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

Oscar noms: What’s gay about ‘em

The King’s Speech led the field with 12 Oscar nominations this morning, followed by True Grit, The Social Network and Inception. There weren’t all that many surprises. But here’s what gay audiences might be interested in:

The Kids Are All Right, by lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko, got four nominations, including one for Cholodenko’s screenplay, one for Annette Bening’s performance as a lesbian mom, as well as best picture.

• Several industry insiders were nominated for more than one award, but only gay producer Scott Rudin, pictured, is competing with himself for best picture: He was nominated for both The Social Network and True Grit. (One of the founders of Facebook is openly gay, though his character is given short shrift in the film.)

Black Swan received five nominations, including best picture, best director and for actress Natalie Portman, who plays what could be a lesbian … or maybe bisexual… or maybe just insane … dancer.

• Best foreign language film Dogtooth involves a lesbian subplot, which foreign language and best actor nominee Biutiful contains a same-sex kiss.

• Best costume nominee I Am Love stars Tilda Swinton as the mother of a lesbian daughter.

• And perhaps most surprising of all, Diane Warren, who just won a Golden Globe for her Cher song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque, was passed over for an Oscar nomination. So was the film for best picture. And in every other category. Go figure.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The year in entertainment

Our critics run down the best of movies, music, theater, dining and pop culture in 2010

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

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BEST OF THE BEST | The comedy ‘I Love You, Phillip Morris,’ left, was the year’s most entertaining film, while ‘Winter’s Bone’ was buoyed by a great performance by Jennifer Lawrence, below left.

1. I Love You, Phillip Morris. The best comedy of the year is this unlikely love story, told with open-hearted directness, about a gay conman (Jim Carrey), his boyfriend (Ewan McGregor) and their escapades in Texas during the 1990s. Think a gay version of Bonnie & Clyde with some hot sex and hysterical jokes. Only don’t. Whatever, just see it.

2. Winter’s Bone. A girl in the Ozarks must track down her meth-dealing dad or lose her home. Without sentimentality or cloying music, it tells a tale with such visual acuity and simplicity it gobsmacks you with its beauty. Hard watching, sometimes, and excellently acted by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence and veteran Dale Dickey.

3. The Social Network. David Fincher makes Aaron Sorkin’s complex screenplay about the founding of Facebook into the off-handed, slyly FX’d movie equivalent of a page turner, with terrific pacing, pantingly good acting by Jesse Eisenberg and Armie Hammer and a story of great relevance and psychological depth.

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Winter’s-Bone

4. The King’s Speech. Hard to imagine speech lessons being cinematic, but director Tom Hooper does just that in this entrancing historical drama about King George VI (Colin Firth, who may win the Oscar denied him last year for A Single Man) as the stuttering monarch and Geoffrey Rush magnificent as a linguistic coach. We are quite amused.

5. True Grit. After the dreadful detours of Burn After Reading and A Serious Man, the Coens are back in stride with this poetic Western — not a revisionist conceit, but a straightforward character study of revenge, exceptionally well played by Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who should win the Oscar.

6. The Ghost Writer. Roman Polanski finished the editing on this film while under house arrest, which just goes to show Polanski in the worst of circumstances is better than most directors at their best. The best film from the first half of the year, it’s a cagey political thriller than keeps you guessing.

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Scott Pilgrim versus the World,’ below, was better than its box office would indicate.

7. Scott Pilgrim versus the World. Michael Cera’s charms are wearing thin, but he squeezed out the last drips in this quirky fantasy-romance that creates its own internal world of logic. Among the best elements: Kieran Culkin as Cera’s predatory gay roommate.

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SURPRISE, SURPRISE | ‘The Kids Are All Right,’ above, proved to be a hit commercially and critically.

8. The Kids Are All Right. Although the story wandered down a path strewn with clichés, director Lisa Cholodenko still managed to spin it with unique and authentic moments as lesbian spouses Julianne Moore and Annette Bening contend with infidelity and a man in their lives (Mark Ruffalo, rascally and loveable) for the first time. Gay cinema has rarely been as clever and mainstream-compatible as this.

9. Life During Wartime. Todd Solondz’s uncomfortably dark but oddly funny follow-up to his art-house hit Happiness, centered on three sisters and their perversely dysfunctional family, was the most cringe-inducing comedy ever that lacked a bathroom scene or Woody Allen playing a romantic scene with a teenager.

10 . My Name Is Khan and Un Prophete (tie). Hard to chose between these largely foreign-language entries: Khan, one of the best Bollywood films ever with unexpected emotional resonance, and Un Prophete, a French-Muslim version of The Godfather that was a true epic.

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The South American gay film ‘Undertow,  just missed the top 10

Runners-up: Kick-Ass, Megamind, The Secret in their Eyes, Black Swan, Undertow.

Best performances of the year —
Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech; Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network; Jeff Bridges, True Grit; Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter; Tommy Lee Jones, Company Men; James Franco, 127 Hours; Robert Duvall, Get Low.

Actress: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right; Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone; Natalie Portman, Black Swan.

Supporting actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right;
Armie Hammer, The Social Network; Christian Bale, The Fighter; Lucas Black, Get Low.

Supporting actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit; Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone; Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis, Black Swan; Melissa Leo, The Fighter.

Best non-fiction films: Inside Job; Catfish.

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‘Knight and Day,’ above, was the year’s worst movie.

10 worst films of the year: Unstoppable; Shutter Island; Splice; Love and Other Drugs; The Book of Eli; Edge of Darkness; Skyline; Alice in Wonderland; How Do You Know; Knight and Day.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Queer clips

‘True Grit,’ ‘Rabbit Hole’

The Coen Brothers have always had a peculiar relationship with Texas, maybe because the sense of Wild West recklessness is still cultivated by urbanites. It’s a complex feeling, though: A lone Ranger (sans mask) named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) endures a share of mockery in True Grit, but it’s forgiveable — the movie is just so damn entertaining.

I barely noticed a contraction in the dialogue until the waning minutes of the film, which imbues the tale with a poetic majesty without being stilted. Yet the Coens keep everything in the realm of the real; this isn’t some commonplace revenge fantasy but a devil-in-the-details character study of a girl (Hailee Steinfeld, who’s remarkable) and a wizened marshal-for-hire (Jeff Bridges, better even than his Oscar performance in last year’s Crazy Heart). It avoids predictable, touchy-feely sentimentality while still being emotionally stirring.

Less stirring is Rabbit Hole — perhaps because it tries too hard. A couple (Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart) work through their grief over the death of their child in wildly different ways. It’s a prickly story about yuppies in denial where so many of the characters seem to want to be hated — or at least misunderstood. Grief is hard to portray in small doses (everyone deals with loss uniquely), and to try to make a movie of nothing but is too great a task for director John Cameron Mitchell. Kidman’s OK, but the standout is Miles Teller as a regretful teen. He and Steinfeld should make a movie together.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

True Grit: Five stars; Rabbit Hole: Two stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens