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Oscar Predictions 2017 February 22, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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oscar-falls-alseepI don’t think there’s been a year where I’ve cared less about the Oscars, but then there’ll always be next year.

When Hollywood was HOLLYWOOD! we’d have a bunch of films we loved contending for an award during the one evening of the year where awards were given out. Legendary stars like Humphrey Bogart, Myrna Loy, John Wayne, Jimmy Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and so forth would either win, be nominated or present in festivities hosted by Bob Hope.

What do we have now? An endless award season where overpaid entertainment-biz royalty continually stroke each other’s egos over largely forgettable fare, with a few diamonds in the rough. I’m always reminded of that when I cull through the screeners I’m lent by bona-fide academy members to see what I actually want to watch. It’s usually pretty thin.

Much the way NFL ratings dropped like a rock this year partly due to overexposure of mediocre product (like having last-place teams play week after week on Thursday night primetime games), the Oscars now blur into the year-long promotional fest of Hollywood telling us how great it is. It used to be a rarity to see our favorite actors & actresses as themselves, commenting on their work. Now, it’s everywhere, every day. Why, then, would Oscar night be a big deal? It’s just another day at the self-congratulatory office now.


Did I mention the show itself is most often a colossal bore? A funny joke here and there, usually depending on the host… but mostly it’s like watching factory gears turning. Every year at the end, I’d find myself saying “I don’t think I can sit through another one of these” and this year, I am keeping that promise.

I will not be watching.

I’ll check winners online, yeah, I’d like to see how well I call the winners, but I can’t sit through the broadcast. Through the boring production numbers. Through behind-the-scenes people who’d have great things to say being played off stage to make time for…. more production numbers. Through painfully unfunny contrived comedy bits like Neil Patrick Harris’ “psychic” act from a few years ago. Through this year’s memorial reel, filled with far too many wonderful people who died this year, and inevitably sitting there annoyed at who they left out. One year they left out DeForest Kelly. Another year, they skipped over Patrick McGoohan. Who will get dissed this year?

And then, this of all years, will be the politics. Movies are a nice escape from real life, or a window onto reality by way of creative fiction. If actors broke character and the 4th wall and speechified during their films, most people would walk out.

Hence, my reaction to the show. I’ll be watching the Columbo rerun, prolly. I have no idea what Peter Falk’s politics were, and I don’t care. They don’t matter.

Anyway, here are my predictions:

Best Picture: La La Land (they love movies about themselves)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actor: Even though Denzel Washington won the SAG award, I’ll go with Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea.

Best Actress: All signs point to Emma Stone for La La Land, but a dark horse upset would be an interesting barometer: voting on this took place just after Meryl Streep‘s highly publicized political speech after winning a Golden Globe for Florence Foster Jenkins, not exactly one of Streep’s “major” career roles, but if everyone who agreed with her speech voted for her on account of it, AND rationalized the vote since, after all, she’s Meryl-fucking-Streep-fer-godsakes…. well, don’t be too surprised if her name is announced.

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Rhode Island’s Viola Davis, Fences

Best Animated Feature: Zootopia

Best Animated Short: Piper

Best Original Screenplay: Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Heisserer, Arrival

Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser, Lion

Best Documentary Feature: OJ, Made In America

Best Documentary Short: The White Helmets

Best Live Action Short: Enemies Within

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Best Editing: La La Land

Best Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge Swinging for the fences here… Kevin O’Connell finally winning after going 0 for 21!

Best Production Design: La La Land  

Best Score: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land this is getting monotonous….

Best Original Song: I’ll go for an upset here… “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Best Makeup: It’s always the one with he MOST makeup, so… Star Trek Beyond

Best Costume Design: La La Land

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

Well, there. My guiding principles in picking these was to pick movies that make Hollywood feel good about itself, either aesthetically (La La Land) or politically (the shorts, foreign film & documentary). We’ll see how I do.



Oscar Predictions Reckoning 2015 February 23, 2015

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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Klugman with typewriter 4c

Only 15 out of 24, not exactly a stellar performance.

