Director: Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, The Siege, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, Glory)
Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, David Harewood, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Sheen
The popularity of this movie both with critics groups, awards-giving bodies and the Academy has been astounding to every pundit who talks about Oscar. Mostly, I think, because all of us saw this film and said both to ourselves and collectively "what a dreadful piece of junk." This lead to most people predicting that DiCaprio would be nominated as lead actor not for Blood Diamond but for The (far superior) Departed. Nonetheless, this film, a superficial exploration of western colonial influences on Africa and a poorly-directed action movie with a shamelessly sentimental streak, presisted in the minds of the Academy's voters and it wound up one of Oscar's most-nominated films this year. It won't win a thing, of course, unless I am--once again--underestimating this movie.
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing
My Rating: #58 out of 68
Director: Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers, Space Cowboys, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Bridges of Madison County)
Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Nae, Yuki Matsuzaki
This is Eastwood's companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, which came out earlier in the year. This movie, unlike its predecessor, was met with rave reviews. Its subject matter and language difference—it's filmed almost entirely in Japanese—have caused it to meet with a less-than-warm reception with American audiences, however. The Best Picture nomination may be a boost for the film, but this film is one of the lowest grossing films ever to be nominated for Best Picture, or so I am told. It's a prestigious-looking piece and it's a World War II drama, though, and we all know how well those go over with the Academy. They will all see this movie and it will probably go home with a trophy or two. Let me grudgingly say that we should never underestimate the Eastwood (or Paul Haggis, for that matter).
Will Win: Best Sound Editing
Might Also Win: (in an upset) Best Original Screenplay
My Rating: #34 out of 68
Director: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Bryan Cranston
The little movie that could! This is certainly this year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though this film got much further than Wedding ever did with the Academy and is a much, much, much better film. I mention Wedding because both were independent comedies that gained massive public popularity through word-of-mouth, enough to influence the Academy. This happens very rarely and for a picture like this to get a nomination in the giant Best Picture category is almost unheard of (The Full Monty was ages ago). Best Picture is up in the air this year, though, and a Best Ensemble win at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards means that this movie is in the running—as much as any other candidate for the big prize. And it could happen. This film's got legs.
Will Win: Best Original Screenplay
Might Also Win: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
My Rating: #18 out of 68
Director: Richard Eyre (Stage Beauty, Iris)
Cast: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Juno Temple, Max Lewis
This film has Oscar written all over it, of course, and it did very well. These actresses are highly respected and they elevate this material (read: camp), to great heights, but don't expect the picture to win anything. British melodramas never do as well as American ones with the Academy.
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: Best Original Score
My Rating: #36 out of 68
Director: Gore Verbinski (The Weather Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, The Ring, The Mexican)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgaård, Naomie Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Tom Hollander
This made a brave showing on Oscar-nomination morning. Of course its effects are stunning and it is handsomely decorated and beautiful to look at, so no one should have been surprised. Four nominations, though, is nothing short of excellent for a film this boring and obviously soulless. I hated this movie, but it is one of the biggest money-makers of 2006, and the Academy likes to make a point of paying homage to those Hollywood blockbusters in its Effects and Sound categories.
Will Win:Best Visual Effects
Might Also Win: N/A
My Rating: #67 out of 68
To be continued... (just like Dead Man's Chest!)