Tag Archives: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Oscar Recap

28 Feb

Finally, we come to the end of yet another exhaustive awards season. Though not as infuriating as the one of last year (in which The King’s Speech ended up stealing momentum from the far-superior The Social Network), there’s still stuff that will get people angry (little to none recognition for Drive and Shame? C’mon) and stuff that will make people overjoyed (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo winning Editing last night was a high point of the ceremony for me), but awards seasons always end up feeling tiresome, and yet I always watch them every step of the way and once they’re over I vow never to follow one as closely ever again, even though I know I’m full of it.

But anyways, back to the point, last night the 84th Academy Awards took place, and there were very little surprises insofar as the actual winners of the night, but there were a few things about the ceremony itself that I think are worth mentioning. So here’s my recap, first we’ll take a look at the list of winners with a brief impression of what I thought about each of them, and then we’ll look at the the good and bad parts about last night’s ceremoney.

LIST OF WINNERS

  • BEST PICTURE: The Artist – I predicted this one correctly and it’s not as though anyone was questioning it. When Hugo started winning the technical awards and The Artist had just 2 trophies heading into the final four awards of the night people were doubting it, but then came Harvey Weinstein and took those four awards (three for this film, the other for Meryl Streep).
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius – Another one that was easy to predict. It was still kind of odd to see an unknown Frenchman triumphing over four American masters, though.
  • BEST ACTOR: Jean Dujardin – Clooney couldn’t prevail, though I think this one was really close. Dujardin won’t be able to transition into American films in which he actually has to talk though, at least I don’t think so, so this was his only chance.
  • BEST ACTOR: Meryl Streep – YES! That’s all I can say about this win, which was the biggest surprise about this whole thing. Yes, Meryl was always in the running for this one, but people already thought it was Davis’ award after she won the SAG. I don’t care how people say this win won’t age well and won’t help Streep’s chances for future Oscars, all I know is that it had been 29 years since the greatest ever won one, it needed to happen as soon as possible. And I’m already looking forward to her fourth.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Plummer – This could have been one of the biggest yawns because this was the surest bet there was, but Plummer’s eloquent and graceful speech made it one of the highlights of the night for me.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Octavia Spencer – Another sure-thing that happened and that was still awesome because Spencer was just so genuinely excited and everybody at home felt it.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen’s record third win in this category. He wasn’t there to accept it, naturally, but Angelina Jolie’s leg did just fine.
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Descendants – This is the category in which the Academy chose to reward this masterful film. Getting Alexander Payne his second Oscar (let’s hope the third will be for directing) and getting Jim Rash (Dean Pelton!) to show that Angelina isn’t the only one that can rock a sexy stance.
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A Separation – Good thing they honored such an amazing film.
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY: Undefeated – I wasn’t expecting this one, honestly. Guess having Diddy in your camp helps. Or maybe it’s just that Weinstein magic at it again.
  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Rango – Obviously.
  • BEST EDITING: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – One of the biggest surprises of the night. This when people first started (wrongly) assuming The Artist may not have Best Picture in the bag after all. And I loved that Baxter and Wall are now consecutive winners of this award, too bad there’s no Fincher film this year so they can make it three.
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Hugo – Look, Hugo was my favorite film 2011 and I’m super glad it racked up so many technical wins and tied The Artist for most overall, but it’s a seriously horrible snub that The Tree of Life didn’t get this one.
  • BEST ART DIRECTION: Hugo – As well as it should.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Artist – I like this guy’s speeches quite a bit. All of The Artist‘s team gave good speeches, actually.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Man or Muppet” – Bret McKenzie, Oscar winner! Yes!
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Hugo – I think not even the winners thought they were ever gonna triumph over Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Harry Potter here. It’s as though the Academy thought “We’re not gonna give Hugo any of the big awards, so let’s give it all of the small ones”.
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: Hugo – Why not?.
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: Hugo – Again, why not? Sound Oscars I don’t know how to call, but I predicted Hugo for both categories so I’m happy, though I was still crossing fingers for a Drive win.
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Artist – I kind of wanted any other film to win here, but I got my prediction right.
  • BEST MAKEUP: The Iron Lady – Well, that’s it people, Harry Potter shut out from the Oscars yet again.

Overall I think I did okay, predicting 16 out of 21, which is pretty respectable.

THE GOOD

  • Billy Crystal’s opening montage inserting himself into the nominated films. This is what his hosting gigs are known for, and I liked it. That kiss with Clooney was pretty damn funny.
  • Octavia Spencer being so in the moment on her acceptance speech.
  • Christopher Guest’s hilarious The Wizard of Oz-inspired mockumentary.
  • Emma. Stone. She stole the show for me.
  • Christopher Plummer making the wives of every other winner feel bad because their husbands weren’t as awesome to them as he was to his wife. Seriously, what a speech.
  • Scorsese! (Best drinking game ever)
  • Meryl Streep. Period.

THE BAD

  • Every other thing about Billy Crystal’s hosting gig that wasn’t him inserting himself into the nominated films. It just felt too safe, too dated, too much like all of his other hosting gigs. I needed something fresher. Let’s hope next year’s host is a new, fresh face not named James Franco.
  • The fact that The Muppets were there to introduce a segment and not to perform their nominated song.
  • The celebrity interview packages did it at times for me, but as a whole I just didn’t really love them at all.
  • The horrible sound.
  • Billy Crystal’s The Help joke. It was cringe-worthy. The only time he went for something a bit edgy in humor and he was way off.
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Oscar Predictions

25 Feb

The 84th Academy Awards are coming up some forty-something hours from now, so I thought I should post my predictions right now and not wait until the actual day, so I can enjoy Oscar weekend (and the NBA All-Star weekend) fully and without distractions knowing that my (hypothetical and irrelevant) votes have been cast. I know there’s bound to be a surprise or two (and hopefully it’ll be a welcome one and not a Crash-like one) but a general consensus seems to have been reached, and of course The Artist is poised to be the night’s massive winner. Now, below I will list all of the categories except the three shorts categories (because I haven’t seen most of those films) and offer up my prediction for both who I think will win and who I think should win. Without further ado:

BEST PICTURE

  • The Artist (Thomas Langmann)
  • The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin)
  • The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan)
  • Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese)
  • Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum)
  • Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt)
  • The Tree of Life (Nominees to be determined)
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)
Were this an old-school five-nominee race the nominees would most likely be The Artist, Hugo, The Help, The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, so you have to assume those are the only films with a shot at this one. However, while the other four do have a shot at it, it’s a very small one, as The Artist is bound to win the big one.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Hugo
BEST DIRECTOR
  • Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  • Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Two master directors who aren’t expected to actually attend the ceremony. One of the best American directors continuing his masterful streak. The best of all-time (in my opinion) delivering a really different, and personal, film. And a Frenchman who a few months ago was unknown this side of the Atlantic. And, guess what? The unknown French is bound to win this one over the proven masters. Some people are saying that maybe there will be a split, The Artist taking Picture, Hugo taking Director. I would love to see that, but I doubt it’s happening.
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
BEST ACTOR
  • Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  • George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
It’s Clooney vs. Dujardin all the way here, with maybe Brad Pitt having a thing or two to say about this. But the big wins have been all Dujardin pretty much, so expect him to triumph here. Still, the real travesty is that Fassbender isn’t here.
Will Win: Jean Dujardin
Should Win: George Clooney
BEST ACTRESS
  • 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)
Meryl or Viola? Viola or Meryl? That’s the question that lingers through the minds of Oscar aficionados. It’s probably going to be Viola though, she’s hasn’t won before (I know Meryl hasn’t won in like three decades but she’s won before, and twice) and she’s a black actress so it means the Oscars can claim diversity (which will be for naught after this week’s profiling of its members, all old white men) and, more importantly, even Meryl wants Viola to win. So yes, seems like Ms. Streep, the best that ever lived, will have to wait until August: Osage County for that extremely deserved and ellusive third golden man.
Will Win: Viola Davis
Should Win: Rooney Mara
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Some people are of the opinion that von Sydow could maybe make a run for it. Well, he could, but it’s not happening. This one’s Plummer’s all the way, as well as it should be.
Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Should Win: Christopher Plummer
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  • Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Another Oscar that probably already has the name engraved on it. Considering Chastain is here for the wrong role and Mulligan and Woodley are absent from the shortlist, I’d actually give this one to McCarthy for shitting on a sink.
Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
  • Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  • A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
Will The Artist take this one as part of its big sweep, or will this be the category in which they honor Woody by giving him his third Oscar for writing (and fourth overall)? I’m going with Woody, because his screenplay was the best of the year, original or adapted.
Will Win: Midnight in Paris
Should Win: Midnight in Paris
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  • Hugo (John Logan)
  • The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
  • Moneyball (Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan)
This will probably be the category in which they choose to honor The Descendants which at one point in the race was the front-runner for Best Picture. And rightfully so, since the script is brilliant, even if I did personally like Moneyball‘s better.
Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Moneyball
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)
If the Iranian film doesn’t fin this one it would be one of the biggest upsets of the night, for sure.
Will Win: A Separation
Should Win: A Separation
BEST DOCUMENTARY
  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Pina (Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel)
  • Undefeated (TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas)
It’s a travesty that neither Senna nor Project Nim are here, let’s just hope that Pina can take this, even though I’m afraid it won’t.
Will Win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Should Win: Pina
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
  • A Cat in Paris (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)
  • Chico & Rita (Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
  • Puss in Boots (Chris Miller)
  • Rango (Gore Verbinski)
I just saw Chico & Rita and it’s fantastic, but no animated film came even close to achieving the greatness that Rango did.
Will Win: Rango
Should Win: Rango
BEST EDITING

