Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Markademy Awards

This is one of those posts that may be obsolete as soon as I write it. I haven't seen Dreamgirls, Letters from Iwo Jima, Last King of Scotland or most of the foreign film entries, and thus my personal knowledge of 2006's best movies is incomplete. I could see The Lives of Others a week from now, totally love it, and thus this whole post will be as useless as a comb is to Britney Spears (unless she is brushing her vagina to make it look nice for its next public appearance). Kudos to myself for passing up an obvious 'pubic appearance' joke!

But, since the Oscars are under a week away and my evenings are pretty booked until then, I have no choice. The only film I'm going to see this week is....sigh.....Ghost Rider. I'm pretty sure I can cross that one off the 2007 list already.

This is one of those rare years when every nominee has a legitimate shot at winning. I'd say Letters from Iwo Jima and the Queen are the longest shots, because both of those films weren't necessary acclaimed for themselves as they were for a dominant personality (Clint and Helen Mirren, respectively). Babel is the favourite that nobody talks about, but that doesn't mean it's an underdog --- it's the leader in nominations among the best pic nominees. I literally mean that it has nobody talking about it. It might carry some more weight out in Hollywood, but (in spite of Pitt in the cast) it hardly carries the pop-cult appeal of Little Miss Sunshine or the Departed. Gonzalez Inarritu has even had a bit of his own buzz muted by the fact that Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro (his fellow 'three amigos,' as some idiotic media outlets have dubbed them) seem to have a lot more people talking about their films. Babel could either clean house or go home with nothing on Oscar night; it might become the first Best Picture in decades to win just the Best Pic award and nothing else. I still think it's between Little Miss Sunshine and Departed, with Departed winning because it had big names, was a popular success and it seems like it's just Scorsese's year.

Here are my nominees: Children of Men, The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, A Prairie Home Companion, The Prestige. I actually had a post earlier this year about what a poor movie year 2006 was shaping up to be, but this is an outstanding collection of films. These were the five that impressed me the most, and passed my 'gobsmack' test. Namely, during the end credits, I was left sitting in my seat for a moment, rather gobsmacked at the quality I had just witnessed and fighting the urge to stand and yell at the projectionist to play it again.

It's tough to pick just one, but I'd have to go with The Prestige. Congrats to Christopher Nolan for directing back-to-back Markademy Award winners after 2005's Batman Begins. I wouldn't have thought it possible for Nolan to craft a film equal to Memento in structural complexity and general wtf-is-going-on-ness, but here you have it.

Just in case, you're curious, here's a list of past Markademy Award winners
2005- Batman Begins......The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Good Night and Good Luck, Match Point, Sin City
2004- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind......Closer, The Incredibles, Kill Bill Volume Two, Spider-Man II
2003- Love Actually.....Finding Nemo, Kill Bill Volume One, Mystic River, 21 Grams
2002- Talk To Her.....About Schmidt, Adaptation, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report
2001- Amelie......Black Hawk Down, Gosford Park, Memento, Moulin Rouge
2000- High Fidelity......Almost Famous, Best in Show, Traffic, Unbreakable

Odds are that Forest Whitaker will add to his bagful of critics' awards, though I think there's still a nagging feeling that some voters might think "We're giving an Oscar to Forest Whitaker for a little-seen foreign film? Really?" Sure, PS Hoffman won last year and he's not exactly your typical leading man, but at least he has been in some high-profile films in recent years. The Academy might not want to reward a character actor in two straight years. This might toss some votes the way of Leo DiCaprio, in what would be one of those double-honour Oscars (he's nominated for Blood Diamond, but if he wins, it would really be for both BD and the Departed). Another contender is Peter O'Toole, who might get the pity vote because he's racked up so many nominations without a win. Will Smith and Ryan Gosling have no shot, though the bright side is we'll get to see Rachel McAdams look hot on the red carpet.

