Feb 25, 2012

Franky's 2012 Oscar Picks Part 2

(Continued From Part 1... see also "Intro")

Best Animated Feature Film
  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico & Rita
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rango
What SHOULD Win: Kung Fu Panda 2 - I must say, I’m pretty impressed to see two complete dark horses contending for this award, especially in a year that I felt was one of the most lackluster for animated films in recent times. About the only thing I DO dislike about the surprise nominations, is that I won’t have the benefit of seeing them anytime soon, since both are essentially foreign films. So with the unfortunate exclusion of A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita, I’m left with a list typical of the academy, populated with the most financially and critically successful cartoons of the year. Puss in Boots was awfully mediocre, nowhere near the caliber of the Shrek franchise that it derives its characters from. It had some interesting musical numbers and a couple impressive tracking shots but other than that, it was a lot of elementary humor and had no real substance. I almost want to say Rango is the best film of this lot; it’s definitely the most innovative one, noted for its atypical production process. It’s also one of the only movies involving Johnny Depp that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. In the end, as much as I enjoyed Rango for its peculiar humor ranging from non-sequiturs to references of films inappropriate for children, Kung Fu Panda 2 is that rare sequel that lives up to its predecessor. Perfect blend of action, serious thematic elements and slapstick humor, it is in its own right, the ONLY Jack Black movie that doesn’t make me wanna slice my head off. Moral of the story: If you’re a Hollywood actor that makes Franky want to commit suicide – make a cartoon (bring it on Ryan Reynolds.)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
What SHOULD Win: Moneyball - I can honestly and unabashedly say that I didn’t in anyway read the novels in which these films were adapted from. Sure didn’t see the Ides of March theater play either (side effects of not living in LA or NYC). So I won’t be basing my pick for this award on how well it adapts its story from the source material, but instead on the actual QUALITY of the screenplay that the films had on the big screen. Having said that, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a mess. From what I understand, the film was adapted from a novel of the same name, but has a popular previous TV adaption that needed to be 5 hours long to tell its story. For the most part, the film adaption feels rushed, unfocused and frankly, 3 hours too short. I feel similar about The Descendants, although I did like the film, I felt like a lot of the ideas probably presented in the book weren’t fleshed out as coherently in the movie version. As for Hugo, the screenplay was probably the weakest thing about the film altogether. Visually it’s a treat and overall it’s a dazzling achievement, but the plot shifted gears too unexpectedly and what we’re left with was almost two separate films that never consistently engage us emotionally. I’m gonna give it to Moneyball, if only because it’s an uncommon sports movie that doesn’t focus on the action of sports but instead the emotional realities and business aspects, all told in a non-glamorized narrative I really appreciated. The Ides of March had an engrossing screenplay as well, and is probably the only other nomination here that deserves praise in my opinion.

Best Original Screenplay:
  • The Artist
  • Bridesmaids
  • Margin Call
  • Midnight in Paris
  • A Separation

What SHOULD win: A Separation, but I haven’t seen it, so I”ll go with The Artist - The thing I love about the Academy is how the writing branch leans towards commending TRUE originality every year. The only one I haven’t seen here is A Separation, an Iranian film that is already considered a masterpiece (being a big fan of Iranian films, I’m aching for my chance to actually see it.) The rest are all some of the best films of the year. I was ecstatic to see Bridesmaids garner a nomination. Despite being the most hilarious movie ever starring females, it is one of the only stories Hollywood has ever told through the eyes of your average confusing, neurotic, looks-bad-in-a-swimsuit female. AKA 99% of girls we know (except the ones I associate with nah’mean.). Combine that with a genuine story about friendship, throw in naturalistic comedic dialogue and you’ve successfully created a subgenre of the “buddy comedy” for women. The Artist will probably take this, and as much as I love the other nominations I can’t say I disagree. Creating a story as vivid and enthralling as the one The Artist tells is not the kind of thing you don’t dedicate to. Replicating the essence of a silent film in order to tell a narrative through silent film ABOUT silent films is a remarkable achievement and it does it with everything from lighthearted humor to heart-wrenching romance. It even has occasional avant-garde elements, which is like going to Golden Corral and finding out it’s that one day they serve Ribs during the week. I couldn’t give any more kudos to the screenwriters and I hope the lack of actual spoken dialogue doesn’t disadvantage the genius of this screenplay.

