January 23, 2007

79th Academy Awards Nominations: Let the Handicapping Begin

Last week we had week we saw the minor league awards. Not to belittle them, but they are prestigious, but they also offer some insight to who may be the front runners for the big league awards. This morning the big league candidates were announced by by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and Academy member and past Oscar nominee Salma Hayek. The announcement came at 5:30 AM on the west coast and 8:30 on the east. A bit early for the average Joe in the west and a little too late for those on the east to catch live. At least, it was a bit late for me. I had to scrounge a few minutes here and there to peruse the list, only now getting a chance to take a closer look at the films that got the call up. Still, I am not quite ready to make my choices for who will win, that will come a little closer to the telecast.

However, I am not above skimming over the list and giving my impressions. There are some surprises, a few that seem to be nearly written in stone, and a few films that were overlooked in the major categories, to my disappointment. There is something else I noticed as I glanced at the titles, there are a number of movies that I have yet to see. Sure, I have seen the majority of them, but there are still a few that either never came to my town in upstate New York, or scheduling did not permit me to take the time. Still, I think I have seen enough and have enjoyed enough to have a valid opinion on the selections, who I think should have been there, and maybe even who should not have been there.

The first thing that hit me square in the jaw was the lack of Children of Men in the Best Picture category. It was a given that Babel and The Departed were going to move on, and Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen had built up a good deal of momentum heading into the announcement. That leaves one space free, the slot that ultimately went to Letters from Iwo Jima. Sure, it had won a couple of the early critics associations top slots, but it still didn't have a big push, as it hasn't even gone terribly wide at the theaters yet. In fact, the reason behind it even being released in 2006 seems to be a consolation prize following the soft response to its sister film, Flags of Our Fathers. I guess I cannot complain too much for its inclusion, as I have not yet seen the film. That still does not soothe my pain of not seeing the brilliant and visionary Alfonso Cuaron film among the final five.

I was also a little surprised not to see United 93 listed. It seems to be a title that has gotten much discussion over the past months. Perhaps I shouldn't be so shocked. It is a touchy matter, and probably not a likely one that the Academy would like to deal with had it been nominated. One final not on this category is Little Miss Sunshine, it is a fine film to be certain, but I am thinking that it may be slightly overestimated by its crowd pleasing indie status, kind of like the token indie in the land of giants. It may even be considered a front runner based on that. I would have much rather have seen Brick in there for the indie cred, but I think that it is a little more odd and not much of a crowd pleaser.

The actor category has a couple of surprises in it. One of those shockers is Leonardo Dicaprio being nominated for Blood Diamond, as good as I thought he was there, I would have given him the nod for The Departed. Then there is Ryan Gosling joining the big leagues, Half Nelson didn't have much of a stay in the theater, and is one of the ones that I missed. I would have swapped him out for the fine performance from Clive Owen in Children of Men. Peter O'Toole was also something of a surprise, but probably shouldn't have been with the steam that Venus has been gathering. It is nice to see Will Smith recognized, his performance was wonderful. This category, though, is owned by Forest Whitaker for his electric portrayal of Idi Amin.

The actress category is a two woman battle, barring any unforseen upset. This is down to Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep, of which I am fairly confident Helen Mirren will take the top prize. The rest of the noms are something of consolation prizes, although I think that Kate Winslet probably has a smirk after being snubbed at the Globes. One overlooked role that I would have fit in there somewhere is Gretchen Mol for The Notorious Bettie Page, although the other nominees gave strong performances, or so I hear as I missed a couple of the films.

In the supporting categories, I was very happy to see Djimon Hounsou recognized, he was incrediblky charismatic in Blood Diamond. Although, I think that Eddie Murphy may be able to repeat his Globe win here, but I wouldn't count out Alan Arkin's work. As for the women's side, there is only one name you need to know, Jennifer Hudson. That's it, she will be walking away with Oscar. Beyond that, Adriana Barraza gave a touching performance in Babel. As for the overlooked, Geraldine Hughes (Rocky Balboa) and Maribel Verdu (Pan's Labyrinth) gave memorable performances that are not to be missed.

Moving behind the screen, could this be Martin Scorsese's year? Or is always destined to be a bridesmaid and never a bride? I am leaning toward his finally bringing home the gold. However, I would not count out any of the other nominees, as they all gave fine work for our enjoyment. Looking at the scripts they had to work with, a couple of my favorites are in there on both sides of the border (Adapted vs. Original) including The Departed, Children of Men, and Pan's Labyrinth. The surprise entrant is Borat, I never would have thought that it would have even crossed the voters minds, and the overlooked would have to be the tightly plotted thriller The Prestige.

In the animated feature category I cannot tell you how happy I am to see Monster House among the nominees. I am not deluded into thinking that it will win, although I would be ecstatic, it is just nice to see such a great film recognized. Over in the foreign language category I was somewhat surprised not to see Volver included, yet the presence of Pan's Labyrinth gives me hope that Guillermo del Toro's dark fairy tale for adults will win the gold.

