279 Cents: The Studio 279 Oscar Predictions, Predilections and Any Objections (Part II)

279 Cents is where we share our thoughts, views and reviews about this and that, and give you the good public our 279 Cents worth about it (currently worth about £1.72 at the current exchange rate if that helps)

“Oh plague right well prevented. So will you say when you have seen the sequel” William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.

The Empire Strikes Back. The Dark Knight. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Film history is littered with great follow ups to popular hits. And after a fashion we here at the Studio 279 News blog are not above a little pandering to the audience. After waves of you begged us to stop feigned indifference asked for more of our “Predictions, Predilections and Any Objections” run down, here they are. If you missed the previous round, taking in the acting noms, make sure you get up to speed.

Remember, we will give you the likely winner, who should have won, and whether we have any objection to this film winning. So here you are good people: The Studio 279 Oscar Predictions, Predilections and Any Objections (Part II)!

Best Original Screenplay

Mike Leigh (Another Year), Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (The Fighter), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right), David Seidler (The King’s Speech)

Predictions: There’s a pattern emerging here. The likelihood is that along with most awards on the night David Seidler’s The King’s Speech will get the gold. The Australian scribe’s script, inspired by both monarch George VI’s struggles with a stutter and his own childhood speech impediment, was first conceived of as a play but was instead given the movie treatment. It contains many of the themes that Academy voters love: a triumph over adversity (particularly disability), a story of a friendship that defies class, royalty e.t.c. e.t.c It also has the appropriate momentum. Its failure to win the WGA award in the same category matters not a jot: owing to the byzantine rules of the Guild only scripts written under its auspices are considered, and so Speech was disqualified. As such Inception’s Chris Nolan is doubtful to repeat his WGA win on the larger platform, and Seidler will sidle up to collect the top Written Directly for the Screen prize.

Predilections: We’re going to say this again and again, but Inception really should have this in the bag. A wonderfully constructed script that works as a spine to a great movie, taking in various layers of dream and consciousness, as well as plumbing dark psychological depths with an, at time, unreliable lead character. Quotable dialogue, stunning set pieces and a narrative structure that is confusing only in description but effortless in reality mean that this should be a done deal. But, in a drum we will keep banging until someone listens, dammit! Nolan will have to be content with his second screenplay nomination after Memento, which lost to Julian Fellowes’ Gosford Park at the 2002 shindig.

Any Objections: With Speech as winner? No. It is a fine piece of scripting, and tells a story forgotten by some or unknown to most in a laudable fashion. It wears its original stagebound intentions proudly without feeling like you are actually watching a play, and creates the characters from which Firth, Rush, Bonham Carter and more are able to work their own magic. Inception may strike some as too clever, halting its march this time round, and in many ways that’s a shame. But The King’s Speech is, like its lead character Bertie, no poor substitute for the rightful top dog, but an imposing leader all on its own merits.

Mike Leigh’s inclusion for Another Year is slightly frustrating on two counts. Firstly, as is well documented, his process of detailed rehearsal with actors from whence the finished film comes is not, in the strictest sense of the word, a screenplay, and as marvellous as it is, it seems a trifle odd to see it compared to perhaps some others that could have been pushed. But, more importantly, as pretty much the only recognition for Leigh’s lovely Another Year, with Lesley Manville shut out despite early predictions and none of the rest of the cast getting a look in, it shows up how silly a lone nod can be.

