Who will win, who should win. I feel a little at a disadvantage, though, because I still haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty, which is obviously a major player.
Who will win: Lincoln
Who should win: Django Unchained
Who will win, who should win. I feel a little at a disadvantage, though, because I still haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty, which is obviously a major player.
Who will win: Lincoln
Who should win: Django Unchained
If you need a reminder at just how far Ben Affleck fell down the Hollywood ladder, look no further than his exclusion from the Best Director category at the Oscars. Sure, he’s on the Best Picture list as a producer, alongside George Clooney, but his solo effort was ignored in favor of a first-time director (Benh Zeitlin) whose movie I liked a great deal less than Argo. It’s gotta sting, Ben, but don’t worry. Your day will come. Just not yet. You’re not done paying for Bennifer or Reindeer Games yet (and you still owe me $10 for sitting through that shit pile). Read more »
The Cliffhanger from Hell discussion goes here. And also, SPOILERS.
Sherlock’s second season wraps up with “The Final Problem”, rewritten as “The Reichenbach Fall” by Steve Thompson (who also wrote “The Blind Banker”) and as directed by Toby Haynes (veteran of Doctor Who and Wallander). It’s a clever title—fans of Arthur Conan Doyle will recognize the name as the location where Sherlock Holmes met his fate with his arch-nemesis James Moriarty, but if you hadn’t read the stories it wouldn’t give anything away. For me, as a reader of the ACD books, I knew immediately what this episode would bring, and yet I was still totally floored by the final half-hour of the episode.
This is easily the best episode of the six in the series so far. As good as this series is in general, this episode is nothing short of astonishing in specific. Everything is working at maximum capacity, with a special nod to the beautiful original scoring provided by David Arnold and Michael Price, and Doug Sinclair and his sound team for putting together one of the best give-and-take sequences between music, silence and sound at Sherlock’s climactic moment. Like, I want to hug everyone who worked on this episode for creating something so perfect (they get hugs along with everyone involved with Buffy’s “The Body” and “Hush”, the only other television episodes that come close to this level of ambition and execution).
I define ambitious TV as anything that has no way out but one (if any at all—“The Body” had no out as Buffy’s mother was always going to be dead). The reason The Sopranos finale or anything on The Wire or Justified, or even Game of Thrones, can’t match what Sherlock (and Buffy before it) does is because there is always a multiple-choice solution to any problem presented. It’s either this or that, or even another thing (and this isn’t to knock those other shows—they’re all really excellent TV). But Sherlock has left us with the cliffhanger from hell, a problem already solved that we must unwind to understand, and there is only one, very specific solution. We’re left trying to outguess Sherlock Holmes himself and that is just not going to happen. It’s brilliant.
What bad can be said about this episode? Nothing. I’ve got no complaints. I can’t think of one thing that could be bettered. And when it comes to the acting, it’s a fucking masterclass from every participant. I cannot overstate what a monster talent Benedict Cumberbatch is—he’s a legit screen tyrant—and this episode is the climax of Sherlock’s undoing. But for all that, Martin Freeman is so good that I would hand him all the awards for supporting actor for this episode. He’s the emotional core of the show and Watson’s scenes with Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) are some of the most satisfying in the series yet. And even still, between those two, Andrew Scott manages to make an enormous impression as Moriarty. I didn’t like his take on Moriarty at first; I thought him too nutty and weird to be a credible criminal mastermind. But the turn he takes in “Reichenbach” is startling, revealing the true sinister nature underneath the campy attitude. When Sherlock calls Moriarty a spider and Moriarty just sneers at him—that pretty much captures Moriarty’s essence.
I’ve dubbed season two the “tearing down of Sherlock” and after the mistakes of “A Scandal in Belgravia” and the self-doubt of “The Hound of Baskerville”, “Reichenbach” shows us the world around Sherlock coming down as others begin to doubt him. The episode starts with an emotionally devastating moment with Dr. Watson, as he struggles to say the words out loud—Sherlock Holmes is dead. We then skip back in time to see how, over three months, Moriarty unravels Sherlock’s life. It’s Moriarty’s “final problem” and his best-laid plan, and is especially topical in the UK as it involves the participation of the tabloid press and less-than-stellar sources. The Macguffin of the episode is an all-access computer code that allows Moriarty to break into anything he wants, and the way that thread is resolved is especially satisfying for anyone who has ever been annoyed at how easy film technology makes hacking look. Moriarty uses the code to simultaneously break into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison, but that isn’t the most important case. No, that goes to the kidnapping of a pair of children belonging to the ambassador to the US. It’s that case, solved off a single footprint Sherlock uncovers, that gives Sergeant Donovan the opportunity to finally one-up Sherlock.
