The night before the Oscars. I’ve seen everything I can see bar The Good Shepherd which I’m seeing tomorrow and The Queen which I’m not interested in.
I’m troubled by three of the major nominees having themes of pedophilia or at least inter-generational predation and with a sympathetic ear. Notes on a Scandal comes across as sympathetic to Cate Blanchett’s character simply because Judi Dench’s is so purely malevolent (and one of the most disturbing lesbian stereotypes in cinema in a long time; moreso because it’s simply so well done). Little Children is more typical in its characterisation but leaves you with a creepy sense of discomfort but no solutions for the major issue and definitely with far too many neat and predictable solutions for everybody else’s suburban dramas. Venus, meanwhile, is just disturbing. While I loved Hanif Kureishi’s screenplay (my new flatmate Josh felt it was amateur, while I just felt it was theatrical and very English), the motivations of the characters are awful and sometimes inscrutable, and there is no judgement whatsoever of our 90-year-old and his creepy attempts to seduce a vulnerable but bratty 19-year-old. More disturbing is that nominations in each case go to the person who played the predator: Cate Blanchett (Best Actress, Supporting), Jackie Earl Haley (Best Actor, Supporting) and Peter O’Toole (Best Actor, Leading).
That said, here are my thoughts on what I’d like to see get up:
Actor in a Leading Role: Seen three out of the five nominees. Like Leonardo di Caprio for Blood Diamond, which I saw this afternoon. He’s really brilliant. He takes an unlikeable character and makes you understand his motivations. The South Effrican accent is also pretty consistent. O’Toole was good but I’ll be annoyed if he gets this just because he’s old – I hate the way the Academy awards make-up statues for previous fluffs. Will Smith phoned his performance in to some extent: Pursuit of Happyness is a great film with a good message, but the performance isn’t the One.
Actor in a Supporting Role: Man, this one’s hard. Seen four out of five of the nominees. If we’re seriously talking about performance only and not content, I’m going to say Jackie Earl Haley, but I’m uncomfortable with it. Djimon Hounsou deserves it too, but I don’t think he’ll get it.
Actress in a Leading Role: Seen four out of five. I think Judi Dench will get it (again) but I like Penelope Cruz’s performance in Volver better.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Seen four out of the five. I want it to be either Adriana Barrazza or Rinko Kikuchi for Babel. Honestly, it should go to Rinko for doing the performance of a troubled teen with sexual problems entirely in sign-language.
Animated film: Seen two out of three. Cars had better animation, Happy Feet had a better message and was a better film in some ways. I think they’ll give it to Cars
Art Direction: Seen three out of five, seeing fourth tomorrow. So far, I’m voting Pan’s Labyrinth, hands down.
Cinematography: Seen four out of five. Children of Men. Just something about the way it was shot that changed the sense of location very well with different sections. Can’t remember right now about length of shots and other things like that.
Costume: Only seen two of five. Can’t call it.
Directing: Seen three of five. Really want The Departed or Babel to win. Have a feeling it’ll be one of those political things where one gets director and the other gets best film. On the other hand, Unite 93 could get this just because of the subject matter.
Documentary: Only seen one, but it has to be An Inconvenient Truth, surely?
Film Editing: Seen four of five. Too close to call, I think. All excellent films.
(not commenting on music or sound or various other things. I think Pan’s Labyrinth should get Makeup)
Best Picture: Seen four of five. Really want it to be either The Departed or Babel, preferably in reverse to Directing.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Seen all five (yay!). I think I’d like Children of Men to get it. Excellent film.
Writing (Original Screenplay): Seen four of five. Hard choice. I’d be happy if any of Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima or Pan’s Labyrinth won.
Oscar-nominated films I’d highly recommend seeing:
- Babel: brilliant, complex, beautiful performances, editing, global issues, good critique of American attitudes and world situation. Japanese connection tenuous but a beautiful aside.
- Pan’s Labyrinth: Superb allegorical tale for adults about legacy, memory, fighting for what you believe in and overcoming adversity. Also, sacrifice and selfishness.
- Blood Diamond: Extraordinarily powerful film about Sierra Leone’s violent struggles only a few years ago. Manages to cover enormous territory and connect civil war in Africa to global economic demand and even the G8. Brilliant performances. I adore Jennifer Connelly and I’ve always had a soft spot for Leo. This time he’s excellent, though. Djimon Hounsou’s performance is harrowing and heartbreaking.
- The Departed: Complex, violent and tough drama about double crossers and the underworld. Typical Scorcese fare but well-paced and neatly done.
- Children of Men: Scary concept brilliantly executed with lots of social commentary about refugees and the social state of Britain an the world today.
- An Inconvenient Truth: Must-see global warming stats in easy to understand graphs but doesn’t feel like a school lesson. More like a serious wake-up call. Could do without the Al Gore “This is my life” recaps for those who don’t know who he is.
- The Pursuit of Happyness: Feelgood film about perserverence in the face of adversity. Based on a true story, it’s good but has that slightly worrying conservative attitude that if only “you” worked harder, you’d “get somewhere” and that everyone else is poor because they give up too easily. Also that being rich gives you happiness (certainly, poverty ain’t no fun).
I won’t be reading any net sources till after the Oscars screen here. See you on the flipside.