cinecist vs. oscar 2007

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After a lackluster 2006, Hollywood bounced right back to give us a year full of Good Movies in 2007, most of them just a little more inventive and restless than they needed to beówhich is an excellent development.The divide between critical and popular opinion, sometimes canyon-like in breadth, was little more than a crack in the sidewalk this year.If required to come up with an explanation, I would make some optimistic, largely symbolic attempt to attribute it to a growing boredom on the part of the movie-going public with the bland homogeneity of most multiplex fare....but Iím actually too smart to fall for that.Itís a safe bet that within the next two years weíll see an Oscar list that will have us once again gagging over the lackluster, unambitious character of the nominees, all of which have bought their place on the list with big box office returns.

 

But not so this year.The concurrence between critics and the public, in fact, not only led to some very high-quality nominees, but also made predicting those nominees particularly easy.Four of the five Best Picture nominees were dead certainties, and the fifth was one of about 3-4 other possibilities.Several other categories were similarly easy to call.There were a few surprises, as always (Jason Reitmanís directing nomination for Juno, Into the Wildís absence from nearly all categories, etc.), but mostly the nominee handicappers all should have come away looking pretty smart.

 

Guessing the winners, though...thatís a different story.Predictable nominees often indicate close contests, and we have our share of those this year.Iíll do my best to sort it all out, and hope my efforts bear scrutiny.

 

© 2008 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, though this year that might not hold....

         Percentages:My arbitrary, self-designed means of assigning probability to certain outcomes.Wagering not advisedóbut if you do it, the house takes a cut.

         Nominees in short-form categories:No one has seen them, including you and me, so Iíll pretend they donít exist.Donít tell anyone.

         *°Silencio!*:If you just canít stomach all the verbiage, check out my Picks & Predictions At A Glanceô.

 

So there it is.Thanks for coming, turn off your cell phones, and enjoy the show.Extra butter available in the lobby.

 

 

____________________________

 

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:

No Country for Old Men

 

Pick:

No Country for Old Men

Atonement

15%

Juno

10%

Michael Clayton

20%

No Country for Old Men

30%

There Will Be Blood

25%

 

No Country for Old Men has been the favorite for a long time, with a strong buzz starting from in its first film festival appearances early in the year.The credentials are impeccable, of course:directed by the Coen brothers, who also adapted it from the novel by Cormac McCarthy; shot by perennially nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins; starring Tommy Lee Jones, who has spent the last 15 years becoming probably the most universally admired actor still above ground; co-starring past nominee and critical favorite Javier Bardem in what is surely the most talked about supporting role--and haircut--of the year.And in this case, all the pre-release hype has actually shown legs.Some fairly common (and astoundingly wrong-headed) grumblings about the closing chapters of the film notwithstanding, there has been no real backlash to speak of.Everyone, including me, still pretty much agrees this is a Great Movie.So it still has to be considered the favorite.

 

There are a couple of contenders, though.There Will Be Blood showcases the performance of the year by Daniel Day-Lewis, and signals a new and potentially career-defining phase in the work of already excellent writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia).Unlike No Country, this film still seems to be on the rise in terms of popular opinion, and we shouldnít underestimate how much people love to see a rip-roaring performance by a top-notch actor.It has a solid chance at a win, as does Michael Clayton.Hollywoodís (and Americaís) love affair with George Clooney continues, bolstered by a history of professional choices that is almost as flawless as his jawline:he just doesnít involve himself in bad projects, either as an actor or as a director.Michael Clayton is a great example of a movie whose general outline feels very familiar, but whose particulars are realized with such clarity and specificity that it never feels formulaic.Itís difficult to imagine anyone not liking this movie, especially given the excellent performances throughout.If the two rather artier choices (No Country and Blood) split enough of the votes, we could see Clayton walk away with the prize.

 

Atonement, for all the lavish praise heaped upon it, as well as the Best Picture wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, just doesnít feel like a particularly strong contender to me.It looks good on paper, but can it really win here?The Golden Globes are awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press and the BAFTA awards are British, and one would expect a yearning sepia-tone epic like this one to do well with those voters.But look at how ĎAmericaní the other nominees are, and consider how popular tastes are running in this country right now.Itís hard for me to see the Academy going for Atonement over No Country or Blood, or even over Michael Clayton.Thatís what my gut tells me, anyway.Maybe Iím wrong.

