Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Snooch to the Nooch! The title says it all. Actually, it doesn’t this year, but read on. The Oscars are (hopefully) on February 24 at 8pm EST this year, with Jon Stewart once again hosting.

Best Picture
Oscar’s Final Five
“Atonement”
“Juno”
“Michael Clayton”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Likes: That Oscar looked past snobbery to find room for the beautifully comic “Juno” and past the blood to make room for early front-runner “No Country for Old Men.”

Dislikes: I would have traded “Michael Clayton’s” slot for “Away From Her,” “Zodiac,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Kingdom,” “Ratatouille,” or “American Gangster”- among many others- any day of the week. Same with the Oscar-made period drama “Atonement.”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Away From Her”; “Across the Universe”; “Once”; “Zodiac”; “The Darjeeling Limited”

Oscar’s Pick: “Juno.” I’m going out on a limb, I know, what with all the dour drama this year, but I think other nominations- like the one below- will help this little indie that could, a bona fide hit with audiences, run away with the gold in a month.

Best Director
Oscar’s Final Five
Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
Jason Reitman, “Juno”
Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”
Joel & Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”

Likes: Reitman’s nomination will help his film’s chances against the more dramatic nominees. The Coen’s work on “No Country” is on par with their triumph on “Fargo”- it’s good to see them back in Oscar’s good graces.

Dislikes: No Tim Burton for his tour de force work in “Sweeney Todd?” Must have been too dark (same with David Fincher for “Zodiac”). No David Cronenberg for “Eastern Promises?” He’s working at the top of his game people! No Sarah Polley for “Away From Her?” The writing nomination helps ease my disappointment. I would have taken any of them- to say nothing of Sean Penn (“Into the Wild”), Julie Taymor (“Across the Universe”), or Ridley Scott (“American Gangster”) over Gilroy, admittedly a talented screenwriter and a solid hand behind the camera.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Tim Burton, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; Julie Taymor, “Across the Universe”; Sarah Polley, “Away From Her”; David Fincher, “Zodiac”; Joel & Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”

Oscar’s Pick: Paul Thomas Anderson. This is gonna be one of those years where things get spread out. No one film will dominate, but most won’t go home empty handed. That said, I think it’s one of two possibilities in both director and adapted screenplay (see below)- the question is which way Oscar will go. I don’t see Schnabel repeating his Globe win in such a strong category- I do think it’ll be impossible for Oscar to ignore Anderson (a past favorite with screenwriting nominations for the overrated “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”) any longer. Now I just have to see his film to see if he’d actually deserve it.

Best Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”

Likes: That Oscar found room for both Depp’s masterful turn as the wicked barber of Sondheim’s masterwork and Mortensen’s extraordinary performance as an underling in a moral crisis in the Russian mob- I was worried only one of them would get noticed…or neither.

Dislikes: I guess they couldn’t find room for Jones in Supporting Actor for “No Country,” so they opted instead for his leading turn in Paul Haggis’ Iraq drama. Unfortunately, it meant no Ryan Gosling (“Lars and the Real Girl”), Don Cheadle (“Talk to Me”), Denzel Washington (“American Gangster”), Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”), Jake Ghyllenhaal (“Zodiac”), and Richard Gere (“The Hoax”), just to name a few. And while Clooney was good in “Michael Clayton,” he’s done better work I think in less likely films.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Ryan Gosling, “Lars and the Real Girl”; Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; Jake Ghyllenhaal, “Zodiac”; Richard Gere, “The Hoax”; Don Cheadle, “Talk to Me”

Oscar’s Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis. The momentum for him is probably too great to go against him, but he’s started out ahead in the past only to stumble on the day (remember “Gangs of New York?”). Plus, he’s already won, so don’t be surprised if non-winners Depp (who further displayed his remarkable range in “Todd”) or Mortensen sneak up on him in the next month. But right now, it’s Day-Lewis’ to lose.

Best Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie, “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard, “Le Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney, “The Savages”
Ellen Page, “Juno”

Likes: That Page made the cut for her star turn in the indie jewel “Juno.” And Christie made the cut despite her film coming out back in April. But other than the three front-runners, and my reservations (below), it was nice to see them go outside the box in this category, even if it meant leaving off good performances (no Jolie for “A Mighty Heart” or Knightley for “Atonement”).

