Cinecist vs. Oscar 2004

 

 

[Click here for post-awards wrap-up]

 

As you may know, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences instituted a new Oscar schedule last year:Nominations are now announced at the end of January instead of the middle of February, and the awards are given at the end of February instead of the end of March.The thinking was that by reducing the time lag between late-year movie releases and the Oscars, the Academy could boost interest in (and ratings for) the awards show while also curtailing some of the more excessive Oscar campaigning that has developed in recent years.Maybe these objectives will ultimately be achieved, and maybe not.But one result cannot be denied:The accelerated timeline has made it harder for half-assed Oscar pundits like me to do what we do.I used to have a leisurely six weeks to mull things over and meditate on my verbiage, but now I have only a measly four.Plus I used to have more information by the time I (figuratively, of course) touched pen to paper; but I now have to start writing this thing before I even know the winners of the guild awards (Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, Writers Guild, Producers Guild), which can be very important predictors.

 

The net effect--and I trust youíll be kind enough to accept this at face value without examining my reasoning too closely--is that you, loyal reader, must be even more generous in your assessment of my success.When I err in a prediction, you must say earnestly to yourself, ďItís true he was not correct in this instance, but then how could he have been, being so badly hobbled by a lack of pertinent information and reduced preparation time?Itís quite miraculous he was able to make any predictions at all, accurate or not.And that he has done so in such an entertaining and illuminating fashion...well, it restores my faith in the indomitability of the human spirit.Ē

 

Or something along those lines, anyway, because itís a really tough year to make predictions in a number of categories.There are a lot of small, close battles going on, as well as the crucial large question of whether The Aviator has the stuff to dominate.I could use some extra time to listen to third-hand Hollywood chatter and watch the news coverage of the nominees on E! and Inside Edition.It might give me a better feel for how the chips are going to fall.But alas, no more time for that.Iím stuck with what Iíve got, and youíre stuck with me. So off we go.

 

all contents © 2005 dondi demarco

 

Before we start, the usual notes, definitions, and helpful bits:

         Prediction:The nominee that will win.In red, for your convenience.

         Pick:The nominee that should win.Rarely the same as Prediction.

         Percentages:An arbitrary, self-designed means of assigning probability to certain outcomes.No wagering, please.

         Shorts:As always, no one has seen the nominees in the short-form categories, including me.Letís respectfully ignore them, shall we?

         Sweet Silence:If you havenít got time for all my yapping, check out my Picks & Predictions At A Glanceô.

 

So there it is.Thanks for coming, and enjoy the show.

 

 

____________________________

 

Best PictureDirector Actor Actress Supporting Actor Supporting Actress

Original Screenplay Adapted Screenplay Animated Feature Art Direction Cinematography

Costume Makeup Editing Visual Effects Sound Mixing Sound Editing ScoreSong

Documentary Feature Foreign Film

________________________________

 

 

Best Picture

Nominees:

Prediction:

Million Dollar Baby

 

Pick:

Million Dollar Baby

The Aviator

35%

Finding Neverland

5%

Million Dollar Baby

40%

Ray

5%

Sideways

15%

 

Some people are calling this a three-way race between The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby and Sideways.But prodigious critical kudos notwithstanding, I donít think Sideways has been a real contender since Million Dollar Baby arrived on the scene in December.Itís now a battle between two Hollywood powerhouses, Eastwood and Scorsese, and this battle will play out here as well as in the Best Director category.

 

In the end, Iím putting my money on Million Dollar Baby (figuratively, of course--see above for my rule about wagering...) even though Aviator dominates the nominations.The Academy loves an epic biopic, especially one as handsome and entertaining as Aviator, and they said so 11 times in the nomination process.But it felt a little obligatory this year; it was like Aviator came with its nominations built-in by virtue of its director, style and subject.Maybe Iím reading things wrong, but nothing in the praise Iíve heard for this film sounds like passion to me.It sounds like acknowledgement.When I put that up against the genuine passion I hear from people when they talk about Million Dollar Baby, I donít see it being sufficient to carry the day.Million Dollar Baby has become a somewhat controversial film (those of you who have seen it already know why, and those of you who have not should not find out from a review), which can either help or hurt a filmís chances for the Oscar.In this case, I think the personal, moral nature of the controversy has served to solidify and intensify the positive feelings surrounding the film.So I think itís going to win. If not Baby, then the winner will of course be Aviator, for the obvious reasons.A win by any other nominee would be shocking to me, though Sideways clearly has a better shot at such a coup than the other two.

