I'm officially kicking off this official segment to discuss any and all things Oscar and awards related, as last year was very loose with its designation. I'm still not into making predictions until September is well underway. In fact, I don't feel comfortable making guesses on films I haven't had the chance to see yet. The only mildly certain bet I can place is that Alexandre Desplat will be nominated in Best Original Score again, and he will, in all likelihood, not win. As far as what I've already seen, I wouldn't say his work on "A Better Life" has much traction, but he may find an unexpected push in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2".
In spite of my downtrodden pan of the film nearly a month ago, his score had me padding my eyes quite a few times. Unfortunately, it was whilst I was at home listening to it, wishing the film had only lived up to it. Talking of the massive blockbuster of the summer, Warner Bros. is clearly intent on a Best Picture push for their biggest cash-cow of the year. While I doubt it will get the 5% of the votes needed to secure a nomination, and sincerely hope that's the case, the film has insurmountable box office power and a frankly unbelievable critical backing to boot. It could get enough of a passionate vote to make it in.
However, I expect it to find more success in the technical categories, which I'd be so happy about if they weren't so poor this time out. Desplat's score is the best of the series, and that's the biggest recommendation I can push. However, I had nothing but contempt for the stale and obvious approach to the cinematography, and only a little less for the visual effects. They were competent most of the time, but the broomstick scenes in the Room of Requirement are the worst visual effects I've seen in the entire series. Art Direction is almost guaranteed, and it's been the film's strongest player in past years. No acting, directing, or writing accolades to be nominated here.
I'd be much more willing to rally behind "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", and I'm willing to live with the repercussions of that statement. I'm obviously not talking anything big, because I'm not illogical to the point of fanboy stupidity. However, the Academy would be insane not to appreciate the visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing of the film, all of which are spectacular. They make for a wonderfully blunt sensory experience.
While I'm still on the topic of visual effects, there are two films that are certainly deserving of recognition. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is still fresh on everyone's minds, and people are still flipping over Andy Serkis' "Oscar worthy" performance. Much has been said of performance capture, and I strongly believe that it is 100% Serkis' performance. You do get to see the specificity of his acting, and you can see that in the behind the scenes footage. However, the performance is hardly worthy of Oscar. Very straightforward and 2-dimensional even. Expect it to garner a visual effects nomination, but no more outside that.
As for the other visual effects lock, and perhaps the most solid Best Picture bet thus far this year, "The Tree of Life" has a bevy of strong supporters. People are deeply passionate about this film, but only time and the revelations of the fall season will tell if that can get the 5% vote for the top game. My personal thoughts are far from a pan. In fact I liked the film a great deal for some of thoughts and ideas it raises, and it even managed to paint a disturbingly potent portrayal of childhood and the conflicts of a household. My problem is that it hits a little too close to home for me, personally speaking.
In fact, one of the truly spectacular things about the film is that it changes so drastically from interpretation to interpretation. I'm okay with not flipping my lid over it because of the sobering fact. That's something that it has going for itself against something more concrete in story such as "Midnight in Paris". That's actually another film that could prove very successful in the year end run of awards. Woody Allen's latest has proved to be quite the box office success, and I'm not happy that this is his highest grossing film. He has plenty of better and stronger films, though this one is good. It's fantastic news because it shows that Allen is as strong a force today as he was back then.
Sony Pictures Classics has a good strategy in place as far as keeping the film in theaters for as long as they can. They've been going strong for most of the summer. Their first expansion served mostly to cater to those eager to see the film after it premiered at Cannes to such critical support. You can expect further success due to simple word of mouth. Still not sure if it'll be enough to garner 5% vote. I guess that's the big question. What kind of films will be able to get that level of passion from voters? What will that mean for people who vote honestly on films that are less Academy friendly?
As far as the wider release summer films go, I do rally somewhat behind "The Help", but it is very much another case of "The Blind Side". Yes, the film has plenty of excellent performances. I think I'm in love with the characters and the actors more than the actual film. I'd say that's where they should point their campaign, but most are only interested in the big race. I'd be impressed to see them aggressively campaign for most of their actors to get nominations, but that's unlikely to happen. Anyway, that's what's doing from the summer film slate. We'll be getting into some stronger fare with the festivals just a week or so away.