Dislikes: OK, I expected Blanchett to get nominated (see below), but “Elizabeth?” Are you f-ing kidding me? I know Oscar voters get a hard one for particular actors, but a sequel, to a movie that, quite frankly, wasn’t all that? I don’t know. But I haven’t seen the film yet- I could be wrong. I’ll hold off final judgement on her (and Linney) until I see the films.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Ellen Page, “Juno”; Tabu, “The Namesake”; Marion Cottilard, “Le Vie en Rose”; Julie Christie, “Away From Her”; Helena Bonham Carter, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Oscar’s Pick: Julie Christie. I’d love to see Page walk away with this, but Christie’s unforgettable work as a woman whose memory is being eaten away by Alzheimer’s is just too strong to ignore in a movie that Academy thankfully remembered to some extent.

Best Supporting Actor
Oscar’s Final Five
Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton”

Likes: Hoffman’s nod is more an acknowledge of his fine work in three films in this year. Affleck’s tremendous work in a long-shelved epic didn’t get overlooked despite an ungainly title and a relatively short run in theatres. Holbrook’s memorable work in “Into the Wild” was not ignored even though the film was by and large.

Dislikes: I admire Wilkinson, and his work in “Clayton” isn’t bad, but his nomination would have been better to go to Tommy Lee Jones (“No Country”), Alan Rickman (“Sweeney Todd”), Russell Crowe (for either “Gangster” or “3:10 to Yuma”), or any of the actors from “Zodiac” or “The Darjeeling Limited.”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”; Alan Rickman, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”; Tommy Lee Jones, “No Country for Old Men”; Adrien Brody, “The Darjeeling Limited”

Oscar’s Pick: Javier Bardem. If “No Country” wins anywhere this year, it’ll be for Bardem, who you knew Oscar couldn’t ignore forever (after previous nods for “The Sea Inside” and “Before Night Falls”). Thankfully, he gave them a performance in “No Country” they couldn’t as the screen’s most dangerous villain since Hannibal Lecter.

Best Supporting Actress
Oscar’s Final Five
Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”
Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”

Likes: The Academy didn’t forget Ronan even they seemed to forget most everything else about “Atonement.” Dee is a pleasant surprise as Denzel’s mother in “Gangster.” And Blanchett did really impress in the otherwise not-so-impressive experiment that was Todd Haynes’ Dylan biopic.

Dislikes: Maybe I was the only one less than enthusiastic about Ryan as the mother’s whose daughter is taken in “Gone Baby Gone.” Her and Swinton, both good, could have been replaced by Helena Bonham Carter (“Sweeney Todd”), Jennifer Garner or Allison Janney (“Juno”), Angelica Huston (“The Darjeeling Limited”), Julia Roberts (“Charlie Wilson’s War”), or Marisa Tomei (“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”), and I would have been a happy man.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: Imelda Staunton, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”; Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”; Meg Ryan, “In the Land of Women”; Jennifer Garner, “Juno”; Patricia Clarkson, “Lars and the Real Girl”

Oscar’s Pick: Cate Blanchett. Oscar clearly loves Cate the Great. She’s already won (for “The Aviator”), but duel nominees tend to win in at least one category (see Jamie Foxx, Holly Hunter, Emma Thompson), and I don’t think she’ll be an exception, even if Ryan is the early favorite. (It’s too bad “Atonement” didn’t get more love in the big categories, otherwise I could see Ronan walking away with this one easily.)

Best Original Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
Diablo Cody, “Juno”
Nancy Oliver, “Lars and the Real Girl”
Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”
Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco & Jan Pinkava, “Ratatouille”
Tamera Jenkins, “The Savages”

Likes: That Oscar once again saw the overall talent of Bird, who with his cowriters, crafted another delectable animated hit for Pixar. And that Oliver’s original, moving script for “Lars” was remembered even if Gosling’s performance wasn’t.

Dislikes: Gilroy is a talented screenwriter, but I would have rather seen a nod to his “Bourne” work over “Clayton.” But then again, the “Bourne” films aren’t Oscar movies, which would also explain why “The Kingdom” (and the emerging talent Matthew Michael Carnahan) got ignored along with “Once,” “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Eastern Promises,” and others.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Juno” (Diablo Cody); “Lars and the Real Girl” (Nancy Oliver); “Once” (John Carney); “The Darjeeling Limited” (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman); “The Kingdom” (Matthew Michael Carnahan)

Oscar’s Pick: “Juno.” If you think anyone other than Diablo Cody, whose incisive and intelligently funny script is the year’s best, is going home with this, you don’t know Oscar.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar’s Final Five
Christopher Hampton, “Atonement”
Sarah Polley, “Away From Her”
Ronald Harwood, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
Joel & Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”

Likes: That Polley’s perceptive hand as first-time screenwriter wasn’t forgotten even if her gifted hand as director was. That is all.

