Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

It’s that time of year again- the Academy Awards. Allow me to get right to bulk of the email- here will be my predictions for all the categories (in alphabetical order), my personal picks (in order of preference), some honorable mentions, as well as- in the big categories- the rest of my best. Hope you enjoy!

*- Predictions based on announced films eligible for award.

Oscar Predictions 2005
Best Picture
My Picks
“Nobody Knows”

“Brokeback Mountain”

“War of the Worlds”
“Serenity”
“Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith”

My Predictions
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Capote”
“Crash”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”

“Munich”

Honorable Mention: “The Weather Man”; Here’s how strange 2005 was- all the movies I’d typically consider for this slot are either in my Top 5 already- “Serenity,” “Star Wars”- or didn’t rate 3 1/2 stars or more, and many of the movies that did are either legitimate Oscar contenders or I didn’t feel strongly enough to merit consideration. I thought about “Proof” or one of the stop-motion films (“The Upside of Anger” was also considered), but something screamed out to mention director Gore Verbinski’s ignored but terrific comedy-drama about a big-city weather man (the great Nicolas Cage) whose lack of confidence about life has made all aspects of his life- from his fractured family to distance from his father to his outlook on his career. The movie has been considered sad and depressing, but few films feel more hopeful about the different doors life can open. Why “The Weather Man?” Because it’s a movie everyone who likes movies- especially ones that have something to say (and there was no shortage of such films this year)- can enjoy, and should see. Besides, aren’t such movies the type the Oscars are looking for each year?

Best Director
My Picks
Steven Spielberg, “War of the Worlds” & “Munich”

Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”

Hirokazu Kore-eda, “Nobody Knows”
Bennett Miller, “Capote”
Park Chanwook, “Oldboy”

My Predictions
Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”
Paul Haggis, “Crash”
George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Peter Jackson, “King Kong”
Steven Spielberg, “Munich”

Honorable Mention: Joss Whedon, “Serenity”; Were you expecting someone else? For his feature directing debut, the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” set himself a daunting task- tell a grand story revolving around the characters of his third, lesser-known TV series- “Firefly”- that not only satisfied fans of the beloved series with a complex drama that advanced the story of the TV series and enhanced our views of the beloved main characters, but also streamlined for non-fans the intricacies of this rich universe he took 15 hours of television defining. Not every first-timer could pull it off (although with at least a dozen genuine classic episodes directed on TV between the three series’, he’s hardly a novice), and though some fans have argued he didn’t, this one feels like he nailed it. The dense story, resonant themes, engaging character interactions, and fluid storytelling he perfected on the small screen carries over with imagination and intelligence to the big screen to create a distinctive cinematic epic, which is saying something given this year’s impressive bunch. After the roller coaster ride of “Serenity,” you can’t help but get excited about what films Whedon has in store for us…starting with 2007’s “Wonder Woman.”

Brian’s Rest of the Best: George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”; Fernando Meirelles, “The Constant Gardener”; Gore Verbinski, “The Weather Man”; Mike Binder, “The Upside of Anger”; John Madden, “Proof”; Woody Allen, “Match Point”; George Lucas, “Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith”; Ron Howard, “Cinderella Man”; Peter Jackson, “King Kong”; Stephen Gaghan, “Syriana”; Shona Auerbach, “Dear Frankie”; Shane Black, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”; Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller & Quentin Tarantino, “Sin City”; Rob Marshall, “Memoirs of a Geisha”; Sam Mendes, “Jarhead”; Ridley Scott, “Kingdom of Heaven”

Best Actor
My Picks
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
Yuya Yagira, “Nobody Knows”
Nicolas Cage, “The Weather Man”
Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”
Steve Carell, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