  • The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius)
  • The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
  • Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen)
The Artist should take this one as part of its sweep, though maybe Hugo can sneak in and take it from them. I would very much like to see last year’s winning team come in for the repeat, though.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenwerth)
  • Hugo (Robert Richardson)
  • The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)
I guess The Artist could potentially take this one, too. But the Academy gave some love to The Tree of Life in major categories, which means they’ve seen it and liked it quite a lot, and even those who didn’t must have been left in awe of the work Emmanuel Lubezki in crafting the year’s most visually stunning film.
Will Win: The Tree of Life
Should Win: The Tree of Life
BEST ART DIRECTION
  • The Artist (Laurence Bennet, production designer; Robert Gould, set decorator)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig, production designer; Stephanie McMillan, set decorator)
  • Hugo (Dante Ferretti, production designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, set decorator)
  • Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel, production designer; Hélène Dubreuil, set decorator)
  • War Horse (Rick Carter, production designer; Lee Sandales, set decorator)
Well this one has to be Hugo‘s for sure, doesn’t it?
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
  • The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
  • The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
  • Hugo (Howard Shore)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
  • War Horse (John Williams)
The big thing here is the fact that neither Drive nor The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were nominated, and that really sucks. Now, The Artist is a silent film so the score narrates the whole thing and keeps it moving, and that’s seriously a tremendous accomplishment.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Artist
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
  • “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets; Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie)
  • “Real in Rio” (Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garrett)
Only two nominees and the songs won’t be performed at the telecast, a real pity of you ask me. Still that means the odds improve so that we can say “Bret McKenzie, Oscar Winner” in the very near future.
Will Win: “Man or Muppet”
Should Win: “Man or Muppet”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson)
  • Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning)
  • Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier)
Right, if they didn’t Andy Serkis with an acting nod for his revolutionary motion-capture performance as Caesar the ape, they might as well reward the special effects team that made that happen. Though maybe this will be the Academy’s chance to reward the Harry Potter franchise, although they would be doing so in a smaller category than they should.
Will Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Should Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson)
  • Hugo (Tom Fleischman and John Midgley)
  • Moneyball (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin)
  • War Horse (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson)
I never know how to predict these pesky sound categories but Hugo has won these awards at the other awards shows so might as well go with that pick for both as it will probably win at least one.
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Drive (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Ren Klyce)
  • Hugo (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl)
  • War Horse (Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom)
Again, tough to predict these sound categories, though nothing would be more awesome than for Drive to pick up an Oscar.
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Drive
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
  • Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
  • The Artist (Mark Bridges)
  • Hugo (Sandy Powell)
  • Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor)
  • W.E. (Arianne Phillips)
It’s probably, as per usual, a battle between The Artist and Hugo.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Jane Eyre

BEST MAKEUP

  • Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)
I think this is a toss-up between all three of them, or maybe just Potter and Iron Lady.
Will Win: The Iron Lady
Should Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
So that’s it for my predictions. Check back on Monday to see the full list of winners and how I did with these predictions!

Best of 2011: 20 Lead Actresses

7 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. For the sixth entry in the series of posts we have my Top 20 Performances by Leading Actresses of 2011:

20. SAOIRSE RONAN as Hanna in Hanna

It’s kind of baffling that Hanna was so shut out from any awards love, at the very least its amazing score from The Chemical Brothers should have gotten some recognition. Saoirse Ronan who’ll turn just eighteen in a couple of months reteamed with Joe Wright, the director who get her an Oscar nod for her work in Atonement a few years ago, for this, a very different kind of role for her and one that would prove to be quite a challenge for any actress. The fact that she’s so young and so talented only means great things for the future, she’s stunning here, going toe-to-toe alongside experienced actors like Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, and coming out on top.

19. MIRANDA JULY as Sophie in The Future

Miranda July has to be one of the most unique voices in film and literature right now. And one of the most polarizing, too, with people are loving or hating her work. I personally love everything she does, as was the case with her latest film, The Future, and the lead performance she gave in it as Sophie, one half of the duo that decides to adopt a stray kitten, Paw Paw (voiced by Ms. July), and to live the 30 days during which the kitten will live in a shelter as the last days of their lives since they believe this new small responsibility will alter their lives forever. Miranda July maybe super artsy and hipster and call her what you want, but her refreshing brand of quirky is one that I really love.

18. ANNA PAQUIN as Lisa Cohen in Margaret

When I first saw Kenneth Lonergan’s excruciatingly-delayed Margaret I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, giving it a B. But I’ve seen it another time since and I liked it much more; I would give it a better grade now actually. But even the first time when I didn’t fully appreciate it as much as I do now, I was left impressed by the performance Anna Paquin gives as Lisa Cohen, a private school girl who will have her life turned around as she witnesses a bus accident that she may have caused by distracting the driver. She lends Lisa this sort of entitled and precocious vibe that works tremendously well.

17. KEIRA KNIGHTLEY as Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method

Viggo Mortensen appeared on my Best Supporting Actors ranking (at #16) for his performance as Sigmund Freud, and now Keira Knightley, undoubtedly one of the five or ten best actresses under thirty working today, appears here. The stuff she does with her role in this film is just sensational to watch, daring to go for director David Cronenberg to some really unlikable places in a really fierce way, in a performance that, had it not been this perfect, would’ve meant the whole film falling apart. She plays Sabina, a girl who’s quite unhinged, examined by Freud and Carl Jung, and even though there’s a lot of sexual stuff, as Sabina wants people to sexually punish and humiliate her, Ms. Knightley lets go with such abandon into her performance that you don’t think sex even though she’s gorgeous, you just think she’s mad.

16. VERA FARMIGA as Corinne in Higher Ground

Vera Farmiga is an actress I’ve loved for a very long time and who I think should be a bigger name by now. In Higher Ground, a film that she also directed, she turns in another one of her typically splendid performances, while also giving a great performance behind the camera. The stuff she can do just with her eyes, which are the kind of eyes movie stars were once made of, is magnificent, the kind of eyes that draw you in but also warn you to keep a bit of distance, conveying good-heartedness as well as a sense of mischief. This was just terrific from her.

15. MIA WASIKOWSKA as Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikowska has a great future ahead of her, I think we can all agree on that. And in Jane Eyre she gives a performance that’s just wise beyond her years (she was 20 when she shot this), her performances are just so insightful that you just get the feeling that you’re watching an old soul with so much depth to her. When I saw this film at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center it included a Q&A with her and director Cary Fukunaga, and just the stuff she said about her approach to the role and her process was amazing, and it proved why she gave what to me is the definitive portrayal of the iconic character so far.

14. KRISTEN WIIG as Annie Walker in Bridesmaids

All the rage about the hilarious Bridesmaids ensemble (directed by Paul Feig, my #19 Director) has been focussed on Melissa McCarthy who got a Supporting Actress Oscar nod for her performance (I ranked her at #4 in that particular ranking of mine), and rightfully so because she’s hilarious. But Kristen Wiig (who got an Oscar nod for the screenplay, which I ranked #2 in those rankings) is just as amazing in this film, the scene against Rose Byrne with the battling maid of honor speeches is a feat of comedic genius, as is her drunken ramblings at the plane. She’s the SNL MVP for a reason, this just proves she can be one on the big screen, too.

13. BÉRÉNICE BEJO as Peppy Miller in The Artist

Yes, she got an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress, but if you’ve seen The Artist you’ll know she’s very much a Lead performer, so I ranked her here instead. The film (which I already named my #8, as well as my #7 Director and #12 Screenplay) obviously needed tremendously gifted performers to capture our attention in a silent black-and-white film. Bérénice Bejo is an exquisitely talented physical performer with features that speak louder than words ever could, taking direction from her real-life husband she gives a superb performance in one of the most charming films of the year.

