The Theory of Chaos

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Predict-a-palooza 2006

For the last 37 years, my old Theatre Lit professor, Dr. Richard Hansen, has circulated a list of predictions for the Academy Awards. He also, by virtue of not being dead, allows me to be secure that there’s someone out there even daffier for Oscar than I am. I spread this tradition in his honor, so you all can see why I think things are going to unfold a certain way. And tomorrow we can discuss why I was so, so terribly wrong.

Here’s how it works – you project a 1st and 2nd likely winner in every competitive category. If your first choice wins, it’s worth 15 points. 10 points for 2nd choices. Dr. Hansen sets 240 total points as the minimum score to not feel shame for the next few months. I have occasionally cleared this threshold.


Predictions are a tricky business, because psychoanalyzing the collective minds of thousands of Academy voters – reflecting filmmakers, technicians, and senile elderly character actors – is a rube’s game. You can look to recent years for voting trends, but every year creates its own paradigm. The wide spread of nominations this year makes a
Lord of the Rings-style juggernaut numerically impossible, and there’s few categories that indicate any kind of a lock, save Helen Mirren for Best Actress.

Still, I’m a-diving in. I’ll offer the occasional rationale along the way.


Best Picture

1.
The Departed
2.
Babel

I nearly picked
Babel, because if you draw a semantic distinction between “film” and movie”, Babel is clearly the high-minded “film”, while Scorsese’s orgy of corruption is a “movie” in all its raucous glory. However, Babel’s thematic self-importance might be too familiar after Crash’s surprise win last year, and it did not receive such universal acclaim stateside as did The Departed. Those who love it LOVE it at full volume, but intensity of passion doesn’t help in this final race, it’s about numbers.

Best Director

1. Martin Scorsese,
The Departed
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu,
Babel

With the lack of a clear front-runner, the one storyline print babblers have been able to latch onto has been Scorsese’s best opportunity in his career to take home a much-deserved statue. I wouldn’t say it’s projected inevitability for him, but it’s given him a solid foundation. In a way he might finally be a little less cool for being officially gilded, but damn it, the man’s earned it a half-dozen times over.


Best Actor

1. Forest Whitaker,
The Last King of Scotland
2. Peter O’Toole,
Venus

Here we see the benefit of timing. While O’Toole has age and sympathy and a tailor-made role on his side, by the time
Venus started catching on to audiences, Whitaker’s performance in The Last King of Scotland had already had Oscar buzz to itself for well over a month. It’s hard to derail a first impression that strong, and part of what people have admired so about the performance is that it’s one of those irreplaceable marriages of actor to role, you can never imagine the movie as good without Whitaker, and you can never imagine Whitaker being this good without the role. It will be a shame for O’Toole to once again play Oscar bridesmaid if this is indeed his fate.

Best Actress

1. Helen Mirren,
The Queen
2. Meryl Streep,
The Devil Wears Prada

Mirren’s win is as close to a sure thing as it gets these days, although should Hell freeze over, I’m betting on
Prada’s box-office visibility and the idea that, sooner or later, voters are going to remember that for all her nominations, no one’s actually given Madam Meryl and Oscar in decades.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Eddie Murphy,
Dreamgirls
2. Alan Arkin,
Little Miss Sunshine

Norbit
is a living reminder that voters may never have this chance to honor Eddie Murphy for something tasteful again. Arkin makes a solid backup because of the general warmth for Little Miss Sunshine and his esteemed resume – actors make up the largest voting bloc in the Academy and he’s reached “beloved” status among them by now.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Rinko Kikuchi,
Babel
2. Abigail Breslin,
Little Miss Sunshine

I think Jennifer Hudson’s stock has indeed plummeted this far. The Academy showed a distinct coolness to
Dreamgirls by shutting it out of the top categories, and Kikuchi’s storyline in Babel is the most widely-loved – she’s been tireless with publicity as well, and can just as easily win the votes of people who like anointing a new face as Hudson could have. I’m also placing a dark horse bet on Breslin, who is the impish heart of Sunshine, and there is ample precedent for juvenile actors in this category, including Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon and Anna Paquin in The Piano.

Best Screenplay – Adapted

1. William Monahan,
The Departed
2. Todd Field & Tom Perrotta,
Little Children

Monahan is one of the best working today, and his handling of
The Departed’s devilishly twisty plot is as satisfying as the alpha male bon mots he coins.

Best Screenplay – Original

1. Michael Arndt,
Little Miss Sunshine
2. Guillermo Arriaga,
Babel

Voters who loved
Sunshine should coalesce around this award as they often do when it comes to overachieving independent films. In the scenario of a sweep for Babel, though, this category comes back into play.

Best Animated Feature Film

1.
Happy Feet
2.
Cars

It’s a risk to bet against Pixar, I know, but
Happy Feet may benefit from being well-promoted, fresher in the memory, and one of the more unique movies of the year.

