I Am DB

February 24, 2005

For Your Consideration: My Oscar Predictions Opus – 2004

Filed under: Movies,Oscars — DB @ 9:42 pm

 

Complete List of Nominations

BEST PICTURE & BEST DIRECTOR
Will it be the old school Hollywood magic of The Aviator, or the minimalist beauty of Million Dollar Baby? I think Sideways can be counted out. Despite winning the lion’s share of critic’s award, as well as the Best Ensemble Cast award from the Screen Actor’s Guild, Sideways just doesn’t feel “big” enough to take home the top prize this year. Ray is lucky to be here. It’s a good film, well made and entertaining, but it really shouldn’t be a Best Picture nominee. And Finding Neverland, while a beautiful movie, could be the unfortunate story this year of a great film that gets overshadowed and goes home empty-handed (see also The Shawshank Redemption, The Insider, The Sixth Sense).

So, The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby? In the latter’s favor, Eastwood’s Mystic River probably would have won Best Picture last year if only a victory for The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King hadn’t been predetermined a year earlier, when The Two Towers came out and proved that Fellowship Of The Ring hadn’t been a fluke. Hollywood seemingly decided upon seeing Two Towers that they would wait until the final Rings film was released and reward that one, thus rewarding the entire masterful trilogy. So all the Mystic River karma that was built up could now flow toward Million Dollar Baby. And it is a terrific film, tightly scripted, magnificently acted, and skillfully directed. Not to mention that’s it’s incredibly moving.

Then there is The Aviator, a thrilling drama wrapped in the skin of a conventional biopic. This is a home-run movie for all involved. Leonardo DiCaprio steps up to the challenge and manages to bring Howard Hughes to memorable life despite the handicap of being Leo the Movie Star. And Scorsese delivers the film that everyone wanted Gangs Of New York to be. Glossy where Gangs was gloomy, focused where Gangs was muddled, The Aviator’s celebration of old Hollywood filmmaking could be very appealing to the Academy, which skews older and therefore might appreciate the loving portrayal of a bygone era.

The Aviator won the Producer’s Guild award. Clint Eastwood won the Director’s Guild Award. History favors the DGA winner in the Oscar race for director, and while there have only been a handful of times that the DGA winner hasn’t won the Oscar, two of those cases were in the last five years, suggesting that perhaps the current membership are more likely to break tradition. With the whole of the Academy voting, versus just the directors in the DGA, the industry at large may finally feel it’s time to honor Scorsese. Working against him is the fact that while The Aviator is one of the most well-received films of the year, it doesn’t exactly belong in the pantheon of true classics of American cinema, like Scorsese’s best work – Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas. Will the Academy punish him for not making films of that stature anymore, even though they failed to recognize all of them at the time? Scorsese could be unjustly forced to pay for the sins of the Academy’s past.

Eastwood has won the Oscar before, so if people are struggling to decide between him and Scorsese, that could hurt his chances. But if they pick their winner solely on the merits of the two films, well, a lot of people have been knocked out by Eastwood’s accomplishment.

I think we could be looking at a Picture/Director split this year. Either Aviator takes Best Picture while Eastwood is crowned Best Director, or vice versa. The problem there is that both pictures are so highly praised for the direction that either result seems disappointing. But if it does split, it seems more likely to me that Million Dollar Baby will take Best Picture, along with an acting prize or two, while Scorsese finally gets his directing Oscar, and The Aviator scoops up some technical prizes, and possibly one acting trophy.

That’s my call, but I really have no idea what’s going to happen in these two races.

BEST ACTOR
Jamie Foxx. I’m sure his name has been engraved on the statue for a few months now, and for anyone else to win in this race would probably constitute the biggest Oscar upset in my lifetime. It’s a strong field, so strong that a dozen other great performances, which could have been front-runners in a less competitive year, didn’t even make the cut. So one more raising of our cups to Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside), Liam Neeson (Kinsey), Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Kevin Bacon (The Woodsman), Billy Crudup (Stage Beauty), Jeff Bridges (The Door in the Floor), Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) and especially the perennially underappreciated Paul Giamatti (Sideways).

BEST ACTRESS
This is the one main category where I haven’t seen all the nominees. Vera Drake and Being Julia slipped by me. I did see Maria Full Of Grace, and Catalina Sandino Moreno is a winner just being here, considering her film was so small and people could have easily missed it. The Academy loves Kate Winslet, and it’s only a matter of time before she gets her Oscar. She deserves one for this performance, but Eternal Sunshine didn’t get the support it should have. I don’t want to launch into a tangent, but that movie should have been up for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Cinematography, Editing, and Visual Effects.

