2012 Oscar Picks

Once again we’ve run into awards season. The golden globes were ignored by most, the BAFTAS offered a chance to see Stephen Fry being Stephen Fry and Christina Hendricks’ dress causing several heart attacks around England, and now we’re building up to the main event. Although the Oscars have consistently failed to reflect the most beloved and well-remembered films of most given years (Chariots of Fire won over Raiders of the Last Ark, Ordinary People over Raging Bull and The Elephant Man, etc) we still get carried away with the spirit of celebrating a years’ worth of cinema.

Our picks will be a mix of what we expect and what we hope, with hope prevailing in most instances. We’re not going to go into the technical categories here. We’re not going to pretend to know the difference between sound mixing and sound editing. And given the visual effects category lacking any impressive practical effects, we’ll stay clear of that too. It goes without saying that we would prefer Transformers Dark of the Moon to lose all three of its nominations.

And with the fact that Transformers 3, one of the worst critically received films of the year, has three nominations freshly installed in your minds, let’s look at some Oscar snubs! Allowing Michael Fassbender to go without best actor for his devastating portrayal of a sex addict in Shame is very unfortunate. Tilda Swinton being overlooked for the haunting realisation of We Need To Talk About Kevin’s Eva is similarly terrible. Additionally, Drive is left out of everything except technical, my favourite film of the year, Melancholia, has been entirely overlooked, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not included for best picture. These are all quite upsetting, and it does mean that we lack the staggering masterpieces in the best picture category that we had last year. But those matters aside, let’s look at our picks for the ten awards we feel we can adequately judge and be objective about.

So, in reverse order of importance, starting with those losers everybody hates:

Best Writing (Adapted): Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a very dense novel. At its heart is a story of betrayal and disillusionment, wrapped in a hunt for a soviet mole amongst four high ranking British Intelligence Officers. Add to that the Reptile fund, operation witchcraft, operation Testify, Lamplighters, Scalphunters and other technical jargon and you have a lot to pack into a two hour film. A six hour BBC TV show had previously succeeded in bringing George Smiley and his claustrophobic world of espionage to life, but the writers on this film manage to deliver something punchier, whilst somehow maintaining the deliberate pace. Scenes are shortened, rearranged and altered and all to great effect. Some details are even improved, such as the Russian cultural attaché Poliokov being identified as a soviet agent because he is saluted by a soldier, giving away his military background. In the film he mistakenly where medals to a military funeral…that’s quite a clumsy move for a spy! So for doing a difficult job and absolutely triumphing, Tinker Tailor gets our vote.

Best Writing (Original): The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius

If the Baftas were any indication then The Artist should sweep these awards, and deservedly so. The writing was certainly very important. With absolutely no dialogue until the final scene, the script had to find ways of emoting everything through visuals. No exposition to reveal the plot, everything must be articulated through the gestures and actions of the characters. The script delivers a terrific challenge to the actors to get across everything on the page onto the screen. The screenplay also plays with its own limitations as characters suddenly become aware of sound effects or are unable to hear each other speak without title cards. But the backbone of the script is the story, which is a very sorrowful story of times changed and fame lost. The writing is extremely charming and wonderfully poignant. It’s not only my personal pick for best original screenplay, but the most likely winner too.

Best Music: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias

The music of the artist needed to last the entire length of the film, and would replace sound effects and dialogue, and is therefore very likely to win this award. But for me, Alberto Iglesias’ sexy seventies jazz soundtrack to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is just too perfect not to highlight here. The sound manages to be sorrowful and yet triumphant, slick and yet sleazy, and just generally perfect for its setting. Any fans of the original series may be sorry not to hear the original theme tune, but it is placed by a lovely trumpet piece to embody our hero and his tireless pursuit of the truth. The music haunts the often densely detailed frames of the film, providing essential atmosphere to the claustrophobic visuals. For perfectly complementing the tone, this soundtrack deserves to win.

Best Foreign Film: A Separation

This is not only my favourite of the five nominations, but also the most likely winner. The film offers an insight into the inner workings of a society all too readily demonized in the west. We follow an Iranian couple undergoing a divorce, and the strains put on this failing relationship by a court case involving the father possibly causing the death of the babysitter’s unborn child. What follows is a courtroom and family drama, as every character attempts to influence each other to bring the case to a close. The writing is very compelling as the characters are rendered with complete realism and portrayed brilliantly by their actors, from the aggressive yet emasculated husband of the pregnant maid to the strong independent mother who is desperately trying to affect a change in her life by leaving her husband. Direction is contemplative and enthralling and every element works well to bring the compelling story to life.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Berenice Bejo in The Artist

