cinecist vs. oscar 2005

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[Click here for post-awards wrap-up]

 

It was, theyíre all saying, a ďgood year for American film.ĒI would agreeÖbut then I usually think itís a pretty good year for movies, even when other people donít.Sure, there have been a couple of times Iíve had to dip pretty deep into the barrel to come up with my top 10, but those years are rare, and I think your snooty critic sorts tend to make more fuss about ďbad yearsĒ than is actually warranted.Bad films are like rats:if you go where they hang out, youíll certainly find them.Luckily, good films are like that, too.

 

So 2005 was a good year for film.More importantly for this particular critic at this particular moment, it was also a good year for Oscar nominations (read my thoughts on the nominations).Thereís a lot of great work being recognized here, which makes my job more fun, and hopefully yours too:wouldnít you rather read me blathering on and on about movies Iím actually enthusiastic about?(And donít worry that answering ďyesí to that question will further extend my license to blather; as always, I will strive to stay on the right side of the hairline border between tedious and stultifying.)

 

A quick technical note:As you might have noticed, I have switched to a different font this year.Much as it pains me to leave behind the quirky charm of Courier New, I was simply receiving too many complaints from readers who found it hard on the eyes.Okay, just one reader.But a VERY IMPORTANT ONE.So I relented (audible sigh).You will now see Courier only in titles, headings, and sundries; the main text will be rendered in the ubiquitous and far more pedestrian Verdana.

 

© 2006 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.I will not take your action.

         Shorts:As always, no one has seen the nominees in the short-form categories, including me.So I pretend they donít exist.

         *Timesaver Alert*:If you havenít got time for all my yakkity-yak, 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:

Brokeback Mountain

 

Pick:

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain

60%

Capote

5%

Crash

20%

Good Night, and Good Luck

5%

Munich

10%

 

Unlike last year, there is no great contest in this category, no horse race, no photo finish.Brokeback is very, very likely to win, having captured so many industry and critics awards and having in the process become the sort of cultural touchstone best measured by the number of jokes about it that Jay Leno can pack into his monologue every night (Current average: 34.6.Yes, Jay, itís a movie about gay cowboys.Can we move on now?)Against expectations, the touchy subject matter doesnít seem to have done the movie any harm in terms of critical opinion (Gene Shalitís unkempt idiocy notwithstanding) or audience acceptance (global box office grosses pushing $100 million).Everyone just loves the heck out of it, myself included.So is there anything standing in its way?Thereís always the possibility of a popular backlash when a movie earns this kind of praise and visibility, though I have yet to notice any such murmurings about Brokeback Mountain.Thereís also the possibility of an early peak, as happened last year with Sideways:by the time the Oscars rolled around, it seemed people had begun to tire of critical darling Sideways and had started to get much more excited by a certain late-December contender, Million Dollar Baby.There is no exciting newcomer in this mix, though, and interest in Brokeback still seems strong.So I think itís here to stay.

 

If Brokeback were to suddenly fall out of favor, the next in line would be Crash.Its mere presence here shows just how much voters think of it, given that it came out nine months before the nominations and Academy voters are notorious for having very short memories.Itís a fine film with excellent performances, and it has garnered enough other awards that we canít completely rule it out as a possibility here.But make sure you get VERY good odds before putting any money on it.The other nomineesí chances look awfully remote to me, with only Munich having better than a 20 to 1 shot.

 

 

Best Director

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

 

Pick:

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

65%

Bennett Miller, Capote

5%

Paul Haggis, Crash

5%

George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck

15%

Steven Spielberg, Munich

10%

 

For a few years, we saw the Academy getting a little creative in this category, awarding Best Director to a film other than the Best Picture winner.Last year, things seemed back in line, with Million Dollar Baby receiving both (and Martin Scorsese missing out yet againÖ).The fact that we have perfect alignment in the nominees this year makes me doubt the Academy is going to do anything unexpected here; Ang Lee is definitely the one to beat.In addition to Brokeback Mountain, his body of work includes such diverse films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm and Hulk.His work varies widely in genre and subject matter, but never in quality.Lee has a reputation as a very thoughtful and intelligent filmmaker, and his stature in Hollywood, already considerable, seems to be rising from one moment to the next.He looks unstoppable to me, and a win by any other nominee would have to be seen as a huge upset.

