Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscars 2008: My Predictions

Welp, I don't know if I'm going to be able to liveblog the Oscars -- as opposed to the AV Club, who are totally ripping me off again this year, the bastards (just kidding, guys. Call me?). But I can at least post my annual Least Reliable Oscar Predictions on the Internet (formerly known as, before a few bad years, the Most Reliable Oscar Predictions on the Internet). I have a feeling I'm going to do a bit better this year than the last three years (2005: a respectable 16-for-24; 2006: a miserable 12-for-24; 2007: an equally miserable 12-for-24), if only because more categories than usual seem like foregone conclusions to me. Mainly the ones featuring No Country for Old Men.

Anyway, here are my picks in the 24 categories up for awards this Sunday evening. Don't lose any money relying on them though. Except for Javier Bardem. That's a lock.

Motion Picture
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

This one seems pretty damn clear-cut to me: No Country all the way. I'm not saying there isn't some decent competition. Well, not from Michael Clayton or Atonement; they don't have a hope in hell. I finally saw There Will Be Blood, and even though I'm not ready to sign off on it being the pure work of genius some seem to find it to be -- I think I need to see it again to gain a clearer appreciation of it, for better or worse -- I can see the appeal it holds to the Academy. Juno is also a strong entry, as far as critical praise and general popularity are concerned. But not strong enough to edge No Country.

Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"

Wow, solid line-up here. The only one of these I would say is completely outside the realm of possibility is Viggo Mortensen, purely on the basis of name recognition (and not because of any fault in his performance -- I haven't even seen Eastern Promises yet, though, since it's a Cronenberg film, I absolutely will at some point soon). The rest of the crew are former multiple Oscar nominees/winners, which always factors into current Oscar voting. But it looks like Daniel Day-Lewis this year, for one hell of a performance in Blood. And very likely, the only Oscar that film will win.

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

I said it above. As with Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line in 2006, or Helen Mirren for The Queen in 2007, I'm calling Javier Bardem the Mortal Lock of 2008. Even more so than No Country for Best Picture -- and I'm pretty goddam sure on that one -- I'd put all my money on Bardem.

Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie in "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney in "The Savages"
Ellen Page in "Juno"

This is a toughie. Blanchett might win this year, but not in this category; if she lost for the original Elizabeth in 1999, which, by all accounts, was way, way better than Golden Age, she ain't winning for the same role here. I love Laura Linney -- a lot -- but once again, this isn't her year. Ellen Page has a lot of support, and I thought she was the best thing in a movie I really like a lot, but I don't think she has the heft to take a Lead Actress Oscar. She could've taken Supporting Actress in a walk -- the Academy loves giving Supporting Actress Oscars to young, not-yet-well-established performers -- but of course, she wasn't in a supporting role. I've heard a lot of buzz for Cotillard as Edith Piaf, but I don't know, I'm just not sold that a role as a French pop singer in a little seen film will garner enough support to win. Which leaves Christie, in an even littler-seen film. But she's beloved by the Academy, and has been for more than four decades. Lead Acting Oscars often are given as recognition for career longevity, and they're also often given for portrayals of ill or disabled people. That's two for Christie. I think she takes it.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton"

This category is always tough to pick, because as I mentioned above, the Academy gets wacky here a lot, going with the very young, very undeserving, or both -- Anna Paquin, Marisa Tomei, Mira Sorvino... Whoopi fuckin' Goldberg?!? Think about that: Whoopi fuckin' Goldberg has won exactly the same number of competitive Oscars as Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, and Humphrey Bogart, and one more than Peter O'Toole or Alfred Hitchcock. What a world. Anyhoo. Ruby Dee is getting a lot of mention in this category, for what reportedly is a very small, though affecting, role in a blockbuster. And Blanchett is getting similar buzz for a daring, sex-switching role in a box office flop. There is precedence for Blanchett's transgender nomination -- Linda Hunt won for playing a man in The Year of Living Dangerously -- but I think this year the award will be used as a sentimental career-capper for Dee, who has never been nominated before.

Adapted Screenplay
"Away from Her"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

No Country continues its dominance here. Not to say that Blood's "I drink your milkshake" screenplay isn't just as worthy, but it won't win this year.

Original Screenplay
"Lars and the Real Girl"
"Michael Clayton"
"The Savages"

This is where Juno gets its recognition. The Screenplay awards often go to the most beloved picture that doesn't have a shot at actually winning the Best Picture. This year, that would probably be There Will Be Blood, but it happens to be nominated in the same screenplay category as an awards-sweeping powerhouse. Next choice would be Juno, which, in this category, is the powerhouse. I'd be amazed if it didn't win. Side note: very, very cool that Ratatouille is nominated. It's so rare an animated film is acknowledged outside the animation and song categories. Very cool.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

No Country again. P.T. Anderson is a very strong challenger for Blood, but I have to say the Coen brothers look to have this wrapped up.

