'Twas a time not so long ago that I would have seen almost all of the movies and performances up for Academy Awards. Not anymore. I made a mental list in early January of what I still need to see, and feel fortunate if I get one out of the way.
I did so yesterday. More on that in a moment.
I've never remembered a year that seems more predictable than this one. All four of the acting awards have been supposedly locked up since the day the nominations were announced. Same with director. Snore. Where's the motivation to watch?
I can't predict, but I can analyze:
Best picture: I have not seen Babel, The Departed, The Queen and Letters From Iwo Jima (though I did sit in a theater next to one where that was playing yesterday, and man is that film loud). I have seen Little Miss Sunshine, which I liked but hardly find worthy as a best picture nominee, much less winner. If that film deserves any award, it's one for making me cringe for the last fifteen minutes more than any movie ever. Best part of that movie was seeing it on DVD a few weeks ago with some people who had never seen it before and watching their reaction towards the end. They say this race is wide open but I am going to say The Departed wins, mostly because of Martin Scorsese but also because Babel is too much like Crash (last year's winner, one of the worst best picture choices ever). If there is an "upset" it will be Little Miss Sunshine, and the Academy will have blown it two years in a row.
Best Director: I haven't seen the aforementioned four films above along with United 93, so I can't make an objective pick, but if they don't give it to Martin Scorsese, they might as well take him out back and shoot him. If he doesn't win the academy is just being cruel. Put the guy out of his misery one way or another.
Supporting Actress: I have only seen Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, who has no chance of winning, nor do the two women from Babel or Cate Blanchett (nope, didn't see Notes on a Scandal either). I haven't seen Dreamgirls, have no desire to, and I have no real opinion on Jennifer Hudson. She will win though.
Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy is the big favorite here, but he should be disqualified on general principle for Norbit. Having only seen Alan Arkin (who was great and would be a deserved winner) I can only say that anyone I know who saw Little Children was blown away by Jackie Earle Haley. Mark Wahlberg will win an Oscar someday, and Djimon Honsou has had a role I didn't care for. This is probably the strongest category.
Actress: Saw none of these films. Penelope Cruz will win someday; Meryl Streep collects nominations like I do Cubs ticket stubs; Judi Dench could recite Dr. Seuss and get a nomination; I have a feeling Kate Winslet's performance is the best of the bunch, but Hello, Loyal Subjects, Helen Mirren wins for playing Lizzie II, something I have a problem with, which I will explain in my reasoning for next:
Actor: The sole reason I am writing this whole thing. First, haven't seen Blood Diamond (sorry Leo-ps you should have won for Gilbert Grape) or The Pursuit of Happiness (Will Smith). Nor have I seen The Last King of Scotland (Forest Whitaker). I have seen Half Nelson and Ryan Gosling was great, second best performance I saw.
But this is all about Peter O'Toole. I am incredibly biased here; the man is the greatest actor who has ever lived and I can't believe he has never won. If I wanted to depress myself I would go back and see who he lost to the previous seven times he's been nominated. Ugh. The first ever date I went on was to go see My Favorite Year (let me tell ya, the movie was miles better than the date). And spare me the fact that he was given an honorary award a few years ago. The man has won as many acting Oscars as I have.
I went to see Venus yesterday, sitting by myself in a semi-crowded movie theater. Best performance by an actor I have ever seen. Bias aside, I swear that is was. Amazing. The movie isn't for everyone as it has a certain ick-factor of a seventy-five year old man thinking he can seduce a twenty year old woman, but even when he is about to say something that he shouldn't, he does it better than no one else. I think he deserves to win for a scene where he doesn't even say a word: the woman suggests they meet at a London pier the next day at noon. He is seen getting dressed, walking to the pier, and then remaining there all day because she never shows up. He goes from leaning against an iron fence to pacing to finally sitting wearily down on a bench as the camera quickly advances from noon to dusk. His mannerisms, the looks on his face-perfect. Simply an amazing performance throughout. I can't wait until the movie comes out for sale (and I am not a big fan of buying movies).
I can't possibly describe his performance enough. It has to be seen to be appreciated.
Forest Whitaker is going to win for his impression of Idi Amin in Last King of Scotland. He is a great actor as well; his work on the last season of "The Shield" was brilliant. I am sure that he is great in this movie as well.
But it's an imitation. He is playing someone who he had the chance to study. Same with Helen Mirren. If they weren't good at portraying these real-life characters, they wouldn't have been in the film. Same with Jamie Foxx a few years back. I'm not saying that these aren't worthy performances, but I think it is harder to create a character that is fictional. Besides, Peter O'Toole is 74 and ain't going to be around forever. It will be a shame if he shuffles off to eternity without winning. Remember Henry Fonda? He was not the best actor out there when he won for On Golden Pond, but he was in his 70s and ailing.
I was going to try to see The Last King of Scotland today, but decided that I'd rather see it after the academy breaks my heart and snubs Peter O'Toole again.
I sure hope I am wrong.