One final disappointment before I turn it over to the list. I was disappointed to not see my favorite score of the year among the nominees. That would be The Fountain from Clint Mansell. I may still be confused by the audaciously experimental film, but the music has drawn me in to its wondrous beauty.

OK, enough of me, let the handicapping begin. Be on the lookout for my predictions to come close to the February 25th broadcast.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  • Babel
  • The Departed
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Queen

Best Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
  • Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
  • Peter O'Toole, Venus
  • Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
  • Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress

  • Penelope Cruz, Volver
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  • Helen Mirren, The Queen
  • Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
  • Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
  • Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress

  • Adrianna Barraza, Babel
  • Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Best Director

  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Stephen Frears, The Queen
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Original Screenplay

  • Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
  • Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
  • Peter Morgan, The Queen

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, Todd Phillips - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
  • Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby - Children of Men
  • William Monahan - The Departed
  • Todd Field and Tom Perrotta - Little Children
  • Patrick Marber - Notes on a Scandal

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • The Black Dahlia: Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Children of Men: Emmanuel Lubezki
  • The Illusionist: Dick Pope
  • Pan's Labyrinth: Guillermo Navarro
  • The Prestige: Wally Pfister

Best Achievement in Editing

  • Babel: Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione
  • Blood Diamond: Steven Rosenblum
  • Children of Men: Alfonso Cuarón, Alex Rodríguez
  • The Departed: Thelma Schoonmaker
  • United 93: Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse

Best Achievement in Art Direction

  • Dreamgirls: John Myhre, Nancy Haigh
  • The Good Shepherd: Jeannine Claudia Oppewall, Gretchen Rau, Leslie E. Rollins
  • Pan's Labyrinth: Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest: Rick Heinrichs, Cheryl Carasik
  • The Prestige: Nathan Crowley, Julie Ochipinti

Best Achievement in Costume Design

  • Curse of the Golden Flower: Chung Man Yee
  • The Devil Wears Prada: Patricia Field
  • Dreamgirls: Sharen Davis
  • Marie Antoinette: Milena Canonero
  • The Queen: Consolata Boyle

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

  • Babel: Gustavo Santaolalla
  • The Good German: Thomas Newman
  • Notes on a Scandal: Philip Glass
  • Pan's Labyrinth: Javier Navarrete
  • The Queen: Alexandre Desplat

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

  • An Inconvenient Truth: Melissa Etheridge ("I Need To Wake Up")
  • Dreamgirls: Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven ("Listen")
  • Dreamgirls: Henry Krieger, Siedah Garrett ("Love You I Do")
  • Cars: Randy Newman ("Our Town")
  • Dreamgirls: Henry Krieger, Willie Reale ("Patience")

Best Achievement in Makeup

  • Apocalypto: Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano
  • Click: Kazuhiro Tsuji, Bill Corso
  • Pan's Labyrinth: David Martí, Montse Ribé

Best Achievement in Sound

  • Apocalypto: Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Fernando Cámara
  • Blood Diamond: Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ivan Sharrock
  • Dreamgirls: Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Willie D. Burton
  • Flags of Our Fathers: John T. Reitz, David E. Campbell, Gregg Rudloff, Walt Martin
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest: Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes, Lee Orloff

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

  • Apocalypto: Sean McCormack, Kami Asgar
  • Blood Diamond: Lon Bender
  • Flags of Our Fathers: Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman
  • Letters from Iwo Jima: Alan Robert Murray
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest: George Watters II, Christopher Boyes

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest: John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles Gibson, Allen Hall
  • Poseidon: Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chas Jarrett, John Frazier
  • Superman Returns: Mark Stetson, Richard R. Hoover, Neil Corbould, Jon Thum

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

  • Cars: John Lasseter
  • Happy Feet: George Miller
  • Monster House: Gil Kenan

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

  • After the Wedding (Denmark)
  • Days of Glory (Algeria)
  • Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
  • The Lives of Others (Germany)
  • Water (Canada)

Best Documentary, Features

  • Deliver Us from Evil: Amy Berg, Frank Donner
  • An Inconvenient Truth: Davis Guggenheim
  • Iraq in Fragments: James Longley, Yahya Sinno
  • Jesus Camp: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
  • My Country My Country: Laura Poitras, Jocelyn Glatzer

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

  • The Blood of Yingzhou District: Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon
  • Recycled Life: Leslie Iwerks, Mike Glad
  • Rehearsing a Dream: Karen Goodman, Kirk Simon
  • Two Hands: Nathaniel Kahn, Susan Rose Behr

Best Short Film, Animated

  • The Danish Poet: Torill Kove
  • Lifted: Gary Rydstrom
  • The Little Matchgirl: Roger Allers, Don Hahn
  • Maestro: Géza M. Tóth
  • No Time for Nuts: Chris Renaud, Mike Thurmeier

Best Short Film, Live Action

  • Binta and the Great Idea: Javier Fesser, Luis Manso
  • Éramos Pocos: Borja Cobeaga
  • Helmer & Son: Søren Pilmark, Kim Magnusson
  • The Saviour: Peter Templeman, Stuart Parkyn
  • West Bank Story: Ari Sandel


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