a theatre, film & pop culture review
Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 beingmy favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.
Missing: Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Skin I Live In
The Artist wasn’t eligible for the WGA Award, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot (turns out, many films aren’t eligible due to a whacky set of rules). Then again, some wonder if a film sans dialogue could/should even be up for this award. And of course it should, but few are likely to vote for it for just that very reason. Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius crafted a gimmicky but solid silent film screenplay, plotting out all those winks and exaggerated hand gestures. But it’d still be a pretty shocking win — even though it is this year’s most beloved film.
Bridesmaids, this year’s The Hangover for the ladies (which, in case you’d forgotten, the Academy ignored), is a girly gross-out comedy that is ultimately a sentimental grrl-power flick. Though structurally unadventurous and not nearly as revolutionary as some claim it to be (yep, some are actually claiming it a “feminist victory“), it’s nice to be reminded that not all wedding movies have to be about landing/keeping a guy — sometimes they’re just about landing/keeping a female friend. After, y’know, a few dozen rounds of catty bitchiness. Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig are two smart, funny gals, though, and I’m sure they’re pleased as punch to be invited to the party. I just wish it was for something that was actually a tiny bit revolutionary.
The single nod here for Margin Call is both baffling and yet not at all surprising. What’s terrific is that writer-director J.C. Chandor’s first feature marvelously details the fall of an investment bank loosely based on Lehman Brothers, and it actually attempts to humanize the bankers themselves. Sure these guys are obscenely rich, arrogant and in some cases clueless to the point of pride (ok, I still hate them), but there’s a quiet, genuine panic when their million-dollar world starts crashing down around them. These are not entirely the one-dimensionally-evil money grubbers that Occupy Wall Street demonizes (see last year’s doc, Inside Job if that’s what you’re looking for), and it’s probably due to this that the film was largely ignored (because there are some very fine performances, too) and why it has no real chance of winning here.
Woody Allen is up for his 14th nomination (in this category alone) for Midnight in Paris, which won the WGA Award. There’s nothing entirely novel about the screenplay (for which Allen’s taken bits and pieces and feelings from his other films), but it’s dreamy and charming and full of warm humor. All signs are pointing towards Allen for winning his third Oscar for this romantic and whimsical nostalgic ode to 1920s Paris.
If voters weren’t so afraid of/annoyed at reading screenplays while viewing them, it wouldn’t then be entirely irrational to think A Separation, Iran’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film, has a shot at stealing Allen’s crown. A tightly structured, socially complex film about separations great and small — wife from husband, working from middle class, church from state (or not) — Asghar Farhadi’s is by far the strongest screenplay of the year. What begins as a domestic drama — a wife wishes to leave her husband so as to provide a better life for her daughter (he won’t allow it) — quickly snowballs into a moral, emotional and at times violent legal thriller, layering question upon question, then answering few before raising even more. None of the other nominees come close to the craft and complexity that Farhadi demonstrates here, and so it’s most unfortunate that recognition for his work will be relegated solely to the Best Foreign Language Film category.