 

In fact, I think even if Crash somehow snagged Best Picture, Ang Lee would still win Best Director, as reflected in the percentage points he siphons off Paul Haggis in my oh-so-scientific probability chart above.Clooney also clips a few points off Haggis, reflecting how popular Clooney is in Hollywood these daysónot only for being a highly talented actor/director, but also for being an unabashedly outspoken but down-top-earth liberal who manages to combine acute political awareness with lazy playboy charm.I tell ya, heís a campaign just waiting to happen. Spielberg can never be counted out entirely, but he would be a very big surprise this time.And Bennett Miller for CapoteÖwell, Iím probably being generous at 20 to 1.

 

 

 

Best Actor

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

 

Pick:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

29%

Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow

12%

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

27%

Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

22%

David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

10%

 

Probably the toughest major category to predict this year.Let me say right out of the box that itís about damned time Philip Seymour Hoffman got a nomination.For ten years, heís been turning out one jaw-droppingly great performance after another without so much as a howdy-do from the Academy.I would put his body of work to dateóincluding Boogie Nights, Happiness, Flawless, Magnolia, 25th Hour, Owning Mahowny and now Capoteóup against the entire career of nearly any other actor.Hoffman is simply one of the very best film actors ever, period, and I have no idea why it has taken the Academy so long to figure this out.Needless to say, he has my vote.

 

But thatís not enough, of course.I need to figure out who will have THEIR vote, and thatís not easy.Hoffman has cleaned up in the pre-Oscar awards: Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe, most of the criticsí societies.But he has to go up against Heath Ledgerís superb work in the heavy favorite for Best Picture.He also has to face off against Joaquin Phoenix, another exceptionally talented actor whose performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line was being considered a lock for an Oscar nomination before the movie was even released.The other two nominees canít be entirely dismissed either.Terrence Howardís performance in Hustle & Flow as a low-level pimp looking for a better life was one of the most riveting and heartfelt of the year, and will rightfully make him an A-list star.David Strathairn, for his part, is an actorís actor, one of the most admired and respected character players in Hollywood, who finally got the chance to step into the well-deserved spotlight in Good Night, and Good Luck.Some are more likely than others, but I could honestly see any of these nominees winning under the right circumstances.So.Iím going to have to go with the traditional predictorsóSAG, Golden Globe, etc.óand put my money on Hoffman.Ledger is a very (VERY) close second, with Phoenix not far behind him.

 

 

 

Best Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

 

Pick:

Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents

5%

Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

25%

Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice

5%

Charlize Theron, North Country

10%

Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

55%

 

This one isnít nearly so tough.I see only two real contenders here, and one is the clear favorite.Reese Witherspoon has made some questionable choices in material, but sheís always good and sometimes sheís even great.She deserved a nomination back in 1999 for Election (she didnít get one) and she deserves it this year for Walk the Line, in which she proves, once again, that it is possible to combine poise with preternatural perk.She also proves that she wields a well-beyond-serviceable singing voice, though Iím hoping no career change is in her future.

 

Witherspoonís only competition here is Felicity Huffman for Transamerica, in which she plays a man in the process of becoming a woman.Huffman won the Golden Globe in Drama (Witherspoon won in the Comedy or Musical category), and she enjoys both popularity and high critical regard for her day job on TVís Desperate Housewives.Plus, she seems like a really cool person, and sheís married to one of the coolest people in showbiz, actor William H. Macy.Does all this add up to a win for her?Probably not.But it does put her in the race.Everyone else is far behind.Charlize Theron has already won her Oscar, and for a much better performance.Keira Knightly did a fine job in Pride & Prejudice, but sheís still a bit young and untried, so I think the nomination itself is her prize.And Judi Dench frankly looks like window dressing in this category, adding a patina of respectability but not really belonging in the thick of the competition; almost no one has seen Mrs. Henderson Presents, and I suspect that most of you, my loyal readers, have never even heard of it.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

