Tuesday, January 31, 2006


UPDATED 1/31/06 12:19pm: Blaaagh has noted that I left Adam Baldwin off my list of pleasurable performances for his work in Serenity. That oversight has been corrected...

UPDATED 1/31/06 9:42 am: Click on the link to see how my Oscar guesses matched up with the actual list.

As I begin writing this post, we're about eight hours away from the announcement of the nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards. In the days before the dawning of the age of the Internet, I would probably be in bed by now. Because back then I actually had to get up-- actually looked forward to getting up-- at 5:30 a.m. to watch on TV as the nominations were announced by the likes of Arthur Hiller or Frank Pierson or Robert Rehme and whoever it was that won the Best Supporting Actress the previous year (this year, Mighty Aphrodite herself, Mira Sorvino, returns, accompanied by current AMPAS president Sid Ganis). I'd then have to wait until a late edition of something called a newspaper, or perhaps even the next morning's early edition, before a list of the nominations would be available, and then only major papers like the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times or one of the trade papers, like The Hollywood Reporter could be relied upon to provide an accurate and truly complete list.

Of course, in these more enlightened times (and in case the link didn't completely sell it, I was trying to be ironic), the Internet provides instant access to the complete roster of nominees straight from Oscar's mouth. So, alas, no more need to get up even earlier than my rambunctious daughters just to hear the vaunted press gasp and applaud, as if they never would have guessed they'd have heard it, when Heath Ledger's name is announced. And oh, how I'll miss hearing breathless junket whore Sam Rubin and whoever KTLA has chosen to chirp alongside him as they ramble on and on about their own knee-jerk reactions to those who made the final five and those who did not, warming up for when they can really cut loose and embarrass themselves properly on the red carpet during the Oscar pre-show, and filling precious pre-dawn minutes that could instead be devoted to agricultural reports and who's coming to visit Aunt Tillie on the farm in Santa Monica this weekend. But maybe, just maybe, I won't even think about all this tomorrow morning, as I luxuriate in the precious couple of hours of sleep I would have lost had I gotten up to catch the Oscar nominations the old skool way.

So instead, I thought I'd make some 11th-hour predictions for the acting and directing categories, based on nothing so scientific or inside as the methods undoubtedly employed by Entertainment Weekly as they have methodically pored over and updated their own predictions leading up to tomorrow morning. (I'm pretty sure these pop culture gatekeepers started predicting this year's winners sometime mid-Governor's Ball, just after the conclusion of last year's ceremony.) No, where EW has computers and panels of experts and reams of insider information, I have only my own (quite prodigious) gut to rely upon. This year's abdominal resonations have been a whole lot less distinct than ever before, owing to the fact that the crop of movies undoubtedly waiting to be lionized by the Academy this year hold much less interest for me as a whole-- A History of Violence is likely to have minimal representation among the nominees, but I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of anyone from 2046, Kung Fu Hustle, Grizzly Man or The Ice Harvest making waves tomorrow morning (King Kong will make its roar known, but only from the back of the room, where the Academy sticks all the technical award nominees.) And the one movie that I admire almost without reservation-- Good Night, and Good Luck, which I finally saw this past Friday night, and which I would retroactively place fourth on my Top 22 list-- will surely be nominated, but will likely end up the most recognizable body crushed under the speeding locomotive that is Brokeback Mountain. Where Brokeback looks weakest is, ironically, in its most high-profile category-- Best Actor. Until this past weekend, I would have be the sheep herd on Heath Ledger's chances to go all the way to the podium. But given the way the Screen Actors Guild awards shook out this past weekend-- no love for Ledger, much love for Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Truman Capote-- I have a feeling either Hoffman's Oscar's man this year or, in a situation where Ledger and Hoffman split off enough votes, David Straithairn, unflappable and awesome (in an admittedly less complex role than either of the other two) as Edward. R. Murrow, might be the beneficiary of some Oscar glory.

Here I am talking like I already know who's nominated and, of course, I don't. But I am willing to step out, risk looking stupid, and perhaps even fatally damage my street cred with the Access Hollywood crowd by taking a series of ridiculous wild guesses in these final hours. So, without any further fuss and muss, here's where I pin the donkey's tail on the six picture, actor, actress and director categories before the 78th Academy Award nominations are announced tomorrow morning.