 

Million Dollar Baby is also my pick among these nominees, mostly for Eastwoodís expert direction, but also for his acting.While there is nothing particularly original going on in the movie--its unexpected plot developments really just shift the story arc from one formula to a different formula--Eastwood finds a way to strip away all the noise and present his story with a clarity and simplicity that make it surprisingly effective.He sticks very close to the minds and hearts of his characters, and thereís not a wasted word or superfluous gesture to be found.This is a nice switch from his last effort, the good-but-flawed Mystic River, which felt uneven, overwrought, and a bit messy.Million Dollar Baby, in contrast, is clean as a whistle.As a bonus, we also get one of Eastwoodís finest performances, which helps move Baby to the top of this field in my book.

 

 

 

Best Director

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

 

Pick:

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

50%

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

45%

Taylor Hackford, Ray

1%

Alexander Payne, Sideways

3%

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

1%

 

Conventional wisdom says Best Director virtually always goes to the Best Picture winner.Thatís been true since the 1940s.But right now weíre either at the beginning of a new trend or somewhere in the middle of a period of anomaly, because in three of the last six years the Academy has awarded the Picture and Director Oscars to different films.Given that, and the closeness of the race for Best Picture between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby, we have a genuine toss-up on our hands.Or a Battle Royal, if you want to think of it that way, given the towering stature of the two directors duking it out.Scorsese, of course, is generally considered the greatest living American director, having directed Taxi Driver (arguably the best American film of the 1970s), Raging Bull (almost certainly the best American film of the 1980s), and Goodfellas (one of the very best American films of the 1990s).In spite of this, he has never won an Oscar.Eastwood, for his part, is not only one of the greatest on-screen icons in cinematic history, he is also a highly accomplished and respected director, having directed some 25 films, including many of those in which he created the tough, heroic persona that has become his trademark.

 

While any film lover would be happy to see Scorsese finally awarded the Oscar that has (unjustly) eluded him for decades, a victory this year would be bittersweet:The Aviator, while a perfectly good film, is very far from being the best demonstration of Scorseseís particular brilliance.Going strictly on the merit of the nominated films, I would have to admit I find both Eastwood and Vera Drakeís Mike Leigh more deserving this year.(Mike Leigh is my pick for his deft orchestration of the strong but nuanced emotions that play through his characters, as well as his usual brilliance in eliciting and capturing such sublimely realized performances.)But Academy voters certainly feel some pressure to honor Scorsese at this point in his career.Heís not getting any younger, and judging from his last several films, there is no guarantee he is going to make any more masterpieces, so they might feel like this is their best opportunity to give him his due--or his overdue, if you will.Eastwood is older, but 1) the quality of recent films indicates that his best work might still be ahead of him and 2) he already has an Oscar for Unforgiven, so there is less at stake.Then again, Clint did beat Scorsese for the Directors Guild award, which is usually a very accurate Oscar predictor.Hmm.

 

Iím going to go with Scorsese.I believe the Academy wants to do right by him.They also know that Eastwood will get his Oscar anyway since, as the producer of Million Dollar Baby, he will receive the Oscar it wins for Best Picture.So theyíll divvy up the awards and everyone will go home happy.

 

Maybe.

 

 

 

Best Actor

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Jamie Foxx, Ray

 

Pick:

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

5%

Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland

5%

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator

20%

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

25%

Jamie Foxx, Ray

45%

 

Jamie Foxx has been the favorite here for his uncanny metamorphosis into Ray Charles since before Ray even opened, and not much has happened to slow down that momentum.Heís won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards and given emotional, inspirational acceptances speeches for both, which never hurts.

