The winners of the 84th Academy Awards will be announced live in Los Angeles on Sunday 26th February (Monday afternoon our time). It doesn’t matter what or who you read, the general consensus is this year Hollywood has gone all gooey for the silent black and white French film The Artist. Only Harvey Weinstein could pull off a Best Picture win for a foreign silent film - if he does, it will be the first time a silent film has won an Oscar since 1929.
Generally, Oscar winners reflect the current mood in Hollywood, and if the generous number of nominations for The Artist and Hugo are anything to go by then Hollywood is feeling nostalgic. Faced with piracy issues, an economic downturn and huge technological changes it’s no surprise Hollywood is seeking some respite, and that’s what is delivered by The Artist and its happy ending.
The Artist has already secured around 75 awards; including Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Jean Dujardin and a Directors Guild Award for Michel Hazanavicius. Collectively, this suggests heavy favouritism and short odds. By the way, if you were wondering how to pronounce Michel Hazanavicius’ name correctly, check it out here - http://inogolo.com/pronunciation/d2187/Michel_Hazanavicius
There are of course the spoilers waiting in the wings; The Descendants and The Help in the best picture category, and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and Midnight in Paris in the screenwriting categories. While George Clooney will give Jean Dujardin a run for his money, Meryl Streep is now facing strong competition from The Help’s Viola Davis.
I’m still lamenting the lack of nominations for We Need to Talk About Kevin and Tilda Swinton, Shame and Michael Fassbender, and The Adventures of Tintin; and questioning how War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close managed to be included in the best picture category when Melancholia was ignored.
Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer can confidently write their acceptance speeches for their Best Supporting roles. Plummer told USA Today, “It’s lovely to be nominated for awards…And it’s lovely to win them. But you can’t be preoccupied with them, and you can never predict anything.” That’s the gracious wisdom of an 82-year-old right there.
So what’s the benefit of winning an Oscar? Why do distribution companies spend millions seducing members of the Academy into voting for their films? Don’t be swayed by all the talk about celebrating the art, and the artistry and craft of filmmaking. The real rewards of being nominated and winning an Oscar are fame, fortune and profits.
You may have noticed a handful of films from the Best Picture category been released in cinemas over the last week, this isn’t an accident. Each year in New Zealand there’s an increase in highbrow mainstream films being released purely to capitalizing on the award season. Even domestically in the US an Oscar can give films a second lease of life at the cinemas. American Beauty was critically acclaimed and had taken US$70 million at the box office before it won five Oscars at the Academy Awards in 1999 - it then went on to pocket US$130 million in the States alone.
It’s not just the money. Once nominated, it’s like an actor/actress name has been legally changed to always include Academy Award nominee/winner….before their name is mentioned in the media. It’s a prestigious club, and it can establish or revive a career. Although it doesn’t always mean actors and actresses have their pick of the best roles in town - there is of course the Oscar curse to navigate.
For some, such as Halle Berry, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Mira Sorvino, Roberto Benigni, Reese Witherspoon, Geena Davis, F. Murray Abraham, and Adrien Brody it’s been a struggle kicking on after Oscar glory. Regardless of what happens this year I’m sure that thought will be tucked away in the back of the minds of any first time Oscar winners.
Here are my predictions, and fingers crossed for some unpredictable upsets:
Best Picture: The Artist
Underdog: The Help or The Descendants
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Underdog: Martin Scorsese for Hugo
Best Actor: it’s a dead heat between George Clooney and Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Meryl Streep
Underdog: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Underdog: Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (he played a mute - would have been good in The Artist)
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Underdog - If she loses this she should retire.
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen Midnight in Paris
Underdog: The Artist
Best Adapted screenplay: The Descendants
Underdog: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation