Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Snooch to the Nooch!

The title says it all. Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy working on my music and film recently to go into my usual depth- and see all the movies up for Oscars- about the nominees (OK, it’s not THAT unfortunate on my end…or your end if you’re a fan of my music, and interested in my film). On that note, the trailer for my own short film- “Unwinnable Hand: A Thriller in Two Movements”- is now available online at MySpace; follow the third site link below to check it out. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy! Oh, and all the nominees are in order of preference. The broadcast is on Sunday, with Ellen DeGeneres hosting. Composer Ennio Morricone (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Untouchables,” and an inspiration to myself as a composer) is receiving this year’s honorary Oscar.

Viva la Resistance!

Brian Skutle

(All nominees are presented in order of preference.)

“The Departed”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
“Letters From Iwo Jima”
“The Queen”

Brian’s Top Five: “United 93”; “The Fountain”; “Volver”; “Brick”; “World Trade Center”

Brian’s Pick: “Babel”

Oscar’s Pick: “Little Miss Sunshine”. Even two days before the Oscars, I can still see any of the films nominated in this category winning Best Picture (with the possible exception of “The Queen,” which just doesn’t have that Best Picture Oscar cache to me)- that’s what not nominating “Dreamgirls” did for this category. “Babel” is the most nominated film, “The Departed” is the biggest crowd-pleaser, and “Letters From Iwo Jima” is another triumph for Clint Eastwood at the twilight of his career, but with wins at the Producers and Screen Actors Guilds- as well as a scrappy underdog feel for it- “Little Miss Sunshine” could finish as the little indie that did, and in a wide-open race, it’s entirely possible that it will.

Paul Greengrass, “United 93”
Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Babel”
Clint Eastwood, “Letters From Iwo Jima”
Stephen Frears, “The Queen”

Brian’s Top Five: Darren Aronofsky, “The Fountain”; Paul Greengrass, “United 93”; Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”; Oliver Stone, “World Trade Center”; Robert Altman, “A Prairie Home Companion”

Brian’s Pick: Paul Greengrass (“United 93”), but you know I’m rooting for Marty.

Oscar’s Pick: Martin Scorsese. When I first heard about “The Departed,” I first thought that this might be Scorsese’s “The Color of Money” (which he directed actually), which won the Best Actor Oscar for Paul Newman after he hadn’t won for more acclaimed and prestigous films. Six viewings of Marty’s latest has made me think otherwise. This isn’t the work of a hired hand but of a master filmmaker intoxicated by his subject, and using all of his craft to make the story come alive onscreen. Actually, it really is his best film since “GoodFellas.” Take the advice of Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie, Oscar, and act accordingly. It’s time.

Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”
Will Smith, “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond”
Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson” (Haven’t Seen)
Peter O’Toole, “Venus” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s Top Five: Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”; Nicolas Cage, “World Trade Center”; Steve Coogan, “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”; Hugh Jackman, “The Fountain”; Matt Damon, “The Good Shepherd”

Brian’s Pick: Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

Oscar’s Pick: Forest Whitaker, but don’t be surprised if Peter O’Toole- despite his honorary Oscar back in 2003- upsets Whitaker- who’s won nearly every pre-Oscar award available- for his first competitive Oscar after seven previous losses. My bet is with Whitaker, but what with Marty wrapping up his first Oscar, don’t be surprised if Sir Peter pulls a bit of an upset as well.

Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
Kate Winslet, “Little Children”
Penelope Cruz, “Volver”
Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”
Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”

Brian’s Top Five: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”; Natalie Portman, “V for Vendetta”; Kate Winslet, “Little Children”; Renee Zellweger, “Miss Potter”; Penelope Cruz, “Volver”

Brian’s Pick: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”

Oscar’s Pick: Helen Mirren. This category is the strongest it’s been in years- all five are deserving nominees- but it’s just Mirren’s year. Just listen to her speech; she’s the best of the bunch, and she deserves to win.

Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”
Eddie Murphy, “Dreamgirls”
Jackie Earl Haley, “Little Children”
Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Djimon Hounsou, “Blood Diamond”

Brian’s Top Five: Michael Pena, “World Trade Center”; Steve Carell, “Little Miss Sunshine”; Hugo Weaving, “V for Vendetta”; Paul Newman, “Cars”; Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”

Brian’s Pick: Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”

Oscar’s Pick: Eddie Murphy, for the fact that he’s won the more obvious predecessors of the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild, but this could be an upset category from a couple of different places- Wahlberg for being the representative of “The Departed’s” great cast, and most especially Arkin for his wickedly funny and humane turn as “Sunshine’s” grandfather. I wouldn’t disclude either possibility in this category, but I still think Murphy will probably win out in the end for his vital energy in a career role.

Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”
Rinko Kikuchi, “Babel”
Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Adriana Barraza, “Babel”
Cate Blanchett, “Notes on a Scandal”

Brian’s Top Five: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”; Meryl Streep, “A Prairie Home Companion”; Rinko Kikuchi, “Babel”; Maria Bello, “World Trade Center”; Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”

Brian’s Pick: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”

Oscar’s Pick: Jennifer Hudson. It’s kind of funny that while the actor and supporting actor catagories could be prime for upsets this year, the actress categories are pretty strong locks despite really strong categories this year, but it’s that kind of year. Like Mirren, Hudson- as close to a cinderella story for her knockout turn- is going to win. After you see her performance, you can’t really argue with the decision.

“Little Miss Sunshine” (Michael Arndt)
“Babel” (Guillermo Arriaga)
“Letters From Iwo Jima” (Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis)
“The Queen” (Peter Morgan)
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Guillermo Del Toro)

Brian’s Top Five: “Brick” (Rian Johnson); “The Fountain” (Darren Aronofsky); “United 93” (Paul Greengrass); “Little Miss Sunshine” (Michael Arndt); “The Science of Sleep” (Michel Gondry)

Brian’s Pick: “Little Miss Sunshine”

Oscar’s Pick: “Little Miss Sunshine”. Even if this hip, clever indie doesn’t win Best Picture, the Writers Guild win for Arndt’s devious and engaging screenplay will make it Oscar’s choice over Morgan’s exceptional look at a royal dilemma in “The Queen.”

“The Departed” (William Monahan)
“Little Children” (Todd Field, Tom Perrotta)
“Children of Men” (Alfonso Cauron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby)
“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer, Todd Phillips)
“Notes on a Scandal” (Patrick Marber)

Brian’s Top Five: “V for Vendetta” (Andy & Larry Wachowski); “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” (Martin Hardy); “A Prairie Home Companion” (Garrison Keillor); “The Departed” (William Monahan); “Dreamgirls” (Bill Condon)

Brian’s Pick: “The Departed” (William Monahan)

Oscar’s Pick: “The Departed”. With two nominees of five screenwriters, this is an odd category this year, and almost as wide-open as Best Picture, but with his win at the Writers Guild, it’s hard to vote against Monahan’s script for “The Departed,” a true model of adaptation, as he takes an already-terrific source (a Hong Kong crime thriller) and deepens it while also making the material his own. Seems like as good a reason for him to win as any.

“The Good German” (Thomas Newman)
“Notes on a Scandal” (Philip Glass)
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Javier Navarrete)
“Babel” (Gustavo Santaolalla)
“The Queen” (Alexandre Desplat)

Brian’s Top Five: “The Fountain” (Clint Mansell); “V for Vendetta” (Dario Marinelli); “Apocalypto” (James Horner); “The Departed” (Howard Shore); “United 93” (John Powell)

Brian’s Pick: “The Good German” (Thomas Newman)

