Film-O-Rama: 2008 There Will Be Oscars – Our Predictions


There will be blood.

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The breaking news unveiled during the BAFTA ceremony, claiming that the writer’s strike is coming to an end, made showbiz addicts and the multiple international entertainment-related industries breathing in relief. The Oscars organizers’ mantra, repeated ceaselessly during the past few weeks, adapted the title of one of this year’s favourite hopeful for the awards into a rotund “There will be Oscars”, and is finally turning into reality.

It would have been a shame that the mother of all award ceremonies had to be cancelled, as rarely in recent times has Hollywood had so much to celebrate. 2007’s movie harvest has been exceptional, making the competition to be part of the exclusive group of chosen Academy nominees rather brutal and leaving some strong contenders undeservedly in the way. However, right after that tough battle to be among the nominations, this year’s awards are shaping itself quite clearly.

After the jump, we invoke the spirit of black and white gone stars and the professional help of renowned clairvoyants and futurists to help us explore through the dark fog of show business in order to guess who’s going to be a winner.

1-THE SNUBS

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

In the face of such steep competition, there have been many casualties who would have deserved to fare much better. The most controversial absences took place in the always mysterious foreign language category, where the favourites weren’t even pre-selected among the final nine. (Romanian “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” winner in Cannes and our top movie of last year, ex-aequo with the Coen’s latest opus was left out; as it was the French selection “Persepolis”, although this one appeared as a nominee as best animated feature).

Also in the best animated feature neither “The Simpsons”, nor “Beowulf” obtained a nomination, unfairly losing to “Surf’s up”. Critics and audiences favourites like “Zodiac” or “Hairspray” and Denzel Washington’s efforts both as an actor in “American Gangster” and as director of “The Great Debaters” were left with no reward.

But the two most painful snubs have been “Lust, Caution”, the epic spy movie set in the occupied China, directed with masterful care in every aspect by the already winner Ang Lee; and “Before the devil knows you are dead” , Sidney Lumet’s return to good shape. The veteran director of such famous thrillers as “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon” added another excellent film to his packed curriculum with the story of two brothers’ plan gone wrong to heist their parents’ jewelry in order to cope with their respective troubles. Its brilliant script; a notable cast headed by Philip Seymour Hoffman (who has obtained a nomination for supporting actor in the inferior “Charlie Wilson’s War”) and Marisa Tomei; and the classy touch of Lumet were part of most prediction polls, but this time the Academy didn’t smile.

“The Kite Runner” ran a similar fate; having to be contented with some minor nomination; as well as “Eastern Promises” and “In The Valley Of Elah”, whose controversial subjects left them only represented by their respective lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and Tommy Lee Jones.

“American Gangster” and above them all “Into The Wild”, Sean Pean’s most solid directing effort to date, began as favourites, supported by the Actors’ guild, but they ended finally out of the main categories; as has “Sweeney Todd”, although Johnny Depp will fight for the gong as lead actor.

2-THE CHOSEN ONES
No Country For Old Men

With eight nominations apiece, two great American stories compete: the Coen brothers’ masterful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “No Country for old men” against another adaptation, Upton Sinclair’s “Oil”, by another US independent film making heavyweight, Paul Thomas Anderson. Both movies shared many other similarities, including the same producer and off-mainstream origin.

They are followed with seven each by the two works more classically conceived aiming at the Oscar, both delivered by UK talent: the corporate corruption thriller “Michael Clayton” earned its novel director, expert scriptwriter Tony Gilroy, a nod; as well as some others for its cast; and the adaptation to the big screen of Ian McEwan’s epic novel “Atonement”, with dazzling technical efforts aimed at impressing the Academy; its lead actors, Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy, began as favourites, but didn’t get the nomination; neither did its director, Joe Wright, beaten on that field by Julian Schnabel, who has turned into a movie the autobiographical novel “The diving bell and the butterfly”, written by the former Elle editor in chief after an accident left him completely paralysed, except for an eye, which he was trained to communicate with. A frightening real story, shot with superbly original cinematography and told with a touch of vital humour that perfectly balanced the dramatic element of the facts it depicted. “The diving bell” didn’t get the nod for best picture, but earned a respectable four others for its direction, script, etc.

“Ratatouille” stands up for its five nominations, including the one for original screenplay, showcasing its superior facture; but the fifth spot among the best pictures is for “Juno”, the movie acclaimed as this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine”, a fresh and vital comedy with a clever message about a teenage girl who got pregnant and the decisions she takes to face her situation. Ellen Page shone on it and got a well deserved nomination for best actress.

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

3-OUR PREDICTIONS

DOCUMENTARIES: the unpredictable nature of these categories and the fact that we don’t know most of the nominees makes it hard to guess. However, Michael Moore’s attack to the US private health system on “Sicko” sounds like the frontrunner against the Iraq war documentary “No End In Sight”. We’ve got the feeling that the gong will go to the later.

As animated feature there are few doubts about RATATOUILLE being the winner; but, as a longer shot, “Persepolis” could well surprise us.

We try to avoid the technical effects fields, in which TRANSFORMERS look like the rival to beat. However, the sound of “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” is receiving plenty of accolades. The choices for best song are always an impenetrable mystery. The music taste of the academy is always no less than questionable. This year they ignored Eddie Vedder; Kate Bush; Hairspray and even Clint Eastwood to go and choose three rather unknown moments from Disney’s fairytale “Enchanted” and one included in “August Rush”. Even so, we trust sanity will reign and the Oscar will go to the hands of the stars in the sleeper indie musical hit “Once”, with one of its soundtrack’s best moments “Falling Slowly”.

