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Arthur Ryel-Lindsey » Comments:

The Curious Case of 2009: Oscar Picks

18 February 2009

So, what seems to have become solely my venue for Oscar predictions welcomes an intriguing new year...

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Actor

Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn, "Milk" -- will win
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler" -- should win

Unlike years past when the acting awards seemed etched into the pavement going into Oscar night, this year's selections offer enough mystery for me to consider them one-by-one.

Perennial Oscar favorite Sean Penn looks to take a well-deserved award for his transformative performance as Van Sant's title pathfinder politico. It would be a fitting and telling honor, but I just cannot help quietly rooting for a genuine underdog story in New York Film Festival-favorite Mickey Rourke, who could give 2008 winner Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his "do crazy" money.

-~-

Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropical Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight" -- should win, will win
Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

Okay, so not that much mystery...

-~-

Actress

Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kate Winslet, "The Reader" -- should win, will win

...and even less here. But remember that Winslet's nomination as Best Actress opens up the Supporting Actress competition, since she took home statues in both categories at the Golden Globes.

-~-

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, "Doubt" -- should win, will win
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

This is an upset pick. Public opinion and the past awards success of women in Woody Allen movies seems to lean toward Penelope Cruz, who was undeniably alluring and provocative in the film. But here may be our first Oscar-night reminder of that well-established, little-broken baseline: the Oscars are America's awards. No director is more New York than Woody Allen, but will voters have remembered that now that he's stopped making movies in New York?

Let's say we scratch Davis and Henson as unknowns--hardly a given (Jennifer Hudson, Mira Sorvino, a younger Tomei, and an even younger Anna Paquin come to mind) but I'm doing it anyway. Tomei could well win her second Oscar in a dramatically different role from "My Cousin Vinny." But truly, no one's star is rising faster than Amy Adams's, for good reason. She has shown off range and chutzpah in very few years (though perhaps some of us remember her from "Drop Dead Gorgeous" or that Indiana campaign stop episode of "The West Wing"). She was already nominated for Best Actress for her immensely charming country girl in "Junebug." A Supporting Oscar this year places her in the first tier of working actors and among the early returns for a Best Actress nomination a year or two from now.

Such is Hollywood's actress game, that, for lack of many compelling characters, honors the actress. Sure, it's suspect reasoning, but no one's gone wrong thinking the Academy's going to give away a career-wide award or two.

-~-

Animated Feature

"Bolt"
"Kung-Fu Panda"
"WALL-E" -- should win, will win

So there is no room for animated films in Best Picture. "WALL-E," perfectly suited and deserving of the night's grandest category, easily walks away with one here. (Admittedly, "Panda" wasn't all that bad; it's just no "WALL-E.")

-~-

Art Direction

"Changeling"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- should win
"The Dark Knight" -- will win
"The Duchess"
"Revolutionary Road"

Period films have been the guiding light for Art Direction, so picking the only film that doesn't fit the mold makes me call this one an upset. But it is the start of what I think will be a bigger-than-expected night for Nolan's crew.

-~-

Cinematography

Tom Stern, "Changeling"
Claudio Miranda, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- should win
Wally Pfister, "The Dark Knight"
Roger Deakins, Chris Menges, "The Reader"
Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire" -- will win

Always an exciting and memorable category, cinematography this year doesn't feature many of the good-ole, familiar names, the incomparable Roger Deakins--possibly my all-time favorite--a very big exception. Pfister gets his third nomination in four years (all of them guided by director Christopher Nolan). I'd like to lean toward it, but for the lack of some small amount of respect reflected in what some have called a Best Picture snub. Miranda is thus my should-have-it: his creative visual constructions invested palpable emotion throughout the lyrically paced "Benjamin Button." I note the tremendous WWII-sequence when Ben's old trawler does battle with a U-boat, in particular.

However, the award will go to Boyle's vivid rags-to-riches tale. Unlike virtually every commentator at this point, I am not picking the film for Best Picture (sorry to jump ahead a few slots). This I'm calling a concession award, one of many "Slumdog" looks to take home.

