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We grill the experts at AwardsCircuit.com for Oscar answers

Posted Friday, November 18, 2011 at 4:24 PM Central
Last updated Friday, November 18, 2011 at 4:50 PM Central

by John Couture

As you may have noticed by now, we have been trying something new this year. We decided to put a little bit of focus onto those movies that you would call Oscar hopefuls.

The logic seemed sound. Everyone gets excited around Oscar time and these movies that debut in theaters now will be making their way onto DVD and Blu-ray soon anyhow, so why not give a little love to them now and help our audience out so that come time for the Academy Awards, and the requisite office pool, you'll be a step or two ahead of your co-workers.

While the feedback has been great, we quickly realized that covering the Oscars full-time is a monumental task. One that only true professionals should tackle with vigor. To that end, we turned to our friends at The Awards Circuit for a little help.

The Awards Circuit is a site that is completely devoted the awards season and the Oscars in particularly. The idea behind the website sprang from wondering what if you could have the same excitement of Oscar week all year long. The result is a great resource not only for Oscar pools, but for helping you make your film watching decisions all year long.

Senior Staff Writer Joey Magidson has been a regular VideoETA Twitter follower for awhile and we have enjoyed his insight. Joey, along with editor Clayton Davis and the rest of the writers on The Awards Circuit have created a nice mix of reviews and unique content that really delves deep into the heated Oscar races.

So, we figured the best thing to do was to recruit an expert and pick his brain so that the rest of us will be properly up to speed on The Help without feeling Shame when the Oscar nominations are released. Joey was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Sit back and enjoy as we learn who the early front-runners are in the Oscars race as well as some crafty darkhorses who could play spoiler in February and help us bask in the glory of Oscar pool success.

We will be checking in with Joey periodically between now and the Oscars telecast on February 26, but you should really check out The Awards Circuit to become an Oscars expert that will make you the envy of all of your friends. Also, Joey will join us on our podcast on December 6, so be sure to listen to the three of us geek out over the Oscars.

Give us a little background on you and the site The Awards Circuit. How and why did you get into the business and what vision do you all have for the site?

Well, I'm a New York native and the Senior Staff Writer at The Awards Circuit. Educated at Stony Brook University on Long Island with a degree in Cinema and Cultural Studies, I've been with my editor Clayton Davis and the Circuit for the better part of a decade now. I actually started as a reader of the site years ago when it was still called The Oscar Igloo, and on a whim, answered a call for new writers (which is why I can confidently tell people that anyone can do this if they give it their all) and was hired.

I was always a film fan, with my grandfather being a movie projectionist and taking me to the theater almost every week. I always had a passion for writing as well, so it just felt right.

In terms of the site itself, our mission statement is as follows: “The Awards Circuit is committed to providing both casual and informed cinema enthusiasts with professional, unbiased awards coverage. We aim to give our readers in-depth and honest film reviews, and an inimitable means for our community to discuss, participate, and share their experiences as filmgoers.”

Essentially we cover the Oscar race year round while providing film reviews, news, and a community for discussion. Our tagline at the site is at The Awards Circuit, Oscar week never ends.

What's your favorite film? Your favorite Best Picture winner? Your favorite "guilty pleasure" film?

My favorite film of all time is The Shawshank Redemption, with Chasing Amy, Pulp Fiction, The Fountain, Almost Famous, Annie Hall, Magnolia, Clerks, Star Wars, and Leaving Las Vegas rounding out the top 10.

My favorite Best Picture winner is Annie Hall, with Rocky, The Hurt Locker, The Silence of the Lambs, Million Dollar Baby, Schindler's List, The Apartment, Platoon, American Beauty, and The Departed rounding out the top 10.

My favorite guilty pleasure of a movie is actually The Girl Next Door, though others include Back to the Future, Elizabethtown, Saw, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask.

What's your favorite Oscars show moment?

For me, it has got to be when host Jon Stewart brought Best Original Song winner Marketa Irglova back on to the stage after a commercial break so she could give her acceptance speech (her co-winner Glen Hansard had just finished his speech when the music played them off). It was just such a sweet moment that you couldn't help but smile.

Turning towards this year's Oscars race, who do you think are the leading contenders for the big awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor & Actress and Director)?

I recently wrote an article about how wide open this year actually is (it can be found here for those curious) and do a weekly series on each category (called the "Sizing Up" series), and the one thing I really love about this year is that there are no locks yet. There are some big likely nominees, but no one really can plant their flag yet and say they're in for sure. That will change very soon when the Precursor awards (such as the National Board of Review and all of the Critics Groups) begin honoring certain films and performances, but right now there's sort of a calm before the storm.

In terms of the movies and artists that actually can win the Oscars as opposed to just being nominated, things are a little more focused. Best Picture is likely shaping up to be between films like The Artist (the favorite in my eyes right now), The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Midnight in Paris, and War Horse. Other contenders include The Help, The Ides of March, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life. The flicks looking to just score a nomination and hopefully survive are things like Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, J. Edgar, and Young Adult.

