The Oscars, as I hope we’ve established by now, are not simply a beauty contest. But when it comes to the half-dozen categories that reward visuals, that can be hard to remember. Here’s this year’s rundown:
Best Art Direction
The Artist Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Hugo Midnight in Paris War Horse
In covering the Oscar race so far, I’ve tried to focus on movies that have already opened. But this week, I’m tossing that approach, because effective immediately, the attention of the Oscar-punditry universe swivels decisively forward. The last eight weekends of 2011 will bring more than two dozen movies with aspirations as modest as a single acting nomination and as grandiose as sweeping the slate from Best Picture to Best Makeup.
So from now until year’s end, the goal of every contender that opened before November 1 is simply survival. Think of the next two months as a tidal wave, and of early hopefuls like Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Moneyball as trees along the shore line. Some of those trees will topple — and a couple of months from now, those still standing may look that much taller. Same goes for the movies in the big wave; some will arrive with obliterating force while others will weaken the closer they get. (Please take the above tortured analogy as my tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.) With that in mind, this Oscarmetrics installment is a cheat sheet — a map of the parallel tracks of reality and hype along which the race will now proceed.
With Shame, writer/director Steve McQueen (a.k.a. “Not the one in the car”) reunites with his muse Michael Fassbender, who here plays a successful New York businessman who goes to great lengths to keep his sexual deviancy a secret. Although Shame debuted to critical acclaim in both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, there was concern that a film so graphic and raw (emotionally and sexually) would be hard to sell to American audiences. Great trailer, though.
Verdict: Hints of Blue Valentine, so prepare for a gut punch.