-~-

Costume Design

"Australia"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Duchess" -- should win, will win
"Milk"
"Revolutionary Road"

Costume is more unreservedly the ground of the category's practitioners than any other Oscar at stake. So, remembering the last two costume winners, what completes this series: "Marie Antoinette," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "XXXXXXX."

I'm not saying "The Duchess" doesn't deserve it--it was visually enticing and that was quite the coiffure for Ms. Knightley. But when the film's subject was the fashionista of her day, and that day has been costumer's gold, perhaps they should forget nominating any story set in the 20th century (let alone four).

-~-

Directing

David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire" -- should win, will win

An interesting category with few old standbys in now thrice-nominated Daldry, two-timers Howard (a winner) and Van Sant, and well-established Oscar rookies in Fincher and Boyle. A toss-up, as all of them have received decent buzz coming into the awards season, though the three returnees are suffering from the same symptom that hurt P.T. Anderson last year: a lead actor whose performance is so skillful and captivating, it seems to diminish the role of the director in the minds of moviegoers.

Boyle's bold choice of screenplay, evocative setting, dynamic cinematographic choices, non-familiar actors, and tight and well-conceived storytelling all boost him above the much-discussed Fincher, whose boldly constructed film has less critical and awards-season love behind it.

Plus, I like Boyle better than Fincher, so why not?

-~-

Documentary Feature

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"The Garden"
"Man on Wire" -- will win
"Trouble the Water" -- should win

Five worthy choices in a very good year for documentary; master director Werner Herzog even makes an appearance with "Encounters." It's just not his night.

For starters, I have a soft spot for the journalistic, man-on-the-street quality of "Trouble the Water," a Katrina survival-story and provocative examination of social injustice with mind-blowing footage shot in the Ninth Ward as the hurricane devistated the city. Yet, with the weight of a broader release behind it, James Marsh and Simon Chinn's exploration of captivating artiste Philippe Petit picks up the award.

-~-

Documentary Short

"The Conscience of Nhem En"
"The Final Inch" -- will win
"Smile Pink"
"The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306"

With the worldwide conscience ever more tuned-in to medical crises, this year's short doc award looks to go one of two medical-savior stories. "Smile Pink" is an insightful look at pro bono surgeons helping Indian children born with cleft lips. Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant's "The Final Inch" is a global follow-along with little-known doctors and nurses working to fully eradicate polio, and, broader in context, the well-deserving winner in this least-distributed of categories.

-~-

Editing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"Slumdog Millionaire" -- should win, will win

No action award, editing steps away from the visual acuity of "The Dark Knight" and, in line with its reputation, will be an early-in-the-night look at Best Picture. Again, I don't think "Slumdog" is taking the top prize, but I do think Boyle's fast-paced film is the best constructed entry nominated for the final award of the night.

It gives us another head-fake here, which may turn out to be a giveaway if the film does what everyone thinks it's going to do.

-~-

Foreign Language

"The Baader Meinhof Complex"
"The Class"
"Departures"
"Revanche" -- will win
"Waltz with Bashir" -- should win

For my part, "Waltz" was among the best and most inventive films of the year, a powerful indication of what's in store for animation as the genre continues to gain in popularity and older-audience respectability. Here, it is ahead of its time.

"The Class" is also a likely and very deserving winner, but I'm bending toward personal, selfish tradition: my workplace, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, screened "The Lives of Others" two years ago, two days before the film won this category. We showed "The Counterfeiters" two nights before it won last year. "Revanche" is scheduled for next week--not exactly in line, but I'll take it. Goetz Spielmann's Austrian crime melodrama is a powerful, brooding emotional study, keeping the Academy's tendency to quietly surprise with this category intact.

-~-

Makeup

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- will win
"The Dark Knight"
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" -- should win

A category that historically splits between fantasy characters ("Lord of the Rings," "Pan's Labyrinth") and the altering of beautiful people into old or ugly period characers ("La vie en rose," "Lemony Snicket," "Frida") offers us powerful examples in both arenas. I hope for Del Toro, whose films, including "Pan's," are familiar makeup favorites. I pick the film with more critical weight. But the unknown extent to which voters think Brad Pitt's transformation was visual effect rather than makeup and the split caused by the popularity of "Dark Knight" make this category a true mystery. Three deserving choices.

