Finally, I get to put my pristine powers of prediction to good use (and by "pristine" I mean, 60% of the time, I'm right all the time). Yes, I'm going to use my Jaguar-Paw to sort through the murkiest race the Oscars have in store for us: Best Picture. This is a bit of relief. After the SAGs, the Oscars looked all nice and tidy. But then Norbit happened. Then Babel started to get its name thrown around more. It's become a three-movie race at this point. Let's look at the sure-fire losers and put those puppies out of their misery first.
Letters From Iwo Jima
As I stated in the Director's piece, this is a good movie. Laremy and Brad didn't care for it and I see where they're coming from. It's a hard movie to watch. But I also see what fans of the film admire about the movie. It's well told, realistic and somber. It isn't the first film to examine and humanize "the enemy", but it is one of the stronger ones and the echoes to another possible lost war in the news these days are undeniable. It has one of the most powerful scenes I've seen in any movie this year and the acting is strong across the board. The odds are 8-1, but they are only that good because Vegas knows the power of Clint.
Should the movie have been nominated? No. It's a good movie, but it's not a great movie in my book. I'm not sure the movie was enough of a character piece for me to get completely sucked in. I always felt a little detached. In all honesty, every year there's usually about 10-15 movies that are good enough to get nominated Best Picture. But the Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences nominates the same ol'-same ol' every time. A serious war film directed by Clint Eastwood just sounds like stock Academy-bred stuff. If the Academy had a real pair they'd have went balls-out and nominated Children of Men. Somber? Check. Artistic? Check. Powerful? Check. Realistic depiction of its subject? Check. Well-acted? Check. Eastwood attachment? ... Damnit!
The Queen may very well be the best movie nominated and it's funny because it is probably the film that is getting the least amount of play. It's getting the least amount of respect in Vegas (20-1!!!!!) and it's probably the best-reviewed film of the lot (98% Rotten Tomato rating! And not just fresh...Certified Fresh!). It's got the goods: great acting, screenplay/story and directing. It just doesn't have a shot.
Should the movie have been nominated? There are movies this year I prefer over The Queen. Movies like The Prestige and The Fountain ... but I know those movies are not for everybody. One is entertaining but perhaps a bit too twisted and the other is just too trippy for some people. From that perspective, yes, this movie deserved it.
Now that we have the two cursed movies out of the way, let's look at the ones that are really in the race.
2006's best piece of entertainment popped and sizzled on screen with the help of Martin Scorsese, screenwriter William Monahan, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga and, of course, Mark Wahlberg. I just watched the special features on the special edition DVD and it's interesting to see how nicely it fits in not only Scorcese's resume, but also in Warner Bros.'s long-standing tradition of tough-guy crime films. I don't know anybody that didn't love this movie. This is a Vegas-type movie (odds are 1-5) and the fact that Marty is a solid favorite for Best Director certainly gives it an edge.
Should the movie have been nominated? Yes. It's refreshing to see a straight-up cops-and-robbers genre flick get some Oscar respect. It probably would not have happened without a name of Scorsese's stature behind it, but it probably wouldn't have been as good either.
Little Miss Sunshine
Right after the SAGs, I predicted that Little Miss Sunshine would take home the Best Picture Oscar. The Departed seemed like the favorite but this movie just kept gaining steam, it seemed. And I still believe that if the ballets had to be cast the week or two following the SAGs, it would have pulled out the upset. But the inevitable backlash started pouring in against the film and it may have crippled it's chances for an upset. It still has great odds (5-6), though.
Should the movie have been nominated? No. I've read about a million times how - by the Academy nominating it - they showed some thinking outside the box. Bullcrap. This is Sideways. This is Lost In Translation. This is the quirky, indie-feeling, dramedy they like to nominate. That's not an insult, just sayin'. I didn't love this movie the way I did those other flicks, though. I like that they recognize movies like this, I just didn't go as head-over-heels as everyone else, I guess. Really liked it. Really didn't love it. The wonderful irony is that I would have replaced this with the very Academy-friendly (superficially) movie, The Good Shepherd. I say again how stunned I am more critics and voters didn't get behind that superb flick.
When it won Best Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes, it became obvious that Babel, which at the time was a fringe Oscar hopeful, was going to most likely get nominated Best Picture for the Oscar. It happened and I'm starting to get the feeling the Academy likes this movie a lot more than we have been giving them credit before. The odds on this baby have been dropping every week it seems (it's currently nestled in at 2-3).
Should the movie have been nominated? Nope. I respect the film, but there is something missing I can't really put my finger on. It's engaging, but not enough. It's powerful, but not entirely cohesive. It's an admirable miss. In it's place I would have nominated the film the Academy wanted to but chickened out ... Pan's Labyrinth.
So what wins? I'm really not sure. But it may come down to what wins the screenplay awards.
I think Little Miss Sunshine may have peaked three or four weeks ago. In fact, I know it did (in a talking-out-of-my-own-ass-way). The Departed has been a steady train. It has that Martin Scorsese Best Director thing locked up. LMS has no Best Director nomination. That hurts. It's nominated for 4 Oscars, 2 of which are acting but none of which are in the lead category. If it wins Best Original Screenplay, it has a very good shot at winning Best Picture. Not a lock, just a good shot. But the only way it wins Best Picture is if it wins Best Original Screenplay. I don't see any other way around it.
Otherwise, it would be a Best Picture winner that didn't win an editing, directing or screenplay award. That wouldn't make sense to most people. Then again, this is the Academy. So it most likely needs to win Original Screenplay. And in order to do that it has to beat the likes of Babel, The Queen and Pan's Labyrinth (I don't see Letters From Iwo Jima being a major player in that category). Those are three highly respected offerings. If The Queen wins, it screws Babel pretty hard but it kills Little Miss Sunshine's chances.
The Departed's screenplay is not up against other Best Picture nominees but if William Monahan's screenplay lost to - for example - Children of Men - that wouldn't exactly bode well for Marty's movie either.
If Babel wins Best Original Screenplay, though, prepare for the Babel upset. It may not steal Marty's Director nod, but it has a good shot at winning an editing award. And giving Marty the Best Director Oscar and giving Babel the trophies for Editing, Screenplay and Picture are a very strong possibility. Even if it doesn't win Screenplay, picking up an Editing award is huge. If it doesn't win either Editing or Screenplay, Babel is done.
However, of all the movies making that late push, it appears Babel is pushing hardest. The word from many Oscar bloggers is - in speaking to Academy members - they are hearing "Babel-Babel-Babel" the same way they were hearing "Crash-Crash-Crash" last year.
So...what wins? I'm pretty convinced LMS is done. It now comes down to the safe bet (The Departed) versus the upset. Last year I played it safe and ignored the Crash upset talk. But Marty's movie doesn't have the "gay baggage" Brokeback had. Yet it does have the baggage of being "just a genre picture". Hmm. Well, the way I see it, the film that has the least amount of obstacles to overcome is The Departed, so The Departed it is (let's make Marty proud, Academy!). But I'll be betting money on Babel. It pays better.
Get my other predictions for the following categories: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Best Actor/Actress. If you want to check out where I got all my odds just go to BoDog, but be careful with that cash, the Oscars are never guaranteed.
Stay up-to-date at all times with everything Oscar at RopeofSilicon's official Oscars 2007 page.