Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oscar Movie with Abe: The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released December 21, 2011



It’s difficult to make a movie about any classic character from literature. Bold reporter Tintin, from the Belgian comic books by Hergé, offers a particularly fun challenge, bringing to life this hand-drawn character with computer animation. Steven Spielberg, proven to be a filmmaking pioneer over the past few decades, does a magnificent job of adapting Tintin for the big screen, creating an animated film fitting for both children and adults. Most importantly, it serves equally as a motion capture animation achievement, bringing Tintin’s wild adventures to life with grace and wonder, and a vehicle for a fantastic story, filled with intrigue and humor. Tintin’s energy and enthusiasm is part of what makes him such a superb character, and Jamie Bell’s spot-on voicing works spectacularly. Andy Serkis is entertaining as drunkard Captain Haddock, and the rest of the voice cast, including Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Toby Jones, and Daniel Mays, is utilized to great effect. This is probably the most enjoyable animated entertainment produced in 2011, and could easily spawn a series of sequels. Its snub for Best Animated Feature is truly lamentable, and its inclusion in Best Original Score for its bubbly soundtrack is but a half-decent consolation prize.

B+

(Almost) Oscar Movie with Abe: We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Released January 13, 2012



This film scored Tilda Swinton Golden Globe and SAG nods for Best Actress, but couldn’t make it all the way to Oscar. It’s understandable, since this film is about as dark as it gets, following the run-up to and aftermath of a horrible mass murder committed by one woman’s teenage son and how it affects her life. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” digs deeper than having a child snap because of his unpopularity at school, instead focusing on how, even from a young age, Kevin (Ezra Miller) seemed to have it out for his mother Eva (Swinton). It’s a deeply upsetting, disturbing chronicle presented in such unchronological fashion that it’s hard to believe that Eva was ever happy. Swinton, as always, is excellent, and Miller’s terrifying performance, as well as that of Kevin’s two younger portrayers, Jasper Newell and Rock Duer, are equally strong. The film is less focused, examining tragedy with a lens perhaps too narrow and bleak for its own sake. It’s nonetheless a compelling film, and worth a see for those not prone to nightmares.

B

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oscar Movie with Abe: A Separation


A Separation
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Released December 30, 2011

This Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay very much earned its mentions. Its fascinating first scene features a woman, Simin (Leila Hatami) pleading with an uninterested judge for a divorce from her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi). As the film progresses, however, it becomes much more than that, following the aftermath of Simin’s departure and the arrival of a caretaker, Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to watch over Nader’s father, who has Alzheimer’s, and his young daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). This is easily one of the most gripping non-thriller dramas produced by any country in recent years, investing in each one of its characters without offering a clear opinion on whether their actions and motivations are good or bad, pure or evil. The performances are magnificent all-around, particularly from the unhappy couple but also from Bayat and Shahab Hosseini, who plays her jobless husband Hodjat. In addition to telling an intriguing story, “A Separation” offers a bleak picture of the Iranian justice system, presented literally in the form of one impatient judge sitting at a desk. “A Separation” is genuine, honest, and utterly captivating.

A-

AFT Awards Begin February 1st!


Now that the Oscar nominations have been announced and the Golden Globes and SAG have handed out their awards, it’s time for this blogger to give out his honors! The 5th Annual AFT Film Awards will include upwards of twenty-five categories, including the traditional Oscar categories and some extras, such as limited performance and cast performance, concluding with the best scenes of the year and the top 25 films of 2011. Check back staring Wednesday, February 1st for category announcements up to three times a day, followed by Oscar winner predictions beginning at least a week before Oscar night. Thanks for reading, and please offer your thoughts on my nominees – and those I left out – in the comments of each post!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Final SAG Winner Predictions

Tonight on TNT and TBS, we have one of the major precursors to the Oscars. There are only five categories, with a handful of few nominees that weren't present at the Golden Globes here, though it’s unlikely that any of them would shake up the race. The main aspect of tonight that’s important is that the comedy and drama thespians are put in the same category, with Jean Dujardin taking on George Clooney and Michelle Williams in the race with Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. Best Ensemble Cast is honestly up in the air, and unless it’s “The Artist,” shouldn’t much of an effect on the Oscar race. TV predictions can be found here.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney (The Descendants)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Christian Bale
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Help

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture


The competition: The Artist, Bridesmaids, The Descendants, The Help, Midnight in Paris

For your information: “The Help” has three performers nominated, “The Artist” has two, and “Bridesmaids” and “The Descendants” each have one. All but “Bridesmaids” are nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar, and “The Artist” and “The Descendants” triumphed for Best Picture at the Golden Globes.

Who should win: “The Artist,” but “The Help” is a good choice too

Who will win: It could be anyone, but I think “The Help” will prevail.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in NYC as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing in NYC

The Grey (recommended): This thriller essentially functions as a vehicle for Liam Neeson to be awesome as his oil rig worker and companions are chased through the snowy Alaskan wilderness by wolves following a plane crash. It’s a lot of fun, and quite a stressful experience. Now playing in wide release. Read my review from yesterday.

Albert Nobbs (mixed bag): This Oscar-nominated film features a calculated performance by Glenn Close and a humorous one from Janet McTeer, but the film itself isn’t quite certain what tone it wants to take and suffers as a result. It’s worthwhile from the performances, but that’s about it. Now playing in limited release. Read my review from its December Oscar-qualifying release.

New to DVD

Happy, Happy (highly recommended): This Norwegian entry for Best Foreign Film is a fascinating and rich tale of two couples living in adjacent homes whose interactions are less than honest and sincere. It’s a great foreign small-ensemble drama, and definitely recommended for anyone that doesn’t mind subtitles.

50/50 (recommended): This Golden Globe Best Picture nominee is a sometimes funny, sometimes serious film about dealing with a diagnosis. Joseph Gordon-Levitt got a Globe nod for Best Actor, but Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, and especially Anna Kendrick are terrific as well in this rich and enjoyable dramedy.

The Whistleblower (recommended): This disturbing drama is based on the true story of a Nebraska cop who went to Bosnia in 1999 to become a UN peacekeeper and discovered an excessive amount of human trafficking going on in the area. It may be unsettling, but it’s a strong, powerful film. It also pairs well with Angelina Jolie’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Babel (mixed bag): I wasn’t overly fond of this multilingual 2006 Best Picture nominee, but it’s probably worth a look.

Beware the Gonzo (recommended): This high school movie about a loser uprising may not be wholly creative, but still serves as suitable entertainment. Ezra Miller stars in a role far lighter than the one he plays in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Billy Madison (mixed bag): This is nowhere near my favorite Adam Sandler film, but I know it has its fans.

In the Mood for Love (recommended): This Wong Kar Wai film was one of the first films I watched in my freshman year Intro to Cinema Studies course. Even though it may not be a typical narrative, it’s fascinating in its own right.

Margot at the Wedding (mixed bag): This Noah Baumbach follow-up to “The Squid and the Whale” (he’s since done “Greenberg”) was depressing and without any sort of air of positivity, intriguing but ultimately off-putting.

1984 (recommended): This film adaptation of the classic novel was actually released in 1984, and it’s a strong cinematic realization of a dystopian story.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (highly recommended): This 1975 Best Picture winner is considered to be one of the best films in recent decades, and it definitely is. Jack Nicholson is at his best, and look out for young actors like Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif, and Danny DeVito in the cast as well.

Primal Fear (mixed bag): Though its plot isn’t as strong as it should be and the others actors can’t compare, there’s no denying Edward Norton’s brilliance in his first feature film role as nervous altar boy Aaron. It’s a riveting performance.

Revenge of the Electric Car
(recommended): This follow-up to 2006's "Who Killed the Electric Car" spotlights four different producers of electric cars as they battle to forge ahead and help change the way the automobile industry works. It's an energizing, engaging film with an invigorating narrative and smart editing.

Serenity (highly recommended): This sequel to the beloved “Firefly” TV series is a must-see film for any fan, and it’s actually considerably more frightening and thrilling than I had expected. Definitely required viewing.

Shane (recommended): This 1953 Western is one of the classics, and it’s definitely a typical 1950s Western, featuring two main characters and a great hero-villain story.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (mixed bag): This was among the less memorable of the six movies in which Jude Law appeared in 2004, aiming for styled homage and coming up a bit short.

The Terminator (highly recommended): This classic sci-fi film is definitely campy, but it’s what spawned an epic saga and really launched the career of one Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s less about the action and more about the post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world attitude.

Young Frankenstein (highly recommended): This is one of Mel Brooks’ best films, featuring exceptionally funny performances from Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, and especially Marty Feldman. One of the funniest movies and strongest parodies I’ve ever seen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Grey

The Grey
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Released January 27, 2012

When an actor’s face dominates the entirety of a movie poster, it’s fair to assume that much of the film relies on the strength of that actor’s abilities. In decades past, Liam Neeson turned in fine performances in films as diverse as the Oscar-winning drama “Schindler’s List” and the generally-despised “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” and recently, he has become known as the go-to guy to play the man you don’t want to mess with, capable of skillfully causing immense physical harm with little more than his bare hands. “The Grey” is a perfect vehicle for that Neeson persona.

Neeson firmly establishes his awesomeness within the first fifteen minutes of the film, as his suicidal rig worker and fellow members of his dream barely survive an intense Alaskan plane crash. Neeson’s Ottway literally talks a man through his death, telling him that he’s going to die and that he just has to let it wash over him. From that point on, nothing can intimidate Ottway, though that’s not the case for the ragtag bunch that surrounds him, which includes Frank Grillo as the prickly Diaz, Dallas Roberts as the kindly Hendrick, and Dermot Mulroney as the nervous Talget.

Any kind of wandering survival movie has its villains in nature, and, with one cold attack exempted, “The Grey” chooses to focus exclusively on wolves as the danger posed to the crew as they struggle to head south. While the wolves don’t necessarily make for a bad constant threat, it is a bit too focused, leaving off what could have been more compelling reasons for the group to fall apart. Director Joe Carnahan has previously made the excellent drama “Narc” and the fabulous action flick “Smokin’ Aces,” and this occasionally exciting wilderness thriller is hardly as compelling as either of those films.

“The Grey,” however, is a furiously stress-producing film that keeps its audience on the edge of their seats – sometimes with faces covered – as the group led by the incomparable Neeson/Ottway trudges through miles of white snow, just waiting for the next vicious wolf attack. It may hardly be the next great drama or the next great thriller, but for anyone who wants to see Neeson try to outsmart wolves and generally be about as much of a badass as possible, “The Grey” is exactly what was ordered. It may be ridiculous and far-fetched, but there’s no debating that it’s not fun.

B

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The competition: Berenice Bejo’s bubbly actress (The Artist), Jessica Chastain’s loony housewife (The Help), Melissa McCarthy’s energetic bridesmaid (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer’s closeted painter (Albert Nobbs), and Octavia Spencer’s sarcastic maid (The Help).

For your information: McTeer was nominated in 1999 for “Tumbleweeds,” and this is the first nomination for the other four. All five actresses are nominated for their work in the ensembles of their films as well. This category has had two nominees from one film four times in the past five years, and only one did one of them win, and that was last year, when Melissa Leo triumphed for “The Fighter.”

Who should win: Bejo or Chastain, but this is a great list!

Who will win: Probably Spencer, but McCarthy is an unpredictable force!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Kenneth Branagh’s Laurence Olivier (My Week with Marilyn), Armie Hammer’s number two man (J. Edgar), Jonah Hill’s numbers geek (Moneyball), Nick Nolte’s alcoholic father (Warrior), and Christopher Plummer’s newly out senior citizen (Beginners).

For your information: Branagh was nominated once before for TV and once for film, for “Othello” in 1995. Nolte was nominated in 1998 for his performance in “Affliction.” Plummer was nominated in this category two years ago for “The Last Station” and for the TV movie “Our Fathers” in 2005. None of these men are nominated in the ensemble category.

Who should win: Plummer

Who will win: Plummer

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role


The competition: Glenn Close’s closeted waiter (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis’ trailblazing maid (The Help), Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady), Tilda Swinton’s conflicted mother (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe (My Week with Marilyn).

For your information: This is Streep’s eighth solo film nomination, and she won in this category in 2008 for “Doubt.” Davis, Swinton, and Williams all have one previous nomination. This is Close’s first film mention, but she has seven TV nominations, one of which comes this year for “Damages.” Davis is the only performer nominated for her ensemble work this year as well.

