Monday, January 15, 2007

Global Warming

Snow is actually falling in Chicago today, which is distracting me at least a little bit from the planet's recent impersonation of an E-Z Bake oven. It's a shallow, meaningless distraction, but I'm taking whatever I can get. So, for once, I'm not ranting about that kind of global warming. I mean Golden Global warming, the heat and hum of Hollywood awards season as it shifts into fourth gear. The mists of Oscar's inscrutable affinities should start to clear after tonight's wacky-tacky awards, but even better, we'll be treated to all kinds of sippy and slap-happy stars, Meryl Streep and Borat (surely in character) will Bring the Funny in their inevitable acceptance speeches, the TV stars will wish they were in more movies, and the movie stars will wish more people would turn off their damn TVs. Bizarre incompatibles will fumble their way through their loopy seating assignments (remember Ryan Phillippe with Shirley MacLaine last year?), and the world will grind to a halt for the approximately 8 hours it will take to congratulate Warren Beatty for work he accomplished decades ago.

In my life, a TV is sort of a computer monitor in service of my DVD player and VCR, so I've got nothing in the way of predictions and preferences in those categories, and I durn't care. Being the Bermuda Triangle of television reception also requires me to be away from my own house in order to watch the ceremony, so with florid regret, I won't be popping into ModFab's live chat. Instead, I'll be hanging out with some colleagues from work, thanking Babel for the excuse to eat sloppy burritos and sushi and couscous all at the same time, and expecting these nominees to come away with more than a champagne hangover:

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA) I'm going to go out on a limb and guess The Queen, even though most signs point toward a victory for The Departed, which deserves to win by a wide, wide margin.

BEST PICTURE (MUSICAL/COMEDY) ModFab and Nathaniel are feeling sanguine about underdog Little Miss Sunshine, but I'll be surprised if the HFPA doesn't recognize its own mirror image in the chintzy but delicious Dreamgirls. I gave every one of these nominees a B– (save the execrable Thank You for Smoking), so I barely care who wins, though my weather-vane inclines slightly toward the anarchic energies of Borat.

BEST DIRECTOR Eastwood for Iwo Jima is a dark horse worth worrying about, but I'm still guessing, and hoping, that Martin Scorsese has a safe lead. These are the two most deserving candidates, so it's hard to imagine things going too, too wrong.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA) Does anyone think Helen Mirren might win? My tea leaves tell me she is going to just eke it out over Maggie Gyllenhaal in Sherrybaby. Kidding, of course, but I'm not kidding when I say that Gyllenhaal would get my vote, unless the balloting caught me having a soft spot for the wonderful Penélope Cruz. (I know everyone's all about Mirren and Dench this year, but I don't get the fuss about either of their performances.)


BEST ACTOR (DRAMA) The HFPA seems like the right organization to go along with the Peter O'Toole renaissance. The big payoff for telecast viewers if O'Toole wins is that we'd have a royal flush of funny, funny people winning all the top acting prizes. Venus hasn't opened in Chicago yet, so I can't say how I'd feel qualitatively about an O'Toole victory, but Whitaker (my pick), Smith, and DiCaprio in The Departed already set a high bar for this race.

BEST ACTRESS (MUSICAL/COMEDY) Never mind that my favorite here was Annette Bening, to whom I am usually pretty indifferent. If you can't see that Meryl Streep has this one sewn up, take a hint from Miranda Priestly and go "bore someone else with the details of your incompetence." Meanwhile, here is the most burning question I have about this year's Globes: what does one wear to accept a trophy for Prada? Play to the rafters, Meryl.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS With any luck, Jennifer Hudson will sing her acceptance speech, since she's so much more alive when she's belting and wailing. With any real luck, Emily Blunt or Adriana Barraza would pull an upset, but while I'm hoping for that to happen, I'll also keep my fingers crossed for a tree that grows real money, an eighth day in the week, and an evacuation of American troops from Iraq.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Eddie Murphy manages the neat trick in Dreamgirls of playing a show-stopping, scene-stealing character without actually trying to steal and stop the movie. In my own mind, this gives him a slight edge over the potent and reliable Mark Wahlberg. For the Globes voters, I'm hoping he clears the serious threats posed by Jack Nicholson and even Brad Pitt.