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck

George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Paul Haggis, Crash
Terence Malick, The New World
Bennett Miller, Capote

Dame Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice
Naomi Watts, King Kong
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
David Straithairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Diane Keaton, The Family Stone
Catherine Keener, Capote
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

George Clooney, Syriana
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Matt Dillon, Crash
Terrence Howard, Crash
Donald Sutherland, Pride and Prejudice


Okay, now that that filthy business has been taken care of, it's time to invoke the spirit of Siskbert and revisit those same categories, only inserting the names of the pictures, actors, actresses and directors I would include If Only I Nominated the Academy Awards...

A History of Violence
Good Night, and Good Luck
Kung Fu Hustle
The Ice Harvest

* I have bound myself by Academy rules and included only those movies that could actually be nominated in the respective categories. Therefore Los Angeles Plays Itself, number two on my year-end list, would not receive a nomination because it never received an official release, either last year or any year since its copyrighted date of 2003; also, Grizzly Man, number five on my list, would be in my hypothetical Best Documentary category, Tropical Malady-- retroactively, #6-- would be in the Best Foreign Film category, and Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-rabbit (the actual #6) would head up the short roster in the Best Animated Film category.

Kate Dollenmayer, Funny Ha-Ha
Rachel McAdams, Red Eye
Naomi Watts, King Kong
Reese Witherspoon Walk the Line
Ziyi Zhang, 2046

Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Min-sik Choi, Oldboy
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Viggo Mortenson, A History of Violence
David Straithairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Kerry Condon, Unleashed
Catherine Keener, Capote
Gena Rowlands, The Skeleton Key
Faye Wong, 2046

Clifton Collins, Jr., Capote
Ralph Fiennes, Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-rabbit
Oliver Platt, The Ice Harvest
Andy Serkis, King Kong
Mathieu Amalric, Munich

Stephen Chow, Kung Fu Hustle
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
David Cronenberg, A History of Violence
Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man
Wong Kar Wai, 2046

And now finally, in the waning hours before there is instituted an official embargo on talk of anything released in 2005 that is not on the Academy's invite card to the Kodak Theater, I just wanted to take a moment to remember one last time the names of the actors, some renowned, some unknown, who gave me pleasure at the cinema in the past year. These were almost all folks who stood not a chance in hell of being recognized by such an august body as the Academy, yet the moments and performances they gave to me, to us, last year were every bit as good and fully rounded and lived-in and exciting, sometimes even more so, than the ones given by the nominees whose names will be announced in about five and a half hours. They were (in no appreciable order whatsoever):

Tony Leung, Gong Li 2046

Ed Harris, Asthon Holmes, William Hurt, A History of Violence

George Clooney, Frank Langella, Ray Wise, Good Night, and Good Luck

Stephen Chow, Kwok Kuen Chen, Qui Yuen, Siu-Lung Leung, Zhi Hua Dong, Kung Fu Hustle

Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Sallis and the entire voice cast of Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-rabbit

Banlop Lomnoi, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Tropical Malady

John Cusack, T.J. Jagodowski, Connie Nielsen, Bill Noble, Randy Quaid, Mike Starr, Billy Bob Thornton, The Ice Harvest

Jack Black, Adrian Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, King Kong

Andrew Bujalski, Funny Ha-Ha

Brady Corbet, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Mysterious Skin

Eric Bana, Lynn Cohen, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Geoffrey Rush, Ayelet Zorer, Munich

Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Jet Li, Unleashed

Bradley Cooper, Rebecca De Mornay, Isla Fisher, Henry Gibson, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, Christopher Walken, Owen Wilson, Dwight Yoakam, Wedding Crashers

Elizabeth Banks, Gerry Bednob, Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Kat Dennings, Jane Lynch, Romany Malco, Shelley Malil, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Katie Holmes, Gus Lewis, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Linus Roache, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins

Hank Azaria, Shelley Berman, Mario Cantone, George Carlin, Pat Cooper, Wayne Cotter, Phyllis Diller, Susie Essman, Carrie Fisher, Gilbert Gottfried, Dana Gould, Dom Irrera, Paul Krassner, Cathy Ladman, Merrill Markoe, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Taylor Negron, Trey Parker, Don Rickles, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman, Matt Stone, larry Storch, The Aristocrats

