Sunday, February 27, 2005

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Oh, right -- Oscar predictions 2005!!

Ever since 2003, we here at have been unafraid to make bold predictions about who will win and who should win the Academy Awards. This year is no exception, but I will confess that this time it's a bit more labor rather than a labor of love. [Surely you weren't expecting Ms. Salma Hayek to get nominated for After the Sunset, did you?--ed. Well, just look at her premiere outfit!!


Look, if Kathy Bates can score an Oscar nomination for valiant disrobing a few years ago, surely Salma deserves something for valiant... robing.]

Anyway, this has less to do with Ms. Hayek and more to do with the fact that Ms. Drezner appeared in August, making it very, very difficult to get away for Oscar viewing. There is, however, one other factor -- which Frank Rich raised in his New York Times column: "The total box office for all five best-picture nominees on Sunday's Oscars is so small that their collective niche in the national cultural marketplace falls somewhere between square dancing and non-Grisham fiction." So while I haven't seen many of the top Oscar nod movies this year, I haven't felt truly compelled to see them in the same way as in previous years. Even the fashion is now boring, as Julia Turner points out in Slate (though Turner may have underestimated the effect that 9/11 and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction have had on muting the red carpet).

In other words, I'm flying blind a bit more than usual this year.

Nevertheless, ignorance has never prevented me from making bold predictions in the past. On with the Oscars!

Best Picture:
Will win: The Aviator
Should win: Tie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/The Incredibles

My calculation on this one is purely stragtegic: this year's Oscars will be a legacy fight between Scorcese and Eastwood. Neither is exactly loved by the system -- however, between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, the latter more closely meets the parameters of the standard "prestige" Best Picture. Plus, Million Dollar Baby has just a hint of a backlash because of the controversy surrounding its ending.

Will either of those two films be remembered even five years from now? Unlikely. The same cannot be said of either Eternal Sunshine or The Incredibles.

Best Actor:
Will win: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Should win: Jamie Foxx, Ray and Collateral

The one lock of the year. Why Foxx's role in the latter movie is considered a supporting performance is beyond me -- I think he had more screen time than Tom Cruise. It's the contrast between the two peformances that make you realize just how gifted and good Foxx really is. Plus, I really want to see Wanda say something in the acceptance speech.

UPDATE: Honorable mention must go to one Gary Brolsma, for his "Numa Numa" performance. Kieran Healy is dead-on in roasting the New York Times for not understanding Brolsma's confident deadpan style. "Earnest but painful"? Gimme a break!!!

Best Actress:
Will win: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Should win: Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Hilary Swank is to acting as the Florida Marlins are to baseball. For the first nine years of their existence, the Marlins were an under .500 team for seven of those years. The two years they were above .500, they won the World Series. So it is for the first nine years of Ms. Swank's career and her acting choices -- mostly stinker roles (The Core, anyone?) with the occasional jaw-dropping performance. This year yielded a way-above average performance for her.

All Kate Winslet did in Eternal Sunshine was make someone with a bad orange dye job seem simultaneously compelling and thoroughly imperfect. Whenever I think about her performance, it reminds me of what must have been the inspiration for the Sheryl Crow song, "My Favorite Mistake."

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
Should win: Neil Patrick Harris, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

If I was the Oscar coordinator for Million Dollar Baby, my promotional campaign would for Freeman would be real simple -- I'd just send out a postcard with the sentence, "Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar" and let that fact bore itself into the skulls of Academy voters. WTF?

It is highly unlikely that Mr. Harris will ever win an Oscar -- but damn, that man was funny in Harold & Kumar, the feel-good libertarian movie of the year. [Does he really deserve an Oscar for playing himself??!!--ed. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Harris' actual personality is a bit different from his Harold & Kumar persona. Besides, consider the balance required to perform that scene where he's driving down the road with the two models in the car. I remain unconvinced--ed. C'mon say it with me -- Doogie!! Doogie!! DOOGIE!!]

Best Supporting Actress:
Will win: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Should win: tie, Virginia Madsen, Sideways; Laura Dern, We Don't Live Here Anymore

By awarding Blanchett an Oscar this year, the Academy can make up for one of their more egregious f***-ups in not giving her the Best Actress award for Elizabeth. Plus, it will be logically difficult for people to vote for Foxx for Best Actor and not acknowledge Blanchett's similar style of craft. Madsen will give Blanchett a run for her money in this category, and her performance was just effortless -- but Blanchett has the stronger track record, and that will sway Academy voters.

I'm probably one of about 20 people who saw We Don't Live Here Anymore, so I understand if this appears to be an obscure choice. In many ways, what blew me away about Dern's performance was that it was the opposite of Blanchett's -- a portrayal of a thoroughly ordinary, frazzled, and depressed housewife. Dern broght such pain to it, however, that the movie has stayed with me despite its forced contrivances.

Best Director:
Will win: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Should win: Michel Gondry Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I had to sleep on this one -- it's a close call between Eastwood and Scorcese. However, with Mystic River now on cable, I've concluded that Academy voters will give the psychic nod to Clint for both films. [You're kidding me, right? Scorcese has lots of great films too!!--ed. Yes, but the only one on cable right now is Gangs of New York. Er, never mind--ed.]

Enjoy your 2005 Oscars -- especially since the 2006 affair will be so boring, what with the Farrelly brothers' Fever Pitch coming out of nowhere to totally sweep the Oscars!

UPDATE: Well, it's over, Chris Rock killed -- killed -- for the first ten minutes (but see Roger L. Simon for a dissenting perspective -- though the American people seem to agree with me). The bit at the Magic Johnson theatre was pretty funny as well, especially with the Albert Brooks kicker. And I admit that I won't forget hearing Chris Rock read, "Growing up as a young Welsh lass....." anytime soon. Ironically, I think Rock was too good -- he made the rest of the show seem boring by comparison (except for Sean Penn, who came across as a humorless clod).

[Aren't you going to say anything about Salma Hayek's unfortunate hairstyle?--ed. Too depressing to discuss.]

posted by Dan on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM


“Harold & Kumar” is a must see movie. It is about two snob punks who feel nothing but contempt for red state values. In one scene, one of these jerks even wore a “Fuck Bush” pull over. The movie is an eye opening reminder of just how much contempt many of the graduates of our “finest” universities hold the rest of the country. Do you truly desire to understand why the Democrats are doomed to remain a second rate party? Then you have to view “Harold & Kumar.” I am sure that it is wildly popular with John Kerry, Howard Dean, and the crowd.

posted by: David Thomson on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]


posted by: Independent George on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I would reverse your "will win" picks for Picture and Director. I think Academy voters will realize that this may be one of the best and last chances to honor Scorcese. The Aviator is especially attractive because by Scorcese's standards it's a relatively light and enjoyable film. The guy may well get back to making movies about about unpleasant thugs doing unspeakable things to each other.

To compensate Eastwood for losing Director they will give him Picture. I also think that Benning will beat Swank for Best Actress since the reverse happened a few years ago. I agree your other picks.

I also agree that Eternal Sunshine was the best film of the year and I can't imagine why it wasn't nominated for BP. They could easily have replaced the mediocre Finding Neverland which wasn't particularly popular with either critics or the public. I hope and expect that Kauffman will get the screenwriting award though.

posted by: Strategist on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

Only tangentially Oscar-related, but such a Dreznerian item:
Portman's Lips Incite Angry Mob

Natalie Portman has learned the hard way that it isn't kosher to swap spit near a holy site. The cutie-pie actress was "angrily confronted" by dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jewish worshipers in Jerusalem on Tuesday while filming a romantic scene for the road trip flick "Free Zone," reports the AP.

The trouble began when Portman, 23, snuggled up to Israeli actor Aki Avni near the Western Wall, the holiest of Jewish prayer spots, where public displays of affection are strictly forbidden and men and women are expected to pray separately.

When the worshipers spied the smooching actors, they reportedly made a beeline for them, shouting, "Immoral! Immoral!" Coincidentally, that's the same reaction we have whenever "According to Jim" or "Yes, Dear" comes on.

Police got between the angry mob and the production crew, who quickly packed up and left.

The Israeli-born Portman, who is up for a Best Supporting Actress prize at this Sunday's Oscars for her thong-clad turn as a stripper in "Closer," [See? not totally irrelevant! go, Natalie!] has spent the last few months studying at Hebrew University. Her rep remains mum on the incident.
I'd already inferred from her Closer performance that she wasn't Orthodox, though I'm goyishly ignorant of how many Jews adhere to this taboo. Closer, btw, was so much more interesting than any of the other nominees. Are the Oscars always this bad, & I'm just now noticing after Gladiator and LOTR:ROTK?

posted by: Anderson on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

That looks wicked uncomfortable from a woman's point of view.

posted by: Sissy Willis on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I guess Animal House was a dem movie going by that definition.

Agreed. Eternal Sunshine deserves best movie oscar. Most memorable pic of the year that I've seen, and I wasn't expecting much from it.

posted by: DC Loser on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

If 'Vera Drake' doesn't win at least one Oscar, we're sitting the next war out.

posted by: Britain on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I agree that "Eternal Sunshine..." has been criminally overlooked by the Academy. It was probably the best film I've seen in 5 years. Unfortunately, a bit too "out there" for the Man.

BTW, I believe Eric Clapton was the inspiration for "My Favorite Mistake." I think a man hasn't lived if he doesn't have at least one Clementine in his past. I do, and while it was agony (and ecstasy) at the time, I'm much richer for the experience.

posted by: Barry P. on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

5/6 for Dan. Not bad.

I am quite surprised that Scorcese didn't win. I wonder if he ever will. Not that the Oscars matter much.

The big winner tonight was obviously Million Dollar Baby which I thought was incredibly overrated. Still I am glad for Brad Bird, Charlie Kauffman and Jamie Foxx who gave a classy and moving speech.

posted by: Strategist on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

...Million Dollar Baby which I thought was incredibly overrated

I respectfully disagree. You may not like the kind of movie that M$B is - a Horatio Alger tale with a melodramatic twist - but I don't think it can be denied that it was an extremely well-made entry in that genre, and it obviously made a powerful emotional connection with the Academy audience.

I usually don't like this kind of film, but I can't deny the qualities of M$B. I felt moved upon leaving the theatre, whereas this sort of film usually leaves me feeling emotionally manipulated. That's one of the differences between good and bad film, IMHO.

Then again, aesthetics are inherently personal.

posted by: barry p. on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I did like some aspects of the film especially the performances of Freeman and Eastwood. I didn't care for Swank that much and found her character gratingly over-eager and phony especially in the early scenes.

And yes I admit that "Horatio Alger tale with a melodramatic twist" ,as you nicely put it, isn't my style.

But even if I had bought the central theme of the film I think I would have been turned off by its parade of comically crude supporting characters: the never-say-die lovable loser: "Danger", the relentlessly obnoxious family, the Catholic priest conveniently available for the Big Conversation ,the villanous defending champion and so on.

"I felt moved upon leaving the theatre, whereas this sort of film usually leaves me feeling emotionally manipulated."
Funnily enough I felt both moved and manipulated. There is no question that some of the later scenes are powerful but too much of what had come earlier just made me wince at its obviousness and crudity.

"Then again, aesthetics are inherently personal."

posted by: Strategist on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

Just saw M$B two nights ago, and half agree with both of you. All four of us (that saw the movie) were moved by it. Definitely powerful. But at the same time, flawed.
The "Danger" character was utterly absurd and unbelievable.
The hillbilly family was simultaneously extremely well drawn, but unfortunately overdrawn-the characters were well captured in their petty self-centeredness (i.e. their mannerisms were spot-on), but they were characatures of ogres; in essence, remarkably realistically drawn characters who do unrealistically callous things.
I found Eastwood and Freeman a bit unconvincing. Oddly enough, they were too upright, well-shaven, and clean. They were portraying psychologically defeated losers, after all (Freeman is a janitor living on a cot in a boxing club, and Eastwood is an aging 'cutman' burdened by guilt-not one of society's winners). But they both (Eastwood, more than Freeman) stood, and carried themselves, like guys in charge (like a drill sergeant). I felt like I was watching movie stars pretending to be schlubs rather than schlubs.
The priest was a bit too convenient. Again, Eastwood in his interactions with the priest didn't seem needy, didn't seem irritating. He seemed like a movie star cracking jokes when the script called for jokes.
Nevertheless, you kind of leave the theatre 'feeling like you've been punched in the stomach' (as one of my colleagues put it). In general, it was a very good, but not great, movie. Given today's movie culture, that's probably good enough to win the Oscar.


posted by: Steve on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

The biggest tragedy of the night was the music. At least two abysmal songs were nominated and performed: the ones from Polar Express and Phantom of the Opera (the others weren't much better). At least three songs from Team America were far superior: "America, F**k Yeah," "Freedom Isn't Free," and "Everyone Has AIDS." Even more than the oversight of Neil Patrick Harris, this was the greatest miss of this year's Oscars.

posted by: Anon on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

If you can't discuss something as stupid and apolitical as Harold and Kumar without launching into a tirade against ivory-tower liberalism, well, you're an idiot.

