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Film
3/06
 
 
Oscar and Oscar, Together Forever
Picks and Predictions for a Flamboyant Academy Awards Ceremony

By Chris Bellamy, Jeremy Mathews and Brent Sallay

This year's Oscar nominees are something to write home about—if your parents are gay. It's impossible to go anywhere nowadays without hearing some sort of joke referencing the year's most likely winner, "Brokeback Mountain" and the fact that its main characters are closeted gay cowboys who are unable to live happy lives together because of their repressed and prejudiced culture. We've come a long way since the 1970s—now we can giggle.

The nominees for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards, which airs Sunday, March 25 at 6 p.m. on ABC (channel four), paint 2005 as another year in which the Hollywood films didn't deliver and independent productions picked up the slack. The only studio production nominated for Best Picture is "Munich," and let's face it: If anyone other than Steven Spielberg was trying to make the film, it wouldn't have found studio financing.

But even if most people in the country haven't seen any, we've seen all these films and are ready to pick our favorites with 100 percent accuracy and predict the winners with, oh, let's say at least 50 percent accuracy. Let the ceremony begin.

 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

George Clooney for "Syriana"
Matt Dillon for "Crash"
Paul Giamatti for "Cinderella Man"
Jake Gyllenhaal for "Brokeback Mountain"
William Hurt for "A History of Violence"

This eclectic category includes everything from a lead performance (Jake Gyllenhaal) to a 10-minute performance (William Hurt). It also marks the first time that Oscar bothered to nominate Paul Giamatti.

Jeremy: Well, it's my first prediction of the article and I'm stumped in an unusual four-way race. Pretty much everyone has a chance to win except Hurt—because only Judi Dench can win for a couple minutes of screen time.

Gyllenhaal's movie is the front-runner, and he's actually the second lead, not a supporting actor. Giamatti, receiving his first nomination, has been snubbed so many times that the Academy voters may feel obliged to throw him a bone, even if the very strong performance in "Cinderella Man" isn't his best work. But while Giamatti has emerged as a frontrunner, I can't imagine him winning an Oscar, so this is probably a race between Matt Dillon and George Clooney.

I prefer Clooney, who gave his used and discarded CIA agent in "Syriana" more emotional resonance than any other character in the film—including Jeffrey Wright's alcoholic dad who randomly pops up every so often. If the voters want to reward any of his three nominations, they need to do it here.

But with the disturbing trend towards "Crash," Dillon (who could end up being my favorite leading actor in next year's ceremony for his work in "Factotum") will probably win. Dillon has been doing fine work for years and adds depth to the racist cop who really just wants to save people from burning cars.

Chris: I continue to be stunned at the praise heaped upon the most boring, awkward and poorly delivered performance of the year—William Hurt in "A History of Violence." Let's forget for a second that it's the most overrated movie of the year, and just focus on the way he supposedly "goes against type," yet delivers his lines in the exact, exact same monotone way he's been delivering lines for years. I won't even start on that ridiculous goatee, or how he kept on calling Viggo Mortensen "broheim." That's not even a word.

It's nothing against Hurt himself—I actually like him. He's a good actor. But he was horribly miscast in "Violence" and has somehow garnered all of these accolades for portraying possibly the most boring gangster ever put on screen. I had to stifle laughter just watching him trying to play that role. Ugh. (Not to mention how stupidly his character was written…but I digress.) If he wins, I'm lighting myself on fire. His co-star, Ed Harris, would have been much more deserving of a nod.

Anyway, it was inevitable that Gyllenhall would be nominated considering it was sort of his breakout year. He was solid, if unspectacular, and shouldn’t win the Oscar, but I guess if it’s one of those weird upset years, he’s a possibility. I’m actually the opposite of Jeremy right now—I think Clooney will win, but my personal preference is probably Dillon. Clooney will win because the Academy wants to honor him for something considering the year he’s had, and he ain’t winning for director or screenplay. So he’ll get this one.

Also, Andy Serkis should have been nominated. There was more emotion in that face than many actors can muster in their whole careers. I've spoken my piece.

Brent: Um, ahem, Chris, there are other people in the room. “Most boring, awkward, and poorly delivered”? Really? Well, I suppose if the Oscar season is about anything, it’s the ensuing backlash against every nominated film in some form or another. I personally agree that Ed Harris played the more memorable character in “Violence.” As for people actually nominated, I suppose I will pick Clooney for “Syriana,” if only because he was the only thing about that movie I really liked. (Though it was pretty awesome when (SPOILER) Matt Damon let big oil kill his son to seal that business deal.)

Otherwise, I don’t really care who wins, though I will say this: if Jake Gyllenhaal wins and Heath Ledger doesn’t (which is unfortunately likely) I’m going to throw up out my eyeholes. Whereas Ledger actually lost himself in his character, all Gyllenhall did was grow a moustache and whine a lot. I suspect the only reason he was even in “Brokeback Mountain” in the first place is because Kirsten Dunst thought gay rights were important last year. (Whereas this year, she’s all about “fur is murder.”) Gyllenhaal gave an Oscar- worthy performance four years ago in “Donnie Darko,” but since then, and especially in the last two years, his performances have ranged from spotty to merely adequate to eyehole-vomit-inducing.

Chris: It's not ensuing backlash. I was back-lashing when the movie came out. I wrote a review and everything.

 Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for "Junebug"
Catherine Keener for "Capote"
Frances McDormand for "North Country"
Rachel Weisz for "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams for "Brokeback Mountain"

Aren't there any old legendary actresses nominated this year?

