Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Trim Bin #17

NOTE (Added on Monday at 9:45): If my count is correct, a whopping two of my choices won the gold. Question - who's more culturally irrelevant, the Academy or me?

William Hurt recently described the Academy Awards as "penguins salivating over gold dildos," and that about sums it up. Still, it's a nice feeling to see recognition going to films that really deserve it. So while I suck at Oscar predictions, I figured I'd share who I'd like to win. I've excluded categories, such as animated short, to which I am obviously ignorant. You can see the full nominees list here.

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain is the front-runner, and it's a good choice, both because it's a great, heartfelt romance and because it would be a big step towards such stories not having to carry silly sociopolitical baggage. Crash, on the other hand, would be a regression - it's a simplistic, overrated faux-indie with an empty head. Good Night and Good Luck is earnest but a touch hollow; Capote is technically superb but cold. So it'd be nice to see long-shot Munich take home the gold, but I have a feeling that Spielberg's best movie in ages will grow in reputation over time.
Best Director: I never see the point of dividing the picture and director awards, so Steven Spielberg. Ang Lee will probably win tonight, and he deserves it for this film as well as over a decade of underappreciated, subtle work. George Clooney is good, but Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was better. Bennett Miller is lucky to have Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a high school buddy. Paul Haggis can't direct traffic.
Best Actor: Front-runner Phillip Seymour Hoffman should have three Oscars by now, but I'm not really enthusiastic about Capote; his performance as the manipulative author is technically superb, but it feels like more of an exercise than his superlative work in Happiness or Boogie Nights. I'd like to see Heath Ledger win; unlike Hoffman, I'd never liked him in anything before, but his Ennis is a understated, devastating performance. David Strathairn is good, but limited by the screenplay, which uses Edward R. Murrow as a symbol instead of a person. Joaquin Phoenix is very good in Walk the Line, but not quite Cash. Haven't seen Hustle and Flow.
Best Actress: The best female performances (Naomi Watts, Maria Bello, Q'Orianka Kilcher) aren't here, so I'm a bit indifferent to this category. Reese Witherspoon is good as June Carter, and she'll probably win, but I honestly don't get the big deal (maybe I'm biased by memories of Cruel Intentions). Out of the nominess, I'd have to go with Keira Knightley, who was at least charming in Pride and Prejudice. Haven't seen Transamerica or North Country but, unfortunately, I have seen Mrs. Henderson Presents.
Best Supporting Actor: Perhaps the strongest category of the evening, with no clear front-runner. George Clooney did fine work in Syriana; his weary eyes said more than twenty endless monologues about foreign oil dependency. Jake Gyllenhal was great in Brokeback Mountain and even managed to triumph over his horrible porno 'stache. Matt Dillion is a likeable enough guy, but I'd rather have seen him win for Drugstore Cowboy (or The Flamingo Kid, for that matter) than Crash. Haven't seen Cinderella Man. So I'll be rooting for an out-of-nowhere win for William Hurt's funny, creepy, daffy performance in A History of Violence.
Best Supporting Actress: Thankfully, much stronger than the lead actress category. Rachel Weisz was good in The Constant Gardener, but after a string of mediocre performances, I can't find myself too enthusiastic that she finally made an effort. Catherine Keener is wonderful and does a fine job as Harper Lee in Capote, but she's underused and I would have preferred to see her nominated for The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I wasn't a big Junebug fan, but Amy Adams' wide-eyed, God-loving Ashley was the best thing about it, and I can only imagine that her acceptance speech would be adorable. But I really want to see Michelle Williams win; it's really clear that she poured her heart and soul into Brokeback Mountain's Alma, and the film wouldn't work without her.
Best Original Screenplay: Crash will win, and it shouldn't. How great would it be if The Squid and the Whale pulled a surprise upset?
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain and A History of Violence are both deserving, but Tony Kushner and Eric Roth's Munich screenplay is the best of the year; it veers almost effortlessly between high tension and quieter, contemplative moments without ever becoming heavyhanded.
Best Cinematography: I'm almost tempted to root for Batman Begins for its brilliant use of light and anamorphic lenses, but Emmanuel Lubezki's work on The New World is simply amazing.
Best Editing: Munich. It has unbelievable momentum. Please not Crash, please.
Best Art Direction: The jaw-dropping recreations of 1930's New York place King Kong heads and shoulders above everything else.
Best Costume Design: Johnny Depp's attire in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, if nothing else, amusing.
Best Music: John Williams' work on Munich is his subtlest, most haunting work in years.
Best Song: I haven't actually heard any, but let's go with "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," because I like the idea of Three Six Mafia having Oscars.
Best Makeup: Revenge of the Sith; remember that weird planet of Cenobites ruled by Bruce Spence? I know I do.
Best Sound: When the tripods roared, I shat my pants. War of the Worlds.
Best Sound Editing: Giving King Kong a voice was a phenomenal achievement.
Best Visual Effects: Kong was steller, but a handful of the effects (the brontosaurus stampede) looked rushed. War of the Worlds, on the other hand, is frighteningly convincing in every shot.
Best Animated Film: Front-runner Wallace and Gromit was fun, but Corpse Bride was an astounding visual achievement with a sweet story (and a boon for Hot Topic sales).
Best Foreign Film: I've only seen Paradise Now, and it was good. So, Paradise Now.
Best Documentary: Without Grizzly Man this category doesn't really matter, so I'll go with the scrappily likeable Murderball.
Best Dead Person:
Applause for the "In Memoriam" segment will likely favor Johnny Carson, but I'd like to see Don Knotts win the death popularity contest. He's earned it.

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