It hasn’t been a great year for cinema, but some of the year’s more worthy pictures did manage to get on the Oscar ballots. Most of the nominated films are good to very good, but few are great.
Of the best picture nominees, only Clint Eastwood’s monumental epic war film “Letters from Iwa Jima” qualifies as a masterpiece. It has the far more emotional punch of any of the nominated films, and it may even be one of the decade’s best. But it has sub-titles, so of all the nominated films, it’s the least likely to win best picture. Only a half a dozen films with sub-titles have been nominated and none have won. For the same reason, “ Babel,” which was intellectually ambitious but emotionally sterile, will also lose, despite its Golden Globe wins.
‘”The Departed”” does not rank with director, Martin Scorsese’s best or most personal works, but it was his highest grossing and most popular film. Also, he is long overdue for an award, so the film has an excellent chance of winning best picture. Even if his picture loses, Scorsese will probably finally take home a best director award (but where’s David Lynch?)
“The Queen” is just a showcase for Helen Mirren’s exquisite acting, but there are more Oscar voters that are actors than directors, so it has a shot of winning.
“Little Miss Sunshine” will be honored for its great script, but it will not win best picture. When was the last time a comedy won for best picture?
So the best picture award will probably either go to “The Departed “or “The Queen,” with a slight nod to “The Departed.”
The best actor category combines three great actors with two big brand name stars. DiCaprio and Smith were fine in their roles, but they are clearly outclassed by their competitors.
They won’t win unless the academy votes are determined by box office alone. (Ed Norton or Aaron Eckhart should have been nominated instead).
Ryan Gosling gave one of the year’s finest and edgiest performances in “Half Nelson.” But his role is too morally ambiguous for conservative Oscar voters, and I don’t think they will honor someone playing a crack addicted high school teacher.
Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Venus” was splendid. But he already had his share of the Oscar glory, and he’s not exactly in his prime, so he’s a dark horse choice.
That leaves Forest Whitaker. He’s already won many awards, and his performance is one of the few that completely carries the film. So the best actor should be a one horse race.
Most of this year’s best performances were delivered by women in modestly budgeted films. In contrast to last year, the Oscar choices for best actress are uniformly superb. Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Kate Winslet are all award worthy, but Cruz’s and Mirren's performance was just a little bit better than the rest. But Mirren was in a much more popular film, and she has won more awards
Even though “An Inconvenient Truth” is basically a very good PowerPoint presentation disguised as a film, it has best documentary all sewn up.
But, it will also be great to see Ennio Morricone finally get his justly deserved lifetime achievement award, and hopefully the great minimalist composer, Philip Glass will be rewarded for his chilling score for “Notes on a Scandal.”
In closing I have to say that Maggie Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Ed Norton, and Aaron Eckhart all gave top notch performances this year that equaled or surpassed many of the Oscar nominees. They were robbed.
Will win: The Queen or The Departed
Should win: Letters from Iwa Jima
Will win: Martin Scorsese
Should win: Clint Eastwood
Will and should win: Forest Whitaker
Will win: Helen Mirren
Should win: Helen Mirren or Penelope Cruz
Best actor in a supporting role
Will win: Eddie Murphy or Alan Arkin
Should win: Jackie Earle Haley
Best actress in a supporting role
Will win: Jennifer Hudson or Cate Blanchett
Should win: Cate Blanchett or Abigail Breslin
Vittorio Carli teaches at Moraine Valley Community College, Richard J. Daley College, and Morton College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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