 

While it seems unlikely that anyone can challenge Foxx here, the next most likely winner is either Leo DiCaprio or Clint Eastwood.DiCaprio does a solid job in The Aviator, the most nominated film of the year.There is nothing wrong with his performance, though it doesnít strike me as Oscar caliber.Eastwood, on the other hand, gives one of his best performances in Million Dollar Baby.He creates a gruff character who might at first look pretty familiar, but who builds layers of emotional and psychological complexity that, for my money, make him the best part of the film.Itís a performance with a whole lifetime and a long career behind it, and thatís why itís my pick and my backup prediction.After Eastwood comes Johnny Depp, who has only an outside chance.Depp has long been one of the finest actors out there, achieving perfect pitch in a wide variety of risky roles, but his role in Finding Neverland is hardly one of his most demanding.Rounding out the category is Don Cheadle, a top supporting player for years who was finally given a major lead with Hotel Rwanda.Itís a very good performance, but itís not going to rise to the top of this particular field of competitors.

 

One more note on this category:The inexplicable omission of Paul Giamatti for his superb work in Sideways is the biggest surprise in this yearís nominations.Giamattiís schlubby, lonely, peevish wine connoisseur-cum-alcoholic Miles is one of the great movie characters in recent memory, a man for whom a good pinot noir--in great quantity--is the only thing that comes close to washing away the bitterness of a life full of failures.Itís a performance of great wit, anger and intelligence, as good an any performance I saw during the year, and it was nominated for every acting award imaginable except, unforgivably, the Oscar.It would have been my personal pick to win.

 

 

 

Best Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

 

Pick:

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake

Annette Bening, Being Julia

15%

Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace

5%

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake

25%

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

45%

Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

10%

 

Much is being made of the ďrivalryĒ between Hilary Swank and Annette Bening, ever since Swankís performance in Boys Donít Cry beat out Beningís in American Beauty for the 1999 Oscar.(Swank most assuredly deserved to win that one, for what itís worth.)But as far as I can tell, thereís no rivalry here, just entertainment writers looking to drum up a little excitement in a race that looks to be awfully routine.Frankly, I donít think Bening has much chance of winning.Swank has to be considered the heavy favorite based on her Golden Globe and SAG wins, as well as the overall affection for Million Dollar Baby.Itís a worthy performance, though not in the same league with her work in Boys Donít Cry.

 

Iím going to go out on a limb and predict that if Swank doesnít win, the award will go to Imelda Staunton for her superior performance in Mike Leighís Vera Drake.The movie is about a cheerful busy-bee of a housewife in post-war England who provides a cozy little home for her family, cares for elderly friends, invites lonely neighbors to dinner, and...oh yes, performs illegal abortions for young women in trouble.Her crimes are eventually discovered, and the moral confusion and emotional devastation that ensue are portrayed absolutely masterfully by Staunton.While such performances in low-profile British dramas do sometimes get nominated for Oscars, they donít tend to win.But it does happen now and again (see Jim Broadbentís win for Iris a few years back).In this case, Staunton has gotten the top honor from just about every major criticsí society, and the somewhat controversial subject matter of the film has drawn a bit of attention to it. I think itís enough to give Staunton a fair shot at it.Next in line would be Bening, then Winslet.Bringing up the rear is the wonderful performance by Catalina Sandino Moreno in the Columbian film Maria Full of Grace, the harrowing but far from hopeless story of a pregnant young woman who takes a job as a drug mule because it looks like her only option.Itís a lovely performance in a very good film, and itís encouraging to see her nominated--but the nomination itself is her prize.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

 

Pick:

Clive Owen, Closer

Alan Alda, The Aviator

5%

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

21%

Jamie Foxx, Collateral

10%

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

45%

Clive Owen, Closer

19%

 

Morgan Freeman is so consistently great at what he does that itís very easy to stop noticing the skill it takes to do it.He is expert at underplaying, at giving us so little that we feel like heís barely acting at all; heís just BEING a character, and what we make of that is up to us.Itís a specific sort of acting, and it wouldnít work for every role.But it always works for his roles, and thatís why heís such a treasure.His performance in Million Dollar Baby is yet more proof of this, and I think itís finally going to get him the Oscar he has deserved for so long.

