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February 23, 2012

2012 Academy Awards

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By David Dixon and Andrew Younger


The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse


Andrew: “The Descendants.” The Academy rewarded two films that nostalgically examine the rise-and-fall silent films: “The Artist” and “Hugo.” While both of these films are worthy of winning, especially the tightly crafted storytelling of “The Artist,” the Academy vote will be split and “The Descendants” will take top honors. Aside from being the only nominee with a contemporary setting (even “Moneyball” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” take place in the early 2000s), “The Descendants” is also the most prominent nominee that addresses family adversity — a topic the Academy has rewarded multiple times in the last 15 years.

David: “The Artist.” This silent film deserves all the praise it has been getting from critics and audiences alike. The main reason it works so well is because of all the emotions experienced while watching it. Though it is absolutely enchanting to get caught up in the love story, the film encompasses so much more. There are at least three major scenes that are tragically sad, mostly because the two fictional stars in the story become so empathetic even before these events happen. “The Artist” is also hilarious, suspenseful and always mesmerizing.


Demián Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardin – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,

Brad Pitt – Moneyball


Andrew: Jean Dujardin. One part Clark Gable, one part Fred Astaire, Dujardin’s expressive face and animated gestures are solely responsible for a black-and-white silent film connecting with modern audiences. Dujardin carefully pays homage to silent film acting technique – with all its ostentatious physicality – without resorting to the ham-fisted overacting that plagued many performances in cinema’s early years.

David: Jean Dujardin. The Frenchman will win for his multidimensional performance in “The Artist.” Dujardin goes with the flow in the major tonal changes that occur in the film. He makes his character, George Valentin, genuinely charismatic as well as sadly flawed. It is worth noting that he has an endless supply of chemistry with his costars, including Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman, and the scene-stealing dog, Uggie. Dujardin accomplishes what a great silent performer should do — have the audience forget that not a word has been spoken on-screen.


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


Andrew: Viola Davis. With heavyweights Glenn Close and Meryl Streep turning in excellent performances in otherwise middling films and Rooney Mara’s nomination for recreating the work of Noomi Rapace, Davis and Michelle Williams are left to fight it out for the Oscar. While Williams loses herself completely in the role of an intensely vulnerable Marilyn Monroe, the Academy will inevitably reward the box office success of “The Help” by giving Davis the award. I also predict this is the only category “The Help” will win.

David: Viola Davis. She will win for her emotionally intense performance in “The Help.” From the very beginning of the movie, she infuses Aibileen Clark with the kind of genuine humanity that makes her character stand out from the rest of the ensemble. If there is a single scene that explains why she should get an Academy Award, it is the intense climactic confrontation between Aibileen and Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). It is not only a highlight of the nominees for best actress, it is also one of the most unforgettable cinematic scenes of the past year.


A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Rango


Andrew: Kung Fu Panda 2. Let’s face the facts: Since the introduction of the Best Animated Feature category in 2001, every winner (except 2006’s “Happy Feet”) has been from Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks or Studio Ghibli. However, Studio Ghibli took last year off and Pixar released the critical bomb “Cars 2,” leaving Dreamworks to scoop up two nominations. From the two Dreamworks films nominated, “Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Panda” is the stronger choice.

David: “Rango.” Paramount Pictures’ animated feature is uproariously hilarious entertainment; but the adult-animated film “Chico & Rita” has plenty of beauty and creativity. Both are great, but neither one is necessarily better than the other, because they are very dissimilar. It should be mentioned that “A Cat in Paris” has gotten early critical acclaim, even though it has not yet been released in the United States.


Guillaume Schiffman – The Artist, Jeff Cronenweth – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Robert Richardson – Hugo, Emmanuel Lubezki – The Tree of Life, Janusz Kaminski – War Horse


Andrew: Emmanuel Lubezki. “The Tree of Life” is easily the worst movie of the Best Picture nominees and unfortunately suffered from “The Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome of no film critic willing to admit that the film is an incomprehensible mess. With that said, the beauty and lasting artistic merit of “Tree of Life” rests solely on the cinematography of Lubezki.

David: Janusz Kaminski. “War Horse” should take this category for its extremely strong picturesque visuals. There are plenty of memorable images featured in the chillingly authentic war sequences as well as the many scenes in Devon, England, which gives Steven Spielberg’s movie a wonderfully retro vibe.



The Fantastic Flying

Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, A Morning Stroll, Wild Life


Andrew: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”

David: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”


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


Andrew: Michel Hazanavicius. Martin Scorsese waited decades before finally winning the Best Director award in 2007 for “The Departed.” Unfortunately, the Academy rarely awards directors twice in the same decade even though the lush direction and perfect recreations of silent-film classics (in 3-D, no less) makes his work on “Hugo” stand out. This opens the door for the other silent film director, Hazanavicius, for his work on “The Artist.” Hazanavicius’ clever manipulation of sound effects and intertitles make him a worthy recipient in lieu of another award going to Scorsese.

David: Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was not only able to make his first family friendly film a success, he was able to create an outstanding adventure with plenty of dangerous peril and fully realized characters. On top of that, “Hugo” is a rare example of a live action 3-D journey that actually works wonders in 3-D. If that is not enough, “Hugo” is as much of a letter to the old days of Hollywood and Scorsese’s irresistible passion for that time shines through.


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


Andrew: Ludovic Bource. Bource’s score for “The Artist” is front and center, however Cliff Martinez’ score for “Drive” contributes significantly to the plot and overall mood of the film. The music in “Drive” has the power to linger in the mind for days. Try to say the same thing about the score for “The Artist.”

David: John Williams. The acclaimed composer should win this category for his grand score to “War Horse.” It has been almost a decade since the legendary composer won an Academy Award. Not only has it been too long since Williams has won an Oscar, but the soundtrack to “War Horse” is the only notable purely emotional score that may lead to streams of tears.


The Artist, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Midnight in Paris, A Separation


Andrew: “Midnight in Paris.” Woody Allen’s highest-grossing film to date is also one of his best. “Midnight in Paris” makes the perfect swan song to an ambitious career. While Allen’s cantankerous attitude toward award shows coupled with stiff competition from the other nominees will prevent it from winning other categories, Allen’s screenplay about writers should be a lock.

David: “Midnight in Paris.” Woody Allen’s smart and classically witty screenplay should win the category. Allen has always been an intelligent writer and this script is his funniest in years. For clever and snappy dialogue, nothing comes close to topping it.


Bérénice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help


Andrew: Bérénice Bejo. If the definition of Lead Actress refers to a female role that contributes significantly to the arc of the narrative, Bejo should be nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role. The fact that she’s nominated in a supporting role all but assures her victory.

David: Bérénice Bejo for her genuinely funny and extraordinarily touching work in “The Artist.”


The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse


Andrew: “Hugo.” Both “Hugo” and “Midnight in Paris” recreate fin de siécle Paris, but “Midnight in Paris” ambitiously recreates the entire city.

David: “Hugo” for its dazzling and colorful depiction of Paris in the 1930s.


Bret McKenzie – Man or Muppet, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett – Real in Rio


Andrew: “Man or Muppet.” “The Muppets” deserved way more notice from the Academy than it received. Best Original Song will be a consolation prize.

David: Practically everyone agrees that “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” is guaranteed to win.


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


Andrew: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” The siege on Hogwarts was easily the most stunning display of special effects out of this year’s crop of nominees

David: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” for its frequent use of spectacular visual effects ranging from computer-generated dragons to wand battles.

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