Who should win: Streep

Who will win: I imagine this goes to Streep, unless voters really love “The Help.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Demian Bichir’s hard-working dad (A Better Life), George Clooney’s Hawaiian businessman (The Descendants), Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover (J. Edgar), Jean Dujardin’s silent film actor (The Artist), and Brad Pitt’s baseball manager (Moneyball).

For your information: Oscar winner Clooney has never actually won an individual SAG Award, but this is his fourth acting nomination in seven years. Pitt was nominated previously in this category for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” DiCaprio has been nominated three times before, twice in this category. Bichir and Dujardin are both first-time nominees. Clooney and Dujardin are nominated as part of their films’ ensembles.

Who should win: Dujardin

Who will win: While I still think the Oscar will go to Dujardin, I think Clooney wins this award from this group.

New York Jewish Film Festival Spotlight: Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort

The 21st Annual New York Jewish Film Festival, taking place January 11th-26th, is presented by the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Movies with Abe has the pleasure of offering a look at a number of the films being shown.

Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort
Directed by Caroline Laskow & Ian Rosenberg
Screening January 26th at 3:45pm & 8:30pm

Closing out this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival is this documentary looking at the history and future of the last remaining Jewish Catskills resort. Its storytelling style is similar to what the resort itself offers: a nostalgic return to a former era of much more simplicity. Interviews with wait staff and entertainers that have worked at Kutsher’s for years are among the film’s strongest moments, and a handful of members of the Kutsher family provide great insight into the motivation behind keeping the place up and running, as it always used to be, for so long. Mainly, it’s the perfect film to close this particular film festival, celebrating the history and livelihood of New York Jews.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture


My predictions: 7/9, picking “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” instead of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “The Tree of Life”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

I have conflicting reactions to the randomization of the live announcement of the nominees in this category. The first is that it was silly to do it out of alphabetical order since they comically shuffled around at the end to be rearranged correctly. The second is that it saved the best surprise for last, including “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” with an otherwise generally expected list. I’m so thrilled that the film got recognized, and it’s definitely my favorite on this list after “The Artist.” I’m less enthused about the inclusion of “The Tree of Life,” the kind of film that should have missed out here and remained honored only for its directorial merit and its cinematography. Having nine nominees in this race is mostly annoying for its historical implications, and I do wonder what they’ll do next year. I’m honestly surprised that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” didn’t make it when star Rooney Mara did, and I’m perplexed that “The Help” did when it was ignored everywhere except the acting categories. Otherwise, “Midnight in Paris,” “The Descendants,” “Moneyball,” and “War Horse” fared well, with four, five, six, and six nominations, respectively. The nominations leaders are “The Artist” (with ten) and “Hugo” (with eleven), interestingly both shortlisted but snubbed for Best Makeup, essentially the only other category for which they could have been nominated. This is a decent list, generally, though only a few of the films here make my top twenty-five. Come back next week for the start of the 5th Annual AFT Awards, my own picks for the best of the year, and look for reviews and coverage as I catch up on all the films I’m missing. Leave your thoughts on the nominations in the comments!

My current bet to win: “The Artist”

Oscar Nominees: Best Director


My predictions: 4/5, picking David Fincher over Malick
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

So much for the Directors Guild of America predicting this list. David Fincher’s out in favor of the guy who seemed like he was going to be out of the race for a while, Terrence Malick, nominated here for the second time ever, after 1998’s “The Thin Red Line.” It’s not a terrible choice, necessarily, and if his film hadn’t made the top list, which it probably wouldn’t have if there were still only five nominees, he’d qualify for lone director status. Instead, he joins the other four expected nominees, made up of first-time nominee Hazanavicius and three veterans. Allen and Scorsese have both won once, and this is Payne’s second nomination.

My current bet to win: A battle between Hazanavicius and Scorsese – I still think Hazanavicius will pull through for a sweep by “The Artist.”

Oscar Nominees: Best Foreign Language Film


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Pina” over “Bullhead”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Bullhead (Belgium), Footnote (Israel), In Darkness (Poland), Monsieur Lazhar (Canada), A Separation (Iran)

I managed to get 4/5 here, with “Pina” being relegated to the Best Documentary field, underlining once again how hard it is to get nominated in two specialty categories. The only film I’ve seen her is the superb “A Separation” (review forthcoming), which is currently playing in NYC theatres and pulled off a Best Original Screenplay mention. Otherwise, the films are on their way: “In Darkness” arrives at the Angelika on February 10th, “Footnote” will be out in theatres on Oscar weekend, and ”Bullhead” isn’t scheduled to be released until April. I’m not sure about “Bullhead,” and can’t find anything definitive online. I hope to see most of these films by Oscar night, and will offer more detailed commentary in my winner predictions.

My current bet to win: “A Separation”

Oscar Nominees: Best Documentary


My predictions: 3/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Hell and Back Again, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina, Undefeated

I’ve seen none of these films, but I can note that the controversial “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” which was in the news somewhat recently, did make the cut, as did “Pina,” which was left off the list for Best Foreign Film. “Hell and Back Again” came out on DVD yesterday, and “If a Tree Falls” was released on DVD back in August. “Undefeated” hits theatres on February 10th, and “Pina” is still in theatres. I’m not sure if “Paradise Lost 3” ever got a release date, so if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know. I’m going to see if I’m able to catch a few of these films, and post in the comments if you’ve seen any of them already!

My current bet to win: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Oscar Nominees: Short Films

I first predicted these categories last year and scored 10/15 total. I was able to see all fifteen films last year on the weekend before the Oscars, and I hope to have that same opportunity this year, though I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to. Either way, for now, here are the nominees, and I’ll offer commentary once I’ve seen them all, or at least watched trailers. If you’ve seen any of these films, pleas say so below!