 

Freemanís top competitor is probably Thomas Haden Church for his robust turn in Sideways as a B-list TV actor past his prime, a fun-loving overgrown frat-boy who joins his irritable, depressive friend Miles on one last wine-soaked road trip before his own wedding with the express purpose of securing both of them a little female companionship.Churchís previous notable credits were mostly on 1990s TV sitcoms (Wings, Ned & Stacey), but he has re-emerged ten years later to give a very strong performance in a critically acclaimed film, and thatís a story the Academy might respond to.Very close behind Church is my personal pick, Golden Globe winner Clive Owen, who steps up in the taut human drama Closer with a performance that I expect will get him a lot of high-profile offers in the near future.He plays a character who, like everyone else in the film, is sometimes unforgivably selfish and manipulative and even downright mean, and yet sometimes, somehow, still sympathetic.In the midst of the most beautiful and charismatic assemblage of actors you are likely to see onscreen any time soon--Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman--it is Owenís performance that stands out from the rest as you watch it, and stays with you after you leave the theater. Thereís some talk of Owen as the next James Bond; Iím hoping heíll avoid that gold-paved road and keep doing real work for a while.

 

Alan Alda only wins this one if Aviator pulls off a real sweep, which is a possibility, though Iím not predicting it.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

 

Pick:

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

35%

Laura Linney, Kinsey

10%

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

30%

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

5%

Natalie Portman, Closer

20%

 

Laura Linney is highly respected actress in a film a lot of people are uncomfortable with, and Sophie Okonedo is a complete unknown in a film everyone respects.Both have a shot at winning, since the Academy doesnít mind throwing a curveball in this category, but neither has a good one.Cate Blanchettís SAG-winning performance as a young Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator seems more like the Academyís cup of tea.And in a stunning coincidence, itís my pick as well.Itís not the kind of performance one thinks of as technically masterful or gut-wrenchingly difficult to achieve.Rather, it attains a perfect, breezy sort of grace that is in tragically short supply these days.Donít think Marlon Brando; think Fred Astaire.Iím happy to allow room for such a rare treat among my picks.

 

This race isnít a runaway, though, not by any means.Close behind Blanchett is critical favorite Virginia Madsen, a hardworking actress who finally landed a role that could put her on the A-list.Plus, she might be votersí only opportunity to give an acting award to Sideways, which increases her chances.There is also Natalie Portman, whose daring performance in the emotionally intense Closer (itís being called her ďfirst adult roleĒ) earned her the Golden Globe, meaning she canít be counted out of this race.

 

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

 

 

Prediction:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

 

Pick:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Aviator, John Logan

25%

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth

35%

Hotel Rwanda, Keir Pearson & Terry George

10%

The Incredibles, Brad Bird

10%

Vera Drake, Mike Leigh

20%

 

If youíve been paying attention to my blather for the last few years (not that Iím saying you should) I probably donít need to tell you why Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my choice here.But for the record:Itís because it was written by Charlie Kaufman (with help from the director and the suspiciously named Pierre Bismuth).Kaufman is far and away the most interesting screenwriter working today.He treks to the far reaches of the human mind to examine the doubts, insecurities and unfulfilled longings that make turn-of-the-millennium man such an alienated creature.And he usually makes us laugh hysterically while heís doing it.In the broadest terms, Eternal Sunshine asks this question:if you could literally erase from your brain memories that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, would that change what it means to be human?It then seeks out the answer to that question in all its ridiculous, complicated detail, and we are left marveling at both the intelligence and the humanity that drive the quest.

 

The prediction of a winner isnít nearly so easy.On the one hand, the award in this category often goes to the Best Picture winner by default.That would point to Aviator here, which is not my prediction for Best Picture but is certainly a strong contender.On the other hand, Academy voters have a tendency to use this category to reward daring, off-center movies that are clearly very good but donít have the mainstream appeal to be considered for Best Picture; they are especially likely to do so when the actual Best Picture winner (or strong contender, in this case) is a movie in which the quality of the writing is not really a focus, as is the case with Aviator.Put it all together, and throw in the fact that itís Kaufmanís third nomination in five years, and I think weíll see Eternal Sunshine pull past Aviator for the win.†††

 

The Academy also likes Mike Leigh a lot, and I think heís due to win an Oscar soon.Itís always possible that it will be this year.The Incredibles, being the heavy favorite for Best Animated Feature, is also in the running, though it seems like a pretty long shot, as does the sincere and moving Hotel Rwanda.

