Yesterday I previewed the Razzies and the Independent Spirit Awards, detailing how I voted for each. The Sideways sweep at the Spirits wasn't exactly a surprise, although it does go to the very problem I mentioned at the top of that post, namely that there now always seems to be a big indie film -- Sideways, Lost in Translation -- that also gets tons of Oscar notice, but since everyone knows it probably won't win much there, it goes on to take all the awards from the IFP.
But I'll review the Spirits later (probably tomorrow). Today is Oscar-day, and for better of worse, tonight a lot of films and people are going to be crowned "best of the year," and much if not all of the time, that probably won't be true. But we love 'em anyway, you know? Or something.
Unlike those other two awards, I sadly don't have an Academy membership, so I can't tell you exactly why I would have voted for Yesterday for "Best Foreign Language Film," or struggled to decide between House of Flying Daggers, A Very Long Engagement and yes, even The Passion of the Christ for "Best Cinematography," possibly the strongest category this year overall.
One thing to remember with the Oscars when making your predictions, though, is don't depend too heavily on who won the Golden Globes. The Globes always used to be a good predicator of who might win Oscar, but not so much anymore. While the WGA, SAG and DGA awards are voted on by many of the same people who vote for Oscar, the Globes are a completely different entity, and no member of the Hollywood Foreign Press also has membership in the Academy. The Globes used to have a larger influence because they were handed out before the Academy's ballot deadline, but starting last year with Oscar's move to earlier in the year, that all changed. The deadline for Academy members to mail their ballots this year was the Friday before the Globes were announced, so no Oscar voter knew that Clive Owen or Natalie Portman or Martin Scorsese would win their various awards.
So, just so when 3 AM rolls around and the broadcast finally ends, I can say, "I told you so," or, "No, the drugs clouded my thinking. I knew it would be the 'Night of Neverland.'" Here are my annual predictions of what will win along with what I think should win:
Will win: There's really no chance that it will be the "Night of Neverland," but chances are that Million Dollar Baby will be as rich as its title by the end of the evening. Still, I have a weird feeling about this year, and while the metaphor has been exhausted by headline writers, this is a fight between MDB and The Aviator, Eastwood and Scorsese. I'm sure most people think that if "Best Picture" and "Best Director" were to split between the two films, the Academy would give the directing prize to Scorsese because he's never won. I think there's a great chance that the prizes will be split, but I have this weird feeling that the dysfunctional Academy is going to go the other way. The epic The Aviator will take home the big prize. Of course, it could be the cold medicine making me woozy, in which case, oh yeah, it's Million Dollar Baby.
Should win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. No it wasn't nominated. Yes, I'm going to keep harping on this until the end of time. In my interview on Gothamist with Bruce Goldstein of Film Forum on Friday, Bruce said he thought MDB would likely win and join "the great tradition of movies that probably shouldn't win the Oscar." Truer words have never been spoken, and I don't even dislike MDB. But Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man, Dances With Wolves, and more recently Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and Chicago all fall marvelously into this "tradition."
REALLY should win (of the nominees): Sideways. It was actually the best movie among the five nominees, and by a long shot.
Will win: Clint Eastwood. At least if I continue with my little theory of Oscar dysfunction. Hopefully, nobody will start calling Scorsese the "Susan Lucci" of the Oscars any time soon – that would seriously be tragic. But Clint won the DGA award, and while the two prizes don't always match up, they do more often than they don't.
Should win: Alexander Payne for Sideways. Same reason as above. I love Clint Eastwood and think MDB, for all its flaws, was an expertly directed film. And as anyone who reads this site knows, I basically worship Scorsese, but no matter how good The Aviator may be, it's not as good as I would hope for from Scorsese. Of course, this award should belong to Michel Gondry for the remarkable directing job he did with Eternal Sunshine, and really the only person who even deserves to be in this category with Gondry is Jean-Pierre Jeunet who's visionary A Very Long Engagement was a beautiful piece of filmmaking. Both of these were director's films, and to see neither of their names in this category, not to mention Richard Linklater, while Taylor Hackford gets honored for the mess of direction exhibited in Ray -- work which I would be more inclined to award a Razzie – is actually painful to think about.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will and Should win: Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Duh! This is where they should get it right. While a win by anything else would really piss me off, I wouldn't be utterly horrified if Brad Bird walked up there winning for The Incredibles. But considering that there wasn't really a script for Vera Drake, and that the biggest flaws in both The Aviator and, especially, Hotel Rwanda were in the writing, the choice here is easy.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will win: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Sideways) will take home their second writing award in two days, and while it's not my pick for this category, it's not undeserved. Just like Sophia Coppola and Lost in Translation last year, this will be the one category where Sideways takes home the prize. It will be shut-out of all its other nominations.
