Saturday, February 23, 2008

"You know, I always thought that Matt Damon was a bit of a Streisand, but I think he's rockin' the shit in this one."

Academy Awards Preview: aka, "Kyle picks 'em all....even the loser categories."

Dammit, Shuk, I thought we were supposed to coordinate this shit...

To get things going and to calibrate my film tastes, here's my top five (or more) films for 2003-2006, plus my top 15 for 2007:

2006: 1. Pan's Labyrinth, 2. Brick, 3. Little Miss Sunshine, 4. The Departed, 5. The Prestige, 6. Little Children, 7. Borat, 8. Casino Royale, 9. Children of Men, 10. V for Vendetta. 11. The Descent

2005: 1. King Kong, 2. The 40 Year-Old Virgin, 3. Crash, 4. Sin City, 5. Munich, 6. Good Night and Good Luck, 7. Batman Begins, 8. The Squid and the Whale, 9. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, 10. The Constant Gardener.

2004: 1. Sideways, 2. Team America: World Police, 3. The Motorcycle Diaries, 4. Primer, 5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 6. The Girl Next Door, 7. Kinsey, 8. Closer.

2003: 1. Love Actually, 2. Capturing the Friedmans, 3. Shattered Glass, 4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 5. In America, 6. The Fog of War.


Should Have Been Better: Live Free or Die Hard, Ocean's Thirteen, Across the Universe, Sicko, Sunshine, American Gangster, There Will Be Blood.

Unforgivably bad: Lucky You (grrrr), 28 Weeks Later, Blades of Glory, Premonition, Hostel 2, Wild Hogs (saw this last one on the plane back from Cuba. My only thought was: this is what happens when they drive up to your house with a dump-truck full of money. So unfunny that I actually felt embarrassed for the cast. Passes the Bobby test. (i.e. it's so bad that I think I could've written a better film.)

Honourable Mention: Beowulf (IMAX 3D version only), Rescue Dawn, Spider-Man 3, 30 Days of Night.

My Top 16 for 2007

16. Transformers
15. Atonement
14. Knocked Up
13. Juno
12. Hot Fuzz
11. Zodiac
10. Gone Baby Gone
9. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
8. The Bourne Ultimatum
7. The Lookout
6. Into the Wild
5. Eastern Promises
4. Superbad
3. Michael Clayton
2. Once
1. No Country for Old Men

OK...onto the nominees. Format: should win in blue; will win in red; should've been nominated (or, at the very least, considered) in green. (If will win and should win are the same, purple will be used.)

1. Best Picture

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild
Eastern Promises

Comment: ...that was fast. Now...I know some people were left cold by No Country's ending (the more I think about it, the more I like it, but I see where people are coming from), but please don't say that and then back TWBB in the next breath, because--MINOR SPOILER--that film goes completely off the rails in the final half-hour.

Anyway, if grading the nominated films out of 100, No Country is a 98, Michael Clayton a 90, Juno an 81, Atonement a 75, and There Will Be Blood a 66 (awesome first 120 minutes, disjointed and baffling final 35 or so). No Country deserves (and will take) this award.

2. Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (but the film isn't up for Best Foreign Film! Impossible!)
Joe Wright, Atonement (mostly because I've come to revile the annual Oscar tradition of one best picture nominee being snubbed in the best direction category)
David Fincher, Zodiac (maybe not a best pic-caliber film, but the degree of difficulty in making this one was pretty high. Plus, Fincher deserves some recognition.)
Sean Penn, Into the Wild (a no-brainer, frankly. The film was shot entirely on location! And, as much as I'm going to look like a hypocrite here, Penn is far more deserving than, say, Reitman, who does a perfectly serviceable--though not terribly memorable, I'll argue--job in Juno.)

Comment: I think the Coens take this one, since many (myself included) likely feel they should be rewarded for some of their more daring filmmaking decisions here--no soundtrack to speak of, faithfully transcribing dialogue directly from the source material, incorporating McCarthy's anti-ending, etc.--though I have a sinking feeling that P.T. Anderson (though certainly not an Academy darling) could steal this one. Personally, I hope this doesn't happen.