-~-

Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
James Newton Howard, "Defiance"
Danny Elfman, "Milk"
A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire" -- will win
Thomas Newman, "WALL-E" -- should win

THERE are our good-ole, familiar nominees, with four of this year's composers combining for seventeen prior nominations; eight for never-won Newman alone. It still ain't his year, despite "WALL-E"s whimsical score and generally ingenious use of music in a movie with only passing dialogue. In an emerging theme, the award goes to the category's only first time nominee, A.R. Rahman, whose fast-paced compositions are perfectly suited the hectic, frenetic atmosphere of Boyle's Indian film.

-~-

Original Song

"Down to Earth" from "WALL-E"
"Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire"
"O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" -- should win, will win

In a category that seems to be "Slumdog"s to lose, I lean toward the song for which the brilliant M.I.A. is nominated. Fifty-fifty it goes to "Jai Ho" instead. For all his success, Peter Gabriel's on the outside looking in.

-~-

Picture

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk" -- will win
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire" -- should win

"Slumdog" is the darling of the awards season and a film I both enjoy and admire. Boyle is my favorite of the five directors nominated for best picture. It's a direct split for screenplay between "Milk" and "Slumdog," and I give many of the always essential technical awards to the little Anglo-Indian film that could.

All this considered and still I have a standing friendly wager going with a work colleague who strongly disliked "Slumdog" but thinks it is unbeatable. He wins if it wins Best Picture. I get all other comers. My reasons: that seeming upsets are not unknown to the last award of the night, for opinionated good ("Shakespeare in Love") and bad ("Crash," "The Departed"). And as has been a theme of this list of predictions--and any of my Oscar predictions until the Academy proves, finally, it has a vision truly unbounded by national borders--I don't think a film so essentially non-American can win, as much as I think it deserves the award.

Dropping two also-rans in "Frost/Nixon" and "The Reader," the award in my mind is a dead heat between "Benjamin Button" and "Milk"--one more of an advanced and accomplished technical exercise than a unstoppable piece of filmmaking and the other a possibly controversial choice anchored by great acting.

Last year's "There Will Be Blood," a film defined on Oscar night by great acting, could not take home Best Picture, but I lean toward "Milk" in a close American race nonetheless. Remember, I've only gotten one Best Picture right in the last four years...

-~-

Short, Animated

"La Maison en Petits Cubes" -- will win
"Lavatory - Lovestory"
"Oktapodi"
"Presto" -- should win
"This Way Up"

Will the Academy stick with recent tradition in short animation and honor a film with a broader story arch and closer association with traditional technique? Or does it look to the future and celebrate computers? The evolution of modern animation guides this groundswell category, but the voters will stick to the script of the last few years with "Cubes."

-~-

Short, Live Action

"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)"
"Manon on the Asphalt"
"New Boy"
"The Pig"
"Spielzeugland (Toy Land)" -- will win

Bravo to the Germans with two short film nominations, the nod going to the Holocaust tale of a mother telling her son the neighbors are headed to Toyland. Sure, it's Oscar-windfall type subject matter, but you can hardly pin that on these ever unlikely nominees.

-~-

Sound Editing

"The Dark Knight" -- will win
"Iron Man"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"WALL-E" -- should win
"Wanted"


Sound Mixing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight" -- will win
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"WALL-E" -- should win
"Wanted"

Visual Effects

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight" -- should win
"Iron Man" -- will win

The action movie categories. "The Dark Knight" is among the best action/comic book films ever made, so it out-gains the under-respected quality of "WALL-E"s production values in a close race.

"Iron Man," though nowhere near as compelling or polished as "Knight," gets the visual nod because, well, there are more explosive visuals. I knew there had to be a reason for such overblown violence in a story about atoning for the violence you've caused.

-~-

Adapted Screenplay

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Doubt"
"Frost/Nixon"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire" -- should win, will win

Original Screenplay

"Frozen River"
"Happy-Go-Lucky" -- should win
"In Bruges"
"Milk" -- will win
"WALL-E"

It's often been said--at least, by me--that the screenplay awards are the real Best Picture. This year, truer than ever: "Happy-Go-Lucky" was among my personal favorites in 2008 and a stunning exclusion from this year's Best Actress, Director, and Picture categories. I shout it's pleasures as emphatically as the Academy seems to be looking the other way. With no mean amount of grumpiness--though I note the surprising quality of "In Bruges," give up on the outstanding "WALL-E" script as disrespected, and express shock that a screenplay so barren of consistency as "Frozen River" could even be nominated when the marvelous "The Visitor" is out there--I give the nod toward a fine screenplay in "Milk," even if it is the last on offer.

