Oscar Night and the Oscars

Sunday is Academy Awards Night and I am looking forward to it. There are those who see the Oscars as a farce and I don't blame them. Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman have yet to win a single one after being nominated 6 and 7 times respectively. The Academy has this unkind tradition of handing out Oscars for Lifetime Achievement, which is their way of saying, "We are real idiots and we have really ****ed up all these years. Sorry!". Each year, there is a thinly veiled theme to the Oscars awarded which makes most awards rather meaningless. I wonder if this year's theme is gay rights. Capote, Brokeback and Transamerica are highly-nominated. Brokeback Mountain is an outstanding movie and deserves to win in some categories, but I would hate to see it overshadow other better nominees. Then there are mercy Oscars tossed to people for not exactly their best performances, to make amends for past wrongs or simply because they-were-due. So as far as the Oscars go, I personally like to take the comfortable neutral position. I give the Academy a lot of credit for nominating the better movies and performances of the year and for bucking box-office and film critic opinions.

Regardless of who finally wins the Oscar the ceremony itself never disappoints. As a keen observer of feminine pulchritude the red carpet is always a big treat. You can't miss that for all the popcorn in the world. It's worth watching for those moments when kisses are shamelessly planted or when people burst into reckless tears. The big question is can Jon Stewart step into Billy Crystal shoes? Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Whoopi proved they couldn't. We will all find out. Stay tuned!

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As for the awards themselves here are my picks based on insufficient knowledge.

Best Motion Picture of the Year - Crash
Tough call. Good Night, and Good Luck was really impressive. Munich was not quite there. Brokeback Mountain seems to be a favorite, but Crash was a much better movie overall - it has a colorful cast of characters, situations and paradigm shifts and makes a much larger statement.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role - Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
I have not seen Capote and I bet even Edward R. Murrow could not have wished for a better actor to portray him than David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), but in terms of effort and dedication Phoenix tops them all.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role - Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
She was fantastic as June Carter. Felicity Huffman(Transamerica) might have an outside chance.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role - Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback)
I have not seen George Clooney in Syriana, but Jake Gyllenhaal stands a good chance in Brokeback Mountain as Jack "effing" Twist.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role - Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
Now I wish I had seen Capote.

Best Achievement in Directing - Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
While Crash was a great movie overall and Haggis did an admirable job directing the large cast; Ang Lee quite clearly wins over him, Spielberg and Clooney for his compassionate telling of an akward, painful story shot in the most beautiful of places in America.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen - Crash (Paul Haggis)
What a lovely story!

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published - Brokeback Mountain
Munich might have an outside chance.

Best Achievement in Cinematography - Brokeback Mountain
The great blue sky and the green meadow. Each scene was like a postcard or brochure for Wyoming. The B/W in Good Night, and Good Luck was a great touch. Memoirs of a Geisha was a great movie that underperformed.

Best Achievement in Costume Design - Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score - - John Williams (Memoirs of a Geisha)
John Williams created a great score and admirably marshalled the energies of Yitzshak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. It is hard to believe that it was an American and not a Japanese composer. I also liked Gustavo Santaollala's approach in Brokeback Mtn - clean and simple riffs on acoustic guitars, twangy country music thrown in the bar scenes and for throwing in King of the Road (liked how they showed Jack Twist totally upbeat, as he sings the song to the radio as he drives, after which he learns that he cannot stay and has to return to Texas.)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year - Tsotsi(pure guesswork!)
This has always been my favourite category. I have often found the nominees in this category to be better than the Best Movie of the Year. Tracking these movies down is rather hard at times. At least, the winner will be shown soon in the local liberal-indie type movie theater. Tsotsi sounds like a winner, doesn't it? Why? The story is set in the apartheid-era and is about a thug who has to take home a baby. Can't fail with a storyline like that.


Ashutosh said...

Nice list. Now I can watch all of them!

Hirak said...

For a more expert opnions see:

a) The Jerusalem Post. Not surprisingly, Spielberg's Munich got exactly one sentence that tossed it out as garbage.

b)San Francisco Chronicle.

c) The venerable NYT uses the cheap trick of making 3 predictions for each category - wildcard, conventional wisdom and underdog labels. Cheating!

Ashutosh said...

Looks like you are going to be on the jury next time...you scored hits or near hits on most of the key categories :-)

Anonymous said...

I dont understand how a best director award does not imply a best movie award too !? Another one of the oscar balancing acts .. make everyone happy.

Hirak said...

I can't speak for the Academy but it has known to perform the balancing act.

This my opinion why the awards turned out they way they and rightly so:

Crash was the better movie overall since the story was more complex, there were many characters and the story addressed a lot of different issues.

Ang Lee deserves credit for making Brokeback work. The way he shot it, got the right guy (Santaolalla) to make the music, etc. His task was harder than Paul Haggis's and I don't there are many directors out there who could have told the same story (a tale of love) with such sensitivity and so artistically.