Best Art Direction

1.
Dreamgirls
2.
Pan’s Labyrinth

The design and spectacle of
Dreamgirls seem likely to earn some recognition, this would be a place to do it, though Pan’s rich visuals merit consideration.

Best Cinematography

1.
Children of Men
2.
Pan’s Labyrinth

Emmanuel Lubezki’s extraordinary camerawork in
Children of Men will, tragically, be the only element of this amazing film to be honored tonight. Given the way it supported and colored-in the whole mood and energy of Alfonso Cuarón’s work, it’s well-deserved. In my mind the film deserved even more.

Best Costume Design

1.
Dreamgirls
2.
The Devil Wears Prada

Voters love a big show in the costume category – never underestimate the power of sequins.


Best Documentary Feature

1.
An Inconvenient Truth
2.
My Country, My Country

Technically speaking, if
An Inconvenient Truth wins, Al Gore will not get an Oscar, it will go to the director, Davis Guggenheim. I doubt most voters are making so fine a distinction. A decade ago the documentary feature category was infamous for shunning documentaries that committed the crime of being seen by audiences, now it’s gone far in the opposite direction, angling to financially-popular crossovers like Bowling for Columbine and March of the Penguins. Expect that trend to continue.

Best Documentary Short

1.
Recycled Life
2.
Two Hands

This is one of those categories which is, even for a junkie like me, essentially a crapshoot. I know almost nothing about the nominees, so I try to simply glean from title, what I can learn about subject matter, and any famous names that might be connected.


Best Film Editing

1.
Babel
2.
The Departed

Stephen Mirrione, co-editor of
Babel, previously won for Traffic, and again takes on the difficult task of meshing different stories and moods, and triumphs. Thelma Schoonmaker’s legend, and her long history with Scorsese, may prove to be a difference-maker, but since I’m calling Best Picture for The Departed and Schoonmaker won recently for The Aviator, I’m deferring to Oscar’s recent habit of spreading it around.

Best Foreign-Language Film

1.
Pan’s Labyrinth
2.
After the Wedding

Voters should flock to this chance to honor Guillermo Del Toro’s mesmerizing blend of horror and fantasy.


Best Makeup

1.
Pan’s Labyrinth
2.
Apocalypto

Ditto here, the old-fashioned craft of makeup design is put to loving use in the various creatures existing in Ofelia’s private world in
Labyrinth.

Best Original Score

1.
The Queen
2.
Notes on a Scandal

The Queen
’s tasteful Continental subtlety out-duels the minimalist pummeling of Phillip Glass in a close one.

Best Original Song

1. “Listen”,
Dreamgirls
2. “Our Town”,
Cars

Latter-day affection for Randy Newman boosts
Cars’s chances, but the opportunity to award a song from a real musical rather than a pop tune grafted into a straight movie should be hard to resist.

Best Short Film – Animated

1.
The Little Matchgirl
2. Lifted

Crapshoot.


Best Short Film – Live Action

1.
West Bank Story
2.
Helmer & Son

Crapshoot.


Best Sound Editing
1. Blood Diamond
2.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Since the whole body of voters picks winners after specialists have prepared the nominations, the sound awards usually go to the loudest movies regardless of technique. But I think there may be just enough awareness of the greater difficulties in creating a more natural sound canvas for a chaotic story like
Blood Diamond, as opposed to the anything-goes clanking mayhem of Pirates

Best Sound Mixing

1.
Dreamgirls
2.
Blood Diamond

The quality and energy of the musical numbers should carry
Dreamgirls here.

Best Visual Effects

1.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
2.
Superman

All about the Kraken.


Update: I scored 220 in what must be considered a pretty off year for me, although I continued my streak of besting dear Dr. Hansen, who came in at 215. Kudos to my sister, who won our household with 255. And kudos to Marty, because, you know...

More thoughts tomorrow, after my wine headache passes.

1 Comments:

  • Coppola, Lucas, and Spielberg,
    "The original Three Amigos" presenting Martin Scorsese with the Best Director? Does life get any better than this? Actually, yes it does, when "The Departed" is named Best Picture! Sometimes it's just a shot away. And good for Monaghan. He played the tuba, and out came his just reward. And the tip of the hat to Robert Bolt was a classy play. I loved Ken Watanabe's bemused expression during Ennio Morricone's acceptance speech. Only Michael Mann would put Tony Montana in an "America on Film" montage. And I mean that as a compliment. But just seeing four of the greatest directors of all time on the same stage made me think that they should call up that dude from "Perfume" to bottle their combined essences and sell it to filmmakers as "Seventies Sauce". Frustrated filmmaker: "This script sucks. Can we get Mamet or Kushner for a rewrite?" "They're not available, but I did bring that bottle of Seventies Sauce." "Excellent." Bruce Campbell comes into frame by a crackling fireplace, bottle in hand. "Seventies Sauce, if you've never had it at all...people just seem to know." And speaking of esoteric condiment analogies, if Ellen was a salsa, she'd be "mild". But still, what a year.

    By Anonymous Michael De Luca, at 11:36 AM  

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