(A little unimportant note serving as ‘epilogue’ of this writing is simply the fact that actually I did make a draft of what’s supposedly to be my final prediction, yet, being too ecstatic of the upcoming day-off on Monday excited me way too much to the effect that I did f-o-r-g-e-t to bring that file home! Well, I managed to compose an email from my work’s email ID that was meant to contain an attachment of this file, yet, again, I did f-o-r-g-e-t to attach the file. Hooray! Here I am, stranded on my yellow chair, trying to get myself brainwashed with Norah Jones’s songs prior to her concert in two days, and recalling what I wrote throughout this afternoon. Oh for goodness sake! Just let the red carpet roll on and here we are …)
The time of the year of has come again.
The time of indulging in one’s triumph and another’s loss.
The time when work of merits is questioned and often set-aside by sympathy, empathy, and popularity.
After all, how can one explain Grace Kelly’s winning over Judy Garland? Or the fact that Bette Davis did not clinch the award for her Margot Channing’s turn in All About Eve? And how can Nicole Kidman be in Best Actress in a Leading Role while she shared the equal screen time and character’s connection to the story as the other two actresses?
Welcome to the Academy Awards, an annual event of glitz, glamour, dirty, tricky campaigns, where everything merges into one popularity contest.
Not that being popular means being un-worthy, after all, Al Pacino’s convincing portrayal as a blind veteran deserve to win, but Paul Newman’s repetition of character in The Color of Money?
So much that it takes to recognize sentimentality that is covered under the word of ‘overdue’. Apparently, this year’s race is all about overdue recognition for thespians who, with or without Oscar, we will always recognize their talents and invaluable contribution to the cinematic history.
Take a look.
In the tradition of big-scale epic Hollywood used to reel on, The Aviator has everything: a dashing leading man, a woman or two on his side, terrifying action scenes, manipulative villains, yet it also includes complicated and misconstrue story that, well, leave the plane stuck to the ground. The meticulous technical aspect may make-up for those losses, yet if the film gets chosen to grab the coveted prize, it’d only label Academy Awards to be pretentious, rewarding a film that seems grand on the surface yet leaving many loopholes inside.
On the other hand, Million Dollar Baby, that seemed to smoothly slip under the radar throughout the entire pre-awards season, soars high on its simplicity, low-key theme of simple ambitions radically turning to an unexpected change. Slowly the film builds up and grabs our attention, leaves us thinking of the emotional impact Clint Eastwood cleverly inserts throughout. Yet, the controversy over its ending may slightly disrupt the momentum the film has gained so far.
Which is not the case for Finding Neverland and Ray, two nominees that relatively play on the ‘comfort zone’. Neverland has an abundance of charm and sweetness that seem to be an oasis on the desert of cynicism in real life, or adulthood to be precise if related to the object of this film. Ray itself is made to be a major tribute to the legendary Ray Charles, and it manages to avoid clichés being one of numerous made-for-TV biopics, thanks to the cutting edge style chosen by Taylor Hackford to deliver the story.
Yet, I can’t stop thinking of this ad I stumbled on Variety magazine that stated: “Rarely does a good comedy come along that needs to be taken seriously” (more or less so). Obviously, the advertisement refers to Sideways on its campaign to be recognized more widely by voters. You may think that being already showered with many critical notions is more than enough? So many theories or hypothesis to answer the question, yet we can say that comedy is often under-appreciated when it comes to Oscars, as voters prefer to reward high-minded brows, or worse, brainless epic.
Why do I root for Sideways here? Because to reward a deeply moving and contented film like Sideways, is to reward the life itself.
Should have been nominated:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Incredibles, Kinsey, Closer, Dogville
One of the regrets from BIFF ’05 is to miss Vera Drake, and that causes my inability in commenting about the film and its 3 nominations here. However, should Mike Leigh maintain his skillful direction he showed in his previous works like Secrets & Lies or All or Nothing, then he would stand a chance to make an upset here. After all, one slot for non-Best Picture nominee’s director here would always be reserved for outstanding direction that at times even eclipse the work of this winner’s category.
And by saying that, I am intending to question the motivation of Academy shall they choose to give the award to Scorsese. If he wins, surely sentimentality plays a major role here, although it is hard to justify one’s career-long achievement by rewarding his least personal film.
On the other hand, the same case does not apply to Eastwood. His maturity in understanding human characters goes even deeper in Million, and the way he presents the somber film in intriguing direction strengthens his triumphant in excellent filmmaking, after all, boxing may not be his cup of tea, yet he made the film as the meatiest one he ever made.
Whereas Hackford and Payne have done some commendable job in delivering cutting-edge films that do freshen up the competition, they will have to remain as long-shots here.