Oscar’s Pick: “The Good German”. I’ve heard all five scores, and all are good (though personally, only Newman’s thrilling ode to old-fashioned melodrama is close to great), but gotta say, Oscar really dropped the ball this year. So many great, innovative scores by composers both major and minor, and these are the choices? Golden Globe winner Desplat (for “The Painted Veil”) could be the pick for his low-key work on a Best Picture nominee (and though I’ve heard rumblings about “Babel’s” Santaolalla, I just can’t see him being honored two straight years, having already won for “Brokeback Mountain”), but on a night where Oscar looks to right several past wrongs, don’t be surprised if it rights another one and gives multiple past nominee Newman (“American Beauty,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) his first of what should be many Oscars, the latest in this esteemed composing family (which includes father Alfred, cousin Randy- both past winners- and brother David).

“I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Melissa Etheridge)
“Our Town” from “Cars” (Randy Newman)
“Patience” from “Dreamgirls” (Henry Krieger, Willie Reale)
“Listen” from “Dreamgirls” (Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven)
“Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls” (Henry Krieger, Siedah Garrett)

Brian’s Top Five: “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Melissa Etheridge); “Our Town” from “Cars” (Randy Newman); “Still” from “Over the Hedge” (Ben Folds); “You Know My Name” from “Casino Royale” (David Arnold, Chris Cornell); “Ordinary Miracle” from “Charlotte’s Web” (David A. Stewart, Glen Ballard)

Brian’s Pick: “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Melissa Etheridge)

Oscar’s Pick: “Listen”. Let’s put it this way, if it’s not from “Dreamgirls,” it ain’t gonna win. That said, the question becomes which won will be winning. My bet is on Beyonce’s ballad about breaking free.

“Monster House”
“Happy Feet”

Brian’s Top Three: “Renaissance”; “Cars”; “Flushed Away”

Brian’s Pick: “Cars”

Oscar’s Pick: In a category filled with eye-popping animation, the boys at Pixar crafted the most engaging story. Therefore, look for the underrated “Cars” (which looks more like a gem in the rough on repeated viewings, even if it isn’t great Pixar) to give Pixar its’ third Oscar in four years.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico)
“Water” (Canada)
“After the Wedding” (Denmark) (Haven’t Seen)
“Days of Glory” (Algeria) (Haven’t Seen)
“The Lives of Others” (Germany) (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s Top Five: “Volver” (Spain); “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico); “Water” (Canada); “Fateless” (Hungary); “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” (South Korea)

Brian’s Pick: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico)

Oscar’s Pick: “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Just because support for a foreign film is widespread doesn’t automatically signal a win in this category (see “Amelie”). That said, in a landmark year for Mexican auteurs- whose films garnered 16 combined nominations- and the surprising absence of “Volver,” look for Del Toro’s justly-celebrated fantasy (which has five other nominations) to win out over the other choices (though don’t be surprised if Germany’s “The Lives of Others”- about government invasion of privacy- pulls an upset).

“An Inconvenient Truth”
“Jesus Camp”
“Deliver Us From Evil” (Haven’t Seen)
“Iraq in Fragments” (Haven’t Seen)
“My Country My Country” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s Top Five: “An Inconvenient Truth”; “49 Up”; “Why We Fight”; “This Film is Not Yet Rated”; “Wordplay”

Brian’s Pick: “An Inconvenient Truth”

Oscar’s Pick: “An Inconvenient Truth”. “Deliver Us From Evil”- about the Catholic Church sex scandals- is a possible upset, but let’s face it, Gore’s global warming doc- and his resurgent presence as a political spoiler- is too hot to ignore.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
“Superman Returns”

Brian’s Top Three: “The Fountain”; “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”; “Superman Returns”

Brian’s Pick: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

Oscar’s Pick: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”. Sure, it’s mostly because of the box-office- where “Chest” flew, “Superman” hovered, and “Poseidon” sank- but gotta say, the effects work in “Pirates” was really damn great.