Wait, we’re NOT picking Jessica Chastain? The most bewitching creature currently revolving around the sun? Well why the hell not?! Because, for our sins, we did not see The Help this year. We just ran out of time, and there’s no way to buy it before the Oscars. So our real pick is Jessica Chastain, but our moral and most probable winner is Berenice Bejo, the incredible actress somehow managed to match Jean Dujardin’s energy and charisma. She is at the heart of this movie, she drives the plot and signals the change of climate that so terribly affects Dujardin’s character. She plays a lively and extremely talented beauty living in Los Angeles during the golden age of American cinema. She accidentally encounters the biggest film star of the time and accidentally steals his spotlight, to her eventual sorrow. Bejo is able to articulate the spritely enthusiasm and the deep, touching sorrow that she feels for her fallen hero. She definitely deserves this Oscar.

Best Actor in a supporting role: Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn

We are at a bit of a loss here. We didn’t see Moneyball or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close due to a lack of interest in baseball and terrible reviews, respectively. But Kenneth Branagh definitely deserves some credit for his portrayal of Lawrence Olivier, and he does seem the most likely candidate (though it would be nice for Von Sydow to win this late in his career). Upon seeing the film, we didn’t even manage to recognise Branagh’s distinctive face in the role as he absolutely merged into the part of Lawrence Olivier. Although the camp pomposity is a little bit Johnny Sessions, it’s still a charismatic and enjoyable turn, distinguishing an otherwise fairly bland film (Miss Williams was quite good too).

Best Actress: Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Let’s none of us be fooled. This Oscar is going to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady. There is absolutely no question about this, it’s going to happen. But although we did appreciate how faithful her performance was, we really hated that movie. The sappy script, the ugly direction, the utterly uncontroversial approach to an extremely controversial subject, we just hated it for being so…bland. So we couldn’t bear to give Streep her props for an accurate portrayal and would much rather see the statue go to Rooney Mara for being extremely brave. This script was sent around Hollywood for a few years, and several actresses turned it down because it was too controversial or difficult or nude. But Mara took the role, she dared to portray this character, and she did so masterfully. She succeeded in being incredibly fierce and strong whilst also conveying the fragility and weakness at the heart of the character. Amongst the difficult plot and incredibly hard to watch scenes of brutalisation, you needed a character you could like and be fascinated by in the foreground, and Mara was exceptional. It would be very gratifying to see her properly rewarded for this effort. Shame she won’t. As it’s definitely going to Streep…

Best Actor: Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The academy sometimes delivers Oscars to unworthy performances just because it is that actors turn, and they’ve never gotten one before, and are getting on a bit. Hence John Wayne winning for True Grit. This is one reason that Gary Oldman may win this Oscar, but it is not the reason we hope he will win and this role is far from undeserving. George Smiley has already been portrayed masterfully by Sir Alec Guinness, but Oldman is not doing a Guinness impression…he’s doing a John Le Carre impression. The tiny movements and restrained emotions Oldman is able to bring to this film really suits a world of tiny details. The character is one who has been betrayed by his country and by his wife, and he is just as unlikely to leave one than the other. He carries out his duties as a top ranking MI6 agent despite having lost faith in the system he defends “Don’t you think it’s time to recognise there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine?” His best moment is when he describes to Guillam the only time in his career in which he met his adversary, Karla, a scene he carries all by himself to powerful effect. This award will very probably go to Jean Dujardin, but I certainly hope it goes to Oldman. But it’s only his first nomination, there’s still plenty of time. Let’s hope this is only the start of him taking lead roles again.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

This, too, will probably go to the artist for its daring, if not particularly modern, directorial decisions, but frankly I’m running out of things to say about it, so with nothing for Tomas Alfredson or Fincher, let’s go with Hugo! A lot of this will have been said in the top ten list earlier this year but let’s focus on the direction. The characters are given time to develop and explore the mystery at a deliberate pace, whilst not losing the wonderful momentum that drives the plot. The comedic elements compliment the more thoughtful and sweet, and the tone is consistently strong throughout. The technical decisions are fairly bold, with most of the action occurring on a large set constructed at Shepperton replicating a period perfect French railway station. Significant moments are very memorable, such as the awakening of the automaton, the chases through the station and the on-set experiences of Méliès. Scorcesse defends his position as one of the most viscerally interesting and stylistically unique directors working, and we feel stands out amongst the other nominations…except Hazanavicius, perhaps.

Best Picture: The Artist!

