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Oscars 2011: Final Thoughts Part 1

Dear readers,

As promised at the end of the  "Oscars 2011: Spotlight on…” series, I am back now that the nominees for the 94th Academy Awards have been announced to take a look at the state of the race before the winners will be made known this Sunday, February 26th.

At this point all major guilds in the industry have handed out their prizes making the race look much clearer than before. In my previous articles series on the Oscars my main reference points have been awards given out by critics’ association and as we know, they are not part of the Academy’s of Motion Pictures and Arts voting body. Last Academy Awards race has shown it best when The Social Network emerged as a clear frontrunner after sweeping all the critics awards, only t be clearly pushed in the background when the guilds showered The King’s Speech with their awards leading to an inevitable Best Picture win.

This three-part articles series will focus on all categories and shortly discuss the state of the race for each and every category except for the shorts.


Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Starting off with a tricky category right away, it must be noted that this category has delivered quite a few surprises in the past. The most striking one would be The Golden Compass upsetting Transformers for the Best Visual Effects win. Considering that upset and the fact that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hasn’t even been nominated back in 2009, it is extremely unlikely that Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be rewarded this time. Real Steel is also lucky to be nominated (though its nomination is well-deserved). That leaves us with three potential winners. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 would become the first Harry Potter film to win an Oscar for Visual Effects (or any Oscar at all) and its achievements are undeniable. Being the biggest movie of the year might help too, though the Transformers/The Golden Compass situation implies that it doesn’t necessarily matter.

Under normal circumstances Hugo would be the clear frontrunner. The last time a Best Picture nominee lost to a non-nominee in this category was when Patton lost to Tora Tora Tora! in 1970. This a whole lot of precedence going for Hugo, additionally to the film being strong in all technical departments. However, this is a year where the trend could be reversed. Rise of the Planet of the Apes currently seems to be the frontrunner. It has won the Visual Effects Society award for the best visual effects in a visual effects-driven motion picture. However, Hugo won an award there too, for the best supporting visual effects. Both remain in the race and considering Andy Serkis’ track record (King Kong and The Lord of the Rings) as well as cries for his mo-cap performance in Apes to be nominated as Best Supporting Actor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes might have the slight edge here.

Predicted winner: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Potential spoiler: Hugo


Best Achievement in Sound Editing

The Motion Picture Sound Editors have handed out their awards just a few days ago with the Academy Awards Sound Editing nominee War Horse taking home the big prize. Hugo surprisingly wasn’t even nominated for the main award there, though it did win the MPSE award for Best Sound Editing: Music in a Feature Film. The race here is down to War Horse and Hugo. Drive wasn’t particularly embraced by the Academy, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has no previous wins in the franchise to show for and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Best Picture snub shows that the Academy didn’t love it either. Hugo looks like a technical powerhouse set to take home several technical awards with the bog prizes being denied (it reminds me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008). However, this category is also the best shot for War Horse to win anything if the Academy wants to reward it somehow. Being a war movie certainly helps.

Predicted winner: Hugo

Potential spoiler: War Horse


Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Here the picture is clearer. The Cinema Audio Society has awarded Hugo the main award for Best Sound Mixing and that just supports its strength in the technical categories. Moneyball’s lack of a Sound Editing nomination makes a win here seem unlikely (though Letters from Iwo Jima did win one Sound Oscar without being nominated for the other). The main competitor here, once again, is War Horse.

Predicted winner: Hugo

Potential spoiler: War Horse


Best Achievement in Music written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Year after year this remains the oddest category, this year containing only two nominees. There is really no telling the winner, but The Muppets has received far more general attention for its songs and “Man or Muppet” is getting quite a push, so that’ll be my pick.

Predicted winner: “Man or Muppet”, The Muppets

Potential spoiler: ”Real in Rio”, Rio (d’uh)


Best Achievement in Music written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Alberto Iglesias’ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s score is masterful and his third Oscar nod after his works on The Kite Runner and The Constant Gardener (another John Le Carré adaptation), but it’s not his year. Howard Shore has a perfect 3/3 track recored so far, having won all three Academy Awards he has been nominated for (all for the Lord of the Rings trilogy), but his Hugo nomination likely won’t result in a fourth. This is a battle between Jihn Williams and Ludovic Bource. The Academy absolutely adores Williams. Following up his double nomination for Munich and Memoirs of a Geisha Williams was honored with yet another double nomination, this time for The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. With 47 Academy Awards nominations under his belt, he’s the single most nominated living person ever (and second to Walt Disney overall). He is also a five-time winner, though his last win is a long time ago – Schindler’s List. His memorable War Horse score actually does stand a solid chance of getting recognized. It has just won the Best Film Score of the Year award from the International Film Music Critics Association, though it doesn’t matter that much as their winners don’t necessarily match up with the Oscars. They did in 2009 (Up) and 2007 (Atonement), but in 2010, 2008 and 2004-2006 their winners didn’t match up with those of the Academy Awards. Ludovic Bource has won the Best Score Golden Globe for his work on The Artist and considering that the score plays a very central part in the movie (it’s a silent movie that lives off its music) that will likely win Best Picture, it is hard to see Bource being snubbed in this category.

Predicted winner: The Artist

Potential Spoiler: War Horse


Best Achievement in Makeup

The makeup category is the one where fantasy movies usually clearly have the upper hand over the other nominees, but this year it’s shaped up to be a tough race. Ever since 2000, nine of eleven winners have been fantasy flicks (last year’s winner being The Wolfman). This gives Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 a huge advantage. Apart from that, it’s a category where the film actually has a very good chance to win and I don’t believe that the Academy will have the franchise go completely empty-handed, especially after such a warm reception for the last film. However, the two movies that did win against fantasy fellow nominees fit the profile of The Iron Lady – Frida and La Vie En Rose. Both are biopics about strong female personalities. Meryl Streep is practically unrecognizable as the aged Margaret Thatcher. The terrific makeup job in that film stands in sharp contrast to the horrendous old-people makeup in J. Edgar making the work in The Iron Lady look even better. This migjt be one of the closest races of the night. In the end, Harry Potter might just prevail so that the franchise gets at least some recognition.