12. OLIVIA COLMAN as Hannah in Tyrannosaur

Tyrannosaur is a really brutal film, quite tough to see actually, but the stunningly great performance by Olivia Colman alone is worth the price of admission and withstanding the harshness of it all. The sadness of the whole film, the feelings it relies on in order to tell its story rely on the performance she manages to give to become the unforgiving human drama it is, to show a compelling and visceral look at rage and abuse and all the things that can come out of it. Certainly a performance that grabs you by the throat and never lets go.

11. LEILA HATAMI as Simin in A Separation

My #15 Film, #17 Screenplay and #16 Director gets a mention in this category for the performance Leila Hatami gives as Simin, one half of the couple that goes through the titular separation. Everyone in this film actually does a fantastic job, but chief amongst them is Ms. Hatami, who in scenes where here character may seem stereotypical she does a lot to uncover a tremendous amount of depth to the character. She acts out some really tense and interesting situations, and does a lot to make A Separation one of the films that stays the longest with you from all 2011.

10. ADEPERO ODUYE as Alike in Pariah

This is Adepero Oduye’s first proper performance in a feature, and the stuff she does with the role of Alike is just spellbinding in the way she so subtly and seamlessly captures every single emotion this young girl in search of an identity is going through. What I thought was awesome about this performance is that we don’t need an expository scene or dialogue to set up much of Alike’s life, she does that just with her presence, taking smart direction from Dee Rees and expressing with just her eyes every little change that’s going through in the mind of her character.

9. FELICITY JONES as Anna in Like Crazy

My #11 Film and #18 Director gets a shout-out for the lead performance by the beautiful Felicity Jones. The journey she takes us with her performance of Anna in just ninety minutes is unbelievable, delivering such an honest and raw performance that it’s amazing to watch, and showing us a star being born right in front of our eyes, an actress that’s made for great things. This is just a very intelligent performance by her, and just the stuff she does with her face and her eyes in those many close-ups, saying ten times more than words ever could with her expressions, this is true talent.

8. VIOLA DAVIS as Aibileen Clark in The Help

Her cast-mate (and Supporting Actress front-runner) Octavia Spencer got a mention at #5 in my Supporting Actresses rankings, and now Viola Davis, arguably the front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar (barely getting the edge over Meryl Streep) gets a mention here. This is such a tour de force performance, the kind that stays with you long after you’ve left the theater, and Ms. Davis herself is just such a great woman (just look at her acceptance speech at the SAG’s) that you’re left speechless watching her be Aibileen. Three years ago she had one scene in Doubt, which she stole from Meryl Streep, and got a Supporting Actress nomination. Now she finally gets the role of her lifetime and she’s up against Ms. Streep, who you just know wants her to win more than she does herself.

7. MERYL STREEP as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady

From one Oscar front-runner to the next. While Viola Davis seems to have the edge in the actual competition, Meryl Streep gets it in my rankings for the performance that got her to extend her own record with 17 nominations. And yes, she’s out of the Top 5, but that’s just because, as amazing as her performance was, the film it was in wasn’t great, and the context in which a performance is given matters to judge its worth. Meryl Streep is, to me as she should be to you, the greatest actress that’s ever lived. And this is a masterclass in acting, a monster performance from a living legend that just knows how to really go deep into her character, to empathize and understand the person she’s playing. The fact that she’s playing a polarizing world-known figure is a daunting task, and yet she impersonates Thatcher so brilliantly, from the voice to the mannerisms to the subtle changes she gives in her performance as she plays her through various years of her life. Yes, the film works as just a showcase for Ms. Streep’s talents and not much else, that’s true, but with talents as considerable as these you don’t really need much else.

6. CHARLIZE THERON as Mavis Gary in Young Adult

Young Adult has been well represented in my rankings (#12 Film, #15 Director, #3 Supporting Actor and #3 Screenplay) and it gets a mention here as well for Charlize Theron’s stunning performance as Mavis Gary, who’s a really unlikable lead character, which is the toughest kind to play. But she’s up to the task, to lend herself to the piercing character study of Mavis Gary we get here, delivering a really brave performance as a woman who’s still acting like a child and who can’t come to terms with the reality of her life. The film never once tries to justify Mavis’ actions, but the sincerity of Ms. Theron’s portrayal of her maybe, just maybe, may get is to somewhat sympathize with her, which is a testament to well she acted out this role.

5. TILDA SWINTON as Eva Khatchadourian in We Need to Talk About Kevin

The film has gotten mentions in my rankings before (#11 Director and #12 Supporting Actor) but it’s Tilda Swinton’s masterful performance as Eva, the mother of the teenager that’s just gone on a shooting spree, that’s by far the best thing about this whole movie. It’s her performance that makes this film compelling to watch, what grabs your attention so much in a film that had it not counted with it may have been too harsh to watch for some. This is one of the finest performances Tilda Swinton has ever given, and she never once takes the easy way out in her portrayal of Eva, delivering this tough story through her eyes and emotions, making her a distant and vulnerable character that’s not easy to pity or connect to, but telling a story that’s impossible not to be drawn into.

4. MICHELLE WILLIAMS as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn

Kenneth Branagh got a shout-out in my Supporting Actor rankings (at #11) but it’s the performance by Michelle Williams, who I think is the best actress under forty working today, that made this film so damn great to me. A film about a woman as iconic as Marilyn Monroe obviously depended solely on the performance by the actress playing the blonde bombshell, and in Michelle Williams it found the perfect one. Physically, it’s all there, the curves and the lips and the everything that made Marilyn, but where Ms. Williams really rocked it is in the intangibles, the vulnerability, the sweetness; she really gets us to understand Marilyn Monroe, what went on inside her head, her insecurities and how she handled her iconic status. It’s such a beautifully soulful performance by a brilliant actress.

3. KIRSTEN DUNST as Justine in Melancholia

My #16 Film, #12 Director and #14 Supporting Actress, and now my #3 Lead Actress. This is the best performance Kirsten Dunst has given in her whole career by a clear mile, and one that really should have gotten her an Oscar nomination. She’s the perfect muse for Lars von Trier, playing Justine, the woman the first half of this film is named after, who starts suffering from a severe case of depression that progresses as the film goes along; at first she’s pure magic at portraying a woman trying to hide her severely damaged state of mind, and later on she’s perfection when she gets meatier scenes to sink her teeth into as her illness worsens, being just sheer perfection at showing her pain and sadness.

2. ELIZABETH OLSEN as Martha in Martha Marcy May Marlene

On Nomination morning I was crossing my fingers to hear Elizabeth’s Olsen named called out for her masterful performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene a film that’s already featured quite a lot in my rankings (#10 Film, #14 Director, #8 Supporting Actor and #13 Screenplay). Alas, her name wasn’t called out, but we still have her performance to hold on to, one of the better debut performances I’ve seen in quite some time, making her one of the young actresses I’m most excited to see evolve. She plays three iterations of the same person, as the three names in the title correspond to three different kind of behaviors that are expected from her while she’s answering to each name; she’s brilliant as all three, making all of them believable. She’s breathtakingly gorgeous, has a wonderful screen presence and has a depth and vulnerability to her that’s hard to explain; by which I mean, she’s meant to be a star.

1. ROONEY MARA as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

My #3 Film, #5 Director and #15 Screenplay of the year gets a first place mention thanks to Rooney Mara’s Oscar-nominated turn as the insuperable Lisbeth Salander. After impressing with just a really short turn in The Social Network, David Fincher pushed for her to get this role, and look what she did with it. She brings such an incredible level to commitment to it all, and delivering an awe-inspiring performance, showing a tremendous intelligence (both her character’s and hers as an actress) while she hides the many emotional scars of Lisbeth Salander, being able to seduce you just as well as she can intimidate you. This if the best female performance of all 2011 from an actress people knew pretty much nothing about until just know, but who I’m sure will give us plenty to talk about in years to come.

Those are my Top 20 performances by actresses in leading roles. 4 of the Oscar nominees made it into my Top 20 (Glenn Close was the one that missed out), but were I to actually ran the Oscars only Mara and Williams would remain nominees. They, however, don’t really have a shot at actually winning; so let’s just sit back and enjoy the Streep vs. Davis battle, since even though their performances weren’t the very best, they were still extraordinary, and they’re two actresses who are amazing both on and off the screen, so it’ll be a deserved win no matter what happens.