Chris: I’ve been a bit baffled by how Rachel Weisz has swept through the awards season this year. She was excellent in "The Constant Gardener," but not so much so that it warrants such absolute dominance. But the Academy is gonna throw her a curveball. The supporting categories are always the most ripe for upsets, and this year should be indicative of that trend. The voters will choose to honor "Junebug" in the only category in which it was nominated, and they will be choosing correctly when they give Amy Adams the statuette.

Adams created one of the most beautiful and unforgettable characters to come around in a while, and is deserving of every bit of the underground, indie hype she’s been getting since last January.

Brent: Wait a second…where’s Naomi Watts? Was she robbed again…? Hold on a second. Uh huh, just as I suspected, according to the imdb, she was in a film this year. Therefore, I am infuriated that she was robbed for…um, let’s see here, "Ellie Parker." Unacceptable. Let’s see though, given the choices, I would love to see Amy Adams win, as she was the best thing about “Junebug.” As for all the other candidates, I mean, yeah, they’re actresses, and yes, they were in the movies mentioned next to their names, but I could have put on a wig and done just about as well. I think two of these actresses didn’t even have speaking parts.

Jeremy: Naomi Watts was actually the lead in "Ellie Parker," which also should have been nominated for worst cinematography.

Catherine Keener had a great year, delivering solid work in "Capote" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," and Frances McDormand is pretty much always good, but I agree with Chris that it's between Adams and Weistz. (Unless, that is, "Brokeback Mountain" has more power than I've predicted and Michelle Williams is awarded for one of the three great female performances in the film.)

I'm surprised by Weitsz's prominence since "The Constant Gardener" as a whole hasn't generated a great deal of hype. Since whenever I predict an upset there isn't one, I'm going to go with her. Adams, however, is almost entirely responsible for the success of "Junebug" and if enough voters see it, they will vote for her. While I didn't enjoy the film as a whole as much as Chris, no one can deny the depth of Adams's work.

 Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

"Brokeback Mountain" - Larry McMutry, Diana Ossana
"Capote" - Dan Futterman
"The Constant Gardener" - Jeffrey Caine
"A History of Violence" - Josh Olson
"Munich" - Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

They just copied their work out of a book, but they still get awards? What's up with that?

Brent: I'd like to think that this is the one category where "A History of Violence" might have a shot at winning. (It's my favorite of the five, anyway.) But anyone who doesn't think "Brokeback Mountain" will win is (a) kidding themselves and (b) probably a closeted homosexual.

Jeremy: My only reservation about predicting "Brokeback Mountain" is that the film doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue, and you know that Oscar voters care about that kind of stuff. But I'll predict it anyway, because the other films seem likely to split each others' votes.

Dan Futterman's work on "Capote" is award-worthy, as he finds a way to tell a life story in a short, less-than-a-decade time period. That means no footage of the brother dying when he's a boy, normally an essential element of a biopic.

Chris: OK, here we go. I’m shocked, baffled and stunned at the kind of praise and hype "A History of Violence" has gotten all year. Maybe people are blinded by the fact that the material is "edgy," but the film, in fact, is an unfortunate misfire and I absolutely can’t believe how many people fell for it. Honestly, what was it that got people? Was it the idiotic, cartoonish action sequences that undermined the entire rest of the film? Was it the complete disregard for logic that peppered the entire screenplay? Was it the embarrassingly hackneyed, poorly written subplot about the teenage son and the school bully? Was it the meandering third act that climaxed in a final scene that was almost laughable when it was supposed to be at its most serious? Was it the lousy child actors?

One part I particularly enjoyed was the scene in which Viggo Mortensen runs 15 miles to his house in the same amount of time it takes his wife to load a shotgun. Good comedy all around.

I’m stumped. But since we’re talking about the screenplay here, let me just present a brief demonstration, where I will paraphrase all the dialogue of the Teenage Bully subplot:
 
Bully: Whatcha you gonna do, bitch? What, you little pussy, you want to fight, bitch? You little bitch. You little pussy bitch. You wanna fight, bitch? You’re a pussy. Whatcha gonna do, you pussy? You little bitch, come on, bitch. You little pussy. You little bitch. You’re such a little pussy bitch. You want to fight me, bitch? I’ll knock your pussy bitch ass out. You pussy. You little bitch. Bitch. Pussy! Bitch! Bitch! Pussy!…Bitch.
 
I mean, are you kidding me with that subplot, Josh Olson? The School Bully subplot? Really? You’re serious with that? Don’t give me the whole "violence-begets-violence" thematic angle; you could have done better than the School Bully subplot. I saw that exact same story on 22 different after-school specials in the late 1980s, three episodes of "Degrassi Junior High" and a one-hour special of "Saved By the Bell." And you know what? In each and every instance, it was way edgier than the correlating scenes in "A History of Violence." (I know, the movie was a fable—I understand that. Too bad it’s not a very intelligent one.)

But, um…now that I’ve used up all my space, I’ll say that "Brokeback Mountain" will win this one, but for me, the moral and ethical complexities raised by Kushner and Roth in "Munich," coupled with some outstanding character development, makes that script stand out more than any other in this group.

Brent: To answer Chris’s question, my favorite parts of “Violence” were the poorly written subplot and the lousy child actors.

Jeremy (whispering to Brent): I don't think Chris liked "A History of Violence."

 Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

"Crash" - Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco
"Good Night, and Good Luck." - George Clooney, Grant Heslov
"Match Point" - Woody Allen
"The Squid and the Whale" - Noah Baumbach
"Syriana" - Stephen Gaghan

Wasn't "Good Night, and Good Luck." kind of adapted from CBS newscasts?

Jeremy: Well, I guess "Crash" is going to win because it's emotionally manipulative and the Oscar voters love that kind of stuff. But if certain scenes had been deleted at the screenplay stage, the film would have incredibly more power.

