Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best of Writing, Cinematography, and Art

Kristin: I’m still fighting off this unnerved frustration of seeing 50/50‘s Will Reiser being denied a nomination, but here’s what I think considering the nominees: It’s a tough call in this category, because most of the contenders are strong. I have not seen A Separation, so I cannot comment on Asghar Farhadi’s script, but I was very fond of the little Sundance film Margin Call that quietly slipped itself into the running. J. C. Chandor’s script is smart, well-thought out, and brought down to the level of those who don’t speak financial jargon. On the other hand, there’s Woody Allen’s writing for Midnight in Paris, which is witty and light-hearted, much like the film. I would sign off Kristen Wiig and Mumolo for Bridesmaids, although it’s neat to see the a comedy among the dramas in the writing department. Comedy rarely receives credit for how difficult it is to act, much less to write for actors. That leaves Michel Hazanvicius’s original screenplay for The Artist, which could also do something here. My guess is that Allen or Hazanvicius will win the trophy, although Allen certainly won’t be appearing at the ceremony as usual.

MattHow I wish I would have had the pleasure of seeing A Separation; it only recently arrived to a theater near Madison. My favorite for this category is Midnight in Paris; I love the way Allen took larger than life characters and brought them to life. As Gil met these famous artists of the past, I felt I was meeting them too. And who among us hasn’t met an annoying pseudo-intellectual like Paul? Allen writes great characters. I understand he had a lot of historical material to draw upon, but he wrote them in a way in which I understood some of them for the first time.

As far as The Artist is concerned, I felt this was a bit of an interesting nomination for a film that included such a small amount of dialogue. The screenplay is only forty-two pages long and contains mostly directorial notes. They say the screenplay should serve as the blueprint for a film; Hazanavicius’ script takes that approach quite literally. To me, the magic of The Artist lies in the visuals, the acting, the staging, and, quite ironically, the sound. The screenplay seems inconsequential.

Kristin: I’ve seen all of the nominated except for John Logan’s screenplay for Hugo. Although coming up with something wholly original means writers have to start from scratch, I consider the Best Adapted Screenplay category more difficult for two reasons: first, there is a far heavier competition in this category, because more films are based off books, comics, historical events, etc., today; second, there are grievances to deal with considering the author, family involved, and staying true to the original story while still making it workable for film format.

Having read most of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, I hold a special appreciation for writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin as well as Stan Chervin for transforming a baseball statistics book into a an interesting sports story for sports fans and nonfans alike. I felt like parts of Ides of March were cliche, and its script not quite as smart as some of the other competition, such as The Descendants. I believe that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a triumph in converting from book to film at large, possibly could have been brought to an even higher level by making it more understandable for the masses.

MattFirst of all, The Ides of March seems to be a very strange choice for this category. While enjoyable, I didn’t find it anything out of the ordinary. Characters say their lines which move the plot along; in short, there is a lot of plot, but little story. As far as Hugo is concerned, I have not read the book, but I found the film to be a fabulous, mythic retelling of reality.

I have to agree with Kristin about Moneyball; it does take something special to make a movie about sport’s statistics exciting, especially when that sport is one as dull as baseball. (I probably just lost everyone [don’t judge]; I LOVE football.) Moneyball‘s script is a great example of the hard work it takes to bring a film to the screen. The writing of a film is no less a collaborative effort than the actually production of that film. With great characters and fantastic dialogue, Moneyball is my choice for this category.

Kristin: There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the most deserving of the nominated is Emmanuel Lubezki for his gorgeous and harrowing work in The Tree of Life.

Matt: It took cinematographer Wally Pfister four Oscar nominations before finally snatching the award for Inception. Emmanuel Lubezki is on his fifth nomination. Those previous nominations include such films as The New World and my personal favorite of his work, Children of Men. Lubezki’s floating camera in The Tree of Life gives a real immediacy and intimacy to the events we witness. The real and surreal are equally delivered with breathtaking beauty. Lubezki needs to win the award for this category.  