 

Juno is a very good little film, and has the distinction of being the only nominee that doesnít make you feel like jumping off a building or drinking yourself into a stupor by the end.That is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the year.... I donít think it will do the trick this time around.

 

 

 

Best Directing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

No Country for Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen

 

Pick:

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel

20%

Juno, Jason Reitman

0%

Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy

10%

No Country for Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen

45%

There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson

25%

 

Conventional wisdom is that the Best Picture winner will usually take this one as well, and that seems even more likely when youíre talking about Ďauteurí films that are written and directed by a single person--or, as in the case of the Coens, a creative partnership.The three top contenders for Best Picture all fall into that category, although two of the screenplays are adapted rather than original.No matter, Iím guessing that conventional wisdom will hold this year.Since Iím predicting No Country for Old Men will win Best Picture, I will also give the Coen brothers the win in Directing.If Blood wins the top category, it will probably win this one.However....if Michael Clayton were to win Best Picture, things would get a little more interesting.No slight intended to Tony Gilroy, of course, but I just donít think heíll win here, even if his film manages to pull off a win in the top category.

 

Instead, if that happens, we might well see the Coens take this one anyway.I think everyone recognizes that the Coens, who were already a brilliant filmmaking team, have just stepped up their game a notch, making a film that really transcends a lot of the criticism that has dogged them throughout their careeróthat they seem to patronize their characters or talk down to their viewers, that they put style over substance and quirkiness over character development and cleverness over heart, etc.In No Country, they seem to have made a film for the ages, and many voters will want to honor them for it.So they probably take away a big chunk of Gilroyís chances here.

 

But then so does Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell & the Butterfly.He looks like a dark horse, but I see him as a having a realistic shot at it. Heís my personal pick, for the extraordinary visual and cinematic experience he creates in The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, a movie that is as aesthetically challenging and satisfying as anything I saw onscreen during the year.Schnabel, as you may know, was a high-profile neo-expressionist painter long before tackling film, but with just three movies to his credit (1996ís Basquiat, 2000ís Before Night Falls, and the current nominee) he has already established himself as an essential contemporary filmmaker with a unique and powerful vision.They booted Atonement out of this category to make room for Golden Globe-winning Schnabel, so he clearly has support in the Academy.If enough voters have seen Diving Bell, and enough of the votes are divided between the Coens and P.T. Anderson, then Schnabel could pull it off.Iím not putting money on him...but I wouldnít bet too much against him, either.

 

I donít like giving a 0% likelihood to any nominee in any category.But really, is there any chance whatsoever that Jason Reitman will win for Juno considering the strength of this field?I genuinely do like the movie, but if he takes home the award then itís clearly time for me to retire from the cinecist business.

 

 

 

Best Actor

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

 

Pick:

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

George Clooney, Michael Clayton

15%

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

70%

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd

5%

Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah

5%

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

5%

 

I suppose if it were revealed before the ballots were completed that Daniel Day-Lewis is a pedophile or a serial rapist, then he might not win the Oscar for his lacerating performance as an insanely driven and profoundly corrupted oil tycoon.Short of that, though, itís hard to see what else might prevent it.Sure, some people think he just went too far over the top (ďI...drink...your...MILKSHAKE!!!!Ē), but when has that ever stopped the Academy before? ( Hint: never.)No, I think this is about as close to a lock as we get in Oscarland, and I will be shocked if Day-Lewis doesnít take this one home.And he deserves to.He went way out on a limb (think Brando or young Nick Cage) to deliver a howling performance that, if uncomfortably melodramatic at times, still seemed to be gushing up uncontrollably out of the depths of a very black soul like...well, like oil gushing up out of well, I guess.This will go down in cinematic history as one of the great loony performances of all time.

 

Is it really so impossible to imagine someone else winning this category?Not impossible, perhaps, just very difficult.The best bet would be Clooney, who truly did give an excellent performance as a world-weary lawyer-turned-ďfixerĒ in Michael Clayton.In another year, without Day-Lewis in the race, Clooney would likely be the clear front-runner.This year, heíll have to settle for dark horse status.The other nominees will have to settle for even less than that.

