Saturday, January 19, 2008
Oscar predictions! 2008!
Our literary endeavors here at Stevereads must wait a bit, while we present to you that annual matter of mystery and magic, our Infallible Oscar Predictions.
Our old friend Locke issues dire prognostications about this year's Oscars: the writers strike, he says, will deprive us all of the red carpet, the demented gibberings of Joan Rivers, the rambling two-hour acceptances speeches, the glitter and the glitz. This would be a bit sad, but even if it happens, the Academy will still make its choices and hand out its awards, and so our Infallible Predictions still have a place in the world. So without further ado, here's how the next Oscar race will break down:
Best Supporting Actress: Well, there are a few applicable names here - Ruby Dee, for instance, turned in a fairly credible performance in American Gangster, and of course poor little Amy Ryan will get a nod for her poor little turn as a poor little character in Gone Baby Gone. It's possible that the eerily Dakota Fanningesque Saoirse Ronan from Atonement will get a mention, or even Tilda Swinton for her entirely commonplace turn in Michael Clayton. But every other name is mere ballast; the winner will be Cate Blanchett for her weirdly evocative impersonation of a young drug-addled Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.
Best Supporting Actor: Again, there's ballast - Javier Bardem has, against all reason, been bruited as a candidate on the strength of his entirely one-dimensional, boring performance as a killer in No Country for Old Men, and likewise the great Philip Seymour Hoffman is mentioned for his disappointingly cartoonish comedy-act in Charlie Wilson's War, but really this category comes down to a slug-fest between Youth and Old Age. On the side of Youth, there's roasting tobacco addict Casey Affleck, who pretty badly embarrassed himself in Gone Baby Gone but who turned in a genuinely creepy, nuanced, and fantastic performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. On the side of Old Age, there's Hal Holbrook, who's purely, delicately brilliant in Into the Wild. Of course we here at Stevereads believe that in such a contest Old Age should win, if only for decorum's sake - after all, even though every performance Hal Holbrook gives these days is great (his two appearances in The West Wing absolutely shine, even in a series full of bright lights), simple actuarial reality denies him many more, so the award should go to him. But we learned our lesson on this point last year, when we sentimentally hoped Peter O'Toole would win Best Actor for Venus over Forrest Wittaker for The Last King of Scotland. O'Toole's performance had strength, sadness, command, and presence, just as Wittaker's did - but O'Toole also added a masterly subtlety that no actor half his age could bring. The Last King of Scotland is an intelligent, powerful movie, one you'll watch four or five times. But Venus is so much more than that, so much more brilliant and personal, a movie you paradoxically don't need to rewatch often, because it strikes right inside you on the first viewing, mainly due to O'Toole's brilliantly unsparing performance. In Lawrence of Arabia he gave us an indelible portrayal of vigorous YOUTH; in The Lion in Winter he gave us an indelible portrayal of middle age; in My Favorite Year he gives us an indelible portrayal of that flickering-quick period in any man's life when he's no longer middle aged but he's not yet old, and in Venus he gives us an indelible portrayal of male old age - naturally, we hoped he'd win his first Oscar for his trouble. And we were disappointed. Perhaps overly chastened by this, we're going to err on the side of error and say Casey Affleck will win here.
Best Actress: Again, it wasn't a particularly promising year - certainly there was nothing whatsoever to rival much less equal Helen Mirren's beautiful performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. But there are nevertheless some worthy efforts, including the always-reliable Laura Linney in The Savages and the quirky Julie Christie for her quirky performance in Away from Her. If there is no Gawd, Ellen Page will be nominated for her insidious work in Juno, and it's possible Angelina Jolie will be nominated for her genuinely affecting work in A Mighty Heart - but the simple truth is that thanks to the fanatically unrelenting omniprescense of the papparazzi, Jolie will never again endure serious consideration as an actress. Fortunately, there's Marion Cortillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose - a miniature performance, but still a effective miniature performance.
Best Actor: Several worthy performances this time around, and oh, so few of them will get mentioned or nominated! Instead, we here at Stevereads are morbidly certain that instead the ferociously talentless Johnny Depp will be nominated for his bathetic, embarrassing performance in Tim Burton's execrable Sweeney Todd. The excellent Ryan Gosling might get nominated for his boring work in the thoroughly insulting movie Lars and the Real Girl, but is there much hope George Clooney will get a nod for his thrilling work in Michael Clayton, or has he done one too many Danny Ocean movies? Denzel Washington deserves at least a nomination for his amazing work in American Gangster, but there isn't any real doubt who'll win this category: it'll be Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood. Hell, the Academy would be afraid to give it to anybody else.
Best Director: Oddities and longshots abound in this category, which is surely a good sign for the vigor of the industry as a whole. True, Sidney Lumet might get nominated - his Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a fine piece of work - and he's an industry dinosaur. But there's also Julian Schnabel, who might get nominated for is hyper-manipulative Diving Bell and Butterfly. The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, will certainly be noticed for No Country for Old Men, but Sean Penn will likely also get a nomination for Into the Wild. There Will Be Blood can't help but bring a nod to weirdo-talented director Paul Thomas Anderson. But like we said, it's a category for wildcards, and it's a wildcard who will win this time around: Ben Affleck, for his astounding debut Gone Baby Gone.
Best Picture: Well, this is it, isn't it? All the other categories are only consolation prizes for this one, and the field is clogged with potential winners. Charlie Wilson's War is a possibility, as is the aforementioned Diving Bell and Butterfly. We hope Michael Clayton will get a mention, but what about Lions for Lambs, or Into the Wild, or even (gakk) Sweeney Todd? It seems certain No Country For Old Men will get nominated, and There Will Be Blood is equally likely. Ridley Scott's jarring American Gangster might get nominated, and currently Atonement (a brilliant, indelible piece of work) is the odds-on favorite to win, well ahead of any other potential contender. But we here at Stevereads will have none of any of that. The 2008 Best Picture will go to Gone Baby Gone, and that's just as it should be.
So there you have it! The winners and losers of 2008's ill-fated Oscar Night! For those of you who need a recap, we thoughtfully provide one:
Best Picture: Gone Baby Gone
Best Director: Ben Affleck
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress: Marion Cortillard
Best Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
And as always, no need to thank us.