Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oscar 2008

Now that it looks like there is going to be a deal in place to end the writer's strike, some of TV's biggest shows can get back to work. It also means that we will get a real Academy Awards show, not something like the train wreck that passed for the People's Choice Awards this year.

I think I have an annual tradition of picking the big six Oscar categories. And if I don't, then I am going to start one - now.

So far this year I have seen four of the five Best Picture nominees and I plan on watching "Juno" before the show, so at least I should be prepared. Of course, given the numerous travesties the Academy has betrayed on us over the years ("Forrest Gump" over "The Shawshank Redemption" in 1994, "Titanic" over "L.A. Confidential" in 1997, "Shakespeare in Love" over "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, and "Gladiator" over "Traffic" in 2000), that really doesn't mean much.

(Oh, and while I am here, can I just take a minute to say that I hope that Allan Carr is rotting in hell for ruining all awards shows. In 1989, Carr, a successful Broadway producer, was hired to produce the 61st Academy Awards. This show is widely regarded as one of the worst in Academy history. Among other things (such as Rob Lowe singing a duet of "Proud Mary" with an actress portraying Snow White), Carr decided that the fragile egos of Hollywood stars couldn't handle the logical implications of the phrase "And the winner is..." He changed the phrasing to "And the Oscar goes to..." For some inexplicable reason, the phrasing not only stuck, it spread so that now the standard phrasing for ALL awards shows is "And the _____ goes to..." and I hate it. So thanks, Allan Carr, you douche.)

Best Supporting Actress - Ruby Dee, "American Ganster". Even though she was barely in the movie and doesn't deserve the nomination in my opinion, I think Ruby Dee will win by process of elimination. I haven't seen it but I reckon her strongest competition is Cate Blanchett ("I'm Not There", the Dylan biopic) but Blanchett is a double-nominee (Best Actress, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" ) and a very recent winner for "The Aviator". Tilda Swinton is in less of "Michael Clayton" than Ruby Dee is in "American Gangster", and her performance is hardly compelling - especially next to her male co-stars. Saoirse Ronan from "Atonement" is probably the one bright spot of that dreadful two hours and ten minutes, but is too young to win. My dark horse in this category is Amy Ryan from the vastly underrated "Gone, Baby Gone".

Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men". This one is no real contest. If you are going to make a bet, bet the farm on Bardem. "No Country for Old Men" is a fine film and he's the best thing in it as the other-worldy killer, Anton Chigurh. Bardem's main competition is from Casey Affleck who plays Robert Ford in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". I don't think there is much point in discussing the rest of the field. The winner should be one of these two men.

("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" didn't get that much buzz and it's a shame. It's a bit long at 2 hours and 37 minutes, but a highly compelling film that is told in the style of a Ken Burns film with gorgeous cinematography from Best Cinematography favorite - for "James" or "No Country for Old Men" - Roger Deakins.)

Best Actress - Julie Christie, "Away from Her". Christie's lone Oscar win came 42 years ago (for a film of which I have never heard, "Darling") and I hear she is very good in this. I think Cate Blanchett, nominated for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age", suffers twice for being a double-nominee and her recent win. (That and the simple fact that "The Golden Age" isn't as good as "Elizabeth".) Ellen Page from "Juno" is in the "It's-An-Honor-Just-Being-Nominated" club. I don't think anyone saw Laura Linney in "The Savages" but she's usually good in about everything she does. I think the dark horse here is Marion Cotillard for the Edith Piaf biopic, "La Vie En Rose".

Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood". I saw this movie and I didn't like it. Once again, Paul Thomas Anderson has made a compelling, artful film about characters that I couldn't give two flying f*cks about. Daniel Day-Lewis' character in "Blood" is a complete shit. I just didn't get it at all. George Clooney is very watchable in "Michael Clayton" but, again, he has a recent win. I get the sense Johnny Depp will win an Oscar one day, but not for "Sweeney Todd". I don't think anyone saw either Tommy Lee Jones in "In The Valley Of Elah" or Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises".

Best Director - Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country For Old Men". Since I think "No Country For Old Men" will win Best Picture, I think the Coens should win this award for this addition to their already considerable pantheon. I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a immense talent with no direction and sense of what makes a good story. He's like an uber-precocious three-year old behind the wheel of a Mack truck.

Best Picture - "No Country for Old Men". I didn't get "There Will Be Blood". I thought "Atonement" sucked. "Michael Clayton" was a taut, watchable legal thriller, but didn't quite hit a home run with me. I haven't seen "Juno" yet but I can't imagine I will like it more than "No Country For Old Men". I just read the book last month and really enjoyed this dark tale from the border of one unlucky guy who stumbles across the remains of a drug deal gone wrong. The movie, in the more than capable hands of the Coen brothers, does not disappoint either. Far from it!

Well, there are my picks. I will be back after the show to see how I did.

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