Animated Feature Film
"Surf's Up"

Despite Persepolis's critical love, is there any doubt Pixar's brilliant Ratatouille nabs this one? Not in this corner, brother.

Art Direction
"American Gangster"
"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
"There Will Be Blood"

Now we're getting down to the lower level, harder-to-pick categories. Like Art Direction. How the hell do you handicap Art Direction? Time to take some educated and not-so-educated guesses. My suspicion is that Sweeney Todd gets its only Oscar love here.

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

I've heard some great things about Atonement's sweepingly epic opening shot, which in and of itself makes it a strong choice for Cinematography. But I think the two to beat, no surprise, are No Country and Blood, both of which render bleak, sere, empty landscapes into powerful visions of stark, brutal beauty. I almost have to flip a coin on this one. In fact, I literally will: heads, No Country, tails, Blood. Okay, and... heads it is.

Costume Design
"Across the Universe"
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
"La Vie en Rose"
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Forgot about this category. I bet Sweeney Todd has a good shot here, too. But I also think Atonement needs to get some Oscar love, too, somewhere. So: Atonement.

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

We're at the start of probably the four toughest categories to pick, which are essential to doing well in the Oscar pool: Documentary Feature, and the Documentary, Live Action, and Animated Shorts. I think the Academy is still kind of sour about Michael Moore's "controversial" remarks when he won his previous Oscar -- in which he had the unmitigated gall to suggest President Monkey sent us to war for bogus reasons -- so I don't think Sicko will win, despite it being the critical and popular favorite of the bunch. Plus, the critical and popular favorite almost never wins this award (though exceptions have become more prevalent in recent years: Bowling for Columbine; March of the Penguins; An Inconvenient Truth). On the other hand, the majority of the country now seems to take it for granted that, indeed, the President lied us into Iraq; three of the other nominated films are about the war in Iraq, and all seem critical of it, to one degree or another. But I'm going the opposite way: I'm picking War/Dance, the last film remaining. It's about war in Uganda, which is a twist, and it seems to be the most upbeat of the group; upbeat doesn't always win, but in this group, I think it's got a shot. It's a long shot, but really, I think any choice in this category is a long shot.

Documentary Short Subject
"La Corona (The Crown)"
"Salim Baba"
"Sari's Mother"

Freeheld is a strong choice here, because it's about cancer. But I think Sari's Mother trumps it by being about both AIDS and the War in Iraq, so that's what I'm picking. Two hot button topics in one!

Animated Short Film
"I Met the Walrus"
"Madame Tutli-Putli"
"Meme les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)"
"My Love (Moya Lyubov)"
"Peter & the Wolf"

Watching clips of these films, which is the only way I have to judge them, I was most struck by the visuals of My Love (Moya Lyubov), which is like an oil painting come to life, and Madame Tutli-Putli, which is an unbelievably beautiful, moody, and immersive use of stop-motion animation. If I were voting, I would vote for Madame Tutli-Putli, so I'll pick it here.

Live Action Short Film
"At Night"
"Il Supplente (The Substitute)"
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)"
"Tanghi Argentini"
"The Tonto Woman"

Total wild guess: At Night is about three young women bonding in a cancer ward. Cancer is a proven Oscar winner!

Film Editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

I'm going with No Country again. Have I picked it in every category in which it's nominated? It's probably not going to be that much of a powerhouse... but I have a hard time justifying a pick against it.

Foreign Language Film
"Beaufort" (Israel)
"The Counterfeiters" (Austria)
"Katyn" (Poland)
"Mongol" (Kazakhstan)
"12" (Russia)

Usually I've heard of at least one of these films, but not this year. The Kite Runner wasn't nominated? I bet there's a story behind that. Same with La Vie en Rose and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly not getting the nomination for France, even though they're up for other, higher profile Oscars. Anyhoo, I have to go purely by plot synopses to judge these films. Both Katyn and The Counterfeiters are about World War II, which is still a big Oscar magnet, but The Counterfeiters actually involves a concentration camp, so I'm going to say that one has the edge.

"La Vie en Rose"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

If that shit stain of a movie Norbit wins an Oscar (after, as many suspect -- including me -- costing Eddie Murphy an Oscar last year, because it was released during the voting period and squandered all the goodwill Murphy had built up for Dreamgirls), I will kill everyone I love and then set myself on fire. So let's hope Pirates wins, as I expect it will.

