Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nominee, Nomina (Read to the tune of "Valderi, Valdera")

The nominations are in. And they are, for me, as good a stimulus as any to re-start this albatross that I call my blog. Think of this, and the following five or six posts, as a test run until the official relaunch (official? Oh, my…) early next month where I will be taking part in an upcoming blog-a-thon. I also have a few essays that I am working on (one of which, at a breviloquent 4347 words, has taken on a life of its own), and it looks like this new incarnation of the blog will be slightly more academic than before. I am nothing if not honest.

Before I get on with the nominations, and my subsequent predictions (which I reserve the right to change up until the day of the awards, if not afterwards), a caveat: I have not seen all the films nominated, and that’s not for a lack of trying. A few of the front runners are yet to open in Istanbul, and I simply refuse to watch bootlegs. Which means I won’t get to see No Country For Old Men until mid-March, and There Will Be Blood till sometime late next month. Away From Her and Juno are also a few months away, though it is not unheard of for distributors to move the releases forward in line with the Oscars. All this is by way of saying my predictions are based on what I have read, and, more so, what I have heard - and not just from the voices in my head.

The tagline for this year’s ceremony is “The One. The Only.” Chesney Hawkes would be proud (Those of you across the pond won’t get that joke, and those of you on this side won’t think it’s funny).

Best Foreign Language Film

"Beaufort" - Israel
"The Counterfeiters" - Austria
"Katyn" - Poland
"Mongol" - Kazakhstan
"12" - Russia

There are three upsets – two major and one minor. Firstly, the minor: Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Unknown was ignored, and probably rightfully so. The last decent film that Tornatore made was Cinema Paradiso, and even that most cherished of films is a long, blundering mess in its original form. The Unknown’s plot sounds the same as the director’s all other, celebrated, films where an outsider is befriended by a child. And if that wasn’t enough to tug on the proverbial heartstrings, said child suffers from a rare neurological condition. I want to shoot myself just writing about it. And I would have completely dismissed its being snubbed if not for a few Italian friends who have hailed it as the next Amarcord. Then again, their grandparents used to hail Mussolini, so what do they know…

The real story here is the exclusion of Persepolis and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (they weren’t even shortlisted). Persepolis is all you’d want from a foreign language film: an innovative festival darling and critical hit (the film has generated relentless buzz) that might be a tad too difficult for the mainstream, yet deserving of that final push of an Oscar nomination to find a wider audience. Maybe the selection committee thought it a shoe-in for best animated feature (they were right)? And The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is an extraordinary film about an extraordinary man. Its omission is disgraceful, and most probably unfortunate in that the selection committee probably thought it was a shoe-in for best feature (they were wrong). (A lot of people are upset about the exclusion of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days but that film, albeit superbly made, nonetheless lacked that final oomph, at least for me.)

Anyway, this is between Beaufort and Mongol. The former’s inclusion seems to have more to do with the controversy earlier this year surrounding The Band’s Visit, so, by process of elimination, The Counterfeiters wins. What? I never said this would make sense.

Best Animated Feature

“Surf’s Up”

Surf’s Up? You what?

Ten years ago The Simpsons Movie would have been a lock to win. But ten years ago there was no Best Animated Feature category, and the producers of the show were too busy being funny week in, week out to even seriously consider a feature film that would revitalize, albeit briefly, the moribund legend. It is a tremendous surprise that neither The Simpsons Movie nor Beowulf were nominated, and either of them being supplanted by Surf’s Up, a film only marginally better than Veggie Tales: The Movie, confirms that this is Ratatouille’s award to lose, and rightfully so. It is the first of the modern animated films (Toy Story 2 included – which, incidentally, doesn’t hold up all that well, technically or story-wise) that is as complex as a great live-action film, if not more so. For the non-believers among the voters, (of which there aren’t that many), the scene where the food critic is transported back to his childhood will be the one that clinches the deal.

Persepolis, which would have been the odds-on favourite to win in the previous category, is the outsider in this one. It’s unfair, but that’s life.

Best Documentary Feature

“No End In Sight”
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
“Taxi to the Dark Side”

I have only seen the characteristically hyperbolic Sicko (Michael Moore is probably the only person in the world who can wax lyrical about the NHS) and the bookish No End In Sight, which should win it if only for its “don’t let the door hit you on your way out” value.

Achievement in film editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum" - Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" - Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" - Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" - Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood - Dylan Tichenor

This one’s between Roderick Jaynes aka The Coen Brothers and Dylan Tichenor. Most of the time, the film that wins this ends up winning best picture, but this year might be different, which I shall come to presently.

Achievement in cinematography
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" - Roger Deakins
"Atonement" - Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" - Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" - Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" - Robert Elswit

Another year, and Roger Deakins would have won it hands down for his work on “Jesse James,” but his votes will more than likely be split this time out. My money’s on Robert Elswit – an incredibly uneducated guess.