Jayma Mays, Cillian Murphy, Red Eye

Helena Bonham Carter, James Fox, David Kelly, Freddie Highmore, Christopher Lee, Missi Pyle, Deep Roy, Noah Taylor, Philip Wiegratz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Ginnifer Goodwin, Shelby Lynne, Robert Patrick, Joaquin Phoenix, Dallas Roberts, Walk the Line

Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy, Gerard McSorley, Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

Morena Bacarrin, Adam Baldwin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite, Alan Tudyk, Serenity

Micahel Angarano, Bruce Campbell, Dave Foley, Cloris Leachman, Kevin MacDonald, Danielle Panabaker, Kelly Preston, Kurt Russell, Steven Strait, Kelly Vitz, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sky High

Tobin Bell, Glenn Plummer, Shawnee Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Saw II

Nicole E. Bradley, Bill Chott, Brian Cox, Leonard Flowers, Katherine Heigl, Johnny Knoxville, Jed Rees, The Ringer

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Dakota Fanning, War of the Worlds

Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Maria Bello, Gabriel Byrne, Drea de Matteo, Brian Dennehy, Laurence Fishburne, Ethan Hawke, Aisha Hinds, John Leguizamo, Assault on Precinct 13

Jessica Alba, Michael Ciklis, Chris Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four

Nicole Abisinio, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Rapp, Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright, Broken Flowers

Maxine Barnett, Kate Hudson, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, The Skeleton Key

Jessica Alba, Jude Ciccolella, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Carla Gugino, Jaime King, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Sin City

Sasha Baron Cohen, Madagascar

Barry Corbin, Lynda Carter, Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Willie Nelson, The Dukes of Hazzard

Georgie Hensley, Tilda Swinton, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Handsome Family, Jim White, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Michael Berryman, Ken Foree, William Forsythe, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, P.J. Soles, The Devil's Rejects

Matt Dillon, Lindsay Lohan, Herbie: Fully Loaded

Jim Broadbent, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Ricky Gervais, Hugh Laurie, Ewan McGregor, Valiant

Steve Buscemi, Djimon Hounsou, Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Shawnee Smith, The Island

Jason Statham, Transporter 2

Brendan Gleeson, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Alexander Siddig, David Thewlis, Kingdom of Heaven

Asia Argento, Eugene Clark, Land of the Dead

Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, The Family Stone

Tony Jaa, Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior

Jennifer Tilly, Saint Ralph

Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

And finally, in the year's worst movie, Duane "The Rock" Johnson, for bursting through a wall and uttering the year's most belabored tough-guy punch line ("Semper Fi, motherfucker!"), and Rosamund Pike, for exhibiting perhaps the worst, least convincing screams of terror ever heard in a "major motion picture," that MMP being, of course, Doom-- she sounds exactly like one of John Travolta's rejects in Blow Out, and you too, like Jack Terry in that film, will want to cover your ears.

UPDATED 1/31/06 9:42 am: Click on the link to see how my Oscar guesses matched up with the actual list.


Anonymous said...

Dennis, you kill me with Jennifer Tilly! and Rosamund Pike's scream. Thanks for going to the trouble of finding that still, a perfect ending to your post!

Anonymous said...

As usual, I had forgotten all about today being the day of the nominations announcement--but what fun to read your predictions and the actual noms in one place! My favorite part, though, is your recognition of all the actors who did good work in all kinds of movies...though you left out Adam Baldwin in your list of the 'Serenity' cast. I see your optimism prevented you from predicting Charlize would get another nomination this year...oh well.

Anonymous said...

Needless to say, I am thrilled that George Clooney got the Oscar hat trick today with nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. I just hope the gods take it all the way and actually allow him to win one of them. My guess is his best chance is in the screenplay category as Ang Lee will (inexplicably) win for director and Paul Giamatti will win for supporting actor to make up to him for not being nominated last year for Sideways. I’m going to the WGA’s ‘meet the nominees’ gathering on Thursday night soley because I think that George will be there. If you hear that a crazed fan had to be pried away from him and was hospitalized at the nearest mental institution, that will likely be me. 

