Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscars 2007: Predictions & Commentary

While there were a few good movies in 2006, the overall quality of theatrical movies continues to sink. I've been finding television (with things like Rome and Battlestar Galactica) to be much more interesting and challenging than movies.

For the first time in many years, I've only seen two of the nominees for Best Picture: Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen. I liked both of these movies very much, but The Queen is way too subtle and quiet to win a Best Picture award and Little Miss Sunshine is a comedy, which means it has almost no chance to take Best Picture. I don't like graphic violence so I haven't seen Babel or The Departed. I'm usually not overly fond of war movies, so I haven't seen Letters from Iwo Jima. I regret not having seen Dreamgirls or Venus. The movie that impressed me the most last year, Children of Men only got some technical nominations.

I will note what I haven't seen and will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For the last few years, I've been hedging my bets with a "will win" (WW) and "should win" (SW) before each predicted winner.

Best Picture

  • Babel
  • The Departed
  • (WW) Letters From Iwo Jima
  • (SW) Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Queen

A really uninspiring year. Of the five, I liked The Queen the best, but it's way too quiet and subtle for
a Best Picture win. Little Miss Sunshine was probably the quirkiest and most original in the bunch, so
that's the movie I'll support.

Best Director

  • Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
  • Stephen Frears, The Queen
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Babel
  • (SW, WW) Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Scorsese is so owed... I'd rather see Stephen Frears win this year because The Departed doesn't sound
like Scorsese's best work and The Queen is a quiet little masterpiece. Still, I'm a realist, and I can't
complain too much if Scorsese wins.

Best Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
  • Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
  • (SW) Peter O'Toole, Venus
  • Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
  • (WW) Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

I have always had a soft spot for Peter O'Toole, another person who is so owed. But I would certainly have no objection is Forest Whitaker wins, who probably gave the strongest performance of the year. Still...O'Toole's of an age
where he may have given one of his last performances.

Best Actress

  • Penelope Cruz, Volver
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  • (SW, WW) Helen Mirren, The Queen
  • Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Kate Winslet, Little Children

There usually aren't too many locks, but this is certainly one of them. Helen Mirren has had such a brilliant
year. She is completely magnificent in The Queen. Judi Dench appears to give a great performance in
Notes on a Scandal, but the movie just seems oh so stupid - I hate it when the trailer gives away
every twist of the movie. Meryl Streep was terrific in The Devil Wears Prada, too.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Adriana Barraza, Babel
  • Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • (SW, WW) Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

This isn't quite the lock it appeared to be a few weeks ago. I think Abigail Breslin could win. But the other
newcomer, Jennifer Hudson, is more likely.

Best Supporting Actor

  • (SW) Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
  • (WW) Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

This is another category that might not be quite the lock it once appeared to be. Alan Arkin has had a great career, and, like Peter O'Toole, never won an Oscar. Eddie Murphy is a wildly erratic actor, who keeps keeps making brain-dead movies for the money. It's of course a wonderful thing that Eddie apparently has given a fine performance in Dreamgirls. But, for the Oscar voters to be voting at the same time that they're seeing constant ads for Norbit, one of the most awful movies I've ever seen ads for...gaak. So I hope Murphy might have gotten enough backlash for the award to go to Arkin.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Efter Brylluppet (aka After the Wedding), Denmark
  • Indigenes (aka Days of Glory), Algeria
  • (SW, WW) El Laberinto del Fauno (aka Pan's Labyrinth), Mexico
  • Das Leben der Anderen (aka The Lives of Others), Germany
  • Water, Canada

While a bit too violent for my taste, Pan's Labyrinth was an incredible visual feast of a movie, with great performances
all the way around (especially from the young Ivana Baquero as Ofelia). There might be a chance that The Lives of Others could sneak in, but I doubt it.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • (SW, WW) Cars
  • Happy Feet
  • Monster House

I don't have really strong feelings about any of these movies. I've only seen Happy Feet, and while it
was a charming little movie, it didn't quite work for me. Cars looks silly, but it keeps winning awards, so it will
probably take the award.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • (WW) Borat
  • (SW) Children of Men
  • The Departed
  • Little Children
  • Notes on a Scandal

Children of Men was the best movie of last year. Clive Owen deserved an Oscar nomination. I'd like to see
it win this Oscar, but I have the bad feeling that Borat (which was simultaneously clever and stupid) will win.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Babel
  • Letters From Iwo Jima
  • (WW) Little Miss Sunshine
  • (SW) The Queen
  • Pan's Labyrinth

This may be the trickiest category of them all. While last year was a rather weak year for movies, the scripts for Sunshine, Queen and Pan were all quite good, and I've heard interesting things about Iwo Jima.
So while I think Sunshine was a little more original (and gleefully subversive), the script for The Queen was
an amazingly restrained exercise in showing and not telling.