Where is Miranda July's screenplay for "Me and You and Everyone We Know" on this list?" July's strange and beautiful examination of the human condition in the digital age deserves acknowledgment for her idiosyncratic yet perfectly identifiable dialogue. The history of a relation ship explained during a walk down the street alone merits a nomination. So does the scene in which July's character tries to hand deliver a tape of her performance art to a gallery curator. So does…oh, I better stop.

For my pick among the nominees, I have to overlook Woody Allen's brilliant "Match Point" in favor of Noah Baumbach's funny and heartbreaking "The Squid and the Whale." Baumbach observes, through the eyes of a young teenager, the confusion and frustration of divorce and the realization that an idolized parent isn't perfect.

Chris: "…back and forth, forever…"

Yes, Miranda July was well-deserving for her script, but not as much so as Angus MacLachlan for “Junebug.” While July gets marks for her originality and quirkiness, MacLachlan created a type of movie that people don’t really make anymore, with types of characters that both Hollywood and indie cinema always overlook: Real, normal, ordinary people. I don’t think they exist in Hollywood, but in North Carolina and almost everywhere else, they’re all over the place! You almost can’t escape them, these ordinary human beings. The beauty of MacLachlan’s script and characters penetrates every scene, and puts Hollywood’s attempts at portraying normal society to shame.

And then there’s Steve Conrad’s criminally underseen and under-appreciated script for “The Weather Man.” Somehow, Conrad found a perfect balance between his dry humor (often quite hilarious) and real, honest-to-goodness humanity as he created a pitch-perfect character study. And the inner dialogue in the Tartar Sauce sequence belongs in the Smithsonian or something.

Oh, but none of those were nominated. Well, then…Woody Allen should win; his is the best of the bunch. But he’s already got three Oscars and he never comes to the show, so he won’t win. Yes, Jeremy is right—with the late surge in momentum, “Crash” has this one. Even if Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach’s works were better.

Brent: Well, here’s what I thought about Junebug: [Insert Chris’s comments about “History of Violence.”] And that scene where Amy Adams runs 15 miles home from the hospital while 10 months pregnant, giving birth all the way, well…actually, that was pretty awesome.

But anyway, with that out of the way, I would sure like to see Noah Baumbach win for “Squid and the Whale.” It was one of the funniest films of the last few years, and much of the humor came from how well it was written. Unfortunately, it will lose to “Crash,” which interestingly enough was recently declared the swearingest Oscar-nominated film of the last five years by FamilyMediaGuide.com (which I read on a bi-daily basis).

 Best Achievement in Cinematography

"Batman Begins" - Wally Pfister
"Brokeback Mountain" - Rodrigo Prieto
"Good Night, and Good Luck." - Robert Elswit
"Memoirs of a Geisha" - Dion Beebe
"The New World" - Emmanuel Lubezki

This year's cinematography category only includes only two of the major award contenders. The other three are wild card spots, like in football.

Chris: Where the hell is Janusz Kaminski for “Munich”? Andrew Lesnie for “King Kong”? Since I assume Robert Rodriguez was ineligible, we’ll leave him out of this. Anyway, I was glad to see Pfister get a nod for the type of film that almost always gets overlooked. He’s been doing standout work for a long time now and it’s good to see noms from both the Academy and the ASC. Prieto, similarly, has done excellent work on such films as “Amores Perros” and “The 25th Hour,” and I’ll say he wins it just because people don’t usually like to think when it comes to these things, and “Brokeback” is the lead horse, and that seems to dictate everything.

Of the bunch, my personal favorite would be either Pfister for “Batman Begins” or Elswit for “Good Night, and Good Luck.,” as he found the perfect tone for the film’s 1950s, documentary style.

Brent: I would prefer to see a win here for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” But I’m betting that most voters will think there was something wrong with the cinematography because it was in black & white. No, “Brokeback” will win for its luscious shots of the mountain ranges in Canada, er, I mean Wyoming (I don’t know why I thought of Canada), and of Jake Gyllenhaal taking it (lovingly) where the sheep don’t dare to tread.

Jeremy: Well, I guess I'll just agree with you guys. Prietro wins for "Brokeback," and why not? Elswit should win for "Good Night, and Good Luck.."

I'd also like to add César Charlone to the list of the snubbed. His experiments with light and aperture in "The Constant Gardener" were daring and beautiful. Plus, he should have won two years ago for "City of God."

 Best Achievement in Editing

"Cinderella Man" - Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hll
"The Constant Gardener" - Claire Simpson
"Crash" - Hughes Winborne
"Munich" - Michael Kahn
"Walk the Line" - Michael McCusker

Last year our introduction to cinematography said that it was the most unappreciated and misunderstood of the cinematic arts. This year, let's give that honor to editing.

Brent: Yeah, we go through this every year, and I know editing and movie length have nothing to do with each other, but I'm still going to go on record as saying that "Munich" is automatically disqualified for being over two and a half hours long. "Crash" will win this, because Academy members will equate multiple story lines with superior editing. Though I've got a sneaking suspicion those two things don't have anything to do with each other either.

Jeremy: I was ready for that length comment. Remember last year when we argued so long that it took two and a half hours to read the editing predictions? This year, I'm not picking the longest film as my favorite, but it is longer than two hours. Claire Simpson's work on "The Constant Gardener" helped create an eerily beautiful love story and mystery, and that train sequence is just plain awesome. Still, I agree that "Crash" will win.

Chris: Yeah, “Crash” will win, curiously enough. While I really liked the film, the editing didn’t really stand out. The editing in both “Munich” and “The Constant Gardener” served much more distinct purposes and really contributed to the tension and style, much more so than Winborne’s work did for “Crash.”

