- THE DEPARTED
- LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
- LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
- THE QUEEN
Overall Thoughts: Everyone, including me, picked four out of the five movies, but I doubt anyone suspected that the four sure fire nominees would not include Dreamgirls. Just a stunning snub! The Academy loves Clint, so it’s no great surprise that his Letters took the final spot, but it says volumes about how the Academy views Dreamworks. They didn’t even nominate Bill Condon for Best Director! I saw Dreamgirls just the other day and thought it was a MUCH better movie than Little Miss Sunshine. The former is an electrifying journey through the era of Motown; a movie musical of the highest order and a supremely difficult technical achievement. The latter is an above average studio indie, with characters I’d seen before performed by actors I’ve liked more in other roles. Who knew the adorableness of Abigail Breslin could take a movie so far. R.I.P. Dakota Fanning.
Biggest Surprise: None, really. Each film has won major awards this season (Sunshine just picked up the PGA Award, which by the way, has predicted the Best Picture Winner 11 out of the last 17 years. Interesting…). The only surprise here is the amount of supposedly “Oscar worthy” films that missed the boat. Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Good Shepherd, Dreamgirls, World Trade Center, Little Children, Bobby (just kidding) and Borat all had early buzz but could not get over the voting hump. The only film I’m truly sorry wasn’t nominated was Children of Men, my third favorite film of the year, and a picture of emotional distance far superior than Babel.
Biggest Snub: Dreamgirls, like it could be anything else. From the moment this project was announced it was on the short list for the Oscar. Critics went out of their way to slobber on it. Even though I thought it lagged in the second half, I would still have put it in the top group. It’s the type of movie that just gets nominated. But audiences thought differently. Dreamgirls is not doing as well as it should be at the box office. I’m not entirely sure what that’s due to (an all black cast, a general malaise with regards to musicals, Jamie Foxx), but it just goes to show that the silent majority in the Academy Awards voting is the general audience. Not even a surprise win at the Golden Globes could silence the collective “whatever” of America. Telling, that.
- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, BABEL
- Martin Scorsese, THE DEPARTED
- Clint Eastwood, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
- Stephen Frears, THE QUEEN
- Paul Greengrass, UNITED 93
Overall Thoughts: A fine class of directors who all better get out of Marty’s way if they know what’s good for them. If anyone besides Scorsese wins this race they will forever be the Robin Williams* (EDITED*) who stole Burt Reynolds’ only shot at Oscar gold. They will be the new Kevin Costner (who stole Scorsese’s last best chance at Oscar gold, when his Dances With Wolves work won over Goodfellas). How can any self-respecting Academy voter not give the award to the best dramatic filmmaker of the last fifty years, who HAS NEVER WON BEFORE? If Scorsese loses, I’m gonna come at the Academy like a spider monkey.
Biggest Surprise: Paul Greengrass. This looks to me like a “you made a great movie, but it’s too soon to nominate a 9/11 movie so we’re nominating you here as consolation”. United 93 is an exceedingly well-made movie, and when watched, it is quite noticeable how much effort must have been put in to make the narrative coherent and compelling. I applaud the nomination, and agree with the imaginary sentiment I stated above. If United 93 was ever going to be recognized by the Academy, here’s where it would have happened.
Biggest Snub: Bill Condon, Dreamgirls. What else does this man need to do to win an Oscar? He got the performance of a lifetime out of Jennifer Hudson. He single-handedly revived Eddie Murphy’s career. He finally showed the world why Beyonce is the real deal. And he took the film to picture when no one else in the last 25 years could. And also, it was really good. I don’t know, maybe he needed to put some Nazi’s in the picture? Or Abigail Breslin doing her Little Miss Sunshine pageant routine? Yikes, what a travesty.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- Leonardo DiCaprio, BLOOD DIAMOND
- Ryan Gosling, HALF NELSON
- Peter O’Toole, VENUS
- Will Smith, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
- Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
Overall Thoughts: This is the exact group of men that were expected to be nominated. I’m happy for Ryan Gosling, an actor I feel is at the top of the game. Let’s hope his dark horse nomination leads him to make more marketable films. He could very easily be The Next, just like his Notebook co-star Rachel McAdams. Generally though, there are no surprises here. Whitaker is the frontrunner and has been since the start. He’s taken most every critics prize, including the Golden Globe, and I expect him to win here, too. But he better deliver a damn good speech. I don’t wanna hear him stumbling like he did at the Globes. I want him to man up, take the podium and expound on the ups and downs of his career. Most of all, and this might just be a pipe dream, I want him to mention his stellar work in Bloodsport. Because when I saw him chasing Jean Claude Van Damme down the streets of Hong Kong I thought to myself, “Now there goes a future Oscar Winner.”
Biggest Surprise: That Leonardo didn’t push to be nominated for The Departed over Blood Diamond. I think he would have had a better chance with the Scorsese movie, than the one where he tries on an ill-fated South African accent. I haven’t seen the flick, so I really shouldn’t comment, but he’d have to be explosively good for me to not to think he’s the most American South African I have ever seen.
Biggest Snub: None
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Penelope Cruz, VOLVER
- Judi Dench, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
- Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
- Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
- Kate Winslet, LITTLE CHILDREN
Overall Thoughts: The most dignified race of the night, with three high class actresses, one classic in the making and Penelope Cruz. We all know that Helen Mirren is taking this award, so there really isn’t any tension in this category, but it will still be fun to see Judi Dench and Meryl Streep play the gracious loser card. In the game of “Helen deserved this, not me” I’ll take Meryl plus the points. Also, is it too soon to start calling Kate Winslet the Susan Lucci of the movies? Somebody get this girl into a a crippled Holocaust survivor movie and quick!
Biggest Surprise: None, though can you believe Penelope Cruz is actually living up to her early promise? Am I still allowed to call her “Box Office Poison” now that she’s an Oscar Nominee? (Looking at her imdb resume…) Judges ruling? YES!
Biggest Snub: None
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Alan Arkin, LITLLE MISS SUNSHINE
- Jackie Earl Haley, LITTLE CHILDREN
- Djimon Hounsou, BLOOD DIAMOND
- Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS
- Mark Wahlberg, THE DEPARTED
Overall Thoughts: I hate this category. Where’s Ben Affleck? Where’s Alec Baldwin? Where’s Brad Pitt? Where’s Michael Sheen? Nothing against any of the actors nominated, especially Wahlberg (the only guy who truly deserves the nod), but far too many worthy actors were overlooked here. This might have been the toughest race of the year; I personally was pulling for four guys who didn’t get nominated, which says a lot about the volume of high-quality roles for men in 2006. I think Eddie’s gonna take it because he’s the nostalgia pick, but deep down I hope Wahlberg wins. He rocked it hard in The Departed; I remember walking out of the movie thinking that he had out-acted Damon, DiCaprio, Sheen and Jack. Plus, seriously, Dirk Diggler NEEDS to win an Oscar. There’s just certain things this universe needs to make happen.
Biggest Surprise: Jackie Earl Haley. Where did this guy come from? Screw Eddie, this is easily the comeback story of the year (and possibly of the last decade). To put his career nosedive and resurgence into perspective, it would be like Tara Reid getting nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2016. Though I’d pay to hear that acceptance speech. “I’d like to thank Grey Goose, Red Bull, my agent, the door man at Prey, my idiot Plastic Surgeon…”
Biggest Snub: To win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor you need one scene where you blow everyone away. That’s all it takes. Wahlberg and Arkin have one. I bet Hounsou and Earley do. But Eddie Murphy doesn’t have one. Though he’s quite good in the movie, there wasn’t a single moment where I was watching him and thought “Man, he is killing everyone.” However, Ben Affleck had that scene. When he’s eviscerating Diane Lane for keeping him in the Superman suit and not helping to advance his career, I was stunned by talent. I’m a big Affleck supporter, but even I was skeptical about the early buzz on his performance. It was all earned, and him not being recognized for getting his career back on track is a damn shame. It’s Ben Affleck! Give the man a nomination as a reward for coming back from the depths of Gigli Hell!
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Adriana Barraza, BABEL
- Cate Blanchett, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
- Abigail Breslin, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
- Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS
- Rinko Kikuchi, BABEL
Overall Thoughts: This category is always the kookiest of the bunch. Abigail Breslin’s nomination is proof of that. She was the cutest thing I saw onscreen all year (Salma Hayek nude in Ask the Dust notwithstanding), but Oscar worthy? I don’t know. But none of it matters, because this race is already over. Jennifer Hudson deserves the Oscar like George Bush deserves a kick in the junk. Like Dan Marino deserves a Super Bowl ring. Like Rosie O’Donnell deserves a staph infection. When she belted out “And I Am Telling You” it was a call to the Academy to start engraving her name on the statue. She blew the doors out on every other actor last year not named Helen Mirren. For anyone that has ever doubted the merit or necessity of American Idol, this is the answer. To find artists like Jennifer Hudson.
Biggest Surprise: Abigail Breslin. In related news, Dakota Fanning has fired her agent, manager, publicist and Mother, and was last seen running down Sunset Boulevard, weeping into her Hello Kitty backpack and shouting obscenities at passing motorists.
Biggest Snub: Mario Bello, World Trade Center. She keeps doing fine work and keeps getting snubbed by the Academy. Is this penance for scarring the retina’s of everyone who watched her hold Bill Macy’s old man junk in The Cooler? You’d think getting down with Viggo Mortensen in the hottest sex scene of 2005 (A History of Violence) would even things out. I guess Bill Macy’s man meat is more career-damaging than we thought.
BEST ORIGINAL SCSREENPLAY
- LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
- LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
- PAN’S LABRYINTH
- THE QUEEN
Overall Thoughts: I can’t believe Paul Haggis (Letters from Iwo Jima) has ANOTHER Oscar nomination! I swear on the name of all that is holy and good (aka my TiVo), if he wins over Peter Morgan and The Queen, I will never write a screenplay again in my entire life. That entire artistic medium will be ruined for me. And let’s not even get into Babel, a script that was bloated with emotional clichés, had no central narrative and was underwritten despite it’s exhausting two and a half hour length. My film student loyalty is to The Queen, my favorite film of the year, but my Geek loyalty is to Pan’s Labyrinth, if only to see the director of Hellboy win an Oscar. If Guillermo Del Toro wins for Pan’s and takes Best Foreign Film he will be the big winner of the night, no matter which film wins Best Picture. I can’t believe the director of Blade 2 has the chance to be the star of the night. Who doesn’t love the Academy Awards?
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- CHILDREN OF MEN
- THE DEPARTED
- LITTLE CHILDREN
- NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Overall Thoughts: Easily my favorite category of the entire show. All five films are eminently deserving of the award; all five films are fantastic pieces of writing, crafted by tremendous writers. The train wreck lover in me wants to see Borat win, especially after Cohen was snubbed for Best Actor (even though I wasn’t a fan of the actual movie you have to reward the creation of the character, which is easily the most original since Napoleon Dynamite). Plus, who doesn’t want to hear Cohen deliver another acceptance speech? What’s the over/under on anal air pocket talk at the Oscars, +5? I like that spread. Children of Men, despite being written by a conference room full of writers (five in all), was electrifying, tense, cohesive, action-packed, filled with truth and generally awesome in its depiction of a world gone crazy. The Departed pulled off the Herculean task of giving complex, three-dimensional roles to more than ten different people (and with Jack sucking the life force of any actor he faces, the odds were not in their favor). I haven’t seen Little Children or Notes on a Scandal, but their writers, Todd Field and Tom Perrota and Patrick Marber, respectively, are enormously gifted. I’d be happy to see any of the films here honored, which makes the race doubly fun to follow.
I just wish all the races this year were like that.
Here are my early predictions: The Departed, Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Scorsese, Pan’s Labryinth, Borat.
Tell me what you all thought of the nominations by leaving a comment. Did you favorite films get recognized? Was your favorite actor snubbed? Let me know…