Sheldon’s Call: If I Picked The 2012 Oscars®!

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It’s time for the world of film to get out the gowns and tuxes and celebrate the [alleged] best in filmmaking for 2011. There are a lot of great films – and a few duds – nominated for the 84th Academy Awards/Oscars®, and odds are not all the winners will receive the approval of the home audience [let alone the many critics who put Extremely Clichéd and Incredibly Boring on their worst films of the year list – it was rated a not too terribly unfresh 46% on RottenTomatoes.com].

For the record, then, here’s how I would award the ten most important awards if I pickled the Oscars®…

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Cinematography

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

There are no losers in this category. Every one of these films is almost unspeakably beautiful to look at, with or without sound. The choice is between The Artist’s dazzling black & white, War Horse’s old school lushness, The Tree of Life’s kaleidoscopic universe, the stark, savage beauty of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and the vivid intimacy of Hugo.

It might be because of the warm way the 3D of Hugo kind of wrapped its arms around the audience that makes it my choice.

Rango

Best Animated Feature

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

I’ve only seen clips from A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita, but they don’t hold the same charm that I found in Arthur Christmas, so neither of them really did as much for me as the other three nominees [I’d suspect that they’re on the short list to compensate in some small way for The Triplets of Belleville losing in 2003, except the winner that year was Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful Spirited Away – and I doubt most of the members of the Academy can remember that far back, anyway].

Of the three remaining, Rango had the best animation, the best script, the best cinematography and the best performances. It’s the best animated film I’ve seen since Pixar’s Up – and its equal. It’s also the most mature work. Thus, it’s my choice for the Oscar®.

Hugo's Automoton

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Few film adaptations can take brilliant source material and make it better. Such was the case for at least three of the films in this category. Of those, I enjoyed Hugo the most. I’d give it the Oscar®.

midnight-in-paris

Best Original Screenplay

Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

For me, this category comes down to The Artist and Midnight in Paris. One is a French silent film shot in Hollywood, the other and American film shot in Paris. The Artist is the revelation of an unfamiliar talent in Michel Hazanivicius, the other a rediscovery of joy in the talent of Woody Allen. Both are mesmerizing – but only Midnight in Paris is magical.

Octavia Spencer

Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Ms Bejo won Best Actress for The Artist in the Caesar Awards [the French Oscars®] and is really The Artist’s female lead – which, for me, really excludes her here. The other four performances are knockouts, but the unexpected nuances of Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids and Octavia Spencer’s mix of anger, vengeance, compassion and love in The Help make them my favorite performances in this category.

I’d go with Octavia Spencer – though it was closer than I expected.

christopher-plummer-beginners

Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Jonah Hill was a revelation in Moneyball and Christopher Plummer give yet another of his uniquely amazing performances in Beginners. Max Von Sydow might sneak a win for being the only really good thing about ELIC, but I’d give Christopher Plummer the award because he was simply better – in a much better movie.

viola-davis

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Of these, the only two that really stayed with me after leaving the theater were Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander and Viola Davis’ Aibileen Clark. Oddly, both roles were characters who had a lot of anger and dignity – but where Salander let anger propel her, for Aibileen, it was love that made her who she was.

Viola Davis had the slightly more complex character and nailed it equally well so I’d give her the Oscar®.

The_Artist_Jean_Dujardin

Best Actor

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

George Clooney has never been better than he is in The Descendants. Brad Pitt has never been better than he is in Moneyball. Gary Oldman has never better than he is in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And yet, Jean Dujardin is equally brilliant in The Artist. [Forgive me – A Better Life hasn’t played here so I have no thoughts on Mr. Bichir’s performance.]

Of the performances I’ve seen, none are unrelatable; all are completely involving and easy to understand – if complex to portray. So, it comes down to pure entertainment. For that, I have to give the edge to Dujardin. So I would give Jean Dujardin the Academy Award®.

scorsese-directs-hugo

Best Director

Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

All five of these films are brilliant. All are the handiwork of directors at the top of their game. Once again, it comes down to which film simply more fun to watch; which one entertained more. For me, that was Hugo. Martin Scorsese is my choice for the Oscar®.

On The Clock

Best Picture

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

Two films don’t even belong on this list – War Horse is very good, but also very flawed [even if just for its occasionally exceptionally inappropriate score], while Extremely Clichéd & Incredibly Boring is a dull, uninspired waste of film.

I loved the other seven films on the short list, so it came down, once again to pure enjoyment [or a really involved series of coin tosses]. After rescreening each of the films, I have to go with Hugo – which is every bit as much fun in 2D as it was in 3D.

If I picked the Oscars®, these would be the winners. You’re mileage may vary. Now, on with the show!