THE MARKADEMY AWARDS
First off, the unseen. I never got out to watch The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eastern Promises, La Vie En Rose, Rescue Dawn, Zodiac, Into The Wild or Away From Her (and, of course, numerous other films). So if I see one of them years down the road and realize they should've been on this list, I may make some later adjustments.
This is a much shorter list than usual of omitted material. I can't remember a year when there have been more good films released across the board, and even more unusually, more good films that actually ended up being good films that I was interested in seeing. In the best picture category, for instance, this is the first year in memory when I'd be okay with any of the five nominees winning. Even There Will Be Blood (which I was lukewarm about, maybe in the 6/10 range) was still interesting and original enough that it would be good to see with the top prize. I'd much rather see a movie like that win than hack dreck like Beautiful Mind or Gladiator. Uh, if you liked those two movies....um...well, sorry.
It all seems to be shaping up like the Coen Brothers' night. In fact, they might be the second-ever filmmaker (well, in this case, pair of filmmakers) to win four Oscars in the same night. Walt Disney was the first, incidentally, in 1953. Fun trivia point: if the Coens do sweep in Picture, Director, Screenplay and Editing, they technically won't officially be recognized by the Academy as the second-ever to win four Oscars in the same year. They're nominated for the Editing award under their pseudonym of Roderick Jaynes. This also holds true for Cate Blanchett this year, since if she wins for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor, she won't be recognized as the first to win three acting Oscars in the same year since she was nominated under her lesser-known pseudonym, Tommy Lee Jones.
The nearly-foolproof bellweather of the DGA award (and the slightly-lesser but still very predictable Best Picture-Best Director connection) means that even if Juno, Michael Clayton or Blood somehow pulls off an upset win for Best Picture, I think this award is going to the Coens regardless.
MY BEST DIRECTOR
Hey, I've got no issues with the Coens winning. They got their first moment in the sun with their well-deserved Oscars for the Fargo script, and now their directing will be justly rewarded. And it will further atonement for the total snub of Big Lebowski in 1998. Seriously, that movie was hosed all-around. John Goodman deserved supporting actor. Jeff Bridges was better than psychopath Roberto Benigni. Julianne Moore was better than Judi Dench's glorified cameo. And say what you will about Steven Spielberg, but recreating D-Day can't be as hard as coaxing a career-best performance from Tara Reid. I mean, she played a slut! Talk about range!
Alterna-ballot: Tim Burton/Sweeney Todd, John Carney/Once and the San Diego Chargers, Sidney Lumet/Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Joe Wright/Atonement
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Oh come on, like Javier Bardem is going to lose. He doesn't just stand out amongst other nominees, but he stands out amongst great Coen characters. He goes into the pantheon with Marge Gunderson, Ulysses McGill, Ed Crane, Jerry Lundegaard and pretty much everyone from Lebowski. Nobody's beating him.
MY BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Chigurh! Chigurh! Chigurh! (said in the tone of 'Gabbo! Gabbo! Gabbo!' from the Simpsons). Casey Affleck was also pretty good in Jesse James, but let's be honest, his was totally a lead role. He shouldn't even count.
Alterna-ballot: Michael Cera/Juno, Sacha Baron Cohen/Sweeney Todd, Paul Dano/There Will Be Blood, Paul Giamatti/Shoot 'Em Up, Sam Rockwell/The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Definitely the toughest category of the night to call. Pretty much everyone has been the favourite at one time or another. It started out looking like Cate Blanchett as the 500-pound gorilla, since she's both the biggest name nominated, a double-nominee and she had the showiest role as Bob Dylan. But then, since the movie went nowhere, things shifted towards Amy Ryan, who won a bunch of critical acclaim and would fit in with the supporting actress category's long tradition of awarding first-time nominees. THEN, some eyes turned to veteran Ruby Dee as sort of a lifetime achievement award. But the latest buzz is that Tilda Swinton might pick it up because a) she was good and b) Michael Clayton is a much-admired film, so the voters will want to give it something. Clooney isn't beating Day-Lewis, Wilkinson isn't beating Bardem and Tony Gilroy likely won't win in either direction or screenplay, so Tilda might be the film's best shot at picking up some gold.
MY BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The only one I haven't see is Blanchett, who I like in general, but she also won one of the most undeserving Oscars ever in 2004 for her horseshit impression of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. Seriously, it was eye-scratchingly awful. Martin Short must've been sitting at home gnawing his fingernails knowing that he did a much better Kate on SCTV and SNL. So with that in mind, I'm not sure how close she came to Bob Dylan. Fun fact: Blanchett also played Simon Pegg's masked girlfriend who broke up with him in the first 10 minutes of Hot Fuzz. Ruby Dee totally doesn't deserve it for her glorified cameo. Saoirse Ronan was good but not great, though if it came down to an actual fight between the nominees, Ronan would be the heavy favourite. This brings it down to Ryan and Swinton, and I guess I'd tilt it to Tilda.
Alterna-ballot: Jennifer Garner/Juno, Lena Headey/300, Leslie Mann/Knocked Up, Kelly McDonald/No Country For Old Men, Emily Mortimer/Lars and the Real Girl
Daniel Day-Lewis isn't just the massive favourite, he's also I think the first front-runner to have the other four nominees to all be pushing for him to win the award. I really don't see anyone having built anywhere near enough momentum to pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets in Academy history. The best or second-best actor in the world (it's a tough race between him and Meryl Streep) deserves his second Oscar.
MY BEST ACTOR
Hell, Day-Lewis. And this is coming from a guy who thought TTWB was kind of dull. If it had been a lesser actor than Day-Lewis behind it, it would've been interminable.