(See? We were nice and concise this time. Edit that!)

Jeremy: I feel like I should add something—the writeup might be a little too thin this year.

Chris: Um…damn you Academy voters for refusing to recognize…um…"Doom"…or "Because of Winn-Dixie"…or something. Come on, let's get a little more mileage out of this category.

 Best Achievement in Art Direction

"Good Night, and Good Luck." - James D. Bissell, Jan Pascale
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - Stuart Craig, Stephanie McMillan
"King Kong" - Grant Major, Dan Hennah, Simon Bright
"Memoirs of a Geisha" - John Myhre, Gretchen Rau
"Pride & Prejudice" - Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Whether putting ruins on a mysterious island, nicely decorated castles in a period piece or Japanese stuff in Japan, these art directors were thinking outside of the box.

Jeremy: So let's get this straight: Even when the Academy sees fit to nominate "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for costume design, Alex McDowell still isn't thrown a bone with an Art Direction nomination? He wasn't nominated for "Minority Report," "The Terminal," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "The Crow"—anything. Meanwhile, the detailed and pretty but utterly meaningless work from "Memoirs of a Geisha" gets noticed.

So among the nominees, I'm a fan of the reserved and austere recreation of the CBS news room of the 1950s in "Good Night, and Good Luck.," but would be very surprised if the idiots who nominated "Memoirs" would feel the same way. "Harry Potter" loses points with voters for using many designs from previous films. I guess I'll predict "King Kong." Or maybe "Pride & Prejudice" for its less glamorous depiction of its time.

Chris: I'd like to see "King Kong" get recognized for something, but since I'm fairly confident it will win special effects, I'll be happy to agree with Jeremy and say "Good Night, and Good Luck." should win, though I'd be happy either way. But you know what really pisses me off? The chance that a lousy movie like "Memoirs of a Geisha" has a chance to clean up with the technical awards (because a major studio is behind it) and that it will be able to put "Winner of SIX Academy Awards!!" on the front of the DVD, which will fool people into thinking that it was actually a good movie, which will lead to their inevitable disappointment, which will lead to parents arguing over which movie they should have rented instead, with one of them blaming the other for picking "Geisha" when they could have damn well rented "Cinderella Man" or something, which will in turn reinforce the well-publicized failures of Ron Howard's boxing flick, leading to three executives at Universal getting fired; meanwhile, that angry couple is still arguing over the "Geisha" situation, and the argument elevates fast and starts to turn nasty; lines are eventually crossed, and they are crossed right at the wrong moment, with the father calling the mother a bad name right as the couple's three children wake up and go see what all the fuss is all about; this, instead of ending the argument, only leads to its escalation, as mother and father suddenly shift their argument to assigning blame for the kids waking up, and for the kids' lack of discipline, and for the fact that father is never home to spend time with the kids while I'm here slaving all day at home; father grabs his suitcase and slams the door while mother hysterically calls her sister in Topeka and calls her soon-to-be ex-husband an "inconsiderate bastard;" she repeats this phrase in front of a judge four months later in a custody battle that has turned nasty, as the mother originally promised to agree to joint custody, only to change her mind at the last minute in favor of slowly turning all three of her children against their no-good father, which she does, only it causes the youngest of the bunch, then just 8 years old, to develop mental instability and child depression, sending him to therapy at such a young age that he develops a dependency on anxiety medication that will last well into his adult years; the problems are exacerbated when mother gets a new boyfriend who hates kids and smells funny.

Fuck you, Rob Marshall.

Brent: Um, yeah, what Chris said.

Jeremy: I've been warning people about the Rob Marshall problem since "Chicago" became a frontrunner, but no one would listen to me.

 Best Achievement in Costume Design

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - Gabriella Pesucci
"Memoirs of a Geisha" - Colleen Atwood
"Mrs. Henderson Presents" - Sandy Powell
"Pride & Prejudice" - Jacqueline Durran
"Walk the Line" - Arianne Phillips

Without costumes, actors would have to walk around naked. Hmmm…

Chris: Well, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” repulsed me as a movie, though the visuals – as usual with a Burton film – stood out, and that includes both McDowell’s production design and Pesucci’s costume design. However, I hated Willy Wonka’s wardrobe (and, in fact, everything about Depp’s interpretation of Wonka), so, in my book, Pesucci is right out.

Honestly, though the movie wasn’t very good, the costumes in “Memoirs of a Geisha” stood out more than anything, and looking at this list of nominees, I’d have to say the film will deserve this one victory when it inevitably comes.

Brent: Unfortunately, I have seen none of these movies, so I can’t use this space to vent about how I hated one or more of them. Although…wasn’t everyone in “Mrs. Henderson Presents” supposed to be naked throughout the entire film? And they get nominated for best costumes! Ah, the irony. The sweet naked irony.

Jeremy: My favorite costume design of this lot is "Walk the Line," which won't win because it only takes place a couple decades ago and is a bit too subtle. I do, however, think that "Memoirs of a Geisha" will probably win. And it kills me inside to think the movie will be able to call itself an Oscar winner (not that movies can call themselves anything).

