Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If I Picked the Oscars

It's Oscar season and while the AMPAS has once again proven they have the attention spans of a gnat by nominating mainly films that were released in the last two months (nothing--absolutely NOTHING for the solid work of The Lookout...), some of my favorites did receive nods. It's likely to be quite an interesting race--and who know whether or not the show will go on due to the ongoing WGA strike. But whether or not there's a red carpet and 14 hour long telecast, there will always be predictions and opinions. Here are mine:

Best Picture

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Of these, I felt that Juno, There Will Be Blood and Atonement were very good but overrated. Not surprised that the mindless Academy bought into the hype. But while Michael Clayton was top-notch, No Country for Old Men just blew me away. In my opinion, it's No Country for Old Men without a doubt.

Best Director

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

I've seen everything but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Again I feel Juno and There Will Be Blood were overrated--although admittedly the direction was outstanding. Still, my choice is the Coen Brothers and No Country for me. Personally, I think siblings who can work together without killing each other deserve an award just for that--much less making the best movie of 2007.

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"

I only saw the first three and they were all were amazing performances. I'd love to see an Oscar nom for Tommy Lee Jones for his work in No Country for Old Men (but y'all probably guessed that!) and I adore George Clooney more and more every year, but when all is said and done, I'd give the Oscar to Johnny Depp for creating the torment and anguish of Sweeney Todd--and singing to boot!

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"

Again, I've only seen Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney and Ellen Page. Cate was excellent as always as Elizabeth I--but I have to say she didn't really bring anything new to the performance that we didn't see already in the first installment. Ellen has a long and successful career ahead of her, but the wisecracking Juno wasn't Oscar-worthy in my opinion. So I'd give the award to Laura Linney whose portrayal of an emotionally stunted woman who is forced to grow up when her estranged father is dying had the range and nuance of an Academy winning performance.

Supporting Actor

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

Yes, Casey Affleck was a revelation as Robert Ford and also did impressive work as the lead in Gone Baby Gone, Javier was the creepiest villain I've ever seen, Philip Seymour Hoffman is always impressive--although not so much in this role in Charlie Wilson's War and I didn't catch Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild. But before this category was even announced, I felt it was a dead heat between Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton and Jeff Daniels in The Lookout. Unfortunately, the Academy overlooked Daniels' amazing portrayal of a blind man who can see more than most people. So that makes it easy for me--Tom Wilkinson hands down. His opening voiceover against black screen is completely captivating.

Supporting Actress

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

Of these, I've only seen the last three. Tilda Swinton was engrossing as the lawyer who loses her moral center--if indeed she ever had one, and Amy Ryan was a revelation as the drug addicted mother of a missing child, but Saoirse Ronan's chilling turn as a fanciful teenage girl who ruins the lives of two others with her careless falsehood was uniquely fantastic.

Adapted Screenplay

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

Again, I've seen three of the five. Atonement must have lost something in the adaption because the movie left me (a notorious weeper) cold. There Will Be Blood also was strangely lacking in emotional resonance. But No Country for Old Men was pitch perfect--a great balance of crackling dialogue, layered characters and brisk and engrossing action.

Original Screenplay

"Juno", Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl", Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton", Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille", Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages", Written by Tamara Jenkins

Out of the three I've seen, I thought Juno was smart and witty--but trying way too hard to be so, and The Savages was typical indie fare. Michael Clayton was crisp, engrossing and the sort of screenplay I wish I'd written.

Art Direction

"American Gangster": Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
"Atonement"Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Golden Compass": Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street": Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"There Will Be Blood": Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Let's call this one for Sweeney Todd which was amazing in every way in its attention to detail.


"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", Roger Deakins
"Atonement", Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men", Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood", Robert Elswit

The exceptionally talented Roger Deakins has two shots at this award and he richly deserves it. His work on No Country for Old Men was exemplary, but The Assassination of Jesse James was high art. Either way, he should walk away with the Oscar.

Costume Design

"Across the Universe", Albert Wolsky
"Atonement", Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age", Alexandra Byrne
"La Vie en Rose", Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", Colleen Atwood

This belongs to Elizabeth: The Golden Age without a doubt. If any movie could be considered a "costume drama" it's this story of Elizabeth I. Almost as mesmerizing as performance or the yummy Cate Blanchett'sClive Owen was the gorgeous, sumptuous, luxurious wardrobe employed in the film.


"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience"
"Taxi to the Dark Side"

Admittedly, I've only seen Michael Moore's Sicko, but I love Michael Moore and I'd always give him the Oscar. Especially in this case with his illuminating look at the American Health Care Industry and the companies who profit from the pain and misery of others. This should be required viewing prior to the 2008 election.

Film Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum", Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild", Jay Cassidy"
"No Country for Old Men", Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood", Dylan Tichenor

I'd give this one to the on the edge of your seat thrill ride that was The Bourne Ultimatum.


"La Vie en Rose", Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit", Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Norbit? Are you serious? Should anyone win an award for that piece of crap? Okay, rant over. My award goes to the amazing work on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Original Score

"Atonement", Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner", Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton", James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille", Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma", Marco Beltrami

I'd give this on to Dario Marianelli whose sweeping score even incorporated a typewriter to enhance the understanding of Briony's character.

Original Song

"Falling Slowly" from "Once", Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush", Nominees to be determined
"So Close" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted", Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Three noms for Enchanted. Well, in that case it would be surprising if Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz didn't walk away with an Oscar. If it were me, I'd give it to them for Happy Working Song. Absolutely hysterical in a sick and twisted way.

Sound Editing

"The Bourne Ultimatum", Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men", Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille", Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood", Matthew Wood
"Transformers", Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Sound Mixing

"The Bourne Ultimatum": Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men": Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
"Ratatouille": Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma": Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
"Transformers": Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

I'd give the sound awards to The Bourne Ultimatum because it was a great action flick and unfortunately action flicks, like comedies, tend to be under appreciated at the oh-so-artsy Oscars.

Visual Effects

"The Golden Compass": Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End": John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
"Transformers": Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End without a doubt. Absolutely fantastic effects!


  1. I loved the music from Enchanted. My personal favorite is That's How You Know. I bought it from iTunes, because I'm a dork that way. But I liked Happy Working Song too.

  2. I have to give the award to a song that can boast lyrics like:

    "We’ll keep singing without fail
    Otherwise we’d spoil it
    Hosing down the garbage pail
    And scrubbing up the toilet!"

    Seriously, that's so twisted it's brilliant!