The Artist‘s cinematography does what it must do in order for the film to work, in that it emulates what a film of the late 1920s would look like. I appreciated the fact that it does not rely on editing to portray the information necessary to the scene. Guillaume Schiffman packs a lot into the frame, something film critic Jim Emerson explains in greater detail here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is, without a doubt, beautifully shot. Jeff Cronenweth, like his father, is a good cinematographer. It is difficult, however, to judge how much of his work rests on his own talent and how much is due to frequent collaborator David Fincher. You know a Fincher picture by its visuals from the first shot onward, even though he has used several different DPs throughout his career. For a Fincher picture, the DP doesn’t seem to matter as long as he is good. As for Cronenweth, he shouldn’t despair; Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times without a single win.

Kristin: Each of the nominated films in this category had incredible sets. To pick just one and say that it’s been than the rest is proving difficult for me to do, but I will say that Midnight in Paris served as a favorite of mine in this category because the locations of where it was filmed made me feel like I got to take a trip to Paris with Owen Wilson. Every scene held some kind of beauty and intrigue, taking Wilson to places he read about in books or learned about in a class. My vote is for Midnight in Paris.

Matt: Midnight in Paris really immerses you in the world of 1920s Paris. Nothing about any of the sets felt contrived. The art direction sucked me into that world, and like Gil, I was pretty depressed when I had to leave that world and come back to the 21st century. In Hugo, I especially enjoyed the recreation of Melies’ sets for the film. The automoton was pretty fabulous as well. The Artist had an interesting challenge in that they had to recreate several 1920s film sets. I would be okay with Harry Potter getting some recognition in this category; however, I’d have to go with Kristin on this one.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Yes, I’m Going to Talk about the Golden Globes

And the nominees are . . .

Not going to be listed here. But if you’d like to see a list, they’re just about anywhere else. Like Fandango, or Rotten Tomatoes, where it lists the movies with their RT rating. Kinda nifty.

Unfortunately, I haven’t see all of the films/performances that are up for awards yet. It’s difficult to make it to the theater for all of them, but I can comment on what I know and hope to happen. Here are my personal thoughts on each category, and who I guess will win each.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

I’ve seen 4 out of the 6 nominations. I’m actually stunned Ides of March made this list. Really? But then again, the Golden Globes occasionally pulls an odd nom or two out of a hat, so I’m crediting Ides with being the weird pick. My greatest disappointment is that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is entirely void from not only this list, but from the Golden Globes as well. Come on! I’m happy, however, to see Tree of Life not present, because people were making far too big a deal out of that film (if you ask me). I would be happy, however, to see The Help or The Descendants win this category. I enjoyed Moneyball a lot, but don’t think it deserves to win over either of those. I also think Hugo is entirely overrated because it’s a Scorsese film. I can’t comment on War Horse because I haven’t seen it, but it’s difficult to put into the mix when I don’t even have a desire to see it. Perhaps when it is in full release, I will reconsider.

Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

In this section, I’ve seen half the films. My Week with Marilyn was always on my list to see, but it hasn’t worked out yet. I will personally be pulling for 50/50 to win, because it was my favorite film of the year thus far, but with The Artist having the most nominations of the season, I see it easily stealing this win. Midnight in Paris is a close personal second pick for me. It’s a Woody Allen treat and a great film, but I find it unlikely to beat out The Artist. Unlike the rest of the world (and critics alike), I was not a giant fan of Bridesmaids, although I was impressed with Wiig’s writing more than her performance with it. Surprisingly, Carnage is really pulling out a nice string of nominations, but I doubt it will fare against The Artist, much less Midnight in Paris.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

This is perhaps one of the easiest categories for me to comment on, because I have seen all the performances except for Michael Fassbender in Shame. However, after reading reviews, if I were to bet on who would surprisingly come up and win this category, I would bet on him. Plus, I think those awards voters smile upon nudity, but that’s those awards voters for you. Judging on all other performances, it appears to be a pretty tight race. Unfortunately for Brad Pitt, I don’t see Moneyball nominations faring well at all against it’s competition. Despite my dislike of J. Edgar, I think DiCaprio gave a fantastic performance. And despite my thoughts, I think voters will overlook him again and go with Fassbender. My personal pick would be between George Clooney in The Descendants and Brad Pitt in Moneyball. I won’t even give Gosling a fair chance in this match because I’m still one of the many stunned that his performance in Drive wasn’t considered for this category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I find myself with little to say, seeing that the majority of these performances are difficult to judge since half the films haven’t been widely distributed yet. The competition appears to be even more fierce in this category when big names like Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton are included. Although I will be biased and think that Viola Davis is more than deserving of this win, I see either of the former winning this category. I’m also left disappointed with Emma Stone not getting any credit for her work in The Help, but it doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately. I’ve heard great things about Rooney Mara’s performance in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I don’t think she has a fighting chance.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

