Fri, March 3, 2006
Now that this year's Movie Tournament (of Movies) has crowned yet another worthy and delightful winner, our thoughts turn to Oscar. On Sunday, the Academy will commence handing out the least deserved, least interesting, least anticipated Oscars in recent memory. (And that memory includes both the English Patient sweep and the Lord of the Rings sweep.) But there's still an Oscar Pool to think of, which means we must pay attention anyway.
Let me begin by saying that you can do no better in an Oscar Picks column than Arksie's annual Athletic Reporter Oscar Picks – so my recommendation remains: read that first. Read it now.
Speaking of Athletic Reporter co-creator Joe Mulder, he has long professed that his skill at besting me in the onebee Oscar Pool stems in part from his ability to be emotionally unattached from the films in contention, an ability I do not often share. So, it stands to reason that this year, I'll be able to do much better, since I can't bring myself to care a single whit about any category other than Best Supporting Actress. (I have, however, channeled all my spare emotion from the other categories into that one. For every award that Amy Adams doesn't win, I will be sacrificing a puppy.) Herewith, my emotionless selections for this year's Oscars:
Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain
Everyone says this is a hands-down victory for Brokeback Mountain, and who am I to disagree? I haven't seen it, which is true of most movies that came out last year. The much-ballyhooed box office slump was powerful enough to affect even filmgoers as devoted as I. It certainly seems like the sort of movie the Academy would give an Oscar to, just to chap my ass. (No pun intended.) Every time I used to walk past the hall of winners at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and see Gladiator, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Million Dollar Baby up there, I became nauseated immediately. This would make a fine addition for future visits. I mean, seriously – talk about your Five Year rule.
With regard to Brokeback's subject matter, I should note that Joe and I have shared tandem ownership of an Agreeing-With-the-Above Machine from Sharper Image for the past few years, and I owe him a few bucks for repairs, having worn out its engine while reading his take on the "bravery" of Ang Lee, et al.
Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
I've been told it works both ways with the emotional attachment – you're supposed to remain unattached to the films you want to lose as much as you're unattached to the films you want to win. That said, I'm totally fine with Ang Lee winning this Oscar this year, as he's apparently prophesied to do. What with the usual "sweep" mentality that overtakes the Oscar voters, I'm sure this is no indication that the other directors in the category are less worthy.
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
For weeks, all I knew was that Heath Ledger was running away with this award, in accordance with sweep mentality. I've never seen him act in a movie, though I've seen many of his films, and quite liked Ten Things I Hate About You.
Then I heard that Joaquin Phoenix was a contender, and I thought, "Yep." By now, I've come to expect the worst from Oscar, and there's nothing worse than an Academy Award in the hands of Joaquin Phoenix. (Well, maybe one in the hands of Ryan Phillipe – although after Sunday, his wife will probably let him touch hers. She's already letting him touch her, so it seems she's found a way to choke down the bile.)
But then Philip Seymour Hoffman emerged as a dark horse candidate. Hey, I can live with that. I've always liked his work. I frequently quote him from Twister. ("He'll rue the day... Bill, I'm talkin' imminent rueage.") And he's already got the most kickass post-Oscar role lined up: the icy baddie in this summer's Mission: Impossible movie (aka, the Last Tom Cruise Movie I'll Ever See).
Then, I read this in "Entertainment Weekly", as part of their pre-awards coverage: a producer who's an Academy voter, describing her reasons for voting for Ledger over Hoffman, said, "I'm a little turned off by Hoffman because he only communes with other actors, whereas Heath is a regular guy who's taking a year off to raise his baby." So, is this the award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role" or is it "Best Regular Guy Who Communes With People We'd Like Him to Commune With"? (Because if it's the latter, may I submit Arksie?) This is the kind of feeble-minded thinking going on with Academy voters. (That is, when they don't just hand the voting form to their grandchildren and go back to their naps.) This is why it's very difficult to predict who'll win an Oscar. If you go by the information we have available to us (who was good in what movie), you're not operating with the same criteria as the actual voters. The stupid, stupid actual voters.
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
If you've seen Junebug, you know that Amy Adams plays the female lead in that film, so she should be winning this award, but she was recognized as a supporting actress at Sundance and I guess the studio felt safer sticking with that. Apparently, Reese is fantastic in Walk the Line, and I don't see any reason why anyone else in the category deserves it more, so there you are.
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana
From the word go, this was Clooney's award to lose, because we're all big fans of his and this was his year to go ahead and have an Oscar. I saw Syriana and I was surprised that the performance essentially consisted of gaining 30 pounds and speaking seriously in a gruff and somber tone. In other words, he put on 30 pounds and then he be'd George Clooney. As fond as I am of anyone being George Clooney – especially George Clooney himself – I'm surprised it merits an Oscar. I guess this category would be a lot easier to lock up if Jake Gyllenhaal would take a year off to raise a kid.
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Junebug
The conventional wisdom is that this award will go to Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener, which I reject for two reasons: a) The Constant Gardener has been described to me as "the new English Patient", and b) Amy Adams was the breakout performer this year, with a piercingly honest and fearless portrayal in the year's best movie. I've got nothing against Rachel Weisz – she was as good as she could be in Runaway Jury and Confidence – but I've always wondered why they don't just cast attractive women in her parts. Marisa Tomei isn't doing anything.
Half of me is relatively assured that Weisz will win. But the other half remembers that this is the category where upsets tend to occur, if they're going to occur, and I would be happier losing ten points in the Oscar Pool by betting on Adams than I would be if I bet on Weisz and Amy Adams managed to pull off a win. Sue me, I'm a softy. I've still got this misty-eyed belief that the best performance can win.
If not, though, I just hope the Oscar doesn't go to Michelle Williams. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Duck-faced whore.
Best Original Screenplay: Crash
I've heard mixed reviews of Crash but it seems to have a lot of momentum, and this is absolutely the category for giving consolation prizes to movies that would have won Best Picture if the voters didn't feel honor bound to give that award to undeserving, weepy crap. The strange thing is: everyone seems to accept this. I always thought the wrong movies won Best Picture because the voters were idiots. But if Best Screenplay is the consolation for Best Picture, that assumes that the voters know what the actual Best Picture should be. Why don't they just vote for it in the Best Picture category? Maybe the SAG Award-winning cast of Crash should've taken off a year to raise Heath Ledger's baby. They certainly couldn't do a worse job than his duck-faced whore wife.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
This is just sweep mentality run amok. As far as I'm concerned, Shopgirl should be in this category, and the award should go to A History of Violence. Or even Munich, which was very well written despite someone letting Tony Kushner near the keyboard. But, y'know... sweep mentality. "I wish I knew how to quit you" is the new "I'm not drinking any fucking merlot!"
Joe contends that the best way to pick the remaining "pee break" categories is to go with what EW says. In the past, I used to cluck my tongue at the EW Oscar picks in these categories, and just come up with my own. I figured, hell, I'm smarter than EW – what do they know? Two years ago, they predicted that LOTR would sweep the Oscars, for crying out loud. Then, guess what happened? It did. And this year they've actually published a record of how accurate their predictions have been over the last few years. That kind of ballsy accountability is all but unheard-of these days. I mean, even the weatherman doesn't tell you whether or not he picked last night's low correctly.
So, between EW's obvious dominance in Oscar-picking, and Joe's obvious dominance in Oscar-pooling, I'll just follow Joe's EW-based picks unless I have a strong reason to do otherwise.
Best Art Direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
God bless Rob Marshall for taking the rudder of this movie, relieving its onetime director, Steven Spielberg, and saving me the agony of having to go see it.
Best Cinematography: Brokeback Mountain
Probably the one nomination the film deserves. Good for Brokeback Mountain.
Best Film Editing: Crash
I'm always surprised when Michael Kahn isn't the favored nominee in this category, but Crash has some buzz behind it and that can affect the editing category. Every time I read the name of Crash's nominee, Hughes Winborne, I'm reminded of the Coen brothers' pseudonymous editor, Roderick Jaynes. Hughes Winborne sounds just as made up, but IMDb insists he's an actual person. I guess we'll see on Oscar night, unless this year they're planning to go beyond the "presentation in the seats" scenario, and just mail out awards for the lesser categories.
Best Original Score: Memoirs of a Geisha
John Williams wrote the theme for the Olympics, and the theme for Munich, which is set at the Olympics. That's all I know.
Best Original Song: Crash
I haven't seen Crash yet, but I'm hoping that its having an original song is an indication that all the crashers step out of their cars and break into song at some point, á la "Everybody Hurts."
Best Visual Effects: King Kong
And well deserved, from what I've seen. (Which is just the trailer.) As is his wont, Peter Jackson used way more green screen shots than he really should've needed, but the animation work is fantastic. Weta is certainly standing on the shoulders of the giants at ILM, but they've really come into their own as far as fully realized character animation is concerned.
Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing: King Kong
I'm saying Kong for both because the categories are blurring to the point that no one can tell the difference, certainly not the Academy voters, most of whom work in completely unrelated fields.
Best Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
All things being equal, Colleen Atwood is unstoppable. Did you know she designed the outfit for Edward Scissorhands? You probably did; it's no big secret.
Best Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia
Don't get me started on that goddamned SNL video.
Best Foreign Language Film: Sophie Scholl - The Final Days
This is actually a toughy. EW says Tsotsi, Joe says Paradise Now, and I'm leaning toward Sophie Scholl, because EW mentions that it's the nearest to a "Holocaust movie" that you can get, and that always wins. Joe likes Paradise Now because it appeals to Hollywood's blue-state, "blame America first" liberal mentality. But I think he's forgetting Hollywood's blue-state, "blame America first" liberal Jew mentality – and I'm betting there will be enough controversy over the Academy recognizing Palestine as a country that can submit a film, which will prevent anyone from voting for it.
Best Animated Feature: Wallace & Gromit
It's a shame this category isn't an Olympic event, because with the Aardman Studios warehouse archive burning down right after their film's premiere, it would make for a great weepy NBC montage leading up to the award.
Best Animated Short: 9
Another hard category to call. Pixar is always great, but they haven't been winning this category as consistently in recent years. I first became aware of 9 when it was garnering tons of acclaim at SIGGRAPH and Tim Burton was signing on to produce a feature-length adaptation. From the trailer, it looked amazing – certainly the sort of thing I'd love to spend my time in Florida churning out. Having viewed more clips online recently, I'm a little worried: it conveys a feeling of "I just finished reading Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life! Check out my awesome animation! See that anticipation?!" But then, just as my confidence was faltering, EW picked it to win, so now I feel okay again.
Best Documentary Feature: March of the Penguins
I almost never see the movies in this category, but I actually saw Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. It was fascinating, but certainly not an Oscar winner. The crazy buzz around Murderball has been positively deafening, but EW shrugs that off and still goes with the penguins and their box office juggernaut. Who am I to argue?
Best Documentary Short: The Death of Kevin Carter
Sure, why not.
Best Live Action Short: Ausreisser (The Runaway)
It astonishes me that the Academy is squirming under flagging interest and foundering ratings, but they're still giving away Oscars for Live Action Short. They had stuntmen protesting on the steps of their headquarters this year for a Best Stunts category, but no, they're sticking with awards for short films. Which would be more likely to prevent you from switching channels: a twenty second clip from a twenty minute movie you've never heard of, or some action shots from The Island, War of the Worlds, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Call the Academy with your answer. We'll put the system on trial!
So, there you go. My least emotionally attached Oscar picks ever. Here's hoping I can actually win the Oscar Pool this year! (Actually, I'm expecting a six-way tie.)