After dispensing yesterday with the awards mostly like to inspire trips to the kitchen or bathroom, today I get into the higher profile technical awards: Song, Original Score, Editing, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay.

Song

  • The Muppets, “Man or Muppet” – Bret McKenzie
  • Rio, “Real in Rio”

Ever since “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow won Best Song at the 2006 Oscars, everything I thought I knew about this category went out the window, but with only two nominees this year there’s a 50/50 chance of predicting correctly. Nevertheless, I’m having a difficult time letting go of the fact that “Man or Muppet” is a cute song for Flight of the Conchords, but it’s a terrible fit for the pre-Disney Muppets that I grew up with and wanted these new post-Jim Henson Muppets to be. It turns out though that most people like the new Muppets and the awful songs right along with it, but will the Academy? They never have before. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher who wrote “The Rainbow Connection” for The Muppet Movie (1979) lost to David Shire and Norman Gimbel’s “It Goes Like it Goes” from Norma Rae. Joe Raposo’s “The First Time it Happens” from The Great Muppet Caper (1981) lost to Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen’s “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from Arthur. Then again, the 1980s just weren’t a time when songs from kids’ movies were winning. It wasn’t until Disney’s domination of the early ’90s that it became a semi-regular occurrence. Plus, this year both nominees are from kids’ movies so even if there was a bias, it wouldn’t matter. Of the two songs, “Real in Rio” is the most “serious” and radio friendly, but it’s also the most innocuous. It’s nice and it was a good part of a film whose strength was its music, but is it memorable enough to overcome the silly Muppet song? It’s a close call, but I think it might be. I believe the older-skewing Oscar voters will be more nostalgic for Sergio Mendes than they are for The Muppets, end of story. Original Song Prediction: Rio

Original Score

  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • War Horse

The eventual Best Picture winner has also been nominated for Original Score 6 out of the last 12 Oscars. Of those 6 times, only Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) won for both. I mention this only because I assume The Artist is the favorite for Best Picture and that makes it the obvious first thought for every other award it’s nominated for unless there’s some reason it can be eliminated. In this case, its frontrunner status doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to win for Original Score. The Artist is going to have to stand on its merits this year, but it turns out those merits are considerable. Alternately buoyant and melodramatic, Ludovic Bource’s score is a terrific piece of work in a film that depends on the score more than most to make up for the lack of dialogue. Will the controversy over film using part of the score from Vertigo count against it? Maybe a little, but not enough to keep it from winning. The real question is does it have any competition? The answer to that question is yes. John Williams’ wonderful work for War Horse is lush and full without being overbearing. The opening theme of the same composer’s work for The Adventures of Tintin reminded me of his excellent, playful work in Catch Me if You Can. Alberto Iglesias also did some wonderful, subtle, quiet work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but it’s not quite the kind of music you can just sit down and listen to and I’m not sure how well it works out of context of the film. I think that will matter to voters judging the movie independently of the material for which it was written. The odd man out this year I’m afraid is Howard Shore’s work for Hugo. I had to look it up to remember it and even then it seemed pretty ordinary. That can’t be a good sign.

Except for Hugo, I think any of the nominees would make a good winner, but I think The Artists’s combination of quality, listenability and the fact that it’s so important to the movie’s success make it the favorite. Add the film’s status as the likely Best Picture winner and it’s hard to imagine another film winning. Original Score Prediction: The Artist.

Editing

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball

Every year for the last 10 years (and maybe even further back, I didn’t check), the Editing Oscar winner has matched one of the ACE Eddie winners. This year’s winners were The Artist for musical or comedy and The Descendants for drama so I think it’s pretty safe to assume the other three films don’t have a chance here. In the same 10 year period, the eventual Best Picture winner and the Best Editing winner were the same six times. The four films that won Editing but not Picture were distinctively edited: The Social Network, The Bourne Ultimatum, Aviator and Black Hawk Down. Once again assuming that The Artist is the Best Picture favorite, the question is whether The Descendants is showily edited enough to give it an edge and I think the answer is no. If The Descendants wins this award on Sunday night however, The Artist is in serious trouble for the the big enchilada. Editing Prediction: The Artist

Cinematography

  • The Artist
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

The Oscar for Cinematography has matched the American Society of Cinematographer’s pick half the time in the last 10 years, but even more interestingly, the eventual Best Picture winner has only won for Cinematography once when Slumdog Millionaire won both in 2009. This year’s ASC winner was Emmanuel Lubezki for the beautiful The Tree of Life and it’s certainly the film I’ll be rooting for Sunday night. My 2nd pick is Robert Richardson whose work in Hugo was not only beautiful, it made spectacular use of 3D. After that, Jeff Cronenweth and Janusz Kaminski did reliably excellent work for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and War Horse respectively. The odd man out for me is Guillaume Schiffman’s work on The Artist. The crisp black and white is lovely and there’s no denying people love the movie itself, but there are too many other films this year that are special in this category and I think Oscar will agree. I believe the award this year is a toss-up between The Tree of Life and Hugo. Since most voters probably saw Hugo on DVD, Richardson’s 3D advantage will be diminished and the sheer beauty of The Tree of Life (which looks stunning on Blu-ray) will win the night. Cinematography Prediction: The Tree of Life.

