A Review of the 2012 Oscars One Year Later

The Oscars are coming up. While the awards themselves are often stupid and rarely provide any real interest, they are the highest-profile movie awards and they provide a great chance to look back over film history and the past year in films. One of my favorite exercises at Oscar time is to go back and look at the awards for the previous year. So, I’m now looking at the 2012 Academy Awards.

Best Picture

  • Winner: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, France/Belgium/USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 8.1
    • My Score: 2
  • The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 6.8
    • My Score: 7
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 7.4
    • My Score: 3
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Stephen Daldry, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 6.8
    • My Score: N/A (Haven’t Seen)
  • Hugo (Martin Scorsese, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 7.7
    • My Score: 8
  • The Help (Tate Taylor, USA/India/United Arab Emirates 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 8.0
    • My Score: N/A (Haven’t Seen)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, Spain/USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 7.7
    • My Score: 10
  • Moneyball (Bennett Miller, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 7.3
    • My Score: 3
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg, USA 2011)
    • Current IMDb Score: 7.2
    • My Score: N/A (Haven’t Seen)

We all knew that The Artist was going to take home the prize, though there was something of a late groundswell in favor of Hugo. Meanwhile, the true prize of the nominees, Midnight in Paris, was the victim of the typical anti-Woody Allen backlash. The surprise nominees, War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, got almost no attention the entire time. The latter was clear Oscar-bait that just didn’t hit home while the former was the yearly Spielberg entry, though the rare commercial failure in that category. The Help also got little attention, though it interestingly holds the second-highest IMDb score in the group.

My pick for the year would have been Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, USA 2011), but it inexplicably did not even receive a nomination. Among the nominees, my winner would have been Midnight in Paris, and it frankly wasn’t close. The Artist is among the worst Best Picture winners in history.

Best Director

  • Winner: Michael Hazanavicious-The Artist
  • Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick-The Tree of Life
  • Alexander Payne-The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese-Hugo

I often say that Best Director is the real Best Picture. Best Picture is so politically-decided that it makes the other awards look purely artistic by comparison, so the Academy normally gives the award for what it truly believes is the best film in this category. That leads to a lot of years with illogical splits between the two awards. However, in 2012, that didn’t happen. I thought it was quite possible that Woody Allen would win this one, with the Academy considering it impolitic to give his film Best Picture, but instead we got another terrible award. Sean Durkin deserved the award and didn’t even get nominated.

Best Actor

  • Winner: Jean Dujardin-The Artist
  • Demian Bichir-A Better Life (Chris Weitz, USA 2011)
  • George Clooney-The Descendants
  • Brad Pitt-Moneyball
  • Gary Oldman-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, France/UK/Germany 2011)

There was real intrigue about this award going in, with attention given to both Clooney and Pitt (though the Pitt talk always seemed rather far-fetched). However, Dujardin was the favorite and walked away with it. My pick would easily have been the incredible performance by Michael Shannon in Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, USA 2011), but it did not even receive a nomination. Of the nominated performances, I never saw A Better Life or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Of the other three, I would have taken Clooney, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with any of them.

Best Actress

As usual, this category was mostly dominated by performances of historical figures (Margaret Thatcher and Marilyn Monroe) and a woman pretending to be a man. While Rooney Mara got a ton of undeserved attention for her decent performance that didn’t live up to what her predecessor had done in the role, it was clearly a battle between Streep and Williams. On her 17th nomination, Streep took home her third Oscar, tying the great Ingrid Bergman and the iconic Jack Nicholson for the second-most acting wins in history behind only Katharine Hepburn. The failure to nominate Elizabeth Olsen, while unsurprising given her youth, was an absolute travesty. She gave one of the great performances a person could see, and deserved an award.

Others

The supporting awards went to Christopher Plummer for being old (Okay, so technically it was for Beginners [Mike Mills, USA 2010].) and Octavia Spencer for The Help. Midnight in Paris and The Descendants took the screenplay awards, without Martha Marcy May Marlene, Take Shelter, Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, USA/United Arab Emirates 2011), or The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, USA 2011) even nabbing a nomination.

Overall, it was an excellent year in films, with Martha Marcy May Marlene, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, Take Shelter, The Cabin in the Woods, Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn, USA 2011), and Hugo all rating 8-10 for me. However, the Oscars were really a travesty, even more so than they usually are. Even the relatively reliable acting awards were terrible. The real performances to watch for are Michael Shannon in Take Shelter and Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, not the Oscar winners.

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