Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar Predictions

2007 was a great year for cinema – and I say that without having seen No Country For Old Men, which I shall rectify later this week. From seemingly small, intimate comedies, to magnificent yet flawed modern–day American epics, audiences experienced a vast array of brilliant films from Hollywood studios and independents alike. Paradoxically, however, we only have a few days to go till the Oscar Ceremony, and there are clear front runners in most of the major categories where such an embarrassment of riches should have produced more than its fair share of strong contenders. Having said that, there’s always at least one or two major surprises in even the dullest of Oscar ceremonies, and it is with that caveat that I offer my final predictions for this year’s Academy Awards.

Best Foreign Language Film:

That Persepolis is not among the nominees is a travesty. That The Band’s Visit was turned down is another (even dialogue in English is subtitled in the film). My awareness of the films in this category is murky at best. Since my original piece on the nominations, I have managed to see The Counterfeiters, but not Katyn or 12. Unlike a few weeks ago when I thought Beaufort was a contender, this is now between Austria’s The Counterfeiters and Kazakhstan’s Mongol. The latter has had a major marketing push in the last few weeks – and even if that hasn’t given it the edge, I think whimsy works in its favour. The irony would not be lost on the voters that the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan’s come up with a grand-sweeping epic spectacle in the tradition of Eisenstein’s Ivan The Terrible and Alexander Nevsky only a year after all that brouhaha about Borat. My heart also tells me the film will win but that might have a lot to do with the Turkic connection I feel with the Kazakhs. The Counterfeiters is the likeliest choice but still...

Prediction: Mongol

Best Animated Feature:

Surf’s Up’s inclusion is one of the more bizarre choices in the history of Oscar nominations. Maybe penguins are the modern-day equivalent of Meryl Streep – regardless of what they’re in, they’re bound to get a nomination just by showing up. Persepolis, a fine film, is too esoteric for this category. It would have been a shoe-in in the previous one, considering this year’s lack of a clear art-house faves like last year’s Pan’s Labyrinth or The Lives of Others. This is still very much Ratatouille’s award to lose, and rightfully so. It is the first of the modern animated films that is as complex as a great live-action film, if not more so. One of last year’s best film, it deserves all the accolades it’s awarded.

Prediction: Ratatouille

Best Documentary Feature:

When the nominations were announced, I wrote “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.” I still haven’t had a chance to see the other three films, but I stand by my original prediction. Another year, maybe last year or the next, and War/Zone, with its depiction of African children in, well, a war zone, could have tickled the voters’ liberal fancy, but this is an election year, and the last chance to jeer the outgoing chief. Let’s hope for some Errol Morris-like histrionics when they give out the award.

Prediction: No End In Sight

Achievement in Film Editing:

There’s a strange tradition that, more often than not, the film that wins this award also takes home the grand prize. Sure, such a generalization can be extended to include many other major categories, but this one seems to deserve it more so than the others. Besides, this year might very well buck that trend anyway. Into The Wild doesn’t stand a chance, but NCFOM, TWBB, and DBATB all had excellent film editing. Unappreciated by me, yet hailed by many others, Bourne Three (as three as the wind blows) also made the headlines with its on-the-surface ground breaking yet actually rather by-the-numbers editing, too. After all, we are talking about an award that once went to Black Hawk Down against Fellowship of the Ring, Memento and Moulin Rouge. So, this is between No Country and Bourne. Based on the general buzz, though:

Prediction: Roderick Jaynes aka The Coen Brothers - No Country for Old Men

Achievement in cinematography:

As I said before, 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. Having said that, this is a technical award, and you never know, voters might approach it more academically. I still think this is a three-way-split, with Janusz Kaminski as the dark horse.

Prediction: Robert Elswitt - There Will Be Blood

Best Original Song:

The three songs from Enchanted will cancel each other out – I like them all fine, but they are, nonetheless, all the same. When the nominations first came out, I thought one of them was bound to get an award, purely for the strong showing from the film, which I interpreted as a desire to award a beloved commercial flick. Once has got a lot of momentum now, though, and it’s garnered quite a bit of publicity following the shebang about its eligibility, and it might pull through. I can’t say I am a fan of the song (the last best original song winner that I really liked was Carly Simon’s Let The River Run, which is as awesome today as it was in ’88 – Dylan’s Things Have Changed is also aging well, especially in the context of the film).

