Well here we go folks. I did a thin running commentary as they were announced, but I think it’s better to systematically zoom through the nods and dump some thoughts, and get the conversation a rollin’. We’ve got a little over a month till the ceremony (Feb. 26th) so plenty of time to break down just what went down this morning.

Let’s dive right in…

Renn’s Pick (gonna cheat and pick two frequently)…

BEST PICTURE
“War Horse”
“The Artist”
“Moneyball”
“The Descendants”
“The Tree of Life”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“Hugo”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Sonofabitch”

Still think this is a big ole pile of good to mildly great films with a couple almost-but-not-quite classics, but looking at it we have 9 nominees (which is higher than most expected) with Extremely Loud the conspicuous inclusion (mostly because it’s a fucking crashed plane in the side of the tower of taste). It’s really hard to get especially excited about any of these films, so it’s pretty much a toss up for which win would not piss me off. Granted, I haven’t seen The Help or The Descendants yet, so currently War Horse and Moneyball are the two that feel the most special and effective without being somehow compromised. Even still, neither feels like the kind of movie we’ll still be excited about when it’s time to make decade’s best lists.

So interestingly, it comes down to The Artist versus Hugo with a potential sweep for both. Neither makes me shit myself (they’re both good). The Artist would be a win for extremely well-done kitsch, which is to say: a true Academy choice. Hugo would be progressive pick of a trailblazing movie with some deep, deep flaws. I really feel like The Artist is more AMPAS style, but Hugo leads the nominations with 11, so looks like there’s pretty strong support there…

LEAD ACTOR
Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy “
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

The story here is Oldman in, Fassbender/Shannon out, but the surprise is Demián Bichir (though he got a SAG award, so not out of left field or anything). My picks here acknowledge excellence on both ends of the spectrum, as Dujardin captures the kind of dynamic charm and verve you just can’t fake while Oldman bravely bottled up smoldering turmoil, ego, and jealousy behind a glassy, smooth exterior. I’d be pleased either way, but really I want Oldman to take it.

LEAD ACTRESS
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

No Tilda Swinton, that’s a fucking shame. As much as I liked Dragon Tattoo, Mara’s role there is not classic stuff, and if it is it’s not supported by Fincher’s ruthless edit and questionable arrangement choices. Haven’t seen Nobbs, but I’m also not sure how I’m going to get through more than 15 minutes of that movie at a time. Honestly I’d have dropped either for Charlize Theron in Young Adult.

I’d say it ends up being a choice between a legacy Streep prize or a progressive Viola Davis pick. Davis had retained more heat for her performance than the film has in general, so I’d see that as a possibility. Ultimately though, with who ended up on the short-list I’d be very pleased to see Williams take it, as she provides a pretty immaculate can’t-fake-that performance that is much better than the movie as a whole.

BEST DIRECTOR
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

No Spielberg, and no Alfredson, which is the real bummer here. I actually like Scorsese for his love-letter to cinema rather than the favored nominee, Hazanavicius. Marty didn’t manage to overcome the problems with his chosen source material, but he directed the shit out of the film. Paying a remarkable tribute to early cinema while incrementally pushing forward filmmaking grammar in 3D is quite an accomplishment, and a brilliant arrangement of technology and subject matter.

Still can’t buy Woody’s place in all this. Love the themes of Midnight, but if there’s an over-hyped “trifle” on this list, it’s that movie.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Suckmydick”

Very pleased to see Nolte make the cut, with the surprise being Max von Sydow in the role of “best thing in a shit film.” Would have preferred Brooks, but that was always a genre-fan wet dream that wasn’t gonna hold up all the way to the Kodak Theater. I’d actually like to see Branagh take this though, as he’s was a truly spectacular piece in an only decent puzzle.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

McCarthy feels like a gimmick nod, but worst things have happened. I’m all about Bejo for this one. Like Dujardin she’s capturing a kind of screen presence you just can’t pull out of your ass.

ART DIRECTION
“The Artist” Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
“Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
“Midnight in Paris” Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
“War Horse” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

Where the fuck is Tinker, Tailor? Yeesh. I’d be happy with War Horse nabbing this one, but I have a feeling it will get swept up if either The Artist or Hugo manages to snowball.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”
Jeff Cronenweth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Robert Richardson, “Hugo”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”
Janusz Kaminski, “War Horse”

Here’s the category where Dragon Tattoo belongs, so congrats to Cronenweth for blazing that digital trail. These are all good looking movies, but I’m hoping Jeff takes it. I’d also be happy with Robert Richardson nabbing what I assume would be the first-ever 3D cinematography nod, which is possible if Hugo takes the heat over the next month and starts a sweep (which I’m extremely skeptical is going to happen).

COSTUME DESIGN
Lisy Christl, “Anonymous”
Mark Bridges, “The Artist”
Sandy Powell, “Hugo”
Michael O’Connor, “Jane Eyre”
Arianne Phillips, “W.E”

Ha, remember when Anonymous was being shifted around and platformed to drive up its “Oscar momentum”..? Well here’s its nod! Will Madonna show up just to smile at the one award her movie got nominated for? This is a category that always goes somewhere weird, so I’m going to assume Jane Eyre gets it.