Best Sound Editing:
  • Drive
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
What SHOULD Win: War Horse - Now I don’t claim to hold a PhD in Sound Editing or anything, but I’ve been a film buff (and just buff) long enough to at least know the first thing about the art form. Since I know just reading the title of this category SOUNDS (*rimshot*) boring, let me explain what it basically entails. Sound editing involves the people that CREATE and CAPTURE the sounds that you’ll eventually hear in a movie. The more robust the sound effects, the likelier it is you’ll notice it, which is why you actually see a film like Transformers getting a nod here. Hugo and Dragon Tattoo earned their spots here for subtle sound work I imagine, weather placements and wind whooshes and ironically, both films had scenes with trains. Drive had some pulse pounding car chases that’d be nothing without the great sound work, and Transformers has undoubtedly impressive work, if anything in just the effects created for the machines clanking and transforming about (something the kids know as Dubstep nowadays.) I don’t know, maybe it’s an obvious choice, but War Horse quite simply did a fantastic job in the sound department. Scenes of warfare, pedestrian commotion, the incessant sounds of a horses natural subsistence, usually to convey emotion; all around it’s evident how much effort was put into the film for this specific department.

Best Sound Mixing:
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse
What SHOULD Win: War Horse - Let me start this off by giving mad props to the sound crew for Transformers 3. For a film that’s largely considered a joke in every other facet of the filmmaking process, I love how the sound guys apparently did a KILLER job haha. It shows, it does. Unfortunately, because it’s Transformers, I tried erasing all recollection I had of that movie shortly after leaving the theater, so it’s at an obvious disadvantage here. However, it grossed more money than the entire economy of Zimbabwe, so I don’t feel too sorry for it. Moneyball replaces Drive in this category, which otherwise would’ve made an exact copy of nominated films from the last category. For anyone actually not skipping the SOUND categories, Sound Mixing is as self explanatory as it suggests. It involves mixing the different tracks of sound you capture for a film’s final product, everything from dialogue to the musical score, to the things that we previously mentioned qualify as Sound Editing. I want to choose Moneyball here, because there’s a certain element of sound you need to capture in a baseball game’s environment to truly invigorate the atmosphere for it (crowd, batting, running, etc.) but in the end I choose War Horse for the same reasons I previously mentioned.

Best Visual Effects:
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
  • Hugo
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
What SHOULD Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - All of these are legitimate nominees. Transformer’s definitely has the gaudiest CG; with a budget of 200 million dollars how could it not. As impressive and showy as it is, the quality of the film itself doesn’t help us properly assess its Visual Effects independently from the rest of it. If they wanted to save that film, they SHOULD’VE BEEN BETTER. Hugo applies an artistic treatment of Visual Effects, everything mostly attributed to the setting and mood of the film, with everything making a bigger impact if seen in remarkable 3D (for once it wasn’t a gimmick.) Then we have Real Steel, a big budget crowd pleaser with undeniably great CG. Too bad we’re often too busy looking at stud muffin Hugh Jackman to really notice it (just me?) I can’t believe I’m actually choosing something over Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, but the main reason for this is because a film like Rise of the Planet of the Apes wouldn’t even EXIST had it not been for its amazing graphics. The only parts that actually made you care about the film were BECAUSE of its motion capture acting/CG. So although I prefer the Harry Potter film ten times over Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I have to give credit where credit’s due and a film that rarely features a shot without SOME use of CG, is obviously superior in this category. Not to mention, unlike Transformers, it actually utilizes Visual Effects to express substantial plot points and other things essential to a films narrative. CG was what made ‘Apes’ good. Without it all we’d have is James Franco’s subpar acting and mediocre dialogue.

Best Original Song:
  • Man or Muppet – The Muppets
  • Real in Rio – Rio          

What SHOULD Win: Man or Muppet, but really, can we get some more nominees? - This is the only category I really have a problem with this year. The number of nominees has been shrinking every year the last couple of years but what’s the point of having it get down to a measly two? I know this is probably a result of wanting to dedicate less time to musical performances at the Oscar’s, for fear of losing the new generation’s interest in the program, but that should be the LAST thing dictating the integrity of something like the nomination count. I’m really disappointed that the Academy would let it get to this point, but I guess business is business, and with something’s it is always gonna be about business. The thing I hate the most is that this category used to have one of the most diverse body of nods year in year out, with films ranging from foreign musicals to unnoticed indie’s. Oh well. My vote goes to “Man or Muppet”, although I would’ve preferred Kermit’s “Pictures in my Head” to get a nod for the film instead. Whatever, I’m done with this competition-less Award.

Best Director:
  • Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist
  • Alexander Payne – The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese - Hugo
  • Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Who SHOULD win: Terrence Malick for Tree of Life - Going back to what I mentioned in my “Intro” article earlier; no film is good without a good director. All the films that this fine group of artists directed are definitely within the parameters of superiority but which ones truly transcend a level of mastery, be it in innovation, storytelling or grandiosity? The Descendants was a good movie, but after loving Alexander Payne’s previous film ‘Sideways’ so much, I frankly expected a more balanced film than the disappointing effort it ended up being. Everything about it felt formulaic and even shoddy in some instances. Mr. Payne could’ve done better and I really don’t understand what exactly merits the overwhelming praise it’s been receiving by critics. Martin Scorsese is probably the most recognizable name on the list, celebrated for his usual depiction of gangster realism and violent imagery in films, and yet, is getting nominated for a PG family movie that not the least bit sacrifices his technical expertise. I wouldn’t consider Hugo one of my favorite films of the year since I felt it had some very notable flaws, but I also wouldn’t protest Marty getting an award for Director, because what he accomplished in overseeing this movie is unquestionably the work of an artist committed to his craft. He managed to take the gimmick out of the 3D movie experience while telling an innocent children’s story for adults. If only he had done a better job at the latter. Woody Allen outdid himself with Midnight in Paris, which IS one of my favorite films of 2011. I hope he continues telling dialogue-centric stories with whimsical elements because it’s a lot more refreshing than the body of films he’s been making recently.

The highly unknown Michael Hazanavicius is expected to win this gold statue, making a great story for headlines on Oscar Sunday and had Terrence Malick not released a film in 2011, I’d be in accordance with such a motion. However, Terrence Malick DID release a film in 2011 and it was the best film in his much lauded career. That’s saying something. If any Director should be credited for his unique and visceral approach to filmmaking, Terrence Malick, with The Tree of Life, is that person. His unconventional style won’t strike a chord with everyone and I’m sure doesn’t appeal to the more casual audiences (at all), but for those more open to unorthodox techniques and/or actively pursuing films with high artistic intent, I couldn’t recommend this film any more, if anything to at least commence an interesting discussion.

Best Picture:
I’m gonna handle this category a little differently. Rather than simply stating which film I think deserves to win as with the previous categories, I’m going to rank all nine Best Picture nominees in order from least to most liked. So without further adieu…

9. The Help
8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
7. The Descendants
6. Hugo
5. War Horse
4. Moneyball
3. Midnight in Paris
2. The Artist
1. The Tree of Life
I was really impressed by the final list of Best Picture nominees. Especially given the notorious changes applied yet again to the voting system and number of nominations, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. While this vaguely resembles what my official list of Best Movies of 2011 (oh don’t tempt me) would look like, it is nonetheless a good list of films representative of some of the year’s most liked movies. I personally like every film nominated here… EXCEPT The Help.

(Warning to Girls: I’m about to rag on your favorite movie)

Now before I fall under scrutiny because I just singled out the most mainstream film of the lot, understand that this has nothing to do with my contrarian attitude or my bias against Emma Stone (*barf*). Truth is I wanted to like The Help. Despite the sentimentality, the clich├ęs and the one-dimensional characters the trailer suggested the film would be brimming with, I secretly still rooted for the film. Once reviews starting popping up and audiences and critics alike were embracing it, I slowly started accepting the fact that it might actually just be GOOD. One thing I already liked was that it served two VASTLY underserved audiences, telling a story in the point of view of not only African Americans or women, but African American women. I felt a film finally had the potential to accomplish something greater for us, outside of the unserious Tyler Perry or Chick Flick realm. Maybe what it ended up being wasn’t as bad as my initial, cynical impression of it, but it also wasn’t a good movie. The African American women being reduced to supporting roles in a movie that’s supposed to represent them was downright insulting to all minorities in our country if you ask me. I don’t mind the decision to incorporate light hearted elements in a film that should otherwise handle its heavy thematic content with thorough respect and historical accuracy, I realize not every film about civil rights has to be Malcom X, but to use the civil rights era and serious issues regarding race as a backdrop for what essentially was a chick flick, should just not be condoned anymore. It should definitely not be considered a higher standard of film, or an artistic one. We barely peek into the lives of the women that the film claims it’s finally gonna speak up for and that’s its biggest irony. Emma Stone’s character had a completely unnecessary subplot involving her “love interest” with a white guy (while her implied fling with the black guy is ignored???) which served absolutely no purpose in advancing the plot in any substantial way, yet we don’t get introduced to the children or marital issues of Octavia Spencer’s character? The White people writing this screenplay couldn’t give her more outside of the typical gags involving fried chicken and cooking? I can go on forever.

Every other film nominated was at least a solid 7/10 for me. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close went from flashes of genius to pretentious melodrama quite too often, but it had good performances and felt genuine enough to keep me from nitpicking its obvious contrivances. The Descendants was disappointing but still a solid watch and a film I'd easily reccommend. There’s not much to be said about the other films nominated that I haven’t already touched on in some way in my previous dissertations of the individual awards, but The Artist and The Tree of Life were among my favorite films of the year, and Tree of Life IS my favorite film of 2011. It might be everything I look for in a movie. The philosophical and existential themes might be too heavy or off-putting for some, but the sheer scope of the film and the interchanging narratives between a small personal story of family and coming of age, with the larger than life scenes of, well, CREATION (as in, literally God creating things!) as a contrast were incredibly effective and awe-inspiring. This is the kind of art film you wish would get nominated for Oscars but never does… yet somehow, this year it prevailed. Suddenly every compliant I have about Hollywood and the mainstream’s dominance in the industry (and The Help) are a moot point, because the biggest left-field contender received recognition and all it needed was a hot guy like Brad Pitt to star in it…

…… Nevermind, screw everything. I’ll stick to Cannes.

NOTE: Best Foreign film, Documentary and both Short Film categories were ignored because unfortunately I don’t get opportunities to see any of these films in my area before the award shows. In reality these would be some of the most interesting categories, but oh well.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply with own opinions, or make your own picks. Think I'm an idiot for not liking The Help? TELL ME! :)

1 comment:

Marisol said...

LOL!!! Really funny again Franky, good picks and reasoning behind it. I have to say the first category of Best animated film is super funny!! And I agree with your choices and opinions, Kung Fu Panda 2 was amazing and I also don't want to "slice my head off" with Jack Black in this one. lol Hopefully Ryan Reynolds CAN one day acheive that for us too. Your take on Bridesmaids was also funny on us "normal"(as opposed to the ones you associate with :P lol) girls, too bad I haven't seen it yet. Lastly, I do not agree with your opinion on The Help, as we've already discussed before. It's good and if african-american girls are represented like that, its fine, it's the reality of what WAS before. I have not seen half of the movies nominated, so my choice is best picture is Midnight in Paris.