My Predictions
Russell Crowe, “Cinderella Man”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”
David Strathairn, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Honorable Mention: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Mysterious Skin”; In one of the many “lost” films of 2005- from indie writer-director Gregg Araki- came came the fourth great “gay” performance of the year I saw. A vulgar way of putting it, for which I apologize, but I was hurried and lost for an opening sentence to begin discussing the implosive pain on display in this performance by former “Third Rock From the Sun” costar Gordon-Levitt as a young, gay male prostitute whose traumatic abuse as a young boy scarred his soul deeper than he’ll say. It isn’t until another victim- who thinks he’s been abducted by aliens- that he can begin to acknowledge the horror of what he went through (he can’t even admit it to his best friend (played by Michelle Tractenberg), who is the world-weary center of the movie). When he does, though, few performances this year were more heartbreaking.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: Pierce Brosnan, “The Matador”; David Strathairn, “Good Night, and Good Luck.”; Russell Crowe, “Cinderella Man”; Jake Gyllenhaal, “Jarhead”; Eric Bana, “Munich”; Choi Min-sik, “Oldboy”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”; Bill Murray, “Broken Flowers”; Robert Downey Jr., “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”; Tom Cruise, “War of the Worlds”; Jeff Daniels, “The Squid and the Whale”; Ralph Fiennes, “The Constant Gardener”; Jake McElhone, “Dear Frankie”; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “Match Point”; Nathan Lane, “The Producers”; Nathan Fillion, “Serenity”

Best Actress
My Picks
Radha Mitchell, “Melinda and Melinda”
Joan Allen, “The Upside of Anger”
Claire Danes, “Shopgirl”
Gwyneth Paltrow, “Proof”
Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”

My Predictions
Felicity Huffmann, “Transamerica”
Kiera Knightley, “Pride & Prejudice”
Laura Linney, “The Squid and the Whale”
Charlize Theron, “North Country”
Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”

Honorable Mention: Naomi Watts, “King Kong”; It’s odd to have such a critically-celebrated actress in the slot when she would normally considered a shoo-in. But such is the case with Watts, who has the thankless role of having to convincingly act next to spectacular visual effects as Ann Darrow in Peter Jackson’s epic tribute to the 1933 masterpiece. When an actress of this caliber- “The Ring” beauty was Oscar nominated for “21 Grams” and should’ve been nominated for “Mulholland Dr.”- signs on to a project like this without reading a page of a script, you have to expect something more than a mere continuation of the typical damsel-in-distress acting the great Fay Wray was told to do in the original “Kong.” But it isn’t until you see the finished product that you see the depth and artistry of Watts’ performance, as she takes a tired cliche- the struggling actress- and finds depths of fragile feeling (her bond with the big guy is palpable and powerful, and pays off big time on the Empire States Building), unforced wit (the scene where she does her routine for Kong is the stuff of classics), and a tough core (she’s not one to be pushed around without a fight). If ever there was a role in a thrilling escapist epic that merited serious Oscar consideration, Watts brought it to the screen with the grace and passion of a master.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: Kiera Knightley, “Pride & Prejudice”; Charlize Theron, “North Country”; Sarah Jessica Parker, “The Family Stone”; Christina Ricci, “Prozac Nation”; Ziyi Zhang, “Memoirs of a Geisha”; Emily Mortimer, “Dear Frankie”; Laura Linney, “The Squid and the Whale”; Gang Hye-jung, “Oldboy”; Michelle Krusiec, “Saving Face”

Best Supporting Actor
My Picks
Alan Arkin, “Eros”
Mickey Rourke, “Sin City”
Kevin Costner, “The Upside of Anger”
Clifton Collins Jr., “Capote”
Michael Caine, “The Weather Man”

My Predictions
George Clooney, “Syriana”
Matt Dillon, “Crash”
Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”

Terrence Howard, “Crash”

Honorable Mention: Sean Bean, “North Country”; As you’ll see below, there were a lot of singular performances in the supporting actor category to choose from, and a lot that certainly deserved consideration for this slot. But something about this one in particular- and the direction my honorable mentions have gone this year- made it stand above the rest. For years, audiences have known Bean as a stock villain in films like “Patriot Games” and “Goldeneye.” But with his performance in “The Lord of the Rings” as the tragic hero Boromir (who died at the end of “Fellowship of the Ring”), that seems to be changing (though he had one of his best bad guys in ’04’s “National Treasure”) as this year he got to play a pilot with his plane and passengers to think about in “Flightplan” and his thankless role in “North Country,” where- in a movie dominated by great female performances, Bean made a lasting impression as the decent and dedicated husband to Frances McDormond’s mine worker and friend to Charlize Theron’s divorcee when she needs it. It’s not a showy role, but Bean makes it a memorable one, and one that could- like “Rings”- lead to more variety than he’s been given over the years. An Oscar nomination would certainly benefit that possibility.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: Steve Martin, “Shopgirl”; Paul Rudd, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”; Greg Kinnear, “The Matador”; Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”; Jeffrey Wright, “Broken Flowers” & “Syriana”; Peter Sarsgaard, “Jarhead”; Jamie Foxx, “Jarhead”; Luke Wilson, “The Family Stone”; George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck” & “Syriana”; Will Ferrell, “The Producers”; Geoffrey Rush, “Munich”; Matt Damon, “Syriana”; Gerard Butler, “Dear Frankie”; Robert Downey Jr., “Eros”; Michael Lonsdale, “Munich”; Jeffrey Licon, “Mysterious Skin”; Ryan Phillippe, “Crash”; Michael Pena, “Crash”; Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man”; Val Kilmer, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”; Donald Sutherland, “Pride & Prejudice”

Best Supporting Actress
My Picks
Renee Zellweger, “Cinderella Man”
Michelle Trachtenberg, “Mysterious Skin”
Summer Glau, “Serenity”
Gong Li, “Memoirs of a Geisha” & “Eros”
Catherine Keener, “Capote” & “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

My Predictions
Amy Adams, “Junebug”

Maria Bello, “A History of Violence”

Catherine Keener, “Capote”
Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”
Michelle Williams, “Brokeback Mountain”

Honorable Mention: Uma Thurman, “The Producers”; In a year that marks as one of comedy’s most mediocre (only 2 made my 10 favorites; only 1 was live-action), even one as hit-and-miss as this adaptation of Mel Brooks’ musical version of his 1968 classic should be valued. Why? Because what hit comedically hit the bullseye thanks to Brooks’ go-for-broke wit and a gifted cast. Of that cast, Thurman is the one least associated with comedy, though a scan of her credits reveals at least one gem of the genre (1996’s “The Truth About Cats and Dogs). She deserves more chances in the genre on the strength of her turn as Ulla, a foreign bombshell who arouses the lust of crooked producers Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and the male audience in general who already had her Tarantino-directed triumphs (“Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill”) to be thankful for. She had me at “When You Got It, Flaunt It.” “Remember when Ulla dance? Ulla dance again!” Dance on Uma…

Brian’s Rest of the Best: Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”; Diane Keaton, “The Family Stone”; Scarlett Johansson, “Match Point”; Michelle Yeoh, “Memoirs of a Geisha”; Michelle Williams, “Brokeback Mountain”; Hanae Kan, “Nobody Knows”; Hope Davis, “The Matador”; Dakota Fanning, “War of the Worlds”; Frances McDormand, “North Country”; Joan Chen, “Saving Face”; Qui Yuen, “Kung Fu Hustle”; Ayu Kitaura, “Nobody Knows”

Best Original Screenplay
My Picks
“Nobody Knows” (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
“Melinda and Melinda” (Woody Allen)
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” (Caroline Thompson, John August)
“The Weather Man” (Steve Conrad)

“Match Point” (Woody Allen)

My Predictions
“Cinderella Man” (Akiva Goldsman, Cliff Hollingsworth)
“Crash” (Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco)
“Good Night, and Good Luck.” (George Clooney, Grant Heslov)
“Match Point” (Woody Allen)
“The Squid and the Whale” (Noah Baumbach)

Honorable Mention: “The Family Stone” (Thomas Bezucha); The bickering family comedy-drama- has a formula ever been more overworked? Maybe a few (see the stalker-killer horror and romantic comedy genres), but rare is the film that can turn that formula on its’ ear quite like what “The Family Stone” does in telling its’ story of an uptight businesswoman whose conservative worldview doesn’t gel with the open-minded liberal values of her fiancee’s family. That makes it sound like a red state vs. blue state story, but the businesswoman is more sheltered by her closed-in world- she’s not a prude; she just doesn’t know how to express herself in a way that doesn’t seem insulting or condensending to her future in-laws. Writer-director Bezucha hits all the right notes with his characters- both acknowledging the archetypes of the characters and deepening them to tell a story that is anything but black-and-white in its’ worldview. We may sometimes still feel manipulated emotionally, but what we feel at the end is pure bliss for the story we’ve just been told.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: “The Matador” (Richard Shephard); “The Upside of Anger” (Mike Binder); “Oldboy” (Chanwook Park, Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim); “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (Judd Apatow, Steve Carrell); “Good Night, and Good Luck” (George Clooney, Grant Heslov); “Broken Flowers” (Jim Jarmusch); “Dear Frankie” (Andrea Gibb); “Kingdom of Heaven” (William Monahan); “The Squid and the Whale” (Noah Baumbach)

