February 24, 2007

Oscar Picks 2007

Filed under: movies, oscar — ted @ 1:53 pm

After last year’s catastrophe, I resolved not to follow the Oscar’s as closely as I did then, and I’ve kept my word: no Oscar blogs, no pouring over summaries to learn more about all the categories, no investing myself in the outcome. That being the case, I still did see enough of the nominated films to make some picks in the major categories — so here they are.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

After watching Iwo Jima last night, and having my fears about its quality confirmed, I’ve managed to see all five of candidates. Babel is by far my least favorite, and I’d be very upset if it wins. The Queen probably has the least chance.

Will Win:  Letters from Iwo Jima
Should Win: The Departed

Achievement in Directing

Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears for The Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel
Paul Greengrass for United 93
Martin Scorsese for The Departed

Please, please let this be the year that Scorsese gets his long-awaited and denied Best Director award. He should have won at least twice already. The Departed is not even close to his best work, but I think it’s finally time.

Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Should Win: Paul Greengrass

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson
Peter O’Toole for Venus
Will Smith for The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland

Somehow I managed not to see any of these films, despite wanting to see all five. Accordingly, my “Should Win” is meaningless — but that won’t stop me from picking DiCaprio, who I adore.

Will Win: Forest Whitaker
Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Penélope Cruz for Volver
Judi Dench for Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren for The Queen
Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet for Little Children

This one’s in the bag, which is too bad for Kate Winslet. Judi Dench and Meryl Streep just keep racking up nominations.

Will Win:
Helen Mirren
Should Win: Helen Mirren

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children
Djimon Hounsou for Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg for The Departed

This race, as far as I can tell, is very close — neck and neck between Eddie Murphy and Alan Arkin. If only Mark Wahlberg had a slightly larger role; he was awesome.

Will Win:
Alan Arkin
Should Win: Mark Wahlberg

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Adriana Barraza for Babel
Cate Blanchett for Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi for Babel

Also in the bag — but how did Babel get two? Yuck.

Will Win: Jennifer Hudson
Should Win: Jennifer Hudson

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Happy Feet
Monster House


Will Win: Cars
Should Win: Cars

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

After the Wedding – Denmark (Susanne Bier)
Days of Glory (Indigènes) – Algeria (Rachid Bouchareb)
The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) – Germany (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
Pan’s Labyrinth – Mexico (Guillermo del Toro)
Water – Canada (Deepa Mehta)

I can’t wait to see The Lives of Others, which just opened here.

Will Win: The Lives of Others
Should Win: Pan’s Labyrinth

Adapted Screenplay

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Watch Infernal Affairs (which is also awesome) and then tell me The Departed shouldn’t win this.

Will Win: The Departed
Should Win: The Departed

Original Screenplay

Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen

If I were picking, Babel and Iwo Jima would be in the “worst original screenplay” category. Stop Haggis!

Will Win: Little Miss Sunshine
Should Win: Little Miss Sunshine

Achievement in Cinematography

The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Prestige

Quickly becoming my favorite category. Give to Emmanuel Lubezki!

Will Win: Children of Men
Should Win: Children of Men


February 23, 2007

Brando, Bloody

Filed under: movies, oscar, photos — ted @ 4:32 pm

“Today’s Pictures” on Slate: “And the Oscar Goes To…”

March 7, 2006

“A lot of my friends are black…”

Filed under: culture, movies, oscar — ted @ 7:49 pm

I’ve spent most of today trying to deal with the painful remembrance of last night’s announcement of the middling Crash as Best Picture, alternating between a desire to take the matter head-on and denounce this abominable choice and a desire to forget that it ever happened and stop caring about the Oscars (I have, after all, been dreadfully disappointed three years in a row now).

And while it’s true that the Oscars don’t mean much in the long run, and the Academy rarely honors one of the years best movies, I can’t help but wish that the Academy would get it right for once. I suppose it’s time to give up that hope.

More important to me is the dialog which accompanies the Oscars, at least in the community of critics and moviegoers to whom the Academy Awards are a chance to analyze the year’s films, decide which ones were better than others and why. I can’t go on in life without believing that art criticism is vital to the social and cultural life of a people and a language; film critics especially commit their lives (always with the hope that it will make a difference to someone) to responding to one of American culture’s greatest, most popular, and most enduring art forms. Imagining life in modern America without movies is impossible; movies shape our lives in more ways than we imagine–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And while big budget Hollywood films seem to get worse with the passing of time, we forget how many truly excellent films are produced each year. So many directors and actors are making art of the highest quality, so I can’t help but find it frustrating when this fact is not fully recognized by the institutions who were created to make such decisions.

At least the critics as a group don’t usually disappoint. For every institutionalized windbag, there’s two or three critics who know what they like, why they like it, and how to explain it with clarity and vigor. Last year in Slate, a handful of such critics exchanged a round of emails about 2005’s offerings. In an email, critic Scott Foundas explained his distaste for Crash; since I’m coming up empty today, I’ll post a lengthy bit:

David [Edelstein] opened the floor to suggestions of the year’s worst movies, and Crash is certainly a good starting point for me. Admittedly, Paul Haggis’ directorial debut wasn’t one of those so-bad-it’s-mesmerizing debacles, like Town & Country or The Bonfire of the Vanities, that Tony so lovingly remembered a few weeks back in the Times—if it had been, it wouldn’t have made my blood boil nearly as much. No, Crash is an Important Film About the Times in Which We Live, which is another way of saying that it’s one of those self-congratulatory liberal jerk-off movies that rolls around every once in a while to remind us of how white people suffer too, how nobody is without his prejudices, and how, when the going gets tough, even the white supremacist cop who gets his kicks from sexually harassing innocent black motorists is capable of rising to the occasion. How touching. Haggis is trafficking in much the same territory here as Michael Haneke is in Caché, only he lacks the guts to pull out his paring knife and fillet his bourgeois characters with the mercilessness they deserve. (Instead, when Sandra Bullock’s pampered Brentwood housewife accuses a Mexican-American locksmith of copying her keys for illicit purposes, Haggis doesn’t condemn her reprehensible behavior so much as he sympathizes with it.) People who say that Crash is an insightful portrait of life in Los Angeles clearly don’t live in the same town I do. Watching it, I wondered if Haggis hadn’t sat down with a copy of Thom Andersen’s brilliant essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself and deliberately written a script that reinforces every bogus assumption about life in the city—from the thesis that the only way people in L.A. connect with one another is by getting into car crashes to the depiction of the untold dangers of driving south of the 10 Freeway—that Andersen so skillfully shoots down. And in a year that brought many (and in some cases justified) accusations of racial insensitivity against movies from King Kong to Memoirs of a Geisha, it was Crash that gave us Larenz Tate and Ludacris as carjackers who view their actions as a form of civilized protest, and Terrence Howard as creepy embodiment of emasculated African-American yuppiedom. Not since Spanglish—which, alas, wasn’t that long ago—has a movie been so chock-a-block with risible minority caricatures or done such a handy job of sanctioning the very stereotypes it ostensibly debunks. Welcome to the best movie of the year for people who like to say, “A lot of my best friends are black.”

Well said.

With this, I’ll hope to put the memory of last night behind me, and try not to get so excited about the Academy Awards from now on.

Then again, there’s always next year…..

March 5, 2006

He Won’t Be in Holywood Tomorrow, So Here’s a Photo…

Filed under: movies, oscar, photos — ted @ 5:06 pm

Woody Allen, 1969 (at which time he had just directed his first movie, Take the Money and Run).

March 4, 2006

High Style, Oscar Style

Filed under: movies, oscar, photos — ted @ 4:34 pm

Two excellent photo bits on Slate today.

First, in the Today’s Pictures section, there’s a superb photobook full of Oscar nominees old and new. Here’s two of my favorites as a sample:

Also, with words accompanying, is “And the Oscar Goes to … Petticoats!” This slideshow promises to explain “why costume designers hate the Academy Awards.” Plus, it’s pretty.

March 2, 2006

Oscar Picks

Filed under: movies, oscar — ted @ 10:27 pm

I’m feeling pretty good about this.

I know, this poster is a little perverted. The Julie Andrews one is much better.

Let’s get the minor ones, which I know very little about, out of the way first. I’m going entirely on hearsay for these:

Live Action Short: Cashback

Animated Short: 9

Documentary Short: God Sleeps in Rwanda

And for the technical categories:

Visual Effects: King Kong

Sound Editing: King Kong

Sound Mixing: Walk the Line

Film Editing: Crash

In music:

Original Score: Brokeback Mountain

Original Song: “In the Deep” from Crash

And for artistry:

Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha

Now that I’d done with all of that unpleasantness, let’s move onto the awards I actually care about, with a little commentary:

Art Direction

It sure looks like Memoirs of a Geisha is going to win this one, and I suppose that’s fine.

My Vote: Good Night, and Good Luck

My Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha


Goodness, The New World is the best by a mile, but it’s far from Oscar-friendly. I think this category is a close call, between “Geisha” and “Brokeback,” although I found the camera work in “Brokeback” underwhelming. How Batman Begins gathered a nomination, I’ll never know…

My Vote: The New World

My Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha

Documentary Feature

I’m not crazy about documentaries, and the only one of these I’ve seen is March of the Penguins, and it was rather lacking as a doc. Therefore, I don’t have a vote, however:

My Pick: Darwin’s Nightmare

Best Foreign Language Film

Again, I am rather ashamed with my lack of knowledge here. It sounds like the race has come down to Tsotsi and Paradise Now, with the former being a slight favorite and the latter being the bold, controversial choice (Palestinian suicide bombers, etc.)

