We’re less than a week away from the 79th annual Academy Awards, the awards ceremony most likely to make me get angrier and angrier over the course of four hours. Last year I actually got to my feet and yelled obscenities at my television when Crash got the Best Picture Oscar. This year looks like it has similar potential for sheer fury-making, despite John Cassavetes having been dead for some time. Over the next couple of days I’ll be taking a look at the nominees in the major categories and viciously bad mouth the ones I don’t like. Who will then take the gold on Sunday.
First up: Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The movies that we think WILL win are highlighted in green.
The movies that we think SHOULD win are highlighted in white.
If the movie we think should win is the same as the movie that we think will win, the title will be in red.
|Letters From Iwo Jima
||Children of Men
|Little Miss Sunshine
||Notes on a Scandal
Who wins: The winner for Best Original Screenplay is, almost without a doubt, Little Miss Sunshine. The film itself, being completely obvious and fairly pandering, is a strong contender for Best Picture, but writer Michael Arndt is already clearing a spot for his new trophy. The script may be, in effect, a sitcom blown up to feature length – complete with inane sitcom lapses of logic like having Steve Carrell’s suicidal gay Proust scholar (that’s his entire character, by the way. It can be summed up in four words and there is almost no other depth to him beyond that. This is an Oscar nominated screenplay!) run into his rival Proust scholar and his young ex-lover in a gas station convenience store in the middle of nowhere, hours from where they live. Brilliant, Arndt. But anyway, it’s the problems with the screenplay that make it so irresistible to the dolts who vote for these awards. Also irresistible: the back story, which is that this I Arndt’s first produced film and that he and the producers struggled for years to get their little movie made.
Best Adapted Screenplay is less certain. The Departed, which is filled with crackling, exciting dialogue, is definitely the front runner. William Monahan’s screenplay is the sort that you sit around and hope comes along once a decade; not only is his dialogue endlessly quotable, but he’s taken the sketchier characters of Infernal Affairs and filled them out into complete people. By adding almost an hour to the basic Hong Kong story, Monahan has elevated a pulp piece to something greater. But will he win?
CHUD Choices: The obvious CHUD choice for Best Original Screenplay is Pan’s Labyrinth, but there’s a phrase I’ll be overusing the next couple of days: getting nominated is the win. The movie, being in a foreign language, was facing a major hurdle when it came to the nominating process. I doubt it can leap that hurdle on the way to the gold, which is too bad, because Guillermo del Toro has expertly crafted a wonderful fairy tale of fascism. Letters From Iwo Jima has the same obstacle as Pan’s, but it also has the factor that it’s a much tougher movie to sit through.
We’re backing The Departed for Best Adapted, but who would be upset to see Children of Men take that prize? Or the really wonderful and underseen Little Children, one of my favorite movies of 2006. While I feel that Children of Men’s real achievements are visual, it has a tightly structured story that never panders to the audience with unnecessary backstory – which would stop the picture’s driving forward momentum. Little Children, on the other hand, is a movie that’s very much about the script, but the contrast between the events onscreen and the ironic detachment of the narrator may be tough for the Oscar voters to swallow. That said, it’s an incredibly faithful version of Tom Perrotta’s original novel (except for a vastly changed, and I think improved, ending).
The Rest: The Queen has a real chance at being an upset in Original, although I remain baffled as to why this movie is getting much love beyond Helen Mirren’s obviously fantastic performance. Babel feels like it’s just going to have to be happy to be there, and to be part of the massive foreign language invasion of this category.
Meanwhile, everybody is kind of amused by Borat in Best Adapted. It gets Best Adapted because it’s based on a prior work, in this case a sketch from Da Ali G Show. Many people don’t understand that the Oscar shouldn’t be given out just to films that have their scripts formatted in perfect Final Draft form – while the words that Borat is saying in the interviews are made up on the spot (most of them – it’s obvious Sacha Baron Cohen has a whole bunch of lines waiting in his mental filing cabinet), the situations are pre-planned, as are all the “storyline” scenes between Borat and his producers. It’s actually a very cool nomination, but one that has no chance. Notes on a Scandal could be the upset in this category, but while it’s a movie that I enjoyed as a mental grand guignol, the movie itself doesn’t feel like it has enough momentum to take it all the way Sunday.
Next: The Best Supporting performance categories!