 Best Achievement in Makeup

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" - Howard Berger, Taimi Lane
"Cinerella Man" - David LeRoy Anderson, Lance Anderson
"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" - Dave Elsey, Annette Miles

Without makeup artists, actors would have to really get beaten up in boxing matches to make it look convincing. Hmmm…

Brent: Interesting that "Cinderella Man" and "Star Wars" were both nominated for this category. While I didn't actually see "Cinderella Man," I did buy a ticket for it which I used to see "Star Wars" instead. My reasoning: George Lucas deserves zero money (and zero Oscars, I might add) until he releases the original theatrical versions of Episodes IV-VI on DVD. But why "Cinderella Man"? Well, I felt sorry for how poorly it was doing in the box office. Also, I somehow justified that putting money in Ron Howard's pocket would help support "Arrested Development." But anyway, where was I? Oh yes, best makeup. Let's hope "Chronicles of Narnia" wins, because it took us all to a dream world of magic.

Jeremy: "Cinderella Man" had excellent makeup, but who cares, there weren't any siths or weird-looking ice princesses with Turkish delight. "Narnia" will probably win, because no one wants to award "Star Wars." Speaking of which, I have the laserdiscs of the original trilogy, Brent. I can make you copies if you want to keep Lucas from getting any money. It's an insult to the history of cinema not to release the original films.

Chris: I’d just like to say that every time I see Hayden Christensen’s smug, fat little holographic face at the end of “Return of the Jedi,” I throw up in my mouth a little bit. And, uh…I’m down for the vote-for-“Cinderella Man”-so-we-can-save-“Arrested Development” thing. Three cheers for Lance and David LeRoy Anderson!

 Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

"Brokeback Mountain" - Gustavo Santaolalla
"The Constant Gardener" - Alberto Iglesias
"Memoirs of a Geisha" - John Williams
"Munich" - John Williams
"Pride & Prejudice" - Dario Marianelli

Will John Williams split his own vote? Will Santaolalla, Iglesias and Marianelli split the difficult-to-pronounce names vote?

Jeremy: I can't get that guitar part from "Brokeback Mountain" out of my head, can you? Can the Academy voters? I don't think so. It goes to Gustavo Santaolalla.

Chris: Clearly, Jeremy, you haven’t been keeping up with the latest additions to the Academy’s rules and regulations, which stipulate that John Williams must win an Oscar every year. Didn’t you get my e-mail about it? Seriously, the guy has 237 Oscars and he’s not even satisfied. He scored like 42 movies this year or something. I know, he might split his own vote this year, but check this out—I say he still wins, for both of the movies he’s nominated for. That’s my prediction. They’re just going to give him two Oscars and that’ll be that. Then he’ll run on stage, grab one in each hand, run into the audience and smack Gustavo Santaolalla on the face, screaming, “I’m John Williams, bitch!”

Which, I suppose, Santaolalla can’t really argue with. John Williams is, in fact, John Williams. Bitch.

But on a separate note, James Newton Howard got totally screwed over for his heartbreaking score to “King Kong.” Howard’s music was one of the only saving graces of last year’s abysmal “The Village,” and he outdid himself this year.

Brent: Yeah, I can’t get the “Brokeback” theme out of my head either, but I think that’s more from how much it’s been used in spoofs like “Brokeback to the Future” and “Top Gun: Brokeback Squadron.” The only musical score I really noticed in a movie this year was the one for “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” But then, I guess they only nominate boring, gaudy orchestral scores for Oscars. John Williams will win, but the question is, for which film? That’s a tough one, because “Munich” will piss off Israel. And “Geisha” will piss off China. Or Japan. One of those countries, I don’t remember. Ah, they’re all the same to me.

 Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

"Hustle & Flow" - Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman, Paul Beauregard ("It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp")
"Crash" - Michael Becker, Kathleen York ("In the Deep")
"Transamerica" - Dolly Parton ("Travelin' Thru")

This year, for only the second time in 70 years (the other was 1988), there were so few songs worth nominating that the Academy only nominated three (the Golden Globe winner "A Love that Will Never Grow Old" from "Brokeback Mountain" wasn't eligible because it wasn't featured prominently enough) instead of five.

Chris: "God made me for a reason, and nothing is in vain / Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain."

You know who said that? Dolly Parton...and people just think she’s a big pair of tits.

Brent: Some would argue there were no songs worth nominating this year.

Jeremy: OK, so: "You know it's hard out here for a pimp / When he tryin' to get the money for the rent / For the Cadillacs and gas money spent / Will have a whole lot of bitches jumpin' ship." Never in my life have I heard a song that so poignantly captured the hardships of being a pimp. It's just heartbreaking. The first time I saw the film and heard the song, a single teardrop flowed down my cheek.

But I suppose it ain't gonna win. Becker and York's song, "I Wish I Were Aimee Mann and this Film were 'Magnolia'" could win due to "Crash" hype, but I'm guessing that good ol' Dolly will win. And hopefully Ricky Gervais will present the award.

 Best Achievement in Visual Effects

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" - Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney, Scott Farrar
"King Kong" - Joe Letteri, Brian Van't Hul, Christian Rivers, Richard Taylor
"War of the Worlds" - Pablo Helman, Dennis Muren, Randy Dutra, Daniel Sudick

Talking lions, non-talking-yet-emotive giant apes, tripod machines made by aliens that are millions of years more advanced than us yet not smart enough to immunize—these are the creations of nimble cinematic effects technicians.

Brent: I've only seen "King Kong," but I'm still fairly confident it will win, because 40 percent of Americans think it's actually another "Lord of the Rings" movie.

Jeremy: The question is, will "Narnia" sweep all these effects awards, or will Kong get this one? I'm leaning towards "Kong," because its animal characters actually had emotion. "Narnia" just had a bunch of creepy, expressionless animals whose mouths moved. Bravo.

Oh, and "War of the Worlds" sucked (the effects weren't awful, though).

Chris: I’d just like to take this opportunity to expand on that last point. Ahem…”War of the Worlds” totally sucked. I mean, it sucked Kong-sized ass and Steven Spielberg should be ashamed of himself.