George Clooney, Syriana

 

Pick:

William Hurt, A History of Violence

George Clooney, Syriana

28%

Matt Dillon, Crash

20%

Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

20%

Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

27%

William Hurt, A History of Violence

5%

 

The almost invariably superior quality of the performances that get nominated in this category proves that there is absolutely no shortage of great roles for male actors in Hollywood and independent movies.It also makes thisóagain, almost invariablyóa very tough category to predict.I see two top contenders this year and two more close behind.Then thereís the other one, the one bringing up the rear, the one that no one thinks has a real shot:in other words, my pick.Weíll start with that one.William Hurt finally shows up toward the end of A History of Violence and, in perhaps five brief minutes on the screen, steals the show.Thereís nothing flashy about the role or the performance; he is simply so engaging and so entertaining that you remember all over again why he used to be talked about in the hushed, reverent tones normally reserved for De Niro and Brando. Heís been out of the limelight for over a decade now, showing up here and there in mostly obscure and/or unsuccessful films, but hereís hoping that this nomination and his supporting role in Syriana signal a return to greater visibility.

 

Now, as for the actual contendersÖ. The popular choice would have to be Jake Gyllenhaal.With his major roles in Brokeback, Jarhead and Proof, 2005 was the Year of Jake.No young actor is hotter or hipper at the moment, and he has the added advantage of being a very likeable actor who can convey intelligence and complexity beneath a slightly goofy everyboy grin.But then thereís George Clooney to contend with.Itís not just that Clooney is such a leading Hollywood figure at the moment, or that his performance was first-rate (it was), or that he is gaining serious respect as a filmmaker (note his nominations this year for directing and writing as well as acting).Itís also that heís a drop-dead handsome actor who was willing to put on 40 pounds, grow an ugly beard, and look like a rumpled has-been for his role in Syriana.The Academy eats that stuff up. HmmÖI think I just talked myself into naming Clooney as my prediction.But Gyllenhaal is almost dead even with him.After that, we have Paul Giamatti and Matt Dillon, either of whom could readily gain enough votes under certain scenarios:What if Clooney and Gyllenhaal split the majority evenly and either Giamatti or Dillon enjoys an eleventh-hour groundswell of support?What if Hurt siphons some votes off of Clooney and Gyllenhaal, who end up splitting a large plurality and leaving Giamatti or Dillon with just enough votes to squeak into first place? What if Hurt gets almost no votes and everyone who might have voted for him decides to go with Giamatti or Dillon?Or what if, for whatever reason, voters just decide to look beyond the obvious favorites?That last one is not likely, but neither was Jim Broadbentís win in this category a few years ago for the virtually unseen Iris.In spite of everything, the unlikely does sometimes come to pass.As indicated by the percentages above, my confidence level in predicting this category this year would have to be characterized as Ďdismal.í

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

 

Pick:

Amy Adams, Junebug

Amy Adams, Junebug

7%

Catherine Keener, Capote

9%

Frances McDormand, North Country

9%

Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

40%

Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

35%

 

Unfortunately, this category often lacks the zing of the Supporting Actor category.There is good work highlighted here, but a number of the nominated performances donít really strike me as absolutely top-notch.I donít blame the actresses, or even the Academy.Itís a common complaint that meaty, well-developed supporting roles for female actors are in short supply in Hollywood, and this category usually seems to bear that out.That being said, one of the nominees here gave my favorite performance of 2005:Amy Adams in Junebug.Adams has been working for several years, making a number of appearances on TV and in a couple of relatively high-profile feature films, but I never noticed her until she showed up in Junebug.Itís a good film full of interesting quirks and good acting, but nothing else in it compares to Adamsís giant-hearted performance as a young mother-to-be who seems just smart enough to know her life is missing something, but not quite smart enough to know what it is or what to do about it.Adams has received a lot of recognition within the independent film world, winning prizes at Sundance and the Gotham Awards, but sheís going to have a hard time parlaying that into a victory on Oscar night.

