Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 February 2006

Oscar Nominations

This post is a day late, but, as they say, better late than never, and I know none of you could live without my thoughts on the nominations. So...

BEST PICTURE
Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Crash
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Munich

*I got 4 out of 5 here. I predicted Munich wouldn't make the cut and Walk the Line would grab a nomination instead. I guess that was just wishful thinking. Funnily enough, I strongly disliked both Crash and Munich, yet I LOVE the other three (they're all in my Top Ten.) I expect Brokeback to win this award quite easily.

BEST DIRECTOR
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Bennett Miller, Capote
Paul Haggis, Crash
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Steven Spielberg, Munich
*I got 5 out of 5 in this category. Yay me. But see above for my feelings on these films. I don't like Spielberg as a director (which you've heard me say more times than you'd probably like) and I think Paul Haggis' work in Crash is deeply flawed. I would've liked to have seen Terrence Malick, Michael Haneke or David Cronenberg here much more. Interestingly enough, I'm reading that the director category hasn't matched exactly with Best Picture since the 1982 Oscars (there was a big upset that year: Chariots of Fire narrowly eked out a victory.) Miller, Haggis and Clooney are all being nominated for the first time this year. This is Spielberg's seventh nomination. He's won twice. Anyway, I think this is Ang Lee's award. Everyone expected him to win in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (his only prior nomination) and he's hugely respected.

BEST ACTOR
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
*I predicted this lineup. 5 of 5 again for me. This matches Best Picture pretty closely, too, especially if you note how this-close to a BP nomination Walk the Line was. Ledger, Hoffman, Strathairn and Howard are ALL first-time nominees. Phoenix has one prior nomination (supporting actor for Gladiator). This is Hoffman's party. He's won everything there is to win so far and he's mind-blowing in the role: as both a fine performance and a wonderful act of mimicry. It's unbelievable that he's never been nominated before. He's known mostly as a supporting actor, of course, and he did almost get nominated as a lead in 2000 for Flawless, but it's his year this time. Heath Ledger, his main competition, will have to win some other year.

BEST ACTRESS
Judi Dench, Mrs Henderson Presents
Charlize Theron, North Country
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
*I got 4 out of 5 in this category. I am grateful to say that the Academy pleasantly surprised me by omitting the name of Zhang Ziyi in the oh-so-boring Memoirs of a Geisha in favor of Keira Knightley in a film I truly enjoyed (it's in my Top Ten). The Academy missed the big boat here, though, by not giving a nomination to the nothing-short-of-brilliant Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger. Notice, also, the dissimilarity here between Best Picture and Best Actress. I don't really have anything to say about that: draw your own conclusions, friends. I should take this opportunity to bitch one more time about Felicity Huffman's inclusion in this list. It just drives me crazy. I think Transamerica is a puerile, idiotic film and I think Huffman's performance is broad and grating. It's too bad critics got behind her as much as they did. A true shame when they had so many good actresses to choose from (Emmanuelle Devos in Kings & Queen, Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone, Juliette Binoche in Caché, the aforementioned Joan Allen, Claire Danes in Shopgirl, Q'orianka Kilcher in The New World). I mean, if you're gonna go indie... So Reese Witherspoon wins this one handily and good for her. Her performance here is the best of the list and this is a way for the Academy to honor a film that most of them really liked. She is a true talent and a comedic genius.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
William Hurt, A History of Violence
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Matt Dillon, Crash
George Clooney, Syriana
*I got 4 out of 5 on this one and it's because I have no faith. I knew that Bob Hoskins really wasn't going to be nominated, and I loved William Hurt's performance. It's one of my favorites of the year, in fact, but I just didn't think the Academy could do it. I am glad to say I've been proven wrong. This is probably going to be the most hotly contested award of the evening. And it's a good list. (I mean, except for Matt Dillon. What's he doing there?) And I don't know who's going to win, frankly. Clooney took home the Golden Globe and Giamatti recently won the SAG award. There are no more important precursors, so it could really be either. We'll see how well they sell themselves in the next couple weeks. Frankly, I wish Jake Gyllenhaal would win. I love his performance. But I guess he's too young, really. He'll have other years (although we said that about Matt Damon and he hasn't been nominated since Good Will Hunting in 1998).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
Catherine Keener, Capote
Amy Adams, Junebug
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
*5 out of 5 again. I rock! Poor Scarlett Johanssen missed out again (snubbed also in 2004 for Lost in Translation). I guess the Academy just doesn't like her. Her films do well and she doesn't. It's so odd. But I am just so happy about Amy Adams' inclusion in this category. Her performance is really remarkable. If you haven't seen Junebug, it's a must-rent kind of thing: heartfelt, intelligent and truly insightful about the blue state/red state divide. Everyone was saying this award was up for grabs, but Weisz has bagged everything so far. I wouldn't be too shocked if the winds changed before March 5th, but right now she's the obvious frontrunner.

