cinecist vs. oscar 2006

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It might not have been a banner year for American film, but it certainly was un aŮo grande for Mexican filmmakers.Three of the most critically acclaimed films of the year were from Mexican directors:Babel, Panís Labyrinth and Children of Men.I will resist all temptation to make a joke here about illegal immigration and 700-mile fences.Good films are good films, and Iíll take them where I find them, in whatever language and with whatever pedigree.

 

Otherwise, while 2006 was not a cinematic famine, it wasnít quite a feast, either.Plenty of solidly good films, but very few genuinely top-notch ones.The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, for their part, have stepped up and made a few nice choices in nominations.Of course most of the major nominations are no-brainers:Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Hudson, Clint EastwoodÖthey had their slots locked up before their final reels were even in the can.But the Academy was tough on supposed favorite Dreamgirls, snubbing it (and most deservedly so) in the Best Picture and Director categories, making room for the better Little Miss Sunshine and United 93, respectively.The combination of Paul Greengrassís directing nomination for United 93 and Ryan Goslingís acting nomination for Half Nelson pretty much made my Oscar season, and the fact that Dreamgirls took a hit at the same time was just gravy.

 

© 2007 dondi demarco

 

 

Before we start, the usual notes, definitions, and disclaimers:

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

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

         Percentages:My arbitrary, self-designed means of assigning probability to certain outcomes.Wagering not advised.

         Nominees in short-form categories:You havenít seen them.I havenít seen them.Letís not pretend we have.

         *Shut My Mouth*:If youíre bored by all the yadda-yadda, check out my Picks & Predictions At A Glanceô.

 

So there it is.Thanks for coming, turn off your cell phones, and enjoy the show.

 

 

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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

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Best Picture

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Departed

 

Pick:

Letters from Iwo Jima

Babel

15%

The Departed

30%

Letters from Iwo Jima

19%

Little Miss Sunshine

15%

The Queen

21%

 

Some years itís easy, some years itís not.This year itís not.Any one of these movies could conceivably win Best Picture.The Departed might be the frontrunner, but itís not a frontrunner like Brokeback was last year (even though it lost...).There is a general expectation that Departed will win, but I donít think anyone will be truly surprised if it doesnít.And thereís ample reason to doubt its chances:Jack Nicholson, who seemed a shoo-in for a Supporting Actor nomination, got the cold shoulder, as did Matt Damon; and Leo DiCaprio got nominatedóbut for Blood Diamond, not Departed.So the Academy is clearly not deeply in love with this movie.And the usual predictors paint a very confused picture:the Chicago Film Critics chose The Departed, but the Golden Globe went to Babel, the SAG went to Little Miss Sunshine, the L.A. Film Critics voted for Letters from Iwo Jima, and the N.Y. and National critics societies each went for movies (different ones) that werenít even nominated here.The only nominee that hasnít picked up the top nod from any of the major award-giving bodies is The Queenówhich, strangely, is probably the most universally lauded film on this list.Maybe it will get the Oscar, just so everything balances out....

 

Iím going to predict The Departed.But nipping at its heels are Iwo Jima and The Queen.Iwo Jima, somewhat surprisingly, is my personal pick.Now, there are few bigger Scorsese supporters than me, and I did find Departed to be a profoundly entertaining piece of work, with excellent performances across the board.But I think that by choosing to work in a nearly black-comic mode, Scorsese really limited our potential emotional response to the film.His usual simmering tensions were markedly absent, and the trademark frequent bursts of violence, instead of revealing the human substance of the characters involved, started feeling a little shallow and jokey.Perhaps Iím guilty of holding Scorsese to unfairly high standards, and I may look back in five or ten years and reassess my choice, but for now I say this:The Departed is a good film, to be sure, and a rip-roaring good time, with at least one great scene (that conversation between Nicholson and DiCaprio in the baróthe one with the rats and the fly, which is creepy, goofy and nerve-wracking all at once); but itís not top-shelf.I actually responded more strongly to Clint Eastwoodís stalwart but sensitive Letters from Iwo Jima.It may be told from the Ďenemyí perspective, with all the dialogue in Japanese, but itís still a genre piece, a war picture, and thereís nothing about it that would surprise anyone whoís ever seen a movie about WWIIónot the quiet integrity of the commanding general, not the nobility in the face of hopelessness, not the blood and guts, not the ceaseless parade of honorable deaths, not the hapless grunt protagonist who somehow keeps coming through ordeals alive when everyone around him perishes.†† Its only innovationóalbeit a significant oneóis its willingness to see this familiar story through the eyes of the Japanese, an ancient culture poised on the brink of modernity but desperately trying not to take the plunge, trying not to want it....After that, itís pure formula.But itís a killer formula, after all, one upon which countless fine films have been built.This one looks great, it sounds great, the acting is perfect, the writing is clean, and it gets you right there (he says pointing to the middle of his chest).What more could you want from a war picture?The Queen, for its part, is a very small movie, a veritable movie-in-a-teacup.But the strong acting and writing have turned it into a critical darling, against which no one has yet found a criticism to level, including myself.Itís got a more than fair shot, and in fact I put it slightly ahead of Iwo Jima in the running.

