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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

2005 Oscar Picks

I was asked to write a blog on who I'd pick for the Oscars by my good friend Jason Kapler. Now, normally, since I am an Oscar voter myself and I attend a lot of Academy screenings I'd have an "in." However, this year is different from all other years especially with regard to the fact that many of the films that are nominated are political and involve social issues that may affect the votership's decision on who they award the statue to.Therefore, in view of the above disclaimer (Jason- I will not return to you any money you lose on your Oscar pool) here are my picks:

Best Actor- Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's a shoe-in. This is probably the easiest category to pick. Although Terrence Howard gave the most complex performance this year in Hustle and Flow. And Joaquin Phoenix might be entitled not only for his performance of Johnny Cash, but for his singing performance as well. It's going to be Philip Seymour Hoffman's year.

Best Supporting Actor- George Clooney. Clooney had a great year as both actor and director and he'll take home this award because he will not be taking home the best Director or Original Screenplay Oscars (3 nominations in 3 different categories is truly an amazing feat). Matt Dillion is the only other viable candidate here. Gyllenhaal is practically blue-blood in that his sister, mother and father are all Academy members. But the Gyllenhaal family vote will not be enough to overtake the Clooney contingent.

Best Actress- Reese Witherspoon. Reese not only acted up a storm in Walk the Line, but she sang wonderfully as well embodying June Carter Cash. Her nuanced performance will beat out the transgendered performance of other frontrunner Felicity Huffman (who I think should be disqualified for playing the part of a man- and to think women complain that they do not get any roles!)

Best Supporting Actress- Amy Adams. She gave the best performance of the year, male or female and should win this award simply on the basis of the fact that the Academy was given screeners of this little seen film. Rachel Weisz is a favorite here because she won the Golden Globe and although I'd love for her to win this award and think she was excellent in the Constant Gardener. Also, she's going to be in Regency's upcoming film The Fountain, which we'd love to market as Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz. But alas, I think Amy Adams will walk away with the statue this year.

Animated Feature- Howl's Moving Castle- The film made over $180 million dollars in Japan alone. This is Miyazaki. This isn't about playing with clay. This is art on celluloid from the Japanese master. Enough said.

Art Direction- Memoirs of a Geisha- They managed to re-create Tokyo in the early part of this century in Los Angeles, California. If that doesn't deserve an award what does? (well the answer to that is another contender- King Kong which recreated New York in the 1920's in New Zealand).

Cinematography- Memoirs of a Geisha- this is the most beautifully shot film of the year and I believe it will win as the exteriors and interiors looked the best. Batman Begins and The New Worl were also great, so this is a tough race to call, but let's give the edge to Dion Beebe who was nominated before for Chicago but hasn't won yet.

Costume Design- Memoirs of a Geisha- Colleen Atwood did a great job. This is her sixth nomination. She's due. Seven time nominee Sandy Powell for Mrs. Henderson Presents is my back-up choice here.

Director- Ang Lee- Brokeback Mountain- While I feel that Bennet Miller did a superb job directing Capote and deserves the win if I were the only one voting. And despite what I feel is the building momentum for Crash since the DVD release, historically the DGA winner always takes the Oscar home. So why fight the odds, go with the two time nominee from Taiwan. (Ang Lee- why are you so Ang-Ree!!!)

Documentary- March of the Penguins- In a year that lacks many blockbuster films, this small documentary was truly a blockbuster at the box office. Although Murderball and Enron are worthy nominees and recieved lots of buzz, you can count on the Penguin movie to take home the bird-bacon here.

Documentary Short- God Sleeps in Rwanda- In this category, only those who have seen all the nominated films can vote. Since I haven't seen any of them, my logic is to go with the most heart-wrenching and therefore the Rwanda movie about a genocide takes the cake (not literally, because as you know people starve to death there!)

Editing- Crash- This is a two way horse-race between the beautifully edited Constant Gardener and Crash. Both films rely on editing to work and ultimately it is Crash that works best.