Everyone is hung up on the cliffhanger and trying to solve it, but I refuse to get sucked into that, simply because I know I won’t figure it out. Instead, I’m stuck on trying to figure out what Sherlock knew when. As Sherlock’s world begins collapsing, Molly Hooper (Loo Brealey) identifies his sense of impending doom, so it would seem that Sherlock was preparing for the worst days before his confrontation with Moriarty on the St. Bart’s roof. But when he does finally square off with Moriarty, when they each make their final play, I can’t tell if Sherlock is faking his confusion or not. Does he really think the computer key is real, or is he playing Moriarty the whole time? I’m inclined to think he really did think the computer key was the solution, and that he didn’t really accept the inevitably of having to jump until Moriarty killed himself (and yes, I do think he’s really dead). It’s at that moment that Sherlock seems to come really undone, as if he’s run through all his options and possibilities only to arrive at the least-desired outcome.
And what an outcome it is. The phone call with Watson, Watson’s words at Sherlock’s grave, and that last image of Sherlock looking over the cemetery—it’s an emotional triple-strike. The episode is pitch-perfect throughout, with tension building steadily as more and more of Moriarty’s plan is unveiled and Sherlock pieces together the web closing in around him. As good as the whole episode is, the final half-hour is stunning. Every second of seasons one and two has built toward these thirty minutes and the payoff is enormous. Moriarty’s manic behavior on the roof, the range of subtle facial reactions and visible thinking Sherlock goes through, and (my favorite) Watson’s confrontation with Mycroft—it’s just gorgeous television. This is go big or go home TV, and that the technical and craft elements match the writing and acting so beautifully only makes it better. Not one thing was left undone in this episode.
Sherlock season two ends with an emotional sucker punch on top of an episode that was a series of shocks and surprises. We’ve been posed a problem—the real final problem—of trying to figure out how Sherlock survived the fall. At least we have a long time to work it out. Because season three won’t air until the latter half of 2013.
In season one of Sherlock, the second of the three episodes, “The Blind Banker”, was generally considered the weakest of the three. I think the same goes for season two. “The Hounds of Baskerville”, an update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Holmes story, as written by series co-creator and the man behind Mycroft, Mark Gatiss, is the weakest link. To be fair to both “Banker” and “Hounds”, though, saying one is the weakest episode of Sherlock is like saying that Henry VIII is Shakespeare’s worst play—it’s still better than 98% of all the things in the world. And really, what drags down “Hounds” is not any substantial misfire in Gatiss’ script and it is certainly not anything to do with the actors or even Paul McGuigan’s direction, it’s more a matter of tone and one stupefyingly bad decision.
I actually really like this episode. Sherlock season two is super depressing, and “Hounds” is a nice respite between two darker, weightier episodes (“Banker” occupied the same spot in season one). It reminds me of a quote about Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata—when referencing the sweeter, lighter second movement, one critic described it as a “flower betwixt two abysses”. That’s “Hounds”—a flower between two abysses. This is part of why I think it, and “Banker”, draws some of the criticism aimed their way. The stakes in “Hounds” are not nearly as high as they were in “Belgravia” and they’re not even remotely close to what goes on in the finale, “The Reichenbach Fall”. There is a real, playful humor throughout Sherlock but it’s mostly gallows humor (“We can’t giggle, it’s a crime scene!”). But in “Hounds”, when there are no stakes beyond Sherlock inevitably solving the case, the humor plays off much lighter and, in a contextual sense, less urgent. That lack of urgency makes it feel not as important, not as vital to the ongoing story, and any kind of lowering of those stakes feels like a step back. Case in point: The most memorable, impactful moment of the episode is at the very end and does not feature Sherlock or John, but Moriarty. Because Sherlock and John are off in the country having a holiday while Moriarty is actually doing something to advance the larger plot.