Yes! Obviously. It’s the best film of the year! …or at least the best one they’ve bothered to nominate. Once you get past the charismatic and charming leads, the brilliantly original script and the fantastic music and production values you still have a worthy best picture winner in terms of the unique style, the ambitious scope and the significance of its message of optimism in the creative industry. The initial nostalgia inducing element works well, and is kept fresh by the little self referential sections, often occurring in dreams. The focus may be seem a little esoteric to people outside the industry or not huge fans of movies in general, but this story of a man who finds himself lost in new times is easily identifiable to anyone who has woken up one day to find the world has left them behind.  This is not only the most probable winner for best Oscar, but our personal choice….unless Melancholia was nominated…or Tinker Tailor…or Drive…It’s very good! Really.

P for Picture (Best)

Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2012

New year! Still, kind of. And whilst we sift through the remains of 2011 for the next month leading up to the Oscars we can look forward to the brand new year of movies ahead! We’ve got fucking Nolan people! Fuck yeah! No Coens, and we’ve had our Fincher, mustn’t be greedy! (Update: We get another one! Yaaay!) We are getting another Terrence Mallik soon, so we can expect some wandering around with whispering voice overs at some point. Several long term projects are reaching completion this year, some directors we haven’t seen in a while are coming back and Jessica Chastain has promised to be lovely on several more occasions. But there are ten events in movie making which we are looking forward to more than any other! So here they are:

10. Looper

The concept alone is enough to encourage excitement! Joseph Gordon Levitt is employed to kill illegal immigrants…from the future! That’s right it’s a time travel story, which always bodes for some silly fun. Only things go awry when Levitt recognises his next target…as himself! Only himself as played by Bruce Willis (because eventually JGL is going to grow into Bruce Willis or vice versa). If the incredibly silly plot isn’t enough to hook you then surely the star power will have raised an eyebrow. Supporting roles come from Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels. This feels like this year’s answer to the high concept sci-fi action flicks that pleasantly surprised us last year, like the Adjustment Bureau and Source Code. We’re really hoping this is continuing the trend of introducing an intellectual aspect to action movies. Even Total Recall levels of intelligence are enough for us. Little subtext or something….anything!

09. World War Z

The book took the interesting concept of the Zombie Survival Guide and applied an epistolary narrative. A film isn’t the easiest thing to pick out from the book and it will probably take a similar form to last year’s “contagion” (which does raise concerns that the thunder may have been stolen). It seems they have united the various narratives of the story by having a singular character (played by Brad Pitt) travelling the world, conducting the interviews which make up the novel.

Marc Forster (the director) has a hit and miss record of film making with highlights including The Kite Runner and Monsters Ball and recent misses including Quantum of Solace. But early commenters have made comparisons to Children of Men, the Bourne series (in terms of realism) and naturally The Walking Dead. With zombies very well covered in the decade since Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, can the film inject some new life into the old corpse? Let’s hope so because Romero’s recent efforts certainly won’t.

08. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is a divisive character. Some say he is revolutionary, others say he merely rips off obscure movies. Some say he writes the best dialogue in Hollywood, others say all his characters all just end up talking like Quentin Tarantino. We fall somewhere in the middle of these opinions, with films we love and films we hate, and Inglorious Basterds splitting us right down the middle. The basic consensus is that his first two were revolutionary and unlike anything seen before, but everything since has been too heavily rooted in its influences. But his films are always interesting.

Here he is remaking (or belatedly sequelling) cult western classic “Django”, a story about a man who perpetually drags a coffin concealing a machine gun around with him, getting caught up between rival gangs (somewhat like Yojimbo or its remake a fistful of dollars). The plot for Django unchained suggests this is not a remake as our hero sets out to rescue his wife from a plantation owner. The machine gun coffin is unmentioned, but surely, SURELY! The cast is impressive with our three favourite names in Hollywood, Joseph Gordon Levitt, joined by recent great Leonardo DeCaprio, Tarantino regular Samuel L Jackson, the fantastic Christoph Waltz and the ever powerful Jamie Foxx playing our hero, Django. The film will definitely be worth some attention this year.

07. The Hunger Games

Being one of those people who frequently bitch and moan about book to film adaptations it seems almost wrong that I am waiting with baited breath for the first of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy to come to the big shiny screen. While reading the Hunger Games I almost missed my stop numerous times on the tube from sheer hunger-games-hooked-ness.

In brief: Katniss Everdeen (played by the acclaimed and totally hot Jennifer Lawrence, who is depressingly a year younger than me) makes the ultimate sacrifice for her younger sister and puts herself forward to compete in a Battle Royale style reality TV show in which 12 boys and 12 girls are placed in an arena, with one objective: to kill everyone else, including the other from their own ‘district’. Katniss and Peter are selected from District 12, the least prosperous of the 12 districts in Collins’ dystopian world. If the cinematic adaptation is anything like the books viewers can expect nothing less than a nail biting suspense. My hopes for the adaptation include: an amazing soundtrack, a heart thumping tension build (or two) and some serious sweaty teenage warfare.

