Tagged awards season

The BAFTAs: The Artist brushes off the competition

The Artist swept the BAFTAs on Sunday night, taking seven awards including best film, actor and director. The Iron Lady, Hugo, Senna and Tinker, Tailor also took two awards each while Martin Scorsese was awarded a BAFTA fellowship, the British Academy’s highest honour. Nonetheless, the evening belonged undeniably to Michael Hazanavicius’ silent movie, adding another set of statuettes to his burgeoning trophy cabinet.

The Artist has swept both the critics and the awards this year. Backed by the influential Weinstein brothers the film had already won big at the Golden Globes, SGA and DGA awards before this latest haul. Aside from the best film, best director and best actor prizes, the movie also bagged prizes for its screenplay, make-up, cinematography and music.

Yet while it is undoubtedly an excellent and deserving winner, the predictability of victory has rather dulled this year’s awards season and caused a number of other strong productions to be overlooked. Thank heavens, then, for the only real shock of the evening, a win for Senna in the best editing category. Asif Kapadia’s real footage based account of Ayrton Senna’s life and times was acclaimed on release but has been largely forgotten in the last few months. A dual win today (it was also named best documentary) was not only a pleasant surprise but might just reignite some interest.

The Iron Lady, Tinker, Tailor and Hugo will arguably be more disappointed with their showings, although both The Descendants and Drive failed to win anything despite high billing. George Clooney will certainly be cursing his luck that a silent, independent French film should overshadow his starring turn as a Hawaiian property developer.

Despite this, the most predictable win of the entire night was probably Christopher Plummer’s for best supporting actor in Beginners. Plummer has virtually swept the board in his category, and Sunday was no exception. He plays a 75 year-old who finally comes out as gay and starts a new life before falling prey to cancer. The role has been widely acclaimed and, aged 82 but with few major awards, he appears to be making up for lost time.

The Skin I Live In also surprisingly edged A Separation in the contest to be named best foreign language film. Pedro Almodovar is one of the most decorated, and eccentric, living directors but the beaten Iranian piece is seen by many as one of the year’s outstanding productions.

SAG and DGA awards: The Artist needs no Help

As the awards season totters towards a conclusion, only the BAFTAs and Oscars now remain, it seems ever more likely that the Artist will go down as this year’s outstanding film. Recent weeks have seen triumphs for director Michael Hazanavicius and leading man Jean Dujardin in the annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards respectively. The Help also prospered at the SAG ceremony, winning in the best actress, supporting actress and ensemble cast categories. Christopher Plummer rounded out the awards with a nod for his supporting role in Beginners.

The DGA hands out only one prize for feature films, and victory is a near certainty of Oscar success. Indeed, in the ceremony’s 64-year history, only six victors have failed to follow up with the Academy award. In taking home the prize Hazanavicius secured his 17th award of the year, he must be heavy favourite to be on the podium come Sunday 26th.

Dujardin’s victory was another in a successful season so far, and he will likely be vying with George Clooney for the biggest prize of them all. Despite having a role with only two spoken words, he has already scooped 9 awards and looks to be a strong contender for the Academy’s leading male gong.

Nonetheless, the biggest winner at the SAG awards was the Help, the civil rights drama taking 3 of the 5 acting prizes despite a mixed response from critics. Viola Davis was named best leading lady, while Octavia Spence was honoured for her supporting role. The Help’s cast has been widely acclaimed, even by those who have derided the film’s message. It would, however, still be a minor miracle were Tate Taylor’s adaptation to win best film come Oscar night; a successful £1 bet on the Artist would win you 20p compared to £35 for the Help.

Plummer’s reward was his first SAG success at the fourth attempt, and came for his performance playing a septuagenarian who finally comes out as gay after his wife’s death. The 80 year old, who debuted on screen in 1953, has acted in nearly 200 film or TV productions, but this has been arguably his most acclaimed role.

While the SAG and DGA awards are respected in their own right, they are arguably better known as barometers for the Academy awards. While the Help’s success may have been surprising, the Artist looks well placed to prosper at the Oscars.

Oscar nominations: Hugo’s 11 outdo Clooney and The Artist

And lo, it’s that time of year again – an exciting time for we film journalists, as we pore over the list of Academy Award nominations. The Oscars being nothing if not predictable, here’s an overview of the favourites.

