The Oscar scorecard

The-Artist

Gay folks — both actors, characters and behind the scenes — are easier to find at the Tonys and Emmys than at the Oscars; it’s one of the reasons we get so excited about Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right.

But the Oscars do occasionally have their queer appeal — one of the frontrunners this year is an elderly man who comes out as gay to his adult son’s dismay.

Here’s a scorecard for those keeping track,
including who will win and who should … and who might sneak in. Let the office pool begin!

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Picture: Who will win: The Artist, pictured. Who should win: The Help. Spoiler:
The Descendants.

Director: Who will win: Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist. Who should win: Terrence Malick,
Tree of Life. Spoiler: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.

Actor: Who will/should win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist. Spoiler: George Clooney,
The Descendants.

Actress: Who will/should win: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady. Spoiler: Viola Davis, The Help.

Supporting Actor: Who will/should win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. Spoiler: None.

Supporting Actress: Who will/should win:
Octavia Spencer, The Help. Spoiler: None.

Original Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Artist. Spoiler: Midnight in Paris.

Adapted Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Descendants. Spoiler: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy.

Cinematography: Who will win: The Artist. Who should win/spoiler: The Tree of Life.

Film Editing: Who will win: Hugo. Who should win:  Moneyball. Spoiler: Descendants.

Art Direction: Who will/should win: Hugo.

Costume Design: Who will/should win: Anonymous. Spoiler: Hugo.

Score: Who will/should win: The Artist.

Song: Who will/should win: The Muppets.

Sound Mixing: Who will win: Hugo.

Sound Editing: Who will win: War Horse.

Visual Effects: Who will/should win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Spoiler: Real Steel.

Makeup: Who will/should win: Albert Nobbs. Spoiler: The Iron Lady.

Foreign Language Film: Who will win: In Darkness. Spoiler: A Separation.

Animated Feature Film: Who will win:
Chico and Rita. Spoiler: Rango.

Documentary Feature Film: Who will win:
Undefeated. Who should win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Spoiler: Pina.

Live Action Short Subject: Who will/should win: Raju. Spoiler: Tuba Atlantic.

Animated Short Subject: Who will/should win: The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Spoiler: La Luna.

Documentary Short Subject: Who will win:
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Oscar race!

Need a jump on the office pool? We handicap the year’s likely nominees

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GAY FOR PLAY | Christopher Plummer (center), as a man who come out in his 70s, is a sure-bet for a best supporting actor Oscar nomination Tuesday.

The Academy Awards will announce their nominations on Tuesday morning … and I’ll be there. Yep, after years of writing about the Oscars, I’ll finally attend them (in part) while watching from the Academy auditorium as this year’s crop will be winnowed down to five (and for best picture, perhaps more) in each category.

And while some seem to be sure things, in some ways it’s a wide-open year. No one film, or even two or three, seem likely to dominate, the way last year’s The King’s Speech, The Social Network and True Grit did, or how Avatar and The Hurt Locker looked to dominate in 2009… and did.

Will The Help manage multiple acting nominees in addition to best picture and even director? Will the excellent Girl with the Dragon Tattoo surge near the end and get more than its lukewarm reception so far would indicate? Could Ghost Protocol actually surprise people? (The last seems unlikely, except in craft categories.)

There are some promising gay-interest nominees in addition to Tattoo: Shame, J. Edgar, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Beginners (Christopher Plummer seems a lock to win), even My Week with Marilyn.

Here then are my predictions in the major categories (listed roughly in their likelihood of being among the nominees).

And look on Instant Tea Tuesday or follow me on Twitter @ CriticalMassTX, where I’ll live tweet the experience at the Academy.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Picture (up to 10 nominees this year): The Artist; Hugo; The Descendants; The Help; Moneyball; Midnight in Paris; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Tree of Life; War Horse; Shame; Drive.

Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Martin Scorsese, Hugo; Alexander Payne, The Descendants; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life; Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Steve McQueen, Shame; Steven Spielberg, War Horse.

Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants; Jean Dujardin, The Artist; Brad Pitt, Moneyball; Michael Fassbender, Shame; Leonard DiCaprio, J. Edgar; Michael Shannon, Take Shelter; Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis, The Help; Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn; Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin; Charlize Theron, Young Adult.

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Albert Brooks, Drive; Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn; Armie Hammer, J. Edgar; Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Jonah Hill, Moneyball; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Patton Oswald, Young Adult; Jim Broadbent, The Iron Lady.

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help; Berenice Bejo, The Artist; Carey Mulligan, Shame; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Judi Dench, My Week with Marilyn; Jessica Chastain, The Help; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids.

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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE:

Read Chris Azzopardi’s exclusive interview with likely Oscar nominee (and this week’s Golden Globe winner) Meryl Streep at DallasVoice.com/category/Screen, and read Instant Tea Tuesday morning as Arnold Wayne Jones live blogs about the nominations from Hollywood.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Movie Monday: Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ in wide release

Age of innocence

GoodFellas director Martin Scorsese shows a soft side in Hugo, the film adaptation of Brian Selznick’s graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, cleaves so closely to this recipe, it would be momentous if even one second of the plot were able to catch you by surprise. It does not.

Hugo (the impossibly saucer-eyed Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a Parisian train station (circa 1930), surreptitiously winding the giant clocks so no one will know his caretaker-uncle has disappeared and send Hugo to an orphanage. He scavenges food and supplies from shops in the station, eventually getting caught by Georges (Ben Kingsley), a curmudgeonly tinkerer and toy salesman. Georges has a secret (in this genre, everyone has a secret that could be easily told, except it wouldn’t leave any mystery; it’s borne of an WASPy sense of emotional repression and a desire to allow the plot to stretch out), so Hugo enlists Georges’ ward Hermione… er, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) to help him retrieve the notebook the man took from him.

The notebook, of course, is just another storytelling device (the McGuffin) that ultimately proves irrelevant, as so much of Hugo is. The film’s real goal is to stand as a paean to the silent film era, and especially the work of pioneering French filmmaker Georges Melies.

And that’s where Hugo begins to get interesting.

To read the complete review. click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Life as a Cabret

Scorsese shows a soft side with the children’s fantasy ‘Hugo;’ von Trier mixes opera with sci-fi in the navel-and-star-gazing drama ‘Melancholia’

HUGO

SAFETY LAST | The well worn kid-lit saw of an orphan (Asa Butterfield) hiding from thoughtless adults is given a silent-movie send up by Martin Scorsese in ‘Hugo.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It would be nice to blame J.K. Rowling for ruining children’s literature for all time, but in fact Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and others bear some of the responsibility. It has become now all-too-formulaic how (popular, at least) kid fantasy stories play out: An orphaned or neglected moppet (who came from the most loving family imaginable before falling on hard times) discovers a new friend, a nemesis who eventually becomes a friend, and an antagonist while living in a magical, Gothic castle that brings him extraordinary abilities.

Go ahead. Apply it to any kid’s fiction. I dare ya.

Hugo, the film adaptation of Brian Selznick’s graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, cleaves so closely to this recipe, it would be momentous if even one second of the plot were able to catch you by surprise. It does not.

Hugo (the impossibly saucer-eyed Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a Parisian train station (circa 1930), surreptitiously winding the giant clocks so no one will know his caretaker-uncle has disappeared and send Hugo to an orphanage. He scavenges food and supplies from shops in the station, eventually getting caught by Georges (Ben Kingsley), a curmudgeonly tinkerer and toy salesman. Georges has a secret (in this genre, everyone has a secret that could be easily told, except it wouldn’t leave any mystery; it’s borne of an WASPy sense of emotional repression and a desire to allow the plot to stretch out), so Hugo enlists Georges’ ward Hermione… er, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) to help him retrieve the notebook the man took from him.

The notebook, of course, is just another storytelling device (the McGuffin) that ultimately proves irrelevant, as so much of Hugo is. The film’s real goal is to stand as a paean to the silent film era, and especially the work of pioneering French filmmaker Georges Melies.

And that’s where Hugo begins to get interesting.

The mushy themes and soft sense of innocent delight are ill-fitted to the director, Martin Scorsese, whose most prominent use of a child prior to this was probably Jodie Foster’s teen prostitute in Taxi Driver. Scorsese doesn’t approach most of the material with that harsh eye of his; he actually seems lost in it, charming himself with the story’s doe-eyed wonder. (The train station is as improbably kooky as the Wonka Candy Factory.)

But Scorsese sustains the film during its more familiar and less compelling periods with a movie fanatic’s appreciation for the art of the silent film. It is a victory of form over substance, as Scorsese recreates the visual cues first explored by the likes of Melies, as well as Chaplin, Keaton,

Harold Lloyd. Indeed, two key scenes mirror one another: One where Hugo takes Isabelle to her first movie (Lloyd’s Safety Last, where the comedian dangles dangerously from a tower while holding on to the hands of a clockface), and one later, where Hugo does the same thing while being chased by a station cop (Sacha Baron Cohen, whose rubbery face was made for silent film).

The structuring, photography and editing are such loving and eerily accurate reproductions of film classics, you’re tempted to hold your hands over your ears and experience Hugo the way Melies’ audiences would have A Trip to the Moon.

Still, a tone of wistful nostalgia permeates Hugo, and eventually dominates it. The fact it was made in (admittedly effective) 3D, however, only highlights its failings: Melies didn’t have such technology to keep audiences in awe. We may have come a long way since 1895 in some particulars, but originality of story is still in short supply.
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MARRIAGE AT THE END OF THE WORLD | ‘Melancholia’ is a sci-fi drama, about a bride (Kirsten Dunst, left), her citrus-lipped sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg, right) and the heavenly body hurtling toward earth.

