January 23, 2007

2007: An Oscar Primer

This year's Oscar nominations were released today, leaving me just a month and change to (if I can) hurry and see all the Best Picture nominees I missed. This year that happens to apply to four out of the five. And the only one I have seen I am, quite frankly, a bit shocked to find on the list: Little Miss Sunshine. I liked it, but . . . it is very indie and the thought that it might be Best Picture material never occurred to me.

The other 3 nominations it scooped up are for Best Supporting Actor (for almost 73-year old Alan Arkin) and Best Supporting Actress (for 10-year old Abigail Breslin) and Best Original Screenplay. Wow. Winning Best Supporting Actress would tie Breslin with Tatum O'Neal as youngest Oscar winner (not counting Shirley Temple's "honorary Oscar" which she got at age 6). Meanwhile, while Alan Arkin is not quite the oldest Oscar winner, I wouldn't be surprised to find that this represents the greatest age disparity between acting nominees from a single film (or even in a single year).

The other nominees for Best Picture are:

-Babel, one of those long movies with several interlocking stories and an ensemble cast (like Magnolia, Crash, Syriana, and so forth). This one is from a Mexican director who also did 21 Grams (same genre, I saw it and thought it was quite good, but very difficult and disturbing) and Amores Perros (which I didn't see, but which apparently made quite a big splash). It netted 6 other nominations as well: Best Director, Best Editing, Best Original Score, 2 for Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay (in other words, there is only one category where Little Miss Sunshine does not face competition from Babel).

-The Departed, a Martin Scorsese-directed crime drama/thriller with a killer cast, adored by critics and several of my friends alike, which I really had no interest in seeing. I guess now I will. I'll probably like it, too. The Departed scooped up four other nominations: Best Director, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Apparently, Jack Nicholson's exclusion from an Oscar nod for his role was a surprise. I wouldn't really know.

-Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood directs, Steven Spielberg produces, and the subject is World War II. The reviews practically write themselves, right? This one slipped by completely under my radar as a rather late release among the other nominees, but I probably wouldn't have seen it anyway. It, too, has 3 additional nominations: Best Director, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Screenplay.

-The Queen, a dry-looking biopic (despite apparently great performances) focusing on Elizabeth II in the days following the death of Princess Diana. It might be rather good, actually. The Queen also has five other nominations: Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay.

A major surprise is the exclusion of Dreamgirls from the Best Picture category. It has received eight other nominations, making it the most nominated film this year: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, 3 for Best Original Song, Best Sound, and Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Murphey's first nomination) and Best Supporting Actress.

There are a few others with several nominations but no Best Picture attention: Blood Diamond has 5 nominations and I'm still not very interested in seeing it. Pan's Labyrinth has 6 nominations, including Best Foreign Film. This film currently represents the only reason that I hate living in Longview (these things come and go). I have been desperate to see it for months, it still hasn't come out here, and it likely won't. As of this moment, I am seriously considering going to Shreveport to see it (or somewhere closer, if I can find anywhere).

Will Smith and Forest Whitaker have both received their first nominations (for Best Actor) in films I still would like to see: The Pursuit of Happyness and The Last King of Scotland. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio has received his 3rd acting nomination (for Blood Diamond), so far without a win. But that's nothing; Peter O'Toole's nomination this year (for Venus) represents his eighth nomination without a win (his first was, of course, for Lawrence of Arabia, which he lost to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird). This is O'Toole's first nomination in nearly 25 years. However, he did receive an honorary "throw-me-a-frigging-bone-here" Oscar a few years ago.

The Best Actress category is largely a clash of Oscar veterans. You've got Dame Judi Dench, this is her 6th nomination (she's won once). Then there's Helen Mirr (of The Queen). This is her 3rd nomination, no wins yet. I've seen both of the previous movies she was nominated for (The Madness of King George and Gosford Park) and both are very good. Then there's the obligatory semi-annual Meryl Streep nomination. Streep already held the record for number of acting nominations, and this is her fourteenth. She has won twice, but she's received a nomination pretty much every other year since the late '70s. The only other actress who even comes close is Katherine Hepburn with 12 nominations, and I doubt she'll be closing that gap any further. Finally, there is Kate Winslet, who I would very much like to see win. This is her 5th nomination, with no wins yet.

Other nominees that I have seen:

-Children of Men, 3 nominations
-The Prestige, 2 nominations
-The Illusionist, 1 nomination
-Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, 4 nominations
-Borat, 1 nomination and by far the biggest Oscar groaner this year. To add injury to insult, the nomination is for Best Adapted Screenplay . . . as if that movie had a screenplay.
-Cars, 2 nominations
-Superman Returns, 1 nomination
-Water, 1 nomination (for Best Foreign Film; this is quite possibly the best film I saw last year). Interestingly, this is the first year that it would have been possible for Water to even be nominated. The film was entered by Canada, but it is not in one of the primary languages of Canada. The rules were changed just this year to make that no longer a problem.
-"No Time for Nuts," nominated for Best Animated Short. I was actually surprised to discover that I'd seen something from this category. It was on the DVD of Ice Age 2 that I saw. It features Scrat, who stumbles across a small time machine and ends up chasing his acorn across history. It was rather amusing.

Other nominees that I would very much like to see:

-The Curse of the Golden Flower, 1 nomination
-Marie Antoinette, 1 nomination
-Apocalypto, 3 nominations
-Jesus Camp, 1 nomination (for Best Documentary; I hope it beats An Inconvenient Truth, but I won't hold my breath).
-Deliver Us from Evil, 1 nomination (also for Best Documentary, ditto above)

Let's see . . . oh yeah, haphazard and worthless predictions:

Best Picture: Probably The Departed, ideally let's say Little Miss Sunshine (but I really should actually watch some of the others)
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker
Best Actress: Probably Helen Mirr, ideally Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin
Best Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin
Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel
Best Cinematography (since I've seen more from this category than any other): Probably Children of Men or Pan's Labyrinth
Best Foreign Film: Again, I really need to see Pan's Labyrinth, but if it is as excellent as I've heard, this should be a toss-up between it and Water.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my rundown on the 79th Annual Academy Award nominees. I have some stuff to watch.

Posted by Jared at January 23, 2007 03:16 PM | TrackBack