Oscars: thoughts, predictions etc.
Ever since Titanic and Shakespeare in Love bagged Best Picture awards (with Reese Witherspoon as Leading Actress last year being the final straw), I have had very little respect for the Oscars or the credibility of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in judging cinematic excellence.
To be fair, the Academy decides on winners not through juries as in film-festivals, but by a voting process among its members. Thus it is often subject to biases such the time of release of the film (movies released early in the year usually drop out of the radar for an Oscar nomination nod, hence many of the so-called ‘Oscar hopefuls’ are hit theaters during fall), lobbying by the studio (Harvey Weinstein of Miramax is notorious for this), political and other non-film related factors that increase the chances of one film/person over another and so on. As such, the Academy has been notorious for overlooking the works of great actors, directors and films(Chaplin, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kubrick et al) while rewarding mediocre performances.
Still, when it comes to celebrating Hollywood pomp and displaying raw, unabashed glamor, few events can rival the Oscar night ceremony (Cannes perhaps matches or even surpasses in glitz, but in terms of brand-name and awareness, the Oscars are unparalleled).
So in spite of my reservations, like every year, I shall tune in to watch the show live (or is there a 10-sec delay?), to observe the Hollywood (and a few international) glitterati sashay down the red carpet for a night of mutual back-patting. If not anything else, it will be a chance to unleash some blogger’s rant!
However, there are some aspect of the ceremony I actually look forward to, particularly the various montages (especially the opening one). It’s always fun to quickly guess the movie name from its few seconds of appearance. Besides, few things are as celebratory of the joys of cinema than the Oscar montages.
There are, of course, many irritating bits as well: celebrities asked inane questions on the red carpet (to which they usually provide even more inane answers, demonstrating that most actors are lost without a script); presenters reading off the prompter with very little expressions – at least they could make an effort of looking spontaneous. But the most bothersome has to be long drawn out thank you speeches, especially when its the prize for some obscure technical category and/or when the winner draws out ominously large sheafs of paper. There has been few attempts to restrict such meandering monologues, particularly the practice of the live-orchestra starting to play after the stipulated time (which was famously sushed by Julia Roberts when she won for Erin Brockovich). This year, winners will apparently be restricted to 45 seconds sharp, but given a chance to say a longer thank yous off-stage on a web camera for internet broadcasts. Let’s see how that works out. If the speeches at the Golden Globes earlier this year were any indication, hope for as many Brits as possible to win, cause they really come up with some witty stuff while holding the statuette.
(Btw, here is a good round-up, though a little old, of Oscar thank you speeches over the years, and here is a list of speeches that themselves are worthy of an award)
A the major anticipation for Oscar night every year is the performance of the host, especially a first time host. The likes of Billy Crystal, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson have really excelled at this role, while others like David Letterman have failed. Last year, Jon Stewart did well, if not exceptional. Ellen Degeneres is hosting this year – and it is to be seen how she pulls it off.
However, the BIG question for tonite, of course is, will he or won’t he ? Talking about Martin Scorsese – among the many to have been sighted by the Academy in spite of nothing less than stellar credentials. I have argued that he should not receive a sympathy Oscar for The Departed which is definitely not his best work. But then, the fact is that he will be judged against four other directors nominated this year – and it could be possible he is the best among them (I am yet to see the the other films in the category). The grapevine suggests that it could be the case, with the Academy lining up a bevy of star directors to hand out the prize.
In other Oscar news, Al Gore will be among the presenters tonite, while I was saddened to know that Sasha Baron Cohen was not allowed to present as Borat and hence will be absent from the podium – that would have been fun and interesting (remember one of Borat’s trait is to be suspicious and downright hostile towards Jews).
Meanwhile, I shall attempt to record my rants (and appreciations!) while I watch the event in the form of live-blogging. Considering that my first attempt at liveblogging petered out pretty quickly, not promising much. But do join in, if interested, around, 7.30pm EST. And till then, for your entertainment, here are my wild predictions for the major Oscar categories (after the jump).
Note that being more of a Netflix-er than a theater goer, I am yet to see many of the movies – so most of the predictions are based on the buzz leading up to the Oscars ! List of nominees followed by my prediction.
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” (THINKFilm)
Peter O’Toole in “Venus” (Miramax, Filmfour and UK Film Council)
Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland” (Fox Searchlight)
Toss-up between Whitaker and Will Smith: my bets are on Whitaker. Btw, would be nice if O’Toole wins – he was seven times nominated, never won, was given a Lifetime in 2003, where h said he would rather “win the lovely bugger outright.”
Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jackie Earle Haley in “Little Children” (New Line)
Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Eddie Murphy in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
I would love Alan Arkin to win this one. But I feel it will go to Eddie Murphy.
Penélope Cruz in “Volver” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (20th Century Fox)
Kate Winslet in “Little Children” (New Line)
Helen Mirren – take it to the bank.
Adriana Barraza in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Abigail Breslin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Rinko Kikuchi in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
This is a toughie, but I will use the Golden Globes an indicator and go for Jennifer Hudson.
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Alejandro González Iñárritu
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.) Martin Scorsese
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Stephen Frears
“United 93” (Universal and StudioCanal) Paul Greengrass
Liked I mentioned before, looks like Scorsese will get his due this time.
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.)
“Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Ok, I think Oscars will go the Crash way, and award Little Miss Sunshine. Or it could be Departed all the way.
Oh – and I would love Children of Men to win for best Cinematography and Pirates for visual effects.