Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Oscar Picks

Oscar statuette in bronze. This is an early form of the statue before it is dipped in gold.
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, so time for a few of my fearless picks. Actually over the past few years, it's become a little easier, especially for the major awards (Acting, Director, Best Picture) thanks to the slew of award ceremonies held before the Oscars. In fact, it's become a little boring in recent years, as we have witnessed the same person who won the Golden Globe and then the Screen Actor's Guild award claim the Oscar, so there's been almost no drama over recent times (the same has been holding true for the writing awards as well). There's nothing wrong with this, except to say that it's not as fun to watch the ceremonies when you know who's going to win.

Is there anyone out there who thinks anyone BUT Colin Firth will win Best Actor for his performance in The King's Speech? He deserves it of course, as he did a brilliant job putting life and breath into a famous historical character. It's just that the moment he wins will be a bit anticlimactic, as he's already won several awards for this performance. The only drama will be listening to his acceptance speech, so let's hope that Firth has an eloquent moment that's worthy of the film and this honor.

I am rooting for Geoffrey Rush for his supporting performance in the same film as I think he was absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of Lionel Logue, the king's speech therapist. I've never been that impressed by Rush's previous work; while good, I never thought he showed that much range. But in this film, he is a revelation and brings a nice touch of humanity and dry humor to this character and is a perfect foil as a simple man working with a royal subject; as with all great performances, I can't imagine anyone else in this role. I'm rooting for him, but all indications point to Christian Bale walking away with this award for his work in The Fighter.

So on with the Oscar picks and in keeping with my tradition, I'm only going to discuss a few categories, starting with:

So let me get this straight, the music branch of the Academy chooses only four nominations for this award and not five? And THESE are the four they came up with? Let me discuss these one by one:

"I See the Light" from Tangled
This is a forgettable, slightly sappy tune co-written by Alan Menken. While I don't go around humming his work every day (in fact, I can't recall the last time I hummed any of his work), the man did co-write some very good movie tunes, such as "A Whole New World" from Aladdin and "Colors of the Wind" from Pocohantas. This new song though is not in the same league as those award winners.

"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3
After the wonderful songs Randy Newman wrote for the first two Toy Story movies, it's clear that his batteries weren't fully charged when he wrote this song. It's pleasant enough, like even the most minor songs from Newman, but this just isn't his best work. Only in a year like this could this song be nominated.

"If I Rise" from 127 Hours
This is just an awful song with a dreadful three-note bass line that drives me up the wall. I'd be shocked if this actually won.

"Coming Home" from Country Strong
This is a pretty good country song - not as good as the best songs that are up for awards at the Country Music Association event - but one that is a standout in this group.

By the way, given that only four songs were nominated this year, I have a choice for the fifth nominee. That would be "Home" from Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, written by David Byrne and Brian Eno. It's got a haunting melody and I love the lyrics, which question the security of home for all of us:

Home - such a funny feeling
Home - no one ever speaking

This is, without question, the best song I heard in a movie in 2010 and in opening the picture, it sets the table for the message that the film delivers. If it were up to me, this would have won the Oscar for Best Song this year.

But it wasn't nominated, so I'm going with "Coming Home", as it's easily the best of the nominated songs. But will enough voters have heard this song?

The nominees are:

  • “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
  • “Inception” Wally Pfister
  • “The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
  • “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “True Grit” Roger Deakins
All first-rate pieces of work (as opposed to the Best Song options)- the Cinematographer's branch did an excellent job. To me this is between three films, so Black Swan and The Social Network don't stand a chance.

The King's Speech is a very pretty film to watch and it will have its supporters; it could win if the film wins a lot of other awards. But I think it's only a third favorite. 

True Grit is another wonderful achievement from Roger Deakins, who is among the two or three finest directors of photography working today. It's also his ninth Oscar nomination and he's never won, so there might be some major support for him. But let's face it, as the awards are voted on by the entire Academy, how many people know the names of cinematographers? Still, as Grit has received a bundle of nominations, the voters may want to give the film at least one award, and this is the best possibility. I hope it does win, as it would be great for the Academy to finally honor Deakins for his remarkable career, ranging from The Shawshank Redemption to No County for Old Men and several other Coen brothers' films. 

My pick actually is Inception and it boils down to this: the Academy will honor this film with several technical awards, as they have faced much criticism for not nominating Christoper Nolan for Best Director for this film. So they'll find a way to award this work with several Oscars. Also, this would be sweet justice for cinematographer Wally Pfister, who should have won this award two years ago for his brilliant work on The Dark Knight (I still can't believe that he lost out to Slumdog Millionaire - go ahead, watch the two films again and tell me that the cinematography in Dark Knight isn't far superior to Slumdog.)

And finally for the award everyone is eagerly awaiting - Short Film (Live Action), the winner will be God of Love. Don't ask me why.


  1. I totally agree with you that "Home" should have been nominated. It was good to hear a David Byrne song on an Oliver Stone soundtrack again. Of all the nominees, though, I guess--if I had to choose--I'd choose Newman's song. It's not as good as the other stuff he's written for the Toy Story movies, but it'll suffice.

    It would be nice to see Deakins win as well. His cinematography on True Grit doesn't rank among his finest work for the Coens, but I can't think of too many better-photographed movies in the previous year. I didn't personally dig Inception as a whole, though Pfister's lighting was indeed one of that movie's highpoints.

    I'll probably go out and finally see The King's Speech today, since it's getting so much hype all of a sudden. I thought The Social Network was touted as being the frontrunner for months now, so that makes this all the more confusing. As for Geoffrey Rush, my favorite performances of his are in Phillip Kaufman's Quills (with his yucky portrayal of the Marquis de Sade) and in Spielberg's Munich. I like his Oscar-winning performance in Shine as well, even though it was the kind of performance that typically wins Oscars. I will admit that some of my appreciation for Rush has dimmed in light of his selling out to do those dull Pirates flicks, but it appears he's on a comeback.

  2. Adam:

    Thanks for your comments - insightful as usual. I forgot that Geoffrey Rush was in Munich. I liked that film very much (as I'm sure you did as well, as I know you're a Spielberg fan).

    His performance in Shine was definitely an Oscar-grabber. That type of showy role (idiot svant, tyrant, dunkard) always gets noticed. His work in The King's Speech was that of a professional.

    Guess I'll have to see Quills, per your recommendation.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Deakins, but an Oscar win won't change his life. He was awarded the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award just a few weeks ago and that probably means more to him than an Academy Award.

  3. Hey Adam:

    I predicted the cinematography award and you got the song award - we're even.

    Somehow I also nailed the Best Short Film Live Action. Too bad you can't make money on this.