Back to me liking this episode. My favorite stuff in Sherlock, I have decided, comes down to two things. 1) Sherlock and John being dudebros, and 2) the last half-hour of “Reichenbach” (OMG next Sunday, get here already!). Sherlock and John are really, really good dudebros. Sherlock is unapologetically a world of men, and Sherlock and John are both Very Manly Men. John’s masculinity is obvious—he’s a soldier and a doctor and a shot-caller and he’s a dead shot with his illegal firearm, because that’s how Dr. Watson rolls. With illegal firearms. Sherlock is, on the surface, the more effete of the two men. He’s a snazzy dresser (the impact of series costume designer Sarah Arthur’s work in conjunction with Savile Row label Spencer Hart for Sherlock’s bespoke look has had on menswear cannot be understated), he’s posh and snobby, and, on the surface, a bit of a ponce. But then Sherlock is also deadly in hand-to-hand combat and well-versed with a variety of weapons, and then there’s that whole thing where he solves crimes for fun. They’re a regular couple of alphas.
So it’s nice to see the dynamic of their friendship. And yes, I do think they’re just friends. I could write a whole other treatise on the Holmes/Watson relationship (should I? Would you care?), but for the purposes of the BBC show, I don’t think this is an undercover lovers situation, but really just a very deep friendship between two straight dudes. And “Hounds” is all about that friendship and the various ways it gets tested, most of which is Sherlock’s doing. The story revolves around Henry Knight, a young man who is haunted by the violent death of his father twenty years before. Sherlock is in a state and in desperate need of a good case, which Henry’s story about a monstrous hound in the moors of Devon turns out to be. The spin here is nice—instead of actual hounds Henry’s experiences tie into the nearby Army weapons testing site at Baskerville. It’s a solid plot that links to a seemingly-innocuous case enquiry from the beginning of the episode.
The purpose, though, is to get Sherlock and John out of London and in the English countryside so that tall Benedict Cumberbatch in his swirly coat with his cheekbones and windswept hair can be framed against a backdrop of rocky hillsides and wild blue skies. It seems inevitable that he will one day interpret Heathcliff for us. Showing continued awareness of Cumberbatch’s position as a Very Desirable Man, this episode has a great line about Sherlock’s move with his coat collar, delivered with just the right touch of exasperation by John: “You being all mysterious with your cheekbones, and turning your coat collar up so you look cool.” (This episode also has one of my favorite dialogue exchanges, between John and Lestrade about whatever conditions Sherlock may or may not have. Gatiss is a deft hand with one-liners.) The point of this episode feels less about solving the case—thus, those decreased stakes—and more about giving us some time to live with John and Sherlock.
There is, however, a darker aspect. In my review of “Belgravia” I said that season two is all about tearing down Sherlock. The first episode shows us Sherlock making bad decisions and mistakes, and this episode introduces Sherlock’s doubt into the scenario. The goings-on at Baskerville force Sherlock to confront the notion that he might not be as reliable as he thinks he is. He can’t trust his own observations and he reacts with cagey fury, and it’s quite shocking to see him so undone. Ultimately, of course, he pulls himself together and solves the case but the bitter taint is there—Sherlock has doubted himself. It’s a subtle stroke but that the doubt comes from the idea that perception and reality are two different things ties in neatly with “The Reichenbach Fall”, which explodes that in the worst way possible. Truly, after seeing “Reichenbach”, go back and watch “Belgravia” and “Hound” and see all the ways the events in “Reichenbach” are foreshadowed. It’s quite brilliant.
And now for that stupefyingly bad decision: The CGI dog at the end of the episode. It is RIDICULOUS. It’s terrible, terrible CGI and is so laughable that it ruins what is otherwise a tense and creepy denouement. This is what really puts “Hounds” on the back foot with me. It’s just such a horrifying choice, when there are a lot of practical effects that would have not only worked better, but also enhanced the horror-movie vibe working throughout the episode. If I never see SFX that shitty in Sherlock again, it will be too soon. Overall, though, “Hounds” is a nice respite before going into the TOTAL HEARTFAIL of “The Reichenbach Fall”, and the scenes of John and Sherlock palling around are always fun.
