Film and Television Features

The 84th Academy Awards

If there's one thing the world doesn't need it's another article about the Oscars. But on the other hand, it would be slightly remiss of No Ripcord to ignore the event entirely, much as we'd probably all like to, so...

Welcome to our official Academy Awards coverage!

Rather than run through all the nominees or our thoughts on who's going to win (we all know who'll walk away with the big prizes don't we? This year might be the most predictable in recent memory), instead this feature will be updated through the weekend and the start of next week with our thoughts on who we want to win, which of this year's snubs have particularly annoyed us and our reflections on the ceremony (I think the fact that it'll be spectacularly overlong is a given, but no doubt there'll be something else that really gets our backs up, and maybe some pleasant surprises too).

Also Managing Editor Juan Edgardo Rodriguez and myself will be manning the No Ripcord twitter account throughout the night, so pop by, say hello and provide us with some moral support if you can (we'll probably need some cheering on by the time the show enters its third interminable hour).

Personally, I'll be perfectly happy when The Artist picks up Best Picture. Even though I was initially a bit underwhelmed by it - I quite like silent films so it didn't seem to offer anything I hadn't seen before (and the unhelpfully staggered release schedule meant that the hype had reached an almost deafening level by the time I got to see it). On the other hand, watching it in a surprisingly packed-out auditorium meant that the enthusiasm for it became rather infectious, and, for what it was it was pretty much flawless. Also, other than Hugo, I really don't care for the rest of this year's nominees - Midnight In Paris in particular struck me as little more than a sketch-cum-tourism advert. I like the city, and Allen's early funny ones as much as the next guy (depending on who the next guy is), but I think our desperation for Woody to get good(y) again has clouded everyone's judgment somewhat (he said, self-importantly).

I do hope that Jean Dujardin doesn't become the next Roberto Benigni following his Best Actor win, although that's probably is what's going to happen, despite Dujardin being perhaps the most ridiculously charming man who ever lived. I'm slightly baffled by the talk of Clooney being the second favourite for the award; he might be the only man who could rival Dujardin in the charm stakes, but he's already won one Oscar that he didn't deserve, and his work in The Descendants wasn't all that. Actually the film as a whole wasn't either (the only Alexander Payne films that I have time for are Election and his section of Paris, I Love You... and if I'm attempting to come across "indier than thou", I also quite liked Citizen Ruth). In a just world this one would be Oldman's, but in a just world he would have won years ago (and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy would be up for Best Picture too), so that's not going to happen.

For best actress, I'll be holding out hope for Michelle Williams, even if there is no point as Streep's win for her take on Thatcher seemed like a foregone conclusion even before The Iron Lady had started filming. However, in all these arguments about "mimicry" versus "acting" one really just needs to look at Williams' work in My Week With Marilyn to see how it should be done - she delivered a knockout impersonation of one of the most already over-impersonated figures in history but also captured a sense of their being a genuinely, believably troubled woman underneath (admittedly she was helped by the script making out that Marilyn's public persona was merely an act). It's a shame that she was the only good thing in such an adequate-at-best film, but then that's not the first time that's been the case. (It ain't easy being a Michelle Williams fan).

As for the oversight that I'm really annoyed about, it has to be Albert Brooks' omission from the Best Supporting Actor category. I was annoyed but not at all surprised by Drive being shut-out from most other categories, but this one seems inexcusable. Of course it'll be great when Christopher Plummer finally picks up the award after all these years (full disclosure: I still haven't seen Beginners), but Brooks' performance was the only one from last year that took me by surprise. I honestly didn't know he had it in him.

Also, and I might be alone on this, but I think they nominated the wrong song for The Muppets - after seeing the film the one that really lodged itself in my brain was Life's A Happy Song, but then the Best Original Song category is nothing other than a source of constant irritation for me. If it's not them honouring Celine Dion and Phil Collins over Elliott Smith and Björk, it's the fact that the one year I'd quite like to see the performances, they've gone and scrapped them.

And it just wouldn't be the Oscars without me finding something new to get annoyed about.  