Best of 2011: 20 Directors

4 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. For the third entry in the series of posts we have my Top 20 Directors of 2011:

20. BRAD BIRD for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I know this is kind of a weird pick, but, for one, I really loved the latest Mission: Impossible film (it would have been the 21st pick had my Top 20 been expanded), and, secondly, I think a lot of that has to do with how Brad Bird directed it. The fact that this was his first foray into live-action, after winning two Oscar’s for The Incredibles and Ratatouille, shows the man really has the goods, and here he delivers a tremendously fast-paced action flick that’s just full of huge set pieces that are jaw-dropping and it all has just so much style. It’s all done with an action-y kind of grace, with awesome scenes that are impeccably choreographed and a great sense of humor.

19. PAUL FEIG for Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids celebrates women in comedy, written by two extremely funny gals and acted out by an ensemble full of other ones, and it was a hugely refreshing and hilarious film to watch when it came out. But, for all the female talent it has, there are two key male players off-camera that also helped make it the $290 million-grossing film it is. One of them is producer Judd Apatow, but the other is Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks and a comedic genius on his own right. This is comedy done to perfection, equal parts raunchy and witty, and with a helluva lot of heart in it, too. After naming it my second favorite screenplay of the year this is now my second ranking in which Bridesmaids appears.

18. DRAKE DOREMUS for Like Crazy

I named this film the eleventh best of all 2011, and its director gets a shout-out in this ranking too. And he has to be here because Like Crazy is all about very raw emotions being on display all the time, and it all starts with Doremus, who based it a lot on his own real-life experience and who gave his actors, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, just a very specific outlines and terrific direction and allowed them to improvise the drama unfolding. It takes a great director to have accomplished the kind of improvisation seen on screen in this film, as natural as it all feels you just know there was a lot of care and loving that went into it. He knows how to keep still and do a lot with silence, and he knows how to guide his actors; truly a talent to watch out for.

17. JEFF NICHOLS for Take Shelter

After appearing on the final spot on my Top 20 Screenplays, Jeff Nichols also appears here for his directing duties on his spellbinding film. It’s just a wonderfully subtle piece of work by him, really knowing how to create this outstanding sense of unease to go along with the mesmerizingly great domestic drama of it all. I just loved his work in this film, how he manages to make it just creep under your skin, making you feel uncomfortable and building a sense of horror while creating a really rich psychological examination of a contemporary American family.

16. ASGHAR FARHADI for A Separation

#15 on my Best Films ranking and #17 on my Best Screenplays one, Asghar Farhadi’s phenomenal film makes yet another appearance in this one. The direction is just so neat, and right after the opening scene Farhadi starts to shape his film tremendously, showing us the heart of the modern Iranian state while also commenting on the more universal themes this film touches upon, like marriage, parenthood, class and just an overall amazing portrayal of life. The ethical and moral questions this film raises are so deftly handled by Farhadi, it’s amazing.

15. JASON REITMAN for Young Adult

#12 on my Best Films ranking and #3 on the Best Screenplays one. Another film that’s now been in all three of my rankings thus far, and I’ve always really loved what Jason Reitman does in his films, and with Juno, Up in the Air and now this one he has a streak of three perfect films going on, and is quickly becoming one of the most important American directors around. It’s kind of a more snarky and sour film than what we’re used to getting from him, and he just knows how to execute that tone perfectly, and even though the portrayal Charlize Theron gives of Mavis Gary and the depiction of her from Diablo Cody’s screenplay don’t make her out as a likable character, he gets us to laugh at her and, maybe, even if it’s just a little bit, actually sympathize.

14. SEAN DURKIN for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Another film on all three of my rankings so far, coming in at #1o on the Best Films list and #13 on the Best Screenplays one. This is actually Sean Durkin’s debut feature, and it’s a thoroughly impressive one, just how he employs the various techniques to shine a light on the state of his lead character is fantastic, using really awesomely the time-shifting narrative, going back and forth from the chronological beginning of the story to the end, he uses that to create a sense of confusion and to make us join into her paranoia and understand how the realities are just as mixed up in her mind. Just a seriously terrific debut from a guy I can’t wait to see more of.

13. GEORGE CLOONEY for The Ides of March

#18 on both my Best Films and Best Screenplays rankings, The Ides of March gets a higher slot here because of how great I thought the direction by George Clooney, who also co-stars in it, was. You just get the sense that the man, while being a terrific actor, also has the makings of a great director, clearly having picked up some stuff after working under the direction of the Coen brothers, Steven Soderbergh and Jason Reitman. Here he shows he’s good at telling stories of smart men in complicated situations, and he creates just a great atmosphere and a wonderful sense of intrigue, as well as a kind of old-school pacing from political films of the 70’s.

12. LARS VON TRIER for Melancholia

My 16th favorite film of the year gets a nod to its crazy director, the one that got a lifetime ban from the Cannes film festival after some comments he made after the premiere of Melancholia. As always he brings forth a really unique vision to this apocalyptic story, but seeing the end of the world not in some grand way but in a smaller scope, in a very intimate way that allowed him to get a career-best performance from Kirsten Dunst, who just shines in this film, as well as create some really striking imagery to go along with the literal end of the world as well as for the inner crumbling down of the world that the depressed character Ms. Dunst plays is going through.

11. LYNNE RAMSAY for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay is one of the most talented female filmmakers around, and after a nine year absence (since 2002’s great Morvern Callar), she was back at it again with this film, teaming up with the great Tilda Swinton, an actress who delivers an amazing performance and in which she can rely to let tell the story and just take a more backed off kind of approach. How she employs the flashbacks to shine a light on the life of Eva before and after the school shooting committed by her own son is terrific, and how she never takes the easy way out of making Eva a pitiable character is terrific, trusting her actors to do all the heavy-lifting to make the story function, which the really succeed at under her confident direction.

10. TOMAS ALFREDSON for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Another film that’s been on all three of my rankings thus far, and in the Top 10 of all of them (#9 film, #8 screenplay, now this), and I guess I’ll say it again for this ranking: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is probably the smartest film to have come out in 2011. And kudos must be given to Tomas Alfredson who after delivering the sublime Let The Right One In in 2008 now made the leap to English language films with this one. And boy did he succeed tremendously, masterfully crafting a film that never once underestimates its audience, giving us an intricately-plotted film and never once dumbing it down, trusting that we’re smart enough to follow them through the puzzles of the espionage world he and his cast and crew so expertly craft.

9. BENNETT MILLER for Moneyball

Another film that’s been in the Top 10 of all my rankings so far (#7 film, #4 screenplay, now this). The fact that Bennett Miller has only made two feature films is actually quite stunning when you consider the two have been Capote and now this one. He really does bring a lot to the table in this film, a film that was based on a book about baseball statistics, but that thanks to the wonderful script, amazing performances, mainly from Brad Pitt, and the skillful Mr. Miller who made this film not about the numbers but about the people crunching them, and the relationships between them which really made this film as perfect as it ultimately was.

8. WOODY ALLEN for Midnight in Paris

My fourteenth favorite film and my very favorite screenplay of the year; all of that because of Woody. I’m an unapologetic Woody Allen fan, even his lesser works do it for me, the guy just seemingly having a direct line to my sensibilities and to my funny bone. Midnight in Paris, of course, is Woody going back to doing to what he does best and to what he’s actually the best at doing in the world; this film is just so beautifully embedded in a lot of nostalgia, and is so funny and charming, and everything else that a Woody Allen film should be. The opening scene of this one is as much an homage to Paris as the opening of Manhattan was to the place where he made his best work. He’s just sheer genius.

7. MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for The Artist

The presumed front-runner for the Oscar. And while that award should certainly go to Martin Scorsese, I guess the frenchman would also be a worthy winner. Creating a silent, black-and-white film that has captivated every person that’s watched it (and that I ranked as the #8 film and #12 screenplay). It works as an homage of the highest class to the Golden Era of Hollywood, recreating the charm of the films of the time, showing that he as a director is skillful and knowledgeable about his art to make a film like this, knowing how to thrill and move his audience and make one of the most entertaining films of the year out of a silent film.

6. ALEXANDER PAYNE for The Descendants

One of the greatest living American directors, as well as the man responsible for the screenplay of the film (which I ranked #7 in that ranking) and the film itself being my fifth favorite of the year. Here again he captures the essence of life every so masterfully, giving us his very unique human mix of emotions that take you by surprise; sometimes having you laugh at what’s happening on screen, sometimes having you cry. The balance between tragic and funny on display in The Descendants is one that only a man like Alexander Payne could have achieved, and the moments of emotional sincerity on display in this film, most of them acted out by George Clooney in a career-best performance, are a thing of beauty.

5. DAVID FINCHER for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is probably one of my five favorite living directors, after delivering my second favorite directing effort of 2010 with the masterpiece that was The Social Network he’s at it again only a year later with my third favorite film of 2011 (and the one that had my 15th favorite screenplay of the year). Creating a two-and-a-half-hour film that’s unapologetically brutal and ever so captivating, getting an iconic performance from Rooney Mara that will grab you by the throat and never let you go. Every single frame of this film, from that insanely awesome opening sequence onwards, is sheer perfection, he’s known for asking up to a hundred takes of any one scene, but at least he has stuff to back that crazy request with when the results are going to be as masterful as they are here.

4. STEVE McQUEEN for Shame

My second favorite film of the year, and the one with my fourteenth favorite screenplay. Steve McQueen is proving to be a director with a truly unique voice. He’s such an intense kind of director, ready to deliver some truly outstanding and powerful films that will certainly leave their mark on you once you see them. Shame won’t be for everyone, I know that, but to me it was just spectacular to see how a director so vividly portrayed a state of addiction and an inner life that’s a living hell through his lead character, Brandon, that’s so masterfully acted by Michael Fassbender, who was also McQueen’s lead in Hunger, proving that theirs is one of the most exciting actor-director tandems in film right now.

3. TERRENCE MALICK for The Tree of Life

I ranked the film as the sixth best of the year, and the screenplay as the nineteenth best, but Terrence Malick as a director gets a higher positioning because this film proves why he’s such an exceptional auteur, and why his long, tedious and picky process of creation really does pay off. The Tree of Life is a true cinematic achievement in every sense of the word, even if you think some scenes are too long and how it sometimes didn’t feel all that cohesive a film you have to acknowledge that, you have to acknowledge the man made a tremendously special film that, even if the emotional and spiritual parts of it didn’t ring true to you, is still an undeniable visual feast.

2. NICOLAS WINDING REFN for Drive

#4 film, #16 screenplay, and now #2 director. Nicolas Winding Refn is a man with such a unique and incredibly awesome visual style that Drive is just a masterpiece pretty much solely because of that, and if the aforementioned director-actor tandem of McQueen-Fassbender is one that really gets me excited, so too is the one of Refn-Gosling, since the two really seem to have a lot of chemistry and trust in each other in this one. How he uses violence is just outstanding, maybe it’s too extreme for some, but it was just right for me, and as shocking as it may be, it’s not gratuitous, but used by the director to elicit reactions from his audience, and that, alongside some of the other heavily-stylized techniques he employs, are used to really add a lot to the end product.

1. MARTIN SCORSESE for Hugo

Of course Martin Scorsese was going to top this ranking for me; Hugo I have already named as the best film of 2011, and the screenplay for it I ranked eleventh in those rankings. Considering he’s my favorite director all-time, this was a no-brainer. Also considering he crafted another masterpiece, but this time did so straying far away from his comfort zone, making a film aimed at kids, in 3D no less. But this is also probably the most personal film the legend has ever made, one he did so that his young daughter Francesca could finally see a film of his, one that he did as a beautiful love letter to the art of cinema himself, one that he’s incredibly passionate about and does so much to preserve. A clear #1 for me. All 5 of the Oscar nominees are in my Top 10, but if I ran the Oscars, only two of them, Scorsese and Malick, would have actually gotten a nominated, here’s hoping Scorsese can pull of the win against Hazanavicius.

Best of 2011: 20 Screenplays

3 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. The second entry will be my Top 20 Screenplays of 2011:

20. TAKE SHELTER written by Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed the magnificent Take Shelter, and he shows such a great confidence as a filmmaker that it’s just astonishing, and this film in particular is one of those that the second it finishes you’ll be wanting to see again. And even though the performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, as well as Mr. Nichols’ direction, take a lot of credit for this film being so good, so too does its screenplay. You never once really know where this film is headed, and what’s best is that it’s created such a great sense of tension that you get a bit scared about where it’ll end up. I thought it was a brilliant script that took its time to create a slowburn effect and gradually reveal its many intricate layers.

19. THE TREE OF LIFE written by Terrence Malick

This film held the 6th spot on my Top 20 Films of 2011, and its screenplay gets a mention in this ranking as well. What’s so impressive about this screenplay is that it could easily also be released as a novel, it’s just so extremely descriptive, going into lengths about those many little details Terrence Malick is know to be a perfectionist over, describing exactly how he wanted the many breathtakingly gorgeous images in his film to look. It’s so immensely rich, full of some really fascinating ideas that demonstrate just how complex and ambitious this film was, good thing for us that they translated to perfection on screen.

18. THE IDES OF MARCH written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, based on the play by Beau Willimon

Another film that also cracked my Top 20 Films ranking (at 18th) and that gets that same spot in my Screenplay rankings. The script, which got an Oscar nod, shows why the film was an entertaining, dialogue-driven film. It starts off setting the stage really well, delivering great dialogue and pacing, giving us a great inside look at how political campaigns are ran. The Ides of March is a movie made for actors, certainly, with just quite a lot of character development and more than a few scenes that are all about snappy banter that the film has a hugely talented ensemble deliver. The one thing that’s a bit off and why I didn’t rank it higher is that, for the same reason and the fact that it’s based on a play, it actually feels sometimes like a piece that belongs in a stage. But still, this is a pretty damn good screenplay.

17. A SEPARATION written by Asghar Farhadi

The film that was 15th on my Film rankings gets a mention in the Screenplay one as well, thanks to a seriously powerful script that managed to snag an Oscar nomination, which is rare for a foreign language film. And it’s honestly a terrific screenplay, one that brings forth a lot of seriously powerful ethical questions to be asked by both characters and audiences alike, and that in the domestic drama that it presents it’s tremendously structured to create a really tense environment. So far all 4 of my mentions in this ranking have been written or co-written by the film’s director, which shows how great the writer-director’s visions were in 2011.

16. DRIVE written by Hossein Amini, based on the book by James Sallis

The script for Drive, my fourth favorite film of the year, is great as it is, but what actually elevates it to a category of greatness is what director Nicolas Winding Refn does with it, he kind of strips it down, leaving pretty much just the naked essence of it for us to see. What we then get is a pretty quiet film, in which the imagery says more than words ever could, but in which the words that are actually used just phenomenal. Not to mention that, by not having long explanatory scenes or huge displays of dialogue, the film actually manages to get in quite a lot of plot into its 100 minute running time, which was tremendously well done.

15. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO written by Steve Zaillian, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

My #3 film of the year had a script by Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (he won for Schindler’s List), who had the tough task to not only adapt a hugely popular book that was in everyone’s hands not that long ago, but also one that had already been successfully adapted into a great film just a bit over a year ago. Thankfully, the fact that this was being made for big bucks, by a studio, to be consumed by a wider audience, didn’t mean the screenplay was like a sanitized version of the novel, this was as gritty as you could imagine, and the tough scenes are tremendously brought to life by director David Fincher and a hugely talented cast.

14. SHAME written by Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan

Shame is my second favorite film of the year, and Michael Fassbender said that he read the script over 300 times in order to really get immersed in his character, so you can be sure the script dealt a lot with its characters. Written by director Steve McQueen with Abi Morgan the script is much more straightforward narratively than Mr. McQueen’s previous film, which was the excellent Hunger, and much more plot-driven too. Which is good, but still, it’s a tough script to get through because of its very graphic nature and harsh look at addiction, but just how perfectly it delves into the day-to-day routine of Brandon, the lead character, and the inner hell he goes through because of his sex addiction, is incredible.

13. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE written by Sean Durkin

Yet another film written by its director, and another script from a film that was in my personal Top 20 (it landed at number 10). The script is sensationally well-structured, the back-and-forth technique it uses to go between the memories of Martha about her time in a cult to the present day is impeccable done, because it gets to the point in which, much like the character herself does, the line between past and present gets a bit blurry, which helps us get to feel her mental state. The film had great performances and direction, but a lot of it came from the script too, that scene in which John Hawkes’ character sings a song at the cult’s ceremony is incredible in how much narrative momentum it achieves. Just an impeccable debut, both writing and directing-wise, from Sean Durkin.

12. THE ARTIST written by Michel Hazanavicius

Yes, it’s a screenplay for a silent film, with title cards to indicate dialogue, with actors moving their lips even though nothing is coming out of them. And yet it’s so magical and enchanting and fresh and unique and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before; it’s a screenplay that pays homage to a great era of Hollywood by creating some really memorable scenarios and characters that don’t really need words to come alive and for us to connect with them. Michel Hazanavicius also directed the film, so he knew exactly what he wanted to get; and boy did he get it, I ranked the film as the 8th best of 2011.

