Does anyone care about the Oscars this year? Is the waning interest due to the fact that the WGA strike may cause the Big Show to be reduced to a celebrity-free press conference like the low-rated Golden Globes? I’ve been bitching and moaning about the Oscars on this blog for the past three years and doing a quick review of my 2005, 2006, and 2007 predictions, I can’t say that I’ve been doing that well as a Tinseltown Soothsayer. 2007 was my best year—I correctly predicted four out of the six top awards (and I still feel Eddie Murphy was robbed of his Best Supporting Oscar for “Dreamgirls”). I don’t know why I turned on Martin Scorsese when everyone could see his time had finally come (was it because I hadn’t even seen “The Departed” and I was still smarting from my 2005 prediction that he’d win for “The Aviator?”).
Assuming that the February 24th broadcast will go on as planned (and that’s a huge assumption at this point), I’m guessing that I will be glued to the screen as always, even while I continue my kvetching about the very concept of awards shows. No doubt I will spend half the evening screaming at my television or cringing in horror. But, unlike the fake Golden Globes, I admit that I’m transfixed by the Oscars and their rich history. If the show happens, I can’t NOT watch!
In some years I’ve seen nearly every nominated film and performance, other years I’ve seen surprisingly few, but that has never stopped me (or the Academy voters) from making my picks. I usually get tied up in knots over who I want to win versus who I think will win. I know you’re all breathlessly awaiting my prophecies, so here goes.
Best Supporting Actor. Oops, right off the bat I have to tell you that I’ve only seen two of the five nominated performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman was perfect in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” I enjoyed this performance more than his Oscar-winning role in “Capote.” Tom Wilkinson is a fine actor and one of the hardest-working Brits in this town. There are so many English actors playing Americans this year (with very good American accents, I may add) that I defensively wanted to start checking their green cards, but Wilkinson was especially good in “Michael Clayton” and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him the prize. I didn’t even know that nominee Hal Holbrook was in “Into the Wild,” a film I’ve been wanting to see for months (why has it barely appeared in any theatres here?). I saw him do Mark Twain years ago (who didn’t?) and I was happy to see him nominated. His wife Dixie Carter got an Emmy nomination this year but this may be the first Oscar ceremony she’s attending. I always thought Casey Affleck was a better actor than his older brother and thought Ben did an excellent job of directing him in this year’s “Gone Baby Gone” but that’s not what he’s nominated for. To be honest, I’ve never even heard of “The Assassination of Jesse James,” what did it have, a three-day run? I’ll try to find it before the Oscar telecast (how could a Brad Pitt film get so buried?). I’ve also been eager to see “No Country for Old Men.” Javier Bardem already won a Golden Globe and SAG award for his role in this film and my gut says his streak will continue on Oscar night. Update: I've now seen "Into the Wild" and "No Country for Old Men" and I want to change my vote. Not that I don't think Javier Bardem did a great job with that horrific role, but frankly, I'd give it to all of the nominees before him. Holbrook was extremely moving in his brief scene. I'd really like to see Wilkinson get it. Why the heck wasn't Paul Dano nominated for "There Will Be Blood?"
Best Supporting Actress. Okay, at least I’ve seen three out of five of the nominated performances here. I absolutely loved Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement,” I thought she was extraordinary. (Does every English girl that appears in a movie these days have to grow up and become Vanessa Redgrave in the last twenty minutes of the film? Not that I mind, Redgrave was wonderful in her short role as the elderly Briony Tallis.) At 13, Ronan is not quite the youngest nominee—our friend Quinn was 10 when she was nominated for “The Goodbye Girl” (Vanessa Redgrave won that year) and Tatum O’Neal was 10 when she got the Oscar for “Paper Moon,” but worthy as Saoirse is, I hope she doesn’t win. I’m wary of actors getting too much acclaim and attention that early. She’ll have other shots at the award, perhaps sooner than we think. Right now she’s filming the very controversial “The Lovely Bones.” I want to see “I’m Not There,” especially Cate Blanchett’s nominated performance. My brother-in-law has a song in the film (where’s his damn nomination?) and it certainly seems like an intriguing if potentially pretentious movie. I loved what I saw of Blanchett (and the late Heath Ledger) in the previews and Cate’s already won a Golden Globe for this gender-bender. Tilda Swinton was exquisite as always in “Michael Clayton” (again with the American accent!) in what was not an easy role but I doubt she’ll win. How great is it to see 83-year-old Ruby Dee nominated in the same category as 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan. The legendary Dee won the SAG award for her brief performance in “American Gangster” and who would deny that dame anything? But for some reason, I’m going to go out on a HUGE limb here and pick Amy Ryan for her complex, unpleasant, and expert performance in Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone.” This wonderful actress managed to present a thoroughly unsympathetic character with incredible nuance and vulnerability. And the beautiful actress didn’t mind looking hideous to do it. I hope she gets it.
