Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Studios, Start Your Engines!

With all the rules changes with the Oscars, it seems fitting that Oscar season would start completely differently this year. Traditionally speaking, it has always started with the announcements of the National Board of Review, which always seemed strange because A. no one in Hollywood (or anywhere) seems to have a clue who these people are and B. they always managed to pick, at the very least, a Best Picture nomineee, if not the Best Picture winner.

That all changed this year with the New York Film Critics' Circle moving their big day to be first. It's a good move, actually. As mentioned above, no one has a CLUE who the National Board of Review is. It's actually a running joke. At least with the NYFCC, we know who the voters are and probably read/watch their work. One other interesting factoid: The NYFCC live tweeted their awards. This was kind of cool. It's not like the Oscars where voters get ballots in the mail, fill them out, send them back, get new ballots after the nominations, fill THOSE out, send THOSE back in, and PriceWaterhouseCooper counts the votes and the winners are known ahead of time. These critics groups all meet in a room and hash out the winners. There have been years where fights broke out and no winner was declared until the 7th or 8th vote. So, it was interesting to follow the thing on Twitter today as some winners were announced seemingly back to back, while other categories (Best Actor and Best Director especially) seemed to take a while. I'll have to go back and look, but I think Best Actor took close to 40 minutes, while most categories took about 10. Here are the results:

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Brad Pitt, Moneyball/Tree of Life
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life/The Help/Take Shelter
Best Screenplay: Moneyball
Best Cinematography: Tree of Life
Best Foreign Film: A Separation
Best Nonfiction Film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Best First Feature: Margin Call

So, some interesting, although not all that surprising, choices. The Best Picture win for The Artist could come back and bite it in the ass. It seems like a trend recently that the first movie to start collecting awards petered out by the time to Oscar voters started filling out their ballots. But, it is the Weinstein Brothers doing the pushing for it and they somehow managed to get The King's Speech past The Social Network juggernaut last year. Maybe they've found a way to keep their films winning.

Still, if the list above turned out to match the Oscar winners, it wouldn't be a shock. I like The Artist's chances. For both Picture and Director. Brad Pitt? Strong possibility. He's one of those "long overdue" actors and his main competition will likely be George Clooney (who has already won) and Ryan Gosling (who suffers from the Kate Winslet curse of he's "so good, he'll win plenty in the future").

Meryl Streep has lost at the Oscars 14 times! Think about that. She's LOST 14 times. Do you know how many actors have even been NOMINATED 14 times? 1. Katherine Hepburn. And she won 4 times. Other factors in Streep's favor? She hasn't won since Sophie's Choice! That was 30 years ago!!! You want to talk about LONG overdue. She was 32 years old when she won. She's been nominated 12 times SINCE she last won. Now she's almost retirement age. Not to mention that the early reviews say she turns in the kind of mind-blowing performance that made Helen Mirren a lock in The Queen a few years back.

I love the idea of Albert Brooks winning. I don't think it will happen. But I love that he's even contending. For one, it's not his normal type of role. Albert Brooks is kinda like Woody Allen as far as type-casting. That someone took a chance and cast this smart-ass, nerdy persona as the bad ass mob boss is pure guts. And it worked. There's no reason why he couldn't win. I just don't think he will.

It's funny. This was supposed to be Jessica Chastain's year. It was thought that she was going to be the biggest star on the planet after this year. She's in SEVEN movies this year. Co-starring with huge box office stars and Oscar winners. And in such a wide range of roles too. And that's part of the problem. People might not realize that it was her in Tree of Life, The Help, Take Shelter, plus The Debt, Coriolanus, Wilde Salome or The Texas Killing Fields. OR, it might be that, with exception to The Help, everyone skipped on seeing those films. That said, it's going to be interesting to see how or if she gets nominated. Let's focus on the first four I listed. Tree of Life: She was terrific as the strong, loving mom who flies in the face of Brad Pitt's tyrannical dad. I haven't seen The Help, but I hear she plays a bitch. Take Shelter, she plays the suffering wife of a man who is having apocalyptic visions. The Debt: She plays a cold-blooded assassin. But if that weren't enough, she has to play the younger version of the same character Helen Mirren is playing. In other words, she has to be as good as one of the most respected thespians on the whole freaking planet! And she apparently pulled it off. Here's where it gets tough: Which movie do you nominate her for? I say rule out The Help, because there's plenty of other support there. But the other three? Good luck.

I found Moneyball to be an interesting choice. Interesting because it could very well win Adapted Screenplay, but also because it is RARE for writers to repeat at the Oscars. I know a lot of Oscar trivia and I'm thinking you probably have to go back to the late 1940s-early 1950s when Joseph L. Mankiewicz won in consecutive years (I think). Writers often don't win twice, period. Much less back-to-back. But, if there is a screenwriter out there who deserves it. It's Aaron Sorkin.

The National Board of Review announces their winners on Thursday. Until then....

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