Adapted Screenplay

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Original Screenplay

  • The Artist
  • Bridesmaids
  • Margin Call
  • Midnight in Paris
  • A Separation

Since the Writers Guild of America strictly limits its nominees to members, it’s not a very safe predictor when it comes to the Oscars. In the Adapted Screenplay category, The Descendants won the WGA award, but The Ides of March and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were not nominated. In the Original Screenplay category, Midnight in Paris won, but Bridesmaids was the only other nominee with The Artist being the most notable film that did not qualify. In the last 10 years, one of the Screenplay Oscar winners has gone on to win Best Picture 8 times. This year, The Artist faces stiff competition from Woody Allen’s well-loved Midnight in Paris and dark horse candidate Bridesmaids. Will the fact that The Artist doesn’t have any dialogue diminish it in terms of screenplay as far as voters are concerned? I think it might. Over in the Adapted Screenplay category, The Descendants and Moneyball seem to have fairly well split the precursor awards and both films went head to head with the WGA. I’m quietly rooting for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which was a remarkable feat of condensing a long, complex novel, but I think The Descendants will win. Adapted Screenplay Prediction: The Descendants, Original Screenplay Prediction: Midnight in Paris.

Part 1: Makeup, Costume Design, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing

Part 3: Foreign Language Film, Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Live Action Short, Animated Short and Documentary Short

Part 4: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress

11 Responses to “Oscar Predictions Part 2: Music, Pictures and Words”

  1. Disagree on Score – Hugo was one of the best scores I’ve heard in years. The theme is haunting. Really interesting how you could not have noticed it.

  2. It’s not terrible. None of them are, but it didn’t feel distinctive either. Regardless of my personal feelings, I have a feeling this is The Artist’s to lose anyway.

  3. I hate to say it, Tom, but don’t ever assume Oscar is going to reward quality in any category.

  4. “Disagree on Score – Hugo was one of the best scores I’ve heard in years. The theme is haunting. Really interesting how you could not have noticed it.”

    Tom, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Ludovic Bource’s THE ARTIST score, which has rightly won every critics’ award under the sun and beyond, is far better than HUGO’s. It’s actually the heart and soul of THE ARTIST. In fact it’s the best in years.

    As to awarding quality, it’s like any other awards group. Some choices are right on, some are not. It’s inevitable that each and every year Oscar will call some of them right.

    And there can’t be any category called more ‘right’ than musical score for THE ARTIST, methinks. The CD has been in my car player for weeks now, and it’s driving family members crazy. I also own the CD of HUGO, which is most fine, and a number of others, but THE ARTIST stands on top.

  5. I don’t think Tom was even comparing Hugo and The Artist directly. He was simply expressing surprise that I regarded the former so low on the list.

    Having said that, though we totally disagree on the overall greatness of The Artist, I fully agree with you on the excellence and appropriateness of the score.

    The only award I don’t think it deserves in comparison to the other contenders is cinematography. Not that the cinematography is poor, but I just think there are several examples that are superior.

  6. “I don’t think Tom was even comparing Hugo and The Artist directly. He was simply expressing surprise that I regarded the former so low on the list.”

    Actually he implied both according to what I just re-read, but fair enough. Glad to see we are on the same plain with the score, however.

  7. I thought the score of Hugo was wonderful, but the one for The Artist is so tied to that film’s emotional component. Having the Hermann excerpt from Vertigo could hurt — and also help — The Artist’s chances. So I agree that The Artist will take it.

    By the way, Craig, I love that you’re making prediction in each category this year. Even though you’re not real big on the Academy Awards, your analyses are wonderful to behold.

  8. Sam, Tom doesn’t even mention The Artist. I think your love for the movie is making you overly defensive.

    Pierre, I’m glad you’re enjoying my thoughts on the awards and hopefully taking them for exactly what they are, less an assertion of knowledge than the speculation of an interested party.

  9. Yes, I am surely now a huge fan of it. I was assuming Tom’s mentioning that he favored HUGO was a rejection of Bource’s work, though admittedly he did not mention the film at all. On this matter I did lamentably overeact.

  10. Well, I shouldn’t speak for Tom, but that’s one thing that I dislike about the whole Oscar routine. In order to like something, people feel the need to dislike something else. It becomes a competition which honestly is kind of silly when you’re talking about movies. Movies aren’t a sport.

  11. Amen to that lock, stock and barrel.

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