My Pick: Tsotsi

Best Animated Feature

Howl’s Moving Castle was magnificent, but Miyazaki has won before, and claymation is quite the crowd pleaser. All three should be pleased there was no Pixar release to contend with.

My Vote: Howl’s Moving Castle

My Pick: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Now, the acting awards. This is, of course, where it gets interesting.

Best Supporting Actress

Early in the season, it seemed Michelle Williams (who still has a strong chance, depending on how brokeback the Academy is feeling) and Amy Adams were frontrunning, but Rachel Weisz has, from what I can tell, pulled ahead as late. Right on.

My Vote: Rachel Weisz

My Pick: Rachel Weisz

Best Supporting Actor

An interesting category, full of petty sentiment. We’re all very proud of Matt Dillon, for portraying a racist with intelligence and humanity, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who complemented Heath Ledger’s epic Ennis with equal intensity, has unfortunately been lost in the shuffle–no one thinks he has a chance. Paul Giamatti is getting all kinds of sympathy, mostly because he was “snubbed” (I honestly don’t see it) for Sideways. The Academy does pull a “make up call” every now and again (e.g. Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich, Nicole Kidman for The Hours), especially when an actor has performed well for several years in a row without winning. However, George Clooney has two things going for him: first, he’s probably not going to win for anything else, and he had one of the best individual years in recent memory, and, more importantly, he put on weight and grew a beard. Beautiful people making themselves look less beautiful has worked wonders recently, and I think it will here as well.

My Vote: Jake Gyllenhaal

My Pick: George Clooney

Best Actress

Another case where an early frontrunner (Felicity Huffman) lost ground to a better, more deserving challenger. Plus, singing your own songs is totally awesome. Way to go, Reese.

My Vote: Reese Witherspoon

My Pick: Reese Witherspoon

Best Actor

This one’s in the bag, but I wish it wasn’t. Philip Seymour Hoffman is your surest bet on Oscar Night, and he is most deserving. But I wish there had been more discussion in the Oscar-obsessed press about Ledger’s brilliance, and Straithairn’s deadly accuracy. Terrence Howard is incredible, and we’ll be seeng plenty of him in the future. In truth, this one was the hardest for me to decide personally; I’ve flipped between Hoffman and Ledger at least 74 times in the past month (I’ve already editted this post twice.)

My Vote: Philip Seymour Hoffman

My Pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Ah, the writing awards, where travesties most often rear:

Adapted Screenplay

The character development and terse dialog in Brokeback Mountain was something special. And I really think it will win. But to realize the true brilliance of the Capote script, read the four chapters from Gerald Clarke’s Capote on which the film was based, and see how Dan Futterman created an emotional, psychological, and literary masterpiece.

My Vote: Capote

My Pick: Brokeback Mountain

Original Screenplay

Speaking of travesties, I think Crash is going to win, despite being by far the worst of the five movies nominated. Ugh.

My Vote: The Squid and the Whale

My Pick: Crash

Now for the good stuff:

Best Director

Who decided to nominate Steven Spielberg? It’s like looking at an NCAA bracket and picking Duke, even though they have a weak team. Sure, Spielberg is awesome, and Munich was good–but give someone else a chance…

I think there is a slight chance for an upset here: Clooney may be able to snatch this one away from Ang Lee. But Lee could have easily won for Crouching Tiger, indeed, he should have, and the rest of the nominees aren’t strong enough to overcome Brokeback Mountain‘s excellence. Plus, if there is a Director/Picture split, I think it will go the other way, and Ang Lee will still win this one.

My Vote: Bennett Miller

My Pick: Ang Lee

Best Picture

Some people have been getting very excited about Crash, thinking that it might have a chance to upset Brokeback Mountain, and even hoping that it does. Those people, most of whom are either from L.A. or hate gay people, have poor taste. For all that is good and true, pray that this doesn’t happen. Brokeback Mountain is ten times the movie Crash is, and a win for “Brokeback” would mark the first time since the late 90s that one of the year’s best movies has actually won best picture. If Crash wins, I won’t be as upset as I was last year, when that miserable mess Million Dollar Baby won, and won’t want to put my fist through the screen, as I did when Sean Penn won Best Actor instead of Bill Murray–but I know it will be hard for me to get up the next morning.

Please, Academy, get it right for once.

My Vote: Capote

My Pick: Brokeback Mountain

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