Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Down to the Oscar wire

Well, here it is—Oscar weekend—and what had started out as a seemingly predictable year at the Oscars now looks a little less predictable, and has also become one of the most promoted ceremonies I can recall. It’s certainly evolved into the busiest Oscar season I’ve ever had since I’ve been Svengali’d into—along with Justin Souther—this Oscar party at The Carolina on Sunday night.

This is one of those things that started out innocently. There had been some talk about an Oscar party in the Cinema Lounge, which I hadn’t paid much attention to simply because Sunday is traditionally my busiest writing day. Then one of the Asheville Film Society’s most loyal members got involved in pushing the idea of it being a kind of AFS event—and nothing would do but that Justin and I be in attendance. Somehow all this mushroomed into a sort of major production involving The Carolina, the AFS, technical wizardy from the Xpress and Elitist Bastards Producer Steve Shanafelt—and Mr. Souther and I providing some kind of running commentary throughout the evening. Being deeply distrustful of technical wizardry, however, I admit this comes under the heading of something I will believe when I see it—or when someone else sees it. The theory—as I understand it—is that you will be able to watch us live through the Xpress site. (Personally, I think the whole thing involves Mr. Shanafelt meeting the devil at a crossroads at midnight.)

From the outside—if you exempt the fact that somewhere between now and then I have to come up with reviews of Drive Angry 3D, Casino Jack, Rabbit Hole, Casino Royale, The Old Dark House, I Am Cuba and Rembrandt—that may sound fairly innocuous. From where I sit, it sounds pretty darn daunting. Oh, I’m no stranger to talking. Clapton knows, that’s the truth, but I think the longest I’ve on unchecked is about 70 minutes for the commentary track on a Charlie Chan movie. By my reckoning—and assuming the Oscars don’t drag on till after midnight—this is going to be in the neighborhood if five hours. I fully expect to sound like Jimmy Stewart at the end of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington by the end of the evening. I also expect to be completely Oscared out.

What else do I expect? Well, I know there are games and prizes. And I’m hoping that someone—more than one someone—will have something to say over the course of the evening besides the two of us. I may even get religion for the duration and pray that happens. So if you have something to say about the Oscars, please show up and say it. We need all the help we can get.

As for the Oscars themselves, well, since the rush to proclaim The Social Network “the Citizen Kane of our generation” seems to have gone by the wayside a bit, it actually looks like The King’s Speech has a shot at Best Picture. Of course, the question is whether the hastily acquired luster of The Social Network started to dim before or after the actual voting took place. It may also depend on whether or not Oscar voters felt they could prove how relevant they are by plopping for “that Facebook movie.” We shall see.

In quick rundown form, here’s how I expect things to shake out—and how I’d like to see them.

Best Picture. It’s an iffy proposition, but I do expect The King’s Speech to take the big award. It’s also what I’d like to see. My second personal choice would be True Grit.

Best Director. I tend to think it’s ludicrous for Best Director and Best Picture to be different, but my guess is that it will. Tom Hooper—director of The King’s Speech—is a Hollywood outsider and a newcomer to most people. I’d like to see him win, but I strongly suspect that David Fincher for The Social Network is going to win.

Best Actor. This is Colin Firth’s award. Period.

Best Actress. My money’s on Natalie Portman in Black Swan. I might have a marginal preference for Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, but it’s not going to happen. The film—worthy as it is in many ways—has scarcely caused a ripple,

Best Supporting Actor. Oh, it’s going go to Christian Bale in The Fighter. It hardly matters that I’d like to see it go to Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech. The Academy is just too in love with fussy, showy performances where someone glams down for it not to go to Bale.

Best Supporting Actress. For exactly the same reason that Bale’s the likely winner, so too is Melissa Leo the best bet for the same movie. In a just world it would go to Helena Bonham Carter, but if there’s one thing the Oscars rarely represent, it’s a just world.

In the less exalted categories (read: less cared about by the general public), we have some interesting possibilities.

Best Original Screenplay. I think David Seidler with get this for The King’s Speech—and I think he deserves it.

Best Adapted Screenplay. I suspect this will go to Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network, but they might throw the indies a bone by giving it to Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for Winter’s Bone. Me, I’d give it to Coens for True Grit.

