The Descendants: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, from Kaui Hart Hemmings’s novel
Hugo: John Logan, from Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Ides of March: George Clooney, Grat Heslov and Beau Willimon, from Willimon’s play Farragut North
Moneyball: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Stan Chervin (story), from Michael Lewis’s book
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, from John Le Carré’s novel
Can The Descendants win anything? The former front-runner for Best Picture, Director (Payne) and Actor (George Clooney) seems to have been swept away in The Artist‘s sweet tsunami. The door prize could be this Oscar — a reward for Payne’s craftsmansip in withholding the story’s male-weepie aspects until the climax. A Descendants win would mean that Clooney, co-author of The Ides of March, loses twice on Sunday, as actor and screenwriter. But then, the man who has everything also has an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actor, Syriana, in 2006), plus four earlier nominations in three categories (Actor, Director and Original Screenplay).
The Oscar will not go to the husband-wife team who adapted Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (O’Connor died in 2010 at the age of 49) or to Logan, who could have been nominated, and deservedly, for three movies with one-word titles: the tender Hugo, the gnarly animated feature Rango, which will win Best Animated Feature, and his boiling of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus down to its brutal martial essence. Why Ralph Fiennes’ excellent film never took off, at least with Academy members, is a mystery to us and probably to its distributor, Harvey Weinstein.
The Descendants‘ stiffest competition comes from Moneyball, the “nonfiction” baseball book that producer-star Brad Pitt nurtured into a smart, popular workplace movie. The writers added a daddy-daughter subplot, for the ladies, and a lot of sassy banter that made the movie, in part, a screwball comedy with a high IQ. We attribute the locker-room wit to Sorkin, winner of last year’s Adapted Screenplay award for The Social Network.
If the Academy voters choose Pitt’s project over that of his buddy George, The Descendants could slink away Oscar-less. But we’ll stick with the Payne triumvirate.