Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Oscar has spoken, Part I

The nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards are in. Commence with the fancy headlines!

Dearly Departed!
Babel On!
Reign of The Queen!
Let the Sunshine In!
Dreamgirls Nightmare!

OK, that last one may not be entirely fair, considering that Dreamgirls in fact leads all motion pictures with eight nominations, including the favorites in the supporting actor and actress categories. But it's also a fact that most people, myself included, had the Motown-motivated musical as a sure lock to be one of the final five films up for the best picture Oscar. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks in charge of all of this chaos, admitted that this is the first time in the history of the Oscars that the film with the most nominations didn't land in the best picture race.

What happened? Apparently Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima happened. The Japanese-language companion piece to his other World War II epic, Flags of Our Fathers, ended up being the better movie, and the Academy, which has been drinking the Eastwood Kool-Aid for more than a decade, took the opportunity to honor the former Dirty Harry for his bold vision of war. But one movie had to go, and thus Beyoncé has one less reason to get all dolled up on Feb. 25. (Of course, someone is going to have to sing some of the three new Dreamgirls tunes that received best original song nods, so maybe Ms. Knowles may want to show up at the Kodak Theater anyway, lest Ann Reinking be called to take her place. And God knows we don't want that.)

The absence of Dreamgirls from the best picture category is one of the few glitches in my attempt to correctly predict the major Oscar nominees. What had been very unstable had solidified in recent weeks, making my job and that of other prognosticators a little bit easier. As a result - and at the risk of tooting my own horn - of the 20 acting nominees, I nailed 18.5 of them. (I missed Djimon Hounsou and had Leonardo DiCaprio getting nominated for the wrong movie.) Still, as Dreamgirls shows, the Academy Awards are never 100 percent predictable. Thank God, perhaps, because if they were so formulaic, the ratings would really be in the toilet. Indeed, while the annual bemoaning about the lack of popular blockbusters among the major nominees and the subsequent predictions that this will damage the ratings of the Oscar broadcast has already begun, there are others who say that the fact that the best picture race is totally up in the air will only add suspense - and, thus, eyeballs - to the occasion. And if that doesn't help, there's always Ellen DeGeneres dancing her ass off. Hey, it beats Debbie Allen.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” (THINKFilm)
Peter O’Toole in “Venus” (Miramax, Filmfour and UK Council)
Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jackie Earle Haley in “Little Children” (New Line)
Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Eddie Murphy in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed” (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Penélope Cruz in “Volver” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (20th Century Fox)
Kate Winslet in “Little Children” (New Line)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Adriana Barraza in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Abigail Breslin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Rinko Kikuchi in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)

Achievement in directing
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Alejandro González Iñárritu
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.) Martin Scorsese
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Stephen Frears
“United 93” (Universal and StudioCanal) Paul Greengrass

(Only three out of five here, though one of those is a faux pas on my part for forgetting that Stephen Frears directed The Queen. Don't know if that reflects positively or negatively on his skills.)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions)
Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge
“Listen” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler
Lyric by Anne Preven
“Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Siedah Garrett
“Our Town” from “Cars” (Buena Vista)
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Patience” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Willie Reale

Best documentary feature
“Deliver Us from Evil” (Lionsgate)
A Disarming Films Production
Amy Berg and Frank Donner

“An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions)
A Lawrence Bender/Laurie David Production
Davis Guggenheim

“Iraq in Fragments” (Typecast Releasing)
A Typecast Pictures/Daylight Factory Production
James Longley and John Sinno

“Jesus Camp” (Magnolia Pictures)
A Loki Films Production
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

“My Country, My Country” (Zeitgeist Films)
A Praxis Films Production
Laura Poitras and Jocelyn Glatzer

Best animated feature film of the year
“Cars” (Buena Vista)
John Lasseter

“Happy Feet” (Warner Bros.)
George Miller

“Monster House” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Gil Kenan

Best foreign language film of the year
“After the Wedding” A Zentropa Entertainments 16 Production

“Days of Glory (Indigènes)” A Tessalit Production

“The Lives of Others” A Wiedemann & Berg Production

“Pan’s Labyrinth” A Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj/Estudios Picasso Production

“Water” A Hamilton-Mehta Production

Best motion picture of the year
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
An Anonymous Content/Zeta Film/Central Films Production
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin, Producers

“The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
A Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Nominees to be determined

“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.)
A DreamWorks Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, Producers

“Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
A Big Beach/Bona Fide Production
Nominees to be determined

“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
A Granada Production
Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

Place your bets, kids! Who do you have?

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