As for your predictions, I would never have guessed that the Academy would see fit to nominate Keira Knightly for the wonderful Pride & Prejudice, despite how much I loved it. And I’m equally delighted that Dario Marianelli’s luminous score was also nominated. I’ve spent way too much time unsuccessfully scouring the Internet for the sheet music. I’m dying to learn how to play it, even though I play about as well as Elizabeth Bennett!

I also was surprised to see Terrence Howard’s name on the list of nominees. He has absolutely no chance (Phillip Seymour Hoffman will will for Capote, and deservedly so), but I’m glad to see him being recognized. He’s one of those actors that I’ve seen over the years who always turns out interesting performances. Good for you, TH.

I was also delighted that Felicity Huffman was nominated. I think she has the best chance of taking the statue away from Reese Witherspoon. While I do like her and her performance in Walk the Line, she’s not the one that I would like to see take Oscar home.

I’m going to make a concerted effort to see Crash, Hustle & Flow Munich and A History of Violence before the big night. There are other nominated films that I haven’t seen (like North Country), but I have no overwhelming desire to see them.

See you on Oscar night!!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Blaaagh: I like how you term my fervent hope that Ms. Theron would be overlooked "optimism." It was that and a whole lot more, fer sure. I kind of stole that listing of performers idea from Andrew Sarris' Village Voice year-end columns. (I think he still does something similar in the New York Observer.) It just struck me as an appropriate way to acknowledge a whole lot of people that would never be "Oscar-runners" this year. I've tried to do this before, but I never took extensive-enough notes on all of the performers I liked, and there's just too much there to trust to memory. Thank God for IMDb, which really helped jog my memory and get a lot more names out there than I could have possibly remembered on my own.

Sharon: Yeah, Keira Knightley just felt right to me, but I see her petticoat tails were not broad or sweeping enough to redeem my left-field Donald Sutherland pick. Oh, well, one cannot fly if one risks not the possibility of crashing and burning to a crisp. (Who's taking these awards and themselves too seriously, eh?)

And a salute to your man Clooney, who's really developing into an actor I look forward to seeing. I saw Good Night, and Good Luck Friday night, and even though it benefits quite a lot from historical hindsight, I never felt like it was being too strident in asking for congratulations on taking such a bold stand against a long-dead senator and his minions who have long since being broadly vilified. And even if it was, I found the parallels to the current American political temperature compelling enough to patch up any inconsistencies and problems of that sort. And it was wonderfully directed too. My fingers are crossed for a Clooney upset in the director category.

psaga: When will these Academy clods recognize Ms. Tilly outside of a prestige Woody Allen picture? Her one Oscar nomination was no fluke! She should have seen some gold for Seed of Chucky, dammit! And you can imagine how my heart leapt when I found that picture. You can, can't you? (By the way, I caught Leone at the Autry on the final day of the exhibit! Skin of the teeth time! It really was pretty special, and I only wish I'd seen it earlier, so I could have had an opportnity to see it again. But, alas, they would not extend its run for little ol' me. I did, however, pick up a little trinket for you in the gift shop. Look for it in the U.S. Mail, that is if I haven't deleted the damned e-mail that had your address embedded in it. Would you e-mail your address to me again, pretty please?)

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I just had to go back to November and reread your review of SEED OF CHUCKY. So hilarious, especially juxtaposed to Antonioni like that, and especially for me tonight just home from seeing THE PASSENGER at the Darkside! (I'm trying to write about Antonioni and me over at my blog, but it's so agonizing! Damn, you make it look so easy.) And, whew, I'd been wondering whether you'd made it to the Autry but afraid to ask. I waited till the last possible day I could go before I moved, and I too regret not having the opportunity to return for another look. (Oh, double damn, my notes on that experience are still languishing in draft form themselves.) Anyway, good night, and good luck to you on Oscar night.

Anonymous said...

Oscar, schmoscar, if they haven't nominated THE NEW WORLD for anything but cinematography. But to be fair, it was released late in the year, and besides, who wants to watch it as a screener with a little "For Your Consideration" across the bottom of your TV?