As far as Million Dollar Baby, I hope Skip Bayless spent the night frothing and shaking on his living room floor.

posted by: Jim Dandy on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I saw M$B about two weeks ago. I walked out impressed and my thought about the Oscars was that Freeman and Swank would win and that the film would win. It won and they won but the film won not as a film but as a political statement. It was an out and out stick in the eye of the social right/conservative movement. My opinion was based on the fact that the ending became an issue then, to my knowledged anyway and Hollywood had had enough. The libertarians on the right and Hollywood are pretty much in agreement about the end and couldn't resist.
Salem Hayek Front: Damn, the preview dress was far more stunning than the one she wore Sunday(If sundays dress was black the one she wore on the cover of Vogue for the Holiday issue-2003- entitled little bLack dress was the one to wear . Nonetheless, on the local(KYW) sportnewsradio(Oxymoron)show this morning it won a guy two tickets to the Jimmy Buffet conceert here in Philadelphia in August. The real kick is that the guys wife told him to call in with Selma as the dropdead gorgeous selection. The argument being that when a beautiful woman points out another you know Selma has got it going on so sayeth the host's female compatriot.

posted by: Robert M on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I think Rock was too good.

TOTALLY agree, dude! Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery were so great, and the scene where they blow up Alcatraz was fabulous.

But tell us, what did you think about that lamer emcee last night?

posted by: Tom Maguire on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

Spoilers ahoy!

The overlooking of _Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle_ is par for the course, I'm afraid. Usually the academy misses small, perfect, commercially unsuccessful movies that play art houses, this time they missed one that played suburban mall matinees. I've got a theory that the entire movie was written around the note-perfect Neil Patrick Harris scenes. I mean, at some point, if you're writing the movie and think, "what I really need here is a shot of Doogie Howser snorting coke off of a stripper's ass while going sixty miles an hour", pretty much anything you need to do to the plot to make that work is going to be worthwhile.

Politically, I will agree with Dr. Drezner. Pro-immigrant, pro-opportunity, pro-America, and (I think it can be safely inferred) anti-War-On-Drugs, this is a clearly a libertarian movie.

posted by: dave on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I don't think that the scenes in Harold and Kumar were worked around Neil Patrick Harris. The screenplay was originally written in about 98 and I don't think Hayden had Doogie in mind while writing it.

Incidentally, the writers for Harold and Kumar were U of C students and wrote it while attending the U of C.

posted by: AC on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]


posted by: Extreme Sports Guy #1 on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

I have to say that I thought M$B was the best movie I saw last year. Eternal Sunshine was either 2 or three, depending on whether I'm just considering American movies or not.

And Eastwood's classic storytelling approach impresses me far more than Marty's overblown flourishes as directors go.

But Cate Blanchette didn't deserve the best actress no matter how well she imitates Kate Hepburn. And the year I think Jim Carey actually deserves an Oscar nod, he gets left out.

I also would have given Best Actress to Kate Winslet, though I could have lived with Imelda Staunton.

posted by: flaime on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

How did Skip Bayless' name come up? [Googling] Oh. Probably one of the better movie reviews for M$B. I say that not because of how he perceived the film (I have not seen it) but because Bayless actually knows something about the world of boxing (and Texas accents, which Swank, in his opinion, does not do very well) and can pick out the inaccuracies.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

David Thomson blatantly untrue comments about "Harold & Kumar" must be refuted. No one is wearing a "F*** BUSH" shirt. There is an anti-Bush shirt, but it's more a pun than what David lies about. (Young knuckleheads think stuff like that is cool, I guess.)

Where there is a problem is the portrayal of nearly every white person or cop as being a racist thug or menance - extreme sports jackasses terrorize an Indian clerk and the cops drag a black man out of his bed in their pajamas for a robbery commited 50 miles away. It's one thing to try to prop up minority images, but another to commit reverse discrimination. Too bad for that.

I'm a small-l libertarian who has never even hit a joint in his life, but found H&KGTWC to be a damn funny movie, not that reactionary liars like David would allow anyone to say so. The Neil Patrick Harris stuff RULED!!!

Also, it should be noted that the leads were smart, employed guys who were just relaxing. If it was white NASCAR fans drinking beer, running out and having to go to the store, I suspect David would have loved it.

posted by: Dirk Belligerent on 02.27.05 at 12:01 AM [permalink]

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