Should have been nominated:
Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Michael Mann (Collateral), Zhang Yimou (Hero/House of Flying Daggers), Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. 2), Mel Gibson (Passion of the Christ)
I may overtly-praise Eastwood’s being listed in Best Director nomination, but seriously, what does he do here? His place here has shamefully taken the lives of many other deserving nominee, particularly Paul Giamatti in his sensitive portrayal as a middle-aged man in Sideways who might put the stiffest threat in this category.
Yet, even Giamatti’s submission would not even be able to encounter or to hijack the magical presence of one man that will go down as one of the few names in the history of Oscar to really deserve the award:
His uncanny resemblance to Ray Charles in this film not merely caused by the makeup, but more than that, Foxx has imbued and injected his own believability in playing the role, enriching the already-rich persona to the extent that we do see Ray himself on the screen.
With such an over-the-top performance, he will face no difficulty in walking away with the coveted prize. A possible upset may come from Cheadle who surprisingly gives a three-dimensional performance in Hotel Rwanda. His accent is impeccable, his gesture shows that it comes from the instinct instead of merely acting, and being hidden under the shadows of more famous stars all this time would surely boost his chance to be more recognized.
I am quite disappointed with DiCaprio’s blocked-performance resulted from being and trying too hard to look serious in the film. On the other hand, Depp’s understated performance seems to be next-to-nothing whenever he appears with Kate Winslet on the film, Finding Neverland.
Should have been nominated:
Paul Giamatti (Sideways) – I do not mind if he wins!, Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education), Liam Neeson (Kinsey), Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside), Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
– Annette Bening (Being Julia)
– Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full Of Grace)
– Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake)
– Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)
– Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Again, one nomination from Vera Drake.
And this time it even heightens my curiosity as Staunton did a remarkable sweep in earlier pre-awards season, although later on her name seems to be drowned by the more popular ones. However, given the fact that Staunton plays such a demanding role would help her getting an edge on this category.
Yet, the same edge would not be applicable to Moreno and Winslet, although their names submitted here do give the category a refresh look and credibility to Academy to be brave in rewarding off-beat performances, breaking out tradition of women playing ‘typical’ safe roles.
And what are those ‘typical’ roles, you may ask?
Either you hate or love it, but Academy loves to see women de-glamorizing themselves to play woman at her utmost un-appealing look of dreadfulness, sorrow and grievances. Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Charlize Theron in Monster, they have shown what it takes to win in this category. What a male-chauvinist pig Academy has been!
One name that suits the criteria is, obviously, Hilary Swank in her role as down-to-luck waitress-cum-boxer in Million Dollar Baby, and interestingly, she did the same de-glam effect to more extreme extent when she won five years ago in Boys Don’t Cry. Swank does add the meat to the heavily-weighted somberness in Million, and no matter how I plea for Academy to spread its wealth to the rest of the nominees, I can’t help seeing that Swank’s performance indeed deserves to be rewarded.
However, wouldn’t it be nicer if Bening wins? Surely she’s been overdue, she may not be able to capture the same chance again considering her advanced age, but beyond that, the role she plays as an aging, demanding diva Julia Lambert is a reminiscence of Hollywood’s golden days when women were often portrayed as a quick-wit, manipulative and pure human being in control of her surroundings. In other words, Bening’s winning in this category would be a nice tribute and gesture of apology from Academy to other diva-roles that never got rewarded in the past: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, Bette Davis in All About Eve, Judy Garland in A Star is Born …
Should have been nominated:
Julie Delpy (Before Sunset), Uma Thurman (Kill Bill Vol. 2), Nicole Kidman (Dogville), Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland)
It’s all about sentimentalism here!
The sudden hype on Alda’s performance derives from the fact that he was often neglected in the past, and the submission of Foxx’s name here rides high from his buzz on Ray.
Certainly the favor is in Freeman, being passed for three times and now in his fourth nomination, he was acknowledged by his peers in Screen Actors Guild recently, and considering the major role SAG has in determining acting-branch winner, Freeman stands a good chance here, although personally I don’t think his role here is as bravura as his turn in Driving Miss Daisy or The Shawshank Redemption.
For Church to play well is simply to play himself. No one has understood Jack’s character as a washed-out soap opera star better than Church, a has-been actor himself who used to be regulars on “Wings” and “Ned and Stacey”. However, being the only actor with a comical role in this category would surely enhance and strengthen his position here.
Yet, if I’d be able to vote, my pick falls on Owen’s grand presence in Closer. Seamlessly shifting and drifting between being charismatic and menacing at times, some people may find his character’s cold-heartedness as purely antagonistic character, yet Owen injects his own charm that makes even an antagonist can be perfectly emphatized by the most sinister of critics and audience.
