Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar picks (please, no wagering)

Every year I'm slightly handicapped in my Oscar picks by the fact that I rarely see any of the movies. This leads me to pick in sort of the same way that certain women pick football games by choosing the team with the best helmets.

Last year, however, was proof that even a blind hog gets an acorn now and then. I came in second in my friend Leigh Dyer's Oscar pool and won an "Animal House" DVD, which led to a few days of unsolicited movie quoting. (Dean Wormer: "The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.")

My wife and I got Netflix for Christmas, which in theory should have caught us up on the best of 2007, but instead we've been watching stuff like "The Wizard of Oz." I am fully prepared to make Oscar predictions for 1939. Not so much for this year. But let's give it a shot anyway.

By the way, I'm only including categories where I can make a reasonable guess. I have NO idea who's going to win for best live-action short film, and if you do, why are you reading this?

Best Song: "Falling Slowly" from "Once"; "Raise It Up" from "August Rush"; "Happy Working Song," "So Close" and "That's How You Know" from "Enchanted."

"Once" was the only one of these movies I saw AND it was my favorite movie of the year. Plus the trailer for "August Rush" featured Robin Williams as a scruffy street musician. That's the moment I knew we wouldn't be seeing that one.

Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"; Ethan and Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"; Christopher Hampton, "Atonement"; Ronald Harwood, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"; Sarah Polley, "Away from Her."

Here's the problem with this category: To cast a legitimate vote, you'd have to see the movie AND read the book it was adapted from. Do people in Hollywood read books? They take meetings, they have lots of long lunches, but I don't think they actually read books. So I always pick the book that I figure most of them have at least heard of. Most of them have probably heard of Cormac McCarthy. So "No Country For Old Men" is the pick.

Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"; Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, "No Country For Old Men"; Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"; Jason Reitman, "Juno"; Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly."

To me this is a degree-of-difficulty category: Which movie was the hardest to put on the screen?

"Michael Clayton" -- George Clooney in a suit. Easy.

"Juno" -- Teen comedy with great supporting parts (Jennifer Garner, C.J. from "The West Wing," the guy who was the psychiatrist on "Law and Order"). Easy.

"There Will Be Blood" -- Just point Daniel Day-Lewis at the camera. Easy.

"No Country For Old Men" -- On the plus side, Tommy Lee Jones; on the minus side, nobody understands what it all means. Pretty hard.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" -- Told from the point of view of a main character who can communicate only by blinking his left eye. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner.

Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "I’m Not There"; Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"; Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"; Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"; Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton."

Obviously, if you've read this far, you can see that I have no business giving anyone in Hollywood career advice. But here's Amy Ryan, nominated for an Oscar, and there's also Amy Smart and Amy Adams playing the same type of supporting roles. I have no idea which is which (although I liked whichever one was in "Junebug").

Amy is a nice name. But I might go with Amy-Lou or A.J. or something just to break out of the pack.

Anyway, Amy is not going to win. Every year the Oscar grants one unofficial lifetime achievement award, and this year it goes to Ruby Dee.

Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"; Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"; Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson’s War"; Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton."

Here's the rule for supporting parts: If people who didn't see the movie know about the role, that's your winner. I didn't see "No Country For Old Men" but I know that Javier Bardem is the crazy killer with the cattle gun. He's a lock.

Not to mention that there is NO way you get an Oscar when you can fairly be described as "the less successful Affleck."

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"; Julie Christie, "Away from Her"; Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"; Laura Linney, "The Savages"; Ellen Page, "Juno."

Oscar voters don't always pick the most popular movie... but I'm guessing "Juno" has made more money than the other four movies combined, plus critics like it enough that voters can justify voting for Ellen Page while never revealing that they skipped the others for reruns of "Project Runway."

Best Actor:
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"; Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"; Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"; Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"; Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises."

Look. I know Daniel Day-Lewis is a great actor. He's going to win the Oscar, no question. But here's the poster from "There Will Be Blood":

And here's a photo from his last big movie, "Gangs of New York":

Looks like the hat and the mustache are doing an awful lot of the work there. I'm just saying.

Best Picture: "Atonement," "Juno," "Michael Clayton," "No Country For Old Men," "There Will Be Blood."

Let me stop here for a second (as if this post isn't long enough already) to remind you of one of the great underdog moments in history -- "Rocky" winning Best Picture in 1976.

Now... "Rocky" is a GREAT movie. I could watch it a million times (and probably have, if you piece together all the times I've caught 30 minutes on late-night cable). I forgive Sylvester Stallone "Rocky V," "Rocky Balboa," all the "Rambo"s and even "Rhinestone" because he came up with the original "Rocky."

But there were four other nominees for Best Picture in 1976. One was "Bound For Glory," a Woody Guthrie bio that you probably didn't see. Here are the other three:

"All the President's Men."
"Taxi Driver."

Those three movies make a lot of lists of the 20 greatest movies of all time. Yet somehow "Rocky" beat ALL THREE in the same year. This is a much bigger upset than Rocky going the distance with Apollo Creed. In fact, you can make a case that it's the biggest upset of all time:

3. Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 (2007).

2. David b. Goliath, first-round TKO (approx. 600 BC).

1. "Rocky" over "All the President's Men," "Network" and "Taxi Driver" (1976).

I will say right off that "Juno" is the only Best Picture nominee I've seen (and just last weekend at that). It's great. But this has nothing to do with my highly detailed analysis.

From what I've heard, "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" and "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" are fine movies. They are also all dark and depressing dramas. Then there is "Juno," a smart and bouncy comedy.

One of these things is not like the others.

"Juno" it is.

Add your picks (and your rationale) in the comments and save me from myself.


Anonymous said...

For a real review of the Academy Awards check out the Pop Culture Coast to Coast podcast before Sunday's show so you can be in the know. you know.....