Oscar picks through a book lover’s lens
Oscar’s big night is Sunday, and six of the best seller nominees were books before they were movies. The Help, The Descendants, Moneyball, War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close all started as books, according to Better World Books. Hugo, also nominated for best picture, is based on Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-medal-winning book for young people, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
I can’t claim to have read all of these books, or even seen all of these movies, but I’ve seen most of them.
While I am a book lover first, I also love movies, so in the spirit of fun, here are my picks for Sunday night’s Academy Award winners.
For best supporting actor, the nominees are Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Christopher Plummer for Beginners, Nick Nolte for Warrior, Jonah Hill for Moneyball and Kenneth Branagh for My Week With Marilyn. While I would love to see Jonah Hill win this one – I would love to see a baseball movie win everything AND it was based on a book – I’m calling this one for Christopher Plummer for Beginners. He’s already won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild awards, and he’ll likely take home the Oscar as well.
For best supporting actress, the nominees are Octavia Spencer for The Help, Melissa McCarthy for her hilarious toilet/sink scene in Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs, Jessica Chastain for The Help and Berenice Bejo for The Artist. The Help was a fantastic movie that stayed very close to the book and I think this one’s going to Octavia Spencer for her part in the movie. She captured this character as written, so well, both funny and deadly serious. Berenice Bejo did a very nice job in The Artist, but I’m going with Spencer all the way. She also won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, and my call is that she will walk away happy on Oscar night as well.
For best actress, the nominees are Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn, Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs and Viola Davis for The Help. While I have to give kudos to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for being an incredible book that monopolized the bestseller lists for months, Streep’s performance as Maggie Thatcher was simply stunning – I can’t imagine that she will lose this one. She so perfectly embodied the former British prime minister, that she was virtually unrecognizable. However, Streep has only won the Oscar twice before: once for best actress in Sophie’s Choice (a fabulous book!) in 1983 and once for best supporting actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (also a book first!) in 1980. That’s an awfully long dry spell for someone who is nominated nearly every year. But maybe, since The Iron Lady is also based on a book, she will get lucky for a third time this year. But if everyone else has the mistaken impression that Streep has won too many times, Davis or Williams could take this one; Williams was truly lovely as Marilyn, but the movie, which was actually based on two books, didn’t actually have that much of a plot, while Davis, like everything else about The Help including the book, was pretty darn great.
For best actor, the nominees are Brad Pitt for Moneyball, Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (also a book, by John Le Carre), Jean Dujardin for The Artist, George Clooney for The Descendants and Demian Bichir for A Better Life. While I would love to see Pitt take this for Moneyball (see reasoning above), I think this is a battle between Dujardin and Clooney. It’s an interesting battle because Dujardin’s role is a non-speaking part while to me Clooney appears to just have played himself in The Descendents. Now, maybe that’s a sign of Clooney’s masterful acting, that it looked so natural, I don’t know, but compare his role to say, Streep’s transformation into Maggie Thatcher, or Williams’s turn as Marilyn Monroe, and I don’t think he really had to stretch that much. Dujardin, while he didn’t speak, did have to convey an entire story silently. Dujardin took the SAG award, and both took home Golden Globes. It’s going to be close here, but I think Dujardin will walk out the winner.
For best director, the nominees are Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, Martin Scorsese for Hugo, Alexander Payne for The Descendants and Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. This is a tough one. I really think Woody Allen deserves this one – Midnight in Paris was in my opinion the best of these movies. However, I don’t think the Academy is with me on this one. The Tree of Life was a movie I just didn’t get and I really don’t think Malick will win. Hugo was lovely, but it’s no Goodfellas or Raging Bull. Scorsese did win the Golden Globe, though, so he could walk away with the Oscar too, but I think this will be a battle between Payne and Hazanavicius. I’m calling Payne (who won previously for Sideways) as the winner, simply because he’s American, while Hazanavicius is French.
For best movie, the nominees are War Horse, The Artist, Moneyball, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, The Help, Hugo and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Six of the nine were books before they were movies, all mentioned above. While my favourites here are Moneyball and Midnight in Paris, I think the winner will either be The Descendants or The Artist, with a small chance for The Help to sneak through. The Descendants was such a visually pleasing movie, with a warm and fuzzy story involving America’s favourite son of the moment, George Clooney. The Artist, on the other hand, is French, and very nervy. Imagine the guts it took to make a silent movie in the 21st century; let alone pull it off. While I don’t think there’s a real standout this year, I’m calling for The Artist to take home the big prize.
Reprint: The Vancouver Sun by Tracy Sherlock 02/24/12