Dislikes: As good as “Atonement” is, I would have taken “Zodiac” (James Vanderbilt), “Into the Wild” (no love for Sean Penn this year?), or “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Aaron Sorkin) any day of the week.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Zodiac” (James Vanderbilt); “Away From Her” (Sarah Polley); “No Country for Old Men” (Joel & Ethan Coen); “Into the Wild” (Sean Penn); “The Namesake” (Sooni Taraporevala)

Oscar’s Pick: “No Country for Old Men.” Here’s what I was referring to in Best Director. Both, I feel, are an honest two-film race between “No Country” and “There Will Be Blood,” and both I can conceivably see winning in one category or the other (even if I haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood” yet). I’ll let the guilds sort this out for me, though, and don’t be surprised if my choices switch before the Oscars. That said, if Oscar’s too turned off by the violence of “No Country” to go with it for Director or Picture, look for the Coen’s to go home with their second Oscar for screenwriting with their note-perfect adaptation.

Best Original Score
Oscar’s Final Five
“Atonement” (Dario Marianelli)
“The Kite Runner” (Alberto Iglesias)
“Michael Clayton” (James Newton Howard)
“Ratatouille” (Michael Giacchino)
“3:10 to Yuma” (Marco Beltrami)

Likes: I don’t know why exactly I left off Beltrami’s score for “3:10 to Yuma” on my choices, but its’ inclusion in the final five is a pleasant surprise, even if there were better scores that got ignored. And thank you Academy for remembering Giacchino this time around for his wonderful score for Bird’s dishy comedy.

Dislikes: As much as I admired “Michael Clayton,” I would have much rather seen nominations for “Eastern Promises,” “Zodiac,” “Lust, Caution,” and “Gone Baby Gone” instead. But it’s still hard to argue with any of these choices decisively- they’re all good.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Atonement” (Dario Marianelli); “Ratatouille” (Michael Giacchino); “Zodiac” (David Shire); “Eastern Promises” (Howard Shore); “1408” (Gabriel Yared)

Oscar’s Pick: “Atonement.” Here will be Oscar’s nod to the Golden Globe Dramatic winner, and it couldn’t happen to a better choice…or a better composer. Marianelli’s growth the past few years has been pretty impressive to hear, and he anchors the film emotionally with thrilling passion and imagination. Plus, it is really the best score of the year. This is what I mean by them spreading things around.

Best Original Song
Oscar’s Final Five
“Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Nominees TBD)
“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” (Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
“So Close” from “Enchanted” (Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” (Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
“Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová)

Likes: The Academy- which has grown more bold over the years in their nominations here- remembered the scrappy loveliness of “Once” and its’ signature moment.

Dislikes: No “Music and Lyrics.” I can’t say I’m shocked, and I can’t say I’ve seen either “August Rush” or “Enchanted,” but it’s still a disappointment.

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová); “Way Back Into Love” from “Music and Lyrics” (Adam Schlesinger); “If You Want Me” from “Once” (Markéta Irglová); “Le Festin” from “Ratatouille” (Michael Giacchino); “Pop! Goes My Heart” from “Music and Lyrics” (Andrew W. Blakemore and Alanna Vicente)

Oscar’s Pick: “Falling Slowly.” Unpredictability is typically, nowadays, the name of the game, and I can’t see Oscar ignoring this indie hit in favor of more obvious choices. Plus, it is the year’s best- always a plus.

Best Animated Feature
Oscar’s Final Three
“Persepolis”
“Ratatouille”
“Surf’s Up”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Ratatouille”; “The Simpsons Movie”; “Beowulf”

Oscar’s Pick: “Persepolis.” Much as I love “Ratatouille,” it’s perhaps too soon after “The Incredibles” to give this to the insanely gifted Brad Bird again. And I would have loved to see “The Simpsons Movie” over the admittedly enjoyable (and imaginative) “Surf’s Up.”

Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar’s Final Five
“Die Fälscher” (Austria)
“Beaufort” (Israel)
“Mongol” (Kazakhstan)
“Katyn” (Poland)
“12” (Russia)

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Le Vie en Rose” (France); “Lust, Caution” (China); “Paris je t’amie” (France); “Black Book” (The Netherlands); “Day Watch” (Russia)

Oscar’s Pick: “Mongol.” OK…I’ve not seen any of these. So it’ll be interesting to see if I can before Oscar night. This is just a guess, people.

