One week from tonight, the 84th Academy Awards will be handed out at the Kodak Theater. As with 2011, I have not made any bets on this year’s ceremony.We have a pretty interesting field this year, and by interesting I mean I still don’t know what to make of it, a dilemma for anyone looking for a safe office pool bet. Though THE ARTIST has shown some steam recently with the BAFTAs, the critics’ awards in previous weeks were anybody’s game. Critical awards in some cities heavily favored THE ARTIST or HUGO or THE DESCENDANTS, while others spread the love more evenly. It is also notable that many of those critics observed in their top 10 lists that 2011 was a particularly weak year for movies. I’m not certain I agree with that. I think every year is a great year for movies; the problem is that so many strong movies never find an audience. I don’t love this years list of Oscar nominees.
Hell, even if I cobbled together a personal list from the 2012 nominees for Oscars, BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards, I would still have a few favorite films that were snubbed across the board. Among those, the best movie I saw last year was China’s CITY OF LIFE & DEATH. The only appreciation from an American body it received was last year from the L.A. Film Critics Association. CITY OF LIFE & DEATH premiered in China in 2009, played the American festical circuit in 2010, and received limited general release in 2011. Who’s to say what year it even belongs in for American awards?! Similarly, Ralph Fiennes’ outstanding directorial debut CORIOLANUS was made in 2010, is listed on IMDb as 2011, and is only being released outside of New York and Los Angeles this month! I understand that Academy rules focus on the NY and LA releases, which would put it in the running for the 84th Oscars, but among U.S. awards it went roundly ignored (except for a few awards for Jessica Chastain, which were more for her collective films in 2011 than CORIOLANUS in particular). And why is DRIVE only up for Sound Editing?!
Enough about what wasn’t nominated. Lets focus on where we’re going to place out bets! It helps me to make two lists — the list that I really want to see win needs to be gotten out of the way first. Once it’s down, I can ignore it and guesstimate how I think the consensus will vote. Never bet on the movies you love, unless you know everyone else loved it as much as you did.
CATEGORY – – WHO I’D BET ON – – WHO I’D VOTE FOR
Best Picture — The Artist — Drive (not nominated)
Director – – Michel Hazanavicius – – Terrence Malick
Actress — Michelle Williams — Glenn Close
Actor – – George Clooney – – Demian Bichir
Supporting Actress — Jessica Chastain — Janet McTeer
Supporting Actor – – Christopher Plummer – – Kenneth Branagh
Documentary Feature — Hell & Back Again — Paradise Lost 3
Animated Feature – – Rango – – Chico & Rita
Foreign Feature — A Separation — City of Life & Death (not nominated)
Adapted Screenplay – – The Descendants – – Moneyball
Original Screenplay — The Artist — Midnight in Paris
It helps me to examine the history of the awards when choosing my Oscar picks. It is fun to know who won and when, but it is often fascinating to learn who lost, and to consider why the Academy voted the way they did. Here are a few trivia questions, some just for fun, others to lend an eye toward the past. You have one week to debate with your friends or Google by yourself; I will post the answers on February 26, a few hours before the Oscar telecast begins on ABC.
1. Which Best Picture winner had the shortest running time?
2. What was the first color film to win Best Picture?
3. What was the only animated feature nominated for Best Picture before the inclusion of a separate category for Best Animated Feature?
4. On 3 occasions The Oscars have been postponed by at least 1 day. In which years did this occur?
5. In which year were the awards first televised?
6. Name the youngest nominee for Best Director.
7. For which film did Alfred Hitchcock win Best Director?
8. Name the only Oscar winner who also held a Nobel Prize.
9. Who went off-script while presenting an award in 1990 to decry the lack of a Best Picture nomination for “Do The Right Thing?”
10. “Churchill’s Island” (1941) has the distinction of winning the first award in which category?
11. Who has hosted the most Academy Awards ceremonies?
12. How long are winners currently given for their acceptance speeches?
13. Who sang the show-stopping comical duet “It’s Great Not To Be Nominated” in 1958?
14. How tall is Oscar?
15. Who was at the podium when the awards were notoriously “streaked” by a naked man running across the stage?
16. Who is the only person to ever refuse an Oscar?
17. Name the two actors who won Best Director and Best Picture for their directorial debuts.
18. Which two families have three generations of Oscar winners?
19. Who has received the most nominations for Best Actress?
20. To whom did Marlon Brando lose his first nomination for Best Actor for his performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire?”
21. Name the only character that two different performers in different films have won acting awards for playing.
22. What was the most recent film to win every award for which it was nominated?
23. What was the first non-English language film nominated for Best Picture?
24. Which composer has won the most Oscars for Best Original Score?
25. What was the first animated film to win the Oscar for Best Original Song?