 

 

 

Best Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Julie Christie, Away from Her

 

Pick:

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

5%

Julie Christie, Away from Her

33%

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

27%

Laura Linney, The Savages

5%

Ellen Page, Juno

30%

 

There are a couple of ways of looking at this one.If we take the more traditional view, we have to see Julie Christie as the front-runner:Lovely performance in a heartbreaking film, respected actress with a career of quality work, several nominations and one win already under her belt, strong buzz from the first release of the film, several pre-Oscar awards already in the bag, etc.This is old-school Oscar favorite stuff.But then thereís another perspective from which Junoís Ellen Page looks like the front-runner:Sheís young and smart and sassy (or at least thatís the role sheís nominated for) and she carries on her very capable shoulders a movie that has taken the country by storm to become a commercial hit and a favorite among teens, hip adults, and even musty old critics who like to be shaken up.In many ways, she is Americaís favorite actress at the moment, and sheís nominated for an Academy Award.Doesnít that make her the favorite?

 

Iím really not sure what the answer is.And itís further complicated by the presence of Marion Cotillard, who would herself be the front-runner if La Vie en Rose werenít in French and more people had seen it.I personally pick Cotillard, whose vivid embodiment of the strange, fragile power of legendary singer Edith Piaf is so complete and definitive that it has already become semi-legendary in its own right.Itís a performance that deserves to be seen, deserves its spot on this listóand in fact deserves to win.But its actual place in the race is, I think, a very close third behind Christie and Page, who will slug it out for the top prize.Cotillard could be a spoiler, though, siphoning off enough votes from ďserious votersĒ to put Page in the lead.Will that happen?In the end, I donít quite think so.I think Christie will take home the prize and Page will have to wait for another chance, which hopefully wonít be too long in coming.But my confidence this prediction is low.... I wonít be at all surprised if any of these three is the winner.

 

Laura Linney and the dreamy Cate Blanchett, both fine actresses, are stuck in the bleachers for this one.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

 

 

Pick:

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

10%

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

65%

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilsonís War

10%

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild

5%

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

10%

 

Another very strong favorite, Bardem is probably as unstoppable in this category as his Terminator-with-a-bowl-cut character in No Country is in his pursuit of his targets.Itís a spectacularly creepy and completely indelible performance, combining a crazy-eyed thousand-yard stare, a frighteningly sharp mind, and a seemingly incongruous sense of honor to give us Anton Chigurh, a murderous villain as iconic as Hannibal Lecter and about three times as complex, without any of the histrionics.Chigurh is, as the late Det. Bobby Simone might have said, ďa cold piece of business.ĒAnd Bardem brings him to weird and wonderful life, for which he should and will win the Oscar.

 

Probably.Could Tom Wilkinson possibly stage an upset with his pitch-perfect work in Michael Clayton as a high-powered civil defense attorney driven to batty self-loathing by a career of helping large corporations do the wrong thing with impunity?Could rising star Casey Affleckís star actually rise enough to land him on the podium for Jesse James, with the help of his un-nominated but much-lauded turn in Gone Baby Gone?Could former winner and arguably-greatest-American-screen-actor-under-50 Phillip Seymour Hoffman nab another statuette, with the help of his un-nominated but much-lauded turns in both The Savages and Before the Devel Knows Youíre Dead?None of these outcomes is impossible, but all seem about equally unlikely.Alas, itís even harder to picture the venerable Hal Holbrook having any sort of chance against Bardem.

 

Actually, the actor with the best shot against Bardem would have been Robert Downey, Jr. for his superb work in Zodiac--had the Academy seen fit to extract their heads from their backsides long enough to actually nominate him.In a career packed full of great, charismatic performances, this one was clearly among Downeyís very best.I realize that Zodiac was early in the year and the Academy has a short attention span, but even a cursory review of the yearís performances should have been enough to convince anyone that Downey deserved a spot on this list.Maybe he could have even given Bardem a run for his money.... No, actually, he couldnít have.But still, he should have been nominated.

