Monday, February 26, 2007
14 out of 24...
My worst Oscar showing ever, well below our group winner, Sydney Smith, with 19 correct. How bad was it? So bad that Lora, who basically guessed eeny-meeny style, tied me. That's bad.
Where did I go wrong? And right? Breakdowns follow in italics.
A tough one this year, in a race where there are no nags, but no thoroughbreds, either, save for The Queen, which seems an also-ran to win. I have no strong feelings for any of the five films nominated, and while a mild discomfort will come over me if Babel wins so be it. (I've made my peace with Little Miss Sunshine winning.) I watched The Departed again and agree with Lora's assessment, that it's no more, and no less, "good entertainment." Martin Scorsese's own assessment, that it's a "B-movie" and meant as film buff praise, is spot-on, too. His likely, long-coming win could just put it over the top, so let's say:
My prediction: The Departed
My choice: The Queen
As soon as it won for Screenplay, I knew I'd bagged it--but I should have trusted it for editing, too. I find myself more relieved than I thought that neither Babel nor Little Miss Sunshine claimed top honors.
I don't see anything interrupting Forest Whitaker's Last King of Scotland momentum. This does pain me a little; it's a solid but unexciting and depthless performance in a mediocre movie very few people outside of critics' circles have seen. I would go so far as to say that it's the weakest of the four nominated performances I did see (sorry, Will Smith). But there it is.
My prediction: Forest Whitaker
My choice: Leonardo DiCaprio (an underrated effort in the best of the Africa pictures to date, Blood Diamond. He's also fine in The Departed.)
Not happy with it, but I did score a point.
No doubt about it: My long-time favorite, Helen Mirren, will be touched by gold this year, a remarkable 2006 for any performer and in this instance against competition that would have been fearsome had she not so thoroughly invested herself in her performance. Naysayers can Netflix the one 2006 credit likely to disappear from her resume, the bizarre Shadowboxer, in which she hangs with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Macy Gray, and Mo'Nique.
Prediction and choice: Mirren
No kidding. Anyone who voted aginst her should be disqualified from Oscar pools.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
No one likes him. He doesn't like anyone. He doesn't care. Norbit sucks. But at the end of the day Eddie Murphy, a reliable Hollywood hitmaker (despite a few misses, Norbit not one of them where the boxoffice is concerned) for a quarter-century, will win and should for his outstanding Dreamgirls portrayal, a fuller, richer role than the others. I'm a big Alan Arkin fan, too, and can't rule out old-timer sentiment, but he's risen to significantly greater challenges in under-the-radar releases (like Slums of Beverly Hills and 13 Conversations About One Thing) that Oscar never saw.
Prediction and choice: Murphy
Happy for Arkin. Nice guys, or, at least, nice guys who maintain an illusion of being nice guys, do finish first. But Murphy was the stronger performer and the blogger "takedowns" of him unseemly, to say the least.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
See above. I can't believe an American Idol contestant is about to win an Oscar, either, but Jennifer Hudson had the golden part and nailed it to the floor. What next for her, I wonder?
Prediction and choice: Hudson
She told you she wasn't going, and she didn't.
At long last, the stars are in alignment, and Martin Scorsese will get the Oscar that should have been his many years ago, certainly for Goodfellas; really, it's a stain on the Academy's reputation that he hasn't gotten something for his commendable work on film preservation, which is more the mission of the organization than other causes. True, The Departed is not his best work, but better him winning for this than another actor-turned-director winning in his rightful place the next time.
Prediction and choice: Scorsese
Slam dunk. Made the near four-hour telecast worth wading through.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
A strong field, with the exception of Borat, not that it's not good, but because its improvisatory nature doesn't really fit either screenwriting category. Notes on a Scandal is a superior adaptation; my problem with Little Children was more the material, and I see more love for Children of Men in the technical categories than in the top tier. So I'll go with The Departed.
Prediction: The Departed
Choice: Notes on a Scandal
Slobby-looking New York Press writer makes good. There is hope for all low-paid hacks.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
If Little Miss Sunshine is to win something, it's this. I'm still not convinced that it's such great writing but it's clearly struck some sort of chord, which counts for a lot. Me, I'll go with The Queen, another case of an artist (in this case, writer Peter Morgan) having a banner year (his other credits were The Last King of Scotland, the good HBO/BBC film Longford, and the Broadway-bound Frost/Nixon.)
Prediction: Little Miss Sunshine
Choice: The Queen
Too bad Best Picture rained on your Sunshine parade, nah-nah. That it won the Independent Spirit Award shows how safe and commodified independent films have become.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Pixar has I think run out of gas with Cars. Monster House is charming but has no resonance. The inclusion of A Scanner Darkly might have made this a horse race but honoring the delightful Happy Feet is a) worthwhile and b) a way to reward its maker, George Miller, the director of fine, idiosyncratic films that include Babe, the Mad Max trilogy, and Lorenzo's Oil.
Prediction and choice: Happy Feet
As it should have been.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
This is another competitive field, but I still place Pan's Labyrinth above the rest. As it's also the highest-grossing Spanish-language release in this country I think attention must be paid. An Oscars where Scorsese, Miller, and Guillermo Del Toro walk away with Oscars is not a bad thing.
Prediction and choice: Pan's Labyrinth
Let's amend that: An Oscars where Scorsese and Miller walk away with Oscars is not a bad thing. And I'll remind you of a comment I made elsewhere about Lives of Others, that it was "just sentimental enough to win the Oscar." Indeed. That Pan's Labyrinth, which really upset my scoring totals applecart, faded here indicates, once again, that the Academy just cannot fully commit to fantasy filmmaking.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
With no less than three nominees from Dreamgirls, you can predict that either one will win, or they'll cancel each other out. I suspect the former and think that Beyonce's big number, "Listen," will grab the gold.
Prediction and choice: "Listen"
Wrong again. I like Melissa Etheridge, but this is a tired breast-beater and tree-hugger.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The best score I heard all last year was Alexandre Desplat's sublime, Satie-inspired work for The Painted Veil. Naturally, it wasn't nominated. But I think voters will hail his compositions from The Queen instead. None of these really stood out, with The Good German and Notes on a Scandal rather obvious scores.
Prediction and choice: The Queen
A yawner of a category, with the same plaintive plinking that won Oscar gold last year doing so again.
BEST FILM EDITING
In a perfect world, the cinematography and the editing of Children of Men would be considered in tandem; the cinematography for its long, unbroken, exquisite tracking shots, and the editing for demarcating them just so. But I have a feeling the clumsy, sentimental transitions in the multi-story Babel will win the day and to hell with subtlety.
Choice: Children of Men
Good on Thelma Schoonmaker for beating Babel; my bad for choosing Children of Men.
Children of Men had everyone talking, and that should last through tomorrow night. And Emmanuel Lubezki ("Chivo") is a nice guy.
Prediction and choice: Children of Men
By far the evening's biggest upset. The Academy really doesn't go the ASC's way. Not that Pan's Labyrinth isn't well-shot but Chivo's achievement is just so much stronger. I feel for him.
BEST ART DIRECTION
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
BEST SOUND MIXING
I'm either going to be very lazy, very arrogant, or very dumb, but I predict a Dreamgirls sweep in all three of these categories, and deservedly so; all three elements help convey the story through changing times and moods. But in costumes I do favor The Devil Wears Prada, for very sharply defining the characters.
Predictions and two choices: Dreamgirls
Costume design choice: The Devil Wears Prada
Another ship that failed to come in, save for Sound Mixing. But I'm still comfortable with having made that choice.
BEST SOUND EDITING
With the same two nominees up for Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, I figure they'll score with the more acclaimed Letters, which is more subtly edited than the other choices. They're just loud and/or tend toward bombast, like most nominees in the sound categories.
Prediction and choice: Letters from Iwo Jima
An easy win for the fantasy-laden Pan's Labyrinth. Apocalypto? Click? Click? Get real.
Prediction and choice: Pan's Labyrinth
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Another cakewalk, for Davy Jones' octo-face and the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Poseidon is another inexplicable nominee.
Prediction and choice: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
If you really think lefty Hollywood won't give Al Gore a crack at the podium, you've got another think coming. Another easy call, for An Inconvenient Truth, which I didn't see. But I doubt it has half the artistry of the beautifully made and moving Iraq in Fragments.
Prediction: An Inconvenient Truth
Choice: Iraq in Fragments
The Al and Leo banter was cute.
Lest we think this is too easy, it's the final three categories, which go unremarked upon in most Oscar roundups, that tend to throw everyone off. Best Documentary Shorts tend to favor hot-button topics. My Oscar-watching friends see the Best Animated Shorts and Best Live Action Shorts programs, but as they will attest that doesn't really help. These categories work in mysterious ways and cost valued points. The New York Times is as good a resource as any, and a couple of other publications are breaking the same way, so I'm going to predict The Blood of Yingzhou District for Documentary Short (AIDS in China), The Little Matchgirl for Animated Short, and Binta and the Great Idea (Africa-themed) for Live Action Short. Not having seen any of these, I have no choices, just guesses. But I hear some are on YouTube, an ideal venue for them.
That's what I get for trusting the Times' "Bagger." Only one was in the bag, and that was my own inclination. My friends say none were outstanding.
Our tie-breaking question this year is, "How many winners will thank God?" My answer is, four. I pray that I'm right.
Half-right. Just two: Hudson and Whitaker. And that was the Oscars that was.