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2012 Oscars Winner Predictions – Round One

January 29, 2012 2 comments

Well, there’s no turning back now. There’s no more debating to be done on the Academy Award nominees. No more discussion of who’s too young or too old, too white or too black, too new or two powerful, and no more weighing out each person’s clout within their particular groups of peers. The nominations are in, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Some frontrunners have fallen and others still sit at the top. Yet, I fully believe that barely a single category is the same as it was three days ago.

Instead of just highlighting a few select categories and offering my thoughts, I’m going to go through each award, one by one, and discuss how things have shaped up.

See the full list after the jump:

BEST PICTURE

Despite a couple shifts in the power balance a few days ago, this is an award whose frontrunner hasn’t shifted at all. “Hugo” may have beat it out by one to become the nomination leader (and thus the only competition for the award), but “The Artist” has a massive lead. It will take a whole lot to knock it from the top of the ladder. “The Help,” once considered a possible underdog upset, showed up little support, including a lack of the crucial Best Editing nomination. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” has lost this battle in the guilds. “Hugo” is the only film that really holds any kind of chance, but only in theory.
MY PREDICTION: “The Artist”
SPOILER: “Hugo” Read more…

The DGA Nominations! Fincher In, Spielberg Out

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, as it turns out, I was 100% correct on David Fincher making it in, here. I pat myself on the back for that. What I was wrong about was who he would replace. It looks as though Steven Spielberg’s reign of dominance among his peers in the Directors Guild has finally come to an end. In a weird way, it’s almost like a changing of the guard, with David Fincher taking over that mantel.

As I figured, Hazanavicius, Scorsese and Payne had all secured their spots a while ago. However, I stand fully corrected in regards to my comments about Woody Allen. Looks like his comeback work on “Midnight in Paris” was enough to pull him through after all. Personally, I don’t think Allen or Spielberg deserve a mention this year, and a lot of fantastic young talent in the form of Bennett Miller, Nicholas Wending Refn and Steve McQueen got the shaft.

Well, not much else to say. I still believe that this race is securely a two-horse one between Hazanavicius and Scorsese. We’ll see what turns up.

Here are the nominees:

Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”

DGA Predictions 2012

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I really didn’t even feel like doing this. In fact, I’ve always had an aversion to predicting the DGA. Trying to correctly predict these five nominees feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel with an unloaded gun. Sure, there’s the chance that they’ll be exactly what people are expecting, but…no…they never are. there’s always that fifth slot that never does what you want it to do.

The one nice thing about the DGA is that it makes things infinitely clearer in the actual Oscar race. I can recall only twice in the last ten years that the DGA hasn’t lined up with the Academy’s five Best Director nods with at least 4 out of 5 slots, and twice in those ten years, it’s been a perfect match. Ever since the Academy altered the number of Best Picture nominees, using the DGA as a predictive tool has changed a bit, as well. Instead of using it as a guide for the five nominees, the lucky directors now point to which films are absolute locks. Ironically, during the age of five nominees, the DGA was actually a better predictor for Best Picture then for its own category.

All right, well, here’s how I see the cookie crumbling. I would say that the two locks are Michael Hazavanicius and Martin Scorsese. Of the major contenders, they’ve divvied up nearly all of the critics awards and just seem to have the most clout, right now. Next on that list would be Alexander Payne. While his direction isn’t the strong point of the movie, the film is just too strong of a contender, thus far, for him to simply be left out.

The last two spots get kind of tricky. Despite the difficult time “War Horse” is having with the guilds, Spielberg shouldn’t have much trouble making his way in here. The same was happening with “Munich” in ’05 (a much superior film to “War Horse,” I might add) and he still handled the DGA. This seemed to single-handedly resurrect it back into the Oscar race. To be honest, the DGA has always drooled over Spielberg. Ten career nominations, three wins and a lifetime achievement award. When he has a film in contention, it’s simply more likely to see him nominated than not.

So for the final spot, I am going to make my “out on a limb” choice by saying that Woody Allen will miss. This will be the decision that I’ll likely be kicking myself for tomorrow, but as you are about to read, I have my reasons. At this point in Allen’s career, even if this is somewhat of a comeback film, I feel that the industry will be satisfied with just recognizing his writing. As it has been since the early nineties, nominating the film’s screenplay should suffice, making his directorial efforts easy to overlook.

As for who’s taking his spot, there’s plenty of choices. It’s quite possible Terrence Malick’s clout might carry over into the guild of his peers, yet I get the feeling that “The Tree of Life”‘s support will likely remain among the critics. Until this past week, near-rookie Tate Taylor seemed like a long shot, but the overwhelming love for “The Help” in the guilds has made said nomination more and more of a possibility. If wishing made it so, I would enjoy seeing Bennett Miller show up here in recognition for his steady and assured crafting of “Moneyball.” After all, not many saw his previous nomination coming for “Capote.” Yet, the young artist’s failure to bring in even a single nomination this season has left that option unlikely. One choice that would certainly throw a wrench in the mix would be the stellar Nicholas Wending Refn, who’s work on “Drive” earned him this award at Cannes. But, lack of a PGA mention for the film makes his chances less promising.