Best Animated Feature. I hope this goes to The Illusionist. I fear it will go to my least favorite of the three nominees, Toy Story 3.

Art Direction. I have a hunch that this will go The King’s Speech, and that’s fine, but I really think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is more deserving.

Best Cinematography. I really have no clue how this cat will jump, but it ought to jump for Roger Deakins and True Grit.

Best Costume Design. My guess is Jenny Beavan for The King’s Speech because it’s the type of costume design the Academy tends to like. I have a hunch I’d plop for Sandy Powell and The Tempest—if I could only see the damned thing.

Best Documentary. This would seem to come down to an interesting conundrum for the Academy. Do they want to show how serious they are and give it to Inside Job? Or do they want to show how hip they are and award Exit Through the Gift Shop. I really don’t much care.

Best Original Score. In a year where my main memory of film music comes down to the use of the second movement of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony in The King’s Speech, the use of existing music from a varity of composers in Shutter Island, the use of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in Black Swan, and the use of John Adams’ music in I Am Love, I’m virtually at a loss on this one.

Best Song. Always an Oscar wild card, but I’m going with my own choice—“I See the Light” by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater from Tangled. I don’t really remember the others.

Best Short Film (Animated). I think this will go The Lost Thing and it should.

Best Short Film (Live Action). I’d like to see Wish 143 win. I suspect Na Wewe will, though.

Best Visual Effects. This should be a no-brainer—Inception.

I’m staying out of the Foreign-Language entries. Biutiful is the only one I’ve seen, and it didn’t deserve a nomination. The make-up nominees seem peculiar or maybe just desperate. The editing award is always tricky. A film that requires “flashy” editing like Black Swan or 127 Hours is more immediately apparent to the average viewer. On that basis, I lean toward Black Swan, but I’m not sure that the more subtle editing of The King’s Speech mightn’t be better. I’d have to watch the film again with the editing in mind. Anyway, I’d have given it to I Am Love and it wasn’t nominated.

So there you have it. You can grade my guesses after the fact—or during it, if you’re that way inclined.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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26 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Down to the Oscar wire

  1. (Personally, I think the whole thing involves Mr. Shanafelt meeting the devil at a crossroads at midnight.)
    If you run out of things to do during the evening, maybe Steve could get a dobro out and play some Robert Johnson songs.

    It’s a very agreeable field this year, and I wouldn’t be outraged at any film winning in most of the categories, but I would be pretty pissed if INCEPTION doesn’t take out Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, although THE SOCIAL NETWORK would be a respectable pick for those last two also.

    And while I agree with Ken about Deakins for Cinematography, a big part of me would like to see Wally Pfister take that out.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Dogtooth for best foreign film

    I keep seeing this referred to as an essay in “miserablism,” making me strongly suspect that I am going to absolutely hate this movie.

  3. Ken Hanke

    If you run out of things to do during the evening, maybe Steve could get a dobro out and play some Robert Johnson songs

    I’ll bet that would empty the theater!

    It’s a very agreeable field this year, and I wouldn’t be outraged at any film winning in most of the categories

    I’d be pretty pissed at The Social Network winning Best Picture and seriously pissed at Toy Story 3 getting that accolade. I expect to be pissed when David “Look at Me, I’m Wonderful” Fincher wins Best Director. And while I don’t actually dislike Jesse “I am not Michael Cera” Eisenberg, good Clapton, I’d be cheesed if he got Best Actor.

  4. Me

    I take my comment back if Banksy comes on stage with five guys in monkey masks of course.

  5. Mike

    I keep seeing this referred to as an essay in “miserablism,” making me strongly suspect that I am going to absolutely hate this movie.

    It wears influences like Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier quite prominently, so there’s a pretty good chance you’re right. That said, I’d consider it essential viewing.

  6. Ken Hanke

    It wears influences like Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier quite prominently

    Nsmes not exactly aimed at getting me to seek something out, no.

  7. Nsmes not exactly aimed at getting me to seek something out, no.

    A little bit of John Waters as well.

    I unfortunately expect Fincher and THE SOCIAL NETWORK to win director and picture.

    That film wins the title for the most brought back to me with the customer saying, “it was good, but…”

    Hope to be there by 8. At least with your commentary the most predictable Oscars ever should be fun.

  8. Me

    I just listened to this weeks Filmspotting and they awarded Dogstooth their annual Golden Brick award.