 

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Million Dollar Baby

 

 

Pick:

Before Sunset

Before Sunset, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy

10%

Finding Neverland, David Magee

5%

Million Dollar Baby, Paul Haggis

42%

The Motorcycle Diaries, Jose Rivera

5%

Sideways, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

38%

 

A very tough call to make.So Iíll start with my pick, which isnít going to win. Before Sunset is a movie that consists entirely of conversation, like My Dinner with Andre or 1995ís Before Sunrise, to which Before Sunset is the sequel.In Before Sunrise, two characters played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy met on a train and ended up spending a whole night walking around Vienna talking to each other.Thatís it.Now, nine years later, the same two characters meet by chance in Paris, and they spend a whole afternoon walking around and talking to each other.Again, thatís it.The screenplay for Before Sunset was a collaboration between the director and the actors, and they have (once again) created dialogue that is so insightful and character-specific that it never occurs to us to think anything is missing just because not much happens.Words are the whole movie, and these words are written and delivered so well that they are more than enough.

 

Okay, but the winner?Iím going to give a slight edge to Million Dollar Baby because I think itís going to win Best Picture.But Sideways has garnered a lot of critical respect, and as a piece of writing itís more original.There was a time when Sideways would have been the favorite here, but it came out early enough in the year--and had enough pre-release buzz from its rounds on the festival circuit--that there was the inevitable late-year backlash.At the same time, Million Dollar Baby opened in December with little advance notice and no fanfare, and so is still in a sense at its peak.So I expect Baby will ultimately take the prize, but Sideways is still very close on its heels.

 

 

 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Incredibles

Pick:

None

The Incredibles

60%

Shark Tale
5%

Shrek 2

35%

 

People loved Shrek 2, but it was just so long ago.In the world of animated blockbusters, a May release is ancient history by the time the Oscars roll around.The Incredibles, in addition to being a much more recent release, also snagged a screenplay nomination.I think that makes it a strong favorite.I have to forego making a personal pick, because I havenít managed to see any of the contenders yet.Bad, bad cinecist!

 

 

 

 

Best Art Direction

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Aviator

 

Pick:

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Phantom of the Opera

A Very Long Engagement

 

In recent years, this one has usually gone to the Best Picture winner, if itís nominated.My predicted Best Picture winner isnít nominated this year, but its neck-and-neck competitor, The Aviator, is.I think The Aviator will win, not only because itís such a strong contender for Best Picture, but also because the Art Direction team of Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo has been nominated half a dozen times before and has never won.Itís their turn.If not, then next in line would probably be my pick, the incredible-looking Lemony Snicket.I donít personally pick this one because it deserves it per se, but because its Art Director Rick Heinrichs has helped the visionary Tim Burton create most of his greatest visual masterpieces:The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, Sleepy Hollow.Someone who can do that needs to get lots of awards.

 

 

 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Aviator

Pick:

House of Flying Daggers

The Aviator

House of Flying Daggers

The Passion of the Christ

The Phantom of the Opera

A Very Long Engagement

 

The Academy loves their landscapes, and is usually happy to award this one to a movie with sweeping long shots of picturesque terrain.There arenít really any of those this time around.So it will probably go to The Aviator by default.The cinematographer, Robert Richardson, has been nominated several times before, and won for JFK, so he would seem like a solid choice even if The Aviator werenít a Martin Scorsese movie in contention for Best Picture.If not Aviator, then I would guess Passion of the Christ will pick up a win here, by way of consolation.

 

My pick would have to be House of Flying Daggers because, for Peteís sake, have you seen that thing? My goodness.