 

The other two nominees, while less likely, are not out of the race.Babel works the now very common intertwining-stories trope to strong emotional effect, bolstered by some very good performances, two of which are nominated here.Little Miss Sunshine was The Little Movie That Could in 2006, a quirky feel-bad-then-feel-good story that managed to strike a chord with mainstream moviegoers and become a huge hit.Donít be surprised if either one of these sneaks up and takes the prize.

 

 

 

Best Directing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Departed, Martin Scorsese

 

Pick:

United 93, Paul Greengrass

Babel, Alejandro GonzŠlez IŮŠrritu

5%

The Departed, Martin Scorsese

45%

Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood

25%

The Queen, Stephen Frears

20%

United 93, Paul Greengrass

5%

 

This oneís a bit easier.I think Scorsese has a considerable edge over the competition here.Everyone knows the stats by now:Inarguably one of the greatest American directors ever, five nominations so far, not a single win yet.The impulse to give this guy an Oscar is clearly getting very powerful indeed: he gets nominated for every movie he puts out these days, whether it merits it (The Departed) or not (Gangs of New York).I think this is the year that urge finally becomes irresistible.Almost everyone really likes this movie, and even those who donít still acknowledge that itís a cut above Scorseseís other recent offerings.The truth, if we must admit it, is that the Academy is probably a little worried that this might be their last, best chance to honor him.Not because heís going to die, but because heís never going to make another film thatís better than this one.Hereís the thinking:His last truly, self-evidently great film (not counting his excellent Bob Dylan documentary) was Goodfellas, and that was 16 years ago.He might be tapped out.So do we want to wait and be stuck having to award him an Oscar for something really second-rate?Do we want to settle for a lifetime achievement award in 10 years?Or should we go ahead and take this opportunity to do right by the genius who gave us Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and redefined American cinema?I might be wrong, but I think theyíre going to go with option three.

 

If they donít, one thing I am sure of is that they wonít be giving the statuette to my pick, Paul Greengrass for United 93.See my review for a full explanation of why heís my choice.For the purposes of the current discussion, letís just say it pains me to pick anyone over Scorsese, but I have to call them how I see them, and for ambition, inventiveness and sheer cinematic imagination, Greengrass comes out way ahead this year.But he wonít win.Among the viable contenders, itís once again Clint Eastwood who offers the stiffest competition to Scorsese, just like in 2004 when the race was between Scorseseís The Aviator and Eastwoodís Million Dollar Baby.After that comes Steven Frears for The Queen.Frearsís name isnít well-known to American audiences, but you know some of his work, which is impressive not only in its quality but also in its variety:Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, The Snapper, High Fidelity.Heís spent decades making great little films across various genres, and heíll probably keep doing so for decades more, whether he wins an Oscar or not.Heís got a shot at it this year, but it would be an upset.Alas, I donít think Alejandro GonzŠlez IŮŠrritu stands much of a chance for Babel....but I suspect heíll show up on the list of nominees again very soon.

 

 

 

Best Actor

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

 

Pick:

Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

10%

Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

5%

Peter OíToole, Venus

35%

Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

10%

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

40%

 

My pick is easy, easy, easy.There wasnít another performance I saw in 2006 that could touch Ryan Goslingís work in Half Nelson.Playing a crack-addicted school teacher trying to balance the chip on his shoulder with the monkey on his back, all the while hoping he can do some good for his students and for a society in decay...well, it canít be a piece of cake, but Gosling does magic with it.If he has not been on your radar before, he needs to be there now.(And, for the record, the young Shareeka Epps more than holds her own against him as the student he canít help trying to help; I would have liked to see her on the list of Supporting Actress nominees.)

