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Published: 2007-02-18 - 10:03:00
Movies : Editorials

2006 Academy Awards - Oscar Predictions and Predilections

By Joe Lozito
Every year, the Oscar nominations provoke the same reaction from me. It's a strange mixture of apathy ("I could care less, it's all political") and passion ("Oh, I can't believe they nominated that!"). I've never been one for making Oscar predictions, but when the event actually airs I frequently find myself thinking "I totally called that". This year marks a first for me; I'm going to make my Oscar picks before the telecast and see how it turns out.

Keep in mind, while I've seen almost all of the contenders, my knowledge doesn't extend to the animated short subjects, nor am I trained in sound mixing or costuming. Still, I knows what I likes.

So, without further ado, here goes...

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

I haven't seen O'Toole in "Venus", but it's nice to see the ol' boy up there. There's been a lot of talk about the actor getting the award simply because he's getting on in years, but I don't see that happening. O'Toole is already much-recognized as one of the best; no need for a pity-party. Gosling was fantastic in "Half Nelson", but the film's too small and too dark for the Academy. Smith's fine, nomination-worthy performance in "Happyness" is hopefully the first of many solid roles for the actor, but this isn't his year. As for DiCaprio in "Blood Diamond"? Please. The Academy's been kissing up to him ever since they snubbed him for "Titanic". Not this year, Leo.

The smart money's on Whitaker whose searing, flawless portrayal of Idi Amin is the stuff Oscars were made for.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"
Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

It's great to see Alan Arkin getting a nod for his performance in "Sunshine" and Jackie Earle Haley's unapologetic turn in "Children" is the best part of that film. Wahlberg's nomination is a surprise. With his work in "Invincible" this year, he's proven to be a solid actor with real chops, but he could have played that "Departed" role in his sleep.

This year comes down to Murphy and Hounsou. Both outstanding performances for very different reasons. The always-reliable Hounsou's relentless intensity powers "Diamond" like a diesel engine without ever getting caught in the "noble Black man" cliche. Of course, Murphy's the sentimental favorite. After a career of ups and downs, the actor turns in a performance of heretofore unseen depth and sensitivity. His portrayal of James "Thunder" Early seems to dig into the depths of everything Murphy has been through in his storied career. Give it to Eddie.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Now, faithful readers will know I'll give every award I can to "Volver". I'm more than a little upset that this is its only nomination this year. No Best Picture? No Best Screenplay? Oversights like these are why I stopped caring about the Oscars. And, while I'd love to see Cruz go home with a statue for her work, Mirren's a lock for this one. I haven't seen Dench in "Scandal", but I'm sure she's marvelous, and Streep's nomination for her wonderfully biting role in "Prada" was almost a gimme; She was basically saying "See? I still got it." I'm not sure what Winslet (who I usually love) or "Children" are doing up here. But enough about that, just give Mirren the award already.

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Is there any way to also give Helen Mirren this award? Nah, I guess that wouldn't be fair. I didn't see Blanchett in "Scandal", but I would have nominated her for "The Good German". It's nice to see Little Miss Breslin getting some recognition, but I get the feeling that's more of a novelty than a serious contender. It's definitely possible the Academy will give it to one of the "Babel" actresses. I suppose, if that movie has to win something, it can be Supporting Actress. But, do I hear "Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson" anyone?

ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
"Dreamgirls"
"The Good Shepherd"
"Pan's Labyrinth"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
"The Prestige"

You're going to get sick of me saying this but...give it to "Pan's".

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
"The Black Dahlia"
"Children of Men"
"The Illusionist"
"Pan's Labyrinth"
"The Prestige"

I'm not sure "Pan's" will pull this one off. Both "magician movies" are serious contenders. I'd like to see "Children of Men" get it.

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
"Curse of the Golden Flower"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Dreamgirls"
"Marie Antoinette"
"The Queen"

While "Prada" seems the obvious choice, there's nothing up here to compare with the parade of colorful frocks in "Golden Flower".

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
"Babel"
"Blood Diamond"
"Children of Men"
"The Departed"
"United 93"

This is down to "Children" and "United 93" for me. There's nothing in the other three contenders that I found particularly stunning from an editing standpoint. While I'd like to see "Children" win, give this one to "United".