 

 

 

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Finding Neverland

 

Pick:

Finding Neverland

The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events

Ray

Troy

 

Although my first inclination was to go with The Aviator in this category, Iím going to second-guess myself, go out on a limb and predict Finding Neverland.Both seem like perfectly viable contenders, as does Lemony Snicket.But Neverland could be looking at a shutout, and I donít think Academy voters will want that to happen, so theyíll throw it this bone.Itís a worthy winner, too, for its impeccable period dress combined with the more fanciful creations in the Neverland scenes.

 

 

 

Best Makeup

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events

 

Pick:

The Sea Inside

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Passion of the Christ

The Sea Inside

 

Iím always more impressed by the miraculous aging of a young actor than by the creation of horrible and/or whimsical creatures.Thatís why my pick is The Sea Inside, in which Javier Bardem is very convincingly aged by 30 years.But as for what the Academy likes in this category, you just never know; one years itís Frida, the next itís Lord of the Rings.Since none of the nominees here are up for any of the major awards, that makes it even harder to call.So Iím predicting Lemony Snicket, but I put little stock in this prediction.

 

 

 

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Aviator

 

Pick:

The Aviator

The Aviator

Collateral

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby

Ray

 

This often functions as what I call a pile-on category, just another award to bestow on the Best Picture winner as a bonus, regardless of merit.The more powerful the momentum of the Best Picture, the more likely that is to happen.One common exception to this is when one of the other nominees has an editing style that is especially conspicuous or unconventional.For instance, movies that tinker with traditional cinematic narrative conventions or use aggressively original filming techniques--movies like JFK, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Saving Private Ryan--can win the Editing award without winning Best Picture.There is nothing along those lines among this field of nominees, and the Best Picture race is hotly disputed, so I see this as a horse race between the two contenders, The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby.Both nominated editors have won Oscars before, though Aviatorís Thelma Schoonmaker has several more nominations under her belt (all for Martin Scorsese films, by the way, as she hasnít worked for anyone else for the last 30 years).That might give her enough of an edge, but this is a very close call.

 

 

 

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Prediction:

Spider-Man 2

I, Robot

Pick:

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2

 

Spider-Man 2 is not only a great special effects film, itís also considered by critics and audiences alike (myself included on both counts) to be a really good film all around: good story, good writing, strong acting, and a heck of a lot of fun.This should be enough to get it the win here.

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Best Sound Mixing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Ray

 

Pick:

Spider-Man 2

The Aviator

The Incredibles

The Polar Express

Ray
Spider-Man 2

 

The special effects extravaganza often wins this one, or the musical, or the Best Picture winner.We have one each of the first two, plus a strong contender for the third.My head is saying Aviator and my heart is saying Spider-Man 2, but my gut is telling me that Ray will pull off the win here as a weird sort of tribute to its subject and his music.I must say Iím at a bit of a loss.Iíll go with my gut, seeing how little there is at stake.

 

 

 

Best Sound Editing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Spider-Man 2

 

Pick:

???

The Incredibles

The Polar Express

Spider-Man 2

 

Iím going to stick with my usual, highly questionable method of predicting the winner in this mysterious category:whoever has the most explosions wins.

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Best Music (Score)

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Passion of the Christ

 

Pick:

None

Finding Neverland, Jan A. P. Kaczmarek

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, John Williams

Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events, Thomas Newman

The Passion of the Christ, John Debney

The Village, James Newton Howard

 

Oh, who knows?This oneís practically a shot in the dark.Three of these are old hands at being nominated, with one (Williams) being probably the most nominated movie scorer ever.Maybe one of them will win.Or maybe newcomer Debney will win for scoring the most successful independent movie in history (The Passion of the Christ), which also happens to be the second most controversial movie of the year.(If you donít know what the first is, then you apparently pay so little attention to movies that Iím frankly surprised youíve even read down this far.)Or maybe the other newcomer Kaczmarek will win as a consolation prize for Finding Neverland, which, despite the great affection the Academy has shown by giving it seven nominations, seems quite unlikely to win any major categories.Iíll guess Passion of the Christ, toward which voters might wish to show some respect--in a small way.

