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Saturday, February 23, 2008


Oscar-ology: The Official ModFab Oscar Picks

It's Oscar weekend...the Indie Spirits today on IFC, then the big show tomorrow night. Don't forget to join us for the Oscar Night Live Chat, right here at ModFab tomorrow night. In the meantime, you may ruminate over my picks for the winners, losers, and what-should-have-beens...

Best motion picture of the year
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men Will Win/Should Win
There Will Be Blood

I still think No Country and TWBB are nearly equal in terms of their greatness, but the momentum is with the Old Men. If there's a spoiler, it'll be Juno, but Jesus, let's hope not. Homeskillet don't like arch, self-conscious Oscar winners unless they're in black and white and starring Bette Davis.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her Will Win/Should Win
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

This category is a case of simple subtraction. You can remove Page and Cotillard, who voters will (rightly) feel will have more chances in their future. (Yes, Nathaniel, I hear you about Cotillard...but I can't believe the Academy obsession with biographical mimicry will extend to an unknown actress in a foreign film that many people didn't care for.) You can also delete Blanchett, because her movie sucked and although everyone loves her, they know Elizabeth 2: Loud and Annoying was pretty much poo. That leaves Linney, who is completely worthy but trapped in a movie that didn't register much with Oscar voters. What does that leave? The luminous, incredibly talented star from yesterday, in a career-rejuvenating turn. Sound like Oscar bait? You betcha.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Will Win/Should Win
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

I'm trying to think if there's a performance this decade that I was more impressed with, and I can't think of one. I loved Clooney and Mortensen's work, but really, it's not even close.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster Will Win
Sairose Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton Should Win

Don't believe the "she's only in the movie for five minutes" argument against Ruby Dee; the small-part theory was destroyed by Judi Dench's Shakespeare in Love win, especially when it comes to aging legends who are overdue. The Screen Actors Guild picked Dee over "favorites" Ryan and Swinton, and it's a real shame that Tilda won't take home the prize for what is clearly the most formidable work in this category. But Dee will warm the cockles of every heart, and somewhere, Ossie is smiling.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford Should Win
Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men Will Win
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

No one can stop the steam train that is Bardem this year...and he was marvelous in the role. But among these five, I was only truly blown away by Affleck's stunning work. (I should also say that Tom Wilkinson was pretty incredible, too...maybe not better than Bardem, but close.)

Achievement in directing
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood Should Win
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men Will Win
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I love love LOVE the Coens work, but I think their direction benefits from an extremely strong script and stunning cinematography...both of which deserve awards. As an achievement in directing, however, nothing made my jaw drop like Anderson's sere vision of American oil country. Mostly, however, I'm struck by the wealth of riches in this category. Four of these films are, in my opinion, among the best of the decade...and the fifth, which I don't appreciate as much as some, I still recognize has tremendous value. Are we sure there's no way to give all five of them awards?

Original screenplay
Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Diablo Cody, Juno Will Win
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton Should Win
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl

Juno, by the sheer force of its cultural juggernaut and its resonance with audiences, must have a moment to shine on Oscar night...and it will be here. I've been a vocal critic of Diablo Cody's script, which I found to be relentlessly hip and a little insincere. But who am I to stand in the way of a hamburger phone, homeskillet? (If sophistication and nuance ruled the day, though, Oscar couldn't do better than Gilroy's richly subversive Michael Clayton, arguably the most underrated nominee of the year. The fact that I think it will go home empty-handed is perhaps the saddest Oscar happening in my predictions.)

Adapted screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men Will Win/Should Win
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sarah Polley, Away From Her

Save the moth-eaten script for Atonement, these are all stunning efforts. But No Country For Old Men was shaped by its writers as a thrilling tone poem, one which moved, mystified, and dazzled me. (The coda to this category, however, is this: I can't wait to see what Sarah Polley does next.)

Best foreign language film of the year
Beaufort (Israel)
The Counterfeiters (Austria) Will Win
Katyn (Poland)
Mongol (Kazakhstan)
12 (Russia)
Something Else Should Win

Hell, I don't know...I haven't seen any of them yet, and I'm still bitter than the truly great foreign language films of 2007 -- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Persepolis, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and even The Orphanage -- are not represented. So I'll go with Nathaniel, the expert on all things in foreign cinema, and choose Counterfeiters.

Best animated feature film of the year
Persepolis (Sony Pictures Classics) Should Win
Ratatouille (Walt Disney) Will Win
Surf's Up (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Small foreign films about Iranian revolutions will never take down Disney, I don't think. But it sure would be nice.

Best documentary feature
No End in Sight (Magnolia Pictures) Will Win
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (The Documentary Group)
Sicko (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) Should Win
Taxi to the Dark Side (THINKFilm)
War/Dance (THINKFilm)

By most measures, this is a battle between two films. I know that director Michael Moore rubs many in the documentary community the wrong way, but I hope they'll look to the merits of Sicko, a film I truly loved and that I think has been unfairly sidelined in this Oscar season. Oscar voters may not want a repeat of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 acceptance speech, though...which is a sad reason to vote against a film.

Achievement in cinematography
Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford
Roger Deakins, No Country For Old Men Should Win
Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood Will Win
Seamus McGarvey, Atonement
Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

As I've said before, this is the most stunning competition of the year. All five were simply breathtaking. Elswit won the ASC Award, so I'm going with him...and I believe that Deakins will split his votes a little. (Watch out for Kaminski, though, a favorite who did exceptional work...and could be an easy way for voters to throw a nod to Diving Bell.)

Achievement in art direction
American Gangster, Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
Atonement, Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer Should Win
The Golden Compass, Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd, Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo Will Win
There Will Be Blood, Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Sure, bet against Dante Ferretti...at your peril. Even though my favorite thing about Atonement was the wallpaper, I still won't go against one of the industry's titans, especially when his work on Sweeney was so evocative.

Achievement in film editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Christopher Rouse Should Win
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild, Jay Cassidy
No Country For Old Men, Roderick Jaynes Will Win
There Will Be Blood, Dylan Tichenor

No one will forget Bourne's jump through the window...or its dizzying jump-cut style. But I'm guessing that enough people know that Roderick Jaynes is really a pseudonym for the Coens to give them a stealth award here. (And if there are fans of Into The Wild in the Academy -- although there don't seem to be many -- this is where they should make their stand.)

Achievement in costume design
Across the Universe, Albert Wolsky
Atonement, Jacqueline Durran Will Win/Should Win
Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Alexandra Byrne
La Vie En Rose, Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd, Colleen Atwood

It's quite possible that the queen of this category, Colleen Atwood, will score another triumph for Sweeney distressed fabrics. But who can forget that green dress on Keira Knightley in Atonement...possibly the most gorgeous gown on screen this decade?

Achievement in makeup
La Vie En Rose, Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald Should Win
Norbit, Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji Will Win
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

If voters bothered to remember the otherwise excreable Norbit, there must be a reason. It's got Rick Baker at the helm, a near-legend in the field. But I hope the classy entry wins...and Edith Piaf isn't as easy to pull off as it may look.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Marco Beltrami, 3:10 To Yuma
Michael Giacchino, Ratatouille Should Win
James Newton Howard, Michael Clayton
Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner
Dario Marianelli, Atonement Will Win

Ugh...that damned infernal typwriter clacking is going to win an Oscar. I may be nauseous. I don't love Ratatouille's overly precious score either, but it's got the best shot at beating Marianelli's completely predictable entry.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from Once, Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova Will Win/Should Win
"Happy Working Song" from Enchanted, Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from August Rush, Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
"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

With Hairspray curiously absent and Sweeney ineligible, this category is dominated by the witty tunes of Enchanted. But Disney shouldn't get its hopes up; vote-splitting will give fans of the tiny, marvelous movie Once a chance to grab a statuette. And that is a wonderful thing.

Achievement in sound editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg Will Win/Should Win
No Country For Old Men, Skip Lievsay
Ratatouille, Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
There Will Be Blood, Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood
Transformers, Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

There are fans aplenty for the Bourne series, and here is where they will make their presence known. Well, here and in the...

Achievement in sound mixing
The Bourne Ultimatum, Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis Will Win/Should Win
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

...where Bourne will again triumph. So say I.

Achievement in visual effects
The Golden Compass, Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood Should Win
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 Will Win

There has to be a concession to the Transformers phenomenon somewhere, and I'm guessing this is the most logical place for it. While the movie was the cinematic equivalent of a frontal lobe lobotomy, those trucks-into-alien doohickeys sure were neat. Not as neat as, say, fighting polar bears, but still.

Best animated short film
I Met the Walrus, Josh Raskin Will Win
Madame Tutli-Putli, Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski Should Win
Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis, Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
My Love (Moya Lyubov), Alexander Petrov
Peter & the Wolf, Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

If people actually watch these films, it'll be no contest: Madame Tutli-Putli is a grand and beautiful film of the highest order. But if they go off the descriptions, it'll go to the Beatles-friendly I Met The Walrus or My Love. I'm guessing John Lennon still has devotees out there in Hollywoodland.

Best live action short film
At Night, Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
Il Supplente (The Substitute), Andrea Jublin
Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), Philippe Pollet-Villard
Tanghi Argentini, Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans Will Win
The Tonto Woman, Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown Should Win

Buzz has been building for Tanghi Argentini, which I must confess I haven't seen. But I have seen The Tonto Woman, and boy, is it great.

Best documentary short subject
Freeheld, Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
La Corona (The Crown), Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
Salim Baba, Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
Sari's Mother, James Longley Will Win/Should Win

Hmm. I've seen none of them, and am too tired to research them now. So let's shoot blindly, shall we? Eeny meeny miney...Sari's Mother.

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Blogger will g said...

Hey, are you saying you actually SAW Norbit? Good Lord. (Although I shamefully laughed at the clips I saw.)

2/23/08, 4:18 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Oh no, Will! I'm just saying that it was a surprise nomination to me, which leads me to believe that someone, somewhere actually saw it. Personally, I'd rather eat glass.

2/23/08, 10:14 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

OK, give Atonement an award for Keira's green dress if you must. But the film's shutout elsewhere warms the cockles of my little dark heart. Was there a more boring movie released this year? And did ANYONE give a shit whether these two go together?

2/24/08, 6:35 AM  

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