Best Original Song

"Falling Slowly" from "Once"
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted"
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush"
"So Close" from "Enchanted"
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted"

I’m pissed off there are three songs from Enchanted, but no Ladies Choice, because Hairspray is fucking awesome: in fact, it is an infinitely better film than all recent musical adaptations, including the soporific Chicago and the insipid Sweeney Todd! Anyway, it looks like they really want to give Enchanted an award so I’ll go with, erm, Happy Working Song for its quirkiness. If Miss Misery didn’t win in 1998, then Falling Slowly won’t win in 2008.

Best Original Score

"Atonement" - Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" - Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" - James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" - Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" - Marco Beltrami

This one is between Marianelli and Giacchino (the former has the edge). Either way, it’s going to one of the paisans (there are four of them, after all).

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton"

She was never going to win, however hip her playing Bob Dylan might have been (the novelty value of which has since kind of run off in the industry), but her nomination as best actress is the final nail in the coffin for anyone hoping to see the lovely Ms Blanchett with her fingers round the golden (easy now) statue. Ruby Dee is the obligatory veteran, and Saoirse Ronan the obligatory young ‘un, that the Academy likes to patronize. They both gave very strong performances however (Dee is tremedouns in the scene where he tells Washington’s Lucas that she would leave him), and, in another year, either could have won, and it would have been apt. Even though Tilda Swinton is brilliant, and the current odds-on favourite, the supporting categories are usually the ones where upsets are more commonplace so I am going with Amy Ryan.

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton"

Casey Affleck’s finicky, fidgety and, at the end, frivolous performance was bound to get nominated, but he is in way over his head with the rest of the actors in this embarrassment of riches. Hal Holbrook and Tom Wilkinson will work the town (the campaign for the latter has been in full swing for a while), but I can’t see either of them going the full distance. Philip Seymour Hoffman only seems to be there to make sure Tommy Lee Jones isn’t so that Javier Bardem can claim the award, which he will.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie in "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney in "The Savages"
Ellen Page in "Juno"

Laura Linney is the surprise here, and somewhere Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie’s agents are ignoring their client’s calls right now. Ellen Page, cute as a button, might sneak in with a win, but I have a feeling this one is going to Julie Christie.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Mortensen and Depp are seat fillers. Tommy Lee Jones has an outside chance, but Elah has become a bit of a distant memory for some. This one is wide open right now, but I think, in the end, Day-Lewis will drink your milkshake (it’s not a cliché until I see the film).

Best Director

Julian Schnabel - "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Jason Reitman - "Juno"
Tony Gilroy - "Michael Clayton"
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson - "There Will Be Blood"

Until the nominations were announced, it looked certain, more then than ever, that whoever won this would also win the best film. Now I am not so sure. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly deserved a very comfortable win, or, at least, a best picture nomination and an inside chance to win best adapted screenplay. As it stands, the latter award might end up being a bit too condescending. I have a feeling Julian Schnabel might win this – and for the best film of the year, in an exceptional year such as this one, to go home without a best director Oscar would transform the night from being regular Oscar-night crazy to it-rubs-the-lotion-on-its-skin crazy.

Best Original Screenplay

"Juno" Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" Written by Tamara Jenkins

Cody, if it’s her night. Gilroy, if it’s his.

Best Adapted Screenplay

"Atonement" Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

This is a three-way tie between the last three films, but it will probably end up going to the Coens. Unless it goes to Harwood. Or PTA.

Best Picture

"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

The exclusion of “Diving Bell” has thrown this most important category out of whack. The fact is that film will have to be honoured in some way, which will have a trickle down effect on the other four. It’s early doors to make any predictions, and even though that didn’t stop me in the previous categories, I must now exercise restraint. Any four of them might win, and I would not be surprised.


Dan E. said...

Your foreign language Diving Bell snub theory has a major hole: it couldn't have been nominated. France could only officially submit one film, and that was Persepolis. This decision was made months ago and will have little to no effect on Oscar voters. I'm not even sure that it could have been submitted, what with the being directed by an American and all that. They disqualified Lust, Caution for being too international. But that's neither here nor there.

I fear your love of Diving Bell is clouding your judgment, and I personally don't see it getting any awards at all. It will lose cinematography to There Will Be Blood (Roger Deakins will split the vote with himself). Right now I see No Country getting Best Picture as Paul Thomas Anderson takes home Best Director, though I fear that Juno will win both in some sort of weird 1976 Oscar turn of events.

I think Diving Bell might win editing as a consolation prize, as that has been their modus operandi for the past two years, though that consolation prize may end up going to Into the Wild. You shouldn't think about these things too hard or else you'll give yourself a headache.

Ali Arikan said...

Of course, you are right about the eligibility of only one film from any given country in the "foreign film" award. Still, Diving Bell's being snubbed in the best film category was unexpected, especially considering the talk of the town for the past two weeks. In fact, there would have been a bigger chance of its going home empty handed had it bagged that nomination, which is prestigious in itself.

These are very early guesses, though; and, of course, you might be right. As I said, I reserve the right to change my predictions as the weeks progress - I am shameless that way.

Thank you very much for your comments.