 

My prediction is not quite as easy.Forest Whitaker is clearly the favorite here for giving us an Idi Amin of such abundant energy, malice and perspiration in The Last King of Scotland.Whitaker has for years been a consistently riveting onscreen presence, in lead roles and supporting turns, major films and indie projects, feature films and television series.I think his time has probably come to take home the prize, as indicated by his virtual sweep of every pre-Oscar award:Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, the critics societies of N.Y, L.A. and Chicago, all of them.But then...what do we do with Peter OíToole?Surely one of the most beloved and respected actors of all time, nominated countless times before but never given the award, who now, 25 years after his last nomination, shows up in a magnificent, luminous performance as a decrepit old man, reminding us that the actor himself, while not quite as crumbling as the role heís playing, certainly relinquished spring chicken status before most of us were born.No one, however optimistic, thought OíToole had another performance like this in him, and we can be doubly certain he doesnít have yet another one in him after this.Can we afford to pass up such an opportunity?Sometimes the Academy seems swayed by such sentimental arguments, sometimes not.Given that this is Peter OíToole weíre talking about, and that people might be a little weary of the Forest Whitaker juggernaut by now, I think it just might work this year.Iím not putting him ahead of Whitaker, but I put him a lot closer than many people would think.DiCaprio and Smith donít seem to be much in the running, but even they have a better chance than Gosling.

 

 

 

Best Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Helen Mirren, The Queen

 

Pick:

Helen Mirren, The Queen

Penťlope Cruz, Volver

5%

Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal

10%

Helen Mirren, The Queen

60%

Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

20%

Kate Winslet, Little Children

5%

 

OK, Iíll say it:Whatís the deal with Judi Dench?No disrespect intended to Ms. Dench, a Dame Commander of the British Empire, but please:Must we nominate her for an Oscar every time she steps in front of the camera?Sheís a fine actress, and it was great fun watching her chew the scenery as a nutty old bitty in Notes on a Scandal.But Iím tired of seeing her name on the list, and Iím getting cynical about it.Itís starting to look like window dressing, an attempt by the Academy to class up its petty little pageant by inviting royalty.

 

On to business:Helen Mirren should win, and she will.Probably.Thereís always a chance that Meryl Streep could pull off an upset.She was quite good, as usual, in The Devil Wears Prada.But her role was really a supporting role, not a leading one, and I donít think most people would see it as being substantial enough to deny Mirren what looks for all the world to be her birthright.The other nominees are...well, theyíre just nominees.This award has been Mirrenís to lose since the dailies were in on The Queen, and nothing much has happened to jeopardize that.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

 

Pick:

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

15%

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

25%

Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond

5%

Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

35%

Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

20%

 

I love this list of nominees.I would have preferred (and expected) to see Jack Nicholson or Matt Damon here for The Departed instead of Djimon Hounsou.But still, who thought we would ever see Eddie Murphy get a nomination for a dramatic role?Who thought Mark Wahlberg, who had a total of perhaps 10 scant minutes of talking time in The Departed, during which he did almost nothing but spout vicious profanities, would get the nod when Nicholson got snubbed?Who imagined that Jackie Earle Haley (of Bad News Bears fame) would ever get nominated for anything?Who even knew that Jackie Earle Haley was still acting?

 

Eddie Murphy would seem to be a solid frontrunner here.He won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, and there was Oscar buzz around his performance from the beginning.Itís easy to find ways to criticize Murphy, but it has always been impossible to deny his charisma once he gets onstage or onscreen (Norbit notwithstanding).You just have to watch him, you have no choice.Itís that same human connection that made his stand-up comedy funny:He understood you, he knew how you thought, so he always knew how to make you laugh.Heís the same way as a dramatic actor, and I think itís going to get him an Oscar this year.

 

But there are viable contenders.Jackie Earle Haley is the biggest threat, and my pick, for his supremely icky performance as the neighborhood child molester in Little Children, a role that combines the oily little creep he got famous for playing with something much darker and more frighteningóall the more so because you feel sorry for the guy, even as you recoil.Sympathetic or not, the bone-chilling Nosferatu-at-a-skin-flick gaze he breaks out at the end of the ďdateĒ scene will be permanently etched in your brain.Mark Wahlbergís performance in The Departed might not have been spectacular acting, but he did exactly what was needed to make the necessary impression in a role that was inherently hilarious.The fact that he even got nominated, when Nicholson, DiCaprio and Damon didnít, shows he has strong support in the Academy.And Alan Arkin is the standard bearer for a film that is much-loved but probably will not be much-honored on Oscar night; that gives him a shot at a win.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