Personally The Fighter, while a very entertaining film, seems a relatively pedestrian choice. There are great pieces of dialogue, the story has a nice redemptive arc and the characters are nicely portrayed, but it seems a tad uninspired to give it a place at the top table. Black Swan would have been an interesting nominee, as one would imagine that the darkness within Aronofsky’s film surely comes from the script by Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz and John McLaughlin. But as the director’s The Wrestler was improvised to a large extent around the framework of the script, perhaps a similar thing is true here. Or I might be talking out of my hat, as I’ve not read the script itself, so what do I know? It also beggars belief that Toy Story 3 is an adapted screenplay. Adapted from what? The characters of the other two films? It is a sequel to those films and so is original. My own views on the quality of the final product notwithstanding (summary: very good, but a let down considering the hype and not as fitting a curtain closer as the second seemed ten years ago) it is a farce that it isn’t in this category too. But in any case, Speech will reign triumphant, so from the Original scripts to their Adapted brethren…

Best Adapted Screenplay

Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours), Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (True Grit), Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini (Winter’s Bone)

Predictions: Like its Original counterpart, this contest is over. The Academy is poised to like! (insert additional Facebook references here) Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network. One of the few named writers working in the industry due to his work both in television with The West Wing and films like A Few Good Men, Sorkin is probably the highest profile nominee in the category. His distinctive style with rapid fire dialogue and addressing big ideas have been applied to Ben Mezrich’s bestseller The Accidental Billionaires to almost certainly victorious results. From initial snickers at The Sorkinator (as probably no one calls him) writing “a Facebook movie”, the movie has become one of the most talked about films of the past twelve months. While last years do saw dead on favourite Up in The Air trumped against the odds by Precious, if Sorkin hasn’t written his speech already someone better tell him to get a move on.

Predilections: The Coen Brother’s treatment of True Grit would ordinarily be a big favourite. Eminently quotable dialogue, very funny and reflecting their offbeat sensibility in a Western milieu, I’d be very happy for this to win. But as Minnesota’s best exports have won before, for both No Country for Old Men and Fargo, their not winning is nowhere near a problem. 127 Hours is a great film, and is in many ways unfortunate that it isn’t represented more elsewhere, but it isn’t one I would back in this category. It is well written by Simon Beaufoy and the hitherto uncredited script credit for Danny Boyle (one of my favourite directors, if we’re keeping score) but owing to the former’s success with Slumdog Millionaire and the fact the film does seem to lack a certain something, Sorkin has nothing to fear. It’s always nice to see Pixar nominated, as they take such care over their scripts in a way other animation studios singularly fail to do (although having said that, How To Train Your Dragon suggested D
reamworks may be at last taking note of this). Great gags such as Spanish Buzz, the origins of Lotso and best of all, Mr Pricklepants, are well deserving of a nod. But the travails of Mark Zuckerberg et al will be the one to win this time out, so hopefully they won’t be too disappointed.

Any objections: The Social Network is one of the most clearly and discernibly crafted films of the year. Sorkin’s name recognition notwithstanding, it is impossible to talk about the film without talking about its script, either from the verbal gymnastics of Zuckerberg or the well observed truisms of the internet (my favourite being “the internet isn’t written in pencil, Mark; it’s written in ink”). It is a smart, witty, fun, and in places dark screenplay that does a great job of being all things to all people. To some, a cautionary tale about the dangers of the modern technological age, to others a celebration of a rock star technogeek. Whichever way you slice it, it is a brilliant piece of work, and one that will richly deserve its win. David Fincher is a great director, but Sorkin’s script is proof if proof were needed that even auteurs need a great foundation to build upon, and that is the screenplay. As a case in point, why is Seven a spectacular movie and Zodiac and Benjamin Button not so much? Andrew Kevin Walker’s script to the serial killer pic is better than James Vanderbilt’s snoozefest or Eric Roth’s remake of his early, much stronger Forrest Gump (it’s often impossible to hear lines like “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you” without thinking that life is indeed like a box of chocolates) So it is with The Social Network. Sorkin is getting the amount of praise he deserves for the film’s success, and, in an industry where the writer’s contribution is routinely ignored or passed over, that is a marvellous thing.

