Art Direction used to be a real puzzler), which helped me learn more about film and, more importantly, the more I wanted to know which contenders - especially actors - didn't make it to the final countdown, but could have / should have, who was in the running. The race, not just the nominees became the fascination.

These days I still watch with interest, but evidently far less emotional investment than many others, for which - truth be told - I am grateful. Perhaps because I have accepted that the Oscars are what they are & that it's okay if the movies I love aren't recognised, because that's not the point. As Sasha Stone so wisely puts it - the trick is not minding. Of course I dramatically widen my eyes when they do strange things like nominate three songs from Enchanted over anything from Into the Wild, or snub Albert Brooks, but in the final equation, the Academy's vote may hold more social sway, my devotion to the film's I love is validation enough.

That being said, I am pleased with this year's nominations. There are some very good surprises, like Gary Oldman & Demian Bichir for Best Actor, and some insignificant poor points, like snubbing basically all the year's original songs. On the actors' front, I am very pleased to see Rooney Mara included, as I have long predicted her as the pretty young thing to beat all the others (Elizabeth Olsen, Felicity Jones, even Kirsten Dunst), although I thought her nomination would be at the expense of Glenn Close, not that Close would edge out Tilda Swinton. I was really, really excited about a Best Actress nomination for the great Swinton, but I should have known better than to count out Glenn Close. I haven't yet seen her film (which seems to drain many of pleasant things to say about it), but as a career Actress, there's no doubt she deserves to be back in the race. She is a skilled performer & unlikely to give a bad performance, perhaps just not the one people expected.

Close's nomination also screwed with my Supporting Actress nominations, as I didn't think Janet McTeer would get in without Close, and I was betting against Close. But there they both are & I am very pleased for Janet McTeer, even though I thought Shailene Woodley had too much traction to miss.

Although it's sad to see Michael Fassbender shut out after all that, it does warm the heart to see both Gary Oldman & Demian Bichir in the race. The Albert Brooks burn in Supporting is another shocker, although I suppose it could have been expected. The solitary Sound Mixing nod for Drive is almost insulting but it was never going to be an Oscar film anyway. And my big emotional investment was in Nick Nolte, anyway, which paid off beautifully. Now just build him a campaign to threaten Christopher Plummer's (probably too late to upset that cart).

The Academy shows some keen insight into what made Moneyball so appealling, nailing it on the head with its nominations select nominations for the performances, the screenplay, the editing & the sound mixing. A perfect example of what distinguishes sound mixing from sound editing, if ever there was one.

I also thank the Academy for including The Tree of Life, however. A single weirdy choice that makes all the middle of the road nominees quite okay. That one film that we will still be talking & writing about in years to come, even though it is probably the one to make your average film goer widen their eyes dramatically.

And on that note - as long as they include the odd Tree of Life, I am happy for the Academy to settle on the  more Oscar-y middle of the road films like The Help, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris & even The Ides of March (with its single nomination). These may not be the most exciting films in a year of pretty exciting films, but the Oscars are not about honouring art, per se, but honouring Cinema. Bear with me. Sure cinema can be high art & it is exhilarating to those of us who like them, but to the vast majority of cinema goers, an awards body celebrating only the most extreme or groundbreaking in cinema would be fatally marginalising. The reason the Oscars are what they are is because they are able to balance art with entertainment. A vast majority of cinema goers are not primarily there for the art, and that is okay. It would be insanely elitist to assume that true cinema excludes them. Cinema, at it's heart is about enthralling the masses, and I truly do applaud the Academy's ability to find the balance. Awarding quality - if not sensational - films that everyday people actually liked is what makes people take them seriously, so when they lean more left of centre, say to No Country for Old Men or even The Hurt Locker, people pay attention, and it means something for those films.

Films like Moneyball, The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris & even the uneven, but very affecting The Help, are quality, thoughtful films that I can recommend to friends who do not share my appetite for challenging cinema. Films that they will be willing to give a chance over Mission Impossible and New Year's Eve, and not regret it. Middle of the road films are middle ground films and we all need middle ground to bridge the gap between ignorance & snobbery. And once more, I applaud the Oscars for understanding the middle ground.