First and foremost let me express my deep disappointment with whoever made the call to edit Sherlock for American television. Not only is it supremely annoying to not receive the same program as was originally aired, but in this day and age, when everything is online, you simply can’t do that kind of thing without getting caught out and made to look stupid. There’s no good reason for that kind of tampering. It bothers me because one of the cuts removed a key character moment. The scenes between John and Sherlock with the ashtray, while funny, really don’t have anything to do with the plot, but the scene between Mycroft and Sherlock when Sherlock says, “Sex doesn’t alarm me,” and Mycroft responds, “How would you know?” not only illuminates something about Sherlock, but about his relationship with Mycroft. It’s a key moment and I cannot believe it was cut. Whatever, that happened and it’s shitty, and now let’s talk about Sherlock season two, episode one.
I’m saving the particular discussion about Irene Adler for its own post because she is a monster to deal with. For the purposes of this review, I’ll go with—I like the basic idea of the Irene Adler series creators Steven Moffat, who also wrote this episode, and Mark Gatiss developed. They present her as a dominatrix who keeps incriminating photos on her cell phone as a means of insurance. That works. “A Scandal in Belgravia” is an update of one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s best Holmes short stories (in fact, season two adapts the only Holmes stories really worth reading), “A Scandal in Bohemia”, in which Sherlock matches wits with a clever woman of ambiguous morals, Irene Adler. Here, Adler is decidedly more amoral than Doyle’s original, but she retains all of the wit and cunning that are the trademarks of “the woman”. And Adler is well cast, played by Lara Pulver (True Blood’s Claudine), who is beautiful in a sharp, cutting kind of way. She gives Adler a lot of verve and is sexy without being base. She also manages not to get swallowed up by series star Benedict Cumberbatch, which is no mean feat.
The episode picks up immediately where season one’s cliffhanger ended, with Moriarty cornering Sherlock and John at the swimming pool, surrounded by snipers and a bomb vest. We don’t get much Moriarty in this episode, but the way he hisses “If you don’t have it, I’ll make you into shoes,” as he exits the scene is enough of a moment. I have a lot to say about Andrew Scott’s (John Adams) take on Moriarty but I’ll save it for “The Reichenbach Fall”. That’s his show, after all. I found the first act of this episode to be a little rocky. Adler’s introduction into Sherlock’s life is shoe-horned in among montages and time lapses depicting Sherlock’s rise as an internet phenomenon thanks to John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) blog. I think the main issue is simply one of rhythm. Adler is introduced, gets the better of Sherlock, and then disappears and we go through the time jump. The phone call with Moriarty, though, is enough of a setup for her, and I think it would have worked better, rhythmically, if Adler and Sherlock’s confrontation wasn’t halved but was just one crazy week. Splitting the timing gave the first act a fits-and-starts feel.
But it’s not the end of the world because nearly everything else in this episode is firing on all cylinders (what isn’t working pertains to Adler and will be addressed separately). Season one established Sherlock as a genius and near-bulletproof crime fighter. He’s a very contained man of few weaknesses. Season two is all about finding the few chinks in his armor and prying until everything falls apart. “Belgravia” is the first step down that road as it’s the first time we see Sherlock make a real, grievous error. To be fair to him, he does have plenty of moments where he’s cool and in charge—and one painful moment where he’s absolutely awful to timid Molly Hooper (Loo Brealey, Bleak House). Cumberbatch manages to bring even more style to Sherlock and swings easily between Holmes’ manic moments and his periods of ironclad control. There’s a comfort he has in this role that didn’t exist in season one, a confidence probably borne of the widespread approval he received after the first series (there’s a fun motif throughout the episode playing on his newly-minted status as a thinking woman’s sex symbol—“brainy is the new sexy”). He pushes Sherlock’s mood swings harder, infuses his moments of calculation with more ice, and when he does take that misstep with Adler, his surprise and disbelief would be funny if you didn’t also see how keenly he felt the error.
Freeman, too, displays an increased ease of action and presence as John. He won a BAFTA for his work in series one and it’s clear why—in the face of Cumberbatch’s looming screen tyrant tendencies, Freeman more than holds his own. To American audiences he’s best known as a comedic actor—“that guy from The Office” or “the naked guy in Love Actually”—so his performance in the first season was quite shocking. Who knew Martin Freeman was THAT good of an actor? And now that I am expecting that level of work from him, he doesn’t disappoint. He’s a brilliant foil for Sherlock, and I am amazed every time I watch this show that he is able to go toe-to-toe with Cumberbatch and come out looking like an equal. No one else on the show quite manages that.
The episode ends on quite a dark note. Season one was not particularly dark, even when we got our first glimpse of Moriarty. But “Belgravia” puts us on a darker path, entering the forest of Sherlock’s destruction. It’s a solid episode even if I’m not wildly in love with Adler, and the pacing problems at the beginning are overcome by the otherwise excellent direction from Paul McGuigan (responsible for season one’s “A Study in Pink” and “The Great Game”). There is a lot of clever foreshadowing built in that will come to fruition in “The Reichenbach Fall”, which makes this episode worth revisiting after watching that one. Overall, “Belgravia” proves that series one of Sherlock was not a fluke and that this really is exceptional television, anchored by Cumberbatch and Freeman, who have never been better.
I kept lamenting throughout the night that no one was cutting to Benedict Cumberbatch during the Oscars, but it turns out, he wasn’t there. He was at Elton John’s viewing party, which lets the telecast director off the hook—though not for also failing to keep a camera on Colin Firth as he walked out on stage—but then it leads me to wonder why a man who was in two nominated films, one of them a Best Picture candidate, and who is one of the hottest things happening in town right now, wasn’t there. Seating at the Kodak Theater is dicey—it’s not as big as a venue that hosts the Oscars should be and tickets are competitive even for nominated parties—but you would think someone could make room for Cumberbatch. Anywho.
The fashion was the most interesting aspect of the show, as Billy Crystal and his writing staff kept things pretty tame and the theme of the night was apparently “please go to the theater before they all close”. Between the unnecessarily nostalgic tone and the fact that the average viewer at home hadn’t seen two-thirds of the nominated movies, it made for a boring telecast. So let’s do what we do best and judge people we don’t know based solely on what they wore for one night out of their life.
I actually squealed out loud when I saw The Office and Bridesmaids star Ellie Kemper in this Armani Prive gown. The color is a dead match for her pale complexion and dark auburn hair, the gown is gorgeous, the fit is stellar, the styling is superb. Here’s how good she looks—I don’t hate her barrel-rolled bangs! This was the most flawless look of the night for me. I would not change one single thing about how she looks right here.
A close second is Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton. I’m not the biggest Williams fan—I’m always glad for a chance to mock her and her second virginity. But I loved this red/orange LV dress. I don’t even mind the peplum! I think I could do without it—if I could change one thing about this look I would abandon the peplum. But it doesn’t ruin the look for me. Besides, Michelle is much too precious to show us her bum in a fitted gown. Oh see, there you go. I can’t help myself.
It pains me to put Sandra Bullock on this list, but her Marchesa gown is awful. It doesn’t fit, the stitching around her hips is unflattering, and WTF was happening with her face. Either her ponytail was too tight (the classic Croydon facelift) or she’s hit the Botox recently. Also, her nose. What is going on with her nose. We speculated during the show that she’d had a (bad) nose job. We should NEVER be speculating that Sandra Bullock has had a nose job.
Also hurting me last night was Viola Davis in emerald green Vera Wang. I love the color her on her. Davis has such gorgeous skin and this dress makes her glow, and I’m down with her au natural hair, but I loathe the bodice on this dress. Davis has the distressing tendency to show us more of her boobs than I particularly care to see. They’re nice and everything, but I don’t need to see them. I think I could handle the skirt of this dress if the bodice was simpler. As it is, there’s too much going on and the level of exposure is distasteful.
Almost But Not Quite
I’ve got four of these this year, so let’s run them down quickly. First up, Gwyneth Paltrow in white Tom Ford. I love the gown in and of itself, I ADORE the cuff, and I’m indifferent to the cape. I like the cape in theory, and ten years ago, when G was still owning her “I’m a bitch and I’m better than you” thing, I would’ve loved this without question. But the G who writes cookbooks and blathers on about healthy living and mommyhood? She can’t quite carry off the cape.