Just in advance of the ceremony, Forrest Cardamenis adds:

I don't think there is anything to be said about Best Picture this year that hasn't already been said. Simply put, The Artist will win. Personally, I am a bit disappointed by this. Silent films are far from new to me, and The Artist was nothing more than a cute throwback that was quite clever but never brilliant. Thematically, it's not much different than Scorsese's Hugo, which was a much more heartfelt, effective love-letter to Old Hollywood, complete with personality and a sense of reverence. It was obvious that Scorsese felt as strongly about his subject matter as its characters felt about their lives.

Of course, my pick for the award would, without a doubt, be Tree Of Life. Even if we include the snubs (whatever they may be to you) and the foreign films, Tree Of Life was the only masterpiece--albeit a flawed one--of 2011. Complete with breathtaking cinematography and lighting, it is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. The film itself, with its intellectual montage that recall, funnily enough in this year, the intellectual montage of silent, Soviet pictures, is an intense, full exploration of nature and spirituality, coming to terms with existence, coming of age, and what it means to live and be alive. In 10 or 20 years, Tree Of Life losing will be as criminal as Goodfellas losing in 1990.

Acting, too, will fall exactly as you expect it to in the supporting categories, but put me down for a Clooney victory. In a movie that was, quite frankly, the worst movie I saw all year (for reason's that the confines of this piece will not let me explore and made me double check to make sure that there are not two Alexander Payne's in the world), Clooney managed to make it watchable through all the atrocity. This, combined with a love for the film, means that the Academy will want to honor the film somewhere, and this is the only place that makes sense, especially without Michael Fassbender in the running.

For the ladies, it's been a two horse race this whole time, with Viola Davis and Meryl Streep carrying their average movies to great recognition. Now seems as good a time as any to end Streep's run of nominations without wins, but the same people who agree with that will tell you Davis was snubbed for Doubt. To me, this is arguably the most interesting award of the night.

Original Screenplay, however, is just as compelling. The brilliant A Separation was my second favorite movie of the year (behind The Tree of Life), and a foreign film with a nomination here is quite rare. I found it to be the only movie with a screenplay worthy of an award among the nominations (Again, I think Shame was snubbed). Midnight In Paris was ruined by an ending that assumed it's audience was completely inept and made even worse because the character explaining the entire theme of the movie is pretty much a Woody Allen stand in. Award it to the only movie here that does not have a simple moral, or a theme that can paraphrased in one sentence, even if it is from a country that America doesn't like.

With that, don't be surprised if In Darkness, a Polish holocaust movie about living silently in the sewers with the help of money-grubbers who grow hearts, steals the Foreign Language Film Oscar away from A Separation. It's nowhere near as good a movie as A Separation (nor is it a bad movie), but with Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The Help nominated alongside two movies that pay ode to Hollywood, it's certainly a year to be preachy and pat ourselves on the back. Don't count on all the momentum dying, but then, don't be surprised if it does.

With all that out of the way, let's enjoy an overly long ceremony, and please join me in yelling at the TV as (predictable) conservative pick after (predictable) conservative pick is made.

And it's over!

Actually they were over hours ago, but after staying up 'til 5am to tweet about them, I did need to get a little sleep, or at least try to.

Perhaps the only thing more predictable about the results is people complaining about how predictable they were, so I'll try my best to refrain from that. Not that it'll be easy as, well, we all saw the winners of the major categories coming. And, in fact how the hosting would go - the last time I watched with Crystal hosting was in 1999 (that Green Mile song he did is still scarred into my memory, and might partially explain why the film has a place on my "Worst of all time" list) and it was the same here - there was the "Oh no! I'm late for the Oscars but am trapped in several movie clips" opening, through to the singing about every Best Picture nominee, and then, not much. Although he did start to win me over slightly later with a few well-delivered zings and even some surprisingly sharp ad-libs. The man is a pro, but I only want to see him back if the writers freshen his act up a little.