Top 6 predictions: 90%. Not too bad.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Corpse Bride
Howl's Moving Castle
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
*I am SO GLAD that the Animation Branch opted out of Chicken Little. I had no faith in them after last year's embarassing Shark Tale nomination, a film far inferior to The Polar Express, which was inexplicably passed over. But, thankfully, Howl's Moving Castle prevailed. Should I confess I haven't actually seen it? Wallace & Gromit will win this one easily.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Crash
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Match Point
Syriana
The Squid and the Whale

*This is pretty close to what I predicted. I expected that Syriana, which was having a little category confusion (the screen credits even say it's based on the book See No Evil by Robert Baer) would be omitted. Woody Allen is the most frequently nominated screenwriter EVER, by the way. Match Point is his fourteenth Original Screenplay nomination. He's back! This is George Clooney & Grant Heslov's for the taking, though. Their film is the most widely loved.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Munich
The Constant Gardener

*5 out of 5 again with this category. I liked all of these films, aside from my, by this point well-documented, hatred of Munich, but I can't even be too mad about that one. I mean, Tony Kushner got an Oscar nomination and I'm too happy for him to even be mad about the piece of shit film he got it for. This is Brokeback's Oscar anyway, so it doesn't matter too much.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
The New World

*I know it seems crazy that The Constant Gardener missed a nomination here in favor of Batman Begins, but Batman is beautifully shot and Gardener is burdened with occasionally grainy and often jumpy photography that isn't popular with Academy members. I am beyond excited that The New World was included here. It won't win, but I don't even care. I'm just glad someone said mentioned my favorite film of the year. It deserved a lot more nominations that just this solo one, but I got to be happy with what I got.

BEST ART DIRECTION
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Pride & Prejudice

*Whatever. I got only 3 out of 5 here. I'm glad to see Harry made a showing, but I'm a little sad that the respectable White Countess didn't make a showing even here.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mrs Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
Walk the Line

*I did even worse here, only picking 2 out of 5. This is notoriously a hard group to predict, though I should have seen the Henderson thing coming. Ah well. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Really?! I haven't seen it yet, to be honest, but really?

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (I.E. THE AWARD FOR WHICH JOHN WILLIAMS IS NOMINATED EVERY SINGLE YEAR
Brokeback Mountain
Pride & Prejudice
Memoirs of a Geisha
Munich
The Constant Gardener

*Well, I certainly called the John Williams thing, but something weird happened this year, where I got really pissed and really happy with these nominations. Three of the nominees--Gustavo Santaolalla, Dario Marianelli and Albero Iglesias--have never before been nominated. Usually, the number of first-time nominees they choose is one. This category is usually filled with people who have already been nominated two and three times. (Recently they've shown a penchant for the great-but-not-that-great Thomas Newman.) But this year: three new people! And then the other two nominations went to John Williams. Give me a break! John Williams got his thirty-ninth and fortieth nominations on Tuesday morning. Why do they love him so damn much? I don't get it.

As for Best Makeup and The New World's exclusion. Something is definitely wrong with the world. Overall, though, I think the nominations made me pretty happy.

Movies that were nominated that I still haven't seen:
War of the Worlds (it arrives tomorrow from Netflix)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I already borrowed it from my boss)
Howl's Moving Castle (doesn't come to DVD until March... oops)
Joyeux Noël (hits theatres 3/6/06, so I'll see it right before the ceremony)
La Bestia nel Cuore (Don't Tell) (this movie played an L.A. festival last year, but I missed it. Who knows when I'll see it.)
Paradise Now (hits DVD 3/21/06)
Tsotsi (in theatres 2/24/06)

Good Night.
And Good Luck. I'm off to have a drink with some friends.