Should have been nominated:
David Carradine (Kill Bill Vol. 2), Peter Sarsgaard (Kinsey), Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), Rodrigo De la Serna (The Motorcyle Diaries), Paul Bettany (Dogville)
Personally, this is my favorite category of all in this year’s race, as all of them deserve to be nominated, and to this date, it’s still pretty much open race to all of them.
Linney dominates the screen time in Kinsey and her remarkable journey from young Mrs. Kinsey to the older one is a true testament of her in-depth understanding in carrying the role vividly, towering herself above her male companions.
Okonedo defines the term ‘supporting’ itself, her presence there boosts Cheadle’s performance and by choosing not to steal the spotlight from him, we get drawn to whenever Okonedo appears on the screen.
Portman gives a surprisingly good performance in her first adult role, slips into her role convincingly, complete with her fragility and innocence look that makes her character notable even more.
Madsen, the critics’ darling, while given the least screen time compared to anyone else here, captured every single second and frame of her performance, even when she is only heard, we are taken to believe that she indeed is an inseparable part of Sideways’ deepest core of the story.
However, only one award is given out, and this time, let it be Blanchett’s.
Shamelessly I say that she’s the best actress around who consistently giving out her best no matter what kind of films she’s starring in (remember Pushing Tin? The Gift?), and no matter you may call me being sentimental, but she deserves to be rewarded, for already being unfairly passed in Elizabeth, should have got nominated for Bandits and Talented Mr. Ripley, and now, with her majestic performance in The Aviator playing the screen goddess of all time, Katharine Hepburn, this is Blanchett’s glorious night.
Blanchett’s take as Hepburn is terrifyingly real despite not covering herself with prosthetic make-up, more than that, Blanchett digs the inner persona of Hepburn to create a dignified presence of Hepburn like we’ve never seen before. Refreshing and believable, Blanchett’s majestic performance is the only thing that kept me glued to the seat throughout the entire duration of the film.
(but really, whoever wins in this category, I’m just plainly happy! J)
Should have been nominated:
Meryl Streep (The Manchurian Candidate), Sharon Warren (Ray), Regina King/Kerry Washington (Ray), Irma P. Hall (The Ladykillers), Isabella Rossellini (The Saddest Music in the World)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
– Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy (Before Sunset)
– David Magee (Finding Neverland)
– Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby)
– Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries)
– Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor (Sideways)
How I wish Before Sunset to win!
One of the best sequels ever made, one of the purest love stories ever created, Sunset defines romance and love in such an unbelievably intelligent manner that leaves us feeling longing for similar chemistry to happen in this ordinary life.
Yet, the moment certainly belongs to Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor here. This is the only category where they can be confident, highly confident as a matter of fact, to grab the award. They more than deserve it.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
– John Logan (The Aviator)
– Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
– Keir Pierson & Terry George (Hotel Rwanda)
– Brad Bird (The Incredibles)
– Mike Leigh (Vera Drake)
Alritey, enough about the hype on The Aviator, apparently the script has undergone some butchering process and what you see on the screen, well, I shall not prompt further.
This category has Charlie Kaufman words all over the place, and still faithful to his eccentric, original style of writing, Eternal Sunshine proves to be the most appealing of his works, at least to Academy members who might not comprehend the depth of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation..
Possible upset may come from Mike Leigh, or … Brad Bird? If it is so, what a jolly good surprise then!
Need we debate over this?
But seriously, Shark Tale instead of The Polar Express?
Only saw two out of five here, The Sea Inside and The Chorus, the former does uplift audience’s spirit and the latter falls into cliché of tearjerker film. Alejandro Almenabar and Javier Bardem will walk up to the stage collecting the award.
Should have been nominated (so many good films being passed over!):
Maria Full of Grace, Bad Education, The Motorcycle Diaries, A Very Long Engagement, House of Flying Daggers, Facing Window, I Not Scared.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
There you go, the ten nominations that I give my comments on. The rest of my prediction will come below:
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Super Size Me
(what a slap if it really happens!)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Finding Neverland – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
(seriously, don’t you get tired folks in listening to formulaic scores of John Williams? And what does James Newton Howard do in the almost-silent The Village?)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
“Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)” – The Choir (France) – Bruno Coulais, Christophe Barratier
(where’s Mike Jagger and Dave Stewart whenever they’re needed? And “Believe” from Phantom of the Opera does not sound anywhere near being opera-ic)
BEST ART DIRECTION:
The Aviator – Francesca Lo Schiavo (Art) & Dante Ferretti (set)
(love Ferretti’s works ever since The Age of Innocence, although it is still possible that Lemony’s team may hijack this category)
Set aside the sentimental feeling, the sentiments over the overdue-s, this is Oscar! Have a blast, people!