Next up, Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen. I’m totally into her styling and the black/gold color combination. I’m into the cut of the dress. I’m not crazy about how much like Las Vegas brothel curtains it looks, or about how it’s fitting Chastain’s chest. The first thing I noticed when I saw this dress was how it was pinching Chastain’s underarms and gaping across her boobs. The poor tailoring is holding it back.
Which brings us to Rooney Mara in Givenchy. I am also down with her styling—especially the makeup which combines her now-trademark red lips with a softer overall effect—and I like the dress, in and of itself. Hate the fit. The top is too loose and even on flat-chested Mara it looks saggy and no one with Mara’s physique should ever look saggy.
And finally, we have Bridesmaids and Damages star Rose Byrne in Vivienne Westwood. The fit here is excellent, the back is particularly interesting, but SHE IS SO THIN IT HURTS ME. Everyone was going on about how skinny Angelina looked, but for my money, I’m more concerned about the rapidly vanishing Rose Byrne. Eat something!
The Funny Ladies – Good
Here’s how you do a peplum: Tina Fey’s custom Carolina Herrera navy trumpet gown with peplum. The architectural quality of the dress, the proportions, the way the flare of the peplum echoes the flare of the skirt—it all works. And Fey looks gorgeous, even if I don’t quite understand what’s happening with her hair.
Also rocking a good look is The Descendants’ Judy Greer in Monique Lhuillier. Greer looks sexy—the red hair is very flattering—and glamorous, and the black and silver gown is a perfect choice for someone in a nominated film, but who is not nominated herself. I love Greer. She can do no wrong.
The Funny Ladies – Bad
Ugh, Kristen Wiig, you’re killing me. In and of itself, I like Wiig’s J. Mendel gown. But Wiig has worn neutral/nude A LOT this award season, and her loose, beachy hairstyle feels out of date when the style has clearly moved toward more structured, finished looks. Wiig has been missing the mark consistently this year.
Maya Rudolph in Johanna Johnson is another miss. Rudolph, too, has been failing to impress this season, though this is one of the less offensive dresses she’s worn. However—BOOB SHELF. Anything that gives you a boob shelf is a bad idea.
Danger! Curves Ahead
Octavia Spencer’s sunburst Tadashi Shoji gown is how a curvy lady dresses. The pattern is flattering, the cut is excellent, the tailoring is superb. Spencer looks amazing. This is how you do if you’re working with more than a size two.
Melissa McCarthy in Marina Rinaldi, however, is how you don’t do. I like the color of the dress, and the shape, but I hate the neckline and the sleeves. Imagine this dress without the jeweled yoke collar and just a regular halter cut, and replace the sleeves with an embroidered bolero. See? Better, right? I will give McCarthy props for fabulous makeup and hair—she looked really pretty, but the dress did not do her justice.
Dressing Your Age – Grande Dames
Meryl Streep wore gold Lanvin and it was the exact same shade as the Oscar she won. This isn’t the greatest dress I’ve ever seen, but given that Streep is just as likely to show up in a men’s shirt and taffeta skirt as she is in a proper-styled gown, I’m down with her look. The color was particularly flattering, setting off her fantastic skin. I really need someone to ask her what she’s doing to keep her skin looking so amazing.
Another lady of a certain age who is likely to wear something totally bizarre is Glenn Close, who chose a deep teal Zac Posen number. I love it, but I bet a lot of you hate it. I love the detailing on the corset, and on the fishtail, and I LOVE that she wore a tuxedo jacket over it. I have an awesome tuxedo vest, but have been on the lookout for a good tuxedo jacket. I want Glenn Close’s.
Dressing Your Age – Little Women
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Shailene Woodley in a long-sleeved Valentino. Again, I love this but I bet a lot of you hate it. The thing is, Woodley is young and off-beat and genuinely doesn’t care to a degree that allows her to get away with wearing some of the more oddball fashions. And the styling is beautiful.