Best Actor. Again, I’ve only seen three of the five performances so with all due respect, I will immediately rule out Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” and Viggo Mortenson in “Eastern Promises.” Sorry, guys, I know it’s not fair. George Clooney is a fine actor and was awfully good in “Michael Clayton” but he’ll have to be satisfied with the Oscar he’s already won for “Syriana.” There’s been a lot of criticism of Tim Burton’s grim version of “Sweeney Todd,” but I liked it a lot, even though it’s extremely different from the Angela Lansbury Broadway musical. I enjoyed Depp in the title role and even thought his singing was pretty good, but despite his Golden Globe, I’d be shocked if he got the Oscar. Nope, it has to be Daniel Day-Lewis for his amazing performance in the haunting “There Will Be Blood.” He made this film, no question about it. Apparently he’s one of those actors who never goes out of character while making a film which probably makes him a pain in the ass in real life, but it sure pays off when he disappears into every role he takes on. Get ready for your second Best Actor Oscar, Daniel, it’s on its way. He’s already won the Golden Globe, the New York Film Critics award, and the SAG award which he dedicated to Heath Ledger.
Best Actress. Wow, this is the only category where I’ve seen all five performances! Just goes to show how much I dig those chick flicks! Cate Blanchett, I worship you, you are one of the most talented actresses on the planet and I was willing to tie myself to the front of the Kodak Theatre if you didn’t win an Oscar three years ago for playing Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator.” But it ain’t gonna happen this time, your highness. Besides, I don’t think the Academy would vote for Queen Elizabeth two years in a row, even though Helen Mirren won for playing Queen Elizabeth II! I was delighted to see Ellen Page get a nomination for the wonderful “Juno,” a film I hope everyone goes to see. But she’s awfully young and I think many Academy voters might have been turned off by this oddball look at teenage pregnancy. The other day I was sitting next to nominee Laura Linney in a deli and found her to be the most normal, down-to-earth person in the world. Talk about someone who has not been negatively affected by her fame. I will go to see anything that Linney is in, even if it sounds horrible. I loved “The Savages” and thought her performance was incredibly poignant. But no, it’s clear that this year’s contest is a showdown between veteran Oscar winner Julie Christie for “Away from Her” and Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose.” Cotillard’s magnificent portrayal of Edith Piaf was nothing short of channeling (although a movie star friend of ours who knew Edith Piaf begs to differ) and if she wins she’ll join a very short list of actors who won Oscars for non-English movies (has there been anyone other than Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni?). Kendall loved Cotillard so much that I risk major marital strife when I say that I think Julie Christie’s heartbreaking portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s will win it by a nose. (And what a gorgeous 65-year-old nose it is!) How cool that she last won the Best Actress Oscar a whopping 43 years ago! Way to bookend your career, Julie! Of course, I hope her career is far from over.
Best Director. Oh hell, I’m so bad at guessing this category I shouldn’t even try. Especially since I haven’t seen Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” or the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” I can’t see Jason Reitman getting it for “Juno” (he’ll have more chances) or Tony Gilroy for his excellent “Michael Clayton.” The Coens have been raking in the awards this season but I’m going to go with my gut and predict that the gifted and challenging director Paul Thomas Anderson will pull out a win for his somber epic “There Will Be Blood.” He certainly deserves it.
Best Picture. Oh boy, this one could go any way. There have been some major shocks over the years in this category. “The Greatest Show on Earth” won over “High Noon” and “The Quiet Man.” Are you kidding me? The bloated “Around the World in Eighty Days” beat out “Giant,” “The King and I,” and “The Ten Commandments.” “Gigi” won over “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “The Defiant Ones,” and “Separate Tables.” Hello? I still can’t believe “Gladiator” won in 2000, not exactly a film that will withstand the test of time, in my opinion. So I have no idea what will happen this year. “Atonement” has been winning lots of awards so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s chosen, but I can even imagine the Academy picking “Juno” for the top prize, who knows? I doubt that “Michael Clayton” will nab it and I do think it’s probably a toss-up between “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.” Having not seen the former, I’ll choose “Blood,” but I’m glad I’m not betting the farm on this prediction.
And there you have it. I’ll comment on some of the other nominations at a later date since this post is already longer than Greer Garson’s acceptance speech. And now I’ll take this opportunity to correct that oft-reported slander against lovely Miss Garson. Despite the legend, she did NOT go on and on for close to an hour when she won an Oscar in 1943, but she did speak for over five minutes, still an eternity in Oscar-land. Today’s winners are lucky to get out twenty seconds of thank yous before the orchestra starts giving them the bum’s rush. That tactless gesture of playing music over the winners’ speeches is my least favorite part of the Oscar telecast. Maybe we’ll be spared it this year when none of the nominees cross the picket line.