Karina’s Very Last-Minute, But Still Highly Opinionated Oscar Predictions (2000)
I don’t think it takes a Rhodes scholar to recognize that 2000 was not the peak year in filmmaking. Was it imminent fear of accidentally losing hours of Avid gigabytes to the millennium bug? Was it hubris after the incredible 1999 year? Or has Hollywood forgotten how to do its job? Some of the nominees remind us Hollywood has not lost the touch…but not all of them. Consult Oscar.com for the full list of nominees; I’ll just talk. “There is some strangely stiff competition in a year with not much in the way of good movies,” quoth a sage.
Original Song. Now, here’s a category that has suffered over the years…generally, the songs don’t even register when you’re watching the movie, or they blare out over credits, screeching electric guitars after a stirring period piece. This year is chock full of insane nominees – when I realized, not a single musical (unless you count Dancer in the Dark) was released this year. All these songs are just score with lyrics, always a difficult choice. When in doubt, go with the Boomer, so my randomizer chooses…..Wonder Boys’ Bob Dylan song.
Along the same musical vein, original score. In this corner, at 280 lbs. and about a zillion nominations, John Williams (The Patriot). Does anyone even remember the plot, much less the music? But Williams is just about ready to complete his Academy Awards chess set. In this corner, at 200 lbs and making some headlines, Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator. Lush, exotic, very kick ass, the first score I had purchased in ages. Wait, running up the aisle is Tan Dun’s dreamy, delicious, exotic score for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (hereafter CTHD), at 170 lbs. Will the Hollywood long-time standard bearer give up his perennial crown to a similar genre and level of artistry? Or will CTHD defeat them all by being different, exciting, and emotional, without the same epic Battle of Agincourt-style hoopla? The Academy has a tough choice here. If Steve Martin uses his Lifeline and calls me at home, I will ask him to give it to CTHD, because it’s got cellos, and I have an inordinate fondness for cellos.
I don’t want to sound like Joe Middle America, but who in the Nielsen audience gets to see any of the short subjects, or even the documentaries? I’ll tell you – no one. Tempted as I am to look up the answers in Entertainment Weekly, I will now present the awards based on title:
Documentary Feature: Who’s kidding who, here: Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. Rescuing Jewish kids in W.W.II. Can’t miss.
Documentary Short Subject: The Man On Lincoln’s Nose. The Academy loves films about itself.
Live Action Short Film: They all sound good, I’m going with Seraglio.
As for animated short film, pick the one done by Aardman Animation. Oh, there isn’t one? Then pick the Periwig-Maker.
Makeup. This is often the underestimated talent on a film, because of course, if you notice the makeup, it’s not doing its job, is it? Think Rick Baker, the man responsible for The Nutty Professor, Gorillas In The Mist, Men In Black, the Thriller video, oh and a little movie where every person on screen is wearing a prosthetic: The Grinch will take it. Don’t get me wrong, the makeup in Shadow of the Vampire was worthy of a nomination, but you can’t beat Rick.
Speaking of the Grinch, I have to say, personally, that if it doesn’t win for Art Direction, I just don’t comprehend what the hell that award is supposed to be for. Yeah yeah, Gladiator, whoopdeedoo, the artists behind Myst (no offense, Phil) could do that just as easily – that stuff in the Grinch had to be made **by hand** and it had to have engineering and balance and – come on! I am not dissing CTHD, but for the pure, glorious craft that is art direction and set dressing, The Grinch kicks booty.
The Grinch, ironically, didn’t do it for me costume wise, so I believe the Oscar for best costume should go to….uhh, well, gosh. CTHD was kinda cool, and everyone likes a period picture for costumes. But who are we kidding? All that handmade breastplating and togas and crazy wicked helmets and stuff, the award must go to Gladiator.
Ah, now we hit upon the technical sweep that is the pile of golden boys that Gladiator will most probably take home. It’s up for all the technicals, as well as for best picture, which probably means it will sweep the technicals just as Titanic did. However, I must put in my annual genuflection to Roger Deakins, passed over so many years in a row (I am still upset about Shawshank Redemption losing to that Brad Pitt movie), who shot O Brother Where Art Thou. I know OBWAT won’t win, but Roger, I love you. If Gladiator doesn’t sweep through this category, it will no doubt go to CTHD.