Best Documentary Short Film

My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: 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
The frontrunner:The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Live Action Short Film

My predictions: 1/5 (oops)
The nominees: Pentecost, Raju, The Shore, Time Freak, Tuba Atlantic
The frontrunner: The Shore

Best Animated Short Film

My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: Dimanche/Sunday, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, A Morning Stroll, Wild Life
The frontrunner: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Oscar Nominees: Best Animated Feature


My predictions: 2/5, predicting only “Puss in Boots” and “Rango”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Poots, Rango

Having the nominees announced in alphabetical order is perhaps what makes watching the live nominations broadcast exciting. I was flabbergasted when the first film listed here started with a C, and I even thought for a moment that they were accidentally announcing the Best Animated Short film nominees. I went to go see “The Adventures of Tintin” last night and had planned to feature it as an “Oscar Movie” review soon, but somehow this brilliant animated achievement – both in terms of animation and storytelling – got left off the list, managing only a Best Original Score mention. I’ve only seen one other film here – “Rango” – and wasn’t terribly impressed. “Kung Fu Panda 2” is already on DVD, and “Puss in Boots” arrives the week of the Oscars. I remembered when I saw the poster for “Chico & Rita” that I saw the trailer at the Angelika, and it looks like it’s sure to be quite interesting (and considerably more adult-themed). It’s being released on February 10th. As far as “A Cat in Paris” goes, I have no clue. I was hoping “Cars 2” would get in, but apparently I’m the only one who liked that film. It’s just strange, though perhaps good, that two films few people have heard of made the list over more visible fare like “Happy Feet Two” and “Winnie the Pooh.”

My current bet to win: With its number one competitor out of the way, probably “Rango.”

Oscar Nominees: Best Visual Effects


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Captain America” and “X-Men: First Class” over “Real Steel” and “Transformers”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Hugo, Real Steel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon

So much for superheroes. Rather than honor Marvel comics brought to life, which earned a combined total of zero mentions this year, it’s all about robots, as “Transformers” earns a nomination despite the second film in the series being snubbed, as well as the Hugh Jackman starrer “Real Steel.” I haven’t seen either and don’t plan to. This is only the third time that a “Harry Potter” film has been nominated, and this is the only mention for a film many expected to do better, joined by the film with the most nominations: “Hugo.”

My current bet to win: “Hugo”

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound Editing


My predictions: 2/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, War Horse

I did even worse guessing here than I did with Best Sound, but I do have to report that this features one of the best inclusions this year, and not one I foresaw at all. In its lone mention, “Drive” gets recognized for its sound editing, which was absolutely fantastic and made for a terrific film. The other three nominees are also great, making this a pretty decent category, though I really wish “Fast Five” could have been here (it will be in my AFT Award nominees).

My current bet to win: I could hope for “Drive,” but I think this might go to either “War Horse” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Super 8” over “Transformers” and “War Horse”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, War Horse

Without purporting to have much technical knowledge in this field, I’m disappointed that “Super 8” couldn’t crack this category, receiving a grand total of zero nominations. I’m not going to see “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” since I’m sure the sound and visuals are excellent and the rest of the film is terrible. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” joins three Best Picture nominees here, and I’m fairly certain that the winner will be…

My current bet to win: “Hugo”

Oscar Nominees: Best Makeup


My predictions: 2/3, picking “Hugo” over Harry Potter
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Albert Nobbs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Not much to report here other than that two of the films with powerhouse women in lead roles are up, as well as the first Harry Potter film ever to be nominated in this category. This category sometimes favors films with mass makeup appeal, but I think that, unless they cancel each other out, one of the actress-driven films will be the winner.

My current bet to win: “The Iron Lady”

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Song


My predictions: 0/2
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets) and “Real in Rio” (Rio)

This category annoys me to no end. Why, out of 39 contenders, do only two get deemed worthwhile? I’m absolutely thrilled that Bret McKenzie of the Flight of the Conchords is now an Oscar nominee, and though I haven’t seen the film, I did enjoy that song. It wasn’t, however, the one that I was expecting to get nominated from that film. I’m not a big fan of “Real in Rio,” however, and think that this category could have done a whole lot better. More on the deserving songs that were snubbed in my AFT Award nominees.

My current bet to win: “Man or Muppet” with a 50% chance.

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Score


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” over “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Adventures of Tintin, The Artist, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse

I’m sad that “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” isn’t here, despite its other mentions, and glad that “The Adventures of Tintin” got recognized for something with its shocking animation snub. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is a fun choice, as is “Hugo.” This category, of course, will likely go to the most deserving of the nominees…

My current bet to win: “The Artist”

Oscar Nominees: Best Film Editing


My predictions:5/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball

This is the one category that I predicted entirely accurately, opting for what most expected to be all Best Picture nominees. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” despite a mention here and for Best Actress, as well as sound and sound editing nods, didn’t manage to break into the Best Picture field, but I still think it could win here. “Moneyball” is the only other film not nominated for Best Director. This category doesn’t always go to the Best Picture winner, and the last time it went to a film not nominated for Best Picture was in 2007, when “The Bourne Ultimatum” won.

My current bet to win: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design


My predictions: 4/5, picking “The Help” over “W.E.”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Anonymous, The Artist, Hugo, Jane Eyre, W.E.

This category was yet another place that Oscar voters’ lukewarm reception of the help – nominating it for Best Picture and acting only – was evident. I haven’t see three of these films, actually, and the other two are the nomination leaders. This is the only nomination for those three, and I’m not sure I have plans to catch any of them, though I’d imagine that the costumes are the best parts of those films. This category often goes to those films not nominated elsewhere, so it’s a toss-up for the win. I’m somewhat surprised that “Midnight in Paris” isn’t contending here.

My current bet to win: “Hugo” in a sweep over “W.E.”

Oscar Nominees: Best Art Direction


My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Tree of Life” over “Harry Potter” and “Midnight in Paris”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse

This is a pretty good list, and while I’m puzzled that two films with undeniably excellent art direction were left off, it’s not clear what should have been omitted instead. This is the fourth Harry Potter film to place here, and “Midnight in Paris” makes sense as an inclusion here. I think this will be a duel between “The Artist,” which netted ten nominations, and “Hugo,” which got eleven, the two films to beat this year.