And if “King Kong” doesn’t win this category, something is seriously wrong with every single voter out there...and perhaps with humanity itself. I mean, come on—Kong himself is the greatest single special effect ever put on screen. And while all the effects in the film aren’t perfect, they’re pretty damn impressive, and Kong is damn near perfect.

 Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

"Corpse Bride" - Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
"Hauru no ugoku shiro" ("Howl's Moving Castle," for those of you who aren't fluent in Japanese) - Hayao Miyazaki
"Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" - Steve Box, Nick Park

With no Pixar movie this year, the category is wide open. These nominees are all traditional—two stop motion, one ("Howl's") hand-drawn. It's almost as if "Madagascar" and "Chicken Little" weren't very good or something.

Jeremy: It was a disappointing year for animation. The great Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" was a bit meandering and repetitive. Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" was entertaining, but lacked the character depth needed to make an involving story.

That leaves the charming feature-length debut of "Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." While not fantastic, this charming bit of British whimsy is fun and clever as it briskly moves through its silly plot. It'll win, and why not?

Chris: It was a crappy year for animated movies. The Pixar revolution has practically forced other studios to develop digitally animated projects of their own, but for the most part they have sucked. This year, we had "Madagascar," "Valiant," "Chicken Little," "Robots," "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" -- all of which sucked. The three nominees are the best of the year, so they got that right, but none of them hold up against movies from recent years like "The Incredibles" and "Shrek." But yeah, “W&G” is the best of the bunch...although why wasn’t “Revenge of the Sith” nominated?

Brent: Because none of the characters in “Sith” actually ever moved. While you have to admire George Lucas’s innovation of the art form of stop-and-stay-there animation, this one’s a no brainer—“Wallace & Gromit.”

Jeremy: Chris, don't bother reminding people of "Valiant." They'll just forget it again in three minutes. I'd just like to say that I did enjoy "Robots," if not for its brilliant production design then for the fact that its "plot" not-so-subtly advocates for a violent lower-class revolt against corporate America. Come on, people, let the revolution begin!

 Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

"La Bestia nel cuore" ("Don't Tell" or "The Beast in the Heart") - Cristina Comencini (Italy)
"Joyeux Noël" - Christian Carion (France)
"Paradise Now" - Hany Abu-Assad" (Palestine)
"Sophie Scholl- Die Letzten Tage" - Mark Rothermund (Germany)
"Tsotsi" - Gavin Hood

You might have heard of two of these films. Hell, one of them has even been released!

Chris: I can’t emphasize this enough: “War of the Worlds” totally sucked. “Paradise Now” will win.

Brent: All I’m going to say is this: Academy members, please pick a film to win here that does not make people from other religions want to blow up America.

Jeremy: Well, the hilarious tale of suicide bombers "Paradise Now" is the only film that has finished its commercial run in the United States, but voters in this category have to see all the films, a luxury we haven't had here. Michael Haneke's brilliant "Caché" was snubbed by the French selection committee (whoever the hell they are) in favor of "Joyeux Noël," a film about the Christmas armistice that has enough feel-goodery to win over voters. However, I haven't seen the remaining nominees and hear that "Tsotsi" is good. But I guess I'll go with the French one—though I might change my mind by the time the ceremony starts. No wait, I'll go with "Tsotsi."

 Best Documentary, Features

"Darwin's Nightmare" - Hubert Sauper
"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" - Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot
"La Marche de l'empereur" ("March of the Penguins") - Luc Jacquet, Yves Darondeau
"Murderball" - Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro
"Street Fight" - Marchall Curry

Other than "Street Fight," you could have seen all these titles. Did you?

Brent: The fact that "Grizzly Man" is not on this list is probably the most glaring omission from all of this year's nominations. Maybe if a bear would eat one of those precious little penguins, people would start to take notice. That being said, "March of the Penguins" is my pick to win. Though I personally found "Murderball" and the Enron movie more riveting, "Penguins" deserves major props for sticking it out in Antarctic weather for the better part of a year, not to mention some truly stunning close-up camera work.

Jeremy: I was also sad to see "Grizzly Man" missing—from the short list! It didn't even make the short list of 20 or so! Ridiculous. "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" (which wasn't on my best-of-2005 list because it hasn't technically come out) made the short list, but criminally wasn't nominated.

Of the nominees, "Murderball" is the best for its intimate and honest look at the lives of wheelchair rugby players. No one will beat those adorable penguins, though. Look at them waddle! They're soooo cute!

Chris: If I had to pick a way to die, I’d probably say getting eaten by a bear would be at the top of my list. It’s, like, gangsta. But if I was a bear, I probably wouldn’t eat me. I would probably eat a bunch of penguins. They just look so helpless waddling around out there. Delicious!

As for this category, is it even worth arguing about anymore? No matter what they do to reform the way documentaries are judged, they keep on screwing it up. “Grizzly Man” not on the short list? But anyway, “March of the Penguins” will win because everybody saw it, but “Murderball” is the best of the bunch.

 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Judi Dench for "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Felicity Huffman for "Transamerica"
Keira Knightley for "Pride & Prejudice"
Charlize Theron for "North Country"
Reese Witherspoon for "Walk the Line"

Some might say that this whole category looks like a list of runner-up nominees. But hey, runner-ups still have skills!

Jeremy: It'd be hard for Reese Witherspoon to lose this. She's got all the hype for her excellent acting (and singing) as June Carter, the woman who tamed that wild druggie Johnny Cash. Both cheerful and fraught with conflict, Witherspoon's performance stole the show.

My favorite performance of the lot could pull an upset. Felicity Huffman elevated an average transgender-father-and-unknowing-son road movie with a fantastic performance that required careful physical and vocal technique as well as emotional resonance.

Theron and Dench both already have Oscars, and Knightley's nomination is its own reward (at least she'll have to tell herself that).

All in all, this lot doesn't have any performances that I'l really excited about. I would have liked to see Miranda July here, or Joan Allen for "Off the Map," "The Upside of Anger" or "Yes." Or Emily Mortimer for "Dear Frankie" (or "Match Point," if you want to scan back up to supporting actress.)

Chris: Joan Allen gave two of the three best lead female performances of the year, and Naomi Watts gave the other. And none of them got nominated, so we’re stuck with this bunch. No offense, I like all the performances, but Allen and Watts really blew me away. Of the nominees, Huffman and Witherspoon are the front-runners for good reason. I won’t mind seeing either of them win, though it would have been nice to see Huffman’s performance in a better movie.

By the way, Charlize Theron is disqualified on the basis of the last 30 minutes of “North Country.” My God.

Brent: Oh crap, I already did my Naomi Watts spiel in the wrong category. Honestly, nothing against women, but if women as a whole don’t start giving more memorable performances, we need to threaten to eliminate this category. The sad thing is, Reese Witherspoon is going to win, and not because of her performance in “Walk the Line,” because no one ever wins for the film they win for. No, Witherspoon will win as a penance for not nominating her for (shudder) the “Legally Blonde” films, and, to a lesser extent, “Just Like Heaven.”

 Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Phillip Seymour Hoffman for "Capote"
Terrence Howard for "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger for "Brokeback Mountain"
Joaquin Phoenix for "Walk the Line"
David Strathairn for "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Gays, pimps, drug addicts and newsmen with integrity. It's like they're trying to piss Bill O'Reilly off.

Chris: Once again, to no one’s surprise, Hoffman, Phoenix and Strathairn all impersonated famous people, and all got nominated! It’s like a magic potion or something. First, let me just contradict myself and say that the best male performance of the year was Bruno Ganz’ stunning portrait of Hitler during the final days of World War II in “Downfall.” The second-best performance was Jeff Daniels—in perhaps the role of his career—as a prideful and overbearing father in the wonderful “The Squid and the Whale.”

But on to the actual nominees…Hoffman has been arguably the best and most chameleon-like actor in the business for a long time now, but he was never recognized until he portrayed a famous person. Like he always does, he knocked it out of the park and he will likely take home the prize—though it could be argued that Ledger is just as, if not more, effective in “Brokeback Mountain.” Indeed, we have come a long way since “10 Things I Hate About You.”

Also overlooked were the perennially under-appreciated Nicolas Cage for "The Weather Man" and Bill Murray for "Broken Flowers."

Brent: The Academy doesn’t just like to nominate famous people. They also like to nominate people who played characters of minority status or with disabilities. Observe: Hoffman (gay), Howard (black), Ledger (gay), Phoenix (hairlip), and Straitharn (tall, and in black & white). Since Hoffman (who has really deserved an Oscar for most all of his roles in the past 10 years) played a character who was both famous and gay, this combination will blow the Academy’s minds enough to finally make up for Hoffman’s snub for “Patch Adams.” (OK, maybe he didn’t deserve one for that film.)

Jeremy: So, being black & white and having hairlips are the disabilities, right? We don't want to get picketed.

Brent: Picketed? Um, I don't even think anyone's reading this.

Jeremy: I agree. Even if they started reading, they probably skipped ahead to Best Picture one sentence into Original Screenplay. But as I was saying (ahem)…

I agree that Daniels and Ganz were excellent, and would also like to point out Daniel Auteuil in "Caché." Playing a very unlikable character as his pleasant exterior evaporates, Auteuil still manages to garner our sympathy.

As for the nominees, I'm really torn between Ledger and Hoffman. Hoffman will win, and you can't really argue with the award given his career and an amazing performance. He keeps us aware of his character's past and inner turmoil despite contrary exterior actions.

Ledger, on the other hand, managed to give a great performance while playing someone who isn't famous, a near-impossible feat. His introspective character's built-up emotions and regrets anchor the film that is the frontrunner for Best Picture. In a year that Hoffman played, say, a non-famous gambling addict, Ledger would be taking it home.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to the academy for nominating David Strathairn, who has been doing standout work for three decades and just received his first nomination. But should I also give the academy a shout-down for taking so long? I'm confused.

 Best Achievement in Directing

George Clooney for "Good Night, and Good Luck."
Paul Haggis for Crash"
Ang Lee for "Brokeback Mountain"
Bennett Miller for "Capote"
Steven Spielberg for "Munich"

It's very rare that a director of one of the Best Picture doesn't get to be the loser who wasn't nominated for Best Director. In fact, it hasn't happened for 24 years. But this year, they're all winners! Except for the four who lose.

Brent: Ang Lee seems like a sure bet since he's won every other director's award given out in the past few months, though I would prefer a win for Clooney, who has proven himself quite a surprisingly eclectic director with his first two feature films (this and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind").

Jeremy: I like Clooney, too. I also like Steven Spielberg, who took a chance on a film that's completely unlike his trademark style. And Bennett Miller made an impressive debut with "Capote." But I have to go with Lee, who is also a pretty versatile director (he already won for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").

I would have liked to see Michael Haneke nominated for doing nothing short of destroying the cinematic lens in "Caché," or Miranda July for the outstanding debut "Me and You and Everyone We Know." But I'll happily accept Lee's win for his delicate study of two characters who can't outwardly express themselves or their love.

Chris: I was kind of surprised that there were no differences between director and picture; I figured they would shaft first-time director Bennett Miller and give a nod to Jackson or Cronenberg or Allen. A Peter Jackson nomination, in particular, would have been a strong choice. "King Kong" is his masterpiece, the best single film he's ever done and one of the most impressive big-budget projects I've ever seen. Maybe Academy voters were just sick of him after giving him 49 Oscars for "The Return of the King," I don't know, but his work on "Kong" was unbelievable. That has to warrant some kind of recognition -- but no.

Anyway, Lee will win, of course, but if it were up to me to decide the Oscar winners (which it should be, by the way), I would go with Spielberg. Sure, he's already won before, blah blah blah. But like Jeremy said, "Munich" was the antithesis of the Spielberg trademark and may go down as the boldest film of his career. Then again, I could say he doesn't deserve to win it based on the fact that this year, he also made "War of the Worlds"…which, in case I haven't made clear, sucked. But "Munich" was sweet redemption.

 Best Motion Picture of the Year

"Brokeback Mountain" - Diana Ossana, James Schamus
"Capote" - Caroline Baron, William Vince, Michael Ohoven
"Crash" - Paul Haggis, Cathy Shulman
"Good Night, and Good Luck." - Grant Heslov
"Munich" - Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel

"March of the Penguins" grossed more than all these films. This fact doesn't really matter, but every Oscar article is legally obligated to include it.

Jeremy: I've already complained about snubs for "Me and You and Everyone We Know" and "Caché," not that I expected them—or "The Squid and the Whale" and "Mysterious Skin"—to be nominated. As far as what I did expect to be nominated, I think that this is a decent lot. I was especially surprised and impressed with the nomination of "Munich," an uneasy and controversial film that doesn't contain the emotional direction that people have come to expect from Steven Spielberg.

And it's a rare thing, but my pick (among the nominees) and prediction are going to the same film, "Brokeback Mountain." The film's touching love story of two people whose lives would have been different if only they'd lived in another time, in a more accepting place, slowly builds to to an emotionally resonant conclusion. With all the fine performances and filmmaking throughout, it's still surprising how heartbreaking those final moments are. "Brokeback" has won pretty much all the major awards (except the Screen Actors Guild ensemble cast award, which doesn't mean shit), and has the quality to back up its hype. That's pretty hard to beat.

The only potential upset is Paul Haggis's "Crash," which, if victorious, would transfer the award from my favorite to my least favorite nominee. While the film is very well acted and contains scenes of extreme power, it also contains scenes that undermine its point. Most of these scenes come at the end of the film, so I'd be spoiling it to discuss them. But let's just say that pretty much all the scenes in which the characters resort to violence are contrived and forced, as are many of the coincidences that repeatedly bring them together. Then there's the magic cape thing. The film left me yearning for what it could have been.

I wouldn't be unhappy to see any of the other nominees win. I also wouldn't be unhappy if it turned out that "Crash" was a typo and it was supposed to say "Caché." Yeah, that's the ticket!

Chris: For the first time in a long time, I really liked all five of the BP nominees. While only one made my Top-10 list ("Munich"), they are all worthy of Oscar recognition, in my opinion. I know Jeremy didn't like "Crash" that much, and I know people who can't handle movies longer than 95 minutes didn't like "Munich" that much, and I know Larry Miller didn't like "Brokeback Mountain" (or did he?), but regardless of those "opinions," these are all worthy of awards-season recognition. That's weird for me to say - generally speaking, there are one or two downright undeserving BP nominees, and sometimes nominated movies are flat-out bad ("The Cider House Rules," "A Few Good Men," "Titanic," "Good Will Hunting").

Needless to say, the winner of this category should be Chan-wook Park's masterpiece, "Oldboy," but since the Academy forgot to nominate it—and made a conscious effort to overlook "King Kong"—I guess I'll have to settle for "Munich" as my favorite of the five films, though "Brokeback Mountain" is going to win it. I've all of a sudden heard that "Crash" is a favorite to win BP, which I personally don't understand. "Brokeback" has won, like, every critics' circle and award show's Best Picture award. If it then didn't win at the Oscars…hell, has that even happened before? Screw it, "Crash" won't win. "Brokeback" takes it

Brent: The best picture nominees all boil down to one thing this year: The Academy hates President Bush. They can’t win an actual election, so they have made themselves a foolproof ballot that no matter how it ends up, Bush looks bad. Observe: “Good Night” = Our leaders can’t be trusted. “Brokeback” = We are for gay marriage. “Crash” = President Bush screwed up Katrina. “Munich” = Israel is kind of close to Iraq, and we’re against the war. “Capote” = President Bush can’t read.

Of course, it comes down to which is the bigger hot button issue, and that means “Brokeback Mountain” vs. “Crash.” Which is a close one, because gay people are people too, but then again, so are black people. Ultimately, “Crash” will win, because it’s much more heavy handed about being against racism. Somebody says “race” or “black” or “racism” or, apparently, “fuck,” at least every 30 seconds. You know you’re watching a movie that’s against racism the whole time. Whereas with “Brokeback Mountain,” you get the feeling it’s promoting gay marriage, but it never comes right out and beats you over the head with a tire iron with it, and so you’re left confused and aroused and wondering why you’ve never noticed before how tightly Heath Ledger’s chaps fit his more than ample, effortlessly heaving ass cheeks. In short, you don’t know what to think. Then again, the Oscars have always been pretty damn gay. And maybe they feel they’ve finally found their own. In the end, the only real response to who will take home the Academy’s most coveted prize is “Who knows?” Or perhaps, more importantly, “Who the hell cares?”

chris [at] saltshakermagazine.com
jeremy [at] saltshakermagazine.com

brent [at] saltshakermagazine.com

 

 
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