Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Look into My Crystal Ball...(Oscars 2005)

With contenders in all categories, who will win? Here are my picks.

Best Picture
The Aviator
Finding Neverland
**Million Dollar Baby

The best picture of the year you ask? Million Dollar Baby (period). Finding Neverland took me to a magical and emotional place, and easily deserves its name mentioned here. Sideways is by far one of the year’s best, and hands down my favorite comedy of the year. The Aviator is a valiant effort that the Academy may very well place at the head of the class. Ray is the only one on the list that arguably should have been replaced (maybe with Hotel Rwanda, Closer, or Eternal Sunshine). Nevertheless, to the fans of Ray, have no fear it will come in to play elsewhere.

At the end of the night, Million Dollar Baby should run away with the Oscar. It is not only the most moving boxing movie out there, but it is also the best film of 2004. On the other hand, with all of the hubbub and controversy conjured up by Medved, there is plenty of room for Sideways or The Aviator to pull a fast one on Baby and slip in a sucker-punch.

Probable Academy Pick: The Aviator

Best Director
**Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Taylor Hackford, Ray
Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
Alexander Payne, Sideways
Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

This one is a true cock fight between two American film icons: Eastwood and Scorsese. Scorsese, still with an empty shelf in the curio, has been long overdue to take home a golden guy, but the question is: if he brings home the bacon, will it be for The Aviator or for the miscalculation(s) the Academy has made in years prior? In my opinion, the latter rings the final bell with a resounding TKO; therefore, I will ignore the man who some have labeled as being a tad too pretentious, and look elsewhere.

Clint Eastwood has created his life’s opus in Million Dollar Baby. Remarkably, after last year’s highly recommended Mystic River, Eastwood has improved to a level of extraordinary with this emotionally gut-wrenching, powerful, and profound composition. Thus, my heart directs my vote to Eastwood.

Probable Academy Pick: Martin Scorsese

Best Actor
Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
**Jamie Foxx, Ray

In a competitive year for male leads, all five of these actors have earned their place atop this list. Johnny Depp is one of the finest actors in the game. However, after two years of consecutive Best Actor nominations, he will still come up empty-handed. The same goes for DiCaprio.

It is a pleasure to see Don Cheadle included in the mix, but still: no. As for Eastwood, he is the only contender that just may pull off the upset. Instead, I say give him the Best Director and leave it at that. No one deserves the award more than the stand-up comic and star of Booty Call—Jamie Foxx. What a career turn this guy has made. The only question is: will the Academy see his portrayal of the great Ray Charles as a dead-on impression or as the best acting of the year? In my eyes, along with the general consensus, there is no question.

Probable Academy Pick: Jamie Foxx

Best Actress
Annette Bening, Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
**Hillary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Despite hearing good things about Annette Bening’s work in Being Julia and Imelda Staunton’s dauntless role in Vera Drake, Hilary Swank’s athletic and trying portrayal in Million Dollar Baby deserves the most accolades. It is a thrill to see Moreno praised for her worthy depiction of Maria in another one of this year’s best films (Maria Full of Grace), but most likely, she doesn’t stand a chance up against the American favorites. I was however pleasantly surprised to see the Academy's interest in her performance. In addition to Moreno, it is a plus seeing Winslet on the list in her best role yet. However, in the end, Swank will surely grab the glory.

Probable Academy Pick: Hilary Swank

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Alda, The Aviator
Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Jamie Foxx, Collateral
Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
**Clive Owen, Closer

As predicted, Jamie Foxx was nominated for two awards. One he will win; one he will not—with this one obviously being the not. Thomas Haden Church’s character in Sideways was an absolute scene-stealer—the kind of acting one can only hope for in such a small picture and a far cry from his character in “Wings”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised or angered if he swiped the trophy. As for Morgan Freeman, the current favorite in most minds, his job in Million Dollar Baby is only noteworthy and not the astonishing portrayal that everyone is cracking it up to be. I hope his age and Hollywood success doesn’t play a factor here—that is the purpose of lifetime achievement awards.

Next to mention is the guy from M.A.S.H., Alan Alda. The last thing I saw him in was a science video I watched in the ninth grade. I cannot see this shocking entry playing any part in the outcome.

By the way, where is Freddie Highmore? If you don’t think that kid did an amazing job pouring his heart into his role—bringing the audience to tears, then you missed something. Without Highmore, that leaves us with the man who deserves the award the most—Clive Owen. Owen's acting in Closer is absolute top-shelf. His role was honest, bold, and packed with grit. No one warrants the Oscar more than Clive Owen; his support, alongside Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Natalie Portman, was the stand-out part of the show. Then again, because this category contains four strong players, it may be up for an upset.

Probable Academy Pick: Morgan Freeman

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
Laura Linney, Kinsey
Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
**Natalie Portman, Closer

In the previous months, the only two names that have been mentioned with any consistency – relative to this group of ladies – are Cate Blanchett and Katherine Hepburn. Both names equate to Cate Blanchett picking up the gold. However, this is the one category that when the words “And the winner is...” are spoken, the favorite’s name may not follow. Both Virginia Madsen and Natalie Portman stand a possibility of stealing the statue from Cate. However, I have no choice but to go with Natalie, in the one of her two outstanding roles of 2004 that made her one of my personal favorite Misses of cinema.

Probable Academy Pick: Cate Blanchett

Well, that does it for this year's "big six." Here are some additional predictions in the "smaller" categories.

• John Logan for The Aviator
• Charlie Kaufman, et al. for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind**
• Terry Geroge & Keir Pearson for Hotel Rwanda
• Brad Bird for The Incredibles
• Mike Leigh for Vera Drake

• Richard Linklater, et al. for Before Sunset
• David Magee for Finding Neverland
• Paul Haggis for Million Dollar Baby**
• Jose Rivera for The Motorcycle Diaries
• Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor for Sideways

• Robert Richardson for The Aviator
• Zhao Xiaoding for House of Flying Daggers**
• Caleb Deschanel for The Passion of the Christ
• John Mathieson for The Phantom of the Opera
• Bruno Delbonnel for A Very Long Engagement

• The Aviator
• Collateral
• Finding Neverland**
• Million Dollar Baby
• Ray

• The Aviator**
• Finding Neverland
• Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
• The Phantom of the Opera
• A Very Long Engagement

• The Aviator**
• Finding Neverland
• Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
• Ray
• Troy

• Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
• The Passion of the Christ**
• The Sea Inside

• The Aviator
• The Incredibles
• The Polar Express
• Ray**
• Spider-Man 2

• The Incredibles
• The Polar Express
• Spider-Man 2**

• Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
• I, Robot
• Spider-Man 2**

• "Look to Your Path" from The Chorus
• "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" from The Sea Inside
• "Learn to Be Lonely" from The Phantom of the Opera**
• "Believe" from The Polar Express
• "Accidentally in Love" from Shrek 2

• Finding Neverland**
• Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
• Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
• The Passion of the Christ
• The Village

• The Chorus (France)
• Downfall (Germany)
• The Sea Inside (Spain)**
• As It Is In Heaven (Sweden)
• Yesterday (South Africa)

• The Incredibles**
• Shark Tale
• Shrek 2

• Born Into Brothels**
• The Story of the Weeping Camel
• Super Size Me
• Tupac: Resurrection
• Twist of Faith

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005