06. The Bourne Legacy/ Skyfall

The two biggest names in spying both return this year with dramatic potential! The Bourne Legacy has the intriguing premise of being a Bourne film without Bourne. The film focuses on new character Aaron Cross, played by the rising star Jeremy Renner, trying to investigate Bourne and his actions after the events of the third film. Bourne’s complete absence from the story is a very interesting concept and we look forward to seeing how the writers have managed to get around him. Having Edward Norton and Rachel Weiz attached to the project also helps the hype. They certainly couldn’t have found a better director. Tony Gilroy has spent the last decade making up for writing Armageddon by writing and directing some of the most sexy and twisty thrillers we’ve seen. Aside from writing for the Bourne series he has directed Michael Clayton, State of Play (not the worst remake of the British TV series ever, that honour goes to Edge of Darkness), and Duplicity. So high hopes for him getting the tone and pace right.

Skyfall gained additional interest after being rescued from development hell by director Sam Mendes. We’ve all been reading the stories of Mendes cutting expensive action sequences in favour of character developing scenes. Regardless of the art film director’s impact, the script has always seemed interesting. The film is calling into question the one character of the Bond films that has always been beyond reproach: M! Apparently we are also getting a Q at last, played by relatively obscure actor (except for fans of Nathan Barley) Ben Whishaw. The gadgets promise to be less zany than the offerings of previous Qs but the prospect of some outlandish gadgets vaguely grounded in reality (which we got a taste of in MI4) is certainly very exciting! And with Javier Bardem as the villain and undisclosed roles for Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney, the film promises to be a worthy instalment in the troubled series, perhaps finally acting on the potential of Casino Royale.

05. Moonrise Kingdom

Some may describe this entry as pretentious. But we’re huge fans of Wes Anderson here and have been looking forward to his next film for every one of the last three years, and after his last film moved him a little closer to the mainstream, we are intrigued to see what direction he will go into next. Although the plot of a New England couple running away encouraging a search party to be assembled to find them sounds like the typical quirky fare of Anderson (enough to get us into a theatre), the cast may just gather some wider interest. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are joined by Francis Mcdormand (welcome back from Bayverse, Francis), Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel (who we don’t get nearly enough of these days). Angellica Houston will also, surely, be in there somewhere. Anything by Wes Anderson will surely be a highlight of the year and we greatly anticipate his newest effort.

04. The Avengers

It’s been three years since Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk promised it. Since then we’ve had five movies, the latter two of which have pretty much been made entirely because of this. If this isn’t one of the best things we’ve seen all year, then it’s not just one movie that will have been wasted. The anticipation films for the Avengers have ranged greatly in quality but certain details concerning the Avengers suggest it has the potential to rise far about expectation. First and foremost, the involvement of Joss Whedon, the man who creates a cult with everything he does. He is writing and directing and his ability to write strong characters and snappy dialogue is very promising. Anyone who has read his run of the Astonishing X-Men knows he has the potential to do this very well.

One problem is that the villain isn’t terribly inspiring. He’s not new; we’ve seen him in Thor. And whilst Chris Hiddleston’s Loki was a decent enough villain in a film where the main draw is the origin story of the hero, he doesn’t seem enough to justify the assembly of such an epic team of heroes. But this does maybe suggest that more attention will be played towards the dynamic of the group, and that is where the potential lies! We have the cocky Iron Man, the arrogant Thor, the old-fashioned Captain America, the temperamental Hulk, the stoic Hawkeye, and the sassy Black Widow, all headed by the ever awesome Samuel L Jackson. If the film plays the humour and actions scenes right, this could easily be a great event in the year’s film calendar. Although the prospect of a Spiderman reboot is exciting, this is comic book movie we’re most anticipating this year! …well, maybe there’s one other one.

03. The Wettest Country

It’s amazing it’s taken this long to get to one of the many promised examples of Jessica Chastain being lovely this year into this list. But whereas we anticipate the new Terrence Mallik with aching buttocks, the wettest country promises to be considerably more exciting. Boardwalk Empire has rekindled interest in the prohibition era gangster stories, and as massive fans of Boardwalk we look forward to a big sexy movie of the trench coat wearing, Tommy gun totting, beer peddlers of the 1930s. Based on the novel by Matt Bondurant, and adapted by (somewhat oddly) the musician Nick Cave, the film will be directed by previous Nick Cave collaborator John Hillcoat and if the result is as interesting as “The Proposition” then it should be very entertaining. Hillcoat also recently directed the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece “The Road”, with fairly competent results.

