The Oscar nominations 2012

The Oscar nominations 2012

Did the Academy get them right or wrong?

In an unprecedented move by the Academy, the Oscars nominations have been announced at 5:30 am in L.A. They were announced by Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and broadcast live all around the internet. Internet reaction to the list went viral minutes afterwards and will continue for some-time to come. Presumably, only the most dedicated film fans State-side will have set their alarm clocks to see the announcement, most people on the West coast will be sleeping whilst everyone in other time zones ponder the Oscar nominations hot off the press, forming their own opinion as to whether the Academy got it right or wrong. 

The Academy have made some glaring omissions in the past, but The Oscars still hold a prestigious place in the film calendar. Let’s be honest, handing out awards to measure acting and filmmaking talent is inherently flawed. It’s not a science or even a racethere is no way you can work out a formula to ascertain whether say, George Clooney’s performance is better than Jean Dujardin’s. There is no way one person can beat another.  It is ultimately entirely subjective and opinion based and therefore the opinions of the Academy members are no more valid than the average man in the arm chair. Unless however, that man thinks Nic Cage should be Oscar nominated for his recent films.

The real worth of the Oscars doesn’t come through who wins or loses, it’s the fact that the smaller films, with greater emphasis about the filmmaking craft, would be lost in a world of mass-marketing for effects driven blockbusters. Take away the Oscars and there wouldn’t be anything to elevate the profile of the more artistic side of film. They might not even exist in the first place as studios and movie producers might not invest so much money in the so called prestige pictures without The Academy awards.

The Oscar nominations also provide a moment of collective consciousness; a moment where every film fan is unified by film discussion and debate. It has the same effect that a major sporting event has, it gets people talking. Tomorrow a lot of people, even people with a passing interest in film will be discussing the nominations. You could start a conversation with someone you barely know by saying: ‘have you seen the Oscar nominations?’ and get a positive response. More people will now subsequently want to see films that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen promoted. In my opinion, that is a wonderful thing.

For all its flaws then, there is a great purpose to the Oscars. These are the films up for your conversation consideration this year:

Supporting Actress

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

Given that two actresses are nominated from the film The artist, it is likely that the French black and white silent film, now beloved by all, will kick of what will probably be a winning night for the film with a win for either Berenice Bejo or Octavia Spencer.  Melissa McCarthy is occasionally funny, if a little over-the-top in Bridesmaids but it is somewhat surprising that she got an Oscar nomination for what is essentially broad bawdy comedy. Perhaps the Academy would have preferred Tilda Swinton’s moving performance – she was bafflingly over-looked in both female acting categories  – if Tilda had a poo in a sink basin.

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 had previously only played dry witted slackers before his appearance in Moneyball , so it was a surprise to see him turn to serious acting. The Academy were clearly impressed but he is up against some veteran old pros who were turning out excellent performances before Jonah was even a glint in his parents eye. Who would begrudge such great actors as Max Von Sydow or eighty-two year old Christopher Plummer winning an award?

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

The best female actress award is a hard one to call this year as there were some incredible performances given by women in 2011. Rooney Mara is perhaps a surprise nomination given that she is channeling the performance of Noomi Rapace from the original Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Personally, I’m outraged that Tilda Swinton was entirely snubbed for her haunted and tortured performance in We need to talk about Kevin. It is also hard to imagine a more heart-wrenching performance than the one given by British television actress Oliva Colman in Paddy Considine’s deeply moving drama Tyrannosaur. She is astonishing in that film.

Michelle Williams has now received three Oscar nominations, now two in a row, she will no-doubt win one in the future as she is a tremendous actress, but I don’t think she will add an Oscar to the golden globe she won for her alternative performance as Marilyn Monroe.  Glenn Close has been nominated five times but she has never won an Academy award and is an outsider to win one this year. The help is all about great female performances so Viola Davis has a chance, but Meryl Streep is err, a caste-iron certainty for her disturbingly uncanny portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. You’d be forgiven for thinking Meryl wins every five years or so but she is actually only usually nominated – she’s been nominated seventeen times in fact. Believe it or not, her last win was 29 years ago for her performance in Sophie’s choice. Her other win was for Kramer V Kramer. Expect to see an acceptance speech from Streep this year.

