All you need to know about this year’s ‘Best Picture’ nominations:
In one line Hollywood starlet struggles to adapt to talkies – then a
dog (right, with Bérénice Bejo) steals the show.
Trivia The first silent film to receive a ‘Best Picture’ nomination
since 1929. Despite having no dialogue, it is, curiously, also nominated in
the Best Original Screenplay category.
In one line Travails of a French boy who lives in Montparnasse station
and watches over unique and magical goings-on, such as the Parisian railway
staff not going on strike.
Trivia Director Martin Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D, a technology
that makes him look fatter, but sadly not taller.
Odds Dark horse.
In one line An emotionally distant man looks his mid-life crisis in the
eye from his priceless spot of untouched Hawaiian real-estate.
Trivia George Clooney (right) and his fictional daughters watch March
of the Penguins, which – like The Artist and Hugo – is another Academy
Award-nominated French film starring animals.
Odds Rank outsider.
In one line Does for race relations between maid and master in the
Sixties’ Deep South what Downton Abbey does for class in entre-deux-guerres
England, though with fewer people dying of Spanish flu.
Trivia Features Sissy Spacek, previously nominated for causing
telekinetic mayhem in blood-bathed horror, Carrie.
Odds Late mover.
In one line With Steven Spielberg pulling the strings, the National
Theatre’s astonishingly real First World War drama about the separation of a
Devon farmhand from his beloved horse, featuring wooden puppets, is
transformed into an astonishingly wooden drama featuring real horses.
Trivia No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but
Spielberg’s reputation among critics has taken a knock.
Odds Cart horse.
In one line Baseball manager drafts in a geeky number-cruncher to comb
game statistics, buy up undervalued players and produce a team capable of
winning the World Series (yeah, right).
Trivia Based on the true story of low-budget Oakland Athletics’
unexpectedly successful 2002 season.
Odds Flogging a dead horse.
Loud and Incredibly Close
In one line Francophile boy (above) sets out on a quest to find meaning
in his father’s death in the 9/11 attacks, while bored critics amuse
themselves by inventing a thousand puns based on the film’s title.
Trivia 82-year-old Max von Sydow, who plays a mute Dresden-bombing
survivor, is nominated for Best Supporting Actor despite not uttering a
Odds Refused to leave the stall.
In one line A needy, nerdy, nervous and emotionally complicated middle-aged
man ponders his relationship with one beautiful woman while being pursued by
another, as per every other Woody Allen film – but this one involves time
travel and drafts in Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Trivia It’s the most commercially successful film of Woody Allen’s
career, grossing more than $100 million worldwide.
Tree of Life
In one line Epic, non-narrative (read ponderous) take on one man’s life, from
childhood through to an increasingly disillusioned adulthood, fashioned from
an impressionistic rush of images, from bubbles and butterflies to a wounded
Trivia fact Weirdest of all, Mel Gibson was considered for a role.
Odds Glue factory.
Who ought to be wearing what?
It’s a big night for the world’s fashion industry – because those beautiful
people on the red carpet aren’t going to dress themselves, are they?
Forget about the films, the Oscars is one long parade of glamorous gowns,
glittering jewels and – perhaps best of all – hilarious fashion faux-pas
that will be leapt upon by squads of fashion police watching every hemline,
catty remarks at the ready. Get it wrong on the red carpet, and Hollywood
vilifies you for evermore. Who can forget Celine Dion’s back-to-front white
suit, Gwyneth Paltrow turning up in a translucent bustier and taffeta skirt
by Alexander McQueen, or Demi Moore’s cycling shorts and bustier ensemble,
an effort from 1989 that – eek! – she ran up herself.
Few will ever wear a dress as ghastly as Björk’s 2001 swan-themed catastrophe,
but will the stars play it safe this year, go for the craziest couture, or
take a risk with the current vogue for vintage? These are the designers
whose collections are most in demand.
The Italian’s maestro’s classic elegance is made for a night at the Oscars.
Perfect for Angelina Jolie (left).
Why She needs to play it ultra-safe. Who wouldn’t err on the side of caution
after the Elvira shocker by Versace that she wore in 2006?
The Lebanese designer specialises in princessy beaded gowns in a palette of
sweet shop colours. Just add glass slippers.
Perfect for Bérénice Bejo (The Artist).
Why Because the star of a fairy-tale story needs fairy-tale style.
For colourful, floor-length gowns that are anything but basic, and just a
little bit daring.
Perfect for Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).
Why To announce that the youthful 20 year-old is the new Hollywood darling.
Cheeky contemporary looks designed for all-out wow.
Perfect for Rooney Mara (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; above).
Why Only the star of this goth gore-fest could carry off such daring designs.
THE GOODY BAGS
Haven’t you heard, the era of conspicuous consumption is over? Today’s
celebrities are responsible, environmentally aware folk, in touch with their
own feelings as well as the mood on the street. Absolutely not the types
ostentatiously to scoop up bagfuls of Apple gadgets and expensive watches
and run screaming in delight to the limo. No, these days, goody bags to take
home are out – but ”gifting suites’’ to drop in to are in. Every A-lister
in town will be invited to various hotels and, in the privacy of the
conference facilities, pick out some gifts. Last year, gauche fripperies –
trips to Monte Carlo, Tiffany crystal-studded cat collars – were all
But times have changed. This year’s gift list includes a luxury elephant
safari in Botswana worth $15,000, as well as a hand-sanitiser in a $135
gold-and-crystal jelly sleeve. Choose carefully as the IRS classes such
giveaways as taxable income.
