I think I’ve written about awards shows on this blog more than any other single topic. God, how embarrassing. With all the tragedies that are taking place around the world and all the outrageous actions being carried out by the current administration, I’m spending my time railing about something so meaningless? If I really believed awards shows were such a waste of time, wouldn’t I just stop talking about them? At least I’ve been successful at avoiding most of the shows that pollute the airwaves this time of year (from the Golden Globes to the so-called People’s Choice to the ones that are so lame that even the D-list stars look embarrassed to be there) but I guess I just have to accept the fact that the Oscars are like crack to me. “Hi, my name is Danny Miller and I’m an Oscarholic.” I need a new version of the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the nominations I cannot change, the courage to watch the broadcast without hurling sharp objects at my television, and the wisdom to know the difference between the opinions of the stodgy Academy members and my own.”
The nominations for the 79th Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning. True, I haven’t seen many of the films under consideration but why should that stop me (or the Academy voters) from having strong opinions? My predictions two years ago were fairly on target but I really blew it last year. My own fault for trying to think like an Academy voter. Here are my predictions for the 2007 awards:
Best Supporting Actor: I didn’t see “The Departed” or “Blood Diamond,” but Mark Wahlberg and Djimon Hounsou are always good. Has any Oscar nominee come as far as Wahlberg? Arrested as a teen for a couple of racist assaults, later becoming a rap star, male model, and then, quite surprisingly, a damn good actor. Oh wait, Djimon Hounsou had a pretty similar background from street kid to male model to actor. He even appeared in a Janet Jackson video. Jackie Earle Haley pulled off being creepy and poignant in “Little Children” and it’s nice to see him back in front of the cameras after his childhood stint in the “Bad News Bears” movies and “Breaking Away.” Alan Arkin was a total joy as the four-letter-word spewing grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine,” a movie I loved, Arkin’s one of the few actors who got a Best Actor nomination for his very first movie (“The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”). He’s been in his fair share of bombs during his long career (“Chu Chu and the Philly Flash” anyone?) but also turned in a lot of great performances. My strongest childhood memory of Arkin is when he terrorized the bejeesus out of poor blind Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark,” a role that he had a hard time with (“I didn't like being cruel to her. It made me very uncomfortable.”). And I loved him as Murray Abramowitz in “The Slums of Beverly Hills.” I’d love to see him win but I believe the statue will go to Eddie Murphy for his amazing performance as James Thunder Early in “Dreamgirls.” While Murphy has never had a problem getting the big bucks for his film roles, it hasn’t exactly been the most critically acclaimed career on record. “Dreamgirls” finally gave him the opportunity to show what he could do with a meaty, non-starring role, and I will cheer his Oscar win. I’m just sorry that his next film, opening in a few weeks, is another one of those fat suit comedies. What is so funny about an obese black woman played by a skinny black man—there have been so many of those films it’s practically its own genre.
Best Supporting Actress: Nice to see Rinki Kikuchi and especially Adriana Barraza nominated for “Babel.” Both had very challenging roles and were quite good. Neither has a chance in hell of winning, though. As much as I was ready to commit an act of civil disobedience if Cate Blanchett didn’t win the Best Supporting Actress award two years ago for her chanelling of Katharine Hepburn (she did win), I don’t think she’s going to get it this year for the disturbing “Notes on a Scandal.” Abigail Breslin was a delight in “Little Miss Sunshine.” We saw that movie while Leah was gone for a month this summer and I burst into tears at the very first shot in the film which was a closeup of the wonderful Breslin who reminded me of my daughter. But sorry, Abigail, this year’s Oscar is going home with Jennifer Hudson for her searing portrayal of Effie White in “Dreamgirls.” Of course hers was not a supporting role at all but the studio chose wisely in promoting Hudson in this category. I hope she follows it up with something good and doesn’t become a one-hit wonder.
Best Actor: Oh my God, I think this is the first time since I started watching the Oscars that I haven’t seen a single one of the performances nominated for Best Actor. What is wrong with me? I do want to see them all although I admit I’d never even heard of “Half Nelson,” Ryan Gosling’s movie, until this morning. I did think he was quite good as the neo-Nazi Jew in “The Believer.” I hear Will Smith did a great job in “The Pursuit of Happyness” which I want to see mostly to watch his real-life son playing his child. I’m sure Leonardo DiCaprio is good in “Blood Diamond” (why is that film so far off my radar screen?). I’m looking forward to his take on the 26th President in next year’s “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” Martin Scorsese’s next movie. For this category, I see a dead lock between “Forest Whitaker” as ruthless dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” and Peter O’Toole as an aging actor in “Venus.” Whitaker is probably the favorite with the younger Academy voters while O’Toole must be the sentimental choice for anyone old enough to have seen “Lawrence of Arabia” on the big screen (why the hell didn’t he win for that?). This is O’Toole’s eighth nomination, for God’s sake, and he might just get it this time. He did win an honorary Oscar in 2003, though, which he almost turned down because he still had hopes for a “real” one and felt that the honorary award would hurt his chances. He may have been right about that. I’m going with Forest Whitaker by a nose.
