The Oscars are this Sunday and I am super excited. 2007 was a great year for movies and this year's crop of Oscar nominees is the best in recent memory. The competition in some of the categories is fierce and even in the races where there is a clear frontrunner, the also-rans are still really solid selections that would have a good shot at the gold in any other year.
The most wonderful time of the year.
Before we get to my Oscar predictions though, I want to clear the air about a few things.
1) The show is going to be long. AT LEAST 3 HOURS. That's just the way it is. Yes, there's a lot of extraneous bullshit and lame production numbers that could be cut to streamline the show, but there's also a lot of actual business to attend to and it's going to take some time no matter what. So, knowing this, either shut the fuck up or don't watch. The next person I hear complain about how long the Oscars are gets a knife in the balls. I don't care if they are actually on stage at the Oscars when they complain. I only live two miles away and I have a very nice set of kitchen knives, so watch it.
2) Stop complaining about the fact that this year's big nominees have not been pulling in huge box office numbers. The network muckety-mucks at ABC get nervous about this because if fewer people have seen the films, fewer people will tune into to awards broadcast. I, on the other hand, think it's awesome. It's called legitimacy. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences never gets it 100% right with either the nominations or the ultimate winners, but the fact that really good films that very few people have seen continually pick up nominations says to me that the quality of the films still actually counts for something. Yes there's all sorts of behind the scenes politics and campaigning going on, and great films do get overlooked while mediocre ones get rewarded (fuck off, Crash), but in general, and this year in particular, the Academy does a good job of recognizing good filmmaking regardless of box office. The alternative is that the Oscars just turns into the Grammys where the actual quality of the music rarely comes into play and "best" is just shorthand for "spent the most time at the top of it's respective chart" or "got the most airplay" or "moved the most units." Is that what you people want? If we go by that system, the best picture nominees would be Spiderman 3, Shrek the Third, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Does that sound like a better crop of films to you? BTW, in that scenario, I have to give it to Harry Potter, mostly for the 3D wizard fight.
Best Supporting Actor?
3)Good luck to host Jon Stewart who's only had a week or so to write material since the end of the WGA strike. It usually takes months to pull together all the material for an Oscar hosting gig that people will inevitably call lazy and not funny. Stewart has had to cram all of that disappointment into not quite two weeks. I do not envy him in the least.
My hope is that this lack of prep time will lead to a breezier, loosey-goosier Oscar show with a lighter tone than we've seen in years.
Okay, and now for my punditry. I love Oscar time because it's one of the few times I get to predict and pontificate and actually have some idea of what I'm talking about. Usually I do a pretty good job of making it sound like I know what I'm tlaking about, but in actuality I have no goddamn clue. When it comes to the Oscars though I'm usually pretty accurate, so feel free to take my list and apply it to your own office or Oscar party betting pools. Just know that you owe me 10% of whatever you win.
Me every Oscar season.
Overall there are some difficult choices this year, but I think it's going to be No Country for Old Men's night. I'm predicting a total sweep. I'll admit that there is room for surprises. It's a very tough year with some very good films, but I think when all is said in done No Country is going to rise to the top. That said, let's get specific.
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
I love There Will Be Blood, and it is a strong contender here, but the fact is a lot of people haaaate that movie and that hobbles its chances. Even people who weren't head over heels for No Country for Old Men are saying that it is technically flawless. Blood is love it or hate it, No Country is love it or grudgingly admit that it's very good. So No Country has it. There is a very slim chance that No Country and Blood split the vote and Juno takes the upset, but it's highly unlikely.
Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
They won the DGA award which is almost always makes you a lock for the Oscar. Some are predicting a split with Paul Thomas Anderson taking this and the Coens getting Best Picture. Although PTA is my favorite living director, and I would love to see this happen, I stand firm in my belief that if he ever wins an Oscar it won't be until he is very, very old.
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis
Lewis has the statue in a walk. This is less a performance than it is a force of nature.
He drinks your etc. and so on.
