Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where You're Terrific If You're Even Good

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning.

Of the five Best Picture nominations, I've seen only Juno, Michael Clayton, and No Country for Old Men. Of these three, No Country was clearly the best.

I haven't yet seen There Will Be Blood, but I've found every other movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson to be at least fascinating and can't expect any worse of this film.

I read the novel Atonement years ago and loved it, but the previews make the film adaptation look like one of the usual by-the-book British period pieces. I'll still see it, though, so I don't mean to sound like I'm passing judgment.

Besides wanting to sleep with Daniel Day-Lewis for a good two decades now, the only acting nomination I have particular enthusiasm for is Amy Ryan, who kicked ass in Gone Baby Gone. Throughout the movie I kept thinking that this was a career-making performance ... not even realizing this is the same actress who plays McNulty's put-upon, ex-cop live-in girlfriend on The Wire. Talk about "night and day"!

It would be delicious if she won the Best Supporting Actress award as the slutty mother of a missing little girl, but Oscar politics may give the prize to Cate Blanchett (perhaps for NOT winning Best Actress for Elizabeth: The Golden Age) or to Ruby Dee (perhaps for, well, hell, for just being Ruby Dee!)--Oscar voters go all gooey over biopics and for film legends they've basically altogether ignored in the past (not that this ever helped Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles win an Oscar, though).

I can't see a "Martin Scorsese factor" in this year's nominees for best director. I suppose all five are deserving, but the Coens amazingly reinvented themselves as Hitchcockian for No Country for Old Men (though, again, Hitchcockian never put any Oscars on Hitchcock's mantle) and I would be pleased for Paul Thomas Anderson to win ... belatedly for Boogie Nights or Magnolia, if not for There Will Be Blood.

Juno was a nice original screenplay, if about a dozen notches over the top of my "witty" meter. Everybody in it talks like a character on The West Wing. I would be happy if it won something, but, enjoyable though it was, I am a little bothered with its no-doubt-market-motivated compromise between "safe" and "cutting edge."

Sicko should win Michael Moore another Best Documentary award, if not for its wit and humanity, then for the fact that the Academy did not even nominate the Palm-D'or-winning Fahrenheit 9/11.

What effect the Hollywood writers' strike will have on the Oscars show is anybody's guess. The writing, such as it is, has never been one of the major reasons for watching the show, but understandably a lot of celebs may wish not to cross picket lines for just a chance to grab a gold-plated trophy and embarrass themselves, live, in front of zillions of viewers.

Hopefully, though, people will embarrass themselves ...

and some gay short-subject director or other will thrill us all by thanking his husband on live TV ...

and obnoxious reporters, embedded on the red carpet, will ask otherwise respected actors who they are wearing (only if we're very lucky will Kathy Griffin be asking other, more interesting questions) ...

and Hollywood will pat itself on the back once again for the achievements, most typically, of relatively serious artists who choose pointedly to be un-Hollywood.

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