On the adapted side of things, "Slumdog," though occasionally knocked for a hokey narrative device, is far-and-away the tightest and most inventive script among the five nominees. It wins in a walk, and sets up a Foreign v. American showdown for Best Picture.

-~-

My Oscar Batting Average since 2004: .742 (89/120)

-~-

The 81st annual Academy Awards,
Sunday, February 22, 2008,
8 pm ET,

ABC

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey » Comments:

The Year of Assassinations by Demon Barbers: Oscar predictions 2008

22 February 2008

Rather busy this year, so I'll give a pretty quick gloss over the competition for this year's awards.

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Actor

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

Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men" -- should win, will win
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Actress

Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away from Her" -- should win, will win
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en rose"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There" -- will win
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" -- should win
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

A paradox: the glitz and glamour that are the essential hallmarks of the Oscars is most visibly located here in the acting categories. Yet, for those less interested in celebrity, little is left for the Oscars to do: the rush of awards shows leading up to the Oscars every year have a stunning record of giving statues to the same set of people, and save a surprise (Alan Arkin, last year), the Academy falls in line. The performances themselves can still stir the blood, as in Lewis's breathtaking descent into wholesome American greed in "There Will Be Blood," more crazy than Bardem's powerful turn as a maniac in "No Country for Old Men." No one can do crazy like Daniel Day-Lewis, though both receive fitting prizes for downright stunning work.

The women, as always, are harder to predict, because of the lesser roles they're so often given in Hollywood filmmaking. When in doubt, the Academy lately loves a real-life portrayal (remember portrayals of Edi Amin, Elizabeth II, Truman Capote, June Carter, Ray Charles are only the freshest examples of a long standing tradition). Hence, Blanchett's passable if hyperbolic work as Bob Dylan circa "Don't Look Back," beating out a pack of fictional characters creating a surprise pool of strong acting talent. For her part, Christie is just too good to pass up.

-~-

Animated Feature

“Persepolis”
“Ratatouille” –- should win, will win
“Surf's Up”

A strong category goes to one of the best films of the year, regardless the method of production.

-~-

Art Direction

"American Gangster"
"Atonement"
"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" -- should win
"There Will Be Blood" -- will win

I can't help giving a nod to the brilliant scene-making in "Sweeney Todd," but "There Will Be Blood"s Oscar-day strong run (possible sweep) starts here with a fitting award for the film's expansive landscapes and color. Watch out for "Atonement" as a sleeper.

-~-

Cinematography

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
“Atonement”
"No Country for Old Men"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"There Will Be Blood" - should win, will win

The category that has consistently showcased in recent years the most innovative talents working in Hollywood, this one seems to be "There Will Be Blood"/Robert Elswitt's to lose. Again, audiences love the expansive landscapes. However, the great Roger Deakins was something of a specialist in that area this year, represented here by both "Assassination" and "No Country," making it a lot closer than most would think. "Atonement"s Seamus McGarvey and "Diving Bell"s Janusz Kaminski round out a stellar set of technicians for what, with editing and screenwriting, has become the most well contested--and my favorite--category.

-~-

Costume Design

"Across the Universe"
"Atonement" - should win
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" - will win
"La Vie en rose"
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Quality of the movie tends to matter little in this most artsy of categories. So, like last year's winner "Marie Antoinette," go with the film that puts on the biggest show (even though the film itself was downright spastic). "Atonement" seems to be a genuine sleeper here as well, if for no other reason than Keira Knightley's spellbinding green dress.

-~-

Directing

Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood" -- should win
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men" -- will win
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Jason Reitman, "Juno"
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

A tough one to predict, the balance tips toward the Coens for the tremendous strength of their ensemble cast. Anderson boasts all their credentials--strong cast and even stronger writing, editing and cinematography--but there's just something in Lewis's work that seems either a given, or more likely to have flown out of Anderson's control. No one can do crazy like Daniel Day-Lewis.

