Road to the Oscars

As the Academy Awards go live on February 26, it’s clear the theme of the year pays homage to old eras such as late 1920s Hollywood, Paris in the 1920s and Mississippi in the 60s.

Giving a tribute to the black and white silent film years of Old Hollywood, the film to beat is undoubtedly The Artist, which is currently up for ten Oscars.  Up for the top prize for Best Picture, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ also received nods for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  For acting, Jean Dujardin was awarded a Best Actor nomination for his role as George Valentin, a silent film star who refuses to move into the era of talking pictures.  Bérénice Bejo, who also stars as Peppy Miller, also earned a nod for Best Supporting Actress.

While The Artist appears to be favourite, it is up against some heavy competition.  Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a 3D homage to film preservation, currently leads with 11 nominations.

Up for five nods, The Descendants is also nominated for Best Picture.  Despite being recognized for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the film is expected to win mostly because of George Clooney’s performance.  Straying away from his usual charming characters, the Academy Award winner (previously won for Syriana) is transformed into a troubled father trying to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife is put into a coma after a boating accident.  Since the film’s release, Clooney has won acting awards at both the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards.

The Help, a story of domestic workers in segregated Mississippi, is also expected to win.  Nominated for four Oscars, it is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress for Viola Davis and Best Supporting Actress for both Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain.

While these remain the top runners heavily favoured to win awards, there were also many surprise nominees.

The most surprising is none other than Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a film about a boy searching for a secret from the father he lost in 9/11.  Garnering mixed reviews and a low 48 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it earned nods for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow).

Another surprise nominee was none other than Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids.  Playing the raunchy man-eating bridesmaid Megan, her hilarious portrayal earned her a nod for Supporting Actress.

The Canadians also did not leave empty handed.  Toronto-born Christopher Plummer received a Supporting Actor nod for his work in Beginners playing a gay father who comes out of the closet after the death of his wife.  Also nominated is Quebec director Philippe Falardeau’sMonsieur Lazher for Best Foreign Language Film.

But with every awards show, the nominations also snubbed many notable candidates.

Canadian actor and current “it guy” Ryan Gosling was snubbed for his work in The Ides of March and Drive. While both films were not heavily favoured around the awards circuit, his acting in both films have received critical acclaim earning nominations at the Golden Globes.

Another actor who was expected to be nominated but wasn’t was Michael Fassbender for Shame. Playing a damaged sex-addict living in New York City, Fassbender went through lengths and obstacles earning him nominations at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes.

But despite the surprises, the 2012 Academy Awards is set to be an interesting one.  With host Billy Crystal coming back to host for his ninth time, it will be a night you might want to tune in for.

For a full list of nominees click here.

(This piece was published in the February 2012 issue of The Ryerson Free Press)

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