My current bet to win: “Hugo”

Oscar Nominees: Best Cinematography


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” over “War Horse”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Artist, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, The Tree of Life, War Horse

So despite a strong showing in three categories that it wasn’t necessarily expected to crack, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” did not make the cut here, though it’s hard to argue with this superb list. While I’ll have my own inclusions to cite next week, these were indisputably five visually beautiful films. With the exception of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” they’re all Best Picture nominees too. This could be anyone’s, though if I had to guess, I’d go with…

My current bet to win: “The Tree of Life”

Oscar Nominees: Best Adapted Screenplay


My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Help” over “The Ides of March” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Descendants, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Now this category delivered two of the most shocking snubs of the day, though I think the screenplay of “The Help” being left out is the most surprising. I understand the inclusion of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” but did “The Ides of March” really need to be here? “Hugo” is actually the nominations leader, with 11 bids, and “The Descendants” and “Moneyball” each did well, with five and six nominations, respectively.

My current bet to win: “Moneyball”

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Screenplay


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “The Artist” and “Midnight in Paris”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: The Artist, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Midnight in Paris, A Separation

No luck for the comedies that I thought could make a dent here, like “50/50,” “Win Win,” “Young Adult,” or my favorite, “Beginners,” instead making way for “Bridesmaids” to represent the funny with “Midnight in Paris” and “The Artist.” The two dramatic films honored in their place, however, are both great choices. I actually cheered for certain Foreign Film winner “A Separation,” and “Margin Call” is a strong selection as well.

My current bet to win: “Midnight in Paris”

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Shailene Woodley over McCarthy
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Octavia Spencer (The Help)

So here we have the SAG list repeated, with Globe nominee Shailene Woodley shut out, as well as other contenders like Carey Mulligan and Vanessa Redgrave, whose films received zilch as well. Melissa McCarthy is probably the most excited of all the nominees today, and it’s a fun and unusual recognition by Oscar voters, who also honored the film for Best Original Screenplay. This is actually a great list, made up of five relatively comic performances, with McTeer’s being the most serious but still the lightest and funniest part of her film. I’m pleased!

My current bet to win: It looks like Spencer should be unstoppable, as actresses in this category often are.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Albert Brooks over Nolte
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

I’m so thrilled that Von Sydow made it in here, and that the film earned a surprising and well-deserved bid for Best Picture! Sadly, that’s all it got, but I’ll celebrate worthwhile victories. What’s strange and somewhat unfortunate about this category is that an actor I didn’t personally think was the best part of his film – Brooks – got swapped for another actor who was hardly the best part of his film – Nolte – leaving “Warrior” with one mention here and “Drive” with just a sound editing nomination. Apart from that, Branagh and Plummer were totally expected, and now the world will have to accept the fact that Jonah Hill, star of “Superbad” and the upcoming remake of “21 Jump Street” is an Oscar nominee. He certainly earned it!

My current bet to win: It can’t really be anyone but Plummer.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Leading Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Tilda Swinton over Glenn Close
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: 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)

So the inclusion I predicted happened – Rooney Mara – but not at the expense of the disclusion I thought would occur – Glenn Close – leaving out instead Tilda Swinton, whose film I went to see this past weekend in anticipation of it being nominated. Oh well. Mara being here is interesting, because though it did receive five nominations, it couldn’t muster mentions in Best Picture, Best Director, or even Best Adapted Screenplay. Davis’ film also didn’t do too well, receiving only acting nods (three) and a solo Best Picture big. The other three nominees are accompanied only by costars or makeup nods (both in Close’s case). This is a decent list, though I wouldn’t personally include some of these women at the top of my list, to be released next week!

My current bet to win: It has to be Streep.

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Leading Role


My predictions: 3/5, picking Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Fassbender over Bichir and Oldman
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

As many expected, Globe and SAG nominee DiCaprio didn’t make the cut, but in addition to SAG-nominated Bichir getting in, never-nominated Gary Oldman did too. It’s hard to debate how focused that performance was, though I was less impressed with Bichir’s turn. It’s a shame (sad pun intended) that Michael Fassbender didn’t get recognized, but otherwise the list is strong. Clooney has won before, this is Pitt’s third nomination, and it’s the first time for the other three.

My current bet to win: Maybe Clooney, but I still think it will be Dujardin, though maybe Oldman could pull off an upset?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Final Oscar Predictions

Oscar nominations are being announced tomorrow, and I’m hoping for some excitement. The uncertain number of Best Picture nominees means there could be some major surprises – inclusion or omissions – and that’s only the beginning. It’s unclear whether the films that have generally been ignored up until now, namely “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “The Tree of Life,” can manage to break into more than just a few technical categories. I’m hoping that “Drive” will have a better showing than I’m predicting, and otherwise I feel like I have no clue what shocks are lying in wait. I’m forecasting a Glenn Close snub and a Max Von Sydow inclusion, and aside from that, I’m hoping for some pleasant surprises. I’m assuming that “The Artist” is going to be the nominations leader, followed closely by “Hugo” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Click on category headings for full analysis of each race. As always, expect updates by category throughout the day starting tomorrow morning follow the nominations announcement, and leave your predictions in the comments!

No guts, no glory predictions:
“Drive” for Best Picture
Judy Greer for Best Supporting Actress for “The Descendants”
“Fast Five” for Best Film EDiting

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
War Horse

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball))

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Viola Davis (The Help)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Original Screenplay
The Artist
50/50
Midnight in Paris
Win Win
Young Adult

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo
Moneyball

Best Cinematography
The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The Tree of Life

Best Art Direction
The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Costume Design
Anonymous
The Artist
The Help
Hugo
Jane Eyre

Best Film Editing
The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball

Best Original Score
The Artist
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
War Horse

Best Original Song
"Lay Your Head Down” (Albert Nobbs)
"Star Spangled Man” (Captain America: The First Avenger)
"Bridge of Light” (Happy Feet Two)
"The Living Proof” (The Help)
"Life's a Happy Song” (The Muppets)

Best Sound
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

Best Sound Editing
The Adventures of Tintin
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8

Best Makeup
Albert Nobbs
Hugo
The Iron Lady

Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The First Avenger
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Hugo
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: First Class

Best Animated Feature
The Adventures of Tintin
Cars 2
Happy Feet Two
Puss in Boots
Rango


Best Documentary Short Film
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
In Tahrir Square: 18 Days of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution
Incident in New Baghdad
Pipe Dreams
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Animated Short Film
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mrs. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
Magic Piano
Paths of Hate

Best Live Action Short Film
Je Pourrais Être Votre Grand-Mère
Love at First Sight
The Road Home
The Roar of the Sea
The Shore