Best Actress: I thought Kate Winslet was superb, as always, in “Little Children” and I so admire how she never hesitates to deglamorize herself for a role. It was a difficult, unsympathetic part that she played beautifully but I don’t think she’ll score this year. It seems impossible to deglamorize Penelope Cruz. Even scrubbing airport floors as she does in “Volver,” she is gorgeous and sexy. She’s an excellent actress and her sex appeal comes not from the American babealicious model but from the earthy, intelligent, Sophia Loren school. I loved Cruz in “Volver” but I think her prize this year will be basking in relief that she is free from the Scientologists and bad American films and is working with people like Pedro Almodovar again. Didn’t see “Notes on a Scandal” yet but as far as I’m concerned, Judi Dench deserves an Oscar every time she opens her mouth. Meryl Streep was absolute perfection in “The Devil Wears Prada” and proved she can do more with a raised eyebrow and a sigh than most actresses can with a Shakespearean soliloquy. It’s possible she could pull off another win here but I doubt it. I think it’s Helen Mirren’s year and deservedly so. Her role as Queen Elizabeth II could have easily gone the way of Mommie Dearest-like camp, but Mirren was so damn good in “The Queen” that she painted a sympathetic portrait of a woman who doesn’t always present herself in a sympathetic light. Mirren it is.
Best Director: Tough one to call. Some people are saying it’s finally Scorsese’s turn but others grumble that “The Departed” isn’t Scorsese’s best. I think Paul Greengrass did an amazing job with the powerful “United 93” and Stephen Frears’ “The Queen” was expertly directed. Clint Eastwood pulled off something of a miracle with his two-sided take on Iwo Jima. But he’s won twice already so I’m going with Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for “Babel,” a difficult film and exactly the kind the Academy likes to honor. Oy, when did the Best Director winners start getting younger than me, I can’t take it! Maybe Scorsese should win, at least he’s turning 65 this year!
Best Picture: This category has become increasingly difficult to predict. I’m surprised and disgusted that “Dreamgirls” didn’t make the cut (or Bill Condon for Best Director, for that matter) which I think says a lot about the snooty Academy members who somehow believe that a movie can’t possibly deserve a Best Picture Oscar if it's that much fun to watch. But at least “Little Miss Sunshine” got nominated and if I were voting, I’d pick that quirky, moving comedy. I think “The Departed” is a little too dark and violent for the Best Picture nod and I don’t think “Letters from Iwo Jima” has a chance. I’d say it’s between “The Queen” and “Babel,” two very different films but both dripping with A-list Prestige. I think it’s possible “The Queen” could reign victorious, in the same way that “Shakespeare in Love” beat “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line” in 1998 and “Chicago” won out over “The Gangs of New York” in 2002. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “Babel” will take the top prize, not because I think it’s the best movie from 2006 but only because I think the Academy members will delight in patting themselves on the back for selecting such an atypical and “important” film.
I know there are many other awards but unless one of your friends is nominated, you don’t really care about those, do you? Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” was shut out of most categories but I think the Academy voters may want to show how “with it” they are by giving him the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. I hope Michael Ardnt wins the Best Original Screenplay award for “Little Miss Sunshine.” I’ve actually seen three of documentary nominees. I thought “Deliver Us from Evil” and “Jesus Camp” were excellent but I hope “An Inconvenient Truth” wins and that director David Guggenheim brings Al Gore with him to the podium to accept the Oscar.
Our house is indirectly up for two Oscars this year, since it was the location for two scenes in “The Prestige.” That’s why I’m hoping the film wins for Best Art Direction (you should have seen the work it took to turn our first floor into an 1890s English pub) and Best Cinematography (I enjoyed watching the talented Wally Pfister). Okay, the footage from our house lasts less than a minute in the final film, but I’ll still be rooting for it!
One category I have decried for years is the competition for Best Song. Besides last year’s terrifying and inexplicable winner, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” I moaned two years ago about the horrible songs that are added to existing musicals just so they can be eligible for an Oscar nod. I also ridiculed the use of Beyoncé in that year’s show as the singer of three of the five nominated songs. Ironic then, that this year I am gung ho for a song added to an existing musical and sung by Beyoncé! I think “Listen,” one of the new additions to “Dreamgirls” is a killer song and Beyoncé’s rendition of it sends shivers up my spine even if it does veer a bit from the kind of voice her character Deena Jones is supposed to have.
And there you have it. Sadly, I’ll probably have more to say on the subject before the February 25 telecast. Let’s just hope the winners’ speeches are shorter than this rambling post because I’m telling you, if that damn orchestra continues to cut off the winners in mid-sentence, I will storm the stage of the Kodak Theatre.