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Cate Blanchett, Iím Not There

 

Pick:

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Cate Blanchett, Iím Not There

35%

Ruby Dee, American Gangster

26%

Saoirse Ronan, Atonement

5%

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone

10%

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

24%

 

One wouldnít really expect Ruby Dee to be at the top of the pack here, but her SAG Award win a few weeks back would seem to have catapulted her to the front of the race.Before that, I would have put Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Amy Ryan in the top spots.But now we have to work Dee into the equation....

 

The fact is that the SAG is still a very good Oscar predictor, and we canít just dismiss it.But itís hard for me to see Ruby Dee as the front-runner.I think Cate Blanchettís popularity in Hollywood, as evidenced by her regular nominationsóincluding her other nomination this year in the lead actress categoryówill serve her well here.She has earned a lot of accolades in a challenging, quirky role (playing a young Bob Dylan, kind of) that not many would have expected her to tackle, and I think sheíll get respect for that.The Academy has repeatedly shown that it doesnít mind throwing us a curveball in this category, so Iím going to go out on a limb and predict thatís exactly what will happen this year.However, if Blanchett doesnít win, Iíll fall back on convention and predict a win for Ruby Dee.Tilda Swinton is my personal pick for her panicked portrayal of the compromises and contradictions of corporate power-lust in Michael Clayton, and I would put her a close third behind Dee.Amy Ryan isnít completely out of the running, but her chances donít look good.Little Saoirse Ronan will have to accept the nomination itself as the reward for her fine work in Atonement, but Iím guessing that will be plenty to get her some plum roles in the next few years.

 

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Juno, Diablo Cody

 

Pick:

Juno, Diablo Cody

Juno, Diablo Cody

60%

Lars and the Real Girl, Nancy Oliver

5%

Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy

20%

Ratatouille, Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco

10%

The Savages, Tamara Jenkins

5%

 

Diablo Cody seems to be from the Kevin Smith school of screenwriting.Her screenplay for Juno is, yes, annoyingly arch at times, requiring supposedly normal folk to spew a profusion of self-conscious, super-saturated cleverness and irony and up-to-the-second (or invented-on-the-spot) slang that can be as exhausting to listen to as it must have been for the actors to say.But isnít it nice when the major complaint about a script is that is does too much, rather than that it doesnít do enough?For all its flaws, this is still a great and colorful piece of writing, and it does eventually find a comfortable rhythm to settle into that is easier on the ears but still constantly pricking at the intellectóand the heart.

 

The quality of the work, combined with the overwhelming popularity of and affection for Juno, would seem to give it an almost insurmountable advantage.As I never tire of pointing out, the Academy likes to use this category as the consolation prize for a hip, original movie that it really loves, but that it canít quite give the Best Picture award to.We have a textbook case of that this year, and Iíll be quite surprised if Juno doesnít take this one.

 

If there is another contender, it would be Michael Clayton, which has been honored with seven nominations this year but canít be favored to win any of them.[If you would like to be mildly impressed, click here to see Roger Ebert name-drop your favorite cinecist in an online discussion of the Michael Clayton screenplay.] This category is the Academyís best chance to throw a bone to a movie that they clearly like very much, so maybe they will give it the prize as a matter of conscience....but I doubt it.Thereís an even slimmer chance they will honor the beloved and exceedingly clever Ratatouille, but it is still within the realm of the possible.

 

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

No Country for Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen

 

 

Pick:

No Country for Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen

Atonement, Christopher Hampton

15%

Away from Her, Sarah Polley

5%

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Ronald Harwood

10%

No Country for Old Men, Joel & Ethan Coen

45%

There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson

25%

 

Another win for the Coenís seems likely here, for delivering a thoughtful and poetic adaptation of Cormac McCarthyís novel.I havenít read the book, and I imagine this adaptation hews to it pretty closely in its themes and language; but it still must be a fearsome challenge to take any novel of several hundred pages and turn it into a two-hour screenplay without losing virtually everything valuable in it.Whatever the Coens omitted or added, they ended up producing a clean, elegantly sad meditation on the loss of old norms and the horror of things to come.It deserves to win, and I think it will.

