Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week of February 24 through March 1 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Coming up this Sunday night is the annual Academy Awards. You can watch it at home, or at locations around town, but there’s no better place than the Tropic, with the biggest screen, best sound and most comfy seats in town. Plus they’re adding their own pre-show with a live concert of Oscar nominated songs, both past and present. All this for only $20 ($15 for members), or go for the Star treatment and get an elegant light buffet dinner and other free goodies (and the joy of supporting the Tropic) for $65 ($50 for members). Details at

Whether you’re there or elsewhere you can join the Tropic’s annual Oscar picking pool, with prizes including free memberships or membership upgrades that are worth hundreds of dollars. Ballots are available at the box office and cost $5 each. Enter as many times as you want. You have to turn in your ballots by Sunday, but you don’t have to be present to win.

To help you, they’re still playing nominees in all the theaters: Two with a Best Picture nod, THE ARTIST and HUGO, and two in the running for Best Actress, THE IRON LADY and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. And opening this week is one of the Best Foreign Language Nominees, BULLHEAD. The title character of this Belgian film is a steroid-addicted cattle farmer who gets involved with a hormone mafia that illegally injects animals to bulk them up for market. It’s “an intense, shattering film, a confident and accomplished, punch-in-the-gut debut.” (L.A. Times).

If you’re entering an Oscar picking competition, I have some advice for you. The goal is not, of course, to pick who you think should win, but who will win. There are many ways to suss that out, such as checking the results of earlier award festivities or even seeing the movies and making your own judgments. But why go through all that work when the oddsmakers have read the tea leaves for you. You can get odds from places like the Las Vegas or British bookies, or from venues like which show the crowd-sourcing insights of thousands of anonymous selectors. This is not like a horse race, where the favorite can have a bad day or even pull up lame in the stretch. It’s rather the polling of a small, insular group, mostly aging white males, many of them having already tipped their hands in voting for earlier prizes. So predictions tend to be pretty solid.

A few of the top prizes seem like sure things. As I mentioned last week, THE ARTIST is given an 85-90% chance of winning Best Picture. If you have a contrary insight, get your butt over to an online betting site, where you can get 75 to 1 odds on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Extremely Maudlin and Incredibly Manipulative) or on Tree of Life (National Geographic meets West Texas), or even 20 to 1 on The Descendants.

Also odds-on favorites are Best Director for Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), Best Animated Film for Rango, Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants, Best Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, Best Original Score for The Artist, Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress (The Help), Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor (Beginnings), Hugo for Best Art Direction, Tree of Life for Best Cinematography, A Separation for Best Foreign Language Film, The Iron Lady for Best Makeup, Rise of the Planet of the Apes for Best Visual Effects and Hugo for Best Sound Editing and Mixing.

The major uncertainties among the big prizes are in the top acting categories, with George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) running close for Best Actor, and Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Viola Davis (The Help) battling for Best Actress, with Dujardin and Davis surging in recent betting.

Join the crowd at the Tropic on Sunday and be prepared to gasp when one of the favorites fails to win, or when one of your obscure picks pops out of the envelope.

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