Oscar – The morning after…

Well it has come and gone. The 2012 Oscars seemed to get here in a hurry and be done just as quick. As usual for the more recent Oscars, there were few surprises. Most of the “Big 6” went as I predicted and the only real surprises were with the technical awards. But overall it was a fun night. Here’s a few thoughts…

Billy Crystal hosted the 2012 show after the Eddie Murphy debacle (or should I say the Brett Ratner debacle) and he did a solid job. Unlike last year’s odd and sometimes uncomfortable hosting from James Franco and Anne Hathaway, this was more grounded but still quite funny. Crystal used several tried-and-true antics such as the song detailing the Best Picture Nominees and the “What they’re thinking” segment. I found them and several of Crystal’s adaptive one-liners to be very funny. Several of the presenters provided some good laughs including Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Chris Rock (I was surprised, too), and of course Robert Downey, Jr. Oh, and c’mon Academy! Am I the only one who thinks that Downey, Jr. would be the funniest Oscars host of all time? Sign him up.

“Hugo” ended the night with five Oscars. It was awarded for its technical achievements and it’s hard for me to argue with that. “A Seperation” won for Best Foreign Language film which was followed by a rather unusual acceptance speech from director Asghar Farhadi. “The Descendants” won Best Adapted Screenplay and I was thrilled that “Midnight in Paris” won for Best Original Screenplay. Of course Woody Allen wasn’t there but did we ever expect him to be?

The supporting categories went exactly as expected. Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners) had already been christened the winners well before the ceremony began and that’s exactly how things played out. Spencer gave one of the most genuine and emotional acceptance speeches of the night and Plummer became the oldest Oscar winner ever. It was good seeing Nick Nolte recognized with a nomination even though I’m not sure he knew where he was last night.

Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her performance in “The Iron Lady”. That category had turned into a two person race and I really felt that Viola Davis had a good chance to win. But Streep was awarded for a performance that certainly outweighed the rather mundane and mixed reviewed movie. The Oscar media had tried their best to sell the whole Clooney (“The Descendants”) versus Pitt (“Moneyball”) Best Actor race. But as I expected (and hoped), Jean Dujardin won the Oscar for his wonderful performance in “The Artist”. Working with several more handicaps than the other nominees, Dujardin nailed his performance and deserved the award. His acceptance speech and subsequent dance showed his enthusiasm and I found myself applauding from my recliner.

The night only got better for “The Artist”. Michael Hazanavicius won the Best Director Oscar which is almost always a sign of which film will win Best Picture. Last night was no different. Hazanavicius’ gutsy project won Best Picture and I have no problem with it. While I was personally rooting for “The Tree of Life”, this was a case where the Academy got it right. “The Artist” was a nostalgic but touching film that felt plucked right out of the silent movie era. I loved seeing it win.

So while it was a fairly predictable night, it was a good night. The stars played dress-up and movie fans witnessed new films and new performances added to that Valhalla of motion picture history. I went 5 for 6 in the “Big 6” categories so that speaks to the shows lack of suspense. But there were some genuinely funny moments and some good movies received their due.

TOP 5 BEST LEAD ACTOR PERFORMANCES OF 2011

TOP 5 BEST LEAD ACTOR PERFORMANCES OF 2011

When I look back on 2011, it will be a year where the performances actually outshined the finished films. While several movies became favorites of mine, it was the wide range of high quality acting work that really impressed me. Since we have talked about the ladies, let’s get to my top 5 male leading performances for 2011. Again, it was hard to leave a couple of names off this list, but this is one solid group of actors.

#5 – Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris)

I’m as surprised at this as anyone else. I’m not the biggest Owen Wilson fan. I’ve often times found him over the top and just too goofy for my taste. But while we get hints of the Owen Wilson we’ve seen in past movies, in “Midnight in Paris” he seems more controlled and tempered while still being genuinely funny. I really liked Gil Pender and appreciated how Wilson brings him to life. Woody Allen’s influence can certainly be seen, but Wilson makes the character his own and sells him beautifully.

#4 – George Clooney (The Descendants)

I wasn’t as crazy about Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” as most people, but there’s no denying the brilliant work from George Clooney in the lead role. Clooney honestly makes everyone else who shares a scene with him better. He doesn’t dominate the scenes or call unmerited attention to what he’s doing. It’s a very real and organic performance and one that definitely deserves the attention it has received.

#3 – Mel Gibson (The Beaver)

I was a bit surprised to see Mel Gibson shunned this awards season. Hollywood and the Academy are extremely selective in terms of forgiveness regardless of how much hypocrisy their selectivity exposes. I’m not trying to be a Gibson sympathizer, but his performance in “The Beaver” is not only one of the best performances of the year, but some of the best work of his career. Obviously Gibson knows what it means to be a damaged man but to see it played out with such authenticity on screen was truly stirring. More people should give “The Beaver” a chance. If you do, Gibson’s performance can’t help but be appreciated.

#2 – Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

From the first moment you see Jean Dujardin on screen in “The Artist”, you know you’re seeing something special. His precision and detail in bringing a silent movie character to life goes well past nostalgia. He brought more life to his George Valentin character with the handicap of no voice work than nearly every other performance of 2011. He certainly pays homage to a bygone era of filmmaking. But he also conveys the humor and drama from his character in a way that blew my mind. A truly brilliant performance.

