Sunday, January 15, 2006

Oscars central: Golden Globes drama categories

Okay, okay...there are less than 36 hours to go before the first Globes are handed out, and I haven't named my drama picks yet! Having just seen Munich - during the Seahawks game on Saturday, and man was that theater empty! - I feel as prepared as I can be, so here goes:

Best Actor nominees: Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow; Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain; and David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.

Who will win: I'll tell ya', it's looking like the year of Hoffman, although wouldn't it be nice if he'd stop mentioning his girlfriend and child during his acceptance speech and once - just once - talk about Tru being a Gay role? Hmm. Yes, I'm a little irked, but so far ol' Phil - or Seymour, as Ang Lee called him at the Critics Choice last week, much to my delight - has taken home the New York, LA and Broadcast Film critics' awards, plus the National Board of Review; I don't really see the Hollywood Foreign Press behaving differently.

Who should win: I'm happy, I guess, for Hoffman (did you see Capote? He was brill) but Ledger needs the win to make him a real Oscars contender; and it's looking like Strathairn will be lucky just to get an Oscars nomination despite his fascinating performance as Edward R. Murrow. I'll admit, I'm torn . . . these were my fave 3 films of the year. Can I choose a three-way tie? No? Then I'll have to go with Ledger just to give him an Oscars edge and make the show more interesting. If Hoffman does indeed win the Globe there's probably no need for the Academy to send the ballots in to Price Waterhouse for counting - Barbara Walters should book him now. Oh yeah, about Crowe and Howard? While Cinderella Man has picked up buzz recently, it doesn't sound like enough to put Russell on top. And Howard might have had a better shot at taking home a Globe had he been nominated for Crash in the supporting category, but he's too new to the scene. That, and Hustle & Flow was produced by MTV, for chrissakes. Blows it out of the wate right there. (Get the DVD - it just came out on Tuesday.)

Best Actress nominees: Maria Bello, A History of Violence; Felicity Huffman, Transamerica; Gwyneth Paltrow, Proof; Charlize Theron, North Country; Ziyi Zhang, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Who will win: I have an admission, likely fatal as far as my credibility goes: this is the category I know the least about. I missed Proof and North Country when they were in the theaters. (What kind of film critic am I? The kind who usually reviews DVDs, and the kind who doesn't get to go to all of the screeners. Movies are expensive!) And, of course, Transamerica hasn't been released locally yet, so I've only seen Bello and Zhang's performances.

Just because I haven't seen the films doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. It's pretty clear that the race is between Bello, who won the New York Film Critics' Circle award for best supporting actress, and Huffman, who not only has a double nomination for Desperate Housewives but won another major critics' award - the LA Film Critics Association. (Last Monday the Broadcast Film Critics' Association, or Critics Choice, award for best actress went to Reese Witherspoon, who also won the NY Film Critics Circle, but she's not nominated here because the Globes has a separate comedy/musical category. Lucky for Huffman and Bello.) Both Paltrow and Theron have won relatively recently, and while they gave good performances (allegedly) their respective films (again, allegedly) weren't that great.

Don't even get me started on Zhang. Uh, too late: remember when she was still Zhang Ziyi, and not Ziyi Zhang? She Americanized her identity because, I guess, we're too dumb to remember that in China the family name comes first. (Although it hasn't really helped - I keep reading articles where other actresses are referred to by their last name and Zhang is repeatedly called "Ziyi." And vice versa. So much for the intelligence of the American press. Sigh.) Then there's the whole casting fiasco that was Memoirs. What, they couldn't find another Chinese or Chinese-American woman to cast in a Japanese role? Lucy Liu was too busy? I realize Bai Ling was already committed to VH1's But Can They Sing? (she can't), but I hear that Maggie Cheung was available. And was really pissed that Rob Marshall didn't call her. Allegedly.

Stepping off that soapbox: as adequ . . . okay, good as Zhang was she's too new to get the Globe on her own. She'll only win it if Bello and Huffman split the vote. But I'm guessing that Huffman's gonna walk away with at least this one award, if not two. Bello really should have been nominated in the supporting actress category; I think the voters will recognize that and reward Huffman accordingly. That, and the voters love it when a beautiful actress takes a risk and plays someone, uh, average.

