My quick-and-dirty Oscar picks (OK, not that quick)

Been lagging behind other, more qualified Academy Award prognosticators. Wait. Who could be more qualified than someone who has seen 74% of ALL the Oscar-nominated feature and short films (not merely the top prizes, but covering every category including sound mixing and catering)?

Kidding on catering, but one peeve: Why isn’t there an award for Best Casting … or Best Cast? My pick for this year: “Margin Call.” We’re talking Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Simon Baker and the devilishly handsome Zachary Quinto, who wins for Best Eyebrows. Now, that’s a cast-iron hot cast.

 
Enough procrastinating, on to my prognosticating.

BEST PICTURE

Prediction: The Artist
Pick: The Descendants

  • “The Artist” … all I can say is “f*** joie de vivre.”
  • I wanted to love “Loud/Close,” but there wasn’t enough of an emotional payoff – no “wallop,” as my friend and movie partner Ellen put it.
  • “The Help” was manipulative and rewrote history, but I could live with it winning: empowerment is a solid, inspirational theme.
  • “Midnight in Paris” was a great “Cinderella” story and intellectual fun, but seeing Owen Wilson “do” Woody Allen got tedious.
  • “War Horse” was “E.T” with a horse, meets “Saving Private Ryan.
  • “The Tree of Life”? I’d rather watch the Discovery channel.
  • “Hugo” would have to be my second choice – even the dust was 3-D!
  • “Moneyball” was the only movie I saw on the regular cycle, when it came out … it inspired previous blog posts and made me a temporary card-carrying baseball fan, but “The Social Network” may have blown Aaron Sorkin’s wad.
  • My pick, “The Descendants,” is the kind of movie that seeps into your skin, awakes your senses. I saw it weeks ago, and still remember every scene. Who would have thought a land deal and a coma could prove so suspenseful? All I hope for in a film it had: a well-told story, memorable and insightful characters, a non-formulaic and unpredictable plot, amazing performances, and, this is technical: I put a lot of weight on the opening and closing shots/scenes. The wife with the wind in her face, then the father and offspring cocooning to “March of the Penguins” – such spectacular choices. Speaking of which, I love it when movies show other movies within the movie. “Bridesmaids” did this, too, with “Castaways,” when Annie had hit bottom, felt as if she had no friends, just like Tom Hanks’ character befriending sports gear.

BEST ACTOR

Prediction: Jean Dujardin
Pick: Brad Pitt

I want someone (anyone?) to upset Dujardin’s au jus (French gravy) train.

 I’ve gone ’round and ’round on this one. There’s only one actor I can easily eliminate: Gary Oldman, who reminded me of something out of “South Park” with that poker face of his in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” … Tin Man.

And though I love George Clooney — and “love” is too tame a word — I just couldn’t buy the fact his kids didn’t find him equally as charming as I do. He couldn’t turn off the charm, not even with “the run.”
Jean Dujardin is the French George Clooney, and Demian Bichir is the Mexican George Clooney … they can’t all win. Bichir did take a cliché of a script and make me cry. But he’s such a long shot …

I think it’s time for Brad Pitt’s lifetime achievement award. As far as I can tell, I am the only one. He was intense in “The Tree of Life” as a family abuser, and I know he isn’t nominated for that movie, but he HATES baseball, and look how he sold “Moneyball” – his arc as a father, his insecurities … he showed us a different side of Brad Pitt. So I’m pulling for the underdog, in the spirit of the Oakland A’s.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Prediction & Pick: Christopher Plummer

(see previous post, “Bummer for Christopher Plummer?” When I wrote it, I had no clue he was the front-runner.)

BEST ACTRESS

Prediction & Pick: Viola Davis

But I wish there were room for Glenn Close. Maybe in the Best Actor category? heheh.