Best Animated Film

How To Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3

Predictions: Spoiler! It’s Toy Story 3. One of the main blind spots with the Oscars for many years is the fact that the Animated film ghetto means great CGI or hand drawn movies don’t get the recognition they deserve as the best films of a given year. While the expansion of the field to ten has led to greater chances to pixellated pics in theory, in reality they have been given seats at the kiddies table. With that sad fact in mind, Toy Story 3 will be the clear winner in this category. TS3 was tipped by some as a Best Picture recipient, and as it will not get the biggest prize of the night it can be applauded in this category instead. Seen as a fitting conclusion to a trilogy, funny, moving and near perfect, Pixar’s awards cabinet will be getting extra crowded on Monday morning.

Predilections: We’ve actually covered this before in our Best Films of 2010. At the risk of repeating ourselves (hey, why stop now!) The Illusionist is a beautiful, enchanting, melancholic and all round lovely animated film that should for our money take this one. It is an astounding achievement using painstaking traditional processes and harkens back to a different era, in the Jacques Tati script, 1950s setting and the in many ways out of fashion production by being hand drawn rather than computer created. The fact it was recognised at all is enough to stop a feeling of sour grapes, and if it increases the rentals and purchases of a delightful film then its all to the good.

Any Objections: Three nominees alone always makes this seem a bit lacking in-depth, but considering the tat that passes for animated films these days it is probably about right (although an extra spot to give some love to Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo might have been nice). Hopefully Dreamworks continues the promise shown in How To Train Your Dragon, making films that could rival the heartfelt tone of Pixar’s best rather than the pop culture references and celebrity voiceovers that have been crutches for far too long. So long as nobody does anything stupid and nominates this year’s already brain bleedingly irritating bird animation Rio, currently stinking up cinemas with its mobile phone approved tie in, then we’ll be fine come next year too.

Best Music

A.R. Rahman (127 Hours), John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon) Hans Zimmer (Inception), Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech) Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (The Social Network)

Predictions: This is one category where the Royalists are likely to be usurped and The Social Network camp can breath a sigh of relief. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for the Fincher Facebook Fest has been justly lauded as an exciting and innovative piece of film music. The electronic nature meshing well with the technologically based premise it works as a great accompaniment to the movie. This is all the more remarkable considering this is Nine Inch Nails supremo Reznor’s first film score, and no small potatoes when the differences between tinkling film ivories and album based tuneage. Barring any upsets he and Ross should walk away with a shiny dude named Oscar.

Predilections: Take a wild stab! That’s right, sounding like a broken record, but Hans Zimmer’s Inception is every bit as musically daring as Reznor’s, and, in this writer’s opinion, more so. After several years of churning out indentikit soundtracks with blockbuster bombast, in recent times Zimmer has become an experimenter, making bold and interesting musical choices to craft beautiful aural landscapes. There is no doubt that a substantial part of Nolan’s epic is derived from the ear juddering majesty of Zimmer’s chords, drones and refrains. However, considering it was for a long time up for grabs as to whether it would even be nominated considering the Academy’s rules on what constitutes Original Music (the riffing on Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” nearly disqualified it) the previous Oscar winner may have to make do without having his trumpet blown this time.

Any Objections: Not so lucky however is the ever excellent Clint Mansell with his haunting score to Black Swan. The breathtaking arrangements of Tchaikovsky and subtle riffs and variations on that theme, as well as the often terrifying methods to reflect the central character’s mental state, were judged to be too reliant on previous material and kicked to the curb. This, in addition to the ignoring of Carter Burwell’s True Grit score for utilising 19th Century Protestant hymns of Jonny Greenwood’s cold shoulder for using his previous compositions to glorious effect in There Will Be Blood, really demonstrates this category needs looking at. How can it be that many scores that are the dictionary definition of “Original” are thrown out in favour of some that will gather dust on the soundtrack shelves? Sort it out, Academy! Reznor and Ross will be worthy winners, no question, but their award would certainly have meant more if they were up against all the outstanding scores of the year, rather than some of, and a few making up the numbers.

That’s enough for you to digest for now. Join us again at some point tomorrow in advance of the ceremony proper for the conclusion in the trilogy of Oscar sniping, misanthropy and opinion giving where it wasn’t asked for. If you have a view, feel free to comment. If not, move along, nothing to see here!


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