Why just get one opinion of the Oscar nominees when you could get two? GuysNation takes its first stab at a Round Table for the highly coveted Academy Awards.

Best Picture

Nominees – “The Artist”; “The Descendants”; “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”; “The Help”; “Hugo”; “Midnight in Paris”; “Moneyball”; “The Tree of Life”;
“War Horse”;

Bryan (@bclienesch): As far as dark horse candidates go, Moneyball is like a punter from MIT trying to win the Heisman. Still, I really do believe  it is the best motion picture of the year. Michael Lewis’ book, which the movie is based on, dissected how a desperation led to innovation and reshaped how we scout players in America’s pastime. Everything about the movie — the writing, the acting, even the direction — are absolutely engrossing.

Rob: I’ll definitely agree about Moneyball. Every review I’ve read of that film indicate that it’s the type of movie which appeals to everyone. Men and women, sportsfans and not, when a movie is clearly a high quality film which has such appeal, that’s the type of film which should get awarded the top prize.

Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees – Demian Bichir for “A Better Life”; George Clooney for “The Descendants”; Jean DuJardin for “The Artist”; Gary Oldman for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”; Brad Pitt for “Moneyball”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Lost in the hype of Clooney, Pitt, and the newcomer Jean Dujardin is a beautifully well-rounded performance by little-known Demian Bichir. Dujardin or Clooney will probably win this one but Bichir simply took his role in A Better Life to another level. There were parts that irked me in Clooney’s and Dujardin’s performances. There were none in Bichir’s.

Rob: The Academy has a history of giving out “Lead Role” awards to people whom they have unjustly ignored in prior years, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oldman take the statue home. I’d be shocked if Brad Pitt has his name called. Dujardin seems like a lock to win it, but I’d like to live in a world where Oldman is rewarded for having perfected his craft.

Actress  in a Leading Role

Nominees – Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs”; Viola Davis for “The Help”; Rooney Mara for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”; Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady”;
Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn”

Bryan (@bclienesch): For me, it’s virtually neck and neck between Mara and The Help’s Viola Davis. If we were going to bring in social significance as a criterion, it would put Davis over the edge in a powerfully moving film about race in America. As it is, though, Mara was simply brilliant as a loner part-time private investigator. In a role where she had to play both victim and predator, trying to find another performance to compare to Mara’s is virtually impossible.

Rob: Though I’m rooting heavily for Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), I’ll be fine with anyone other than Glenn Close taking home the statue. Everyone agrees that Merryl Streep is in a different eschelon of actresses than basically all the rest of her peers, and having not won the top honors since 1982 (for Sophie’s Choice), a win here would feel right. I’ve heard great things about Davis’ performance in The Help (though regrettably I’ve yet to see it), and having read a great article in Entertainment Weekly about she and George Clooney presents a situation where I’d be happy to see her win. Michelle Williams has come a long way since Dawson’s Creek, and any time someone’s nominated for a role in which they portray Marilyn Monroe it’s alright by me. Yet, I completely agree with Bryan’s statements about the incredible talent shown by Mara in GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, displaying great emotion whether she’s speaking or not.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees – Kenneth Branagh for “My Week with Marilyn”; Jonah Hill for “Moneyball”; Nick Nolte for “Warrior”; Christopher Plummer for “Beginners”;
Max Von Sydow for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Not taking anything away from the nominees, I was particularly disappointed when this field was announced. I thought Ryan Gosling was wonderful in both Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Ides of March (though significantly better in the former) and he should’ve been a shoe-in for an Oscar. As it is though, Max von Sydow’s performance sort of snuck up on us the same way the movie he plays a role in did. Nolte and Branagh were also good, but Sydow’s role allowed him to take his performance a step further, and he did flawlessly.

