Donovan's 2005 Oscar PicksSubmitted by ryandonovan at 2005-02-15 22:11:51 EST
Rating: 1.81 on 61 ratings (61 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
DONOVAN’S OSCAR PROGNOSTICATION 2005
It was an interesting year for movies, in that there were an abundance of good and great films, but very few superb ones (plenty of 4’s, but not many 5’s). When asked my opinion of movies I saw, my answer always seemed to be “It was really good, but…” You hate to have to put a qualifier on the Best Pictures of the year.
I’d like to declare a mistrial on this year’s Academy Awards, since the year’s true Best Picture, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, was not even considered as a nominee. But, in the name of liberty, we shall persevere, and hold the ceremony anyway.
In a year with so many tight races, you’ll need my Sixth Annual Oscar Predictions to prep for the big night. Why am I qualified? I hate to brag, but let me remind you that I was a perfect 8-for-8 last year (I am also a 6-6-6, in case any of you ladies are wondering).
Did you know that Alanis Morissette is engaged to Ryan “Van Wilder” Reynolds? That doesn't have anything to do with the Oscars, I just thought it was really freaking bizarre.
SHOULD WIN: Sideways
WILL WIN: Sideways
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Alexander
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
While none of the nominees felt to me like a TRULY GREAT FILM, I’m leaning Sideways. Even though I’m not a middle-aged divorced alcoholic and failed novelist, there were things about the film that I strongly identified with. And it is certainly lighter than Million Dollar Baby (the scene where Paul Giamatti retrieves the wallet made me laugh harder than I have in a long time). However, the fact that the Academy gave Clint Eastwood an acting nomination in lieu of Giamatti suggests that they might disagree with me for Best Picture.
In my spotless mind, this year’s Best Picture should rightfully be Eternal Sunshine. It was superb in so many ways, but the clincher for me was the ending (I won’t give anything away here). As the film draws to a close, you know the credits are coming, but you have no idea how it will get wrapped up. You know it’s the last scene, and it’s still a mess. A million untied ends, a million questions. Then, one word of dialogue - one common, throw-away word - and everything is answered. Genius. The best one-word summation since “Rosebud”.
While The Aviator has some momentum, coming off a Golden Globe victory, I don’t think it will win the Oscar. Biopics are tough nuts to crack, and as nuts go, there are none bigger than Howard Hughes. It was certainly informational; everything I had previously known about Hughes came from a Simpsons episode (Mr. Burns dithering about the “Spruce Moose” - funny shit). But for fully-realized stories, biopics are by nature unwieldy; it’s better to focus on an interesting story than an interesting person.
Personal Aside To Oliver Stone: Mr. Stone, you have blamed the failure of Alexander on a number of things: unfair press, disgruntled Greek lawyers, homophobia, and a handful of other conspiracy theories. You failed to mention the following more probable reasons: your ego, production mismanagement, your ego, horrific casting, your ego, your love affair with Fidel Castro, and your ego. You have threatened to move to France because of your disappointment in American audiences. I’ll donate my frequent flyer miles if it will get you there any faster. I’m not saying I want you gone permanently; just don’t come back until you make great films, like you used to.
SHOULD WIN: Jamie Foxx (Ray)
WILL WIN: Jamie Foxx (Ray)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Kevin Spacey (Beyond The Sea)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind); Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
In the surprise of the year, Clint Eastwood got a nomination, while Paul Giamatti did not. How on earth could that happen? I'll tell you: a flawed nomination process and politics. Without going into too much detail (too late), nominations are determined solely on 1st place votes (2nd and 3rd place votes are only used if not enough people get 1st place votes). You can bet that Giamatti was a 2nd place vote on most of the ballots, but not 1st on any. Meanwhile, Clint (an Academy member with plenty of seniority, reverence, and voting friends) got some cronies to give him 1st place votes. It is very possible that Clint got a nomination with a handful of #1s (but zero #2s or #3s), while Giamatti got snubbed with all the #2s (but zero #1s). The process is designed to nominate 5 actors who could possibly win, rather than include everybody’s 2nd and 3rd favorite actors.
Personally, I think the nominees should be the Top 5 Actors Of The Year. In order to achieve that, a weighted voting process would be required (like the Heisman, NCAA polls, and baseball awards). Using such a procedure, Giamatti would have beaten Clint by a landslide. The current nomination process would be the equivalent of counting only #1 votes for the NCAA Football Coaches' Poll: Oklahoma and Nebraska would ALWAYS be ranked in the top 5, because their coaches ALWAYS get at least one #1 vote (by voting for themselves).