Should win: The only reason Sideways wouldn't get my pick in this category is because of the presence of the screenplay for Before Sunset, a marvelously written film, and my second favorite movie of the year. The only confusion that I have still yet to hear explained (although it probably has been somewhere) is why this script got placed in the "Adapted" category. The film's a sequel, not an adaptation of other source material. But whatever. If Before Sunset pulled off an upset, I'd be ecstatic, but considering that Sideways will be shut-out of all the other awards, this will be it's time in the sun.
Will win: I believe there's only one sure thing tonight, and that's Jamie Foxx taking home this award for Ray. Everyone knows it's going to happen. They should just hand it to him on the red carpet and let him open the show with his thank you speech before Chris Rock's monologue.
Should win: If I got to rank the nominations here in the way I voted for the Spirit Awards, Foxx actually would come in third. That's not a criticism of his performance: he couldn't have done any better channeling Ray Charles had he been the actual reincarnation of the man. But ultimately, this was a performance involving mimickery. Expertly done, no argument, but Foxx had so much to work with. Films and records and video of many of the exact scenes he'd be shooting. He got to meet and spend time with Charles.
If I was awarding this prize, I'd give it to Leo, and my second choice would be Don Cheadle. Both of them also played real-life characters, but neither had as much source material to work with, and both managed to create wonderfully and fully-formed characters. Cheadle had the opportunity to meet his true-life counterpart like Foxx, but he didn't get to see footage of him in action. And while DiCaprio may have been able to see some newsreel footage of Hughes, he never got to know the man. Ray Charles is also a showier part than either Cheadle's or DiCaprio's. Again, none of this is a criticism of Foxx's work, but if I had to make the choice, it would go to the people who had to do more work from scratch, and for me, DiCaprio did the most, not just in his magnificent portrayal of Howard Hughes, but in doing the best job imaginable helping me forget that he was Leonardo DiCaprio.
And I know everyone was all sad for Paul Giamatti getting passed over for a nomination. Well, Giamatti won his Spirit Award yesterday, and in doing so, he beat out someone else who belonged in this category – and who I believed should have won yesterday – namely Jeff Bridges for one of the best performances of his career in The Door in the Floor.
Will win: For all the talk of how Hilary Swank beat out Annette Bening just a few years ago and the tables turning this time around, Swank should take home the little bald dude this year as well, and between her and Bening, she deserves it. People just love MDB, and she was probably the best thing in it. Bening, on the other hand, was in a movie nobody saw, and, considering how blech it was, nobody should have seen.
Should win: Of course, neither of them should win because this award belongs to Imelda Staunton who, as I've written repeatedly, gave the best performance, male or female, lead or supporting, I saw in any film this year as the title character in Vera Drake.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Morgan Freeman should finally take home a prize in an acknowledgement of all his great work over the years in roles just like this. It will be part of the ,b>MDB-mania likely to be exhibited tonight.
Should win: Not Morgan Freeman. In fact, I would probably vote for everyone else in this category over Freeman. My pick would be Clive Owen who was the best thing about Closer. Or, if the Academy is just dying to give Jamie Foxx an award, I'd be happier if "Best Actor" went to DiCaprio or Cheadle and "Best Supporting Actor" went to Foxx for Collateral. Poor Jamie Foxx did give two of the best performances in two of the most overrated films of the year. He was fantastic in Collateral in what was, in many ways, a thankless role. He'd probably be my third pick here too, after Owen and then Thomas Haden Church, but if it comes to the balance of things, I'd throw this award to him rather than for Ray. This being the Oscars though where size, grandeur and commerce usually beat out artistry, my thoughts exist only in a Bizarro world.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will and should win: I was pretty shocked when Natalie Portman won the Golden Globe for Closer over Cate Blanchett's amazing performance as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. That won't happen again, and as much as I liked Portman, Blanchett deserves this award.