Not scoring as well but still getting points for trying is Emma Stone in Giambattista Valli. The central problem with this dress is that it is far too close to Nicole Kidman’s famous 2007 Balenciaga dress. But the secondary issue is that neck/shoulder bows are pretty much never a good idea. Kidman barely managed it herself and she’s a bona fide fashion icon. Stone is trying, she’s willing to push it, which I appreciate, but she—or her stylist—should have known this dress was ill-advised.
Leggiest Leg Award
Stop the presses—Angelina Jolie wore a black Versace gown. Surprising, I know. (Can you sense the sarcasm?) But still, she looked gorgeous, and the structured dress was a change from her usual sack. The lighter hair color suits her well, too. She looked really happy and fresh, if a bit too thin, and I was really into the bustle on the dress. But of course, it was Jim Rash (Community’s Dean Pelton) who made the night.
Princess Prisoner Bride
SOMEONE HELP HER TO BE FREE.
I called this the “worst Oscar roster in recent memory” when the nominations came out a month ago. I stand by that. In the time since then, I’ve come to realize that in almost every category, the best movie/person wasn’t nominated. In a lot of categories, there are 3+ movies/people that didn’t get nominated. We’re not picking the best of anything this year. We’re picking runners-up and honorable mentions. 2012 might as well be called “the year of the also-rans”. This is definitely a year that we’ll have to revisit with the Ethels in five years.
Which makes this a tough year for predicting winners. I think the major categories are pretty well set, but the minor ones are going to be a trap for those of us participating in betting pools this weekend. I’m not nearly as confident in my picks this year as I was last year. But, for what it’s worth, here are my “will wins” and “should wins” for the 2012 Oscars. Keeping in mind, of course, that the real “should wins” comprise an entirely different nominee roster for a ceremony taking place in an alternate universe, in which The Help received zero nominations and Drive got ten, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy got eight, Win Win got six, and Tyrannosaur and 50/50 got three apiece. Also in that alternate universe, Patton Oswalt is an Academy Award nominee. I WANT TO LIVE IN THAT WORLD.
Who will win: The Artist
Who should win: The Tree of Life
I wouldn’t have even kept Tree of Life on the ballot, but since it’s here and it’s better than everything else, I’ll give it the “should win”. I would also entertain defenses of The Descendants, though. But if you’re gambling, The Artist has this on lock-down.
Who will win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Who should win: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
For the same reasons as above. Would also hear cases for Alexander Payne (The Descendants).
Who should win: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Well, the two best male performances of the year weren’t even nominated and the third best isn’t going to win. This is such a mess. How does this happen? I mean, I know how—The Fassbender’s movie was too sexy and The Gos’s too violent—but still, HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? You’re voting for the best acting performances, not passing moral judgment. Anyway, my theory that Oldman could sneak in an upset win because enough people would be reluctant to choose between Brad Pitt and George Clooney—because they have the same friends and supporters—is paying off, but not for Oldman. No, it’s that sexy French beast Dujardin who’s benefitting from the split vote.
Who will win: Viola Davis, The Help
Who should win: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
Again, we’re missing the top female performances—THREE of them—but for what we’ve got to work with, Williams is the most deserving winner. Davis was really good in White Guilt: The Movie, though, and I don’t begrudge her the win. I just wish this category was made up of the legitimately best performances, not “Aww, Glenn Close finally got that movie made” and “Meryl Streep because of being Meryl Streep”.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Who should win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
I won’t argue with this one. Plummer is excellent in Beginners and he’s had this signed, sealed and delivered since last summer. I just wish Don Cheadle (The Guard), Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) were nominated alongside him.
Who will win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Who should win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
This is me just giving up. If Jessica Chastain was nominated for The Tree of Life, I’d say she should win this, but as this category stands, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for any of these people. I’m not even sure how this entire category happened. Had they been drinking?
Best Animated Feature
Who will win: Rango
Who should win: Rango
I’m okay with this category. Rango was solid and the animation was gorgeous. If you’re looking for an upset, though, it could come from A Cat in Paris.
Best Foreign Language Film
Who will win: A Separation (Iran)
Who should win: A Separation (Iran)
This is another one I’m okay with. I wish that Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In was nominated, but I wouldn’t have picked it over A Separation. Another slam-dunk for your betting pool.
