Friday, February 23, 2007

2007 Oscar Picks

In preparation for my always-epic liveblogging of the Oscars -- this Sunday! Don't miss it! The liveblogging, I mean; the ceremony itself, you can skip -- here are my picks in every category. I used to think I was pretty good at this, but last year I only got 12 out of 24, which is pathetic. The year before that, I got 16 for 24, which isn't shabby, but I still like to think I can do better than that.

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

We'll start right off with the big one, and it's a much tougher call than usual. Even last year, when Crash upset apparent frontrunner Brokeback Mountain, I was able to make that call -- even though I later chickened out and changed my guess, fool that I am.

This year, any one of these films has a chance. Babel is, like Crash, one of those seemingly profound ensemble pieces, meshing disparate lives and stories in supposedly meaningful ways, which makes it very attractive to Oscar voters. But I suspect after the Crash backlash following last year's awards, it's not enough to win. Letters from Iwo Jima has Clint Eastwood behind it, whom the Academy adores. But that's about all it's got going for it. The Queen features the surest lock of the evening, in the Best Actress category, and has an overall impressive pedigree. But in this close race, it's the longest shot. And Little Miss Sunshine is the little picture that could. It's a quirky but accessible feel-gooder without much negative feedback. And with the voting (I'm predicting) split among so many strong choices, it could very easily sneak through and take it all. (And Vegas odds have it at even money!) But my bet is that finally, finally, this is Scorsese's year. Not that The Departed isn't a fine film -- it is, it truly is -- but I just think this is the year the Academy makes up for so many past snubs (primarily for Raging Bull and Goodfellas), and gives it to Marty. At least, I hope they do. (Vegas also has The Departed at even money, by the way.)

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

I think Whitaker takes it, almost by default. None of these performances were in especially widely-seen films (except for Will Smith's, but he doesn't have a hope in hell, despite Vegas having him at 5-1). DiCaprio got nominated for the wrong film (as far as winning is concerned -- I personally believe he did give a better performance in Diamond than Departed, but the voters didn't love the former the way they loved the latter); Gosling is an unknown to the majority of voters (who, always remember, are mostly very, very old, and afraid of the fresh or controversial); and O'Toole, while appealing to those old folks, is in a film nobody saw, and, I'm calling it now, he will break the record for most acting nominations without a win (that would be eight). Whitaker's got the buzz following his Golden Globe win, and he'll get the Oscar, too.

Best Actress
Penélope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Mirren. Surest lock of the evening. (Vegas odds: second-runner Streep at 7-1; Mirren at 1-25. You'd have to bet 25 dollars on Mirren to win one back. That's astronomical.)

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

A little tricky. I'm gonna go with Murphy, who won the Golden Globe in this category, but he's just barely edging out Alan Arkin as my choice. Especially considering the sheer awfulness of Norbit, whose ubiquitous advertising may have genuinely damaged Murphy's worthiness in the eyes of the voters. (Yes, they're that petty and fickle. And can you blame them? Would you want to be responsible for giving your industry's highest honor to the dude in fat suit drag?)

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

This category is traditionally wacky, with children and ingenues frequently besting respected screen legends. Breslin has an outside shot, is what I'm saying. But in the end, Hudson is the overwhelming favorite, and I'm sticking with her.

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

See my Best Picture reasoning above. Scorsese wins. I hope!

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

The Screenplay awards, as I've noted in past years, frequently go to the most beloved or critically acclaimed films that don't have a shot at Best Picture (like, say, Lost in Translation). Using my logic, then, I'd probably have to go with Children of Men (I think the extensive improvization in Borat sinks its screenplay hopes). But I'm not. I'm picking The Departed. Hey, I said "frequently," not "always." Though I have to say, it's a tough choice. I'm very tempted to go with Children, just out of a stubborn desire to prove how I've got the Academy pegged, hoping for an upset. I may regret this, but I'll stay with Departed.

