Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Big Winner: Million Dollar Baby

Everyone else has weighed in with their Oscar picks, so we figure we might as well, too. After all, we are blogging from Los Angeles and like to think we know more about the film business than the ordinary blogger.

Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney, Virginia Madsen, Sophie Okonedo, Natalie Portman

Madsen is the sentimental choice, but we think Blanchett is pretty much a lock. (Though we could be wrong.) We saw her work in The Aviator and were very impressed -- as were we with Portman's work in Closer.

Our Pick: Cate Blanchett

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Alda, Thomas Haden Church, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Clive Owen

Foxx was better in Collateral (where his supporting nod comes from) than in Ray. Alda is the wistful pick (a la Madsen), but his work in The Aviator, though good, wasn't great, so he won't win. Freeman was the rock of Million Dollar Baby. If people remember that he's never won an Oscar, he's the favorite. Clive Owen did good work in Closer, and is the dark horse.

Our Pick: Morgan Freeman

Best Actress: Annette Bening, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Imelda Staunton, Hilary Swank, Kate Winslet

If Bening wins, it will be good for the ratings -- kids will likely confuse her with Clay Aiken and flock to the TV. (She won't win.) Swank and Winslet are head-and-shoulders above their fellow nominees, but Swank has the momentum. Winslet's work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, however, was truly amazing, and deserving of an Oscar.

Our Pick: Hilary Swank

Best Actor: Don Cheadle, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Jamie Foxx

DiCaprio did good work in The Aviator; people seem to forget that he can actually act. Eastwood wasn't easy to watch, but he was right for the part. Cheadle is a great actor (we didn't see Hotel Rwanda; we assume he was typically good) but his film was too small. Foxx is the popular choice. And the obvious one -- he turned in a great Ray Charles impersonation, but that, to us, is not the essence of acting.

Our Pick: Jamie Foxx

Best Original Screenplay: John Logan (The Aviator), Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Terry George, Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda), Brad Bird (The Incredibles), Mike Leigh (Vera Drake).

That Leigh was nominated is a joke -- he doesn't even write out scripts for his movies. (He had to type up a transcript of the film to submit to the Academy.) Bird will win for Best Animated Film, so he won't here. But The Incredibles was solid storytelling. The story for The Aviator was its weakest link, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Logan's script was poor (we wouldn't be surprised if it was changed by director/producers/stars, which is the norm in Hollywood). Kaufman's script was landmark -- just enough Charlie Kaufman but not crazy enough for it to pull you out of the story. A great film about the nature of relationships for the younger generation.

Our Pick: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth

Best Adapted Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset), David Magee (Finding Neverland), Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby), Jose Rivera (Motorcycle Diaries), Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Sideways)

Magees's script was horribly inaccurate, historically speaking. Haggis wrote a great screenplay -- except for the third act. Payne and Taylor haven't written a bad movie yet.

Our Pick: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Taylor Hackford, Mike Leigh, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese

Eastwood deserves it. Scorsese did good work but not better than Eastwood; he might win because he should have won in the past but didn't. Hackford, who did Ray, is a hack and doesn't belong here at all. Payne is a great writer and a capable director. It's between Eastwood and Scorsese.

Our Pick: Clint Eastwood

Best Picture: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways

If Million Dollar Baby wasn't so good, The Aviator would win. Sideways is a good picture but never had a chance to win this category. Ray, like Hackford, doesn't belong here. Finding Neverland...um, we didn't see it. (But how good can it be?)

Our Pick: Million Dollar Baby

We'll post a scorecard after the Oscars -- accountability!

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