 

Pick:

Adriana Barraza, Babel

Adriana Barraza, Babel

15%

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

5%

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

5%

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

60%

Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

15%

 

My wife has taken to referring to Cate Blanchett as my ďgirlfriendĒ because of my tendency to wax rhapsodic on her singular loveliness.Honestly, has there been anyone since Audrey Hepburn who embodied the sort of effortless grace and otherworldly elegance as Ms. Blanchett...?Sheís just...dreamy.But sheís not going to win the Oscar this year, even in a movie in which her singular loveliness is, in fact, the prime motivating factor for the action of the film.No, itís all about Jennifer Hudson this time around.Which is disappointing.Yes, Iíll admit, she can sing the hell out of a song.But her acting in Dreamgirls is truly, profoundly unremarkable.She has a spark in her that could one day help her become a very good actress; but that hasnít even begun to happen yet.So instead she will win an Oscar when a Grammy would be far more appropriate.But such things do happen sometimes, and it seems very likely to happen this time.

 

If there is anyone to challenge her for the prize, it would have to be one of the nominees from Babel, either Adriana Barraza or Rinko Kikuchi.Barraza is my pick in this category (sorry Cate).As a dedicated nanny caught in a tough spot, she gives a performance of great humanity and genuine feeling.Itís a decidedly unglamorous role, and a rather thankless one.Iím surprised, very pleasantly, that the Academy even thought to recognize it.Rinko Kikuchiís role is more the sort one would expect to garner a nomination.She plays a troubled deaf girl without a mother, who is trying to survive an already difficult adolescence when the cops start asking questions about her father.... She bares body and soul in a performance that many found to be quite moving, though I felt a little too jerked around by the movie overall to respond as sympathetically as I might have.

 

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt

 

Pick:

Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt

Babel, Guillermo Arriaga

2%

Letters from Iwo Jima, Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis

2%

Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt

48%

Panís Labyrinth, Guillermo Del Toro

1%

The Queen, Peter Morgan

47%

 

Up until recently, all evidence suggested Peter Morgan would win for The Queen.He took home the Golden Globe and top screenplay honors from pretty much every major critics association.It would have seemed imprudent to predict any other outcome on Oscar night, but I couldnít help feeling like Little Miss Sunshine still stood a more than fair chance of taking this one despite Queenís apparent dominance.In fact, I had already written up my whole prediction in this category making exactly that point.

 

Please indulge my immodesty for a brief moment and let me say:I know a thing or two.

 

In the past week, the last two major award-giving bodies (Writerís Guild and BAFTA) announced their winners, and guess what...?Yep, Little Miss Sunshine won Best Original Screenplay from both.Hereís the thing:This category often ends up being the consolation prize for a movie the Academy wants to honor in a general way without having to commit to naming it Best Picture.When people really LOVE a movie deep in their hearts, as is the case with this one, the Academy usually finds a way to give it its due.In the final analysis, Little Miss Sunshine is a bit too precious for its own good; but the writing along the way is sharp and very funny, and the characters it gives us are genuine, unique creations.Itís enough for the movie to get my vote, and it might be just enough for it to pick up the Oscar.It ends up being a virtual dead heat, in my estimation.But I think Iím going to give the sentimental edge to Sunshine.The rest of the nominees can be safely counted out.

 

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Departed

 

Pick:

The Departed

Borat, Cohen/Hines/Baynham/Mazer/ Phillips

10%

Children of Men, Cuarůn/Sexton/Arata/ Fergus/Ostby

5%

The Departed, William Monahan

45%

Little Children, Todd Field/Tom Perrotta

20%

Notes on a Scandal, Patrick Marber

20%

 

Cheers to Borat for managing to get an Oscar nomination. But letís all be grateful that the nomination is for writing, not for acting; none of us need to see what Sacha Baron Cohen might do if he won an Oscar, though thereís obviously a better-than-50/50 chance he would do it in a Speedo.