 

If it doesnít, the next most likely winner is P.T. Anderson for There Will Be Blood, which takes a very different approach to adaptation by selecting chunks of Upton Sinclairís Oil!, some biographical information about a real oil baron, and his own aesthetic vision and moral preoccupations, and stirs them up into a messy and volatile thematic stew.The resulting screenplay isnít clean like the Coensí, but it does find about a hundred different ways to impress.If Blood wins Best Picture, look for a win here, too.Atonement also has an outside chance, being the most overtly literary of all the nominees; again, the Academy might look at a win here as a consolation prize to make up for ignoring the movie in other categories.

 

 

 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Ratatouille

Pick:

None

Persepolis

15%

Ratatouille
85%

Surfís Up

0%

 

I havenít seen any of the nominees yet, as usual, so I donít have a personal pick.But I think we have a foregone conclusion here.Persepolis has enjoyed an extremely positive critical reception, and is certainly the more serious-minded and socially topical nominee; but Ratatouille remains the overwhelming favorite.When an animated film is a box office smash and shows up on so many serious criticsí top-ten list, it would be very unwise to bet against its winning here.

 

Could Persepolis stage an upset, if all the stars lined up correctly?I suppose...though itís hard for me to even figure out under exactly what circumstances it could happen. Iíll leave open the possibility, because this is still a pretty new category for the Academy and there might be trends or patterns that we just havenít identified yet.

 

But seriously, if youíre playing the office Oscar pool, put your money on Ratatouille.

 

 

 

 

Best Art Direction

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Sweeney Todd

 

Pick:

There Will Be Blood

American Gangster

Atonement

The Golden Compass

Sweeney Todd

There Will Be Blood

 

At first glance, Sweeny Todd should win this one handily.The team of Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo have lots of nominations behind them, including a win for The Aviator.And, as with most of Tim Burtonís movies, the impressive art direction is actually the star of the film, Johnny Deppís warblings aside.

 

Potentially standing in the way of an easy win, though, are the extravagant gore and relentlessly depressing, disgusting story of Sweeney Todd.From a certain vantage point, itís basically a ruthless slasher film dressed up with high production values and some well-written songs.Everyone who likes this movie seems to like it from a critical distance, including me.For what it is, it probably couldnít have been done any better; but itís not the sort of thing you can really get behind with your whole heart.Can you truly love a film that fetishizes shiny razor blades, repeatedly spurts torrents of orange-ish blood over mildewy walls, and makes hungry children eat pies made of human flesh?Will the Academy be comfortable rewarding such a vision?Maybe--Iím still predicting a win for Todd.But there certainly seems to be enough there to give them pause.

 

There are a couple of viable alternatives.Atonement is the most respectable of the nominees, with the classic Oscar patina all over it.The art direction team was nominated once before for Pride and Prejudice.There is also an argument to be made for There Will Be Blood, which is my personal pick.This movie might have the same thematic obsession with blood that Sweeney Todd has, but itís much less unseemly about it, preferring the metaphor of blood to the fluid itself.I love the way the film brings the land to life:dark and harsh and elemental, with inhabitants subsisting on seemingly barren frontiers that are still waiting to give rise to...something.Everything about this land and this world is saturated with brutishness and potentialóboth unlimitedóand the art direction captures that perfectly.If Blood can put together a couple more awards besides the obvious one for Daniel Day-Lewis, then it could well take this one, too.

 

 

 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Prediction:

There Will Be Blood

Pick:

There Will Be Blood

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Roger Deakins

Atonement, Seamus McGarvey

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, Janusz Kaminski

No Country for Old Men, Roger Deakins

There Will Be Blood, Robert Elswit

 

This is actually an extremely tough category to predict this year.The obvious choice would be Roger Deakins for No Country for Old Men, given his history of nominations and wins, including showing up twice on this listóand given the fact that No Country is the favorite for Best Picture.†† But what if Deakinsí double nomination splits his votes?Itís really not hard to see any of the other three nominees winning this one.There Will Be Blood is a thrilling visual experience, skillfully playing small, dark chamber pieces against vast, sun-hardened landscapes.It gets my vote, and if it manages to take Best Picture, I would make it the odds-on favorite to win this category as well.The Diving Bell & the Butterfly also stands a very real chance for its kinetic perspective shots and endlessly inventive compositions.Atonement, for itís part, is solidly shot throughout, with a few stunning tracking shots that place it squarely in the race.