 

Much more likely is a win by Rachel Weisz or Michelle Williams.Iím calling Weisz the narrow frontrunner for her excellent work in the much undervalued and under-nominated The Constant Gardener.It is, to my mind, the much richer and more demanding of the two performances, and she pulled it off beautifully.However, Michelle Williams will benefit mightily from the momentum of Brokeback Mountain and could easily take home the prize.It all comes down to just how powerful that momentum is.[Note that in three acting categories, Iím anticipating a close race between my predicted winner and the contender from Brokeback Mountain.Brokeback could quite conceivably win all three categories, dominating the acting awards and devastating my success ratio.Perish the thought.]Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand are both consistently strong actors, but I donít see them as likely contenders this time around.

 

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

 

 

Prediction:

Crash

 

Pick:

The Squid and the Whale

Crash, Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco

30%

Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney & Grant Heslov

25%

Match Point, Woody Allen

10%

The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach

17%

Syriana, Stephen Gaghan

18%

 

No one is out of the running here, though something tells me Crash has a leg up on the competition.I was frankly surprised to see it pick up so many nominations this year given its early release date (May) and the fact that it was never a big commercial success.But I think itís one of those movies that gained a new life in DVD release, when critical praise combined with word of mouth to create a grassroots popularity that surpassed what would have been expected based on its rather modest success as a theatrical release.If we look at Best Screenplay as a consolation prize for a movie that many voters think deserves to win Best Picture but wonít (which is how this category functions a lot of the time), Crash looks like the favorite.

 

But it faces stiff competition.Good Night, and Good Luck has the Clooney factor working in its favor, and the Academyís affection for the movie is evident in its six nominations.It also possesses a good old-fashioned sense of moral certainty that is notably lacking in all the other nominees; that might help its chances.Next most likely is either Syriana or The Squid and the Whale.Syriana might have shot itself in the foot a bit by being too complex for a casual viewer to follow easily.Of course, the Academy didnít seem to mind that so much when they awarded Gaghan a screenplay Oscar a few years back for his equally convoluted Traffic.As for Squid, itís picked up a lot of the criticsí society awards for its screenplay, but that doesnít necessarily put it at the top of the Academyís short list.Itís my personal pick for its painstaking rendering of the sort of prickly, uncomfortable conversation one would expect from an unusually intelligent and articulate family in the midst of life-changing crisis.I didnít exactly love the movie, but the writing was brutally sharp.Bringing up the rear, but still in the race, is Match Point, generally acknowledged to be Woody Allenís best film in many years.Allen has won screenplay Oscars before, and heís been nominated more times than you can count on your fingers and toes, so it would be foolish to think he doesnít stand a chance for such a critically acclaimed film.But he has a lot to overcome to make it happen this time.

 

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Brokeback Mountain

 

 

Pick:

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain, Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana

65%

Capote, Dan Futterman

15%

The Constant Gardener, Jeffrey Caine

5%

A History of Violence, Josh Olson

5%

Munich, Tony Kushner & Eric Roth

10%

 

Brokeback has its competitors in this category lapped before theyíve left the starting block.Not only because Brokeback will most likely win Best Picture, but also because itís so specifically a literary work: written by the venerable Larry McMurtry, based on a New Yorker short story by Annie Proulx.Screenplay pedigrees just donít get any better than that.And, lest we forget, itís also a great and heartbreakingly poetic piece of writing, which is why it gets my personal nod.The silent weight of the emotions at play in the story find perfect expression in the clipped cowboy-talk and half-spoken truths and untruths that fill the mouths of the characters.

