25 February 2011

83rd Academy Award Picks, Part II

Welcome back to my 83rd Oscar predictions and concurrent “Ryanverse” picks. Here, in Part Secundus, (click here for Part Primus) I’ll deal with what most viewers consider “the other awards,” i.e. anything outside the Big Eight of Picture, Director, the four Acting awards, and the two Screenplay awards.

I’m a film fan to the core, and love all aspects of moviemaking. I am especially interested in many of the technical parts of film, so don’t get me started on a discussions of aspect ratios and the history of widescreen processes. These awards mean as much to me as the Big Eight—except the Academy is often dismissive in voting on them, simply loading them with the nominees from the other categories. I usually feel a sense of disappointment approaching them, so this post won’t deal with these categories in as much depth. (And readers aren’t as interested in then, anyway. I understand why, although I don’t agree.)

So here is a quick look at “everything else.” (I won’t list the full nominees for each category, so please refer to this Wikipedia page for the rundown.)

Animated Feature: [Update: With a few hours to go before the Awards, I have changed my mind. Toy Story 3 will win. Disregard what you are about to read, except that I still think it would be nice for The Illusionist to win.] Pixar usually owns this category, and Toy Story 3 is the best of the nominees. However, the Academy may be a little fatigued from handing Pixar the award all the time, and in this case Toy Story 3 is definitely a lesser film from the company. (Amazing how even an “off” Pixar film is still great.) I think the Academy will award the critically and financially popular How to Train Your Dragon. I am one of the few reviewers who didn’t like that movie—I still find it baffling that anybody does. So, to be contrary, I’ll make my Ryanverse pick the third film in the category, The Illusionist (2010). Better than Toy Story 3? Maybe not—but it’s charming and hand-animated, and it would be nice to see the little fellow get the win. Plus, it has a funny rabbit.

Animated Short Film: Pixar will get the consolation award here for Teddy Newton’s brilliantly conceived Day & Night, which made better use of 3D than anything else in 2010. It’s my pick as well. (And I haven’t seen any of the other shorts—I wish I had—so that winnows down my choice.)

Foreign Language Film: Embarrassment time. I haven’t seen any of these films. Modern foreign language movies are an Achilles Heel of mine. The Industry buzz is that In a Better World Will Win, so I will play it safe and agree. No Ryanverse pick here, for obvious reasons.

Documentary Feature: There’s some wavering among pundits between Inside Job and Exit through the Gift Shop. I feel the balance tips toward Exit through the Gift Shop. It’s a positive documentary-going experience, without schmaltz, while Inside Job reminds you of how screwed up the economy of the world is. And an Exit through the Gift Shop win isn’t a sell-out either, since the film is filled with blog-stuffing controversy about its making. The Academy once went extremely vanilla in this category, and ignored documentaries that played loose with reality or went outside the BBC and PBS style rules. Remember when they didn’t even nominate The Thin Blue Line for Best Documentary while it swept every critics’ award for best movie of the year? (You probably don’t remember, so that was a dumb question.) Now, with more documentaries turning into mainstream successes, the Academy has warmed up to the new style, and will give the statue to a documentary that may be an elaborate hoax! Hoax or not (I think “not”), Exit through the Gift Shop is a thrilling piece of moviemaking, giving insight into the world of street art while making you question just who in the hell is actually making the movie—which is, in itself, a nice statement about street art.

Documentary Short Subject: Every year, this is the category where I simply check-off the title that sounds the most interesting, because I have no basis for judgment. If this category continues to exist (which I think it should) could the Powers That Be please find a way to allow us to easily see them? Anyway, random pick . . . Killing in the Name. Why? Because I like the Rage Against the Machine song.

Live Action Short Film: Again, I’m stymied. The means of distribution that keep these gems hidden from all but the Academy must find a way for those of us without industry ties some access. So, going with the “that sounds neat-o jet” title pick again . . . Na Wewe. (Wish 143 tempted me. Close call.)

Original Score: Why is Tron: Legacy not here, Academy? Even people who hate that film think that Daft Punk created a monumentally killer score for it. This is the technical category that I know the best, since film soundtracks have been my major genre of musical entertainment since high school, but this category has been boring for years. Can you imagine a score like Jerry Goldsmith’s work for The Omen winning today? I feel I should boycott voting here because the TRON: Legacy snub makes the category useless, but . . . grumble, grumble . . . at least they nominated Zimmer’s score for Inception—my second favorite score of the year—and had the guts to give a nod to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. However, I think the only reason the Academy picked those two films was because they are up for Best Picture and a lot of other awards, not because of their actual musical quality. Regardless, neither will win. The King’s Speech will probably be sweeping up awards at this point, and Alexandre Desplat gets the win for the score to a popular film. If The King’s Speech wins, we can be safely assured at this point in the evening that the movie is on its predicted steamroll and take most of its categories. My Ryanverse pick: Inception . . . with TRON: Legacy as a write-in.

Original Song: I hate this category. It’s the only category I would wish away. Industry says: the Randy Newman bit from Toy Story 3. In Ryanverse, the envelope is opened and the presenter says, “The Academy had finally decided to tell the recording industry what it may do to itself, and this category is hereby banished to the Phantom Zone.” (Cue enormous square mirror descending upon the Kodak Theater.)

Sound Editing: A recent alteration in the awards line-up is changing the two sound categories from “Best Sound” and “Best Sound Editing” into “Best Sound Mixing” and “Best Sound Editing.” A strange distinction for people who haven’t studied or worked in the medium, and most viewers tune these categories right out, which is a shame since sound work is a delicate and difficult art to master. I think the two categories should at least match, and this year they will. Inception. It will get the statue, and it deserves it. It was an aurally immersive experience, and did wonders with the stretching of sound through the slowing down of time. However, I tip my hat to TRON: Legacy, which did a good job as well.

Sound Mixing: See above. Inception, and I concur. The Social Network is stellar as well, however. Inception anyway.

Art Direction: Again, will we be in the middle of a sweep, and The King’s Speech walks away with an award that should go to Inception, which made me love the James Bond movies again even though the Bond franchise is currently stuck at the bottom of a feces-filled well and being told to put the lotion on their skin? Possible. That was, however, a long sentence, and I apologize. The major counter-argument: no Tim Burton film has ever lost in this category, even though Alice in Wonderland is an ugly, nauseous looking thing. So I have tough choice here. If The King’s Speech has a sweep going, it wins. But how can anyone look at Inception and not give it the win? So I’ll take a chance here and say that my Ryanverse pick will also be the Academy’s pick: Inception.

Cinematography: Always a delicious category. Cinematography is one of the reasons we see films in the first place. All five nominees have great work, capturing their specific time and place. I don’t think The King’s Speech, even if rolling along on steam power, can overcome here. Roger Deakins, who is a genius, has won many awards for True Grit already, so I think the film may get its only award here. My personal pick is hard to make: Roger Deakins for True Grit, Wally Pfister for Inception, or Matthew Libatique for Black Swan? Oh . . . Pfister it is. My apologies, Roger and Matthew; I love your work anyway.

Makeup: Nobody beats a werewolf. Especially a Rick Baker werewolf. The Wolfman all the way! (Wow, The Wolfman will be an Oscar-WinningTM film!)

Costume Design: I’m disappointed that Inception with its too-cool-for-007 look isn’t on here, but because it is a contemporary-set movie, that must have counted against it. The King’s Speech wins: a popular movie, and English period clothing. If Alice in Wonderland wins, I start tossing out bodies. (Any win for Alice in Wonderland is one too many.) Ryanverse pick: True Grit. Because it’s a Western.

Film Editing: The Best Picture winner usually gets this award, merited or not. So it would seem to be The King’s Speech. Except . . . there’s nothing interesting about the editing there, except that it is a competent job. The Industry buzz leans toward Angus Wall and Kurt Baxter for The Social Network, and I’ll go with that as well. My personal choice: Inception, because . . . wait? It wasn’t nominated? This is almost as bad a snub as TRON: Legacy on the keyboards, so I’m boycotting this one.

Visual Effects: No competition from The King’s Speech here, so Inception nabs this one right from the dream vault along with a bonus prize pinwheel. This is a true win for all film lovers, because Inception depends on a great deal of practical effects work as well as CGI, and doesn’t lazily rely on a computer to do everything. The CGI work is a seamless marvel with the rest of the film, not showing off for the sake of it. Inception’s visual work is Hollywood magic, transporting effortlessly. No contender here at all, either in the real world or my make-believe Ryanverse.

And on that note, I would like to congratulate Inception as “The Movie of the Year.” This is the one we’ll all remember from 2010 folks, regardless of whatever it wins or loses on Sunday night.