 

So...?Iíll actually go a bit against the flow here predict a narrow win for Blood, based mostly on my gut.But No Country is very, very close behind, and the others are all bunched up in a tie for third.

 

In other words, I really have no idea.

 

 

 

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

 

Pick:

Sweeney Todd

Across the Universe

Atonement

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

La Vie en Rose

Sweeney Todd

 

It looks to me like the race is between two oft-nominated veterans, Colleen Atwood for Sweeney Todd and Alexandra Byrne for Elizabeth.Atwood has a couple of wins under her belt already, but that doesnít make this any easier to call.Both are period pieces, and while I would have said the original Elizabeth (in 1998) had an edge because it was more grounded in historical reality, my sense (from trailers and reviews only) is that the second installment rather went off the deep end in that regard, embracing campy melodrama with both gloved, lace-cuffed hands.So that argument might not hold anymore.But Iíll still predict a win for Elizabeth, the QEI era seeming to be the more fertile context within which to practice the full range of the costumerís art.

 

 

 

Best Makeup

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Norbit

Pick:

La Vie en Rose

La Vie en Rose

Norbit

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worldís End

 

I have an awful feeling that Norbit is going to win this one.I understand that we must recognize and reward technical excellence wherever we find it, and that we shouldnít look down our noses at good craftsmanship just because we donít like the final product upon which it was employed.But at the same time...Norbit?!!There must be some loophole in our ethical obligation to judge fairly and impartially that would allow us to immediately dismiss from Oscar consideration any Eddie Murphy vehicle that depends for Ďlaughsí on dressing up one or more cast members in fat suits, regardless of how impressively realistic those fat suits might be.Alas, I fear we are not to be let off the hook so easily.And damn Rick Bakeróthe undisputed king of special effects critter makeupófor involving himself in the film, forcing the Academy to consider honoring such a piece of garbage and requiring all of us to contemplate with horror the phrase ďAcademy Award-winning comedy Norbit

 

So yes, Iím predicting a win for Norbit.But I refuse to name it my pick.Instead, Iíll go with...La Vie en Rose.Or the other one.Just not Norbit.

 

 

 

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

The Bourne Ultimatum

 

Pick:

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

Into the Wild

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood

 

All the nominees here are first or second-timers, so there are no immediately obvious favorites.Sometimes this category is just a pile-on for the Best Picture winner, and that could happen here, with this award going to either No Country or Blood, whichever takes the big prize.Sometimes it goes to the technically excellent action film, which would make Bourne Ultimatum the one to beat.Or maybe itís the visually experimental Diving Bell that will get the honor.While the latter scenario would make me happy (editing being a major part of Diving Bellís restless, evocative storytelling method) I think itís slightly less likely than the former scenarios.Into the Wild wouldnít seem to be much of a factor at all, having been snubbed in so many other categories.

 

Iíll predict the Bourne Ultimatum, this being the second year in a row editor Christopher Rouse has been nominated for his work on a Paul Greengrass film (it was United 93 last year).But itís a close race with Roderick Jaynes for No CountryóJaynes being a pseudonym for, you guessed it, the Coen brothers themselves.And Blood is still in the running, as is Diving Bell.

 

 

 

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

Prediction:

Transformers

Pick:

None

The Golden Compass

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worldís End

Transformers

 

As is often the case, I didnít see any of the nominees in this category.Just look at the titles and youíll understand, I think, why the nominees in Visual Effects rarely make it to the top of my must-see list.That being said, all I ever heard about Transformers, repeatedly, was that the effects were really great.So Iíll just trust that and call it a day.

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

 

 

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

3:10 to Yuma

 

Pick:

No Country for Old Men

The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men

Ratatouille

3:10 to Yuma
Transformers

 

Something tells me I should predict a win for 3:10 to Yuma here.Why else would it show up out of nowhere as a nominee in this category, unless it were good enough to win it?I realize this logic is flawed, or at least unreliable.No Country could win here (it certainly sounded good to me), especially if it wins Best Picture, and either Bourne or Transformers would also seem to be perfectly viable candidates.But I have a hunch about Yuma, and I think Iím going to follow it and predict a win.