Best Music (Score)

  • Babel
  • The Good German
  • Notes on a Scandal
  • (SW, WW) Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Queen

Best Music (Song)

  • "I Need to Wake Up" - An Inconvenient Truth (performed by Melissa Etheridge)
  • "Listen" - Dreamgirls (performed by Beyonce Knowles)
  • (SW, WW) "Love You I Do" - Dreamgirls (performed by Jennifer Hudson)
  • "Our Town" - Cars (performed by James Taylor)
  • "Patience" - Dreamgirls (performed by Eddie Murphy, Keith Robinson, Anika Noni Rose)

I haven't even heard any of these songs, except for, maybe, Love You I Do. So I'll select that one.

Best Documentary Feature

  • Deliver Us From Evil
  • (SW, WW) An Inconvenient Truth
  • Iraq In Fragments
  • Jesus Camp
  • My Country, My Country

So what will Al Gore do with his minute on international television?

Best Documentary Short Subject

  • The Blood of Yingzhou District
  • (SW, WW) Recycled Life
  • Rehearsing A Dream
  • Two Hands

I also have no idea about this one.

Best Visual Effects

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • Poseidon
  • (SW, WW) Superman Returns

It's rather appalling that Pan's Labyrinth is not in this category. The effects in Pirates, like the rest of
that movie - are a bit of a joke. Superman Returns is probably a less objectionable choice.

Best Cinematography

  • The Black Dahlia
  • (SW, WW) Children of Men
  • The Illusionist
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Prestige

People are still talking about some of the amazing shots in Children of Men. Pan's Labyrinth probably had
a little more "stylish" photography, but it just wasn't quite as interesting as the photography in Children of Men.

Best Art Direction

  • Dreamgirls
  • The Good Shepherd
  • (SW, WW) Pan's Labyrinth
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • The Prestige

I'm sorry to see that The Illusionist, which I felt had a better look than The Prestige wasn't up
for Best Art Direction. However, this award should go to Pan's Labyrinth.

Best Animated Short Film

  • The Danish Poet
  • Lifted
  • The Little Matchgirl
  • Maestro
  • (SW, WW) No Time for Nuts

No Time for Nuts is the only one of these I've seen, and it's quite clever.

Best Short Film

  • Binta and the Great Idea
  • Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)
  • Helmer & Son
  • The Saviour
  • (SW, WW)West Bank Story

Best Costume Design

  • Curse of the Golden Flower
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • (SW, WW) Dreamgirls
  • Marie Antoinette
  • The Queen

Dreamgirls did the best job at showing the fashions of the time.

Best Make-up

  • (SW, WW) Apocalypto
  • Click
  • Pan's Labyrinth

Apocalypto's make-up is so good that it's painful to watch and convinced me not to see the movie.

Best Sound Mixing

  • (SW, WW) Apocalypto
  • Blood Diamond
  • Dreamgirls
  • Flags of our Fathers
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Sound Engineer Kevin O'Connell is the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. He has now been nominated for the Best Sound Mixing Oscar an incredible 19 times over the last 23 years. He was part of the Sound Mixing team for Apocalypto, and I think his team may walk away with one this year.

Sound Editing

  • Apocalypto
  • Blood Diamond
  • (SW, WW) Letters From Iwo Jima
  • Flags of our Fathers
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

War movies or big action/adventure movies tend to take the sound awards. I expect one of Clint Eastwood's two war
movies to win this one.

Best Film Editing

  • Babel
  • Blood Diamond
  • (SW) Children of Men
  • The Departed
  • (WW) United 93

People consistently praised the editing and direction of United 93, which was probably one of the most claustrophobic
movies of last year. Since Greenglass is unlikely to win Best Director, perhaps the movie will take Film Editing. Still,
I think I'd rather see Children of Men win.