Alterna-ballot: Christian Bale/i'm Not There or Rescue Dawn or 3:10 to Yuma, Ryan Gosling/Lars and the Real Girl, Jim Sturgess/Across the Universe,
Blanchett and Linney have no shot, making it a three-horse race between Marion Cotillard, Julie Christie and Ellen Page. Cotillard and Christie have pretty much split most of the critics' awards between them, but here's why neither have stepped up as the outright lead dog. Cotillard delivered her performance in a foreign-language film, and doing a dead-on characterization of Edith Piaf won't stick in the Academy's mind like doing, say, Ray Charles or June Carter since who's heard of Edith Piaf in the last 30 years? Christie is a legend (she was in Doctor Zhivago, for god's sake) but she's not exactly a capital-L legend, plus she already won an Oscar 40 years ago so she doesn't have the lifetime achievement factor working for her. This might be enough for Ellen Page to sneak in for the win. If there's anything the Academy loves, it's awarding a young actress for a breakout role, and Juno is definitely the most North American of the contending roles. My money would still be tentatively on Christie, but it wouldn't shock me at all if Cotillard or even Page took it home.
MY BEST ACTRESS
You've gotta love Laura Linney in spite of her having no chance of winning. Yet my pick here is Ellen Page, just for the novelty of seeing someone go from playing Jim Lahey's daughter on Trailer Park Boys to an Oscar winner.
Alterna-ballot: Bianca/Lars and the Real Girl, Helena Bonham Carter/Sweeney Todd, Samantha Morton/Control, Naomi Watts/Eastern Promises
Roger Deakins has been nominated seven times, including twice this year, and has never taken home the prize. Needless to say, he's way overdue. This, like the Picture category, is also mega-stacked. The great Janusz Kaminski and Robert Elswit also put in great work, and Seamus McGarvey (in most other years) would win just for that already-immortal five-minute tracking shot of Dunkirk in Atonement. It even passed by "couldn't spot the cuts" test that was honed after five years of a film degree. But still, when a guy is nominated twice in one category like Deakins is, he deserves it. He *should* win, but it's possible voters might split the ballots between both nominations and allow someone else to sneak in.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Well, no surprises here, I think 'Falling Slowly' from Once should take this in a walk. The scene with the two of them at the piano in the music store was arguably the scene of the year. I am highly looking forward to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing this one live at the ceremony.
I've only seen Sicko, and it was only okay, but part of me wants to see Michael Moore win and then have his entire speech consist of, "Told ya so!"
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Diablo Cody (Juno) is the favourite to win, though I could see Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) or even Brad Bird (Ratatouille) pulling off an upset. Gilroy probably has the better shot, since as mentioned earlier, people seem to like Michael Clayton, but they just don't know where to give it a trophy. Given that Gilroy is the man behind the film, he would seem to be the natural one to reward. Still, Cody has won the lion's share of the critics' awards and once you got your ear acclimated to the nonstop pop culture references, Juno was pretty clever.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Coens will more than likely win, but it's possible that Christopher Hampton (Atonement's writer) or P.T. Anderson could pull the upset if the voters want to award both of those films somewhere. Anderson has the edge as the lead, uh, upsetter since he's the more recognizable auteur. Then again, Hampton worked the c-word into a classy British drama. That's impressive. I saw the film in an audience aged largely 50+, and you've never heard such gasping as when that flashed across the screen. My heart, however, is with none of these guys, as deserving as they are. When I was 10, I had a massive crush on Sarah Polley, who then was merely the star of Road to Avonlea. It only seems fair that I root her on to an Oscar 16 years later. By the way, this makes it a former Trailer Park Boys star and a former Road to Avonlea star up for Oscars this year. Next year's ceremony will be dominated by Mark McKinney and the guy who plays Davis on Corner Gas.
Like I said before, this is a sick group of nominees. Not a dog in the bunch --- no Munich or Erin Brockovich or Jerry Maguire to bring down the average. An underdog like Crash or Shakespeare In Love occasionally sneaks in, but remember that the favourite almost always wins Best Picture. And No Country is definitely the favourite, having cleaned house almost across the board with the critics and the guilds. It'll give the Coens the BP win they should've won a decade ago for Fargo. Could there be an upset? Well...probably not. You could make an argument that any of the four might pull the upset, but none have that ongoing momentum necessary. If this was a primary season, the other four nominees have won a state or two, but No Country is winning or finishing second in all of them. That's hard to stop. Like, Chigurh-hard.
MY BEST PICTURE
Now, here's 'my' list of nominees. This is the group that joins this illustrious company (quick poll: which year is your favourite group of films?)
2006- The Prestige......Children of Men, The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, A Prairie Home Companion
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
Am I a softie or what? With the exception of last two years, I've picked nothing but relationship movies as my top choices. (Ok, Talk To Her is an extremely weird 'relationship movie,' but it fits nonetheless). The streak continues this year since Once takes the 2007 Markademy Award. Simply one of the best romances of all time. Guys, if you rent this one with your ladyfriend, you are guaranteed to get laid. No doubt. When I saw it in theatre, every couple there left holding hands or with arms around waists as the credits were rolling. Of course, I went to see it alone. But I was hugging my popcorn bag extra-tight. And then got a refill on the way out --- does this qualify as cheating on the original popcorn?
Honourable mention: Hot Fuzz (funniest movie of the year by a hair over Walk Hard), No Country For Old Men (might as well mention it one more time), Sweeney Todd (best movie of Burton's career besides Edward Scissorhands), 3:10 to Yuma (despite what I said about Gladiator and Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe is a hell of an actor, and he and Bale make a great duo).