Oscar Predictions (Part One)

Every year at this time my family places bets on the Oscars. We started this in 1992, the year The Silence Of The Lambs made history by becoming the third film to win the big 5 prizes (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Adapted Screenplay). My Dad won that year even though he didn’t see the broadcast. (He was working the afternoon shift.) He also hadn’t seen many of the nominated films. I did and I still lost. More on that in a moment.

In the beginning, only 3 people participated: my Dad, my Mom and myself. Then, my grandmother on my Mom’s side joined in the fun in 1997.

I’ve won the most pools: 6. Plus, I’m the defending champion. Mom and Dad have each won 4 times and Grandma has won only once. (Dad and I shared a victory in 2003. All of our other victories were individual.)

Originally, because I went to the movies all the time and rented like crazy (there were very few nominated films I didn’t see before the ceremony), I picked who I thought deserved to win. Not a good strategy if you want to win your Oscar pool. It only worked once for me (in 1995) and then, when I stopped going on a regular basis, I changed my strategy. Starting in 1998, I went the “prediction” route and have since won 5 of the last 8 Oscar pools.

Here’s part one of my predictions for the 78th Annual Academy Awards honouring the best films of 2005:

BEST PICTURE – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Roger Ebert believes that Crash, his favourite film last year, will take the big prize. He has argued many times for its excellence and if he’s correct here, it will be the second year in a row that Oscar’s Best Picture winner and his favourite film of the year are the same. (Million Dollar Baby was last year’s Best Picture winner and Ebert’s #1 film.)

He goes on to say that Brokeback Mountain, the favourite in this category, is losing steam and will be overtaken by Crash at the Oscars. How he came to this conclusion boggles the mind. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Crash succeeded in finding an audience thanks to strong critical notices and audience word-of-mouth. If it wins, it wouldn’t be the first film not released in December to win Best Picture. (The Silence Of The Lambs was issued on Valentine’s Day, 1991 and that was on a Thursday!) But, in my view, there’s no way it will win. Why? Because Brokeback Mountain has not lost steam and in a category filled with controversial, politically-charged dramas, this one is the safest of the bunch.

It should be noted I have not seen any of the films and this is purely a prediction. Since its release late last year, Brokeback Mountain has been the most talked about nominee in the category. There have been endless parodies: Howard Stern’s Buttcrack Mountain and Artie Lange’s Backdoor Mountain bits; Brokenote Mountain, American Idol’s satirical goof on some of its cowboy contestants; Jimmy Kimmel Live’s parody during his third anniversary show involving amorous Mounties; Curb Your Enthusiasm star and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s New York Times Op-Ed called Cowboys Are My Weakness; Willie Nelson’s new song called Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other and on and on.

According to rottentomatoes.com, a great site that compiles critics’ views, Crash earned a fresh rating of 77% while Brokeback Mountain has a fresh rating of 85%. Brokeback has earned 66 million so far at the box office while Crash only earned 55 million and it’s already on DVD. Brokeback has won Best Picture prizes at 13 different ceremonies including the Golden Globes, the recent BAFTAs in Britain, and from numerous film critic associations based in L.A., New York, San Francisco, London, England and Vancouver, British Columbia. How many has Crash won? One. Guess which critics group gave it to them. Yep, the Chicago Film Critics Association. Where’s Roger Ebert from again? Chicago. And yes, he’s a member of the association.

Crash is a movie that deals with race relations. Munich is about Middle Eastern politics. Good Night, And Good Luck is about Senator McCarthy’s Communist witchhunt and the brave journalist who questioned his ethics. Capote is about the story that inspired his novel, In Cold Blood; killers who may or may not get the death penality for their crime. Brokeback Mountain is about two men who discover they’re gay, are in love with each other and try to deny it because of the era they live in. With gay couples in certain countries finally receiving the right from their national governments to be interlocked in marriage in some form or another, it is unlikely the momentum of that breakthrough and all the other reasons I mentioned will stop Brokeback Mountain from collecting the Best Picture prize this year.

BEST DIRECTOR – ANG LEE (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN)

The last time Ang Lee was up for Best Director, it was for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a fine action film that I felt wasn’t as great as others made it out to be. He won the Directors Guild of America award for that movie but lost the Oscar to the more deserving Steven Soderbergh who won for Traffic, a much better film. This year, once again, he’s the DGA’s choice and that automatically puts him in the lead for the directing Oscar. He has directed one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year which will see its already sizable audience increase in the coming weeks.

This will be a make-good for his loss in the same category 5 years ago.

As for the other nominees, I don’t see any spoilers here. Spielberg’s won twice before and Bennett Miller (Capote), Georgy Clooney (Good Night And Good Luck) and Canadian Paul Haggis (Crash) don’t have near the support that Ang Lee has right now. Few DGA winners have lost the Best Director Oscar, which Lee knows first-hand. Unlike 2001, however, history’s in his favour this year.

BEST ACTOR – PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (CAPOTE)

I’ve been a fan of this guy since I saw him in Scent Of A Woman. (He was that obnoxious twerp who kept hounding Chris O’Donnell.) He’s done good work in films like The Talented Mr. Ripley and most especially, Almost Famous, where he played the greatest music critic of all time, Lester Bangs. (If they ever make a biopic of that guy, here’s hoping Hoffman is wooed back to play him again.)

I’ve only seen clips of his performance in Capote and it’s pretty clear he’s going to win for the same reason Jamie Foxx won last year for his work in Ray. He nails it. Ever since the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, a cloud of Oscar buzz has hovered around him. In a category filled with acclaimed performances, I don’t see anybody coming close to beating him.

Joaquin Phoenix has been nominated before for playing the villain in Gladiator and in any other year, he’d probably win this category. Terrence Howard, who went from being in that Jacksons miniseries a few years ago to an Oscar nomination this year, also starred in Crash and 50 Cent’s movie, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. He has no chance of winning. Neither does Heath Ledger who can rest assured Brokeback Mountain will win Best Picture. As for David Straithairn, one of my favourite actors who I first wrote about in my grade 12 high school English class, it would be a miracle if he won on his first nomination.

Mr. Hoffman, here’s your Oscar.

BEST ACTRESS – REESE WITHERSPOON (WALK THE LINE)

I’m still suprised this film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture considering all the widespread praise it received. (It has an 83% fresh rating from rottentomatoes.com.) That being said, it will win one major Oscar, and Reese Witherspoon will be the lucky recepient. All her competitors are going to be sadly disappointed. Judi Dench and Charlize Theron have already won, so count them out. Keira Knightley is young and will have other opportunities to be recognized. Felicity Huffman’s performance in Transamerica has gotten plenty of praise but I think the Academy views her more as a TV actress than a movie actor. Her commitment to Desperate Housewives (now in its second season) is a safety net that prevents her from strictly focusing on movies which will hurt her chances this year.

Just when you thought Witherspoon was going to become the new Meg Ryan permanently, along comes this project which challenged her to sing like a country legend and hold her own with a cantankerous method actor. (Witherspoon has admitted that during the preparation for her role as June Carter Cash she frequently clashed with her co-star, Joaquin Phoenix, who played Johnny. They rarely got along during the making of this movie.)

I can’t think of a more lovable actress in Hollywood right now. I never hear anything bad about her, she’s much loved by the business and is a bankable movie star. Her reward will be her first Oscar. I can’t wait for her acceptance speech.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – GEORGE CLOONEY (SYRIANA) 

I first remember George Clooney as Booker on Roseanne. (He worked in the plastics factory with her and her pals.) After working on numerous other TV programs including two ERs (the lesser-known sitcom and the well-known medical drama), he’s the most handsome man in the movies. And thanks to Syriana and his directing debut, Good Night And Good Luck, he’s now a well-respected filmmaker unafraid to roll around in the muddy world of politics.

Since Good Night won’t win Best Picture and Syriana wasn’t even nominated, he will win here for his supporting work in the latter. The Academy loves it when actors add some pudge and Clooney, like Reese Witherspoon, is a much-beloved movie star who has earned their respect for taking on challenging roles.

Matt Dillon won’t win. (Perhaps he’ll be punished for doing that horrible Herbie: Fully Loaded movie, which was released a month after Crash.) Paul Giamatti’s nomination is a make-good for Sideways. (Remember, he was snubbed last year.) William Hurt’s won before and Jake Gyllenhaal will have to be satisfied with just the nomination.

It’s Clooney all the way for Best Supporting Actor.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – AMY ADAMS (JUNEBUG)
 
There’s usually one surprise every year and I think this category, as in past ceremonies, will give a much-needed jolt to the proceedings. It’s really a race between Amy Adams and Rachel Weisz. Frances McDormand’s already won for Fargo and Catherine Keener’s been nominated before and will lose again. I just can’t see Michelle Williams winning here, but stranger things have happened.

Although Weisz has won numerous awards for her work in The Constant Gardener, she doesn’t need the Oscar. She was in The Mummy movies and delivered fine performances in Enemy At The Gates and the very sweet About A Boy. I’ve had a crush on her since screening the disappointing Chain Reaction at my local cinema in 1996.

Amy Adams, on the other hand, needs this more than anyone in the category. According to critics, she’s the stand-out character in this little-seen indie film. An Oscar would give her better roles, boost her profile and would be an excellent selling point for any movie she would star in in the future. It’s not a lock but I think Roger Ebert is right on this one. Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – WALLACE & GROMIT

This category was established in 2002 with Shrek being the first winner. This year is very unusual. There are no Pixar or Disney nominees, Robots got snubbed and old-fashioned animation techniques won out over 3D computer animation.

Howl’s Moving Castle is from the much-beloved Japanimation giant, Hayao Miyazaki, but he won the 2003 Oscar for his film, Spirited Away. I don’t expect a repeat. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, another one of his stop-motion features, is not nearly as loved as his 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. That leaves the claymation antics of Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Ware-Rabbit which has an incredible 95% fresh rating at rottentomatoes.com.

They first made their mark in animated shorts. (A Close Shave won the Best Animated Short Oscar in 1996.) And now with their first feature-length adventure, it seems unlikely they will lose this award. Thanks to its success, I wouldn’t be surprised if more Wallace & Gromit movies are in the works. We may have another animated franchise on our hands here.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
6:19 p.m.
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Published in: on February 21, 2006 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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