FILM EDITING
“The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants” Kevin Tent
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Moneyball” Christopher Tellefsen

This is a tough one. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has a lot of weird editorial choices, and you can feel the longer original run-time all over the place but there are still some brilliant picture edits in this film. Really though, it’s the weird structure of Moneyball that I’ve become most fascinated by, especially with how satisfying and interesting every individual portion of the film ends up being.

MAKEUP
“Albert Nobbs” Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
“The Iron Lady” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Eh.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
“The Adventures of Tintin” John Williams
“The Artist” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse” John Williams

Damn, Williams twice? While I get that the Oscars were never going to award the progressive work of Ross/Reznor twice in a row, it’s a shame it didn’t get the nom. Very cool to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy make it. Kim Novak loses (she should have cried “fire”). Another possible sweep victim, though I feel like War Horse has a shot as well.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
“Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

This category just gets more and more fucked. I’m shocked they didn’t just cut the damn thing. The Muppets song is fun, but not even the best from that film…

SOUND EDITING
“Drive” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce
“Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
“War Horse” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Ah, the place where Drive definitely belongs and where films like Transformers (rightfully) show up. Frankly all of these films demonstrate very fine work for different reasons, but I always have to root for the less obvious, subdued work like in Drive or Dragon Tattoo. Still, a Transformers win (for example) is still gold going to good people putting massive effort and creativity into a monumental soundtrack (without which, that film especially wouldn’t function). In fact, I’d almost give it to Transformers simply because Bay gave that team about 40 fucking minutes of extra screentime to cover that shouldn’t have been there in any rational world…

SOUND MIXING
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
“Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
“Moneyball” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
“War Horse” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

They always throw in at least one discrepancy between mixing and editing, with Moneyball being the odd inclusion here. It pushes out Drive, which is kind of annoying considering it was Drive‘s mix that impressed me so much! Still I’d be happy with the big, sophisticated noise of ‘formers or the subdued reality of Dragon Tattoo nabbing both prizes, or a split between Drive and War Horse doing both sides of the coin justice.

VISUAL EFFECTS
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
“Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
“Real Steel” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Another one in which the blockbusters get to play. Apes could have been a part of a story where Andy Serkis gets his nod and there’s a celebration of digital make-up or whatever, but if there was any heat for that then they’re still just going to give it to the tech guys. I’d really like to see Potter take this, with its many varied effects filling out that world so beautifully. Hugo wouldn’t be a tragedy either. Fuck you Real Steel. You’re still an over-forgiven piece of dumb.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
“The Descendants,” Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
“Hugo,” John Logan
“The Ides of March,” George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
“Moneyball,” Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

I like Moneyball for this. A lot of work going into making statistics interesting, and baseball a fun subject without actually showing much play or pulling manipulative sports movie strings. Tinker Tailor is an excellent adaptation, but its the pitch-perfect tonal directing that seals that deal. Still, the restructuring of the novel is aggressive and worthy of gold, so I’d be perfectly pleased to see that happen too. I still think Ides of March needs to go find some real teeth before it gets included in these conversations.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
“The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius
“Bridesmaids,” Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
“Margin Call,” J.C. Chandor
“Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen
“A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi

I’m missing two of these films, and one of them is exceptionally well-liked (A Separation). Though it’s not for the shallow, obvious reasons (HUH HUH, NO DIALOGUE), I really don’t think The Artist needs to be picking up this award. Bridesmaids is again the weird outlier and while I’m happy for what its done, I don’t know that its script is particularly classic. Woody could take this without much grumbling from me, insubstantial as I feel that film is.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“A Cat in Paris,” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
“Chico & Rita,” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
“Kung Fu Panda 2,” Jennifer Yuh Nelson
“Puss in Boots,” Chris Miller
“Rango,” Gore Verbinski

I have not seen a single nominated film in this category. What a fucking dig on Cars 2 though, that both Panda and Puss made the cut while Pixar didn’t. But really, I can not fathom why The Adventures of Tintin didn’t make this list, unless it was just the later release. Ridiculous. I’ll be catching up on the rest soon.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Bullhead,” Belgium
“Footnote,” Israel
“In Darkness,” Poland
“Monsieur Lazhar,” Canada
“A Separation,” Iran

Here is where I really have to start playing catch-up. Congrats to Alamo’s Bullhead for making it on the list, though A Separation seems likely to take this one.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
“Hell and Back Again,” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Pina,” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
“Undefeated,” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Odd that no recognizable doc got any kind of wide support, with some extremely well-liked films being ignored. Odd category with big rules changes lately. I’ll have to dig and see what to make of these choices over the next month.

Here are the shorts nominations, all of which I’ll catch up on at showcases soon.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
“God Is the Bigger Elvis,” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
“Incident in New Baghdad,” James Spione
“Saving Face,” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
“Dimanche/Sunday,” Patrick Doyon
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
“La Luna,” Enrico Casarosa
“A Morning Stroll,” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
“Wild Life,” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
“Pentecost,” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
“Raju,” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
“The Shore,” Terry George and Oorlagh George
“Time Freak,” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
“Tuba Atlantic,” Hallvar Witzø

Thanks for reading folks. We definitely want to hear your thoughts, so hit us up in the comments and on the boards.

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