I feel like I’ve really missed out on all the nominated performances this year–I’ve seen only one in this category as well! And that, being Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, which I don’t think will do anything. I see Michelle Williams easily taking this win with her performance in My Week with Marilyn. I’ve heard great things about Charlize Theron‘s polarizing performance in Young Adult, but I don’t know if that will come to anything or not. Two nominations are phoned in for Carnage, but again, it’s difficult to comment having not seen it. Although Kate Winslet seems to be an awards darling more than many.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

Clear and simple, I would easily place my vote for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to win this category. I was blown away by his performance in 50/50. This is only the second time he has ever been nominated for a Golden Globe. But I think the obvious winner of this category will be Jean Dujardin in The Artist. Again, I’m stunned to see Gosling nominated for Crazy, Stupid, Love, of all the movies to be nominated for. And although I very much enjoyed Midnight in Paris, I doubt Owen Wilson will do anything. Either way, I’m happy to see him nominated.

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

For this category, the stand-out performance for me was Shailene Woodley in The Descendants. The Help scored two nominations in this narrow category for Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, two actresses that I would also be happy to see win–I think Jessica Chastain has a little more edge then Spencer in this category. But then again, The Artist may take this category, too, with Berenice Bejo‘s performance. More than ever, I’m wishing I had seen that movie so I wouldn’t feel so begrudged in talking about it’s likely and hypothetical victories.

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

It’s a strange thing to see Drive finally get a nomination with Albert Brooks in this category. My pick would go to Jonah Hill in Moneyball, although I see Christopher Plummer (Beginners) or Viggo Mortenson (A Dangerous Method) walking away with the trophy before Hill does.

Best Director – Motion Picture

I will admit I’m very biased in this category. First things first: No, George Clooney, I don’t think you should win, much less be nominated in this category. Yes Ides was good, but it wasn’t Best Director nomination-worthy. Second: Despite the hype over Hugo, no, Scorsese, I don’t think just because you decided to make a family film that was largely successful, that you should win this category either. What kid wants to sit in a theater for over two hours when the film is more fitting for adults? That’s what The Muppets is for–to make children laugh and smile and sing and enjoy going to the theater. And get ready for it: No, Mr. Allen, I don’t think you should win either. Yes, you are an incredible writer, director, and storyteller, but you’re also the biggest Academy Darling of those listed, and just because those voters love you doesn’t mean you should win every year you’re nominated. Off your high horse. Which leaves Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist). My gut tells me Hazanavicius is going to walk away with it, and I would be all the happier if he did.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

My first choice? Midnight in Paris. The writing is the strength of the film, and I think it’s spectacular. I think Ides should be thrown out the window on this one too. It is likely that The Artist could take this one, too, but then again, so could The Descendants. Moneyball was a nice adaptation, but for those who have read the book (*raises hand*), they know it wasn’t a great representation of the book. It was, however, an excellent way to translate the story for today’s viewers and make something that might not entertain most to something that could now entertain many.

Best Animated Feature Film

The question we should all be asking is, where the heck is Kung Fu Panda 2 on this list? Seriously, Cars 2  was the least successful Pixar film to date, yet it still makes it on the list of nominees. If I were to pick a favorite, it would be Puss in Boots. Then again, I remained unimpressed with this list, considering the great past couple years of animated filmmaking.

Best Foreign Language Film

I have little to nothing to say about this category as well, since I haven’t seen a single film on the list. My only thought is that it’s interesting to see Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut make the list, In the Land of Blood and Honey. But that’s all I have to say about that.

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

There’s a great many popular and suspected composers’ scores on this list, from Howard Shore to John Williams to last year’s Oscar winners, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this time around. I put this category entirely up for grabs.

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

I’m definitely a fan of Mary J. Blige’s The Living Proof from The Help, but I can’t help but get angry at not seeing even a showing for The Muppets on this one. Really? I’m actually stunned. This is a huge disappointment for a film with such great original songs.

And those are my thoughts! What are your biggest disappointments and surprises for this year’s Golden Globes?