 

The Departed looks like the frontrunner here, and itís a choice I can get behind.Whatever disappointments I might feel about the movie as high art, I canít fault the writing, which is hard-boiled and satisfying while always remaining highly articulate.The movie might, in fact, be more about words and language than any other Scorsese film to date.So many of the characters in the movie are great talkers, and it is this talk that seems to drive the action from beginning to end.If Academy voters are thinking along these lines, The Departed will probably win.But there are a couple of other reasonable possibilities here, both self-consciously literary.Little Children, which I found to be a fascinating but fundamentally flawed morality parable, has some great prose in the darkly comic voiceover narrationóthough I would guess that comes straight from the novel, rather than being the creation of the adaptors.Notes on a Scandal, also in its voiceover narration, showcases some truly wicked, clever writing that helps keep the campy good times rolling.Either one could conceivably beat out Departed.And Borat just might have made enough people pee themselves laughing that it can manage to pull off the big upset.Stranger things have happened.I think.

 

 

 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Cars

Pick:

None

Cars

50%

Happy Feet
40%

Monster House

10%

 

As usual, I didnít see any of the nominees, so I have no personal pick.Please understand, I have no personal or artistic bias against animated films.Itís just that I have no children, and I can only manage to see one movie a week, at the most, so the latest animated extravaganza rarely makes it to the top of my must-see list.I would very happily see every marginally decent movie released if I could manage it, but being only a part-time, amateur, pro bono cinecist, I must select the objects of my scrutiny with economy and care.Most animated features, like most romantic comedies and action flicks, just donít make the cut.My apologies.

 

Anyway, I think Cars is going to win.But Happy Feet is close in the running.

 

 

 

 

Best Art Direction

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Panís Labyrinth

 

Pick:

Panís Labyrinth

Dreamgirls

The Good Shepherd

Panís Labyrinth

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest

The Prestige

 

Panís Labyrinth looks like the odds-on favorite here, and Iím on board with that.The strongest argument one can make in this category often goes like this:ďJust look at this movie!Just look at it!How could it not win?ĒThatís the argument I would use in this case.And itís not just a matter of the fantasy set pieces, spectacular as they are; even the real-world scenes are wonderful to look at, rich and earthy, but with a sort of organic sense of dread draping everything.A great and complete visual experience.

 

That being said, there are some secondary bolstering arguments that are worth making as well.The two likeliest contenders would seem to be Dreamgirls and Pirates of the Caribbean Redux.Dreamgirls might have pulled off a win against Labyrinth if it were the favorite to win Best Picture.But since it didnít even get nominated for the top prize, I think its chances here arenít so great.Pirates might actually have the better shot, having had such enormous financial resources to throw into every last detail of art direction, set design, costume, makeup, etc., in addition to being the most highly anticipated sequel of the year.But the reviews were only fair to middling, and popular enthusiasm seems to have waned pretty quickly.So while it still represents some degree of challenge to Labyrinth, I donít think itís a very vigorous one.My guess is a fairly easy win by Labyrinth.I mean, just look at it.

 

 

 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Prediction:

Children of Men

Pick:

Children of Men

The Black Dahlia, Vilmos Zsigmond

Children of Men, Emmanuel Lubezki

The Illusionist, Dick Pope

Panís Labyrinth, Guillermo Navarro

The Prestige, Wally Pfister

 

I will try not to go into rapturous detail here about the many merits, both visual and otherwise, of Children of Men.Iíll try to save it for my review.But I will say that if you are at all unclear on what constitutes great cinematography in the context of an action film, consider Emmanuel Lubezkiís work in Children of Men to be a primer on that subject.(If you require a similar lesson on cinematography in a non-action context, you may consult Lubezkiís work last year in The New World.)†† There are extended sequences in this film of such jaw-dropping photographic virtuosity that they put me into a sort of Zen trance in which all the filters of the cinematic experienceóplot, character, techniqueódisappeared and everything just started happening directly inside my brain.That has to be considered a good thing.For my money, nothing else on this list even comes close, and I think the Academy will agree with me on that.But Panís Labyrinth, being such a powerful visionary work, does at least pose somewhat of a threat, especially if not enough voters have seen Children of Men on the big screen.If most voters saw both movies on video/DVD screeners (as is often the case), I suspect Labyrinth might appear to many of them to be the more impressive of the two.That would be too bad.

 

The other nominees wouldnít seem to be viable.But I must point out, because I find it interesting, that the yearís two movies about turn-of-the-century magicians (The Illusionist and The Prestige) both made it onto the list of nominees in this category.Is there something inherent in musty old stage magic that lends itself readily to cinematographic expression?I wonder....