11. HUGO written by John Logan, based on the book by Brian Selznick

Yes this was my favorite film of the year and the screenplay for it doesn’t even crack the Top 10. Which is not to say it’s bad, not at all, and it deservedly got an Oscar nod for John Logan, but it just wasn’t as masterful as the film itself. Still, how it managed to get George Méliés’ story within the frame of Hugo’s actually made this a much more emotional film than if it had been a straightforward biopic of Méliés. I loved this, I loved how great a love letter to cinema it was and how great an innocent a kids movie it was at the same time.

10. WIN WIN written by Thomas McCarthy, story by Thomas McCarthy and Joe Tiboni

Win Win is a beautiful little film, one that just makes you want to experience it again after you finish it, and it all comes from the fact that Tom McCarthy is the kind of writer-director that is genius at portraying real people and real emotions. The tone throughout the entire film is so firmly grounded in its screenplay, one that tells a story that’s actually quite easy for you to read and guess where it’s going next, which is good because it enables you to get a glimpse at all the perfectly nuanced aspects of the film. Funny, low-key and, most importantly, terrifically honest, Win Win is a brilliant example of screenwriting.

9. MARGIN CALL written by J.C. Chandor

One of the biggest and most welcome surprises on Nomination morning was to sound of J.C. Chandor’s name being called out when they nominated this screenplay, his debut feature as both a writer and director. It’s the first script that actually knows how to tackle the subject of our most recent economic depression, a script about the power of money and greedy men. It starts off tremendously strong and follows through with a huge array of characters and situations that are really tightly written by a guy that certainly knows a lot about the stuff he’s writing about. Subject matter aside, this is a script done by a writer who knows that good characters in high stakes situations are exactly what makes for good drama, and he gave us the timeliest and most high stake situation of recent times. Just a job really well done.

8. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the novel by John le Carré

I’ve said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may just have been the smartest film of all 2011, it has a lot of moving pieces and it works like a puzzle full of paranoia, just so intricately plotted. The fact that the script got an Oscar nomination is just really well deserved, because balancing all the facts and events and characters is not easy at all, and you’ll have to pay close attention while you see the film to really get it, but it successfully manages to balance it all out, just a seriously fantastic adaptation of a classic of espionage literature. And yes, Gary Oldman as Smiley is the shit.

7. THE DESCENDANTS written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Alexander Payne already has an Oscar for writing Sideways, a hugely deserved one, and he may be getting another one soon for the adaptation of the Kaui Hart Hemmings novel he did alongside Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, which became the fifth best film I saw all of last year. What’s so amazing about how this script works is that it takes all the time it needs to slowly, and beautifully, unfold. From the very get-go there’s something about these characters that feels incredibly human, and when the people, the places and the emotions on-screen feel real it’s just incredibly easy to lose yourself in them. How the screenplay manages to so perfectly mix comedy and drama is truly outstanding, achieving a balance that makes every laugh and every tear feel earned.

6. 50/50 written by Will Reiser

I think this script is terrific; I think the tone it achieves, the structure of it, the characters it crafts, everything I thought was just sensationally achieved. Will Reiser of course wrote this basing it on his own experience with cancer, and I guess it takes a person who has actually gone through something like to be able to achieve this mix between the funny and the serious, to walk such a fine tightrope and come out so successfully. This was just a seriously smart screenplay that never once went for the sort of clichés you might think fitting for this kind of story, it never once wanted to leave you crying, and it’s because of that, because it wasn’t manipulating, that it earns your tears, just as greatly as it earns your laughs.

5. BEGINNERS written by Mike Mills

I saw Beginners for the first time back in June, and I’ve seen it I think three extra times since then, and every single one of those times I feel like it’s this extremely awesome kind of surprise. Even though I’ve seen it before and know exactly what’s coming next, it manages to surprise me, it manages to put a smile on my face. And that all starts with the impressive script by Mike Mills, who makes even familiar moments feel truly fresh, and he achieves that because every feeling on screen from his characters, every exchange, feels spectacularly honest. From the great structure, going from the past to the present, to the great voiceover, to the subtitled musings of the adorable Jack Russell terrier, Beginners is a treat. And if you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to experience it.

4. MONEYBALL written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, with story by Stan Chervin, based on the book by Michael Lewis

In 2010 Aaron Sorkin adapted a book about Facebook into the masterpiece that was The Social Network and rightfully won an Oscar for his work, it was by far the best script of that year. Now he had the task to yet again adapt a book that would seem unadaptable, one about baseball statistics, collaborating on a screenplay by Steve Zaillian (who also wrote the #15 on this list), and penning out one that would result in the film that I named the seventh best of last year. The screenplay is just so tightly-written, and it’s typical Sorkin, where people just really intelligently talk really fast and about fascinating stuff. I love the fact that films this smart are being made, ones that rely just on solid words and actors being pitch-perfect at delivering them.

3. YOUNG ADULT written by Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody wrote one of my favorite screenplays of the past decade with the one she did for Juno, the name of this blog “artfully bedraggled” even comes from a description she makes at the beginning of it, so you can say that I’m a bit of sucker for her style of writing. Though I still prefer Juno to this one, I do believe that this may be her most mature effort to date, a story that’s really funny, but that’s also considerably dark and more than a little bit messed up. Mavis Gary is an unlikable character and Cody never once feels compelled to make us sympathetic towards her, but instead never once lets her off the hook, and crafts a really piercing character study. This woman is one of my favorite screenwriters right now, I now she has her detractors, and so be it, I just think she has a knack for this, and this new effort of hers shows she’s moving forward in all the right directions.

2. BRIDESMAIDS written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo

In a year when The Hangover Part II was expected by everyone to be the most hilarious film in the world, a week before it I got to see Bridesmaids, which was being seen by some as the female equivalent to it. Well, we know how The Hangover Part II turned out, and we know how it was Bridesmaids that had everyone roaring with laughter. With a script by SNL MVP Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, which got them an Oscar nod, this was just an expert mix of hilarious raunchy comedy, one that was actually done the right way, with a lot of heart at the same time, a film that at its heart is all about friendship. I loved this film from beginning to end, and even though the cast had a lot to do with it, it would have been nowhere as great without this screenplay.

1. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS written by Woody Allen

My favorite screenplay of the year belongs to my 14th favorite film of the year. It’s the one that saw the return of Woody Allen, writing a film reminiscent of his classic films from decades ago, and one that will, if there’s any justice in this world, earn him his fourth Oscar (his third for writing). Woody Allen is the kind of writer-director that you don’t want to see experimenting and veering off in different directions, because he’s already the best at what he does, and he’s been the best at what he does for four decades now, and Midnight in Paris shows that he’s not slowing down, even though his detractors of late had been suggesting as much. Out of my Top 20 Screenplays, 13 are originals and 7 are adapted. But the real interesting thing, I thought, was that 12 out of the 20 were either written or co-written by the film’s director, showing how great the writer-director vision is nowadays. And my Top 20 included all 10 of the Oscar nominees.

Best of 2011: 20 Films

2 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. We kick things off with the big one, my Top 20 Films of 2011:

20. SENNA

The best documentary of 2011 by a clear mile, Asif Kapadia’s film about the greatest sportsman to ever compete in the Formula 1 world doubled as both a really compelling and gripping portrayal of a very special man as well as just a hugely entertaining film. Making a documentary about a legendary racing driver become a terrific drama, embedding it with the same pacing you’d see in a thriller. The 106 minutes of film seen here were taken from over 5’000 hours of footage in an editing process that took over a year and a half to complete, that just goes to show the labor that went behind this film. You don’t need to know about the man to love this film, but if you see it there’s no way you’ll finish it without loving him.

19. 50/50

Will Reiser was diagnosed with cancer as a young man and his best friend, actor Seth Rogen, encouraged him to write a screenplay about his experience. Rogen plays the same role he did in real life in Jonathan Levine’s film, as the best friend to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Adam, two terrific performances which we may hear about in the rest of Best of 2011 entries. The screenplay by Reiser is also one of the year’s finest, as it manages to achieve a pitch-perfect balance between the touching and the hilarious, never once being confined by being a film about cancer and always feeling as a labor of love from great people. 50/50 is one of the smartest, funniest and most touching films of year, and there’s not a single bit about it that’s off, which is commendable considering the tough subject matter.

18. THE IDES OF MARCH

If this were a Top 20 Best Posters of 2011 this film would rank atop that list, the poster of Ryan Gosling holding a Time magazine cover with half of George Clooney’s face covering half of his own perfectly encapsulating what The Ides of March is about, about the man behind the man, the press secretary behind the political candidate. Clooney directed and co-wrote the film (and got an Oscar nod for his work on the screenplay) and handles an all-star cast that, alongside Gosling and himself, includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright. And just how much fun the whole ensemble is seen to be having with such meaty material for them to sink their teeth into is worth watching the movie for, a smart film about smart men in really complex situations that never once disappoints.