Best Actress: Ellen Page
This is a risky pick, but I'm predicting that Julie Christie and Marion Cotillard spilt the vote, especially among older Academy voters, and Page pulls an Adrian Brody. You heard it here first. On Monday when everyone is calling it a "surprise win" you and I can smile knowingly at each other, shake our heads, and laugh.
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
My favorite performance in this category is Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but like Daniel Day Lewis, Bardem comes across as such a force of nature that his performance is undeniable. And I have to say that if I were an Academy voter, I would be a little concerned that if I didn't vote for Bardem he'd come to my house and brain me with a pressurized cattle gun.
Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee
My heart in this category is with Amy Ryan and I think the race is between her and Dee, but I don't think that Gone Baby Gone has the support or the momentum. Dee, on the other hand, is a much beloved living institution. Also, apparently she was really good or something. I didn't see American Gangster so I wouldn't know.
Ruby Dee and President John F. Kennedy.
Best Adapted Screenplay: No Country
This is an excellent and startlingly faithful adaptation. Again, I think There Will Be Blood is the runner up here and I would love to see PTA get it. This is his third screenplay nomination I think. The motherfucker can write and movie, but I think the Coens will edge him out here.
Best Original Screenplay: Micheal Clayton
This is a tough one and I've given it a lot of thought. I think it comes down to a horse race between Micheal Clayton and Juno, but in this situation I think a Juno backlash and the tastes of the older Academy voters are going to tip the scales in favor of Clayton. Both scripts are totally deserving. Clayton, I would even say, is a better script than it is a movie, so if it's going to win something this should be it. I'm delighted that Brad Bird was nominated here for Ratatouille, both because I love the film and also because it's nice to see animation taken somewhat seriously, but I don't think he stands a chance.
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille
There has been some grumbling about Pixar automatically winning this award year after year. Well, when Pixar stops making almost universally excellent films that are better than most live action films in any given year, then I will join in the grumbling, but until then everyone can shut up. Ratatouille should have been nominated for Best Picture (fuck off, Atonement) and Best Director, it deserves to win this. That said, Persepolis was also a very good film and probably should have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.
Best Documentary Feature: No End In Sight
The war in Iraq is, like, bad and stuff, guys. I don't know if you've heard that or not. Everyone go out now and rent The King of Kong
Best Foreign Language Film: I have no clue
A) I haven't seen any of the nominated films. B) This year's nomination process for the foreign film was such a cluster fuck I don't think anyone is happy with the crop or nominees. It's really a huge black eye on what is otherwise a good year for the Academy. Almost everyone from Academy voters to critics seem to agree that most of the best foreign films this year were not nominated. Persepolis, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Band's Visit, Caramel and Lust Caution were all ignored or discounted for bizarre clerical reasons and 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days, which won the Palme d'Ore at Cannes and which many people feel is the best film of the year in any language, didn't even make the short list of potential nominees. More than a few people are calling for a totally restructuring of the Foreign Language nomination process, similar to the way that the Feature Documentary nominations were overhauled after years of snubbing deserving films like Hoop Dreams, The Thin Blue Line, Roger and Me, and Paris is Burning. I do hope some changes get made. I think the one country, one film rule is stupid and limiting. Yes, it does help even the playing field for smaller countries with less active film industries, but I think if France or Germany or Nigeria, or whoever happens to produce five amazing films in a given year, then so be it.
Okay, those are my picks for the major awards. I'm not going to get into the technical categories. This post has gone on for long enough as it is and I do have actual work to do. I will say that I think No Country's sweep will continue into the technical awards as well, particularly for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Oh, and I'll call Transformers for Best Visual Effects.
There should be a category for Best Visual Affects. If there was, I think this year it would be a three way race between Jaiver Bardem's hair in No Country for Old Men, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's general appearance in Charlie Wilson's War, and Titus Welliver's moustache in Gone Baby Gone as a promising dark horse candidate.
Every breath you take, the 'stache is watching you.
Enjoy the ceremony, folks, and feel free to poke fun at me on Monday for any incorrect predictions. I will set up a PayPal account so you can wire me my fee from your Oscar pool winnings.