Ever since “Doubt,” I have adored Viola. She was also smashing this year in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” sharing praise with Sandra Bullock for giving that movie an emotional center. But what a shame for Glenn Close, whose beach scene with Janet McTeer should become as legendary as those from “Chariots of Fire,” “10,” and “From Here to Eternity.” I was transfixed by her performance. After the movie was over, and it truly settled within me, I sat weeping in the theater. But because Close spent 15 years working to bring this movie to the screen, and had already honed the Albert character onstage (and what brilliance in her interpretative manly movements), I’ll say that’s an unfair advantage. As for Mara Rooney, I liked her, but think I liked the actress in the Swedish version more. Meryl Streep, oh, Meryl. You were a better Thatcher than ever Thatcher was, but I think I’ll give it to you for makeup this year. Michelle Williams was a creampuff surprise, rounding out Marilyn with her Norma Jean essence. She wasn’t an impersonator; she was an incubator. Still … it is definitely Viola’s time.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Prediction: Octavia Spencer
Pick: Jessica Chastain (see previous post, “Moonlighting at the Movies”)

ANIMATED FEATURE

Prediction: Rango
Pick: Chico & Rita

Because it was the jazziest animated feature ever.

ART DIRECTION

Prediction: Hugo
Pick: War Horse

Because the horse-getting-stuck-in-the-barbed-wire scene sticks with you.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Prediction & Pick: The Tree of Life

Because it can’t possibly win anything else.

COSTUME DESIGN

Prediction: W.E.

Because Arianne Phillips has Madonna on her side.

Pick: Anonymous

Not THAT Anonymous! Now, that would be an easy costume ...

I also liked “Jane Eyre,” but the best costumes were over in the first 15 minutes, whereas Lisy Christl had to costume entire crowds authentically and also hand-sew all those noodly collars. Plus, Vanessa Redgrave’s gowns were to-die-for. By beheading.

DIRECTING

Prediction & Pick: Michel Hazanavicius

I’ll give him that one, because he WAS the movie. But I would be happy if Alexander Payne or Martin Scorsese managed to win. And I would like to cast anti-votes for both Terrence Malick and Woody Allen. I imagine Woody telling Owen Wilson: “Be more me.” Ugh. He even made him wear his pants like him.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Prediction: Undefeated

But I didn’t get to see it.

Pick: Hell and Back Again

 I saw only this one and “Paradise Lost,” and this one was brilliant — and daring.

FILM EDITING

Prediction: Thelma Schoonmaker for “Hugo”
Pick: Kevin Tent for “The Descendants”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Prediction & Pick: A Separation

 If I could select this for Best Picture overall, I would.

MAKEUP

Prediction & Pick: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for “The Iron Lady”

MUSIC (Original Score)

Prediction: Ludovic Bource for “The Artist”
Pick: Howard Shore for “Hugo”

MUSIC (Original Song)

Haven’t seen either movie or listened to either song yet. I’ll decide tonight, but I’m leaning toward “Rio.” Coin toss.

SOUND EDITING

Prediction: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Because voters are gonna wanna give it something.

Pick: Drive

Because this was an AWESOME movie. It’s “Taxi Driver” for stunt men.

SOUND MIXING

Prediction & Pick: Hugo

VISUAL EFFECTS

Prediction & Pick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)

Prediction: The Descendants

And I’d be thrilled for it, but I am faulting it for its narration.

Pick: Moneyball

Because OMIGOD how did they turn THAT dry book into a gripping MOVIE?

WRITING (Original Screenplay)

Prediction: Midnight in Paris
Pick: A Separation

“Margin Call” was quite interesting, but it was written in code. “Bridesmaids” was an unexpected treat, but because it was half-improv, it shouldn’t count. “The Artist” had a meatier plot than I expected, but Michel will get enough overblown credit, and because it’s silent, it’s borderline writing.

Phew. Let the Oscar parties begin!!

Bummer for Christopher Plummer?

