All-Seeing Awix's Crystal Balls III
'Tradition est le roi de la médiocrité.' – Someone French
Hello again everyone, and welcome to what's becoming a bit of a tradition for 24LAS: my annual griping about the impending Academy Awards, briskly followed by an attempt to predict who's actually going to win one this year.
For the benefit of newcomers and long-term readers with deficient memories (I can't imagine anyone else being a long-term reader, to be honest), my issues with the Oscars run as follows. Firstly, they are terribly inclined to vanish completely up themselves and celebrate a certain kind of worthy, safe, self-consciously classic film-making – comedies of any stripe never get a look in, never mind horror movies, fantasy or SF. The only exception is if the film in question draws in quite mind-numbingly enormous takings, a la The Exorcist, Star Wars or Avatar. Money talks at the Oscars. There's also the way that the whole mass of non-Anglophone cinema is compacted into a single category – it's a brazenly and unashamedly biased undertaking, for something which claims to take a global view.
The political aspect of the awards is also fairly annoying as well. The fact that awards generally go to careers rather than individual movies is something I'm rather ambivalent about – I suppose it's better that Scorsese should win an Oscar for The Departed than not at all, but on the other this does mean that, no matter how good you are as an actor or director, you're almost certainly not going to pick up a gold statue the first time you come to the academy's notice. This rule is more likely than others to get bent, though. More irritating is the way that producers 'juggle' their nominations to maximise their chances of winning, perhaps in recognition of this fact. So, for example, last year Hailee Steinfeld was put up for Best Supporting Actress in True Grit, despite being in practically every scene, simply because she was more likely to win that category. Did she deserve recognition? Arguably. But in that category? Do me a favour.
Anyway, onto my attempt to guess who's going to win. I am only going to concern myself with the major awards, as usual – another thing that puts me at odds with most academy voters is that I neither presume nor claim to be an authority on (say) sound editing, said expertise they then demonstrate by just voting for the film they enjoyed the most, regardless of actual techical quality. (This 'juggernaut' effect explains those occasions when a single film makes virtually a clean sweep of the major and technical nominations.)
Best Supporting Actress: Straightaway we hit a bad case of nomination-juggling courtesy of the Oscars' long-time Grey Eminence, Harvey Weinstein, who has much form in this area. Berenice Bejo, the leading lady of the film, is nevertheless in this lesser category, simply (I suspect) to get her out of the path of the Streep-Thatcher bulldozer. Hmmm. I like Bejo's turn very much, but I can't say she deserves to win here. Nevertheless.
Should Win: Crikey, it's been a bit of thin year for this sort of part. Charlotte Gainsbourg for Melancholia. Will Win: Probably Bejo.
Best Supporting Actor: Hmmm, I haven't actually seen any of these films, awkwardly enough. An interesting field in which veteran hyphenate Kenneth Branagh looks like a relative tyro compared to the likes of Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer. It will probably go to one of the crinklies on the grounds that this might be the last chance they're up there.
Should Win: Let's be controversial and populist simultaneously and plump for Andy Serkis's remarkable contribution to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Will Win: Christopher Plummer sneaking it over von Sydow.
Best Actress: Now I did like Rooney Mara's fiercely committed performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but just like everyone else I think they may as well hand this one to Meryl Streep today. Everyone else in this category is just there to bulk it out.
Should Win: A really thin year for actresses. Actually, I'm going to go for Rooney Mara. Will Win: Streep. (Should Have Won: Neil Kinnock, but I suppose it's time to let go on that one.)
Best Actor: Now this could be interesting, as we have an acclaimed but hitherto completely overlooked performer (Gary Oldman) up against a possible beneficiary of the juggernaut effect (Jean Desjardin). Whoever wins I doubt we will have another Benny Hill namecheck up on stage, which is a shame. I suspect Oldman's history chewing the scenery as the bad guy in genre movies may count against him, sadly enough. Nevertheless this is a tough one to call as both George Clooney and Brad Pitt would be popular wins.
Should Win: Brendan Gleeson for The Guard. (Sticking to my guns there.) Will Win: Jean Desjardin.
Best Director: A real slugfest between critical darlings past and present here, with the sole exception being the favourite, a Frenchman previously notable only for Austin Powers-style spoofs. What peculiar times we are living through. Can't see Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese winning for their respective Paris-set extravaganzas, nor Terence Malick for a film I'd like to see just for the dinosaurs.
Should Win: Hmm... to be fair to him, Michael Hazanavicius really did do an exceptionally splendid job on The Artist, a film more dependent on its director's grasp of storytelling to work than most. Will Win: See previous.
Best Film: Let all talk of the Oscars being preening, self-regarding piffle be banished! The fact that two films about the history of cinema itself are nominated is surely a coincidence! Actually, I like The Artist and Hugo more than most of the other films here, although The Descendants has grown pleasantly in my recollection. You will note that with the exception of The Artist and Midnight in Paris they are all films aspiring to a certain stately gravitas, with none of them being really what you'd call a genre picture.
Should Win:The Guard. Will Win: Probably The Artist again.
Of course, I could get it wrong and the awards could go all over the place, which is what makes this such an interesting guessing game. But a game is really all it is: in terms of talking about what's genuinely happening in cinema, the Oscars are generally a very poor guide.