Best Documentary
Bill Cunningham New York
If a Tree Falls
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Best Foreign Language Film
Footnote
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
Pina
A Separation

Home Video with Abe: Dirty Girl

Dirty Girl
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Released October 7, 2011



I missed this comedy when it was in theatres this fall, but LBI was kind enough to send me a copy of the DVD, which was released last Tuesday, and I’m very glad I saw it. This saga of a bad girl in the 1980s, Danielle (Juno Temple), whose search for her father takes her on a wild cross-country trip with Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), an unpopular boy whose father disapproves strongly of his homosexuality. At first, Danielle and Clarke seem like ordinary stereotypes, but as the film goes on, they become endearing and entertaining characters. Temple is fantastic, delivering sarcastic and mean-spirited dialogue with a fervor that matches Charlize Theron in “Young Adult,” and Clarke reveals a surprising energy that makes him one of the movie’s funniest personalities. Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, and Gary Grubbs fill out a strong supporting cast without any weak links. This is a road movie and a high school movie wrapped into one, and it manages to be original and highly enjoyable.

B+

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Picture


Last year’s nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

This year’s locks: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, Moneyball

Very likely: The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Possible: War Horse, Bridesmaids, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Unlikely: The Ides of March, The Tree of Life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive

The rundown: Having anywhere from five to ten nominees this year is a prognosticator’s nightmare, but the notion of honoring a variant number of films depending how many great movies were made in a year actually makes some sense. Based on the way things have gone thus far with precursor awards, it seems likely that the first seven films listed above are good bets to make it. I think that “War Horse” will join them, and that’ll be it, in my opinion. Then it gets down to less predictable films, like comedy “Bridesmaids” or a film that’s been shut out almost everywhere up until now, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Nominated at both the Golden Globes and the PGA Awards is “The Ides of March,” which may hold on until Oscar, and then a handful of films that have yet to really make it in the awards race, like “The Tree of Life” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” I’m predicting only eight nominees, but who knows what’s going to happen here?

One possible crazy scenario: Something like “Melancholia” comes from out of nowhere and lands a slot.

Forecasted winner: “The Artist”

Oscar Predictions: Best Director


Last year’s nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David Fincher (The Social Network), Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit)

This year’s locks: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Very likely: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Possible: Steven Spielberg (War Horse), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Bennett Miller (Moneyball)

Unlikely: Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), George Clooney (The Ides of March), Tate Taylor (The Help)

The rundown: Most years, the Directors Guild of America list matches up four for five with the eventual Oscar lineup, and, before there were more than five nominees for Best Picture, those nominees were actually a better predictor of the Best Picture field. I’ve predicted the exact DGA list, which swapped in Fincher for Globe-nominated Clooney, whose film could well still perform commendably with Oscar voters, but it’s doubtful. My predicted five means that first-time nominee Hazanavicius will join a handful of veterans, though all of the “possibles” are past nominees as well. Daldry in particular represents a threat since he has been nominated all three times that he has made a film in the past, so that’s quite a statistic. This category used to have a “lone director” nominee, and I think that, if it’s going to be anyone, it’ll be Malick, though I’d love for it to be Refn.

One possible crazy scenario: Asghar Farhadi gets his due for “A Separation.”

Forecasted winner: Hazanavicius in a sweep

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in NYC as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing in NYC

Coriolanus (mixed bag): This film ran for one week at the AMC Lincoln Square back in December, but now it’s being released into more theatres. Shakespeare enthusiasts may enjoy this modern adaptation that preserves his dialogue, but it’s not an enormously compelling film.

I’m still catching up on last year’s late-breaking movies like “A Separation” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” so I haven’t yet had the chance to focus on anything like Haywire or Red Tails.

New to DVD

The Ides of March (recommended): This George Clooney-directed drama earned a handful of Golden Globe nominations. It features a strong ensemble led by Ryan Gosling, highlighted by great supporting performances from Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is close to being a very good political thriller, but it never quites reaches that threshold.

Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

District 13: Ultimatum (highly recommended): This ultra-cool French film is the sequel not to “District 9” but to “District B13.” It’s an action-packed, totally exciting movie whose characters utilize the art of parkour. It’s hard to find a film quite as thrilling and fun as this one.

Special Treatment (recommended): This French drama features spectacular performances from Isabelle Huppert as a prostitute and Bouli Lanners as a psychiatrist whose lives intersect as they’re both unhappy in their professions. It’s a very intriguing film that doesn’t quite come to a satisfying resolution, but it’s definitely an interesting ride.

Meet Monica Velour (mixed bag): This tale of a teenager who gets the chance to meet his beloved favorite porn star is pleasant enough but doesn’t quite make the object of its main character’s affection worthy of being adored or remembered. Kim Cattrall tries her best though.

The Door in the Floor (mixed bag): This was one of the six films that I reviewed during my high school internship with Metrowest Daily News film critic Bob Tremblay way back in 2004. Kim Basinger's acting left much to be desired, as did this mildly intriguing drama starring Jeff Bridges.

Film Socialisme (mixed bag): This Jean-Luc Godard film was screened at the New York Film Festival in 2010 immediately following "The Social Network," so I stuck around. If you’re in the mood for a film that is light on narrative and big on experimental filmmaking, enjoy it, but you have to be in the right frame of mind to take something away from it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design


Last year’s nominees: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit

Costume Designers Guild nominees:
Period Film: The Artist, Jane Eyre, The Help, Hugo, W.E.
Fantasy Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Red Riding Hood, Thor, X-Men: First Class
Contemporary Film: Bridesmaids, The Descendants, Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Melancholia

This year’s locks: The Artist, Hugo, The Help

Very likely: Jane Eyre

Possible: Anonymous, My Week with Marilyn, War Horse, W.E., Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Midnight in Paris, A Dangerous Method, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Unlikely: Albert Nobbs,

The rundown: The wide breakdown of fifteen nominees from the CDG has to be narrowed down to five, and I suspect that the final choices are going to come mostly from the period film category, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It would be cool if any of the five contemporary film honorees made the cut, but I don’t see that happening. I think that “W.E.” is not going to be an Oscar movie, though it’s possible that it will, and I’ll predict “Anonymous” to take a spot here, especially after “I Am Love” and “The Tempest” broke through unexpectedly last year. No “Pirates of the Caribbean” film has ever been recognized here, and it’s rare that sci-fi and fantasy films are mentioned either. I’d expect some surprises here, and hopefully some interesting choices.

