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The “Royalty” of Film

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The “Royalty” of Film

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America’s had to do without the pomp and spectacle of royalty for a couple of centuries now. So a little more than 80 years ago, it invented its own version of same: The Academy Awards, affectionately known as the Oscars. This year’s ceremonies promise some familiar faces as well as the possibility of some surprises.

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By Matthew Cartwright

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[one_half]The British Royal Wedding was the most widely broadcast celebration of 2011. People across the world watched in awe as William and Kate walked down the aisle. Viewers in the USA particularly seemingly succumbed en masse to a severe case of Anglophilia. America does not have a royal family of their own, of course, so they make do with their own version of royalty – celebrities. And every year there is a glamorous ceremony wherein the big names in the film industry are presented to the world. That ceremony is the Oscars.

Since 1929 the Oscars Awards Ceremony has been setting the standard for entertainment award ceremonies and is one of the most anticipated events in its field. The statuette of a golden man (nicknamed Oscar) is probably the most sought-after award by any professional in the film industry. To an actor or director, it is the equivalent of an athlete winning a gold medal in the Olympic Games.

The event has grown tremendously in size over the years. The first one, held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, had an audience of about 270 people. Today the ceremony is held in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, which holds up to 3400 people, not to mention the millions watching from home.

The 84th Oscars got off to a rocky start losing its producer, Brett Ratner, and host, Eddie Murphy. Ratner was let go due to an anti-gay slur and Murphy bowed out out of loyalty to Ratner who had directed his latest film, Tower Heist.

Thus eight-time host, comedy actor Billy Crystal, along with producer Brian Grazer were called in to save the day. Crystal’s last live action film of any significance was Analyze That – a rather unsuccessful sequel to 1999’s Analyze This – and that was almost ten years ago. The Oscar producers seem to look more for entertainers as hosts than figures from the acting world, which could be wise, and Crystal evidently has a record of being reliable.

The Oscars hand out a minimum of 25 awards. Awards in some categories may or may not be awarded in a given year, depending on the achievement level of films that come out during the previous year. The most prestigious are for best actor, best actress, best director, and best picture. Others include best supporting actor and actress, cinematography, costume design, best film, animated feature, art direction, documentary, film editing, sound editing, music, screenplay, make-up and foreign language film.

Voting for nominations began in November but everything will be kept secret until early 2012. During the third week of January the ballots are tallied and the final nominations are announced. The Oscar producers try to keep everything as unbiased as possible, but movie producers may try influencing voters in any way they can, since winning Oscars means more profit for their studios.

Nominees can be predicted with a little more certainty in the visual effects category. The top fifteen films in the running have been announced and these will be narrowed down to ten early in January. The judges will view ten-minute screenings of those films on January 19 and will then choose five to be nominated. Some of the potential nominees for this award are Hugo; Rise of the Planet of The Apes; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Guessing who the nominations will go to for the Oscars can be a lot easier than some other award ceremonies. “Bigger is better” seems to be the motto. This isn’t always the case, but very few indie films make it big there, though the Oscars always throw in a few surprises. There are usually big names, big sets, big scores and behemoth budgets behind the winners. Most people watch the Oscars rather than smaller award events and big movies are what most people pay to see. Rarely will a film fan watch an Oscar ceremony and when a nomination is called out say, “I’ve never heard of it” – unless, perhaps, it is for best foreign film.

The predicted nominations for this year’s best actor are no real shock. The pretty boys of Hollywood – George Clooney and Brad Pitt are the most likely contenders who will battle it out for the award.

Clooney is in the running for his role as Matt King, a land baron living in Hawaii who has to take care of his two daughters after his wife has an accident, in the film The Descendants whereas Brad Pitt portrays Billy Beane, a baseball manager who uses computer software to draft a team in Moneyball.
There may also be mention made of Gary Oldman’s lead performance as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Relative newcomers, who stand a chance to achieve Oscar glory, are  Demian Bichir for “A better life” and Dean Dujardin in The Artist. This film is different from most other films vying for the Oscar because it is shot in black and white and contains little dialogue. It tells the story of a silent movie star, George Valentin who worries about whether the arrival of talking pictures will ruin his career.

The best actress predictions are just as familiar as the male category with actresses such as Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Glenn Close in The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, and Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, being likely choices for nominations. They have all been nominated or have won Oscars in the past. But there are some relatively fresh faces who are potential contenders, such as Viola Davis and Rooney Mara.
Viola Davis stars in the surprise hit, The Help. She takes on the role of Aibileen Clark, a maid serving a white family who participates in interviews for a newspaper column conducted by her boss’s daughter.
Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander, in the English language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo alongside Daniel Craig, directed by David Fincher. She has acted in a handful of teen-oriented films and had a role in The Social Network – another Fincher-directed film – which took three Oscars at last year’s ceremony.

The Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo was not nominated for any Oscars although it did win Best Film Not in the English Language at the BAFTA Awards this year. Films that could be nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film come from a large selection of countries including Poland, Mexico, Finland, Germany and China.
The Iranian film A Separation could be the strongest contender for Best Foreign Language Film. It has already won many best film awards in ceremonies across the world and will surely make an appearance at the next Oscars. The film stars Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami as husband and wife. Their marriage is put on trial when they have to make a choice between leaving the country to provide their child with a better upbringing or to remain in the country to look after the man’s father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The Academy Award for Best Picture is the final award of Oscar night and is considered the most important,  as it represents all the efforts of the entire production team of a movie including the writing, directing, acting, composing, sound, lighting, etc.  This year’s possible contenders include the aforementioned The Descendants, The Artist, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and War Horse.[/one_half]

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