Lastly, I would like to mention how thrilling it is to see the genius behind so many of the funny people on TV acknowledged and honoured at a proper awards show. In one year - and here I move beyond the Oscars - we have seen both of the IT Crowd guys celebrated - Richard Ayoade as Best Debut British Writer / Director for Submarine & Chris O'Dowd nominated for the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award (presumably for his contribution to Bridesmaids) - as well as a SNL veteran (Kirsten Wiig), one of the Flight of the Conchords boys (Bret McKenzie) & the "big girl"  from Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly (Melissa McCarthy) become Oscar nominees (as screenwriter for Bridesmaids, song writer of Man or Muppet  & Best Supporting Actress for Bridesmaids, respectively). The times they are a-changing.

For Better or Worse: 2012 Oscar Nominations

My reactions to follow shortly.

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Terrence Mallick - Tree of Life

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis - The Help
Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir - A Better Life
George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Brad Pitt - Moneyball

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer - The Help

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids - Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call - JC Chandor
Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen
A Separation - Asghar Farhadi 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Descendants - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Hugo - John Logan
The Ides of March - George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon
Moneyball - Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin & Stan Chervin
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Bridger O'Connor & Peter Straughan

Film Editing
The Artist - Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants - Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall
Hugo - Thelma Ritter
Moneyball - Christopher Tellefsen

The Artist - Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo - Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life - Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse - Janusz Kaminski

Music (Original Score)
The Adventures of Tin Tin - John Williams
The Artist - Ludovic Bource
Hugo - Howard Shore
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Alberto Iglesias
War Horse - John Williams

Music (Original Song)
Man or Muppet - Bret McKenzie (The Muppets)
Real in Rio - Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown & Siedah Garrett (Rio)

Art Direction
The Artist - Laurence Bennett (Production Design) & Robert Gould (Set Decoration) 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - Stuart Craig (Production Design) & Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration) 
Hugo - Dante Ferretti (Production Design) & Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration) 
Midnight in Paris- Anne Seibel (Production Design) & Helene Dubreuil (Set Decoration) 
War Horse - Rick Carter (Production Design) & Lee Sandales (Set Decoration) 

Costume Design
Anonymous - Lisy Christl
The Artist - Mark Bridges
Hugo - Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre - Michael O'Connor
W.E. - Arianne Phillips

Make Up
Albert Nobbs - Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston & Matthew Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk & Yolanda Toussieng
The Iron Lady - Mark Coulier & J Roy Helland

Foreign Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

Animated Feature Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Documentary (Feature)
Hell & Back Again - Danfung Dennis & Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front - Marshall Curry & Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Charles Ferguson & Audrey Marrs
Pina - Wim Wenders & Gian-Piero Ringel
Undefeated - TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay, Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights movement
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in new Baghdad
Savings Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantica

Short Film (Animated)
Dimanche / Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Sound Editing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Artist: 11
Hugo: 11
Moneyball: 6
War Horse: 6
The Descendants: 5
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: 5
The Help: 4
Midnight in Paris: 4
The Tree of Life: 3
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: 3
Albert Nobbs: 3
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: 3
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: 3
A Separation: 2
The Iron Lady: 2
My Week with Marilyn: 2
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: 2
Bridesmaids: 2

Monday, January 23, 2012

Awards Tracker: Best Picture

The critics agreed on a top five that took the significant majority of their nominations, and all their wins: The Artist (18), The Tree of Life (18), The Descendants (15), Drive (15), Hugo (13).

The next five are a mixed bunch: Midnight in Paris (8), Moneyball (6), The Help (5), Win Win (4) & Take Shelter (4).

The awards groups took things a little more sentimentally; arthouse darlings Tree of Life & Drive are pushed out of the top five (& snubbed out of the Producers Guild top ten), replaced by War Horse & The Help. The Tree of Life Drive do feature in the overall top ten, together with Moneyball, Midnight in Paris & Bridesmaids, but the Producers Guild snubs (in favour of Ides of March & Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are not a good sign. If you ask me, the Critics Choice came the closest to a healthy mix of art & mainstream, but the BAFTAs have the classiest Top 5.