Rob: I didn’t see Sydow’s performance and given the content of the movie, I’m not terribly interested in doing so anytime soon, so I can’t say whether his trumps the others. That said WARRIOR got slighted this awards season – mostly in favor of MONEYBALL – and I’d like to see Nolte take home the prize if for no other reason than to give some validation to his film. And if Jonah Hill wins, I might never watch this awards show again.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees – Bernice Bejo for “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain for “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy for “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer for “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer for “The Help”

Bryan (@bclienesch): I want to vote for McCarthy almost on principle. It’s not often that a comedy gets the kind of recognition from the academy that Bridesmaids has. So when it does, I almost want to jump all over every nomination it gets. McCarthy managed to shine through in the role of the “goofball” character. To put that into perspective, it’s kind of like a quarterbacks coach upstaging the offensive coordinator.

Rob: In that description, I’d describe the football team as an above average college team from a mid-major conference which manages to go nearly  undefeated, taking down a few perennial contenders, but still not being good enough to go to a BCS Bowl. I enjoyed Bridesmaids and Melissa McCarthy’s performance, but neither were “Academy Award special”.

Animated Feature Film

Nominees – “A Cat in Paris”
“Chico and Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

Bryan (@bclienesch): 2011 lacked a truly great animated movie, so I’m going to give this Oscar to the one that at least has an ancestry of success at the Academy Awards. Puss in Boots was a decent enough movie but, like I said, if it wins, it shouldn’t be anything to write home about given the competition.

Rob: RANGO was completely under-rated, and although I wouldn’t have nominated it to be Best Picture, it was far better than I expected from it – in a lot of ways.

Cinematography

Nominees –  “The Artist”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Bryan (@bclienesch): There’s no doubt that The Artist was truly unique in an era where CGI is used more than black-and-white. However, the cinematography in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo worked so well in putting the audience into the story. You could almost feel the cold and fogginess around you as the story unfolded and Jeff Cronenweth’s direction had a lot to do with that.

Rob: I can’t deny how great the cinematography in GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was, but TREE OF LIFE deserves a lot of credit, and although many of the viewing audience didn’t appreciate the story which was unfolded, you can’t deny its cinematogrpahy.

Art Direction

Nominees – “The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould did an amazing job of taking audiences of The Artist back in time to the golden age of movies. There’s something to be said for being able to “kick it old school” and The Artist did so perfectly. Throw in a little graininess and you might’ve had trouble believing this movie was made in the 21st century.

Rob: I really thought Harry Potter’s final installment was going to get a Best Picture nomination, and although I’m not disappointed that they left it off the list, it should pick up this award. Say what you will about the source of its popularity, it’s a beautiful film and very well crafted.

Costume Design

Nominees – “Anonymous”
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“W.E.”

Bryan (@bclienesch): I almost want to pick Anonymous here because it always feels like there’s a black sheep movie that comes out of nowhere to steal a lesser-touted category but I’ll stick with the favorite here. Mark Bridges’ costumes only served to compliment a wholly authentic movie in The Artist. It should be the favorite here and it should win.

Rob: Anonymous all the way. How do you not reward this this period piece which requires more effort simply for the costumed extras than The Artist did for its entire cast? I won’t be surprised when The Artist wins, however, as they did have a fair bit of work in their own right, though I fear the win will be a way to just continue to pile on the awards.

Directing

Nominees – Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist”
Alexander Payne for “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese for “Hugo”
Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life”

Bryan (@bclienesch): This is a category with some heavyweight names making waves with some surprisingly different entries. I wouldn’t be surprised if Scorcese or Woody Allen won here, but I believe the most well-directed movie of the litter was The Descendants. It takes a talented director when a movie flirts that strange path through dark humor, tragedy, and drama but Alexander Payne did it almost perfectly.

Rob: Martin Scorsese added considerable credibility to 3D film making with Hugo, and it’s not simply due to the quality of the story and technology involved.