3. Best Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, The Lookout (it's official, the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun can act).
Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men (arguably the protagonist...even if he doesn't quite get the amount of screen time that most leading men receive. Great, great performance.)
Glen Hansard, Once (look, I don't care that he's not an actor. He was both believable and moving in his role)
Mathieu Amalric,
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (underrated)
James McAvoy, Atonement (given that TLJ's nomination came out of nowhere, it's reasonable to conclude that he took the spot McAvoy had at the Golden Globes).

Comment: I still haven't seen Sweeney Todd, unfortunately, so I can't comment on Depp...though I'm sure he's terrific. Let me also say that DDL is virtually a mortal lock (Bodog lists him as a preposterous 1/20 favorite--i.e. you need to be $20 to win $21) to get the statue on Sunday...and I won't be unhappy when that happens. Despite my issues with the film, he's terrific (as he always is)--you can't take your eyes off of him, even if his actions disgust you. All of that said, I'm throwing my hat in for Viggo, who blew me away in Eastern Promises. Yes, he was solid in LOTR, but it's not exactly an acting showcase, is it now? And because I haven't--impossibly--seen A History of Violence yet, this was my first exposure to him displaying his acting chops (no, I'm not including 28 Days), and my verdict? Impressive. But, let me re-iterate: he has a zero percent chance of winning. Zero.

4. Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose (La môme)
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Keira Knightley, Atonement (sorry, Carrie!)
Naomi Watts, Eastern Promises (For my money: the best actress in the business. Never bad in anything. Prove me wrong.)
Marketa Irglova, Once (awwww...)

Comment: Rough category for me, as aside from the names I've added, I've only seen Page's performance, which I liked just fine. (Quirky...but not too quirky, Sean!) Do I think she's deserving of a Best Actress trophy? Um, no. Off the rest of them, Christie has the best shot, though I'm a not sure how comfortable the Academy is about giving this award out to card-carrying AARP members in consecutive years (though technically Mirren's a BARP). Maybe that's not something they consider. The other thing is, if Diablo Cody doesn't win for her screenplay (and her victory is by no means assured), this could the only shot for Juno (aka, "the little movie that could"--which can only be news to you if you've been living in a cave...on Mars for the past twelve months) on Sunday. I'm playing a hunch and going with Page here. (Note: this comment will be swiftly redacted late Sunday night if this doesn't come to pass.)

5. Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Armin Mueller-Stahl, Eastern Promises

Comment: The best category of the night, in my opinion, with nary a Travolta to be found. Wilkinson deserves to be here on the basis of his opening monologue alone--riveting stuff. Holbrook, too, was terrific--he absolutely breaks your heart in the film. But, with apologies to Hoffman and Affleck--who, if you combine this performance with his work in Gone Baby Gone, had a great 2007, much to my brother's dismay (he thinks he's the worst actor in Hollywood....mostly by virtue of his wooden performance in American Pie 2)--this is Bardem's award. Chigurh could've easily been a dull, even robotic, character, but Bardem brings him to life...while completely skeeving me out in the process. Great, great stuff.

6. Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton,
Michael Clayton
Catherine Keener, Into the Wild

Comment: Another excellent category--although I object to Dee's presence (I've seen American Gangster and I still had to look up who she was in the film). Amy Ryan, who I'm in the tank for because of her work on The Wire, gives an unrelenting and often uncomfortable performance in GBG. Swinton is also strong as a big city lawyer just barely keeping it together. She, like Wilkinson, has one outstanding scene early in the film (standing semi-naked in front of mirror, she awkwardly rehearses her meticulously prepared answers for a TV interview) that crystallizes her character for the audience. In a perfect world, they'd both win. (They won't.) Blanchett is allegedly sensational in I'm Not There and has this one all but sewn up.

7. Best Original Screenplay
Juno by Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl by Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton by Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille by Brad Bird
The Savages by Tamara Jenkins
Superbad by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Once by John Carney
Eastern Promises by Steven Knight

Comment: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that LatRG has the lowest Metacritic rating (69) for a film nominated in this category--generally regarded as one of the most consistent year in and year out--in some time. Juno is disqualified because of how fucking annoying the first twenty minutes were--think "honest to blog" and "Phuket, Thailand." The previous sentence also to applies to the thoroughly irritating Diablo Cody (except replace "the first twenty minutes were" with "she is...always"). Anyway...this is the only thing stopping Michael Clayton from going 0-for-7 tonight (unless there's some sort of freaky Blood/Country proto-western vote-splitting and it sneaks in as the sleeper best pic winner), so that, coupled with the fact that it's actually tremendously well-written, gives the nod to Gilroy.

8. Best Adapted Screenplay
Atonement by Christopher Hampton
Away from Her by Sarah Polley
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men by Joel and Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood by Paul Thomas Anderson
Into the Wild by Sean Penn

Comment: Another very strong category (come on, people, this is supposed to be the Oscars!). Hampton deserves high marks for taking tricky source material (McEwan is especially prolix in that one) and turning it into something that, arguably, exceeds the original. Polley (I'm told) and Harwood (I know) both get the best out of their respective stories. Anderson should really be in the previous category (where he'd likely win), as Blood is only extremely loosely based on the opening section of Upton Sinclair's Oil! The Coens, meanwhile, change almost nothing from McCarthy's outstanding novel, and look like absolute geniuses as a result. This is shaping up to be their night.

9. Best Animated Feature
Surf's Up
The Simpsons Movie

Comment: it time to retire this category? Surf's Up over Simpsons? That's wrong on many levels (or maybe just the one). I get it, Academy! You can be wildly unpredictable when you want to be (and beholden to none), but don't be petulant.

I can't help but think that there's more to Persepolis (a film I'm eager to see) than Ratatouille, but it's a Pixar world (you know the rest).

10. Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Seamus McGarvey - Atonement
Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Roger Deakins - No Country for Old Men
Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood

Comment: Haven't seen Assassination (hoping to tonight), but it'd have to be pretty dazzling to eclipse Deakins' other project this year. High marks to Elswit, too--despite my issues with Blood, it looked phenomenal.

11. Best Art Direction
Arthur Max and Beth Rubino - American Gangster
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer - Atonement
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock - The Golden Compass
Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Jack Fisk and Jim Erickson - There Will Be Blood

Comment: Compass is crippled by the fact that approximately seventeen people went to see it (and this includes Daniel Craig...twice), but it looks visually arresting (I, of course, was not one of the select few). Sweeney Todd is likely to swipe this one, with Atonement the possible spoiler.

12. Best Costume Design
Albert Wolsky - Across the Universe
Jacqueline Durran - Atonement
Alexandra Byrne - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Marit Allen - La Vie en Rose
Colleen Atwood - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Comment: Sigh...I think I say this every year, but: dressing people up as dirty, dirty hippies doesn't qualify as costume design! Accordingly, I'm voting against Across the Universe. The Academy lovvvvves period flicks in this category (enter: Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age), but they also prefer if the film is good, which knocks TGA out of contention. That said, I recall La Vie en Rose winning the BAFTA here...and it was a posthumous award (Allen--who is listed as the costume designer on the upcoming Justice League movie, which earns her 1,000 cool points--died suddenly of an aneurysm in November), which might prove irresistible to voters.

13. Best Documentary
No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Taxi to the Dark Side

Comment: Alas, Sicko's the only one I've seen, which was good...but a little underwhelming. It never ceases to amaze me (even though it no longer should) that Michael Moore is the most cynical person in the entire world when it suits his purpose (questioning K-Mart executives, confronting bewildered Congressmen on the street, etc.), yet stunningly naive when it's convenient ("golly gee. I cannot believe that these war veterans that I've illegally brought to Cuba AND ARE HAVING THEIR EVERY STEP FILMED are getting the standard medical treatment from this fleet of suspiciously handsome and telegenic Cuban doctors! What a wonderful country!") I know he's a propagandist and he can hardly be faulted for representing one side (specifically: every country that isn't America) in an overly favorable light, but, jeez, even Leni Reifenstahl dialled it back on occasion (see: Olympiad).

No End in Sight is, by all accounts, a towering achievement, so let's go with that.

14. Best Documentary Short

La Corona
Salim Baba
Sari's Mother

Comment: no clue. None. Freeheld sounds like the most interesting (although La Corona is about a beauty pageant run inside a Colombian prison...which I believe was a rejected plot point for season three of Prison Break).

15. Best Animated Short
I Met the Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Even Pigeons Go To Heaven
My Love
Peter and the Wolf

Comment: York University shout out! (Although the press release says he went to Ryerson--oh, well, we'll claim him for ourselves.)