I missed the documentaries and score (I’m surprised a guy nominated twice in the same category didn’t split his own votes), I handicapped wrong on actor and missed editing & original screenplay. Some of the guild awards were not predictors, others were. Whatever.

I was also wrong about the memorial reel – they ended with Mike Nichols and not Robin Williams.

I got the boredom part right. The show was the usual overlong drawn out snoozefest it always is. Neil Patrick Harris did the thankless job of hosting, and he’s getting the social media blasts today that are to be expected. And so it goes.

As usual, someone totally unfamiliar with Hollywood or movies or American culture in general would look at the Oscar telecast and assume that American film is all about music. Why the hell does this stupid show, year after year after year, spend so much time on songs and production numbers instead of on, oh, FILM??? The only clips we see are for the actors. Nuthin’ else. EVER. And now, here’s another song!

I did not win the pool at the party I attended, but the food was certainly yummers.

And I got to meet Robert Towne & talk a little about movies with him. Movies were better when he was getting screen credit. But forget it, Jake, it’s the Oscars.

Oscar Predictions 2015 February 20, 2015

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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What better way to return to this blog than with my Oscar handicapping? I did pretty well last year without seeing any of the movies, so here’s hoping for a repeat.

I always tell myself I ought to post more frequently on this thing, but I WORK FOR A LIVING, Y’KNOW?? Although if I posted all the stupid links I put up on facebook on here instead, this blog would certainly be more active and attract more clickbait. It might be a plan!

Anyway, after reading through the nominees and reading the tea leaves, here’s how I think it’ll play out on Sunday night:

Best Picture: Even though it seems people either love it or hate it, Birdman seems to be the one they’ll pick here. It’s a movie about an actor who redeems himself artistically despite a lost career and a needling critic…. one of the largest voting sections of the academy are actors, and any movie where Hollywood can say “Hey, that’s about ME!!!!” will win awards.

Best Director: Alejandro Inarritu for Birdman.

Best Actor: As long as I’m on a Birdman kick, I think they’ll give this one to Michael Keaton over Eddie Redmayne.  It’s really a career award for Keaton, kind of the way John Wayne won for True Grit. The feeling will be it’s probably his best chance at the thing, it’s his time, it’s his turn, etc etc. He’s well liked enough by everyone in the biz, and Redmayne has the “He’s young and will be back someday” vibe to him.

Best Actress: This one is the easiest to pick – Julianne Moore played someone dieing of a mentally debilitating disease, which already puts her at 80% of full Oscar. Moore played Sarah Palin in HBO’s Game Change a couple of years back, a tv movie basically designed to portray Palin as the stupidest person in the history of the world. Considering the way Hollywood feels about Palin, they’ll be giving Moore awards for the rest of her life regardless of what she does. So, we are at 100% full Oscar!!!

Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons. Basically another career award.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette. They can’t give it to Streep every year, y’know.

Original Screenplay: Usually Best Picture & Screenplay match, BUT since Birdman had 4 writers, and since Hollywood seems to have a hard-on for giving him an Award for who he basically is, I think this one goes to Wes Anderson for Grand Budapest Hotel.

Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game. They gotta give it somethin’

Animated Feature: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Animated Short: Feast

Live Action Short: The Phone Call

Foreign Language Film: Ida

Cinematography: Birdman

Costume Design: Grand Budapest Hotel

Editing: Boyhood 12 years worth of work? It’s gotta take this one, even if editing and picture usually match since editors make up the other large voting block. But I think the actors will outvote ’em for best picture.

Make Up: Grand Budapest Hotel It’s always the movie with the most blatant make-up.

Production Design:Grand Budapest Hotel

Original Score: Johan Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Original Song: “Glory” from Selma, because they have to give it somethin’

Sound Editing: American Sniper

Sound Mixing: American Sniper  War movies usually do well here, and while scifi usually trumps it, the sound in Interstellar has generated a lot of complaints from the geeks who pay attention to this category. So, a slight nod to American Sniper here.