  9. Ken Hanke

    That film wins the title for the most brought back to me with the customer saying, “it was good, but…”

    In this regard, your customers and I are as one.

    Hope to be there by 8.

    I will certainly be there.

    At least with your commentary the most predictable Oscars ever should be fun.

    We’ll see about that. As I said, I’ll actually believe in this streaming hoo-ha when I see it working.

  10. bill smith

    “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is entertaining, if you’re into that scene.

    And when you think about it, it’s a biting commentary on the art world. Banksy essentially CREATED ‘Mr. Brainwash” to prove to the ‘art world’ just how fake and naive they are all.

    They’re paying tens of thousands for unoriginal, hyped crap. Banksy strikes again, and the hipster swine of LA don’t get the joke is on them!

  11. PERSONAL PREFERENCES

    BEST PICTURE
    Inception

    BEST DIRECTOR
    Joel and Ethan Cohen

    ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
    Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth (tie)

    ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    Geoffrey Rush

    ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
    I haven’t seen any of these films.

    ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    Hailee Steinfeld

    ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
    I haven’t seen any of these films.

    ART DIRECTION
    Harry Potter 7A

    CINEMATOGRAPHY
    Roger Deakins for True Grit.

    COSTUME DESIGN
    True Grit.

    DOCUMENTARY
    I haven’t seen any of these films.

    FILM EDITING
    The Social Network.

    ORIGINAL SCORE
    Hans Zimmer for Inception.

    SOUND EDITING
    Inception.

    SOUND MIXING
    Inception.

    VISUAL EFFECTS
    Inception.

    ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
    Aaron Sorkin.

    ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
    David Seidler.

    I’m fairly certain at least 4 of those won’t come to fruition.

  12. bill smith

    [b]That film wins the title for the most brought back to me with the customer saying, “it was good, but…[/b]

    But what!!!????

    Funny how you film dorks use the [b]bold[/b] function while the news dorks use the [i]italics[/i].

  13. DrSerizawa

    Well. I tried to watch it but the self-aggrandizement of these people has become so over the top that I couldn’t take much. One night of phony group love and today it’s back to clawing their way over each other again. How do you stretch a couple dozen awards out for 3 HOURS? And Kirk Douglas frankly scared me to death.

    From the results it looks like they took the “safe” route. Geoffrey Rush will probably never win one sad to say. But I give a thumbs up for giving “Best Director” to the guy who made the “Best Picture” for a change.

    But my real nitpick is for Best Animated Film. Dragon was a lot better than TS3. Far more entertaining. It shows how stupid the Best Picture nomination was for TS3. Since they gave it the Best Picture nomination they were forced to give it the award over the obviously superior Dragon. Maybe they should have had a special award for TS3. Something like “Best Animated Film Franchise That Hasn’t Turned To Total S*** Yet”.

  14. Mike

    Geoffrey Rush won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in Shine in 1996.

    And I really don’t understand how you can assume all of these people “claw over each other” when not giving each other praise at award shows. Well-worn jokes about Hollywood infighting aside, you might be generalizing just a touch.

  15. Chip Kaufmann

    Geoffrey Rush did win an Oscar for Best Actor inSHINE back in 1996

  16. Ken Hanke

    I’m fairly certain at least 4 of those won’t come to fruition.

    I think you missed on more than 4.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Funny how you film dorks use the bold function while the news dorks use the italics.

    The news dorks are full of riff-raff.

  18. Ken Hanke

    My daughter Annie has a good rule. No movie over three hours should be eligible for Best Editing. – Ken Levine

    That’s pretty reasonable actually.

  19. Ken Hanke

    But my real nitpick is for Best Animated Film. Dragon was a lot better than TS3. Far more entertaining. It shows how stupid the Best Picture nomination was for TS3. Since they gave it the Best Picture nomination they were forced to give it the award over the obviously superior Dragon.

    And The Illusionist was better than either of them, but in Hollywood Pixar is pretty much unassailable.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Geoffrey Rush did win an Oscar for Best Actor inSHINE back in 1996

    Are they punishing him for that now? I mean, it’s about time they gave him another one. It’s not like he’s Walter Brennan and the extras guild are stuffing the ballot box.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Hans Zimmer was robbed.

    No. Merely insulted. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush were robbed.

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