There’s a difference between the nostalgia of Hugo and Melancholia, the new drama by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. Von Trier was one of the founders of the Dogme 95 filmmaking philosophy that touted minimalism over artifice, but his career has been a testament to the theory’s unworkability. Even in the wedding scenes in Melancholia that seem lifted directly from Festen (the first true Dogme feature — significantly, from a different director) reveal how the idea of steering clear of genre pictures is a boondoggle: Dogme 95 has become a shorthand for uncomfortable family get-togethers. (In the U.S., Rachel Getting Married felt like a Dogme film.)

When Von Trier is being minimalistic, he composes scenes steeped in pain and awkward, raw emotions, but his flamboyant side cannot resist peaking through, as it did in his masterpiece, Breaking the Waves.  Melancholia begins with an extended sequence of still shots, supersaturated in colors that make David LaChapelle photos look washed out, all set to a long, graceful overture from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. This isn’t film, it’s opera — big and bold and crazed with feeling.

Only it takes too much to get going. The confrontations — Charlotte Rampling giving an inappropriate wedding toast, Kirsten Dunst chastising Stellan Skarsgard and having her wedding called off, Charlotte Gainsbourg staring at something off-camera with a perpetual grimace clenched on her face — roll out with slow deliberation. There’s a lot going on here — not the least of which is a huge planet called Melancholia hurtling toward the earth, about to destroy all life on the planet — but it’s all so clinically presented, you don’t get caught up in it.

End of the world scenarios, from Last Night to Deep Impact to Armageddon, always trigger some amount of introspection, but Melancholia could use a little extroversion. It’s as caught up in itself as Hugo is the kid-lit genre, with no escape velocity.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Jill of all trades

From the Emmy red carpet to phlebotomy school, out comic Margaret Smith always has a plan

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

comedy

LAUGHING LESBIAN | Former Ellen writer and newly-minted Texan Margaret Smith steers clear of gay jokes.

For someone who’s been in a Martin Scorsese film (a bit part in GoodFellas), written a book about single motherhood and won six Emmys, it’s hard to find out much about comedian Margaret Smith. Her bios online are mostly mirror images of each other, and don’t even think of checking the social networks — she’s not on them.

“I think I’m the only person I know that’s not on Facebook,” she says. “People from way back pop on there.

If I haven’t seen them in so long, there’s probably a reason. Really, I’m just lazy. A friend of mine told me that there is only one YouTube video of me out there. ”

But the recent transplant to Texas (she moved to Austin with her two children last year) and former Ellen

DeGeneres joke writer is busy working on her stand-up again, so her focus isn’t likely on who her next friend request is from. Instead, it’s figuring where her next paycheck might come from. And that could be anywhere from telling jokes to drawing blood. Fortunately, she’ll be doing the former this weekend at Backdoor Comedy.

“I’ve sort of been ticking around, wondering what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Smith says. “After Ellen, I moved to Austin and became a phlebotomist, but then I couldn’t find a job doing that! People don’t want a joke and a poke — just the joke. I did some open mic stuff and got a writing job here. I liked it.”

Smith picked up several of her Emmys writing for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, leaving just before the writer’s strike of 2007. That move forced Smith to rethink her career strategy. With the strike, a writing gig wasn’t an option. Stand-up comedy was, but custody issues of her two sons forced Smith to move, either to Atlanta or Austin; the latter won. She became a Texan last year.

“I wasn’t gonna go anywhere without my kids,” she says. “But things were different in Austin. I was in a different arena of comedians and there was none of the Hollywood shit going on. It was kind of refreshing.”

Although she’s driving up I-35 for a Friday and Saturday performance, she might stick around Dallas to spend Sunday at the State Fair. She was thrilled at the idea of fried butter and fried margaritas.

“If I get invited and someone is willing to go with me, then I’d stick around,” she says. “With all that fried stuff, I guess I better serve up some fried jokes, huh?”

Most of Smith’s shtick relates to her experience with her family and as a single mom to two boys. She jokes about taking her son to get tested for ADD; it turned out he was fine — she was the one with the problem. She deadpans her family’s supportive nature of her comic memoir, What Was I Thinking, was evident in how they passed it around eight times rather than buy each family member their own copy.

But the out comedian doesn’t joke too much on the gay stuff, which she calls “not that funny and a little dirty.” Besides, not having dated anyone in over six years, she’s a little detached from the scene.

“What’s funny about being a lezzie? “ she quips. “I talk about dating guys when I was in my 20s but  I think those experiences are funny. Jokes about women can get easily graphic and I’d never do that onstage. Gay or straight, the crowd may not relate and start to disconnect. But I did receive the best compliment in the women’s restroom when this lady asked me if I had a tampon. I just wanted to make out with her because I’m too old to have one!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas