2012 Endy Awards, with Oscar Predictions

It’s time to announce the best of the best for 2012. Nominations and eligibility rules for the Endies can be found here.

Each Endy winner is paired with my prediction for the Academy Award winner in its category. I’ll amend this after the Oscar telecast to show the actual winners.

And the Endy goes to. . .

Best Picture:
Endy: Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar: Argo

This is a tougher choice than it looks, though Moonrise was my #1 film at the end of the year, I’d only seen it once, and all the other nominees were fresher in my mind. But I watched it again, and yeah, it’s great. Anderson’s dollhouse, DIY, 90 degree angle aesthetic is the ideal match for a children’s fantasy of adventure and escape. The need for the kids to create their own universe contrasts eloquently with the sad rigidity of the adults. Some of the other nominees are more mysterious, but no movie this year is more perfect.

Best Director:
Endy: Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Actor:
Endy: Denis Levant, Holy Motors
Oscar: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

This was the toughest category for me to choose. In the end, Levant’s versitility and centrality to the film edge out Phoenix’s remarkably physical, extreme-method performance, and Day-Lewis’s uncanny ability to breathe life into an impersonation, either of which would be more than worthy winners in any other year.

Actress:
Endy: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Oscar: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Another close call, but Chastain takes a character with no backstory, no personality, no apparent interests outside the plot and makes her feel like a fully-developed character, almost entirely with her eyes, body position and tone of voice. Her best scenes are when she gives her ‘action movie’ lines just the right amount of maniacal awkwardness. She doesn’t fit in, her certainty beyond that which she can prove makes her as dangerous to us as she is to bin Ladin. In a film that undermines and critiques much of what it presents, her performance is essential in pushing us to read beyond the surfaces.

Supporting Actor:
Endy: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Oscar: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Supporting Actress:
Endy: Amy Adams, The Master
Oscar: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

Original Screenplay:
Endy: Abbas Kiarostami, Like Someone in Love
Oscar: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

The seemingly innocuous structure of Kiarostami’s film, a series of apparently mundane conversations with wildly spinning depths that over time accumulate such weight, such possibility, that builds to a crescendo that is the year’s most shattering momentum, wins out over Boal’s screenplay that is more than just the effective distillation of a decade of history, but a radical (for Hollywood at least) rethinking of character and a fascinating, open-ended exploration of what counts as evidence and certainty in the post-Iraq War world.

Adapted Screenplay:
Endy: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Oscar: Chris Terrio, Argo

In a year with unusually great films about argument and reason, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, The Master, it’s Kushner’s screenplay that is the best. He had me as soon as the President explained the complexities of the Emancipation Proclamation’s post-Civil War legal status in three minutes or less. The later rhetorical flourishes are wonderful (Stevens’s ripostes to his interlocutors, Lincoln’s powerful clothing) but the trust and clarity and efficiency of Kushner’s exposition is truly remarkable.

Argo, on the other hand, represents the worst in Hollywood rhetoric. The kind of film where someone wins an argument by emoting loudly. Where two characters bond over a hamburger by talking about their (otherwise totally irrelevant but for “character building” box-checking) divorces, even though they said they were going out for tacos.

Foreign Language Film:
Endy: Like Someone in Love
Oscar: Amour

All year this had been In Another Country for me. But after rewatching it, while I still love it, it just doesn’t resonate as strongly as the more ambitious Kiarostami and Ruiz films. This might be my favorite Kiarostami movie.

Documentary Feature:
Endy: Three Sisters
Oscar: Searching for Sugar Man
Documentary Short:

Endy: —–
Oscar: Inocente

Live Action Short:
Endy: Walker
Oscar: Death of a Shadow

Animated Short:

Endy: Paperman
Oscar: Paperman

Animated Feature:
Endy: Brave
Oscar: Wreck-It Ralph

Film Editing:
Endy: The Master
Oscar: Zero Dark Thirty

The hypnotic rhythms of The Master, perfectly synced with the film’s score and the dueling psyches of Phoenix and Hoffman win out over the masterful precision of Bigelow’s suspense sequences.

If Argo wins this award, it’ll be a bigger travesty than if it wins Best Picture. Its editing is almost incompetent. Continuity errors, needless choppiness, bizarre action mismatches. It’s a mess.

Cinematography:
Endy: Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master
Oscar: Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Using 70mm to film interiors and close-ups rather than, as was traditional, expansive vistas and landscapes was a stroke of genius. The Master‘s images just barely win out over the old school inventiveness of Night Across the Street‘s sepia tones and rear projections and Moonrise Kingdom‘s crystal-clear storybook aesthetic.

Production Design:
Endy: Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar: Anna Karenina
Costume Design:
Endy: Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar: Anna Karenina

Make-Up:
Endy: Holy Motors
Oscar: Les Misérables
Sound Mixing:
Endy: Neighboring Sounds
Oscar: Les Misérables

Rarely is sound design more important to a modern movie than in Neighboring Sounds. It’s right there in the title. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Recife is connected not by spatial geography, but by the way sounds bleed together in an urban environment, trumping class and racial barriers.

Sound Editing:
Endy: Zero Dark Thirty
Oscar: Argo
Visual Effects:
Endy: Night Across the Street
Oscar: Life of Pi
Original Score:
Endy: Mekong Hotel
Oscar: Life of Pi

I really want to give this to Moonrise Kingdom, for Alexandre Desplat’s suite that complements and builds upon the Hank Williams and Benjamin Britten music on the soundtrack. But Chai Datana’s guitar score for Mekong Hotel, a meandering bluesy acoustic guitar melody that wanders and swirls and circles back on itself, is fundamental to that film’s evocation of life by a river, where past and present, myth and reality fuse.

Soundtrack:
Endy: Something in the Air

Original Song:

Oscar: “Skyfall”, Skyfall

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