Director: Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Insomnia, Memento)
Cast: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johanssen, Rebecca Hall, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, David Bowie (!), Samantha Mahurin, Roger Rees, Edward Hibbert, Ricky Jay
One of the two "magician movies" that graced theatres this summer, this film seemed to get forgotten, since it was released a few weeks after the other "magician movie" of the summer, The Illusionist. The superior script, filmmaking, acting, etc. of The Prestige does not seem to have been lost on the Academy, who remembered it well on nomination morning. The Academy clearly likes Christopher Nolan's work. Pfister's surprise nomination last year means that they are paying attention to Nolan's movies (which are all thrillers—a genre traditionally overlooked by Oscar). As well they should be. Nolan's movies are the best the high-gloss thriller genre has to offer and his Batman Begins is easily the best comic book movie I've seen in years. We should note that The Prestige was one of two movies this year that starred both Scarlett Johanssen and Hugh Jackman (the abominable Scoop was the other). The Academy continues to overlook Johanssen (not that her work was particularly good in this film. The movie also boasts yet another excellent supporting performance by Michael Caine. He just keeps cranking them out (he was also great in Children of Men).
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction
My Rating: #23 out of 69
Director: Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven)
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Melanie Lynskey, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker, Joseph Cross
One of two Clint Eastwood films. It's really part two of a pair, though the films are only related by subject matter; the content hardly links at all. This was the first of the films out of the gates and was mostly crucified by critics, but expected to do well with the Academy. The Academy was cold on the movie for some reason (there are myriad explanations for this). At any rate, Warner Bros., seeing Hollywood's cold reception of Flags, decided to bring out Letters from Iwo Jima in December (it was originally scheduled for 2007). This explains two things: the (ever-so-slight) resurgence in love for Flags and the very limited amount of love for Letters which seems to be almost universally admired, though mostly ignored by the Academy. It just came out too late to hit the jackpot. This is all Warner's fault, of course. (I blame them for lots of things. See: The Departed.) I, for one—I am well aware of my minority status on this one—am delighted that there was at least a small amount of love shown for this earlier Eastwood film, which I liked quite a bit when I saw it. But then, I'm a sucker for father/son narratives...
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: N/A
My Rating: #8 out of 69
Director: John Lasseter (Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Toy Story)
Cast: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Keaton, Jenifer Lewis, Cheech Marin, Jeremy Piven, John Ratzenberger
Geez. Look at all those previous nominations for Randy Newman. And that's just in the Original Song category. He could win again, of course, but I think it unlikely. Cars is in a much-loved lineup of Pixar films, and though it is not as widely loved as its predecessors—Toy Story and its sequel, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., you get the drift—I think it could win simply on the basis of these past successes. However, I don't think it will. I think most everyone saw this film, thought it slightly sub-par, and will give the big trophy to the other huge money-making animated film from 2006.
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: Best Original Song, Best Animated Feature
My Rating: #37 out of 69
Director: Davis Guggenheim (Gossip)
Cast: Al Gore
I'm putting this film next because, although I don't include documentaries in my awards numbers, it obviously does have more than one nomination. It is also nominated (and will probably win) in the Best Documentary Feature category. I think, in fact, that it will take home both of the trophies it's nominated for. Plus the song is a really cool anthem by a hugely popular artist.
Will Win: Best Original Song (& Best Documentary Feature)
Might Also Win: N/A
My Rating: Unranked: I don't rank the documentaries I see. It doesn't seem fair.
Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Pamela Anderson, Luenell Campbell
This film's nomination is very exciting, I think. The Academy, it seems to say, is not as stuffy as you might think. Sacha Baron Cohen probably just missed out on a Best Actor nomination, as well. (Hey, if Roberto Benigni can fit in this category—Benigni even took home a statue—so can Cohen.) Some have wondered why this film is an "adapted" screenplay and not considered in the "original" category. Screenplays that are based around characters who were not invented for a specific film, but were invented for a previous film or some other medium are usually considered "adapted". This is an odd thing for the Academy that they seem to decide both ways. It always seems arbitrary to me. For instance: in 2005, the brilliant script for Before Sunset, which told the story of characters invented for the film Before Sunrise was nominated in the "adapted" category. And yet the year before (2004), Denys Arcand's script for The Barbarian Invasions, which is clearly based on characters from his earlier film The Decline of the American Empire was nominated as "original". It's possible that they evaluate such things on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure.
Will Win: N/A
Might Also Win: Best Adapted Screenplay (dark horse)
My Rating: #26 out of 69
More soon. I'm playing catch-up...