Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oscars predictions? Why not?

"George Bush is NOT the president ... we're alive! ... we actually made it!"
- Chris Rock

I certainly couldn't put it any better myself, so I'll just move on to something much, much more trivial. Along with the Oscar nominations coming tomorrow morning, there's evidence (though I can't yet call it proof) that Joss Whedon's horror movie might actually get made.

So, what is it? Well, it's called "Cabin in the Woods," and it was written (note, written, not will be written by Whedon and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"/"Angel" veteran Drew Goddard, who penned my most surprisingly entertaining movie of 2008, "Cloverfield" (please note, that designation is far from best, as we'll get into soon; I simply mean the premise sounded simply awful but the flick is pretty darn good.)

And, not only will "Cabin in the Woods" most likely get made, it's even luring some quality inhabitants. Bradley Whitford, star of "The West Wing" and, unfortunately, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and even better, "The Visitor" and "Six Feet Under" star Richard Jenkins are on board for the project.

As for what it's about, details are scant, but Whedon did tell Variety that Whitford and Jenkins will play two white collar workers who visit the cabin, where I can only assume not terribly pleasant things will happen. Stay tuned to this.

Now, however, on to the main order of the day. The big question is: Will "The Dark Knight" get a nomination for Best Picture? I'll tackle that and the four acting categories (I simply don't have time to do the 10 categories that will be announced at 8:30 EST Thursday morning.)

I thought about just waiting until just before these are announced tomorrow or just saying "Who cares about the Oscars?" and moving on, but I still care about them, so here goes:

Best actress:

If I were a betting man, I'd say the nominees will be:
Cate Blanchett: Easily the best thing about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," even though that makeup they put on Brad Pitt was pretty cool too. This one's a lock.
Kate Winslet: Well, her name rhymes with weight, and she won two Golden Globes, so just pencil her in here for "Revolutionary Road," which is somehow finally playing in my little corner of the world this week.
Meryl Streep: I read an interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman in which he said Streep approaches acting like it's hand-to-hand combat, and you can certainly see that in "Doubt." I had no desire to see this one, but it's surprisingly good, and she is great in it.
Sally Hawkins The other Golden Globe-winning actress has the honor(?) of playing easily the most annoying role of the year in Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," and doing so with style. My pick for the deserved winner.
Anne Hathaway: I have yet to see "Rachel Getting Married," but my parents went into it expecting more of a comedy after hearing an interview with director Jonathan Demme on Fresh Air and were of course surprised by what they found. My pick for the actual winner.
Biggest snub: Hiam Abbass certainly deserves recognition for her performance as a mother trying to get her son out of prison in "The Visitor," but I can't really see it happening.

Best actor:

Mickey Rourke: I was hoping that Oscar nom week would bring - shocking idea - a movie about professional wrestling to the American South, but apparently not in my little corner of the world (but we do, thankfully, finally get "Frost/Nixon.") If you get to see this, you'll see what I think is the performance of the year because I simply couldn't see anyone else playing the role of Darren Aronofsky's wounded warrior in "The Wrestler." My pick for the deserved winner.
Sean Penn: Though Rourke took home the Golden Globe, I can't imagine Oscar voters in the end won't give their vote to Penn for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, and why not? Penn finds all the quirks of Milk's personality that made him such an odd choice for a civil rights pioneer, and delivers a remarkable performance.
Frank Langella: I'll be seeing "Frost/Nixon" finally Saturday afternoon, and I expect to see a commandingly creepy turn by Langella as Richard Nixon. 'Nuff said.
Richard Jenkins: Seeing Thomas McCarthy's "The Visitor" get any recognition at all would be great, and this is easily its best shot. Jenkins is a joy to watch as he slowly lets his Walter Vale re-engage with the world.
Brad Pitt: The weak link in this chain by far. He was certainly a marvel to watch as the young boy trapped in the body of an old man, but the more and more he just looked like a slightly confused Brad Pitt, the less engaged I became with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Biggest snub: If I had a vote, I'd give it to Jeffrey Wright for his sly and fierce turn as Muddy Waters in director Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records," but I can't see that happening unless a lot of people look at their ballots just before submitting them and say, "geez, where are the black folks?"

Best supporting Actress:

Penelope Cruz: My pick for runner-up, Cruz is just manically funny and more than a little terrifying in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
Viola Davis: My vote for the actual winner and should-be winner coincide here. No one took over a movie better than Ms. Davis did for the 10 minutes or so she was in "Doubt," and that's the definition of a supporting role. Simply stunning.
Amy Adams: Actually, what I want to see Amy Adams in is "Sunshine Cleaning," for which I've seen the trailer at least three times now. In "Doubt," she plays the young nun caught in the middle between Streep's accuser and Hoffman's accused, and just keeps us in the titular "Doubt" throughout the movie.
Marisa Tomei: If it weren't for Ms. Davis, I'd predict Tomei would be taking home her second Oscar this year for her performance as the not-yet-beaten-down dancer who befriends "The Wrestler."
Taraji P. Henson: Judging from all the trailers and some movies I've seen, Henson is turning into the "It" woman (not girl, of course) for black directors, with roles in Tyler Perry's "The Family that Preys" and the Tyler Perry rip-off "Not Easily Broken," directed by Bill Duke. She'll be nominated here for being one of the bright spots in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Biggest snub: In case any one's wondering, yes, I'm well aware that I repeat myself, but I'd vote for Beyonce as Etta James in "Cadillac Records." Yes, Beyonce.