That leaves me with the one and only David Fincher. While his re-adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” isn’t turning quite as many heads as the studio had hoped, the film’s director has something going for him which puts him a step ahead of his competition. That factor is the enormous amount of residual respect leftover from last year’s awards season. After both the DGA and the Oscars incomprehensibly snubbed the master of his much-deserved awards for “The Social Network,” I imagined that there had to be a fair amount of guilt churning around the industry. And while “TGWTDT” isn’t quite as extraordinary as the former, it’s certainly good enough for his peers to throw him an apologetic bone. I’ve had this aching feeling all year long, and with the film nabbing unexpected nominations from the PGA, ADG and WGA, said scenario seems now more likely than ever before.

My Predix:
1. Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”
2. Michael Hazavanicius – “The Artist”
3. Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
4. Steven Spielberg – “War Horse”
5. David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Alts:
6. Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
7. Tate Taylor – “The Help”
8. Bennett Miller – “Moneyball”
9. Terrence Malick – “The Tree of Life”
10. Nicholas Wending Refn – “Drive”

Well, there you have it. Check back tomorrow afternoon to see which choice (or choices) I’ll be crying over.

And the Wheels Started Turning…

December 3, 2011 2 comments

Okay. Take a second. Deep breath…there we go. It’s been a bit of a big week with a lot to take in. However, this is just the opening salvo, and some much heavier ones are soon to come. However, in the last several days, we’ve had two extremely influential critics groups weigh in along with nominations announced by one of the more prestigious awards bodies in the country. So, while the jigsaw puzzle is far from complete, we’re getting a glimpse of the outline through the forming edges.

Let’s start with the antsiest of the lot, who just couldn’t wait their turn in line. The New York Film Critics Circle, being about as bigheaded as a group of big apple critics could be, pushed their awards announcement up by about two weeks. This was in an attempt to better influence the Oscars and separate themselves from the other critics. In case there was a critical darling such as “The Social Network” of yesteryear, they at least wanted to make it seem as though it were their idea. This has, honestly, put a rotten taste in the mouth of the whole awards season. The circle defied convention and tradition, forced movies to hurry their final touches in order to be screened in time, didn’t care to take a moment’s pause to reflect on their decisions and in the end made some really safe and traditional decisions from a group that usually champions the edgy and bold. I really must say…for shame.

For their high honors, the NYFCC went with “The Artist,” the silent film with a heart of gold. I definitely am looking forward to catching this one, though not quite as much as others. Director Michael Hazanavicius also took home high honors. By the time that Best Picture rolled in, I was hoping that “Moneyball” would pull through, after it had already won Best Actor for Brad Pitt and Best Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian. “Tree of Life” also had a pretty big day, winning Best Cinematography, sharing in Brad Pitt’s Best Actor award and Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain (who also won for “Take Shelter” and “The Help”).

The other two acting awards were picked up by Albert Brooks for “Drive” and Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.” I’m straight-up not wild about Brooks who gives a couple of great scenes in only a good performance. Not worthy of any high accolades. As far as Meryl Streep is concerned, I’m on the fence. Whenever La Streep is once again up for her third Oscar, I just can’t decide whether I want it or not. As weird as it sounds, she is more due for an Oscar than practically any other actress, being that she is widely considered to be the greatest living performer and yet hasn’t won gold in nearly thirty years. However, when it comes to critics, Meryl is the safest choice that can be made. It’d be nicer to see some hutzpah with a choice like Tilda Swinton or Olivia Colman.

“The Descendants” turned out to be S.O.L., a surprise considering that Alexander Payne’s previous film, “Sideways,” swept this particular group, taking awards for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay. George Clooney especially had a bad day, even missing out on a Best Actor nomination from the Spirits. However, he and the film lucked out that the National Board of Review voted differently, so much that it would seem they from a different planet (when really they’re centered out of the same city).

Here, Payne’s festival favorite came up big, taking down the awards for Best Actor (Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Sadly, the prizes for Picture and Director went to “Hugo.” While it’s nice to see a wrench thrown in the works, this choice baffles me based on merit. Personally, the immensity of critical love for this film, in general, blows my mind. Pretty and heartwarming, but low on entertainment, conflict and drama. Christopher Plummer received Best Supporting Actor for his career-best performance in “Beginners,” hopefully asserting himself as the man to beat. And where NYFCC dropped the ball, the usually straight-as-an-arrow NBR chose the dicey performance of Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” for their Best Lead Actress. God, I can’t wait to see that film.

Quite strangely, the three big winners from the NYFCC went home almost completely empty-handed. “The Tree of Life” and “The Artist” only received spots on the NBR’s top ten, while “Moneyball” disturbingly did not even make that cut. However, they weren’t the unluckiest films of the day. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” failed to receive even a single nomination from anyone. If it continues to fly under the radar with critics, it will need a massive push from the guilds to stay alive.

Also, there’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” The big hit at Sundance failed to even make the NBR’s top ten independent films and received only a pair of acting nominations from the Independent Spirits, an organization many would have thought the film would have championed. It has a giant hole to climb out of if it wants to stay in any kind of Oscar contention. Personally, I’m not too bummed. A great concept that failed to achieve an emotional surge and tries so hard for subtlety, but often comes off as light-handed. I do hope that Elizabeth Olsen is able to pick up some steam for her deeply nuanced performance.

So, barring any surprise announcements from critics, we’re being given a bit of a lull for the next eight days. However, starting on Sunday, December 11th, it’s going to be difficult to find a busier week. Kicking off with honors from the Los Angeles and Boston Film Critics, we’ll then be receiving nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes, one day after another. Until then, I’ll be reporting anything I can and probably re-evaluating my current Oscar predictions. Stay tuned.