 


Best Sound Editing

Nominees:

Prediction:

Transformers

Pick:

???

The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men
Ratatouille
There Will Be Blood
Transformers

 

This one seems pretty tough this year, so I have no choice but to default to my standard method for picking a winner in this category:the nominee with the most explosions.That would make Transformers the winner by a considerable margin.

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Best Original Score

Nominees:

Prediction:

Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard

 

Pick:

There Will Be Blood, Jonny Greenwood (cheat!)

Atonement, Dario Marianelli

The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias

Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard

Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino

3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami

 

Seven-time nominee James Newton Howard goes up against a bunch of neophytes here, and my guess is that heíll prevail.I donít actually recall the scores of any of these films (the ones I saw anyway), so a personal pick is a little tough.I think Iíll cheat and pick the un-nominated There Will Be Blood.The spare, jagged score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood was more like sound effects than music, and maybe thatís why it wasnít nominated; but it should have been, for bringing such a raw-nerve edginess to the proceedings of the film.

 

 

 

Best Original Song

Nominees:

Prediction:

ďFalling SlowlyĒ from Once

 

Pick:

ďFalling SlowlyĒ from Once

ďFalling SlowlyĒ from Once (Glen Hansard / Marketa Irglova)

ďHappy Working SongĒ from Enchanted (Alan Menken / Stephen Schwartz)

ďRaise It UpĒ from August Rush (Jamal Joseph / Charles Mack / Tevin Thomas)

ďSo CloseĒ from Enchanted (Alan Menken / Stephen Schwartz)

ďThatís How You KnowĒ from Enchanted (Alan Menken / Stephen Schwartz)

 

For the second year in a row, three of the nominated songs are from the same movie.Really, now, canít we mix things up just a bit?However, in spite of what appears to be a stacked deck, and with no disrespect to Alan Menken, Iím actually going to predict that none of the songs from Enchanted will win.It wasnít a blockbuster like last yearís Dreamgirls, and I suspect the three nominated songs are all going to split their votes, leaving as an unexpected victor the actual best song here:ďFalling SlowlyĒ from Once.

 

If you havenít seen Once, which you almost surely havenít, please take my advice and rent it right away.Itís an absolute charmer, a semi-musical about a couple of musicians who start playing together and then kind of fall for each other, though itís not really as simple as that.Whatís best about it is that the actors playing the musicians are actually musicians (Hansard and Irglova, the nominees here), and they wrote and perform all the songs themselves.Unlike pretty much every other movie ever made about struggling musicians, the music in this one is actually really goodógood enough that you would buy the soundtrack without ever having seen the movie.But do see the movie, I promise youíll like it.

 

 

 

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

No End in Sight

 

Pick:

None

No End in Sight

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

Sicko
Taxi to the Dark Side

War/Dance

 

Again I must abstain from making a personal pick, as I havenít seen any of the nominated documentaries this time.Even with that handicap, though, I feel fairly confident predicting a win for No End in Sight, Charles Fergusonís meticulously researched critique of the Bush administrationís decision processes leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.If that turns out to be a little too politically touchy for the Academy, they will probably fall back on War/Dance, which looks at a group of Ugandan children who participate in a music and dance competition as a means to escape or overcome the terrible circumstances of their lives.

 

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Prediction:

Beaufort

 

Pick:

None

Beaufort (Israel)

The Counterfeiters (Austria)

Katyn (Poland)

Mongol (Kazakhstan)

12 (Russia)

 

Always virtually impossible to predict, the Foreign Language Film category seems to get more confounding as time goes on.How is it that the universally acclaimed The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (French) gets nominated for so many other awards yet fails to get nominated here?How is it that the equally acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania), having won the Palm DíOr at Cannes and a slew of other high-profile awards, is absent here?How is it that I havenít even heard of any of the nominees in this category this year?Admittedly, I donít make it to a lot of foreign films in the course of the year, but I certainly at least hear their names and read a little bit about them.This time, nothing; I might as well throw a dart to make my prediction.So here it is:Beaufort.Why not?