The story concerns three brothers bootlegging in Virginia. One brother is played by Tom Hardy, a man who has been the highlight of everything he’s been in since Bronson (hell since Nemesis!), the second is familiar face Jason Clarke and the youngest brother will be played by Shia LaBitch…surprisingly this was not enough to fully break the deal for us. Hiring the most spitefully obnoxious actor since Paulie Shore was an unpleasant move for the makers to take but perhaps we’ll be proven wrong and he won’t spend most of the film screaming to camera or being an self-righteous asshole. Hell he might even like this project enough not to bad mouth the film and everyone involved ten minutes after filming ends. Who knows?! To make up for this black hole of charisma we also get Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman….and Jessica Chastain. Who thankfully is NOT Labitche’s love interest. That would have been painful.

02. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

About two years ago me and K were sat in the IMAX about to watch the Lord of the Rings All-nighter when the host of the evening introduced a guest “who needed no introduction”. We all turned to the back where a spotlight had been thrown to see a lone figure stood there. He walked down the aisle to the podium and such was the intensity of the light and the shock of the moment that it took a few moments to recognise the warm smile and familiar wrinkles that constituted the beloved face of Sir Ian McKellan. He told us some funny stories about the filming and complimented the freaks who showed up dressed as hobbits and then told us that filming had started in New Zealand on The Hobbit.

It has been two years since that day and now we have a trailer! The trailer starts with Frodo and Bilbo and the familiar sound of Howard Shore’s music accompanying Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Instantly it’s 2001 and we’re watching the first trailer for Fellowship of the Ring, first glimpses of the Shire and the characters that inhabited our childhood. Only now we go back further to the 13 little dwarves, the wizard and the hobbit whom we first discovered as children. We are given a song, some of the epic scenery and a few glimpses of battle! Although the actual book has significantly less action than the Lord of the Rings, it seems that the script writers have moved outside the narrative to reveal other important events that we didn’t previously see in the book, such as the battle between Gandalf and the Necromancer. However the writers only have the right to adapt the Hobbit, not the Silmarillion or unfinished tales. So they have to be careful of how much they include. Perhaps we’ll be seeing a whole new version of events! All we know is that this looks to be a continuation of the franchise that meant everything to us as teenagers…let’s just hope it’s not another Phantom Menace.

01. The Dark Knight Rises

In lieu of an article fully detailing all the reasons we cannot fucking wait for this, please accept this picture of us ejaculating over the movie’s poster.

Ok I couldn’t figure out how to upload that and now the police have it, so let’s have that article!

What we know of the Dark Knight Rises is only what Nolan has told us. The film is set eight years after the Dark Knight, the villain is Tom Hardy’s Bane; we will also get Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Joseph Gordon Levitt looking intense, Marion Coutillard looking stunning, and the fucking Batwing. The trailer for this film is truly exhilarating. Not as exhilarating, however, as the first six minutes of the film which was offered to anyone who saw Mission Impossible 4 at the IMAX. Without spoiling anything, it was equal in its ambition and menace to the Joker’s bank heist. The big surprise is that the villain is significantly more intimidating as this six foot high wall of muscle and attitude that swaggers through his scenes with a sense of indestructability. His voice….is a problem. Although the voice Tom Hardy is using sounds fantastic in a classical British Bond villain kind of way, it’s very muffled and hard to understand. We’re talking Ken Watanabe delivering key exposition over the sound of a helicopter levels of incomprehension. This made us very worried, but then we get news that Christopher Nolan has completely remixed the audio to make Bane easier to understand. Oh Nolan, how could we have doubted you?

The film promises to be devastatingly emotional (watching how frail and upset Alfred seems in the trailer is already hard to watch) and amazingly ambitious in its action scenes. In an age of doing everything with CGI, we’ve all seen the real Batwing which Nolan actually built to use in this film and the explosions he set off in an actual stadium (a sequence seen in the trailer). The other element that adds potential to this film is that Nolan has said that this will be the end of his batman. This guarantees something pretty climactic and considering Nolan hasn’t been shy about killing off key characters in the past, we do have to wonder if he is going to literally put an end to the caped crusader. Though there is another option. We’ve seen men rappelling into the bat cave in the trailer. What looks like Wayne walking with a cane. Is there a chance that Nolan is going to do to Batman what Bane did in the comics? …time will tell. And it’s the single most anticipated thing this year.