Hollywood Hopeful, 2012

I did this last year, why not make it a tradition?Oscar nominations will be announced in 11 days, on January 24. And while it’s not as obvious who will get in as it was last year with “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” set in stone, there are a few names and titles that would be a (pleasant) surprise.

So, once again, here’s my wish list for this year’s Academy Awards. It worked with “Dogtooth” last time, so here’s hoping!

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, “We Need To Talk About Kevin”
Yes, I would probably still list Swinton if her performance in Lynne Ramsay’s hard-to-swallow drama wasn’t as perfect and singular as it is. But her follow-up to the overlooked (by the Academy) turns in “Julia” and “I Am Love” shows once more why Tilda Swinton is one of the most talented actors of our time.
Granted, her chances for “Kevin” are better than they were for the other two films. Swinton is nominated for a Golden Globe this year and has already won a few awards this season (the most meaningless in Oscar-terms being the European Film Award). Still, she’s anything but a safe bet for an Oscar nomination.

Best Original Score: Alberto Iglesias, “The Skin I Live In”
Front-runner Ludovic Bource (“The Artist“) had nothing to do with the most talked about musical moment in that film – the blatant usage of Bernard Herrmann’s famous “Vertigo” score. Pointless, maybe, but certainly not as disgusting as Kim Novak’s cry of ‘rape.’ The other names in the field are as predictable as they may be good: Williams, Shore, Desplat. Even Reznor/Ross won’t be a surprise anymore, although it would be great to see their win last year open doors for, say, The Chemical Brothers, whose “Hanna” score may be the best workout music in quite some time.
Who I really want to see nominated is Iglesias, who also scored “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” this year. But it’s his ominous, thrilling work for Pedro Almodóvar’s horror flick that really deserves to be up there.

Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart, “Pina”
From the press kit: “For the 3D image composition Wim Wenders convinced one of the most experienced 3D pioneers in stereography, Alain Derobe, to join his team. … Derobe developed a special 3D camera rig mounted on a crane. To create the depth of the room it is very important to stay close to the dancers and to follow them: ‘Normally, with a dance film, we would erect cameras in front of the stage, far away from the action on stage,’ says Alain Derobe, ‘for PINA we positioned the cameras between the dancers. The camera literally dances with them.'”
DP Louvart opens up a whole new world on the (3D) screen, one that I enjoyed so much that I didn’t wait long to immerse myself in it a second time just days after I first saw it. “Pina” is groundbreaking entertainment and its cinematography the best argument for 3D so far.

Best Actor: Hunter McCracken, “The Tree of Life”
Yes, I’m still beating that drum. McCracken gave a stunning debut performance in Malick’s masterpiece but has not been heard from since. He (or his parents) wisely decided that a proper education would be worth more than an awards run, so instead of hitting the campaign trail McCracken stayed in high school. Good for him, but he deserves more than the lone Chicago Film Critics Association nomination (for Most Promising Performer) he got so far.

Best Director: Thomas McCarthy, “Win Win”
Tom McCarthy is one of the greatest directors currently working. Bold statement, I know, but I can back it up. Think of his films, “The Station Agent,” “The Visitor” and “Win Win.” What do they have in common? Sweeping vistas? Exciting special effects? No. Truly moving stories and honest, restrained performances? Yes. And that’s no coincidence. Sure, Patricia Clarkson or Richard Jenkins are gifted actors, but it takes a director like McCarthy (who is also an actor) to lift them to the next level. And that’s what he does with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in “Win Win,” both of whom giving the best performance of their careers. McCarthy is a cinematic treaure, and it’s time the Academy recognized that.

Best Sound Mixing: Robert Eber, “Drive”
Next to “The Tree of Life” and “Pina,” I’d say this is the film where it’s most essential you watch it in a theater. And one of the (granted, many) reasons is the superb sound mix. Of course the Sounds are tricky categories; ideally sound effects and mixing should be something that goes unnoticed by most viewers, yet year after year it’s the more showy offerings that get the nominations (see also Best Make-Up). And while I did notice the sound mix on “Drive” I was never distracted by it. On the contrary, it heightened the experience, especially in the much debated second half of the film. Sadly, with no precursor awards or nominations for “Drive” in this category, this is never going to happen. “Transformers” it is, then.

Best Picture: “Beginners”
Okay, here’s a bet for you: Sunday night, Christopher Plummer will win the Golden Globe for his supporting performance in Mike Mills’ gem of a movie. Next, he will be nominated for the Oscar, which he will also win. I know, safe bet so far, so I’ll toss in one more thing: Mills will get a nomination for Original Screenplay, but lose to Woody Allen. And that will be all the Oscars will have to offer “Beginners.” Because, as the films so beautifully shows us, life’s just not fair. If it were, “Beginners” would be up for Best Picture. Alas!

Best Supporting Actor: Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”
Speaking of life being unfair: If “Midnight in Paris” deserves any recognition – and I don’t believe it deserves much, it’s for Stoll’s scene-stealing turn as Ernest Hemingway, which may be the only thing that keeps Allen’s film from being totally forgettable.

Best Picture: “Margin Call”
Writer/director J.C. Chandor has a (small) chance of scoring a Screenplay nod, but that’s about it for this smart, exciting tale of financial collapse. In some other year there would be talk of Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto (Leading) Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci (Supporting) and Chandor (Directing). But as well-timed with the Occupy movement and the general mood of the public “Margin Call” was, it did not fare well in the awards conversation, which is a shame.

Best Supporting Actor: Andy Serkis, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
The argument has been made. A lot, and well. I don’t need to rehash it.

And, finally…

Best Picture, Director (Abbas Kiarostami), Screenplay (Kiarostami), Actress (Juliette Binoche) and Actor (William Shimell), “Copie conforme” (“Certified Copy”)

Those are my unlikely but deserving picks. What are yours?


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