Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Oscar Wrap Up

Loose Thoughts

Well, folks, the lesson learned this year is that you should not, under any circumstances, ever, ever pay attention to my Oscar predictions.  Man, did I bomb this year!  Just terrible.  I shouldn't even be allowed to think about awards again, let alone try to predict them.  Just sit back and watch the show like everyone else.  Any claim I've ever laid to recognizing quality in film or having a feel for the thought process of Academy voters is apparently wrong, and I should be ashamed to have presumed otherwise.  The end.

But wait.  No.  Maybe I'm being too hard on myself.  I mean, my reasoning was sound, wasn't it?  My guesses made a lot more sense than the Academy's votes.  Yeah, that's it.  It wasn't I who was wrong, but them!  Nice try, Academy, but I'm not taking the fall for your mistakes.  You're the problem, not me.  Why am I running myself through the ringer when it's you who ought to be ringed?

Here are some things that I did right and the Academy did wrong...

Technical awards.  Oh, silly me!  I thought Dragon Tattoo and Planet of the Apes deserved an award or two.  Little did I realize that the Academy was so ashamed about not giving Martin Scorsese the director or picture awards, that they would backload Hugo with as much as they could.  My mistake.

Short films.  You know, I first started attending screenings of the short films three years ago.  I thought it would make me better at predicting Oscar winners.  Instead, it's made me worse.  (Go ahead, check my record.)  Whose fault is this, mine or the Academy's?  I remind you, I've actually seen the short film nominees.  Do you think everyone in the Academy saw all the short film contenders?  Or do you think they just dashed off a few checkmarks so that they could get their ballots in the mail?

Original screenplay.  This award came down to no dialogue versus all the dialogue.  I erred on the side of no dialogue (The Artist), thinking the Academy would pat themselves on the back for acknowledging that there's more to screenwriting than just telling actors what to say.  I should have known that they'd rather pat themselves on the back for liking Woody Allen.  (In fairness, I truly did love Midnight In Paris.)

Best Actress.  All right, Academy, I know I've got The People on my side with this one.  Everybody knows this was supposed to go to Viola Davis.  Yes, we love Meryl Streep.  Clearly.  And I know that Ms. Streep had -- what was the number? -- 11 losses in a row?  But you know you're going to regret not giving this to Viola Davis, right?  20 years from now, you're going to give Ms. Davis an Oscar for Scent of a Woman 2: Sniffing Out a Man, and everybody's going to be thinking, "Wait, this is her first Oscar?  How did she not win for The Help or Doubt?"

Best Actor.  Sigh.  Okay, I'll take the blame for this one.  If I had gone with my heart, I would have picked eventual winner Jean Dujardin.  Instead, I let other analysts convince me that the Academy really wanted to give this one to Clooney.  That's on me, okay?  But this is the only loss I'll take the blame for.  You done me wrong, Academy.  My reputation for awards predicting has taken a major hit after last Sunday.

All right, what else happened?

Angelina Jolie's leg.  Deserving of all the ridicule it got.  The well-rehearsed pose that she was doing on the red carpet was silly, but that's what red carpets are for, so who cares?  But when she walked out on stage to present awards and struck the exact same pose?  Come on!  To recap: she walks over to the microphone, pauses, then methodically juts out the leg and puts her left hand on her hip.  The audience reacts in a way that's not completely clear through our TVs, but sounds an awful lot like derisive laughter.  This causes Angelina to chuckle too, but not in a self aware or self deprecating way; more in a self satisfied way.  You know, Angelina of ten years ago would have cut each and every audience member who laughed at her.  And that's why we loved her.  But then again, Angelina of ten years ago wouldn't have preoccupied herself with all that posturing in the first place.

And finally, Billy Crystal.  Did a nice job.  It wasn't mind-blowingly great, but it was good.  Some jokes were clunkers, but some were out of the park.  Isn't that the way it always is?  He leaned on some old schtick and some of his jokes were old man-ish, but a lot were surprisingly fresh and biting.  Unfortunately, the press seems to be focusing on the negative.  I think they're all forgetting how absolutely dismal James Franco and Anne Hathaway were last year.  Crystal was funny, and he kept the show moving along - it went at a pretty brisk pace, and ended only a few minutes late!  If you disagree, then tell me who's been better in the last ten years.

My Score Sheet

Of the 24 categories I placed guesses in this year, I only got 10 right.  10!  Obviously, I'm not happy.  I'll give myself a week to rest up, then I need to start training hard for next season.

In Summary

If there was a problem with the Oscars this year, it was because of the nominees.  I remember, the day the nominations were announced, looking over the Best Picture list and thinking, "Oh..."  That's it.  Just... oh.  Kinda boring.  No Avatars or Inglourious Basterds or Hurt Lockers to shake things up.

That being the case, I think the awards ceremony itself actually came through pretty strong.  This year's Oscarcast was a nice middle-of-the-road endeavor which, again, was a welcome change after last year.  I enjoyed the show.  And I watched it with a good crowd of funny people, which always makes things better.  I give this year's Oscars a B+

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Official YDJ 2012 Oscar Ballot

Want to keep track of the nominees and winners during the Oscar ceremony? Want to see how your guesses stack up against mine? Here's the official Your Daily Joe Oscar 2012 ballot!

