Sunday, March 05, 2006

Predicting the Oscar Winners

Mercifully the awards season has almost come to a close. While it's fun making top ten lists and voting here and there on year-end awards, most of the Academy Awards' steam has been lost by the time they arrive. (Remember when the ceremony was a couple weeks later than this year's Olympic-delayed show? Never again, please.) Sure, I'm interested and will watch, but the Oscars seem like an afterthought now. We've already endured three full months of awards from various guilds and critics, individually and collectively, that the winners in the major categories are practically preordained.

With that said, here's where I predict the winners and miss enough to make the previous statement look foolish. Copy these picks for your Oscar pool at your own risk. (And for those in the pool in which I'm participating, I reserve the right to last minute changes, so don't think you can outmaneuver me by reading this.)

Best Picture
Will win: Brokeback Mountain
If I voted: Munich

I'm not buying this week's trendy CRASH pick. Entertainment writers have gone weeks without anything interesting to write about these awards. Pushing CRASH as the likely winner is a way to revive a dead story.

Best Director

Will win: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
If I voted: Steven Spielberg, Munich

I like MUNICH a little more than BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN but am perfectly happy with Ang Lee and his film winning. Who would have thought that Spielberg, one of the all-time greats, would make two terrific films in the same year, the pop entertainment WAR OF THE WORLDS and serious, awards-friendly MUNICH and be an also-ran?

Best Actor
Will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
If I voted: Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

You can't go wrong with any of the nominees, although my distaste for HUSTLE & FLOW taints the appreciation I have for Terrence Howard's performance.

Best Actress
Will win: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
If I voted: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

There are last minute whispers that Felicity Huffman might eke out a win for her TRANSAMERICA role. I realize my opinion on this is in the minority, but Huffman's performance is little more than a stunt (and not a wholly successful one) in a film that is one contrivance after another. Her preoperative transsexual character is a parody of Oscar-trolling roles.

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: George Clooney, Syriana
If I voted: George Clooney, Syriana

Surprisingly, none of the five nominees were on my ballots for the Central Ohio Film Critics Association or Online Film Critics Society. (The closest, in a sense, was a vote for Ed Harris in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, who was passed over for William Hurt.) The triple-nominated Clooney--directing and writing for GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. and acting for SYRIANA--surely has to win something, and this is the most favorable category for him.

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
If I voted: Amy Adams, Junebug

Weisz has been cleaning up in the precursors, so the assumption is she'll win the Oscar.

Best Original Screenplay
Will win: Crash
If I voted: Match Point

CRASH gets the consolation prize here. I'd go for Woody Allen's best film in years.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: Brokeback Mountain
If I voted: Munich

Even if CRASH were to pull off an upset in Best Picture, this one has to be a mortal lock for BROKEBACK.

Best Animated Feature
Will win: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
If I voted: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Let's here it for traditional animation! There should be no question which film is the best of the bunch.

Best Animated Short
Will win: One Man Band
If I voted: not applicable

Having seen none of these, the smart money is on the Pixar entry.

Best Art Direction
Will win: Memoirs of a Geisha
If I voted: Pride & Prejudice

The one positive consensus opinion regarding MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA was how great it looked.

Best Cinematography
Will win: Brokeback Mountain
If I voted: The New World

A tough one if I were voting but a no-brainer for an Oscar pool.

Best Costume Design
Will win: Memoirs of a Geisha
If I voted: Pride & Prejudice

GEISHA's studio can take solace that the film nabbed a couple awards, even if they're not in the high profile categories that they anticipated before it opened with a thud in December.

Best Documentary Feature
Will win: March of the Penguins
If I voted: Murderball

Penguins are cute and the film was a big hit. MARCH OF THE PENGUINS was a decent nature doc, but MURDERBALL was one of the year's best films, let alone the best documentary.

Best Documentary Short
Will win: God Sleeps in Rwanda
If I voted: not applicable

Having seen none of these, I'm going with the one whose title leads me to believe it's the bleakest of the bunch.

Best Film Editing
Will win: Crash
If I voted: Munich

Typically I view this category's winner as the one requiring the most editing--in other words, epics tend to do well here--but none of these films meet that criteria enough. This becomes a secondary vote on Best Picture, and with BROKEBACK nowhere to be seen, CRASH takes it.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will win: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
If I voted: Paradise Now

The rule of thumb that Holocaust films are sure things in the foreign film and documentary categories may be going by the wayside. Nevertheless, SOPHIE SCHOLL sounds like a potential Academy favorite. Of the films in this category, I've seen PARADISE NOW and TSOTSI. PARADISE NOW strikes me as being too combustible to win. In spite of comparisons with CITY OF GOD--unearned, in my opinion--TSOTSI is not as edgy as I expected, so it's comfortable tale of a thug's redemption may prove to be a winner.

Best Live Action Short
Will win: The Last Farm
If I voted: not applicable

Having seen none of these, I'm going with the one whose title sounds like it's downbeat and uplifting.

Best Makeup
Will win: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
If I voted: Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Mr. Pibb and Red Vines equal crazy delicious. Welcome to the category where if you're a fantasy film or make the beautiful performers less pretty, chances are good you'll get nominated.

Best Original Score
Will win: Brokeback Mountain
If I voted: Brokeback Mountain

Some nice choices are in here with MUNICH and PRIDE & PREJUDICE in addition to the likely winner.

Best Original Song
Will win: "In the Deep" from Crash
If I voted: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp", Hustle & Flow

This category becomes more irrelevant with each passing year. I couldn't tell you what the songs from CRASH and TRANSAMERICA sound like. "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" ought to win by virtue of being utilized in the body of the film as much for its inherent catchiness.

Best Sound Editing
Will win: King Kong
If I voted: War of the Worlds

That horrific squawk the alien machines make in WAR OF THE WORLDS would be enough to earn my vote.

Best Sound Mixing
Will win: Walk the Line
If I voted: War of the Worlds

Every year around this time I forget what the distinction is between this and Sound Editing.

Best Visual Effects

Will win: King Kong
If I voted: King Kong

It's amazing that the third STAR WARS prequel didn't make the cut. As impressed as I was with WAR OF THE WORLDS, I'll grant that KING KONG has some amazing effects in it that probably merit its win.

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