Prediction: Falling Slowly - Once

Best Original Score:

Had Jonny Greenwod been nominated, he would have been the front runner. 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).

Prediction: Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille

Best Supporting Actress:

When the nominations first came out, I wrote “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), 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.” I am not so sure anymore. Watching the film again, Blanchett’s performance is the one that truly stands out, and her best actress nomination might not affect the voters: the Good Queen Bess sequel was just not well received. Ruby Dee is the obligatory veteran, and Saoirse Ronan the obligatory young ‘un, that the people like to patronise. They both gave very strong performances however (Dee is tremedous 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. Ruby Dee’s SAG win might work in her favour, but it might also be considered enough is enough. Michael Clayton, a solid studio vehicle, won’t be completely shut out, so Tilda Swinton also has a good chance of winning. So what to do? Well, the supporting categories are usually the ones where upsets are more commonplace so...

Prediction: Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone

Best Supporting Actor:

I couldn’t stand Casey Affleck’s finicky, fidgety and, finally, frivolous performance, where he seems to be channeling Giovanni Ribisi and Jeremy Davies, and he is in way over his head with the rest of the actors here. Hal Holbrook and Tom Wilkinson’s people have been working the town, I hear, but I can’t see either of them going the full distance. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in Charlie Wilson’s War was the true stand-out of the show, and, without having seen No Country, my choice would be him. But the Javier Bardem tornado is unstoppable. He seems to have won every single award this season. I think, of all the categories, this one is most definitely settled. He will Javier Bardem and eat it, too.

Prediction: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

This one is sealed. I can't see Ellen Page sneaking in past the force of nature that is La Christie.

Prediction: Julie Christie

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Unlike Juno, which came out at the right time to become a hit, face the backlash, and then go into the final lap armed with a backlash-backlash, There Will Be Blood never quite managed to shake off the “good, but not that good” reaction it received from many, who seem to have a love-hate relationship with Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance. A month ago, and this was most definitely Day-Lewis’s award. I am not so sure now, and George Clooney might sneak in. It all depends on that final viewing before voters fill out their ballots.

Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis

(Aside: I was watching Interiors the other day, and taking some notes for a Woody Allen retrospective I am planning on for early-March, when I switched over to my weekly torture session that is House [see previous post], and found myself doodling a combination of Daniel Plainview and Mr Punch. Hence the picture above. That it bears almost no resemblance to Plainview should be considered an homage to the fact that the film also bears no resemblance to Oil!)

Best Director:

Because The Diving Bell and The Butterfly received almost no major attention, there is a part of my brain that says Julian Schnabel might win this. But then the saner part prevails, and I realise that The Coen Brothers have got this one in the bag. Not just for No Country for Old Men, but for Fargo, and Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink, and Blood Simple, and The Big Lebowski

Prediction: The Coen Brothers

Best Original Screenplay:

I still stand by my original predictions when the nominations came out.

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

Best Adapted Screenplay:

To say that PTA adapted the screenplay for TWBB from a novel by Upton Sinclair is to use the verb “to adapt” rather liberally. Oil! is actually the only Sinclair book that I have ever read, and the film and the book could not be more different. That’s just an observation, though, and doesn’t have that much to do with the film’s chances of nabbing this award, which is still considerable. As in the previous category, Ronald Harwood, too, might edge in a win owing to Diving Bell’s poor showing in the nominations. That said…

Prediction: The Coen Brothers

Best Picture of the Year:

Some people are talking about a Juno sneak while There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men duke it out. I don’t see how that is possible since the latter is already so far ahead. A surprise in this category would be HUGE. OK, I admit - almost as huge as Rocky's dodging past All The Presidents’ Men, Network and Taxi Driver to win in 1977… That thought scares a lot of people, but I liked Juno, and still haven’t seen No Country so it doesn’t irk me as much. I am sure my position will change once I finally manage to catch No Country on Thursday.

So those are my predictions. Check back on Sunday night (Monday morning in Europe) when I will be covering this year’s awards with a live blog (at three o’clock in the morning my time). If my erratic internet connection decides to go all milkshake, then it will be “live-to-tape,” and I will post it first thing on Monday morning. I can’t wait. I can only hope it’s at least half as good as the genius that was the infamous opening number of the 1989 ceremony:


odienator said...

the last best original song winner that I really liked was Carly Simon’s Let The River Run, which is as awesome today as it was in ’88

I really liked that song too, because it made riding the Staten Island Ferry look like a religious experience (which it is NOT). When Working Girl came out, I was a year into my career on Wall Street, and the movie nailed what it was like.

There are other best song nominees I've liked. I was always partial to the Disney songs from Little Mermaid and Aladdin that got the nod, and I liked the rap songs that won as well. Of course, they've made some horrible choices as well, like The Morning After.

Where's art direction? Makeup? Visual Effects? You can't do predictions for 80% of the show!

If Roderick Jaynes wins, will it be the first time a fictitious person won? I know that Robert Towne's dog got an Oscar nomination, but the dog didn't win.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Good predictions, and more in depth than mine. I had to omit the foreign language category on my list because I haven't had the chance to see any of the nominees.

I still hold that Day-Lewis seems to be the biggest lock, although I just watched Michael Clayton again on DVD yesterday and I can totally see Clooney (derving of it no doubt) winning the award. Hollywood LOVES Clooney, so it wouldn't be a total shock.

But for me, that is where the surest bet would be for the major categories.

I think the Academy pulls a 2000 here and gives PTA the Steven Soderbergh treatment. The Academy has been more prone lately to balance out the awards. I remember the good 'ol days when it was a sure bet that whomever won for Best Director, their film would win for Best Picture.

I still need to see Persepolis.

Ali Arikan said...

Odienator -

The Disney flicks of the 90's did have good songs. I am particularly partial to Prince Ali from Aladdin, and not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

I really liked the song from The Triplets of Belleville, too. That great tune had no chance against the Return of the King sweep.

And you're right, sir - for completion's sake, here are the rest of my predictions:

Art Direction: There Will Be Blood
Costume Design: Elizabeth II
Doc Short: Sari's Mother
Make-Up: Norbit (I just love the idea of that film's winning an Oscar)
Animated Short: I Met The Walrus
Live Action Short: Il Supplente
Sound Editing: No Country for Old Men
Sound Mixing: Robots in disguise
Visual Effects: More than meets the eye


Kevin - I think you'd like Persepolis.

I am enjoying your updates on Italian zombie movies. And talking about the undead, I can't wait for this. That's one brilliant title, no?

Ali Arikan said...

I forgot to add - Yes, if Roderick Jaynes wins, it will be the first time a fictitious person won.

(Charlie Kaufman was nominated for an Oscar along with his fictitious twin Donald, too.)

odienator said...

Ali: I am particularly partial to Prince Ali from Aladdin, and not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

Ha. That was the best song in the movie. When I did my Odie Oscars list (which I do every year), I gave that song my Best song award. I also found Beauty and the Beast's Gaston, Disney's most blatantly sexual song, to be a lot of fun.

I'm going to have to write a song with my middle name in it. My first name has appeared in several songs, most of them bad. Why am I on the corner in one song? There are no Odie songs. But I'll fix that, and I'll get Beyonce to sing "King Odie."

That song from Triplets of Bellevue was WEIRD. The Oscar performance was also quite weird. It looked like what the end of Fat Albert would have looked like if it were live and full of French people.

Persepolis is quite good, but I'm a bigger Ratatouille fan. Brad Bird is changing American animation by writing scripts that are as good, if not better, than most movies. Oddly enough, as much as I hate penguins, I found Surf's up tolerable. Happy Feet inspired one of the most vicious, and easlly the most inside joke, of jabs on my ten worst list. It was pretty high on the list, too. I said "Where's John Turturro when you need him?" Nobody got it.

I would rather see George Clooney win than Daniel Day-Lewis. Lewis is unstoppable to win that Oscar, but that performance is a hokey, overdone, ham-filled fiasco. Bill the Butcher is a far more interesting and better performance. The only direction PTA ever gives his actors is "yell and overdo it." If, God forbid, he ever works with Al Pacino, we're all going deaf. I can see the speakers exploding in theaters.

In my dark heart, I'm rooting for Norbit to win the makeup award. I think it's going to La Vie En Rose, because they made Marion Cotillard look like a CGI witch.

I'll have to go read Kevin's Italian Zombie stuff. I never really liked those movies, but I saw plenty of them on 42nd Street and in my hometown theaters back in the day.

Anonymous said...

War/Dance, not War/ obviously did not see this great movie.

Ali Arikan said...

Indeed. As I said in the original post, I have only seen Sicko and No End In Sight.

And I noticed the War/Dance-War/Zone mine fart on Sunday, but decided to leave it on for honesty's sake.

Thanks for your comments.