#1 – Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

Even with such great acting as I’ve already mentioned, no one effected me more than Michael Shannon in “Take Shelter”. He undoubtedly delivers one of the most painfully tragic performances I’ve seen in years. His depiction of mental illness is unique in that his character sees what’s coming. He has seen it in his mother and his biggest concern is on how it will effect his own family. It’s a crushing and emotional performance that was head-amd-shoulders above anything else I saw in 2011. It’s such a shame that he has gone overlooked.

Agree or disagree? Please leave a comment or share your top 5 of 2011.

TOP 5 BEST FEMALE SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES OF 2011

TOP 5 BEST FEMALE SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES OF 2011

We’ve talked about the men, now let’s switch over to the women. Here are my 5 favorite female supporting performances for 2011. It was hard to narrow it down to 5 but I don’t see how any of my choices could be frowned upon. It was a strong year for women and two of the ladies on the list could have qualified for two different performances. But for sake of variety, I’ll just stick to 5 different but wonderful actresses.

#5 – Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)

While I wasn’t as thrilled with the overall product that was “Melancholia”, the performances were superb especially from Gainsbourg. We see a metamorphosis of sorts with her character and the range of emotion and distress that Gainsbourg conveys is nothing short of brilliant. Kirsten Dunst has gotten most of the press for the film but for my money it’s Gainsbourg that steals the show.

#4 – Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Spencer is sweeping this category at every movie award ceremony and with good reason. Her performance in “The Help” is a wonderful mixture of heart and humor. While the material sometimes leads her close to caricature, she maintains a steady appeal throughout the picture. “The Help” isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but Spencer’s performance is one of the best things about it.

#3 – Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo)

One of the most charming performances of 2011 was from Chloe Grace Moretz in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Moretz’s performance is gentle and spirited and I was completely drawn to her character. Her lovely and adventurous Isabelle is one of the main ingredients in bringing the two stories of “Hugo” together and you can’t help but to love her. It’s easy to overlook her performance in the midst of such acting heavyweights, but for me Moretz helped make “Hugo” one of my favorite films of 2011.

#2 – Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris)

It was a nice year for Marion Cotillard. She starred in two of my favorite movies of 2011, “Contagion” and “Midnight in Paris”. While I liked them both, it’s her work in “Midnight in Paris” that I keep coming back to. She’s beautiful, elegant, fun, yet mysterious and she turns out to be one of the key characters in Woody Allen’s wonderfully crafted picture. She develops and sells a character that looks right at home in 1920’s Paris and her charm is magnetic. It’s just impossible not to love her.

#1 – Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter)

Jessica Chastain is getting plenty of love for the amazing 2011 she had. Unfortunately most people are overlooking her strongest, most memorable work. I loved her in “A Tree of Life” but her performance in “Take Shelter” is the best of the year. Everything in her performance is perfect from her tone to her subtlety. She’s so genuine and authentic and I never found a scene where she didn’t draw out everything from her character. She’s perfectly cast and an amazing compliment to Michael Shannon. You may agree that Chastain is a good actress, but you won’t know how good until you see her in “Take Shelter”.

Agree or disagree? Leave your comments and share your top 5.

TOP 5 BEST MALE SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES of 2011

Top 5 Best Male Supporting Performances of 2011

As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t see 2011 as the best year for movies but we did end up with several fantastic films and some truly memorable and wonderful lead and supporting performances. I’ve presented my personal Top 10 Films of 2011 and now it’s time to look at the performers. Here are my top 5 supporting male performances. I’m sure there are some you will agree with and others you won’t. Take time to comment and share your own personal top 5.

#5 – Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris)

One of the reasons “Midnight in Paris” works so well is because of the incredible supporting work from its marvelous cast. Hiddleston instantly catches your attention from his first moments on screen and although he has a small role, it’s nonetheless brilliant. His line delivery, mannerisms, and period charm nail the character he portrays and he helped make a pretty unbelievable concept believable.

#4 – Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class)

Fassbender has garnered a lot of attention for his performances in 2011 but one that seems to go unnoticed is his amazing work in “X-Men: First Class”. He owns and commands every scene he’s in and I couldn’t get enough of him. He truly sells the Magneto character by showing the hard and calloused side while maintaining a sad and emotional perspective as well. It’s a seasoned and polished performance that deserves to be recognized.

#3 – Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)

Remember when I said that a key reason “Midnight in Paris” works is because of it’s fantastic supporting cast? Here’s another example. Stoll’s Hemmingway is brash and crude but he’s also suave and at times hilarious. Stoll’s performance is a perfect match for the material and he steals several scenes. In a movie that requires a belief in the spectacular, it’s performances like Stoll’s that made be buy into it.

#2 – Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)

Some may consider Pitt’s performance as a lead role but I see him more as strong supporting backbone to an incredibly moving story. Pitt has been known for his more exaggerated performances but this is totally different. Here he plays a believable and relatable father let down by life and facing the pressure of raising his family. It’s a near perfect performance that’s measured and grounded. It was a good year for Pitt and his work in “Moneyball” is getting all the praise. But I found his work in “The Tree of Life” to be the best of his career.

#1 Nick Nolte (Warrior)

One the most pleasant surprises of the year was Nick Nolte’s performance in “Warrior”. Some of the most gripping scenes of 2011 featured Nolte’s portrayal of a broken father who is rebuilding his life but still facing the consequences of his failures. Nolte helps get to the core of what makes “Warrior” such a powerful picture. It’s much more than the MMA backdrop might suggest, and it’s Nolte who drives this moving drama.

Agree or disagree. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know.