 

 

 

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Dreamgirls

 

Pick:

Curse of the Golden Flower

Curse of the Golden Flower, Yee Chung Man

The Devil Wears Prada, Patricia Field

Dreamgirls, Sharen Davis

Marie Antoinette, Milena Canonero

The Queen, Consolata Boyle

 

Strange nominees this year. No sci-fi/fantasy extravaganzas, no reverent period pieces, only one sprawling epicóand that one (Curse of the Golden Flower) decidedly non-traditional.Instead we get a wacky dress-up party, a musical, and two films in which everyone wears clothes that look perfectly normal, if perhaps a bit nicer than those of the average Joe on the street.Iím really not sure how to call this one.As in other categories, if Dreamgirls were a contender for Best Picture, I might give it a significant edge here.But without that kind of momentum for Dreamgirls, both Golden Flower and Marie Antoinette would seem to be very much in the running, as would The Queen.Iíll take Golden Flower as my personal pick, because too much is never enough when it comes to martial arts soap operas.†† But as for a prediction....I think it will come down to Marie Antoinette or Dreamgirls, and my gut says the colorful nostalgia of Dreamgirls will edge out a win.

 

 

 

Best Makeup

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Panís Labyrinth

Pick:

Panís Labyrinth

Apocalypto

Click

Panís Labyrinth

 

While Apocalypto turned in a very respectable performance at the box office, signaling that perhaps the public is prepared to forgive Mel Gibson for being an offensive loon, there still lingers the feeling that not all hearts are open to him.You canít drunkenly issue a blanket condemnation of Jews and expect to get back in Hollywoodís good graces without doing a good deal of penance over a longish period of time.Maybe the healing has begun, but it certain hasnít concluded.All this is just a way of saying I donít think Apocalypto will win this category, in spite of impressive work by the makeup artists.Much more likely is Panís Labyrinth, at choice at once safer and less conventional.No argument from me; to my untrained eye, it looked great.

 

 

 

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Departed

 

Pick:

Children of Men

Babel, Mirrione / Crise

Blood Diamond, Steven Rosenblum

Children of Men, RodrŪguez / Cuarůn

The Departed, Thelma Schoonmaker

United 93, Douglas / Rouse / Pearson

 

This is really quite a difficult call to make, both for a prediction and for my personal pick.Personally, Iím torn between the competing genius of Children of Men and United 93, very different works but each with an emotional import absolutely inseparable from the visual experience.And the more a movie depends on a distinctive visual style, the more important editing is to its overall success.In the end, I think I must go with Children of Men, for reasons already hit upon in my discussion of cinematography above.Some of the action sequences in this film are simply as good as any I have ever seen, and the editors obviously share in that achievement.For a prediction, itís hard to know where to start.I donít think United 93 will win, because I donít think enough people really saw it, as compared with the other nominees.And Iím guessing Blood Diamond is out of the running, too, the editing being a less obvious part of its storytelling strategy.But each of the three remaining nominees seems just about as likely to win as any other:Children of Men, for reasons already stated; Babel, because its intertwining story structure relies so heavily upon editing to maintain narrative and emotional clarity; and The Departed because itís The Departed, and because Thelma Schoonmaker, in her decades-long partnership with Scorsese, is recognized as being one of the very best in the game.Since I have to pick one, Iíll predict a win for The Departed, but I wouldnít bet a dime on that prediction.

 

 

 

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

Prediction:

Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Manís Chest

Pick:

None

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest

Poseidon

Superman Returns

 

Interesting that Panís Labyrinth doesnít show up among the nominees here.... But I guess that just makes it easier to predict a win for Pirates.Poseidon and Superman might have both been technically great, but they were critical and box-office failures, compared to a much more respectable response for Pirates.Thatís probably enough to secure a win.No pick for me, since (bad, bad cinecist) I didnít see any of the nominees.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

 

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Dreamgirls

 

Pick:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest

Apocalypto

Blood Diamond

Dreamgirls

Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest

 

If there is one super-duper blockbuster special effects bonanza for the year, thatís usually the winner in this category.If not, then it defaults to the musical, if there is one.The question, then, is:Does Pirates of the Caribbean qualify as the former?I donít really think so.The first installment, yes.But the second....it just didnít have the same impact.So I think Pirates takes a pass and the award goes to Dreamgirls.My choice?I only saw two of the five nominees, so thatís not a very solid basis for comparison.But Iíll bet Pirates actually deserves it.

 


Best Sound Editing

Nominees:

Prediction:

Apocalypto

Pick:

???

