Oscar Predictions for 2007

With the Oscars looming ahead on Sunday, February 25, it's that dead zone period in the theaters when all the distributors dump their worst crapola to avoid competing with their Oscar hopefuls. Just a cursory glance at such offerings as Because I Said So, Epic Movie,and Norbit should be sufficent warning about what's going on here. Wise viewers in turn, should avoid the new releases and use February as a time to catch up with the nominees.

John Nesbit — 2/9/07

Academy Awards 2007


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Every year I get pissed off at a number of Academy Awards selections, often before the final winners are announced because notable outstanding films or performances are invariably snubbed from receiving a nomination. And then there are the inevitable ludicrous winners that require a real stretch to justify. This has become so commonplace that Oscar bashing has become brainless cliché—Driving Miss Daisy over non-nominated Do the Right Thing, Dances with Wolves taking the politically top prize over Goodfellas, a total snub of Hoop Dreams, and Gladiator beating out any of the other nominees in 2000—all on the short list.

But each year I continue to follow the horse race, hoping that the Academy just once might actually do the right thing and recognize its best work. I thought that last year offered a glimmer of hope, and the list of winners was going pretty much as I anticipated until it all came Crashing down with its Best Picture going to the weakest nominee. Damn Academy—they just can't get them all correct. As Jon Stewart noticed last year for lifetime Oscar wins: Three Six Mafia has one—Martin Scorsese has none.

So here we go again. The Academy actually surprised me with a list of nominees that doesn't automatically grate on the senses—especially since they thankfully didn't slot Dreamgirls as a potential Best Picture. Following are my early predictions, not based on any insider information, nor can I honestly go on my own observations since I've not been able to see some of the documentaries, short subjects, or foreign films that have only screened for New Yorkers and Angelinos.

2007 Oscar Predictions
Babel

Best Picture
Four of the nominees I've named on my Best of 2006 list, so I'm generally OK with any of those picks. I'd vote for The Departed but would be extremely happy to see Little Miss Sunshine win the award; however, I feel that both remain long shots. Marty's film is too bloody for Academy taste while Dayton/Faris' indie film is too quirky for mainstream Hollywood. That means a real toss up between the remaining three candidates—none has moved significantly ahead during the pre-Oscar award season.

The Queen is likely to win the BAFTA prize for top picture while Letters from Iwo Jima took top honors with the National Board of Review and weirdly won Best Foreign Language Film from the Golden Globes. But since I wouldn't barf if either of these films took the top prize, I fully expect the Academy to once again tout its weakest nominee to make some kind of "political" statement about the connectedness of the world's cultures. So look for the producers of Babel to make the final acceptance speech of the evening.
Forrest Whitaker: The Last King of Scotland
Best Actor
One of the more certain winners should be Forrest Whitaker's scary and entertaining portrait of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; he has swept virtually all the major awards leading up to the Oscars. The Academy ignored Leonardo DiCaprio's stronger performance (likely thinking The Departed was strictly ensemble work), so Peter O'Toole looms as the only potential upset threat with his "dirty old man" characterization in Venus. I'd debate between O'Toole and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) for their more nuanced and very human roles, but the Academy likes flash. So Whitaker is a near certain bet to win.
Helen Mirren: The Queen
Best Actress
None of the five nominees here was a surprise, given the nominees gaining the most attention throughout the awards season. I'd vote for Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) for her subtle portrayal of a heavily repressed and dangerous lesbian teacher, but the Academy is certain to name Helen Mirren for her spot on portrait of Queen Elizabeth II since she's dominated the pre-Oscar race. This is one award you can go to the bank with.
Eddie Murphy: Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actor
I was pleased to see Jackie Earle Haley get a nomination for his challenged pedophile in the overlooked Little Children, and kudos to the Academy for naming Mark Wahlberg's superior performance in The Departed over Jack Nicholson's more ballyhooed supporting work. I'd vote for Wahlberg, but given the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes results you can expect Dreamgirls' Eddie Murphy to take this prize.

Jennifer Hudson: Dreamgirls Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) would all be worthy winners; however, Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) is almost as much a lock as Helen Mirren is for Best Actress. This is the tearjerker story that Hollywood eats up—a real life story of the unknown growing up to be a huge success with American Idol also ran receiving one of the industry's top honors. You already know the acceptance speech to come and anticipate the tears to flow in buckets.
Martin Scorsese: The Departed Best Director
Without a single film dominating the landscape, Martin Scorsese finally gets his chance to gain his first Oscar gold for The Departed. This is a prime year for the awards for Best Picture and Best Director to be split. Call this an unofficial lifetime achievement award to make up for snubs in other years when Scorsese clearly crafted the year's finest movie—an average of one per decade: Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990).
Little Miss Sunshine Original Screenplay
Writing awards have recently been the domain for the really good independent films that the Academy can't bring themselves to vote for in the more visible mainstream categories, which makes me think that indie audience appeal will win the day here for Little Miss Sunshine in a close call over The Queen and Babel. Since Pan's Labyrinth contains subtitles, Academy voters will honor it in another category.
The Departed Adapted Screenplay
Neither Little Children nor Children of Men received the number of nominations required to win this award; besides, too many Academy members will confuse these two because of the similarities in their titles. Scratch Borat as well since they’ll never recognize an outrageous comedy for this category. That leaves the very literate but little seen Notes on a Scandal to compete with the much wider viewed The Departed. Go with William Monahan’s intelligent, witty, and tightly constructed work here.
Pan's Labyrinth Foreign Language Film
I've only seen two of the nominees and liked Deepa Mehta's Water a great deal. But Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labrinth is a pure masterpiece that is destined to stand up for decades. I'll be shocked if the vote comes out otherwise.
Al Gore: An Inconvenient Truth Documentary Feature
I've not seen My Country My Country or Iraq in Fragments yet, so I could be totally off in this category. But while I'd personally debate between voting Jesus Camp or Deliver Us from Evil, I'll be very surprised if the Academy doesn't go for An Inconvenient Truth due to its role in making global warming more visible on the media and political scene. Besides, honoring Al Gore for his slide show is another way for the Academy to give President Bush a backhanded slap—a virtual Dreamgirls plot twist where the "loser" of the 2000 election goes on to much greater glory and adulation than the initial victor.
 


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