All the tears, trash and talent of the Oscars
Forget worthiness. The Oscars are as much about politics, payback and persuasion than talent and if there’s one town where money it talks, it’s Hollywood. So it’s worth looking at what the money has been saying in the last few weeks about the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
A controversial category as two of the contenders – A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita - never managed major releases while Spielberg’s Adventures of Tin Tin featured eye-popping animation and didn’t win a nomination. I would have chosen Puss In Boots but the dark and highly referential Rango is the raging hot favourite. Great visuals but this animated version of Chinatown meets Clint Eastwood lacks any originality.
Ah Hollywood, you’ve blown it again. Winner: Rango.
Best Original Screenplay
Won’t it be a treat to see Woody on stage accepting for Midnight In Paris? And deservedly so. The Artist is a close second favourite despite being a silent film. Bridesmaids is at surprisingly long odds, as is Margin Call while A Separation is another surprise nominee and non-contender.
Winner: Midnight in Paris.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Descendants is a very short-priced favourite here and a reward for it being such a brave and intensely human script. Hugo and Moneyball are in equal second place. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a big firmer, but is still out in the betting; a shame considering the considerable effort to convert a tomb into such a fine film.
Winner: The Descendants.
The Tree of Life is odds-on favourite here ahead of The Artist, Hugo, War Horse and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Cinematography is the one award it richly deserves, despite the appearance of that random dinosaur.
Best Artistic Direction
Hugo is the long-odds on favourite ahead of The Artist, War Horse, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hsllows (why bother with this token nomination?) and Midnight in Paris. As one of the most visually lush films in many years, Hugo deserves its award. Now pleases go back to adult films Martin. The kids want more than just effects.
Best Supporting Actress
Great to see Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids¸ get nominated but there’s no Oscars for crapping in a sink. Janet McTeer, who was very impressive in Albert Nobbs and lucky-nominee Jessica Chastain, The Help, are also at long odds. Berenice Bejo, is luminous in The Artist, but will lose out to the inspired performance of Octavia Spencer in The Help. Best bet of the night.
Winner: Octavia Spencer.
Best Supporting Actor
Did I say best bet too early? Christopher Plummer is up against a hot field – Kenneth Brannagh was great in My Week with Marilyn¸ as is Max Von Sydow, Extermely Loud and Incredibly Close, and it will be third time unlucky for Nick Nolte, Warrior – it’s good to see him play against type as a recovering alcoholic - and even Jonah Hill will wonder what he’s doing here amongst this lot. Christopher Plummer was so commanding as the coming-out father in The Beginners, I expected him to be nominated in the Best Actor category.
Highly deserving winner: Christopher Plummer.
Scorcese’s Hugo is a wonderful film, but it’s not as good as Martin’s previous winners and he’s second favourite. The same can be said for Woody Allen. Terence Mallick’s The Tree of Life divided many people and is the rank outsider. Alexander Payne, who showed a very deft touch in The Descendants, is the knockout hope. This award is too closely tied to the Best Picture victor.
Winner: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist.
What a magnificent field of talent here. Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, didn’t quite surpass the original and Glenn Close was too stilted and unconvincing in Albert Nobbs - they’re both outsiders. Heath’s ex, Michelle Williams, sears as a goddess in My Week With Marilyn but the big market mover is Viola Davis from The Help. She was originally equal second with Williams in betting but has firmed into favouritism just ahead of thespian chameleon, Meryl Streep, who was long odds-on when nominations were declared.
Anyone who can make Maggie Thatcher empathetic, offend Janet Albrechtsen and has had 17 nominations deserves her third award, but maybe not as much as Davis’ stoic and moving portrayal. And it’s time Hollywood stopped rewarding portrayals of Kings, Queens and dastardly politicians.
Winner: Viola Davis.
A weaker and controversial field. Demian Birchir is probably wondering what the hell he’s doing there, and so do I. Gary Oldman’s superb performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn’t enough to challenge, and neither is Brad Pitt’s slick performance in MoneyBall. But there’s been another big market mover here. Jean Dujarin, The Artist, has firmed from second favourite to odds-on favourite ahead of everyone’s favourite, George Clooney, The Descendants. I’m not sure why. Dujarin spends most of his time ‘mugging’ at the camera like the old silent film days while Clooney’s portrayal is all conflicted heart.
Hollywood has been waiting for any excuse to give that charmer, Clooney, his just reward and his best ever performance warrants it. I’m going to ignore the plunge.
Winner: George Clooney.
What a huge field, but it still lacks a classic that will resonate beyond the presentation. The Tree of Life was either brilliant or rubbish, take your choice. Moneyball was riveting but lacked emotional depth. Midnight in Paris showed Woody back to his best, but not his best ever. Extermely Loud and Incredibly Close won’t be anywhere near a chance and shouldn’t be here. The Help is powerful, moving but a little sentimental and War Horse is even more mawkish.
Hugo is a visually stunning film mixing nostalgia with modern effects but it’s a childrens’ film which bores kids. There’s been a big buzz around the excellent and quirky The Descendants, which is second favourite, but Hollywood will be awarding the Oscar to a black and white silent love letter to itself - The Artist – which is the long odds-on favourite here. If ever a town swooned at self-indulgence and failed to understand the irony of rewarding a silent film in the 21 century, it’s Hollywood. It will also prove what a lean year it has been, dominated by sequels, remakes and superheroes.
Winner: The Artist.
To Cry during acceptance speech
Do tears of boredom during Billy Crystal’s intro count? The Best Supporting Actress is slight favourite ahead of Best Actress. I would have bet on George or Meryl, particularly if they miss out, and Elton, but he wasn’t nominated.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…