Who will win: Undefeated
Who should win: Undefeated
This category is a travesty. The two best docs of 2011, Senna and Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss were disqualified over stupid rules (that are probably changing anyway). This could be a close call with Paradise Lost 3, which has the benefit of being topical, as it’s about the West Memphis Three, but Undefeated is basically Friday Night Lights + The Blind Side but in real life. It’s heart warming and life affirming, so I think it wins.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Who should win: JC Chandor, Margin Call
Allen gets a late-in-career Oscar thanks to the box office success and critical popularity of Midnight in Paris, his most accessible/enjoyable movie in years. I am not a Woody Allen fan, and I didn’t hate Paris, so it was definitely a decent movie. But Chandor’s script for Margin Call is insanely good and had some of the best dialogue in 2011.
Who will win: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Who should win: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughn, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
This should definitely be O’Connor and Straughn for their elegant condensation of a complex text, but I’m not going to complain about Dean Pelton winning an Oscar.
Who will win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Who should win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
I’m not 100% confident in this pick, but Lubezki seems to have the momentum going into Sunday, and though Tree of Life was divisive, the cinematography was widely admired. Could be a Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist) surprise, though.
Best Film Editing
Who will win: Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Who should win: Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball
Yet another category that could be totally redone with five more deserving nominees. Working with what we’ve got, though, The Artist is the favorite but Moneyball is my personal pick. Should The Artist not come through on this early category, look for upsets in the Director and Picture races.
Best Art Direction
Who will win: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Hugo
Who should win: Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
Ferretti is a very well respected production designer and this would be his third Oscar. The odds are in his favor, but an HP upset would not surprise me.
Best Costume Design
Who will win: Sandy Powell, Hugo
Who should win: Michael O’Connor, Jane Eyre
The mid-Victorian fashions of Jane Eyre are not sexy—Jane is plainly dressed throughout the film and Rochester appears in varying staged of dishevelment. But O’Connor’s designs are spot-on and completely realistic. There’s no attempt to glamorize Jane, instead dressing her in the severe, unflattering colors and styles of a poor woman. Rochester’s suits are considerably more fashionable, but there’s a wear to them that speaks to a man unconcerned with fashion. But they are not flashy costumes and Hugo got to play in a fantastical version of Coco Chanel’s Paris, so it will win the Oscar.
Who will win: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Who should win: Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
I’m not sure which was worse old age makeup—old Margaret Thatcher or old Harry Potter. Still, HP 7-2 employed spot-on makeup work throughout the series, but especially in the final chapter, when Harry seemed to age twenty years in a day after the Battle of Hogwarts. Also, Voldemort’s non-nose should be enough to get this and the VFX Oscar. Should, not will.
Best Original Score
Who will win: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Who should win: Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Bource’s score does a lot of heavy lifting in The Artist, as it stands in for the dialogue, but Iglesias’s jazz-inspired score for Tinker Tailor evoked the dingier side of the 1970’s beautifully. It plays like a jazz recording, not a film score.
Best Original Song
Who should win: Same
There are only two nominees and one is from the Muppet movie and is written by one-half of Flight of the Conchords. The other is from Rio and sounds like a travel agency ad. McKenzie has his first Oscar well in hand.
Best Sound Editing
Who will win: Hugo
Who should win: Drive
If there’s an upset in this category, it will be for Drive.
Best Sound Mixing
Who will win: Hugo
Who should win: War Horse
I think Hugo has both sound categories pretty well locked down, but if you’re looking for an outside chance, War Horse is your best bet.
Best Visual Effects
Who will win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
Who should win: HP 7-2
I’m predicting the Harry Potter upset here. The odds are on Rise of the Planet of the Apes but I’ve heard from enough disgruntled Academy voters that did not like the aggressive “Andy Serkis for Oscar” campaign that I think their annoyance will spill over into this category. Also, HP has been the biggest movie franchise for a decade and this is the last chance to give it some hardware.
Best Short Film – Animated
Who will win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Who should win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
I actually saw this one—it’s really good and it’s whimsical and artsy, which is right up the Academy’s alley.
Best Short Film – Live Action
Who will win: The Shore
Who should win: Oh my god who knows?
Best Documentary – Short Subject
Who will win: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Who should win: Um, this one?