The nominations have seen two films stand out – Martin Scorsese’s Hugo netted the most nominations with 11, closely followed by Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist with 10. It’s The Artist however that’s really being talked up for the big awards. It’s a heavy favourite for Best Picture, although Alexander Payne’s The Descendants has the potential to spoil the party for  Hazanavicius, who’s also up for Best Director. He’s the favourite there too, although that one could be pretty close. Payne and Terrence Malik (for Palme d’Or winner Tree of Life) could potentially sneak it on the night, but the main challenge will be from the veteran Scorcese – his 2007 win for The Departed could stand against him though.

The acting categories could see some surprises. George Clooney is the Best Actor favourite for his role in The Descendants – he’s a Hollywood favourite and despite multiple nominations has only ever received one Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, for Syriana. He faces a potential threat from The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, but it’s Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) that Clooney should really be looking out for – this is, shockingly, the veteran actor’s first ever nomination, and the Academy may decide to reward an acting legend for long service.

There seem to be two main candidates for Best Actress. Meryl Streep (for whom this is an incredible 17th nomination) is seen by some as a shoe-in for her much-praised performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, especially given the Academy’s recent form in rewarding biopic roles. She has, however, already won two Oscars, and the Academy may instead decide to bestow the honour on relative newcomer Viola Davis for her powerful performance in The Help.

Christopher Plummer (Beginners) looks a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor, though there’s a possibility the honour could go to the 84 year old Max von Sydown (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) – the veteran actor is on only his second nomination and has never received an Oscar before. The competition for Best Supporting Actress appears close, looking like it could go one of three ways. Jessica Chastain is perhaps the favourite for The Help, but Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Octavia Spencer (The Help) should not be ruled out.

Elsewhere, Best Original Screenplay competition seems to be between The Artist and Midnight in Paris (also look out for nominee A Separation – the Iranian film is a heavy favourite for Best Foreign Language Film). The Descendants looks a sure bet for Best Adapted Screenplay – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is its nearest rival, but if you’re looking for a bit of a left-field option, consider baseball film Moneyball, which has been attracting a bit of attention.

The truth will be revealed on February 26th.

Baftas: Tinker Tailor and The Artist look set to clean up

With the Golden Globes officially over, the focus of awards season shifts, temporarily, to our side of the Atlantic. The nominations for the British Academy of Film and Television Awards 2012 have been announced, and the ceremony itself will take place on February 12th. As if this wasn’t enough, the winners of the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards were announced on Thursday 19th January. As the Oscar speculation builds, let’s take a look these recent developments.

Having walked away with an impressive collection of accolades from last week’s Golden Globes, the team behind The Artist are likely to leave the Baftas with similar booty. A tale of dignity and fragility with all the 1920s Americana of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Artist looks set to make a storm on February 12th. Having collected 12 nominations as well as Director and Actor of the Year awards from the Critics’ Circle, I wouldn’t be surprised.

This is by no means a one-horse-race, however, contrary to what Steven Spielberg may have hoped. The Best Film category includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Nicolas Refn’s Drive which have been rewarded for their striking imagery and calculated performances with 11 and 4 nominations respectively.

By contrast, The Descendants sees George Clooney as head of a dysfunctional family, à la Little Miss Sunshine without the laughs. Despite resounding success at the Globes, this scrapes the barrel with only 3 nominations. The Help, our final contender for Best Film, is a warm-hearted glance into the world of civil rights through the microcosm of the American household, set to the tune of 5 nominations – on par with Spielberg’s War Horse.

The nostalgia of The Artist and The Help is a continuing theme, and My Week with Marilyn has received six nominations including one for leading actress Michelle Williams. Similarly, Woody Allen has received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the charmingly nostalgic Midnight in Paris which sees Owen Wilson clinking glasses with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Other somewhat older stars have also successfully established their place at this year’s ceremony. Meryl Streep is nominated in the best leading actress category for The Iron Lady, and Martin Scorsese will enter the Royal Opera House with ten nominations between two films, Hugo and George Harrison: Living in the Material World.

The 32nd Critics’ Circle Film Awards are testament to the abundance of British talent this year. Most notably, Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin took British Film of the Year, and Olivia Coleman, not recognised with a Bafta nomination, was awarded British Actress of the Year for her work in The Iron Lady and Tyrannosaur. Michael Fassbender’s performances in A Dangerous Method and Shame earned him the British Actor of the Year spot, and Andrew Haigh won Break-through British Film-maker for his intimate romance, Weekend.