Best Actor

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

It is wonderful to see Gary Oldman get an Oscar nomination for his incredibly subtle performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. His performance is the reason why the film is so enigmatic; he conceals the secrets of the opaque espionage drama within his deadpan expressions. When you watch the film a second time, his performance is even more engaging and satisfying when you know what his character George Smiley knows. Previously unknown Jean Durardin has been given a lot of credit for a charming performance; the French actor has a great chance of being the first ever silent performer to win a best actor award. What a story that would be. George Clooney gives a wonderfully nuanced performance in The Descendants( see my review); I think George would be a deserving recipient of the best actor award; I think he will have a best actor and best supporting actor set – he won for Syriana –  come the ceremony.

Best Director

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

There are quite a few surprises in the best director category.  Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is charming and contains a great message about the dangers of idealizing the past, but it is still a surprise to see Woody Allen nominated. Most people thought Terrence Malick’s Tree of life was ambitious but flawed. All except the Academy it seems. Scorsese’s Hugo, a homage to the cinema pioneers, was always going to strike a chord with the Academy. And it was some skillful trick by director Michael Hazanivicus to make a silent black and white film such essential and universally pleasing cinema.  I’d like to see Alexander Payne get some recognition and win the award for his perceptive, organic and meaningful direction in the excellent The Descendants.  Payne is one of the most talented directors in the business. A lack of a nomination for Lynne Ramsey’s incredibly well directed We need to talk about Kevin is an infuriating snub.

Best Picture

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

There could have been any number of nominations in the best film category as they expanded the list a few years ago to include a wider range of films to give Oscar exposure to films that might otherwise be out of the limelight. Oddly this year there are nine nominations. With so many nominations, it is hard to make the kind of crazy omissions we’ve seen in the past, but one leaps out at me. No nomination for the deeply compelling We need to talk about Kevin. Steven Spielberg’s emotional family war drama War horse is in there. There are a few surprises in the inclusion of The tree of life and Extremely loud & Incredibly close and the baffling exclusion of Drive.  I think the front two are The Descendants and The Artist. The Artist is an incredible success story this year. Who would have thought that everyone would have been talking about a French black and white silent film? The films meteoric rise is a Hollywood underdog story in itself. It’s the kind of fairytale Cinderella story that Hollywood loves – it is a certainty to win the best picture award.  It will be the first silent film to win an award since the first ever Oscars, when Wings one in 1929.  It‘s great to see that such an vintage, classical style of filmmaking can win big favour at the Oscars.  The Artist will be the big winner and ironically given that it also tributes the origins of cinema, Scorsese’s Hugo despite eleven nominations will miss out.

Overall, it is a pretty strong list of films, but as always , The Academy got a lot wrong and there are some maddeningly frustrating over-sights.

My Oscar 2012 predictions 

Best supporting actress 

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Best supporting actor 

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best actress 

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best actor 

George Clooney, The Descendants

Best director 

Michel Hazanivicus, The Artist

Best film

The Artist.

Other notable nominations 

Best Original Screenplay

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

“Good to see the excellent dissection of the ethical dilemmas facing bankers in Margin Call get nominated.  The artist is a certainty here to win.”

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

“Great to see George Clooney’s scathing and provocative portrayal of the American political system in Ides of march acknowledged. I’d like to see Tinker Tailor Solider Spy win but I think The Descendants will take this one.”

Best Foreign Feature

Bullhead
Footnote
In Darkness
Monsier Lazhar
In Separation

“Iranian film In Separation will win this promoting some interesting speeches given the unstable political situation between Iran and America.” 

Best Animated Feature

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

So pleased to see Rango get nominated, surprised to see Tintin left out. Strangely the best animated feature is the hardest to predict this year. I’ll go with a win for Rango.