BEST SCREENPLAY Just like in the Best Picture category, The Departed so outclasses the rest of this field that it's hard for me to understand why there is a competition, and even harder to understand why the HFPA probably won't go for it. I think it's safe to discount Little Children and Notes on a Scandal as aspirants. My instinct here tells me the same thing as in Best Picture (Drama)—that The Queen's shelf of awards is about to get a lot more crowded—but this is also Babel's best shot for a win, and presumably the HFPA doesn't want to send their leading nominee home empty-handed.

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM I still expect Pan's Labyrinth to manifest some real presence on the Oscar roster, and it will surely make a game attempt at this prize. Still, I can already hear the tinkly piano in the hotel ballroom as Clint swipes the win for Letters from Iwo Jima. Like most Americans, I haven't had any opportunity to see The Lives of Others, but among the other four, Letters would certainly be my pick.

BEST ANIMATED FILM Happy Feet, I guess, but for an organization that bestowed Best Picture awards on Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, what's with the ghettoization? Maybe, in a year where even the trailers of all the computer-animated movies made me crazy, I'm especially averse to singling out the format for special recognition. Plus, Monster House obviously won't win, even though it was better integrated and more satisfying than the two blockbusters.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE The Globes voters, bless them, are much more willing to go out on an unpredictable limb in this category than the AMPAS composers are. Maybe it's silly to predict againt Babel, since this is another promising arena for saving that picture from a possible 0-for-7 batting average. Still, I'm licking my finger, testing the wind, and sensing an upset blowing in from the East for The Painted Veil. I'd be fine with that, though a win for Clint Mansell's majestically ethereal mood music for The Fountain would make my heart leap.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG Y'all better let the girl sing and give her a blue ribbon, or her daddy will have your asses on the phone in the middle of the night. Seriously, you best know whom you're dealing with. Matthew isn't going to start it with Meryl, especially if he saw Prada, but don't think he won't knock you and Prince if his daughter loses to a limping song about penguins. A father's way, indeed.

BEST ACTOR (MUSICAL/COMEDY) I'm sorry, I keep falling asleep when I try to think about this category. I cannnnnn Yikes! It's coming on again! I'mmmm sure Sacha Baron Cohen willlllll [Blacks out]

(Image © 2006 Canal+/Miramax Films)

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Blogger tim r said...

You're not pro Dench over Mirren for her only adventurous work this decade? Can't agree with you there buddy.

1:08 PM, January 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The works Beatty produced "decades" ago (Bulworth was pretty brilliant, 1998) are being honored because they often revolutionized the filmmaking proces, be it on a production level, editing, directing, screenwriting, art-direction, design.

Beatty's groundbreaking work influenced many categories, to make for bolder, innovative, creative filmmaking.

Luckily many filmmakers who are about the age you look in your photo are better able to recognize the value of Beatty's work, no matter when it was produced,
realizing he pushed the bounderies, set by the studios.
A true movie maverick.

2:23 PM, January 15, 2007  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: I'm probably pro Dench over Mirren, but I'm pro Gyllenhaal or Cruz (or Bening or Streep or Hüller or Mol or a handful of others) over either one of them. And I actually think that being as recessive and blurry as she had to become for Iris, especially through the first half, was more difficult than her Scandal character. In fact, she never quite convinced me that Barbara could be as ferocious but stupid as she was, though I liked her in several scenes, especially all the morbid but touching grief for the cat.

@Anonymous: I take strong exception on the tepid and badly front-loaded Bulworth... which, along with Dick Tracy and Love Affair was the precise target of the barb. I don't see how anyone can value any of Beatty's creative work since Reds all that highly, and I include his adequate but unmemorable acting in Bugsy. (And a recent revisit to Shampoo did that movie few favors.)

Otherwise, of course I agree with you that Beatty was a hugely important artist and innovator, especially in his producing work. I'm not as young or as out of it as you imagine, though I can see from the wording of my entry why you think I am. What I mean is, compared to the Oscars, the Globes offer even longer and more fulsome but much less substantial tributes to their Honorary Award recipients— rambling, 15-minute tributes accompanied by all the predictable clips, and rarely capped by the kind of touching, carefully prepared, and memorable speeches you get at the Oscars. Since the Cecil B. DeMille Award doesn't seem to register very powerfully with its recipients (think of how bored Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and Shirley MacLaine have looked in recent years), and since the Globes tend to get more starry-eyed in their selections than the Academy does, I wish they'd fork that portion of the telecast over to making a stronger case for this year's filmmaking artistry, rather than offering a rote and gratuitous tribute to already well-compensated stars.

3:00 PM, January 15, 2007  

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