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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hooray for etc. 

Well, tonight's the night.

We've been saturated with stupefyingly inane stories ever since the Oscar nominations came out last month. You've probably heard or read them by now: "Hollywood" is "out of touch" with America because the Best Picture nominees aren't the highest-grossing movies of the year... as if that has ever been the nomination scheme in design or stated intent. Tiresome, also, is the constant reference to "Hollywood" as a singular organic entity with a hive-mind agenda, especially considering how many of the Best Picture nominees were turned down year after year for production. Let's recognize this year's nominees for being what they are: a refreshingly diverse collection of artistic voices turning in work of inspired passion.

And of course everyone's wondering if Jon Stewart's going to make George Bush jokes. I've been following this guy since the days of his talk show on MTV, and I can say one thing: he'll be fine. Just sit back and enjoy the fucking show already.

But everyone's fascinated, despite shoot-from-the-hip cynicism so openly displayed by entertainment journalists who, for some reason, don't want to appear unhip to their peers for actually giving a good goddamn. Even the Indie Spirit Awards seems like an also-ran award ceremony; the prize list pretty much tells us who's not getting an Oscar tonight but deserves some kind of recognition.

Whatever. It's the Oscars. Everyone that's been nominated should have been, and ridiculous nitpicking aside, this is a hell of a horse race.

As for predictions:

BEST PICTURE
What Will Win: Brokeback Mountain.
What Should Win: Brokeback Mountain. Save your tired rhetoric. This is a beautiful, brilliantly composed movie that rings not a single false note in any frame. Every shot is gorgeous without being showy, and every player doesn't "perform" so much as compose a new, fully-formed identity.

BEST DIRECTOR
Who Will Win: Ang Lee.
What Will Win: Ang Lee. I'm not actually that big a fan of the guy's work; I think a lot of it is pedantic and frankly uninteresting. But Brokeback is something else entirely, a testament to the complexity and depth of feeling underlining even the most tight-lipped, "simple" love story.

BEST ACTOR
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger.
Who Should Win: Heath Ledger. Phillip Seymour Hoffman deserves accolades for so fully recreating what was so attractive, and off-putting, about the real Truman Capote, but it's a much showier role than Ledger's Ennis. Ledger excels in the most formidable of acting tasks: showing a lot by showing very little.

BEST ACTRESS
Who Will Win: Reese Witherspoon.
Who Should Win: Reese Witherspoon. Make no mistake: Walk the Line is her movie. I'm frankly a little confused at the praise thrown Joaquin Phoenix's way, despite my admiration for his abilities. He's very milquetoast and just a little pathetic as the Man in Black, and the movie would fall flat without Witherspoon's energetic and wise rendition of June Carter. (This also points to the accomplishment Jamie Foxx made in Ray: While the Phoenix-Cash role could not sustain a movie by itself, Foxx carried Ray on his shoulders from start to finish.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who Will Win: Jake Gyllenhaal.
Who Should Win: William Hurt. A scene-chewer of a role, but what a scene. Hurt's character is absolutely essential in defining for the audience the kind of manic, frantic life Mortensen's character left behind to live a quiet, idyllic life, and proof positive that an actor doesn't need a whole lot of screen time to illuminate a complex story.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who Will Win: Very tough call. Conventional wisdom says Rachel Weisz, but I suspect that "conventional wisdom" is based almost entirely on her being the most recognizable name in the bunch. Let's go with Catherine Keener.
Who Should Win: Michelle Williams. In terms of screen time, a small role. In terms of story impact, as completely and necessarily vital as the two leads. A tragic love story is nothing but angsty wankery if it doesn't show the impact the thwarted love has on the people surrounding it, and both Williams and Anne Hathaway bring full dimension to all that can deteriorate and go bad when love isn't allowed recognition.

BEST ANIMATED FILM
What Will Win: Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
What Should Win: Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The creators of Wallace & Gromit are no strangers to the Oscars. Really, I have no horse in this race; I'm just glad no piece-of-shit pop pap from Dreamworks was around this year to stink up the place.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
What Will Win: March of the Penguins.
What Should Win: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Though the Oscars are relatively progressive this year, I just don't see AMPAS passing over the chance to crown March with the cherry on top of the doc's already stellar year. Whatever. I guess penguins are cute.

BEST FOREIGN FILM
What Will Win: Tsotsi.
What Should Win: Paradise Now. Please don't let neocon morons who have no business critiquing movies shy you away from this one. This movie operates from the trailblazing concept that people, even people who consider committing horrendous acts, are actually human and not a bunch of mustache-twiddling villains. The stakes are real and quite familiar; I'm a bit upset this one didn't make it into the Best Picture category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
What Will Win: Crash.
What Should Win: Match Point. The Screenplay categories are typically in the "compensation prize" category, giving awards to films that didn't quite make the grade in the "higher" categories. Crash simply can't be ignored, and so being shut out elsewhere gives it the award here. Certainly, the Academy admires Paul Haggis. But Match Point is the real star of the show, and Woody Allen deserves recognition for this shot fired directly from his artistic core. (I talk a bit more about MP and another comparable work by Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors, right here, if you're curious.)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
What Will Win: Capote.
What Should Win: A History of Violence. I know, I know: I'm a comics geek. But you ought to read the source material shortly before (or after) you see the movie. What's translated to screen (and, perhaps more importantly, what isn't) is deeply instructive. Josh Olson performs that rarest of tasks: Finding further truths and meanings than what is already plumbed in the source material.

Time to pop the popcorn and see how I do.

UPDATE: 6 out of 10 correct. Dreadful showing by yours truly this year.

Doesn't it seem like there wasn't much of Stewart, but a whole fucking lot of commercials?

Anyway. Tomorrow begins the beating-the-dead-horse bit, pretty much all of which I'll be ignoring. Jim Emerson, a writer and editor I admire, has already (and rather predictably) begun explaining why this or that joke did or didn't work. Best of luck to him on that.

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