Written by @filmfelladarren

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

7 Responses to The Oscar nominations 2012

  1. Jenna says:

    Doh! Octavia Spencer has been nominated for The Help not The Artist… She’ll probably win it though
    And never mind We Need to Talk about Kevin! What about Drive???? I was totally disappointed with the nominations this year. Maybe 2011 was actually quite a weak year for film.
    Andy Serkis should have at least got a nom for ROTPOTA purely because that was the best blockbuster of the Summer! I mean if Bridesmaids got a nomination??
    Now I haven’t seen Tin Tin, but I’ve heard visually it’s great. Why wasn’t that nominated for Best Animation? Surely it’s better than Puss in Boots? Most disappointing that they’ve overlooked a film that was trying to bring Animation genre forward.
    The Skin I live in was one of the best films I saw last year, very disappointing that it got left out so Hollywood can try and encourage stronger relationships between Iran and America… It ain’t going to convince them to stop nuclear enhancements so why bother?
    And I have to admit I hated Shame, but Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan were really good in it and should have got nominated too… I mean were there two really outstanding performances in The Help? MMMM and if it was so good then why was the lead actress in the film not considered… O yea, poor Emma Stone. Stupid Academy!
    Rant over… first year in a while I really just haven’t cared at all bout the acting categories.
    If The Artist doesn’t win big I will flip out though 🙂

    • FilmfellaDarren says:

      Thanks for pointing that error out Jenna, I actually wrote this and finished it within an hour of the annoucements, so in my haste to get it out quickly I slipped up there. I did copy that from the official list that was published on the Academy website though, so it isn’t entirely my fault. I agree it was an oversight on behalf of the Academy not nominating Drive in a list of nine best films. Why nine? Why not nominate Drive and make it ten films? I think the effective moments of punishing violence in Drive, made the film a little too heavy for the generally conservative tastes of thr Academy members.

      The more I look at the Oscar nominations list, the more apparent the mistakes become. I think Andy Serkis was very unlucky not to get a best supporting actor nomination for his wonderful blend of understated human emotion and primate energy in Rise of the planet of the apes. John Lithgow was also very good in that film. I would have been happy to see them both nominated in the best supporting actor category. If Serkis had been nominated, then along with Jean Dujardin, there could have potentially been two near silent performances in the running for the best actor awards. Now that would have been interesting. I haven’t seen The Separation yet, but a number of my friends have and they said it was outstanding so I think a nomination for that film was more than just politics. I thought The skin I live in was one of the best, and most original, films I saw last year, but it does fall into the realm of horror, so I think it must have been far too weird and unsavory for the tastes of The Academy members.

  2. Katannya says:

    I think I’ll put my money on Janet McTeer rather than Berenice Bejo for best supporting actress. Not vey much money, though, as The Artist made people feel good, and that has got to be worth some pretty statues.
    I saw A Separation and it was really, really good. More a story on classes than religion. The acting was consistently flawless throughout. Very engaging and convincing. I will be shocked if it doesn’t win, although I have to admit I didn’t see all the films in the foreign film category.
    Warriors of the Rainbow, from Taiwan, made the shortlist of 9 in that category, but didn’t make it the nominations. Pity.

  3. Filmfella Darren says:

    Thanks Katannya – did you see Albert Noobs then? I watched The Help yesterday. I thought it was powerful and now i’ve seen it, my money is on Octavia Spencer to deservedly take the best supporting actress award. I wouldn’t be surprised if Viola Davis beats Streep to the best actress award too, as Davis’ performance was moving in an understated way. I haven’t seen A Separation yet – i’m usually a lot more up to date with the foreign film category but this year I haven’t seen one of them. I did want the eerie The skin I live in to get a nomination, but the Academy always under-represent horror films. Did you see Warriors of the rainbow?

  4. Filmfella Darren says:

    I am actually attempting to watch all nine Oscar nominated films in two days – some for the second time. Yesterday, I watched The Help and Extremely loud and incredibly close – I was surprised at just how good they are. Now I’ve seen them, I think they are both really misunderstood.