Best Adapted Screenplay
My Picks
“Brokeback Mountain” (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana)
“Capote” (Dan Futterman)
“Serenity” (Joss Whedon)
“Proof” (David Auburn, Rebecca Miller)
“Munich” (Tony Kushner, Eric Roth)

My Predictions
“Brokeback Mountain” (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana)
“Capote” (Dan Futterman)
“The Constant Gardener” (Jeffrey Caine)
“Munich” (Tony Kushner, Eric Roth)
“Syriana” (Stephen Gaghan)

Honorable Mention: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (Shane Black); What is it about the Academy that turns them off to the real heroes of top-notch escapism? I’m mean sure, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have been nominated- and won- Oscars for their work, but I’m talking about the writers and directors who spend their careers turning out top-notch work in the disreputable genres, like action and comedy. Andrew Davis failed to earn a directing nod for Best Picture nominee “The Fugitive,” while Mike Newell went without a nomination for “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Sometimes the writer will sneak in there, but it’s rare, and usually when the critics and guilds guilt the Academy into it. (Oscar voters- follow the Writers Guild’s example and nominate “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” for Best Original Screenplay please.) Which brings me to Shane Black, who after a decade in hiding after his last high-concept, high-priced action thriller- 1996’s criminally-underrated “The Long Kiss Goodnight”- tanked, returned to filmmaking with a brilliant and brutally funny bit of mindless escapism with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which stands as one of the great underrated pleasures in a year full of them. Black got paid big bucks when he was younger for his scripts like “Goodnight,” “The Last Boy Scout,” and his groundbreaking screenplay for “Lethal Weapon,” but all of those pale in comparison to the wicked wit and excitement he conjures with this deconstruction of noir archetypes that turns both the detective thriller and buddy movie on their ear, and reinvigorates the genre of big explosions, bigger laughs, and low brainpower with a fan’s passion that can’t been mistaken. For that- and the fact that he gave Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer their best roles in years (if not ever)- the Academy needs to look past what the genre has desolved too and look at what the person who reinvented it pulled from his sleeve. Welcome back Shane.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: “War of the Worlds” (David Koepp, Josh Freidman); “Syriana” (Stephen Gaghan); “Jarhead” (William Broyles Jr.); “The Constant Gardener” (Jeffrey Caine); “Mysterious Skin” (Gregg Araki); “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (Steve Kloves); “Shopgirl” (Steve Martin); “King Kong” (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens); “Oliver Twist” (Ronald Harwood)

Best Original Score
My Picks
“Serenity” (David Newman)
“Memoirs of a Geisha” (John Williams)
“Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith” (John Williams)
“Sin City” (Graeme Revell, John Debney, Robert Rodriguez)
“A History of Violence” (Howard Shore)

My Predictions
“Brokeback Mountain” (Gustavo Santaolalla)
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe” (Harry Gregson-Williams)
“Cinderella Man” (Thomas Newman)

“King Kong” (James Newton Howard)
“Memoirs of a Geisha” (John Williams)

Honorable Mention: “The Weather Man” (Hans Zimmer); He is still my favorite film composer of all-time- if only for “Broken Arrow,” “Millennium,” “The Thin Red Line,” “Gladiator,” and “Hannibal”- but some of the gleam has come off his star over the years. It has a lot to do with a) how homogenized his scores have become (his last great score was “Hannibal”), and b) how collaborative his work has become (though his big-ticket score w/ James Newton Howard for “Batman Begins” gets better with each listen). Nothing wrong with collaborations as a rule, but Zimmer’s early work in genre films felt so much more liberating and innovative before we started getting 2-4 composers listed on soundtracks. Thankfully, that creative spirit is alive and well in his work in offbeat comedy-dramas (his scores for “Spanglish” and “Matchstick Men” were overlooked gems), as “The Weather Man” proved with ingenious and distinct orchestrations and engaging themes that played well against the risks of Nicolas Cage’s acting and Steve Conrad’s writing. Hearing Zimmer’s music for “The Weather Man,” I was reminded of why I was drawn to his music in the first place.