 

Do any of the other nominees pose a threat?Not A History of Violence, I think, given its almost complete snubbing by the Academy (only this nomination and the surprise nod to William Hurt), a bit surprising since many people considered Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress nominations likely.Nor The Constant Gardener, also much underappreciated by the Academy.Capote or Munich?Both are possibilities, but neither is strong.Capote is the more likely of the two, since it is a much more universally admired film than Munich and is also a very writerly movie about a very writerly writer.It might have enough juice to pull out a win, but only if voters have grown very weary indeed of Brokeback by the time they cast their final ballots.The same is true to a lesser extent for Munich, based on the involvement of genius playwright Tony Kushner and the simple association with Spielberg.Honestly, though, this part of the discussion is all academic.Brokeback Mountain is going to win.

 

 

 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse

of the Were-Rabbit

Pick:

None

Howlís Moving Castle

10%

Tim Burtonís Corpse Bride
40%

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

50%

 

Unfortunately, I didnít manage to see any of the nominees in this category, so I have to abstain from making a personal pick.I think Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Nick Parkís long-awaited feature-length follow up to his beloved (and Oscar-winning) Wallace and Gromit shorts, has to be the favorite here.As for Corpse Bride, itís great that the Academy has finally gotten around to throwing visionary director Tim Burton a nomination, after having nominated so many other people for their work on his films (art directors, cinematographers, visual effects artists, costume designers, makeup artists, composers, etc.).Itís about time, even if heís only nominated as a producer.But the movie itself, while apparently technically dazzling in typical Burton style, seems to have creeped people out a bit, which could hurt its chances.I think it still has a fair shot, though.Not so for Howlís Moving Castle, the latest US release from innovative Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.It hasnít been able to duplicate the huge popular support that made it possible for his Spirited Away to win this Oscar in 2002, so it remains a distant third.

 

 

 

 

Best Art Direction

Nominees:

 

 

Prediction:

Memoirs of a Geisha

 

 

Pick:

Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck, Jim Bissell & Jan Pascale

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Stuart Craig & Stephanie McMillan

King Kong, Grant Major, Dan Hennah & Simon Bright

Memoirs of a Geisha, John Myhre & Gretchen Rau

Pride & Prejudice, Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer

 

If the Best Picture winner is nominated in this category, it often wins.This year, only one nominee this year is also a Best Picture nominee (Good Night, and Good Luck), and it is very unlikely to win the big one.So I donít think that helps us much in making a prediction.Good Night certainly would seem to have a shot at it, having so effectively recreated such a specific milieu.Its nomination for Cinematography bolsters its chances, since the winner in Art Direction is usually also a nominee in Cinematography.But Memoirs of a Geisha also passes that test, and has the added advantage of being a much more traditionally impressive bit of art direction.Add to that a few previous Oscar nominations for its art direction team, and I think it comes out as the favorite.The closest competitor is either Good Night, for the reasons cited above, or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, whose art direction team have many previous nominations and wins for such cinematic milestones as Gandhi and Dangerous Liaisons.I think Iíll give Harry Potter the slight edge over Good Night.Next in line would be King Kong, with a small but real chance, and then the unlikely Pride & Prejudice.

 

 

 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Prediction:

Brokeback Mountain

Pick:

The New World

Batman Begins, Wally Pfister

Brokeback Mountain, Rodrigo Prieto

Good Night, and Good Luck, Robert Elswit

Memoirs of a Geisha, Dion Beebe

The New World, Emmanuel Lubezki

 

My personal pick in this category is easy.As a visual experience, nothing in 2005 matched Terrence Malickís The New World in my estimation.There are legitimate complaints to be made about the film, but not about its cinematography.Every moment of the movie, from its sweeping landscapes to its crude colonial interiors, was an abundance of visual detail captured with perfect clarity and composition by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.Lubezki has a couple of nominations and one win already under his belt, and I honestly think he has a chance to pick up another win this time.But it will be an uphill climb against the obvious favorite, Brokeback Mountain, which gave us some pretty impressive landscapes of its own.The Academy is often happy using this category as a pile-on award, handing it to the Best Picture winner as a bonus if any case at all can be made to do so.Such a case can clearly be made this year, so thatís what I expect will happen.The New World is second in line, with maybe a one in four chance of a win.At #3, I would put the crisp black and white photography of Good Night, and Good Luck.The other two nominees donít look to be in the running.