“Flags of Our Fathers”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
“Blood Diamond”

Brian’s Top Five: “United 93”; “V for Vendetta”; “World Trade Center”; “A Prairie Home Companion”; “Babel”

Brian’s Pick: “Dreamgirls”

Oscar’s Pick: “Dreamgirls”. Music-heavy choices tend to win this award, with good reason. Here’s where the night could get crazy, with “Dreamgirls” a possibility to win the most Oscars ever for a Best Picture nomination. It’d be pretty cool compensation, though, wouldn’t it?

“Flags of Our Fathers”
“Letters From Iwo Jima”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
“Blood Diamond”

Brian’s Top Five: “World Trade Center”; “United 93”; “Children of Men”; “Apocalypto”; “Saw III”

Brian’s Pick: “Apocalypto”

Oscar’s Pick: “Letters From Iwo Jima”. By the look of my Top Five, you think I’m a fan of this category much? That said, in a battle between the two Eastwood war films, look for Best Picture nominee “Letters” to beat out “Flags.”

“Children of Men”
“Pan’s Labyrinth”
“The Prestige”
“The Illusionist”
“The Black Dahlia”

Brian’s Top Five: “Children of Men”; “V for Vendetta”; “United 93”; “The Fountain”; “Apocalypto”

Brian’s Pick: “Children of Men”

Oscar’s Pick: “Children of Men”. This year, Oscar went with flashy and imagination over visual poetry and gritty reality (how Michael Ballhaus got passed over for “The Departed” is beyond me). In a strong category, nothing blew away more people visually than the hand-held wizardry of Emmanuel Lubezki’s work in “Children.”

“United 93”
“Children of Men”
“The Departed”
“Blood Diamond”

Brian’s Top Five: “United 93”; “Apocalypto”; “Children of Men”; “The Fountain”; “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”

Brian’s Pick: “United 93”

Oscar’s Pick: “Babel”. It’s a tough race- everything but “Diamond” is worthy- but look for the multi-story cross-cutting of the multi-national “Babel” to win out over the other, admittedly more-deserving choices.

“Pan’s Labyrinth”
“The Prestige”
“The Good Shepherd”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

Brian’s Top Five: “The Fountain”; “Apocalypto”; “Pan’s Labyrinth”; “Curse of the Golden Flower”; “Superman Returns”

Brian’s Pick: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

Oscar’s Pick: This could be another win for “Dreamgirls,” but don’t be surprised if the fantasy world of “Pan’s Labyrinth” to win out in the end.

“Pan’s Labyrinth”

Brian’s Top Three: “Apocalypto”; “Pan’s Labyrinth”; “X-Men: The Last Stand”

Brian’s Pick: “Apocalypto”

Oscar’s Pick: “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Both it and “Apocalypto” deserve to win, but the makeup on the creatures in “Labyrinth” will be just too hard to ignore for the Academy.

“Curse of the Golden Flower”
“The Devil Wears Prada”
“The Queen”
“Marie Antoinette” (Haven’t Seen)

Brian’s Top Five: “Curse of the Golden Flower”; “The Fountain”; “Apocalypto”; “Dreamgirls”; “V for Vendetta”

Brian’s Pick: “Curse of the Golden Flower”

Oscar’s Pick: As extravagent and eye-popping as “Curse” is, look for another win for “Dreamgirls” for its’ well-designed duds.

Here are the three awards those most devoted to movies care about. I haven’t seen any of these, so all these are just guesses.

“Binta y la gran idea”
“Eramos pocos”
“Helmer & Son”
“The Saviour”
“West Bank Story”

Oscar’s Pick: “The Saviour”

“The Danish Poet”
“The Little Matchgirl”
“No Time for Nuts”

Oscar’s Pick: “Maestro”

“The Blood of Yingzhou District”
“Recycled Life”
“Rehearsing a Dream”
“Two Hands”

Oscar’s Pick: “Recycled Life”

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