17. THE MUPPETS

Yes, The Muppets are back thanks to Jason Segel, who reboots the franchise in the absolute greatest of ways, showing that he himself is a huge fan of the little furry guys and giving us a film that’s true to their charm and innocence. The parody trailers made to promote this film were great, the soundtrack was amazing (with the Oscar-nominated song ‘Man or Muppet’), the cast was amazing, with the Muppets we know and a love being joined by a new one, Walter, as well Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones and a slew of other celebrities who made cameos here. Certainly one of the better films of the year, it shows The Muppets should be here to stay, and seeing a film made by people who’s hearts are in the right place is just awesome to watch.

16. MELANCHOLIA

Leave it to Lars von Trier to get himself a lifetime ban from the Cannes Film Festival. Still, to me what he did at Cannes in 2011 is totally secondary to the film he showed there, which was the incredible Melancholia, one of the most unforgettable films of the year that sees the controversial director conjuring up some truly stunning images as he spins a two-part tale about the end of the world. Front and center of that story, as Justine, is Kirsten Dunst in a career-best performance, and a great cast that’s rounded up by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and many other great actors. It’s a bizarre film, a long one, and it’ll certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me this one’s unmissable, incredibly powerful and beautiful all at the same time.

15. A SEPARATION

Go ahead and give the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar to A Separation already, Asghar Farhadi’s impeccably directed, written and acted film about a very particular Iranian reality that transcends tremendously well into a much more universal plane. Not to mention that, to me, A Separation is great because it came with no expectations at all, there was not a name I was familiar with attached to it, so it reminded me of the power films can have just by themselves. Few films this year were as riveting as this one was, a domestic drama that isn’t afraid to ask some very tough questions and to make some really complex observations about human nature.

14. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

Like everyone said upon watching this film: Woody is back. To me Woody has been back for a while now because I loved Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but it’s Midnight in Paris that finally feels like the classic Woody we all know and love being back in the game, giving us his most incredible screenplay in quite some time, crafting a film that’s seriously enchanting, from that opening sequence of Paris that works as a love letter to the city of light as great as the one he gave with the opening of Manhattan, and a film that’s deeply drenched in the best kind of nostalgia for the best era, with some great performances by Owen Wilson, Corey Stoll and Marion Cotillard.

13. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2

The final chapter to film’s most profitable and astounding franchise, and boy what a fitting conclusion this was. Few series of films have delivered eight films, and none of them has delivered such consistently great ones. To cap it all of, a labor of over a decade, with such an epic conclusion, probably the best film out of the eight, is just sensational, and it deserves a perfect grade. The action is amazing, the stakes are met perfectly by director David Yates and a huge cast who deliver tremendous performances across the board, especially the younger actors who turn it up a notch this time around, and show they are the real deal, and that, as the film franchise that saw them grow up comes to an end, their careers are just starting.

12. YOUNG ADULT

I’m a huge Jason Reitman fan, all four of his films are amazing, and Juno, Up in the Air and now this one have all gotten perfect grades for me. To see him reuniting with Diablo Cody meant we were in for something special in my opinion, and something special is exactly what we got, as the character study of Mavis Gary is incredibly piercing, and how Charlize Theron chooses to portray such an unlikable character is phenomenal, never once justifying her behavior, but always being incredibly sincere in her performance. Patton Oswalt, in a key supporting role, is also sheer genius, in an ideal world he would now be called an Oscar nominee.

11. LIKE CRAZY

One of the most heartbreaking films of the year is a story about, fittingly enough, love. But it’s unlike anything you’ve seen on screen before, every single second of Like Crazy is unique, and it feels just so intensely real. All of it achieved by the fact that director and co-writer Drake Doremus just gave his lead actors outlines of the scenes and allowed them to play them the way they wanted to and improvise their dialogue, him as a director always knowing when to stand back and say so much with just a silent frame. The result meant having Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones delivering two of the year’s best performances, really getting into their roles and developing a sincere chemistry with each other that was just so great to watch, giving such raw and painfully honest performances.

10. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

The feature-length debut from writer-director Sean Durkin is a tremendously powerful film that stays with you for a long time afterwards, just a truly haunting kind of psychological drama. And, as stellar as the script and direction provided by Mr. Durkin are here, to me this was all about another debut, the one by Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, who in the lead role in this film gives one of the most mesmerizing performances of the whole year. She plays the woman that’s known for all three names in this film, her real name is Martha, Marcy May is the name given to her by the leader of a cult she gets into, and Marlene is the name women in that cult use to answer the phone. Confusing, maybe, but this is just exceptional filmmaking through and through.

9. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Since this is my number 9 of the year, this could be seen as how my Best Picture line-up would look like if I ran this year’s Oscar’s (since the Academy went with nine films for the top award). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is probably the year’s smartest film, one that has a lot of moving pieces that director Tomas Alfredsson knows how to manage and put together with utmost care, creating a tense puzzle full of intrigue and paranoia. What’s great about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is that for it to really work you have to pay really close attention to everything going on, since it’s such an intricately plotted espionage thriller that every little thing counts for something. That, and it has Gary Oldman delivering a master class in acting.

8. THE ARTIST

This is the far-and-out front-runner to win the big Oscar, and with good reason, it’s a French film, that’s in black-and-white, and that’s silent; the fact that such a film actually exists in today’s world is reason enough to celebrate, the fact that it’s also as good as The Artist is, just so clever, and well-made, and joyous and full of tremendous performances is just icing on the cake. True, I wouldn’t give it the Best Picture Oscar, but it’s still a truly worthy winner, with director Michel Hazanavicius clearly tremendously well-versed in the art of cinema, recreating the charm of an era long gone and paying the highest of homages to the art form he loves so much.

7. MONEYBALL

In 2010 Aaron Sorkin managed to write a film about a social network website and make it be a masterpiece (the fact that it was directed by David Fincher and acted by such a talented ensemble helped, too). A year later he was given a new tough book to adapt, one about baseball statistics. The result? Moneyball, one of the year’s finest films that has Brad Pitt delivering a truly outstanding performance, managing to give both a really nuanced kind of portrayal of Billy Beane while still embracing his movie-star good looks and charm to add to the role. Not to mention that this is the film that has made the words “Oscar nominee” follow the name of Jonah Hill. No matter how you feel about that, it’s still a pretty big accomplishment.

6. THE TREE OF LIFE

After a six-year absence, the master director Terrence Malick is back, crafting yet another stunning masterpiece. Visually, it’s so obviously beautiful, some of images he crafts here are just a treat to lose yourself into, but once you actually connect to the story you realize that the true payback is the emotional one, anchored by Brad Pitt’s other stunning performance of the year, as well as the best one the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain gave in a year full of incredible ones from her. Few films have ever been ambitious enough to tackle topics such as the creation of life as seen through a twentieth century family in 1950’s Texas, complete with images of dinosaurs and long, gorgeous shots of just various states of nature. It won’t be a masterpiece for everyone, but it certainly was for me.

5. THE DESCENDANTS

If there was any doubt after Sideways that Alexander Payne was one of the most important living American directors, I sure as help hope those doubters have had their minds rectified after seeing The Descendants. His first proper film since 2004, this is just a tremendous example of how great a director Payne is, guiding a with such a light touch and a great sense of pacing, so beautiful and moving and funny all at the same time. And so beautifully acted, too, including a career-best effort from George Clooney, with an ensemble that makes every single character, even those that are on for just one scene, leave a lasting impression, and a terrific screenplay that is true to these characters and really gets us to care about them.

4. DRIVE

Drive is the kind of film that actually gets you say “holy fuck” out loud a few times during its running time. It’s incredibly ambitious, masterfully directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, with an iconic lead performance by Ryan Gosling, a slew of impeccable supporting performances, especially by Albert Brooks and Carey Mulligan, and a sensational score by Cliff Martinez. Yes, it was truly polarizing for audiences, mainly because it was too bloody, a woman even tried to sue the studio after saying the trailers led her to believe this was like a Fast and Furious movie. Well, in case you’re still unsure, let me tell you, it’s nothing like those films, it’s insanely better.

3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Why remake a Swedish film that came out only a year ago and that was already pretty damn great on its own merit? Because you’re David Fincher and you’re a master of your craft and, in Rooney Mara, you have found a perfect actress able to give a perfect performance in one of the most thriller and memorable roles of the year. Every single thing about this film is mesmerizing, no matter how many times you’ve read the books and how well you know the story, this is just fantastic filmmaking that will grab you by the throat. And not only is it visually stunning, but the score, done by The Social Network‘s team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is pure genius yet again. Oh, and what they say is true, you’ll never listen to that Enya song the same way ever again.

