And here we go... the acting categories you've all been very impatiently waiting for in TFE's first wave of Oscar predictions for the year.
As faithful readers know I like to keep my crystal ball risky with the bouncing and hope it doesn't shatter. In the first wave of predictions "what if" scenarios and "wild cards" are espectially compelling in the Supporting races. I mean why not? So little is yet known about future important matters like Amount of Screen Time, Nature of the Ensemble Roles, Best in Show Scene Stealing and even Post-Production "we'll fix it in post" Switcheroos where a film is rethought to better spotlight its MVPs. This early on there's no point in making boring predictions in which Oscar favorites hog all the categories though sometimes they do -- witness last year's All Previous Winner boredom in this category. Which is why I'm taking a few big risks like imagining an implausible Tim Roth comeback in a Nicole Kidman vehicle or suspecting that stage actor Sean Mahon (so charming recently as an unexplored love interest in Higher Ground) will make the most of a key role in Philomena.
I'm betting on a field of non-winners and (Oscar) newbies. For now... That said sometimes you have to go "default" as I've done by predicting Javier Bardem. From a distance his new role as an Weirdly-Coiffed Embodiment of Evil for an Oscar-friendly Director (sound familiar) seems an awful lot like his roles in No Country For Old Men & Skyfall but considering that he almost got nominated for doing this again - in a Bond film no less ! -- I decided against pretending that his fellow actors don't just worship the ground on which he walks.
And what of the Ensembles and Potentials For Category Fraud?
The one I'm most curious about in terms of story structure and "best in show" business is Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it's based on a true bizarre story about a wealthy eccentric (played by Steve Carell) who was also a schizophrenic and the two Olympic wrestling brothers (Channing Tatum & Mark Ruffalo) who he became friends with which did not end well for any of them. It's a three-handed story. Channing Tatum gets top billing but the screenplay is based on that brother's unpublished? memoirs so he might be your narrator/audience proxy (a la Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby) which means that Tatum will be demoted to supporting even if he's the lead. My guess is Carell with the showiest part is lead and the other two are relegated to supporting despite very large roles. Now pedigree-wise a movie starring Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum who have 1 nomination and a lot of obstacles to Oscary respect between them (TV fame, light comedy history, hunkaliciousness) shouldn't scream "Oscar nominations for all!" but Bennett Miller is quality. He's only made two narrative features (Capote & Moneyball) but his favored milieu (true stories about famous or infamous men) is right in Oscar's wheelhouse and both of his previous pictures won a lead and a supporting acting nomination.
Since Hollywood is always very focused on testosterone heavy stories there are usually multiple options of acting glory for men in any given film. Take these examples: The Counselor is headlined by Michael Fassbender but my guess is the colorful supporting cast (led by Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem) will pull focus; I know nothing (yet) about the breakdown of characters in The Monuments Men but there are A LOT OF THEM so who is to say which Friend o' Clooneys (Damon, Goodman, Balaban, Murray?) was given the best role or the most camera attention?; Wolf of Wall Street is also a sausage fest but it seems more likely to be The Leo Show - Wall Street Edition than anything else; I've noticed quite a lot of "Benedict Cumberbatch for the Oscar!" mania after the August: Osage County trailer premiere and, sure, he does emote more in the context of the trailer than anyone besides Julia Roberts but that role isn't really that big or that great and the men (Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper) may find a hard time getting around the female driven narrative for any Oscar attention of their own in such a crowded film.
So take a look at the chart and tell me with your own crystal ball where you think mine is malfunctioning and which prophesies you also deem most likely to occur. (Up next: Best Actor)
Sorry for the delay on this one. Last night got away from me a little. Okay, a lot. Like Mickey's multiplying brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" the problems in finding blog time just kept expanding. But here we are. This week I asked the Best Shot club to look at Disney's ambitious Fantasia and choose their Best Shot from the "Rite of Spring" sequence since that riot-inducing Stravinsky composition is now 100 years old and I have a thing for Centennials. Ambitious "Sorcerer" level bloggers were asked to also choose a best shot not from the film as a whole but one from each musical sequence.
