May the force be with you

Steven Spielberg.
Steven Spielberg.
The really, truly big film industry awards ceremonies of the season start with the Golden Globes on January 16 and end with the Academy Awards on February 27. It can be a busy time of the year for lovers of the glitz and glam side of the industry.

Here are Craig Baxter's picks for the major categories (he says these apply roughly across the award ceremony board, although the Baftas are likely to take in a few other gems, such as Brendan Gleeson's brilliant performance in Irish film The Guard.) He also includes a few ideas for the Academy to consider.

Movie Goers, I am sure, have a love/hate relationship with the United States' end-of-year awards season buzz.

Comedian Ricky Gervais and partner Jane Fallon arrive at last year's Golden Globes. Gervais has...
Comedian Ricky Gervais and partner Jane Fallon arrive at last year's Golden Globes. Gervais has been hired to present the awards again this year, even though his performance last year offended many top celebrities. Photos by Reuters.
For us in New Zealand it is certainly a strange business.

Oscar-contender films are usually released around December and January in New Zealand, while they are released a few months earlier in the States so they are fresh on Academy voters' minds.

While that time of year may be autumn/winter in America, it is high summer here, when the last thing on most people's minds is ensconcing themselves in a darkened movie theatre.

Last year, for example, we had The Iron Lady, with Oscar best actress shoo-in Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher, opening here on Boxing Day.

A dark portrait may not be your holiday season first choice, but the same week you had a more family-oriented holiday fare opening, including the long-awaited and much talked up Tintin, Happy Feet 2, Tower Heist and The Muppets movie.

We also have a mouth-watering awards season to look forward to from Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 16 (NZ time) for the second time after his controversial, but highly entertaining, 2011 turn as host - to the ultimate movie awards show the Academy Awards, which signals the end of awards season on February 26 at the Kodak Theatre with the ultimate "Oscars" host Billy Crystal.

Star Wars: An epic journey begins

In my opinion, the home movie event of the year was the release of the entire Star Wars saga on blu-ray, the first time it has been available in high definition.

Online anger followed its release, with the usual "George (Lucas, the director) is trying to get more money from fans" criticism, along with the predictable disapproval that the films have been further altered, mainly through special effects changes.

The reader might be able to predict that I do not agree. This is an amazing box-set of films.

The original films look the best they ever have and the set includes some fantastic extras, including a nostalgic making-of from the original movies and a great Star Wars spoof.

You see, I have a Star Wars habit. Every time Lucas decides to relaunch another box-set of the films I have to have it.

This year it was the blu-ray box set of all six films . . . to add to my DVD versions of the films . . . my Laser Disc version of the films . . . and my VHS copies. Star Wars was how I discovered film.

To be accurate, I credit my enduring preoccupation with films to three things -Star Wars, Lucas and my dad, who managed to get us advance tickets to see it at the Octagon cinema (including a visit to the projection booth). The whole thing seemed magical to me as a kid.

Through interviews with Lucas in film magazines Fantastic Films and Starlog I learned about his influences Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course his friend Stephen Spielberg.

I started to seek out those men's films.

Through Spielberg and Alec Guinness (Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars), I discovered British film-maker David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge over the River Kwai and one of the great British comedies The Lavender Hill Mob.

John Williams' soundtracks to Star Wars and Spielberg's films made me appreciate movie scores.

Star Wars and, soon after, Spielberg's Close Encounters taught me to stare at the sky and imagine what was out there.

These films gave me a love of cinema and a desire for movie knowledge and history that has continued.

Certainly Star Wars was the coolest thing out in 1977. Every kid had seen it and loved it. I saw it 10 times in one year and it was one of the proudest achievements of my childhood.

This year my 10-year-old niece watched the box-set from the start, for the first time, in high definition. She was highly disappointed each time we dragged her from the television.

If you weren't lucky enough to get the box-set for Christmas, go and buy it in one of the never-ending Boxing Day sales. It will bring back all those great memories.

My picks for the big prizes

Best Film Nominees: Hugo; The Help; War Horse; The Descendants; Drive; The Tree of Life; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (although the Academy has never been wild about Harry but he deserves some recognition); Moneyball; The Artist and Tintin.

Best Actor: It's a race between Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. For me it's been the year of Ryan Gosling after star turns in Drive, Crazy Stupid Love and The Ides of March. Brad Pitt's turns in Moneyball and The Tree of Life are both Oscar worthy. I think Pitt will get it for The Tree of Life, but I would love to see Gosling win.

Best Actress: The buzz is between Meryl (the Academy loves me) Streep and Tilda Swinton's performance as the mother of a boy who went on a high school killing spree in We need To Talk about Kevin.

I'm sure it will be hard for the Academy to go past Meryl.

Until then . . . I give you a list of categories and films I think the Academy should (but won't) consider:

Best time travel thriller: Source Code. Just a thrilling film, much of it filmed in real time. Edge of the seat stuff.

Best reason to keep hand sanitiser at close range: Contagion. A film about a version of a plague that could kill many of us. Its business-like, almost documentary format made it even more scary.

Most gratuitous use of 3D: Britney Spears performing Slave to You wearing next to nothing in eye-popping 3D in Glee 3D, (obviously put in for the dads dragged along to the film).

Best reason not to ride in a lift: Ryan Gosling in Drive.

Best scientist: Natalie Portman in Thor.

Best romantic lead man (who would have thought?): Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris.

Best comic book adaptation: In a year dominated by remakes and comic book movies X-Men: First Class stood above the pack. Great movie, great style, super heroes with '60s style. We can only hope the Spiderman and Superman reboots are as good.

Best Steven Spielberg film not directed by Steven Spielberg: Homage to Spielberg, Super 8, reminded us all of the great '80s days of Spielberg. Single families, aliens, kids taking on the world. A great tribute and a reminder of simpler times in cinema.

Best Steven Spielberg comedy not directed by Steven Spielberg: Paul. Not as good as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's other works, but again a nice homage to the master.

Special Achievement: The Harry Potter franchise. A distinguished translation from book to film.

Dates to remember

January 12: The Peoples' Choice Awards
January 13: The Critics' Choice Awards
January 16: The Golden Globes
January 29: The Screen Actors Guild Awards
February 13: The Grammy Awards
February 13: Bafta Awards
February 27: The Academy Awards



Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter