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Poster Lab: White House Down

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Poster Lab: <em>White House Down</em>
Poster Lab: <em>White House Down</em>

After a brief excursion into Shakespearean salaciousness with Anonymous, Roland Emmerich is back to doing what he (arguably) does best: blowing iconic landmarks to smithereens. His latest, White House Down, concerns a paramilitary group that takes over the White House, and leaves a wannabe Secret Service agent (Channing Tatum) on a quest to save the president (Jamie Foxx). Yes, it all sounds very much like Olympus Has Fallen, and viewers can draw their own conclusions about what these movies mean about government dissatisfaction. For Emmerich, it’s just another day at the office, an office that’s probably lined with maps, dartboards, and other means of arbitrarily deciding what disaster to unleash next. Emmerich is a professional sadist—a hack director who gets his jollies by seeing how many mass quantities of people he can murder.

In 2012, his idea of a nyuk-nyuk gag was seeing two old ladies get swallowed by the earth in their station wagon, while countless thousands screamed out their last breaths. However superficially handsome the new White House Down posters may be, with variations that include a young girl, some picnickers on the lawn of the Capitol, and a crowd of tourists near the Washington Monument, their eerie, all-is-well nature make them more sadistic than anything to herald a previous Emmerich picture. The maestro of indiscriminate slaughter has upped his game: “Let’s not show things being destroyed, let’s tease what’s about to be destroyed, and flaunt the handsome, unsuspecting people whose lives we’re about to not just ruin, but, hopefully, take!”

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Okay, so, this isn’t a tough one exactly, but it bears mentioning that one of the two times we’ve gotten this category wrong was when we disregarded the almost always reliable frilliest-always-wins rule and allowed ourselves to be stupidly blinded by Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement. (Our only other faux pas—not calling it for The Artist last year—is perhaps more easily explained, as the Best Picture winner clearly benefited from every other nominee’s ostentatious yards of silk drowning each other out.) Now, here we are calling it for more Knightley-donned couture by Jacqueline Durran, this time from Joe Wright’s uneven but oft-deliciously unhinged Anna Karenina, whose four tech nods more than suggest that feelings for this most purple of cinematic adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tome are more amorous than the Academy’s regard for Anonymous, W.E., and Jane Eyre, each of which received their sole Oscar nominations in this category last year. If the showy grime of Hugo’s Silent Film Era Street Urchin Collection couldn’t seal the deal last year, as we thought it would, we have to rule out Les Misérables and Lincoln’s infinitely grayer lines. Charlize Theron truly rocks Colleen Atwood’s trannie-fierce gowns for Snow White and the Huntsman, but it’s the other Snow White movie in the category, Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, that could steamroll over Anna Karenina, and not just because its costumes are as gorgeously elaborate, but also because they were designed by the deceased Eiko Ishioka, a previous Oscar winner for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

So it is that the one year we didn’t stick to our frilliest-always-wins guns here, allowing ourselves to be blinded by the sheen of Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement, we came up short. So, Anonymous for the win, right? That’s what my gut told me the morning the Oscar nominations were announced, except it wasn’t a good sign when the Costume Designers Guild didn’t follow suit by also nominating Lisy Christl’s garbs, and the last time a film won an Oscar without the guild’s seal of approval was, inexplicably, Moulin Rouge. Though Anonymous remains, on paper at least, the likeliest seeming winner, unlike recent victors in this category about royal women (from Marie Antoinette to The Young Victoria), the film may suffer in the end from the lack of QT afforded to its single greatest asset: Vanessa Redgrave.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

Long before he delivered an über-classy acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globes, a speech that Oscarcast producers are surely hoping he has the wherewithal to repeat, Christopher Plummer had the Supporting Actor race all sewn up. For his tender turn as Ewan McGregor’s late-blooming gay father in Beginners, the 82-year-old has been racking up the precursors, climbing toward a Kodak Theater standing O that’s been in the cards since his movie dropped last June. If he were to lose, by the freak chance that voters were cool with slighting one of cinema’s most beloved Oscar-less veterans, Plummer’s trophy would go to Albert Brooks, who went way against type in Drive, playing a calculating Hollywood shitbag who cuts throats (Producers Branch? Check.). The third lock in this category is Kenneth Branagh, who hammed it up royally as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (a knee-jerk candidate since his gig was announced, Branagh owes much to the casting director, whose thespian-as-thespian stunt exceeds the actual work).

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Costume Design

While one hopes that those nominating for Costume Design will be keen to acknowledge the subtle ways that clothes complement character, like the vision obstruction caused by the bonnets in Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff or the dirtiness of the period duds in Bertrand Tavernier’s The Princess of Montpensier, history has certainly shown that pomp and spectacle win the day. And if your pomp and spectacle are housed in a castle setting, all the better. So look for Anonymous, the year’s flashiest bit of dolled-up royalty, to handily nab a slot here, if not the win. (There’s plenty of precedent for this, as The Duchess, another frilly film with minimal Oscar traction, took the trophy three years back, and Shakespeare in Love, which also showcased Elizabeth I in all her lavishly collared regalia, nabbed it in 1999).

Oscar Prospects: Anonymous

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Oscar Prospects: Anonymous
Oscar Prospects: Anonymous

Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous is an interesting case in that it may very well be its director’s best film; however, a better director is the one thing it surely needed. Worlds away from 2012, this conspiracy-driven drama is juicy, supremely watchable stuff, but even without the leveled buildings and mass deaths, you can still sense Emmerich’s usual artless frenzy, from the compositions to the triple-stacked flashbacks to the boorish handling of a huge cast of Elizabethan bed-hoppers. Suffice it to say, Emmerich won’t be getting much attention from the director’s branch this year, nor will Anonymous have even an outside shot at any major voting body’s big awards. The film lands in the Oscar discussion because it’s one of 2011’s showiest exhibitors of lavish period garb, and because it features busy Hollywood royal Vanessa Redgrave in full, baity regalia as Queen Elizabeth I.

Through the years, few roles have garnered more awards attention for more actresses than Elizabeth, so it’s only natural to assume that someone of Redgrave’s esteem would continue the trend. Though often buried under a great deal of makeup, jewels and fabric, the actress looks drastically old in the film, a reminder that the window of opportunity for late-career honors is getting smaller by the day. The performance itself is appropriately fun, a balance of power and levity in which both she and the character seem acutely aware of the necessity and burden of all that pomp and circumstance surrounding the queen’s life (a better scene sees her meet with an advisor and plop down on the floor, her legs spread out as she blithely dirties a fabulous skirt that nearly engulfs her). But Redgrave’s work isn’t on a par with that of Judi Dench, who famously netted a Supporting Actress trophy for playing Elizabeth for all of eight minutes in Shakespeare in Love. And seeing as Redgrave splits the role with daughter Joely Richardson, who plays Elizabeth at a younger age, it’s conceivable that voters may view the character as not being owned and defined by a single actress. A more probable Redgrave nomination would be for her supporting turn as Volumnia in Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus, another Shakespearean film that’s earning her raves.