Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It's Oscar Time

Hooray! Hooray! The Oscar nominations are out!

I admit I have an unnatural enthusiasm for the Oscars. I don’t know why. I don’t feel the same way about any other awards show. The Grammys – out of touch and random categories. The Golden Globes – who cares what a bunch of foreign journalists think? The Emmys – the spoils go to the established so the voters don’t have to seek out any new television. The People’s Choice Awards – what do the people know? But for some reason, I have always loved the Oscars. In fact, it still annoys me that they moved Oscar season up a month (to put the high-rated show right at the end of February sweeps). It gives me less time to see the movies.

This year, I have already seen quite a few. After my stint in Hollywood, I learned that if you follow all these critics’ awards, by the time Oscar rolls around you pretty much know who is getting nominated. This year, I’ve already seen four out of five of the best picture nods (still need to see Million Dollar Baby). What I love about the Oscars is that it forces me to see movies I would never get myself into the theatre to see. I have to admit I still haven’t managed to make myself watch The Pianist, for which Adrien Brody became the youngest Best Actor winner ever, even after my Netflix DVD of it sat on my TV for something like five months. This year, my “I know I should” movie is Hotel Rwanda. Don Cheadle is a brilliant actor, and I’ve thought so since Traffic, but the topic is tough. That’s probably why I should see it.

One of the tragic things about moving away from Los Angeles is that I probably won’t have the opportunity to see all the nominated foreign films, documentaries and short films. Those get airings in LA (and DC) but most of the folks in Colorado are more interested in climbing the nearest mountain and skiing down it than going to the movies.

But enough of that. Since I have a blog this year, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the winners of the major categories. Normally this is an activity I save for Oscar night, when I work hard to win the pool.

Leading Actor: As we already know, I believe Jamie Foxx is a lock to win this. Paul Giametti didn’t even land a nomination! And Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson, is scarcely on the nomination list, except for Laura Linney’s nod in the supporting actress category. I guess that’s a movie I don’t have to see, which is a good thing because it’s not here anymore.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church for Sideways. Why not? He’s won everything else. And it’s rare for an actor to be nominated twice (Foxx in Ray and Collateral). It’s unprecedented for him to win twice. Finally, if Closer (Clive Owen) wins anything, I’m going to throw up. No matter how very hot Clive is. (My vote for the next James Bond, by the way, although no one listens to me on such matters.)

Leading Actress: Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. The actress once again transformed herself into another person, going so far as to drink glasses of egg whites in the middle of the night to help put on 25 pounds of muscle. This Oscar will confirm Swank as one of Hollywood’s top Actresses, not just a one-time winner.

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett for The Aviator, although she will have heated competition from Virginia Madsen for Sideways. Madsen has been the critical darling this year, but Blanchett is overdue and the Academy loves her. What’s more, Blanchett is a major leading lady and Madsen is scarcely known. Still, I’d give both actresses 50-50 odds. Natalie Portman is too young and she’s got a long career ahead of her, plus did I mention how much I hated Closer?

Directing: Martin Scorsese for The Aviator. Scorsese’s sweeping biopic about a subject that terrifies him is the most-nominated film this year. And, as mentioned before, Scorsese is probably the most overdue person in Hollywood. He probably should have won for Gangs of New York, but competition was tougher that year.

Adapted Screenplay: The most awarded film of the year got there because of a beautifully written script. Sideways should win this tightly-contested category.

Original Screenplay: If there is an Oscar god, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will win this category. Was there any movie more original last year?

And finally, Best Picture: With 11 nominations, The Aviator is likely to win this one. No other movie nominated this year is as broad in scope or as commercially viable. Ray is largely a one-man show; Finding Neverland, while delightful and whimsical, doesn’t showcase big enough performances; Sideways is too small and intimate; and not enough people have seen Million Dollar Baby.

As a postscript, here’s what I want to know? Where is House of Flying Daggers in the Best Foreign Language Film category? That gorgeous movie deserved to be nominated.

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