Not that they will, as the endless bits about "the magic of the movies", included to desperately entice audiences back to the cinema again, demonstrated. It's hard to pick out the moment that was most insulting to the audience's intelligence. Was it the moment when a track suit-clad Adam Sandler (fresh off of receiving a record breaking 11 nominations at the Razzies) popped up to tell us why he thinks the movies are great, or was it serial annoyance Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the act of going to the movies? If the academy had gotten rid of even one of these overblown irritations then they might have had time to fit in something that actually does celebrate the movies, like a performance of the Best Original Song nominees.

As for the awards themselves. I'm pretty much ok with who got what. Out of the Best Picture nominees three took my fancy (I forgot to mention The Tree Of Life before) but all were fatally flawed in some way - Hugo was a children's film that bored children (which made it a perfect partner to Animated Feature winner Rango, which traumatised them), The Tree Of Life was beautiful, but even by Malick's usual standards it was meandering and formless (the Sean Penn bits weren't needed, and I'm not just saying that because they included Sean Penn). So The Artist's being too fluffy and predictable meant that it was hardly any less deserving of the big prize, and at least nothing outright terrible won.

As for the "shock" wins, I was perfectly happy with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo winning best editing, as it was probably the best of the bunch (the fact that The Descendants was in there suggests that the academy really does just automatically vote for whatever film they enjoyed in the technical categories rather than the honour the actual craft as I could have probably done a better job with the editing on that film). I was less keen on the screenplay nods - Midnight In Paris was ok, but not all that funny, and featured woefully underwritten characters, whereas I was off to a loser with The Descendants right from the start with its overwritten, overly-indulgent voice over ("Show, don't tell, Mr Payne"). Although I did warm to the idea of it being an Oscar winner when seeing Community's Dean Pelton (AKA co-writer Jim Rash) accept the award. (And many thanks to Douglas Forsyth for bringing this to my attention).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the night was that The Iron Lady was the most successful in regards of converting nominations to awards, coming away with both that it had been up for. Which isn't something really worth celebrating, as wonderful as Streep generally is.

And even then, none of those were massive surprises. The closest we got to controversy was when The Artist's Uggie appeared, nearly sparking off another who was the best dog: Uggie or Cosmo from Beginners (or maybe even Hugo's Blackie) debate between Juan and myself.

As for the coverage itself, well... 

I learnt that I could actually miss Claudia Winkleman hosting Sky's coverage. Alex Zane is very much a poor substitute for her, but then Alex Zane is a poor substitute for practically anyone. More surprisingly, Lock Stock "star" Nick Moran actually briefly made for an interesting Oscar pundit. At first he started off very badly by sulking through the red carpet coverage (not that I blame him - other than a Sacha Baron Cohen-Ryan Seacrest run-in, which I don't think Sky screened, possibly because it was mind-numbingly tedious, and Nick Nolte being Nick Nolte, it was pretty much a wash-out). Then he got rather insightful, with a feasible explanation for why Senna missed out on a Documentary nomination (the fact that the fairly average-looking American Football feature Undefeated won the prize does lend credence to his "Americans have precisely zero interest in Formula One" argument), and even entertaining with a John Williams rant. But then he ruined it all by getting all stroppy about Harry Potter being overlooked (needless to say, the UK press aren't happy about the almost entire lack of acknowledgement for the nation's films, but if even the BAFTAs won't recognise our best talent, that's to be expected really) and, about pretty much everything else. His Harry Potter co-star Natalia Tena was a bizarre choice of co-pundit (and her red leggings and pearls combo was even more bizarre), but old reliable Boyd Hilton just about stopped it dissolving into complete farce. (Which might have made the show a bit more interesting to be fair, perhaps Sky should consider making up for the increasing staidness of the show itself by just bussing in a load of under-qualified, over-opinionated celebs, getting them drunk and letting the sparks fly).

And finally... presented for your consideration is an edited highlights package of No Ripcord's tweets from the night, including input from site contributors Forrest Cardamenis and Joe Gastineau. Of course, with it being an Oscars feature, it's far too long for its own good, and there are some unfortunate omissions (in particular Andrew Baer's inspired riff on a James Earl Jones/Morgan Freeman/Alan Rickman starring fetish movie-cum-Taken rip-off), but it should give you some idea of how it all went down.