Visual Effects: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Documentary Short: Our Curse

Documentary Feature: Virunga

Other predictions? Well, Robin Williams will definitely end the memorial reel. The production numbers will be boring as watching, well, the Oscar telecast. Neil Patrick Harris will be adequate as host.

Whether or not I win the party pool with these picks remains to be seen. But at least I know the food will be good where I’m going this year, even if it’s a schlep from my house & my kitty. The sacrifices I make for ART…….

Oscar Predictions 2014 February 23, 2014

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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Let me preface the following prognostications with a small caveat: the ONLY movie I saw in theaters in 2013 was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Yup, that’s right. While I used to see anywhere around 35-50 movies annually, I’ve been so turned off by the entire experience of theatergoing that I’d rather wait for the things I’m  interested in to come out on disc & watch ’em at home, without the cellphones going off, the texting, idiots talking to each other or back to the screen, crying babies (I keep the ones I kidnap in a sound-proof room, so no problemo at home).

So I’m flying blind making these calls, relying solely on my gut feelings of how Hollywood gives out awards and what they give them out for: that wonderful blend of capturing the PC zeitgeist mixed with proper star power & convincing industry insiders you’re setting a trend.

Unlike in years past on this blog, I think I’ll predict the ENTIRE ballot with some commentary here and there…. we can see my batting average after next Sunday. Here we go!

PICTURE: 12 Years A Slave

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (another year where pic and director won’t match, I think… Cuaron’s been around for a while and made a big CGI epic, but they’ll go racial guilt big-time in picking picture, one to sneer in front of all the anti-Obama flyover folk they look down on anyway, and also to show up Oprah who tried to guilt ’em into letting her ram her own racial guilt movie down their throats. A twofer!)

ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club

ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupia Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave

FOREIGN FILM: The Great Beauty, Italy

SCORE: This one is tough since they all sound alike except really for Thomas Newman’s score for Saving Mr. Banks. But I think they’ll give it to Steven Price for Gravity

SONG: “Let it Go” from Frozen

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Another tough one, but I’ll go with The Act of Killing

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in No. 6 (it’s about music saving the spirits of a Holocaust survivor… Holy Oscar slam dunk, Batman!)

LIVE ACTION SHORT: Helium (it’s got the best visuals)

ANIMATED SHORT: Mr. Hublot (visually the most dazzling)



EDITING: American Hustle (it’s gotta win something…)

COSTUME DESIGN: 12 Years A Slave


MAKEUP: Dallas Buyers Club




The best I’ve ever done is 20/24, narrowly missing the Oscar party pool pot of several hundred dollars by ONE goddamn pick! This year I’ll be at a party where the pool is strictly for honor & glory, so the food better be good while I, once again, sit through one of the ABSOLUTE WORST, MOST BORING, SELF-CONGRATULATORY HEAPING PILE OF MOOSE SHIT SHOWS known to humankind.

And (sigh) I’ll be back again watching next year. I hear Carrot Top is hosting.

Oscar Predictions 2013 February 22, 2013

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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Is everyone all set for the 3+ hour annual borefest known as OSCAR TIME???

I know I am! And this is a very special year for me, since I grew so disgusted with the overall moviegoing experience in the age of nonstop ads, audience members using cellphones, and the never-ending conveyor belt of drek emanating from the studios that I stayed away from the theaters all year. In these predictions, I’m totally flying blind – I haven’t seen any of these movies yet!

Oh, I will… eventually. In the privacy of my home, on my flatscreen, with kitty alongside. The only way to fly.

I actually got invited to attend the thing in person this year (long story), but I’d have to rent a tux and sit through the entirety of it (a) without eating and (b) without being able to vocalize any of the endless stream of snark, insults and flat-out derision that overwhelms me in every Oscar telecast. I must admit if the invite had also included the Governor’s Ball afterwards, I’d have gone, but for just the awards… Well, I thanked them immensely but passed.