Best Original Screenplay
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

In any other year, I think Little Miss Sunshine would fit my above reasoning -- the most beloved film without a shot at Best Picture. Despite this being a year where it does have a shot -- a strong one -- I'm still picking Sunshine for the win. So I'm going completely against my usual logic, and picking both frontrunners for Best Picture to win Screenplay awards. Well, that's how it went down last year with Crash and Brokeback, so why not this year, too?

Best Animated Film
Happy Feet
Monster House

Normally, Pixar is a slamdunk here, but Cars, though very, very popular, did not garner the usual unconditional love and devotion we expect from that studio. It was solid, but not brilliant, like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. I want to pick the quirkier, far less lucrative Monster House as an upset. But I think box office does hold sway in this category. Monster House: about $75 million. Happy Feet: almost $200 mil. Cars: almost $250 mil. Cars wins. Cynical? Yes. Incorrect? I doubt it.

Best Art Direction
The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

Now we come to the lesser, harder-to-pick categories, the ones I'll often take the lead on from other magazine and online prognosticators. For Art Direction: Dreamgirls has the most nominations of any film, which usually means it'll take a lot of smaller awards. But it's not up for Best Picture, which weakens it. Pan's Labyrinth is eye-catching and original, but little-seen. Pirates is the box office champ of the year, and the Academy does like to show some appreciation for that kind of thing in these categories. Tough call. But I'll go with Dreamgirls.

Best Cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan's Labyrinth
The Prestige

Nothing that really leaps out at me as sweepingly epic, which usually takes this category. But I keep reading about Children of Men's impressively long, handheld tracking shots, so I'll go with it.

Best Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

I think Oscar likes period pieces in this category, and since I've never heard of Curse of the Golden Flower, and I'm betting neither has most of the Academy, I'll say that leaves only Marie Antoinette. (Yes, Dreamgirls is a period piece, too, but it doesn't go back far enough.)

Best Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq In Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

The Academy is mostly old, and often conservative in their movie tastes, but they tend toward the liberal in their politics, which makes me think Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth wins. Traditionally, though, the most popular doc at the box office is snubbed here. But with last year's March of the Penguins win, that may no longer be the case, so I'll stick with Gore.

Best Documentary Short
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

Two Hands, about a pianist who loses the use of his right hand, but learns to accomodate for it in his music, is the right combination of tragic and uplifting to win here, and it seems to be the general consensus of the Oscar forecasters. Though Yingzhou, about a Chinese AIDS orphan, definitely has a shot. The Oscars love documentaries about horrible things!

Best Film Editing
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

Babel, with its interweaving stories and whatnot. Just a strong hunch.

Best Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding, Denmark
Days of Glory (Indigènes), Algeria
The Lives of Others, Germany
Pan's Labyrinth, Mexico
Water, Canada

Pan takes the Oscar.

Best Makeup
Pan's Labyrinth

Click??? Whatever. Pan wins again.

Best Original Score
The Good German
Notes on a Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

I'll go with The Queen, though I actually saw that film, and I don't particularly recall the score. Just another hunch.

Best Original Song
"I Need to Wake Up," from An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen," from Dreamgirls
"Love You I Do," from Dreamgirls
"Our Town," from Cars
"Patience," from Dreamgirls

It's gotta be Dreamgirls, despite the potentially vote-splitting three nominations. I had to check the online consensus on this one, and it seems to be for "Listen," and that's fine by me.

Best Short, Animated
The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time for Nuts

Matchgirl, because it's by Disney.

Best Short, Live Action
Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)
Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Haven't the slightest. I'll go with the Oscar-picking community again, and say Eramos Pocos.

Best Sound Editing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

This one often goes to big budget, special effects flicks, so I'll take Pirates. Even though Flags of Our Fathers seems to be a favorite pick of several prognosticators.

Best Sound Mixing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

This one often goes to movies with music, so I'll take Dreamgirls.

Best Visual Effects
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns

I'll have to let box office decide this one, and that would be Pirates in a landslide.

And that's it! Any quibbles or picks of your own? Let me know! And don't forget to check back here on Sunday, to get your fill of mean-spirited, drunken snipes at people far more famous and wealthy than I can ever hope to be. Aw, I'm sad now!

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