The 2012 Andrew Awards

The Oscar’s are one of the most entertaining live television events of the year for me.  Yes, they’re all about glitz and glamour; yes, they’re hokey and usually extremely predictable; but the history of film is one of my greatest interests and I love seeing what films will be added to the list of winners – whether deservedly or not.  So this year I decided to throw together my own awards, just for the categories of main interest.  Everyone’s always got their complaints about who receives the Oscars, so here’s a much more open approach to this past year in film with the 2012 Andrew Awards:

Best Picture: “Shame

The most complete film released this past year, Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” may have been completely averted by the Academy due to the NC-17 rating and inaccessibility to anyone unable to challenge themselves with a somewhat uncomfortable subject matter, but the Andrew Awards aren’t afraid to recognize its accomplishment.  I was shaking as I left the theaters (if that isn’t enough of a defense) and you couldn’t convince me that any other film this year offered as unique a movie-going experience – grippingly claustrophobic cinematography, a flawless structure, top notch acting.  And in an age of over-used voice-over it’s particularly refreshing to see a film that can entrap you so deeply into the lead characters dark world without the requirement of lead character narration (cough, “Descendants”).  While the disturbing life of a lonely sex addict is surely not appealing to all filmgoers, it’s a must-see for anyone who considers themself open to the potentials of film.  Sure there are a couple good ones actually nominated for the Oscar, but “Shame” is the true gem of 2011.  See Full Review HERE

Other Nominees: “Beginners,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Contagion,” “Hugo”

Best Director: Stephen Daldry, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Casting a child who has never acted before as the lead in a hopeful blockbuster smash isn’t an easy task for a director to handle.  Thomas Horn made his name on “Jeopardy’s Kid’s Week” and “Extremely Loud” producer Scott Rudin somehow believed that Horn had a certain quality that would allow him to shine in the film, and thanks to Daldry’s spectacular direction, it all paid off.  But apart from expertly coaching a range of actors from Horn to Tom Hanks, Daldry accomplished a special sort of feeling to “Extremely Loud” that allowed us a unique portal into the clustered and paranoid mind of Horn’s Oskar Schell and made us believe that somehow Oskar’s journey would lead him to making some sense out of his father’s untimely death.  Full Film Review HERE

Other Nominees: Terrence Malick, “Tree of Life,” Mike Mills, “Beginners,” Martin Scorsese, “Hugo,” Steve McQueen, “Shame”

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, “Shame

There’s really no question at all here, nobody that even comes close in my opinion.  Dujardin was great in “The Artist,” charismatic and jubilant with one of the most hilariously staged smiles I’ve ever seen, but the rest of the candidates fill out one of the weakest fields in years: How many times have we seen Clooney and Pitt in more impressive and demanding roles for better films?  “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” “Syriana,” “Oceans Eleven,” “Fight Club,” “Snatch,” and “The Assassination of Jesse James” just to name a few.  Demian Bichir was moving in “A Better Life,” but nothing exceptional.  Oldman’s a spectacular actor and even though I enjoyed “Tinker Tailor,” I felt like his only real responsibility was to constantly look tense and not talk too much, nothing deserving of a top actor consideration. Fassbender convincingly portrayed a sociopathic sex addict that shields his emotionless interior from the rest of the world, and is repeatedly filmed through long takes in which his superb naturalism takes the film to a far deeper level.  I’ve found very few people who have seen “Shame” and didn’t clearly think that Fassbender’s performance was the year’s best.

Other Nominees: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist,” Demian Bichir, “A Better Life,”

Best Actress: Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn

A stronger overall category than best actor this year that features a hilarious performance by Theron in “Young Adult” and a moving effort by Davis in “The Help,” but no one pulled off anything to equal Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.  Not only is Marilyn a particularly difficult character to portray with her complicated personality, but the prestige of her name makes the role all the more difficult and Williams did a fantastic job in every facet of her personality.  She captured the whimsical confusion of her depression with the same amount of poignancy as the constant obsession to be loved by everyone.  The performance is all the more impressive when you watch Williams in some of her other standout roles in films such as “Blue Valentine” and “Brokeback Mountain” and see how she had to change her appearance and voice so drastically to capture the Marilyn persona – but hey, that’s acting for you I guess.  Full Film Review HERE

Other Nominees: Charlize Theron, “Young Adult,” Viola Davis, “The Help,” Rooney Mara, “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners

Before I saw “Extremely Loud,” I thought there was no chance anyone would steal the award from Plummer this year.  Von Sydow was tremendous as Oskar’s muted accomplice in “Extremely Loud” and poses the biggest threat to Plummer’s sweeping of the SAG awards, Golden Globes, Critic’s Choice Awards, and Oscars, but I still think there’s a significant reason for why Plummer seems to be unbeatable in the category – finally, award shows we agree on something.  As Ewan McGregor’s dying father who recently came out of the closet after more than 50 years of living a lie, Plummer is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking.  His endless joy for the world despite his impending death serves as the inspiration for his confused son to find a way out of his difficult depression and experience the same openness to life’s possibilities his father did.  Full Film Review HERE

Other Nominees: Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud,” Kenneth Branaugh, “My Week With Marilyn”

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help

Spencer absolutely owns every single scene in which she appears throughout “The Help.”  I knew about halfway into the film that she’d be a strong competitor for this year’s Oscar race, and I’ve yet to see anyone else equal her.  Spencer does a great job of showing her character’s frustration and unhappiness in a light and humorous manner.  What’s so unique about “The Help” is that – unlike a lot of heavy and overly dramatic films about the civil rights movement – it combines a serious subject matter with a great deal of light and clever humor.  And Spencer is the backbone behind the majority of the film’s energy.

Other Nominees: Carey Mulligan, “Shame,” Berenice Bejo, “The Artist,” Kate Winslet, “Contagion,”

Best Original Screenplay: Scott Burns, “Contagion

Woody’s going to win this category at the Oscar’s, hand’s down, and it’s pretty unfortunate.  Not because “Midnight in Paris” isn’t a great movie – it’s without a doubt one of Woody’s best in the past couple decades – but it’s really just Woody being Woody in a different scenario.  It’s a pessimistic, paranoid and obsessive middle-aged man questioning the meaning of life and his current relationship, only this time he’s transported back to 1920s Paris – a nice and clever touch, but nothing that truly deserves recognition as the year’s best screenplay.  For “Contagion,” Scott Burns crafted a script that transcends three different time zones, follows about ten different characters and spans about a month of panic during the spreading of a dangerous and unknown virus that frightens the world.  The script seamlessly moves through different storylines, always developing themes of mistrust and confusion throughout.  As nobody knows how to defend against the disease, nobody is able to feel safe, and this confusion is masterfully contained in the complicated narrative of Soderberg’s film.  And as an extra shout-out towards solid scripts not included in the list of nominations, Mills’s emotionally charged script for “Beginners” based on his complicated relationship with his homosexual father and Cody’s clever and extremely funny “Young Adult” deserve a fair amount of recognition as well.  But allow the Woody show to continue, Academy.  Full Film Review HERE

Other Nominees: Mike Mills, “Beginners,” Diablo Cody, “Young Adult,” Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan, “Shame”

Best Adapted Screenplay: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan,

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The first adaptation of John LeCarre’s dense and complicated novel about the British Secret Intelligence Service was a BBC miniseries in 1979.  The piece remained untouched – other than by a great deal of mystery readers worldwide – until the recent film written by husband and wife duo O’Connor and Straughan.  Unfortunately, O’Connor died of cancer about a year and a half ago, and has received posthumous acclaim for co-authoring “Tinker Tailor” – all deservingly so.  The film relies heavily on action and the unspoken acknowledgment of a look to tell its narrative.  It’s a twisting and complicated narrative that doesn’t spell out its secrets to the viewer, but rather keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.  Full Film Review HERE

Other Nominees: Steven Zaillian, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Eric Roth, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”


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