2. SHAME

The performance of the year is the one Michael Fassbender gives in Shame. And the film itself is pretty damn close to being the year’s finest. Steve McQueen’s masterpiece is about Brandon, a man who is driven to have sex, is addicted to it because he needs them to supplant the need for human interaction. The full-frontal performance given by Fassbender, as well as the equally mesmerizing one given by Carey Mulligan as his sister, make this film incredible. Yet it’s a tough one to watch, I’ve seen it once and I believe that is enough for Shame, enough times to see Michael Fassbender so vividly portray this inner hell Brandon is going through. One of the best acted films of the year, a chilling look at addiction.

1. HUGO

Martin Scorsese makes a PG-rated film, oriented mostly at kids, and it’s the best film of the year. That’s how great the legendary director is, he goes as far out of his comfort zone as you could imagine and he produces one of the finest films he’s ever made. And that’s because he found a way to make this a tremendously personal film for him, a film of his that his young daughter could finally watch, a film that spoke in huge volumes about his love for cinema. People are all about how The Artist is a love letter to cinema, and it’s true, it is, but Hugo is the best love letter of the year. Just a hugely entertaining, beautiful film, made with such a great amount of passion by the greatest who has ever lived.

Oscar Nominations

24 Jan

Early this morning, the nominees for the 84th Academy Awards were announced and, as it’s usually the case with these things, there were some good things, some bad things, and some truly horrible ones too. Below I’ll post the entire slew of nominees announced this morning, a brief commentary on how that category panned out this morning and how I personally did with my nomination predictions I posted yesterday.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Artist (Thomas Langmann)
  • The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin)
  • The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan)
  • Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese)
  • Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum)
  • Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt)
  • The Tree of Life (Nominees to be determined)
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)

Most people were predicting six or seven nominees in this category. I predicted eight, though one of my eight, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was left out, which is one of the snubs that pained me the most this morning. In its place was The Tree of Life, showing how many people love Terrence Malick’s masterpiece. And grabbing that last spot is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which had been pretty much shut out this awards season but got some Oscar love, getting a ninth slot that people were predicting, if it happened, would go to Bridesmaids. I went 7 of 9 here.

BEST DIRECTOR

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

Much like in Best Picture, here again is The Tree of Life presumably taking the slot that should have gone to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s David Fincher. 4 out of 5 predicted correctly here for me.

BEST ACTOR

  • Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  • George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Here was the thing I hated the most about the Oscar nominations. The Academy failed to nominate the best male performance of the year by leaving out Michael Fassbender for Shame, proving that they are prudes that don’t mind female nudity but cringe at the sight of male nakedness. This was the one snub that got me mad this morning. It’s cool to see Oldman get his due, and a name like Bichir’s included, but all I think is how mad I am about Fassbender’s snub. 4 out of 5 here.

BEST ACTRESS

  • 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)

In my predictions yesterday, I said that either Glenn Close or Tilda Swinton, the presumed fourth and fifth slots of this rarce would fall off thanks to an upset at the hands of Rooney Mara. I was half-right since that indeed happened but the one that fell off was Swinton and not Close, like I had predicted. Still, super happy to see Mara here. 4 out of 5 in this one, too.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

One of the biggest upsets of the morning happened here, as Albert Brooks for Drive, the presumed second-place by many, was snubbed in favor of Max von Sydow, riding the wave of support that also got Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close into the Best Pic category. Still, this category at least got the best Twitter interventions from Patton Oswalt, another snubbee. Yet another 4 for 5 for me here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  • Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)

4 out 5 correctly predicted here, as Janet McTeer gets in instead of The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley. Still, nothing too unexpected here.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
  • Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  • A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)

I went 3 for 5 here. Artist, Midnight and Bridesmaids were locks. And the final two slots I thought were down to about six films, Margin Call and A Separation included, I just predicted the wrong ones. Still, pretty happy about J.C. Chandor’s name being called out here, he’s an incredibly promising talent.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  • Hugo (John Logan)
  • The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
  • Moneyball (Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan)

3 for 5 in this category. In my predictions I said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Ides of March could take the fifth slot which I had predicted for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was again snubbed, the fact that both got in, at the expense of The Help, doesn’t spell great things for the chances of Tate Taylor’s film at the Best Pic trophy.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)

4 for 5 here. Sad about the lack of Pina here, but at least it got into the Docu race (about which I’m really mad about for another reason).

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Pina (Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel)
  • Undefeated (TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas)

Just 2 out of 5 here. The fact that Project Nim wasn’t included in the shortlist is absolutely atrocious to me, one of the most horrible things the Academy announced this morning. At least Pina got in.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • A Cat in Paris (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)
  • Chico & Rita (Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
  • Puss in Boots (Chris Miller)
  • Rango (Gore Verbinski)

3 out of 5 here. Really shocked about not seeing The Adventures of Tintin here. Ditto for Cars 2, which I really don’t mind not being here, but thought it would sneak in just for being a Pixar film (this is the first time a Pixar film isn’t up for the award and isn’t nominated for any kind of Oscar). Hoping this means this award is Rango‘s already.

BEST EDITING

  • The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius)
  • The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
  • Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen)

I was awfully close to getting my first 5-for-5 category here. But in my predictions I went with my fanboy heart and predicted Drive instead of Moneyball. Still, good to see Thelma Schoonmaker here as well as last year’s winning team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenwerth)
  • Hugo (Robert Richardson)
  • The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)

Finally I predicted all five of the nominees here correctly. Probably a battle all the way between Schiffman and Lubezki.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • The Artist (Laurence Bennet, production designer; Robert Gould, set decorator)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig, production designer; Stephanie McMillan, set decorator)
  • Hugo (Dante Ferretti, production designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, set decorator)
  • Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel, production designer; Hélène Dubreuil, set decorator)
  • War Horse (Rick Carter, production designer; Lee Sandales, set decorator)

3 for 5 here. I thought Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was an absolute lock in this category, and I also predicted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but was quite unsure about that one. War Horse I could see here, but Midnight in Paris was more of a surprise to me, though a very welcome one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

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

Double-dip by John Williams here. Still, all I can think about here is how infuriating the lack of Reznor and Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson)
  • Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning)
  • Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier)

3 for 5 here. Kind of surprised to see Real Steel pop in instead of The Tree of Life, especially considering how much love the Malick film had managed to score in more important categories.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson)
  • Hugo (Tom Fleischman and John Midgley)
  • Moneyball (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin)
  • War Horse (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson)

I never know what I’m doing predicting these categories, so a 2-for-5 showing isn’t that shocking. Good to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo here though.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Drive (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Ren Klyce)
  • Hugo (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl)
  • War Horse (Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom)

4 for 5 here, I don’t know why I was so sure Super 8 was the front-runner here. Just insanely happy about Drive.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
  • The Artist (Mark Bridges)
  • Hugo (Sandy Powell)
  • Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor)
  • W.E. (Arianne Phillips)

4 for 5 again here, strange not seeing The Help here, I guess it means its support isn’t as strong as we once thought.

BEST MAKEUP

  • Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)

2 for 3 here, I was super sure Albert Nobbs wasn’t going to get in here, but after the love thrown at Close and McTeer I guess this was expected.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets; Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie)
  • “Real in Rio” (Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garrett)

Don’t know why there were only 2 and not 5 nominees here, so I’m not really counting it for my predictions.

And that’s it for the Oscar nominations. I went 72 for 102 in the predictions I made, which I guess isn’t all that bad, as the date comes closer I’ll make my actual predictions for who I think will win, but for now let us just think about these nominations. Here are my picks for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

The Good:

  • Hugo leading all nominees with 11 (the film with the most nominations has won Best Picture 15 of the last 20 years).
  • Woody in for Best Director.
  • Gary Oldman finally getting his nomination.
  • Rooney Mara in for Best Actress.
  • J.C. Chandor getting a nod.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes getting a nod somewhere.

The Bad:

  • No extra Dragon Tattoo. I mean, Mara getting in there and a slew of technical nods is awesome indeed, but no Fincher for Director or the film not getting into the big race was hurtful. But those categories were crowded. The one that really stung was the omission of its score. I’m putting this under Bad and not Ugly because at least Rooney got her due.
  • Tilda Swinton out of Best Actress. True, it was to give a spot to Mara (who gave a better performance), but Swinton’s performance was better than Glenn Close’s who did get in and should have been the one scrapped in order to make room for the youngster of the bunch.
  • Pina not included in the Best Foreign Language race. Bad and not Ugly because at least it’s in the Best Docu category.
  • No The Adventures of Tintin in the Best Animated Feature race.

The Ugly:

  • No Fassbender!!!
  • No Project Nim.
  • No Drive (except for a sole technical nod).
  • No more (Muppets) Original Song nominations.