Tuesday, January 25, 2005

So, the Oscar nominees have been announced - what does that mean to ME?

A quick handicapping of this morning's announcements (which happened while I was trying to get the supermarket to take a personal check because Citizens Bank's ATM ate my card last week and their claims that "I could pick it up the next day" and "we'll express you a new one right away" were, apparently, lies):

Best Actor
I've seen all except Ray; if I had a vote, it would be for Don Cheadle. They're all good performances, although I personally wish there was a place for Jim Carrey here. It can be for Eternal Sunshine, or someone could go out on a limb and say, yes, A Series of Unfortunate Events was a hilarious movie because Jim Carrey was painfully funny. So was Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic.

Best Supporting Actor
Seen all but Closer; I'd vote for Thomas Haden Church, which astounds me. He's Lowell from Wings, for crying out loud. Jamie Foxx is a lead, Alan Alda was hamming it up as much as anyone in The Aviator, and Freeman was pretty good.

Best Actress
I haven't seen either Being Julia or Vera Drake, and I suspect the latter might be this year's Chicago for me - the one I see because it's up for awards, but have no enthusiasm for and thus dislike more than I should. All three reamining actresses were great; I'm pulling for Ms. Moreno right now.

Best Supporting Actress
Even if I see Kinsey and Closer, I can't see anyone being better than Virginia Madsen. She got one of the year's best roles and ran with it. Kind of surprised there's no place for Téa Leoni here, unless the rest of the actors couldn't get past her being Téa Leoni.

Best Animated Feature
Uh, it's The Incredibles. It's not even close. It's a sign of the weakness of the category that Shark Take is even in the picture - I'd replace it with Ghost In The Shell 2 or even Kaena: The Prophecy, but I wouldn't vote for either of them.

Best Art Direction
For all it's many, many, many, many faults, The Aviator was beautiful. I wasn't terribly impressed with with the look of A Series of Unfortunate Events (hey, it's another movie that wants to look like Dark City, only this time for kids!), and there is no way I go to see Phantom of the Opera. Really, the academy shouldn't be encouraging Joel Schumacher like this. Finding Neverland is pretty, though. I will talk more about the most glaring omission under "Visual Effects".

Another note: I'd love to see an animated film get nominated here sometime. There's more creativity in the design work for something like The Incredibles or even Shark Tale than in most live-action features, but I imagine they'll never be nominated because the people involved aren't in the same guild.

Best Cinematography
Haven't seen The Passion or The Phatnom. The other three all impressed me in different ways; my gut says I want House of Flying Daggers to win because I enjoyed the movie the most.

Best Costume Design
Haven't seen Ray or Troy. Both The Aviator and Neverland looked spiffy, but it's also "just" photo-referenceable period dress. On the other hand, Unfortunate Events's costumes were creative but off-putting. I'll have to see the others.

Best Director
Still need to see Ray and Vera Drake. For right now, I'm pulling for Clint - The Aviator was a mess, and Sideways, while quite good, isn't quite as accomplished a job as Million Dollar Baby.

Although, pardon me while I fly my geek flag, but... Sam Raimi. If he can be nominated for A Simple Plan, why not for something just as good (if not better) and even more technically demanding? It's as if the voters assume that all the decisions involving visual effects really are handled by a computer, and the people involved just do what the computer tells them. I know it make me sound like an incredible fanboy to say that Sam Raimi deserves Martin Scorcese's nomination, but what did Scorcese do with The Aviator that Raimi didn't do better making Spider-Man 2?

Best Documentary Feature/Short Subject
Haven't seen any of 'em, not even Super Size Me (documentarians pointing the camera at themselves a la Michael Moore doesn't strike me as a positive trend at all). These categories are usually decided by subject matter, anyway... Which makes me wonder why Control Room wasn't nominated.

Best Film Editing
It's tough to notice when this is good, unless it's done in a way that is wholly unique, like The Hulk or Pulp Fiction. Or, you know, Kill Bill Volume 2. I'd go with Collateral, because thrillers have to do more with their editing - they have to crank up suspense and establish geography better than non-genre films.

Best Foreign Language Film
Haven't seen any of these. Now that a significant number of foreign movies are getting released in the US, the special voting rules need to go. I'll basically be rooting against The Sea Inside, just because I strongly disagree with its premise in principle.

Best Makeup
I've only seen A Series of Unfortunate Events. Yeah, they did good.

Best Musical Score
I haven't seen The Passion, but more importantly... Where the hell is The Incredibles? They can't seriously have nominated John Williams repeating themes and reverting to predictability after his last couple of nifty Spielberg scores over The Incredibles, could they?

Best Original Song
Okay, I've only seen Shrek 2, and wasn't impressed with that song. And I've made my peace with "The Montage Song" from Team America being ineligible. But there were other great songs in that movie, too. Wusses.

Best Short Film, Animated/Live Action
Goose eggs here, too. And it looks like the Coolidge's "We've got Oscar's Shorts" program is a no-show this year. Dangit.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing
Haven't seen The Polar Express or Ray, and I've got a completely useless "ear".

Best Visual Effects
This list can't be right, you see, because Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow isn't on it. Seriously, guys - does anyone remember anything exceptionally cool in Harry Potter? No, not really. Spidey 2 was nice and well-integrated, and well-worthy of a nomination. The Will Smith Robot Movie was okay, but it did nothing that Sky Captain didn't do a thousand times over.

That Sky Captain has managed to more or less come and go without being huge astounds me. It's a fun movie, with love and attention to detail painstakingly applied to every frame. It's the next huge leap forward, just as The Phantom Menace was five years earlier, and the lack of love for it is similarly galling. The only explanation is that the Academy thinks of it as an animated picture that live-action characters have been inserted into, and in that case, it should definitely be displacing Shark Tale.

Also - The Life Aquatic. Pretty darn seemless for its style, and among the year's most beautiful. What's this award supposed to celebrate if neither Sky Captain nor The Life Aquatic gets nominated - not innovation, not creativity, not just being outstanding. What?

Best Adapted Screenplay
These are trick categories, because few of the voters have actually read the screenplay, and just see the finished product which has had scenes rearranged in the editing room, been improvised over, etc. Of what I've seen, I'd give the nod to Finding Neverland. I'm also very skeptical about Before Sunset belonging here - where, I ask, was the story it was based on previously published, produced, or performed?

Best Original Screenplay
Okay, maybe I dislike The Aviator more than most, but that's just not a good movie... My first, second, and third thoughts are that if something other than Eternal Sunshine wins, there should be an investigation.

What I need to do
Well, obviously, seeing Ray is at the top of the list; I'll probably hit the Somerville sometime this week even though it comes out on DVD next Tuesday.

There are four movies with three nominations that I haven't seen. I've been intending to see The Polar Express just for the "pretty 3-D" aspect, although I'm not sure if the Aquarium will have it past Thursday since James Cameron's new IMAX 3-D picture actually has something to do with marine life. Vera Drake is a maybe; I just haven't been able to muster any enthusiasm. Both The Phantom of the Opera and The Passion of the Christ are in the "hell, no" category for different reasons - I had enough of Phantom when my brother Dan and I shared a room back in Junior High, and religion and me just don't mix.

There are two movies with two nominations that I haven't seen. Both Closer and The Motorcycle Diaries have looked good, but haven't drawn me in.

Of the singles, I'm most likely to see Kinsey and Being Julia. I'm hoping that there's an opportunity to see the shorts and documentaries - there have been in previous years (Coolidge's program and a set of screenings that hopped from the Coolidge to Harvard to who knows where for the docs).

Of the stuff that is not nominated... Well, you've got to figure Bad Education won't be hanging around much longer now.

So, guess I've got some movies to see if I want to complain with authority.

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