Apocalypto

Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters from Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest

 

As all my regular readers know by now, I have no idea what this category is all about.I mean, Iíve looked it up, Iíve had it explained to me by people in the business, I understand it logically.But I have no feel for it, no intuitive grounding for making judgments about it.I donít think I would know a good job of sound editing from a bad one.So I always refrain from making a personal pick in this category.And I also usually employ a standard, entirely arbitrary methodology for making my predictions:whoever has the most explosions wins.This year, that would probably point to Iwo Jima.But Iím going to deviate from my usual method this time, for reasons I will not even try to explain.I think Apocalypto is going to win.I donít know why, I just do.

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Best Original Score

Nominees:

Prediction:

Babel

 

Pick:

Notes on a Scandal

Babel, Gustavo Santaolalla

The Good German, Thomas Newman

Notes on a Scandal, Phillip Glass

Panís Labyrinth, Javier Navarrete

The Queen, Alexandre Desplat

 

Iíll admit to being inattentive when it comes to a movieís score.Unless it jumps right out at me, Iím not likely to remember anything about it once I exit the theatre.The only one of these I really remember with any clarity is Phillip Glassís for Notes on a Scandal.And while Glassís ceaseless, implacable arpeggiation does have a tendency to start grating shortly after one becomes aware of it, it was much less obtrusive in Notes than I have found it to be in other films, and it was in fact very effective in setting the proper edgy tone for the rather melodramatic proceedings.So Iíll give the man his due and name him my personal pick this time.As for a prediction, Iím guessing either perennial nominee Thomas Newman will finally score a win for The Good German, or last yearís winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain) will repeat for Babel.I give Santaolalla the edge.

 

 

 

Best Original Song

Nominees:

Prediction:

ďListenĒ

 

Pick:

ďOur TownĒ

ďI Need to Wake UpĒ from An Inconvenient Truth (Melissa Etheridge)

ďListenĒ from Dreamgirls (Krieger / Cutler / Preven)

ďLove You I DoĒ from Dreamgirls (Krieger / Garrett)

ďOur TownĒ from Cars (Randy Newman)

ďPatienceĒ from Dreamgirls (Krieger / Reale)

 

Looks like the deck is stacked in favor of Henry Krieger taking home a statuette on Oscar night; heís the composer on all three of the nominated songs from Dreamgirls.Iím going to go way out on a limb and predict one of these three will win.I guess Iím forced to commit to a single choice, right?Hmmm....well, I donít remember any of them, which gives some indication of how much I connected with this movie.Letís say ďListenĒ will win, because it has the best title and itís alphabetically first.If not that, then ďLove You I Do.ĒMy pick, of course, is dork extraordinaire Randy Newman.

 

 

 

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Deliver Us from Evil

 

Pick:

None

Deliver Us from Evil

An Inconvenient Truth

Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp

My Country, My Country

 

I havenít seen four of the five nominees yet, so itís not fair for me to make a personal pick.I will say that Jesus Camp is a sobering look at a segment of American society that we all need to pay very close attention to in the coming yearsóEvangelical Christians who are training their children to do politico-religious battle against what they see as a corrupted culture.If you think the rapid growth of home-schooling is a positive indication that parentís are finally becoming more willing to take an active part in their childrenís education...you might want to watch this movie.

 

The two most obvious contenders in this category are An Inconvenient Truth and Deliver Us From Evil.The explicitly political patina on Inconvenient Truth might hurt its chances, even with all the recent reports confirming the reality and danger of global climate change with a degree of scientific certainty sufficient for anyone not named Inhofe.So Iím guessing itís going to be Deliver Us from Evil, because we can all agree that priests shouldnít be molesting children.I hope.

 

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Prediction:

Panís Labyrinth

 

Pick:

Panís Labyrinth

After the Wedding (Denmark)

Days of Glory (Indigenes) (Algeria)

The Lives of Others (Germany)

Panís Labyrinth (Mexico)

Water (Canada)

 

Panís Labyrinth has achieved a mainstream popularity that few foreign-language films can hope for, partly because director Guillermo del Toro has worked previously on English-language films that found loyal audiences.That popularity, combined with the critical accolades and overall visual awesomeness of the film, would seem to be enough to get it the win.If not Labyrinth, then I would expect the prize to go to the highly acclaimed Algerian WWII film Days of Glory.But as always, this is an anything-goes category.Any of the nominees could win it.