Anyway, after reviewing movie descriptions, the buzz, the campaigns, and everything I know about motion picture academy behavior, here are my predictions for most of the awards and a little about the show:

Let’s start with the acting categories: These are fairly easy to call this year. Daniel Day-Lewis seems a shoe-in for Best Actor & Tommy Lee Jones a lock for Supporting Actor, both for Lincoln. I think Anne Hathaway will win the “we love your career trajectory lately” Best Supporting Actress for Les Mis even if the movie fell short of expectations. Best Actress has been strange the past few years, and I think the backlash against the politics of Zero Dark Thirty will sink Jessica Chastain’s odds and give it to Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook.

In writing, I think we’ll get one of those years where best script and best picture do NOT coincide. I think Lincoln will win adapted over Argo because they’ll want to reward Tony Kushner’s politics. And I think Amour will win Best Original because it’ll match up with my predicted win for it in Best Foreign Film as well.

Best Picture will go to Argo – it’s the easy favorite, and was helped immensely by the snub of Affleck for director. It’s also about filmmaking to some degree, something the Academy always loves. Without Affleck in the category, Ang Lee will win Best Director since they probably feel like they still owe him something from Brokeback Mountain losing out to the inferior Crash.

Life of Pi will also win a lot of tech awards – Cinematography, Sound Editing, Visual Effects… possibly even Musical Score.

Editing? Argo.

Animated Feature? Wreck It Ralph

Seth MacFarlane? At least he was honest enough to admit that no matter what he does, the critics will savage him. He’ll get to sing, perhaps a show-tune type thing. Maybe he’ll even sing to Snow White at the Copacabana with a reanimated Merv Griffin. I’m sure there’ll be some suck-up political digs in his jokes, but one thing I’d like to see is him actually hit the thin-skinned Hollywood crowd with some joke, ANY joke, that makes them amazingly uncomfortable. He’s got the capability to do it, even if it’s on the immaturity level of the stuff on Family Guy. He’ll go up a lot of opinion points in my eyes if he makes some crack about Hollywood that makes some of ’em absolutely cringe.

Please, God, ANYTHING to save us from the usual boredom of this thing.

And yes, Jack Klugman better make the memorial reel. And Ernest Borgnine too. Or there’ll be HELL to pay!!!

Predictions, Predictions February 2, 2010

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Movies.
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The table has been set for this year’s Superbowl and the nominations for this year’s Oscars were announced this morning, so here’s my possibly non-worthless take on the outcomes of both.

Let’s start with the Superbowl, where the Colts opened as 4 point favorites and are currently at 5 1/2 points over the Saints. As much as I (and everyone else except die-hard Colts fans and members of the Manning family) will be rooting for the Saints in this one, I think the Colts win & cover the spread. Despite the questionable status of Dwight Freeney, I think Manning will outgun Brees in what ought to be a real shootout. It’ll be a fun game to watch, I could even see the Saints up at halftime… but in the end, I think the Colts will grind down the game and win by about a touchdown. I’d rather they didn’t, since the worse Peyton Manning does in the post-season, the easier it will be for me the rest of my life to argue how Brady was better…. then again, if Manning can go out and win a bunch more Superbowls, then more power to him, I suppose. To borrow from Henny Youngman, take the Colts! Please!

And now for the Oscars!

This year, I hardly saw anything. I’m about as dispassionate about the Oscars as I am about the Patriot-less Superbowl.

During my annual Oscar-viewing soiree, we try to predict every damn one of the awards that are part of the broadcast, meaning we try to call who is going to win for Best Documentary Short & Best Sound Editing. I’ll put my immediate off-the-cuff predictions of the major categories here. I doubt they’ll change by March 7.

