Oscar Predictions: Part 2 – Songs, Styles, and Sets!

Oscar Predictions: Part 2 – Songs, Styles, and Sets!

This week’s set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. As stated last week, The People’s Critic has decided to unveil predictions on all 24 major categories over a four week period leading up the big day on February 24th. This week’s predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Film Editing. Readers are invited to continue to weigh in with their own opinions by submitting to the public polls following each category’s predictions.

7. Best Original Song:

Nominated songs are “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted, “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, “Skyfall” from Skyfall, and “Suddenly” from Les Misérables

This is an interesting category in that its number of nominees varies from year to year. Current prerequisites for a nomination require that the song is originally written for a film and that the song is completely original and not partially sampled from another source (as was the case with 1995’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” from Dangerous Minds). This year there is a full set of five nominees, but that is only a formality since there is a clear and overwhelmingly obvious frontrunner, and it’s not the one that came from a musical. It is also definitely not the one that was a gift to the host of the Oscars, Seth Macfarlane. Songs from Bond movies have a storied and often kitschy past, but this year Adele’s “Skyfall” will raise that bar. The Peoples Critic Selection: “Skyfall”


8. Best Original Score:

Nominated Films are Anna Karenina, Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall

John Williams (Lincoln) may have five Oscars, but he has been nominated 48 times suggesting that he is not an Academy favorite. Additionally, the five Oscars he has are for scores much more memorable and powerful than Lincoln’s. The film with the most substantial use of music is Life of Pi.The People’s Critic Selection: Life of Pi


9. Best Costume Design:

Nominated films are Anna Karenina, Les Misérables, Lincoln, Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman.

The key to this category is not to get too caught up in the film itself but rather focus on the creativity, authenticity, and accuracy of the costuming. Period pieces are favorites in this category and we have three of them along with two fairy tale films. This year the period pieces have the edge. Lincoln may seem like a strong contender, but designer Joanna Johnston is rarely recognized for her work, although she has designed costumes for some of the most iconic films of all time including Indiana Jones and Back to the Future. Thus, the toss up goes to the lavish Anna Karenina. This is Karenina’s Jacqueline Durran’s third nomination and she’s yet to win. The People’s Critic Selection: Anna Karenina

10. Best Production Design:

Nominated films are Anna Karenina, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, and Lincoln

The Oscar for Production Design goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. This can be a complicated job, and an A.D.’s success relies on whether or not an audience is appropriately affected psychologically by a film. From a psychological standpoint, these films all offer wildly different ways of using style and motion to affect an audience. However, performances aside production design is the only other reason Les Misérables could possibly nominated for best picture. The People’s Critic Selection: Les Misérables

11. Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Nominated Films are Hitchcock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Les Misérables

In a year of impressive films, it’s hard to believe that only three of them included Oscar-worthy makeup and hair. Last year, this went to the team behind the subtle transformation of Meryl Streep into Margaret Thatcher for the film The Iron Lady; but typically this award goes to wildly imaginative, over-the-top makeups and hair. Two of the three previous Rings films won the Oscar for this award, and Peter King (nominated here for Hobbit) was part of the team that won for Return of the King. The People’s Critic Selection: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

12. Best Film Editing

Nominated films are Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty

This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and it is no surprise that all five films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. The editing of a film is nearly as important as the direction since it affects the story, the pace, and the tone. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. The major consideration here is that William Goldenberg is nominated for his work in both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. Argo is the better of those two films especially given its genius and flawless balance of tones throughout the film. We also have an editing legend nominated in Michael Khan for Lincoln who has won three Oscars from seven nominations. Also not to be counted out, Jay Cassidy’s avant-garde style has mostly been seen in documentary films, and it is refreshing and interesting to see that style in a feature film like Silver Linings Playbook. This is a tough one and could add to the controversy of Affleck’s snub as Director for The People’s Critic’s Selection: Argo.

Les Misérables

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It is a fairly accepted story that when the sculptor, Auguste Rodin wanted to sculpt Victor Hugo, Hugo agreed, but demanded Rodin come to his house, and he refused to pose for him. This prompted Rodin to frantically sketch the poet and attempt to capture his essence. This interpretation of Victor Hugo worked out and resulted in some famous sketches, busts and sculptures. It also worked out in 1985 when Claude-Michel Schönberg interpreted Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables into a global musical sensation. Now, as 2012 draws to a close, another interpretation of Hugo’s Les Misérables has been released. Director Tom Hooper follows his best picture Oscar winning film The Kings Speech with the first ever film adaptation of the 1985 musical Les Misérables. Unfortunately, Tom Hooper is no Rodin.

Les Misérables (never to be referred to as “Lay Miz” in this review) is set during the French Revolution and follows the trials of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) over a seventeen year period. During that time, Valjean experiences the endurance and integrity of the human spirit as he relentlessly sacrifices his wellbeing for the good of his adopted daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Much of Hugo’s original Romantic vision is simplified both for stage and for screen. All versions, however, do condemn the corruption of society as its technological advances inspire greed that leads to abuse of the working class, desperation, increases in criminal activity, and a justifiable uprising. Most evocative of this progression of devastation is the story of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who when fired from her low-paying factory job is forced to sell her teeth, hair, and body to support her daughter. Hathaway has received praise and criticism for her performance as Fantine. However, the fact remains that while not a traditional Broadway-style singer, what Hathaway lacks in technical singing ability, she more than makes up for in emotional presence. Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” is heartbreaking and touching.

While Hathaway performs her role very well, there truly is not enough here to warrant too much attention. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, turns out a career defining performance that alone makes Les Misérables worth the price of admission. This is Jackman’s movie in every single way. Les Misérables is a “sung-through” musical, which means there is no spoken dialogue; all conversations and speeches are sung. This can prove a challenge for many actors, yet Jackman accomplishes this task expertly with every bit of rawness necessary. Jackman is so good in fact, that he makes it easier to overlook the film’s two most glaring faults: its direction and Russell Crowe.

Tom Hooper has directed a very standard looking and staged feeling musical here. His actors save the film, which in essence is stylistically a spliced together collection of absurdly close-up one shots that go on for several minutes without cutting. To call this minimalism would be vastly understating it. While it can be argued that more aggressive direction may compete with the actors’ performances, it is impossible to look back on the film after viewing it and not feel like an opportunity was missed to make it something more. He does offer a glimpse of creativity with the film’s opening scene as well as his staging of the comic relief number, “Master of the House,” expertly casting Sasha Baron Cohen as Thenardier and Helena Bonhem Carter as his wife.

Additionally, Russell Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert, simply can not hold his own as the film’s second lead. It is painstakingly obvious how hard he is trying, and this perceptibility is deeply distracting. Crowe does not ruin the film, however since the heart wrenching story and incredible music make up for much of the film’s shortcomings. “One Day More” is arguably the film’s most powerful song, and it is sure to stick with audience members well after the credits roll. At the end of the day, Les Misérables is mostly effective, especially to original fans of the musical. Nevertheless, it is mostly an underwhelming film, with occasional glimmers of substance, all of which are a consequence of Hugh Jackman’s powerhouse performance. B-