Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The 79th annual Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, and it looks like it might be a tight race. I use the word might because this year smells like last year with at least one of the Best Picture nominees: Babel. An ensemble piece filled with showy roles for numerous actors and received very mixed reviews. Crash any one?

I know I have my favorites already picked out, namely anything The Departed is nominated for; including Marky Mark, whose acting I once commented on in a film review as sub par to the marvelous work of his 13" muppet co-star in Boogie Nights.

OK, to be fair, I haven't seen all of the movies nominated. The nearest cool movie theater is more than an hour away, so the choices are a little limited when it comes to quality flicks. However, I will use my incredible understanding of the film world to make up some shit that sounds halfway intelligent.

Best Actor: Not much here when you consider how strong the category has been in the past. This looks like the slim pickings the Best Actress category has been suffering through for the past twenty-five years.

O'Toole: The nomination is an after thought for his recent Lifetime Achievement Award. However, he's old and been in the movie business for many years - and let's remember, the bulk of Academy members are old too, and O'Toole is their vicarious link to the business.

DiCaprio: I think the Academy was split between Blood Diamond and The Departed, with the South African accent beating out the Southie one. He's young and has a long list of good performances under his belt. He's not going anywhere, so most members will rationalized that he will be nominated many more times and he will win in the future.

Will Smith: There has to be a true movie star with a hit film in the running, and Smith is it. This is the feel-good choice, which usually wins in the Best Supporting Actress category, not Best Actor. Sorry, Will.

Ryan Gosling: If you grew up watching the new Mickey Mouse club and thought The Notebook was the best movie ever, then Gosling is your man. However, no one over the age of twenty knows who this guy is. Next.

I'm thinking Forest Whitaker, simply because he is a great actor and he seems to be getting all the awards up to this point. Academy voters don't stray too far from the herd.

Best Actress: Finally, there are some real contenders here. In previous years, this category has had one or two strong nominees and Meryl Streep. OK, so Meryl is nominated this year and there is one nominee who is almost guaranteed to win, but the other performers are all incredible.

Winslet: Major babe. OK, she's also a great actress; but like her Titanic co-star, she's proven that this won't be the last time she'll be nominated. Plus, she's received more nominations that Streep has at her age.

Cruz: Another babe - this time with an accent. Plus those rumors that she's having an affair with Selma Hayek will keep Academy voters up all night as they imagine the two in steamy situations, perhaps showering together... or is that just me? OK, so Cruz has proven to be a great actress, only not in the U.S. Her Hollywood roles have all been tragic mistakes, which is a major obstacle to get over. Her acting is noticeably better when she works with Almodovar, and the nomination shows the Academy realizes that, but wins for foreign language roles are very rare.

Dench: Beautiful actress. Smart, tough, and incredibly precise with any role she takes on. But she has an Oscar already.

Streep: I think Meryl gets more beautiful every year. No, I really think that. She's better looking now than when she first started acting in films. But before I have her imagined self getting in the shower with Cruz and Hayek, let's talk about how good Streep is. Is there anyone better? I really don't think so. Her performance as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada was sinisterly delicious with subtle glimpses at her character's (few) insecurities that very few actors would be able to pull off. Streep deserves her yearly nomination, every year; but because she already has two statues and future nominations are a given, the Oscar will go to someone else.

And that someone else is Helen Mirren. An uncompromising actress, Mirren has gained the respect of many actors over the years, and The Queen is the perfect showcase for her many talents. It's as if Oscar has just been waiting for the right role for Mirren so she could be honored.

Best Supporting Actor: The Academy loves to shower its bone fide blockbuster movie stars with Oscars when they transcend their normal personas, and Eddie Murphy seems to have done that this year. Murphy has proven himself to be a great talent, but Dreamgirls is the first time he has been given a "respectable" vehicle to show off. However, his new film, Norbit, is a return to the fun side of Eddie, which may give some Academy members the idea that Murphy isn't a serious actor (Just think of Burt Reynold's potentional Oscar win for Deliverance squandered after appearing nude in Cosmo).

As for the other nominees: Wahlberg is a long shot. Arkin is respected in the acting community, but not that much. Haley may have that comeback role, but it's the role of a child molester. And Hounsou is nominated because of the attention DiCaprio is getting, which is not to say Hounsou is a bad actor (in fact, he's a very powerful performer), but Blood Diamond would probably be ignored if DiCaprio wasn't have such a good year.

Best Supporting Actress: Barraza and Kikuchi will split the Babel vote. Blanchett won in this category two years ago. That leaves Breslin and Hudson. According to Best Supporting Actress history, both actors have a real shot at Oscar gold. The Academy loves to award child actresses (Tatum O'Neal; Anna Paquin) almost as much as they love to recognize new talent, but with so many BSA winners dropping off the face of the Earth after winning (Mira Sorvino? Sorvino? Anyone?), the best bet is with Jennifer Hudson. What else is she going to do Dreamgirls 2?

