Saturday, February 23, 2008

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Your 2008 Oscar predictions!!

The Oscars are upon us yet again, and yet the writers strike deprived us of all the pre-Oscar campaigns by the various nominees. In other words, it's the best of both worlds!! And what better way to provide this blog's sixth (!!) annual Oscar predictions!!

Except the nominated movies are mostly downers. You know you're looking at a depressing set of films when the conclusion to Michael Clayton ranks as one of the happier on-screen endings among the Best Picture noms.

The pressure is on your humble blogger -- I got absolutely creamed last year, a fact that the Official Blog Wife has lorded over me for quite some time now. This time, it's personal.

OK, same rules as always -- predictions of who will win followed by who should win. Once again, I'm pleasantly surprised that the wife and I got to see many of the top-nominated films:

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Should win: Chris Cooper, Breach

Bardem and Daniel-Day Lewis are vying for the Official Mortal Lock this year, and he gives a great performance. But I'm truly flummoxed why Breach got no love from the Oscars. If the film had been released in October instead of February, it would have earned a slew of them -- and none more deserving than Cooper's portrayal of the bewildering Robert Hanssen.

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Should win: Jennifer Garner, Juno

Chicks playing dudes + Blanchett's ability to mimic anything and anyone = Oscar love as a general rule. However, Garner pulls off an astonishing turn in Juno. When you first see her, she seems like your stereotypical uptight yuppie professional. As the movie progresses, however, Garner is able -- sometimes with little more than a widening of her eyes -- to show the very valid reasons for her outer shell. In a movie filled with dead-on characterizations, it was Garner's character that provided the most surprising and yet thoroughly believable arc.

Best Actor
Will win: Daniel-Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Should win: Anyone but Daniel-Day Lewis Matt Damon, The Bourne Ultimatum.

Cards on the table -- I loathed There Will Be Blood . [See the Boston Globe's Ty Burr for a defense of the movie] I've had it up to here with Paul Thomas Anderson movies that hint at interesting themes before taking the most obvious metaphor and whacking you on the head repeatedly until you "get" it (also, I find it interesting that Anderson's film scores are always praised. As a general rule I find that when critics praise the soundtrack, it's because the director is going all Brechtian and making things obvious to the movie-goer. It's the ultimate backhanded compliment of the director. Contrast the overbearing music of There Will Be Blood with the silence of No Country for Old Men -- the latter is much more affecting). The final reel of There Will Be Blood is far worse than the frogs from Magnolia, in part because the promise of this movie was greater -- and because the final scene in this movie is so impossibly ludicrous that the "I drink your milkshake!" line deserves to be debased in every way imaginable.

As for Lewis' performance, it's the same thing as the movie -- quite good at the start and then descending into utter hamminess by the end of it (see this David Spade spoof and tell me he doesn't nail Lewis' shtick). He's already received every pre-Oscar award, and clearly knows how to give a good acceptance speech.

However, to repeat my objection from last year:

One of the absudities of Hollywood's value system is that someone who can sing or dance can win an Oscar for one show-stopping number, whereas stars in action films are thought to be tawdry and commercial.
Damon's performance in all of the Bourne movies, but especially Ultimatum, highlights the contrast between Bourne's coiled physicality and his repressed emotions.

Best Actress
Will win: Julie Christie, Away From Her
Should win: Laura Linney, The Savages

I haven't seen Away From Her, but if the trailer is any clue, Christie is no doubt the winner. Linney, however, was just sublime in this serio-comic role of frustrated writer/liar who is forced to deal with the institutionalization of her senile and mostly unloved father.

Best Director
Will win: Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Should win: Anyone but Paul Thomas Anderson Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men

With the exception of the ending (a problem way too many of the nominees had this year), No Country for Old Men had the best combination of camerawork, cinematography, sound, pacing and acting of any live action movie I saw this year.

Best Picture
Will win: No Country for Old Men
Should win: Ratatouille

Unless Oscar-voters really care about endings, No Country for Old Men will win (if they do really care, then Juno pulls off the upset).

I liked No Country for Old Men a lot, but like State's Dana Stevens, there's something about a Coen brothers' movie I just can't love. Brad Bird, on the other hand, has me eating out of the palm of his hand. And the simple fact is that none of the nominated movies contains anyting in it that compares to the scene in Ratatouille when the critic Anton Ego tastes the titular dish for the first time. Nor is there anything in any other movie that can top this speech a few minutes later:

So there.

posted by Dan on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM


Pixar shows a creative genius that traditional Disney animated films had lost a long time ago.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

You...should stick to political science.

posted by: Robert S. Porter on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

OK I will bite, since I agree with your assessment of Brad Bird. Animated gets no Oscar love. Animated movies are now in their own separate "Oscar ghetto," something like now what wonderful works for adults as well as kids are dismissively referred to as "Y A".

Best Supporting Actor: Bardem will win.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman _should win_, as some kind of mish-mash of his roles in _The Savages_ and _Charlie Wilson's War_, (to say nothing of _Before the Devil Knows You're Dead_.) He gave three of the best performances of the year. But he'll have to wait a year until he stars in Charlie Kauffman's next smash, Synecdoche New York.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan will win.
Should win: No idea. Haven't seen a single one of the nominated performances.

Best Actor: DDL will win.
Should win: Johnny Depp, who took a role that could have been a disaster and made it look easy

Best Actress: Julie Christie will win
Should win: Anamaria Marinca, for 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days.

Director: Coens will win.
Should win: Brad Bird.

Movie: NCFOM will win.
Should win: Ratatouille

posted by: ZC on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

A couple of agreements:

Laura Linney - most underrated actress on planet

Chris Cooper - believably bizarre

All in all, a bleak year.

And the best movie really was an animated movie about a rat.

(??? Were Eastwood's Iwo Jima movies in thisd Oscar cycle - memory fading)

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

Granted Jennifer Garner was terrific in Juno, but it's mystifying to me that for all the praise she's received, Jason Bateman has received virtually none. It's like that old line about Ginger Rogers ("She does everything Fred Astaire does, only backwards and in high heels"). Bateman's character undergoes the same transformation as Garner's, but backwards (i.e., in the more difficult direction; from ultra-sympathetic to repellant) and under treacherous conditions (the sexual undertone; like high heels, one misstep would have been disaster).

posted by: Incompetence Dodger on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

I'll tell you: Spade doesn't even come close to nailing DDL's schtick; I could easily do a better and more clever impression -- as could most people if they saw the picture and were given a half hour. It's typical lazy and mostly unfunny Spade. So what if you didn't like the movie; I can't imagine anyone else having that presence as Daniel Plainview. Matt Damon was playing....Matt Damon with some martial arts training. DDL created a whole new person. I think it says something that I both can't imagine anyone else playing Plainview, but also can't recognize any of Day-Lewis in that character. The sheer physicality of the role is baffling and there is much more subtlety in it than he is getting credit for. This is not Nicholson in The Departed.

posted by: Paul on 02.23.08 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

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