Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Predictions: Pietrini vs. Wilson vs. Pursley vs. Barcus

I’m not sure why I like the Oscars. Much like any sporting event, your favorites and the choices you root for seldom, if ever, win, making it an eternally frustrating experience. But just like sports, it’s a competition, and I can appreciate that. It can be researched, odds can be given, pools are made and there are plenty of pundits to agree with or skewer to the English vocabulary’s limits. Last year, Sean and I made strides at seeing a majority of the nominated films. This year, between Netflix and a rousing commitment to exploring South Bend, I’ve seen even more of the films nominated in non-foreign categories.

I’ll preface this by telling you what films I haven’t seen. Most of the Best Actress nominees were difficult to find, but since they said it was between Reese and Felicity, and I had no chance of seeing Transamera, I didn’t get too worried. I missed Syriana and Memoirs of a Geisha in theaters, although I heard neither was overly impressive, and haven’t taken the time to watch Pride and Prejudice, The Constant Gardener or Cinderella Man on DVD yet. A History of Violence waits on the hard drive, but time is scarce on this drive to midterms.

(I’m going to do my picks first, and then Sean’s. If Sean loses this, I think I’m going to post the picture of him playing Conrad Birdie in his school musical. If I lose, I’ll support Sean in his arguments with Chad for a few days or something. Anna, Sean and I all filled out complete ballots, but I'm not putting them on here because that's a lot of transposing, I'll just reveal the winner. Barcus filled out 3/4's a of a bracket and is now judging Irish Idol, so that's the amount of ballot he will have submitted.)

Best Supporting Actress

Apparently Rachel Weisz locked this thing up months ago, holding together what was a good, yet slightly disappointing Gardener. I’d just like to give a word of support for Catherine Keener, who without the presence of, Capote would have toppled into the narcissistic blackhole that was Truman Capote. Add Keener’s name to the list of performers of the year, as well, because she also played a fantastic role in The 40-Year Old Virgin.

(And all of you reading this just went “Ohhh, so that’s Catherine Keener.)

Michelle Williams is getting a slight push, but this award is Weisz’s to lose

(Weisz was the chick in the Mummy movies, by the way. I like to keep the blog “hip” as well as informative.)

Shoulda Been Nominated

Where to start? Anne Hathaway was the only member of the Brokeback cast to not get nominated, and while she wasn’t in the movie as long as Michelle Williams, but she certainly would have been deserving. Keener could have been nominated for 40-Year Old Virgin as well. I know all she did was scream and act scared, but damn did Dakota Fanning act scared well in War of the Worlds. Thandie Newton could have been nominated for Crash, which got snubbed across the board (Howard, Cheadle) because of its ensemble nature.

And of course, they’re my fiancé, Rachel McAdams. She was perfect in Wedding Crashers, absolutely glowing at all times. You also could say she could have deserved it for The Family Stone, but that’s just my bias showing through.

Want To Win: Catherine Keener
Will Win (Prediction): Rachel Weisz

Best Supporting Actor

Some big names for Supporting Actor, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Giamatti, Matt Dillon and George Clooney all legitimate possibilities. Voters might want to reward Giamatti for the snub he got last year, or perhaps give some love to Dillon, whose representing the entire Crash cast. Clooney might get it because of his three nominations, this is his best chance of winning, and Gyllenhaal might get it if the voters all go on a crazy “Brokeback deserves to win everything” craze.

Sorry, William Hurt, but it’ll take more than ten minutes of screen time to win it with these heavyweights going up against you. I’ll go with the voters rewarding Clooney for his movie getting the least amount of hype, Syriana. I’d like to see Giamatti or Dillon win, too, but my vote will go with another potential Entertainer of the Year.

Shoulda Been Nominated

Again, long list of quality performance. My assertion is that this award shouldn’t count because Michael Caine was not nominated for his work as Alfred in Batman Begins. If you watched Begins and didn’t think Caine was perfect in the role – the mentor, the comic relief, the life instructor, the friend – then you have no heart. But other than Caine, there’s quite a few people that could have been on this list.

Clooney could have just as easily been nominated for his work in Good Night, and Good Luck instead of Syriana. Vince Vaughn was great in Wedding Crashers, and in the oddball nod of the year, I’ll go with Ludacris, who was great in both Crash and Hustle & Flow. The ever versatile, always awesome Anthony Anderson also should have got some love from Hustle. Daniel Craig, your new, muchly loathed, James Bond, for his work in Munich. Clifton Collins, Jr. was also extremely moving in his role as the killer the title character is researching, befriending and using all at the same time in Capote. Notice how much more I enjoy the shoulda beens more than the actual categories themselves.