Click below to view and download (PDF format). And don't forget to print out your copy for Sunday night.

Click here to download

*Special thanks to Helby for creating the ballot document.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Short Films Predictions

Continuing my Oscar predictions, now that I've seen the live-action and animated shorts nominees...


The opinion was unanimous in my group of friends: Tuba Atlantic should win this one.  When I tell you it's the story of an elderly man who's told by his doctor that he'll only live six more days, you might assume it's a heavy-handed or sentimental examination of life and death.  It's actually a biting comedy about a grumpy old man who wants to spend his final days finishing one last project, forced to deal with the interruptions of a teenage girl who claims to be his angel of death.  Funny, and just the right amount of pathos.


It's more difficult to predict the winner from this year's animated shorts.  As usual, Pixar stands out from the crowd with La Luna, full of whimsy and magic.  And while siding with Pixar seems like the easy and obvious way to win an Oscar pool, that was not the case last year... although La Luna is sweeter and more awe-inspiring than last year's more cerebral and clever Day & Night.  So Pixar might get the win this year.

Helby thinks Fantastic Flying Books has a good chance, while I found its message so thick you could choke on it.  Instead, I'm looking at Wild Life to win.  This was the second time I'd seen it, and it's the type of movie that reveals more layers on repeat viewings.  Based on true incidents, it's the story of a rich, young Englishman who finds himself in over his head while living off family money in Canada.

The short film nominees may be available On Demand through your cable provider or through iTunes if you're interested in watching them and making your own guesses about who will win.

Read the rest of my 2012 Oscar predictions here.  And while you're there, vote in the poll!

Monday, February 13, 2012

POLL: Your 2012 Oscar Predictions

You've read my take on this year's Oscars. Now it's time to tell me yours. Take the Your Daily Joe Oscar poll below.

Special thanks to Helby for creating this poll.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Oscar Predictions

And here we are again.  Is it just me, or did Awards Season sneak up on us this year?  I'd barely begun to process my thoughts on 2011 in movies when the smaller organizations started handing out their prizes.  But the Big Show quickly approaches, so it's time to get my thoughts organized.  Here are my predictions for this year's Oscars...

  • Drive
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
I always feel obligated to describe the difference between these two categories as, let's face it, they're not exactly the most glamorous, so nobody ever remembers what distinguishes them.  But hey, these wins could give you the edge in your Oscar pool, so pay attention.  Sound editing is the process of creating the aural aesthetic of a movie; kind of the audio equivalent of the cinematography and production design.  Sound mixing is the recording and blending of all the sound elements, creating the final results that you hear when watching a movie.

These categories usually go to the flashiest contenders - war movies, action movies, superhero stuff.  For example, both went to Inception last year.  This year, however, I anticipate a split.  Sound editing will go the flashy route with Transformers.  Sound mixing will go the high-minded route: Dragon Tattoo.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The effect that stood out from the crowd in 2011 was Planet of the Apes.  Bonus points for actually being a thoughtful scifi movie as well.  The Academy will be happy to reward this.

  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Jane Eyre
  • W.E.
Well, this is always a tough category for me to predict.  The smart money is usually on the period piece, but... they're all period pieces this year.  Since The Artist is likely the big winner this year, I think it will take this award as part of its sweep.


I'll be seeing the animated and live-action shorts in a couple weeks, and will post my picks shortly after that.  Be sure to check back.  I won't have access to the documentary shorts, so you're on your own with those.  If there's one about World War II, bet on that.

[ *Updated Feb. 21, 2012 - click HERE for my short film predictions. ]

  • Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Kevin Tent, The Descendants
  • Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
  • Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball
This will probably end up another win for The Artist, although I'm concerned Dragon Tattoo could come in and grab it.  But no, The Artist's momentum should carry this along with it.

  • John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
  • Ludovic Bource, The Artist
  • Howard Shore, Hugo
  • Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • John Williams, War Horse
I was really into the Tintin score (as well as everything else about Tintin), but the Academy has pretty much rejected the movie outright, so I wouldn't expect it to perform here.  I'd like to say that this will be another win for The Artist, but there was that bit of controversy specific to the score a while back.  Then again, that was kind of a controversy of one.  I do think The Artist will win here.

  • "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
  • "Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
Wow, two whole songs were nominated.  Two!  Screw you, everyone else who wrote a song for a movie!  Anyway, I personally liked the song from Rio better, but I think there's just too much goodwill surrounding The Muppets.  "Man or Muppet" will most likely win.

  • The Artist
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • War Horse
This is another category where flashy and obvious seems to win, so I'd expect Harry Potter to take this one.

  • The Artist
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse
Tree of Life has a good shot here; Malick is nothing if not a painstaking photographer.  But as part of the overall package, the cinematography in The Artist was critical to its successful execution.  The Academy will surely recognize that achievement.