It seems that this has been a year of inventive sentimentalism, though this is truer of the Bafta than the Critics Circle, who have leant towards grittier stories. Regardless of speculation concerning trends and precedents, however, only time will tell as to whose nominations will materialise into Bafta success: the net has been cast widely, the decisions will not be easy.

By Francis Blagburn

 

Golden Globes: George Clooney and The Artist glitter

The 2012 Golden Globes, the self-proclaimed drunker version of the Academy Awards and often the biggest hint as to who will win the coveted Oscar, took place on Sunday night and confirmed the award-winning credentials of silent film The Artist and actor George Clooney. The Artist won three Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical for Jean DuJardin, and Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource. Mr. Clooney received the Best Actor in Motion Picture-Drama award for his role in The Descendants, which also won the Best Motion Picture-Drama award. After Sunday night, it seems that both The Artist and The Descendants are the two favorites to win the Best Picture Oscar while George Clooney is the frontrunner for Best Actor.

Meryl Streep won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, further proof of the HFPA’s obsession with Streep and the fact that one can garner critical claim in a very mediocre film. Michelle Williams was Streep’s counterpart in winning the award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical for her depiction of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.

While I would have loved to see comic actor Albert Brooks honored for his intense turn as Ryan Gosling’s enemy in Drive, it was not to be. Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for The Help. After much pre-awards show buzz, this award was the only one The Help picked up, casting doubt over whether it will do much better at the Academy Awards in February.

Woody Allen finally received the recognition he deserves by receiving the Best Screenplay Golden Globe for the wonderful Midnight in Paris, one of the most original films of the year. Martin Scorsese won the award for Best Director for Hugo, Scorsese’s first attempt at a family film. While Mr. Scorsese is most definitely not guaranteed to win the Oscar, this win increases his chances against War Horse’s Steven Spielberg and The Descendant’s Alexander Payne.

Overall, it would seem that The Descendants is the heavy Oscar favorite with The Artist at a close second. We shall see in a few weeks if the feelings of the Academy, whose nominations are released January 24, echo those of the HFPA.

Political Biopics: Watching the lives of others

With J. Edgar soon to be released and The Iron Lady having opened in recent weeks, political biopics are the talk of tinseltown. But amongst these is a far more surprising production, namely The Lady. The tale of Aung San Suu Kyi has been well documented, and it’s no great shock to see a film made of her life. What is odd, however, is that it should be directed by Luc Besson. Besson is essentially an action filmmaker. If you know his work it’s likely through watching The Fifth Element or Leon, films about aliens and a hitman respectively. The Lady has been critically panned, branded worthy but dull, quite a contrast to Besson’s most successful films. The Fifth Element, for those who haven’t seen it, is utterly mental, totally ridiculous and never likely to be accused of excessive worthiness.

Understanding why The Lady was made is key to explaining the prevalence of political biopics. Besson has made a shedload of money, but has never attracted much critical acclaim. A film about a politician is automatically branded a ‘serious’ film. Thus, if a director, producer, writer or actor wants to gain critical recognition, a political biopic is a good bet. There’s a scene in the TV show Extras where Kate Winslet, playing herself, remarks that the reason she took on a role as a nun in the holocaust is that  ‘if you do a film about the holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar’. Ironically, Winslet did finally won her Oscar for The Reader, playing a Nazi, and a similar, if less crude principle applies to political biopics.

It’s a fact that biopics win a disproportionate number of awards, and a good performance in the leading role is a near guarantee of success. Since 2002, all bar three of the best leading male Oscars have gone to actors playing real people, with portrayals of Harvey Milk and Idi Amin bringing nods for Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker respectively.

And, just as importantly, biopics make money. Films about controversial figures have a ready-made audience. It’s generally accepted that The Iron Lady failed to address some of the key disputes about Thatcher’s reign, the critical reception has been lukewarm and it only went on wide release on January 13th, yet it’s already made back its budget. The presence of a recognisable name on a poster attracts attention and draws viewers automatically. The biopic seems to be growing ever more prevalent, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

The Oxford Student

Oxford's Newspaper since 1991