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
"Apocalypto"
"Click"
"Pan's Labyrinth"

I'm sorry, am I reading this right? "Click"? Are we talking about Adam Sandler's "Click"? Talk about padding. Anyway, as much as I liked all the lip and ear piercings in Gibson's little passion project, I still can't get the "Pale Man" out of my head from "Pan's". Give it to them.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES
(ORIGINAL SCORE)

"Babel"
"The Good German"
"Notes on a Scandal"
"Pan's Labyrinth"
"The Queen"

Don't worry, I'm not pushing "Pan's" for this one too. I haven't seen "Notes", but there's nothing in particular about "The Queen" or "German" that jumps out at me. I'd give this one to "Babel".

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES
(ORIGINAL SONG)

"I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth", Melissa Etheridge
"Listen" from "Dreamgirls", Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven
"Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls", Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett
"Our Town" from "Cars", Randy Newman
"Patience" from "Dreamgirls", Henry Krieger and Willie Reale

I guess the question is which "Dreamgirls" contender to choose. I'm going to say "Listen"...for no particular reason.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
"Apocalypto"
"Blood Diamond"
"Flags of Our Fathers"
"Letters From Iwo Jima"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

I definitely want to see Clint walk home with something, so I'm going to give him this one for "Iwo Jima".

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
"Apocalypto"
"Blood Diamond"
"Dreamgirls"
"Flags of Our Fathers"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

This could actually go to Mel, but let's give it to "Dreamgirls".

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
"Poseidon"
"Superman Returns"

I'm going to ignore that the other two nominees are up there and give it to "Superman".

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR
"Cars"
"Happy Feet"
"Monster House"

Oh brother. Just give it to the penguins and get it over with.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
"Deliver Us From Evil"
"An Inconvenient Truth"
"Iraq in Fragments"
"Jesus Camp"
"My Country, My Country."

Academy Award Winner Al Gore. Come on, let this guy win something.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
"After the Wedding"
"Days of Glory (Indigenes)"
"The Lives of Others"
"Pan's Labyrinth"
"Water"

Duh.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
"Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
"Children of Men"
"The Departed"
"Little Children"
"Notes on a Scandal"

Wow, "Borat" for Adapted Screenplay, eh? The Academy is really trying to shake off that stodgy reputation anyway they can. This might be the one that "Scandal" pulls off, but if "The Departed" gets it, it's definitely not winning Best Picture. I'll say "Departed" gets this one.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
"Babel"
"Letters From Iwo Jima"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"Pan's Labyrinth"
"The Queen"

The tradition is for the real Best Picture winner to get the Screenplay award instead. So I'm going give this to "Iwo Jima" since I don't see it walking home with Best Picture.

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Paul Greengrass, "United 93"

I know, I know. Every year it's the same thing: will they give it to Scorsese. I can't think of a reason he doesn't deserve it any more than the rest of the nominees. So, ok Marty. At long last, here ya go.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
"Babel"
"The Departed"
"Letters From Iwo Jima"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"The Queen"

First off, this year marks one of the tightest Best Picture races I can remember. There's really no clear winner here, and with "Sunshine" racking up surprising awards left and right, it's a classic Dark Horse candidate.

Secondly, I couldn't be happier that three of my "High 5s" are up there ("Letters", "Sunshine" and "The Queen"). But I've just about had it with all the hype over "Babel". It's simply not that good of a movie, people. Come on! Yes, it features some fine performances, but it's bloated, self-important and amounts to very little in the end. None of that, however, would stop it from winning Best Picture since the Academy voters, like many in the audience, may feel that they're supposed to like it. If "Babel" wins, I'm turning the Oscars off (oh great, it's the last award).

Of these five, I'd give the award to "Iwo Jima", but I find it hard to believe the Academy will not only honor Clint again, but also give its highest honor to a Japanese-language film with definite thoughts about war (see my Best Screenplay pick). Since I don't see "The Queen" walking home with the trophy and Marty getting Best Director is enough for "The Departed", that leaves me with, off all things, "Little Miss Sunshine". Ok, I could live with that.

More information and details available on Oscar.com.

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