Who will win the Oscars?

Second take

WThis is the way the Oscars are trending: best picture: The Artist; best actor: George Clooney; best actress: Viola Davis; best supporting actor: Christopher Plummer; best supporting actress: Octavia Spencer; best director: Michel Hazanavicius; best adapted screenplay: Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (for Moneyball), best original screenplay: Woody Allen (for Midnight in Paris).

Snubbed? Ryan Gosling, Tintin and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

That’s the prediction anyway; the favourites to win. Last minute upsets from their closest contenders are, in order: The Descendants, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Bérénice Bejo, Alexander Payne, Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig (for Bridesmaids) and Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon (for The Descendants). There’s just one nomination here that nobody is really expecting a win from, but if that happens, it won’t be an upset, it’ll be an ambush: Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, thrown into the race for prestige and pedigree. If Malick had been left out of the awards line-up, too many eyes would have been raised (never mind that he more than deserves the honour).

However, these are not the performances or the movies or the filmmakers and screenwriters that I — and perhaps several among you — would like to see as the winners. My list would look like this: Hugo for best picture, Gary Oldman for best actor, Glen Close for best actress, Janet McTeer for supporting actress, Martin Scorsese for best director, Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor for best adapted screenplay (for Tinker Tailor) and Asgar Farhadi for best original screenplay (for A Separation). Two wins are already as good as secured and tightly sealed: for Plummer (an honour long overdue), and for Woody Allen, a hit screenplay about a literary fantasy where an aspiring writer time travels to a Paris, haunted by his favourite artists.
 
Let’s now turn to who (and what) the Oscars snubbed this year: outrageous that the best director and the best movie of the year weren’t even nominated. I’m referring, of course, to Tomas Alfredson and his subtle and atmospherically brilliant adaptation of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It doesn’t make sense even by the Academy’s own logic of nominations — how can you recognise that the central performance in it (Oldman as George Smiley) and its intricate screenplay were great, and not acknowledge the director and the movie?

The second outrage is ignoring Michael Fassbender’s courageous, intense and (perhaps literally) naked performance in Shame. Shame! cried everyone when they saw he had been left out of the nominations, and they couldn’t have been more right. The reason seemed obvious: Shame is perhaps the most sexually explicit movie to hit the multiplex, making Last Tango in Paris seem like a children’s matinee movie. Fassbender plays a sex addict, so need I say more?  
 
The third outrage (and this is one cinephiles and critics had anticipated) was snubbing Lars Von Trier’s Melancholy and Kirsten Dunst’s widely acclaimed performance in it. If you remember, Trier at a press conference in Cannes last year caused a little controversy with his rambling remarks about understanding and sympathising with Hitler.

Later, he said it had been in jest, but it was too late: it cost him the prize at Cannes, and ensured that the Oscars wouldn’t come anywhere close to him or his movie. 

Other snubs worth making a fuss about: nothing for Ryan Gosling! Two solid lead performances in Drive and Ides of March, but ignored! Tintin not nominated! Not even nominated! How do you nominate Kung Fu Panda 2 and forget about Tintin? Hey, come on, what is this? By far, it’s the better of the two Spielberg movies this year. Warhorse pales in comparison to the artistry of Tintin but that’s the one they picked to honour. Critics and film aficionados are also crying foul that Tilda Swinton didn’t get a nomination for her bravura performance in We Need to Talk about Kevin. 

There are a couple of snubs I am totally fine with, as in Leonardo Di Caprio not getting a nod for best actor for J. Edgar, and Clint Eastwood going empty handed for directing this middling and silly bio-pic. Once in a way the Academy voters surprise us with their sharp judgment call, and this was one of those rare times.

However, I won’t go as far as film critic Owen Gleiberman in saying the Oscars have undergone a sea change, have smartened up and are not as populist as they once were (because they voted for The Hurt Locker and The King’s Speech and are solidly behind the tamely arty The Artist this year).
 
In an article from Entertainment Weekly, he writes: “For a long time, it was all too easy to be a snob about the Oscars. Now, though, you could almost say that the snobs have taken over the Academy asylum. The Oscars now covet something much more than popularity: They covet cred.”

What kind of cred is Gleiberman talking about? If the Oscars are looking for real cred they should be handing out different nominations: Melancholy and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for best film, Michael Fassbender for Best Actor in Shame, Steve McQueen and Tomas Alfredson for best director for Shame and Tinker Tailor, Tilda Swinton for best actress in We Need to Talk about Kevin, and of course (though less likely) Lars Von Trier and Kirsten Dunst for best director and best actress. Now, that would be cred. 

That would have been a race worth getting up for early in the morning on Monday, February 27 to watch live, and since that’s not how the odds are stacked, I think I’ll just sleep soundly through the Oscars.

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