Statuesque: 2012 Oscar Predictions – Writing and Directing

This Oscar prediction post will be a mash-up of sorts. I was going to take the time to guess who will win in the short film categories, but really, how many of us are going to see those films anyway? If we’re being completely honest, I’d just be pulling my guesses out of thin air since I haven’t seen them either. Instead, we’ll talk about the writing and directing categories.

Writing is split into two sections, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. This year, the Adapted Screenplay category has one film based on a play, one based on non-fiction work, one from a children’s book, and two from novels. There’s a wide variety of films to pick from here, so let’s dive right in.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • ‘The Descendants’ – Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • ‘Hugo’ – Screenplay by John Logan
  • ‘The Ides of March’ – Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
  • ‘Moneyball’ – Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
  • ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ – Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Finally, here’s a category where ‘Hugo’ and ‘The Artist’ don’t have to duke it out. This brings up some interesting outcomes, I think.

‘The Ides of March’ was a decent political thriller, but never offered much in the way of dramatic oomph. It simply stated what we already know to be an undeniable truth: “Everyone in politics is a dirty, dirty bastard.” There aren’t enough real-world parallels between ‘Ides’ and the current political climate to make the voters think twice about it. Maybe if it had more controversy surrounding it, there could be a push, but as of now, there’s no way it’ll take home this prize.

‘Moneyball’ was universally loved by just about everyone, except those who are furious that the movie doesn’t actually tell anything remotely close to the real story talked about in Michael Lewis’ book. I think we can rule out ‘Moneyball’ simply because it’s a dark horse contender in the Best Picture category, so likewise it is here too.

If I had an Academy vote, I’d put it in for ‘Tinker’. I thought that the movie perfectly captured the essence and Cold War paranoia of a John le Carré novel. However, I’m not sure that the voters will see it the same way, especially with ‘Hugo’ sitting there.

I am worried, just a tad, that ‘The Descendants’ will walk away with this award. It won Best Picture at the Globes and could have some steam left. I’ve made my opinions on ‘The Descendants’ known. It’s a decent family drama, but not a great movie. Why this movie got so much hype and love I’ll never know. I wonder what would’ve happened if George Clooney had been replaced by any other actor. Would the film still get so much adoration?

Finally, there’s ‘Hugo’, which seems to be the front-runner for most of the categories it’s been nominated in. John Logan’s screenplay fleshes out a rather simple children’s book into a sweeping epic that never feels overly embellished, even when judged from its simple beginnings. I’ll be very surprised if ‘Hugo’ doesn’t take home the Adapted Screenplay Award.

Best Original Screenplay
  • ‘The Artist’ – Written by Michel Hazanavicius
  • ‘Bridesmaids’ – Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • ‘Margin Call’ – Written by J.C. Chandor
  • ‘Midnight in Paris’ – Written by Woody Allen
  • ‘A Separation’ – Written by Asghar Farhadi

This is a well-deserving list. I can’t think of any movie that I’d trade for something else that didn’t happen to be nominated. The inclusion of ‘Bridesmaids’ seems iffy. It’s a funny movie, but nothing that made me think comedy was being redefined. Still, on the whole, the entire slate here seems poised to give ‘The Artist’ a run for its money.

There may be some voters who will go against the grain and vote for ‘Bridesmaids,’ but not many will. The day a gross-out comedy featuring a lengthy scene about explosive diarrhea wins Best Original Screenplay is the day that the Academy finally realizes that Billy Crystal isn’t as funny as they think he is.

‘Midnight in Paris’ is a fantastically written film, which plays as much with its leads as it does with the viewer. There is one downside to this otherwise fun, energetic movie, though. There’s absolutely nothing for Rachel McAdams to do. She’s written as a shrill harpy who does nothing but moan about her husband and her privileged life. I enjoyed that Woody didn’t feel like he had to explain the time travel; it simply happens and that’s that. It’s a smart screenplay but has its flaws.

I really dug J.C. Chandor’s ‘Margin Call’, but I think much of the movie simply flies over the heads of those without insider knowledge in the way that giant hedge funds work. Still, it has a chance of sneaking away with this prize since the subject is timely and controversial.

I hear that ‘A Separation’ is amazing, but I’m sad to say that I haven’t seen it yet. That might be a problem if we weren’t staring at ‘The Artist’ in this category, without ‘Hugo’ around to foil its impending win. Get ready for giddy French acceptance speeches. There will be a few on Sunday.

Best Director
  • ‘The Artist’ – Michel Hazanavicius
  • ‘The Descendants’ – Alexander Payne
  • ‘Hugo’ – Martin Scorsese
  • ‘Midnight in Paris’ – Woody Allen
  • ‘The Tree of Life’ – Terrence Malick

I can’t think of one aspect of ‘The Descendants’ that made me stop and think about the directorial choices by Alexander Payne. Other than the fact that he got a great performance out of Shailene Woodley, who happens to be really bad in ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’, there’s nothing else that stands out to me about this movie. I’m throwing this one out first.

Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a very fun movie. I loved just about every second of it (except, you know, the Rachel McAdams parts). Allen’s seamless direction is felt as the movie subtly switches from one time period to the next. However, he’s going up against some heavy-hitters and I don’t think the time traveling adventures of Gil will be enough to win this prize.

‘The Tree of Life’ is all about its directing. It’s a director’s movie through and through. This is a visionary film, one that couldn’t exist outside the mind of Terrence Malick. It’s a one-of-a-kind film. Someone else could’ve directed ‘Hugo’, and while they might not have had Scorsese’s eye and attention to detail, they would’ve still gotten the story right. Someone else could’ve taken on the silent movie era and created a lively, fun film for modern audiences, but it may not have had the heart that Hazanavicius’ film has. With that in mind, no one could’ve made ‘The Tree of Life’ except for Terrence Malick. No one. Just like no one could’ve made ‘Melancholia’ except for Lars von Trier. ‘The Tree of Life’ is like a directorial stream of consciousness put up on screen. The way that scenes between the family are set up provides for realistic, down-to-earth performances. It comes across like a dreamscape of a bygone era. Simply put, without Malick, ‘The Tree of Life’ doesn’t exist in any form. Should it win? I say yes. Will it? No.

I’ve looked over all these categories and really don’t see where any upsets could happen. It’d be a surprise if Malick took home this award, but truthfully it belongs to either Scorsese or Hazanavicius. Scorsese’s film is beautiful and masterfully directed, but I think ‘The Artist’ edges it out here. It has that extra something that many of the voters may be looking for. It’s unique and has become wildly popular by word of mouth. I don’t see it losing here.

After three more category predictions, here are my winners:

Best Adapted Screenplay: ‘Hugo’
Best Original Screenplay: ‘The Artist’
Best Director: ‘The Artist’

2 comments

  1. JM

    There are 5,765 voting members of the academy.

    94% caucasian, 77% male.

    The median age is 62.

    Only 14% of voters are under 50.

    Membership is for life, and half the voters haven’t worked in decades.

    And despite the pressures of liberal politics, I say give it to Woody.

  2. EM

    Hmm, I’ve already seen all the animated-short nominees, and I plan to see the live-short nominees either tomorrow or Saturday.

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