Well, I told you I was a hypocrite when it came to awards shows. I decry their very existence, rail against the stupidity of pitting people against each other, moan about the arbitrary nature of who gets honored and who gets ignored, and yet there I am at 5:30 this morning tuning in to the Oscar nominations. In my defense, I’d been up since 3:30 (I have major sleep problems—how else could I keep up with my blog?) so why not? I followed the nominations on the Internet since I didn’t want to wake Kendall. Of course, she sleeps so soundly that I could have recreated Rob Lowe’s ill-fated Oscar show dance with Snow White in our bedroom accompanied by the Nelson Riddle orchestra and she wouldn’t have stirred. (Do you detect a hint of jealousy?) The photo at right is me holding a real Oscar and believe me, I had a hard time putting it down. A friend of ours in New York owns an Oscar from 1933 (given to him by a relative of the winner) and when Kendall and I stayed at his apartment last October I found myself clutching the award at every opportunity as if it were the Holy Grail. Have you ever held an Oscar? Those things are heavy!
I still think that awards shows are dumb, so what is it about the Oscars that always gets me going? No doubt it’s the rich history of the event. I am a fanatic when it comes to Old Hollywood. If I had access to a time machine, before I started exploring major world events throughout the ages, I’d first make three stops in Hollywood— in 1927, 1939, and 1944. Kendall shares this obsession and even though we rarely go to new movies together because we have such wildly different preferences, our pre-1950 tastes in film are almost identical. Don’t even waste your time trying to play the Golden Age of Movies version of Trivial Pursuit with either of us—you will lose your shirt.
So when I think of the Oscars I can’t tell you what film won Best Picture last year or the year before but I can talk at length about the year Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis won (1938) or the year Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar and was forced to read the studio-written speech where she said she was “proud to be a credit to my race” (1939) or the year Greer Garson made her infamous Oscar speech that never ended (1942—it was actually only seven minutes long but it’s the fear of someone else “pulling a Greer Garson” that brought about the hideous practice of cutting people off before they’re finished) or the year when sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were both up for Best Actress and everyone could see how miserable Olivia was when her sister won (1941—but Olivia had the last laugh by winning TWO Best Actress Oscars in 1946 and 1949!).
With that history in mind, and with the awareness that, to quote another Oscar-winning actor, these awards “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” here are my early Oscar picks:
I’ve seen all of the nominated flicks except for “Ray” and my money is on “The Aviator.” Of course I don’t think it is “better” than the other four but I just think it’s going to be a good night for that film. It’s the kind of movie Hollywood loves and the film deserves an Oscar just for the cool recreation of the opening of “Hells Angels” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (which Scorsese rebuilt for the film!). “Sideways” won the Golden Globe but the Academy favors Big Epics, especially ones that deal with Hollywood and eccentric billionaires. “Million Dollar Baby” is a magnificent movie but it’s so utterly depressing that I doubt many of the Academy voters made it all the way through their complimentary DVDs. And I just don't see "Finding Neverland" or "Ray" on the Academy voters' radar screen for this prize.
For the love of God, give this damn award to Martin Scorsese already! Again, not that “The Aviator” had the “best direction,” however it’s possible to evaluate that, but it’s insane that the man who made films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, The King of Comedy, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas has never won an Academy Award. Plus, he clearly has a deep respect and love for the history of movies and was even married to Isabella Rosselini at one point! Hand it over, Academy, Clint Eastwood already got his Best Director Oscar a few years ago!
On the other hand, Clint Eastwood gave an amazing, understated performance in “Million Dollar Baby” so maybe he should win the acting award. DiCaprio might never get another shot at such an Oscar-pleasing role so that wouldn’t be a total travesty. They’re all good, but I bet it will go to Jamie Foxx for inhabiting the spirit of Ray Charles. Haven’t seen the movie yet but the buzz is good and I remember when they were shooting the film on our block because we live next to Ray Charles’ recording studio. Haven’t seen the Don Cheadle movie either and I bet he’s good in it (he lives on the same block as our friends and seems very friendly). I thoroughly enjoyed Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland” but don’t think it’s his year to win.
I want Annette Bening to win for “Being Julia.” Not the greatest film ever made, but she is perfect in it and she carries the whole film. And we should reward any film that skewers the entertainment industry’s obsession with age. Bening was nominated three times before but never won and she needs to catch up with her Oscar-winning husband and sister-in-law. She has stated that her acting idols are Helen Mirren, Frances McDormand, Liv Ullmann, and Ingrid Bergman. I couldn’t agree more, Annette! My second choice would be Imelda Staunton, the great British actress of “Vera Drake” who was so good and may never get such an outstanding role again. Staunton also deserves credit for allowing filmmakers to consistently make her so unattractive on the screen (she’s really quite pretty!). Hilary Swank also gave an incredible performance but she’s only 29 and already has an Oscar, dammit. And how cool that Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated for “Maria Full of Grace.” Great movie, great performance, doesn’t have a chance in hell. And sorry Kate Winslet, I think you’re one of the best actresses around but you ain’t winning this year.
Best Supporting Actor
It’s got to be Morgan Freeman. His performance in “Million Dollar Baby” was so pivotal he could just as well have been up for Best Actor. This man never hits a false note in any of his films. My second choice would be Thomas Haden Church in “Sideways” but I’ll pass on the other three. Sorry, Alan Alda, Clive Owen, and Jamie Foxx (hey, Jamie, be happy with your Best Actor Oscar!).
Best Supporting Actress
If you read one of my earliest blog entries, you know that Cate Blanchett HAS to win for “The Aviator.” She played Katharine Hepburn better than Katharine Hepburn could! Next choice would be Laura Linney in “Kinsey” (which, again, was such a pivotal role she could have easily been nominated for Best Actress). Virginia Madsen was good in “Sideways” and Natalie Portman already won the Golden Globe for “Closer” but I don’t think I’d give her the Oscar for this film (she’ll have plenty of other chances, but so will Blanchett and Linney, it’s a very strong group this year!). Sorry, Sophie Okonedo, I haven’t seen “Hotel Rwanda” yet, but I plan to.
As for the rest of the awards, as Bill Murray used to say each year during his “Saturday Night Live” predictions, “WHO CARES?” But I’m looking forward to seeing all the foreign language films and the documentaries—at least an Oscar nomination gives them a fighting chance for distribution. Of the nominated docs, I’ve only seen “Supersize Me” which was good, but I’m eager to see “Born into Brothels.”
I’m not mourning the absence of “Farenheit 911” (which I thought was great but Moore should have never taken it out of the documentary competition hoping for a Best Picture nomination) or “The Passion of the Christ” (which I loathed on more levels than I can name). I’m outraged that Shelly Johnson wasn’t nominated for cinematography for “Hidalgo” (okay, I admit that I do know him, but have you seen this beautifully shot film?) and why didn’t Paul Giamatti or Sandra Oh get a nomination for “Sideways” or Nicole Kidman for “Birth” or Sigourney Weaver for “Imaginary Heroes”? Oy, here I go again, trying to ascribe some “justice” to these awards shows—it’s just a lot of politics and people’s highly biased opinions.