And the Oscar should go to…
BACKSTAGE PASS - Lanz Leviste () - January 27, 2006 - 12:00am
It really does not take a lot to win a best picture Oscar. Put together a pedigreed cast, a wildly praised yet woefully overrated director, and a 140-page screenplay either based on a true story or classy middlebrow literature, and you’ve got yourself a Miramax prestige picture ready to steamroll "For Your Consideration" ads all through the pages of Variety. The conceit worked most recently in 2001 with the intolerably bland A Beautiful Mind, a lifeless glop of arrogant TV-movie fluff that, thanks to Ron Howard and Universal’s marketing department, was able to woo the Academy into thinking it was a remotely decent film, much better than utter masterpieces like fellow nominees Moulin Rouge, In the Bedroom and Gosford Park. This also happened in 1994, when a movie as trite and syrupy as Forrest Gump won over the likes of Pulp Fiction and Quiz Show.

But wait: with the collapse of the Weinstein empire, this Miramax-less Oscar season feels dejectedly somber, devoid of the ruthlessness and ferocity we have come to enjoy. Still, the lack of pretense among campaigns this year has led to the most volatile award-show shift in a long while: through strange osmotic serendipity, far more deserving independent films have carefully slipped into the Oscars’ biggest races, causing major shake-ups among the Academy-to-studio relationships. Granted, these more-expensive-than-average indies are distributed by the boutique divisions of major studios, but hey, let’s take this one step at a time.

To think the significance of the Oscars stems from its selection of the year’s best film is inaccurate and naïve; rarely do they get it right, and to expect them to get it right is foolish optimism we all have that negates the very fundamental concept of the Academy Awards’ incredible gravity in the industry. Idealistically, the Oscars are about celebrating the artistic achievements of cinema; realistically, they are about observing the cruel politics of high art and all-American commerce within the gold-plated terrarium of self-absorbed Hollywood. Never is the film industry more undeniably fascinating and its machinations so exposed than during the awards season.

With nominations to be announced Tuesday for a ceremony on March 5th, it is almost certain which films will be competing for the top prize: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; and a fifth slot that is likely to go to the pedestrian and overly glorified Walk the Line (of course, the inevitable surprises are always gladly welcome, and in a race as uncertain as this year’s, anything can happen ). In any case, my ideal nomination ballot for each of the major categories is influenced by bias and affection, even heady passion for some of these films and the people who worked on them. Many of my picks have no chance at all of a nomination, while others I still have my fingers crossed for. For your consideration…

BEST PICTURE


Brokeback Mountain

The Squid and the Whale

Caché

Me and You and Everyone We Know

King Kong

A film that is named best picture must not only be good, but blazingly original, perhaps in the way it handles its groundbreaking thematic content, or in its bitingly honest perspective, or in its deft blending of technical marvel and emotional impact. The five films listed are very different, yet collectively can be described as cinema achieving the very definitions of artistic expression. They acknowledge the capabilities and responsibilities of the filmic medium beyond an entertainment commodity, crafting carefully illustrated reflections of our society that raise the questions, open the eyes, and encourage the discussions that could change the world.

BEST DIRECTOR


• Woody Allen, Match Point

• Michael Haneke, Caché

• Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

• David Cronenberg, A History of Violence

• George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck

BEST ACTOR


• David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

• Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

• Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale

• Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

• Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow

BEST ACTRESS


• Naomi Watts, King Kong

• Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale

• Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger

• Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

• Clare Danes, Shopgirl

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR


• Jeffrey Wright, Syriana

• Jesse Eigenberg, The Squid and the Whale

• William Hurt, A History of Violence

• Owen Kline, The Squid and the Whale

• Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


• Scarlett Johansson, Match Point

• Maria Bello, A History of Violence

• Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

• Thandie Newton, Crash

• Rosario Dawson, Rent

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY


• Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale

• Miranda July, Me and You and Everyone We Know

• Woody Allen, Match Point

• Guillermo Arriaga, The Three Burials of Meliquiades Estrada

• Duncan Tucker, Transamerica

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY


• Steven Kloves, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

• Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain

• Deborah Moggach, Pride & Prejudice

• Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin

• Dan Futterman, Capote

Oscar Countdown

37 days till the 78th Annual Academy Awards
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For comments, e-mail me at lanz_ys@yahoo.com.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE BEST BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN GOOD LUCK GOOD NIGHT KING KONG MATCH POINT ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW SQUID AND THE WHALE WOODY ALLEN
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