Original Score
"The Kite Runner"
"Michael Clayton"
"3:10 to Yuma"

I pick James Newton Howard for Michael Clayton, solely on the basis of the fact that this is his seventh nomination, with no wins so far. If I were picking solely on the basis of which of these five movies (of which I've only seen Ratatouille) feels like it should have an Oscar-winning score, it would be Atonement. But I'm not, so: Michael Clayton.

Original Song
"Falling Slowly" from "Once"
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted"
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush"
"So Close" from "Enchanted"
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted"

Tough. I want to pick the Disney film, which is so very often the winner in this category, but I think the three nominations will work against each other (as happened with Dreamgirls last year, whose three songs lost to... An Inconvenient Truth???), and I also think none of those songs has crossed over into popular appeal the way Disney Oscar-winning songs usually do. I've actually seen Once, and even though it plays about 87 times in the movie, "Falling Slowly" never fails to be completely moving and beautiful. I think the film's underdog-but-critically-beloved status, combined with the controversy (aka "free advertising") generated by the song's near disqualification, are going to give it the win.

Sound Editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

The sound categories are where big, dumb, loud action movies frequently win, so, believe it or not, much as it sickens me, I am predicting that after tomorrow night, Transformers will be able to be billed as "the Oscar-winning Transformers."

Sound Mixing
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"
"3:10 to Yuma"

Sound Mixing often goes to a musical, but surprisingly, neither Sweeney Todd nor Enchanted are nominated. So, make that: "the two-time Oscar-winning Transformers." Ugh.

Visual Effects
"The Golden Compass"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"


Whew! That's an awful lot of jibber-jabber. But I'm fairly confident in my reasoning for practically every category. Tune in to the Academy Awards tomorrow night, and find out just how wrong I am!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

eBay, Austin, Oscars, and not much else

Isn't that just like me: to disappear for nearly a month, and then pop back in again to pimp a couple new eBay auctions? Namely, these two:

Y: The Last Man -- first 5 issues

Fables -- first 50 issues

I will admit, I'm aiming for a much higher price than usual on these two bids, but frankly, I think they're worth the big bucks. These are pretty much the jewels of my comics collection right now, as far as the current marketplace is concerned. Is it so wrong to expect some high bids? Well, we'll just have to wait and see if they attract the kind of dough I'm looking for -- or any bids at all, for that matter.

So, about me: I've finally moved out of the uncomfortably crowded situation I've been in since I've been in Austin, and into an awesome house with hardwood floors and a huge backyard in a really lovely neighborhood. I'm so happy I could be sick! And I am -- sick, that is. I came down with some nasty congestion-type thing the day after moving in this week, so I've just been sitting around, watching the big screen TV (finally out of storage!!!), doing nothing to unpack the millions of boxes lying all around the place. Oh well, no rush.

Also, I'm starting my new job Monday. Not wild about it, but it'll do for now. Especially if it helps me afford entry into the very-nearly-here South By Southwest festival! This will be my first SXSW and I can't wait. I may even talk a friend or two from out of town into visiting, which would be brilliant.

And before that: the Rattlesnake Round-Up & Chili Cook-Off in Sweetwater. My wristband pass is already waiting! Now this is what Texas is all about.

As for posting here: it'll still be pretty patchy for a while. I'm hoping to get back on a regular schedule by March. And I'm really, really hoping I get the opportunity to do my traditional live-blogging of the Oscars this Sunday night -- but I wouldn't count on it. Just too much else to deal with! If you miss my post (and you should, you ingrates!), here's how to simulate it yourself: drink a bottle of Jack Daniels, and call everyone you see on your TV a douchebag. Loudly. Then maybe cry uncontrollably.

Okay, I'm going to go find some more comics to sell. Talk to you again soon (well, sooner than between the last post and this one, anyway).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Go my favorite sports team! Score a goal unit basket!

It's the first Sunday in February, so you know what that means...

Corner Gas marathon on Superstation WGN!

Oh, wait, were you thinking of the other big event on TV today? Namely...

Mythbusters marathon on the Discovery Channel!

Also, I understand there's some kind of sporting program.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Happy Groundhog Day Eve

How did I do on the Jeopardy Online Contestant Test? Better than last time... but I'm not holding my breath. Very hard stuff!

In other news: buy my comics! New eBay listing:


Good stuff there, folks! Includes the very first appearance of Frank Einstein, who would later put on a costume and become Madman. I'm hoping for some good cash on this one, so tell your friends and family. Bid early, and bid often!

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