Jack Garner: Movie awards season kicks into high gear

05:00 AM, Jan 09, 2013

Omar Sy, left, and Francois Cluzet star in the French film, 'The Intouchables.' The dramatic comedy is Jack Garner's pick for the Critics' Choice Award for 2012. (THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY)/

Written By Jack Garner

The movie awards season heads into high gear this week. The Critics’ Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards are all factors in the efforts to salute the best films of 2012.

The festivities start early this Thursday morning, as the Oscar nominations are announced on the network morning shows. The first major awards show — the Critics’ Choice Awards — follows at 8 Thursday on The CW (cable channel 16). And the Golden Globes will be handed out at 8 p.m. Sunday on WHEC-TV (channel 10).

Interestingly, the announcement of Oscar nominations is early this year, and the timing negates any influence from the Critics’ Choice Awards or the Globes on the Academy Awards. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. The Globes’ influence is mitigated a bit anyway, because the Foreign Press divides its honors into two distinct categories — drama and musical/comedy.

Also interestingly, this is one of the few recent years in my memory in which award-show watchers will actually have something or someone to root for — because many of the nominees have already had some success at the box office. (That’s seldom the case.) Many people will likely have seen Lincoln, Argo, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Skyfall, and/or Silver Linings Playbook, for example.

Finally, there’s a curious element to the Thursday announcement of Oscar nominations — in the foreign language category. The rules state that each country can submit one film to be considered for an Oscar nomination. However, if more than one film from one country would normally be worthy, it can be a shame.

In 2012, for example, two French films had U.S. runs, earned considerable kudos, and could each wear the Oscar mantle with absolute justification — Amour and The Intouchables. Having seen both, I’m torn about which I prefer. However, France was forced to choose one for Oscar consideration, and picked The Intouchables. (Fortunately, the Globes and Critics’ Choice have no such rules, and have both films in their foreign language category.)

Amour is a deeply affecting drama about the final years of an elderly French couple, played by two legendary actors, Emmanuelle Riva, 85, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, 82. It won the prestigious Palm d’Or at Cannes in May.

Veteran fans of European cinema will remember Trintignant, in particular. He found global success with several bona fide classics, including A Man and a Woman (1966), Is Paris Burning? (1966), Z (1969), My Night at Maud’s (1969), and The Conformist (1970). And he’s as wonderful as ever in this sad, but touching portrait.

Equally good, The Intouchables is amusingly irreverent, as it explores a relationship that develops between a disabled, paralyzed millionaire (Francois Cluzet) and his street smart ex-con caretaker (Omar Sy). A camaraderie develops that’s rooted in honesty and humor between two guys who would seem to have nothing in common. The performances here are also great, by Sy and by Cluzet (an actor with an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman).

Forced to choose in my ballot for the Critics’ Choice Award, I went with The Intouchables, ultimately coming down on the side of which film made me feel better. Amour is an undeniably sad film. And I’m also not a major fan of the extended, static shots by Amour director Michael Haneke, a guy who obsessively keeps his camera still, on the tripod.

As for other key parts of my ballot for the Thursday Critics’ Choice Awards, I went with Lincoln as best picture, and its actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones as best actors, and The Impossible’s Naomi Watts for best actress.

The race is on, culminating on Oscar night — Feb. 24.