And the Winners Might Be…
The sure things, the dark horses, and the movies that Oscar forgot.
We've been talking a lot about the Academy Awards over the last few weeks - too much perhaps, for an institution that turns art into a horse race, and divides artists into winners and losers. (Losers like Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah… Don't get me started.)
Nevertheless, the reality is that the Oscars dominate Hollywood thinking for three months of the year - and that with very few exceptions, 'serious' contenders are shoe-horned into that voter-friendly window. This year, Universal tried to buck that fashion by bringing out Cinderella Man in June. The movie tanked, and it's only garnered three Oscar nominations, for editing, make up, and best supporting actor (Paul Giamatti). In other words, don't expect this experiment to be repeated in a hurry.
It's also worth noting that the Oscars do some good. Not just in terms of generating money at the box office - which is always nice - but in putting the focus on some 'smaller' movies (ie those films without huge advertising budgets) that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve. This year, Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck are the best examples of that - oh, and a little movie called Brokeback Mountain which once seemed a decidedly iffy commercial prospect.
Conversely, the Oscars fall down on the job when they fail to recognise the best films from certain sectors because of their arcane rules and regulations. This year, Werner Herzog's brilliant documentary Grizzly Man was ruled ineligible in the Documentary category. And the nomination process for the Best Foreign Film is a long-standing travesty that would be reformed if anyone in Hollywood really cared about subtitled cinema. (This year, the most egregious omission would be Michael Haneke's Caché).
If I were to suggest that the Oscars 2006 are eminently predictable I'd only be asking for trouble. But it will be a major upset if the top awards don't go to Brokeback Mountain (Best Film), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote (Best Actor), and Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line (Best Actress) - just as the BAFTAs did.
Do they deserve it? Well, we've broken it down by category below. Before we get to that, I can also confidently predict that at long, long last, Robert Altman will win an Oscar - he's this year's recipient of the Lifetime Loser Award. (Sorry, Lifetime Achievement Award.)
Meanwhile the Academy is bracing itself for the lowest TV ratings in recent memory: no blockbusters are up for the big awards, presenter Jon Stewart is a cable star, and the conservatives aren't going to sit there and have Brokeback Mountain stuck down their throats. On the plus side, Sunday's ceremony should be shorter than usual, if only because they've cut the Best Song category down to just three nominees… mind you, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how the tuxedo crowd respond to the lyrics of 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp'.
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