And The Rest…

Documentary Feature

Nominees – “Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgator”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Bryan (@bclienesch): This documentary didn’t get NEARLY enough attention this year and is one of the best military documentaries I have seen. Hell and Back Again, in case you don’t know, shines a light on the much talked-about but seldom heard-from story of the wounded combat veteran. Hands down I feel this is the best documentary of the year.

Documentary Short

Nominees – “The Barber of Birmingham”
“God is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Bryan (@bclienesch): The tsunami and ensuing nuclear reactor meltdown that devastated Japan was one of the biggest stories of 2011. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is a short, sweet piece that shows humanity’s ability to find hope in seemingly the darkest of situations. I also can’t help drawing comparisons between it and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Film Editing

Nominees – “The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”

Bryan (@bclienesch): The splicing together of pieces of film by Christopher Tellefsen made an already-intriguing story even more interesting. Film editing is one of those odd categories where everyone knows of it but few really know ABOUT it. I think Moneyball takes it this year.

Makeup

Nominees – “Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two”
“The Iron Lady”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Sort of an odd category, but I think this is the one spot where a movie starring Meryl Streep gets on the board, so to speak, this year. Against Albert Nobbs and the last of the Harry Potter movies, I think it is the best of the three.

Music (Original Score)

Nominees – John Williams for “The Adventures of Tintin”
Ludovic Bource for “The Artist”
Howard Shore for “Hugo”
Alberto Iglesias for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
John Williams for “War Horse”

Bryan (@bclienesch): What do you do when the thing your movie is about can’t speak? You have stirring music to make up for it. John Williams is a composing wunderkind and I think this one of his two nominated scores wins the Oscar. I also liked Ludovic Bource’s work in The Artist, though.

Music (Original Song)

Nominees – ‘Man or Muppet’ from “The Muppets”
‘Real in Rio’ from “Rio”

Bryan (@bclienesch): What the hell happened to this category this year? Remember all the awesome songs from movies past. Remember when old, whiny film critics admitted they loved “Lose Yourself” in 8 Mile? Have we really been reduced to The Muppets vs. Rio? I guess I take The Muppets here since I can’t write-in for something else.

Sound Editing

Nominees – “Drive”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Say what you will about the Transformers trilogy, they bring metal machines alive through the magic of movies. Required to make the artificial seem real is the adding of the right sound at the right time. In this regard, anyway, the most recent Transformers movie, in my opinion, is the best of the three (and the five we have nominated here).

Sound Mixing

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Bryan (@bclienesch): The sound and effects awards usually find homes in the flashiest of movies. But one of the great underrated qualities of Moneyball was its ability to incorporate all the unique sounds of our nation’s pastime. I think it should win the Oscar here.

Visual Effects

Nominees – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Was there really any surprise I was going to pick this one here? The Transformers movies are a CGI tour de force. Dark of the Moon was no different and even took it to a new level with some cool scenes on the moon. Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Real Steel, the other two CGI juggernauts this year, got a little too cheesy at times for my taste.

Writing (Adapted Sceenplay):

Nominees – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash for “The Descendants”
John Logan for “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon for “The Ides of March”
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin & Stan Chervin for “Moneyball”
Bridget o’Connor & Peter Straughan for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Of course I’m going with Moneyball here, but this is the one award where I feel I can make the strongest case for the movie. Michael Lewis’ book delved into a world so insanely complex even some diehard baseball fans don’t really understand it. From that Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin created a story that not only is easy to understand but even easier to love. Sorkin, in my opinion, delivered in an even bigger way than he did with The Social Network on this one.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Nominees – Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist”
Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig for “Bridesmaids”
J.C. Chandor for “Margin Call”
Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris”
Asghar farhadi for “A Separation”

Bryan (@bclienesch): Margin Call was one of my favorite movies this year and I was bummed when it didn’t get nominated for best picture (even though I didn’t expect it to). The fact that this movie, based on one of the most scrutinized events of our time, was created essentially from scratch is absolutely mind boggling to me. Come tonight, I will seriously be pulling for Margin Call to win its only nomination.


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