Refresh your screen periodically for more...
Cinesnatch I knew Vinci would go the sorcerer level and choose a shot from each segment because he does that anyway even when I don't ask. Image explosions every week over at that blog!
The Film's The Thing Abstew's magic couldn't cure him of being too sick to write up the shots this week but he still found time to conjure them. Dedication!
Hop Low (swear to God, he has a canonical name, and you can thank me whenever there's a Disney night at bar trivia that I've just helped you to win), the best example in Disney's many long decades of work of instilling personality into a non-speaking character whose face never changes. His clumsy, out-of-step dancing is pretty much as sweet and delicately-expressed as it gets, right up until he finally gets it together in and quickly arrives perfectly in place just in time for the music to stop. That's the moment in the shot I've chosen: when even the clumsy little kid is able at the last second to get everything perfect. An absolute treasure of American animation.
Antagony & Ecstacy is a True Sorcerer of the "Best Shot" series and gives you seven articles for the price of one, covering everything from Mickey Mouse's expert redesign, anthropomorphic mushrooms and exquisite control of color palettes. (If you aren't a regular reader of Tim's blog and you are obsessed with Disney animation, you are missing out. He writes about it often and with much insight)
We Recyle Movies Anne continues to break her writing hiatus for this series and we love her for it. She's also got a shot for every segment and also knows her film history. Here's one observation I wholeheartedly second:
Ostriches eating oddly-shaped fruit is never not funny.
The Entertainment Junkie Jason all loves those animals on parade, the mixture of profane and sacred and has a real recurring thing for reflected images in this series -- which I totally get. I always want to choose them, too!
Dancin' Dan remembers which parts he fast-forwarded as a child (The Rite of Spring - ha!) and loves the feeling of gliding, captured in the "Waltz of the Flowers" section
My own choices are coming soon...
NEXT WEEK'S FILM, the spring finale of Hit Me (which will return in late June or early July), is the 1963 classic "Hud" starring Paul Newman which won three Oscars including Cinematography. It's available for rental on Netflix and instant watch on Amazon Prime.
And now the return of the 'Ask Nathaniel/Q&A' series wherein you asked me questions and I pick two handfuls to answer.
DAVID: Which actresses filmographies are you most disappointed in? I'm thinking in terms of actresses you admire and think are incredibly talented, but, for whatever reason, end up working in subpar films.
NATHANIEL: I think the popular answer here is Rachel McAdams but aside from Mean Girls I've never cared too much. The answer that came immediately to mind was Emily Blunt. It’s not that she’s making terrible films per se, it’s just that given how Oscar worthy she was in that plum comic part in Devil Wears Prada seven long years ago, and then how sexy she was in that blink and you’ll miss her bit in Charlie Wilson’s War soon thereafter, I expected her career to explode in the way, say, Carey Mulligan’s did post An Education or at least for her to be more direct competition for Anne Hathaway. I wonder why Blunt isn’t either in more demand or more interested in challenging herself. Maybe it's just bad luck. She seems to be working exclusively in indies that don't crossover, mainstream films that are quickly forgotten or headlining gigs which don't really work in some crucial way (Young Victoria, Adjustment Bureau). I’d love to see her really challenged either by a role or by an auteur. Will Into the Woods bring a happily ever after to that heat-losing career?
The second choice is Evan Rachel Wood who seemed to chuck what looked like incredible range and promise to the side for a long procession of Very Bad Girls. This was, in no small part thanks to her inarguable electricity in Thirteen (2003) but when you play variations on one theme too often you either become a superstar or people lose interest. I thought she was good in Ides of March (2011) but it isn't what she needed. What she needs is a total about face role.
JOHN T: The last foreign language film to clear $20 million was Pan's Labyrinth, almost seven years ago. What do you think it would take for a foreign language film to catch on in that way again?
Amy Adams, Oscar Tragedies, and a Beefcake Triple after the jump...