Predicted winner: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Potential spoiler: The Iron Lady


Best Achievement in Costume Design

The Costume Designers Guild has awarded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, W.E. and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 for the Best Costume Designs in the categories contemporary, period and fantasy respectively. With only W.E. of those films also nominated at the Oscars, it looks like it might have an edge there. In the past three years the CDG winners went on to win the Best Costume Design Oscar as well. However, the winners did not line up in 2007 (Elizabeth: The Golden Age won the Oscar, but Sweeney Todd got the CDG award in the Period category) or 2006 (when Curse of the Golden Flower took home CDG against Marie Antoinette in the Period category. The latter went on to win the Oscar, though). The CDG is not a great predictor, especially when there are several costume-heavy nominees in the Best Costume Design category at the Oscars.

I don’t see Hugo being a factor here, but Jane Eyre, Anonymous (which wasn’t even nominated by the CDG) and The Artist all present stiff competition for W.E. For Lisy Christl (Anonymous) and Mark Bridges (The Artist) this is the first nomination, whereas Jane Eyre’s Michael O’Connor has won before for The Duchess. The costumes are not The Artist’s greatest strength and being a Best Picture frontrunner doesn’t necessarily give it the upper hand here. The King’s Speech won the major awards, but still lost Best Costume Design for Alice in Wonderland last year. Being black and white (thus not being able to show the colors of the costumes) will probably hurt the appreciation for its costumes as well. However, if The Artist proves itself to be a real Oscars powerhouse and goes on a small sweep, it might just get Best Costume Design in a small upset. Otherwise Jane Eyre perfectly fits the Academy Awards’ mold of The Young Victoria, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Marie Antoinette as a historical costumes-heavy drama.

Predicted winner: Jane Eyre

Potential spoiler: The Artist


Best Achievement in Art Direction

The strongest predictor here would be the Art Directors Guild which gave this year’s awards for Best Art Direction to Hugo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (period, fantasy and contemporary). The latter two also scored Academy Awards nominations here. However, the Art Directors Guild is still not a completely fireproof predictor. In the past 11 years only six movies that have won here went on to win the Oscar. Midnight in Paris and War Horse both actually snatched Oscar nods for their art direction without even being nominated by the ADG at all. However, the history shows that winning an Oscar for Art Direction without an ADG nomination is extremely unlikely. That leaves us with The Artist, Hugo and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 as the potential winners. As I have said before, it is impossible to count out The Artist in almost any category at the moment, but this certainly doesn’t look like the one it will win. Hugo won’t pull Gangs of New York, it will certainly be rewarded at least in a few technical categories and its recreation of Paris in the 1930s is definitely impressive enough to score a win. Harry Potter remains on its heels, though.

Predicted winner: Hugo

Potential spoiler: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


Best Achievement in Cinematography

Looking at the awards handed out by the American Society of Cinematographers yields mixed results here. This year’s award went to Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life who has sweeped the Best Cinematography award throughout the entire awards season with the notable exception of the Broadcast Film Critics Association awards which honored Janusz Kaminski’s work in War Horse (ironically not even nominated by the ASC). All signs point towards Lubezki who’s impressively overdue by now with his fifth nomination and no wins to show for in the past. Obviously the Academy embraced The Tree of Life too giving it a Best Picture and a Best Director nod. The Cinematography nomination for Lubezki is the only nomination the film has received apart from the two big ones. However, the ASC tends more to honor the smaller films which end up being snubbed at the Oscars in favor of the bigger ones. The ASC has given Best Cinematography awards to The Man Who Wasn’t There, The White Ribbon and A Very Long Engagement and Searching for Bobby Fischer in the past which were topped by The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Avatar, The Aviator and Schindler’s List respectively at the Oscars. This gives the edge to The Artist’s Guillaume Schiffman or Hugo’s Robert Richardson (who has won twice in the past – for The Aviator and for JFK). There’s also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I don’t think its camera work is showy enough to win. Lubezki remains the favorite, but this is one of the most likely categories to see an upset, similar to when Lubezki has lost his Children of Men nod to Pan’s Labyrinth’s Guillermo Navarro who wasn’t even nominated by the ASC.

Predicted winner: The Tree of Life

Potential spoiler: The Artist


Best Achievement in Editing

The American Cinema Editors guild is an extremely strong predictor for the winner in this Oscars category. The last time a movie has won the Oscar for Best Editing without a previous ACE win was in 2000 when Traffic upset Gladiator at the Academy Awards. Before that you have to go back to 1995 when Apollo 13 won the Oscar, but Braveheart got the ACE Eddie. In both of those cases the winner at the Oscars was also a very strong contender for a Best Picture win. That basically rules out a win for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball. Hugo’s Thelma Schoonmaker has won three times before for her collaborations with Scorsese and she won’t get another one here. That leaves us with the ACE winners The Descendants and The Artist. Considering that The Descendants is, afterall, a low-key family drama an Editing win would almost guarantee it a Best Picture win, but that doesn’t seem all too likely right now. This is The Artist’s to lose. If there is any upset, it’ll be by the tech-heavy Hugo.

Predicted winner: The Artist

Potential spoiler: Hugo


I hope you enjoyed this and I’ll be back tomorrow with my take on the acting and screenwriting categories. Until then, feel free to leave your comments!

Oscars 2011: Final Thoughts Part 2

Oscars 2011: Final Thoughts Part 3

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