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We're almost at Oscar night. What is normally one of the most exciting build ups of the year, frankly, has left me very disinterested. Sorry, but a vast majority of the movies I cared about last year didn't make the cut, so I really could care less who wins Best Picture.
This mindset comes shining through with the Best Director race. Whereas last year was chock full of directors doing awesome things, this year is just... well, eh. This is more personal opinion than anything, but out of the five chosen, I'd say only two, if that, deserve to be on it.*
*Bear in mind, I haven't seen Hugo yet.
But, for the second year running, it's my job to squelch through the muck and analyze all this stuff for you. Let's get into it.
Woody Allen (Midnight In Paris): I'm not the biggest Allen fan. I love Annie Hall, but I don't think anything he's done in the last twenty years deserves any sort of mention. But, he came screaming back onto the A list with Midnight In Paris, a wonderful film, full to bursting with biting humor, strong acting, some of the most lovingly composed shots of Paris ever seen, and all the while, pushing a solid message of how our society views nostalgia. It's good stuff.
So, Can He Win?: No! Not only are the other films on the list more "directed" than Midnight, Allen's film hasn't really racked up a whole lot of previous awards. If this film takes home anything, it's gonna be in the writing categories. Allen will have to wait it out until the next one, provided he is consistent this time.
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist): Translating a gimmick (and let's be honest. The Artist is all gimmick) into an Oscar winning film is no small feat, but Hazanavicius manages it with ease. Even without all the hoopla of it being a silent film, The Artist would still be one of the best films of the year. Hazanavicius takes all the trademarks, visual cues, and touches that defined the silent film genre, and makes them feel new again. Not a word is spoken throughout the movie, and yet you won't be able to take your eyes off it.
So, Can He Win?: I'd say it's a damn certainty at this point. The Artist has been cleaning up shop these last few weeks, taking home the PGA, the BAFTA, and, most importantly, the DGA. It's not quite as clear as previous years, as there is another contender who could swoop in (more on that later), but if you put this guy on your ballot, you'll be considered a smart person.
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life): My favorite of all the directors in this race, Malick does amazing things with this film, making it quiet and intimate one second, and grandiose and epic the next. Many people have bashed it for boring, ponderous, and slow. I loved it. I thought it was fascinating and moving. The actors, under Malick's wing, create fleshed out and memorable characters with their minimal dialogue. Also dinosaurs!
So, Can He Win?: He should... but he won't. I don't know what it is, but I think The Tree of Life has proven to be too much for the Academy to go for. They do love their moving epics, but they have their limits. No, I think the reason is that Malick is too much of an odd duck to warrant any sort of real chances. I don't even think he's gonna show up to the ceremony. Stupid reason, but since when has the Academy ever behaved like normal people?
Alexander Payne (The Descendants): A quirky family drama, set against the lush backdrop of Hawaii, with George Clooney in one of his best roles. Yeah, it's no wonder that this one got all the nominations it did. Even so, The Descendants is worth it, and Payne does an admirable job with it. It's funny, moving, and heartfelt. And the child actors are stupendous, and we all know how hard child actors can be to work with.
So, Can He Win?: This marks the second time that Payne has been nominated for a much beloved film, and he's the only multiple nominee in the race, apart from Malick, who hasn't won. This automatically helps him. Well, than and the fact that if any film is going to challenge The Artist, it's going to be this one. It's too close to call for sure. If I'm putting my money somewhere, it's going to Hazanavicius, but this guy may prove to have the cojones to go the distance.
Martin Scorcese (Hugo): Would you have expected this a couple months ago when the first trailer for Hugo dropped? I sure as hell didn't. But here we are, and Hugo is leading the pack with a whopping 11 nominations. Now, according to that little footnote up there, the writer of this post hasn't seen it yet, so there's not gonna be any mention of it's quality. But, from what other people are saying, Hugo is a vibrant, moving film that pays a crap ton of reverence to the cinematic medium. In other words, the Academy's wet dream. Also, the 3D is supposed to be awesome!
So, Can He Win?: He just won, and his last movie was completely shut out of the race to begin with, so, I don't think so. Granted, the Academy might be swayed by the whole birth of cinema thing, and the film does seem to employ a whole bunch of visual trickery, but, it's still too soon. Marty'll have to wait for a few more years before it's his time again.
So, Who Got Shafted?: There are three. Nicolas Winding Refn, David Fincher, and David Yates. Now, I understand why all three of these films got shafted. Drive and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are too cold and violent, and Harry Potter is too mainstream. How are those for stupid reasons? But, all three of those films deserved to be recognized, thanks in no small part to their directors. Yates had been getting better and better with the Harry Potter brand since the reprehensible Order of the Phoenix, and Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was not only the best Harry Potter film, but the best mainstream blockbuster to come out all year, or, indeed, in many years.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was no doubt cast aside due to the whole "It's copying the swedish version" bull crap, but no one can deny that Fincher's dark sensibilities were right at home with Mikael and Lisbeth. He took everything he had learned from his previous movies, and applied them, making Dragon Tattoo more than just a rote cash in.
And Drive was the best movie of the year, bar none. Ok, yes, it was savagely violent and the protagonist was a bit too distant to really relate too, but so what? Drive was simply the best example of film as an art to be seen all year. Deftly combining steely cool, asphalt covered action movies with the bright pink, techno infused touches of europop, and then offering up a slow burn tale of crime, suspense, and violence, everything about Drive just worked.
Although, there is a scene where a man gets his wrist slit that is probably the most sickeningly gory scene of the year, so that probably had something to do with it.
Whatever, though. It doesn't matter. I don't know how you feel, but I'm just coasting on the coattails of this awards season, counting down the minutes until it is over and we can start looking ahead to when Christopher Nolan gets snubbed again. Anyway, that's all for now. Return to your daily tasks. Peace!