The Departed is one of those movies that suffers from too much good acting. It's got three leads in Jack, Leo and Matt, and five meaty supporting performances from Marky Mark, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga and Ray Winstone. When the 'worst' performance is given by Martin Sheen, you know your cast is firing on all cylinders. It's for this reason that the Departed was largely shut out of the Oscar balloting, which is why the Oscars really needs a 'best ensemble' award. My best actor award goes to the most underrated leading man in Hollywood, Matt Damon....who, oddly enough, was never given any buzz for his role. What's not to like about Matt Damon? Picks good roles, has a nice mix of box office hits and artsier films, seems like he has a good sense of humour, and only a couple of poor performances (Bagger Vance, Good Shepherd) that I can think of.

Helen Mirren. Next.

Yeah, I can get behind Helen Mirren winning. I really need to see Little Children, though, since I have a habit of loving Kate Winslet in everything. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both rocked it pretty hard in Notes on a Scandal, though Blanchett was inexplicably nominated in the supporting category for her lead role.

This is one of those bellweather awards that pop up from time to time. Eddie Murphy is the heavy favourite and he'll probably win (Norbit notwithstanding). But if Alan Arkin pulls the upset, you know that it's Little Miss Sunshine's night. Conversely, if Marky Mark wins, it's the Departed's night. Djimon Hounsou and Jackie Earle Haley are along for the ride.

Well, I haven't seen Dreamgirls, so Eddie is out. What the heck, I'll do a full ballot for this one.
* Paul Giamatti, for The Illusionist. Pig Vomit was the one thing keeping the poor man's Prestige in the good category. Illusionist and Prestige inexplicably opened within a few weeks of each last fall, and the box office confusion of two period pieces about magicians sunk them both. Prestige was much, much, better, but Illusionist had Giamatti valiantly carrying the ball.
* Greg Kinnear, for Little Miss Sunshine. Given that he started out as a talk show host, Kinnear's film career has gone much better than anyone expected.
* Jack Nicholson, for the Departed. Yeah, he's "playing Jack again" to some extent, but this is the first time in a while I've felt some actual menace from a Jack villain. Even when he was in the Shining or Batman, you never saw homicidal madman Jack Torrence or homicidal madman the Joker: you saw Jack being awesome.
* John C. Reilly, for A Prairie Home Companion and Talladega Nights. Reilly got his only actual nomination for being good in several roles in 2002, so I'm awarding him again for a combo deal in 2006.
* Michael Sheen, for the Queen. Imagine if someone had to play George W. Bush in a film and wasn't allowed to make it a caricature. This was Sheen's role as Tony Blair in the Queen. Playing a real-life contemporary figure without devolving into parody isn't easy, but Sheen nailed it.

And the winner is Jack, of course.

Jennifer Hudson. Next.....though if Abigail Breslin wins, then that's enough of a bellweather that they might as well give LMS the trophy on the spot.

* Penelope Cruz's breasts, in Volver. You might think I'm being crude, but the cleavage was so prominent that it even became a plot point. What's a boy to do?
* Lola Duenas, for Volver. The movie wasn't much, but (like many Almodovar films) had some of the best female parts of the year. Duenas was the best of a good bunch.
* Meryl Streep, for A Prairie Home Companion.
* Lily Tomlin, for A Prairie Home Companion. Seriously, are Streep and Tomlin ever not good in anything?
* Maribel Verdu, for Pan's Labyrinth. Excellent, grounded performance in a movie filled with crazy shit.

Scorsese looks like he's finally going to win one, which makes my heart happy. You've got enough Oscars already, Clint. You've got your whole career ahead of you, Gonzalez Inarritu. You still deserve punishment for your overly shaky camera that ruined Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass. Um, you've still got time, Stephen Frears (this guy's filmography, btw, is pretty damn solid....High Fidelity, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things, the Grifters).

Honestly, the best-directed films of the year were Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro) and Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron). If this was an actual award show, I'm sure I'd have given Scorsese a few plaudits in the past anyway. The other notches on my ballot go to Chris Nolan and --- get ready --- Mel Gibson, for Apocalypto. I can't imagine what a bitch this movie must've been to direct, but Mel did a bang-up job. Too bad he's a looney.


Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff ... If I were to pick five, based on my own opinion mixed with mass appeal, they would be Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine and Dreamgirls ... And the winner would be Pan's Labyrinth, but just by a nose over Cuaron's great movie

Anonymous said...

female parts, heh heh