Friday, February 23, 2007

Overlong, overwrought, obnoxious Oscar

The 79th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday, and I can't stop myself from caring. It's really annoying.

The most egregious example of the Academy's boorish ineptitude happened only last year, when the simplistic Down's Syndrome-of-a-film Crash won Best Picture. And the last 10 years are riddled with Best Pictures there are not only unworthy, they're actually pretty bad films: American Beauty, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, and Million Dollar Baby. (No, Stanicek the White, I did not include The Return of the King on this list, even though I would have voted City of God that year).

Still, I care.

As usual, the best films of the year - Children of Men and Apocalypto - aren't even nominated, and the Academy has gone and recognized a truly mediocre effort in its main category (National Lampoon's Vaca ... er, I mean Little Miss Sunshine).

Still, I care.

Roberto Benigni and Three-Six Mafia have more Oscars than Martin Scorsese.

Still, I care.

Apparently nothing can stop me from writing a seriously overlong post about the whole retarded affair.

Gone are the days, though, when I saw every movie before the pomp and circumsized showed up on the red carpet. In my time as a paid movie critic, the free screenings kept me well prepared. These days I have to rely on my sporadic theater excursions and the wonders of Netflix. Thus, I have put an asterisk next to the titles I have seen. I thought it only fair when dispensing the following keen analysis.

Best Picture
The Departed *
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine *
The Queen *

The Departed is too violent, Letters From Iwo Jima is too subtitled, Little Miss Sunshine is too light, The Queen is too British, and Babel is too unloved. That's what each film's detractors have to say, and there's a good point had by all. That leads to the most wide-open Best Picture race in awhile, and I would only be really surprised if The Queen's name was called out on Sunday night. The Academy's M.O. is pretty easy to understand, though, and when there's doubt, go for the socially conscious, easy-to-swallow, can't-we-all-just-get-along drama.

Will win: Babel

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson *
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

When DiCaprio was recognized for Blood Diamond and not The Departed, this race got a lot easier to call.

Will win: Whitaker

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes of a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen *
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada *
Kate Winslet, Little Children

I just loved Streep in Prada - the film was a bit sugary and dumb at times, but she was capital-P Perfect. The same can be said for Mirren, though, and she'll have the golden boy to prove it.

Will win: Mirren

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine *
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls *
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed *

I haven't seen Little Children yet, but my vote would go to Haley for purely sentimental reasons. This is the best story of the night, folks - I mean, it's the original Kelly Leak! Check him out here in the official Oscar nominee photo - he's the short bald-headed dude up top, right there in the middle, grinning from ear-to-ear. I mean, it's Kelly Leak! Alas, he won't win - but neither will favorite Eddie Murphy. This is Alan Arkin's third nomination, he's never won, and he didn't star in Norbit. Translation ...

Will win: Arkin

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes of a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine *
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls *
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Dreamgirls began its Oscar campaign nearly a year ago, with a much-publicized screening of a large chunk for the press (of the film, not Hudson). Well, things haven't gone exactly as planned, with a lack of nominations in most of the major categories. Hudson, though, will become the first "American Idol" contestant to win the Academy Award, after Justin Guarini was unfairly ignored for From Justin to Kelly.

Will win: Hudson

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen *
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Paul Greengrass, United 93 *
Martin Scorsese, The Departed *

And the winner is - Alfonso Cuaron! Oh right, he wasn't even freaking nominated for Children of Men, the best directed movie in nearly a decade. So it's Scorsese's. Move on.

Will win: Scorsese

Best Original Screenplay
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine *
Pan's Labyrinth *
The Queen *

Another one of Oscar's quirks: whenever there's an heralded, successful indie that won't win Best Picture, it will almost always take Best Screenplay. See: The Crying Game, Howard's End, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Sense and Sensibility, Fargo, Sling Blade, Gods and Monsters, Gosford Park, Sideways, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ... You get the picture.

Will win: Little Miss Sunshine

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat *
Children of Men *
The Departed *
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

The Departed had the best lines, and that's all it will take this year.

Will win: The Departed

Art Direction
Dreamgirls *
The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *
The Prestige *

"Art Direction" are basically fancy words for "Set Design." While some of the best single images came out of Pan's Labyrinth, the glitz of Dreamgirls will be hard to overcome. Hell, even its the credits are dedicated to highlighting this work.