Best Supporting Actress: This one is fairly easy, since Mo’Nique has been winning some of the earlier awards.
Best Supporting Actor: Another easy one – Christoph Waltz has been generating buzz since that movie came out.
Best Actress: This looks like it’s pretty much between Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock… and even though Bullock was in an audience-favored role, I think the Academy feels the need to give Streep another award at this stage in her career, after her record number of nominations. And she hasn’t won since 1983. And she will get lots of votes from all the old scrag actresses in Hollywood that loved the way she played to their 60-year old fantasies about their self-image in that Nancy Meyers chick flick. And Bullock’s character was a conservative Christian. So, I’ll pick Meryl Streep.
Best Actor: Another easy pick – Jeff Bridges gets the career award. Everyone knows he should be an Oscar winner, somewhere, for the great body of work he’s done. This is the year.
Best Director & Best Picture: Yep, they go together like lox & bagels. Despite ten best picture noms versus the traditional five directors, I think we’ll still get a matched set. While the additional Best Picture noms throw a little confusion in the works, when it really comes down to it, the big box-office audience pleasers in the bunch (Avatar & The Blind Side) won’t make it… I’m guessing Up wins for Best Animated Picture (as well as Best Original Screenplay, over my Best Picture prediction)… the only dark horse in there is Up In The Air, but nobody got overly excited over that. So, I think the Academy will pat itself on the back with its first ever woman director to win, and I’ll pick Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker as winners here.

Up In The Air will get adapted screenplay. Avatar will sweep the technical awards. Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin will be fairly funny, but the show will be as boring as usual. Karl Malden gets pole position on the memorial reel.

And unfortunately, the special Oscar they’re giving Roger Corman will not be part of the broadcast. Philistines.

The Dullest Oscars I Can Remember February 22, 2009

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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“More production numbers! That’s what the Oscars need!”

I can hear them in the planning sessions uh-huhing that particular piece of anti-genius when they understandably wanted to exploit host Hugh Jackman’s song & dance capability – but those numbers go on FOREVER, have NOTHING to do with why we love FILM, and only serve to make the show BORING.

Jackman wasn’t bad as a host – he certainly worked hard & never lost his charm. But the overall show was a snoozefest – not only because of the utter predictability of the vast majority of the awards (the only real horse race was Best Actor), but because the production itself was so half-assed in parts.

The Good:

•Steve Martin & Tina Fey. Why couldn’t they have hosted the entire thing?
•Ben Stiller as Joaquin Phoenix
•The James Franco/Seth Rogen bit
•The simple dignity of Heath Ledger’s family
•The acceptance speeches were all pretty good – no embarassments or posturing, though Sean Penn came close – he saved himself by acknowledging what a difficult fellow he can be.
•Jerry Lewis’ simple and gracious acceptance speech
•The “panel” presentations of acting awards kinda grew on me as the evening went on, since it was nice to see actors acknowledging each other’s work in a more serious way than what we usually get at these things, though it too dragged on.

The Bad:

•The usual atrocious banter between presenters
•The “iPod shuffle” motif used in the Best Song mash-up, as well as in the free-association film clip fests for Best Picture and the montages of romantic & action films. It was ready-made for the ADD generation, but it took away from the actual nominees.
•A production number about movie musicals instead of actually showing clips of great (and perhaps Oscar-winning) movie musicals. Once again, Motion Picture Academy: WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT PRODUCTION NUMBERS.
•The CRIMINAL framing of the memorial reel, with the camera swinging all around monitors IN THE DISTANCE, more focused on Queen Latifah while clips of the greats who died were far distant in the background – some of them going by so fast you couldn’t even identify them. Just f-ing horrible – AND they left off Patrick McGoohan & Rudy Ray Moore, those MOFOs. Not quite as bad as leaving off DeForest Kelly to make room for Leni Riefenstahl, but a close second. I realize Moore is a sentimental pick for me, and they DID include Vampira on the thing, but McGoohan was in tons of movies, including a Best Picture winner. How could they forget that?

The Ugly:

•Bill Maher presenting.
•Bill Maher, period.

It’s getting harder and harder to give a crap about these things with every passing year. I only saw one of the picture noms this year and don’t go to the movies anywhere near as often as I used to. The preview reel of what’s coming up for 2009 they ran over the closing credits didn’t look likely to change that. I’m feeling bad about missing bowling for this, though it’s one of the few times your gracious blogging curmudgeon invites people over.

I suppose it could be worse. Bill Maher could have come over. Perhaps I should be grateful.

