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.

It’s Oscar Time….

We are only a couple of hours away from the 2012 Oscars. It’s the Super Bowl of movies minus the mystery and minus without the clear deserved winner when the show is over. But it’s still fun and exciting, filled with stars and linking a new group of Oscar-winning movies with a great history. So with just minutes to go, once again here is what I expect to happen tonight…

Tonight will be a big night for “The Artist”. I fully expect it to take home the Best Picture Oscar with its closest competition being Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants”. While personally I’ll be rooting for “The Tree of Life”, it has no chance. This is a two movie race. I also expect Michel Hazanavicius to win Best Director, an award than often times signals what film will be winning Best Picture.

The Oscar media is desperately trying to hype a George Clooney (The Descendants) vs Brad Pitt (Moneyball) Best Actor race but Pitt really has no shot. This is a race between Clooney and Jean Dujardin (The Artist). While Clooney is the golden boy of Hollywood is was strong in “The Descendants”, I expect Dujardin to win the Best Actor Oscar and rightly so.

Yes, Meryl Streep has been nominated 257,000 times and only won twice. Yes, many believe she will win tonight for her work in the underwhelming “The Iron Lady”. I’m not one of those believers. I think Streep will settle for another nomination as Viola Davis gets the win for her work in “The Help”. While it’s also a flawed movie, Davis’ performance outweighs Streep’s and it’s hard to argue with her winning.

The Supporting awards are pretty much a sure thing. Octavia Spencer will easily beat her “The Help” co-star Jessica Chastain (who should have been nominated for her much stronger performances in “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life”). Christopher Plummer seems to be the Academy’s choice for Best Supporting Actor already even though I would much rather see Nick Nolte get it for “Warrior”.

I’m hoping “Midnight in Paris” and “Hugo” get some love tonight as well but these are the big winners. What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree? Feel free to share below. One things for sure, it should be a fun night.

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 LEAD ACTRESS PERFORMANCES OF 2011

TOP 5 BEST LEAD ACTRESS PERFORMANCES OF 2011

I hate to repeat myself but this was a good year for women in Hollywood. It was tough narrowing down my favorite lead actress performances to just 5. But after painfully omitting some genuinely great performances, I’ve come up with a list that I think shows the talent and range found from women leads in 2011. Here’s my top 5 lead actress performances of the year:

#5 – Michelle Williams (Meek’s Cutoff)

While the movie’s out-of-the-blue ambiguous ending didn’t work for me, Michelle Williams’ performance certainly did. Williams’ acting range certainly can’t be questioned and she is fantastic in this rugged film about the Oregon Trail. She always stays controlled in a film that counts on deliberateness. While she’s received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, I was drawn more to this unique and challenging performance.

#4 – Viola Davis (The Help)

The performances in “The Help” more than make up for the occasional stumbling blocks found in the writing and Viola Davis is particularly good. She gives a stirring performance that often times rises above the material and there are several scenes where she takes the movie and carries it. That’s a mark of a great actress and Davis certainly has the chops. She always feels genuine and she’s able to relay the raw emotion that many of her scenes call for. She has certainly earned the Oscar buzz she has received.

#3 – Saoirse Ronan (Hanna)

I really like Saoirse Ronan and her work in “Hanna” is just another reason why. It’s a tricky role in that it requires a child-like charm and an action movie-styled physicality. She keeps a steady balance to her character throughout the picture and had me sold hook, line, and sinker. Ronan shined in “The Lovely Bones” and I loved her in “The Way Back”, but this is her best performance yet and just a taste of what lies ahead for this immensely talented young actress.

#2 – Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground)

Vera Farmiga’s “Higher Ground” is a movie many people may have not seen, but it features one of the best performances of Farmiga’s career. She also directs the film but it’s her lead performance that carries the picture. She treats her material with care and compassion and I never found her anything but compelling. She was completely overlooked by Oscar which comes as no surprise. But there is no way I can’t include her performance as one of 2011’s best.

#1 – Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy)

From the start of “Certified Copy” I found myself absorbed in Juliette Binoche’s Elle. Who is she? I spent most of the movie mesmerized by her conversations and trying to figure out if she was real or simply a copy. I know that sounds vague but once you see the film you’ll know what I mean. Binoche is marvelous and her work stood above the other great female lead performances I saw last year. If you haven’t seen “Certified Copy”, see it. When you do you’ll be treated to a brilliant actress who knows her craft and shows it with her performance.

Agree or disagree? Please share you thoughts. Comment on who your Top 5 were.

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.