Our Annual Guide to Winners .... and Losers

Ed Johnson

Our Annual Guide to Winners .... and Losers

Ed Johnson-Ott Well, here we are. The annual three-month orgy of Hollywood self-congratulation is almost over. The Broadcast Film Critics Awards, The People’s Choice Awards, The Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild Awards and The BAFTAs have come and gone from our TV screens. This weekend the parade of employee recognition ceremonies with delusions of grandeur reaches its finale with The Independent Spirits Awards on Saturday (IFC at 5 p.m., rebroadcast on AMC at 10) and, of course, the granddaddy of ’em all, The Academy Awards on Sunday (ABC at 8 p.m.). Which brings us to my yearly look at the Oscar nominations. Before I start, I just want to remind you that pitting art against art for prizes is ridiculous. But, some good things come of the nonsense. Lesser-known actors get major career boosts and the hoopla draws attention to smaller films that might otherwise have been overlooked.
'Brokeback Mountain'
Best Motion Picture of the Year BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN CAPOTE CRASH GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK MUNICH Brokeback Mountain has won so many awards that most pundits have taken a Best Movie Oscar to be a foregone conclusion. Certainly, the sad, beautiful story of the unwanted, impractical, dangerous and unstoppable love affair between two young ranch hands in 1963 Wyoming changed from film festival favorite to cultural phenomenon as every comic and commentator in the country latched on to the whole “gay cowboy movie” thang. Slowly but surely, Focus Features achieved its goal of bringing the production to mainstream audiences, as the movie expanded to over 2,000 screens, including those in the suburbs and small towns. Which means Brokeback Mountain is a shoo-in, right? Well, not exactly. There are ways that the indie juggernaut might be derailed. First, the movie may have peaked in popularity a bit too early. Although people have been talking about it for months, the buzz reached its high point around the second week of February. Some academy voters may have decided to give the other nominated films a second look. Second, the success of the film has been read by some as an indication that more straight Americans are accepting their gay brethren. To these folks, a victory for the movie is a victory for the gay rights movement. It’s possible that some conservative academy members will vote for other films as a statement against what they perceive to be an assault on their value system. Also, there are still a lot of straight guys, including some academy voters, who refuse to see the movie because the idea of two men kissing and snuggling makes them feel all squirmy inside. Needless to say, they won’t be voting for a flick they didn’t see. Finally, there’s the Screen Actors Guild factor. Remember when Saving Private Ryan was considered a lock, then Shakespeare in Love won? There are a great many actors in the academy and actors love ensemble casts with lots of familiar faces. Although Tom Hanks was front and center, Ryan was peopled with up and coming young actors, while Shakespeare had a big, colorful ensemble including Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Dame Judi Dench and the then-hot Ben Affleck. Brokeback has a cast of up and coming young actors, while Crash has a big, colorful ensemble including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser and the currently-hot Terrence Howard. Crash won the Best Ensemble Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Brokeback was considered a lock. The bottom line is that Brokeback Mountain remains the favorite, but Crash could pull an upset victory. What about the other three films? All three are easy to admire, but hard to feel passionate about. They don’t have a chance. WILL WIN: Brokeback Mountain SHOULD WIN: Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee
Achievement in Directing Ang Lee — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN Bennett Miller — CAPOTE Paul Haggis — CRASH George Clooney — GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK Steven Spielberg — MUNICH Usually, the Best Director and Best Picture categories don’t sync up quite right and people say things like, “How could they leave out (insert name of beloved director)? What, did they think that (insert name of the beloved director’s Best Picture nominee) directed itself?” This year, however, both categories match, so Ang Lee will win. In fact, he’ll win even if Brokeback Mountain doesn’t, because the academy feels bad about not giving him an Oscar in previous years. WILL WIN: Ang Lee SHOULD WIN: Ang Lee
Reese Witherspoon