The media is having a field day pitting Bening and Swank in a mano a mano repeat of the 1999 race, but I’d be pretty surprised if Bening wins. I’d even be surprised if she comes in second (not that we’ll ever know). While critics loved her performance, and surely many Academy members did as well, Bening has been slighted by the Academy before. She was overlooked for both Bugsy and The American President despite strong buzz for each. Furthermore, Being Julia is a small movie that only got attention because of Bening’s work.  My guess is a lot of people haven’t seen it, and aren’t necessarily going to vote for Bening just because they feel that her time has come.

Swank is the one to beat, with wins at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild. Million Dollar Baby is a huge hit with Academy members, and while they’re busy grappling over the Best Picture/Best Director vote, a vote for Swank will be an easier decision. The only things I can think of that might hinder her chances are the facts that she won Best Actress not so long ago, and she’s still young. That didn’t hurt Jodie Foster, and it probably won’t hurt Swank either, but it’s possible that people may not be comfortable giving her a second Best Actress Oscar so soon.  Even Meryl Streep hasn’t won Best Actress twice. But in the end, I think people will think less about those stats and more about the power of the performance and their affection for the film.

If she does go down, it could be at the hands of Imelda Staunton. She’s won more critics awards than her competitors, and the fact that Vera Drake scored surprise nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay proves there is a lot of admiration for the movie. On the other hand, those latter two nominations came from the individual branches, whereas the entire Academy membership will vote for the winners. That support of Vera Drake may not be as strong amongst the masses as it is with writers and directors.

If there’s a real shocker come Oscar night – I’m talking something that nobody saw coming – it could be Winslet. But Swank should have her speech ready.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
There are some who think Jamie Foxx might win this, because it allows him to be recognized while giving the Best Actor award to one of his tough competitors. No way. People love Foxx as Ray Charles, and that’s where they want to vote for him. Plus, this is a wasted nomination as far as I’m concerned. Foxx’s role in Collateral was absolutely not, by any stretch of the imagination, a supporting one. I’m certain that if you added up the time that each actor logged onscreen, Foxx would come out far ahead of Cruise. Not to mention that the story is really about Foxx’s character. It’s nice that everyone has Foxx Fever right now, but this is almost a cheat. In the 1987 race, the Academy didn’t nominate Michael Douglas for both Wall Street and Fatal Attraction. Even though the latter was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress, and Supporting Actress, they didn’t give Douglas a supporting actor nomination just so he could be recognized for that film as well. He was the lead actor in both films, and was singled out for his achievement in one of them. That should have been the case with Jamie Foxx, and his nomination for Collateral takes a slot away from other deserving actors.

Alan Alda’s presence is a bit of a mystery. It shows wide support for The Aviator, and Alda is a beloved figure, but was the role really that demanding or powerfully played? Alda did good, solid work, but it was hardly Oscar worthy.

Thomas Haden Church seemed like the front-runner a few months ago, but that was based on his success with the critics. I’ve suspected all along that a former sitcom actor getting his first taste of big screen success would have a tough time getting a win from the Academy. Even if he does deserve it, which he just might. And he could win, but the buzz seems to have faded a bit.

Conversely, Morgan Freeman’s buzz has shot up in recent weeks as Million Dollar Baby continues to knock ‘em dead. Freeman is very good in the movie, and while I don’t think it ranks with his best, most memorable work, it is undoubtedly a fine performance in a hugely popular (with the Academy) movie, and a chance for an actor who is beloved in the industry to finally win his first award without it being purely for sentimental reasons.

If there’s a dark horse, it’s Clive Owen, who has steadily done good work over the years and was caustically hilarious in Closer. But his chances are hurt by the underwhelming support of the movie.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I like Laura Linney more and more with each performance I see. In fact, many critics praised her lead performance in p.s. as being Oscar-worthy, and I’m inclined to agree.  But really, what is she doing here for Kinsey? She was good, but by no means incredible, and when Liam Neeson and Bill Condon’s script were passed over, why single out Linney?

Sophie Okenedo was very good in Hotel Rwanda, and is the beneficiary of the movie’s strong buzz. But ultimately the character doesn’t break out beyond the role of patient wife.

On the heels of her brief but excellent work in Cold Mountain, Natalie Portman got back to great acting this year in both Garden State and Closer. But Portman is young and will have many more shots.

It comes down to Cate Blanchett and Virginia Madsen. Blanchett’s buzz seems to be a little louder these days, but I’m not entirely convinced. In her favor, people seem to love her, and her ability to transform and disappear into character is amazing.  It’s actually surprising that this is only her second nomination, her previous one being for Elizabeth in 1998. People are impressed with how she took Katherine Hepburn from potential caricature to fully-lived in performance, but I wonder if Jamie Foxx doing the same with Ray Charles will in any way diminish Blanchett’s accomplishment in the eyes of Academy members. Plus, it is possible to imagine that people may have been annoyed by Blanchett’s performance as the grandly chatty Hepburn. But if people are voting Million Dollar Baby and Clint Eastwood for Best Picture and Director, here’s the best shot at giving Aviator one win in the major categories.