 

 

 

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Memoirs of a Geisha

 

Pick:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gabriella Pescucci

Memoirs of a Geisha, Colleen Atwood

Mrs. Henderson Presents, Sandy Powell

Pride & Prejudice, Jacqueline Durran

Walk the Line, Arianne Phillips

 

To toot The New Worldís horn a bit more, that filmís absence from this category is criminal.The costume designers got everything exactly right down to the very last detail, from the colonial settlers to the Native Americans to the English court.Thereís nothing wrong with the nominees here, but one of them should have been bumped down a notch to make room for The New World.Okay, that being said, I really donít know whoís going to win this one.I rarely do.The Academy makes some interesting nominations some years, including science fiction and fantasy movies, but when it comes down to picking a winner they usually go for a period piece.Of course, period pieces almost always make up the bulk of the nominee list, so thatís not altogether helpful.My instinct here is to go with either the most traditional period piece (Pride & Prejudice) or the flashiest (Memoirs of a Geisha).Maybe it would be smartest to go with the nominee with the most previous nominations, which would put Sandy Powell (Mrs. Henderson Presents) in front, with six previous nominations and two wins.Then, this being a good year for originality, they might just decide to honor the most far-out nominee: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which deserves some kind of award solely on the basis of Johnny Deppís Willy Wonka getup.Hmmm.Iím going to call Geisha the favorite, followed by Charlie.

 

 

 

Best Makeup

Nominees:

 

 

Prediction:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion,

the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

 

Pick:

None

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Howard Berger & Tami Lane

Cinderella Man, David Leroy Anderson & Lance Anderson

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Dave Elsey & Annette Miles

 

You never know whether the Academy is going to respond to the down-to-earth or the fanciful in this category.But since the former is represented this year only by the particularly unremarkable Cinderella Man, Iím thinking theyíre going to go with the latter.Revenge of the Sith didnít pick up any other nominations, so my guess is Narnia has a better shot at the win.

 

 

 

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Crash

 

Pick:

The Constant Gardner

Cinderella Man, Mike Hill & Dan Hanley

The Constant Gardener, Claire Simpson

Crash, Hughes Winborne

Munich, Michael Kahn

Walk the Line, Michael McCusker

 

This is often another pile-on category for the Best Picture winner, and that is especially true when the Best Picture winner is a heavy favorite and picked up a lot of other nominations.But Brokeback Mountain isnít nominated this time, so we have to look elsewhere for our winner.My pick here would be The Constant Gardener, which uses a complex narrative structure to tell an increasingly complex story.In a film like that, skillful editing is crucial to keeping the viewer engaged even when a lot of the details arenít clear yet, and Gardener did a great job of that.Seems an unlikely winner, though.Much more likely is Crash, which also uses a complexóthough by now commonplaceóstructure of separate narratives that gradually become interlocked over the course of the film.Editing is important to the effect of the film; even more importantly, though, the voters really like this movie and this award would give them a chance to show their affection.I think Munich is the next most likely winner, as editor Michael Kahn has already won three times for his work on Spielberg films.

 

 

 

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

 

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

Prediction:

King Kong

King Kong

Pick:

War of the Worlds

King Kong

 

We all went to this movie hoping one thing:that the ape would look great.Well, it did look great.Really, really great.So I figure thatís enough.

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Best Sound Mixing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

King Kong

 

Pick:

Walk the Line

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

King Kong

Memoirs of a Geisha

Walk the Line
War of the Worlds

 

I tend to go with a special effects extravaganza as my prediction in this category, but there are three of those this year.Plus, thereís a much-loved musical bio-pic.Tough call.I think King Kong is the most conventional choice, so Iíll go with that one as my prediction.But I wonít be surprised if my personal pick, Walk the Line, takes home the prize instead.This award did go to Ray last year, after all.††

 


Best Sound Editing

Nominees:

Prediction:

War of the Worlds

Pick:

???