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Judi Dench — MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS Felicity Huffman — TRANSAMERICA Keira Knightley — PRIDE & PREJUDICE Charlize Theron — NORTH COUNTRY Reese Witherspoon — WALK THE LINE Sorry, Keira, Charlize and Dame Judi, but this race is between Reese Witherspoon, who should have won for Election, and Desperate Housewives co-star Felicity Huffman. I’m very impressed with the depth beneath Witherspoon’s perky persona and she was great as June Carter, but I also was taken with Huffman’s nuanced performance as a transsexual ready for the final surgery to make the change complete. Incidentally, I recently realized that the unusual voice Huffman uses for her character sounds just like the sexually ambiguous reporter in Mars Attacks who asks, “Do the Martians have two sexes like we do?” Weird. Anyway, both actors are equally deserving, but Witherspoon will win because more voters will have seen her movie. WILL WIN: Reese Witherspoon SHOULD WIN: a toss-up between Witherspoon and Felicity Huffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Philip Seymour Hoffman — CAPOTE Terrence Howard — HUSTLE & FLOW Heath Ledger — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN Joaquin Phoenix — WALK THE LINE David Strathairn — GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK David Strathairn has been giving great performances for years without receiving recognition. This year, his well-deserved nomination for his portrayal of broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow will be his only award. Same goes for talented Terrence Howard, who will win in a few years for a bigger, more traditional movie. Joaquin Phoenix was terrific as Johnny Cash, but Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman were even better. I’d give the Oscar to Ledger, whose minimalist performance was extraordinary, but Hoffman has been cleaning up on the awards circuit for managing, incredibly, to play Truman Capote without becoming cartoonish. WILL WIN: Philip Seymour Hoffman SHOULD WIN: Heath Ledger
Paul Giamatti
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role George Clooney — SYRIANA Matt Dillon — CRASH Paul Giamatti — CINDERELLA MAN Jake Gyllenhaal — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN William Hurt — A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Tough call here, though there is zero buzz about William Hurt, so we can count him out. George Clooney was very good, plus he gained 35 pounds for his role (and they made sure to give him a scene without a shirt so you would see the blubber he packed on for art). Clooney is popular as a person, too. Still, the buzz isn’t there. Not much buzz for Jake Gyllenhaal, either, probably because his fine performance was in a lead role, not a supporting one, and everybody knows it. (Fun fact: Remember the brief swimming scene in Brokeback where you caught a glimpse of the two guys in the distance, leaping naked into the water? I saw a close-up online and Ledger actually made his far-off run alongside a Gyllenhaal body-double.) So where is the buzz? With Paul Giamatti, who deserved an Oscar for Sideways, and Matt Dillon, who was very impressive as the racist cop in Crash. My money’s on Giamatti, but a Dillon win is possible. WILL WIN: Paul Giamatti SHOULD WIN: Matt Dillon
Rachel Weisz
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Amy Adams — JUNEBUG Catherine Keener — CAPOTE Frances McDormand — NORTH COUNTRY Rachel Weisz — THE CONSTANT GARDENER Michelle Williams — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN If I could, I would give the charming Catherine Keener an award just for being Catherine Keener. Alas, she won’t win here. Neither will Frances McDormand, whose film has zero buzz. Amy Adams was fantastic in Junebug, but how many academy voters saw the film? Michelle Williams had a breakthrough performance as the quietly suffering wife in Brokeback Mountain, easily shaking away memories of her stint in Dawson’s Creek, plus she had a baby with her co-star and honey-bunny Heath Ledger, which should win her some points from the romantics in the academy. But her buzz factor is low, while Rachel Weisz’s is very high for her exceptional work in The Constant Gardener. WILL WIN: Rachel Weisz SHOULD WIN: Michelle Williams
Original Screenplay Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco; story by Paul Haggis — CRASH George Clooney and Grant Heslov — GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK Woody Allen — MATCH POINT Noah Baumbach — THE SQUID AND THE WHALE Stephen Gaghan – SYRIANA I won’t waste time addressing each nominee here, because Haggis and Moresco are going to win for Crash. Voters are eager to reward the film somewhere and this category is perfect. By the way, did you guess that the other reason I decided not to “waste your time” is because I’m reaching my burnout point? Luckily, we’ve learned over the years that the point where I start getting tired of writing about the Oscars is the same point where you start getting tired of reading about it. So hopefully, this should work out nicely for both of us. WILL WIN: Crash SHOULD WIN: Crash Adapted Screenplay Larry McMurtry and Diane Ossana — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN Dan Futterman — CAPOTE Jeffrey Caine — THE CONSTANT GARDENER Josh Olson — A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Tony Kushner and Eric Roth — MUNICH Absolutely no contest here. McMurtry and Ossana did a brilliant job turning Annie Proulx’s short story into a screenplay. WILL WIN: Brokeback Mountain SHOULD WIN: Brokeback Mountain Best Foreign Language Film of the Year DON’T TELL (Italy) JOYEUX NOÈL (France) PARADISE NOW (Palestine) SOPHIE SCHOLL — THE FINAL DAYS (Germany) TSOTSI (South Africa) I didn’t see any of these, so I’m going to take a shot in the dark and pick Tsotsi, mainly because I saw a trailer for the film and it looks good. Also, the title is fun to say.
'Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit'
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT Please note that no computer-animated films were nominated. And how about a round of applause to the academy for not nominating the sub-par films Chicken Little and Madagascar. Though all three nominees are deserving, the Wallace & Gromit folks have won Best Animated Short in previous years, so they will likely win here as well. WILL WIN: Wallace & Gromit in the Case of the Were-Rabbit SHOULD WIN: Ditto Achievement in Art Direction GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE KING KONG MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA PRIDE & PREJUDICE Memoirs of a Geisha will get this as a consolation prize for being omitted in the juicy categories. King Kong should win because, holy cow, did you see the details in the re-creation of 1930s New York City? WILL WIN: Memoirs of a Geisha SHOULD WIN: King Kong Achievement in Cinematography BATMAN BEGINS BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA THE NEW WORLD The standouts here are Brokeback Mountain and The New World. The latter is the more deserving, I think, but the former was more widely seen. WILL WIN: Brokeback Mountain SHOULD WIN: The New World Achievement in Costume Design CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS PRIDE & PREJUDICE WALK THE LINE Another bone for Geisha. WILL WIN: Memoirs of a Geisha SHOULD WIN: Memoirs of a Geisha Best Documentary Feature DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM MARCH OF THE PENGUINS MURDERBALL STREET FIGHT March of the Penguins was more popular than any of the Best Picture nominees and it will win. That said, Murderball was great and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room was even better. Sadly, the real best documentary, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, didn’t even get nominated. WILL WIN: March of the Penguins SHOULD WIN: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Best Documentary Short Subject THE DEATH OF KEVIN CARTER: CASUALTY OF THE BANG BANG CLUB GOD SLEEPS IN RWANDA THE MUSHROOM CLUB A NOTE OF TRIUMPH: THE GOLDEN AGE OF NORMAN CORWIN Haven’t seen any of them, but I heard good things about God Sleeps in Rwanda. WILL WIN: You’re on your own, my friend.
'Cinderella Man'
Achievement in Film Editing CINDERELLA MAN THE CONSTANT GARDENER CRASH MUNICH WALK THE LINE My vote goes to Cinderella Man, because the editing of the fight scenes was so impressive. WILL WIN: Cinderella Man Achievement in Makeup THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE CINDERELLA MAN STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH I know less about makeup than I do about almost anything, but surely Star Wars will get at least one tech credit. WILL WIN: Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (original score) BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN THE CONSTANT GARDENER MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA MUNICH PRIDE & PREJUDICE Brokeback Mountain is the clear favorite here, but don’t count out academy favorite John Williams for Memoirs of a Geisha. Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (original song) “In the Deep” — CRASH “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” — HUSTLE & FLOW “Travelin’ Thru” — TRANSAMERICA Try to imagine a movie star standing on stage Sunday night, opening the envelope and saying, “The winner is ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp’ from Hustle & Flow.” WILL WIN: “Travelin’ Thru” from Transamerica
'War of the Worlds'
Achievement in Sound Editing KING KONG MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA WAR OF THE WORLDS I don’t think about sound editing when I see a film, so my choice of War of the Worlds comes only from a vague recollection of convincing war sounds. WILL WIN: War of the Worlds Achievement in Sound Mixing THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE KING KONG MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA WALK THE LINE WAR OF THE WORLDS Walk the Line, I guess — for the music. WILL WIN: Walk the Line Best Animated Short Film 9 BADGERED THE MOON AND THE SON: AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO ONE MAN BAND 9 is being expanded into a feature-length film for release next year. Will Win: 9 Best Live Action Short Film AUSREISSER (THE RUNAWAY) CASHBACK THE LAST FARM OUR TIME IS UP SIX SHOOTER Cashback is also being expanded to feature-length. Will Win: Cashback Achievement in Visual Effects THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE KING KONG WAR OF THE WORLDS I’m not a big Star Wars fan, but the dazzling effects in Revenge of the Sith were certainly deserving of a nomination. Regardless, the most jaw-dropping visuals of the year were in King Kong. WILL WIN: King Kong

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