Oscar Handicapping From First Impressions January 22, 2009

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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After reading through today’s announcement of the 2009 Oscar Nominations, I’ll go ahead and make my early predictions. I may or may not alter these over the next few weeks, as I get a sense of the “buzz” via whatever meager connections I have to the people who actually vote on these things. Fewer and fewer people care about the Oscars year after year, as more and more of a disconnect grows between the movies that win awards and the movies that most people actually see – as well as the inundation of self-congratulatory awards ceremonies that fill the television schedules in the weeks following the New Year. But for movie geeks like myself, the Oscars are required viewing for some reason, if nothing else than to remind me that “Hollywood film” once actually produced classic popular art with lasting power to entertain across decades. I’d like to think that some of this year’s (or any recent year’s) crop of honored films can be spoken of in the same breath with Casablanca or The Godfather or Singin’ In The Rain (Whoops! That one didn’t win the Oscar!), but somehow I doubt that most of them attain that level of filmdom.

Starting with the acting categories: I think the easiest prediction here is Best Supporting Actor, with the late Heath Ledger getting the nod over Robert Downey Jr, Michael Shannon, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Josh Brolin. Granted, Downey is basically up for two performances here, officially one for Tropic Thunder and the other, tacitly, for Ironman, and I think in any other year, he’d probably win. But even putting aside the tragedy of what happened to Ledger, his performance as the Joker essentially made the film he was in memorable, putting it over the fine but difficult to reach line between good movie and great one. Never mind the huge logic holes in the plot and the utter ridiculousness of the basic premise of a guy in a rubber bat suit fighting a guy dressed as an evil clown – Ledger created one of the creepiest screen villains in recent memory, and he did it in an underplayed, subtle way. I’ve never seen Shannon in anything, so nothing against the other guys who are all great actors in their own right, but Ledger will win this one posthumously, and I think he would have won it anyway.

Best Supporting Actress: This one is always a crapshoot, and it’s an interesting group of nominees. I think Amy Adams and Viola Davis, both up for Doubt, will cancel each other out. I’m not sure how many people saw Vicky Christina Barcelona, so I’m not sure of Penelope Cruz’ chances here. I think it comes down to whether or not they give Marisa Tomei another award, or whether they want to give something to Benjamin Button (see more of my blather below) by giving the award to Taraji P. Henson. I’m leaning towards Henson, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give the award to Tomei (mostly for remaining hot).

For Best Actor, we have Richard Jenkins in The Visitor, a film that no one saw. We also have Sean Penn for Milk, but Penn has won before, and I think despite the desire for Hollywood to reward the movie because of its politics & its timing in the strong anti-prop-8 atmosphere, Penn will not share in the awards the film will get partially because he’s already won and partially due to the gossip about his real-life homophobia. I also think that personal jealousies over who he’s gotten to bang over the years will keep Brad Pitt from winning, which leaves the award between two come-backers of sorts, Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler and Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon. I think Rourke will be Burt Reynolds-ed here, with academy voters thinking that the nomination and the revitalized career pulled from the depths of the casting toilet are enough reward for Rourke, who just signed to be in Ironman 2 – therefore, the award will go to Langella, a fine actor who has been plugging away at a wide variety of roles for years.

Best Actress: I don’t think the voters will treat Angelina Jolie the same as Brad Pitt, and voting for her becomes a sort-of vindication for Clint Eastwood, who was unjustly ignored for Best Actor in Gran Torino, but I think the lukewarm reception Changeling got last fall doesn’t bode well for Jolie’s chances here. Ann Hathaway had a great year of appearing in lots of films people saw, but I think she’ll fall into the “you’re too young but you’ll be back someday” category this time out. I didn’t see Frozen River, but I heard critical raves for it and for Melissa Leo, who I remember being very good on one of my old favorite TV shows from the ’90s, Homicide, but I don’t think enough people saw this film. I think this category comes down to Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep. I think the academy voters really want to give an award to Kate Winslet and NOT giving it to her for Revolutionary Road, the movie with “nominate this IMPORTANT MEANINGFUL FILM!!!!” dripping all over it while it left everyone I know who saw it slack-jawed at what they described to be as its pretentious awfulness, might be just the way they want to give Winslet her Oscar, for a movie that at least some of them liked. Meanwhile, Streep earned her record 15th nomination and hasn’t won in a while, despite continually turning in great performances in a wide variety of roles, both comic and dramatic, with the usual variety of accents – Cut To: “A dingo ate my baby!” – so I’d think she’s got a real shot here if it doesn’t go to Winslet, but I keep thinking that the feeling amongst the voters will be that this year “it’s Winslet’s turn.”