Want To Win: Matt Dillon or George Clooney
Will Win: Clooney

Best Actress

A race that was thought to be locked up by Reese Witherspoon has gotten interesting in the last week or so as some critics have began to compare Hilary Swank coming from behind to catch Annette Benning as a template for Felicity Huffman’s potential victory this year. No Oscar film has been harder to find than Transameria, so I can’t properly handicap except to say that Reese was picture-perfect in Walk the Line and would be very deserving. Yet, I’m sure the best Desperate Housewife was great as well, and would raise the medium-spanning question of “Has anyone ever won a Best Lead Actor/Actress Emmy and Oscar in a 12-month period?”

The other options are pretty weak – weak enough that EW devoted a feature a few months back on why there weren’t a lot of strong female roles. There’s no doubt the Academy loves Dame Judi Dench, but a win from her would be more of a “Geez…” than “Wow!”. Charlize Theron and Keira Knightley are very lovely longshots, but have no chance this year. Reese and Felicity, Felicity and Reese, and right now it’s the mainstream sweetheart who brought us the Legally Blonde saga slightly ahead of the independent darling married to William H. Macy.

Shoulda Been Nominated

There’s talk of Toni Collette getting snubbed for In Her Shoes, but Suzi Q warned me it was a straight chick flick despite its quality, so I’m staying away….for now. Angelina handled every emotion, along with every action scene, well n Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but nothing Oscar worthy. You also wouldn’t have to twist my arm to give support to Laura Linney for The Squid and the Whale. Like it was previously stated, not a great year for the ladies but there’s one performance that really resonated with me:

Naomi Watts in King Kong. If you hated the movie, you’re moving down the screen or have already X-ed it, but if you enjoyed it, Watts was probably a huge part of it. She made you care about giant CGI monkey, and that alone should be worthy of some kind of honor. Probably the same one they gave to Elijah Wood and Sean Astin for their work with Golum.

Want To Win: Reese or Felicity
Will Win (Prediction): Reese

Best Actor

Five worthy candidates, one heavy favorite.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has won everything and is a heavier favorite in this category than any other predicted winner. Is he deserving of this? Absolutely. Despite the fact the protagonist of Capote is a narcissistic, manipulative, generally unlikable son-of-a-bitch, Hoffman morphs into him. It’s impossible to tell, from beginning to end, whether the late, great author is being honest with the other characters in the movie, us as the audience or even himself, and that can all be attributed to Hoffman’s nuanced performance. If ever a favorite was deserving, it’s Hoffman.

However, that doesn’t make PSH my favorite. No, mine’s a little more ghetto, from a movie that didn’t live up to either its box office or Oscar hype. My pick is Terrence Howard from Hustle and Flow, the anti-hero whose just as unlikable as Truman Capote. He’s a low-level pimp and drug dealer, completely and totally trapped in the life, with his only outlet being the music running through his head. The accent – dammit, that accent – just draws you in, and as he slowly crafts his first record, you’re trapped in his Memphis world. His shining moment is when he “pimps” Ludacris’ Skinny Black, another Memphis rapped whose made it big. I won’t ruin the ending, because it’s a sensational film, but Howard is the heart and soul.

It’s not like the other actors competing wouldn’t be worthy of the gold statue, either. Joaquin Phoenix took on one of the few personas in music that might be more cherished than Ray Charles, and not only did he manage to not embarrass himself, but he shined. Had the release dates of Walk The Line and Ray been switched, Joaquin might have this one in the bag, as A) It wouldn’t have had to get over the amazingly high musical biopic bar set by Jamie Foxx and B) Wouldn’t have been going against the stream roller known as Philip Seymour Hoffman. Great performance, but bad timing.

Heath Ledger was also a compelling lead in Brokeback, playing the reluctant, yet totally committed, gay sheepherder. He’s paradoxical, trying to make improvements for his family while refusing to move beyond his life as a common ranch hand. It’s the purity and depth of his love for Jack, combined with the overwhelming shame he feels for that love, which both drives and debilitates Enis Del Mar. It’s that division inside him that’s one of the major themes of the film.