    The Help looks like it is going to play on Oscar baiting racial tension in the deep south, which has been done many times. And yes, there is a lot of provocative racial issues in the film, but what you see through the course of the film is that the horrifyingly oppressed help form a much stronger maternal bond with the daughters of their rich, white oppressors, and are much stronger mother figures than the spoiled materialistic, childish white women. Its actually a pretty eye opening film, with a strong message abut the importance of nurturing your own child. In our fast paced modern world, where buying things for your children is deemed more important than spending time with them, the real message of the Help is an important wake-up call. I found it deeply compelling.

    Now I’ve seen seven of the nine films nominated for Best picture I’ve noticed that there is a parenting theme developing. So far, four of the seven films I’ve seen were about parenting. One of those is Extremely loud and incredibly close.

    I don’t think the critics have understood the film at all. I’ve heard criticisms that it is quirky for the sake of being quirky and it exploits 9/11. Lazy, unfounded criticisms. The film is actually about autism. It’s not overtly stated, it’s implied but if you consider it to be a film trying to create a window into the closed off world that an autistic child creates for himself – particularly during times of stress – the film becomes as powerful and insightful film about autism as Rainman. I found it moving in a genuine way and there is a real narrative reason for it being set at 9/11, and that part is handled sensitively. These two films definitely deserve to be in the best picture category. I’m still upset that We need to talk about Kevin and Tinker Tailor soldier spy were not nominated but – although i did enjoy The Artist, Moneyball and Tree of Life. I’d drop them from The best picture category before i would drop The help and Daldry’s film.

  5. Filmfella Darren says:

    Thanks Katannya – did you see Albert Noobs then? I watched The Help yesterday. I thought it was powerful and now i’ve seen it, my money is on Octavia Spencer to deservedly take the best supporting actress award. I wouldn’t be surprised if Viola Davis beats Streep to the best actress award too, as Davis’ performance was moving in an understated way. I haven’t seen A Separation yet – i’m usually a lot more up to date with the foreign film category but this year I haven’t seen one of them. I did want the eerie The skin I live in to get a nomination, but the Academy always under-represent horror films. Did you see Warriors of the rainbow?

  6. Filmfella Darren says:

    I am actually attempting to watch all nine Oscar nominated films in two days – some for the second time. Yesterday, I watched The Help and Extremely loud and incredibly close – I was surprised at just how good they are. Now I’ve seen them, I think they are both really misunderstood.

    The Help looks like it is going to play on Oscar baiting racial tension in the deep south, which has been done many times. And yes, there is a lot of provocative racial issues in the film, but what you see through the course of the film is that the horrifyingly oppressed help form a much stronger maternal bond with the daughters of their rich, white oppressors, and are much stronger mother figures than the spoiled materialistic, childish white women. Its actually a pretty eye opening film, with a strong message abut the importance of nurturing your own child. In our fast paced modern world, where buying things for your children is deemed more important than spending time with them, the real message of the Help is an important wake-up call. I found it deeply compelling.

    Now I’ve seen seven of the nine films nominated for Best picture I’ve noticed that there is a parenting theme developing. So far, four of the seven films I’ve seen were about parenting. One of those is Extremely loud and incredibly close.

    I don’t think the critics have understood the film at all. I’ve heard criticisms that it is quirky for the sake of being quirky and it exploits 9/11. Lazy, unfounded criticisms. The film is actually about autism. It’s not overtly stated, it’s implied but if you consider it to be a film trying to create a window into the closed off world that an autistic child creates for himself – particularly during times of stress – the film becomes as powerful and insightful film about autism as Rainman. I found it moving in a genuine way and there is a real narrative reason for it being set at 9/11, and that part is handled sensitively. These two films definitely deserve to be in the best picture category. I’m still upset that We need to talk about Kevin and Tinker Tailor soldier spy were not nominated but – although i did enjoy The Artist, Moneyball and Tree of Life. I’d drop them from The best picture category before i would drop The help and Daldry’s film.

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