In which I attempt to read the minds of a bunch of old white men who think that (a) weekend grosses equal success (b) Hollywood and humanitarian are synonymous and (c) "Romance" equals 60-year-old men with 30-year-old women, but only when all the 20-year-old women are taken. (Caveat: no minor awards here, just the major ones.)
Best animated feature film of the year. This is a head to head battle between Persepolis and Ratatouille. Since, to mainstream Hollywood, there’s no real difference between a movie starring a rat and a movie starring an Iranian girl, the voters will go with their alleged hearts. Persepolis is a downer; Ratatouille has an upbeat ending. Oscar goes to the rat.
Best foreign language film. I didn’t see any of these, so Matthew’s Fourth Rule Of Oscars goes into effect here. If any of the five nominated films has a Holocaust-related theme, it’s going to win.
Supporting Actor. Who doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning? Hal Holbrook. Who should win? Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Who is the favorite to win? Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men.
Two thoughts: (1) The end of No Country probably left half the Oscar voters feeling betrayed and pissed off, which means they might take it out on Bardem and vote for somebody else. And (2) Philip Seymour Hoffman had three stand-out performances this year, and Tom Wilkinson brings the can’t-look-away crazy to Michael Clayton. In their favor: they’ve both worked with EVERYBODY. Which means they will each get a lot of “Hey -- Bardem’s going to win anyway, so I think I’ll vote for [Phil/Tom]” votes. In both their favors: they’re nominated for movies that make you walk out of the theatre feeling pretty good, in comparison to No Country. In Wilkinson’s favor: he’s the right age. I say he wins it.
Supporting Actress. Ruby Dee, your award is the nomination. Saorsie Ronan? As the only actor up here from the Best-Picture-Nominated Atonement, your nomination is a slap in the face to Keira Knightley, if not a direct comment on her non-acting ability. That leaves Cate, Tilda and Amy. Tilda has an outside shot, but the meat of her performance is a sequence that owes too much to editing than acting, so scratch her. Cate should win it, but she’s already won a Spooky Channeling of a Real Person Oscar for her Kate Hepburn in Aviator, and besides, I’m Not There is an art-house film. But then, Gone Baby Gone was a summer flick (which amounts to the same thing come Oscar time). I think this one’s too close to call. My gut says Blanchett, but since she already has one of these, I think it’ll probably go to Ryan. Maybe. Possibly.
Adapted screenplay. In my mind, no contest: No Country gets it as a faithful adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel.
Original screenplay. When the nominations were announced, I would have said Juno, but the Great Juno Backlash is in full force right now, and Hollywood is crying “God forbid we reward a popular movie with an Oscar!” Plus: it’s written by a woman. As is Lars and the Real Girl and The Savages. And while the Academy loves Brad Bird, I don’t see the Oscar going to Ratatouille when Michael Clayton was written and directed by (a) a guy and (b) a guy who has worked with EVERYBODY. Oscar to Tony Gilroy.
Best Actor. In any other year, the battle here would be between Tommy Lee Jones, who’s nominated for being Tommy Lee Jones, and George Clooney, playing a lawyer who acts a lot like a Hollywood agent in disguise. But this year, you can forget them, and forget Viggo Mortensen’s thug and Johnny Depp’s homicidal barber; this year, it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ award to lose. Expect a brief but emotional mention of Heath Ledger during his acceptance speech.
Best Actress. If they didn’t give it to Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth, they’re not going to give it to her for being upstaged by Abby Cornish in the sequel. Marion Cotillard? Nobody in LA saw the movie, and only about 20 of them can pronounce her name. Laura Linney? Fabulous, but the movie is too small. Ellen Page? Sorry, Ellen, the Juno Backlash is in full swing. You’ll get a lot of votes from creepy old guys who want to sleep with you, but that’s about it. The Oscar will go to Julie Christie, because 95% of the male Hollywood voters over 40 fell in love with her in Dr. Zhivago, and dreamed of her going down on them the way she went down on Warren Beatty in Shampoo.
Best Director. Julian Schnabel? Too New York. Plus Diving Bell is not even up for Best Picture. Jason Reitman? Another Juno Backlash victim. Tony Gilroy? Michael Clayton wasn’t flashy but it was competent. Competent won’t be good enough, however, not when it’s up against the Coen Brothers and Thomas Anderson. It’s an apples and oranges choice: epic semi-silent movie versus post-modern thriller, both of which have a WTF ending. My gut says that it will go to Anderson because he's made a "classic" where you sit there and say, "Wow, what a great visual." In No Country, you're unaware of the direction at all, which may make for a better movie experience, but it won't win awards.
Best Picture. Atonement. Yeah; right -- none of the major actors were nominated, and the director wasn’t even nominated. No chance in hell.
Juno. The writing is smart, the subject matter is handled tastefully, the characters grow from stereotypes to real people, and it has some great laughs. Just like Little Miss Sunshine. So: no chance in hell.
No Country for Old Men. If it wasn’t for that ending, this would be a shoo-in. But again, note that none of the lead actors have been nominated for anything. Does Hollywood want to be represented by a post-modern thriller with a downer ending? My gut says that, since the Oscars are all about how Hollywood wants to think of itself? The award will no-way-in-hell go to No Country, because Hollywood doesn’t want to think of itself as a Coen Brothers movie. Even though it actually is.
There Will Be Blood. The plus side? Daniel Day-Lewis’s channeling of John Huston, and Thomas Anderson’s channeling of DW Griffith. The minus side? The main character is unlikable, the ending is wa-a-a-ay over the top, and there’s no redemption at the end. Anderson’s Director Oscar is the best this film will do. Which leaves:
Michael Clayton. An exceptional example of a well-made film, which wouldn’t stand so tall if competence wasn’t in such short supply in LaLaLand. Plus the main three actors were all nominated. Plus it has a (yes!) redemptive ending. Hollywood loves crap like that. Especially when the other two prestige pictures have WTF endings. This how Hollywood wants to think of itself: as a guy who makes the right choice even when he’s being paid off to make the wrong one. (A situation which, if it ever happened in real life, would mean a lot less crap from the Dream Factory.) But this is not real life. This is Oscar Night. Which is why Michael Clayton will win Best Picture.