2011 Oscar Race: Nominations and Analysis

It’s that time of year again, the time we all love – Oscar season! The nominations for the year 2011 were announced this morning with its fair share of surprises, snubs, and just plain bizarre choices – business as usual, in other words. I’ll have a “Best of 2011” post going up soon that was made in cooperation with Ryan Brown (and I’ll add that our individual lists were incredibly different – 2011 was a great year) so you guys can see where we stand on the films of 2011. But until then, let’s take a look at who got Oscar love and who Oscar hates.

Best Picture

“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“War Horse”
“The Tree of Life”

The new Best Picture rules are at work, and shockingly nine films made the cut – with a few notable snubs. The big surprise of this bunch, however, is Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, a Christmas Day released 9/11 film that sharply polarized audiences despite featuring many lauded performances. I’m happy to see it here, personally. Two other nice surprises, though not as shocking, are Midnight in Paris and Tree of Life, both exceptional films by exceptional directors that, while having a lot of positive reception, had not really been given much love elsewhere.

The controversy here is the lack of a tenth film – and there are plenty to fill that void. Drive (which I have not seen, but which Ryan very much enjoyed), 50/50 (exceptionally good), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Ides of March (both great films though not as good as previous efforts by their directors, and still featuring incredible performances) are the four most deserving candidates for that tenth slot. I predict some strife will occur regarding the new rating system – essentially, if you didn’t vote the film for #1, your vote was wasted under this new system.

Prediction: The Artist – Hazanavicius won the DGA, and the DGAs are almost always right.
What SHOULD Win: Moneyball or Hugo – both are films that do something new. Moneyball manages to dramatize not sports but the mathematics thereof; Hugo celebrates film in a visually beautiful and emotionally affecting way that so few films have done in recent memory.

Best Actor 

Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

The surprise here is definitely Gary Oldman, long a wonderful actor that has unfortunately never even received a nomination; it is good that the Academy has rectified that. The snub, however, is Ryan Gosling. Pick any of his three performances this year and you’ve picked one of the best of the year; Oldman and Demian Bichir, a real dark horse nominee, pushed him off, I have no doubt.

Prediction: George Clooney. Is there any doubt? Dujardin could pull out a win, but I’m thinking the Academy will swing Clooney’s way.
Who SHOULD Win: Brad Pitt.

Best Actress 

Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Mara is a surprise – Girl With the Dragon Tattoo managed to get snubbed out of major categories, but she managed to score a nomination here, and a very well deserved one – hers is perhaps the best female performance all year.

Prediction: Meryl Streep. The Iron Lady may be getting lukewarm reviews, but with as much Oscar power as Streep already commands it’s hard to see the Academy going elsewhere.
Who SHOULD Win: Rooney Mara. Seriously, that was amazing.

Best Supporting Actor 

Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Now THIS is a competition. Jonah Hill, Christopher Plummer, and Max Von Sydow ALL turned in incredible performances. I’m very surprised to see Von Sydow here, just as I am to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a Best Picture nom, but nevertheless this is a great category.

Prediction: Tough call, but going to have to go with Christopher Plummer.
Who SHOULD Win: A rare case where the likely winner is the one who should win.

Best Supporting Actress 

Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

It’s not surprising to see Melissa McCarthy here, though I’m not sure the praise is founded. Nevertheless, this is a lock category.
Prediction: Octavia Spencer.
Who SHOULD Win: Octavia Spencer, another rare case.

Best Director 

Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Now this is interesting. Scorsese, Payne and Hazanavicius are not surprising – Allen and Malick are a bit more so. Fincher was in the running I’m sure, and I’m disappointed that for the second year in a row our favorite obsessive doesn’t get any love, but this too is a pretty great race – all five directors are truly deserving of the prize this year.

Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius.
Who SHOULD Win: While I’d love to say Scorsese, I’m going to have to say that Malick probably deserves it more – Tree of Life was such a visionary film that only Malick could have done it so well.

Best Original Screenplay 

Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
JC Chandor, “Margin Call”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”


Prediction: Woody Allen.
Who SHOULD Win: Woody Allen, another rare category – which are actually common this year.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
John Logan, “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Another great category, the real race is between Descendants and Moneyball.

Prediction: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, and Jim Rash for The Descendants.
Who SHOULD Win: They should, another rare category.

Best Animated Feature 

“A Cat In Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”

Interesting that Tintin has been snubbed here, given it’s big win at the Golden Globes against many of the same competitors. It was a bad year for animation with the absence of a Pixar giant. Winnie the Pooh was a nostalgic joy, but not Oscar material and no substitute for a Best Picture-worthy Pixar masterpiece.

Prediction: Unless it’s one of the dark horses, Rango.
What SHOULD Win: Rango – lots of rare agreement this year.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year 

Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

I’ve seen none of them, so no comment.

Prediction: A Separation

Original Score 

“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
“The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse,” John Williams

Standard fare here, though the absence of Reznor and Ross after their incredible work last year is a bit bizarre. Nevertheless, no real surprises.

Prediction: Ludovic Bource, The Artist – when a score is the entirety of your audio, of COURSE it is going to stand out.
What SHOULD Win: Howard Shore, Hugo.

Best Original Song 

“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

People saw Rio?

Prediction: “Man or Muppet” of course.
What SHOULD Win: “Man or Muppet” of course.

Best Achievement in Art Direction 

“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Cinematography 

“The Artist”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Costume Design 

“The Artist”
“Jane Eyre”

Best Documentary Feature 

“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Best Documentary Short Subject 

“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Best Achievement in Film Editing 

“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Achievement in Makeup 

“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

Best Animated Short Film 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Best Live Action Short Film 

“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic” 

Best Achievement in Sound Editing 

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse” 

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing 

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse” 

Best Achievement in Visual Effects 

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Hey! Technical categories! No comments other than this: Hugo or Tree of Life for Cinematography, oh God please.


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