Oscars 2012 84th Academy Awards

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So the annual Hollywood love-in takes place this Sunday to decide the best film of the past 12 months. Or more accurately, the best American funded drama released in the final quarter of the year.

Obviously the Oscars have plenty of naysayers — and for good reason. There are people who hate it because it’s elitist, because it excludes horror, comedy and action films, because it excludes cult and arthouse films or simply because they see it as a parade of rich people crying as they grasp a metallic object — scenes reminiscent of the shower rooms at Eton school.

Whatever feelings you have however, the Oscars show — which usually tops four hours — contains enough on-screen talent, awkwardness and decent movie clips to make it an entertaining watch for any movie-goer.  And – like last year – Sick Chirpse will have a full review of the ceremony on Monday

For 2012, the Academy have once again gone with the safe option of gradually decomposing Billy Crystal as host. Crystal has done the show about 200 times before but usually comes up with enough good gags to make the whole thing watchable. Although Hugh Jackman or Steve Martin he ain’t.

This year the Oscars have gone for the warming hot-mug of nostalgia over the shot-glass of edgy modern cinema with the most nominations going to silent flick The Artist and Martin Scorcese’s Hugo.

Neither of these — if I may be so bold as to make assumptions about Sick Chirpse’s readership — are likely to inspire much support on this website. But the academy voters — mainly populated by greying old people who still associate cinematic rebellion with Easy Rider — love both of these as they hark back to the early days of cinema.

 The Artist follows filmstar George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) as his stock suddenly falls with the advent of talkies (movies with sound) and he witnesses passing fling Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) become the new starlet.

It’s a pleasant and charming viewing experience — but hardly groundbreaking and a sad indictment of the awards that they have ignored films like Drive and Tinker, Tailor,  Solider, Spy.

Many predict Scorcese will win best director for his handling of Hugo — a visual-effects laden movie set in early 20th century Paris about an orphan who goes on a quest to fix a clockwork man his father owned.

But snubs for Lynn Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Steve McQueen (Shame) in this category may irk many movie goers.

 The Descendants — the Hawaiian-based George Clooney project about a man trying to pick up the pieces when his wife goes into a coma – has six nominations and is actually a pretty well constructed comedy-drama with a pleasing amount of laughs.

and a sad indictment of the awards that they have ignored films like Drive

The remainder of the best picture contenders are a smorgasbord of Americana from the sublime to the ridiculous. We have The Help — a “feel good” drama about black domestic workers in early 1960s Mississippi.

Marginally better than the subliminally racist “Driving Miss Daisy”, The Help is a perfectly harmless, slightly historically inaccurate work.

Also taking us back to mid-20th century USA is living legend and notorious recluse Terence Malick’s esoteric Tree of Life. This has divided filmgoers with some seeing it as a boring piece of woolly pretentiousness and others hailing it as a work of genius. In truth, it probably has shades of both.

A quick summary of the other contenders:

 Midnight in Paris: Owen Wilson bumbles around the French city, travelling back in time to meet people like Salvador Dali, played rather clownishly by Adrien Brody (whatever happened to his career?) Woody Allen sort of returns to form.

 War Horse: Our equine hero wonders around the First World War encountering death and sentimentality in equal measure. Spielberg turns up the schmaltz, bring Kleenex.

 Moneyball: Hollywood God Brad Pitt and podgy pipsqueak Jonah Hill attempt to build a successful baseball team via the method of statistical data. Better than it sounds.

 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: An annoying, borderline autistic kid trapses round post-9/11 New York with an old German mute and a key trying to find the lock it fits. As contrived and terrible as it sounds.

In all honesty, these don’t really have a shot unless the Artist has a post-BAFTAs meltdown. But bigger shocks have happened in the past.

As for the acting gongs, it’s expected to be a triple threat for best actor with Clooney, Pitt and relative unknown The Artist’s Jean Dujardin fighting it out. Expect Hollywood to pop for one of its golden boys.

Best actress is a slam dunk so why bother discussing it? Meryl Streep is going to win for her turn as Alzheimer ridden, neo-liberal, imperialist bitch Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, a historically revisionist film which plays out like a TV special.

Supporting actor is likely to be a straight fight to the death between Kenneth Branagh for his turn as Lawrence Olivier in the camp but fun My Week with Marilyn and Christopher Plummer who plays a terminally ill gay man in the excellent Beginners. Given that Branagh lost out on home turf, Plummer should take this, probably deservedly.

We’ll cover the other awards on the night themselves. Expect tears, controversy and plenty of throwaway show biz presenters shamelessly feeding their egos as they slate post-menopausal actresses because they are wearing the wrong type of shoes.

If you want to feed the failing Murdoch empire, you can watch it on Sky Movies pay-per view. For everyone else, we’ll be back on Monday with a review of the shit that went down.

Slatz’s predictions:

Best picture: The Artist

Best director: Martin Scorcese (Hugo)

Best actor: George Clooney (The Descendants)

Best actress: Meryll Streep (The Iron Lady)

Best supporting actor: Christopher Plummer (The Beginners)

Best supporting actress: Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)

Best foreign language film: A Separation



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