Who should win: Should I plead the fifth? Probably, but I'll go ahead and say Huffman, although I'll have to wait until Transamerica shows up in the Seattle market to really make up my mind by the time the Oscars come around. Thank God that both Proof and North Country will be out on video in February.

OMG, did I just spend all of that space talking about the category I know the least about? If you're still reading this - and ya are, Blanche - then you're really interested in my opinions about best film and best director. Really, really interested. Stalker-interested. Hmm. Well, my biggest handicap here is that Match Point hasn't been released in the Seattle market yet, but that won't really stop me from making a pick.

Best director nominees: Woody Allen, Match Point; George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck; Peter Jackson, King Kong; Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain; Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener; and Steven Spielberg, Munich.

Who will win: First off, I'm gonna guess that the reason we have 6 films in this category instead of the usual 5 is because King Kong and Munich tied in nomination votes, which makes them the weakest. I'm also gonna guess that the same director's film will win for best picture, which leaves both Kong and Munich out of the running. I suppose I shouldn't count Speilberg out of the running, but critics either loved Munich or were vaguely negative about its politics; hence the single bone. (As in, throwing the film a bone, people! Step out of that gutter! Btw: I loved the movie.) And who wants to see Jackson on the podium? Again? He's slimmed down a little, but I'm betting he's still going to show up wearing something oddly inappropriate. Speaking of Munich and Kong: it's anyone's guess why Eric Bana and Naomi Watts were ignored. Take Howard out of the male lead category and replace him with Bana and I think you might have a glimpse at a really tight Oscars race. And Watts was really moving in the surprisingly emotional Kong. (Yeah, really moving fast when she was being chased by those dinosaurs!) But I digress; back to the directors.

As refreshing as his directorial style is, Meirelles just won an Oscar for best documentary (last year's City of God) and is a Hollywood newcomer; the rest of his work has been in his native Brazil. So he's out. And they can't hand out an award to George Clooney just because he's hot. Remember, Good Night, and Good Luck is only his second film. He's got plenty of time.

That leaves critical darling Allen, who might get the vote simply for being Woody Allen (ugh), and Ang Lee, who has alreay won every major critics' award this year. I suppose one should never count Allen out, but the odds are not in his favor.

Who should win: Lee. Although I really hearted GN&GL, and I'd love to hear an acceptance speech from Clooney; maybe in the supporting actor category.

Best drama nominees: A History of Violence; Brokeback Mountain; The Constant Gardener; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Match Point.

Who will win: As stated above, I'm guessing that it'll be the same film that wins for best director, so my money's on Brokeback Mountain. Not literally. I'm not betting. It's not that the Globes are consistent about this; one year they split (The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby last year; in 2003 it was The Hours and Gangs of New York, talk about a bone!) and the next year they don't (the final Lord of the Rings in 2004). It's more because, other than the National Board of Review, Brokeback has already taken home every major critics award. (The NBR chose Good Night, and Good Luck, but placed Brokeback in its top ten list.)

It's telling that David Cronenberg - the man who brought us The Fly, Dead Ringers and The Naked Lunch - wasn't nominated for best director; I personally thought the film was heavy-handed, beating up the audience the way Viggo Mortenson beat up Ed Harris; two other overlooked peformances! I personally hate, hate, h-a-t-e Woody Allen (not his movies, really; but Woody Allen, personally. Ick) and can't believe I'll be shelling out my money on one of his films if this makes it to the Oscars. It'll be like watching tennis on TV, which I also h-a-t-e. Of the two remaining films, The Constant Gardener has the stigma of being a thriller.

This makes Good Night, and Good Luck the stiffest competition for Brokeback. The NBR award certainly adds credibility. Plus, the average age of the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is - allegedly - 82, which means that a: they remember the McCarthy-Murrow battles first-hand; and 2: despite the likelihood of their being a few closet queens among them, the subject matter of Brokeback might not be their cuppa. Go on, prove me wrong. I dare ya.

Who should win: Sorry, George. As much as I love, uh, your movie, my vote goes to Brokeback Mountain. Hey, wouldn't it be nice if someone actually said the word "Gay" during the televised speeches?

I'll be back on Monday night with a quick post on the winners in the film categories; we'll see how I did with my predictions. Later on in the week I'll drop by with some analysis. What, I can't do that on Monday, too? Gimme a break, I have a job to get to on Tuesday. . . .

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