February 13, 2007

Here Come the Oscars

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Every year my family and I have a friendly Oscar pool for a modest wager. Come Oscar night, we have fun tallying up the points to see who earned the yearly bragging rights. However, each year it seems to be getting harder and harder for the Academy Awards to remain interesting, because so many of the winners appear to have already been predetermined by the other awards leading up to the big ceremony. Regardless, Oscar night is less than two weeks away and I’d be lying if I were to tell you it’s not on my mind. So, here a few of my thoughts on the upcoming 79th Annual Academy Awards hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
First off, the most glaring problem with this year’s nominations is the near omission of Children of Men from the major categories. It did receive nods for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography (something that it should most definitely win) but failed to receive a much-deserved nomination for Best Picture. I fault Universal Pictures for failing to give the film the type of advertising campaign needed these days to garner critical acclaim, but I also fault Oscar voters for not seeing Children of Men as an instant classic that immerses the viewer into its dystopian depiction of the future. Anyone who hasn’t seen Children of Men should check it out because it’s sure to be a cult favorite.
The acting categories have “lock” written all over them so maybe the Academy can save some time by sending Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy their respective awards through the mail. That’s not to suggest each of these actors don’t deserve to win, but it would nice if it weren’t so predictable. Jennifer Hudson’s almost assured victory makes her this year’s Cinderella story. Perhaps this is her start towards a big career in Hollywood, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Oscar success does not always translate into career success. Cuba Gooding Jr. anyone? Marisa Tomei? Roberto Benigni? Not that I have anything against Jennifer Hudson, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the apex of her career. That is why I strongly believe Abigail Breslin should not win, or shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place. She was very good in Little Miss Sunshine, but who wants to peak at age 10? Part of me would like to see her ‘pull the upset,’ if only to imagine the expression on Dakota Fanning’s face. SNL’s “The Dakota Fanning Show” sketch was dead on.
Eddie Murphy’s impending award seems the most unlikely, not only because comedians rarely win Academy Awards, but because every movie he’s starred in since Coming to America has been garbage. I haven’t seen Dreamgirls and Eddie Murphy may deserve to win, but that doesn’t excuse such “gems” as Pluto Nash and Norbit. In the 1980s, Eddie Murphy was easily one of the funniest comedians in film. Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop are two of my favorite movies, but where did that Eddie Murphy go?
My sentimental favorite for Best Supporting Actor has to be Mark Wahlberg for The Departed. Not only will we be able to say Marky Mark is an Academy Award winner, but we will be able to see him go on stage to deliver his acceptance speech, which I think will sound a little like this: “I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I am a big bright shining star. Yeah, that’s right.”
There is only one choice for Best Director: Martin Scorsese. The man has been making classics for the past three decades and deserves to be officially recognized. But I also have mixed feelings for Marty finally winning. For one thing, The Departed was good but doesn’t hold a candle to Raging Bull or Goodfellas. However, it would be hard for anyone to top those. I also feel that if and when he wins, it will be because the Academy desired to get it over with in a sense. Plenty of greats, like Hitchcock and Kubrick, didn’t win the “big one,” and no Oscar win or loss has the power to add or detract from Scorsese’s legacy.
Now on to Best Picture. This might be the toughest race to call since Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima and The Departed each have legitimate chances of winning. If I picked the winner, it would be Little Miss Sunshine, which earned this year’s requisite little indie that could nomination. Little Miss Sunshine proves that a great film doesn’t need to be dark and depressing, something often overlooked by Academy voters.
Mark your calendars, because Feb. 25 is when Hollywood rolls out the red carpet. Let’s just hope that there are some upsets, Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t dance too much and that Dirk Diggler finally gets some recognition. “I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star.”