  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico & Rita
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rango
My horse was left out of this race.  I'm an enthusiastic fan of Tintin, and I don't understand why it hasn't caught on better with audiences and critics in the U.S.  I found Puss in Boots remarkably charming and rewatchable, if not especially funny.  The two foreign films in this category are strong, but the Academy will probably end up keeping things safely American here.  The Annie Award went to Rango, and I'm thinking the Academy Award is likely to follow suit.

  • Bullhead
  • Footnote
  • In Darkness
  • Monsieur Lazhar
  • A Separation
Full disclosure: I've seen exactly zero of these movies.  I know, I know... I should be ashamed.  Regardless, I've heard the buzz on all of these movies, and none has been more buzzed about than A Separation.  Everyone who's seen this movie has been blown away by it.  No dissenting opinions.  This is the one to bet on.

  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Undefeated
The strongest contenders here are Pina and Paradise Lost 3.  Pina's smart use of 3-D -- in a documentary, no less -- could give it the edge.  But Paradise Lost 3 will be remembered as the movie that got innocent people released from jail.  That's a pretty strong recommendation.  My gut tells me this one will go to Paradise.

  • Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
  • Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
  • Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Strong category here.  There's A Separation which, again, has been a huge critical hit.  But it will win Best Foreign Film, and the Academy won't feel the need to reward the script separately.  Midnight in Paris is well-reputed as a return-to-form for Woody Allen, and is a movie I particularly enjoyed.  But I think the Academy will be satisfied that they merely nominated this film; they won't feel the need to actually give it the win.  There's a possibility that Bridesmaids could win this one, as a de facto "best comedy picture" award.  But ultimately, I'd expect The Artist to win this one in its lead-up to winning the grand prize.

  • 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
There's no clear frontrunner here, at least in this observer's humble opinion.  I don't think Ides of March or Moneyball have the critical or commercial oomph to land a victory here, despite the big names attached to those scripts.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has that British edge, but also not a great deal of breakout attention.  The two top contenders are Hugo and The Descendants.  Hugo is a movie about movies, which gives it a strong edge (Hollywood likes nothing more than its own reflection).  But I think The Descendants is slightly better loved overall, and won't be winning much else on Oscar night (although this is also true for Hugo).  I'd expect to see Dean Pelton take the stage.

( This guy co-wrote The Descendants )

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The elder statesmen are definitely the better bets this year; all three gave highly-regarded performances, and all three have yet to win Oscars.  But Christopher Plummer's role as a cancer-stricken father who comes out to his son late in life has been one of the most talked about of the year.  This is pretty close to a sure thing.

  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help
This, on the other hand, is a sure thing.  Octavia Spencer will win.

  • Demian Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Although the momentum of The Artist could tip the scales in Jean Dujardin's favor, what really delights people is the cleverness of the concept and the execution of it by the director.  This is most likely a win for Clooney.

  • 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
If it's possible to have a more sure thing than the Supporting Actress category's sure thing, it's this.  I know that everyone automatically assumes Meryl Streep will always win everything, but that's not historically true, and it won't be true here.  Viola Davis will easily walk away with the win.

  • Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Look, I like all of these guys.  Eight years later and Payne's Sideways still cracks me up.  Hugo was charming and, as noted above, a great opportunity for a film lover like me to reflect on the act of loving film.  Midnight in Paris was extremely entertaining and may actually end up being a movie I need to own... which, in the age of digital streaming content, is really saying something.  And Terrence Malick's movies are always well-constructed meditations.  But The Artist was a smart gimmick that managed to transcend its gimmickry and stand on its own as an entertaining movie.  In short, it was an interesting premise that was successfully executed.  The person who gets credit for that is the director.

  • War Horse
  • The Artist
  • Moneyball
  • The Descendants
  • The Tree of Life
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
I remember when I first started hearing about The Artist.  It was supposed to have this cute little conceit of a concept, made by a ragtag group of French people with a tiny budget and a bit of ingenuity.  The Weinsteins had picked it up, and if you lived in one of the larger cities it might play in an arthouse theater near you.  Maybe it would get enough notice to pick up a Best Foreign Film nomination.

I should have known.  Harvey had other plans.

While The Artist reminded me of Cinema Paradiso, it must have reminded Harvey Weinstein of Shakespeare in Love - a lofty, intelligent love story that he could take all the way to the top.  And this year, there's no Saving Private Ryan to threaten his victory.

It's funny... about this time last year, I was talking about how Kevin Smith's move to self-distribute his latest movie, Red State, was reminding me of "the good old days" of Sundance - a time when some of the most exciting things in the world of filmmaking were coming out of that festival every January.  Now the Weinsteins -- who stumbled a bit after being kicked out of their original company, Miramax -- are finding their footing again and are up to their old tricks of taking small, quality movies further than anyone expected them to go - all the way to top.  (The King's Speech, last year's Best Picture winner, was one of theirs.)  My '90s nostalgia is tripping all over again.

There's a chance that The Help could swoop in and take a populist victory.  It's easily the most audience-pleasing movie on the list.  But amongst Academy voters, it's The Artist all the way.

Well, that's my take on this year's Oscar race.  What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below.

On Oscar night, I'll be live tweeting during the ceremony.  Click here to follow me.  The 84th Academy Awards will air on February 26, 2012 at 8 eastern/5 pacific on ABC.