It is nigh on impossible to predict Best Picture accurately this year, as we do not know how many nominees there will be (the voting system determines the number of nominees based on a required percentage of support). All in all, I'm going to aim for the quality in the middle of the road, with some wishful thinking thrown in for good measure:

If there are 8:
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

If there are 10: 
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Ides of March

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (don't bet against Stephen Daldry)

Awards Tracker - Best Director

The critics groups were fairly consistent with their nominations, backing four main contenders, and two minor ones:  Michel Hazanavicius came out top with eighteen nominations & nine wins for The Artist, followed closely by Terence Mallick for The Tree of Life, with fifteen nominations & eight wins. Scorsese's Hugo clocks in with twelve nominations & Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive with eleven. Behind them, Alexander Payne managed six nods for The Descendants, and Woody Allen four for Midnight in Paris. 

The bigger awards groups were a bit more all over the place, with a total 27 directors mentioned in just 13 awards. Mostly, they put their weight behind Michel Hazanavicius (eight nominations), Martin Scorsese (six), Nicolas Winding Refn (five) & Alexander Payne (five), while Terence Mallick - close second with the critics - didn't manage a single nomination.

Woody Allen, Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Steven Spielberg (War Horse) & Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) each managed at least multiple nominations (three for Allen, two for the rest), while the remaining nineteen directors each got one only. Most significant of the single nominees, however, is David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which landed a surprise nomination from the important Directors Guild, ringing the death knell for Winding Refn's Drive (which was also excluded from the Golden Globes in favour of George Clooney for Ides of March).

So where does this leave us? With the really creative contenders (Tree of Life, Drive) out of the picture, and the foreign front runner (Michel Hazanavicius) making it all but impossible for the more obscure foreigners (Lynne Ramsay, Tomas Alfredson) to edge their way in, we're likely looking at a pretty straight forward & American year for Best Director.

The two movies about movies (The Artist, Hugo) are locks, two American masters (Woody Allen, Alexander Payne) will get nods for elegantly directing their own hot screenplays & the fifth slot is a mystery: is their room for syrupy sentiment from Steven Spielberg (War Horse), a dark European tale brought to life by a dark American legend (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)a tight political thriller (The Ides of March) or will the Academy smart up & nominate the most epically ambitious American achievement of the year (The Tree of Life)? Only time will tell, and frankly I don't know where my money is. I'll follow my heart & predict what I hope against logic to see:

Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Terence Mallick - The Tree of Life

(More likely) Alternate:
David Fincher - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Final awards tracker: Best Actor

The Best Actor race has been discussed in fair detail here. By way of final stretch updating, the Critics groups rallied behind Michael Fassbender, Michael Shannon, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin & Brad Pitt (with Gary Oldman in the wings).

But the awards bodies backed George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Michael Fassbender & Brad Pitt, with Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio & Demian Bichir almost on equal parring in the wings.

Obviously Clooney, Dujardin & Pitt are locks. Fassbender is all but a lock - his SAG miss is concerning, but with four acclaimed movies, plenty of heat & just a touch of controversy, it seems too late for him to miss. Gosling missed all the big ones, and his movie is a "weird" one, so he is out. J Edgar's hot/cold reception makes DiCaprio feel like he is out, but he has two important hits with the SAG & Golden Globes & he is overdue after consecutive snubs for Revolutionary Road, InceptionShutter Island.

Having made peace with the fact that Gosling is out, I would love to see Michael Shannon, Demian Bichir or Gary Oldman take his place, but I am feeling that Leonardo DiCaprio's industry cred will push him through to the final five. Michael Fassbender takes the indie slot that Bichir & Shannon could have competed for, and Oldman has nothing but his BAFTA nod to bank on.

So, my final five:

George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Leonardo DiCaprio - J Edgar

Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Demian Bichir - A Better Life

Final Awards Tracker - Best Actress

I have already discussed the Best Actress race fairly extensively here, so suffice it to say that the Critics Awards backed Michelle Williams, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Olsen, Tilda Swinton & Viola Davis, in that order (with Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron & Anna Paquin in the wings).

The awards groups' nominations have centered around Tilda Swinton, Michelle Williams, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis & Elizabeth Olsen, but without Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe or BAFTA nominations, Olsen is likely to stay the year's indie darling only. Glenn Close & Charlize Theron are closest in the wings, but my bet is on Rooney Mara, a latecomer in the race and the girl with the very talked-about movie (that landed surprising support from the Directors & Producers Guilds). It must be said that Glenn Close's great reputation, paired with her Golden Globe & Screen Actors Guild nominations, still makes her a front runner.