So now we come to picture, director & screenplay, which are all intertwined, and (I believe) intertwined this year with the Best Animated Film category since Wall-E is in the mix. When I looked all of it over, I made predictions that seemed to fall into place like a puzzle, so here goes:

Starting with Best Picture, it strikes me that The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button will be one of those films that gets lots of nominations (13) but doesn’t take home many awards – it’s a film that a lot of people like, but no critical mass of people love it (and many people did not like it, feeling it was nothing more than a reworking of Forrest Gump, and by the same screenwriter to boot). I’d be surprised if Frost/Nixon won for picture, since Ron Howard has already won before, and as much as people liked and admired this film, they (once again) didn’t love or rave about it. Ditto for Milk, though I’d pick this one as the dark horse candidate – especially considering its politics and the way that Hollywood could feel it was atoning for picking Crash over Brokeback Mountain by picking this year’s “gay” film.

The Reader got a bunch of nominations, something that mystifies me, but there you are. I just can’t see this winning for best picture. Maybe I’m personally prejudiced against this one since I can’t understand the desire currently in fashion to make films depicting how difficult the Holocaust or World War 2 were on the Germans (Valkyrie can also be lumped in with this, even if it didn’t get any nominations). I think it’s a reflection of the moral equivalency cancer pervasive in our culture right now – the bending-over-backwards to project falsely positive attributes to our enemies while obsessing on any aspect of ourselves that mars our supposed potential for moral perfection, and the ways in which the same mentality leads to a cover-your-historic-ass effort as far as the strongest single example of an “us good/them evil” war this nation has fought. So, on one end of the scale we get hand-wringing supposedly thoughtful soul searching in the form of The Reader or Valkyrie and on the other end of the scale we get the historical revisionist literary abortions of Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke or the antisemetic “we could have dealt with Hitler” Nazi sympathizing wet dreams of Pat Buchanan. I could go deeper into this rant I’m sure, but I’ll just let it go & say that The Reader will not win Best Picture.

Which leaves the one film amongst the nominees that I think DID inspire a sense of love & joy among the people who have seen it – Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which I think will win Best Picture, Best Director & Best Adapted Screenplay. I’m totally going on the level of passion I’ve heard from people who describe this movie to me – it gives me that gut feeling that this is the one for 2009.

So, since screenplay winners most often are also nominated for Best Picture, let’s examine the list of original screenplays – We have Courtney Hunt for Frozen River, Mike Leigh for Happy Go Lucky, Martin McDonagh for In Bruges, Dustin Lance Black for Milk, and Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter for Wall-E. This one seems to be between Milk and the dark-horse Wall-E. Now, Milk has the Best Picture nom, but Wall-E will be the winner for Best Animated Film, and there are a LOT of people out there who felt it deserved a Best Picture nomination – will they vote for it to give an award to a huge audience favorite, sort of a vote for it AND The Dark Knight all at once? Or will Milk take home a major award for the same political reasons I described above? I’m thinking that the academy voters won’t be jonesin’ to send political messages after being put into their comfort zone by Obama’s election, so I think that Wall-E will win for Best Screenplay here, along with Best Animated film.

And as far as the telecast, I’ll also predict that Paul Newman will get pole position (appropriate phrasing, when you think about it) on the memorial reel, Charlton Heston will get clips from Planet of the Apes, Ben-Hur AND The Ten Commandments, and I’m really hoping they include Rudy Ray Moore but I bet those BASTARDS leave him out. I’m wondering if the highlight of the broadcast will be the humanitarian award they’re giving to Jerry Lewis.