I won’t hold it against Canadian-wanna-be-British actor Christopher Plummer that when we met on a set in London 34 years ago, he never spoke, only sneered. I’d pissed him off by humming “Something Good.” He famously despises “The Sound of Music.”

But if he doesn’t win an Oscar on Sunday for his charming turn as a geriatric who comes out to his son four years before dying of cancer, it will be my turn to be pissed.

Touring the city as a teen while my sister studied at the Royal College of Music, I had been lingering near Albert Hall, when I spied a glowing house on the edge of Hyde Park. Klieg lights everywhere. I fancied myself a “film student” then, and was drawn like a moth. (Though, technically, moths aren’t drawn, just disoriented, and they don’t make a beeline for anything, but I digress.)

Wearing my London fog reporter’s garb and flashing my instamatic camera, I slipped into the Victorian house along with a cadre of curious tourists and climbed two stories, until a bouncer announced, “Closed set” and started pushing folks away. I managed to peek inside the door at the top of the stairs, and randomly waved to a bearded beefeater bloke in a huddle of grips and carpenters and boldly fibbed, “I’m with him,” so he reeled me in on crooked finger. “No pictures, though,” the bouncer growled.

That’s when I made a sweep of the hazy room — artificial smoke was being pumped in for a dingy lighting effect — and spied Christopher Plummer, in his own little corner, all alone, much smaller than I’d imagined. My inner Julie Andrews did somersaults over to him. I tried making small talk, about the smoke and torturous working conditions, about my love of films and, eeek, did I mention “The Sound of Music”? Possibly. He just eyed me cautiously, down the slope of his nose, when I broke into song, “Perhaps I had a wicked childhood … perhaps I had a miserable youth …” and lost the lyrics. Music, the universal language. He had nowhere to escape to, so I took my cue and sauntered over to my fake friend, Dennis Bovington, with whom I got along famously and who, after the shoot, invited me to share a pint with the union boys and a baby-faced Harrison Ford, who also happened to be working on the movie. Say, what?! And I cared more about Christopher Plummer!?

“Hanover Street,” that was the film, a 1979 World War II bomb. But I was issued a three-day studio pass and given the red-carpet treatment, courtesy of Master Bovington, as well as a visit to Stanley Kubrick’s estate and a tour of “The Shining” set (just the exterior of a fake Overlook Hotel, used in the scenes when Danny is trying to escape out the window and Wendy is working on getting the Snowcat to work), as well as the “Star Wars” graveyard, where I combed through spare C3PO and R2D2 body parts. It was an aspiring-film-student’s dream.

But back to Plummer. The poor sod has never won an Oscar. Never even nominated for Best Actor. I believe this is only his second Best Supporting Actor nom. And though the stage actor despises fluff and loves playing villains, he was brilliant as an over-the-hill gay man with vistas yet to conquer.

A look at his competition:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”) — Lost in the character of Laurence Olivier, he nonetheless seemed to be wearing some sort of fat suit. Too distracting.
  • Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) — Loved him, proud of him to cross over from goofy sidekick to geeky sidekick, but he later lost his fat suit. Let’s give this guy some more serious roles. Too soon for his award.
  • Nick Nolte (“Warrior”) — The recovering-alcoholic-deadbeat-father-dismal-has-been role was written for him, and I totally soaked up his relapse scene, but the role fits him like a glove. Too tailored.
  • Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”) — His silent performance was waaaaay better than Jean Dujardin’s, and he provided one of the few emotional entry points to this disappointingly clinical film. But, sorry. Too muted.

Neither von Sydow nor Plummer has won an Oscar before. Both are 82. It’s extremely tough and incredibly close, but flipping a coin here: Plummer had lines AND a death scene. The Shakespearean actor must get his due. If not, it would be truly a bummer for Plummer.

Chris, you can thank me later for supporting you in your time of need.

“Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could …
But somewhere in (his) youth and childhood
(He) must have done something good.”

More educated-guessing picks tomorrow.