So, my final five:

Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Viola Davis - The Help
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
Charlize Theron - Young Adult

Awards Tracker - Best Supporting Actress

The critics awards gave their biggest push to young Shailene Woodley, honouring her turn in The Descendants with twelve nominations and five wins. Close on her heels, though, are Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids & Octavia Spencer for The Help, each with ten nominations and three wins. Spencer's role is cut straight from the Oscar template (funny, fiery, heartwarming), while Melissa McCarthy is far left of center (the endearing, but borderline mental, "wild card" in an already extreme - but extremely funny - bunch of women). If it wasn't for the precedent of Robert Downey Jr's nomination for Tropic Thunder, I'd say it's just not an Oscar performance, but as the standout performer in a film with significant box office, cultural impact and critical respect, she's definitely a very real contender.

By far the most nominated supporting performer of the year, however, is Jessica Chastain. The problem is that the attention is divided between three of her films - Tree of Life, The Help & Take Shelter. Added up, she has a total of twenty-one nominations and eight wins. But her campaigners will have to settle on a single film to push her through to the Oscars. The most logical strategy is to push her for The Help, with its massive box office, a very likely Best Picture nomination & a very likely win for fellow supporting nominee Octavia Spencer, although, personally, it is the weakest of the three performances (and the only one for which she didn't actually win any awards). But being that it is funny and moving & that she shares most of her scenes with the dynamic Octavia Spencer, The Help seems like a good bet for Chastain to break the Oscar ice with.

Other big hitters with the critics are Carey Mulligan for Shame, with eight nominations, Berenice Bejo with six nominations for The Artist and Janet McTeer with five nominations for Albert Nobbs. Berenice Bejo seems unable to miss with all the heat around The Artist, Carey Mulligan somehow seems doomed to fall by the way-side, despite the love for Michael Fassbender (one nomination seems to be as much as they're willing to give to Steve McQueen's challenging, X-Rated film), and it is unclear whether Janet McTeer can get in if her leading ladyman, Glenn Close, doesn't. Early favourite Vanessa Redgrave creeps in with three critics nominations for Coriolanus, but at this point it doesn't seem enough.

On the mainstream awards side, Octavia Spencer is the frontrunner, with five nominations, and two wins so far. Shailene Woodley, Janet McTeer & Jessica Chastain (The Help) follow her closely with four nominations each. Berenice Bejo clocks in with three (although it is really four, as the BAFTAs nominated her as lead actress). There is some love for Melissa McCarthy & Carey Mulligan, with three and two nominations respectively, but the drop in affection compared to the critics' awards may be a bad sign.

Spencer, Chastain & Bejo have been fairly consistent contenders, and all star in very popular Best Picture contenders, but Woodley, McCarthy, McTeer & Mulligan have all had some significant misses: McCarthy replaced Woodley in the Screen Actors Guild & BAFTA nominations, while McCarthy missed out at the very comedy-friendly Golden Globes. With all the love for The Descendants - & the Oscars' love for nominating pretty young things - it's hard to imagine Woodley missing her nomination, but whether McTeer or McCarthy take the fifth spot is up in the air (Mulligan missed the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs confused things by nominating her for Drive instead of Shame, so at this point, I'd consider her the year's unsung critics' darling, which is a different kind of prestige).

McTeer has been a regular nominee with mainstream awards, but missed at the BAFTAs. Most of her nominations have been together with Glenn Close, although she has picked up some nominations where Close missed. On Oscar-level, I'd say that her performance only has as much heat as Close's does. If Close's campaign is unsuccessful, and I am betting that it is, it seems likely that McTeer's acclaim will also get lost in the underwhelmingness.

On the other hand, if Glenn Close gets in, it seems likely that McTeer will as well. McCarthy, however, is in a movie that everyone is talking about - & paid good money to see - while no-one really liked McTeer's Albert Nobbs. So, in the end, I am following the money (& also predicting a total Albert Nobbs shut out):

Octavia Spencer - The Help
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs

Awards Tracker - Best Supporting Actor

The critics gave extensive support to Albert Brooks in Drive, with 22 nominations from critics groups (although he won only 13). His strongest competition, Christopher Plummer, was close with 18 nominations for Beginners (of which he won 12). The other big turnouts were Kenneth Branagh with six nominations, and one win, for My Week with Marilyn & the great John Hawkes with five nominations for his creepy turn in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Brad Pitt in Tree of Life & Patton Oswalt in Young Adult reaped four nods each, while Nick Nolte & Andy Serkis each got three nominations for Warrior Rise of the Planet of the Apes, respectively. Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) & Armie Hammer (J Edgar) show up lower down the list with two nominations each.