One possible crazy scenario: “Bridesmaids” goes for the gold.

Forecasted winner: “The Artist”

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound Editing


Last year’s nominees: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable

This year’s locks: Hugo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Possible: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8, The Adventures of Tintin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, War Horse, Hanna, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

The rundown: This category usually matches up three or four for five with Best Sound, and therefore that’s a good place to start. The more traditional Best Picture nominees without a technical focus are often left off here, so I don’t think “Moneyball” will make the cut. I think that “The Adventures of Tintin” will take the slot that has been occupied by an animated film nine out of the past ten years to replace it, and then we have the same slew of contenders in line. I’m not a sound expert – if you have better ideas, please post them in the comments.

One possible crazy scenario: If I write “Fast Five” into enough of these blurbs, can it actually manage a nomination? That’s one good movie to hear.

Forecasted winner: “Hugo”

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound


Last year’s nominees: Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit

This year’s locks: Hugo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Possible: Moneyball, Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, War Horse, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Hanna, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor

The rundown: The Cinema Audio Society announced their nominees, which included two Oscar contenders, “Hugo” and “Moneyball,” and three more technically-competent films, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Hanna,” and the generally-ignored-until-now “Super 8.” Usually the list looks much more Oscar-friendly, and therefore I’d expect that “ “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a safe bet , and should replace “Pirates.” Otherwise, watch out for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Adventures of Tintin,” which could be strong contenders for this category specifically, and then some others that could figure in, like “War Horse,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and “Thor.”

One possible crazy scenario: “Fast Five” actually gets it due!

Forecasted winner: “Hugo”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film


Last year’s nominees: Biutiful, Dogtooth, In a Better World, Incendies, Outside the Law

This year’s contenders: A Separation (Iran), Pina (Germany), Footnote (Israel), Monsieur Lazhar (Canada), In Darkness (Poland), Omar Killed Me (Morocco), Superclasico (Denmark), Bullhead (Belgium), Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Taiwan)

The rundown: This category has already been winnowed down to nine finalists, leaving considerably less suspense than in other categories. Last year, I correctly predicted five out of five nominees, and this year I feel considerably less qualified to do so, having seen a grand total of zero films, though I’m planning to see “A Separation” tonight after two failed attempts in the past few weeks. The Golden Globe winner is the surest lock, and the rest of the list is up for grabs given that the other Globe-nominated film that was eligible, “Flowers of War,” has already missed the cut. “Pina” is eligible both here and in the documentary category, and should do well here, as should Israel’s “Footnote.” I’m completely unsure about the rest, and in most cases going purely off of the titles and whether it would be conceivable that they could actually become Oscar-nominated films. If you’ve seen anything of the films, please offer insight in the comments below.

Forecasted winner: “A Separation”

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary


Last year’s nominees: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land

This year’s contenders: Bill Cunningham New York, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, If a Tree Falls, Hell and Back Again, We Were Here, The Loving Story, Project Nim, Under Fire: Journalists in Combat, Buck, Battle for Brooklyn, Jane’s Journey, Undefeated, Sing Your Song

The rundown: There isn’t an “Inside Job” or “Waiting for Superman” in the mix this year, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve seen a grand total of zero of the fifteen finalists. Oscar voters often choose thematically strong films here and favor war-centric movies as well as a random pick or two. “Paradise Lost 3” could divide voters, but I’m betting that it will place, in addition to “Pina,” which could make a splash both here and in the Best Foreign Film category. Other than that, I’m going in blind here, and while I do hope to offer more commentary once the nominees are announced and I only have five films to see, that’s all I can say for now.

Forecasted winner: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing


Last year’s nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

ACE Eddie Nominees:
Feature Film, Dramatic: The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball, War Horse
Feature Film, Comedy or Musical: The Artist, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, My Week with Marilyn, Young Adult

The rundown: What’s interesting about this category is that sometimes the leading Best Picture nominees aren’t given a place (see 2005, when “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” and “Good Night and Good Luck” were all snubbed). It’s likely this year that the five nominees in this category will be taken from four of the drama nominees (not “War Horse”) and “The Artist.” Contending after that, I would imagine, are not the other nominees here, but instead a diverse slate of films, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Drive,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Many are also predicting “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” but I don’t see that happening. This category could have some interesting inclusions, but I don’t think so this time.

One possible crazy scenario: “Fast Five” earns an impossible but richly-deserved mention.

Forecasted winner: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature


Last year’s nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3

This year’s locks: Rango, The Adventures of Tintin

Very likely: Puss in Boots, Cars 2

Possible:Happy Feet Two, Kung Fu Panda 2, Arthur Christmas, Winnie the Pooh

Unlikely: Rio, Gnomeo and Juliet

The rundown: There are eighteen features officially in the running for this category, meaning that there will be five nominees, as opposed to three last year. The four films that earned both Golden Globe and PGA nods are “Rango,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Cars 2.” The last slot went to “Arthur Christmas” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” respectively, but I suspect that Oscar voters may follow in their own suspects and nominate the follow-up to their 2006 winner in this category, “Happy Feet,” rather than their 2008 winner, “Kung Fu Panda.” This category, only a decade old, is too old to have any real statistics about the reception of sequels, though “Shrek 2” was nominated.

Forecasted winner: “Rango”

Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects


Last year’s nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2

This year’s contenders: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger, Hugo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Tree of Life, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Real Steel

The rundown: This category, which should be trimmed to five nominees, has been narrowed down to ten finalists, discounting, most notably, “Thor” and “Super 8.” The obvious choice is the final “Harry Potter” film, and I assume it will be joined by the Marvel features that were eligible, “X-Men” and “Captain America.” There are plenty of late series entries in the mix, but I think they’ll be overlooked in favor of the imaginative “Hugo” and the well-received “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Forecasted winner: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”

Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup


Last year’s nominees: Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman

This year’s contenders: The Iron Lady, Albert Nobbs, Hugo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Anonymous, The Artist, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

The rundown: This category, which includes three nominees, has been winnowed down to seven finalists, meaning that films like “J. Edgar” and “Super 8” won’t be making the cut. The obvious choice is “The Iron Lady,” and I suspect that “Albert Nobbs” will get in for the same reasons. Any of these films could make a play for a spot depending on what characteristics voters are looking to reward. Beware of “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” since the unheard of “Il Divo” grabbed a slot two years ago. Since no “Harry Potter” film has ever placed here, I’ll hedge my bets on “Hugo” over “The Artist,” but this category is wildly unpredictable, and has no correlation with the Best Picture race.