Again, over the next few weeks I may alter any or nearly all of these predictions, depending on whatever way I sense the winds are blowing. But overall I feel pretty comfortable with these picks. As far as the other categories and nominations, I’ll have to learn more about them. So stay tuned!

Oscar Post-Mortem February 24, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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I didn’t do too well in my predictions – I missed both Actress & Supporting Actress, and truly got wiped out in all the minor awards in my little Oscar party pool. (I may as well have peed in the Oscar party pool this year.)

But at least I did better than Kevin O’Connell, the sound mixer who lost AGAIN to bring his record to 0 for 20.

Maybe they’ll wheel him out at age 98 for a life achievement award, like they did tonight with Robert Boyle, longtime production designer for assorted Hitchcock films and others, who had never won one of those precious little statues.

Stewart wasn’t bad as host… he kept things moving quickly, had more good jokes than bad, even confused the Hollywood audience as to how they “ought to” respond to some of his political barbs.

Best Moments: Boyle getting his award, Stewart bringing Marketa Irglova back onstage to give her acceptance speech after the orchestra cut her off (to provide time for another worthless clipfest, probably), and Tilda Swinton’s very funny acceptance speech.

Worst Moment: that AWFUL Jerry Seinfeld Bee bit to introduce the animated short. I realize that I’m out of tune with most of America it seems when it comes to Seinfeld since I’ve never found him funny, but I wasn’t the only one groaning through that portion of the broadcast, I’m sure.

Lowest rated Oscarcast ever, I’ll predict. And certainly one of the most boring, despite it’s relatively brief length and the fact that Diablo Cody really DOES look like a pole dancer. When some of the best moments come from Bob Hope via the clipfests, it doesn’t say much for the current crop on stage.

Though movies in general were better in Bob’s day too.

All Styled Up With Nothing To Say February 22, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Blogroll, Movies.
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On Oscar Eve as I contemplate how I think No Country For Old Men will sweep a bunch of the awards despite my lukewarm response to it, I found this kindred soul brother’s fine essay on the essential empty-suit-yet-it’s-an-Armani-suit quality of it all over at the very worthwhile The House Next Door blog.

Go read it all now, I’ll wait. Yeah, yeah, I know…. there’s all that early stuff about Susan Sontag to get through, but slug through it to where he starts talking about the movie. Yeah, there you go!

All done? Cool! Let’s continue…

Funny how I found that link the same day I watched a student film that featured everything I’ve come to expect from student films these days in the age of digital handicams & iMovie HD: impressive camera work, intricate & fast cross-cutting, technically proficient use of montage, sound and music dubbing…. and content unfortunately consisting solely of people swearing at each other with plenty of gunplay connoting gangsta struggles in the ‘hood via the perceptions of the pampered white boy with a camera.

Now granted, I’m witnessing a generation of would-be film makers who have been breast fed from birth at the cinematic teats of Tarantino & The Wachowskis (Hmmm… that’s 3 teats! Hot!) filtered through an unhealthy dose of hip-hop bullshit, but it all illustrates the sorts of things Zachary Wigon writes about in his essay – there are way too many people out there with amazing technical abilities who have absolutely nothing new to say, oftentimes nothing to say at all, and a lot of them keep getting multimillion dollar deals and most likely by the end of Oscarfest 2008, a shelf of statues.

I’d like to think that the students making the films I’m seeing have enough time to bulk up on literature, classic films, philosophy, and (cue CRANKY OLD MAN response) life experience so that one day they’d actually create some sort of story that they had passion for telling, something they actually believed in as Wigon describes, stories actually worth telling, rather than pump out more technically impressive emptiness.

Unfortunately, Sunday night’s awards will most likely only reinforce how a particular brand of technically impressive emptiness with pretensions of grandeur causes critics and Academies to do unjustified backflips.