Giamatti is becoming a familiar name on my Snubbed list, after being passed over last year for American Splendor. But he might get his chance next year in a supporting role, as he’s already being touted as a “scene-stealer” in the Russell Crowe vehicle Cinderella Man. And if Jim Carrey had a nickel for every time he got screwed out of a nomination… well, he’d have about 15 cents. But for my money, this was his most deserving role to date. Forget the usual marveling about “such a departure” from his usual wacky on-screen antics; his somber heartbreak in Eternal Sunshine was one for the ages.
I am thrilled that Don Cheadle got a nomination, even if it was at the expense of Paul Giamatti. It’s amazing that America is just now starting to recognize his immense talent. I think Kevin Spacey is equally talented; I genuinely like him in almost every movie… but not in Beyond The Sea.
As for Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCaprio... I’ll be blunt: I don’t think he’s a very good actor. I'm sure that doesn't bother him, and I assume he doesn't think much of me as a film critic. To his credit, I really enjoyed his scenes in The Aviator where he was disfigured and hospitalized; the only disappointment was that it was merely makeup. Honestly, there were a few scenes where I thought he was actually quite good, but I’ll have more on that in the Best Supporting Actress section. Suffice it to say, I won’t be thrilled if he wins the Oscar.
But this is all neither here nor there, because Jamie Foxx will win the Oscar in a landslide. He could have scored a nomination for Ray based on the previews alone. The bigger question is whether he’ll thank me in his acceptance speech. I really didn’t expect to be recognized in his Golden Globe speech. Although he didn’t mention me by name, I think it was obvious who he was referring to in the story about being “two drinks away from getting crazy in Miami over New Year’s”. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing for me. After bumping into him last fall in Toronto, and twice in Miami, I fear he’s becoming my Kato Kaelin. Jamie, please, let go of my coattails.
SHOULD WIN: Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake)
WILL WIN: Annette Bening (Being Julia)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Nicole Kidman (Birth)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door)
Here is a category that the Academy got right. No sub-par performances were included, and no outstanding performances were overlooked. I feared that Catalina Sandino Moreno would get left out for Maria Full Of Grace (small, foreign-language films tend not to get noticed in the big categories). As for the “Ingloriously Snubbed”: You think I’m kidding, which I am… mostly. Since I couldn’t just leave it blank, I could have gone with more obvious choices like Julie Delpy (Before Sunset) or Natalie Portman (Garden State). But nobody, and I mean nobody, lit up the screen this year like Elisha Cuthbert did in The Girl Next Door. I realize that being hot isn’t acting per se, but I think some credit is due for keeping so many (leering) eyes glued to the screen. Honestly, the only think keeping her from my “Should Win” prize was her lack of actual nudity in the film.
The race will come down to Annette Bening (Being Julia) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake). Instead of old versus young like last year, we have old versus older. Instead of ageism, we have patriotism. Instead of past beauty versus present beauty, we have past beauty versus always-was-ugly. Staunton is the most deserving, but she’s too unknown, too British, and in too small a film to win. Even with nominations for Director and Screenplay, you’d be hard pressed to find a voter that saw Vera Drake.
Many are calling this year’s title bout a re-match of the Bening / Swank fight in 2000, when Swank’s Boys Don’t Cry bested Bening’s American Beauty. Swank gave an amazing performance in Million Dollar Biznotch, but she won’t get the prize because she recently won, and she actually DID grow up in a trailer park (so her acting wasn’t much of a stretch). It’s true that Oscar loves the ingenue, but Swank no longer fits that description.
I think aging looker Bening will win, because her performance will resonate most with voters. Remember, the female voters are predominantly aging lookers themselves, and they’re friends of Bening’s (specifically, they are former conquests of Bening’s hubby and Thalberg winner Warren Beatty).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
SHOULD WIN: Clive Owen (Closer)
WILL WIN: Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: David Carradine (Kill Bill Vol. 2)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Durmot Mulroney (Undertow); Mark Wahlberg (I <HEART> Huckabees)
Oh how things have come full circle. In 1993, if you asked me who the bigger star was, Thomas Hayden Church or George Clooney, I would have undoubtedly said Church. Clooney was an unrecognizable bit player from post-shark-jump series The Facts Of Life and Rosanne, while Church was the reason to tune into the hit Wings. Church was also the first one to leave Wings for bigger parts and bigger money - ahem, hence Ned And Stacy. But it was his own show, which Clooney has never had. If you ask me the same question today, I would still say Church, and here's why: Church has more career Oscar nominations (1 to 0), and Church beat out Clooney for the role in Sideways (honest to god). Please don't ask me the same question again next year, when Church is back to doing Icehouse radio ads.
