Okay, as promised, let's take a look at the Academy Awards, which will be televised beginning Sunday night at 8:00 and ending sometime after the tulips bloom around my mailbox (it's 30 degrees with 45 mph gusts of wind today, but somehow, some way, the schools opened on time. Such courage in the face of adversity). But first, please bear with me as I dispose of a few obligatory cheap shots to clear my head. I read where Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres said she will be wearing a variety of tuxedoes during the show; what are the chances that one of them will be a NASA jumpsuit with a diaper on the outside? What's the over-under on how many times Britney Spears checks in and out of rehab during the broadcast? Finally, will there be a special tribute to Anna Nicole Smith? No? You mean to tell me that Academy will ignore the decidedly brief but indisputably searing genius of her performances in Skyscraper, To the Limit and the Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult? Okay, seriously, when they show the pictures and video of all the stars who died in the last year, will she be included, and if so, how will the crowd react? To me, this is much more suspenseful than any of the awards. Honestly, I don't think that DeGeneres would have made any jokes about her, but the judge in the matter of Anna Nicole's burial will prove to be too irresistible a target to pass up.
So what about the movies? Once again, just like last year, I only saw one of them (not counting the nominees in the best animated feature; I saw two of those in the theater with my kids). Last year, it was Crash, which won Best Picture; this year, it was Little Miss Sunshine, which I reviewed recently. Crash offered a very entertaining treatment of the "disparate narratives intricately woven together by the end" formula while LMS spun an offbeat remix of the "roadtrip begets life lessons" recipe. I liked it, but how can I so easily dismiss the other nominees? Just watch me.
Babel is a sort of Crash gone international, with its showy multiple languages and exotic locations and its high and mighty Biblical title. But just as National Lampoon's European Vacation didn't quite capture the magic of the domestic Vacation, Babel will fall short of the Oscar. I do think we will hear several different pronunciations of the title (babble, bayble, bab-EL) and numerous phrases of foreign languages in acceptance speeches delivered pretentiously by non-native speakers who win other awards for this film. And any day now I expect to see a YouTube mashup of this movie with some Anthony Perkins footage called Psychobabel
The Queen squeezed into the nominations after the Academy loosened the requirements of the Mandatory Biopic Rule (see Ray, Capote, A Beautiful Mind, etc), and because Rocky Balboa was released too late for consideration, but I think the title confused the voters because the movie is, in fact, about a queen. Much too literal. Voters prefer a title like Half Nelson or The Last King of Scotland, something that confuses them so they can spend hours speculating about its "real" meaning. Letters from Iwo Jima is actually a mistaken nomination. In a hurry to fulfill its contractual obligation to put a Clint Eastwood movie on the ballot, the nominating committee wrote down "that Iwo Jima movie" and got this one instead of Flags of Our Fathers. And I'll go along with most of the experts, who are saying that the violence at the end of The Departed will be too much for the Academy to tolerate, but they will make it up to Scorsese by finally giving him a Best Director Oscar.
Scorsese is a pretty easy call because Eastwood has gotten more than his just due, Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) are first time nominees, and Stephen Frears (The Queen) is ready to be anointed the Best Director never to have won an Oscar (Dirty Pretty Things, Mrs. Henderson Presents, High Fidelity, The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette - this guy is good and has been for a long time).
Okay, Best Actor. Tough, tough call. Sentimental pick for eight-time bridesmaid Peter O'Toole or the equally gifted tour de force that is Forest Whitaker? O'Toole was a riot in a recent Daily Show appearance even as he seemed to have no idea where he was, and I vividly remember every performance I have seen from Whitaker, going back to The Color of Money ("I never made that shot in my life!"), the Crying Game (there's another part of that movie I also vividly remember, no matter how hard I try to forget it), and of course, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (by the way, the answer to yesterday's trivia question is Sean Penn, duh, and Nicolas Cage, credited as Nicolas Coppola). Ryan Gosling needs to grow up into Ryan Goose before he gets serious consideration, Leonardo DiCaprio's two previous nominations wilt against O'Toole's slate and ditto for Will Smith's one. I'll say the Academy stays sentimental here and gives the award to O'Toole, whose acceptance speech will be hilariously profane but unbleeped by censors because it will also be largely unintelligible.
Best Actress? Wow, talk about your heavyweight catfight slugfest! Twenty nine total previous nominations with Meryl Streep contributing the lion's share of 14. Throw in three Brits (and what was wrong with Maggie Smith in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?) and the hotter than habanero Penelope Cruz, and now you've got an international coalition we can all really get behind. Toss out Streep because this was more of a comedic role (and lets face it, she's no Marisa Tomei), Cruz because it's her first nomination, and Judi Dench because she won already for playing the Queen of England in Shakespeare in Love. That leaves Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet. Umm, I have an irrational hatred of Titanic (sort of a chicken-egg situation involving Celine Dion), so it looks like it's Mirren.
Okay, doggedly pressing onward to the finish. Best Supporting Actor. Marky Mark Wahlberg? Only if he agrees to accept the award after performing live in a reunion with the Funky Bunch. Eddie Murphy? Only if he agrees to sing Party All the Time in his acceptance speech. Djimon Hounsou? I think it's more likely that the Academy would reward industry veteran Pokemon first. Jackie Earle Haley? 27 years after Breaking Away and 31 after Bad News Bears, and a 13-year hiatus that included jobs as a limousine driver, furniture refinisher, security officer and pizza deliverer, I would love to see this happen. But I think this one goes to Alan Arkin because why wouldn't you vote for a heroin-addicted, porn-reading grandfather who teaches his preteen granddaughter a striptease routine for her beauty competition? (Oops, I think I gave away some plot there) This one is something of a lifetime achievement award as well. If you don't know why, it's worth your time to go rent The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, Wait Until Dark, Catch-22, The In-Laws, and Glengarry Glen Ross. This guy has gotten it done.
Finally, Best Supporting Actress. Again this year, several actresses I have never heard of. Rinko Kikuchi? Sorry, I am better acquainted with the work of Officer Andy Renko of the Hill Street Precinct. Adriana Barraza? A quick Google Images search (best conducted with at least Moderate SafeSearch levels) reveals that she's no Adrienne Barbeau. Abigail Breslin? Liked the movie, loved her performance, but if she wins, she'll do that screaming thing and then probably thank her lawyers like Halle Berry, so, no. Cate Blanchett? She just won for The Aviator two years ago, who does she think she is, Tom Hanks? So that leaves Jennifer Hudson, in the Dreamgirls role I thought would go to last year's American Idol contestant, Mandisa. Somewhere Jennifer Holliday is weeping.
If it clocks in at less than four hours, that will still be less time than American Idol was on this week. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. And to give credit where it is due, the title of today's post comes from the commenter occasionally known as Andrew from Mandrew. Have a nice weekend.