Director: Please, oh please, let this be Scrosese's year. Every time Martin gets screwed over, the Academy becomes more of a joke. The Departed is one of the master's greatest films and he should be recognized for it. Will it make up for the Academy's choice of Kevin Costner over Scorsese in 1990? No, but it will help.

As for the others: I love Frears's work (Dangerous Liaisons; The Snapper; The Grifters). He is a can-do guy with almost any story. Think of him as a much better John Badham. But Mirren is getting all the kudos for this film, so Stephen is shit out of luck this year. Alejandro González Iñárritu has proven to be a powerful filmmaker with previous films 21 Grams and Amores Perros, but Babel is seen as an actor's showcase and all the mixed reviews can be attributed to the director. There is a slim chance that he may win, but I don't think so. Paul Greengrass may be Scorsese's biggest obstacle. Even though United 93 wasn't nominated for Best Picture (I think it probably came close), Greengrass is the logical person to honor for the film's success.

Best Animated Film: Cars is the logical choice considering Pixar's domination of the category since its inception, but Hollywood seems to be penguin crazy, so I'm going out on a limb and say Happy Feet will win.

Cinematography: It's interesting that none of the nominees here are up for Best Picture. I can't remember that ever happening. There is one superstar here, Vilmos Zsigmond, but he's nominated for a pretty mediocre film. So, without the help of a Best Picture contender in this field, the bulk of the Academy may vote all over the place. Some may want to honor Children of Men, but I think they may go with the unique looking film, which would be Pan's Labyrinth.

Costume Design: Will The Devil Wears Prada walk away with the gold? The movie does revolve around the fashion world. However, like The Queen, Devil has the contemporary problem going for it. This is usually a period piece award. Curse of the Golden Flower may have the most lavish outfits and Marie Antoinette has the traditional 18th/19th century nomination, but I think the sequins of Dreamgirls will out shine everything else. (Get it? outshines? Wow, I'm clever.)

Best Documentary: This category has reflected more of the popular view in the past few years. March of the Penguins and Bowling for Columbine can thank the Academy's misstep in failing to recognize Hoop Dreams for their awards. With this in mind An Inconvenient Truth seems like the winner, but Jesus Camp has received a lot of attention.

Foreign Film: Is it too much for a comic book geek to hope that Guillermo del Toro gets recognized here? Shouldn't a win enable del Toro to make Hellboy 2? Pan's Labyrinth seems like the obvious choice, but one has to remember that the incredibly successful Amelie was robbed of an Oscar by the Bosnian film No Man's Land.

Makeup: Click is the obligatory aging young actors to look old nominee. Apocalypto has the carnage slot. But Pan's Labyrinth has all the cool creatures. Chalk another one up for the hopes for Hellboy 2.

Original Score: Your guess is as good as mine. I don't know, maybe Babel? However, Pan may win simply because the Academy wants del Toro to have as much help in getting Hellboy 2 greenlighted as much as I do.

Visual Effects: Superman. Poseidon was crap and the best effect in the Pirates sequel was Johnny Depp's Keith Richards impersonation, again. However, Bill Nighy's Davey Jones was pretty cool.

Best Sound Editing & Sound Mixing: Two categories that most of the Academy knows nothing about. They usually go for the loudest nominees. So, look for Pirates and Flags of Our Fathers or Letter From Iwo Jima (at least in the Sound Editing category) to walk away with the gold.

Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short: The only nominee from both of these categories that I've seen is No Time for Nuts, which made me laugh more than the entire film of Ice Age: The Meltdown. So, as for predictions, I'm gonna have to close my eyes and point. And it looks like The Savior and Lifted. Very scientifically done.

Editing: The most frustrating category because my sister-in-law gets to meet all the nominees at a special luncheon, and she would take me, if I didn't live 3,000 miles away. Man, to meet Thelma Schoonmaker would be so fucking awesome. (If anyone out there wants to donate a plane ticket to San Diego, just send me an e-mail. :) I'm sure it's tax deductible.) OK, so I've already revealed my favorite, so I hope The Departed wins here, but there was a time when Schoonmaker's work was largely ignored by the editing community because it defied the traditional definition of good editing, which simply said that editing should be seamless. Times have changed, and thanks in large part to Scorsese and his constant creative partner, attitudes toward editing have changed as well. Thelma has been nominated six times, and has taken the award home twice; so could her stats go to .500? Let's hope so.

The only other Best Picture nominee in the category is Babel, which may throw a wrench into the works if the large acting community throws its support behind ensemble film. But don't rule out United 93.

Art Direction: I'm hoping for Pan, but I expect Dreamgirls to win.

Best Song: There are three songs from Dreamgirls to split the vote. Unless one of them really stands out, look for either Randy Newman or Melissa Etheridge to win. I'm going out on a limb and pick Etheridge since it's such a nomination for a documentary in this category is such a novelty.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The screenplay nominations sometimes have better movies than all of the other categories. This is usually where really great small or untraditional films find recognition. Case in point, Borat. This film was never in any danger of being nominated for Best Picture, even though it was a better reflection on America's view on racism than last year's Best Pic winner Crash could ever have dreamed of; but it's nominated here. Will it win? No. I think The Departed has a better shot, even though many may not know that the film is based on the really cool Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. The other likely contender is Children of Men. However, the Academy appreciates a novelist who adapts his/her own work (see John Irving's win for The Cider House Rules), so Tom Perrotta, along with screenwriting partner Todd Field, may see some recognition this year for Little Children.

Original Screenplay: OK, you've got three films which are mainly not in English, which may or may not effect the voting; I just thought it was interesting to point out. Let's that the least of the contenders out of the picture. Little Miss Sunshine is getting recognition for its quirkiness and painfully funny performances, but the story isn't all that original. It was basically National Lampoon's Vacation populated by neurotics. The Academy may also blame Babel's mixed reviews on its screenplay, protecting the actors from any responsibility; so Guillermo Arriaga may not win. Pan may be too out there for most voters. As for Iwo Jima, how many of the elder Academy members still call the Japanese "Those yellow bastards"? I think The Queen will win, but it won't be a slam-dunk.

Best Picture: The big one. Last year, the Academy lost its fucking mind when it picked Crash to win over Brokeback Mountain. Crash was an OK movie, but it didn't come close to the powerful impact that Brokeback had. Will the Academy fuck up again? Well, let's see. This year the Academy has chosen another ensemble cast showpiece with its nomination for Babel. Since the largest segment of the Academy is actors, Babel may have a shot. However, an omission in nominations for the film Bobby may indicate this theory is false, since Bobby had more roles by more better known Hollywood stars. Another consideration in last year's win for Crash was the homophobe factor. One has to remember that the Academy is, as William Goldman wrote, ancient and their views are of an older generation; meaning they frown upon homosexuality (Does Tom Cruise have an Oscar? I rest my case). So, instead of the best picture winning Best Picture, it went to a film about race relations so voters could feel good about voting for a socially aware film - without siding with the fags. There are no gay movies nominated for Best Picture this year, so Babel may be in trouble.

Little Miss Sunshine: This is a pleasantly quirky film about a very neurotic family. There are some great performances, especially from Steve Carell as a suicidal Proust scholar; but this is nothing but a road picture in different clothing. Enjoyable? Yes. Worthy of an Oscar? No.

The Queen: As I mentioned above, this is Helen Mirren's show. If her performance wasn't as apparently good as it seems, this film wouldn't be here. This is the Miramax slot, and since the real Miramax is no longer around, the Academy is doing the best it can. But in the end, the film revolves around one performance, and that isn't enough to win the gold.

Letters from Iwo Jima: A small film from some very large Hollywood personas. This is the little film that could, thanks in large part to Eastwood and Spielberg scrapping together $15 million dollars (approximately 25% of the budget for the film's companion piece, Flags of our Fathers) to make this movie that the studios were reluctant to finance. But even though this is a Clint Eastwood film, the movie is in Japanese and foreign language films do not win Best Picture Oscars, no matter who makes them.

The Departed: The Hollywood studio movie done right. The budget was probably twice as much as the other nominees combined, but it paid off big time. This is definitely one of Scorsese's best films, earning a place along side Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. But will the Academy think the same way? If the film earned more acting nominations than the one for Marky Mark (and it's not like there weren't any performances to pick from. DiCaprio, Damon, Sheen, Anthony Anderson, Baldwin, Winstone, Nicholson. All fucking great), then I'd say the film was a sure thing. However, just the omission of Jack in the Best Supporting Actor category creates an unknown. I really want this film to win. I think it all comes down to how many actors are in the Babel camp and how heavy the For Your Consideration ads are circulated. But, I'm going to risk a guess and say that The Departed will win over Babel. Let's see if I'm right.


Reel Fanatic said...

I liked Babel quite a bit, but the two movies I most would most have liked to see nominated for Best Picture were Dreamgirls, which seemed to have just the right combination of critical acclaim and fan love, and Children of Men, which was my favorite movie of 2006 ... As it is, if either Babel, The Departed or Little Miss Sunshine prevail, I'll be happy

Murder Mystery 101 said...

I was all for The Departed winning Best Picture, Director, etc. etc. etc.

That was until I found out that The Departed is actually a remake of a Hong Kong thriller called, Infernal Affairs.

I am not a fan of remakes, even if they were directed by a great director like Martin Scorsese.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Wow. This is comprehensive. Ryan Gosling is amazing in Half Nelson. If only Forest wasn't even more so.
The Departed was the best film I saw althoug I haven't seen Babel. I saw most of the rest though. Children of Men should have been up there instead of Little Miss and The Queen. Clive Owens is one of those guys who are always overlooked too.