16. Best Live Action Short
At Night
The Substitute
The Mozart of Pickpockets
Tanghi Argentini
The Tonto Woman

Comment: applying my highly scientific "which title sounds coolest?" test, the winner is...

17. Best Film Editing
Christopher Rouse - The Bourne Ultimatum
Juliette Welfling - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jay Cassidy - Into the Wild
Roderick Jaynes - No Country for Old Men
Dylan Tichenor - There Will Be Blood

Comment: There Will Be Blood--all 157 minutes of it--had an editor? (Thank you...I'll be here all week.)

18. Best Makeup
Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald - La Vie en Rose
Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji - Norbit
Ve Neill and Martin Samuel - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Comment: I'll be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable living in a world where Once gets the same number of nominations (one) as Norbit. La Vie won the BAFTA in this category.

19. Best Original Score
Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Alberto Iglesias - The Kite Runner
James Newton Howard - Michael Clayton
Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille
Marco Beltrami - 3:10 to Yuma
Johnny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood (the reason it was deemed ineligible--the score wasn't, as mandated by the Academy, completely original--is so profoundly stupid that I had to include it here.)

Comment: Howard's one of my favorites (see: Unbreakable), but the Atonement score--complete with typewriter staccato in the background--is all kinds of awesome.

20. Best Original Song
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - "Falling Slowly" from Once
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "So Close" from Enchanted
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz - "That's How You Know" from Enchanted
Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas - "Raise It Up" from August Rush
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - "Lies" from Once
Eddie Vedder - "Hard Sun" from Into the Wild
something from Sweeney Todd

Comment: Really? Three songs from Enchanted? This happened last year with Dreamgirls, I believe, and I said the same thing: no film is so good as to warrant 60% of all nominations in a given category. That's just stupid. I have absolutely nothing against Enchanted (...yet), as it's supposed to be delightful, but if it (or, worse, the what-has-to-be-dreadful song from August Rush) wins over "Falling Slowly" (a wonderful, wonderful song), I'm going to lose my shit. End of story.

21. Best Sound Mixing
Scott Millan, David Parker, and Kirk Francis - The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, and Peter Kurland - No Country for Old Men
Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, and Doc Kane - Ratatouille
Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Jim Steube - 3:10 to Yuma
Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Peter J. Devlin - Transformers

Comment: I'll be honest, I'd be happy if either one of these films won, but I'm wondering if voters are concerned about "Michael Bay" and "Academy Award winning movie" being in the same sentence from this point forward.

22. Best Sound Editing
Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg - The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay - No Country for Old Men
Randy Thom and Michael Silvers - Ratatouille
Matthew Wood - There Will Be Blood
Ethan van Der Ryn and Mike Hopkins - Transformers

Comment: Wait...didn't we just do this? Oh. Well...I have nothing new to add. See above.

23. Best Visual Effects
The Golden Compass
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Spider-Man 3

Comment: Doesn't this category seem especially weak this year? Running out of gas...

24. Best Foreign Language Film
Beaufort (Israel)
The Counterfeiters (Austria)
Katyń (Poland)
Mongol (Kazakhstan)
12 (Russia)

Comment: in case you were curious: number of nominations for these five foreign movies (not including this category): zero. Number of nominations for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the foreign that is inexplicably not in contention here: four. Are you serious? Is there something I'm missing? Was it co-financed by an American company? This. Makes. No. Sense. (Note: I did some digging and apparently this is so because--for reasons beyond my comprehension--each foreign country is only allowed to nominate one film and France elected to go with Persepolis. In fact, Diving Bell was the country's third choice, behind La Vie En Rose. Whatever.) I'm tempted not to pick this category out of protest, but that's pretentious, so I'll go with The Counterfeiters, which sounds pretty intriguing.

Check back Monday for a brief Oscar post-mortem.

1 comment:

Sean said...

You've got some interesting, "out on a limb" picks here. I suspect that you might lose your Oscar pool. Not that your picks are bad, but perhaps you are relying too heavily on Academy-induced upsets.

I've been roped into an Oscar party tonight and I'm determined to win it for another year running. Like usual, I think that most Oscar pools are going to be won in the sound and visual effects categories.

Also, I think you need to seriously consider "Juno" for Original Screenplay. This is how the Academy will reward this film, not with a nod for Best Actress. On second thought...