Fighting for the score trophy are a bunch of rather new names, a new wave of composers in much need to replace the eternally traditional old names. Among them, Dario Marianelli’s memorably epic score of “ATONEMENT” sounds as the strongest contender; although “Ratatouille”’s joyful soundtrack well could take the trophy off his hands. “ATONEMENT” seems also to be the favourite in the Costume department. The editing in “No Country for old men” goes back to back with “There will be blood’s” but maybe the “BOURNE ULTIMATUM” was the most impressively dynamic one.

Juno

Among the chosen ones in the already mentioned and always polemic category for Foreign Language movies, after ignoring the triumphant ones from the festival circuit, we only know the excellent Austrian movie “The Counterfeiters” and the name of Polish veteran director Andrzej Wajda, whose return opus “Katyn” could earn him the victory. A feature film from Khazajstan (Maybe Borat’s influence?) and another one from Russia join the group; but the most talked-about is Israel’s war drama “BEAUFORT”, last minute replacement for that country’s first choice, “The band’s visit”, rejected for being partially spoken in English.

ART DIRECTION:
The ever present Dante Ferreti showcases one more time his unique talent in “Sweeney Todd”, although “Atonement” with its complex multitude of different settings and “There will be blood” are fierce opponents. Our money is on “ATONEMENT”.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
One of this year’s more crowded categories, with a selection of nominees as diverse as excellent, with the traditional Coen Brother’s partner Roger Deakins earning two nominations for his work with the Coens and also for “The Assassination Of Jesse James”; The innovative photography of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was one of the movie’s strongest features; and the classic spectacle of “Atonement” and “There will be blood” were also astonishing. Our favourite is “The Assassination of Jesse James” although it is possibly the one with fewer chances to win. The Academy may want to reward Deakins for his excellent work in the Coens “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” instead.

Atonement

SCREENPLAYS:
The screenplays are traditionally the categories where the Academy rewards critical faves that don’t comply with all the requirements to obtain Oscars in the major fields. This tendency to use the Oscar for best scripts as consolation prizes could propel “THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY” to leave the Coen Brothers without award for their excellent adaptation. The Original screenplay seems easier to predict, with Diablo Cody, who has become a minor celebrity since “JUNO” was shown in Toronto, miles ahead any other competitor. This is the category in which the quirky comedy has a bigger chance to succeed.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Another packed one, in which the critics’ choice, Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) will fight face to face the new Meryl Streep, CATE BLANCHETT for her celebrated composition of the Dylan’s myth (I’m Not There). Blanchett has against her victory a fresh win for another notorious role, the one of Katherine Hepburn in ”The Aviator” and the fact of being also a nominee in the lead actress category for “Elizabeth II”. If the Academy members feel emotional, they will reward the career of the veteran and never before nominated Ruby Dee (American Gangster). The child factor didn’t win last year’s Oscar to the favourite Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and won’t get there either this year with Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), despite being the only representative of the movie’s cast who’ve earned a mention. We cannot either forget Tilda Swinton’s superb performance in “Michael Clayton”; the best among an all-nominated cast. OUR BET: CATE BLANCHETT.

SUPPORTING ACTOR:
It looks nearly locked and it will be an historic moment. JAVIER BARDEM is about to earn the first Oscar for a Spanish actor thanks to his already classic role of the assassin “Anton Chigurh” in “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”. Undoubtedly, the biggest attraction in a near perfect movie, the only controversy surrounding his victory was before they decided his pushing as a secondary actor, instead as the lead. Only the veteran Hal Holbrook for his moving role in “Into the Wild” could pose a certain treat.

ACTRESS:
Laura Linney sneaked her way into the five hopefuls for her role in The indie dark comedy “The Savages”, beating stronger candidates on paper such as Angelina Jolie (A mighty Heart) and Nicole Kidman (Margot at the wedding). Cate Blanchett earned her second nomination of the year for a film, “Elizabeth II”, massacred by the critics. Marion Cotillard’s spectacular recreation of Edith Piaf’s life is favorite of many, but the fact of being a French role takes some credit points off her chances in front of the two potential favourites, in fierce battle between youth and renowned experience. The nearly newcomer Ellen Page for her excellent role in “Juno” could appeal to mature member’s fairytale sense and as the potential Cinderella of the night many of them will vote for her; but its JULIE CHRISTIE’s heartbreaking performance as an Altzheimer victim in “Away from her”, hitting another peak in her lengthy career the one that counts with the support of her fellow actors.

Michael Clayton

ACTOR:
Tommy Lee Jones y Viggo Mortensen both offered career peak performances, but they appear somehow eclipsed by the sparkle of bigger stars such as George Clooney and Johnny Depp. None of them, though, can match DANIEL DAY LEWIS in prestige, talent and acting ability. Lewis gives another of his every time less frequent performance master classes in “THERE WILL BE BLOOD”. We are somehow divided between him and Mortensen. The Academy won’t have any doubts.

DIRECTOR:
Tony Gilroy’s debut as a director has found his way among the nominees; as well as the still young Jason Reitman –“Juno” was only his second feature-; but it is the back to back fight between the two independent heavyweights Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers what will set the pulse on this field. Julian Schnabel, who has the support of a big part of the industry, could be a surprise winner if too many votes are divided between the two former ones. However, with Anderson still young and not totally embraced by the mainstream, everything leads to think that it will be the COEN BROTHERS, formerly awarded for their screenplay in “Fargo”, who will obtain their long time overdue first directing Oscar.

FILM:
The same duel happening in the Director’s field will also take part in the most important of the categories. It all seems to indicate that “NO COUNTRY FOR MEN” is ahead in the race to be crowned as best Movie of the year, for the same reasons that makes the Coen favourites as directors: “Atonement”; “Juno” and “Michael Clayton” merits are not enough to overshadow their main two rivals and “There will be blood” is slightly more challenging and innovative, which translates as fewer fans among the voting members.