 

 

 

Best Music (Song)

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

ďLearn to Be LonelyĒ from The Phantom

of the Opera

 

Pick:

ďAccidentally in LoveĒ from Shrek 2

ďAccidentally in LoveĒ from Shrek 2

ďAl Otro Lado Del RioĒ from The Motorcycle Diaries

ďBelieveĒ from The Polar Express

ďLearn to Be LonelyĒ from The Phantom of the Opera

ďLook To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)Ē from The Chorus

 

Remember the last couple of years when all the stars were shining in this category: Sting, Eminem, U2, Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello...?This year we have, um, well...we have Adam Duritz, the singer for Counting Crows.Thatís almost as good, right?Iím going with Duritz et al for the Shrek 2 song, because I like him.But youíve gotta figure Andrew Lloyd Weber to be the favorite for Phantom.Fifty-two million theatergoers canít be wrong, eh?If not him, then one of the foreign-language nominees, probably the Spanish one.

 

 

 

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Born into Brothels

 

Pick:

Super Size Me

Born into Brothels

The Story of the Weeping Camel

Super Size Me
Tupac: Resurrection

Twist of Faith

 

The documentary nomination process is finally getting in line with reality, after many years of capriciously withholding nominations from any documentary that had enjoyed any measure of commercial success, even if it happened to be the best documentary of the year--or, in some cases, the decade.Not only were three of the five nominees this year moderately to highly successful at the box office, but there is only one that I had never heard of before it was nominated.That is remarkable progress.

 

My pick has to be Morgan Spurlockís ridiculously engaging Super Size Me, in which the filmmaker records the physiological, psychological and emotional effects of his decision to eat three meals a day at McDonalds for one month.If you figure heíll probably put on a little weight and his cholesterol levels will go up, you donít know the half of it.We watch a perfectly healthy, happy man completely fall apart before our eyes, to the extent that his doctors are urging him to quit the experiment after only three weeks because they canít guarantee heíll survive a fourth.Okay, itís clearly excessive to eat every meal at McDonalds, and this film acknowledges that.But it still poses a valid question:If there is a kind of food that a previously healthy person canít subsist on for even a few weeks without it putting his life in jeopardy, isnít it fair to say that, as food, there is something inherently wrong with it?Or, at the very least, shouldnít we think twice before feeding it to our children?

 

Iíd love to see Super Size Me win, and it has a chance, but I think it might have a little too much of a muckraking feel to it.I predict a win for the more somber Born into Brothels, in which the children of prostitutes in Calcutta are given cameras t document their own troubled lives.Seems more proper and important.Another contender might be The Story of the Weeping Camel, but there is a bit of controversy surrounding that one.The story (of a white camel calf that is rejected by its mother, and of the nomadic Mongolian family that owns it) is a true one, and all the people play themselves, but they are actually performing an extended recreation of the story. So there are those who claim it is not really a documentary at all.Such a controversy is probably enough to keep Academy members from voting for this one, considering that they probably havenít seen most of the nominees in this category and so have no strong feelings for any of them.

 

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Sea Inside

 

Pick:

None

As It Is in Heaven, Sweden

The Chorus, France

Downfall, Germany

The Sea Inside, Spain

Yesterday, South Africa

 

There are two films here that have achieved some moderate success in US, The Sea Inside and The Chorus.One is a heartwarming and life-affirming tale of a teacher and his students (The Chorus) and the other is a serious story about a quadriplegic who wants to kill himself (The Sea Inside).Coin flip?Possibly, but the latter, despite being a bit politically controversial, has an acclaimed performance by Javier Bardem, who is becoming a Spanish version of what French actor Gerard Depardieu was to Americans 15 years ago:an exotic foreign actor who has captured our imagination with his talent and charming accent.Bardem, of course, is whole lot easier on the eye than Depardieu ever was.But thatís not to belittle his talent; heís a wonderful actor and was a serious contender for an Oscar nomination this year.I think thatís enough to tip the balance in favor of The Sea Inside.But I have to throw in this caveat:In this category, anything goes.I would not be the least bit surprised to see any nominee take this one.