I read one reviewer, whose name escapes me now, that described David Strathairn’s performance in Good Night, and Good Luck as a revelation. He was superb as newsman Edward R. Murrow, fearless, driven and with a dry wit that came out of nowhere. I can’t remember seeing Strathairn in anything else, so it’s hard to say just how far he is stretching, but he played a perfect Murrow, and was the hero of a timeless, or at least perfectly relevant for our day and age, story.

So I wouldn’t – nor should anyone – be upset by any of these gentlemen winning, but it’ll take a Hollywood miracle for someone other than Hoffman to win the trophy. I have nothing against the man, but I’d like to see him lose, just for the meltdown Sean would have. It would be like when Sasha Cohem fell, only exponentially raised in number of raptor screams.

Shoulda Been Nominated:

I always hate it when nominees or all-star teams are selected and people talk about who got snubbed without saying whose spot that snubee should be taking. I think that the two men most capable of taking any of the nominee’s spot would be Steve Carrell for 40-Year Old Virgin and Eric Bana for Munich. Other critics might go crazy at a comic film – for shame! – being nominated with the word “virgin” in the title, but Carrell was awesome. I thought Bana’s performance was also great, minus the weird “Sexing Out Stress, Mixed With Flashbacks” scenes, but I think that falls more on the movie as a whole than Bana.

Other names that jump out at me, albeit to a much lesser degree, are Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale, Christian Bale in Batman Begins and Don Cheadle in Crash (not listed with Carrell/Bana because of the ensemble nature), Daniel Craig in Layer Cake and Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Want to Win/Should Win: Howard
Will Win: Hoffman

Best Picture

First, I just want to discount Munich, because despite the fact the ambiguity of the narrative is one of the main messages it’s trying to convey, the movie itself just feels a little rushed. I’m not sure anyone saw it and said “Wow, Best Picture nominee right there!”, which can be said about the other four movies nominated. I thought Munich was a solid movie, but not the caliber of its competitors, or even a few films left off of the ballot.

The heavy favorite is Brokeback Mountain, which was a great movie and would be deserving, but here are my problems with it being so heavily favored:

A) If it wasn’t a gay love story, and was just a love story, would it be getting nearly this much attention? Maybe that’s part of the point of it, but liberal Hollywood sure is making a big deal about a movie with gay people in it when a lot of movies have gay couples in them.
B) It’s also getting a lot of love for its cinematography, which was great, but nothing you couldn’t see in any Western. Maybe I look at it differently than the Southerners and Indianans who are just on flat land, but hills and mountains aren’t that crazy awesome.

Brokeback also is fighting its own hype, as Academy voters go into their screening of it thinking “Man, this movie is going to be the best thing ever”, and even if it’s really good, if they don’t feel it’s the best thing ever, they aren’t going to vote for it.

Crash is quickly closing in, and I think it might have the steam to overtake it. Its main obstacle is that it premiered way back in May, but even back then, Livey and I were astounded by the quality of it. Fantastic ensemble cast, heavy drama, maybe a little too message-filled and hopeless, but a quality film nonetheless, and again, definitely worthy of Best Picture.

Captoe was really good, but I look at it as this year’s Ray, although it was a better film than Ray. I think the fact Hoffman has pretty much been given the award already means they won’t too heavily reward it. Plus, it’s a pretty depressing film, and as previously stated, Capote is a really hateable fellow. I think DJay in Hustle & Flow has more redeeming qualities than how the author is portrayed, and he’s a pimp.

But again, my favorite is the film not getting that much attention. 90-minutes long, but beautifully, carefully, painstakingly crafted to deliver a message so relevant to our time. Good Night, and Good Luck swept me away, despite knowing how the story ended. As stated before, Strathairn and Clooney, were both great, but so was the rest of the cast, which featured a few heavy-hitters. Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper!!!) all were involved in the assault of Senator McCarthy. It was a perfect allegory and lesson for the terrorist search of the 21st century, and if this movie starts picking up awards and Jon Stewart gets on a roll, the Oscars presentation could turn anti-Bush very, very quickly.

So I’d be fine with either Brokeback or Crash winning, but I’m in love with Good Night, and Good Luck. It’s probably too short for the Academy, but I don’t care. Succinct and poignant are two qualities to admire in any form of art, and this is definitely both of those.

Shoulda Been Nominated

How Walk The Line didn’t get nominated is beyond me. If you take away the Elvis parts – which are all true, but just awkward – the film is near perfect. Again, probably suffering from a bit of Ray hangover, but any movie that has a legitimate shot at Best Actor and Best Actress should at least be nominated for Best Picture.

I’ve stated before that Batman Begins and The 40-Year Old Virgin should be nominated, but got slighted because of their genres. Begins went the way of Spiderman 2, as the Academy is unwilling to believe a summer blockbuster can also be a well-crafted film. However, Begins did get nominated for Cinematography, which for technical categories is pretty high up there, and a nice little reward in its own right. Virgin just got set as another Old School-type comedy and was kicked to the curb, which is a shame, because it’s a great comedy, but also a great movie overall.

Want To Win/Should Win: Good Night, and Good Luck
Will Win (Prediction): Crash

(Oh, and for the record, I think Jon Stewart is going to kill at host. He’s good in his Daily Show interview segments because he acts, or very much is, in awe of many of the people that cross his path. Combine that with his comic genius and improv skills, and this is over.)


And now, Sean’s picks for the big categories. We're both taking Ang Lee for director, and at least I'm rooting thoroughly against it happening:

Best Picture:

My First Choice: Brokeback Mountain

Beautiful and tragic to the core, Brokeback blazes a precarious trail while holding fast to all the essential elements of a classic love story and a true-blue Oscar darling worthy of the top prize. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner.

My Second Choice: Capote

A seamless film, intense and small in scope, crafted with tremendous discipline and impeccably animated by Hoffman, Keener, and crew.

Who Will Win: Brokeback Mountain

Best Actor

My First Choice: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Mr. Hoffman will be heading into Oscar Night 2006 backed by a host of accolades and an unwavering, fanatical endorsement from yours truly, thanks to his superlative portrayal of author/conniving narcissist Truman Capote. In the mold of enigmatic character legends like Hannibal Lecter and Vito Corleone, Hoffman’s Capote enthralls the viewer with his nuanced eccentricity, even in spite of (and perhaps because of) his detachedness from popular experience. Please mark my words: Should the Academy somehow see fit to pass him over in favor of, say, Joaquin Phoenix or (heaven forbid) Terrence Howard, I will in turn see fit to abduct the Dillon freshman whom we affectionately call “Lion-Fish” and strike him repeatedly with a small framing hammer.

My Second Choice: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

Mr. Ledger certainly caught us all off guard with his affecting turn as homosexual sheep-herd Ennis Del Mar, but he’ll have to do more than that to contend with the likes of the Hoff-Man.

Who Will Win: Hoffman

Best Actress

My First Choice: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

Ms. Huffman is perhaps the most likable actress in Hollywood today, and after her endearing, surprisingly accessible performance as Bree the transsexual (does that sound insensitive?), she deserves to be recognized as one of the most talented as well.

My Second Choice: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

You’d be hard-pressed not to fall in love with Ms. Witherspoon’s June Carter, the bona fide heart and soul of an otherwise unremarkable biopic. Her knack for singing country is also nothing short of extraordinary.

Who Will Win: Witherspoon

Best Supporting Actor:

My First Choice: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

Mr. Giamatti has felt more than his fair share of snubs from the Academy in recent years, and it’s high time these inequities be rectified. His turn as boxing manager Joe Gould is not his strongest performance (that came last year in Sideways), but it is most certainly good enough. And besides, I don’t really care: he had better win, or else… (“Lion-Fish” could be in for a tough night.)

My Second Choice: William Hurt, A History of Violence

Mr. Hurt made good use of his ten minutes on screen in A History of Violence, delivering a dynamic, explosive performance as hot-headed mobster Richie Cusack. A four-time nominee, he stands no chance of winning in this field of more substantial, career-defining performances, but I’ve always held a soft spot in my heart for convincing movie Mafiosi, and this is about as convincing as they come.

Who Will Win: George Cloony, Syriana

Best Supporting Actress:

My First Choice: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

Most would agree that Ms. Weisz outshone co-star Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener, and as anyone who’s seen Schindler’s List or The English Patient can confirm, that takes some doing.

My Second Choice: Catherine Keener, Capote

As novelist Harper Lee, Ms. Keener masterfully plays the part of Capote’s quiet, unassuming antithesis—and the viewer’s only relief from his overwhelming, all-consuming egotism.

Who Will Win: Weisz


For Barcus and Anna's major categories, he went with Hoffman, Dillon, Witherspoon, Williams, Brokeback and Ang Lee while she went with Ledger, Clooney, Witherspoon, Weisz, Crash and Lee. Anna and I are living or dying with the major categories together, and of course, for the technical ones, it's a crapshoot.

Happy Oscaring.

Posting again Tuesday night, as the next two days would be the definition of hell.

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