The critics' favourites seem to have translated well to the more formal awards; Christopher Plummer is the clear front runner with six nominations and two wins, while Albert Brooks and Kenneth Branagh clock in with four each. Brooks missed out on the very important Screen Actors Guild nomination, however, but the very thorough critical attention should secure his place. After them, Jonah Hill and Nick Nolte clock in with three nominations each, and that is likely to be the final five.

All the attention for Brad Pitt has been redirected to Moneyball and, especially as Tree of Life has been very underwhelmingly received by the major awards bodies, it seems fair to think that he won't manage a second nomination for Tree of Life. The whole Andy Serkis campaign regrettably hasn't taken off with the mainstream awards, and particularly with the important Screen Actors Guild, so I'd count him out (actual filmmakers & actors still seem less enchanted with motion capture than the critics).

John Hawkes, Patton Oswalt & Armie Hammer unfortunately won't get much attention unless their lead actors or films do (& they haven't been), while it is possible, but unlikely, that Jim Broadbent could get swept up in the Meryl Streep storm. Even less likely is that Viggo Mortensen will get caught up in the Fassbender storm (especially as he supports Fassbender's other film). Max Von Sydow seems such a logical nominee, but the response to Loud and Close has been very lacklustre, and Von Sydow has not featured much in the precursors. Nevertheless, I'd still consider him as an outside contender. If I had to swap out anyone, it would be Jonah Hill.

So, my predictions:

Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Albert Brooks - Drive
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Jonah Hill - Moneyball

Max Von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Trailer

There is always something special about a new Wes Anderson film. Moonrise Kingdom is a coming-of-age tale about two young lovers who run away from their New England homes & cause a search party to come looking for them. 

After six films, Anderson has attracted a reasonable amount of mainstream attention (& Oscar affection for The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr Fox), but seems untempted to waver from his own creative compass. Moonrise Kingdom seems deliberately smaller, younger & less tethered to reality than usual, basking in its own handmade 70s feel & magic-realist indulgences. 

Anderson's films exist in their own colourful, pan-faced universe, usually laced with some form of death or tragedy. While his film's are usually location bound - a private school, a family home, a submarine, an Indian train, a series of underground burrows - Kingdom is set in the great (or at least local) outdoors.

Anderson always attracts a great cast & has roped in some inspired new faces, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton & Frances McDormand, rounded out by long-time collaborators Bill Murray & Jason Schwartzman, just to confirm that this is indeed a Wes Anderson film.  

There doesn't seem to be an official poster, yet, but this fan-made poster by Laura Perm-Jardin is just lovely.

Casa de mi Padre - Trailer

Gael Garcia Bernal & Diego Luna, two of Mexico's top Hollywood exports, reunite & team up with... Will Ferrell, for a good old fashioned joke of a mexican adventure romance B-grade film. Should be good, ridiculous fun.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Claire Danes - Then & Now

Claire Danes' career started on TV seventeen years ago and for some reason she just seems to get her best roles on the small screen. No complaints, though. She's always worth watching as an actress & she's always been a smart, self-deprecating acceptance speech giver.  

Best Actress Golden Globe back in 1995 for My So-Called Life

& in 2012, for Homeland

And just for fun - from the 1995 Golden Globe archives:
Creepy mid-90s styles, actors who now make bad movies & terrible, terrible jokes via Beau Bridges. Trippy. (After the cut)

Golden Globe Winners

The 2012 Golden Globe film winners are all as to be expected: Christopher Plummer & Octavia Spencer take the lead for Supporting Actor & Supporting Actress; George Clooney & Jean Dujardin battle it out to the end for Best Actor; Michelle Williams is Meryl Streep's strongest competition for Best Actress & if it weren't for The Artist, The Descendants would be the film to watch for Best Picture.