King Kong

Memoirs of a Geisha
War of the Worlds

 

My ignorance about what exactly this category means forces me to stick with my usual methodology for predicting a winner (which is no doubt tremendously insulting to sound editors all over the world):the movie with the most explosions wins.

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Best Music (Score)

Nominees:

Prediction:

Brokeback Mountain

 

Pick:

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain, Gustavo Santaolalla

The Constant Gardener, Alberto Iglesias

Memoirs of a Geisha, John Williams

Munich, John Williams

Pride & Prejudice, Dario Marianelli

 

Brokeback Mountain is the only one of these movies whose music I even remember, which would seem to mean something.I expect it to win because it has a specific and emotionally evocative sound, and because Brokeback is going to win Best Picture.Of course, itís hard to ever count out perennial nominee John Williams, who scores not just one but two nominations this time, putting his total career nominations somewhere north of forty.He hasnít won one for over a decade, so maybe itís about time for another.

 

 

 

Best Music (Song)

Nominees:

Prediction:

ďItís Hard Out Here for a PimpĒ

Pick:

ďItís Hard Out Here for a PimpĒ

ďIn the DeepĒ from Crash

ďItís Hard Out Here for a PimpĒ from Hustle & Flow

ďTraveliní ThruĒ from The Polar Express

 

Only three nominees this year instead of the usual five.What are we to make of that?Maybe only that Iíll have a better shot at correctly predicting the winnerÖ. Musical documentaries are usually about good musicians, so the music is usually pretty good.The same holds for mostly true bio-pics of well-known musicians (Ray, Walk the Line, The Buddy Holly Story, etc.)But as we all know, most entirely fictional movies about musicians contain bad music.If the screenwriters were good songwriters, they would be writing songs instead of movies.No, they write songs that fit with their stories and their characters (aspiring musicians, unhappy musicians, musicians on the skids, etc.), but as music, they donít usually cut it.Even when such a movie is fine dramatically, we usually find ourselves cringing when the music starts to play.That is not the case with Hustle & Flow.Without making any big claims, I can honestly say that there are a couple of songs in the movieówritten specifically for the movieóthat are pretty good.No earth-shaking genius at work, but something well beyond competence.And Terrence Howardís vocal performance, like his dramatic performance, is spot-on.If I were someone who listened to light gangsta rap for enjoyment, I would listen to these songs.Thatís why Hustle & Flow is my pick, and thatís why I think it has a good shot at a win.Otherwise, it will be the song from Crash.Or the other one.I donít really know.

 

 

 

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

March of the Penguins

 

Pick:

Withheld in protest

Darwinís Nightmare

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

March of the Penguins
Murderball

Street Fight

 

The phenomenal critical and popular success of March of the Penguins would seem to make it the easy favorite here.Iíll go with it as my prediction, just because it seems foolish to bet against it.But this is never an easy category, given the documentary branchís bizarre choices over the course of the last decades.If not Penguins, I think it will be Murderball, which looks at the veryÖenthusiastic participants in the sport of wheelchair rugby.But if any of the others take the award instead, I wonít be surprised.I withhold a personal pick in this category in protest of the inexplicable absence of Grizzly Man, the brilliant Werner Herzog documentary that very, very clearly belonged on this list of nominees.Thatíll show Ďem.

 

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Prediction:

Tsotsi

 

Pick:

None

Donít Tell, Italy

Joyeux NoŽl, France

Paradise Now, Palestine

Sophie Scholl Ė The Final Days, Germany

Tsotsi, South Africa

 

Iím sorry to say I havenít seen any of the nominees.But Tsotsi, the story of the redemption of a South African street thug, written by the venerable Athol Fugard, has enjoyed effusive praise and considerable press on the film festival circuit, and I expect that will translate to a win here.If not, maybe Paradise Now, which chronicles the final hours of two young Palestinian suicide bombers.