Best supporting actor:

Heath Ledger: The definite winner, and deservedly so, for his chaotic takeover of the role of The Joker.
Robert Downey Jr.: Why in the world not a vote for comedy? I can't see Tom Cruise getting in here for "Tropic Thunder" like he did at the Golden Globes because, well, he just wasn't that funny. Downey, however, as mega-actor Kirk Lazarus, certainly was, so huzzah to that.
James Franco: The former "Freak" got a Golden Globe nomination for his delightfully goofy role as Saul the friendly pot dealer in "Pineapple Express," but he'll be nominated here for his work as Harvey Milk's lover Scott Smith. It's been quite a year for the former reluctant member of the McKinley High A.V. club.
Josh Brolin: I'd like to see him get a Best Actor nod for "W.," but the field is just too crowded. Instead this will be for his portrayal of troubled killer Dan White in "Milk," which just left us appropriately confused about what really drove White to commit his heinous acts.
Michael Shannon: To be honest, I know nothing about this, but there have to be five, so why not Mr. Shannon for "Revolutionary Road"?
Biggest snub: Eddie Marsan is just a simmering pot of rage in "Happy-Go-Lucky," and once he boils over its unforgettable, so his name should certainly be called tomorrow morning, but won't.

Best Picture:

OK, here it is. I'd say the best predictor is to look at the Director's Guild nominees, which were: Danny Boyle for "Slumdog Millionaire," Gus Van Sant for "Milk," Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon," Christopher Nolan for "The Dark Knight," and David Fincher for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Is that right? I'd say almost. Although I'd certainly like to see it, I don't think "The Dark Knight" will make the cut. The Academy, as a rule, doesn't usually anoint more than one movie that's at least as fun as it is "good," and I think that slot goes to "Slumdog Millionaire."

So, if "The Dark Knight" is out, what's in? I see four contenders: Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road," Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" (huzzah!), Andrew Stanton's "Wall-E," or Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino." Of those, I predict Clint's movie will be the dark horse that just sneaks in the gate, so the big five will be:

"Slumdog Millionaire"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Gran Torino"

If I had to pick a winner today, I'd say "Milk," and I'd certainly be OK with that. Here, if I had a vote, would be my top five for the year:

"Slumdog Millionaire": I threw up a little in my mouth when I read this morning about how Mr. Boyle had to defend his movie in Mumbai after some idiot called it "poverty porn." I don't even know what that could possibly mean, but Boyle's movie is lively, fun and thoroughly enchanting, and that's enough for me.
"Let the Right One In": Please, please, please see this in its original form when it comes to DVD instead of waiting for the American version. This Swedish gem is as much a coming of tale as it is a suitably scary vampire flick, and just an all-around winner.
"Milk": Gus Van Sant's movie deals a lot more with the small details of San Francisco politics than I expected, and therefore could have been a real snooze, but it certainly never is. Instead, it's a celebration of Harvey Milk's life that's full of warmth and, of course, tragedy.
"Tell No One": I want to resist saying "they just don't make them like this anymore," but I'm afraid I have to. Guillaume Canet takes what easily could have been another by-the-numbers thriller and instead turns Harlan Coben's novel into the best mind-bender of the year.
"The Wrestler": Darren Aronofsky's flick sticks to the structure of the sports underdog flick but gives its hero a truly scary foe: Any semblance of an actual life. A professional wrestling movie as one the year's five best? Believe it.

So, there you have it. Tune in for the Oscar nominations tomorrow morning at 8:30 EST, and please feel free to tell me if I've snubbed any actor, actress or movie in particular. Peace out.


Erik Loomis said...

I actually don't completely disagree with the poverty porn comment. Slumdog is as shallow as can be and will be forgotten about in 2 years. Moreover, it doesn't explore the issues of poverty in India except in the most sensationalized and least challenging ways possible. Compare it to a Satyajit Ray film--there's a real discussion of poverty in India. The film is all gimmick and premise with very little real character development and a lot of unexplained issues. Why does the game show host care so much and have him tortured? How does he end up working in the call center place? Why doesn't he end up in a life of crime too? Plus the love story isn't very believable.

Not that Boyle has to do that level of exploration. The film is not actually bad. But it is massively overrated and the rising backlash is appropriate. Boyle manipulates the audience in every conceivable way. I guess people like that but I found it a moderately satisfactory movie experience at best.

Linda said...

Interesting lists here. I especially like your "ballot" choices for best picture. Also wanted to thank you for recommending Cadillac Records so strongly. I saw it Saturday and loved it. Agree with your assessment of Beyonce, the girl actual showed us she can act. On to the Oscar noms!

Reel Fanatic said...

I do agree with you that it doesn't explore the issue of poverty in India, but I wouldn't say it exploits it either ... You're certainly right that "Slumdog Millionaire" isn't a terribly deep movie at all, and the game show framing certainly gets old by the end, but as a romance and a very visually engaging tale I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I'm glad you liked "Cadillac Records," Linda .. I'm hoping it has a really strong afterlife on DVD

Mercurie said...

Not having seen as many films this year, I'm not sure I want to make Oscar predictions. I do have to wonder how much of a chance Slumdog Millionaire actually has at the Oscars. I have no doubt it will get nominations, but I suspect as usual Hollywood won't give many awards to a film that is basically an outsider.

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