While Church has never given such a quality performance (nor will he ever again), and has won most of the critics’ awards, it appears that Sideways is losing steam as the Oscars approach. The guy I’m rooting for, and the guy the Academy is rooting for, is Morgan Freeman. Everyone agrees that this is a man who, at some point in his life, deserves to own an Oscar. And in this year’s somewhat weak category, that point is nigh. Was Million Dollar Baby his best performance ever? Well, it’s pretty hard to top The Shawshank Redemption. But in this year’s tight race, it will be good enough.
Here’s some pretentious critic doublespeak for you: I’m rooting for Freeman, but I’m voting for Clive Owen. In Closer, Owen out-smarmed Church, and, I’m afraid, out-performed Freeman. It has taken longer than I thought for the James Bond heir-apparent to get invited to the A-List. This nomination gives him a serious boost, but he’s not quite there yet. An Oscar victory would solidify it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I have a feeling that toting a license to kill will probably do the trick.
How does Jamie Foxx fit into all this? Whether or not he gave the best performance in Collateral (and yes, we all know it was a lead performance, not a supporting performance – tell that to Tom Cruise’s agent) is irrelevant. Since Foxx will unanimously win the Best Actor category, voters will simply not vote for the same person twice in the same year. It’s never happened, and it never will. The only way Foxx will win this statuette is if host Chris Rock steals it and gives it to him (which he has vowed to do if Foxx doesn’t win for Best Actor).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
SHOULD WIN: Natalie Portman (Closer)
WILL WIN: Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Meryl Streep (The Manchurian Candidate)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator) – based solely on her hotness
I never thought the circumstances would arise for me to say this, but: I agree with Angela Lansbury. The Manchurian Candidate should NOT have been re-made (I also happen to agree that Cabot Cove is a dangerous yet lovely place to live). And I don’t care if you ARE Meryl Streep, there is simply no topping Lansbury’s performance in the 1962 original.
As for Kate Beckinsale in The Aviator as “Ingloriously Snubbed”… okay, this time, I am kidding. But I wanted to somehow recognize the second-hottest woman on the planet (without recognizing Van Helsing). I mean, have you seen the Diet Coke ad? If not, www.dietcoke.com. A cop-out, you say? My real answer, you ask? Well… how about Sharon Warren from Ray? Is that better? Goddam film snobs.
Cate Blanchett, the Screen Actors Guild winner, is probably the best actress in this category, if you’re judging on pedigree, career resume, and pure talent (although Natalie Portman gives her a run for her money). However, I cannot see giving Blanchett the award for The Aviator. In fact, really only one scene blew it for me, but it was the most critical one: When we initially met her as Katharine Hepburn, her impersonation was more ridiculous than Martin Short’s. But once we settled into her character, and it became less of a caricature, it was a really nice performance. I don’t know much about acting (other than telling people they suck), but one thing struck me about Blanchett’s scenes: I didn’t think she was particularly terrific, but Leonardo DiCaprio, as annoying as he is, was outstanding in them. I can’t really say if the credit goes to acting, directing, or writing; but in any case, it was clear that her presence made the film and her co-stars better. But, I’m afraid, not good enough to win the Oscar.
While I thought Virginia Madsen was remarkable in Sideways, I have to give my vote to Portman. She gave the best performance, and I think I even gained some respect for her for choosing to exorcise the nude scenes from Closer. No, that’s not true. Regardless, she gave the best performance. I have been extremely impressed by her acting throughout her career (she was unbelievable in The Professional), but I was fairly disappointed by her recent admission that she phoned in her Star Wars performances because she didn’t feel motivated by the scripts. But she made up for it (somewhat) by her priceless line in Garden State: “I cannot believe you’re not retarded.”
SHOULD WIN: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
WILL WIN: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind)
First and foremost, the rightful winner: Michel Gondry. He was hands-down this year’s best director. And I’m talking old-fashioned directing, not overseeing multi-million dollar CGI labs. 100% of his effects were camera tricks, manipulated perspective, or visual (not digital) effects. Need a room to disappear? He turned out the lights. Need a fuzzy background? He broke out the plastic wrap. Need Jim Carrey in two different places? He had Carrey run behind the camera and change clothes as the camera panned back and forth. This was inventive filmmaking, not “I want 200 orcs. No, make it 400 orcs. No, make it 10,000 orcs.” This year’s Director nominees are heralded because of the performances they drew out of their actors (Sideways, Ray, Million Dollar Baby, Vera Drake), but Gondry did that too (he scored Kate Winslet an acting nod, coached Carrey’s best-ever performance, and got Kirsten Dunst to flash the side of her boob), on top of the dazzling effects and mind-torquing storytelling.
So then what about the actual nominees? Everybody's saying, “I want Marty to win, but do I want him to win for THIS movie?” If it sounds familiar, it was the same thing they were saying about Scorsese in '03 for Gangs Of New York - and he lost. Scorsese has for some reason made Leonardo DiCaprio his De Niro of the 00s, and I don’t think that’s necessarily the horse he wants to hitch his wagon to. This year’s requisite hipster nomination goes to Alexander Payne for Sideways. Which means, of course, that he won’t win.
Unless an overwhelming sentimental vote goes to Scorsese, Clint Eastwood should win this one easily. He may well get sentimental votes himself: Anyone suffering from hobbit overload last year felt Eastwood should have won for steering Mystic River.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
SHOULD WIN: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
WILL WIN: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: I <HEART> Huckabees; Maria Full Of Grace
Here’s an easy rule of thumb: Anytime Charlie Kaufman is nominated, he ought to win. And just as true: Anytime Charlie Kaufman is nominated, some other less-deserving script actually wins. But that could change this year. Had Eternal Sunshine gotten Director and Actor nominations, I would call it a slam dunk. But the dearth of nominations prove that voters are still too thick and too lazy to appreciate Kaufman’s scripts. But the fact is, there is no threatening competition this year (unless The Aviator goes on some kind of unlikely mad sweep), so expect a long-overdue victory for Charlie. Hopefully he’ll share it with Donald.
I can see that my choice for “Gloriously Omitted” raised a few eyebrows. People will probably assume I’m bashing Wes Anderson’s screenplay for The Life Aquatic, but I’m not - I really liked it. But let’s face it: It wasn’t his best script. It’s the only one he hasn’t written with Owen Wilson, and I’m afraid it shows. I have high expectations for Anderson, so I expect him to do better. He’s the honor student who disappoints me when he gets a B+. “But Wes, you have so much potential…”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
SHOULD WIN: Sideways
WILL WIN: Sideways
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Mean Girls
Ah, yes, the “Consolation Prize” category. In a tight Best Picture race, the loser often picks up the Adapted Screenplay award. And sure enough, if Million Dollar Baby wins Best Picture, expect Sideways to take Screenplay as a parting gift. And if Sideways wins Best Picture, MDB has a real chance at this award. But with its Golden Globe victory and months of strong buzz on the script, I think Sideways will take this award regardless of other race results. With all its above-the-line strengths, the screenplay is probably Million Dollar Baby’s weakest aspect.
What’s that? Yes, I saw Mean Girls, and yes, I liked it. Go ahead and laugh. Get it out of your system. Finished? In the hands of a lesser writer, I would have immediately dismissed the movie as recycled WB girlie teen garbage. But not in the hands of Tina Fey. There were tons of great lines, but “That is the ugliest f-ing skirt I have ever seen” still cracks me up.
What other award categories can I ruminate on…?
Best Animated Feature: I’ll go ahead and pick this category, because it’s a sure thing: The Incredibles. I am not above padding my stats.
Best Documentary Feature: While Super Size Me may seem like a fluff piece that doesn't deserve the prize, think about it this way: Activist documentarians aim to change the world with their films, but rarely achieve that. Morgan Spurlock, however, did. Although they deny it, McDonald's dropped the Super Size option because of the film. Compare that to the goal of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (which violated Documentary rules because Moore showed the film on television, gambling on a Best Picture nomination). Moore tried to oust the President, and failed. Spurlock, despite the redneck-juvenile-prankishness of the film, succeeded where Moore failed. And I would argue that Spurlock had a bigger challenge: America holds Ronald McDonald in higher regard than it does the President. For me, Super Size Me deserves the Oscar on one scene alone, that wasn't even in the film (but was included in the DVD Special Features): Showing what happens (or doesn't happen) to McDonald’s fries after decaying for several months.
Best Soundtrack: Okay, this isn’t really an award. But it should be, right Fuse Nation? Runners-up would include Napoleon Dynamite (unironically incorporating The White Stripes AND Alphaville), Garden State (for mopey music snobs), and The Life Aquatic (for the acoustic David Bowie covers… in Portuguese). The award would go to The Girl Next Door. There really isn’t any original music to speak of in the film, but it’s like a mix tape (or should I get with the millennium and say “iTunes playlist”) of eclectic songs that sound really cool in each scene. It wins even after I deduct points for over-using the most over-used classic rock song ever, the Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. Napoleon Dynamite gets bonus points for the year’s best end-credit song: “The Promise” by 80s power-wimps When In Rome. Runner-up for end-credit song is Jersey Girl, boasting Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open The Door” re-mix.