Virginia Madsen is so wonderful in Sideways, delivering some of the film’s best dialogue and projecting such a true warmth and veracity. If anything hurts her, it might be how simple and honest she is in the film. As much as I love Blanchett and eagerly await her day for an Oscar, I think Madsen deserves it. But I’m not sure she’ll get it.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
If we’ve talked in the last year, I think you know how I feel about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Let me refresh your memory: best movie, by far, of 2004. And Charlie Kaufman, who should already have an Oscar or two, better get it this year. I think he will. Kaufman’s movies dazzle, and he continually kicks it up a notch with each film. This one tapped beautifully into universal realities of love, but with Kaufman’s singular vision.  Although it didn’t do as well with the Academy as it should have, they’d have to be a bunch of morons not to recognize this work.

If they are a bunch of morons, there is one other good choice to be made.  The Incredibles is a remarkably well-written movie, and could triumph here. But with the film likely to win Best Animated Feature, that may be all the major recognition it gets.

Hotel Rwanda clearly earned the respect of Academy members. It’s a moving story, well done on every level. If members don’t want to send it home empty handed, and/or if they want to make some kind of half-assed political statement, they could vote Rwanda. And it wouldn’t be the first time they overlooked the more innovative script for something more traditional. (I love Gosford Park, but a screenplay win over Memento? I don’t think so.) But Hotel Rwanda is pretty straightforward in its telling. The power lies in the true events themselves, and in the great performance by Don Cheadle.

The Aviator can be admired for getting so much material into one movie, and for choosing to focus on the less-publicized period of Hughes’ life, but some felt the film was too long and still tried to cover too much. As for Vera Drake, I always get pissed when Mike Leigh gets screenplay nominations, since his movies are largely improvised. I’m sure there’s more to it than that and I won’t claim to know his exact working method, but it just feels unfair to me.

So Eternal Sunshine deserves the award and seems likely to win (it just captured the Writer’s Guild award), but watch out for spoilers from a deserving Incredibles and a less deserving Rwanda.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Sideways has all the momentum here, having won virtually every adapted screenplay prize possible on the road to the Oscars, and trumping Eternal Sunshine when only one screenplay mention was given. Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor were nominated for Election, and egregiously overlooked for About Schmidt. They deserve it for Sideways.

If anything could stop it, Million Dollar Baby seems the one. Paul Haggis’ tight, minimalist script could reasonably get caught up in a Baby sweep. Finding Neverland, Before Sunset and The Motorcycle Diaries are along for the ride.

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Shark Tale sucks and shouldn’t even be here. Shrek 2 was popular, and it’s a good movie, but The Incredibles is in a class all its own, and everyone seems to agree.

BEST ART DIRECTION
I think it should go to Lemony Snicket, but I feel like this category tends to favor period pieces over fantasy creations. Not always, but more often than not. It could go to Phantom Of The Opera, but I think The Aviator is most likely to win over those two, Finding Neverland and A Very Long Engagement.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Passion Of The Christ is supposedly beautifully shot. I haven’t seen it, but even its detractors seem to agree on that. But I’m still not sure the Hollywood community wants to embrace or anoint it. A Very Long Engagement won the prize from the American Society of Cinematographers, but that’s not necessarily a harbinger for the Oscar. House Of Flying Daggers could definitely get it, while Phantom Of The Opera is unlikely. I think The Aviator will win here again, for its scope if nothing else.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
This is the only nomination for Troy, so a win would be a long shot.  Ray and Finding Neverland will probably be overshadowed by the scale of The Aviator and the imagination of Lemony Snicket. In this race, I think Snicket may take the gold.

BEST EDITING
What do I know about editing? They say this usually goes to the movie that wins Best Picture. So let’s assume then that it won’t be Collateral, Finding Neverland or Ray. That leaves either the terse rhythms of Million Dollar Baby or the epic storytelling of The Aviator.  I’m going with The Aviator, but who knows?

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
It should be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is not only a far better score in its entirety than the earlier films in the series, but far and away the best complete score John Williams has written in years. I’m hoping that Academy members will think so too. But if not, this could be the one place to recognize Finding Neverland.