A “Who’s that…?” guide to the celebrities who’ll be gracing the red carpet
Host of the ceremony, a role he’s performed eight times before. Now as famous
for handing out statuettes as watching Meg Ryan fake an orgasm. On the
night, he’s nice about everyone, which is boring, but it’s the main reason
they keep asking him back.
The one-time front-runner for Best Actress – for her performance as Margaret
Thatcher in The Iron Lady – is now tipped to be pipped by Viola Davis (The
Help), right. Watch out for her losing a heel, a trick she perfected at the
recent Baftas. From shoo-in to shoe off.
A debonair, sophisticated and talented Cary Grant de nos jours, which is not
bad for a man whose big break was a role in Return of the Killer Tomatoes.
Irish actor whose turn as a sex addict in Shame has been cruelly overlooked by
the Academy. Maybe a slavish, uncontrollable desire to get young women naked
is not considered acting in Hollywood.
Flavour of the month. Nominated for The Help (left), but if required can
accept on behalf of The Debt, Tree of Life, Texas Killing Fields, Take
Shelter and Coriolanus.
…AND ONE THAT WON’T
Uggie the Dog
An appearance by the 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier – the real star of The
Artist – would greatly enliven the Oscars, but is unlikely, as he has been
retired from showbiz with a mystery nerve illness.
Who’s likely to cry when receiving their statuette ?
The lady’s not for weeping – she’s won twice before. Dry as a bone. 1/5
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Blubber? Not likely. 2/5
An audience with Michelle is not complete without her fighting back tears. Put
the plumber on stand-by. 3/5
Major waterworks if she finally takes home an award. 4/5
But nothing compared to the wailing if she doesn’t. Flood warning 5/5
THE HOST’S JOKES
Billy Crystal likes to be liked, so he’s expected to pick targets who can’t
talk back – such as the French-speaking stars of The Artist, and animal
‘actors’ – Uggie the Jack Russell terrier, Cosmo the canine star of
Beginners, Joey the War Horse. On the other hand, Miss Piggy, who will be
dressed in specially commissioned designer robes to present an award with
Kermit (see below), will definitely talk back. And karate chop.
Crystal likes to make an entrance. In past ceremonies, he has arrived on stage
on a horse, on a giant Oscar statuette, on a mock-up of the Titanic, and
dressed as Hannibal Lecter. This year he’s odds on to come on as the Iron
Lady. Whether he’ll announce that Hollywood is dispatching a Task Force to
the Falklands is unclear – as is whether Sean Penn can be conscripted.
Key words to listen out for during the thank-yous
It’s always the same. The demure star from whom you want to hear more says a
polite “Thanks” and leaves the stage. The most vacuous airhead has to be
prised from the rostrum.
Studies of recent Oscar acceptance speeches suggest a clear trend away from
thanking God, towards thanking one’s spouse. Similarly, actors today are
more likely to talk about their “film”, not their “movie” (too gung-ho
American). And the crew are more likely than ever to get an honourable
mention, especially those without-whoms who helped an actor prepare
physically for a role. Natalie Portman name-checked her ballet tutor for
Black Swan, Christian Bale the fitness instructor who helped him thin down
for The Fighter.
The words most mentioned last year were “wonderful”, “amazing”, “incredible”
and “great”, which it surely was for “parents” the “crew”, the “cast”, the
“team” and “the family” (it’s a Sicilian thing).
But, like God, there’s little mention these days for another key player – the
“agent”. Unless you’re Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, who always gets a nod
from the podium. Excepting three years ago, when Kate Winslet was roundly
criticised for failing to pay tribute to the mogul.
…AND INTRODUCING THE BEST-DRESSED IN SHOW
One starlet will take particular pride in her designer gown, following her
recent and rather unlikely transformation into a fashion muse. Step forward
Miss Piggy, tour de force of the Muppets, who will be dressed by Zac Posen
for Hollywood’s most glamorous night.
Posen, who has previously dressed Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts, has created
what may be the fashion spectacle of the evening.
The porcine actress told The Sunday Telegraph: “Moi will wear a très fabulous
dress. It’s designed to make George, Brad and Kermie drool all over me.”
Miss Piggy’s new-found interest in fashion follows her star role in the latest
Muppet film, in which she plays the “plus-size” fashion editor of French
Vogue. Her character wears Chanel tweed and sports a bob hairstyle similar
to that of Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue.
Miss Piggy will attend the ceremony with her partner, Kermit the Frog. The
couple, nominated in the best song category, will also join the stellar list
of presenters including Halle Berry, Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie to
present an award. Kermit will be dressed by the American label Brooks
Miss Piggy added: “After success as an actress, singer, diva, supermodel, moi
decided to try being a fashion muse. No sooner did I start musing than the
most talented and amazing designers clamoured to fill moi’s closet. With a
body like moi’s, I can make any outfit work.”