-~-

Documentary Feature

"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience"
"Sicko" - will win
"Taxi to the Dark Side"
"War Dance" - should win

Let's not go nuts. As much as I'd like to think some Michael Moore conspiracy is out there to prevent him from getting another Oscar, it's a strong bet he'll be the one behind the podium (with co-producer Meghan O'Hara, of course). I simply dislike his "Look at Me" style of filmmaking, and think any of the other four would be better choices. I defer to the charming tribal tale of rural African students traveling to the big city for a dancing competition on some kind of "March of the Penguins," cuteness-tells-the-tale vibe.

-~-

Documentary Short

"Freeheld"
"La Corona"
"Salim Baba"
"Sari's Mother" - will win

A toss-up in one of the strongest categories the Awards boast this year. Any could win, with the Sari's Mother, a story of a mother treating for her son with AIDS, just beating out "Freeheld," about a New Jersey law enforcement officer seeking to get pension benefits transfered to her lesbian partner.

-~-

Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men" - should win
"There Will Be Blood" - will win

A tough set to choose from. It doesn't traditionally go to action movies (those come later), so the presumptive favorite ("Bourne") is out. Since "Blood" and "No Country" are my top two to win Best Picture, consider this year's editing award a foreshadow for who will take the night's big prize. The Academy has cleverly avoided the pitfall it almost fell into when Fargo's Roderick Jaynes was nominated in this category--the Coen Brothers' editing pseudonym has been notably replaced this year for "No Country" with, simply, Joel and Ethan Coen. Yet, I still don't think it's gonna happen for them, favoring the film I like to win it all.

-~-

Foreign Language

“The Counterfeiters" (Austria) - will win
"Beaufort" (Israel)
"Mongol" (Kazakhstan)
"Katyn" (Poland)
"12" (Russia)

For no other reason than my workplace, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, screened "The Lives of Others" last year days before the film won this category. We showed "The Counterfeiters" two nights ago.

-~-

Makeup

"La Vie en rose"
"Norbit"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" -- should win, will win

A process of elimination kind of category this year. "Norbit" may very well be the worst movie ever nominated for an Academy Award. While "Pirates" is more visual effects than makeup, it seems unlikely that "rose" will win simply for making Marion Cotillard look like Edith Piaf (what other makeup achievement was there in "rose"?). So, "Pirates" it is, repeating Oscar-night success of a year ago.

-~-

Original Score

"Atonement" - will win
"The Kite Runner"
"Michael Clayton"
"Ratatouille" - should win
"3:10 to Yuma"

I give nods to the two scores I most admire, with the prize going to the composer most familiar to Academy voters. "Atonement" director Joe Wright previously took "Atonement"s Dario Marianelli to a score nod for "Pride and Prejudice." With twice-defending winner Gustavo Santaolalla out of the category this year, its Marianelli to beat out the rat's previously un-nominated Michael Giacchino (though his score for "The Incredibles" was hugely deserving) other the only other Academy favorite, James Newton Howard ("Michael Clayton").

-~-

Original Song

“Raise it Up” from “August Rush”
“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted”
“So Close” from “ Enchanted”
“That's How You Know” from “ Enchanted”
“Falling Slowly” from “Once” -- should win, will win

Love the movie, love the song. No major celebrities behind the songs this year (remember Melissa Ethridge, Annie Lennox, Bob Dylan, Eminem, and Bruce Springsteen, in recent years). Why not?

-~-

Picture

"Atonement"
"Juno"
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood" -- should win, will win

A good year for American movies comes up with a good set of films for Best Picture. Atonement, out, not American (and as we learned last year, the Oscars are America's awards). People say "Juno"s a sleeper to take it, but it--along with "Michael Clayton"--contains enough questionable choices to clear the road for the year's top two American films. I nod toward "There Will Be Blood" over my longtime favorites the Coen Brothers, for the sheer brilliant headiness of a movie that gives as good as all the wealth of imagery and acting you get. Both stuck with me after seeing them; "Blood" stuck longer. Simply brilliant. And no one can do crazy like Daniel Day-Lewis.

Remember, I've only gotten one Best Picture right in the last three years...

-~-

Short, Animated

"Meme les pigeons von aut paradis"
"I Met the Walrus"
"Madame Tutli-Putli"
"My Love" - will win
"Peter & the Wolf"

"Pigeons" owes a lot to Pixar, in a year when Pixar isn't nominated in the category. But Pixar has been far from bulletproof when it comes to shorts, so cutesy CGI is no mitigating factor. This is an innovators award, going to the works that combine a great, sparsely worded (if worded at all) story with a vibrant or innovative visual style (see Pixar's early days or the last two shorts to win, "The Danish Poet" and John Canemaker's "Moon and Son"). So, it seems a race between "My Love," an exploration of a teenager's emotions highly influenced by the Impressionists, and "Madame Tutli-Putli," a joyful stop-motion about a woman on a train tormented by memories, ghosts, or her own wild imagination (metaphor for animation itself, anyone?). "My Love" wins, with the soul-shaking desire that these vital films were more easy to find.

-~-

Short, Live Action

"Om natten" - will win
"The Substitute"
"Le Mozart des pickpockets"
"Tanghi argentini"
"The Tonto Woman"

Rumor says that "Om natten," the story of three women coming together in a cancer ward, is the category's only emotional force. "The Substitute" could win on technique, but go with the story that moves.

-~-

Sound Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum" -- should win
"No Country for Old Men"
"Ratatouille"
"There Will Be Blood"
"Transformers" -- will win


Sound Mixing

"The Bourne Ultimatum" -- will win
"No Country for Old Men" -- should win
"Ratatouille"
"3:10 to Yuma"
"Transformers"

Visual Effects

"The Golden Compass"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" -- should win
"Transformers" -- will win

The action movie categories: count on the film that delivers the biggest bang.

-~-

Adapted Screenplay

"Atonement"
"Away from Her"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men" -- should win, will win
"There Will Be Blood"

Original Screenplay

"Juno" -- will win
"Lars and the Real Girl"
"Michael Clayton"
"Ratatouille" -- should win
"The Savages"

What a year for screenplays, the categories I've long considered the real Best Picture. Four adapteds could fittingly win ("Away from Her" the odd one out), and "No Country" and "Blood" are fantastic. "No Country" wins for offering the best of "Blood"--depth and expansive scenemaking--with the best of "Atonement"--crucial (if not ruthless) abbreviation of the base text to use only what the filmmakers can get across beautifully and effectively onscreen.

Similar competitiveness is at work in the original category. As long as Brad Bird and/or Pixar keeps making stories as effective and brilliant as the ones in "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille," I'll support them for the top prizes. But people seem to be in love with "Juno," a strong screenplay that looks to repeat "Little Miss Sunshine"s surprise win of a year ago. Its a movie about that moment when you need to grow-up, that uses a huge catalyst (teenage pregnancy) but puts it on the back burner in favor of a constant string of pithy, clever remarks. In short, I question its credentials, but not its fanbase.

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My Oscar Batting Average since 2004: .792 (76/96)
Last year’s predictions
Last year’s results

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The 80th annual Academy Awards,
Sunday, February 24, 2008,
8 pm ET,

ABC

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey » Comments:

The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)

10 January 2008

Last week in Slant Magazine: Hitchcock and film lovers alike should not pass up this worthy copy of one of the director's British-made masterworks.

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The Lady Vanishes ~ writ Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the novel "The Wheel Spins" by Ethel Lina White; cine Jack Cox; edit R.E. Dearing; with Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Cecil Parker, Lindan Travers, Naunton Wayne, and Basil Radford ~ The Criterion Collection DVD available now

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey » Comments:

Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)

Awhile back in Slant Magazine: A hyper-violent, foul-mouthed war movie that outpaces Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and a dozen others for sheer motive force. This disc, packaged with so many other Kubrick classics, only makes Full Metal Jacket better.

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Full Metal Jacket ~ writ Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford, based on Hasford's book "The Short Timers"; cine Douglas Milsome; edit Martin Hunter; with Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, and R. Lee Ermey ~ Deluxe Edition DVD available now

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey » Comments: