Sunday is Oscar Night. As part of an annual ritual, Aimee and I have seen 10 movies nominated in one or more categories. Our tradition began years ago when we realized that the nominations are announced within two days of my birthday and (until this year) the awards are presented within two days of Aimee's birthday. It was kind of a fun little exercise for us to try and see as many movies as possible in the categories we find most interesting.
Spending February and March seeing that many movies may sound like fun. But there have been years when it really was something of a grind. Because of babysitting constraints we've had to bunch our movie viewing in recent years to coincide with our parents' generous babysitting offers. Thus, even within our compressed movie-viewing timeframe, we might go a couple weeks without seeing a movie and then -- POW -- a whole slew of movies in one weekend. Seeing that many movies in such a short time is good from the standpoint that you can more easily compare them, but at the end of our annual marathon we're usually movied out. Which is a good thing since, with kids, our cinema habits have been drastically curtailed during the remainder of the year.
We did find this year to be a little different. First, the Academy altered the date of the awards ceremony, cutting three weeks off the march to Oscar night. In any other year that probably would have spelled disaster for our ritual. We have enough trouble seeing movies in the usually allotted time. But, this year because of combination of circumstances, when the nominations were announced, we found that we'd already seen seven of the movies with nominations. We have our DVD player, a well-timed vacation (sans kids) and "Rings Fever" to thank. So, after scanning the nominations list, we identified three movies we really wanted to see so we could complete our ballots.
We tend to focus on screenplay, direction, and the overall best picture award. Typically, targeting those categories nets us a fair number of the acting nominations as well. This year was something of an exception, but I'll make acting picks nevertheless.
So, without further ado, here are my picks.
We've seen all of the nominated performances except for Ben Kingsley's. My parents have raved about The House of Sand and Fog
so missing this movie may handicap me. Johnny Depp, though amusing in the fun Pirates of the Caribbean
has no chance. I found Jude Law's performance in Cold Mountain
compelling, but he seemed to slip out of his accent at times. I will stipulate that Law did a lot with very few lines of dialog. But there just seemed to be something missing. Everyone is raving about Bill Murray but Lost in Translation
left me flat. I'm going with Sean Penn. This is Penn's fourth nomination and I think he'll close the deal.
Gotta go with Charlize Theron just because of the buzz factor. The only other movie we saw in this category was Whale Rider
with the youngster Keisha Castle-Hughs. She did do a great job (especially for one so new to acting) but she's not going to win.
Another category where I'm handicapped. I thoroughly enjoyed Ken Watanabe's performance in The Last Samurai
. But I think the Academy, overflowing with westerners, will give an American the nod. Benicio's already won for his outstanding work in Traffic
. Despite the commie-Left leanings of the long-haired hippie Hollywood crowd, Alec Baldwin's not taking home a little gold man. I'm going with Tim Robbins.
I found Renee Zellweger's performance something of a distraction in Cold Mountain
. I wasn't sure whether she was intentionally providing comic relief. And a couple of her "awwright den" pronunciations made me think of Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade
. The only other performance I saw was Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River
. I don't remember being bowled over by her performance. But I've got to go with her because I've got no point of reference on the other nominees.
Animated Feature: Finding Nemo
hands down. Take it to the bank.
I've seen four of the five nominees. But even if I hadn't, this category, I think, should be almost as easy to predict as Animated Feature. I just don't know how you can have any comprehension of the time, work, dedication, and love that Peter Jackson put into The Lord of the Rings
trilogy and find him wanting in this category. For five years he marshaled a small army of actors, writers, special effects personnel and who knows who else. The on-screen results are superb. But seeing all the special features on the extended DVD's reveals the true measure of Peter Jackson as a director.
This is usually a category on which Aimee and I usually try to focus. Unfortunately, we were unable to see three of the movies. I don't think Finding Nemo
can win, being a kids move. And I think that Lost in Translation
will be rewarded in this one category.
I've seen three of the nominated movies. I'm biased against Seabiscuit
given my disappointment with the book. I've read and seen Return of the King
and perhaps that explains some of my ambivalence about the screenplay. The movie very obviously had three separate endings and the attempt to weave them together was, in my opinion, less than successful. On the other hand, the adaptation of the long journey sequences and the Shelob bit were well done. So, ROTK might win. But, and I'm tipping my hand here for the final category, I think Mystic River
will take home the honors.
I've already expressed my feelings on Seabiscuit
and Lost in Translation
. And though I enjoyed Master and Commander
, it clearly was not a plot-driven movie. (I figured this out even before it wasn't nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category). It's a lark of a period action-adventure movie. But not a best picture. The reason I'm going with Mystic River
is because it is the one nominated movie about which you can have a conversation when you leave the theatre. What's going to happen next? Should he or shouldn't he have done that? What did it mean when she did that? I don't feel that any of the other movies offer opportunity for further exploration. Mystic River
is the one movie with layers, facets, and unknowns that can be explored even after you leave the theatre.
Well, there you have it. My picks. Check back on Monday and I'll rate my prognostication skills.