As for visual effects, what bi-focal wiping nincompoop nominated The Perfect Storm? Did he see a special director’s cut that I didn’t see where it looked half as good as Star Trek: The Next Generation? Or did all the nominating committee see it on video and blame their televisions? Dear heavens, people, of all the awards Gladiator deserves this the most clearly!
Editing is a tricky thing – as with makeup, if you notice it, it’s no good…unless you are doing a Snatch/Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels kind of editing dance. The nominees all had, to me, invisible editing (I didn’t see Wonder Boys) except Traffic, which frankly, if they hadn’t tinted the different locations’ film stock, I would still not understand half of the plot of that film. It’s basically the showdown between Gladiator and dark horse CTHD, because they both rely heavily on it for seamless visual effects as well as tempo and flow and action sequences. Crouching Tiger took that ill-advised 30 minute interlude, so I would have to tilt slightly toward Gladiator here. The real crime is that the one movie whose editing was far and away the best, Requiem for a Dream, was not nominated at all.
Sound editing is different than editing, in that it’s splicing live sound from shooting and adding sound effects and overlaying speech and matching the sound from take 3 to the footage from take 7…it’s highly unappreciated. I was amazed that there were only two nominees, but hey. And we all know it will be U-571.
Now sound. Sound (alone) is sound design, levels and the sweetness of the clean live tracks. All the nominees (including the Perfect Storm) had great freakin’ sound (ah post-production) but the one thing everyone remembers and loves about Cast Away was how it sounded. Remember the bullets in the water during Saving Private Ryan? Something so small but so perfect and it sticks with you, even longer than meaningful dialogue? Cast Away should win for sound, even its detractors loved the sound.
Recently, with tremendous amounts of over-confidence, I thought, “Gee, I’m a critic, shouldn’t I put my money where my mouth is and write a movie myself?” Having gone so far as to decide what work to adapt and take notes (and cast it in my head of course, the most fun of all), I realized, dang, this is some serious hard, layered, complex business. It’s not just “INT NIGHT: BERNARD’S HOUSE.” The nominees I think are strongest (and I saw every one but Wonder Boys) are the ones I saw twice, and the second time I really appreciated the depth of thought behind every word, behind every small bit of action that the actors then brought to life. These categories suddenly got very hard.
Original screenplay: Heck, they’re all good (well, Gladiator is OK, the rest are very good). Brockovich is up for Best Picture, Almost Famous is a fascinating true story, Billy Elliot is a charming tale, I don’t know how the Academy will vote. My vote goes to You Can Count On Me. Why? I never realized until that film, actually, how much every scene contributes to the story arc. YCCOM has a very slow buildup until the actual inciting incident occurs, and the reward is that much stronger. It has such economy of language while still being very natural and genuine. It’s cool. I hope I get the screenplay for Christmas.
Adapted Screenplay: I am sorry, I was unimpressed by Traffic, and Chocolat was nice but come on, it’s just a little fable. CTHD, since it was experienced through translation, should probably win in Taiwan, but here it pales before other nominees. O Brother, which I loved, is actually kind of vignettey to really win, though I am tickled that it was nominated. It did the Odyssey proud. Wonder Boys has a huge contingent behind it trying to get it seen, it is the 2000 LA Confidential, i.e. the unfilmable book, and so here it is. My guess is Wonder Boys will take the prize.
Really, does anyone think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon won’t win Best Foreign Language Film? I mean, seriously.
Supporting Actress awards always are the hardest for me. So few good roles are written for women leads, and so few actresses are willing to toe the character actor line (Wilhelmina H. Macy is far from us, my friends), it’s always kind of a “sorry you didn’t have more lines, you are a great actor” kind of prize. Of the nominees, I did not see Pollock, so I don’t know how Marcia Gay Harden was. Dench has taken home trophies for less screen time, yet I don’t think she will this year. Kate Hudson, while winsome and charming, is no acting paragon among these other nominees (I mean, my god, Frances McDormand and Judi Dench on one ticket? Give me a butterfly ballot!). McDormand is always good, but was nothing we had not seen before. My fingers are crossed for Julie Walters, who was so good and is so unknown and she was the perfect counterpoint to the dancin’ lad in Billy Elliot. I still remember Marisa Tomei’s win, so Kate might take it home.
Best Supporting Actor is a showcase for character actors. Yet here are Albert Finney and Jeff Bridges, probably 2 pages of dialogue short of Best Actor instead of Best Supporting Actor, being straight from the hip tough guys, almost, with whimsy and a steel spine, both. Bridges was underappreciated for his turn in the Contender, possibly because he wasn’t presidential enough. Finney is an old salt, who hates Hollywood, but he’s just so good. Dafoe had the showiest part, too delectable not to notice, and frankly I hope he gets it. But I think Del Toro will get it, actually. Lots of press, lots of punchy-faced photos of him, lots of credit for the watchability of Traffic. Joaquin Phoenix? Don’t vex me, sir.
Best Actor, on the other hand, was pretty much everyone who led the way in a film. Of the nominees I missed Ed Harris’ turn in Pollock, but I’m told it was great. Harris is an unlikeable actor playing an unlikeable man who paints (to many) incomprehensible paintings, so I don’t see him taking it; too much stacked against him. Geoffrey Rush, naked and crazy, now where have I seen that before? Last time he got a trophy, but he also wasn’t super filthy and creepy. Javier Bardem, the star of Before Night Falls. I’m not saying he didn’t do an OK job, he just had such an awful script and director that there is no way he could have really shone like he should have in what should have been a really great part. Russell Crowe – OK, he’s all studly and heroic and busted up about his dead leader and his wife and stuff. But Best Actor? He may take it, especially if Gladiator sweeps. Regardless of how many golden boys are serving as hat-stands in Tom Hanks’ house, Cast Away was all about him. Not reacting, not cutting away to other people talking, just him and that delectable sound design. It’s not his fault we were dissatisfied with the epilogue of his return – in fact he made it just almost work. Tom, there is a reason we love you, and Cast Away showcases it.
I liked Chocolat, but for Best Actress, I need something more than smiling mysteriously and looking maternally loving. Sorry, I have my standards. Any of the other four ladies could win and I would be perfectly content. Joan for being tough as nails, Julia for being so righteous and self-conscious, Laura for being so freakin real, and Ellen Burstyn for being, well, really really good. My guess is that the Academy will go with the safe Julia Roberts (unless there is a backlash since she has taken every other award home for this movie). If not her, Laura Linney.
What is directing? Is it casting the right people in the right script and hiring a fantastic team of superheros in t-shirts to make it all happen? Is it coaxing extraordinary performances out of people in the midst of impossible shooting situations? Is it being a control freak and perfecting the technical aspects of a film and trusting that the actors will hold up their part of the deal by being the emotional aspect? Who wins? The juggler, the wrangler, the artist, or the storyteller? This is a difficult category, not just because Steven Soderbergh splits his own vote. Each director performed a Best Director-style feat on his movie. Ang Lee, frankly, deserves it even more so for all the amazing stuff he has done in the past that has not been noticed, so if they asked me I would say him. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the Academy will go the way it always has and give it to Ridley Scott for Gladiator, so they can give the Best Picture prize to…
Erin Brockovich? Maybe. CTHD? Possibly, but if it wins (if! ha!) Best Foreign Language Film, it may not. Traffic? Ick, I hope not. Certainly not Chocolat. But I think if Gladiator takes director, Brockovich will take Picture, or vice versa. I think Erin Brockovich is more worthy of Best Picture, and Scott more worthy of Best Director in this scenario because of the relative merits of storytelling, special effects, acting, and design, versus the damning elements of blockbuster, Joaquin Phoenix, Julia’s hooters, and the Soderbergh effect. But something related to Soderbergh will get one of these top prizes, mark my words.
See you Sunday night!