On the TV front, however, it's all newcomers. Claire Danes takes an expected win for Homeland - incidentally that is three for three for Danes at the Globes for TV: My So-called Life in 1994, Temple Grandin in 2010 & now Homeland - seems her career is best suited to TV for some reason; old favourite Kelsey Grammar becomes only the second actor to possess a Golden Globe as Best Actor in both a TV Comedy & TV Drama (the other being David Duchovney, for The X-Files & Californication) by winning for Chicago Mayor Drama Boss; Matt LeBlanc makes a frankly surprising comeback, winning Best Actor in a TV Comedy for Episodes & Laura Dern takes home the gold for another new series, Enlightened.     

Not happy about Madonna now having two Golden Globes, though. 

Best Picture: Drama
The Descendants

Best Actor: Drama
George Clooney - The Descendants

Best Actress: Drama
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

Best Picture: Comedy / Musical
The Artist

Best Actor: Comedy / Musical
Jean Dujardin - The Artist

Best Actress: Comedy / Musical
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

Best Director
Martin Scorsese - Hugo

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer - Beginners 

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer - The Help

Best Animated Feature Film
The Adventures of Tin Tin

Best Foreign Language Film
A Separation

Best Screenplay
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris

Best Score
Ludovic Bource - The Artist

Friday, January 13, 2012

Last chance to help make it happen for A Shot at the Big Time

With just 45 hours left, this is your last chance to get involved in the first crowd funded film in South Africa. Based on the true story of screenwriter Janet Van Eeden's brother whose rock star dreams were smashed when he was forcibly conscripted into the South African National Defence Force. Difficult relationships made him go AWOL and a terrible accident put him in a mental institution. But the army didn't leave him there long - he was conscripted back into the front line of the South African border wars, where he took his own life rather than fight a war he didn't believe in. 

The campaign has caused some controversy with SADF veterans, but this is Janet's story & the story of anyone forced to fight for a cause they didn't sign up for. Check out more or send in your auditions on her IndieGoGo page & drum up some support while you still can:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Midnight in Paris - Review

Woody Allen's biggest box office success ever is a fun, irreverent history lesson and a celebration of the greatest times in Parisian history, including the present.

Built around little more than a whimsical plot twist and a glowing love for Paris, Allen's film is somewhat uneven but endlessly charming & uncharacteristically sweet. Owen Wilson makes a better screen Woody Allen than Allen has in years; his boyish goofball charms mix well with Allen's rambling neuroses. Eternally disenchanted writer though he may be, Wilson's Gil is more the lovably distractable artist than the impossible neurotic.

Allen's script has been widely celebrated and, while it is certainly joyously inspired, it is not his best. The writing has its problems - the under-developed "present world" set up & characters feel rushed & churned out (Allen could have mined more comedy / humanity out of spoiled Republicans missing the point of Paris), while a number of elegantly illustrated points are undermined by promptly being spelled out by Wilson's Gil (making him all the more quintessentially Allen). It feels like one more edit, or just a touch of restraint, could have delivered a leaner, sharper, more enduringly effective script.

Thes flaws, however, are easily over-shadowed by the success of Allen's loving characterisations of the creative powerhouses haunting Paris in the 20s - and the subsequent increasingly post-modern plot inversions. His Hemingways, Fitzgeralds, Dalis & Steins come vividly to life in a Paris that is almost impossibly magical.

Performances are inspired all round - although Rachel McAdams struggles with a fairly unforgivably self-centred American snob. The modern-day cast mine some good, if easy, laughs, but the 20s cast - and sets, cinematography & costumes - are dynamite. Adrien Brody has a memorable one minute cameo as a loopy Salvador Dali, you wish there were more of Tom Hiddleston & Alison Pill's F Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Marion Cotillard is a dreamily seductive Parisian muse, but Corey Stoll & Kathy Bates steal the show as Ernest Hemingway & Gertrude Stein - literary forces to be reckoned with. Even with his head way up his own derriere, Stoll's Hemingway is an immensely magnetic character & had Allen written him just one more payoff scene, he'd easily have walked off with the film - and a chance to go home with an Oscar.

As it stands, it's the overall winning charm, the gorgeous production, the real thoughtfulness, completely unabashed romanticism and significant box office that will secure Allen's 47th film as director a spot among this year's Best Picture nominees.