Brian’s Rest of the Best: “The Constant Gardener” (Alberto Iglesias); “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” (Danny Elfman); “The Matador” (Rolfe Kent); “Oliver Twist” (Rachel Portman); “War of the Worlds” (John Williams); “Capote” (Michael Danna); “King Kong” (James Newton Howard); “Brokeback Mountain” (Gustavo Santaolalla); “Cinderella Man” (Thomas Newman); “Dark Water” (Angelo Badalamenti); “Munich” (John Williams); “Grizzly Man” (Richard Thompson)

Best Original Song
My Picks
“So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish” from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (Joby Talbot, Garth Jennings, Bernie Leadon)
“Augustus Gloop” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Danny Elfman, Roald Dahl)
“Veruca Salt” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Danny Elfman, Roald Dahl)
“There’s Nothing Like a Show on Broadway” from “The Producers” (Mel Brooks)
“Violet Beauregarde” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Danny Elfman, Roald Dahl)

My Predictions*
“One Little Slip” from “Chicken Little” (performed by Barenaked Ladies)

“Can’t Take It In” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (Imogen Heap, Harry Gregson-Williams)
“Remains of the Day” from “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” (Danny Elfman, John August)

“Mad Hot Ballroom” from “Mad Hot Ballroom” (Steven Lutvak)

“There’s Nothing Like a Show on Broadway” from “The Producers” (Mel Brooks)

Brian’s Rest of the Best: “Mad Hot Ballroom” from “Mad Hot Ballroom” (Steven Lutvak); “Wonka’s Welcome Song” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Danny Elfman, John August); “Mike Teavee” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Danny Elfman, Roald Dahl)

Best Animated Feature
My Picks
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride”
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
“Steamboy”

My Predictions*
“Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride”
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”

Best Foreign-Language Film
My Picks
“Nobody Knows” (Japan) (was eligible for 2004 Oscars)
“Oldboy” (Korea)
“Kung Fu Hustle” (Hong Kong)
“3-Iron” (Korea)
“Paradise Now” (Palestine)

My Predictions*
“Joyeux Noel” (France)
“Paradise Now” (Palestine)
“The Promise” (China)
“Requiem of Snow” (Iraq)
“Tsotsi” (South Africa)

Best Documentary Feature
My Picks
“In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger” (was eligible for 2004 Oscars)
“No Direction Home: Bob Dylan”
“Inside Deep Throat”
“Grizzly Man”
“Murderball”

My Predictions*
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”
“Mad Hot Ballroom”
“March of the Penguins”
“Murderball”
On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report”

Best Visual Effects
My Picks
“King Kong”
“Serenity”
“War of the Worlds”

My Predictions*
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“King Kong”
“Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith”

Best Sound
My Picks
“Serenity”
“King Kong”
“Kingdom of Heaven”
“Constantine”
“Jarhead”

My Predictions
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“King Kong”
“Munich”
“Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith”
“Walk the Line”

Best Sound Editing
My Picks
“Constantine”
“Serenity”
“King Kong”

My Predictions*
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“King Kong”
“War of the Worlds”

Best Cinematography
My Picks
“Serenity”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Constantine”
“War of the Worlds”
“Capote”

My Predictions
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“King Kong”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Munich”

Best Film Editing
My Picks
“Serenity”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith”
“War of the Worlds”
“Capote”

My Predictions
“Brokeback Mountain”
“The Constant Gardener”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Munich”
“Syriana”

Best Art Direction
My Picks
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“King Kong”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“Oliver Twist”
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

My Predictions
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Munich”

“Pride & Prejudice”

Best Makeup
My Picks
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

My Predictions*
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“A History of Violence”
“The New World”

Best Costume Design
My Picks
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“King Kong”
“Oliver Twist”
“Serenity”

My Predictions
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Kingdom of Heaven”
“King Kong”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”

“Pride & Prejudice”

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.com

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