This is a very close category, though. There's not one nominee who shouldn't be here. I wasn't a big fan of Kinsey, but Laura Linney was one of that film's few highlights. And Sophie Okonedo's nomination for playing Don Cheadle's wife in Hotel Rwanda was also very well-deserved. And Virginia Madsen playing what for all intents and purposes was the straight-character in Sideways was a key, but often overlooked, component in that film being as tight as it was.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will and should win: It's all about The Incredibles, probably the best animated film to come out since the first Toy Story, both in terms of actual quality as well as how it advances the form of animated features. And what I mean by that isn't the advancement in the animation as much as the leap forward in sophisticated storytelling.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Will win: The Sea Inside, and that's really too bad. While Javier Bardem's performance was stunning in its subtlety, and worthy itself for a "Best Actor" nomination, the movie really wasn't all that great. It was a pretty stereotypical tearjerker that surprisingly hasn't gotten the euthanasia foes into an uproar as MDB has.
Should win: OK, so I can't make a definitive statement here because I've only seen three of the five nominees, but of those three, I can say with certainty that The Sea Inside shouldn't win, the drab and very standard docu-drama Downfall has no business even being nominated, and Yesterday is a powerful, important and moving work of art which succeeds in all the ways that The Sea Inside failed. Yesterday lost the Spirit Award to The Sea Inside, and chances are, the same thing will happen tonight.
Will and should win: I'm even more shaky on docs than I am on "Foreign Language Film," although I've seen the same number of nominees – three of the five. Born Into Brothels won the Spirit Award yesterday, and I'm going to say it will double its pleasure tonight. It's the kind of film the Academy really likes – upsetting, yet uplifting with an important social message. It's also a really good film, although I think it gets more mileage out of its subject matter and the kids involved than any revolutionary forms of filmmaking.
Super Size Me was more fun, funny and interesting in a "gotcha!" way then actually a great film. It probably was seen more than any of the other nominees which might give it a lift. Tupac: Ressurection is really interesting, but it's not as illuminating or powerful as something like Born Into Brothels. It had a pretty successful and relatively popular theatrical release as well, though, so you never know.
Of course, I easily could be completely off-base here. I've heard great things about The Story of the Weeping Camel (which I currently have from Netflix, but haven't had a chance to watch yet), and Twist of Faith, Kirby Dick's look at a man who confronts the sexual abuse inflicted upon him by a catholic priest as a boy made a splash at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and could also deeply affect the voters.
That's it for the major awards. Here are my other picks, with less commentary:
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY -- Will win: House of Flying Daggers; Should win: Either A Very Long Engagement or The Passion of the Christ
BEST ART DIRECTION -- Will win: The Aviator; Should win: A Very Long Engagement
BEST COSTUME DESIGN -- Will and should win: The Aviator
BEST FILM EDITING -- Will and should win: The Aviator. Before you go crazy on me for awarding this nearly three-hour movie an "editing award," have you seen the rest of the category? This is probably the weakest "editing" field in years, and in my personal actual length to perceived length ratio, The Aviator comes out on top while also being the most comprehensible with the least amount of extraneous nonsense.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE -- Will win: Finding Neverland. This is what's known as throwing a top nominee a bone! Not that it doesn't deserve it, but personally, I'd go with … Should win: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
BEST ORIGINAL SONG -- Will and should win: Does anyone care this year? Oh fine. That Counting Crowes ditty from Shrek 2.
BEST MAKEUP -- Will win: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events; Should win: It's nowhere near as showy, but The Sea Inside. The way they transformed Bardem was completely natural, making the first time we see him in a flashback pre-accident, and therefore see the real, natural Bardem, that much more startling.
BEST SOUND EDITING -- Will and should win: The Incredibles
BEST SOUND MIXING -- Will and should win: The Incredibles
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS -- Will and should win: Spider-Man 2
And there you go. Here's hoping Chris Rock brings necessary life to the show; and here's praying that neither Million Dollar Baby doesn't dominate in Sideways-Spirit Award fashion.