Will win: Dreamgirls

The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist *
Pan's Labyrinth *
The Prestige *

Whether you love Children of Men or simply really, really, really, really, really like it (those are the only two possible reactions, obviously), the cinematography - or rather, lighting and camera work - was astounding. And though I clearly suckle on the teat of this film, I don't think I'm biased in thinking it will emerge victorious.

Will win: Children of Men

Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Dreamgirls *
Marie Antoinette *
The Queen *

I'm trying to remember some eye-catching garb from The Queen, and it's not a'comin'. I mean, this is nice and all, but couldn't you just pick one of those up at Loehmanns? Marie Antoinette probably should win, but remember, the film also has to be "respected" even to win in the so-called technical categories.

Will win: Dreamgirls

Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

Liberal Hollywood + Al Gore + global warming = duh. I love how some are eagerly anticipating Gore's acceptance speech, when in reality he won't win anything. Aside from appearing onscreen, Gore has no credit on the film. The award will instead go to director David Guggenheim.

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary Short
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

Here's the secret in prognosticating these smaller awards, even if you've never heard of them. 1) Pick the one about the Holocaust. 2) If there isn't one about the Holocaust, go for the one about the inspiring crippled guy who is sitting in the audience.

Will win: Two Hands

Film Editing
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed *
United 93 *

For something like 70 years, the Best Picture winner has at least been nominated for Film Editing, and most of the time won it. That's your little hint if you're picking Little Miss Sunshine, Letters From Iwo Jima or The Queen to win the big prize.

Will win: Babel

Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding
Days of Glory (Indigenes)
The Lives of Others
Pan's Labyrinth

The tea leaves say it's between The Lives of Others and Pan's Labyrinth. Go with the one a lot of people have seen.

Will win: Pan's Labyrinth

Apocalypto *
Click *
Pan's Labyrinth *

Don't ask me why, but I saw Click - and I remember thinking how godawful the makeup was for such a big-budget feature. Shows what I know, I guess. Anyway, ain't nobody voting for Click, and ain't nobody voting for Mel. Do the math.

Will win: Pan's Labyrinth

Music (Score)
The Good German
Notes on a Scandal

Pan's Labyrinth *
The Queen *

How long has it been since we've had a really, really good score? I mean, I haven't thought "I need to own that" in years.

Will win: The Queen

Music (Song)
"I Need To Wake Up," An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen," Dreamgirls *
"Love You I Do," Dreamgirls *
"Our Town," Cars *
"Patience," Dreamgirls *

Fuck Randy Newman. I mean, fuck Randy Newman. He's written the same goddamn song for 30 years, and keeps getting nominated for fucking Oscars. I fucking hate that guy. So hear me say this only once: "Thank God An Inconvenient Truth will win."

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth

Short Film (Animated)
The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time For Nuts

No Holocaust, no cripples - but we do have Scrat. "No Time For Nuts" is based around the Ice Age squirrel, and the Oscar is a nice way to thank those guys for the hundreds of millions they've pulled in to the industry.

Will win: No Time For Nuts

Short Film (Live Action)
Binta and the Great Idea
One Too Many
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

No Holocaust again? Don't these guys understand is all you have to do is point some black-and-white film at an old man saying "Holocaust, holocaust, holocaust" over and over while drooling in a damn bucket or something, and Oscar is yours? Hell, forget I said anything. Where's that camera?

Will win: West Bank Story

Sound Editing
Apocalypto *
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Nobody votes for Mel, but everybody votes for Clint. And the word is out: vote Iwo Jima instead of Flags.

Will win: Letters From Iwo Jima

Sound Mixing
Apocalypto *
Blood Diamond
Dreamgirls *
Flags Of Our Fathers *
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *

And what movie relied on sound more than any other?

Will win: Dreamgirls

Visual Effects
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest *
Poseidon *
Superman Returns *

Ok, this is the last thing I'll say about Children of Men , but it's an absolute crime that film isn't listed here. It's effects just weren't "showy" enough to register - but there are more visual tricks in that film than you or I will ever be able to pick out. But hey, Bill Nighy's Davy Jones was a darn fine creation.

Will win: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Best Animated Film
Cars *
Happy Feet
Monster House *

Cars has the Pixar pedigree, Monster House has the most entertainment value - but Happy Feet has the nice pro-environment message. The message wins (or did you actually think An Inconvenient Truth was the best documentary of the year?).

Will win: Happy Feet

1 comment:

Doug said...

"No Time for Nuts" would make a great porno title.