Foriegn Language Film- Tsotsi- I am hopeful that the Academy's conservative jewish votership will go with this poignant South African film from Gavin Hood who was also nominated in the same cateogry last year for Yesterday. Paradise Now has gotten all of the press, but by virtue of it being (in the words of my father) "an infomercial for terrorism" and a movie that some may say supports terrorist acts as opposed to civilized diplomacy I believe it will falter.

Makeup- Chronicles of Narnia- This was a great film that should have recieved higher accolades.

Music- The Constant Gardener- I know that Brokeback Mountain and Memoirs of A Geisha used more music (and good music at that) to tell their story. But in my opinion it was over-used. Sure, Brokeback's theme music is haunting, but it is too repetitive and by now I think Academy voters will be sick of it. I may be wrong and Gustavo Santaolla might be walking home with his first Oscar for Brokeback, but I think that Alberto Iglesias truly captured the essence of the film Constant Gardener. That being said, John Williams who has been nominated 45 times before and won 5 Oscars did a superb job with Memoirs of a Geisha. But he is also nominated for Munich and therefore his chances are cut into half as he cannibalizes his voting contingent.

Song- Transamerica- I really want Hustle and Flow's "Hard out here for a Pimp" to win. But a rap song and a song that has "pimp" in the title may lose out to Dolly Parton's Travelin' Thru from Transamerica. Dollywood already has a nomination for Nine To Five.
Animated Short- The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello- Since I haven't seen any of these films, I'd go wtiht he pjne that has the most unique looking animation and this is clearly the one. I think this category is about rewarding innovation.

Best Live Action Short- Our Time is Up- For me a live action short is best when it relies on a clever gimmick. Since I haven't seen any of these shorts, I am relying on the blurb I read about each of the shorts to make my decision. My pick is about a "therapist who learns he has only six weeks to live begins treating his patienvts with a dose of brutal honesty." Clever enough to take the statue home.

Best Sound Editing- King Kong- go with me on this one. There will be enough haters out there hating on WOTW and Geisha and that's why the Monkey wins.

Best Sound Mixing- King Kong- Stay with what you know. Walk the Line and Narnia could be darkhorses. But to me, a giant monkey always wins in the sound department.

Best Visual Effects - King Kong- OK, sure the stupid bugs looked lame. But War of the Worlds and Narnia can't touch Peter Jackson. Go with the big monkey in effects as well.

Best Adapted Screenplay- Capote- If you saw the film, you'd understand how intricately well written it is.

Best Original Screenplay- Match Point- Woody Allen constructed a masterpiece. I think that this is a hard category to pick and Crash's Paul Haggis was nominated last year and lost, Clooney's Good Night, Good Luck is also elegantly written and Squid and the Whale was a darling of many critics this year, Syriana I'd count out simply because it went way over many people's heads, therefore ultimately it must be Match Point. Allen's most lucrative film in 20 years and a complete about-face from all his previous material. Truly original.

Picture- Crash. The momentum has been built up. This is the most important category (and this is probably why I forgot to write about it in my first posting!) But I think that despite the accolades that Brokeback Mountain has already recieved, it's probably the safest bet to go with Crash. Crash speaks to those who live in Los Angeles as most Academy voters do. Paul Haggis had the winning formula last year with Million Dollar Baby. The casting, the emotions in this fable about race and bigotry in LA are all top-notch. And if you think about it, the Best Picture goes to the Producers of the film, and here, although there are many credired producers on the film, the achievement was truly great in that they accomplished a great film from a modest budget with top tier talent and generated domestic, international and DVD revenue as a result without relying on the gimmick of two heartthrob actors sodomizing each other. Additionally, I think the momentum for the "underdog" film Brokeback Mountain has slowed considerably since the film recieved so many awards up until now and has achieved masive box office success on its own. Crash winning the Oscar isn't about the Academy being old, conservative and Jewish (and gay-hating). Crash winning is about giving the prize to the best film, not the most controversial and ground-breaking.