Thomas Newman should have about three or four Oscars by now, but amazingly is still awaiting his first. His score for Lemony Snicket is fine, but not outstanding. The Village score seemed to impress musicians, but the Academy at large is unlikely to take notice. And The Passion Of The Christ, again, is supposed to be quite well done. But do they want to reward it?  I want to go out on a limb and predict Harry Potter, but I suppose Finding Neverland is the safer choice.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Okay, I’ve tried to refrain from mentioning the glaring omissions as I’ve worked through these categories, but I can’t hold back here. How could “Old Habits Die Hard,” Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart’s terrific song from Alfie, not have been nominated? It should be winning this award, and instead one of three underwhelming songs will be chosen instead. I’m willing to bet that a foreign language song isn’t going to win, so that removes The Motorcycle Diaries and Les Choristes from the equation. Of the remaining three, the best song is “Accidentally In Love,” from Shrek 2.  It’s not great (and I say that as a big Counting Crows fan), but it’s catchy and upbeat.  I haven’t seen Phantom Of The Opera, so I can’t judge what chance “Learn to Be Lonely” has. When Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote an original song for the film of Evita, he won the Oscar, so he could do it again here. But this film doesn’t seem to be quite as popular as that was. As for The Polar Express song, “Believe,” I have this to say: the songs in that movie were fucking terrible, and it’s an outrage that this schmaltzy, hackneyed piece of shit is nominated while “Old Habits Die Hard” is left out. Watch this crap win.

Oh and by the way, Alfie wasn’t the only movie that got screwed here. How about the great songs from Team America? The ballad of longing sung by Kim Jong Il, “I’m So Ronery,” should be here as well. What happened this year? Did the music branch offer up such lame choices because it was ashamed of giving Eminem an Oscar two years ago? That was nothing to be ashamed of. The same can’t be said of their list this year.

BEST SOUND & SOUND EFFECTS EDITING
I feel like more often than not, the Sound award goes to the prestige Best Picture contender, while the Sound Effects Editing award goes to the action picture. Sometimes those movies are one and the same, like Titanic or Saving Private Ryan.

This year, I think Ray or The Aviator have the edge in the sound race over Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles and The Polar Express. I think general momentum will carry The Aviator, but if voters equate sound with music, then Ray might be the winner.

As for sound effects editing, action seems to beat animation in this race, so I think Spider-Man 2 will win over The Incredibles and The Polar Express.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
I think we can safely count out I, Robot.  The battle is between Spider-Man 2 and Harry Potter.  In Spidey’s favor: the effects were a noticeable improvement over the first film’s, and even more complex because of the Doc Ock character; the movie grossed more than Potter; and it won outstanding reviews. In Potter’s favor, this is the first time a movie in this series has managed to be nominated, and there was some very impressive work on display, mainly the Dementors and Buckbeak the hippogriff. Although Spider-Man 2 outgrossed it, Potter was still a huge hit, and also earned great reviews. So which will it be?  My spidey sense is tingling, but I’m hoping Potter has the magic.

BEST MAKE-UP
Aging make-up doesn’t usually seem to win, unless perhaps the make-up award gets caught up in a sweep. So I’m doubtful The Sea Inside will take the prize. Here’s another shot for The Passion Of The Christ to be recognized, but I think Lemony Snicket will take it.

Finally, just for my own fun, I came up with my list of who should have been nominated in each category…bearing in mind that I haven’t seen Passion of the Christ, Vera Drake, Being Julia, Dogville, Bad Education, Beyond The Sea, The Merchant of Venice, and The Woodsman.

If the Academy could think a tiny bit more outside the box…

BEST PICTURE
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
The Incredibles
Million Dollar Baby
Sideways

BEST DIRECTOR
Marc Forster – Finding Neverland
Michel Gondry – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Alfonso Cuaron – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
Sam Raimi – Spider-Man 2

BEST ACTOR
Jim Carrey – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Don Cheadle – Hotel Rwanda
Billy Crudup – Stage Beauty
Jamie Foxx – Ray
Paul Giamatti – Sideways

BEST ACTRESS
Julie Delpy – Before Sunset
Laura Linney – p.s.
Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
Uma Thurman – Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Kate Winslet – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
David Carradine – Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Thomas Haden Church – Sideways
Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby
Clive Owen – Closer
Mark Wahlberg – I Heart Huckabee’s

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Laura Dern – We Don’t Live Here Anymore
Virginia Madsen – Sideways
Natalie Portman – Garden State
Sharron Warren – Ray
Emma Watson – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Garden State
I Heart Huckabees
In Good Company
The Incredibles

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Before Sunset
Closer
Finding Neverland
Million Dollar Baby
Sideways

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Collateral
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
House of Flying Daggers

BEST ART DIRECTION
Closer
House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

BEST EDITING
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I Heart Huckabee’s
House of Flying Daggers
Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Ray

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Vanity Fair

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Old Habits Die Hard – Alfie
I’m So Ronery – Team America: World Police
Accidentally In Love – Shrek 2
?
?

BEST SOUND
The Aviator
House of Flying Daggers
The Incredibles
Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Ray

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Spider-Man 2

BEST MAKE-UP
The Aviator
Lemony Snicket
The Sea Inside

 

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