Best Documentary Feature
Oscar’s Final Five
“No End in Sight”
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
“SiCKO”
“Taxi to the Dark Side”
“War Dance”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Crazy Love”; “Into Great Silence”; “No End in Sight”; “The Devil Came on Horseback”; “SiCKO”

Oscar’s Pick: “No End in Sight.” Michael Moore could pull an upset with his health care expose, but this election year, I can’t see them going against “Sight,” probably the most pulverizing doc yet about Iraq and the foolishness that led us to where we are now.

Best Visual Effects
Oscar’s Final Three
“The Golden Compass”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
“Transformers”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Transformers”; “I Am Legend”; “Stardust”

Oscar’s Pick: “Transformers,” if only for the sheer complexity in what ILM had to do in achieving what they did in this movie.

Best Sound
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“No Country for Old Men”
“Ratatouille”
“3:10 to Yuma”
“Transformers”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “1408”; “Transformers”; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; “The Kingdom”; “Beowulf”

Oscar’s Pick: “Ratatouille.” Some years I wonder whether voters even know what they’re talking about in these categories, but this year ain’t bad. That said, look for “Ratatouille” to win here after being shut out in the other categories.

Best Sound Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“No Country for Old Men”
“Ratatouille”
“There Will Be Blood”
“Transformers”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “1408”; “Transformers”; “300”

Oscar’s Pick: “Transformers.” It seems odd I known, but for all the effects that went into Michael Bay’s epic, it seems hard that they’d ignore the film here.

Best Cinematography
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford”
“Atonement”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Zodiac”; “Across the Universe”; “Into the Wild”; “No Country for Old Men”; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Oscar’s Pick: “No Country for Old Men.” A two time nominee this year along (also for “Jesse James”), look for master cinematographer Roger Deakins to win for the Coen’s moody noir meditation.

Best Film Editing
Oscar’s Final Five
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“Into the Wild”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Across the Universe”; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; “Zodiac”; “The Kingdom”; “The Bourne Ultimatum”

Oscar’s Pick: “There Will Be Blood.” “No Country” could win this for the Coen’s (under the pseudonym Rodrick Jaynes), and “Ultimatum” deserves this for bringing the action goods, but in another split between art house faves, look for “There Will Be Blood” to win one for that camp.

Best Art Direction
Oscar’s Final Five
“American Gangster”
“Atonement”
“The Golden Compass”
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
“There Will Be Blood”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Stardust”; “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; “Lust, Caution”; “The Darjeeling Limited”; “Black Book”

Oscar’s Pick: “Sweeney Todd.” Oscar loves Burton films for their technique, and don’t be surprised to see them give his dark vision of London Oscar gold as they did “Batman” and “Sleepy Hollow.”

Best Makeup
Oscar’s Final Three
“Le Vie en Rose”
“Norbit”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Le Vie en Rose”; “The Namesake”; “Stardust”

Oscar’s Pick: “Le Vie en Rose.” If you’ve seen this film, you know how amazing Marion Cotillard’s visual appearance is altered throughout the film- it’s a stunning achievement.

Best Costume Design
Oscar’s Final Five
“Across the Universe”
“Atonement”
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
“Le Vie en Rose”
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Brian’s personal hopefuls: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”; “Across the Universe”; “Le Vie en Rose”; “Lust, Caution”; “American Gangster”

Oscar’s Pick: “Sweeney Todd.” As much as I’d love to see “Across the Universe” get some Oscar love, Colleen Atwood’s costumes for “Todd” are just too damn impressive to ignore.

Now, onto the awards less likely to be cared about, and randomly-selected predictions.

Best Short Film- Live Action
Oscar’s Final Five
“At Night”
“Il Supplente”
“Le Mozart des pickpockets”
“Tanghi argentini”
“The Tonto Woman”

Oscar’s Pick: “Le Mozart des pickpockets,” though what happened to “Unwinnable Hand?” Or “Red Cup Mafia?” Oh, right, I haven’t finished them yet. 😉

Best Short Film- Animated
Oscar’s Final Five
“Même les pigeons vont au paradis”
“I Met the Walrus”
“Madame Tutli-Putli”
“Moya lyubov”
“Peter & the Wolf”

Oscar’s Pick: “Peter & the Wolf”

Best Documentary Short Subject
Oscar’s Final Four
“Freeheld”
“Corona, La”
“Salim Baba”
“Sari’s Mother”

Oscar’s Pick: “Freeheld”

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle
http://www.sonic-cinema.com

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