Forecasted winner: “The Iron Lady”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Art Direction


Last year’s nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2, Inception, The King's Speech, True Grit

Art Directors Guild Nominees:
Period Film: Anonymous, The Artist, Hugo, The Help, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Fantasy Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Adventures of Tintin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Contemporary Film: Bridesmaids, The Descendants, Drive, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The rundown: The contenders in this category are hard to pin down because the Art Directors Guild breaks it down into three separate categories, giving us fifteen nominees and even leaving out a few, namely “The Tree of Life” and “War Horse,” both of which are excellent bets. “The Artist” and “Hugo” are also all but guaranteed, and it seems that either “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” could round out the list. I’d love to see “Drive” here, but something tells me that’s wishful thinking. Watch out also for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which could make a play here if votes can appreciate a contemporary film like that.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s not that crazy, but animated film “The Adventures of Tintin” could grab a spot.

Forecasted winner: "Hugo"

Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography


Last year’s nominees: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit

This year’s locks: The Tree of Life, The Artist, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo

Very likely: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Possible: War Horse

Unlikely: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Melancholia

The rundown: This category seems set as the five nominees from the American Society of Cinematographers look good as the Oscar frontrunners, all Oscar movies with pretty much undeniable visual qualities. The technical categories look to be where “The Tree of Life” will be rewarded, and so that’s the surest thing of all here. “The Artist,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Hugo” are all extremely different and should make the cut, and then it comes down to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “War Horse,” the latter of which may just be Oscar voters’ cup of tea. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” could rally, but it’s a bit too ordinary in terms of its setting, and I think the ship has sailed for “Melancholia.”

One possible crazy scenario: “The Tree of Life” does not catch on with Oscar voters and misses the cut.

Forecasted winner: “The Tree of Life”

Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay


Last year’s nominees: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

This year’s locks: The Descendants, Moneyball, The Help

Very likely: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo

Possible: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse

Unlikely: The Ides of March, Carnage

The rundown: The WGA list could well translate to the five nominees this year. The three locks listed above are going to be in, and given the positive reception for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” recently, that seems likely too. “Hugo” is the one film that could be recognized more for its technical achievements than its literary ones. Conventional wisdom would be that if “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” makes it in for Best Picture, it also grabs a spot here, but that’s not necessarily true. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is also a strong possibility, and “War Horse” could place here if Oscar voters love it. Golden Globe nominee “The Ides of March” has close to no shot, but perhaps it’s unwise to underestimate it entirely.

One possible crazy scenario: “Drive” proves that Oscar voters have awesome taste by scoring here.

Forecasted winner: “Moneyball”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay


Last year’s nominees: Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech

This year’s locks: Midnight in Paris, The Artist

Very likely: Young Adult

Possible: 50/50, Win Win, Bridesmaids, Beginners, Margin Call

Unlikely: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shame

The rundown: Woody Allen is definitely earning his fifteenth nomination in this category, and he’ll be joined by first-time nominee Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist.” After that, it’s anybody’s guess. I’ve ranked the four WGA nominees that joined “Midnight in Paris” after those two, and I do think that “Bridesmaids” will not make the cut. “Win Win,” however small it may have been, seems to be doing well, as does “50/50.” It seems that “Young Adult” will only be recognized for its screenplay, and that “Beginners” will only be noticed for Christopher Plummer’s performance. Both “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Shame” needed to make a bigger splash with precursors to have a fighting chance here, and “Margin Call” might be too small a film. I expect one or two big surprises in this category.

One possible crazy scenario: John Michael McDonagh makes the cut for his superb screenplay for “The Guard.”

Forecasted winner: “Midnight in Paris”

Oscar Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


Last year’s nominees: Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver

This year’s locks: Octavia Spencer (The Help), Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)

Very likely: Jessica Chastain (The Help), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)

Possible: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Carey Mulligan (Shame), Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus)

The rundown: This category seems to be set, which means that it’s anything but. Spencer is a sure thing, and I can’t imagine Bejo missing out giving how well her film is likely to do. Chastain is in unless, for some reason, voters choose her two other praised performances this year, but precursors were able to decide on one, so she should be fine. Woodley is a good bet because her film is sure to be embraced by voters, and McTeer will probably get in even if Glenn Close doesn’t. McCarthy would have been much better off had she not missed out on a Globe nod, but watch out for her, since she could still show up. Mulligan and Redgrave, praised as they might be, just haven’t popped up in enough places, and I don’t imagine their films will rank well with Oscar voters.

One possible crazy scenario: Judy Greer makes it in for “The Descendants” instead of Woodley.

Forecasted winner: Spencer

Oscar Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


Last year’s nominees: Christian Bale, John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Geoffrey Rush

This year’s locks: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Very likely: Albert Brooks (Drive), Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)

Possible: Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life), Viggo Mortensen (A Dangerous Method), Armie Hammer (J. Edgar), Nick Nolte (Warrior)

Unlikely: John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)

The rundown: This category may be wildly unpredictable. Plummer is the only safe bet, though Brooks and Branagh are looking pretty right now. Hill doesn’t seem like the kind of actor who’d be Oscar-nominated, but the film is likely to do very well, so I think he’ll be in. Mortensen, Hammer, and Nolte split Globe and SAG nods, and last year’s nominee Hawkes could get in if voters choose to recognize his film. Pitt is a serious threat to upset given the fact that his film could come from nowhere to earn Oscar recognition despite almost nonexistent guild support, but I think that the fifth slot will go to veteran Von Sydow, who gives a heartwarming performance in a film that, though it’s been slighted thus far, will probably do just fine with Oscar voters.

One possible crazy scenario: “The Ides of March” turns out to be more than just a Globe film, earning nominations for any of the following three: George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, or Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Forecasted winner: Plummer