Wednesday, February 01, 2006

And We're Off...Early Oscar Observations

I find it especially quaint this year that Oscar nominations should be announced on the same day that Bush gives his State of the Union address. It's like Hollywood was saying an especially loud F U to the Prez and his constituency...Gay cowboys, pimps, prancing queers, transgendered mothers (or was it fathers), blistering critiques of U.S. foreign policy and oil dependency (though hey, apparently Bush didn't need to see "Syriana" to figure out we're too dependent on oil), thinly veiled attacks on timorous name it, we got it.

Not that I buy into the whole myth that those liberal Hollywooders are forcing their liberal views on the good American folk, or that that's why the box office has been so woozy this year. (It's the big-budget formula movies that are underperforming and hurting the profits, not the Brokebacks or the Good Nights, which have been recouping their smaller budgets just fine, thank you.) And what's funny is that "Brokeback Mountain" may be revolutionary in its subject matter, but aesthetically it's a straight shot down the middle, and as such, clearly the front-runner for Best Picture.

Anyway, as usual, not too many surprises. I'm glad that "Munich" made it to the final cut (though it'll likely go home empty-handed come March 5), that George Clooney came up aces as well, and that Amy Adams, Terrence Howard and Matt Dillon got what by all accounts are well-deserved acting nominations (I haven't seen "Hustle & Flow" or "Crash," though Adams was wonderful in "Junebug"). Slightly surprised that Keira Knightley got a nod for best actress - though it confirms that I should always trust Entertainment Weekly's predictions - and slightly miffed that Joan Allen didn't get it for "The Upside of Anger."

My biggest "what the hell": William Hurt for Best Supporting Actor? He's already won one or two critics' awards, as I remember, for "History of Violence," but all I can say is that his performance was one of the hammiest things I've ever seen, and pretty much embodied the movie at its most strained. I just don't get it. If anyone from that movie should have been nominated, it was Maria Bello - or Viggo Mortensen.

Early predictions, subject to change: "Brokeback" should sail to easy Best Picture victory, and Ang Lee will probably cop the director award, too. Original screenplay will go to either "Crash" or "Good Night, and Good Luck" - I narrowly favor the latter, mainly because the Academy loves Clooney as much as the Fox News crew hate him, and his chances are slim in the other races. Adapted screenplay will go to "Brokeback." All four actors' races will be tight. On best actor, I've changed my mind and decided that this is Philip Seymour Hoffman's year, though Heath Ledger should still give him a run for his money. For best actress, it'll be a photo finish between Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Huffman (who's having the year of her life, bless her), but I'm going with Reese for now. For best supporting actor, Paul Giamatti and Jake Gyllenhaal will probably end up in a dead heat: Giamatti will get sympathy votes for being ignored the last couple of years, but Gyllenhaal should pick up steam as we get closer to Oscar night. And for best supporting actress, the most wide open of the four, it'll likely come down to either Rachel Weisz (who's been doing unexpectedly well in awards recently - which I'm glad of) or Michelle Williams, though any of the others could pull off an upset.

Predix will be updated closer to press time. Stay tuned...


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