Why, Mr. Day-Lewis, did you just win an Oscar for Best Actor, or are you just glad to see me?
Thank God, AMPAS and the WGA—we will not be denied our Oscar party this year! I’ve had Oscar gatherings at my house every year since I moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago, and, oh, what a crushing blow it would have been to have had to swallow the news that this year there would be no memorable moments from the Kodak Theater. As Conan O’Brien speculated last January in his writer’s strike diary (published in Entertainment Weekly), “Blasphemy! Horror! The Golden Globes are canceled and the Oscars may be next. I want no part of a world that refuses to congratulate itself.” Fortunately, we have been spared the waves of dementia and disorientation that plagued O’Brien in the final, desperate passages of his tome. All is well in Hollywood. The Oscars will be on your TV this coming Sunday, February 24—pregame shows beginning as early as 3:00 p.m. Well, they are in Los Angeles anyway, where our priorities are, to quote Conrad Veidt in The Thief of Bagdad, as straight as the letter alif. The streets surrounding Hollywood and Highland— the heart of Hollywood, in other words— have been blocked off since last Sunday. God help the poor family intent on spending $60 just to get into the El Capitan to see Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus—Best of Both Worlds that has to run that security gauntlet.
The difference for me this year is that I will not be watching the Oscars from home, but instead from high atop a neighborhood hill in Springfield, Oregon, overlooking Autzen Stadium, where I will be taking in the glitter in the luxurious manse of my best friend Bruce (Blaaagh to many of y’all). My wife and daughters pretend that this is sad news, that they will miss me. I suspect, however, that the opposite is true. This year, no grown men will be screaming at the TV over the announcement of the winner of the Best Sound Mixing award. No stale Cheetos will be ground into the carpet. There will be no post-show moping about how one day Laura Linney will get her due, goddamn it.
(I kid about the volatility and general level of raucous fun of my Oscar party, but I swear to you that on any given year it looks nothing like this:
No offense, but anyone showing up to my house in a tux, or even a tux T-shirt, on Oscar Night, would be shown the back door.)
The girls will get to bed on this Oscar school night on time, perhaps even early, with no swearing and drunken laughter to keep them awake. My wife will shut off the lights five minutes after the girls are tucked in and proceed to tuck herself in with a good book, most likely one that would be far too literary and difficult for Hollywood to ever consider adapting. She will fall asleep without the sound of Billy Bush, Joan Rivers, Richard Roeper and the local ABC news crew, all decked out in tuxes and gowns, squawking and echoing inside her skull. She will, this one year, strive to forget that Hollywood even exists on this night of nights. And she will go to sleep not knowing, yet suspecting, that once again, even given such a quality crop, the goddamned worthless Oscars will screw up and give the big prize to the wrong movie. There may be blood, but there will not be Oscar bling-bling. The 2007 twist, however, is that front-running movies this year, from No Country for Old Men to There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Away from Her and Ratatouille actually deserve the pole position, and traditional Oscar bait like Atonement isn't likely to be a serious contender for any major awards. (The less said about potential spoiler Juno the better, particularly since I've already grouched about it at length.)
Actor Ian Charleson enacts the aneurysm on schedule for me when when Juno wins for Best Screenplay
Yet up in Springfield, there will be bombast and blasphemy and pulverized snack foods settling into the deep shag. My best friend and I will see the Oscars together for the first time in nearly 15 years, and no matter what does or doesn’t happen on TV all will be right because of that. I’ll be hopping a plane to Eugene Thursday morning, which means that it’s time now, before I have no other time, to go on the record with my phony baloney Oscar predictions. Those of you looking for a quick fix for your office Oscar pool are warned right away that you’d be better off cribbing someone else’s notes. I’ve held about 20 years worth of office Oscar pools to go along with my legendary Oscar parties, and I’ve won the pool exactly once (the year Million Dollar Baby took home the gold). So if I were you, I would recommend heeding the soothsayings available from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times or Entertainment Weekly before giving the following picks more weight than one of Paulie Bleeker's orange TicTacs. Much like compulsively trotting out my Oscar nomination predictions, the posting of my predictions for the actual awards feeds little else beside some dark desire to be publicly humiliated, in addition, of course, to the hungry little squirrel that keeps the revolving treadmill of my fragile ego constantly rotating. So let’s gorge the little bastard, shall we? Here are my picks for this year’s Oscar winners:
PICTURE: No Country for Old Men (Worst nightmare: A Juno win anywhere, but particularly here.)
ACTRESS: Julie Christie (please, Lord…)
ACTOR: It’s madness, but I’m following my heart-- George Clooney. (But really, if Daniel Day-Lewis loses, look for the sun to not rise on Monday morning.)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Javier Bardem (though Hal Holbrook could easily upset)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett is not the force that Bardem is in the Supporting Actor category, so the Lifetime Achievement Award Syndrome has a much better chance of reigning supreme here. But Ruby Dee is gonna be this year’s Lauren Bacall. Shaky limb, here I come: Tilda Swinton.
DIRECTOR: Joel and Ethan Coen
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: No Country for Old Men
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Is typing this now worse than hearing it on Sunday? I think not: Juno. (What I wouldn’t give to see the rat or the awakening lawyer steal the cheese from Diablo Cody…)
ANIMATED FEATURE: With all due respect to Persepolis, it’s gonna be Ratatouille.
ART DIRECTION/SET DESIGN: Sweeney Todd…
CINEMATOGRAPHY: My gut tells me the deserving winner, Roger Deakins, gets hurt by being double-nominated, which paves the way for a win by Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood.
COSTUME DESIGN: Atonement
FILM EDITING: No Country for Old Men. The Coen Brothers incredible (is it also unprecedented?) run of four Oscar wins begins here.
MAKEUP: You thought last year was bad? The ultimate Eddie Murphy snub comes this year when Oscar awards the movie that allegedly caused voters to turn away from Eddie’s Dreamgirls performance: Norbit! Norbit! Norbit! Norbit!
ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE: He should have won for The Incredibles, but I’ll be happy when Michael Giacchino wins for Ratatouille.
ORIGINAL SONG: Enchanted’s happy ever after crashes and burns here. The winner: ”Falling Slowly.”
SOUND EDITING: Voters will remember Jonny Greenwood’s score and think it was something the sound guys did. No Country is too quiet, therefore no real sound to speak of, right? Winner: There Will Be Blood.
SOUND MIXING: The left hand knows not what the right hand does in this category. Winner: Transformers.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Transformers
FOREIGN FILM: The Counterfeiters
DOCUMENTARY: No End in Sight
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Sari’s Mother
ANIMATED SHORT: Madame Tutli Putli
LIVE ACTION SHORT: The Tonto Woman
Let the public dunking begin!
IT WAS 34 YEARS AGO: God bless Robert Opel and his shortcomings...
And if that’s not enough Oscar action for you, there’s plenty of other places to go that will make the time between now and Sunday evening pass like an outtake from Jumper.
First, just to prove to yourself that you don’t know everything there is to know about the Academy Awards, check out Film Site’s comprehensive guide to the Oscars-- all the nominees in every category in Academy history, plus a ton of other facts to clog up your brain pan that you hope will dislodge and come spilling out in front of the water cooler.
Paul Clark has the latest on the 2007 Muriels including up to the minute entries for Best Body of Work, the year’s Best Ensemble Performance, the Muriel for Best Music (Original, Adapted or Compiled) and, fresh as this morning's coffee, Best Cinematography.
And speaking of Paul, he has a tip on where you can see Oscar-nominated short Madame Tutli Putli.
If you liked Nathaniel R’s Oscar Symposium, there’s plenty more intelligent Oscar talk on which to eavesdrop. Glenn Kenny gets together with ex-L.A.Weekly film critic and current arts editor for the Washington Post Express Arion Berger to hash over some Oscar talk. Here’s Part One and her’s Part Two. And do stay tuned: I get the feeling Glenn and Arion aren’t done yet.
For those looking for more reliable Oscar analysis than what I just regurgitated, Carrie Rickey of the Philadephia Inquirer has some thoughts, and she also links to Justin Chang’s analysis in Variety.
The always-comment-worthy Jim Emerson has some notions on the curing of Hollywood Ham on his Scanners site. Directly related is Jim’s back-and-forth with Kathleen Murphy: the two debate the merits of Daniel Day-Lewis, specifically his Daniel Plainview, over at MSN, where also lurketh lots of other Oscar coverage. (Thanks for the tip, Kim!) And Stephanie Zacharek pipes in on the Daniel Plainview/Day-Lewis discussion as well: "The care Day-Lewis has taken in building this character borders on obsession: His locution, the precise but laconic way he unpacks his tattered leather suitcase full of sentences, is borrowed straight from John Huston; he even mimics perfectly the grayed, whiskery undertones of Huston's voice. At first the choice seems brilliant. What voice better represents gruff, manly American determination than Huston's? Then again, once we notice an actor's choice, that choice is no longer transparent. And past a certain point -- once we begin to notice, and even perhaps marvel at, the way an actor squints to signal mistrust or doubt, or screws up the side of his mouth just so -- his choices move to the fore and the character recedes. And that's how easily we can lose a great actor like Daniel Day-Lewis to greatness."
Craig Phillips of Green Cine Daily fame has his own Oscar predictions and hopes up for grabs at his blog Notes from Underdog. But where Craig really delivers is the news of Green Cine’s upcoming Live Oscar Blog. It’ll commence Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. and continue as long as the show goes—the group of bloggers Craig will have lined up will shoot snark as long as Oscar holds out, and we know that can be a long while. Any subject related to Oscar will be on the table, and if, like me, you can’t participate in the live fun, either as a blogger or a follower, you can always print it out later and relive the night’s glories and garish disasters through the eyes of Green Cine’s finest. I may be looking forward to reading this more than I am seeing the actual show!
And last but by no means least, Larry Aydlette, the wise and funny proprietor of Welcome to L.A., where it’s now Day 21 of the Burt Reynolds-a-Thon, is also the entertainment editor of the Palm Beach Post, and he has unleashed an epic Oscar quiz that promises to be the perfect warm-up for the big night. I am off to take the test right now, but I won't be making my score common knowledge-- I'm not that much to public humiliation. You can-- No, you must take the test now!
Not a bad lineup for an Oscar week with two days off stitched in for me as well. May your favorites emerge victorious on Oscar Night, as long as they coincide with mine, of course. I’ve decided to not pretend I’m above it all this year. The stakes are too high. The Coens could get four Oscars for the best movie of the year, and one of their best as well. As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell once said, “Okay, I’ll be part of that world.” You can be too. Drop your predictions in the comments column, and let the Hollywood adulation begin.