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.