For Best Actor, it's looking like a race between Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar and Brad Pitt for Moneyball, though George Clooney could also take it for his work in The Descendants. Fighting it out for the other nods are people like Jean Durjardin (for The Artist), Michael Fassbender (for Shame), Ryan Gosling (for either Drive or The Ides of March), Woody Harrelson (for Rampart), and Gary Oldman (for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), plus other longer shots.

Best Actress looks like a a three horse race between Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn). Also right there for a nod is Viola Davis for The Help. That last spot is likely to be between Felicity Jones] (Like Crazy), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene).

The supporting categories are much more in flux, with Supporting Actor a wide open race between the likes of Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Albert Brooks (Drive), and Christopher Plummer (Beginners). They're looking likely for nods, and George Clooney (The Ides of March), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), and Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) could be the ones looking to fight for the remaining slots.

Supporting Actress really is always a tough one to call, and this year is no different. The big contenders are Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (for either The Help, Take Shelter, or The Tree of Life), and Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus), with a wide net out for the remaining nominations that includes Sandra Bullock (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Carey Mulligan (either Drive or Shame), Octavia Spencer, Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March), and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).

As for Best Director, a lot will have to do with Best Picture, but the names likely looking at nods include Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar), David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Bennett Miller (Moneyball), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), and of course, Steven Spielberg (War Horse).

What's the best movie that you've seen this year? Which upcoming awards contender are you most looking forward to seeing?

I've given 4 movies this year 4 stars (a perfect score in my reviews), and they are Drive (my favorite film of the year so far), The Beaver, The Descendants and Bellflower.

Other films I'm head over heels for so far include 50/50, Midnight in Paris, Red State, and Warrior. At the top of my "to see" list is Shame right now, with a potential guilty pleasure in We Bought a Zoo right behind it. Of course, the rest of the Oscar contenders as well, but those two have me really looking forward to them.

What are some dark horse picks for this year's Oscars?

The big one will be if the Academy gives a chance to Shame, which is saddled with an NC-17 rating and will have to struggle to get exposure (no pun intended). If voters give it a chance, they could honor it not just in Best Actor and Supporting Actress, but Original Screenplay and perhaps even Best Picture as well.

There's also the possibility of Drive being recognized in a number of categories for its superb craftsmanship. Of course, I'd love to see Kevin Smith and his actors (notable Michael Parks) get recognized for Red State, but I'm realistic enough to know it's so dark a horse it can't even be seen.

What are your thoughts about the tumultuous week that the Academy had with Ratner and Murphy's departure and what do you think of Glazer and Crystal coming on board? Who would choose to host the Oscars?

I'd like to say that I was surprised by Brett Ratner sticking his foot in his mouth, but honestly anyone who's listened to him speak for any length of time shouldn't be shocked by any of this. He talks like a frat boy, for better or worse. I'm more confused that the Academy thought that this wouldn't happen, but that's just me. As for Eddie Murphy leaving, that's a little more surprising, but a rare act of loyalty in this business, so I'll never attack him for that.

As for replacing them, I had figured it would be someone like Brian Grazer, though his name specifically didn't pop into my head, so I won't pretend like I called it. As for Billy Crystal, that one I will say didn't surprise me one bit. I actually was so sure he'd end up with the job, I wrote an article the day after Murphy left on 10 alternatives to Billy Crystal (not that he's a bad pick at all) just for fun...people like Tom Hanks, The Muppets, Kevin Smith, etc. I think the show will end up going off pretty much without a hitch, and Grazer/Crystal will be just fine, but a little part of me still wishes that Kermit and Miss Piggy came out to welcome everyone to the show...

If you had to pick one category in which there will be an upset winner, which one would it be and who would win?

I actually think we may see an upset with Best Picture, but only once we know what the nominees are. The way the voting works these days, there's a certain percentage of #1 votes that a film needs, so if a film has few detractors and enough big supporters, it could steal the award. Gun to my head, it looks like The Artist is in the pole position to take the Oscar, but something like Midnight in Paris is the upset that's more likely than many think.

At this point, if you had to pick a film to wager on to win Best Picture in February, which film would you pick?

I'm sticking with The Artist at the moment, but the beauty of the Oscar race is how fluid things can be before the nominations come out. It's going to be a fun few months...

It certainly is, that's for sure. Thanks a lot for bringing us fully into the know Joey. Is there anything big on the horizon for The Awards Circuit?

Absolutely, we just launched our annual contest Academy Idol.

Few parts of The Awards Circuit are more democratic, or more popular for that matter, than Academy Idol, a hallmark of Oscar season at the site. For the uninitiated, quite simply, this contest is our integration of American Idol style voting with the big Oscar hopefuls for the year. Once the field is selected in the fall, week by week, they compete against each other in categories like Directors, Cinematography, and so on…culminating in films being eliminated each week. How does that happen? Well, YOU, the reader get to vote and push your favorite candidate forward in the contest.

That sounds exciting, we'll have to check it out. You should do the same. Remember the Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24, 2012 and the awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2012.