Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Oscar noms – nostalgia and a bit with a dog

You sit there in the cinema waiting for dialogue. For what seems like an eternity, sure he’s expressive you think so WHY ISN’T HE TALKING? But enough about George Smiley in Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy, this year everyone loves The Artist.

The Artist is lovely. Lovingly crafted, lovingly scored, lovingly acted and the reason it will win everything from the Regional Critics Film Awards (yes, I got to vote) to the Oscars is because it is a paean to classic Hollywood (1930s in particular). It’s not just nostalgia though, it is a beautifully told story that fits its silent format perfectly. And it is as light as a silk cummerbund; it's not trying to bash you over the head with themes, or multiple Oscar nominees gurning about their disabilities. I’m not jaded.

Released on Friday in the UK, The Descendants is another big hitter with a best picture nomination. Again, it is a contrast film. It seems to move at its own stately pace, picking up observations and little moments as it winds its way around Hawaii. It’s another gem from Alexander Payne, whose catalogue is redoubtable after Election, About Schmidt and of course Sideways. George Clooney? We know he is a movie star, recently we’ve see more and more of his acting chops. In Descendants, he reins himself in, it is a small performance without pyrotechnics but he shows you sadness, he shows you regret, whilst also giving flashes of charm. His character Matt King is very ordinary in many ways. A Jimmy Stewart sort of guy, muddling through and trying to do the best he can.

For best actor it will be a race between Clooney and French comedian Jean Dujardin. The feeling would be that Clooney’s popularity in the American film business will win through for him, though both are equally good. It is great to see Gary Oldman get his dues as well. He took on Smiley and made the role his own, even though Sir Alec's TV version was sublime.

Feeling all nice and warm? Okay then: M-A-R-G-A-R-E-T T-H-A-T-C-H-E-R. There won't be a consensus on The Iron Lady - a rather hagiographic light-weight take on Maggie - so it's missed out on best picture but has landed Meryl Streep a 17th acting nomination. She is Hollywood's go-to gal nearly every year it seems although her losing streak stretches back since her last win for Sophie's Choice in 1983.

I think she will win because The Iron Lady is all about Meryl as Maggie - and Hollywood loves a biopic and Thatcher won't be the divisive figure over there by the pool in Los Angeles.

For best supporting actor, Christopher Plummer is great and 82, so a win for Beginners seems set - a film which also has the benefit of right-on politics. Max Sydow is also 82 but hasn't been a factor up till now for his film.

Best director? A heavy-weight list indeed: Alexander Payne, Scorsese, Woody Allen and Terence Malick. None of them made The Artist though so my tip here is one they cannot pronounce (yet!) Michel Hazanavicius.

The really terribly dull surprise of how many flicks would make best picture yielded this list:

The Descendants - Second favourite.
The Artist - Everyone's favourite.
Warhorse - Nope.
Moneyball - Nope
The Tree of Life - Left field.
Midnight in Paris - Good to see.
The Help - Filler.
Hugo - Interesting.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - as yet unseen it has Tom Hanks and a 9/11 theme.

Nine films but only two have any chance of winning and nine films but no room for Tinker, Taylor or Senna; well we have to be upset about something don't we?


  1. I think the Academy likes films about films - so that puts The Artist and Hugo in with a perfect chance of sweeping the awards. But I'd love to see Alexander Payne get the main prizes because he's a brilliant storyteller while Gary Oldman, who has deserved an Oscar countless times, should get Best Actor simply because he's overdue.

  2. Hi Dan, yes I really agree about films about film history; certainly seems to have swept Hugo on. I just love Alexander Payne's work as well, anything that allows him to get projects made more easily can only be a good thing. Gary is overdue isn't he, that's a tough call there....